Oct. 17, 2003
Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan Security and Reconstruction Act, 2004
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I have said many times, and I will say it again, it is critical that we succeed in Iraq. But it is equally important that we do the job the right waythe way that best protects our troops on the ground, enhances our security, and shields the American taxpayer from undue burden. President Bush's approach fails this test.
I support our troops in Iraqand their mission. I believe we must do our part to reconstruct Iraq and make it a force for peace and stability in the region. I am prepared to spend whatever it takes to win the peace. But I want to spend that money responsibly and effectivelypursuant to a strategy that will maximize our prospects for success through greater internationalization and burden sharing and provide the transparency and accountability that American taxpayers expect and deserve when we spend their hard-earned money. I want to be sure that the financial costs are distributed, in the spirit of shared sacrifice, among those Americans who can best afford to pay. Unfortunately, the President and his advisers disagree.
I cannot vote for the President's $87 billion request because his is not the most effective way to protect American soldiers and to advance our interests. Simple common sense tells us that we need more countries sharing the burden and more troops on the ground providing security. We need a fairer way to pay the bill.
I had hoped that the Administration would prepare for building the peace in Iraq as well as it prepared for fighting the war. But that was not the case.
Over eager to rush to war, the administration failed to plan adequately or effectively for the peace. American forces are being targeted daily by remnants of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime, newly arrived terrorists hoping to capitalize on anti-American sentiment, or a combination of both. The attacks are becoming more lethal and more sophisticated, and increasingly the attackers are going for high profile targets associated with us or our allies. But the administration played down or, worse yet, ignored the likelihood of this kind of resistance when planning for the postwar period.
It low-balled the number of forces that would be needed to seize the alleged WMD sites for which we fought the war, to protect the infrastructure needed for reconstruction, or to contain civil unrest. It failed to put together a meaningful military coalition to help us meet these needs.
The administration underestimated the magnitude of the reconstruction task and, as we now know, misrepresented the ease with which oil would flow for rebuilding. It refused to tell the American people up front the long-term costs of winning the peace. And it refused, until recently, to ask the international community to join us in this very difficult endeavor.
This administration's brazen go-it-alone policy has placed our soldiers at unnecessary risk and our hopes for success in jeopardy. It has turned American liberators into occupiers in the eyes of many Iraqis. It has created a terrorist presence in Iraq where none previously existed and made Iraq a recruiting poster for terrorists of the future. It has undermined the legitimacy of our efforts at home, abroad, and in Iraq. And it has left Iraqis wondering when they will get their country back.
We cannot continue on this course. The stakes are too highfor our troops, for the Iraqi people, for the region, and for American security.
A year ago when we were debating the use of force resolution for Iraq, I said: "If we do go to war with Iraq, we have an obligation to the Iraqi people, and to other nations in the region, to help create an Iraq that is a force for stability and openness in the region." That obligation is upon us. We are now committedas a result of our military victory and postwar occupation to building a democratic Iraq that is reasonably secure and economically viable. Our credibility and our interests demand that we succeed.
Successful reconstruction of Iraq is critical to peace and stability in the Mideast and to the security of Israel, our closest ally in that volatile region. We cannot allow Iraq to become a failed state or let the Ba'athists return to turn their wrath once again on innocent Iraqis. We must not allow Iraq to be fragmented into mini-states, warring with one another and further destabilizing the region. Nor can Iraq be dominated by Iran or any other state in the region. Success in Iraq is also crucial to our war on terrorism. The terrorist violence which has emerged in the wake of our military victory in Iraq poses a major challenge, but it is one we must meet. Iraq cannot become a terrorist sanctuary like Afghanistan, either as a platform for al-Qaida or Israeli-directed violence.
It is imperative that we succeed in Iraq, but to do so, we have to tackle the challenge of rebuilding Iraq an effective way, not the Bush administration's failed way. We need a detailed plan, including fixed timetables and costs, for establishing civil, economic and political security in Iraq.
We need to internationalize both the military and civilian sides of the occupation and build a coalition that will provide tangible assistance in terms of boots on the ground and money in the coffers for Iraqi reconstruction. Only in this way will we reduce the risk to American service members and alleviate some of the financial burden on the American taxpayer for reconstruction.
We have to give the United Nations a clearly defined, central role in the reconstruction of Iraq and in the process of establishing a new Iraqi Government, and we must provide the necessary security so that U.N. personnel will go back to Iraq. The United Nations is not perfect, but it has far more experience and capacity in these areas than the Pentagon and the Coalition Provisional Authority. The process of reconstructing Iraq and its political system must be an international processnot an American process. Only then will it have legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people and the world.
We have to involve Iraqis more in the process of rebuilding their country and assure them through concrete steps that political power and responsibility will be transferred to them as quickly as possible.
The administration, albeit belatedly, has recognized that we need help in Iraq. The resolution adopted this week by the U.N. Security Council is a step in the right direction. It will provide greater international legitimacy to our efforts in Iraq. It does require that the Iraqi Governing Council lay out by December 15 of this year a timetable and program for the drafting of a constitution and national elections, but this resolution does not fundamentally change the lines of authority and responsibility for the reconstruction and governance of Iraq. It is really more show than substance. Whether it will gain meaningful international support for our efforts in Iraq remains to be seen but the prospects do not look good. Already three of our allies who voted for itRussia, France and Germanyhave indicated that they will not provide troops or funds to support our efforts. And Pakistan, which had been expected to provide troops once a resolution was passed, has now declined. If he is serious about generating funds and troops for the operation in Iraq, President Bush must see this resolution as the beginning of a process of diplomacynot the end.
The President is asking us to give him $87 billion for Iraq. As we decide whether or not to vote for this package, there are some fundamental questions each of us should be asking.
First, what is it for? Much of it some $66 billion is for our troops on the ground. Another $20 billion is supposed to be for reconstruction of basic services, such as water, sewer, and electricity, and for training Iraqi security forces. It also includes $82 million to protect Iraq's 36 miles of coast line, new prisons at a cost of $50,000 per bed, a witness protection program at a cost of $1 million per family, nearly $3 million for pickup trucks at a cost of $33,000 each, $2 million for museums and memorials, and a whopping $9 million for a state-of-the-art postal service. I could go on, but the point is obvious: This supplemental is padded with requests that go far beyond Iraq's emergency needs.
Second, who reaps the benefit of this $20 billion for reconstruction? On one level, of course, it is the Iraqi people. But let's not fool ourselves. Halliburton and other select American companies with close, high-level connections to the Bush administration are getting the lion's share of the contracts funded by this money. No one can object to giving contracts to American firms, but those contracts ought to be offered on a competitive, open bid basis. And at a minimum, these firms should be required to seek subcontractors from outside of the United States including Iraqi companies where feasible. Opening and internationalizing the contracting process would provide much-needed transparency and give others in the international community a stake in the success of the reconstruction process.
Third, what is the plan for spending the $20 billion? We don't really know because the administration has only given us a set of goals and vague timetablesnot a detailed plan. The President wants us to give him $87 billion on faith. His administration has failed miserably in anticipating the risks to our troops, planning for the peace, and building international support for our effort. Why should we trust him now?
Fourth, how does President Bush intend to pay for rebuilding Iraq? He wants to saddle future generations of American taxpayers with the bill by adding to the Federal deficit. This is fundamentally unfair. There is a better waythe one Senator Biden and I offered when we proposed that the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans be repealed. At a time when men and women in uniform are sacrificing for our interests in Iraq, it is only fair to ask those Americans who can afford it to do their fair share, but President Bush's refusal to accept this approach betrays the spirit of shared sacrifice that has made our nation great.
Fifth, what is the urgency for rushing forward with such a large proposal now? There isn't one. Ambassador Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, has told us that his funds for reconstruction will last until the end of the year.
Whether or not Iraq can absorb $20 billion over the next year is another question. The World Bank recently estimated that Iraq could absorb only $5.2 billion in reconstruction funds for next year. Instead of rushing to complete this bill, the administration should be doing more of the hard work of diplomacy to generate contributions from other countries and to generate a more accurate assessment of what Iraq's real needs are over the next year.
Finally, it is incumbent upon us to ask what needs at home are underfunded? The answer is: plenty, including health care, education and homeland security.
The President must be held accountable and he must change course. While he may still salvage success in Iraq, the question we must ask is: at what costin terms of dollars and lives? We should do this the right way. We can win the peace in Iraq but we cannotand should notdo it alone. Our troops on the ground deserve a strategy that will take the target off their backs and bring them home more quickly. The American people deserve a strategy that decreases the bill, pays our costs fairly, and makes America safer. We must have a new approach, one that maximizes international cooperation and burden sharing and minimizes the risk of failure. If the President adopts that new approach, I will gladly support any proposal that funds it.