Even as the United States has been borrowing trillions to pursue its wars in the Middle East, the government of Iraq has posted a tidy surplus, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
The report makes a direct link between U.S. government spending -- including $642 billion on U.S. military operations there and $24 billion for training and equipping the Iraqi security forces -- and Iraq's cumulative surplus of $52.1 billion through the end of 2009.
For comparison purposes, Iraq's annual gross domestic product is $65.8 billion. Meanwhile, the U.S. national debt has soared from $6.4 trillion to $13.4 trillion since former president George W. Bush invaded Iraq and decided to borrow the money for wars and slash taxes.
In what is sure to be great news for John McCain, the Iraqi economy is recovering quite nicely.
The GAO Report released today highlights the solvency of Iraq's Central Bank, even as the Iraq government prepares to ask the United States for an extra $2 billion in assistance for training and equipping the Iraqi military and police force.
This comes on the heels of a report that the Saudi government is preparing to import $60 billion in American-made military equipment, including Boeing F-15 fighters manufactured by American-based United Technologies.
It's been a very good Eid Al-Fitr for the Saudis, apparently.
The previously disclosed arms package is believed to be the largest in U.S. history, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters today. Once the proposal has been formally submitted to the House and Senate foreign affairs committees, Congress has 30 days to reject the package.
The package includes 84 new F-15s and upgrades to 70 more in the Saudi inventory at a cost of $30 billion, and helicopter sales totaling about $30 billion that include spare parts, training simulators, long-term logistics support and some munitions. It also includes versions of Chicago-based Boeing’s satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition, which the Saudis first bought in 2008.
The Saudis would buy about 72 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 70 AH-64D Longbow Apaches and 36 AH-6 Little Bird choppers, the official said. The Longbow is the U.S. Army’s premier anti-tank helicopter, capable of firing laser-guided or all-weather radar- guided air-to-ground Hellfire missiles. The Saudi package includes only laser-guided versions.
So, while Senate Republicans tell us that we can't afford to pay unemployment benefits for the 9.6% of Americans who are currently jobless, it appears that our allies in the Middle East are doing very well.
But as Froomkin reminds us, economists Joe Stiglitz and Linda Blimes estimate that the costs of the Iraq War (direct, indirect, and ongoing costs) are going to be around $3 trillion, despite Bush administration claims that the war effort would cost only around $50-60 billion.
The lessons we take from this information will vary depending on your views of military spending in general. For me, the neoconservative escapades over the past decade represent an utter failure of both fiscal discipline and foreign policy. And while there is hollow comfort in knowing that the Saudis are buying our military equipment, it's troubling that Republicans who claim to value "national security" continue to oppose policies that will improve our economic security.
We've got 7 weeks before Election Day.
Time to get to work.