If public schools or Medicare providers were held to the same standards as military contractors, they’d never have to beg for cash. Need money? Sure! — Congress would say — what’s a few missing billions of tax dollars?

Congress agreed to pump an extra $33 billion into Afghanistan this week, even as a new report revealed that almost nine billion earmarked for the nation’s other occupation — Iraq — simply, it seems, went missing.

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says $8.7 billion earmarked for Iraq reconstruction has gone. Precisely where, no one can tell him.

Not one percent or five percent, but a full 96 percent of the special fund created from the sale of Iraqi oil and gas—and frozen Saddam Hussein-era assets — is missing according to the BBC. The Pentagon is "unable to fully account for" it.

And they’re blaming a lack of accounting, oversight, and who knows what — probably some secretaries. Powerful politicians have a habit of blaming their secretaries.

It’s not the first time billions have disappeared—in 2005, the Coalition Provisional Authority faced a criminal investigation over its management of an $8.8 billion fund. This isn’t the same $9 billion. It’s a different one. In that case, eight US officials were convicted of bribery, fraud and money-laundering.

It’s not the same $9 billion but it is the the same old story. How many strikes and the Pentagon’s pals are out? There’s a very different law for shop-lifters.

Officials are now, as they always do, mouthing words like "undetected loss" and "significant archival retrieval efforts." I’d say — no more talk of deficits or cash crunches or tax — until the lost cash is accounted for. Can’t afford to support the troops you’ve deployed? Bring them home then.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Support us by signing up for our podcast, and follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.