Skip to comments.Canada doesn't deserve slice of Iraq reconstruction pie
Posted on 12/17/2003 9:33:56 AM PST by knighthawk
Here is the financial spreadsheet on Iraq, billed to the United States, as estimated by Pentagon and administration officials.
Military operations: $1 billion (U.S.) a week.
Reconstruction costs for 2004: $20 billion.
Initial humanitarian aid: $5 billion.
Projected Iraqi government, military and police salaries: $8 billion.
Repairs to public utilities and restoring vital services over the next two years, not included in reconstruction costs: $7 billion.
Resettlement of nearly 1 million Iraqi refugees returning from exile: $3 billion.
Military casualties: 311 dead Americans.
Democracy in a Middle Eastern Arab state: Priceless.
What Canada contributed to ousting Saddam Hussein and waging the war to set the stage for a modern renaissance of Iraq: Zero.
Yet, after putting precious little into Iraq, we have the nerve to whinge about not being allowed to take a profit out of it. Oh, there have been congratulations this week from Ottawa, with the capture of the deposed dictator. Nobody now wants to be perceived as being anything less than thrilled that a genocidal maniac has finally been caught, by U.S. troops, run to ground in his miserable little hidey-hole. Thus the hip-hip-hoorays, even from such notoriously anti-war capitals as Paris and Berlin.
But if the French and the Germans and Canadians had had their way, Saddam would still be in power, Iraqis would still be enslaved, and the international fraternity of nations would still be looking the other way.
Indeed, some of the usual suspects Saddam apologists, U.S.-bashers could not bring themselves to allow Washington even one day of unqualified applause. Hence, just as an example, the stingy editorial in Monday's Star and the snide letters published in various Canadian newspapers the last couple of days.
The award for gracelessness, however, goes to French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, who observed following news of Saddam's arrest that "the international community should congratulate itself.''
The hypocrisy is staggering.
But de Villepin, like other world leaders who excoriated Washington for invading Iraq, has an obvious and craven agenda: The French, like the Germans and the Russians and Canadians, want a slice of the Iraqi reconstruction pie. They are indignant over Washington's announced intention of offering reconstruction contracts those posted for bidding thus far are worth $18 billion exclusively to the 61 countries that constituted the coalition-of-the-willing, including those who gave nothing more than rhetorical support.
Canada did quite the opposite. Then-prime minister Jean Chrétien, after endless vacillation, opted to sit this one out. But of course he, and countless other Canadians, did far more than that, castigating Washington before, during and after the war.
Canada has pledged about $230 million U.S. ($300 million Cdn.) in aid since the war, most of it not yet delivered. Then, in one of his last pronouncements as deputy prime minister, John Manley suggested Canada just might renege on even that, all in a snit over the U.S. limiting reconstruction contracts to coalition partners.
This country was not a coalition partner. What we did was scold from the sidelines, ridicule and belittle the Bush administration, condemn the invasion, and shrug off regime atrocities as the usual albeit regrettable stuff of tyranny. We were, and remain, sanctimonious, preachy and smug.
In some circles, this passes as independence of thought.
Canada is not the bosom friend and ally to the U.S. it claims to be (when it serves our purpose), not if friendship and alliance is measured either by deed or moral support. We continue staking ownership to this special and intimate relationship, yet we don't act like pals. We act like morally superior harpies.
There has been much talk, especially since the weekend, about "reconciliation'' and healing political divisions, particularly between "Old Europe'' with which Canada aligned itself and America. Noble sentiments and not without merit. But at its core, this new attitude is being driven by greed.
Why in the world would anyone be surprised, or feel betrayed, because the U.S. is favouring its coalition allies, countries that put boots on the ground, however relatively few in comparison to Americans, in most cases over the objections of their own citizenry? Some of these countries have sacrificed lives in Iraq, their troops remain vulnerable, but none have cut and run in the face of public protest and ongoing dangers.
Washington might very well reverse itself, on the matter of contracts, but this will be a magnanimous gesture not because the U.S. needs anything from fitful allies. The situation in Iraq is long past the point where a broader multinational peacekeeping coalition would make any difference on the ground. Washington has already announced a July 1 date for handing over administrative authority to a provisional national assembly, which would serve as a government until a constitution is written and elections held.
The Americans and the Brits, the Aussies and the gallant Poles have already done all the heavy humping. An ultra-multinational contribution now would be window-dressing, and U.N.-authority redundant. Besides, the U.N., with only a skeletal staff still in Iraq following the disastrous bombing of its compound, has shown it can't stand the heat.
It is particularly preposterous for the Ottawa Liberals, who know all about pork-barrelling and rewarding one's friends, to froth in petulance over being left out of the profit loop in Iraq. Canada took no risks by eschewing war (beyond flirting with Washington's dismay), ostensibly standing on its own principles. So now it has no grounds for demanding inclusion in whatever profits might arise from reconstructing Iraq.
There's only one Switzerland. In real geopolitics, governments have to pick sides. And ours did. We sided with those who did their utmost to retain the status quo in Iraq, many of these European countries already signatories to industrial deals with the Baathists, deals that have now collapsed with billions owed. Iraq has $350 billion in foreign debts, which the lending countries are now being urged to forgive. In any event, they have little hope of recompense. It is distasteful for these same countries, Canada included, so recently and so intractably opposed to America's intervention in Iraq to belatedly proffer their pockets.
Yes, it's unfortunate that political intransigence on the war should now devolve to private industry, which had no say in how their governments conducted themselves last winter. But all those other countries, especially the nascent democracies in eastern Europe that aligned themselves with the U.S., are due the rewards of their constancy, including the low-profile and marginalized nations from Mongolia to the Solomon Islands that gave no more than a verbal endorsement. That counted for something, if only to plump up the illusion of a global coalition. The major allies the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Spain, Australia have earned their dibs on reconstruction contracts.
There are no political ingénues in Ottawa. We fully understand where political alliance and financial profits converge. We knew, nine months ago, where our "principles'' would take us when the war was won and the process of reconstruction began. Since the war formally ended although, clearly, it's still being fought on the ground in Iraq Canada has declined to send peacemaking troops. Not that we have the manpower do so anyway.
I suspect, in the end, some kind of profitability accommodation, by way of sub-contracts, will be formulated to quiet Canadian caterwauling, particularly as Prime Minister Paul Martin attempts to repair the frayed relationship with Washington.
This will be a concession from the U.S. towards a neighbour and erstwhile ally.
We'll jump at the opportunity. But we are not worthy.
It's all really quite simple.
In fact, I believe Canada's former Prime Minister (Chretian) said it best a few months ago. His remarks were cheered by a group of Canadian Parliamentarians.
I will never forget what Chretian had to say.
He said, "Canada will not participate!"
That's for sure -- Canada will not participate!
We all knew this day would come, apparently the Canadians didn't. In poll after poll, the Canadian people were against the war. I would hate to be them as they watch the trials of Saddam and his henchmen. Will they have the courage to watch, or will they bury their heads in the sands once again?
The good people of Western Canada should make sure that the people see the result of their attempt to prop up Saddam. That could sweep conservatives into power for the first time in many, many years.
I agree. ;^)
Seems like the attitudes of French, Russians, Germans and Canadians have a way of bringing a lot of people together.
Close, but no cigar. Canadians have acted like future ex-wives.
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