Kofi Annan calls the President’s decision "unfortunate" and "not unifying." Europe’s foreign policy chief called the U.S. decision to bar opponents of the war in Iraq from reconstruction contracts "gratuitous and unhelpful" when unity is needed. And--surprise!--The Washington Post blasts the President as well.
Here is what President Bush said on this issue after yesterday’s cabinet meeting: Q: You seem to be saying that the boots on the ground are the only qualifications for -- but what about the forgiveness of debt? Isn’t that a fairly substantial --
THE PRESIDENT: "It is, it would be a significant contribution, for which we would be very grateful. What I’m saying is, in the expenditure of taxpayer’s money -- and that’s what we’re talking about now -- the U.S. people, the taxpayers understand why it makes sense for countries that risk lives to participate in the contracts in Iraq. It’s very simple. Our people risk their lives. Coalition -- friendly coalition folks risk their lives, and, therefore, the contracting is going to reflect that. And that’s what the U.S. taxpayers expect."
Bush has it exactly right. And I am very happy that he said all that. Not only have the French, Germans, Russians, not been helpful on Iraq, that’s bad enough. But in the case of France, they actually worked against our interests before (and even during) the war. That is not a small thing. And those who claim that this decision is not unifying, etc., are whinning and their attempt at taking the moral high ground fails. We have the moral high ground on this issue; their (what Tom Wolfe called) mau-mauing the American taxpayer should not stand. Furthermore, I don’t think this hinders our diplomatic efforts at all. Baker is trying to get these countries to forgive the debts owed by Iraq, and Bushs clear stance will help him accomplish his purpose. As I said the other day: In the end it is probable that we will give them some contracts, if they forgive some of the debts. Baker has some leverage, he doesn’t have to beg. Under these circumstances, it would be O.K. for Baker to cut some deals with the Unwilling. That would be O.K. because we would be giving them something and we would be getting something in return. What the liberals (of course I include Kofi Annan in this) want is for us to reward them with contracts (our taxpayer’s hard-earned dollars) for having opposed our efforts. If Bush would have given the impression that he would do that, there would have been on uprising among his supporters. This is another example of Bush sound judgment. I applaud it.