Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks Of Sen. Alexander - Supplemental Request For Iraq

Posted on October 1, 2003

This week in the Senate we will be discussing a matter of the greatest importance: President Bush's request for supplemental funding for our military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. The challenge before us is immense: reconstructing the economy and government of a country that has born decades of neglect by a tyrannical regime. If we fail, the consequences could be disastrous: a fractured or failed Iraq could become a safe-haven for terrorists, a caldron for fomenting extremism, and a destabilizing force to its neighbors, throwing the entire Middle East into chaos. If we succeed, the results could be equally extraordinary. A democratic and economically vibrant Iraq would be a shining example to her neighbors that Islam and democracy can coexist. More importantly, such an Iraq would likely be a friend to the United States in a region where we could use more friends. I have often come to this floor since becoming a Senator to talk about the importance of teaching our children American history and civics so they grow up learning what it means to be an American. So as I look at the choice we are faced with here in the Senate about whether to fund the President's request, I think about similar choices we as Americans have made in the past and what we've learned from those choices. As I think about it, I'm reminded most of the choices we made when dealing with post-war Germany, in the after WWI and WWII. At the end of World War I, we made a grave mistake. We punished Germany for its actions prior to the war. The Treaty of Versailles, which formally declared the end of the war, ordered Germany to repay its debts to other European countries and denied any aid for reconstructing war-torn Germany. Even though a new democratic government sprung up in Germany during that time, the Weimar Republic, we chose not to provide help but to tell them to "pay up". In other words, we defeated them, left them in ruins, sent them a bill and went home. And sometimes we forget that Adolf Hitler was elected in democratic Germany. What was the result? As early as 1922, Hitler was already railing against the Treaty of Versailles and the payments Germany was forced to make to others. Eleven years later, in 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Again he blamed the Treaty of Versailles for Germany's woes, and speaking of his Nazi party he said, "We want to liberate Germany from the fetters of an impossible parliamentary democracy". Under such a debt, with a failed reconstruction policy, Hitler convinced the German people that democracy was too much of a burden. We all know what happened next — another World War more devastating than the first. Our post-World War I policy with Germany was a complete failure. One can imagine a similar scenario in Iraq today, if we make the wrong choice. Let's say after getting a new Iraqi government in place, we go home and order Iraq to pay its bills, as some on the other side of the aisle would have us do. It's not hard to imagine a new Iraqi leader emerging who blames Iraq's economic woes on the United States, who decries the debt we are making them repay. It's not hard to imagine a new leader coming to power on a wave of anti-American sentiment who proceeds to destroy the fledgling democratic system the U.S. helped to establish in Iraq. And suddenly a few years down the road we have a new evil tyrant running Iraq who is a clear enemy of the United States. Fortunately, there's another choice in American history. After World War II, we took a very different approach to post-war Germany. In 1948, after a failed policy of loaning money to war-torn countries in Europe, the United States adopted the Marshall Plan, named for Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The Marshall Plan was a 4-year initiative to rebuild the economies of 16 countries in Europe, including Germany. The Marshall Plan cost $13.3 billion and a great deal of effort. Ninety percent of the money spent on the Marshall Plan — nearly $12 billion — was grant money, not loans. What was the result this time? At first, the results were uncertain. Germany's economy looked shaky, as did its new democratic government. But over time, our continued investment paid huge dividends. A continent that had been fighting for a thousand years became a democracy and became our ally. And in Japan, in another part of the world, our help took a country that had invaded us and made it an ally. The results could not have been better after WWII. Our policy was a complete success. That's why I believe we need a Marshall Plan for Iraq. We need a four or five-year plan for reconstructing Iraq, and we need to face up to the cost of the plan. We need to understand that it's more for us, the United States, than it is for them. President Bush has laid out the first stages of such a plan. The Marshall Plan was used to for a variety of purposes to reconstruct war-torn Europe, including Germany. It paid for the building of railroads and water systems, for needed medicines, for modernizing factories, for restoring ports to allow foreign trade, and much, much more. President Bush's request will pay for many of the same things: for restoring Iraq's port on the Persian Gulf, for building roads, for restoring power and water systems, for needed medicines, for re-opening schools, and much more. Some say that's too costly. But the cost of the President's request for rebuilding Iraq — $20.3 billion — is actually far less than what we spent on the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan cost $13.3 billion from April of 1948 to June of 1952. That's in 1950 dollars. If you adjust for inflation — because we all know a dollar went a lot further in 1950 than it does today — you find that in 2003 dollars the Marshall Plan would have cost $102 billion. Another way to compare the cost is percentage of GDP. The Marshall Plan cost 1.1 percent of our gross domestic product during the 4 years it was in place. President Bush's $20.3 billion request for Iraqi reconstruction — even when added to the money already appropriated in the Iraq supplemental in April — accounts for only 0.2 percent of GDP. Again, the Marshall Plan was five times the cost of President Bush's Iraq plan. Or we could compare the cost as a percentage of the federal budget. The Marshall Plan cost 7 percent of the federal budget during the years it was enacted. President Bush's requested funds, when added to those already spent on reconstruction, cost only 1 percent of the federal budget. Why can't we afford to spend just 1 percent of the budget on reconstructing Iraq in order to ensure our own future? So this idea that we're spending more on Iraq than we did after World War II is totally false. We can learn a valuable lesson from the American experience with Germany. After World War I, we made Germany pay its debts, we left them in ruin, we went home, and as a result, we got Adolf Hitler. After World War II, we pursued the Marshall Plan, it cost us some money but as a result we won democratic allies in important parts of the world. President Kennedy said it best in his 1961 Inaugural Address when he said, "we shall pay any price, bear any burden. . . to assure the survival and success of liberty". The people of Iraq, like the people of Germany sixty years ago, lived under an evil tyrant who wreaked havoc on his neighbors and his own people. In both cases, the evil tyrant was overthrown by the United States and its Allies. America and its Allies temporarily took over the administration of both Germany and Iraq. We paid for German reconstruction under the Marshall Plan. We should do the same in Iraq and support the President's request. We can't afford, in our own interest, to do anything less.