Britain free from WWII payments
LONDON — More than six decades after the fact, Britain has finally paid back the billions of dollars it had borrowed from the United States and Canada to help pay for rebuilding the country after World War II.
At the click of a few computer keys in London on the last business day of 2006, $83.25 million was sent electronically winging to Washington and $22.7 million to Ottawa, to free Britain from annual installments it occasionally has struggled to pay.
The original loan of $4.34 billion — the equivalent of $27 billion in today’s money — was negotiated by a London team headed by economic mastermind John Maynard Keynes in 1945 to stave off the bankruptcy that posed a serious threat to Britain in the wake of the war’s wreckage.
The Canadian share of the loan was $1.2 billion.
“Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership can no longer tell us what is on the table,” Mrs. Sheehan said. “We are the ones that put them in power and they are not including the peace movement. [. . . ] It needs to be at least included in the discussion.”
She demanded the elimination of funding for the war, an investigation and impeachment of President Bush for what she called “lies” to justify the war.
Mrs. Sheehan was leading about 75otherslobbyingcongressionaloffices when they happened upon the press conference. The Democrats were there to present new ethics proposals as part of the 100-hour agenda with which they planned to begin the House majority.
“Iraq is a high priority for Democrats,” said Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider, and a legislative agenda was not the place to address the war issue.
She said the call last year from Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, for troop withdrawal “changed the course of the debate [and] sent a signal that Democrats will stand up and hold the administration accountable.”
Mrs. Pelosi did not attend the press conference.
After the interruption by the Sheehan-led activists, Mr. Emanuel and other top Democrats returned to the microphone and, in response to reporters’ questions, addressed some of Mrs. Sheehan’s demands.
“Well, we’re going to do the one thing that’s been missing [. . . ] and that’s oversight,” Mr. Emanuel said. “We have had a policy where the Congress — from resources to strategy — has abdicated its re- sponsibility of overseeing an administration’s foreign policy in that area. And the American people, both in blood, treasure, and prestige, is now paying the price for a Congress that abdicated its responsibility.”
Mr. Emanuel promised hearings on the war that would answer the types of questions Mrs. Sheehan and the voters are asking.
“That is the most important thing to do, because when you have questions asked, you do not get a Congress that just rubber-stamps the policy,” he said. “Now you see the consequence of a rubberstamp policy, which is what we have in Iraq.”
After the press conference, Mrs. Sheehan told reporters that Democrats had abandoned the party’s grass-roots anti-war supporters as soon as the election was over.
“I’m disappointed to see that they are talking about giving the president more money for the war,” she said. “I’m disappointed to hear that impeachment is off the table. We are here to let them know that we are setting the table now.”
Most analysts credited the Iraq war issue with fueling anti-Republican sentiment that propelled Democrats to a congressional majority for the first time in 12 years.