2 Murders and Missing Cash in Iraq
The killing of Fern Holland, a young human rights worker from Oklahoma, remains
as unsolved and mysterious as it was when her body was found riddled with
bullets on a desolate stretch of road near one of Iraq's southern holy cities
in March 2004.
Now, federal investigators in the United States are grappling with a second
mystery: what happened to hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash issued
by U.S. government authorities to Holland and Robert Zangas, a press officer
who died in the same incident, in the days before their deaths?
Financial records from the American- run compound in Hilla, the south-central
Iraqi city where Holland and Zangas were based, have disclosed that much or
all of that money - issued for things like programs to train Iraqis in the
workings of democratic governance and the building of women's rights centers
that Holland was establishing in Iraq - was either missing or improperly accounted
for immediately after their deaths.
Investigators are trying to determine whether that money was stolen as part
of the web of bribery, kickbacks, theft and conspiracy that they have laid
out in a series of indictments and court papers describing corruption by U.S.
officials in Hilla in 2003 and 2004, according to officials involved in the
inquiry. That corruption case, centered on reconstruction efforts, has led
to four arrests, and more are expected.
Holland was the first US civilian to be murdered in Iraq. Two months
later, the second was Nick Berg. For what it's worth, which may not be much,
both were alumnists of Oklahoma University, where Berg's email account found
it's way to Zacharias Moussaoui.
Berg was allegedly in Iraq on the business of repairing communication facilities,
notably a radio tower near Abu Ghraib, and had as a business partner Aziz al-Taee,
an Iraqi-emigre linked to Russian mafia. One of Berg's killers is heard to say
"Do it quickly" in Russian.
I'm rambling, but here's the thing: Iraq has meant a massive transfer of wealth,
much of it "lost" on the grey market. It's what pirates do, and they
honour flags only for their convenience. Every last death in Iraq can
be attributed to the profit-taking, though some, like Holland's and maybe Berg's,
more directly than others.
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