U.S. Lawmakers blasted the Bush administration Wednesday for its handling of the war in Iraq and said they were confounded only a fraction of $18.4 billion in U.S. rebuilding funds had been spent.
In an unusually nonpartisan hearing, Republican and Democratic senators urged senior State Department officials to try harder to speed up the reconstruction program, which lawmakers said could lead to a more stable environment in Iraq.
They also told officials to be more honest in their assessments of what was going on, with Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar taking aim at what he called the “dancing in the street crowd,” who painted an overly positive picture.
“The nonsense of all of that is apparent. The lack of planning (for Iraq) is apparent,” said Lugar, chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, said virtually every problem in Iraq was predicted by experts before the U.S. invasion, but no plan was in place.
“The ideologues were in control and in denial,” Biden said. “There is such a disconnect between what I hear (from Bush administration officials) and the reality of the situation on the ground.”
So far, just over $1 billion of the $18.4 billion has been spent. Lawmakers said they were perplexed why it was taking so long to spend that money when the administration had pressed Congress to rush the funds through last November.
“This is an extraordinarily ineffective administrative procedure and it is exasperating for anybody looking at this from any vantage point,” Lugar said.