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What in God’s Name is Going On?

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Last Friday I was on the panel of Bill Maher’s season finale of his HBO show “Real Time.” Bill’s guest by satellite was Senator Norm Coleman from my home state of Minnesota. Because Coleman serves on the homeland security committee, Maher asked him to comment on former homeland security director Tom Ridge’s recent revelation that the Bush administration would often issue terror alerts that he didn’t think were warranted. Could it be that they were using terror alerts politically?

Coleman answered that it was always good to err on the side of caution. Maher followed by asking Coleman if it struck him as odd that there haven’t been any terror alerts since the election?

After a long laugh from the audience, Coleman answered with some stuff about there still being a high level alert, but then reassured everybody with: "If in fact people used these things for political purposes, I’m sure Congress will look into that."

Wow! If people used these things for political purposes, he’s sure the Republican Congress will look into it? How is it that this guy can’t get through a five minute interview on a political comedy show without having to resort to total b.s.?

Right now Coleman is looking into the Oil-for-Food program, which was administered by the Security Council in the U.N., mostly by the U.S. and Britain. That didn’t stop Coleman from demanding Kofi Annan’s resignation without any proof of any wrongdoing on his part. There appears to be anywhere from one to two billion dollars stolen through the program – with most of that going to Saddam. Primarily the U.S. and Britain took it upon themselves to make sure that none of this money went toward making W.M.D.s. They seemed to have done a pretty good job.

Meanwhile, the Coalition Provisional Authority, which we ran, has lost 8.8 billion dollars. By lost, I mean it’s totally unaccounted for. Not only has Congress not "looked into" this $8.8 billion and who might have it now, but it seems that some members are completely unaware that this staggering sum, which was supposed to go toward rebuilding Iraq, is missing. The Sunday morning after the White House Correspondents dinner, I ran into Senator George Allen at a brunch thrown by John McLaughlin and his wife. Allen had never heard of the missing $8.8 billion, or at least that's what he told me. And he's on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Stunned, I went up to Susan Page of USA Today and her husband Carl Lubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News, two veteran Washington political reporters, and told them about Allen’s ignorance of this huge scandal, which has no doubt contributed to hatred for America and the deaths of our troops. There’s less electricity in Iraq now than there was before we invaded Iraq.

Turns out that Page and Lubsdorf had also never heard of the unaccounted-for $8.8 billion. For a moment I thought that maybe I had been imagining things.

Then I spotted my friend Norm Ornstein, scholar from the American Enterprise Institute. "Would you believe it if Norm Ornstein told you about the $8.8 billion?" I asked Susan and Carl.

"Sure."

I brought Norm over, and indeed I had not been imagining things. "It was a huge story," Norm told them.

"Was it in the New York Times?" Carl asked Norm.

"Yes," Norm assured him.

What in God’s name is going on?