President Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, today admitted he was unaware of an irate reaction from U.S. “ally” Iraq to a member of a U.S. congressional delegation to the Middle East nation who asked about the possibility of using its oil revenues to help repay America for some of the billions expended on its reconstruction.
Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s inquiry was documented by WND and ultimately was reported by some five dozen newspapers, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, AP, McClatchy, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and al-Jazeera, according to a staffer in the California congressman’s office.
Rohrabacher raised the question with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on a recent trip to Iraq. The reports at the time said the delegation was ejected from the country. But Rohrabacher’s office today said no one confronted the delegation, and the Congress members found out about the reaction after they left Iraq and reached Turkey.
It was an Iraqi government official, Ali al-Dabbagh, who said, “We called the U.S. embassy … and we told them to ask the congressmen to leave Iraq. We don’t want them here. What they said was inappropriate.”
“Congressman Dana Rohrabacher led a congressional delegation of six to Iraq. They were expelled by that nation after he asked their prime minister if the U.S. could from Iraqi oil revenues be paid back the money it has given to Iraq. That’s the question,” Kinsolving said.
U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
Rohrabacher, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was adamant that he took up the issue with al-Maliki. Rohrabacher’s spokeswoman, Tara Setmayer, confirmed the question was raised and that the delegation then left Iraq and members were in Turkey before they discovered the firestorm.
“Once Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country, we would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the U.S. some of the mega-dollars that we have spent here in the last eight years,” Rohrabacher said.
Indeed, such a request is not unprecedented. During Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991, also known as the First Gulf War, the U.S. received payment from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for U.S. intervention in Kuwait to remove the invading Iraqi forces of Saddam Hussein.
Since the March 2003 U.S. invasion, the U.S. has spent an estimated $1 trillion during the occupation and reconstruction, with some 4,462 service members killed and an estimated 100,000 wounded, many seriously.
“We are investigating to see if criminal behavior caused the death of these non-combatants,” Rohrabacher said. “The killing of unarmed people, a mass killing, is a criminal act and a crime against humanity.”
Saddam Hussein had used the MEK, which the U.S. at one point had declared to be a terrorist group. In backing Hussein, the MEK was used by the Hussein regime to perform internal security. At one point during the Hussein period, there were a considerable number of MEK camps spread throughout Iraq.
In requesting that a portion of oil revenues be used to pay back money the U.S. has spent in Iraq over the past eight years, however, Rohrabacher was expressing a point made by policymakers during the Bush administration to make U.S. intervention more palatable.
In testimony given on March 27, 2003 – a week following the U.S. invasion of Iraq – then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the House Appropriations Committee that oil revenue from Iraq alone would pay for Iraq’s reconstruction after the Iraq war.
“They’re not just going to take the Iraqi oil and use it for Iraq’s purpose. They will charge the Iraqis for the U.S. cost of operating in Iraq,” the source said at the time. “I don’t think they’re planning as far as I know to use Iraqi oil to pay for the invasion, but they are going to use it to pay for the occupation.”
“Iraq is a very wealthy country. Enormous oil reserves,” said Richard Perle who then was chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, a key advisory group to the secretary of defense. “They can finance, largely finance the reconstruction of their own country. And I have no doubt that they will.”
Kenneth Pollack, then director for Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council, said in September 2002 that “it is unimaginable that the United States would have to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars and highly unlikely that we would have to contribute even tens of billions of dollars.”