Ok, math is hard. Goodness knows, I'm not stellar when it comes to personal finances, as Dr. T will attest (most likely while clutching his heart and becoming even paler). But even I can't lose $9 billion US. This is no doubt why I haven't been recruited by the "U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq after the invasion up until mid-2004."
The $9 billion whoopsie was discovered in a recent audit of the CPA. One particularly interesting finding in the audit shows that "funds went to pay the salaries of 8,206 Iraqi guards, yet the audit could verify the existence of only 602 guards."
The other side of this potentially missing coin is the issue of so-called combat pay. Alternet reports that not only are front-line soldiers earning a mere $225 a month - which is about$7.50 a day - for their part in G.I. Joe, the Reality Series, but that other military personnel, hundreds of miles from the action, are making the same wage. So the soldiers who are getting shot at, blown up, and stoned in the streets are making the same as the ones who are polishing the general's shoes, somewhere that isn't in the streets.
I suppose one could argue that front-line soldiers are there because that's where they were sent, and the same is true for those holding down the fort miles from the danger zone. This is true - so perhaps the front-liners shouldn't be making more, since the fort-holders didn't choose not to fight. But $7.50 a day? How is this justifiable?
That's exactly what I asked myself, and these are the answers I found:
According to Military.com, those qualified for "Immanent Danger Pay" are also exempt from taxes on that pay. Also, the IDP is paid on top of the minimum $1,142.70 per month earned by an enlisted soldier with less than 4 months experience. Militarypay.com also reports that "Most soldiers... get more than just basic pay. Those on active duty are given an allowance for housing and subsistence, incentive pay, medical and other benefits." Incentive pay is given for things like speaking foreign languages, flying, diving, and so on.
So it's essentially misleading for Alternet's reporter to suggest that the US soldiers are earning $7.50 per day - the truth is, the $7.50 is a bonus for being involved in the conflict. There are also allowances for clothing, housing, education, and, for the soldiers in Iraq, a special allowance for the families they've left behind.
It's still not much - you certainly couldn't get me to slip into fatigues and dash off to the streets of Bagdhad, not even for an additional $7.50 a day.
Now, for $9 billion, I'd consider it.