The Guardian November 5, 2003

US$87 billion for war

Congress voted to approve the Bush administration's $87 
billion package for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq and 
Afghanistan, but not without vocal and sometimes vehement 
opposition by lawmakers and peace activists.

They reflected the growing opposition to the Bush 
administration's lies, the occupation, and the mounting US and 
Iraqi casualties.

Senator Edward Kennedy, one of 12 senators who voted against the 
US$87 billion, said a no vote was not a vote against the troops, 
"but the President's war has been revealed as mindless, needless, 
senseless, and reckless. The American people know all this. Our 
allies know it. Our soldiers know it.

Hany Khalil, organising co-ordinator of United for Peace and 
Justice (UFPJ), told the People's Weekly World, "As The New York 
Times noted, Congress felt the heat from our movement, pushing 
more of them to distance themselves from the occupation". At the 
same time, he said, lawmakers failed to give Iraqis "the 
resources they need to repair the damage done by the US war, 
sanctions, and occupation".

Growing rejection

Public opinion polls show growing rejection of Bush's foreign 
policy and rising concerns about domestic issues. Khalil asked, 
"How about US$87 billion for US cities, for jobs"?

"The Republicans and the Democrats need to look at the war's 
impact at home", Khalil said. "Bush wants money for war but 
denies support for those who die for his policies".

Bush threatened to veto the bill unless his original request was 
accepted. The congressional votes came within days of the 
announcement of a record-breaking US$374 billion federal deficit. 
The Centre for Budget and Policy Priorities said nearly half of 
the deficit was caused by Bush's tax cuts for the rich.


Democrat Representative Jan Schakowsky, one of 125 House members 
who voted no, noted that US troops are not even receiving basic 
necessities in Iraq. "The Bush administration cannot be trusted 
to make our troops a priority, so how can we trust them with $87 
billion?" she asked, adding, "Billions of taxpayer dollars have 
been spent already on no-bid contracts for major US corporations 
like Halliburton and Bechtel for reconstruction efforts that 
Iraqis say can be performed for pennies on the dollar if given to 
local contractors".

Zack Exley, organising director, commented that "the 
Bush administration is trying to give blank cheques out to 
Pentagon contractors", while some wounded soldiers returning from 
Iraq are waiting a month or more for appointments with a military 
doctor. "It's disgusting", Exley said.

Pentagon contractors

Even right-wing think tanks deplore the cronyism of Bush's 
contract awards, Exley told the World. "The vast majority of this 
money is just being flushed down the toilet, going into profits 
for Pentagon contractors, most of whom happen to be big 
Republican campaign contributors".

In stark contrast, the White House has strongly opposed 
increasing health benefits for reservists and National Guard 
members and veterans' health care.

UFPJ's Khalil told the World, "We need to redouble our efforts to 
bring out people who were active in January, February and March, 
when large sections of public opinion opposed a pre-emptive war 
on Iraq". The movement needs to be "focusing our pressure on 
Congress to reject the policies of Republicans or Democrats that 
are pro-war", said Khalil.

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People's Weekly World

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