- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

President Bush has estimated it will cost the United States $74.7 billion to win the war in Iraq, help rebuild the shattered nation and withdraw most U.S. forces, all of which he expects would occur within six months.
Mr. Bush detailed the price tag to congressional leaders at a White House meeting late yesterday and will formally request the money in a supplemental budget appropriation to be sent to Congress today.
The bulk of the money, about $63 billion, would pay for the prosecution of the war, including the deployment of troops, replenishment of munitions and redeployment after the conflict ends.
The next largest chunk, roughly $8 billion, would be spent on the reconstruction of Iraq, as well as "bilateral assistance to supportive countries or countries which may suffer consequences as a result of the war," said a senior administration official. This includes $1 billion for Turkey, which recently granted flyover rights to U.S. warplanes.
Finally, the price tag includes about $4 billion for homeland security, half of which would be spent on the Coast Guard, the FBI and other federal agencies. The remainder would go to state and local governments, which would have wide discretion on how to spend the funds.
Although the Bush administration has been routinely accused of coveting Iraq's oil fields, the White House last night ruled out any scenario in which oil revenues would offset U.S. war expenditures.
"The president's been very clear that the oil assets of Iraq are for the benefit of the Iraqi people," said the administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "That means that ultimately we see them being used to rebuild and reconstruct the country."
Mr. Bush asked congressional appropriators to be "fast, flexible and clean" in passing his appropriation request by April 11, when Congress goes on recess. He made clear he does not want the measure larded up with pork.
"The president, during the time he spent with the leadership, was very clear that he welcomed their input and … their changes to this request, but that he was very hopeful that Congress would not seize on this as an opportunistic way to do unrelated things," the official said.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said in a statement that he hopes "to move this legislation in a bipartisan manner to the president's desk as quickly as possible. We need to make certain that our men and women in uniform have the resources necessary to get the job done in Iraq, and I expect that both Republicans and Democrats will support this legislation by overwhelming margins."
Democrats criticized parts of the proposal, with some attacking Mr. Bush's plan to give broad discretion to the Pentagon on details of how $59.9 billion of its funds will be spent, and others saying the war took money away from domestic spending.
The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "wasn't appointed to be the U.S. Congress with the power of the purse."
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat running for president on an anti-war platform, said "the bill for this unprovoked attack is just starting to come in, and the American people should start worrying that the administration has lost control over the costs."
White House officials observed that the Pentagon, with its penchant for acronyms, has dubbed the appropriations request the COW, or Cost of War.
"I hope that doesn't prove too apt because we would like it not to be milked irresponsibly for purposes unrelated to this event," the official said.
This war is expected to cost slightly less than the 1991 Persian Gulf war, which cost more than $80 billion in 2003 dollars, even though it did not include expenses now being incurred, such as on homeland defense and a larger amount of aid to allies in the Gulf region.
One of those countries, Turkey, will receive a sixth of what it had been offered earlier, before it refused to grant staging rights to U.S. ground troops who wanted to establish a northern front against Iraq. Asked by The Washington Times whether the $1 billion was in consideration of Turkey's recent decision to grant overflight rights, the administration official declined to comment.
Other nations receiving aid will be Jordan, Israel, Pakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan. Money also will go to the Philippines, Colombia and some countries in Eastern Europe.
The White House said it did not know how much money other countries would spend on the war and on the reconstruction of Iraq. But one official pointed out that it would cost the United States $30 billion just to put troops in the region and bring them home, not to mention several billion for every month they would have been deployed around the Gulf.
"Even if there had been a completely peaceful resolution, this would have been a very expensive venture," the official said. "Containment itself, which was some people's preferred option, is very, very expensive."
Mr. Bush, who will discuss the price tag during a visit to the Pentagon today, decided to withhold the cost estimate until the start of the war. The White House now has a much better idea of projected expenditures than it did a week ago, before military strikes were initiated.
"For one thing, we found out finally that Saddam was not going to go peacefully and do what the world community had been asking him to do for 12 years," the official said. "That would have led to a very different [financial] package.
"Secondly, we found that there would not be an immediate surrender of the Iraq regime; there would be some resistance," the source added. "At that point it appeared that we knew as well as we were going to know the scenario, and the president said now we need to go quickly to Congress."
Some Democrats said that Mr. Bush waited to disclose the war's cost until after Congress made clear that his proposed tax cuts would survive.
The White House acknowledged that the cost of the war will help push the federal deficit to nearly $400 billion for fiscal 2003. But in response to questions from The Times, the administration official said it was a small price.
"The cost of September 11th was in the hundreds of billions of dollars," the official said. "There is no cost-free alternative, except to ignore this threat altogether, which the president has ruled out."
The official added: "When it comes down to it, when the lives of Americans are at stake, dollars and cents is only a secondary a distant secondary consideration."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide