An April 14 AP article by Anne Flaherty reported that U.S.
senators and representatives are finding common ground in asking that Iraqis
begin picking up the tab for the cost of war. The lawmakers are troubled that
Iraqis might experience windfall surpluses of revenue generated by rising oil
prices, while U.S. people bear the burden of paying for war in Iraq.
�In hearings last week,� Flaherty writes, �Joseph Lieberman,
I-Conn., asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates whether Baghdad should start
paying some U.S. combat costs, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised the
possibility that an anticipated Iraqi budget surplus this year could be used to
help Afghanistan, whose $700 million in annual revenue represents a small
fraction of Iraq's $46.8 billion budget.�
In light of reports that rising oil prices will endow Iraqis
with a large surplus of funds, it�s helpful to consult commentary by seasoned
analysts regarding energy issues. On April 11, UPI's Energy Editor Ben Lando
clarified that �Iraq would not make $100 billion in oil sales this year . . . unless
the price of oil went substantially higher, like nearing $200 per barrel. And
the �surplus� would be anything beyond the $50 billion 2008 budget, which at
current oil prices will give it just about a $10 billion surplus."
In February, Iraq produced 2.4 million barrels per day of
oil, of which about 1.6 million barrels per day are exported from the south
(the rest being for domestic consumption). Assume a price of $100 per barrel of
oil; multiply it by 1.6 million barrels; and multiply again by 365 days and you
get $58.4 billion in annual revenue from oil. Iraq�s budget for 2008 is about
$54.3 billion, according to the International Monetary Fund. Any decline in oil
prices, damage to Iraq�s oil infrastructure, or other shock to production and
Iraq�s �surplus� vanishes into thin air.
Before U.S. lawmakers imagine ways to spend Iraq's possible
�surplus,� they should be asked about the "rights" of an aggressor
nation that illegally invades another country. The U.S. waged an unprovoked war
of choice against Iraq, a country which posed no threat whatsoever to U.S.
people. Did Iraq have any "rights" after it invaded Kuwait? An aggressor
nation has no rights. Period. Indeed, the international community -- via the
U.N. Security Council -- continues to punish the Iraqi people for the crimes of
Saddam Hussein�s regime by requiring Iraq to pay 5 percent of its oil revenues
as �war reparations� for the prior regime�s invasion and occupation of Kuwait
in 1990-91 (with virtually all of the remaining payments going to the
governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia or those country�s state-owned oil
Commenting on suggestions that the U.S. impose financial
obligations on Iraq, Lando writes: "This begs the question as to whether a
country can invade another country -- which inherently destroys the capital,
political and societal infrastructure -- poorly spend both occupying and occupied
funds, unilaterally create conditions of chaos requiring ongoing security and
reconstruction funds, and then bind the occupied country to make reparations
and take out loans from the occupying country?"
What are some of the "conditions of chaos requiring
ongoing security and reconstruction funds� in Iraq? In 1991, the United States
deliberately targeted, bombed and destroyed Iraq�s infrastructure -- in
particular its water treatment plants, its electrical plants, and its
electrical power grid. This damage was exacerbated over the next 13 years as
the U.S. and UK insisted that the UN maintain brutally punitive economic
sanctions that prevented Iraq from substantively rebuilding and caused further
decay and debilitation in every sector of Iraq�s infrastructure. The sanctions
also caused widespread disease, starvation and impoverishment -- directly
contributing toward the deaths of over one-half million children under age
Today, available statistics about the consequences of the
U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq speak of misery and chaos nearly
unimaginable to most U.S. people. One out of six Iraqis has been displaced from
their homes. A March 2007 report from Save the Children, a US based NGO, stated
that 122,000 Iraqi children didn't reach their fifth birthdays in the year 2005
alone. UNAMI, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, in its most
recently issued report on humanitarian conditions in Iraq, stated that 54
percent of Iraqis live on less than $1 per day, including 15 percent who are forced
to live on less than 50 cents per day. Deventy percent of Iraq�s people lack
access to potable water. Forty-three percent of Iraqi children under age five
suffer a form of malnourishment, with 23 percent suffering from chronic
malnourishment and 8 percent suffering acute malnourishment. Forty percent of
Iraq�s population are children under 15 years of age. Should these children be
deprived of food and clean water so that their country is instead forced to pay
U.S. forces to drop bombs on them, shoot at them, and exacerbate any or all of
the three civil wars which analyst Juan Cole says are now well underway in
In the past year, U.S. aerial bombardments of Iraqi
neighborhoods increased fivefold, while the number of Iraqis incarcerated in
U.S. prisons in Iraq has doubled. (Some 24,000 Iraqis are now imprisoned by
U.S. forces, approximately 650 of whom are juveniles). If a foreign country
were bombing U.S. cities and imprisoning U.S. civilians, would we ever agree to
pay the invaders� military expenses? Would we agree that the aggressor nation
had no fiscal responsibilities to pay reparations?
Perhaps news of U.S. lawmakers� weariness over Iraq�s �free
ride� will prompt some Iraqis currently aligned with U.S. forces to stop aiming
their weapons against other Iraqis and to instead find common cause, using all
means of nonviolent resistance, to defy the U.S. occupation.
But what of our own culpability? What about our options for
We do have options. We each can, at the very least, pressure
our elected representative, through legal or extralegal lobbying, to vote
against President Bush�s $102 billion supplemental funding request, which the
U.S. House of Representatives will likely vote on the last week of April and
with the Senate following suit shortly thereafter.
Another option was pursued, this year, by the National War
Tax Resistance Coordinating Campaign�s �War Tax Boycott.� This project helped
people eliminate at least a portion of war making from their personal budget.
They did so by collectively redirecting $100 of their federal income tax to
assist Iraqis who�ve been forced to flee their country as well as victims of
Hurricane Katrina whose needs remain unmet. (See www.nwtrcc.org).
Yes, it�s outrageous to think that U.S. lawmakers could
propose that Iraq�s people should be asked to pay for any aspect of U.S.
occupation. But it�s also an outrage for U.S. people to foot the bill for the
continued military occupation. We owe the Iraqi people reparations for the
damage our country has caused over these past 18 years of economic and military
warfare, not an ever-lasting occupation. If you�re among those who are wearied
and exasperated by the wrongfulness of this ongoing war, allow yourself some
relief: don�t collaborate.
Kelly (email@example.com) is a co-coordinator
of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. www.vcnv.org
She has refused to pay all forms of federal income tax since 1980.