In an interview this morning with Meet the Press’ David Gregory, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) repeated her claim that the Iraq should pay America for the privilege of having their nation invaded and occupied for most of the last decade — and then doubled down by calling for Iraq to pay millions of dollars for each American killed in that country:
It’s over 800 billion dollars that we have expended [in Iraq]. I believe that Iraq should pay us back for the money that we spent, and I believe that Iraq should pay the families that lost a loved one several million dollars per life, I think at minimum.
It’s important to understand exactly what kind of burden Iraq has already shouldered because of our presence there. Iraq did not ask to be invaded by the United States, and the Iraqi people have wanted American forces out of their country for a very long time. Estimates on the number of Iraqi civilian casualties due to our presence in Iraq vary from just under 35,000 to well into the hundreds of thousands, according to a 2008 Congressional Research Service report, but there is little question that tens of thousands more Iraqis would still be alive today if not for our decision to invade their country.
The families of these Iraqi men, women, and children suffer just as deeply as the families of the nearly five thousand American and other coalition troops who died in this unnecessary war. If the families of people who died in the Iraq war require compensation, than the Iraqi victims have at least as strong a claim to compensation as the Americans who died in this ill-conceived invasion.
Bachmann’s broader proposal would also add a crushing fiscal burden to these casualties and to the already staggering cost of rebuilding Iraq’s many destroyed cities and towns. In 2010, Iraq’s entire gross domestic product was only about $82 billion per year. So requiring the Iraqi people to pay the over $800 billion Bachmann claims they owe us would mean that every single Iraqi man, woman and child would have to turn over every single penny they earn from now until about 2021.
The Iraq war is a tragedy. It is a tragedy for the American and other coalition troops who died in a war that never should have occurred in the first place. It is a tragedy for the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who lost their lives to our invasion, and it is a tragedy for the millions of Iraqis who now have to pick up the pieces in their war torn nation. Bachmann’s proposal to ignore the suffering of the Iraqi people and force every single Iraqi into a decade of serfdom would only compound this tragedy.