Iraq is Broke – No Problem, We’ll Pay


by Peter Van Buren

This article originally appeared on Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well blog. -Ed.

The next time a candidate or reporter asks during a debate about education or healthcare “But how are you going to pay for that?” I would like the person being questioned to respond “The same way we find money to pay for Iraq.”

So maybe it would just be better for Flint, Michigan to claim it is under attack by ISIS instead of just being poisoned because no one has the money to fix America’s infrastructure.

See, each month, Iraq’s government pays out nearly $4 billion in salaries and pensions to the military and a bloated array of corrupt public-sector workers. But with more than 90 percent of government revenue coming from oil, it is bringing in only about half that as crude prices plunge. Some Iraqi officials and analysts say the government might struggle later this year to pay the seven million people on the public payroll, which could trigger mass unrest.

As a sign of the times, Iraqis are facing more nominal charges every day. Hospitals, which have long treated Iraqis free of charge, have introduced fees, for example, even for those visiting sick relatives.

For Iraq, the decline comes in the midst of an already destabilizing war. There are bills for reconstructing flattened cities destroyed for freedom, and assistance for the 3.3 million Iraqis who have been internally displaced over the past two years, with more expected to come.

So — good news, at least for Iraq — the United States is stepping in with U.S. taxpayer money to make sure the country can continue military spending while it seeks international loans.

So, while there is apparently no way anyone can conceive of to pay for fixing America’s infrastructure, making higher education affordable, reducing healthcare costs or any of those other icky socialist thingies, there is money for Iraq!

BONUS: No one really knows how much money the U.S. has already spent in Iraq, but it is way over two trillion dollars.

BONUS BONUS: The golden eagle shown above was paid for by the American taxpayers in 2010 as part of the reconstruction of Iraq. The area where it is shown is now devastated by the current fighting. I took the photo myself.

11 thoughts on “Iraq is Broke – No Problem, We’ll Pay

  1. This is a good distillation of our National Status Quo. What are the national priorities of the United States of America (a pop quiz!): a.) making endless war to secure exploitable resources; or b.) the health and wellbeing of its own citizens? Anyone whose consciousness is rooted in reality (and isn’t a shill for some politician) can only answer “a.)”. And that’s all I need say.

  2. “But (sputter), but (gasp), but (deep inhale), gubmint spending on education/healthcare using tax receipts is (snarl) redistribution. That’s (outraged shout) socialism!”

    “Spending on military action in the Middle East, and for deposing democratically elected leftist governments in Central and South America, and insane drug/marijuana war policy outside CONUS (and inside it, for that matter), comes from taxpayer receipts. It is literally redistribution upward from the 99% to the corporate military industrial complex.”

    “That’s different (indignant)! That’s what makes America awesome (proud and boastful)!”

    • I grew up in arch “conservative” (if not reactionary) Orange County, California. I also worked for fifteen years in the aerospace industry there, surrounded by right-wing Republicans of every imaginable persuasion: from Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon apologists, through Ronald Reagan devotees, to Ross Perot fanatics. When I once asked a colleague of mine why he criticized government spending when, without it, we wouldn’t have our jobs making radar and communications equipment for the U.S. military, he gave me an exasperated look and replied (with some heat): “No! Only social programs are government spending!” Then he turned his back on me and stormed off. Whenever I recall this incident from the early 1990s, I think of Upton Sinclair’s famous aphorism about self-delusion and self-interest:

      It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

      Sheldon Wolin, in his classic book Democracy, Inc., explains:

      “That the patriotic citizen unswervingly supports the military and its huge budgets means that conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from government. Thus the most substantial element of state power is removed from public debate” [emphasis added].

      So, as difficult as some may find it to believe, an overwhelming majority of American citizens absolutely refuse to consider the overwhelming evidence showing the debilitating connection between the cause of rampant militarism and its effect: their own impoverishment. They simply won’t believe it because they don’t want to believe it. The Republican and Democratic party establishments understand and depend for their wealth and power upon this carefully cultivated ignorance. And even though the downwardly dropping hoi polloi dimly sense the immense screwing they have received at the hands of their own corporate/military “government,” their desperately cast votes for non-conformist savior politicians like Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders only promise a severe, counter-revolutionary program of punishment by those “realist” “elites” who “know how to get things done.”

      The time has come for a New People’s Constitutional Convention to redesign the American government so that it better serves the working class and citizens generally. As presently constituted, the corporate/military government of the United States no longer functions except to further concentrate wealth and power into increasingly fewer and more wealthy hands. The United States, Version 1.0, needs an overhaul and upgrade to Version 2.0, circa 21st Century. The decadent and corrupt original version of U.S. “democracy” (1789) has long since outlived whatever marginal utility it may once have had.

      You say you want a revolution? Then begin with a New People’s Constitutional Convention. Time to start organizing one now. Voting for “Republicans” and “Democrats” no longer serves any useful purpose. “Regime Change” begins at home. Now.

      • Two quick points, Mike: 1.) I actually found Ross Perot a breath of fresh air. Didn’t care for his pick for a VP, of course, or Perot’s own flag-waving on topic of War in Southeast Asia. Of course he was no “progressive,” but I think he was a genuine “anti-politician,” which Bernie can’t claim to be; 2.) as for a call for a new (People’s) Constitutional Convention, over the decades some noise has been heard from the left on this subject, but mostly from the extreme right. Those folks would LOVE to come up with a Constitution that absolutely embodies their own religious narrow-mindedness, etc. This is why the general view is that convening such a thing would be a very bad idea! Thomas Jefferson held the very quaint view that the Constitution would be revised about every generation of people, to keep up with the changing times. Instead we have battalions of lawyer-lobbyists battling before nine (eight at the moment, of course!) octogenarian “brilliant legal minds” who “interpret the law” that affects us all. You are absolutely correct, of course, that The System is very badly broken. If only solutions were as easy to implement as the underlying grave shortcomings are to identify.

      • Michael Murry and Isnrchrd1, with different words you are saying the same, only a society formed by a majority of brain washed people can act as the American people do. We have completely lost perspective. We only live in “the now”. Do we have food on the table and a place to sleep? Then, we are better than the rest. Ah! And we also live in a relative peace. The Average American does not understand that if we live without a revolution it is because he is so brain washed that he does not react anymore to any attack either on his privacy, or his property, or his freedom.

        Every time I read about the cultural life in Europe and watch so many young people playing instruments in orchestras that keep the classical music alive and the activity in all forms of Art, I cannot stop thinking what are we doing? I open the Science Magazine and there are 7 or 8 pages of openings for positions in different labs in China. We have lost our creative power. We are poorly programmed robots.

        I open my iPad in the morning and there are groups fighting for the preservation of our heritage that the developers, the mining industry, the oil industry and so on want to invade and destroy for profit. Then, another group is fighting for the right to vote, then the Education site pleading for more funds. Etc, etc.etc. I sign one petition after another and then I read updates on those petitions, they gathered 5,000 signatures, they are proud and thankful! In a country with 320 million inhabitants!!! Where is the people fighting for their rights?

        I am worried. I fail to see the logic of the American society today. We function like a military system, obey and do not ask. And pay taxes even for the air you breathe. Then you are free to keep on living. And do not complain if the corporations want to use you as a lab rat. GMOs and Frankenmosquitoes are OK. The mosquito project failed in Brazil? Shut up, the capitalist (?) world you live in demands it! And if you complain you are a socialist or a communist! So, I lived in a socialist country before when I worked in America and I had benefits paid by my employer?

        Part of our government seems to be formed by a club of psychopaths with a persecution complex. They do spy in everything we do. But we, the American public, behave! We religiously support them with our taxes! The Pentagon takes the 54% of our taxes and refuses to be audited by the GAO! But we behave! And keep on paying taxes that support them.

        My thoughts are dark tonight! We have created a monster that the minute the oil dollar ends is going to swallow us like the whales of the fairy tales of our childhood (Last century childhood!)

    • It ought to go without saying that anything a corrupt banker-bimbo and war-whore like You-Know-Her “knows how to get done” ought not, under any circumstances, to get done by anyone. I cannot even begin to associate You-Know-Her, the Candidate of Can’t, with President John F. Kennedy and the Democratic Party of my youth who challenged America to land a man on the moon and do so in less than a decade, “not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” Today, You-Know-Her and her Democratic party “elites” publicly ridicule those who wish to do the difficult redesigning that the U.S. government now urgently requires. What working-class person wants to go on living in a political and economic system designed by and for the white aristocratic owners of negro human slaves? As their privileged descendants in our own time ceaselessly tell us: America can only do the easy things that reactionary Republicans will allow. What spineless, gutless, unimaginative cowards. If Apartheid South Africa and the Soviet Union could peacefully dissolve and then reconstitute themselves, why can’t the United States of America?

      Personally, I’ve long since had it with this bipartisan, “No, you (working people) can’t” bullshit. As Percey Shelley wrote in The Mask of Anarchy:

      Rise like lions after slumber
      In unvanquishable number.
      Shake your chains to earth like dew
      Which in sleep had fallen on you.
      You are many.
      They are few.

      What he said.

    • B traven: As for You-Know-Her and the Republicans (pardon the redundancy), I read the other day where someone described her as “like Richard Nixon, only without the progressive social policies.” What a brilliant, not to mention astute, observation.

      Now, I realize that many will remind me of how viciously the Republicans claim to hate You-Know-Her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. I used to wonder about that myself, since even the Republican saint Ronald Reagan never signed into law the number of Republican dream policies that Bill Clinton managed to “get done” for them. How, indeed, could the Republicans hate the man and his “field general” wife who had given them so much of what they could never seem to accomplish themselves? You know, fellow Crimestoppers: such things as balanced budgets, budget surpluses, more millions of blacks and hispanics in jail for drugs (and unable to vote), de-regulation of public media, abolition of Welfare (a.k.a., Aid to Families with Dependant Children), sanctioning and bombing Iraq and Serbia, and repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act which permitted mega-banks to gamble on fraud and stock speculation with their depositors money, et cetera. What about the Clintons could the Republicans even begin to hate? Why the lack of love and gratitude?

      Then, I stumbled upon the following explanatory quote from Charles Sanders Peirce, the nineteenth century American scientist, philosopher, and pioneer semiotician:

      Where two faiths flourish, side by side, renegades are looked upon with contempt, even by those whose beliefs they have adopted.”

      While understanding the usual revulsion against religious converts and apostates, I still wondered about this “hate Clinton” thing. Then, I came upon an old Arkansas incest joke that went something like this:

      A hillbilly bridegroom returned to the family homestead the morning after his wedding night, only without his new bride. When the hillbilly bridegroom’s papa asked him: “Where’s yore wyfe?” the boy replied, indignantly: “I shot her paw!” And when the boy’s papa asked: “Why’d jew dew that?” the boy answered: “Because she were a virgin, paw!” To which the boy’s papa then announced, proudly: “Then I don’t blame ya, son. If she weren’t good enuf fer her own fambly, she ain’t good enuf for ours.”

      When I shared this joke with my Taiwanese wife, she understood immediately. “We have a similar idea in Chinese,” she told me: “Our enemies we kill at once, but traitors we torture.” Nobody likes or trusts a turncoat, even those who get the coat for little or nothing.

      So, the Republicans don’t really hate the Clintons. Yes, they do loathe them as untrustworthy traitors to their own tribe, but they realize that calling Democrats nasty names will always have value because, instead of fighting back and kicking Republican asses all over the lot, the Democrats will just start negotiating with themselves and offering up preemptive concessions before the Republicans even demand anything specific. Thus, before You-Know-Her has even won her party’s nomination for President, much less before mouthing the meaningless oath that a president-elect cynically repeats before taking office, You-Know-Her has already begun indoctrinating Democratic voters into believing in their own helplessness before the intransigent Republicans in whose unreasoning hatred lies the key to what little, if anything, American workers can expect to “get done.”

      Now I think I understand.

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