Henry Waxman, the veteran Representative who now chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is following the money trail of $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills from the U.S. treasury that Bush's cronies shipped to the "Green Zone" in Baghdad between May 2003 and June 2004. The 363 tons of cash was stacked on wooden pallets, loaded onto C-130 transport planes, and shipped into the middle of a war zone. The former viceroy of Iraq, Paul Bremer, testified yesterday that he turned over the cash to the Iraqi "Finance Ministry," but he admitted that he had disbanded the top tier of the bureaucracy, and there were an indeterminate number of "ghost employees" that received American tax dollars with no oversight of accounting.
During the hearing, Representative Dennis Kucinich projected a document on a screen showing a transfer of $500 million that vanished into a category labeled "TBD" for "To Be Determined." Kucinich asked Bremer where the half a billion dollars went. Bremer, clearly flummoxed, dissembled Kucinich's query with such skill that it would have brought a tear of pride to Paul Wolfowitz's eye. Kucinich documented the disappearance of a substantial sum of American tax dollars and the Bush Administration's top official in Baghdad at the time had no explanation.
George W. Bush overthrew the Iraqi government, created a power vacuum in Baghdad, and then turned the country over to Bremer. Donald Rumsfeld, who was Bremer's boss, famously blew off the widespread rioting and looting in Iraq as insignificant. Then Bush appointed hundreds of "Brownies" to oversee the Iraq reconstruction effort. The official responsible for hiring young Republicans fresh out of college to manage rebuilding Iraq was whisked off to Baghdad after Waxman called him to testify. Waxman said that Condi Rice sent her underling to Iraq to "stonewall" the committee. But the chairman promised to bring the wayward official in front of the committee sooner or later.
The display of the Republicans on Waxman's committee was a national disgrace. Even in the minority, they are still covering up the Bush crimes even when they cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. All of the Republicans, including the "moderate" Christopher Shays of Connecticut, covered up for the wasted money by emphasizing the difficulties Bremer faced. Dan Burton of Indiana, who had issued thousands of subpoenas when he chaired the committee during Clinton's presidency, used his six minutes of questioning time to denounce the attempt to find out where the $12 billion went as "partisan." And the former Chair, Tom Davis of Virginia, criticized what he called "self-righteous finger-waving" at Bremer.
It is gratifying to see at long last a senior Bush Administration crony, Paul Bremer, stand up, raise his right hand, and officially swear the oath before testifying. His words could land him in contempt of Congress or lead to a perjury indictment. Chairman Waxman is taking the first vital steps towards restoring the rightful place of the United States Congress as a check on runaway executive power. As Waxman, Kucinich, and other Democratic members of the committee unravel the Bush Administration's corruption we might be in for some surprising revelations. Waxman could uncover evidence that will lead to the formation of grand juries and the indictments of Bush officials. It could make the Abramoff-DeLay scandal look like a tea party. Stay tuned.
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