15
Feb
09

US Officers Caught Taking Millions In Iraq Bribes

Michael Yon - In His Arms (Strength and Compas...

Above: US soldier cradles either a) a child b) approx. $200K in shrinkwrapped Benjamins

The 35 prosecutions of Iraq contracting corruption has focused mainly on small-fry until now.  But nobody over the age of ten believes that 35 cases about covers it for a $125 billion reconstruction budget – and that’s just what was laid our for the first year of this shameful exercise in empire.  Which is why the newest investigations reported in the NYT  are pointing at high-ranking officers pocketing eye-popping sums:

As part of the inquiry, the authorities are taking a fresh look at information given to them by Dale C. Stoffel, an American arms dealer and contractor who was killed in Iraq in late 2004. Before he was shot on a road north of Baghdad, Mr. Stoffel drew a portrait worthy of a pulp crime novel: tens of thousands of dollars stuffed into pizza boxes and delivered surreptitiously to the American contracting offices in Baghdad, and payoffs made in paper sacks that were scattered in “dead drops” around the Green Zone, the nerve center of the United States government’s presence in Iraq, two senior federal officials said.

Former American officials describe payments to local contractors from huge sums of cash dumped onto tables and stuffed into sacks as if it were Halloween candy.

“You had no oversight, chaos and breathtaking sums of money,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who helped create the Wartime Contracting Commission, an oversight board. “And over all of that was the notion that failure was O.K. It doesn’t get any better for criminals than that set of circumstances.”

In one case of graft from that period, Maj. John L. Cockerham of the Army pleaded guilty to accepting nearly $10 million in bribes as a contracting officer for the Iraq war and other military efforts from 2004 to 2007, when he was arrested. Major Cockerham’s wife has also pleaded guilty, as have several other contracting officers.

In Major Cockerham’s private notebooks, Colonel Bell is identified as a possible recipient of an enormous bribe as recently as 2006, the two senior federal officials said. It is unclear whether the bribe was actually offered or paid.

When asked if Major Cockerham had ever offered him a bribe, Colonel Bell said in a telephone interview, “I think we’ll end the discussion,” but stayed on the line. Colonel Bell’s response was equally terse when asked if he thought that Colonel Hirtle had carried out his duties properly: “No discussion on that at this time.”

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