Support the troops — with money
By Doug Thompson
Want to win in Iraq, or at least break even?
Support the troops with a huge tax increase.
The Iraq Study Group’s report doesn’t say that. It just outlines 79 different suggestions — mentioning without emphasizing that the package would cost a lot more money than we’re spending now.
“Growing the economy” isn’t going to give us the money in time, either.
The “diplomacy” aspect of the report grabbed all the headlines. Well, diplomacy requires some measure of strength — or at least the ability to stand up – to be of any advantage to your side.
There is no strength in Iraq. Folks, there is no Iraq. The lack of any progress on making Iraq anything but a government that controls nothing is absolutely shocking in its detail in the report.
All the talk about building up Iraq forces so they can step up and take the place of Americans was nothing but bunk. As the report says, Congress “has resisted fully funding Iraqi forces. The entire appropriation for Iraqi defense forces for (Fiscal Year) 2006 ($3 billion) is less than the United States currently spends in Iraq every two weeks.”
The police and other Iraqi security forces are worse. People show up and join just so they can get a uniform, a badge and a firearm. Then they quit and impersonate police while committing crimes and/or acts of terror.
We have clearly tried to fight this war on the cheap and with no concern whatsoever about the well-being of the average Iraqi. Even if Joe Iraqi is living in a comparatively safe ethnic enclave, he’s routinely robbed. Large swathes of the country are lawless.
We don’t even have one person who is in charge and can be held responsible for efforts to rebuild the country, other than the president.
About 70 percent of the economy and 97 percent of government revenues in Iraq are tied to oil, and the rebels have disrupted the oil.
“Even if Iraq were at peace tomorrow, oil production would decline unless current problems in the oil sector were addressed,” the report said. The “problems” include the fact that anybody with marketable skill in running an oil field has fled the country.
The Iraqi government has no money. No money, no army. No army, no government. Any one of several militias in the country is a better organized, motivated, trained and capable fighting force than the Iraqi government can field.
Getting back to diplomacy for a minute, the report frankly acknowledges that it’s in Syria’s and especially Iran’s best interest to keep us bogged down there. They are very successfully assisting the insurgents in doing that. It mentions also that the Saudi and Kuwait peoples aren’t that interested in seeing their old enemies put back together again. It doesn’t mention whether the idea that Iraq would have to sell billions of barrels of oil to be viable is part of that disinterest.
Clearly, the administration expected to go to war and have Iraq oil bear the expense of the occupation. Just as clearly, that didn’t happen and the administration was not willing to pay up and fill the shortfall.
We have no more troops to send. The report makes clear that the military is far overstretched. Even if we had troops, we’d have to equip them. We can’t replace equipment as fast as it’s being worn out now.
It even took some effort to figure out how much money we’re spending in Iraq: “[T]he executive branch presents budget requests in a confusing manner, making it difficult for both the general public and members of Congress to understand the request or to differentiate it from counterterrorism operations around the world or operations in Afghanistan. Detailed analyses by budget experts are needed to answer what should be a simple question: ‘How much money is the President requesting for the war in Iraq?’”
We need money, money and more money to have a fighting chance in Iraq. The report doesn’t give budget figures, but I’d guess from reading it that we could take the approximately $8 billion a month we’re spending now, add in the unaccounted for costs such as equipment wastage and then triple it before we could make a noticeable dent.
A huge tax increase for Iraq? Pardon the vernacular, but that ain’t gonna happen. We’re stewed.
The Democrats just took Congress. They aren’t going to get themselves thrown out by passing a big tax increase designed to throw good money after bad. And the Republicans would break out in hives at the thought.
We’ve had 24,000 U.S. troops killed or wounded in a war we aren’t even willing to pay for.
Politically, the report’s as good a primer on Iraqi politics as you can get. For example, “The Shia, the majority of Iraq’s population, have gained power for the first time in more than 1,300 years. Above all, many Shia are interested in preserving that power.”
Finally, the report has one “cost” figure that should be stated more often — Iraq drained away needed attention, troops and money from the war in Afghanistan. Chances are we will now lose both.