Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., today introduced a bill which would provide four consecutive years of funding to strengthen existing programs already underway to foster reconciliation among Iraq’s societal factions.
“So long as Iraq remains divided based along ethnic and sectarian lines the situation on the ground will remain chaotic and violent, giving Iraq little chance of rebuilding itself, or of delivering a better life for the Iraqi people,” Woolsey — a House Foreign Relations Committee member; Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairwoman; and Out of Iraq Caucus co-founder — said in her news release.
“The Iraqi people know this to be true, so we must support their efforts if we are welcome. Reconciliation lies at the heart of this endeavor, and the United States Institute for Peace has a strong track record of effectively creating programs that bring neighbors and one-time adversaries together, with positive results.”
Shays said H.R. 5925, based on a recommendation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, would allocate $20 million annually for four years to the USIP, which since 2004 has been working to prevent sectarian violence at the local level; develop leaders in schools, universities, government, and civil society; promote the rule of law; engage women in public life; and increase regional stability.
And — by various estimates of current spending levels — the entire annual cost of the effort would be equal to about two hours of combat operations in Iraq.
UPDATE @ 2:25 P.M. WEDNESDAY: It seems this post has become part of a debate on partisanship, bi-partisanship and post-partisanship over at Open Left. Is Woolsey wrong to co-sponsor a bill with a vulnerable Republican, even if the bill is something most Democrats can get behind? Personally, I’d say that if a bill is good policy and bi-partisan co-authorship gives it a better chance of passing, then go for the gusto. (And for all you watching for a bias, I’m not talking about this particular bill; I’m speaking generally, and I think this cuts both ways.)