Friday, July 20, 2012

Call to faithful signals beginning of Ramadan...

The Muzzein of the great mosque at Mecca call the faithful to prayer on this, the first day of the Holy month of Ramadan.

It is the lunar period – the 9th month of the Islamic calendar – during which the faithful believe that the Prophet Mohammed received the Quran from Allah. A period of intense prayer and meditation, fasting and sacrifice, the holy month is observed throughout the Islamic world.

American taxpayers got a similar call to the faithful yesterday when the Office of the Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued its final audit on the $51 billion ripoff that passed for a massive rebuilding project after the 9-year war for that nation's oil fields.

The words, the figures are nearly incomprehensible to the average man and woman. Nearly, but not quite, when you stop and remember that billion is just another way of saying one thousand million.

Part of an $806 billion pricetag for the war to secure the balance of power between moderate Arab oil-producing states of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and the more radical Islamic republics to their east and in North Africa, the war was sold to the public as one of vengenance for the 9/11 attacks and to wipe out what turned out to be weapons of - well, to put it mildly - mass disappearance.

What really took place was an intense American effort to see that the dollar remains the world's reserve currency, a dispute sparked by the dictator Saddam Hussein's insistence that he wanted his price, and not OPEC's, for Iraqi crude, and to be paid in Euros.

American taxpayers wound up paying contractors such inflated prices as $80 for a pipe fitting that could be bought off the shelf for as little as a dollar and a half.

The auditors cited sloppy billing practices, an effort that was plauged from the start by shifting goals and constant violence, and far too few auditors to ever oversee the no-bid contracts that left expensive materials stacked next to incomplete projects for the duration of the long-drawn-out war.

Their conclusion: Americans may never know what it really and truly cost them to maintain the illusion that Uncle Sam was actually rebuilding the damage done by blockbuster rockets and bombs, tank warfare and the constant onslaught of modern mechanized warfare.

Under those conditions, “A complete accounting of all reconstruction expenditures is impossible to achieve,” the auditors concluded.

On a sad note, the auditors concluded that it cost $176 million to recover $200 million in bogus overpayments. 

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