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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Friday | September 19, 2003

Billions for Iraq - Part I

By Meteor Blades

Those of us who opposed the IraqAttack from the minute it became clear Baghdad had nothing to do with 9/11 now face a predicament. Two weeks ago, the Administration said it needs from Congress a first installment of $20.3 billion to reconstruct Iraq. (Plus, of course, another $67 billion in military dough to keep “mission accomplished” from becoming even more ridiculous.)

That reconstruction money is merely a down payment on the $50b to $75b some say will be needed to do the whole job. Although the Administration hasn’t yet done so, I expect at any moment Bush will start trying to buff the grunge off this by calling it an Iraqi Marshall Plan, after the prescient aid program that jumpstarted the rebuilding of post-World War II Europe.

We can debate till Doomsday how much the U.S. owes the Iraqi people after four decades of meddling in their affairs. Surely, it’s far from zero. For progressives, abandoning the Iraqis should be as morally repugnant as having gone into Iraq under false pretenses in the first place.

However, with teachers in America being laid off and our public health care in shambles because of state budget catastrophes, it takes a double dose of blood-pressure medicine to swallow the news from Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin via the Washington Post that:

The budget proposal allocates $157 per Iraqi for sewage improvements, compared with $14 per American, for example. The administration is devoting $38 per Iraqi for hospitals, compared with $3.30 per American.

Thus, the President and his advisors, who were so stone faced against nation building when Bill Clinton did it, now promote rebuilding a nation practically from scratch, politically and economically. All this they present while a chorus of sycophants chants their mantra of “everything has changed since 9/11.”

Couldn’t we at least have parity for our home-front infrastructure? Well, no. Because that would be … shudder … socialism and topple the philosophical pillars upon which the oligarchical Right is building its not-yet-solid hegemony over American politics and discourse.

Obviously, America wouldn’t be in this mess if Bush & Cronies hadn’t barked most of our Allies and the U.N. into resentment over our leaders’ arrogance, fear over our preemptive doctrine, and mockery over the ludicrous view that reshaping the Middle East would be a cakewalk. The Administration told the world that the U.S. (and Brits) could and would do it alone. Now just about everybody is saying: So, do it.

Democrats have raised solid objections. In a righteous but quixotic effort, some of them – Biden, Kerry - want to take this moment to press for a reduction of Bush's tax cuts on the high rollers. In this way, the top one-percenters would be made to pay a larger share of - for example - rebuilding Iraq’s electricity grid, even while our own continues to deteriorate.

These Democrats apparently are in tune with the nation. Six in ten Americans oppose not only the president’s request, but also:

In a second rebuff to the administration, more Americans said that, if Congress decides to approve the additional money, lawmakers should roll back the president’s tax cuts to pay for the increased spending, rather than add to the federal budget deficit or cut government spending.

So Democrats are on the right track. Cheers for their attempt. Like too many of their salvos these days, however, we need an artillery barrage and we’re getting a popgun.

What’s needed is a detailed Democratic roadmap for:

*rebuilding Iraq’s AND America’s crumbling infrastructure.

* rebuilding our deeply tarnished reputation among our Allies – yes, even France - AND our foes.

* reconstituting U.S. foreign policy away from the rancid PNAC/Bush Doctrine of preemption that otherwise will soon have us debating how many billions to occupy AND rebuild Syria, Iran, plus any other targets our resident neocon artists deem worthy of attention.

We also desperately need a new federal policy for dealing with the corporations our citizens pay to handle projects like rebuilding Iraq. Some comments on that in Part II.

Posted September 19, 2003 04:26 PM | Comments (106)


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