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Many Americans today may not be familiar with Will Rogers. However, Will Rogers was at one time considered by many to be the most popular man in America. He once said, "America has a great habit of always talking about protecting American interests in some foreign country." Then he said, "Protect them here at home. There is more American interest right here than anywhere."
The passage of an additional $87 billion for an operation in Iraq seems to many to be anything but fiscally conservative. The request includes, among many other things, $5.7 billion for a new electric power system; $3.7 billion to improve drinking water; $856 million to upgrade and repair three airports, rail lines, and phone service; $240,000 each for 1,500 police trainers to train Iraqi police; $1.71 per gallon for gas that they are then selling to Iraqi citizens for $4.15 per gallon, according to The New York Times.
Earlier billions have been used to build or rebuild thousands of Iraqi schools, give free health care to many Iraqi citizens, make backpayments to the Iraqi military and Iraqi retirees, and even send 60,000 soccer balls there. Our Founding Fathers could not have imagined all this in their wildest dreams.
A distinguished Member of the other body, the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Voinovich, said, "Look at the needs we have here at home, with our roads, sewers, and water projects. It is hard to tell people there isn't money for sewers and water and then send that kind of money to Iraq ." Another distinguished Member of the other body, Mr. Hagel, the gentleman from Nebraska, said, "There is a great unease about all this reflected across this land. We are getting deeper and deeper into something we have never been in before in this part of the world. This is complicated, dangerous and uncertain."
Conservatives, Mr. Speaker, have never believed in massive foreign aid, yet our occupation of Iraq has become the largest foreign aid program in the history of the world. Conservatives, Mr. Speaker, have never believed in huge deficit spending, yet we are now told that our deficits for just this year and next will reach close to an astounding $1 trillion.
Supporters of the war scoffed at the predictions that we would spend between $200 billion to $300 billion in Iraq over the next 10 years. Now, by the most conservative efforts, not counting many things that should be counted, the Iraqi operation will cost $167 billion in just the first 2 years.
And because we are in such a deep fiscal hole already, we will have to borrow all these billions we are spending there.
Conservatives have never believed in world government, and have been strong critics of the U.N. Yet, some prominent war supporters, while criticizing the U.N. in one breath, will say in the next we had to go to war to enforce all the U.N. resolutions Saddam Hussein had violated. Most conservatives surely do not believe it is fair to place almost the entire burden of enforcing U.N. resolutions on American taxpayers and the U.S. military. Most conservatives, while believing strongly in national defense, have never believed the U.S. should be the policeman of the world. Most conservatives believe we would not have nearly as many enemies around the world if we followed a noninterventionist foreign policy and did not get involved in so many religious, ethnic, and political disputes around the world.
Now, we are following a so-called neoconservative foreign policy that is anything but conservative. This interventionist policy is breeding resentment, creating more enemies, and putting our children and grandchildren into a financial black hole, and worst of all killing many young American military.
Fortune magazine in its November 25 issue, long before the war started, printed an article entitled, "Iraq --We Win, What Then?" The article said a "military victory could turn into a strategic defeat," and an American occupation could turn U.S. troops into sitting ducks for Islamic terrorists. These predictions have turned out to be deadly accurate.
The columnist Georgie Ann Geyer wrote, "Critics of the war against Iraq have said since the beginning of the conflict that Americans, still strangely complacent about overseas wars being waged by a minority in their name, will inevitably come to a point where they will see they have to have a government that provides services at home or one that seeks empire across the globe."
Saddam Hussein was an evil man but he had a military budget only about two-tenths of 1 percent of ours and was never any real threat to us. Everyone knew we would win the war quickly and easily.
Winning the peace, everyone said, would be much more difficult. Now, we are hearing noble-sounding cliches like "we have to get the job done" and "we must stay the course" and "the American people must be willing to sacrifice." Well, we should all be asking why?
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Iraqi people do not want us running their country, they only want our money. Any country would want all these billions. Now war supporters seem to be criticizing the media for reporting all the killing but failing to emphasize all the good that is going on there. For all of the billions we are spending there, I certainly hope some good things are going on, but these good things should be paid for by the Iraqi citizens with their own oil wealth. Let us leave Iraq to the Iraqis.
Congressman John J. Duncan represents the 2nd District of Tennessee.
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