Countries that were not with U.S. in Iraq Eat Toast
Just when it looked as if there was a chance to expand international involvement in Iraq,
President Bush has reversed field again and left the European allies angry, the secretary of state looking out of step, and
the rest of us wondering exactly what his policy really is.
Late last week, it seemed as if Mr. Bush had decided to seek the global support he needs
to free the United States of the demands that come with its unilateral occupation of Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell
was in Brussels, expansively inviting NATO and the United Nations to join the security and reconstruction efforts. And President
Jacques Chirac was sending the message that he was prepared, finally, to get involved.
Then came the news that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had issued a decree, approved
by Mr. Bush, barring any country that did not support the invasion including France, Germany, Russia and Canada from competing
for next year's $18.6 billion in prime reconstruction contracts. The document, printed before Mr. Powell was back in Foggy
Bottom, said America's "essential security interests" required the move. But it is hard to follow that reasoning when it means
cutting out countries that might be able to bid competitively, contribute money, forgive debts and relieve American forces.
The approved list of 63 nations includes Britain, Italy and Japan, but quickly tapers off to countries unlikely to help and
to struggling nations like Albania and Eritrea.
United States officials say the rules apply only to American-financed contracts. But the
other sources, like the World Bank, are small. And the American portion covers such things as rebuilding the electric, transportation,
communications and oil industries, and what the Wolfowitz memo delicately calls "the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity
contract to equip the new Iraqi army."
Now the European Union is considering whether the ban violates world trading rules. The Russians
say they will refuse to write off their $8 billion in Iraqi debt. And the new Canadian government, which was supposed to have
been friendly to Mr. Bush, says it will reconsider its own donations.
No amount of preferential bidding and sweet deals for American companies including the extra
dollar or so a gallon that Halliburton charges for shipping fuel into Iraq will repay American taxpayers for the cost of going
it largely alone.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company