U dean assists on postwar Iraq report

The report estimated rebuilding Iraq would cost $20 billion per year.

by Josh Linehan

War with Iraq is going to cost a lot more than Americans are currently prepared to pay, according to a report co-authored by a University administrator that was released Wednesday.

Brian Atwood, dean of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development under former President Clinton, was among the generals, scholars and diplomats who compiled “Iraq: The Day After.”

The report – sponsored by a think tank called the Council on Foreign Relations – argues the George W. Bush administration has failed to inform both the American public and Congress of the costs of rebuilding Iraq following a U.S. victory.

“Essentially, I think they’ve hoodwinked the American people,” Atwood said.

The independent task force that compiled the report came up with a list of four key recommendations regarding a postwar Iraq.

According to the report, the Bush administration must make a political commitment to the future of Iraq, protect Iraqi civilians from the start of the conflict, build an international consensus to share the burden of post-conflict reconstruction, and involve the Iraqi people throughout the transition process.

The task force estimated the cost of rebuilding postwar Iraq at $20 billion per year based on maintaining a presence of 75,000 troops, which is a conservative estimate, according to the report. The group estimated funding for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts at $3 billion for the first year alone.

Atwood, who was in charge of the U.S. humanitarian effort in Kosovo, wrote a partial dissension to the report, stating he found the $3 billion estimate “exceedingly low.”

“They can win the war and defeat Saddam (Hussein), but that’s only half the battle,” Atwood said. “They need to win the peace to follow, and they need to be honest with Congress and the American people about that.”

Atwood also said the war could create more than two million refugees.

He said many of the public and members of Congress are upset the administration has been talking with corporations about divvying up Iraq’s oil but not selling a reconstruction plan to the American people.

Most importantly, the United States must cement international backing for the postwar period, Atwood said.

“It will be much more complicated without the U.N.,” he said. “The Iraqi people don’t like Saddam, but they won’t like the nation who just bombed their hospitals and communities. We have to show the other side of America in a postwar period.”

Complicating factors surrounding a reconstruction effort include Iraq’s large ethnic populations – Kurds in the north and Shi’ite Muslims in the south – and the possible use of weapons of mass destruction, according to the report. Any postwar government must follow a republican form giving those ethnic groups considerable autonomy, Atwood said. Sunni Muslims dominate Iraq’s central region.

The project director for the report, Eric Schwartz, testified about its contents before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Atwood said he hoped the publicity surrounding the report and the hearings before Congress would push the Bush administration to tell the American people their postwar plans.

“This report underscores the risk of going to war without U.N. support,” Atwood said. “In the end, they’re going to need to be a lot more clever, or they won’t have struck a blow against terrorism, they’ll have radicalized a large group of potential terrorists.”

Josh Linehan covers legal affairs and welcomes comments at [email protected]