US congressman wants Iraq to repay US for war cost



BAGHDAD – A U.S. congressman visiting Baghdad Friday suggested that Iraq pay back the United States for the money it has spent in the eight years since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher spoke during a one-day visit by a group of six U.S. congressman. The California Republican said he raised the suggestion during a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that some day when Iraq is a “prosperous” nation it pay back the U.S. for everything that it has done here.

“We would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the United States some of the megadollars we have spent here in the last eight years,” Rohrabacher told reporters at the U.S. Embassy after the meeting.

He did not say what reaction, if any, the prime minister had to the suggestion.

The idea of repaying the United States for a war that the vast majority of Iraqis had no role in bringing about would likely gain little traction with an Iraqi public that harbors mixed emotions about the U.S. invasion. While many Iraqis are glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein, they blame the United States for the chaos and sectarian violence that followed.

The Baghdad city government earlier this year demanded the U.S. pay $1 billion for damage caused to the city by blast walls erected during the war.

The congressman said the United States can no longer afford to send troops all over the world because the U.S. is in an economic crisis.

“We could certainly use some people to care about our situation as we have cared about theirs,” he said.

Rohrabacher said the issue of cost could be a factor in any decision about whether to keep troops here past a Dec. 31 pullout deadline.

There are currently about 47,000 American forces in Iraq. Discussion is intensifying about whether Iraq will ask American troops to stay past that date.

Leon Panetta, who has been nominated to take over the Pentagon, said earlier this week during a confirmation hearing that Iraq would likely ask the U.S. to keep some American troop presence past 2011.

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