A Times Editorial

Time for Iraq to pay up

It might be the very definition of a sucker. Here we are spending billions of dollars we don't have toward Iraq's reconstruction, while the Iraqi government is sitting on tens of billions of dollars in surpluses. Oil's been very good to Iraq, and it's only destined to get better. Why then are Iraq's oil billions piling up in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, earning interest, while America has gone into debt to provide Iraqis with electricity and water?

There is no good answer to that question beyond the fact that we're getting rooked.

According to a study by the Government Accountability Office, Iraq now enjoys a cumulative budget surplus of $79-billion; meanwhile the American taxpayer has expended $48-billion toward reconstruction projects in the war-torn nation.

While Congress keeps writing checks to Iraq, the oil-rich nation has spent a relative pittance on its own reconstruction. From 2005 through April 2008, Iraq spent a measly $3.9-billion on things like providing Iraqis with electricity and water, while the United States has put out $23.2-billion for the same services since the start of the war in 2003.

So much of Iraq's surplus is deposited at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York that the United States has paid out more than $435-million in interest.

This lopsided situation looks even more ridiculous when one juxtaposes Iraq rolling in oil dough with Americans suffering every time they roll into a gas station.

This has to stop. Early on, the Bush administration promised that Iraq would be able to use its oil revenues to largely pay for its own reconstruction. Well, it seems that this one prediction may turn out to have some validity. But until the administration cuts off the money spigot, Iraq's ministers have no incentive to start spending down their country's healthy reserves.

Iraq is still an unsafe country with staggering infrastructure needs. And while the United States bears most of responsibility for Iraq's current state, it's time to start sharing the financial burden. Iraq now has the capacity to begin addressing the nation's development needs and it should be devoting its massive oil wealth to that purpose. American taxpayers have already spent more — much more — than they can afford.

Time for Iraq to pay up 08/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2008 4:52pm]

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