Thought for Thursday
My Fin column today, the two-year anniversary of the S11 atrocity, looks at Bush’s request for $87 billion more for Iraq (it also includes a pittance for Afghanistan). Like most commentators, I conclude that while the request marks a welcome return to reality after months of dodging the issue, the money is little more than a downpayment on the costs that will be incurred. In fact, after deducting military expenditure, what’s left will barely be enough to pay running costs for the Occupation government. A short excerpt …
The 2003 Budget released by the Coalition Provision Authority in July called for the expenditure of $ 6 billion in the second half of 2003 alone.
Then there is the Oil-for-Food program which is due to expire on 21 November. Under this program, Iraq was allowed to export oil to the value of about $10 billion per year, which was used initially to buy food, medicine and from 1998, a wide range of essential imports. … Maintaining the imports funded under the Oil-For-Food program and the current expenditure levels of the 2003 Budget will require about $20 billion in 2004, less perhaps $5 billion in net proceeds from oil exports. This would swallow all the money allocated in the Bush request, leaving nothing for large-scale reconstruction, let alone the now-forgotten Afghans.
If Bush had followed through the Afghanistan war with a serious peacekeeping and reconstruction effort, that country could be well on the way to a relatively prosperous democracy by now, going a long way to discredit its previous Taliban rulers and their Al Qaeda accomplices. Instead, the Taliban are on the rise again, and no doubt Al Qaeda is not far behind them.