Charging the Victim: Who Should Pay to Rebuild Iraq?

Our Congressional Representative James Walsh (R-NY) recently “lashed out at Iraq.” Walsh, now in his tenth term, said Iraq should use its oil windfall sales to repay some of the $48 billion the United States has spent “rebuilding” there.

“We have delivered democracy for them… The least they could do is step up to the plate and help out,” Walsh opined.1

Let’s not look too closely at that “democracy” we’ve “delivered.” Let’s not ask to what extent bombed-out medical facilities have been restored. Nor to what extent Iraqis, after five years of beneficent occupation, now have electricity and potable water. Nor how many Iraqi jobs any U.S. reconstruction has generated. Nor how much of that $48 billion lined the capacious pockets of Halliburton et al. Nor how much of the “re-building” fund goes to building permanent U.S. military bases.

Nor need we ask who’s going to pay to clean up Iraq’s soil, air and water after their protracted exposure to depleted uranium — the toxic and radioactive substance used in the U.S. shells rained down on that liberated land? And let’s not open that other can of worms: how will we compensate Iraqi families for the unnumbered kin we have killed?

Instead let’s take a more legalistic approach. Let’s look at precedent. In 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, no one thought to hold that victim responsible for the damage. Nor did anyone claim that, because it had oil assets, Kuwait owed Iraq money.

No one – especially the UN Security Council — questioned that it was Iraq that had to reimburse losses and finance the rebuilding. Indeed, since its Gulf War defeat, Iraq keeps paying billions in reparations. But those billions are only a fraction of what Kuwait and the corporations doing business there still keep demanding.

Fast forward to the new century. Now it’s Iraq that’s been (illegally) invaded; it’s Iraq that’s been laid low. In a classic case of “charging the victim,” Mr. Walsh and some of his Congressional colleagues,2 both Democrat and Republican, argue that Iraq must help pay for its own rebuilding. Both common sense and common decency wince.

It is the invader, not the invaded, who is both morally and legally obligated to pay to restore a war-torn land. And note: those billions Iraq has been paying Kuwait go to Kuwaitis and not to any Iraqi war profiteer. Given adequate reparations, Iraq – a land of builders and engineers – is quite capable of repairing itself. It needs no assist from the invader’s avid corporations.

Those who perpetrated the U.S. invasion, besides being tried in a Nurnberg-like tribunal, should make financial amends. Their shills — much of the U.S. mainstream media – also share responsibility. But sorting out who should pay what would take the wisdom of Solomon.

In the case of Kuwait, a UN commission plays Solomon. The case seemed simple enough: only Iraq invaded; it was then vanquished. Ergo, the Iraqi people — via their oil reserves — must be perpetually taxed to repair Saddam Hussein’s folly. Never mind that it was his western allies who helped militarize Saddam’s regime.

Yes, some Iraqis also collaborated with Saddam. But most were Saddam’s victims. Saddam frowned on dissent. Many of his soldiers were conscripts. Thousands of these — slaughtered from the air as they fled homeward – remain interred in desert sands.

Now, the U.S.-Iraq case isn’t quite parallel. All too many U.S. people and our Congressional representatives enthusiastically supported “Shock and Awe” and the ensuing occupation.

Does it let us off the hook — at least a little — that Cheney-Bush and their shills persistently lied to us? Many U.S. Americans believed that our “pre-emptive” war had nothing to do with certain corporations cornering the world’s oil supply. Nor did it even occur to us that Saddam’s move to switch from dollars to euros for oil payments helped trigger the wrath. Wasn’t the war about WMD and about somehow — never mind how — defending our borders against “terror”?

Should U.S. wage earners be forced to pay for a war many might not have supported had they known the truth? Should they then also pay for what that war wrought? Maybe yes, maybe no. One thing is certain: it was the Pentagon that maniacally demolished Iraq.

No, Mr. Walsh, it isn’t the Iraqi people who should devote their national wealth to rebuilding their desolated country. Nor should the U.S. people, also variously victims and dupes of this war, be further taxed. By all rights, the rebuilding fund should come out of our own oiligarchy’s windfall profits and out of the Pentagon’s obscenely bloated budget.

  1. “Walsh: Iraq should use oil sales windfall to repay US” by Mark Weiner of the Syracuse, New York Post-Standard, 8 Aug. 2008. []
  2. “Iraq Told to Pick Up the Tab: Congress Wants to Cut Reconstruction Aid,” by Anne Flaherty, Associated Press in the Syracuse Post-Standard, 15 Apr. 2008. []
Ed served 14 months in federal prisons for his civil resistance against the SOA. More recently he has been one of the “Hancock 2,” the “Hancock 15,” the “Hancock 33,” and the “Hancock 38.” Reach him at: edkinane@verizon.net. Read other articles by Ed.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. HR said on August 11th, 2008 at 11:12am #

    So patently obvious, WE owe every dime of reconstruction costs, reparations, and civil damages. Old Durbin was spouting the same BS the other day … as do millions of “patriotic” USans, who still babble about not understanding why the people of Iraq are not more grateful for all that we have “done for them”. It sickens me.

  2. bozhidar balkas said on August 11th, 2008 at 11:32am #

    is there a democracy anywhere? US governance is not democaratic.
    its basic structure, broadly, is composed of the ruling and nonruling class.
    what US is ‘giving’ to iraq is its structure of governance. saddam was not al-hussein. he was hussein. al- maliki and other people with prefix al rule iraq or are allowed to rule iraq.
    calling US structure of governance by any name does not change the fact that it is dictatorship of the plutos; perhaps 5mn amers.
    working class is a serf. thank you.

  3. HR said on August 11th, 2008 at 2:46pm #

    Whoops, sorry, that should have been “old Levin” in my prior post. I tend to lump these old-guard sellout democraps together and get their names mixed up.

  4. John Hatch said on August 11th, 2008 at 4:51pm #

    Americans are outraged-outraged! that those ungrateful Iraqis (so many liberated from life) aren’t rushing to spend money for oil not yet grabbed by Exxon etc on rebuilding the country that America destroyed for no reason. After all Blackwater has done for them! the outrage!

  5. Richard Posner said on August 11th, 2008 at 9:15pm #

    This is not quite the crowning jewel in the amerikan crown of empire. Iran is yet to come. It’s just the continuation of a long history of crimes against humanity.
    http://coldwarproductions.blogspot.com/2008/08/symphony-of-sorrow.html

  6. ed kinane said on August 12th, 2008 at 7:30am #

    as my friend frank here in syracuse pointed out, in my third paragraph i omitted a significant reality: the several million iraqis who had to flee the wonderful “democracy” we’ve created there.

  7. rosemarie jackowski said on August 12th, 2008 at 12:01pm #

    Hummmm – Ed, why are you letting the US taxpayers off the hook? If they were so stupid that they believed the lies, they should pay a ‘stupidity tax’. Not everyone believed the lies.

    This is a case of ‘if you broke it, you pay to fix it’. Ignorance of that moral principle is no excuse. There is nothing that could improve this world more than making those who finance war, also have to finance the reconstruction. I will go further than that. The US should also pay punitive damages for each Iraqi killed. How much is a human life worth? Some estimate the number of Iraqis killed since the bombing started in 1991, to be in excess of 3 million. Let’s see – 3 million multiplied by 100 million equals……

  8. A said on August 12th, 2008 at 7:43pm #

    You broke it, you fix it, you murdering SOBs!

  9. AJ Nasreddin said on August 13th, 2008 at 1:50am #

    I thought it was clear that the US went into the war to get some money out of it. Didn’t they always say a war will make the economy boom? Well, that hasn’t happened. If the US paid to rebuild Iraq, it’ll break the bank – and where would that leave America?

    Maybe we could move the Iraqis into the 2+ million forclosed homes in the US. We could hit two birds with one stone.

  10. rosemarie jackowski said on August 13th, 2008 at 12:34pm #

    Actually, the Bush/Congressional administration has been ingenious. This has been the largest money laundering scheme in the history of man – a transfer of wealth unlike anything in the past. First, the arms manufacturers make a bundle on the killing and destruction. Then more money is transferred to US corporations for the reconstruction. And don’t forget the big campaign contributors at Blackwater who are laughing all the way to the bank… and some still call them crazy and stupid.

    They are not crazy. They are not stupid. They are just evil.
    What does this say about the US people? Anybody want to bet that at least 90% vote for a dem/repub – more of the same.