Assume the Position

Saturday, November 08, 2003
"Evenly Divided and Increasingly Polarized"

That description is the subtitle of The Pew Research Center for The People & The Press' major overview of the electorate going into next year's election,"The 2004 Political Landscape." (Via RealClear Politics.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Another Answer To The Question...

What liberal media? (The screen capture is accurate.)

A Potential Nomination For The 2004 Ig Nobel Prize In Medicine

However, this study might actually explain the lead blogger over here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003
CERP Update

The Senate has passed the supplemental and Instapundit has posted a note he received from Maj. Bannion in Iraq:

I sat in a CPA hosted conference here in Baghdad today and the budget guy, an OMB type, stated that there was 180M for CERP for FY 2004 as part of the supplemental. Heard it with my own ears.

Only catch, it's for both Iraq and Afghanistan -- exact split to be determined.

I still say it's a win.

Pretty much what I thought three posts below.

UPDATE - November 10, 2003: The supplemental became Public Law 108-106 on November 6, 2003, when it was signed by the President.

Monday, November 03, 2003
Incomplete Positive Reports Are Generating The Wrong Impression

I figured this was going to happen, and almost mentioned it at the end of the CERP post (two down). The positive, but glossy and incomplete, reporting on the CERP funded projects is generating a completely fictitious impression that will wind up doing more harm than good. Jeff Jarvis links and quotes J Krank's Sohia Sideshow post on the meaning he finds in this Globe and Mail column. Says J:

Let's repeat this: A squad found tons of money lying around... ...they started to spend it...on others...without orders.

WRONG. And you don't have to be in Iraq to know that it is wrong.

Stashes of cash were found, counted, and turned over to the Coalition Provisional Authority—the interim government of Iraq. The funds in accounts of Hussein and Friends in Iraq's banks were confiscated and turned over to the Coalition Provisional Authority—the interim government of Iraq. Those funds belong to the interim government of Iraq, a military occupation government which can then disburse them to the regional commanders/governors to take care of local immediate needs.

Although J's point is "They didn't steal the money!" the underlying fiction of a lack of controls and accountability for the confiscated funds is, and will continue to, cause real problems because it plays into the complaints of the crowd who are already accusing America of stealing Iraq blind.

Major Sean Bannion has been blogging from Iraq over on Sasha Castel's blog. He has transcribed a BBC interview with Dominic Nutt from the charity Christian Aid who is claiming that millions of dollars are "missing," which is countered by Charles Heatley of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Major Bannion's post starts off discussing the funding of the CERP (he read the whole Washington Post article on the CERP mentioned below, too) and then provides the transcript. The opening:

Natasha Kaplinsky: And a report from Christian Aid says at least two billion pounds given to help rebuild Iraq have not been properly accounted for by the Coalition.

Dermot Murnaghan: Well Dominic Nutt from Christian Aid is in Madrid where a global conference on funding for Iraqi reconstruction is getting under way today. We're also joined on the line from Spain by Charles Heatly, he's a spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Good morning to you both. If we could start with you Mr Nutt. First of all how do you arrive at this figure, about two billion dollars you're saying has gone missing.

Dominic Nutt: Yes it's in, in US terms it's, it's a billion dollars from, from oil money from before the war released from the UN to the US CPA. It's seized assets from Saddam Hussein's accounts from around the world and it's money that's been raised from oil since, since hostilities were, were, were ended. That's basically where the money comes from. And that money's meant to be monitored by the, the UN under a UN mandate in May. It has never been done so and we are saying on behalf of the Iraqi people that have been talking to us we want to know what you're doing with our oil money.

DM: Well we have Charles Heatley from the Coalition Provisional Authority on the line. Let’s ask him. What’s happened to these missing billions Mr Heatley?

Charles Heatley: There are no missing billions. All the, all the money that’s come in from Iraqi oil sales and other Iraqi money has been deposited in the Development Fund for Iraq as is was provided for in UN Security Council resolution 1483. That money is spent by the Programme Review Board on which the Iraqi Minister of Finance has a full role, has a full voting role. All that money is spent in cooperation with the Iraqis according to the 2003 budget which is fully public and a transparent document. And indeed the 2004 budget which was prepared by the Iraqi Ministries is already published and is already available. There is full transparency to this process. There are no missing billions. I have no idea what Dominic’s talking about.

What Dominic's talking about is J's "[a] squad found tons of money lying around" followed by a knowing sure, they might have spent some on the Iraqis, but they probably kept most of it and plan to smuggle it back to the States.

Every article that mentions the spending…

Capt. Burns's tiny outfit, based in Makhmur, has spent $440,000 so far. They're having water pipes put in, and they've built a big park with swings and slides. They've refurbished the police station and the mayor's office. Their biggest project is a model village where Kurds and Arabs will live side by side. The village was once Kurdish, but the Kurds were kicked out when Saddam Hussein set out to Arabize the region. Then he fell, and the Kurds came back and kicked out the Arabs. Needless to say, there wasn't much of a village left. The army has anted up Saddam's money to build 42 new houses -- enough for everyone.

…without mentioning the accounting controls on the funds, increases the impression that the money is being mishandled and/or stolen from the Iraqi people.

This is not to claim there have been no incidents of theft, there may well have been. But it's likely they are confined to individual incidents with appropriate punishments if discovered. The reporting makes it look like soldiers are tooling around in Hummers with bags of cash doing whatever strikes their fancy. The impression of lack of accountability generates the follow-on impression that there is no way of discovering theft, which would make such thefts all the more likely.

From The Everything-You-Know-Is-Wrong Dept.

"New guidelines: No more ipecac." The American Association of Pediatrics news release is here.

Sunday, November 02, 2003
$185M For CERP Appears To Be Included In The $87B Supplemental

I don't want to take Prof. Reynolds to task right after getting an Instalanche for a Halloween treat, but I don't think he (or his recent correspondents) read beyond the first page of the Washington Post article on the CERP (Commander's Emergency Response Program) he linked on October 30. After that post, he recieved an email from Iraq that indicated the CERP had run out of money and been permanently shut down (1), which has caused him some agitation (2, and 3). The CERP gives discretionary funds, much coming from confiscated cash that had been stashed away in various places by Hussein & Friends, to commanders to meet the immediate needs of the Iraqis in the local areas for which they are responsible.

1 - Oct 30:

I"m dumbfounded, too. This is a real story, not "police-blotter" reporting. Perhaps some of the journalists over there can manage to look into things. And perhaps some members of Congress here can do the same?

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus emails: "If [true], that's the worst news I've heard from Iraq all year."

2 - Nov 1:

Yeah. Too bad it looks like they're going to be stopped. If this CERP story is as it appears, this is the major dropped ball of the Iraq operation so far. I hope that people are looking into it.

3 - Nov 1:

I don't think that bloggers and blog-readers can replace this money, but maybe there's something we can do to help. In the meantime, I think that Washington needs to look hard at giving local commanders the kind of freedom they enjoyed under the CERP program.

But the first graf on second page of the Post's web article spelled out what was happening:

The cash flow has slowed down somewhat recently, though the interim government says the program will continue. In its supplemental allocation for reconstruction, Congress is considering replenishing the fund with $180 million for 2004. The fact that the money would come from the U.S. government, however, could change how it can be spent.

The original source of funds was some finite amount of "found" money. That has pretty much been expended and US forces are no longer tripping over boxes full of $100 bills every time they walk into a palace like they were in the early days. The Administration and Congress beat Glenn's #1 and #2 to the punch, since it appears that money to continue the CERP was included, in some fashion, in the $87 billion emergency supplemental request the President submitted to Congress back on September 17, 2003.

As to the Post story's concern that appropriated funds might "change how it can be spent," which is kind of echoed in Glen's #3, the Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs Washington File from October 9, reporting on the House Armed Services Committee hearing on Iraq: Reconstruction and Rehabilitation on October 8 (no actual transcript there), included this:

In response to a question about whether the CPA has a mechanism to quickly disperse "ready money" in an effective manner so that local Iraqi governments can meet immediate needs, the CPA's [Dave] Oliver [chief financial officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority] said military commanders are now spending about $5 million a week through the Commander's Emergency Response Program to fund local projects. Of the $87 billion Emergency Supplemental request, $185 million is requested for this program, he said.

So they (Congress and the CPA) seem to have been working it all along. After the wrangling over whether half the reconstruction funds would be loans instead of grants, the bill that came out of the conference committee was a 100% grant, the House passed the conference report on Friday, October 31, 2003 and now it's up to the Senate to pass it and then the President can sign it — then the funds can flow again. (Note that FY2003 ended September 30th and the supplemental funds FY2004, which began October 1st, but the supplemental hasn't yet become law.)

While the CERP doesn't appear as a separately identifiable line item, that's fairly normal, but it does cause some confusion (like the fiction that Bush had never requested funds for Afghanistan). The President itemized certain categories and projects, but included requests for broad flexibility to shift funds around. The House and Senate bills reduced that flexibility, but didn't eliminate it. Here is the President's original $87B supplemental budget request (587kb PDF). And here is the operative paragraph in what should be the final bill, H.R.3239 RDS (at the moment):

Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund


For necessary expenses to carry out the purposes of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, for security, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction in Iraq, $18,649,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2005, to be allocated as follows: $3,243,000,000 for security and law enforcement; $1,318,000,000 for justice, public safety infrastructure, and civil society; $5,560,000,000 for the electric sector; $2,100,000,000 for oil infrastructure; $4,332,000,000 for water resources and sanitation; $500,000,000 for transportation and telecommunications; $370,000,000 for roads, bridges, and construction; $793,000,000 for health care; $153,000,000 for private sector development; and $280,000,000 for education, refugees, human rights, democracy, and governance: Provided, That the President may reallocate up to 10 percent of any of the preceding allocations, except that the total for the allocation receiving such funds may not be increased by more than 20 percent: Provided further, That such reallocations shall be subject to the regular notification procedures of the Committees on Appropriations and section 634A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and notifications shall be transmitted at least 15 days in advance of the obligation of funds: Provided further, That an annual spending plan for reconstruction programs under the preceding allocations, including project-by-project detail, shall be submitted by the President to the Committees on Appropriations not later than January 1, 2004, and shall be updated and submitted every 180 days thereafter: Provided further, That funds appropriated under this heading shall be apportioned only to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, the Department of State, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Defense, and the United States Agency for International Development: Provided further, That upon a determination that all or part of the funds so transferred from this appropriation are not necessary for the purposes provided herein, such amounts may be transferred back to this appropriation: Provided further, That of the amount appropriated in this paragraph, not less than $35,000,000 shall be made available for administrative expenses of the Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the United States Agency for International Development for support of the reconstruction activities in Iraq: Provided further, That up to 1 percent of the amount appropriated in this paragraph may be transferred to 'Operating Expenses of the Coalition Provisional Authority', and that any such transfer shall be in accordance with the regular notification procedures of the Committees on Appropriations and section 634A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961: Provided further, That contributions of funds for the purposes provided herein from any person, foreign government, or international organization, may be credited to this Fund and used for such purposes: Provided further, That the Committees on Appropriations shall be notified quarterly of any collections pursuant to the previous proviso: Provided further, That the Coalition Provisional Authority shall work, in conjunction with relevant Iraqi officials, to ensure that a new Iraqi constitution preserves full rights to religious freedom: Provided further, That, notwithstanding any other provision of law, 10 percent of the total amount of funds apportioned to the United States Agency for International Development under this heading that are made available on a subcontract basis shall be reserved for contracts with small business concerns, including small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans, small business concerns owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans, HUBZone small business concerns, small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and small business concerns owned and controlled by women (as such terms are defined for purposes of the Small Business Act): Provided further, That the entire amount is designated by the Congress as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 502 of H. Con. Res. 95 (108th Congress), the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2004.

The Coalition Provisional Authority is the US occupation government of Iraq and military commanders are acting as governors. The underlined and bolded provision above authorizes up to $186.49 million for CPA "operating expenses" which fairly well matches the $185 million that Dave Oliver said had been requested for the CERP.

That conclusion is further supported because the next paragraph authorizes the actual "operating expenses" for the CPA itself:

Operating Expenses of the Coalition Provisional Authority

For necessary expenses of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, established pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolutions including Resolution 1483, for personnel costs, transportation, supply, equipment, facilities, communications, logistics requirements, studies, physical security, media support, promulgation and enforcement of regulations, and other activities needed to oversee and manage the relief and reconstruction of Iraq and the transition to democracy, $858,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2005: Provided, That the entire amount is designated by the Congress as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 502 of H. Con. Res. 95 (108th Congress), the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2004.

In other words, the latter $858M funds whatever the CPA itself needs to function as an organization, and 1% ($186M) of the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund can be transferred from the large-scale reconstruction programs to the CPA as "operating expenses" where it can be used locally as needed—which pretty much describes the Commander's Emergency Response Program.

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.