The days of the Coalition Provisional Authority seemed a distant past from the time frame at another hearing Tuesday – this one before a Senate committee that listened to Defense Secretary Robert Gates speak of the situation today, including the hope of a U.S. troop withdrawal before year’s end. The significance of the House hearing came when Waxman promised two years of investigations of fraud, waste and abuse under the Bush administration. Democrats are planning dozens of investigations, many of them in Waxman’s committee, which scheduled further hearings this week on homeland security contracts and drug prices. The committee’s hearing Tuesday presented two divergent views of what financial controls were possible in an Iraqi capital with no functioning national government. “Without strong standards, we have no way of knowing whether the cash could end up in enemy hands,” said Waxman said about lack of accounting systems. Bremer countered, “I arrived in Baghdad at a time when much of the city was burning. Looting was still widespread. My responsibilities were to kickstart the economy.” WASHINGTON – House Democrats, taking charge of investigations now that they control Congress, grilled the former U.S. occupation chief in Iraq on Tuesday about the way he doled out up to $12 billion in Iraqi money without accounting for it. L. Paul Bremer III, with support from Republicans, fired back by insisting he did the best he could in the middle of a war and by repeating, over and over, that he was spending Iraqi – not U.S. – money. The hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform scrutinized the chaotic days that began after Baghdad, burning and looted, fell to U.S. troops four years ago. Bremer ran the country for 14 months. The committee chairman, California Democrat Henry Waxman, and a hearing witness, Stuart Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq, criticized Bremer for failing to install accounting systems that would have forced Iraqi ministries to account for up to $12 billion in Iraq’s funds. The money came from a United Nations oil-for-food program and from seized Iraqi assets, but fell under Bremer’s control. Virginia Republican Tom Davis, the former committee chairman and now the senior minority member, defended Bremer and said Waxman was rushing to “old judgments” in a hearing that was “old news.” Bowen, responding to Bremer’s assertions that he was operating without a functioning Iraqi government, said, “That situation screams for more oversight, more controls.” But the inspector general told the hearing he couldn’t say whether insurgents got any of the funds. Bremer painted the bleakest possible picture of the situation he faced. Looters were running wild. Buildings were burning. Competent government officials had fled. Civil servants had not been paid for months. Banks were closed, and only cash could keep the economy from total collapse. Waxman said up to $12 billion in Iraqi money was converted to dollars, held in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York and shipped in pallets to Baghdad that totaled 363 tons. “Millions of Iraqi families depended on civil service salaries and pensions,” Bremer said. “It was clear we had to get this Iraqi money in the hands of people immediately.” Bremer acknowledged that he made mistakes. He said he had mistakenly described the Iraqi Army as being disbanded, leaving an incorrect impression because “there was not a single unit of the Iraqi army standing in place. “160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!