- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2001

The State Departments recent decision to launch an audit of U.S. aid to the Iraqi opposition is a trip down memory lane, a short one at that to the bad old days of Clintonesque delaying tactics. The Bush administration seems to be employing those now-familiar stonewalling techniques in order to avoid financially supporting the Iraqi opposition, as mandated by Congress in the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which requires the Pentagon to disburse nearly $100 million in military aid and training to opposition groups.
Although the Bush administration has agreed to deliver $4 million to the Iraqi opposition for humanitarian initiatives, thats not nearly enough. The State department audit has triggered a hold on any funds designated for use inside Iraq in the effort to oust Saddam, a worthy goal if ever there was one. This, despite agreements dating back to January with the administration. This is a serious mistake, since such efforts should be the cornerstone of U.S. policy towards Iraq.
Critics have tried to cast such a strategy in an irresponsible light, with the direst possible repercussions. However, a methodical, conscientious support of opposition groups should be a long-term, carefully planned investment. If an auspicious moment presents itself for the opposition to strike, then a well-supported group will be ready. If the administration continues to obstruct Congressional-mandated funding for this purpose, then the Iraqi people, and the rest of the world for that matter, could lose an opportunity of inestimable value.
Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas, made an excellent point earlier this year when he suggested that if the White House will be reducing sanctions on Iraq, it makes sense it should simultaneously increase its support for the Iraqi opposition. The Bush administration maintains it wants to increase pressure on Saddam Hussein, while limiting the humanitarian impact of sanctions. Well, heres a way to do it. If the suffering of the Iraqi people is genuinely a priority for the White House, it should substantiate its concern by helping the people liberate themselves from such a ruthless dictator.
In Congressional testimony in 1998, Paul Wolfowitz, Mr. Bushs deputy secretary of defense, gave an impassioned defense of the Iraqi opposition. "The heart of the problem is that the United States is unable or unwilling to pursue a serious policy in Iraq, one that would aim at liberating the Iraqi people from Saddams tyrannical grasp and free Iraqs neighbors from Saddams murderous threats," he said. Many who are now top White House officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, echoed that same sentiment in a January 1998 letter to Bill Clinton.
The State Departments audit seems to imply that what White House officials believe in theory, they lack the fortitude to put it into action. Meanwhile, the Iraqi people wait.

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