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As the date for the US troop withdrawal from Iraq nears, questions have been raised over those who do not leave the war zone empty-handed, as billions of dollars have reportedly been wasted or stolen during the military intervention.
Some arrests have been made of individual soldiers making cash on the side, but the big players behind the losses remain at large.
Among those is a marine in Iraq who sent home $43,000 in stolen cash by hiding it in a footlocker among American flags. Another soldier shipped home thousands of dollars concealed in a toy stuffed animal.
Michael O’Brien, the author of America’s Failure in Iraq says “They go after people who stole $43,000. That’s great; they should go after that, but what about on a larger scale?”
In 2006, Michael O’Brien was tasked with helping build the Iraqi military. He says those who have pocketed millions enjoy complete impunity.
“They rebuilt an Iraqi army base and I’m telling you the condition of that base – this is just one example – was so deplorable, it was so pathetic, and when I asked the American construction project manager how much money was into this, I really thought he was going to say 3 or 5 million – it was $160 million,” Michael O’Brien recalls.
The Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated that between $31 billion and $60 billion has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The figures seem even more staggering, considering the overall amount the US has committed to rebuilding Iraq: roughly $62 billion.
Peter Van Buren was a head of an Iraq Reconstruction team, working for the US State Department.
US State Department Foreign Service Officer told RT that “The squandering of resources occurred on very small levels: a couple of thousand dollars here and there and zoomed all the way up into hundreds of millions of dollars that were spent on hospitals that never opened or prisons that never took any prisoners in.”
The Commission on Wartime Contracting is out of business now, after Congress cut its funding.
The details of their probe is sealed until 2031.
“They don’t want people in high places to come under scrutiny,” Michael O’Brien believes. “The US Congress wants to put the fraud behind the debacle of our Iraqi invasion.”
The scope of the fraud and waste is enormous. The US justice system goes after individuals who have stolen a few thousand dollars here and there, but not after the big players, the big contractors, that have really made a killing on the war.