For nearly a decade, U.S. military operations in the Middle East – Iraq in particular – have been criticized as a cumbersome and costly burden on the American taxpayer.
That accusation gained new credence this week when the Pentagon finally acknowledged that nearly $7 billion of Iraqi oil money might have been stolen.
And what's worse is that the U.S. taxpayer could end up paying for the mistake.
Following the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States liberated, or seized, billions of dollars of assets from that country. But since Iraq had no banking system, the money – much of which came from Iraqi oil sales – was placed in an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
From there, large pallets of shrink-wrapped cash were periodically loaded into tractor-trailer trucks, driven to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and airlifted to Baghdad. Some $12 billion of cash was flown to Iraq in the months following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.