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Iraq Should Pay - Right, Left, Wrong

Iraq reportedly has an oil revenue that could hit $79 bln this year. On the right, on the left, and on the corporate “news,” the critique is that Iraq should start paying for its own reconstruction. WRONG - at least as the situation stands.

The Bush administration has told a lot of lies, but there are two clear truths that came out of the administration. One was Bush stating that the war on terrorism would be a multi-generational war, and as the world struggles this may ultimately be true. The second was Colin Powell advising Bush et al, regarding invading Iraq that if they broke it they had to buy it .

However, in the run up to the invasion, Wolfowitz stated that this would be war on the cheap. Iraq had oil wealth and they could pay for their own reconstruction. This perspective was stated various ways in various venues (see resources at end).

I resented the statement every time I heard it. Why would a nation - regardless of its wealth - pay for the destruction caused by an aggressor engaging in an invasion? Further, an invasion aimed largely at control of those very resources that were being promoted as the nation's source of wealth?

Now, Iraq supposedly has a multi-billion dollar surplus so the hew and cry is that they should being paying for their own reconstruction. Paying whom? The US gave out cost-plus contracts to largely U.S. corporations. A number of those corporations have done worse than a lousy job. Further, they did not hire Iraqi's. They brought in laborers from outside the country. And, with the aid of the U.S. have operated outside of any law. Is Iraq now supposed to start paying those contractors? As, their failed attempt to kick Blackwater out of Iraq proved, they can't just send those corporations packing. Are they supposed to pay out those contracts on the condition they stop work, AND hire Iraqi's to replace them?

Who "shock and awed" Iraq? Who continues to use massive artillery and bombing in an attempt to fight the various factions in Iraq? Who continues to renew cost-plus contracts for non-performing corporations? Who continues to protect those corporations?

Now, who owes whom? Who should pay for the mess? Who controls Iraq's wealth? Is it the Iraqi "government?" Or is it the U.S.?

So folks, including the McCain and Obama campaigns, can posture all they want about how Iraq should start picking up the tab. It sounds more like getting stuck with the bill to me.

Now we might crack down on those non-performing contractors. We might demand that they hire Iraqi's instead of bringing in "foreign" workers. We might start a transition that places Iraq in charge of reconstruction rather than ourselves.

For now, the U.S. needs to acknowledge that we "broke" Iraq, and then we set up a profiteering bonanza. Then we need to do the right thing and give Iraq back to the Iraqis'.

Miscellaneous Resources

Nightline, 1/22/08. False Statements Preceded War

Paul Wolfowitz's Happy Talk Five Years On

Cost of Iraq War and Nation Building

On Iraq - testimony of Paul Wolfowitz, Joshua Bolton and John Keane before Senate Foreign Relations Committee 7/29/2003.

Wright, Guardian. 6/04/2003. Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil

Washington Post, 3/20/2005. Wolfowitz Strives To Quell Criticism:

The clip showed Wolfowitz telling a congressional panel, "It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself," and "The oil revenue of that country could bring between 50 and 100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years. We're dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."

Schmitt, NY Times, 2/28/2003, Pentagon Contradicts General on Iraq Occupation Force's Size:

Enlisting countries to help to pay for this war and its aftermath would take more time, he said. "I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact," Mr. Wolfowitz said. Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables. Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. "To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong," he said.
Posted by Rowan Wolf at August 10, 2008 12:12 PM
Comments
Comment #258191

Rowan,

AMEN!! I am sure that your post has sent some conservatives over the edge. I can’t wait to read their posts in response.

I find it totally immoral and disgusting that we would go into a country, destroy it then whine about them not paying for reconstruction.

Posted by: Carolina at August 10, 2008 1:57 PM
Comment #258192

Well, this democrat thinks we should SHARE the cost. Keep in mind the condition of our economy and the deficit. What they pay for should be their own contracts (perhaps to repair the screw-ups we already know about), and their own citizens. Would help create needed jobs, keep the money in their economy and would help stabilize the government if they started doing for themselves.

JMHO of course.

Posted by: womanmarine at August 10, 2008 2:35 PM
Comment #258193

Rowan,

Not only did we bring in our own contractors we also brought in our own materials.
Iraq’s second largest export before we invaded was concrete. We also decided to import the concrete we were going to use.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 10, 2008 2:54 PM
Comment #258194

Rowan:

Very nice article, very nice. I will get back to you in a moment.

Carolina:

As a conservative this article does not send me over the edge. Rowan has a good thesis here that needs to be addressed. Who should pay and for what? What about the no-bid contracts? What about the oil revenues? I like your response, and I too know that this article will evoke some strong responses, but you asked the most relevent point, “I find it totally immoral and disgusting that we would go into a country, destroy it then whine about them not paying for reconstruction.”.

Rowan and Carolina:

Great questions and points. I hope to answer both of you with my point of view, and IMHO this is a very important topic. How do we reconstruct Iraq? What errors have we made? Can we overcome them and if so, how?

First of all, I do not fault the cost plus contracts in principle. It would be too dangerous and cost/time ineffective to put some of the early security and essential needs construction through a bidding process. Security, water, electrical, communication and basic necessary infrastructure had to be restored immediately. These are the contracts that, IMHO, should have been awarded by the cost plus no bid contracts. IMHO, these immediate need services should have been fielded by employees of the contractors choice. Proper vetting of the “locals” for security and skills needs would have been impractical. To guarantee that the resources for these efforts would be there in the early stages, they along with the labor, would have to be imported.

But these should have been for short term projects only(1-2 years at a maximum), with the exception of intermediate projects that are sensitive for security reasons. Any projects that were to last longer should have been awarded in stages. If there was an immediate need to start the project, award the prep work contract first. Then access the situation, and adjust accordingly. IMHO, once an area has been stabilized, as many people as possible from that area should be used in the reconstruction efforts. I do not know if this is the process we used, but IMHO, the left, right and middle should agree with it.

IMHO, we should have payed for these immediate needs projects. We broke it, we should fix it. However, as things stabilized, the emphasis should have been shifted to local control in determining and meeting the needs and costs. At some point past, we have mostly restored the existing infrastructure and in many cases improved it. That is the point that we should have started transferring the decision making and responsibility for paying for the work. By employing as many Iraqis as possible we would have instilled a sense of ownership for their country and speeded their national reconcilation and our departure. We would have also started building for the Iraqis a “middle class” of skilled labor that would have improved their standard of living and by default, their stability.

Some will argue that it has been only recently that things have stabilized to this point, and as a whole, I agree. But there are areas that have reached this threashold earlier, and unless there are Iraqi political implications that I am not aware of, those areas should have had the authority and responsibility for their country.

Posted by: submarinesforever at August 10, 2008 3:30 PM
Comment #258199

This idea of “we broke it, we should fix it”—at least the way it’s being tossed around by left-wing commentators—is utter baloney.

Why would a nation - regardless of its wealth - pay for the destruction caused by an aggressor engaging in an invasion?

My guess is that maybe they’d want to pay for it because they’d like to have roads, schools, hospitals, an industrial infrastructure and security instead of having none.

This notion that we “broke” the things we are building and have built in Iraq is nonsense. How many schools, hospitals, oil-refineries, etc that we have built in Iraq existed in the first place? How many did we destroy in the invasion?

What we destroyed in Iraq was the security apparatus of a repressive totalitarian regime. We didn’t bomb hospitals and schools.

The only truth to the “we broke it, we should fix it” argument is that in removing the regime, we left a power vacuum which would have been filled by people as bad or worse than Saddam Hussein.

Therefore, it’s in the interest of not only the Iraqis but in our interest to see to it the power vacuum is filled by a decent Iraqi government… and it just happens to be the case security depends on having things like functioning schools, hospitals, industries, etc.

If you do not WANT Iraq to become part of some kind of American Empire that is permanently occupied(and doesn’t the left profess such a wish?) then it is ultimately necessary that they achieve economic as well as security independence from the U.S. Eventually that has to mean that they pay their own way—the only way that they can actually enjoy self-determination, something they never had under Saddam Hussein.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 10, 2008 6:10 PM
Comment #258215

Perhaps we should send a bill to Sadaam’s widow? Perhaps Great Britian for creating the Iraq mess to begin with? Perhaps Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for protecting their oil fields?

A bit contrived? Meh.

Posted by: googlumpugus at August 11, 2008 7:02 AM
Comment #258221

LO,

The reason the statement, ‘we broke it, we should fix it’, is relevent is…it’s true. No matter what color you paint the Iraq stupidity, we are there on a dishonorable mission. We went there if not on a lie, at least on the worst acceptance of bad intelligence, and poor assumptions ever in the annals of time. We are the ones who contracted with reconstruction corporations that did, do and will not perform in any margin of competance, and we do not hold their feet to the fire for such blatant ineffeciency. We are the ones who, after invading a soverign nation, limited the number of reconstruction troops to an ineffective number (and most of them combat troops who had no reconstruction ability), and placed restrictions on our supposed ‘friends’ in Iraq so that not even they could help us out of the mess we created.

Yes, it is costing us out the yin-yang, yes we are still losing troops, yes we are still killing Iraqis…so…even if it breaks our economy, and perhaps our backs…why should the Iraqis be required to buy our way out?

Iraq cannot begin to reconstruct itself, because we’ve placed too many restrictions on them. The only reason for those restrictions…is our corporate mindset and greed. Cheney/Bush is killing our country and you want Iraq to pay for that?

Posted by: Marysdude at August 11, 2008 10:31 AM
Comment #258229

BTW: the watchsell post is spam with a capital S.

Posted by: womanmarine at August 11, 2008 11:55 AM
Comment #258230

Marysdude:

So Iraq should depend on our failing economy and incompetent oversight of incompetent contractors (who, by the way, are killing our own troops!)? Iraq needs to go ahead and start some of their own reconstruction and say to hell with us, just like they are trying to do with a definite timetable for the US to be out of there.

Posted by: womanmarine at August 11, 2008 11:58 AM
Comment #258235

womanmarine,

Actually we should just hand them cash in the amount normally spent there in a year, and withdraw entirely, and immediately…

Posted by: Marysdude at August 11, 2008 12:07 PM
Comment #258263

Iraq HAS begun paying. They are currently outspending us 5-1 on development projects. This is what is going to happen. We can advocate it happen a little faster (as I have) but this is what its going to be.

We HAVE started the transition to Iraq management.

What I find interesting about lefty critics of the Iraq policy is that they often advocate things we have tried alreay or are doing and think they have come up with something new.

Posted by: Jack at August 11, 2008 2:44 PM
Comment #258267

“Iraq HAS begun paying. They are currently outspending us 5-1 on development projects. This is what is going to happen. We can advocate it happen a little faster (as I have) but this is what its going to be.”

Jack do you know if these projects are of their choosing or are we directing/ dictating which projects they do? Are they now able to use their own people and firms of their choosing?

Posted by: j2t2 at August 11, 2008 3:14 PM
Comment #258285

Jack -

Could you please post your reference on that ‘5-to-1’ spending margin? ‘preciate it.

And for L.O. -

Sure, the Iraqis have self-determination now. They can do what the local militias say, or die. Or they can become refugees in another country, like over two million of their countrymen have done.

Quite frankly, EVERY ONE of those Islamic regimes that border Iraq that have taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees and continue to house and feed them (in accordance with Islamic religious strictures and customs) should be PRAISED for their ongoing humanitarian efforts.

But will the Republicans, conservatives, and neo-cons do so? Possibly, but I won’t hold my breath.

I can only ask myself if America would make such a proportionately great humanitarian efforts if we faced the same challenges with, say, Mexico, as Syria and Jordan did when they were faced with hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming in from Iraq.

Would we? Or would the neo-cons wrap themselves in the flag once more, turn all the Mexicans back at the border, and claim that only left-wing liberal commies would want to reach out to help the Mexicans as they fled a deadly civil war?

I suspect we all know the answer.

Posted by: Glenn Contrarian at August 11, 2008 6:00 PM
Comment #258298

This might be of interest to folks. From the Washington Post:


Use of Contractors in Iraq Costs Billions, Report Says

The budget office’s report found that from 2003 to 2007, the government awarded contracts in Iraq worth about $85 billion, and that the administration was now awarding contracts at a rate of $15 billion to $20 billion a year. At that pace, contracting costs will surge past the $100 billion mark before the end of the year. Through 2007, spending on outside contractors accounted for 20 percent of the total costs of the war, the budget office found, according to the people with knowledge of the report.
Posted by: Rowan at August 11, 2008 11:59 PM
Comment #258329

Glen & J2t2

It is primary kwowledge. It will take months before it is listed somewhere. I suppose the GAO or CRS will do a report. The whole problem with Iraq is that information re it is behind the curve. By the time it gets into the media in America, it is often OBE’d.

The Iraqis choose whomeever and whatever they want with their own money. The U.S. tries to help them, but they do not need to take our advice.

Posted by: Jack at August 12, 2008 12:51 PM
Comment #258577


If the Iraqi’s are expected to earn $89 billion in oil revenues, imagine how much the foreign oil companies are going to be expatriating out of Iraq.

Posted by: jlw at August 15, 2008 12:02 PM
Comment #258635

jlw,

Worry no more…Cheney/Bush will allow no shinanigans by American oil companies in Iraq. We only went in there to democratize, not exploit.

Posted by: Marysdude at August 15, 2008 9:24 PM
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