C’mon, lighten up, Inspector General

Once again, those bean counters at the Office of the Inspector General are trying to nitpick Operation Iraqi Freedom to death.

According to a recent Associated Press report, the Inspector General’s latest bit of incessant carping involves less than $9 billion dollars that has temporarily been misplaced.

Nag, nag, nag…

Apparently, $8.8 billion in funding for Iraq reconstruction was transferred from the U.S. occupation authority to a variety of Iraq government ministries between October 2003 and June 2004 and the funds subsequently became somewhat, er, difficult to account for.

And now the Office of the Inspector General has its nose out of joint.

C’mon, guys, it’s not like we’re talking trillions here. The money – most likely stored in a safe, albeit hard-to-remember, location – is just a hair over $8 billion.

I’m sure there are plenty of perfectly reasonable explanations as to how the funding may have been temporarily misplaced.

As former Coalition Provisional Authority leader L. Paul Bremer III pointed out in response to the Inspector General’s meddling, there was a war going on at the time and that sort of thing can play hell with accounting.

That’s telling ’em, L. Paul. It’s pretty hard to keep track of $8.8 billion when some fanatic with an AK-47 is throwing hot lead at you. One minute you’ve got fat fistfuls of cash and the next you’re trying to dodge a rocket-propelled grenade and the $8.8 billion accidentally gets dropped in a shell hole (at least until a conscientious Iraqi scoops it up and returns it to its rightful owners).

These are, like, the misfortunes of war.

I’m sure everyone remembers the Vietnam War incident during which the Military Assistance Command in Saigon inadvertently disbursed $3.6 billion after making a perfectly honest mistake while calculating one night’s bar tab at the old Hotel Caravelle.

(Hey, this is righteous. I heard it from an ex-Navy SEAL at TJ’s Tavern…)

We also have to remember that this perfectly honest mistake happened in a very foreign country where people do things very differently from what we do here.

Government functionaries in Iraq are probably not very used to groups of grinning Iowans rolling wheelbarrow loads of cash up to the ministries of transportation and public works and shouting, “Have a nice day!” before trotting back to the Green Zone for some iced tea and corn chips.

Those temporarily bewildered Iraqis most likely just shrugged and put the $8.8 billion in a desk drawer until they could figure out why the crazy people were throwing money at them.

If the Office of the Inspector General was really doing its job, it would have inspectors out right now checking desk drawers and and office closets all over Baghdad rather than whining about the poor accounting practices of the former occupation authority.

Originally published February 14, 2005