( – promoted by undercovercalico)
Last month’s Petraeus – Crocker, progress in Iraq, dog and pony show provided a forum which allowed them to tell us how well we are progressing in our endeavors to provide peace and stability in Iraq. The format was such that few hard questions were asked and few meaningful answers were given.
General Petraeus informs us:
“There has been significant but uneven security progress in Iraq.”
The gains, however, are “fragile and reversible,” he says, as he begins to outline a plan for a 45-day “period of consolidation and evaluation” to follow the end of the “surge” of extra American forces in July, before any more troops would be withdrawn.
“This process will be continuous, with recommendations for further reductions made as conditions permit,” he added. “This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable.”
There were no major surprises from Petraeus and Crocker, more wait and see, stall and delay. However there was something new and very significant from the Senators doing the questioning.
Several senators took advantage of their allotted time to make the point that Iraq is, in their words, getting “a free ride” and that they should be more appreciative of what we are doing for them.
The issue of Baghdad’s contribution to the costs of the war jumped to the forefront early in April during testimony to Congress of the Iraq war commander, Gen. David Petraeus, and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. Noting that the soaring price of oil is likely to give Iraq a revenue bonanza this year of up to $70 billion, senators quizzed the two on why Iraq isn’t using its rising oil income to pay more of the costs of reconstruction.
Senator Ben Nelson D-Nebraska is drafting legislation with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Evan Bayh, R-Ind. that would, among other things, require that Baghdad pay for the fuel used by American troops and take over U.S. payments to predominantly Sunni fighters in the Awakening movement.
If Michigan Democrat Carl Levin has his way the Iraqi Government will be required to spend its own oil revenues to rebuild the country before US Dollars are spent. Joe Lieberman wants Iraq to start paying some of US combat costs. Senator Lindsey Graham suggested the possibility that an anticipated Iraqi surplus could be used to support US efforts in Afghanistan.
Senator Barbara Boxer laments:
“After all we have done, the Iraqi government kisses the Iranian leader.”
The Iraqi response:
“America has hardly even begun to repay its debt to Iraq,” said Abdul Basit, the head of Iraq’s Supreme Board of Audit, an independent body that oversees Iraqi government spending. “This is an immoral request because we didn’t ask them to come to Iraq, and before they came in 2003 we didn’t have all these needs.”
What a deal. The victim pays, not only for the unwanted occupation of it’s own country but to help defray US expenses in its occupation of Afghanistan.
We shall no doubt be hearing much more of this in the future as it now looks like Iraq’s oil revenue in 2008 should exceed $70 billion, twice as much as had been forecast just a few months ago.
This is a bi-partisan effort, as Jim Lobe writes for AlterNet:
…The Senate Armed Services Committee voted unanimously last week to approve a bill that would ban the Pentagon from funding any reconstruction or infrastructure project in Iraq that costs more than two million dollars. Similar legislation is expected to be taken up by the House.
“This is the first significant bipartisan change in our policy toward Iraq,” declared Republican Sen. Susan Collins, one of the sponsors of the legislation after last week’s vote, while the committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin said Iraq’s failure to pay reconstruction costs was “unconscionable (and) inexcusable” given the windfall it has received from the stunning rise in world oil prices.
In the same article Lobe points out that:
one of the surge’s architects, Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said that legislation would “do catastrophic damage to our image in the world, particularly the Muslim world … The argument that Iraq should use its oil revenues to pay the United States sounds like the ultimate proof that we invaded Iraq for mercenary reasons.”
Indeed Mr. Kagan, the fact that we invaded Iraq for mercenary reasons has been obvious to much of the world since the days before shock and awe. The damage to our image has been done.