Bush Admin. Spent Billions on an Iraqi Army with 50,000 “ghost” Soldiers

By Juan Cole | —

Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi announced to his parliament on Sunday that inspectors had uncovered 50,000 non-existent soldiers in four divisions of the Iraqi Army. Their pay was presumably being diverted to the officers in the division. This ziggurat of corruption was one reason the army collapsed on June 9, allowing Daesh (what Arabs derisively call ISIL) to take Mosul. The officers had many thousands fewer men than they claimed, and those they did actually have were damned if they were dying so the corrupt officers could go on with their double book keeping.

The Bush Administration spent something like $800 billion in direct costs on the Iraq War, including $20 billion for rebuilding the Iraqi Army after viceroy Paul Bremer abolished . . . the Iraqi Army in 2003. When health care for wounded veterans over their lifetimes is figured in, some suggest the war will have cost trillions of dollars. It is not clear what the US received from that investment. Not security. The Baghdad government is de facto allied with Iran. And the Obama administration has deemed Daesh so much a threat to US national security that President Obama felt it necessary to send the Air Force back in to bomb the country in 2014! The Bush senior administration bombed Iraq in 1991, and the Clinton administration bombed it in 1998. So, in other words, invading and occupying the country seems to have had very little impact on whether it represents a threat to US security in Washington’s eyes, or whether the US feels the need to bomb it..

The $800 bn was largely wasted or stolen. If you want to find it, get a shovel and dig around in back yards in Fairfax County, to which ex-US officials and contractors involved in looting both countries tend to retire.

Apparently no greater waste was incurred than in the $20 bn spent to build a new Iraqi Army. Al-Abadi said that the 50,000 ‘ghost’ soldiers were discovered with just a superficial inquiry, and that were a more thorough inspection to be done, it would find “wonders and marvels.” He lamented that grunts are fighting and dying, while officers were scooping up the military budget. Al-Abadi is said to have made a large number of high ranking officers resign over the scandal.

When Daesh (ISIL) took Mosul in June, it captured large numbers of US armored vehicles, tanks, weapons and ammunition, which the US had spent billions on. The US is now spending millions of dollars in Hellfire and other rockets to destroy the American tanks and armored vehicles that are now in the hands of “Caliph” Ibrahim and his murderous minions.

Al-Abadi warned that the collapse in international oil prices would require Iraq to slash its government budget in half, which would affect its ability to fight the Daesh fundamentalists.

Prime Miinister al-Abadi also met over the weekend with Kurdistan PM Nechirvan Barzani and discussed with him the need for the Baghdad Arab government and the Kurds to unite against the threat of Daesh. They also readjusted the oil deal between Baghdad and Erbil in light of plummeting prices.

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Related video

PBS Newshour: “New gains seen as Iraqi army pushes back against Islamic State fighters”

23 Responses

  1. This is an ancient ploy, the temptation is all but irresistible when the source of funds is not the paymaster. You have soldiers coming and going, no one ever counts them, and their names are incomprehensibly similar. Thomas Holloway, a self made millionaire from the manufacture and sale of pills for women, built Holloway College for women in the 19th century as a philanthropic gesture of restitution. It is said that he arrived on site daily with a leather bag of coinage and paid each construction worker himself. A man well versed in the foibles of human nature.

  2. The will to fight is a curious limit upon imperial ambition. The US trumps that by using economic coercion in recruiting, giving its soldiers a higher standard of living than they could have elsewhere, and fighting only foreign wars of aggression against small countries, so that prospective deserters are not outnumbered and cannot melt away into the home country. The US is also far more experienced in concealment of official corruption from its own people. It would be interesting to see whether US forces would desert if required to fight a superior force of their countrymen on behalf of a corrupt government.

    • Lookie here! For all the believers in the Purity of American Arms! There are some Troops who do not thank YOU for screwing them over with one futile, corrupt, feckless combat tour after another! Hard to believe, right? ‘Cuz We are on the Right Side, right? Really? “Sir! No Sir! GI Resistance 1965-1973,” link to militarylies.typepad.com

      A bunch of Troops in the 2nd Armored Division down at Ft. Hood also refused to lock and load and board the C-130s to fly to Chicago in August 1968 to “put down the insurrection” of people assembled to petition for redress of grievances at that Democratic (sic) Convention.

      And there’s this, link to libcom.org, dated, but there is so much more, even with the recent BS with the “all volunteer/mercenary military,” staffed with rations of true believers in Greater America but with a lot of other folks with something other than “preserving Freedom, Liberty”, more like (what at my bunch called) ‘The Right To Round-Eyed Pussy’ as our casus belli. One small example is “Iraq Veterans Against The War,” link to ivaw.org, and one could follow link to military.com for a while to get a sense of the different types that are drawn to and repulsed by our martial imperial culture, and the Major Malfunctions and FUBARs and corruption and appreciation of the Idiocy of it all.

      WTF is with sending young people, ignorant and disdainful of the cultures they are warring on, to go kick in other people’s doors, blast them with Hellfires and depleted-uranium 30mm cannon shells, kill them for sport, and then go out “patrolling” to set off IEDs and trigger ambushes and get all angry and “take revenge” when the “wogs” shoot back, taking their own vengeance or resisting the invaders, all the while your Braaasss is living the high life, wallowing in a corrupt soup with the Beltway Bu__sh_tters and people like al Maliki and al Sisi and Karzai? Especially since “the only way to win the 4th Gen warfare is not to play the game,” no matter what you hear from the folks who insist the Empire has “the world’s greatest military,” that finally was able to include an F-22 in an actual mission in Syria, with a pitch for why “we” should have bought a whole nother bunch of these “air dominance” turkeys: “Analysis: Long Road for F-22’s First Combat Mission,” link to defensenews.com — Please read the whole article and enjoy hearing about how all the various “programs,” B-1 and all that, got to take part, thus justifying all those other billions in tax money that might otherwise fix our nation, change our consumption idiocy, and feed our people and see to their health care and stuff. So see? the at least $67 billion spent on that “program” was all totally justified, right?

      The War Lords have been trying to stuff the military with Confederate soldiers and “Christians,” to keep down the tendency to challenge unlawful and idiotic orders. That may have paid off in a reduced incidence of “fragging” of officers and a__hole NCOs, link to en.wikipedia.org, but look here, “‘Fragging and Casualties in Iraq & Afghanistan’,” link to garyrumor.com for a bunch of real context on the nature of the beast and a note, back in July, on the whole “phantom soldier” scam and how out Sepoys, our “moderate terrorists,” make a buck on both sides by selling their weapons to the Others. (We had a supply sgt in early 1968 who was selling captured VC and NVA weapons back to the “gooks,” and somebody cut his throat and left him in a ditch…)

      Does it “make us more secure?” And just how, again? “Serve our national interests,” which are just what, again?

      All Milo Minderbinder, all the time: “It’s for the good of the Syndicate, and everyone has a share!” link to karen-ib.wikispaces.com .

  3. From the Romans we learned controlling an empire several thousand miles from your home base is impossible. Factor in a population and religious factions who think you’re Satan and bingo….you suffer the same fate as Caesar being stabbed in the back by those who claimed to be your allies.

  4. Nazim Hasan Khan

    Strange ! 50,000 “ghost soldiers” couldn’t say even “Boo” to ISIL if they are still haunting around Iraq. What a spooky army !

  5. There’s a video tape circulating of Rand Paul accusing Dick Cheney of pushing the Iraq War so Halliburton would profit.

    Now we’re learning that – with just a superficial inquiry – billions of dollars were spent enriching a select few Iraqi officers.

    It’s a sad thing thinking about young, idealistic soldiers going over there and thinking they’re defending some noble cause.

  6. I think we underestimate the value of the ghost soldiers. Because they are invisible and invulnerable(you can’t kill a dead man) couldn’t you use them to fight ISIS.

  7. Informative video. The worm has turned on Daesh thanks to Obama sending 1,500 more military advisors to Iraq and his decision to launch a bombing campaign. Hopefully, in a couple of years, Mosul will no longer be controlled by Daesh and they’ll be driven out of Iraq. In 2016, the Republicans won’t be able to blame Obama for letting Daesh run wild and use that as an excuse to start a propaganda campaign aimed at a much bigger war with Iran.

    I can almost hear Lindsey Graham getting all hysterical. “ISIS is bad but they aren’t building nuclear bombs. That isn’t the case with Iran. President Obama didn’t confront ISIS and he let Iran play him by letting these foolish nuclear negotiations go on and on. Meanwhile, their centrifuges are spinning faster and faster.”

      • If it doesn’t happen by 2016, the light at the end of the tunnel will be Republicans on the warpath sounding like the Indians at the Little Big Horn. These little wars ain’t their thing and Daesh is a ‘lil war.

        Imagine this: A Republican Congress with a Republican POTUS slowly but surely building up to a war with Iran just like they did in 2002 with Iraq. That’s a BIG WAR.

      • Trying to spin it as naive or overly optimistic doesnt work due to his inclusion of the word, hopefully.

        Its also not unreasonable to believe that they may lose territory and support in the future in the same way that their precursor group did.

        • The operative word is ” believe.” Or “what one can get other people to believe.” If one just focuses on the fate of ISIL/Daesh, believing in the power of the Empire and the willingness of tribes and kingdoms and states and corporations to “undo” ISIS, does one also note that if the behaviors that made Daesh possible don’t change massively, one might have to believe that maybe Daesh has more staying power than believed? And that ordinary people’s beliefs and inclinations, plus all those fun, profitable weapons and chaos-engendered corruption opportunities, might make confident belief in the Victory of the Cowboys a little irrationally exuberant? As Jack says, we’ll just have to wait and see….

        • My using the word “hopefully” had more to do with my doubts about Obama following through on his bombing campaign. IMO, Daesh has badly overextended themselves and lost a lot of revenue because of the decline in oil prices. Bombing their refineries and further reducing their revenue is the correct strategy. Daesh takes in $1 million/day from oil smuggling. That’s where they are most vulnerable. They can be degraded and rolled up IF they are consistently attacked on several fronts.

          It’s a myth that Daesh has “several hundred thousand” fighters. The Republicans use it so American boots on the ground might be sent to Iraq and Syria. The liberals use it and claim Obama’s bombing campaign is the first step to a bigger war. Daesh is much weaker than that and vulnerable right now.

  8. Carl Howard

    Yeah, Jesse Peter, that’s so EXACTLY what Juan R. I. Cole is doing. Excellent analysis. Why not go all the way and call him a member of the “Blame America First” crowd? Want some Freedom Fries?

    Good good.

    • Did you watch the video? I just agreed with it and think the Republicans would pounce on any weakness Obama shows so they can go on the warpath against Iran. I’m surprise more posters don’t agree with me. No posters agree with me. Not one—Zero, Zilch. :)

      Those 50,000 ghost soldiers the Bush gang paid probably started right after Paul Bremer abolished Saddam’s army. That was over ten years ago. I’m sure the replacements have been on the payroll ever since.

      According to Scott Ritter, when Bill Clinton bombed Baghdad in 1998, he knew Saddam had already destroyed his WMDs. That’s why Ritter ALWAYS said the Bush gang wouldn’t find any. The next Democratic nominee for POTUS, one Hillary Clinton, knew what Bill did back in ’98, but she still was a BIG SUPPORTER of the invasion.

  9. Paul Bremmer dismissing the entire Iraqi army in 2003 has to be one the single dumbest maneuvers in military history. And the war profiteering you write of Juan is another supremely foul aspect of this never ending nightmare. Daesh clearly aren’t the only goons we have to deal with.

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