In Iraq, we had money everywhere. It was literally in boxes you had to step over. At one point in time, I had $100,000 in a safe in my office. I felt like a drug dealer pulling out bundles of money. There was so much money that the Iraqis invented a new slang term in Arabic that means ‘a large pile of hundred dollar bills.’
— Peter Van Buren was sent to Baghdad as part of a State Department Provincial Reconstruction Team, where he was in charge of a group trying to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure and economy. For the next year, he encountered oblivious bureaucrats, comically-misguided projects, greedy contractors, a never-ending cash flow and campaigns aimed at improving the lives of Iraqi people. But many of those campaigns were misguided, says Van Buren, and they often wasted a lot of money.