Friday, October 03, 2003

After two years of confusingthe constitutional 'right to remain silent' with the unpatriotic 'obligation to remain silent,' Democrats are finally waking up. Except they're shooting off on the wrong issue. Congress is presently debating the president's request for $20.3 billion ($20,300,000,000) to help rebuild Iraq. Politicians of both parties say that some of the money should be given to Iraq in the form of a loan, not a grant.

Some Democrats and Republicans insist that future Iraqi oil revenues should be used to repay reconstruction loans.

Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh said, "How do I explain to my constituents that those who helped to prop up Saddam's regime, the French, the Russians, and others, could potentially be repaid, but those who financed the war to liberate the Iraqi people will not be repaid?" Either ignorance or intellectual dishonesty prevented him from adding the small detail that the United States falls into the "others" category.

Michigan's Carl Levin, also a Democratic senator, noted, "Obviously we're troubled by the fact we're being asked to put up $15 billion in reconstruction funds, while the Iraqis have this huge asset [oil]."

I find comments like these amazing. Many Democrats denounced the war precisely because they felt that the real reason was not to eliminate weapons of mass destruction but to control Iraq's oil. Now, all of a sudden, some Democrats are saying "Let's control Iraq's oil." The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

As far as I'm concerned, the United States made the mess in Iraq worse. We have an obligation to clean it up. I don't like that the final bill for the whole Iraq shebang will be in the hundreds of billions of tax dollars, when there is more than enough need at home for several of those billions. But we assumed this burden voluntarily, so let's actually finish the job. I say "we" meaning "we" because although President Bush made the decision, most Americans supported it. We wanted the war, we knew it would entail huge costs for reconstruction, so quit whining and let's finish the job we got ourselves into. Because of our choices we made, the responsibility to see that Iraq is rebuilt falls on us.

Behind the Democratic hypocrisy, there is a legitimate point. The arrogant petulence of the administration has made America's share of the bill much steeper. Our national snit fit against most of our European allies has made them loathe to pick up part of the tab. Their point of view is: America wanted the war, America told Europe to go to hell earlier this year, let America pay for it all.

What if we'd said to Europe: we'll do it without you but we'd much rather have your backing? What if, even after they said no, we'd just agreed to disagree like civilized nations. What if we'd done that instead of throwing juvenile temper tantrums that 2nd graders would've found undignified? Then, perhaps, Europe would've been more willing to foot some of the bill. The large contigent of German troops in Afghanistan (another war we initiated but with, not against, international consensus) is a testament to how our allies react when we treat them respectfully rather than contemptfully. The "why should we care what the rest of the world thinks" crowd is now finding out why we should've cared.

As Sen. Robert Byrd, who spoke out passionately against the conquest before it happened, observed, "American taxpayers have been presented with an $87 billion bill ... because the president decided six months ago to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iraq in the face of shaky evidence and worldwide opposition."

The president burnt bridges and now is trying to cross back to the other side of the river. And the Democrats' switch from craveness to hypocrisy and their seizing on micro-issues prevents them from formulating a serious alternative.

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