Putting your money where your mouth is

by on January 5th, 2006

President Bush gets a lot of credit from his GOP apologists for spreading freedom and democracy across Iraq. But how much of that is really deserved?

The other day the Washington Post broke the news that the Bush administration is not planning to seek any more reconstruction funds for Iraq.

The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq’s criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.

So that means we are done, right? Mission Accomplished!! Or is it?

Today’s Wall Street Journal adds a little more perspective to that WaPo exclusive from the day before starting with the failure of our allies to come through on their promises of reconstruction aid:

“U.S. allies have fulfilled about $3.1 billion of the $13.6 billion they pledged at a donor conference in Madrid shortly after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. It is unclear when – or if – the rest will be provided. An October 2003 World Bank study estimated that as much as $60 billion would be needed to rebuild Iraq, far more than has been pledged or delivered.

OK, stop right there! So the World Bank says we need $60 billion for the job and we have only allocated $18 billion in three years, half of which has been diverted for other purposes? So how does the Bush team justify pulling the plug on reconstruction and not allocating any more funds? What are the consequences of stopping now? Let’s go back to the WSJ:

Foreign-funded reconstruction is likely to halt entirely this year unless Iraq’s new government accomplishes the significant task of finding other sources of money. The U.S. has been unable to get electricity or oil production back to pre-invasion levels, and water and sewer problems are growing for many of Iraq’s 26 million people. A continued inability to solve those problems could damp public confidence in Iraq’s next government and possibly lead restive ethnic groups to conclude their interests would be better served through independence.”

So if we just leave this problem to fester it will probably lead to civil unrest that will probably tear apart the fledgling government and lead to civil war.

Now, obviously, I’m one who did not want to go into Iraq in the first place and I have advocated pulling our troops out sooner than later. But President Bush is the one who has insisted that setting up a stable government in Iraq was the reason we toppled Saddam in the first place. Is he really serious about achieving that goal? I’m beginning to doubt it.

I guess it is one thing to ask our troops to go overseas and lay down their lives on behalf of some right-wing, neo-con fantasy. But asking U.S. taxpayers to sacrifice by perhaps raising their taxes to fund a $60 billion reconstruction program? Not on your life!

If Bush was really and truly committed to his stated goal of turning Iraq into a model of Western-style democracy, he would have gone before the U.S. people and told us that it is now our turn to sacrifice the way our soldiers have by opening our wallets to support the ongoing works that must be completed to get Iraq to where it needs to be.

But apparently, that is asking too much. In the end, the only thing that matters to Republicans is tax cuts for the rich. Everything else is just pie in the sky flapping of their gums with no real substance to back it up. And they are just counting on the rest of us not to notice.

Mike Thomas