For the first time, investigators are speculating that the $6.6 billion in cash we lost in the wake of the invasion of Iraq may have actually been stolen.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the seven-year effort to figure out where nearly $7 billion in cash—out of a total of $12 billion that was airlifted in cargo planes to Iraq to help rebuild the county after the war—that remains unaccounted for went:

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash - enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be "the largest theft of funds in national history."

Fun fact: One C-130 Hercules plane can carry "$2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills." We sent twenty cash-filled C-130s to Iraq. Luckily, the money wasn't ours: It came from the Development Fund for Iraq, an account administered by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and funded by Iraqi oil revenues, money seized from Saddam Hussein and his family, and other Iraqi sources. Sorry we lost your money Iraq!

[Image from "Three Kings" via Warner Bros]