Forum: Debate is patriotic

“Oil revenues of (Iraq) could bring in between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

These words were uttered by my personal hero, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, on March 27. Unfortunately, months later we are now realizing the truth of the matter. President George W. Bush has asked Congress for $87 billion in emergency funds for Iraq and Afghanistan, from which $20.3 billion alone would be used to rebuild the supposedly self-sufficient nation.

Apparently, this gross misestimation was not the administration’s fault. Another hero of mine, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, explained, “We did not have perfect foresight into what we were going to find in Iraq … so it’s not surprising that one might underestimate (the cost).”

Translation: our intelligence knew that Saddam had “materials to produce 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent,” that he had “mobile biological weapons labs” and that scientists had “been coached by Iraqi officials.” But we did not have the intelligence to learn that Iraq was a really screwed up nation. Thanks, guys.

But we are aware of the costs now, and the nation is wondering whether Democrats will approve the president’s enormous request. Of course they will. Regardless of what Karl Rove would have you believe, Democrats are just as concerned as Republicans are with the security of our troops and our nation. But before Democrats give President Bush a free pass, they want to do what Republicans fear so much – debate.

There are two reasons for this. First, this is a political heyday for Democrats. It is absolutely hilarious that the president is asking for such extensive funds for Iraq while at home he refuses to spend money on education, health care or homeland security. The potential sound bites are so bountiful it makes Democrats want to cry with joy. Hold on, let me try one: “When President Bush promised to fully fund education so that ‘no child will be left behind,’ I didn’t realize he was talking about Iraqi children.”

More importantly, and much more seriously, debate is essential because it is what America is all about. Eighty-seven billion dollars is a lot of money, and the American people deserve to know the truth about the situation. Discussion must cover several matters, such as why the president has failed to enlist international support, or what timeline the administration is planning to follow for transferring power to the Iraqis (I hope Wolfowitz is not estimating). Democrats are adamantly concerned about the security of our troops, our nation and Iraq, and these are pertinent questions.

Democrats were bullied into accepting this war without proper debate; they must not make the same mistake again. Republicans will probably say the Democrats are politicizing the situation, Ann Coulter will say they hate America, and el Rushbo will somehow work Clinton into all of this. But open debates, and even dissent, are the values on which this great nation was founded. The $87 billion will be approved, but out of duty to American voters, Democrats must first ask the pressing questions that this administration has refused to answer for so long. Now that’s patriotic.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet contributing editor.

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