At last night’s GOP presidential debate, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said Iraq and Libya should repay the U.S. for its war efforts in those two countries. When asked by CNN’s debate moderator Anderson Cooper whether she would cut aid to Israel, Bachmann responded that she would not. Then she went on to suggest that there were other ways the U.S. could spend less money on foreign affairs: by getting countries where the U.S. goes to war to repay the U.S. for its war expenditures. To raucous applause, Bachmann said:
Cutting back on foreign aid is one thing. Being reimbursed by nations that we have liberated is another. We should look to Iraq and Libya to reimburse us for part of what we have done to liberate these nations.
There have been more than 100,000 documented civilian deaths in the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which, after a botched occupation, embroiled the country in a bloody sectarian civil war.
The idea of getting compensation from Iraq for the U.S. war effort there has been raised before by right-wing Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who said Iraq should repay “some of the mega-dollars that we have spent here in the last eight years.” Rohrabacher went on to say: “There’s nothing wrong with suggesting that the people who have benefited from our benevolence should consider repaying us for what we have given them.”
At the time, ThinkProgress’s Scott Keyes asked Bachmann’s now-fellow candidate former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) what he thought about the idea. “I think that would send every possible wrong signal that America went to war for oil and we didn’t go to war for oil,” Santorum told Keyes (though he was mum on the subject last night).
The case of Libya is, of course, slightly different. The war there has only lasted some eight months, thus far, and is slowly winding down. In Libya, the opposition national council made an ask for international help, whereas in Iraq the George W. Bush administration simply banded together with exiled Iraqis who were sympathetic and could deliver splashy albeit faulty intelligence on Iraq’s weapons programs.
Bachmann’s thoughts on Libya are not entirely dissimilar from a bill that made it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this fall, but never came to a full vote before the whole body. That bill, a non-binding “sense of the Senate” resolution, said: “[F]unds of the Qaddafi regime that have been frozen by the United States should be used to reimburse the United States, as a NATO member, for expenses incurred in connection with” U.S. participation in the Libya war.