Remember the stacks of hundred-dollar bills wrapped in plastic loaded onto pallets headed for America’s friends in Iraq?
There was so much cash flowing into that war-torn country that the administration of former President George W. Bush was never able to provide an accurate accounting. Hundreds of millions of dollars were said to have been spent to prop up the government after the ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein by coalition forces led by the United States.
Even today, no one in Washington is quite sure how much money simply vanished in Iraq. Stories of individuals making off with bags full of crisp American dollars are legendary.
So, what was the lesson from that ill-fated exercise in high-stakes nation building?
Ask Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: BAGS OF CASH
Earlier this month, in reaction to a story by the New York Times, Karzai not only admitted that he has been receiving stacks of cash from the CIA, but said he has been assured the payments will continue despite the newspaper’s revelation of the transaction.
The president has led Afghanistan since the U.S. coalition forces in 2001 ousted the Islamic extremist government led by the Taliban. The invasion was supported by the United Nations after it was shown that most of the terrorists in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on America’s homeland were trained in Afghanistan.
The Taliban rulers had given Osama bin Laden, then the world’s leading terrorist, and his al-Qaida terror organization safe haven and permitted them to set up training camps in the country.
Karzai’s opposition to the Islamic extremists and al-Qaida has endeared him to the U.S. and other Western nations, which have pumped billions of dollars in aid each year to rebuild that poverty-stricken country.
According to the Times, Karzai publicly admitted he received the cash from the CIA because he wanted to dampen the furor over the payments. He described them as one facet of the billions of dollars of aid Afghanistan receives each year, the Times reported.
“This is nothing unusual,” he was quoted as saying.
“It has helped us a lot, it has solved lots of our problems,” Karzai said, pointing out that the cash helped pay rent for various officials, treat wounded members of his presidential guard and even pay for scholarships. Money is also funneled to various tribal chieftains who still hold sway in many parts of the country and who could be a thorn in Karzai’s side if they rose up against him.
IT’S TIME FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
But with corruption rampant and members of Karzai’s family making out like bandits, the lack of accountability is cause for concern.
Without the benefit of a government audit to show how the CIA money is being spent, American taxpayers must take Karzai’s word for it that the cash is not only needed, but is being spent properly.
Talk about having to trust — without being able to verify.
It’s a tall order, given what has been going on in Afghanistan on the public corruption front.
Here’s how the New York Times described the situation:
“The International Monetary Fund recently warned diplomats in Kabul that the Afghan government faced a potentially severe budget shortfall partly because of the increasing theft of customs duties and officially abetted tax evasion.”
The American people have a right to know just how much cash has been dumped in Karzai’s lap. It’s up to Congress to find out.