US Chickens Come Home to Roost: There Will Be "No Going Back" Said President George W. Bush Announcing He Will Seek an Additional $87Bn from Congress to Fund His Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. but American Taxpayers Are Anxious That the Spiralling Cost of American Military Action in the Middle East Could Bring the US Economy to Its Knees

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As donors from some 50 countries prepare to meet in Madrid later this month to consider funding the reconstruction of Iraq, questions are increasingly being raised in the heartland of the US, as well as in Washington, about the escalating costs of the American and British occupation of Iraq. This, aside from the rapidly rising cost in human terms--the daily toll of Iraqi dead, injured and destitute, as well as the loss of international humanitarian workers and of military personnel from the occupying forces, is what, it seems, the Bush Administration is most concerned about at present. Ironically, "Operation Tin Cup"--as the Madrid Conference is being billed by some in the US press--could have more effect in denting Bush's plans for Iraq than the genuine concern felt by an increasing number of Americans, not to mention the anti-occupation sentiment around the globe.

The financial warning signs escalated in late August when the US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, announced that rebuilding Iraq would need "several tens of billions" of dollars in the coming year alone. "The figures, which must be added to the $4bn the Pentagon spends each month on military operations in Iraq, offer the latest evidence that the price of the Iraqi occupation is growing substantially," the Washington Post responded in a masterful stroke of understatement.

A few days earlier, Administration sources were quoted in the British press as saying that the reconstruction costs could "be as high as $100bn over the next three years." This includes $13bn for repairing the country's electricity grid--work that is now not expected to be completed for at least another year--and $16bn for repairing the national water system alone. Together with the monthly "defence and security" costs for the US military which had already totalled some $50bn by mid-August, "the [total] cost of the occupation could "exceed a cool $80bn a year," the UK weekly newspaper, The Observer, reported.

"Many private estimates," the paper's authoritative economic commentator, Will Hutton, reported, "believe it will be half as much again." Most importantly, with Iraq's oil exports running up to two-thirds less than their pre-war levels, and with no major improvements--even barring further sabotage--in output expected for at least several months, the Bush Administration's pre-war hopes that Iraq's own resources could fund the rebuilding are finally being seen by US taxpayers as yet another bout of wishful thinking, if not outright deception.

In his "No going back speech" in September the President announced he would be asking Congress for a $87bn package to continue his "war on terror" and requesting that other nations also help foot the bill. Hence the Madrid conference, where the US is expected to ask Iraq's Arab neighbours--Turkey, Kuwait, the UAE and Jordan in particular--as well as other countries such as Portugal, Poland, the Ukraine, Canada and the Netherlands for their contributions. Substantial funding is also expected from Australia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Japan, as well as Britain.

Meanwhile, the biggest potential "donors," including Russia, China, France and Germany, have already made clear that, as with the US request for additional "peacekeeping" troops, no deal is likely as long as the Bush Administration and the Pentagon insist the US remains in charge of both security and reconstruction, as well as other vital aspects of the occupation, including oil production and exports, telecommunications, finance and banking, not to mention the question of elections to an Iraqi governing council. …