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Home > Politics

Buddy, Can You Spare Twelve Billion Dollars?

11 February 2007

You have to smile grimly at the incompetence of the American administration in Iraq that has managed to 'lose' $12 billion in $100 bills. The cash was flown into Iraq on military transport planes in shrink-wrapped bricks during 2003. After that, nobody's quite sure where most of it went.

Some was given to contractors (what we used to call 'mercenaries'). A bunch of modern day 'Kelly's Heroes' lifted $740,000 from an army division's vault. Enterprising Iraqi ministries created thousands of 'ghost' employees, put them on the payroll and watched the good times roll in.

Oh, and some of it might have reached the insurgency. American dollars may very well have bought the guns and ammunition that were later fired at American troops. And they say you can't please all the people all the time. Saddam Hussein isn't the only dead president in Iraq - the country's awash with them.

As Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the US Congress' committee on oversight and government reform, which is trying to get to the bottom of the spendthriftery, said this week: 'The numbers are so large that it doesn't seem possible that they're true. Who in their right mind would send 363 tonnes of cash into a war zone?'

Who indeed? Right minds have been in short supply in Iraq in recent years. They say if the cap fits, wear it. But if you were a milliner making caps for right minds in the American administration right now, you'd be out of business in less than a week. Has Waxman asked them if they've checked down the back of the sofa?

In an attempt to grasp the enormity of it, here are some quick sums.

$12,000,000,000 is 120,000,000 $100 bills. An American $100 bill is 6.1 inches by 2.6 inches. So 120,000,000 bills gives us an area of 1,923,048,000 square inches. Or 30,351 square miles.

That's enough to paper the whole of Scotland with a single layer of $100 bills.

All the bills laid end to end would stretch for 11,630 miles. That's almost all the way from the North Pole to the South Pole. Or twice around John Prescott. Also, by pleasing coincidence, 11,630 is the number of years it's going to take Tony Blair to live down his role in this fiasco. Or apologise.

Clearly, once The War Against Terror is won, stupidity has *got* to be the next abstract noun on our list. One day we'll all look back on all this and have a good laugh.

In about 11,630 years.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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