They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Greed, sex, and gun-running - reconstruction in Iraq

IHT:Funds for Iraq spent on real estate and a Cessna

Robert Stein Jr. could not have been clearer about his feelings toward the American businessman who was receiving millions of dollars in contracts from Stein to build a major police academy and other reconstruction projects in Iraq.

"I love to give you money," Stein wrote in an e-mail message to the businessman, Philip Bloom, on Jan. 3, 2004, just as the United States was attempting to ramp up its rebuilding program in Iraq.

As it turned out, Stein had the money to give. Despite a prior conviction on felony fraud that his Pentagon background check apparently missed, Stein was hired and put in charge of at least $82 million of reconstruction money in the south-central Iraqi city of Hilla by the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American-led administration that was then running Iraq.

In a federal court on Thursday, the court papers indicate, Stein was expected to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, possession of a machine gun, and being a felon in possession of firearms. He is accused of giving millions of that money to Bloom, and taking millions more for himself.

Stein used some of his stolen money, the papers say, to buy items as wildly diverse as grenade launchers, machine guns, a Lexus, "an interest in one Porsche," a Cessna airplane, two plots of real estate in North Carolina, a Toshiba personal computer, 18 Breitling watches, a six-carat diamond ring and a collection of 2002 silver dollars.

The papers say that the ring of corruption was much wider than previously known, drawing at least seven Americans, including Stein, Bloom, and five Army Reserve officers, into what is portrayed as a maelstrom of greed, sex, and gun-running. Read more