Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

While we were all... ahem... slightly distracted yesterday, there was more responsible behavior in Iraq:

U.S. Sent Giant Pallets of Cash Into Iraq

There's something so Wile E. Coyote about this whole thing. Literally tons of cash, being loaded up with forklifts? Did they not have the official Acme Cash Catapult available that day?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, lawmakers said Tuesday.

The money, which had been held by the United States, came from Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the U.N.-run oil-for-food program and frozen assets belonging to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime.

Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve, said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," the California Democrat said during a hearing reviewing possible waste, fraud and abuse of funds in Iraq.

On December 12, 2003, $1.5 billion was shipped to Iraq, initially "the largest pay out of U.S. currency in Fed history," according to an e-mail cited by committee members.

It was followed by more than $2.4 billion on June 22, 2004, and $1.6 billion three days later. The CPA turned over sovereignty on June 30.

Nothing to worry about, folks... sure, we've got a huge pile of cash here, but don't worry about it... nothing could go wrong... everything's fine....
The special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, said in a January 2005 report that $8.8 billion was unaccounted for after being given to the Iraqi ministries.

"We were in the middle of a war, working in very difficult conditions, and we had to move quickly to get this Iraqi money working for the Iraqi people," Bremer told lawmakers. He said there was no banking system and it would have been impossible to apply modern accounting standards in the midst of a war.

Republicans argued that Bremer and the CPA staff did the best they could under the circumstances and accused Democrats of trying to score political points over the increasingly unpopular Iraq war.

"We are in a war against terrorists, to have a blame meeting isn't, in my opinion, constructive," said Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican.

We were in the middle of the war. Apparently, to Bremer, everything's peachy keen over there now.

And yes, Democrats are simply trying to score political points. They couldn't possibly be actually outraged that you managed to lose 363 tons of cash. It's all politics. Right. Let's just hope this money didn't get into the hands of the insurgents. You'll understand, Mr. Bremer, if I don't take your word for it that none of it did.

Edit: I like this from Wonkette:
The money supposedly came from oil sales or whatever, although it’s obvious nobody knows what it was for and nobody’s going to admit where it went, but Paul Bremer was seen outside the Capitol after his testimony lighting caviar on fire with hundred-dollar bills.

(Thanks to litbrit, who mentioned this story yesterday when I was otherwise occupied.)

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