Arrogance of a superpower

Paul D'Amato explains what Congress is up to with its latest calls to make Iraqis pay for the U.S. occupation of their country.

U.S. soldiers on patrol in Baghdad (Staff Sgt. Jason T. Bailey)U.S. soldiers on patrol in Baghdad (Staff Sgt. Jason T. Bailey)

THE BIPARTISAN talk in Congress about Iraq reminds me of the fact that although the openly racist colonial jargon of old is gone, what's replaced it is not much different.

On April 30, the Wall Street Journal ran a report titled "Iraqi Oil Revenue May Top Outlook." The thrust of the piece was that since Iraq was now raking in good oil money--this year, its oil revenues will top $70 billion--politicians from both sides of the aisle now think that the U.S. should stop funding Iraq's reconstruction. Production of oil in Iraq for February hit a new high of 2.5 million barrels per day.

According to the article, "lawmakers from both parties" are pushing measures that will require Iraq to take loans, rather than receive aid. A letter by one Republican and three Democratic senators to Defense Secretary Robert Gates is quoted: "The time has come to end this blank-check policy and require the Iraqis to invest in their own future."

Rep. Ike Skelton, a Democrat from Missouri, added, referring to the Iraqis, "They could put that money into their own country. There's going to have to be some sort of honest-to-goodness pressure, like redeploying our troops and/or cutting back our aid."

The blitheness with which these matters are discussed is disarming. You could almost forget for a moment that the United States is the occupying power in Iraq, and that its own missiles, bombs and bullets are responsible for creating the devastation in Iraq that is prompting all this talk about "reconstruction" in the first place.

What Ike Skelton is really proposing is that the Iraqi people pay for the cost of rebuilding what has been destroyed by the United States. We're not meant to flinch when politicians talk of making Iraqis pay for their own enslavement. On the contrary, we're supposed to get indignant over the fact that the Iraqis aren't cooperating.

The response of Abdul Basit, the head of Iraq's independent auditing organization, was entirely appropriate. "America has hardly even begun to repay its debt to Iraq," Basit said. "This is an immoral request because we didn't ask them to come to Iraq, and before they came in 2003, we didn't have all these needs."

Of course, there is no doubt that the United States government has "put money into Iraq." That money has gone to pay for the means of destruction used to try and subdue Iraqis who want to run their own country. The war of occupation has created broken-down, blast-wall-divided towns and cities with mass unemployment and barely functioning (if at all) services.

And by most accounts, much of the tens of billions of dollars earmarked for reconstruction has been siphoned off and embezzled by U.S. and Iraqi officials (that is, Iraqi officials of a quisling government that survives only with U.S. support), and is barely making a dent in the rebuilding process.

All this is just another example of the imperial arrogance of the world's greatest superpower. Every act of terrorist violence that it inflicts abroad it presents as a gift to the people of the world for which they must be eternally thankful.