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BOOK REVIEW

An angry look at the war delivers on its promises

Blood Money: A Story of Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq, By T. Christian Miller, Little, Brown, 333 pp., illustrated, $24.99

Book titles and subtitles often promise more than they deliver. So it is especially important to think about the implications of the subtitle of ``Blood Money," an investigative masterpiece by Los Angeles Times journalist T. Christian Miller.

``Wasted billions." ``Lost lives." ``Corporate greed." It is difficult to imagine three elements, six words, more damning to the men and women with positions of authority in the US government, the US military, and the American corporate sector. Imagine being President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, a White House policymaker, an officer or civilian assigned to the military, a private-sector firm involved in the almost-four-year-old invasion of Iraq -- and being accused of wasting billions of taxpayer dollars, of using those billions for private gain, of complicity in who knows how many needless deaths.

Well, in Miller's angry, well-documented book, all those men and women stand accused. If I were sitting on a trial jury and Miller were serving as the prosecutor, I would almost surely vote guilty. The evidence he presents seems persuasive beyond a reasonable doubt.

Let's step back for a moment, though. Potential readers of Miller's book who are right-or-wrong members of the Grand Old Party, who think Democrats are at least as corrupt as Republicans, will quite likely say, ``Oh, another book about Iraq by a liberal journalist."

That would be an unwise reaction. First of all, Miller does not call for an end to the American presence in Iraq. Rather, he calls for a commitment based on long-range planning and honesty. ``Surely if we owe the Iraqis anything, it is the chance to stabilize Iraq. . . . Rebuilding Iraq is one of the most important goals to making America, and the world, a safer place. The tragedy is that reconstruction has so far not succeeded." Miller's ``Blood Money" is not an antiwar book. It is an antigreed book.

Second, Miller is no armchair journalist merely echoing what others have written previously. As is clear from the book, he has traveled throughout Iraq, placing his own life in danger, to see for himself what has been documented in various Congressional hearings, studies by the Government Accountability Office , lawsuits , and statements from courageous whistle-blowers throughout the executive branch, the military , and the corporate sector. Miller shares with readers his firsthand knowledge of waste, fraud, abuse -- and needless death -- in Iraq.

Miller presents the evidence in 14 chapters divided into three sections: ``Cowboy Days," which covers the awarding of illegal and immoral Iraqi invasion-related contracts to corporations such as Halliburton (Cheney's former employer); ``Turning Dirt," about the execution of those contracts on the ground in Iraq; and ``Hands Off," an account of how the obviously failing American effort began turning over reconstruction operations to Iraqis clearly unready for the task.

Relating even one of the dozens of scandals would require more space than this review permits. Suffice it to say that the book gives the names of those who are guilty of immoral or illegal behavior, rarely uses anonymous sources, recognizes the efforts of those trying to help in Iraq while working honestly , and -- unlike so much other reporting about Iraq -- treats the much-persecuted whistle-blowers with the respect they deserve, rather than the calumny heaped on them by the Bush administration.

I don't know how many of the people named in Miller's book sleep at night. I do know that as a result of his reporting, I'm sleeping more poorly than ever.

Steve Weinberg is a freelance investigative journalist in Columbia, Mo.

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