You can't quite say it was inexcusable — there is an excuse — but the absence of controls in spending hundreds of millions of dollars of Iraqi money remains a large failure and a possible setback in the war on terrorism.
The spending was done by U.S. officials in the now-extinct Coalition Provisional Authority. The money — to be used to help rebuild Iraq — came from oil revenues and funds seized after the defeat of Saddam Hussein's forces.
The problems were such things as buying trucks without knowing if they ever got where they were supposed to get. Of the contracts examined, most lacked the paperwork showing deals were fulfilled. There's a chance the U.S. officials got snookered — criminal investigations are underway.
The conclusions reported in the press come from an audit and the excuse from an official who was in charge: He did not have enough people to get things done as quickly as they needed to get things done, and everyone was operating in life-threatening circumstances. Still, someone has to answer for not making sure there were enough people and adequate methods to do the job properly. The buck must stop someplace.
More facts need to be nailed down about both this spending in Iraq and the spending of money allocated by Congress. The reality could be an improvement on appearances, although the reality could turn out to be worse.
Certainly, as some critics note, Iraqis cannot be dismissed as merely misinformed or unduly skeptical if they look at what's known so far and conclude they are being cheated. To the extent that such a thing happens, it will be harder to stabilize Iraq and win the respect and friendship of the Iraqi people, and the anti-terror fight could thus suffer.