Our thieving soldiery


Belated happy birthday, US Army! You might be 241 but you don’t look a day over 21.

Mr Donald Trump, at a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, chose to celebrate the occasion by accusing American soldiers of stealing in Iraq:

“How about bringing baskets of money, millions and millions of dollars, and handing it out? I want to know, who were the soldiers that had the job?  Because I think they’re living very well right now, whoever they might be.”

In saying that he was essentially repeating his comments from last year in Keene, New Hampshire: “I want to know who are the soldiers carrying suitcases with $50 [million]?  How stupid are we? I wouldn’t be surprised if those soldiers, if the cash wasn’t there.”

Trump’s spokesman, Hope Hicks, said her boss was referring to Iraqi soldiers.

That’s OK then. I don’t know if Iraqi soldiers were in a habit of carrying suitcases of money around. Perhaps they were, but certainly not in popular imagination. I’m pretty sure that if you think of soldiers and suitcases of money you will think of American soldiers, who did indeed directly distribute a lot of cash as part of the reconstruction process.

Listen, it’s true that the US poured a lot of money into Iraq, including $12 billion in $100 bills shipped in by the Pentagon in the first year post-liberation. It’s also true that half of that $12 billion was indeed unaccounted for, which is quite an appalling way to handle money, even in the chaotic circumstances of Iraq circa 2004. The best indications have always been of the famous local graft being the main culprit.

That the American soldiers stole reconstruction money is, however, a well-known fact. I know it, because for years after the liberation of Iraq I used to receive emails from servicemen like “Cpt John Smith” and “Major Dan Simon”, often of the 1st Armored Division, informing me that they have come into possession of “a sum of $ 50 (Fifty) Million US”, and were looking for help in shifting the money out of Iraq in exchange for a 10 per cent commission, as soon as I would give them my bank account details. I received dozens of these emails, and no doubt Mr Trump received his fair share. The phenomenon was clearly widespread.

There was also that popular Hollywood documentary “Three Kings”, about the infamous exploits of Major George Clooney, Sergeant Mark Wahlberg and Private Ice Cube. True, they were stealing Kuwaiti gold from Iraq during the first Gulf War, but if it happened during the first Gulf War, it no doubt happened during the Second Gulf War too.

I sincerely hope that all those vets living a high life at the moment will get duly punished.

In his Greensboro remarks, Mr Trump also lamented that “We’ve spent probably $14 trillion over the last four years in the Middle East.”  Considering that the entire US federal budget over the last four years was $15.2 trillion, no wonder the United States today is in such a bad shape. And with this sort of mastery of numbers, no wonder that Mr Trump is America’s premier multi-multi-billionaire.

Lastly, Mr Trump suggested that “when we got out, we should have taken some of the oil.” Presumably in those now empty baskets and suitcases.

The US foreign policy has been a bit of a disaster lately, but it certainly warms might heart to know that the Republicans are able to finally offer a sane, practical and thoughtful alternative.