Paul Bremer, head of the US provisional administration in Iraq, appeared
before Congress last week to lobby hard for another $87 billion for
nation building. This figure is in addition to the nearly $80 billion
we've already spent in Iraq, and the new funding request is for
2004 only. If we stay in Iraq beyond 2004 and the administration
has made it clear that reconstruction will be a long-term project
American taxpayers easily could spend one trillion dollars over the
reality is that the federal government will fund the open-ended occupation
of Iraq either by raising taxes, borrowing overseas, or printing more
money. All three options are bad for average Americans.
important the American people know exactly what they will be paying
for in Iraq. The $87 billion requested is such a huge sum that it seems
meaningless to most of us. The details, however, will astound anyone
who resents seeing their tax dollars spent overseas.
are just some of the administration's requests:
for several new housing communities, complete with roads, schools, and
a medical clinic;
$20 million for business classes, at a cost of $10,000 per Iraqi student;
$900 million for imported kerosene and diesel, even though Iraq has
huge oil reserves; $54 million to study the Iraqi postal system; $10
million for prison-building consultants; $2 million for garbage trucks;
$200,000 each for Iraqis in a witness protection program; $100 million
for hundreds of criminal investigators; and $400 million for two prisons,
at a cost of nearly $50,000 per bed! I doubt very seriously that most
Americans would approve of their tax dollars being used to fund these
projects in Iraq.
of this foreign aid spending in Iraq is not restricted to the political
left. Conservative groups and politicians are increasingly angry at
the administration's exorbitant spending. For example, Congressman Zach
Wamp of Tennessee sits on the Appropriations committee, which is responsible
for all spending bills. He has a modest idea: insist the reconstruction
money be paid back as a loan when Iraq's huge oil reserves resume operation.
Similarly, Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona wants to offset every dollar
spent reconstructing Iraq with spending cuts in other areas, especially
given the amount of wasteful pork in the federal budget. But the White
House is adamantly opposed to both ideas. Why is a supposedly conservative
administration resisting even the slightest attempts at fiscal restraint?
We have embarked on probably the most extensive nation-building experiment
in history. Our provisional authority seeks nothing less than to rebuild
Iraq's judicial system, financial system, legal system, transportation
system, and political system from the top down all with hundreds
of billions of US tax dollars. We will all pay to provide job-training
for Iraqis, while more and more Americans find themselves out of work.
We will pay to secure the Iraqi borders, while our own borders remain
porous and vulnerable. We will pay for housing, health care, social
services, utilities, roads, schools, jails, and food in Iraq, leaving
American taxpayers with less money to provide these things for themselves
at home. We will saddle future generations with billions in government
debt. The question of whether Iraq is worth this much to us is one lawmakers
should answer now by refusing to approve another nickel for nation building.