The US still doesn’t know what happened to billions in cash it sent to Iraq to pay for reconstruction. Some $6.6 billion of the $12 billion it delivered remains missing—and for the first time, some officials say it could have been stolen. It may be “the largest theft of funds in national history," says one federal auditor. The missing money, delivered in a series of flights that carried shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills to Iraq between March 2003 and May 2004, is causing bad blood between the US and Iraq, as Iraqi officials threaten legal action to get the cash—which was once theirs—back.
The money initially came from sales of Iraqi oil, seizures of the country’s assets, and surplus from a UN oil-for-food program, the Los Angeles Times reports. Post-invasion theft isn’t unheard of: US contractors were accused of snagging millions in kickbacks, and Iraqi officials were considered major offenders, too. Iraqi leaders say it was the US' job to keep the money safe, according to a 2004 agreement. Meanwhile, “Congress is not looking forward to having to spend billions of our money to make up for billions of their money that we can't account for, and can't seem to find,” says Rep. Henry Waxman, who headed past hearings on waste in Iraq.