The LA Times has a story on efforts by the Bush Administration to get congressional approval for the training of 10,000 members of the Iraqi opposition to help with the looming war. The quoted officials emphasized that this is not a Bay of Pigs-style militia, but rather “support staff” that will assist with the change in regime. The 1998 Iraq Liberation Act provided $97 million for efforts like this, and only $800,000 has been spent. Once Bush formally announces plans for this money, Congress has 15 days to oppose it. Iraqi opposition leaders are predictably delighted about Bush’s plans.
On the front page of the Washington Post this morning, somewhat surprising news that Arab leaders, grudgingly, are either supporting US action or willing to not stand in the way. This was foreshadowed by the testimony of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s testimony to the Armed Services Committee late last week.
The Washington Post is reporting that lawmakers are asking the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office for an estimate of the cost of war in Iraq. The Bush administration had floated numbers between $40 billion and $200 billion, but in his testimony to the Armed Services Committee last week, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refused to commit to any specific numbers. Lawmakers are getting frustrated with the lack of specific estimates, and WaPo cites unnamed Congressional staff and military experts as being skeptical of any estimates when there are so few specifics to work with. Reconstruction of Iraq, on the other hand, has been estimated at $16 billion a year, and could be completely funded with the sale of seized Iraqi oil.