White House officials were steamed when Andrew S. Natsios, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said earlier this year that U.S. taxpayers would not have to pay more than $1.7 billion to reconstruct Iraq — which turned out to be a gross understatement of the tens of billions of dollars the government now expects to spend.
Recently, however, the government has purged the offending comments by Natsios from the agency’s Web site. The transcript, and links to it, have vanished.
Vanished? Oh no — let’s hope someone can post a copy of it somewhere…
TED KOPPEL: (Off Camera) Well, it’s a, I think you’ll agree, this is a much bigger project than any that’s been talked about. Indeed, I understand that more money is expected to be spent on this than was spent on the entire Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Europe after World War II.
ANDREW NATSIOS: No, no. This doesn’t even compare remotely with the size of the Marshall Plan.
TED KOPPEL: (Off Camera) The Marshall Plan was $97 billion.
ANDREW NATSIOS: This is 1.7 billion.
TED KOPPEL: (Off Camera) All right, this is the first. I mean, when you talk about 1.7, you’re not suggesting that the rebuilding of Iraq is gonna be done for $1.7 billion?
ANDREW NATSIOS: Well, in terms of the American taxpayers contribution, I do, this is it for the US. The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges, Britain, Germany, Norway, Japan, Canada, and Iraqi oil revenues, eventually in several years, when it’s up and running and there’s a new government that’s been democratically elected, will finish the job with their own revenues. They’re going to get in $20 billion a year in oil revenues. But the American part of this will be 1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this. [Emphasis added]
But Andrew wasn’t done — this came after the commercial break:
TED KOPPEL: (Off Camera) And we’re back once again with Andrew Natsios, administrator for the Agency for International Development. I want to be sure that I understood you correctly. You’re saying the, the top cost for the US taxpayer will be $1.7 billion. No more than that?
ANDREW NATSIOS: For the reconstruction. And then there’s 700 million in the supplemental budget for humanitarian relief, which we don’t competitively bid ’cause it’s charities that get that money.
TED KOPPEL: (Off Camera) I understand. But as far as reconstruction goes, the American taxpayer will not be hit for more than $1.7 billion no matter how long the process takes?
ANDREW NATSIOS: That is our plan and that is our intention. And these figures, outlandish figures I’ve seen, I have to say, there’s a little bit of hoopla involved in this. [Emphasis added]
Boy, all this hoopla — that sure had to be annoying. Any last words Andrew?
TED KOPPEL: (Off Camera) But what you are saying is, maybe, maybe fewer tasks will be accomplished. The amount of money, however, is gonna be the same?
ANDREW NATSIOS: That’s correct. 1.7 billion is the limit on reconstruction for Iraq. It’s a large amount of money but, compared to other emergencies around the world. But in terms of the amount of money needed to reconstruct the country, it’s a relatively small amount. [Emphasis added]
Thank you Andrew.