Congress Wants Iraqis to Pay for U.S. War
(Washington, D.C. - 4/11/08) - In the months leading up to the Iraq war and following its launch in March 2003, MPAC has condemned the U.S.-led invasion and has expressed great concern about innocent Iraqi civilians who have burdened more than their share of deaths. MPAC has also voiced concern about the stability of Iraq and the region, as well as the safety of American troops.
Despite the progress in the overall reduction of violence and the slow but steady reconciliatory efforts by Iraqi religious leaders and political officials, the mishandling of this war at its outset has alienated important regional actors, resulted in civilian instability, and created doubts among Americans and others abroad about the measure of success and when the U.S. would achieve that goal.
This week, Congress heard testimony from General David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker about the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Several members of the House and Senate committees, however, showed their frustration when neither witness revealed a date for American troop withdrawal, instead resisting any further troop pullout beyond the 20,000 in last year’s surge.
SEE: “Petraeus Urges Halt in Weighing New Cut in Force” (New York Times, 4/10/08)
Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker discussed the status of the war and political developments since last year’s surge, as well as the influence of Iran and the emergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Principally on the minds of the committee members, however, was the elusive withdrawal date for American troops.
With no timetable for complete withdrawal established, Gen. Petraeus stated that a new U.S. troop buildup for Iraq was unlikely because of the strain it would place on the Army, choosing instead to rely first on Iraqi Forces whose numbers and capability are increasing, and to maintain the progress made in the last year.
On Thursday, President George Bush endorsed Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker’s recommendation not to withdraw any more troops beyond the 20,000 committed to the surge last year, which would leave approximately 140,000 troops in Iraq. Speaking about the importance of a successful American campaign in Iraq, the President said “that this is a burden worth bearing. And we should be able to agree that our national interest requires the success of our mission in Iraq.”
According to a February 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), since the 2002 buildup of American forces for the invasion of Iraq, through 2008 (including the $82 billion appropriations currently pending for this fiscal year), the Iraq war is estimated to have cost Americans $608.3 billion. U.S. taxpayer money has been allocated to military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq through the Department of Defense, the Department of State/USAID, as well as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Now, policymakers are seeking to shift the responsibility of funding the war to Iraqis. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, promised to introduce legislation that would require the Iraqi government to pay “for the cost of the security that we’re providing them.” If passed, this bill would codify a “status of forces” agreement currently being negotiated with the Iraqi government about the U.S. military presence in Iraq. This echoes Senator Ben Nelson’s (D-NE) similar assurance that he would introduce legislation making additional reconstruction funding available to Iraq by loans that would have to be repaid.
MPAC considers the use of Iraqi oil revenues to pay for the U.S. war in Iraq an affront to American interests and violation of the Iraqi peoples’ human rights. Iraqis have voiced their opinions through polls and media outlets that they want a U.S. withdrawal of troops. The U.S. government undermines its own credibility and will be viewed as illegally diverting Iraqi resources if it leaves a financial burden on the Iraqi people for something they do not want.
Finally, world opinion is turning against the U.S. for its rhetoric of confrontation against Iran. While the U.S. government has legitimate concerns regarding stability in Iraq and the role of Iran, these matters must be addressed around a table not on a battlefield. Otherwise, the mistakes in Iraq will be compounded by a large mistake in Iran, leading to further depletion of U.S. resources and an increase of anti-American sentiments.
Founded in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of Muslim Americans. http://www.mpac.org/