AP FACT CHECK: Is Trump right that US soldiers stole loot?

AP News
|
Posted: Jun 15, 2016 5:18 PM
AP FACT CHECK: Is Trump right that US soldiers stole loot?

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's not every day a presidential candidate will question the actions of the troops, and it may not make for smart politics. But that's what Donald Trump did at a rally in North Carolina, when he seemed to accuse U.S. soldiers of making off with aid money meant for Iraq's reconstruction.

The claim may have been eye-popping — but he was right.

Trump was on less solid ground when addressing a theory that the Obama administration worked with the group that grew into the Islamic State, which he did in a tweet.

A look at those claims and the facts behind them:

TRUMP: "Iraq, crooked as hell. How about bringing baskets of money, millions and millions of dollars and handing it out? I want to know, who are the soldiers that had that job, 'cause I think they're living very well right now, whoever they may be."

THE FACTS: Fraud and financial crime were rampant in Iraq during the 2003-11 war, and at least a few U.S. military members were involved.

His broader point: The Obama administration should not have delivered the aid in easy-to-steal cash.

Investigators after the war concluded that the whereabouts of billions of dollars in U.S. money for reconstruction projects remained unknown.

The U.S. government, including the military, handed out huge sums of cash to reconstruct and run the country. Initially this included billions of dollars in Iraqi oil revenue that flowed into a U.S.-administered account called the Development Fund for Iraq, or DFI. "In 2003 and 2004, more than $10 billion in DFI cash was flown to Baghdad on U.S. military aircraft in the form of massive shrink-wrapped bundles of $100 bills stored on large pallets," the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction wrote in the final report in 2013.

Dozens of criminal cases of fraud, waste and abuse of U.S. reconstruction funds were documented in the ensuing years by the special inspector general. The accused included not just Iraqi and American government officials but also U.S. and other contractors and subcontractors.

In what the special inspector general called the most significant criminal conspiracy case uncovered involving Iraq reconstruction funds, a U.S. contracting officer based in Kuwait, John Cockerham, was accused of receiving more than $9 million in kickbacks from companies or individuals in return for contract awards. Cockerham, a former U.S. Army major, pleaded guilty to bribery and money laundering and in December 2009 was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison and ordered to pay $9.6 million in restitution.

U.S. Army Major Charles E. Sublett, 46, of Huntsville, Alabama, was convicted on charges related to his smuggling of more than $100,000 in currency, concealed in a shipping package, into the United States from Iraq in January 2005.

Trump's comment infuriated some veterans. His spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said later that Trump was referring to Iraqi soldiers. But he's brought up theft by U.S. military personnel before and his latest comment was in the context of soldiers bringing "baskets" of money from Washington.

___

TRUMP: "Media fell all over themselves criticizing what DonaldTrump 'may have insinuated about @POTUS.' But he's right." — In tweet linking to a story alleging the Obama administration supported al-Qaida in Iraq, forerunner of the Islamic State. POTUS means President of the United States.

THE FACTS: With his tweet, posted either by Trump or someone on his staff, he endorsed a theory that is not supported by the document cited in the report by Brietbart News. Nowhere does the secret 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency analysis state that the U.S. was directly in league with al-Qaida in Iraq. Instead, it states generally what was widely known at the time — that "the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition" to the Syrian government of Bashar Assad.

That opposition included al-Qaida in Iraq, along with many other anti-Assad factions. But whether the U.S. cooperated with figures from that group or steered around them is not addressed in the document. IS has since become the primary target of the U.S. in the region; at the time, Assad was.

___

AP News Researcher Monika Mathur contributed to this report.