Power to the Purse

by BRIAN J. FOLEY

Few expect Congress to say No to President Bush’s $87 billion request for the war in Iraq that he said was over. Decent Americans don’t want to abandon the Iraqi people. But we should get more for our money than a guerilla war, and we should limit the risk of being misled into further, unnecessary conflicts. One way is for Congress to attach conditions to any funding:

– Fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz. They cried – and lied – the loudest for war. They promised an easy liberation and ridiculed experienced military brass’s warnings against underestimating the difficulties of war.

– Ditto for Secretary of State Colin Powell. He’s portrayed as reasonable, but his February 5, 2003 speech to the UN Security Council has been exposed as lies by the Associated Press. (See "Charles J. Hanley, "Powell’s Battle Cry Fails Test of Time: Six months after his case swung opinion toward attacking Iraq, his intelligence file looks thin," August 10, 2003.)

– Eliminate the financial incentives certain Administration officials and their friends may have for advocating war. The Administration shovels cash to companies such as Halliburton Corp., which Vice President Cheney CEOed, to repair oil wells in Iraq, provide meals and deliver mail for troops, build bases in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Jordan and prisons in Guantanamo Bay. Such dealing calls into question whether the Administration’s hawkishness is based on patriotism or cronyism.

– Cancel President Bush’s tax cuts, which reward only the richest Americans. Must working people, whose children are dying in Iraq, also foot the bill?

– Support the troops: let them come home. They’re fighters, not nation builders. Their presence outrages many Iraqis and thus may pose the greatest obstacle to stability and democracy. Military costs far outweigh rebuilding costs in Bush’s request. More important than saving money is that our young men and women are in grave – and gathering – danger. How long until a massive car bomb cripples and kills hundreds?

– Retract the Bush Administration’s National Security Strategy. The Administration’s claiming the right to invade other countries before they acquire nuclear weapons and scrapping weapons-reduction treaties could doom humanity to an atomic free-for-all. The "strategy" gives non-nuclear nations incentive to go nuclear, simply to avoid Iraq’s fate. The more nuclear weapons in circulation, the harder it will be to keep them from terrorists.

If we fail to clean our own house, the rest of the world may try. Much of humanity now views the U.S. under the Bush Administration as the greatest threat to peace. And there’s politics. Few forget how the Administration tried to humiliate the UN last year, threatening that the world body would be "irresponsible" and "irrelevant" if it "failed" to rubberstamp a U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Of course, sweeping action by the UN is probably unlikely, given U.S. veto power. Other nations may well chip in. But imagine a "coalition of the willing" deciding to go ahead anyway to enforce the UN’s will, by adding the following conditions to those set forth above:

– The U.S. must pay the majority of rebuilding costs. Coalition countries could seize U.S. assets abroad and hold them in trust for the Iraqi people.

– No oil contracts, no rebuilding deals for U.S. companies. Nations should not profit from illegal wars of aggression.

– Demand "regime change." Foreign leaders could broadcast that they "have no quarrel with the American people," but that our dangerous, lawless leaders must go.

Such improvements are possible now that we hold the power of the purse.

BRIAN J. FOLEY is a professor at Touro Law Center in Huntington, NY. He can be reached at BrianF@tourolaw.edu.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 30, 2015
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper
Richard Ward
Sandra Bland, Rebel
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Martha Rosenberg
Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office
Binoy Kampmark
Dead Again: the Latest Demise of Mullah Omar
Kathy Kelly – Buddy Bell
No Warlords Need Apply: a Call for Credible Peacemaking in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on ‘IS’
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Karl Grossman
The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press
Cesar Chelala
Cultural Treasures Are Also Victims of War
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz