US and Coalition Aid to Iraq Is Ungenerous and Self-Interested

At the donor conference for the “post-ISIL reconstruction” of Iraq which just ended in Kuwait, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talked about Iraqi corruption and insecurity, which he claimed had to be tackled for rebuilding investments to be feasible. He said nothing about donations or reparations for the immeasurable damage the US inflicted on Iraq since the first Gulf war in 1991, let alone since the invasion in 2003. I do not recall reading that Iraq had been successfully rebuilt before ISIL struck in 2014. And let’s recall that ISIL was largely the result of L. Paul Bremer and assorted US generals’ disastrous policies.

The US “aid” offered by Tillerson is a financial package from the US Export-Import Bank in the amount of $3 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and insurance funds to American firms investing in Iraq. Compare that paltry sum to the post-WWII Marshall Plan to Western Europe – including defeated enemy Germany and its allies – which amounted to about $140 billion in today’s dollars. Without going into the increasingly disputed purpose and even effectiveness of that aid, it amounted to more than the totality of Iraq’s needs as estimated at this moment. And only some 10-15% of it were loans; the rest were grants, even if most of these had to finance goods imported from the US

After Saddam’s capture in 2003, the US apparently promised some $20 billion in reconstruction money in the form of credit against Iraq’s future oil revenues. Whether this ever materialized I do not know, and there may well have been similar pledges, but there is no reason to assume that any of it was a grant without major strings attached.

The US government is not the only hypocrite in this matter. The overwhelming majority of the $30 billion in reconstruction pledges concerns credit and investments. Is this simply donor fatigue? How come the U.S.-led coalition had no trouble spending untold billions on the destruction of Iraq and its people, but cannot afford to help them rebuild their country?

The only governmental exception seems to be the nearly half a billion in donations from the European Union, but I wonder how much of this is dedicated to purchases from the EU.

I doubt my own government [Poland] will contribute anything but a token investment – if anything – while it enthusiastically joined the unholy coalition in 2003 for three candidly stated reasons: gain more importance in NATO, train its military in field conditions (!), and benefit from economic offsets. We do not even have the vibrant veterans-against-war associations which in the US fight to prevent more of such wars from happening. One such admirable initiative is We Are Not Your Soldiers, with veterans visiting high schools to harness kids against the propaganda of military recruiters, by explaining what war really looks like and what damage it inflicts on both victims and perpetrators.

In sum, American “Shock & Awe” doctrine destroyed Iraq, initial reconstruction efforts were haphazard and insufficient, and now in 2018 Iraq is sure to end up with a debt noose around its neck and ever greater dependence on the whims of foreign investors.

With respect to foreign investors, consider this quotation: “Iraq also is OPEC’s second-largest crude producer and home to the world’s fifth-largest known reserves, though it has struggled to pay international firms running them.”

As for the Iraqi government, this is how it was described by New York-based Iraqi poet and long-term exile Sinan Antoon: “The Iraqi government and the entire political class are beneficiaries of the U.S. and its wars. They recognize and commemorate the crimes of Saddam Hussein and the Baath regime and now ISIL and exploit them for their narrow and sectarian political purposes.”

Antoon’s critique of the Iraqi government should be kept in mind when reading Prime Minister’s Haider al-Abadi’s glowing appreciation of our “generous aid.”

Pamela, a former aid worker with a decade’s worth of on-the-ground experience in Afghanistan, worked with the Afghan people in relationships characterized by trust and friendship. Reprinted from Bracing Views with permission.

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