THE BLOG

Baghdad Bling

09/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Today's WashPost article citing a General Accounting Office Report released yesterday on Iraq's oil surplus caught my eye because it harkened back to the pathetically painful boast of leading war advocate Dep Sec Def Wolfowitz's immortal words : "...the cost of the occupation, the cost of the military administration and providing for a provisional [civilian] administration, all of that would come out of Iraq oil." OH REALLY??? This is the chap who was subsequently nominated by President Bush to run the World Bank before he was sacked for questionable ethics.

Perhaps Dr. Wolfowitz should know that his former colleagues at the Pentagon estimate that five years since the invasion the military cost of the war and occupation have cost $600 billion, but no one really knows for sure, and some economists peg the cost so far between $1 trillion to $3 trillion and that is still just a rough estimate.

According to the WashPost, oil provided 94% of Iraq's $96 billion in revenue between 2005 and the end of 2007. And based on projected estimates of Iraq's oil exports in 2008, oil will generate between $67 billion and $79 billion in revenue. The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that Iraq will have a budget surplus of $38 BILLION to $50 BILLION in 2008.

Guess what, my friends, the U.S. taxpayer is still paying for the lion's share of Iraq's reconstruction ($48 billion since 2003) while Baghdad continues to stick its profits under its mattress, spending no more than 10% of its revenue on reconstruction (i.e., a paltry $3-5 billion) when it could easily spend over $35 billion) AND, for good measure, we are buying Iraq's oil at existing market prices, to boot!

Well, this war was (to the best of my knowledge) never about oil, n'est pas? But the sheer audacity of this White House is beyond belief when any rational person should be asking him or herself why are we permitting Iraq's government to get away with this highway robbery when it could easily shoulder more of the reconstruction burden.

I venture these guesses:

1. We don't have the nerve to demand any offset because the White House conveniently bought into the Pottery Barn Rule in all its glory ("you broke it, you own it").

2. The White House did not want to antagonize PM Maliki while it continued to insist over his objections that there should be no timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. troops, but merely a time "horizon."

3. The White House wants to build up Iraq's oil profits so that Iraq can continue to fund the Bush deficits by beginning to fund our debt through the purchase of U.S. Treasury Bonds.

4. Bush and Cheney denied this war was about oil, and guess what, they cannot get themselves to admit that the taxpayer is now entitled to make something about Iraq's oil profits.

Just to put in in shorthand, as of today, the U.S. taxpayer has conservatively spent $48 billion to rebuild Iraq and Iraq has spent just $3-5 billion when it could be 100% times that.

I, for one, am not bashful. Whether this war was about oil or not, it sure as well be about oil now when the American taxpayer is hurting at the pump and Iraq's government is laughing all the way to the bank.