BARRED: THE SEQUEL
How’s this for editorializing in the news section: Diplomacy: Bush Seeks Help of Allies Barred From Iraq Deals. Heh.
President Bush found himself in the awkward position on Wednesday of calling the leaders of France, Germany and Russia to ask them to forgive Iraq’s debts, just a day after the Pentagon excluded those countries and others from $18 billion in American-financed Iraqi reconstruction projects.
White House officials were fuming about the timing and the tone of the Pentagon’s directive, even while conceding that they had approved the Pentagon policy of limiting contracts to 63 countries that have given the United States political or military aid in Iraq.
Many countries excluded from the list, including close allies like Canada, reacted angrily on Wednesday to the Pentagon action. They were incensed, in part, by the Pentagon’s explanation in a memorandum that the restrictions were required “for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States.”
I understand the arguments for the policy (den Beste summarizes nicely, for example) and rather like it on a visceral level. But, damn, it is stupid. And, if we were actually planning to try to get these countries to commit to our policy agenda on debt relief and then announce we were shutting them out in the reconstruction contract bids, any principled rationale for the policy goes up in smoke. It would be rather like taking money from the steel industry hours before announcing that we’re lifting the protective tariffs on steel–and we’d never do something like that.