- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

The Senate today will take up and very likely approve President Bush’s request for $87.5 billion in aid for the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House approved the bill early Friday morning by a vote of 298-121. Nearly $65 billion of the money is slated for supporting the U.S. military in the war against terrorism, including $51 billion in Iraq and $10 billion for Afghanistan.

During House debate, the most contentious issues surrounded the rest of the bill, which included almost $20 billion to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. The crux of the debate was this: Many Democrats (and some Republicans) wanted at least some of the Iraq rebuilding money to be in the form of loans. Mr. Bush fought against this, contending, rightly in our view, that it would be a mistake to burden Iraq with additional debt as it tries to recover from the effects of 35 years of calamitous Ba’athist misrule. In the end, Mr. Bush prevailed.

While virtually all Republicans voted for the legislation in the House, Democrats opposed the measure by a 115-82 margin. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi complained about the fact that the Iraq assistance would be in the form of grants. She added, “Why should our children pay the bill down the line if the oil wells are going to be gushing and other countries are going to get their loans repaid?”

But the fact is that by piling on the debt, as she suggests, the United States would be making it less likely that Iraq can be stabilized and that oil wells would be gushing anytime soon. And, of course, were Mr. Bush to have agreed to Mrs. Pelosi’s idea, many of the same politicians who have been demanding loans would doubtless cite this as evidence that Washington coveted Iraqi oil wealth.

We salute Mr. Bush for the forthright way he approached the issue: in particular, the fact that he asked for the full $87.5 billion — enough to take the United States into the next fiscal year. The political downside of this was that, in the short run, the public received a dose of sticker shock. But it avoided the greater perils that would have resulted from requesting a much lower sum knowing full well that more would be necessary a few months down the line. Assuming that the Senate follows through today, essential money for the war effort will be coming soon.

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