During the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday featuring Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle complained, according to CNN, that “U.S. taxpayers are carrying a staggering burden right now as Iraq actually rakes in massive amounts of oil revenues, billions and billions of dollars.”
“To add insult to injury, in addition to spending $10 billions of U.S. dollars on reconstruction, American taxpayers are also paying three to four dollars a gallon on gas here at home,” said Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI). “Isn’t time for the Iraqis to start bearing more of those expenses, particularly in light of the windfall in revenue due to the high price in oil?” asked Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
According to Levin, “Iraq has about $30 billion in surplus funds stored in U.S. banks,” and CNN reports that Iraq’s oil revenue is “estimated to reach $100 billion dollars by the end of this year.” Watch CNN’s report:
Writing on CNN’s Political Ticker blog, Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer says that while U.S. lawmakers are publicly asking when Iraqi’s can “pick up the tab” for Iraq, privately, “several of them” wonder if “U.S. taxpayers” are being played like “suckers“:
At a time of economic distress in the United States, including fears of recession, home foreclosures, job losses, infrastructure strains, and health care worries, U.S. lawmakers publicly are asking why the Iraqis themselves can’t pick up the tab for their own reconstruction. Privately, several of them are going one step further — asking whether the Iraqis actually are playing the U.S. taxpayers for suckers.
The AP reports today that “Democrats plan to push legislation this spring that would force the Iraqi government to spend its own surplus in oil revenues to rebuild the country, sparing U.S. dollars.” Levin says the legislation may be “part of this year’s war spending bill or the 2009 defense authorization bill.”
The Crypt reports on today’s hearing:
A line Gen. Petraeus just dropped plays right into an argument that anti-war groups and members of Congress have been making, namely that the U.S. presence in Iraq retards the country’s progress. “We are keenly aware that there are going to be cases where [Iraqis] say, ‘Why should we do it for ourselves if they’re going to do it for us?” the general said.