Friday, April 04, 2003

Well now... looks like Congress is taking sides in the Powell/Rumsfeld dispute.

A war spending bill that is headed for enactment next week contains unusually blunt language that gives Powell, and explicitly not Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, control over $2.5 billion to be spent on postwar reconstruction in Iraq.

The two Cabinet officers were at odds last year over Iraq, but tensions appeared to subside after Powell decided that diplomatic efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime would not work and joined the call for use of military force. But now key members of Congress suspect that Rumsfeld is trying to elbow Powell out of what is traditionally diplomatic territory: postwar reconstruction.

The House of Representatives version of the spending bill says the money must be "apportioned only to the Department of State" or civilian agencies. The Senate bill explicitly bars the reconstruction funds from being used for "any Department of Defense activity."
That amounts to a congressional rebuke of the White House. The administration wanted Bush to be able to decide who would use the $2.5 billion. Members of Congress thought that meant Rumsfeld would get the money.

"It has been clear to us for quite some time that the Department of Defense would like to take over the management of relief and reconstruction," Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said. "Policy and spending decisions regarding postwar relief and reconstruction should be made at the State Department — and nowhere else." Lowey is the top-ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee that controls spending on foreign operations.

The Republican chairman of the panel agrees. Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., says leaving the military in charge of reconstruction would be costly because relief agencies and allies, especially Arab allies, would be be less likely to help. "No country is going to put aid workers under a general," Kolbe says.
Signs of tension between Congressional Republicans and the Bush administration? Maybe, but it might well be more because of the heat that Rumsfeld has taken over the conduct of the war. Even if things go swimmingly from now until the end, the questions raised about Iraqi resistence are probably going to damage Rumsfeld's credibility for at least a while, and Kolbe had a point: other countries would be far less willing to help the U.S. with the reconstruction if DoD was leading the way.

On the other hand, as DoD had clearly expected control over Iraq afterwards, this could mean that State and the DoD may have been caught flatfooted on this. I'm sure state will come up with their own plans quickly enough.

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