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Your Taxes at Work: $6.6 Billion in Cash Presumed Lost in Iraq

As America's economy continues to flag, it might infuriate you to know that we're literally losing billions in a far-off desert.

We told you back in March, on the eighth anniversary of America's war in Iraq, that besides killing thousands, our engagement over there is a huge drain on financial resources ($780 billion and counting). We had no idea, however, that billions of dollars in cash is literally vanishing. According to new Defense Department audits, U.S. officials still can't account for $6.6 billion in cash that was flown into Iraq in 2003. The money was supposed to be used to repair the battered country. Instead, it's gone.

The disappearance isn't very surprising when you consider the reckless way the funds entered Iraq: Then-President George W. Bush and Pentagon officials decided to fill up giant cargo planes with bricks of $100 bills and then unload them into the chaotic war zone. $12 billion entered the country in this manner between March 2003 and May 2004, and federal auditors are now suggesting that more than half of it may have been stolen. Stuart Bowen, a special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said it's possibly "the largest theft of funds in national history."

As the Los Angeles Times reports, had that money not gone missing, it would have been enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District for a year. It also could have closed Wisconsin's budget deficit several times over, eliminating the need for massive protests. Instead, those billions might very well have gotten some contractor an island.

Update: This post was updated to reflect that the lost money was from the U.N.'s Oil for Food program. America was tasked with delivering the cash after invading Iraq.

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