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Re: [casi] Biden to Give Major Iraq Speech at Brookings - Follows Wolfowitz 29 Jul Hearing

I attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on tuesday in
which Wolfowitz testified, and he was indeed given a hard time from both
Republican and Democratic senators, who are all getting pretty edgy about
the US budget for next year because the deficit has ballooned right out.
What they wanted to know was how much the administration is going to put
aside for the rest of this year and next for the cost of the occupation of
Iraq, which at the moment is running at $4 billion per month (or $50 billion
per year). But Wolfowitz wouldn't even give a bottom line figure, which got
alot of them irritated. They also wanted to know if the administration was
seeking to internationalise the occupation by getting in foreign troops and
contributions, even by agreeing to a further UN resolution that shares some
of the responsibility as well as the burden. But Wolfowitz wouldn't be drawn
on that either, and just said Colin Powell was talking about with the UNSC
etc. Wolfowitz was also criticised for the claims about Iraq-Al Qaeda links,
with even one Republican senator saying "I'm seeing alot of shifting
arguments" for why the US is in Iraq. A Democratic senator also showed the
hearing a publication put out by the Bush administration just after 9/11
which had a map of the world with all countries known to have an Al Qaeda
presence coloured in red. Iraq was not coloured in.

While it was gratifying to see Wolfowoitz get some heat, the motivation of
the senators of the committee is primarily electoral. They don't want to
have to go back to their constituencies and explain that they don't know how
much occupying Iraq is going to cost, in terms of dollars and military
fatalities, and how long US troops will be there. Because its not going so
well, they're running scared as they sense a shift in American public
opinion about what's going on in Iraq (which at the moment is still at the
"qualm" stage, not outrage). I don't think many of these senators actually
opposed the war, they still support it, but want the Bush administration to
be more "transperent" about it-and to make it more electorally palatable by
getting other countries to contribute troops to be shot at and and pay for
some of the reconstruction. Nevertheless, the fact that the congressional
Republicans were just as testy about the whole thing as the Democrats does
show that  the stark reality of the implications of invading Iraq are just
beginning to be realised in Washington, and the finger is slowly being
raised at the Bush administration for all the problems it is spawning.

Peter Kiernan

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