Award-winning author Martin Roy Hill writes the Linus Schag, NCIS, thrillers and the Peter Brandt thrillers. In addition, he’s the author of a sci-fi novella and a book of suspense and mystery stories that take place during and after the Cold War. Learn more about him and his books at his website.
Most of my plots are inspired by news events or historic facts. The plot for my thriller, The Butcher’s Bill, was no different.
A sequel to my first Linus Schag, NCIS novel, The Killing Depths, The Butcher's Bill revolves around one man's attempt to uncover the truth behind the real-world theft of nearly $9 billion in cash during the Iraq War. That theft was the biggest heist in history and it has never been adequately investigated.
What follows is the true story that inspired the fictional story in The Butcher's Bill.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bush administration made a controversial decision. Billions of dollars belonging to Saddam Hussein and his government sat frozen in financial accounts in U.S. banks. After the fall of the Baghdad government, the White House decided to confiscate those funds and use them to pay for the rebuilding of Iraq.
That, itself, was not controversial. How the administration did it was.
Rather than place the Iraqi funds in a holding account and pay contractor bills as they came due, the Bush administration decided to convert the holdings into $40 billion in U.S. greenbacks and send it to Iraq by the planeload. Once in Iraq, the cash was handed out to contractors without much regard to receipts for work performed. Some witnesses claim the money was simply stuffed into duffle bags and handed over to contractors.
While the haphazard distribution of $31 billion was controversial enough, there was an even greater outrage. Nearly $9 billion in cash—$8.9 billion to be precise—simply disappeared, apparently stolen. Any attempt to investigate the theft was blocked at the highest levels of the government.
Graft and corruption plague every war, but the Iraqi conflict may have seen the most overt war profiteering in history. The Bush administration's excessive use of private contractors for everything from operating mess halls to building bases set the stage for widespread illegal activities. The president's granting of immunity from prosecution to all contractors for any questionable activity only exacerbated the problem.
Contractor-operated mess halls knowingly served rancid food to troops. Construction of facilities for both U.S. and pro-U.S. Iraqi troops was at best careless. Several American service members died when electrocuted by improperly wired barracks. Inadequately constructed plumbing poured raw sewage into newly built buildings, rendering them uninhabitable.
The widespread use of so-called "security contractors"—i.e., armed mercenaries—was the most controversial. These private military companies claimed their personnel were highly trained former military or law enforcement professionals. In fact, many of these security contractors had little or no military or law enforcement background. Many had criminal histories and some were known former members of Latin American death squads.
Security contractors were responsible for some of the most egregious acts. There were allegations of security contractors smuggling weapons into Iraq, possibly to sell to insurgents. Some were accused of smuggling drugs, which they sold to U.S. troops. Many security contractors were accused of wantonly killing Iraqi citizens without cause. Only when a group of security contractors machine-gunned more than 20 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007 were any of these people prosecuted.
These are the facts behind the plot of The Butcher's Bill. Now for the fiction.
NCIS Special Agent Bill Butcher found himself in the middle of this byzantine environment when posted to Iraq during the war. A former Navy SEAL, Butcher is a man of high moral standards, with a strong sense of right and wrong, especially when it involves the welfare of serving men and women.
Butcher was continually frustrated when Bush's immunity proclamation prevented him from investigating the myriad acts of profiteering and corruption he saw around him. When pulled off an investigation into the missing $9 billion in cash, Butcher refused to give up. He continued to probe the theft even after returning to the States. His obsession with the missing funds eventually cost him his NCIS job as well as his marriage. When Butcher discovered the truth behind the missing money, those responsible for the theft come after him.
Those who stole the money want Bill Butcher dead. The cops want him for murder. Butcher's only hope is his former NCIS colleague and closest friend, Linus Schag.
Torn between loyalties, Schag walks a thin line between doing his job and helping his friend. Working from opposite ends, Schag and Butcher peel back the layers of conspiracy, revealing a criminal enterprise reaching into the highest levels of government.
Taken straight from today's headlines, the plot of The Butcher's Bill ranges from the California mountains to the waters of the Pacific and I hope, keeps readers on edge until its final, explosive climax.
The Butcher’s Bill
Meet William Butcher, aka The Butcher, former Navy SEAL, now a disgraced ex-NCIS agent.
Those who stole $9 billion in cash from Iraq want him dead.
The cops want him for murder.
Butcher's only hope is his former NCIS colleague and closest friend, Linus Schag.
Together Schag and Butcher tear away the veil of conspiracy, uncovering a criminal enterprise reaching into the highest levels of government.
Ripped from today's headlines, this sequel to Martin Roy Hill's highly praised The Killing Depths takes the reader from the California mountains to the coastal waters of the Pacific into the dangerous world of war-profiteers and international mercenaries, and is guaranteed to keep readers on edge until its final, explosive climax.