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Iraq Fact Check: Responding To Key Myths
It’s unescapable – all the crap that is put out there about our efforts in Iraq. Many of these “statistics” are made up and then spread throughout the media without any background or footwork. Whatever happened to the “investigative journalist” (beyond investigating which door Britney Spears will exit from)? Well, maybe I’ll start a new category – the investigative blogger!
1. MYTH: The American people are footing the bill for Iraqâ€™s security and reconstruction while Iraqis sit on large windfall oil profits.
FACT: The Iraqi government is taking over the funding of reconstruction. In 2008, Iraqâ€™s budget for large-scale reconstruction projects exceeds that proposed by the U.S. by more than 10 to 1, and the U.S. military expects that Iraq will soon cover 100 percent of such expenses.
FACT: Iraq’s security ministries are now spending more on their security forces than the U.S., and Iraqâ€™s 2008 budget provides for more than 75% of the total annual cost for Iraqâ€™s military and police.
FACT: The government of Iraq has committed to footing approximately half the bill for the â€œSons of Iraqâ€ community watch programâ€”which was originally 100% U.S.-funded.
FACT: Iraqâ€™s Ambassador to the U.S. Samir Sumaida’ie says that Iraq still has to import gasoline, and argues that â€œsome people are going a little bit too far looking at the Iraqi surplus and the gigantic American deficit and putting two and two together â€¦ The windfall from the oil will not cover a fraction of what we need to provide clean water, electricity and the most rudimentary services for our people.â€
2. MYTH: â€œIt’s no big dealâ€ if Congress fails to pass a war supplemental bill by Memorial Day.
FACT: According to Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: â€œWe need [the supplemental appropriations bill] very badly before the Memorial Day recess. We stop paying soldiers on the 15th of June and we have precious little flexibility with respect to that â€¦ Clearly that creates incredible constraints and difficulties for us.â€
3. MYTH: The Iraqi government has not taken advantage of reduced violence by making political progress.
FACT: Since September 2007, Iraq’s parliament has passed significant legislation dealing with reconciliation and nation building, including:
o A pension law
o De-Baâ€™athification reform
o An amnesty law
o A provincial powers law
o Changes to the design of the Iraqi flag to remove Saddam-era additions
o A 2008 budget that includes record amounts for capital and security expenditures
FACT: Recently passed legislation is already having an effect. For example, the amnesty law passed in February has already led to the release of Iraqis who were under detention for non-serious crimes.
FACT: The national government is sharing oil revenues with provinces despite the lack of a framework hydrocarbons and revenue-sharing law.
4. MYTH: The U.S. is negotiating a back-door treaty with Iraqâ€™s government that will tie the hands of future Presidents.
FACT: The United Nations authorization under which U.S. military and civilian personnel in Iraq are legally serving will expire on December 31, 2008. U.S. and Iraqi officials are therefore seeking a â€œstrategic frameworkâ€ that would provide legal protections and establish a long-term relationship between the two countries after that date.
FACT: In 2007, Iraqâ€™s leaders asked the U.S. to move to a more normalized bilateral relationship, instead of the special case managed by the U.N.
FACT: The framework U.S. and Iraqi officials are now discussing would in no way limit or affect the military and diplomatic options the next President will have under the U.S. Constitution.
FACT: Any strategic framework would be similar to the agreement the U.S. now has with Afghanistan and much like the conventional peacetime agreements the U.S. has with dozens of other countries.
FACT: It is unclear what would happen to more than 20,000 detainees now under U.S. custody if the U.N. authorization expired on December 31 with no strategic framework in place.
FACT: The United States does not seek and will not seek permanent bases in Iraq, and any framework would affirm this principle.
5. MYTH: Iraqis are not defending their country.
FACT: As General David Petraeus testified in April, Iraqis are increasingly in the fight, recently incurring losses three times the level of Coalition losses.
FACT: Iraqi soldiers, police, and volunteers are securing their nation in increasing numbers. According to General Petraeus, more than 540,000 individuals serve in Iraqâ€™s Security Forces, with more than 133,000 soldiers and police added over the past 16 months.
FACT: The military reports that there are now more than 91,000 Sons of Iraqâ€”Shia as well as Sunniâ€”under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect neighborhoods and secure infrastructure.
FACT: More than 21,000 Sons of Iraq have already been accepted into Police, Army, or government jobs.
6. MYTH: Current spending on the war is historically unprecedented. I wrote more about this on my Iraq Money Pit post.
FACT: Todayâ€™s U.S. defense budget accounts for just over four percent of the economy, less than the U.S. commitment at any point during the four decades of the Cold War.
FACT: During the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations, the U.S. defense budget rose as high as 13 percent of the total economy.
FACT: Even during the Reagan Administration, when the economy expanded significantly, the defense budget accounted for approximately six percent of GDP.