The free ride might be over.
Nelson, a Democrat, is drafting legislation with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana that would restrict future reconstruction dollars to loans instead of grants. Their bill also would require that Baghdad pay for the fuel used by American troops and take over U.S. payments to predominantly Sunni fighters in the Awakening movement. Plans are to propose the legislation as part of a war bill to cover spending through September.
But first we have to overcome stuff like this.
According to the U.S., Iraq's government has $48 billion in oil revenue sitting in its bank accounts outside of Iraq. Very little of that money is being spent.
The reasons are many: There is no electronic banking system to get the money where it needs to go; the accounting system in Iraq is stymied by bureaucracy; and there is corruption. But critically, the Americans say the Iraqis don't feel that they need to spend their own money when U.S. pocketbooks are perceived to be wide open.
One American adviser recalls how the governor of a southern province demanded that the Americans provide furniture for a new prison that the U.S. had already paid $80 million to build.
Herhusky says that Iraqis have come to expect American help as a matter of course. "We can only hope that [the Iraqis become] less dependent on us," she says. "It's up to us to back off and do that. And it's very hard. They count on us. Well, we like to be needed, you know."
On a personal note, I had a contractor come out to price an in ground sprinkler system for my yard. At the end of our walk through, the contractor told me that he's been in business long enough that he can weather a slow 2008. He said if the downturn extends into 2009, it would be devastating. Then he launched into a tirade about the war and how its wrecking our economy. I was taken aback. For a guy trying to drum up business, politics is the last think you want to bring up with a potential customer. It made me think that if enough people draw a line between Iraq and their personal difficulties, it will be a tough fall for anyone with a (R) after their name.