Then why do we see the Administration prepare to hamstring the Iraqi nation by cutting off desperately needed reconstruction funds?
The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.
Just under 20 percent of the reconstruction package remains unallocated. When the last of the $18.4 billion is spent, U.S. officials in Baghdad have made clear, other foreign donors and the fledgling Iraqi government will have to take up what authorities say is tens of billions of dollars of work yet to be done merely to bring reliable electricity, water and other services to Iraq's 26 million people.
What's even worse is the way some apologists for the Administration are already trying to spin this blatantly political move in advance of the 2006 midterms as a "light at the end of the tunnel."
Let us be clear, You cannot on one hand argue against troop withdrawals (on the basis that Islamist terrorists remain a threat to Iraq's seccurity) and on the other argue for reconstruction budget cuts (on the basis that Iraq's civil infrastructure is sufficiently restored). Only the most vapid observer could possibly conclude that the security status and the reconstruction are utterly separable elements.
The Washington Post article has been highly selectively quoted by some to make it appear to argue that all is well. Reading the actual article, however, one reads:
In two of the most crucial areas, electricity and oil production, relentless sabotage has kept output at or below prewar levels despite the expenditure of hundreds of millions of American dollars and countless man-hours. Oil production stands at roughly 2 million barrels a day, compared with 2.6 million before U.S. troops entered Iraq in March 2003, according to U.S. government statistics.
The national electrical grid has an average daily output of 4,000 megawatts, about 400 megawatts less than its prewar level.
Iraqis nationwide receive on average less than 12 hours of power a day. For residents of Baghdad, it was six hours a day last month, according to a U.S. count, though many residents say that figure is high.
In a speech on Aug. 8, 2003, President Bush promised more for Iraq.
"In a lot of places, the infrastructure is as good as it was at prewar levels, which is satisfactory, but it's not the ultimate aim. The ultimate aim is for the infrastructure to be the best in the region," Bush said.
U.S. officials at the time promised a steady supply of 6,000 megawatts of electricity and a return to oil production output of 2.5 million barrels a day, within months.
Look, many have argued that there is plenty of good news out of Iraq. Rather than the media reports of death and destruction, we shoudl be focusing on schools painted and hospitals built.
What use are these schools and hospitals if the electricity is still not even up to pre-war levels?
The Iraqi people are not fools. They will rightly interpret this action by the Administration as evidence that our domestic politics trump their security, all the noble rhetoric of Freedom be damned.
And the reputation of America as an agent for liberty will be further discredited. That is the greatest tragedy of all, because any future mission will be evaluated by the record we set as a nation here.