Flown to Baghdad: 363 tons of cash

As the CPA prepared to hand over control to Iraqis, military planes delivered more than $4 billion on pallets for the new government to use.

Published February 7, 2007 4:12PM (EST)

Remember when the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction said he couldn't account for $8.8 billion that the Coalition Provisional Authority claimed to have spent in Iraq?

Now we've got a nice visual to go along with that story: As the CPA prepared to turn over Iraq to the Iraqis, the U.S. military delivered more than $4 billion to Baghdad in cash loaded on pallets in military planes.

That would be 363 tons of cash, Reuters reports.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is predictably but not unreasonably apoplectic about the shipments. "Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?" he asked during a hearing on the Hill Tuesday.

Former CPA chief Paul Bremer said the money -- proceeds from Iraqi oil exports, frozen assets from Saddam Hussein and funds from the United Nations' oil-for-food program -- had been requested by the Iraqi finance minister, who said he needed it to cover the government's expenses. "So these shipments were made at the explicit request of the Iraqi minister of finance to forward fund government expenses, a perfectly, seems to me, legitimate use of his money," Bremer said.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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