In Monday’s Independent Patrick Cockburn reported on the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) report suggesting that as much as $125 billion might have been stolen from both Iraqi and American funds allocated for reconstruction.  The thefts were carried out with the collusion of senior US military personnel.  Readers of TAC might recall that the story of Iraq corruption was first aired in an article I wrote in October 2005.  At that time the money stolen was in the range of $30 billion, but it was early days and obviously the crooks have since refined their techniques.  $125 billion might be on the low side.  As Cockburn notes, in spite of huge sums contracted for reconstruction no cranes or signs of work can be seen in Baghdad.  If the numbers prove accurate, the theft would be three times larger than the ponzi scheme of Bernard Madoff.  As near as I can tell, the Cockburn story has not been replayed in the MSM in the US, though it has been discussed by Juan Cole.

Iraq is only part of the story.  Recently retired intelligence officers have been actively engaged in this wholesale plundering of central Asia in addition to Iraq.  Intelligence officers have the unique ability to exploit multinational contacts to move commodities and money across borders clandestinely, a key element in laundering proceeds.

The real problem is that much of the United States goverment has, over the past eight years, become a kleptocracy in which former senior officials believe themselves entitled to a golden parachute when they leave government service.  The list of Pentagon officials, military officers, and intelligence types who have become very rich is long and becoming longer.  Many are affiliated to consulting groups headed by prominent figures from both Democratic and Republican administrations.  Some of the names would surprise you.