For Whose Benefit?

Ever since the invasion of Iraq was contemplated, the White House has reassured people that Iraq’s oil money would remain theirs to spend to help rebuild the country. Earlier this year Bush was explicit: “One year after the liberation of Iraq, the revenues of the oil stream is pretty darn significant. That money will benefit the Iraqi people. It’s their oil, and they’ll use it to reconstruct the country.”

Today’s Washington Post reveals what Bush apparently meant when he said that it was “their oil” and that “they’ll use it”:

Halliburton Co. and other U.S. contractors are being paid at least $1.9 billion from Iraqi funds under an arrangement set by the U.S.-led occupation authority, according to a review of documents and interviews with government agencies, companies and auditors. Most of the money is for two controversial deals that originally had been financed with money approved by the U.S. Congress, but later shifted to Iraqi funds that were governed by fewer restrictions and less rigorous oversight.

…The CPA has said it has awarded about 2,000 contracts with Iraqi money. Its inspector general compiled records for the major contracts, which it defined as those worth $5 million or more each. Analysis of those and other records shows that 19 of 37 major contracts funded by Iraqi money went to U.S. companies and at least 85 percent of the total $2.26 billion was obligated to U.S. companies.

That analysis… show[s] that the CPA at times violated its own rules, authorizing Iraqi money when it didn’t have a quorum or proper Iraqi representation at meetings, and kept such sloppy records that the paperwork for several major contracts could not be found. During the first half of the occupation, the CPA depended heavily on no-bid contracts that were questioned by auditors. And the occupation’s shifting of projects that were publicly announced to be financed by U.S. money to Iraqi money prompted the Iraqi finance minister to complain that the “ad hoc” process put the CPA in danger of losing the trust of the people.

Incompetent, venal, or both? I can’t quite make up my mind.