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US Papers Sat: 5 GIs, 2 Iraqis Killed in Blast
Contractor Must Pay in Iraq Fraud, Court Rules, Iraqi Refugees Remain in Jordan
By DANIEL W. SMITH 04/11/2009 00:59 AM ET
The deadliest incident for US troops in over a year occurred in Mosul on Friday. Also, a court decision opens gates to US courts hearing fraud cases against US contractors in Iraq. In Jordan, Iraqi refugees only remain, but continuing to arrive.

From Baghdad
Late Friday morning, a dump truck filled with about a ton of explosives apparently made it through several checkpoints and to the entrance of a Mosul Iraqi police headquarters. As the driver refused to follow orders, the vehicle came under heavy fire, but could not be stopped from detonating, as it passed near a US convoy. US military spokesmen say that 5 US troops were killed, and two wounded. Iraqi police officials say two were killed and up to 70 Iraqis were wounded (US sources put the wounded Iraqis at 20). According to a US military statement, two suspects were apprehended.

Ernesto Londoño and Dlovan Brwari of the Washington Post and Sam Dagher in the New York Times have the most information. The main difference between the two is that Dagher gives details of the blast and then goes on to list other violence around Iraq, while Londoño and Brwari flesh out the situation in Mosul a bit more (including animosity between residents and the National Police stationed there), and also the stated probability by American forces that they may stay in Mosul past the security agreement's June deadline. Charles Levinson, now writing for the Wall Street Journal files from Amman with less of a focus on the incident itself, and more of a general status of security in Iraq, hitting on the rising tensions between the government and Sahwa members and the ever-rising tensions between everybody in Kirkuk.

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan
Also in Amman, the Christian Science Monitor’s Ilene R. Prusher writes about the almost half a million displaced Iraqis who remain in Jordan, despite the overall decrease in violence in Iraq.

"An interesting trend is that there are still new arrivals from Iraq," says Rafiq Tschannen, the chief of mission in Amman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM). "And contrary to the first arrivals, we see people going to live in villages instead of Amman, where the cost of living is high. These refugees have less money and they look to the cheapest villages they can find." ... "The actual number of people who we know of who went back to Iraq are 300 in Jordan, and 500 to 600 from Syria," he says. "But no one has exact figures of how many are actually here."

Prusher writes a very informative article for those under the impression that security improvements have brought everybody back home in Iraq. She looks at numbers from several different organizations (refugee populations, particularly in cases of mass exodus like Iraq, are hard to calculate with certainty and can vary widely). The concept of Jordan as the “first stop” for Iraqi refugees who fan out over the globe (when possible) is covered.

Stateside
Two articles appear which report on a court decision that overturned a previous ruling that the False Claims Act (which makes it illegal for anyone to knowingly make a false claim for payment to the U.S. government) did not apply to many contractors operating early on after the invasion. In those care-free CPA days, American officials often used seized Iraqi cash and Iraqi oil revenues to pay contractors. Even if a contractor was later found guilty of defrauding the US government, prosecution was limited if the money they were paid with was not directly from the US government.

The large amounts of cash being thrown around after the invasion are credited by many as a major source of fraud and waste in the early days of the Iraq contracting free-for-all. Interestingly, the case at hand deals with a company called Custer Battles, which was found to have defrauded the US government in a contract to bring new post-Saddam era currency to Iraq. The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima has more information, but James Glanz of the New York Times is more clear and succinct, something the somewhat confusing subject material could use. Here, he explains the initial ruling, just overturned.
...Even though the company eventually won security and logistics contracts in Iraq worth tens of millions of dollars, Judge Ellis ruled that in this case, only $3 million paid for with a Treasury check was subject to the False Claims Act. That ruling posed a severe limitation. ...Judge Ellis said that fraud committed with Iraqi money was not subject to the act.

...The latest judgment overturned those rulings, although the appeals court said that several other objections by the company would have to be considered by Judge Ellis before he decided whether the damages should be paid. The appeals court also gave the plaintiffs the option of a new trial.
USA Today, no Iraq coverage.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at ds@iraqslogger.com


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