The Bush Administration expects its proposed $87 billion Supplemental Appropriations package for funding military operations and reconstruction aid in Afghanistan and Iraq to gain final congressional passage this week and go to the president for signature, the Associated Press (AP) reports. The $67 billion portion designated for American military operations is not in dispute. For the first time, however, the White House last week threatened a veto if any of the up to $20 billion in aid funds for reconstruction comes with strings attached in the form of loans rather than outright reconstruction grants.
Senate and House versions of the bill differ over the proportions designated for grants vs. loans. In the House version Afghanistan and Iraq receive outright grants exclusively, while the Senate plan is a hybrid that divides the funds between pure grants and Iraqi oil-backed loans. The loan portion is currently pegged at $10 billion.
Democrats in both houses of Congress overwhelmingly either oppose the $87 billion appropriation altogether or else repudiate the White Houses all-grants approach to providing aid, insisting on a loans-for-oil mechanism. Republicans in like proportion reject loans, demanding freely given grants. In the Senate, however, a compromise led to passage of the hybrid loan-grant version. It is the passage of this hybrid, obligating Iraq to repay American loans out of anticipated future oil revenues, that led to the White House veto threat.
The latest wire reports indicate that there is an expectation that in House-Senate conference the final vote is likely to conform to the presidents demand for pure grants, with the Democrat-favored loans-for-oil mechanism completely eliminated.
President Bush insists a grants-only approach is imperative if Iraqs experiment in constitutional governance is to succeed economically, politically and socially, serving as a model capable of transforming the other undemocratic nations of the Islamic world. Democrats dismiss Administration warnings that the loans-for-oil scheme will imperil Iraqs emergence from dictatorship and chaos. Congressional Democrats are adamant that at least $10 billion of the aid portion take the form of loans. Budget estimates cited by Senator Nickles of Oklahoma in the Senate floor debate suggest these loans would have to be repaid out of a crippling 80-100 percent of total annual Iraqi oil production well into the future.
An examination of the motivation underlying the Democrats insistence on the loans-for-oil mechanism exposes what may be the most cynical, hypocritical, and dangerous political manipulation in United States history, with victory and defeat in Americas War on Terrorism quite possibly hanging in the balance.
Why do congressional Democrats so fiercely oppose the Bush Administration’s proposal for $20 billion in Marshall Plan-style grants to fund the rebuilding of Afghanistan and Iraq?–Examining two guiding principles subscribed to by many Democratic leaders yields insight into their motivation.
In the aftermath of 9/11 and the lead-up to the Iraq War, the antiwar base or “Democratic Wing” of the Democratic Party promulgated two fundamental principles to undercut President Bushs Iraq policy.
First, in a speech at the New America Foundation/Atlantic Monthly Public Policy Forum, Democratic Party presidential hopeful Howard Dean began by echoing the war protesters slogan, “No blood for oil,” casting the impending 2003 Iraq War as the product of an ill-conceived Bush-Cheney-Halliburton plan to establish American hegemonic control over the worlds oil supply. “If we had a renewable energy policy in this country,” Dean insisted, “[America] would not be sending kids to die in Iraq.”
Interviewed on MSNBC, Deans rival for the position of commander-in-chief of all United States military forces, Senator John Kerry, parroted, “young American men in uniform and women in uniform should not be held hostage, ever, to America’s dependency on fossil fuel oil for the Middle East.”
The Democratic Wings second major plank was articulated last year by Washington Senator Patty Murray.
Americans share much of the responsibility for 9/11, the senator explained in a December 18, 2002, talk to an assembled group of high school students. She condemned America for its failure to address what Democratic Wingers believe to be terrorisms “root causes,” poverty, poor education, and deprivation. The senator from Washington singled-out one man as a paragon of philanthropy America should emulate: Osama bin Laden. For many years, Murray related, bin Laden had been generously donating his wealth to philanthropic projects in Islamic countries such as Afghanistan; for instance, “building day care facilities, building health care facilities; and the people are extremely grateful . . . [while by contrast we Americans] have not done that. We havent been out in many of these countries helping them build infrastructure.” The senator posed the rhetorical question, “How would they look on us today if we had been there helping them rather than just . . . bomb in Iraq and . . . Afghanistan.”
Murray challenged young Americans, “Your generation ought to be thinking about whether or not you believe that perhaps we should be better neighbors out in other countries so that they have a different vision of us.”
Senator Murray overlooked the fact that bin Laden, a man of great wealth, and other leading terrorists such as the 9/11 hijackers do not fit to her “root causes” theory, since as a group their social, economic, and educational status is well above the average. Senator Murray also chose to ignore the fact that America, not bin Laden, has been by far the leading giver of aid to Afghanistan and several other indigent Middle East nations.
Mrs. Murray merely mirrored the slyer and far subtler cavils of that oleaginous master of equivocation and accommodation, former president Bill Clinton, who in similar fashion had rushed to blame America for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
In his November 7, 2001 address at Georgetown University, just a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Clinton condemned white Americans as responsible for Islamic terrorism based on a wide range of putatively related injustices, from Americas history of slavery to its mistreatment of native Americans. Clinton even reached further back to the Crusades and Inquisition to support his reproof. Reviving the thoroughly discredited notion of collective guilt according to which whole nations and races and religions share responsibility for the crimes of individuals who lived even centuries earlier and in other nations, Clinton drew upon the notion that, as NewsMax.com columnist David C. Stolinsky interpreted it, “All Christians are guilty for the Crusades and Inquisition, even those whose ancestors suffered from them. And of course, all Jews are guilty for the death of Jesus, not just those who were in Jerusalem that day and called for it.”
With time to reflect on the criticism aroused by his Georgetown University comments, Mr. Clinton took a much more cautious line in subsequent speeches. In his December 3, 2002 speech to the Democratic Leadership Council, for instance, Clinton avoided directly indicting America as responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This time he cannily couched his criticisms in positive terms, pointing to Americas opportunity to eliminate terrorism by distributing our wealth rather than straightforwardly blaming America for failing to do its share in the past:
- “Finally in the area of security, we need a positive agenda. We should never forget the reason most of you who, like me, are baby boomers, were able to grow up in the world we grew up in: the Marshall Plan and the rebuilding of Japan. When George Marshall and Truman, who had been through World War I and World War II and seen the world nearly destroyed, said, You know, we ought to take a little bit of money and build a world with more partners and fewer enemies and try to win the Cold War and not to have World War III.”
We are provoked by these words, first to Socratic wonder???and then the corresponding “recollection”: Might the $20 billion envisioned in the aid portion of President Bushs proposed grants for rebuilding Iraq qualify as what former president Clinton posits as the modern equivalent of the “Marshall Plan” for the prevention of terrorism?
Here as midwife to American foreign policy and national security strategy Clinton delivers no “wind-egg,” explaining what the United States must do if it is to give birth to peace in the Middle East. The former presidents prescription?– Only massive grants will supply the cure for terrors scourge:
- “We [currently] spend 10 billion dollars total in this kind of assistance, by far the smallest percentage of any country in the world. They say we’re going up to 15 billion depending on how you count the money over the next couple of years. You know, it sounds like a 50 percent increase, big deal. I think Congress approved something on the order of 60 billion dollars in increases in homeland security and defense in one year. Well positive assistance ought to be part of our security strategy, too, and the American people will buy it if you explain it to them in terms of the Marshall Plan.”
Fast-forward to October 2003. Whats now exercising Bush-hating antiwar Democratic Wing cadres?–Imperial America plundering Iraqs oil wealth? Failing to adequately fund grants through the Clinton-Murray Middle East “Marshall Plan?”– Au contraire: nearly all congressional Democrats prefer the loans-for-oil scheme, thoroughly repudiating their own Marshall Plan concept.
Oddly and inexplicably, Senator Murray herself has recently done a complete about-face, voting to defeat her own “Marshall Plan” for Iraq, instead supporting the Democratic Wings oil-for-loan scheme.
So how would the Iraqis repay these American loans?–Answer: it would take nearly all of Iraqs oil revenues for the foreseeable future.
Ignoring the simple fact that at present no legitimate Iraqi government exists to execute any loan agreement, most congressional Democrats have insisted on straight-jacketing the Iraqi economy with the loans-for-oil approach. Given the obvious fact that additional billions in American and international loans would be required over the next several years to complete the task of rebuilding Iraq, Democrats wilfully disregard the fact that this ever-mounting debt would certainly prove ruinous to an emerging Iraqi economy and would likely occasion widespread social and political chaos as well.
Absurdly and hypocritically, this purely political ploy places the vast majority of Democratic Wing politicians in the position of promoting American expropriation of Iraqs oil wealth. Their insistence on loans places the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party and the rest of the “No blood for oil” crowd in the position of appearing to pursue the very thing for which they denounce President Bush: hegemonic control over Iraqi oil. Except, now the roles are seemingly reversed, with most Republicans advocating pure grants to Iraq in the manner of the Marshall Plan and the Democratic Wingers pressing for control of Iraqs oil wealth for repayment of loans to rebuild Iraqs economy and infrastructure. (It is worth noting, however, that the motivation of Republicans, sans the Democratic Wings “root causes” theory, is quite different from that of the Democrats, since it rests on a hard-nosed calculation that the $20 billion in grants to transform Iraq, and therewith the Middle East, is relatively inexpensive in comparison to the multi-trillion dollar cost of any future terrorist attacks similar to 9/11.)
Most unconscionably, Democratic Party presidential hopefuls Senators John Edwards and John Kerry, who only a little over a year ago voted in favor of the Iraq War resolution, suddenly reversed themselves this month in a desperate maneuver to insure that antiwar presidential prospects such as Howard Dean and Wesley Clark would be rendered incapable of leftwardly outflanking them on the war with Iraq. Accordingly, Edwards and Kerry voted to altogether block not only the nearly $20 billion aid portion of the Supplemental, but the entire $87 billion package including all of the $67 billion in military funding to support the American troops; this, despite the fact that they earlier voted for the authorization bill to fight the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. In this sharp leftward lurch, the two cut-and-run kids signaled that as president each would opt to desert the military in Iraq.
We are left to wonder whether the vast number of congressional Democrats voted against pure Marshall Plan-style grants to Afghanistan and Iraq because they expect the rebuilding effort to fail–or rather, by thwarting the president’s grant proposal, want to guarantee United States failure in Iraq in order to advance their own political interests.
Huge billowing political black clouds over the Democratic Partys horizon have been gathering greatly. Arnold Schwarzeneggers California gubernatorial victory may be just a foretaste of Election 2004. The president is in the process of establishing an unparalleled string of stunning successes. First, his breathtakingly swift dual military victories in liberating Afghanistan and Iraq. Second, his astounding accomplishment in taking the offensive, promptly displacing the War on Terrorism from the American homeland to the Middle East nations which sponsor terrorism, thereby preventing further 9/11s. Third, the mounting evidence that the United States economy is on the verge of an immense spurt of growth that will vindicate Bushs three rounds of tax cuts and other Administration efforts to revive the economy despite the staggering successive body blows sustained from the collapse of the stock markets “dot-con” bubble, the economic impact of the 9/11 attacks and the confidence-shaking corporate scandals.
Faced with the prospect of another electoral debacle in 2004, congressional Democratic Wingers are desperate to find a way to discredit and incapacitate George W. Bush. Their ceaseless provocations notwithstanding, they will fail to cajole the president into replicating his fathers broken pledge not to increase taxes. And with mounting success in Iraq and the anticipated withdrawal of large numbers of American troops next year, their attempt to negatively spin Americas astonishing triumph in Iraq as a fraud and failure (based on the current inability to locate stockpiled weapons of mass destruction) will also fall flat. With these issues nullified, the Democratic Party will be left with nothing in its arsenal capable of hitting its target. Nothing, that is, but a desperate attempt to sabotage Bushs Iraq policy by unscrupulously obligating the president to pile unmanageable debt on Iraq and in effect forcing the United States into the position of grabbing decades worth of its Iraqs oil wealth. By saddling the Iraqi economy with this debt burden, Democrats sow the seeds of American failure in creating an Iraq which is economically viable, socially peaceful and constitutionally sound.
The Administrations recent message to Congress threatening a presidential veto if the bill sent to the president contains any loans-for-oil provision explained that, “Including a loan mechanism slows efforts to stabilize the region and to relieve pressure on our troops, raises questions about our commitment to building a democratic and self-governing Iraq, and impairs our ability to encourage other nations to provide badly needed assistance without saddling Iraq with additional debt.” Furthermore, according to AP reports, the Administration believes “loans would feed Arab worries that the United States wants to control Iraq’s huge oil reserves.”
If Administration warnings are correct, the loan mechanism also would very likely engender increasingly lethal and organized terrorist attacks upon our troops, increasing pressure on America to extricate itself.
Destabilizing Iraq with a loans-for-oil scheme thus appears to be what passes for the Democratic Wings notion of an Iraq “exit strategy.” The presidential veto threat comes just at the right time to salvage Americas Iraq policy by preventing the Democratic Wing from implementing its baleful blueprint for catastrophe in the wider War on Terrorism.