Is America Building Nations Or Tearing Them Down?
Posted: Friday, February 14, 2003
Natasha Hunter is associate editor at TomPaine.com
One way to measure the Bush administration's commitment to building democracy in postwar Iraq might be to look at the funds we've allocated to cleaning up after our last big regime-change project.
Bush included Afghanistan in his State of the Union address, and reasserted the U.S.'s commitment to the war-blasted nation. "In Afghanistan we helped to liberate an oppressed people," he said. "And we will continue helping them secure their country, rebuild their society and educate all their children: boys and girls."
So how much money did Bush request in the budget for all this securing and rebuilding and equal-opportunity educating? None. And it's not because Congress ignored the White House's request-the administration simply failed to include funds for reconstruction or humanitarian aid.
Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, expressed "surprise" to the BBC that the president had overlooked Afghanistan in its budget proposals package. Kolbe says that when he questioned the administration on the oversight, it couldn't offer a satisfactory explanation.
Later in the State of the Union, Bush discussed Iraq, and compared the situation to Afghanistan: "And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military and we will prevail. And as we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food, and medicines and supplies and freedom."
But only if someone else foots the bill, right?
Much talk has been circulating about a Marshall Plan for the Middle East, and polling shows the American people standing solidly behind such a program. And as the only reigning superpower, the United States would have to lend its support -- and its cash -- if any such plan were to blossom. But blunders like the administration's budget omission provide a dreary if unsurprising insight into what's not motivating the White House.
And what is? Is the attack on Iraq an imperialist economic grab, an exchange of blood for oil, as the far left claims? Is it a show of overwhelming force, intended to cow our "enemies" in an increasingly fluid and unstable world? Evidence for these claims, convincing now, grows more compelling every day.
Right wing ideologues look forward to regime change in Iraq as a stepping stone from which the Arab world can be Westernized. Liberals who believe in civil society hope that -- if war is inevitable -- Iraq and Afghanistan will create a harmonious blend of Islam and democracy. But with no money behind its words, America is nothing more than a bully that brags of building nations as it tears them down and walks away.
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