W. House Continues War $ Push

The White House is defending its proposal to spend $87 billion on Iraq and Afghanistan amid new criticism about the case for war and the preparations for its aftermath.

According to Newsweek magazine, planning for Iraq's postwar recovery was fraught with division and confusion. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at one point ordered the removal of 16 members of a 20-person State Department postwar team because of ideological differences. The magazine says once during the war, Central Command head Gen. Tommy Franks asked Rumsfeld: "What do we mean by 'regime change' anyway?"

As another American soldier was killed in Iraq — the 305th to die since the war began — and the Justice Department reviewed whether White House aides leaked the name of a CIA agent to punish a critic of the case for war, the debate over the spending bill was sure to reflect growing concern about the overall mission.

The administration's early estimate of the cost of the war was about $60 billion, and a former Bush adviser was chastised for mentioning figures as high as $200 billion. The requested $87 billion would be in addition to $59 billion already spent.

"We did not have perfect foresight into what we were going to find in Iraq," national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told NBC.

"The fact of the matter is…this deteriorated infrastructure, one that was completely covered over by the gleaming pictures of Baghdad that made it look like a first-world city," she said. "The key here is that you could — cannot put a price tag on security."

Appearing on ABC, Secretary of State Colin Powell urged Congress to approve the Iraqi money, but he acknowledged that the $20 billion or so earmarked for reconstruction rather than military operations could be a hard sell.

On Sunday, members of Congress toured Iraq's biggest hospital to get a first hand look at the daunting challenges facing this impoverished country as lawmakers consider the budget request.

Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-California, and seven other delegation members peered into incubators with premature babies at the maternity ward and greeted expectant mothers at the al-Yarmouk hospital in western Baghdad.

Infant mortality in Iraq is estimated at 103 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in the United States and more than double the figure for neighboring Turkey. Of every 1,000 babies born in Iraq, 122 die before their fifth birthday.

"We have been shocked by the conditions of the infrastructure in general, and this hospital is a reflection of just how bad the situation is," Lewis said after walking through the grounds. "Those mothers have the highest priority…so that their children can live long and healthy lives. This is the future of Iraq here."

Al-Yarmouk suffered only limited damage during the war but was stripped by looters afterward. Recently, the 1,000-bed facility, attached also to a medical college, got backup electric generators working again to fill periodic gaps in city-supplied power.

According to Dr. Mahdi Jasim Moosa, the hospital director, the staff is expecting six new U.S.-funded generators, four for the maternity ward that the lawmakers inspected.

"There has been a lot of controversy about the money needed for Iraq, but when Congress members see the conditions here, they will recognize that this money is badly needed," said Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Washington, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

"Our intent was to liberate them from Saddam Hussein," Dicks said. "We are here now to help our friends in Iraq improve conditions for their people. There is absolutely no question that progress has been made…but it is a team effort."

"We would like to have the world change in the blink of an eyelid, but it takes some time," Lewis said.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, said the message which the delegation would take back to Washington is that "we are going to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people" by determining what needs to be done to rebuild the country and following through with commitments.

The delegation also plans to visit Mosul and Tikrit, Saddam's hometown.

The lawmakers also planned to meet with L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, as well as local officials in each of the three cities.

Bremer was in Washington last week as part of a weeklong push by the Bush administration for approval of the $87 billion request. Bremer told the Senate Appropriations Committee that failure in Iraq "would strengthen the terrorists morally and materially. Success tells not just Iraqis but the world that there is hope, that the future is not defined by tyranny."