August 09, 2008

A basic principle of the customer-seller contract is that the customer is responsible for any damage they might have caused in the process of examining the goods. In other words, you break it, you bought it.

Except, perhaps, in Iraq.

Ever since March 20, 2003, when the United States led a coalition of thirty countries in an invasion of Iraq, the situation has been sold domestically as a two-pronged measure: as preemptive defensive action based upon the presumed presence of weapons of mass destruction; and as "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (which actually followed up the Iraq Liberation Act [1998], whose aim was to replace Saddam Hussein's government with something better suited to western values).

Both approaches initially proved highly popular among the American population. The memories of 9/11 were still raw, another leader's determined non-cooperation was only too easily seen as yet another tentacle of a looming threat. After all, what would anyone possibly want with a deterrent against the good guys? especially good guys who make it unilaterally impossible for anyone to hold any appreciable deterrent except themselves? Obviously any rational people would want, not only to be free of the iron fist of anyone so deluded, but also to embrace western values in their entirety.

(What is often difficult for Americans to appreciate is that it is often only the dictatorial government which holds hidden ethnic tensions in check. Remove the strongman without replacing him with something equally strong, and the place disintegrates along ethnic lines almost at once. It happened to Yugoslavia, it is happening to Iraq, Myanmar teeters precariously on the knife-edge.)

In effect, this attitude amounts to an assumption that through its determined non-cooperation Iraq "made" the United States come out there, and thus that Iraq has brought the consequences upon itself. To many, this is still the literal truth. To others, this sounds an awful lot like the classic schoolyard threat: "Don't make me come out there!"

We all know the human costs of having "come out there". To date, over four thousand American soldiers have been killed, with over three hundred soldiers from other countries, mostly from the United Kingdom. Somewhere between 6,300 and 10,800 Iraqi combat personnel have been killed, as well as somewhere between 17,000 and 23,600 insurgents. Over a thousand independent contractors have been killed. A minimum of 150,000 utterly non-combatant civilian Iraqis have been killed, with some reports citing over a million civilian deaths. In western media coverage, these last go mostly unnoticed.

And now comes a particularly curious aspect of the situation, one which may well result in exactly the same end as some left-wingers were claiming was the case all along, but for different, entirely appropriate reasons: because if the United States was indeed forced against its will to take action in Iraq (based on threat assessment as well as the will of the people to liberation), then of course it is entirely appropriate that Iraq ought to bear the costs of American action.

Seems that now that the oil is flowing again and the oil prices are skyrocketing, the Iraqi government will have a surplus of close to $80 billion USD by the end of the year. To date, the total American cost of continuing stabilisation (maintaining military troops in the region) and reconstruction efforts has been calculated at $48 billion USD.
This is not rocket science. They've got tens of billions of dollars in surplus in banks around the world, 10 billion in American banks alone, they wrote a check to get that money into the bank, they can write a check to reimburse us for the reconstruction costs.
- Carl Levin, Democratic senator for Michigan and Chair of the Armed Services Committee
In other words, you should be paying us for the costs of what we have done for you. (Think of it as paying reparations for having forced us to take action.) Oh, and don't expect to have a say in how exactly that money is spent: we are far better equipped to pick appropriate contractors than you, which is where the really big money goes.

Which, finally, will allow the profits of Iraqi oil wells to flow into the United States without restriction.

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