Iraq: Proconsul Bremer's Money Madness
One of my favorite characters in this whole Iraq atrocity story was Paul Bremer, the guy that Bush sent in to be the American “viceroy” or “proconsul” or what-have-you after Saddam was overthrown.
Bremer seemed to have an incredible knack for getting himself into the most ridiculous situations, and I was sorry to see him go when the transition to civilian government by Iraqis (!) was announced. (True to form, Bremer left Iraq undercover and secretly a day before his official departure had been scheduled—a characteristic attempt to avoid assassination.)
Anyway, you can imagine my delight when I found out he was back in the headlines again. From the Financial Times:
February 6, 2007 11:42 PM ET
Billions given away in Baghdad free-for-all
The Bush administration went on a 5 billion dollar spending spree in Iraq in 2004 just six weeks before returning control of the government to Iraqis, according to a Democratic lawmaker investigating the payments.
Huge sums were doled out, sometimes in dollar bills from the back of pick-up trucks, it was alleged.
In a hearing before the chief House oversight committee, Democrats on Tuesday demanded answers from Paul Bremer, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority...
In his first appearance before Congress since leaving Iraq, Mr Bremer admitted making mistakes during his 13-month tenure. However, he emphasised that Iraq was in a "desperate situation" in May 2003 and that the CPA could not have waited to install a "modern financial system"…
…"I acknowledge that I made mistakes and that, with the benefit of hindsight, I would have made some decisions differently. But on the whole, we made great progress under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable," Mr Bremer told the committee.
That’s my boy Bremer!
So now we take you back in time, to Baghdad, 2004:
(A huge sound truck covered in blue tarps screeches to a stop on a side street in front of a burning market place; American Proconsul of Iraq Paul Bremer and his ever-faithful manservant Raheem scramble out of the vehicle and pull off the tarp, revealing the huge hand-painted sign on the side of the truck, in English and Arabic:
“ABSOLUTELY FREE! FREE! FREE!”
“CASH! CASH! CASH!”
“FROM YOUR FRIENDS, THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION!”
“WHO WANTS TO BE AN IRAQI MILLIONAIRE?”
Raheem produces a bunch of little American flags and quickly climbs the truck, decorating it with the flags. Bremer wears a suit and tie emblazoned with dollar signs. He runs up to the cab, switches on the sound system: a little “ice-cream truck jingle” version of “We’re In The Money” (with an Arabic rhythm section) begins to play over the truck’s loudspeakers. Bremer scrambles up on the hood of the truck, microphone in hand, and begins to announce over the music:
Bremer:(pulling a stack of cash out of his pocket, waving it) Moneymoneymoney! It’s the US Money Man, in da 'hood! The Money Man is in da house, and he’s just givin’ it away! Free money, from the US Gov, all ya gotta do is come out into the street to get it!
Bremer:(off mike, shouts at Raheem) Raheem! Get the back of the truck open! If they don’t see the dough they won’t come out!
Raheem:(scrambling down to open the truck) Yes, my prince!
(Raheem gets the back of the truck open; the truck is stuffed with money, loose bills are flying out as the door is opened; inside the truck is jam-packed stacks of cash, big sacks with ‘$$$’ printed on them, gold bars, shares of Microsoft and Exxon.)
Bremer:(into mike again) That’s right, the US is giving away free MONEY to its friends in Iraq—and everything must go! That’s right, we’re just giving it away, and why? Because we’re “ker-raaaaazy,” that’s why! (tosses wad of bills up in the air, it comes down like confetti) We folks at the U.S. government have gone “ker-aaaazy” with generosity and we want to give YOU free money—no strings attached to this limited, once in a lifetime offer! So come on out and grab a wad today! And if you act now—a free Ipod! (produces Ipod, shows it to empty street. Speaks off microphone.) Goddammit, where is everybody, Raheem?
Raheem: Tell them that it is not Iraqi money, Lion of the Desert!
Bremer: Oh shit, that’s right, I forgot—(into microphone) And remember friends, this is NOT Iraqi currency we’re giving away here, this is U.S. dollars—
(Suddenly the street is filled with thousands of Arabs, clamoring for cash. Another bomb explodes but is ignored. Raheem starts throwing sacks of bills and stacks of cash into the wild, gesticulating crowd.)
Bremer:(into mike) That’s right friends, this is the green stuff we’re talking about here, the U.S. dollar, the official legal tender of the International Monetary Fund, good anywhere in the world—
Raheem: Good heavens, Prince of Diplomats, I knocked that old woman unconscious with a gold bar—
Bremer: (off mike) Fuck her if she can’t take a joke! Keep throwin’, we’ve got to get rid of this stuff before we cross the border! (into mike) It’s free, we’ve got billions to get rid of, it’s all got to go—
(An old man is clutching at Bremer’s trouser leg, pointing to himself)
Old man: I contractor! I contractor with U.S.
Bremer: Yeah? What do you contract, gramps?
Old man: Lamb kebabs!
Bremer:(into mike) Raheem, give this man two million dollars! No, make it three million, he does the mint sauce, too. No, don't thank me--thank you, sir, for supporting the rebuilding effort. (suddenly yells) Hold on, wait a minute, everybody freeze!
(Everybody freezes, clutching cash.)
Bremer: You guys aren’t going to use this money to buy weapons, are you?
Crowd: (as a single voice) No! Never!
Bremer: Then I say—full speed ahead! (throws more cash into the air) Hit ‘em again with that lovely green, Raheem!
(Raheem starts throwing out money again. A missile lands and detonates behind the truck.)
Bremer: Christ! Okay, folks, they’re homing in on us, show’s over. (climbs down, switches off “ice cream jingle.”) We’ve got to close it up, Raheem, we can’t afford to get a flat, we’ve got four more neighborhoods to hit before curfew.
Raheem: (closing back of truck) Right as always, Mighty Benefactor. (He quickly begins pulling all the little American flags off the truck.)
(crowd screams, angry)
Bremer: Don’t worry, folks, we’ll be back as soon as the heat’s off! Keep an eye out for the big white truck with the US flag and the great big dollar signs on the front! Here, kids, help me get the tarp back on it, I’ll give you fifty grand a piece. Hop to it! (jumps into cab, starts truck) Come on, Raheem, let’s blow this popsicle stand, let’s go!
Raheem:(climbing into cab) Would it not be wise to keep at least some of the funds in reserve, Fearless One? For emergencies?
Bremer: What the hell are you talking about, Raheem, half this shit’s Iranian counterfeit anyway. (honks horn) Come on people, clear a path! Get those cripples out of the way, give us a break, we’re trying to help this country out!
Labels: Iraq Bremer Baghdad