- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

The Bush administration expects to gain final congressional passage this week of its proposed $87 billion supplemental appropriations package for funding military operations and reconstruction aid in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The White House last week threatened a veto if any of the nearly $20 billion aid portion is earmarked for loans rather than reconstruction grants. The House version provides for outright grants, but the Senate plan substitutes $10 billion in loans to be repaid out of future Iraqi oil revenues. Nearly all Democrats insist on the loans-for-oil mechanism and nearly all Republicans prefer outright grants. The Associated Press (AP) reports that in conference, Republicans are more likely to prevail. President Bush insists a grants-only approach is imperative if Iraq’s experiment in constitutional governance is to succeed and serve as the model for transforming the Islamic world. Democrats dismiss administration warnings that loans-for-oil schemes will imperil Iraq’s emergence from dictatorship and chaos.

Why the Democrats’ unremitting insistence on loans-for-oil?

An examination of the Democrats’ motivation exposes what may be the most cynical, hypocritical and dangerous political manipulation in American history, with victory and defeat in America’s war on terrorism quite possibly hanging in the balance.

In the aftermath of September 11, and the lead-up to the Iraq war, the antiwar “Democratic Wing” of the Democratic Party promulgated two fundamental principles to undercut Mr. Bush’s Iraq policy.

First, candidate Howard Dean began by echoing the antiwar protesters’ slogan, “No blood for oil.” “If we had a renewable energy policy in this country,” Mr. Dean insisted, “[America] would not be sending kids to die in Iraq.”

Then, Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, asserted that Americans share much of the responsibility for September 11. Pointing to America’s failure to address terrorism’s “root causes,” poverty and deprivation, Mrs. Murray pointed to Osama bin Laden as a paragon of philanthropy America should emulate, given that he has been “building day care facilities, building health care facilities; and the people are extremely grateful … [while Americans] have not done that.”

The senator asked rhetorically, “How would they look on us today if we had been there helping them rather than just … bomb in Iraq and … Afghanistan?”

Mrs. Murray mirrored the far subtler cavils of former President Bill Clinton, who rushed to blame America after September 11.

A few weeks after the September 11 attacks, Mr. Clinton claimed that white America shares responsibility for Islamic terrorism, citing a string of putatively related injustices, from slavery to mistreatment of native Americans.

Before the Democratic Leadership Council, Mr. Clinton chastised white America for failing to address Islamic terrorism’s “root causes,” noting that after World War II, Secretary of State George Marshall and President Truman prevailed upon America to “take a little bit of money and build a world with … fewer enemies and try … not to have World War III.”

Mr. Clinton prescribed massive grants as the cure for terror’s scourge: “[Worldwide we currently only] spend 10 billion dollars total in this kind of assistance, by far the smallest percentage of any country… [By contrast] Congress approved something on the order of $60 billion in increases in homeland security and defense in one year. Well, positive assistance ought to be part of our security strategy, too, and the American people will buy it if you explain it to them in terms of the Marshall Plan.”

Fast-forward to October 2003. What’s now distressing Bush-hating antiwar cadres? — Mr. Bush’s imperial America plundering Iraq’s oil wealth? Failing to adequately fund grants through the Clinton-Murray Middle East “Marshall Plan?” Quite the contrary. Nearly all congressional Democrats prefer the loans-for-oil scheme, repudiating their own Marshall Plan concept.

So, how will Iraq repay those American loans? — Answer: It will take nearly all of Iraq’s future oil revenues.

Ignoring the simple fact that at present no legitimate Iraqi government exists to execute any loan agreement, most Democrats nonetheless insist on tying up Iraq’s future oil revenues.

Hypocritically, this political ploy places Democratic Wing politicians in the position of coveting the very thing they condemned Mr. Bush for coveting: Iraqi oil.

Most unconscionably, Sens. John Edwards and John Kerry, who earlier voted to authorize war, have now reversed themselves, just this month voting to block the entire $87 billion package, including all funds for American troops. The cut-and-run kids thus signaled that as president each would desert Iraq.

Faced with the prospect of an electoral debacle in 2004, Democratic Wingers are desperate to discredit and incapacitate Mr. Bush. Sowing the seeds of failure in Iraq seems their last best hope.

The AP reports that the administration is concerned “loans would feed Arab worries that the United States wants to control Iraq’s huge oil reserves.” The White House’s recent message to Congress threatening a presidential veto warned the loans-for-oil scheme risks raising doubts about America’s commitment, unsettling the region and burying Iraq in debt. Moreover, crippling Iraq economically, socially and politically with unmanageable debt would very likely engender increasingly lethal and organized terrorist attacks upon our troops.

Destabilizing Iraq with a loans-for-oil scheme appears to be what passes for the Democratic Wing’s Iraqi “exit strategy.” The just-announced presidential veto threat comes at precisely the right time to salvage America’s Iraq policy by preventing the Democratic Wing from implementing its disastrous blueprint for catastrophe in the wider war on terrorism.

Sherry Eros, MD is a neuropsychiatrist and Steven Eros is a philosopher.

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