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Sen Byrd Speech -- $87 billion for Iraq in Context 09-29-03

Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd

September 29, 2003

Putting the President's $87 Billion for Iraq in Context

Senator Byrd delivered the following remarks on the eve of the Senate Appropriations Committee vote on the President's $87 billion request for the military and Iraqi reconstruction.

The Senate will soon consider the President's request for an additional $87 billion to fund the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and to aid in their reconstruction.

The $87 billion Supplemental brings to $194 billion the amount the United States is spending in Iraq and Afghanistan -- more than twice what the Administration had led the public to believe just a few months ago.

The 1991 Persian Gulf War, by contrast, cost $61 billion, of which the United States paid only $7 billion. That's $7 billion spent in 1991 compared to $194 billion today -- almost 28 times higher.

The Bush Administration's $87 billion Supplemental request is the largest emergency spending request since 1977. The $87 billion request just for Iraq and Afghanistan, just for next year roughly equals, in current dollars, the total amount of money spent to rebuild the entire continent of Europe after World War II.

The request is larger than the $74 billion the Defense Department plans to spend on all new weapons purchases next year; and more than twice the Administration's entire $35 billion homeland security budget for next year. That means for every two dollars spent on the President's Supplemental request for Iraq, the Administration will spend less than one dollar on homeland security here at home.

The $20 billion that the President is seeking for Iraq reconstruction is $2 billion more than we are spending for foreign assistance for every other nation on the planet. The $87 billion request is 50% more than we spend on education for the entire nation.

With $194 billion spent or requested, the President's war spending in 2003 and 2004 already exceeds the inflation-adjusted costs of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War and the Persian Gulf War combined.

The cost of the war and post-war occupation of Iraq will soon surpass the $196 billion inflation-adjusted cost of World War I. The monthly bill for the U.S. military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan now rivals spending during the Vietnam War.

At $87 billion, the President's request is larger than the economies of 166 countries. It's larger than the individual economies of almost half the states of the Union.

If approved, the President's request would increase the federal budget deficit for the Fiscal Year 2004 to $535 billion. The White House is now in danger of violating its own self-imposed limit for budget deficits -- 6 percent of gross domestic product, or $600 billion.

The Administration hopes that it will receive an additional $30 billion to $55 billion from other countries and Iraqi oil revenue over the next two years. But that money may never materialize.

Iraqi oil production is 1 million barrels per day less than before the war. The oil infrastructure has been hobbled by severe looting and sabotage. Certain pipelines have been struck by a series of attacks since the United Nations lifted sanctions this summer. Iraq's oil revenues are likely to fall short of even the modest expectations of this Administration.

As for the tens of billions of dollars that the Bush Administration is hoping to receive from other countries and international financial institutions, President's Bush's request has fallen on deaf ears. The Bush Administration has alienated most of the international community. After swallowing his pride and asking the United Nations for help, The Washington Post summed up the President's fund raising efforts with the headline: "Bush Fails to Gain Pledges on Troops Or Funds for Iraq."

Increasingly, it appears as if we are on our own in financing the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq.

I urge my colleagues to exercise patience before approving this request. This is not a token amount of money. It's the beginning of a major commitment of resources in behalf of the American taxpayer. Before we act, we should make sure that they understand the size and consequences of this request, and what will be asked of them in paying for it.

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