No Blood, No Pork

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From the Associated Press:

Washington ? The Pentagon has formally barred companies from countries opposed to the Iraq war from bidding on $18.6-billion (U.S.) worth of reconstruction contracts.

A directive from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz limits bidders on those 26 contracts to firms from the United States, Iraq, their coalition partners and other countries which have sent troops to Iraq.

While theoretically satisfying, this is stupid for at least three reasons: 1) It screws over the Iraqi people and the American taxpayer, by making them pay above-market prices for reconstruction. 2) Assuming that it is remotely possible that the United States might some day be wrong about something it cares about, the ban incentivizes allies to swallow any potentially legitimate objections to American action, thereby stunting the flow of information. 3) It confuses companies with countries, which is a concept that should make true free traders wince.

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  1. 4) It creates political pressure on the barred countries’s governments not to give (potentially lucrative) contracts to American companies.

  2. Bill-

    OK, let’s say that the French and German governments are the most heinous regimes ever. (They have some stiff competition for that title, but a little hyperbole and lack of perspective never stopped a libertarian from making a point.) Why should we punish their citizens by saying “Hey, you, Mr. Private Contractor. You will be ineligible to compete for a contract because of the policies of your government, the same people who suck you dry with taxes.”?

    Now, if you want to bar state-owned companies from receiving these contracts, fine. But why should Jean Schmoe Contractor be barred from bidding on a job because of his government’s policies?

  3. I’m with Thoreau (I’m probably with everyone here but Bill). If I owned a business that might compete for international contracts, I’d hate to be held responsible for all the horrible things ~my~ gov’t does.

  4. “The order from Mr. Wolfowitz covers contracts to manage the entire rebuilding effort, train and equip the Iraqi National Army and rebuild infrastructure including roads, sewers, power plants and oil fields.”

    “…is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States.”

    “…encourage other countries to join the coalition in Iraq.”

    “…the order does not prohibit companies from the excluded countries from getting subcontracts in Iraq.”

  5. When the shoe was on the other foot, it was the french, german, and russian firms getting contracts not us. The thing that raises an eyebrow for me was that the exclusions were done on the grounds of national security and that the firms of these countries could get work as subcontractors, just not general contractors.

    If I read that right, the CPA is pretty much stating that these countries’ firms are not trusted to leave the back door unlocked for an attacker to come in, that the only way they get work is for a trustworthy country to be responsible for their subs and keep an eye on these people.

    Let’s all remember that France, Germany, and Russia stand to make a great deal of money if they can get Saddam back in. They have huge one-sided contracts already signed and approved by the previous government. If the argument is national security, what the US is saying is that those that worked against the US in Iraq aren’t viewed as trustworthy.

  6. I do not recall a clause in the Constitution requiring separation of commerce and state. 🙂

    Every state is “guilty” of ties to commerce, or, we could look at this more conspiratorially as Alstom v. Halliburton and ChevronTexaco v. TotalElf. The corporate string-pullers are using their political proxies to fight over turf.

    BTW, I suffer from my own government’s policies every day…how do I punish them? By buying French wine (thus hurting Californians)?

  7. Very creative, Bill: a principled defense of crony capitalism. You get a gold star.

    But punishing those who coddle murderers sets an awfully bad precedent. I’m thinking of murderers like Suharto, Mobutu, Pinochet, D’Aubisson, and Somoza. And vetoing that Security Council resolution condeming the Vietnamese overthrow of Pol Pot might be grounds for cancelling some contracts, come to think of it. Your real objection, I think, is the French and Germans coddle the murderers currently out of favor with the U.S.

  8. It would be hard to imagine a government more corrupt and bloody than that of communist China. Yet we have Wen Jiabao in Washington DC getting the royal treatment.

    Bush and his friends exclude France and Germany only because it is politically expedient to do so. There is no higher principle involved.

  9. Here?s a link to the actual Determination and Finding in question which is the sources of the story but has not yet been quote in the article:

    http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/iraq/redevelop120503rfp.pdf

    It seems by my reading of it (points 4-6) that this is not about retaliation for countries that opposed the liberation of Iraq but rather the carrot to get more countries to send troops so that they would then be eligible to compete for contracts. If France, Germany, Russia, etc. want to be able to compete for contracts then they need to make a contribution to the security of Iraq in the form of troops and support.

  10. Let ’em eat pate.

  11. I blogged about this here but a recap for those too lazy to hit the link. A low bid contractor from France, Germany, etc. will still end up doing the work, it’ll just be under the supervision of a Polish, UK, US, or Italian general contractor. Thus the idea of this as punishment is just crack smoking by the anti-bushies.

    I can think of one and only one legitimate reason for such an order and none of the commentary has addressed it to this point. If (perhaps via Echelon) a plot was uncovered by a government to use major national firms to go into Iraq and screw up the rebuilding process to aid Saddam’s attempt to come back, this order would be justified.

    So what’s the argument against this scenario or the evidence that it is not true. Before you hit the paranoia button searching for hidden motives, I think it is proper to at least cursorily examine the idea that the stated reason (US national security) is the real reason. Evidence that the stated reason is not the real reason so far? Exactly zero.

    That doesn’t mean that the speculation is necessarily wrong. It just implies a profoundly sloppy conspiratorial mindset.

  12. Y’know, given what we’ve heard from the Bushies over the past year, I find TM’s idea entirely credible: the administration actually thinks that people from countries who thought this war was a bad idea would actively work to assist in the killing of our troops and the restoration of Saddam.

    Is there any reason to assume this is not their genuine belief?

  13. One other thing of course is that the money involved isn’t exactly a large amount; further I suspect even if the bidding were opened up to France, Germany, Russia, etc. that the bulk of the money would go to US firms, as will likely be the case with their exclusion as well. As I wrote earlier, “tempest in a teapot.”

  14. Is there any reason to assume this is not their genuine belief?

    Maybe no, but if it turns out in 6 months that they were wrong, does it count as lying? After all, they really believed they were doing the right thing.

  15. Russia says forget any debt forgiveness, Canada says they’re pulling back their financial commitments. There will be more.

    Bush will cave just like he always does.

  16. Jean Bart,

    Who has ever called the Iran-Iraq war the 1st Gulf War (at least in the USA)?? If Desert Storm isn’t the 1st Gulf War, and we are including prior wars fought in areas around the Persian Gulf, then Desert Storm was probably closer to Gulf War CCLXII.

    That region hasn’t seen sustained peace since Mesopotamia was first settled.

  17. The contract RFPs are delayed. Jimmy Baker’s doing his thing.

    http://www.forbes.com/markets/newswire/2003/12/10/rtr1176453.html

  18. Russia says forget any debt forgiveness, Canada says they’re pulling back their financial commitments. There will be more.

    I do not think that Russia has much of a choice in the matter of debt forgiveness unless they think they can collect from Saddam Hussein.

    Bush will cave just like he always does.

    Right, just like he ?caved? on the ICC, Kyoto Accords, ABM Treaty, Operation: Iraqi Freedom, and Operation: Infinite Justice.

  19. Of course, rewarding countries who oppose us in the international affairs by giving them contracts creates its own set of incentives, no?

    As for penalizing companies not countries, lets leave our naivete at the door. In France and Germany, the distance between major firms and the government is vanishingly small. The people running the state would be the very ones to profit from Iraqi contracts, make no mistake.

  20. RC Dean: Thank goodness we keep a large distance between our leaders and the companies that get contracts for lucrative reconstruction work. Wouldn’t it be really questionable if someone high in the Bush administration had contacts with, say, Halliburton?

  21. You’re missing the point, guys. Outside of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, France, Germany and Russia hold the biggest Iraqui debt. Coincidentally, James Baker, our new faux Treasury Secretary, is headed over to work that out.

    I see some horse trading coming up.

  22. I think it’s absolutely hilarious that everyone is getting hung up on the fact that france and germany are excluded or at least relegated to subcontractor status. What should be of more interest is asking why everyone needs a contract to get in to iraq and start building roads, power plants, sewers, etc. That seems to imply that if I saw a golden opportunity to supply electricity to a good chunk of Baghdad that the US would not allow me to start a business, build a power plant, run wires everywhere, etc all at my own dime. It should be a free for all, no permits, no contracts, no need for permission from the US to make a dinar and help the common man. What kind of libertarians are you?

  23. too much reasonable argument going on here! I say “fuck ’em” — and I say it in the same screeching tone that Joschka Fischer used at the U.N.

  24. Frenk, the fact that there are links between our big contractors and government officials does not diminish the fact that there are also such links in France and Germany, and that thus the “separation” between the governments who opposed us and the companies seeking to profit from our victory does not exist in a very real sense.

  25. What’s the point besides some more political grandstanding?
    Plenty German companies are partly or wholly owned by American shareholders/corporations and vice versa.
    Which assembly line grunt or shareholder is getting hurt if, say, Chrysler doesn’t get to bid on contracts?
    Where do the profits go, if Chrysler is allowed to bid?
    Which begs the question: Hasn’t Mr. Wolfowitz figured out yet that economies are no longer very national?
    Oh well, I guess I’m asking too much for him to change to intelligent thinking based on facts and unencumbered by his ideology.
    As a mere individual what do I do if I see my government running us downhill? Besides ranting at Reason.com 🙂

  26. Gadfly,

    The US has a larger share of Iraqi debt than France does; US = ~$2.1 billion; France = ~$1.8 billion.

    Re: France dealing with unpleasant states – I can’t think of a nation on this planet that doesn’t deal with and otherwise “coddle” unpleasant states; the US and its efforts to coddle the various thugocrats and kleptocrats that run the countries of Central Asia are a good example of this.

    Re: France’s respect for freedom – yes, that’s why I vote in France, can attend rallies in France that are extremely critical of the government, etc.; and yes, Chirac can say some fairly stupid things on occassion, but then so can Bush; and on the front of “pressuring” nations, well, the US is hardly innocent in the run-up to the UNSC vote – its efforts regarding Mexico (which seriously damaged US-Mexican relations I might add) and Chile are perfect examples of this.

    BTW, French companies are already in Iraq as sub-contracters; Alcatel (telecommunications) and Alstom (engineering) specifically. There likely others that I don’t know about; and these new contracts will have French companies bidding on and winning sub-contracter positions.

    This is a “tempest in a teapot.”

  27. martin,

    Aventis, a huge French pharmaceutical company makes some unique cancer drugs that have proven to be highly effective; I am fairly certain the new contracts will call for stocking hospital shelves. What are they going to do, stop a contracter from purchasing the drugs?

  28. Merovingian-
    Are you Jean Barte? What happened to that french guy?

  29. 1) It screws over the Iraqi people and the American taxpayer, by making them pay above-market prices for reconstruction.

    Doubtful, as others have pointed out there are quite a few countries whose companies are still being allowed to bid for reconstruction contracts while these ones are still able to apply for sub-contractor status. I doubt also that there are too many American taxpayers or Iraqi citizens who are upset that the wankers who wanted to leave Saddam Hussein in power are not now profiting from the liberation.

    2) Assuming that it is remotely possible that the United States might some day be wrong about something it cares about, the ban incentivizes allies to swallow any potentially legitimate objections to American action, thereby stunting the flow of information.

    Baloney, this was not a case of someone merely raising objections to our policy or even sitting on the sidelines and refusing to lift a finger to help ? the three nations in question did everything they could diplomatically (including some dirty dealing with Turkey) to sabotage our efforts because their governments and companies and stood to profit by keeping the former regime in power. This policy sends a clear message that if you aid our enemies in keeping twenty-five million people oppressed, you will not be able to hedge your bets and profit from the reconstruction. The fact which countries who spoke out against us or did not assist with the liberation are still able to compete for contracts disproves this theory.

    3) It confuses companies with countries, which is a concept that should make true free traders wince.

    Does anyone really doubt that the companies now not allowed to receive reconstruction contracts were probably (a) the one?s who did business with Saddam Hussein during the sanctions and stood to profit by keeping him in power and (b) pressured their governments to side with the anti-liberation faction? For all important purposes they are probably one and the same, in which case it is reasonable to boycott them (which is perfectly consistent with free trade) for both security concerns and as punishment.

  30. You’re missing the point, guys. Outside of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, France, Germany and Russia hold the biggest Iraqui debt. Coincidentally, James Baker, our new faux Treasury Secretary, is headed over to work that out.

    I see some horse trading coming up.

    This could be part of the horse-trading but the Iraqis should not be obligated to pay for the debts of their oppressors. If any creditors want to collect on the money they willingly lent to Saddam Hussein, they can track him down and try to collect. 😉

  31. yelowd,

    We are one in the same. 🙂

    Thorley Winston,

    Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are owed the bulk of the money; Kuwait is owed reparations from the First Gulf War (or the Second depending on how you view the chronology). Saudi Arabia was Iraq’s main financier during the Iran-Iraq war (or the First Gulf War); the US was fairly instrumental in this lending, because it pressured the Saudis to loan Iraq the money so Iraq could buy weapons systems – which the US also encouraged at the time. Anyway, its slightly more complicated than your presentation attempts to spin it.

  32. Jean Barte:

    The United States has no ‘debt’ with Iraq. You are completely fabricating your figures. Cite your sources.

  33. Mahatma,

    http://www.odiousdebts.org/odiousdebts/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=7730

    “But calls for debt relief have been met with resistance from countries like Russia which is estimated by the charity Oxfam to be owed $9 billion by Iraq, a much larger amount than the estimated $2.1 billion owed to the United States.”

  34. Mahatma,

    According to this source, the US is owed around $8.4 billion:

    http://www.jubileeiraq.org/creditors/us.htm

    France is owned between $6.7-$9.7 billion.

    From looking at the site, you can get an idea that Sadaam needed a better accountant. 🙂

    http://www.jubileeiraq.org/index.html

  35. As for #3, I don’t think there is any “confusion” involved. But how does our government punish (right or wrong) another government that has made baldly political power moves against it? It can’t be done directly.

    We can only make their people/businesses suffer, and hope that at least a few of them take out their frustration at the polls and vote their Chiracs out of office.

    It’s not ideology, it’s politics.

  36. Euph-

    Ah, so the job of our government is to make innocent private individuals and companies bear the brunt of other governments’ misdeeds. Got it.

    So, if the new Iraqi government decides to kill Americans in retribution for Iraqi civilian casualties, that’s OK. If a foreign government confiscates assets from US companies because they’re angry at various policies of the US gov’t, that’s OK. If a US tourist is arrested for no other reason than retribution against the US gov’t, that’s OK.

    Got it.

  37. not Weishaupt is correct. Once a bad policy is in place it must never be given up. Stare decisis and all that.

    Sarcasm or truth? You decide!

  38. Actually, doesn’t this sort of thing happen all the time with respect to trade? Someone (let’s say the US, hypothetically) throws up extra tariffs or steel subsidies – that is a governmental action. Don’t harmed nations retaliate with their own tariffs or subsidies? That retaliation is clearly aimed a government policy but it’s ennacted by way of “private” business and the violating country’s public takes it in the shorts. I suppose one problem with mixing government policy and business. Private isn’t so private anymore.

  39. Sarcasm? Moi? Perish the thought. Hee-hee-hee.

  40. The incompetence continues. Baker really needs to have a talk with these guys.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/11/international/middleeast/11PREX.html?hp

  41. So let me get this straight: those of you defending the administration on this on that grounds that France, Germany, and Russia (but not Turkey – odd) deserve to get screwed are admitting that the administration is looking you in the eye and lying about a threat to national security, and using invoking national security as a false pretext in order to implement a policy that is motivated by a desire to punish their political enemies.

    And you’re ok with that.

    You know, even given what’s gone on over the past year, I’m still surprised that people are so willing to roll over for this obvious con.

  42. Well, I can’t think of a region of the planet that hasn’t suffered from innumberable wars.

    I can. North America. The last wars fought in North America were the American and Mexican Civil Wars, both of which predate WWI.

    In its entire history, the continent has seen only a handful of wars that were actually fought here. Off the cuff, I can think of maybe 7 or 8 total(French and Indian War, American Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican War, American Civil War, Mexican Civil War; maybe throw in Cortez’s subjugation of the Aztecs. I’m probably missing one somewhere.)

    The constant low-grade conflict among Indian tribes does not, IMO, count as a war. Likewise, the pushing out of the Indians by Europeans doesn’t really fit my definition of a war, either, although at times the level of fighting intensified to a point where this is arguable.

  43. “I can. North America. The last wars fought in North America were the American and Mexican Civil Wars, both of which predate WWI.”

    That doesn’t mean it hasn’t suffered from innumerable wars; it does mean that they weren’t recent.

    “In its entire history, the continent has seen only a handful of wars that were actually fought here. Off the cuff, I can think of maybe 7 or 8 total(French and Indian War, American Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican War, American Civil War, Mexican Civil War; maybe throw in Cortez’s subjugation of the Aztecs. I’m probably missing one somewhere.)”

    Well, warfare in the pre-Columbian age was endemic to North America; hell, amongst the Aztecs its was a form of “sport” and religious ritual (not really unusual in human history either). The point being that there were numerous wars amongst Native Americans in pre-Columbian times. France and Britain fought three wars in the 18th century; each one entailed North American components. The Puritans/New Englanders fought a war against the Peqout which was especially vicious if you are to believe William Bradford’s account of it. There was King Philip’s War of the late 17th century; the War of Jenkin’s Ear (Britain v. Spain); the American Revolution as you said; the naval war between the US and France in 1803; the War of 1812; Mexican-American War; the US Civil War; the Spanish-American War; the Mexican Civil War; and of course a half a dozen invasions of small North American states in the 20th century – Haiti and Nicaragua being the most brutal.

    “The constant low-grade conflict among Indian tribes does not, IMO, count as a war. Likewise, the pushing out of the Indians by Europeans doesn’t really fit my definition of a war, either, although at times the level of fighting intensified to a point where this is arguable.”

    Then you must not count the “War of the Roses” either as a war; because it was largely a low-grade conflict that saw clashes between relatively small armies (fifty people on each side at times).

    King Philip’s War was a war; the various Indian allies killed around 1/3rd of the New England population at the time, and colony was in danger of collapse at several points.

  44. Joe wrote:

    So let me get this straight: those of you defending the administration on this on that grounds that France, Germany, and Russia (but not Turkey – odd) deserve to get screwed

    Really and how are they getting screwed? Because they have actually make a contribution in the form of providing security, military, and/or support personnel like the other countries who are eligible for US-funded contracts?

    are admitting that the administration is looking you in the eye and lying about a threat to national security, and using invoking national security as a false pretext in order to implement a policy that is motivated by a desire to punish their political enemies.

    Anyone who actually reads the directive (click on my name for the link) can see that it does nothing to ?punish? anyone. It creates a simple standard as a condition for bidding as a general contractor for reconstruction contracts funded with US tax dollars (with no such restrictions on sub-contractors) that they have to make a contribution of force and actually help to stabilize the country. If some countries (including but not limited to the three) are not eligible for these contracts (yet) it is only because they have not yet meet this condition.

    There is nothing punitive about this provision. If anything, it is a ?carrot? to provide an incentive for more countries to help with restoring stability to the country. If France, Germany, Russia, and other nations not yet on the list wish to be able to share some of the “rewards” of being able to bid on the reconstruction contracts, then they need to begin making a similar contribution.

  45. R.C. Dean,

    BTW, the Mexican revolution doesn’t officially end until 1917 (some minor skirmishes drug on into the 1920s and 1930s); that is well into WWI.

  46. Thorley Winston,

    The Bush administration appears to like bribery as policy; first the Medicare bill, now this.

  47. Well Thorley, you continue to amaze with the speed at which you memorize the talking points. Allow me to retort.

    Germany allowed America to use air bases on its territory to prosecute the war. Turkey did not. Neither country has any troops in Iraq. In fact Turkey’s pre-war behavior (jerking us around about the northern front, keeping the 4th Div in port) arguably contributed to the deaths of Americans in combat. Yet Germany is singled out for exclusion, while Turkish companies can bid. The difference being, Germany made trouble for Shrub at the UN, while Turkey accepted a bribe to keep quiet. So no, the issue is not whether they contributed to the country’s stabilization, but whether they contributed to Shrub’s political standing.

    But you missed the big point: this restriction was allegedly based on “national security” grounds, when its implementation is intended neither to advance national security, not address a threat to national security. In fact, its intent is to do economic harm to those who made political trouble for our illustrious president.

    Tamany Hall, baby. Germany, Russia, and France campaigned for the wrong side, and now their nephews don’t get jobs with the water department.

  48. er, the penultimate sentence in my third paragraph should have read “…nor to address…”

  49. Joe wrote:

    Well Thorley, you continue to amaze with the speed at which you memorize the talking points. Allow me to retort.

    And Joe continues to demonstrate how utterly ignorant he is of the issue at hand when it gets in the way of his Bush-bashing.

    Germany allowed America to use air bases on its territory to prosecute the war.

    Which is irrelevant since the condition was to make a ?contribution of force? to the post-war Iraq.

    Turkey did not. Neither country has any troops in Iraq.

    From the Zaman Daily news:
    http://www.zaman.com/default.php?kn=5498

    The Anadolu News Agency in Washington D.C. reported Turkey was not included in the initial list drawn up U.S. appointed Iraq administrator Paul Bremer. However, upon Turkey’s insistence that it be included in the list because of its offer of troops, Turkey was added to the list.

    It looks like the difference is that Turkey actually made an offer of troops which was declined because of concerns for the tension it would create amongst the Iraqis. Since they actually made the offer in good faith, they were later added. Unless there are other countries which made a similar offer in good faith who were declined but then not added to the list, Joe?s comparison is a false one.

    In fact Turkey’s pre-war behavior (jerking us around about the northern front, keeping the 4th Div in port) arguably contributed to the deaths of Americans in combat.

    What Joe does not mention is that they only reversed their previous decision to allow the coalition to use them for a northern front after France and Germany (a) promised to soften their objections to Turkey?s entrance into the EU and (b) France, Germany, and Belgium lead the charge to kill a NATO resolution promising support for Turkey if it were attacked by Iraq. In which case then, the deaths of Americans are also on the heads of Germany, France, and Belgium for being the instigators of the ?jerking around.?

    Yet Germany is singled out for exclusion, while Turkish companies can bid.

    Again this is simply untrue since the actual directive in question does not ?single out? any country for exclusion much as Joe would like to pretend otherwise.

    The difference being, Germany made trouble for Shrub at the UN, while Turkey accepted a bribe to keep quiet. So no, the issue is not whether they contributed to the country’s stabilization, but whether they contributed to Shrub’s political standing.

    The difference being that Turkey actually made an offer to send troops which was initially welcomed and then later declined at the request of the Iraqi governing council. In which case the two are not comparable.

    But you missed the big point: this restriction was allegedly based on “national security” grounds, when its implementation is intended neither to advance national security, not address a threat to national security. In fact, its intent is to do economic harm to those who made political trouble for our illustrious president.

    Actually in so far as it provides an incentive for more nations to contribute troops to the post-war security of Iraq (thereby increasing the strength and safety for the troops already stationed there and/or perhaps making it possible to have fewer American soldiers) it does serve a national security purpose.

  50. ‘(Turkey’s inclusion in the list of eligible countries despite its interference with the prosecution of the war) is irrelevant since the condition was to make a ?contribution of force? to the post-war Iraq.’ What you’ve demonstrated here, Thorley, is that the people who drew up the order managed to produce language that excluded those countries they wanted excluded, and included those they wish to reward. Trust me, big guy, I work for the government, and the setting or criteria and boundaries to achieve a predetermined result is not a groundbreaking phenomenon.

    Arguably, Turkey’s decision to send Special Ops troops into Kurdish Iraq to do God knows what, where they were fortunately arrested by American troops before they could do any damage, was an actual impediment to the stabilization of Iraq, far more so than the non-actions of the three scapegoats.

    “What Joe does not mention is that (the Turks) only reversed their previous decision to allow the coalition to use them for a northern front after France and Germany (a) promised to soften their objections to Turkey?s entrance into the EU and (b) France, Germany, and Belgium lead the charge to kill a NATO resolution promising support for Turkey if it were attacked by Iraq.” Oh, gee, and here I’d been thinking they were motivated by hippie pacifism. Now that I find out their behavior was based on slimy horse trading, let’s give them a fucking medal.

    But I do like the part about how we can’t hold the Turks responsible for putting our troops in greater danger, because they were manipulated by those crafty Europeans. I mean, what can we really expect from those people, anyway?

  51. Diego,

    Well, I can’t think of a region of the planet that hasn’t suffered from innumberable wars.

    Thorley,

    Well, the US doesn’t control the debt forgiveness issue; if it did, then there would be no need for Mr. Baker. In fact, the Paris Club and other entities really aren’t even influenced by the US that much.

    To illustrate this point realize that Iraq is already forgiving its debt as we speak; some $800 million was thrown to those owed reparations (the UK got ~$30 million of it, France the same) just last month; another scheduled payment will be made in January or February as I recall. It really does help if you pay attention.

    Bush has caved on lots of things – his education bill for example.

  52. Gadfly,

    I am certain that when Bush was talking to Chirac, Schroeder and Putin today, asking them for a little debt forgiveness, he was much chagrined at the timing of the Pentagon announcement.

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