Congress passed an $87 billion spending bill last week to fund our occupation of Iraq, $20 billion of which is an outright foreign aid giveaway of your money for all kinds of civic and social programs there. This $20 billion was tied to money for troop support, so that members of Congress who object to wasteful and unconstitutional foreign aid would feel compelled to vote in favor of the bill. This new spending comes on top of the $80 billion we have already spent in Iraq, and the price tag easily could reach one trillion dollars if our occupation drags on for several years.
First and foremost, we simply do not have the $87 billion to spend. The federal government literally will have to borrow or print the money needed for our ongoing occupation of Iraq. This new spending will only add to the record budget deficit of $525 billion projected for 2004. At this rate, the Treasury will face single-year deficits of one trillion dollars by the end of the decade.
Second, every attempt to make portions of the $87 billion a loan was defeated. Several House members argued that providing money for American troops is one thing, a naked foreign aid giveaway another. After all, Iraq has trillions of dollars worth of oil reserves. Why should future generations of Americans, rather than future generations of Iraqis, pay the bills for creating a new Iraq? If we really believe we have liberated the Iraqis, surely they should be asked to repay some of the financial costs. Yet both the House leadership and the administration vehemently insisted that the full amount be provided as a gift, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
Five years ago, former President George Bush Sr. described his thoughts in the aftermath of the first Gulf war. When we think about our occupation of Iraq and the staggering costs both human and financial Mr. Bush’s words are stunning:
"Trying to eliminate Saddam Hussein would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq There was no viable exit strategy we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."
This is sound thinking and sound advice by the elder Mr. Bush. Had Congress heeded his words, we would not be voting to spend even more money nation building in Iraq.
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