WASHINGTON, DC — Iraq’s $1 billion bond has sparked the outrage of Congressman Walter B. Jones, who said through a press release, “the insanity is astonishing.”
The five-year bond, issued by the Republic of Iraq, is backed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is guaranteed by the U.S. Government. On Wednesday, Jan. 18, Iraq’s Office of the Prime Minister released a statement which read, in part: “This guaranteed bond is a demonstration of the international community’s ongoing assistance to Iraq, and will strengthen the process of implementing meaningful reforms and our efforts to combat corruption and build a more secure, democratic, and financially viable and prosperous Iraq.”
Congressman Jones, who represents North Carolina’s 3rd District (which includes part of New Hanover and Pender counties), spoke about the bond, his frustrations with the current legislature and his hopes for President Trump’s term.
“I’ve been very outspoken about this kind of thing,” Jones said. “Again, we’re taking a huge risk here. If the government of Iraq cannot pay back this bond, if the government falls apart, the American taxpayer will be paying this back.”
Jones said his outrage at the bond is the culmination of watching years of financial and foreign policy mismanagement.
“Our nation is 19 some trillion dollars in debt, and we’ll add another half-trillion this year, maybe more,” Jones said. “Every year, at the end of the year, our nation has to turn to someone, to borrow money to help us pay our bills. You and I, as individuals, we know we can only do that for so long.”
Though the bond will only fall on U.S. taxpayers if the Iraqi government cannot repay it, Jones sees it as part of a trend in “irresponsible government bailouts.
“Just like the bailout of the banks, which I did not vote for, if America is bailing out these foreign countries, lending money and securing loans, then who on earth is going to bail us out if we start to falter? Who will bail us out if we fail?” he asked.
Jones added, “It doesn’t make any sense to me. I think both parties are smoking something illegal.”
According to the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq, the bond “fulfills the pledge that the U.S. Government made to Iraq to support economic reform and fight terrorism.” Jones, however, said he did not consider the investment a national security issue. Instead, the congressman pointed to a decade-plus of “bad foreign policy decisions” that had led the United States to “do all the fighting, all the dying, while other countries sat back and watched, even in the Middle East.”
Jones specifically traced the “bad” policies he referenced to former President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“After Bush made the wrong decision and mislead the American people, we lost 4,000 soldiers, over 30,000 young men and women were injured. For what?,” he asked. “I’m like (former Texas Congressman) Ron Paul on this issue. The foreign policy doesn’t make sense to me. We’re playing a game with no end. We haven’t had a sound foreign policy since Clinton left office.”
Jones said he has been working across party lines to try to correct this “wrong decision” by trying to restore the war-making powers to the legislative branch.
“I’m paraphrasing James Madison here,” Jones said, “but it is the legislative branch that debates and decides on war, not the executive branch.”
Congressman Jones pointed to the authorization for use of military force that granted President Bush sweeping power as the origin of a policy that has sent tax-dollars abroad instead of using them for domestic infrastructure and economic issues.
“But I don’t blame the president. I blame the leadership of the legislative branch. I’ve joined with [Massachusetts Congressman] Jim McGovern and some other Democrats, and we’ve asked Paul Ryan, we’ve demanded a new debate on this,” he said.
The Congressman did not comment on what could be done with nation-building experiments – like Afghanistan and Iraq – that are already in progress. Jones said he felt that “invading, destroying, rebuilding, and bailing out” foreign countries at the expense of infrastructure and economy at home has left the nation feeling betrayed by their own government.
“I am frustrated, people are frustrated, and that frustration is how President Trump got elected. And I hope he keeps his promise to the American people, to focus on things here at home,” he said. “We need to fix our own house, pay our own bills. And I hope we see that.”