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OCTOBER 27, 2003
1:53 PM
CONTACT:  American Friends Service Committee
Janis D. Shields
(215) 241-7060
John W. Haigis (215) 241-7056
Smoke and Mirror Pledges in Madrid Mask Doubts
PHILADELPHIA, PA - October 27 - International donors in Madrid pledged more than expected, but disappointed the Bush administration by attaching strings. It’s a cat and mouse game. Following the lead of the U.S. Congress, support from other donors was pledged in the form of loans, not grants, promising to add to Iraq’s already crushing foreign debt. The decisions are a clear sign that much of the world remains skeptical of U.S. intentions in Iraq. Donors are hedging their support until a new independent agency is empowered to account for the funds.

The critical question is whether or not these complex loan credits will translate into the immediate assistance so badly needed by the people of Iraq – and how the U.S. will take up the slack. With the Madrid Conference falling short of what’s needed, and Congress already on the verge of giving President Bush a whopping $87 billion dollar check for military and reconstruction costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, who will put up the rest of the money that is needed? Will it come out of soaring deficits and crying needs at home in the U.S., or by repealing the Bush administration’s budget-busting tax cuts? The message the U.S. should take away from the Madrid Conference is the need for a fundamental change of course.

Major countries in the United Nations Security Council--Russia, Germany, France--say they won't commit more money or troops to Iraq because the new U.N. resolution does not spell out a strong enough role for the United Nations nor a quick enough pace in transferring responsibilities to the Iraqi people. These are serious reservations.

Peter Lems, AFSC National Representative for Iraq, says, “Instead of lending a helping hand to the Iraqi people to lift them, the Madrid Conference threatens to bury their hopes in crushing debt.”

The AFSC is calling for:

· fairness, openness and accountability in budgeting and contracts and an end to war profiteering by U.S. corporations

· a realistic plan to bring U.S. troops home and stop the mounting casualties

· a plan that puts reconstruction and the transition to Iraqi self-governance under clear U.N. oversight.

· repeal of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers to help pay for costs in Iraq and fund education, health care, public safety and other essential services at home.

The American Friends Service Committee, an international peace and social justice organization and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for humanitarian service during World Wars I and II,

is backed by more than 85 years of worldwide experience rebuilding communities ravaged by war or natural disaster – including Iraq. In challenging the current dangerous course of U.S. policy, AFSC draws on its substantial experience in peace building, reconstruction and humanitarian relief efforts, including in Iraq.

Available spokespeople (Bios attached):

Arnie Alpert, AFSC New Hampshire Program Coordinator

Jo Comerford, AFSC W. MA, traveled to Iraq in 2002 with an AFSC/Quaker delegation

Craig Eisendrath, Sr. Fellow, Center for International Policy and former State Dept. foreign service officer

Joe Gainza, AFSC Vermont Program Coordinator

Martin Gonzalez, AFSC Director for Community Economic Development, Portland, OR

Shady Hakim, Coordinator of Middle East Peace Education Program, AFSC Pacific Southwest Region

Peter Lems, AFSC National Representative for Iraq, led delegations to Iraq in 2002 and 1999

Michael McConnell, Regional Director of AFSC Great Lakes Region based in Chicago

Joyce Miller, Director, AFSC Community Relations Unit

Samir Moukaddam, AFSC Middle East Peace Education Program Director, Atlanta, Georgia

Dan Pearson, Regional Director, AFSC Central Region, based in Des Moines

Rick Wilson, Program Director of AFSC West Virginia Economic Justice Program

Martha Yager, Coordinator, AFSC New Hampshire Housing and Community Development Project


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