PAYING FOR IRAQ
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It is costing the United States approximately $4 billion every month to occupy Iraq.
On top of that, President George W. Bush has proposed a $20.3 billion budget for Iraqi reconstruction. And he wants an additional $87 billion from Congress for military operations.
When I look at these numbers, one thing occurs to me: the people who supported this war should pay for it.
That group does not include me.
I was one of the millions in the streets who protested against this immoral, misplaced and unnecessary war. I was writing columns against it for almost a year before it began.
I was reviled and threatened for my writing. I was accused of treason. Two times, when I flew to Florida to visit my mother, I wondered if I would be allowed on the plane. Sometimes, as I wrote, I would look down the road and wonder if the President's storm troopers would take me away. I wondered how I might bear up under torture.
I'm not being dramatic. It was dangerous to be anti-President Bush and anti-war in America. It is still like that, to some extent.
But now President Bush's world is unraveling faster than a ball of twine in the paws of a kitten. Since it is not proper etiquette to say "I told you so," I won't.
Instead, I'll say, "Pay for it yourself."
All of you who spit at war protesters, who tried to drown out our words by blaring patriotic music from your car speakers, who scorned us, who tied yellow ribbons around trees and posted signs saying "We support our troops" (as if those of us who agitated against the war were not supporting them more by trying to keep these beloved Americans - and their innocent Iraqi counterparts - out of harm's way), all you overpaid commentators and pundits on television and in the newspapers who called us traitors, all you chicken-hearted school administrators who fired the teachers who dared to discuss the war (not oppose it, mind you, just discuss it), all you unimaginable innocents who (still) live in a make-believe world where your leaders never lie to you, Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction aimed at America's heartland.
You pay. Leave me out of it.
How bad are the finances? Well, it's already been well-documented that much of the money will go to Vice President Dick Cheney's Haliburton and the other large American corporations with close ties to the right wing of the Republican Party.
In addition, Iraq's private sector has been put up for sale. It was announced earlier this week that foreigners will be allowed to own a 100-percent interest in any Iraqi company except those in the energy industry. The energy industry, of course, is American territory now. The rules for the sale, enacted by Iraq's U.S.-chosen occupation government, do not place restrictions on taking money out of Iraq. In addition, taxes will be low.
So much for Iraq's economic independence.
"So now that the Iraqi calf has been slaughtered and gutted, it's time to carve up the carcass," said Edward Wasserman, the Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, in the Miami Herald earlier this week.
The profits from the sale of Iraq will not benefit American taxpayers any more than they will benefit Iraqis. In fact, we may just reap another whirlwind here, because the economic rape of Iraq will certainly provide propaganda for all sorts of terrorists.
"Once again we, the public, will find ourselves ambushed by the furious response to actions that we never had a chance to consider, let alone approve," Wasserman said.
Closer to home, our government plans to spend our money like a drunken sailor on a spree. The Center for American Progress took a close look at some of the items in the Iraq reparations budget and found:
* $3.6 million for 400 handheld radios and 200 satellite phones at an average cost of $6,000 each. In the U.S., the cost of a satellite phone is $495. The cost of walkie-talkie radios is $54.99 each.
* $2.64 million for 80 pick-up trucks at a cost of $33,000 each. The cost of the award-winning GMC truck here is $15,454.
* $20 million to teach a four-week business course at $10,000 per student. Tuition to Harvard Business School is $4,000 a month.
There's a lot more, but you get the idea. And remember, shipping and handling are free, because President Bush has an army, a navy and an air force.
At this point you may be asking what, realistically, can we do?
First, there's always the tried-and-true method of tax resistance, of refusing to pay any taxes at all, of encouraging others to do the same, and of fighting the IRS in court. While I have the utmost respect for the people who do this, it ain't me, babe. As far as I'm concerned, if I have to jeopardize my home and devote my entire life to fighting the IRS and the Bush Administration, the terrorists will have won.
For now, I just want to float the idea. Maybe others are reading this, nodding in agreement and saying, "Hey, I warned them about this war too. Why should I pay?" Maybe the folks at MoveOn.org will take up the cry. Maybe, in the end, there will be millions of hard-working Americans with better things to do with the little money they earn today - providing they still have a job - than paying for the President's idiotic policies. Maybe it will become a movement. Maybe our voices will be heard.
Because as far as I'm concerned, Rupert Murdoch and his wretched Fox News can pick up the tab themselves. Or those overpaid pundits. Or the Bush family. Or their oil industry friends. Or their Saudi friends.
Just don't take it out of my pocket, because I told you upfront that this was going to be a disaster, and I've already paid a high price in fear for being right.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.