Saturday, September 18, 2004


Two senior Republican senators yesterday rebuked the Bush administration over its handling of Iraq, saying its proposal to divert $3.46 billion in reconstruction funds to mostly beef up security showed that U.S. policy was in disarray.
The proposal to divert the reconstruction aid "does not add up in my opinion to a pretty picture, to a picture that shows that we're winning," Hagel said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. "But it does add up to this: an acknowledgment that we are in deep trouble."

"We have an emergency problem now," Lugar said. "And we had one in July, and we had one before that."

The bloodshed has exposed as "nonsense" assurances that "blithely optimistic" administration officials gave the committee before last year's invasion that U.S. troops would be welcomed in Iraq and would be there only a short time, Lugar said.

Lugar and Hagel spoke during a hearing at which two senior State Department officials presented details of how the administration wants to spend the $3.46 billion that it's proposing to divert from $18.4 billion in reconstruction funds appropriated last year.

"You have inherited a mess, gentlemen," Hagel told the pair, referring to the Pentagon's handover of Iraq policy to the State Department when Iraq's sovereignty was formally restored in June.

Large-scale reconstruction projects, which the Pentagon awarded mostly without bid to large U.S. corporations, have been delayed by sabotage and attacks. Only $1.1 billion of $18.4 billion in rebuilding funds has been spent.

"The slow pace of reconstruction spending means we are failing to fully take advantage of one of our most potent tools to influence the direction of Iraq," Lugar said.

Hagel said the slow disbursement of the funds "is beyond pitiful. It's beyond embarrassing. It is now in the zone of dangerous."

Four more years of Bush and that phrase will become very familiar and apply to everything he has touched.

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