Full faith and credit

In the London Review of Books, Ed Harriman reads through a stack of audits to find out how wisely and carefully the United States has spent its money and, in much larger quantities, Iraq’s. His conclusion: “Americans can’t be expected to do their sums when they are spending other people’s money to finance a war.” The best vignette concerns one of the American agents who was given several million dollars of Iraqi money to distribute in the field. On occasion such agents were cavalier about paperwork. Not this fellow.

One agent who did submit receipts, on being told that he still owed $1,878,870, turned up three days later with exactly that amount. The auditors thought that ‘this suggests that the agent had a reserve of cash,’ . . .

What a lovely piece of understatement. It also suggests, of course, that his reserve was so ample that $1,878,870 didn’t even squeeze him.