Bremer Urges Senators to Pass Supplemental Quickly
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2003 The $87 billion supplemental request for Iraq and Afghanistan should be seen in the same light as the Marshall Plan following World War II, said Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer.
The administrator spoke to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. Bremer said the Marshall Plan, enacted in 1948 with overwhelming bipartisan support, set war-torn Europe on the path to freedom and prosperity, which Europeans enjoy today.
"After a thousand years as the cockpit of war, Europe became the cradle of peace in two short generations," he said. "The Marshall Plan was a real investment in American national security.
The grants to Iraq President Bush seeks "bespeak a grandeur of vision equal to the one which created the Free World at the end of the Second World War," Bremer said. "Iraqis, living in freedom with dignity, will set an example in this troubled region which so often spawns terrorism. A stable, peaceful, economically productive Iraq will serve American interests by making America safer."
Bremer said the president's request of $87 billion is carefully thought out and covers the full spectrum of needs. "This request is urgent," he said. "The urgency of military operations is self-evident. The funds for nonmilitary action in Iraq are equally urgent."
He said the Iraqis first saw U.S. soldiers and Marines as liberators. "(Now) some Iraqis are beginning to see us more as occupiers than liberators," he said. "Let's not hide the fact. Some of this is inevitable, but faster progress on reconstruction will help."
Bremer said the president's first priority for Iraq is security, and that security must ultimately be in Iraqi hands. "That security extends to our forces and changes Iraq from a logistics and planning base for terrorists and criminals into a bulwark against them," he noted.
"The president's plan envisages three pillars of security: public safety police, border enforcement, fire brigades and a communication system; secondly, national defense a new army and civil defense system; and finally, a justice system affecting courts and prisons."
But security, by itself, can only do so much, Bremer said. "A good security system cannot persist on the knife edge of economic collapse," he said. "When Saddam scurried away from coalition forces in April, he left behind an economy ruined not by our attacks, but by decades of neglect, theft and mismanagement."
Iraq is ready to move ahead with economic reform. There will be a new central bank law that grants the Iraqi Central Bank full legal independence. Foreign firms may now own businesses in Iraq.
"On October 15th, Iraq will get, for the first time in 20 years, a single new currency, called the new dinar, and that will float against the world's currencies," he said. "Iraq's pro-growth policies should bring real, sustained growth, and protect against something we have all seen and regretted -- which is economic assistance funds disappearing into a morass of poverty through ineffective spending."
There has also been tremendous progress on the political front, Bremer told the senators. "We have encouraged a quick political transformation and laid out a clear, seven-step process leading to Iraqi sovereignty," he said. "Three of the seven steps have already been taken."
The first was establishing the Iraqi Governing Council. Second was the council appointing a committee to write a constitution. Third was appointing 25 ministers to run the government ministries.
The fourth step is to write a constitution, and then, fifth, getting that document ratified. "The sixth step will follow that ratified constitution with free democratic elections. And the seventh step will be when we, the coalition authority, can transfer all sovereignty back to an elected democratic Iraqi government," Bremer said.
Bremer told the senators that when the coalition deposed Saddam Hussein, it assumed a great responsibility. "We cannot simply pat the Iraqis on the back, tell them they are lucky to be rid of Saddam, and then ask them to go find their place in a global marketplace," he said.
"To do so would invite economic collapse followed by political extremism. If after coming this far we turn our backs and let Iraq lapse into factional chaos, some new tyranny and terrorism, we will have committed a grave error," Bremer noted. "Not only will we have left the long-suffering Iraqi people to a future of danger and deprivation, we will have sown the dragon's teeth which will sprout more terrorists and eventually cost more American lives."