At a Senate hearing to consider the Bush administration request for an $87 billion to pay for a continued U.S. presence in Iraq, the news emerged that up to $20.3 billion of that sum is allocated, not to pay for the war or to benefit U.S. troops, but to build Iraq into a modern country with water and sewer systems, power grids, roads, bridges, schools, post offices, prisons and even 3,000 housing units.
Some senators asked the obvious question: Because Iraq has second-largest known oil reserves in the world, why can't the Iraqis pay for its own reconstruction, as the administration promised before the war?
President Bush's representative, L. Paul Bremer III, then let the cat out of the bag. Iraq can't finance its own reconstruction, he said, because it has a debt of $200 billion and therefore can't borrow against future oil profits. Of that $200 billion, more than half is commercial debt owed mainly to France, Russia and Germany, and the rest is war reparations owed mainly to Kuwait from the first Gulf War.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Americans have been reassured that the United States is the world's only superpower. Now we find that some mysterious international authority is imposing on Americans a taxation without representation.
This anonymous authority tells us through Bremer that U.S. citizens must tax themselves to rebuild the infrastructure of a country on the other side of the world. We are told we must respect the prior right of our non-friends in Europe to cash in on the oil that will soon start flowing from the country our troops and treasure liberated.
Then we hear that $20.3 billion is just the start of the burden. Bremer said on CNBC's Capital Report that the ultimate costs to rebuild Iraq will be "probably well above $50 billion, $60 billion, maybe $100 billion."
If this is true, then we can't be the world's only superpower; we are the vassal of a master we did not elect and do not want. What foreign authority can issue orders to the United States?
Bremer, who learned his foreign-affairs chutzpa during 11 years as managing director of Kissinger Associates Inc., cut off senatorial interrogation by asserting international law. But international law is a fiction; no legislature passed any such law and no court can enforce it.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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