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[casi] "Marshall Plan to Bush Iraqi Plan: No Comparison"

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"Marshall Plan to Bush Iraqi Plan: No Comparison"
  t r u t h o u t | Statement
  West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd
  Wednesday 24 September 2003

  Opening remarks to the Senate Appropriations Committee considering Bush Administration request 
for 87B additional dollars in funding for the Iraqi occupation.

  The American people want to know more about what the Administration has planned for Iraq, and it 
is the responsibility of Congress to help inform our public. But rather than explanations of the 
Administration's long-term plan for Iraq, we only hear comparisons to the Marshall Plan.

  I can understand the Administration's desire to equate in the minds of the American public Saddam 
Hussein's Iraq to Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. World War II invokes images of the "Greatest 
Generation" -- the entire country united to defeat the Axis powers, and then, after victory, stayed 
behind to rebuild the cities of their conquered foes.

  But with World War II, Japan had attacked us. The Axis Powers had declared war on us. The U.S. 
occupation of Germany and Japan took place in the wake of a widely supported defensive war, under a 
commitment to internationalism and multilateralism.

  We're seeing none of this in Iraq. For one, the war in Iraq was not defensive. It was a 
preemptive attack. Secondly, we have alienated most of the international community in fighting the 
war. Third, the Germans and Japanese did not resist the U.S. occupation through sabotage, 
assassinations, and guerilla warfare.

  The Marshall Plan was not a huge bill presented to Congress for its rubber-stamp approval. It was 
a comprehensive strategy to provide $13.3 billion to 16 countries over four years to aid in 
reconstruction. In current dollars, the U.S. share would be about $88.2 billion spread over four 
years - very nearly the same amount that has been requested by the President for one country for a 
period of mere months. Moreover, the total amount of aid that the President will ultimately request 
for Iraq is anyone's guess.

  When the Congress considered the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, the Foreign Relations Committee 
held one-month of hearings, from January 8 to February 5, 1948, with the Chairman calling ninety 
witnesses to testify. After the Foreign Relations Committee reported legislation, the Senate 
further debated it for an additional two weeks. Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the Republican Chairman 
of the Foreign Relations Committee, called the aid plan reported by his committee "the final 
product of eight months of more intensive study by more devoted minds than I have ever known to 
concentrate upon any one objective in all my twenty years in Congress." The Congressional Research 
Service states that the Marshall Plan was opened to "perhaps the most thorough examination prior to 
launching of any program." If only we had the patience and desire to hold more hearings and devote 
more study to this huge spending request for Iraq before we rush to approve it. If only this 
Administration would be more open to working with Congress before committing vast sums for foreign 
aid, as was done half a century ago.

  The reconstruction of Europe was undertaken in the context of spirit of internationalism, 
multilaterialism, and collective security that led to the formation of the United Nations, NATO, 
the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. The same can hardly be said today.

  And who received aid under the Marshall Plan? West Germany managed to rebuild its economy and 
restore its once-functioning democracy with $9.2 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars; or just 
10.6 percent of all Marshall Plan funds. Great Britain, with undeniable cultural and political 
similarities to America, alone received 24.7 percent of the Marshall Plan funds over the course of 
four years, the equivalent of $21.1 billion in 1997 dollars.

  Yet today, we are asked to appropriate $20.3 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq for the next 
year alone. Moreover, these funds are not just for rebuilding bridges, but an attempt to transform 
a political culture very different from our own into a democracy - a form of government never 
before seen in those ancient lands. At least one of our intelligence agencies has grave doubts 
about democratizing Iraq, stating in one unclassified report, "Western-style democracy will be 
difficult to achieve."

  The $87 billion package that the President is seeking has little in common with the Marshall 
Plan. We should not learn our history through sound bites. Congress has an obligation to understand 
what this $87 billion is supposed to do for Iraq, and whether those goals can ever be achieved.

  We need to retain the support of the people as we face the harsh realities of post-war Iraq. Let 
us ask ourselves: years in the future, will the people look back and applaud the rush to pass this 
funding package? Perhaps the answer lies in another question: do the people, today, curse the 
memory of Senator Vandenburg and others for acting with such deliberation half a century ago?

  The President's $87 billion request is larger than the Gross Domestic Product of 166 nations. It 
is the beginning of a potentially enormous commitment to Iraq. We have the duty to understand the 
enormity of the potential consequences before we act.

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