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CURMUDGEONRY
87 Billion
Finishing the Job in a Nice Round Number.

by Barnabas
October 22, 2003

87 Billion_Barnabas-Finishing the Job in a Nice Round Number
“After Desert Storm, over a decade ago, the one complaint I still hear is that we went to war against Saddam Hussein but we never finished the job. Well, this finishes the job."
– Representative C. W. Bill Young, Republican of Florida, after Congress backed President Bush's request for $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. (Quotation of the Day, New York Times, October 18, 2003.)
Why 87 billion exactly? 87 billion is actually 87 thousand million. We get a little detail—about 20 billion for infrastructure, the rest for the Military; tucked in there somewhere is $245,000,000 for Liberia, but that’s under three-tenths of one percent of the total, so who would care about chump change? Though it’s hard to be precise about 87 billion, the Administration seems certain that 86 billion would not be enough, and 88 billion more than necessary. Besides, what’s a few hundred million over or under? That was a lot of money when I was a kid, but times change.

Numbers in this range are a temptation, though. Sharpsters of every shape, kind, and “national origin” will be out to get a piece of it: a million here, a million there, who will notice, out of a sum so enormous? “Follow the money” we say, but 87 billion bucks will create an awful lot of trails. So next year, when
  • most of those 87 billion (borrowed) dollars have disappeared into many pockets,
  • or the structures the dollars have paid for have been blown up by apparently uncatchable saboteurs,
  • and the millennial kingdom promised by its proponents hasn’t shown any sign of appearing,
  • and the Democrats are shouting for a special prosecutor to find out What Went Wrong to Make Sure It Never Happens Again, then
  • Congressman Young should be called upon to do penance in the House of Representatives by wearing his words on a signboard hanging from his shoulders.
No enemy in the history of conflict has ever been defeated by a congressional resolution. Sometimes a resolution has been the enabling of a possible victory down the road, but never is itself the victory. By the Congressman’s logic, we have already won—when we attacked Iraq with our Shock and Awe Campaign.

We have a government that believes in magic. If it decides to do something, it confuses its intentions with accomplishments. Does anybody remember that?

We have to tidy up our mess if we can. When a policy fails, we still must deal with the problem the policy was addressing; we dare not, as one cynic recommended, “declare victory and walk away.” On the other hand, to declare victory on the basis of money being available is absurd. Plenty of money was available for the hot phase of the war too, and look how that turned out.

About the Author:
Barnabas has voted in nine presidential elections. He's batting over .500.


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