In 2003, when Paul Wolfowitz said that freed-up Iraqi oil would help pay for the Iraq War, the statement was seized upon by members of the anti-war crowd for, shall we say, dual-use purposes. Depending upon what faction was arguing, it was either evidence of the Bush administration’s imperialist worldview or a demonstration of Wolfowitz’s logistical naiveté. That is, we were going in either as rapacious capitalists bent on making the Iraqis pay for our war or as bumbling armchair generals with laughable dreams of turning Iraq’s decimated oil facilities into a viable source of revenue.
So I was understandably surprised to find out that Senator John Warner (who has over the years crept deeper into the anti-war camp) and Senator Carl Levin (who was against the war from the start) wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting that they look into securing some of the Iraq oil profits to pay for Iraq’s reconstruction. Four years after Paul Wolfowitz’s much-derided statement, asking Iraq to pay for its own future is apparently both moral and possible. From the letter:
How much has Iraq and the United States, respectively, spent annually during that time period on training, equipping and supporting Iraqi security forces, and on Iraq reconstruction, governance, and economic development?
[. . .]
We believe that it has been overwhelmingly U.S. taxpayer money that has funded Iraq reconstruction over the last five years, despite Iraq earning billions of dollars in oil revenue over that time period that have ended up in non-Iraqi banks.
This is how the anti-war argument shape-shifts. Of course, the senators do raise an important point—especially for those of us who support this war. By all means let’s get more Iraqi oil money into Iraqi reconstruction and hold accountable those who have prevented this from happening. But the calculated politicking behind the Warner/Levin move is likely to turn any inquiry into a demagogic slog and to produce one more anti-war talking point. In the end, it may just provide those who oppose the U.S. effort in Iraq with a fresh argument about how disgraceful America has become. What a waste.