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Commentary :: Human Rights : International : Politics : War and Militarism
How to get out of Iraq for just $450 million
03 May 2007
Modified: 06:00:50 PM
If Nancy Pelosi and Congress really want the war to end and U.S. personnel to leave Iraq, it doesn't have to cost $100 billion or even $10 billion. For just $450 million, Congress could hire U.S. airlines to fly all U.S. troops (and contractors) home for good, in time to enjoy summer with their families.
_______________________

Yesterday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said "Make no mistake, Democrats are committed to ending this war."

If so, and if Congress also wants U.S. personnel to actually leave Iraq, it doesn't have to cost $100 billion or even $10 billion. It doesn't even have to cost $1 billion. Just $450 million should do the trick.

The U.S. reportedly has about 300,000 personnel in Iraq. About 150,000 are regular military, reservists, or National Guard personnel. The other 150,000 are contractors, including mercenaries or "private military contractors."

For just $450 million, Congress could hire U.S. airlines to fly all 300,000 of them home to the U.S. in time to enjoy summer vacation with their families.

The math is simple. The distance from Baghdad, Iraq to most U.S. cities is less than the distance from Tel Aviv, Israel to Los Angeles, California, so a commercial airline should be able to fly Baghdad-to-U.S. for no more than the cost of flying Tel Aviv-to-Los Angeles. According to Travelocity.com, an advance-purchase, round-trip coach ticket between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv costs about $1,500. Multiply 300,000 by $1,500 and you get $450 million.

So, roughly $450 million would cover the round-trip cost of flying airliners to Baghdad and returning them, filled with troops and contractors, home to the U.S.

The flights home could begin this month.

All the Pentagon would have to do is develop and immediately implement an orderly plan to deliver the troops and contractors to Baghdad International Airport to board the flights home. Airport security should be no problem since Baghdad International is a U.S. military base. And the Pentagon, reportedly, has enough funding for warfare in Iraq through August, so the cost of peacefully delivering U.S. personnel to the airport should be no obstacle at all.

All Congress has to do is pass emergency legislation, now, to 1) require all U.S. airlines to immediately make available airliners, flight crews, and maintenance crews to shuttle 300,000 U.S. personnel home from Baghdad over the coming six weeks or so, and 2) authorize $450 million in spending to reimburse the airlines for the full cost of these flights, including provisions for normal profit margins.

If the airlines require a little more than $450 million to make up for the lack of first-class fares on these flights, so be it. Congress could authorize a few million more so troops (but not contractors) could be flown home first class. The troops have earned this by now, and the contractors have already received more than enough taxpayer handouts.

To begin restoring hope and health to the Iraqi people, Congress should pass emergency legislation to 1) formally declare that Iraq's oil and other resources are the property of the Iraqi people, to be developed as the Iraqi people and their government see fit, 2) call on the United Nations to fully support the Iraqi government, and 3) authorize an initial $20 billion in emergency funding for use by the Iraqi government to employ Iraqi citizens in real reconstruction projects and/or to fund health, welfare, or other essential programs.

Before the bombing of Baghdad began in 2003, it was reported that an average Iraqi family's annual income was about $2,000. At that rate, just one U.S. contractor's $150,000 annual paycheck would put 75 Iraqis to work for a year. How many Iraqis would $20 billion employ for a year at $2,000 a year? Ten million Iraqis--in a nation of only about twenty-five million people, including men, women and children!

What about all the U.S. military equipment, and hummers, and fast-food outlets in Iraq? Whatever equipment the U.S. could not transport out of Iraq in the next few weeks could simply be left behind as a gift to the Iraqi people and their government, to use as they see fit.

$450 million would bring U.S. personnel home, right now. A few billion would help Iraq begin to recover. U.S. citizens, too, might begin to regain hope. And the United States' international reputation might slowly begin to improve.

Who, aside from neocon ideologues and a few multinational oil companies (not all of them U.S.-based), might stand to lose? It might be a setback for the military-industrial complex, including San Francisco-based Bechtel, which, along with its affiliates, is a donor to both Bush's Republican and Pelosi's Democratic parties. It might also be a setback for Lockheed--and Lockheed is more than just one of Nancy Pelosi's largest donors in the 2006 election cycle*; Lockheed has close ties with the neocons, in part through Thomas Donnelly, who was the lead author of "Rebuilding America's Defenses," the neocon Project For The New American Century's September, 2000 master plan for global military conquest, including the conquest of Iraq. Who knows but what it might even be a setback for Occidental Petroleum--Nancy Pelosi's single largest donor in the 2006 election cycle.*

But after four long, miserable years, wouldn't the immense good--and the prospect of peace, and the sense of relief, and the return of hope--far outweigh these minor setbacks?

Isn't it time for Congressional Democrats to pay attention to their wisest members; wise, courageous Representatives such as Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee and the members of the "Out Of Iraq Caucus"?
_______________________

* A list of the top donors to Nancy Pelosi's 2006 campaign is available at http://www.opensecrets.org/races/contrib.asp?ID=CA08&cycle=2006&special=

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