WASHINGTON, DC—At a Monday press conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced a "change of plans" for the $87.5 billion aid package Congress approved in October: Instead of being used to fund an array of military and reconstruction operations in the Middle East, the money will be divided equally among Iraq's 24,683,313 citizens.
"Yes, we had planned to do all sorts of things with that money, like repair Iraq's power grid and construct new sewers and roads," Rumsfeld said. "But then we realized that, really, there's no reason for us to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure when the forces of free-market capitalism can do it with greater efficiency."
Rumsfeld said that, while the U.S. public's desire to hasten the end of America's presence in Iraq is growing, continued insurgence against the occupation has rendered previous initiatives for political and economic recovery untenable. The situation prompted the Bush Administration to "think more creatively" about its Iraq policy.
"I assure you that our new plan for economic recovery is not only easier, it's better," Rumsfeld said. "If we simply step back and let the market do its thing, a perfectly functioning, merit-based, egalitarian society will rise out of the ashes. Probably some restaurants or hardware stores or something, too."
During the next six months, Rumsfeld said, each Iraqi man, woman, and child will receive a one-time payment of $3,544.91. On June 30, the transaction of all funds will be complete, and the sovereignty of a "brand-new, prosperous, secular, pluralistic, market-driven nation" will be handed to an as-yet-unformed government, probably one with a president and a congressional body of some sort.
"Heck, whatever form of democratic utopia comes out of this will be great," Rumsfeld said. "Why wouldn't it be? It'll be based on freedom of individual economic enterprise, and supply and demand will maximize consumer welfare."
About 100,000 citizens have already received their money, which was distributed in cash to circumvent the country's currently inadequate banking system.
The 14-member Allawi family in Tikrit received $49,628.74 Monday.
"I'm very excited," Ahmed Allawi said. "A free, unregulated market will swiftly and efficiently lead to the establishment of an array of fairly priced goods and services. Any day now, there should be something available to spend this money on. As for today, the open-air market down the street is still on fire."
Allawi was quick to assert, loudly and repeatedly, that none of his family's money was actually on his person.
According to U.S. civil administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer, reconstruction and repair of Iraq's dilapidated, damaged, destroyed, or non-existent sewers, roads, power grids, airports, phone lines, and hospitals will be handled by the private sector, with contracts being awarded to the companies offering the most attractive bids in terms of cost and quality of service.
"Yes, there have been difficulties securing building materials for construction projects, and there have been problems with guerrillas targeting contractors—some dynamiting has occurred," Bremer said. "But such setbacks are the remnants of Saddam's regime. As of July 1, these problems will not exist. As soon as the money is handed out, we'll be able to dismantle our entire security framework."
Even the building and running of Iraq's schools will be privatized.
"I believe we've seen what state-funded education did for Iraq," Bremer said. "I can say with confidence that it's the last thing they need."
According to Bremer, as soon as capitalism brings an end to ethnic and religious tension, U.S. troops will pull out of Iraq.
Fortunately, few Iraqi government structures need to be put into place. In accepting the $87.5 billion aid package, the Iraqi Governing Council has agreed to banish all restrictions on trade, capital flow, and foreign investment.
While the original aid package included $100 million to support the writing of a constitution and the holding of national elections, the new "$3,544.91 For All" plan contains no such allotment. Bremer did, however, help the Iraqi Governing Council draft a 25-word "Iraqi Promise Of Excellence."
Bremer said returning the government to the men and women of Iraq solves one problem that had confounded his team: deciding how rule would be divided among Sunni Muslims, Shiites, and Kurds.
"Under the new system, the religious, ethnic, or political group offering the best service will naturally beat out the competition," Bremer said. "It's that simple!"