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Your war questions answered

What countries are in the "Coalition of the Willing" and what are they contributing to the war effort?

The "Coalition of the Willing" is the name the Bush administration has given to the group of 40-plus nations that support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The name derives from the fact that, in lieu of tangible support, most countries in the coalition are doing little more than pressing their index fingers to their temples in an attempt to will Saddam away.

Here, from the State Department's most up-to-date list, is the Coalition of the Willing (try to keep from giggling too much): Afghanistan, Angola, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States (hey, I've heard of them) and Uzbekistan.

I'm not sure whom, other than Rush Limbaugh, they think they're fooling, but the Bush team keeps insisting that the Coalition of the Willing is big and therefore meaningful. Belying his reputation as a straight-talker, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld even had the chutzpah to assert that the coalition we have for Gulf War II: The Phantom Menace actually is bigger than the one we had for the first Gulf War because it has more countries. That's kind of like bragging that eight nickels are more valuable than two $10 bills because there are more of them.

In the first Gulf War, 32 countries sent troops to the fight. By themselves, neighboring Arab countries and Turkey coughed up nearly 300,000 troops to fight on our side. This time, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia are the only countries sending soldiers (300,000, 45,000 and 2,000 respectively).

In 1991, the pledges of financial support from other countries exceeded the actual cost of the war. This time, American taxpayers are paying for all of it. The White House just requested $62.6 billion more for the Pentagon, as part of a $74.7 billion war-related package.

A few more such requests are expected before we're out of Iraq. And that amount doesn't include the multi-billion dollars in bribes, uhm, I mean, aid we've offered to get other countries to support us.

So what exactly is each "coalition" member doing to "support" us? For the Afghanistan war, the administration offered detailed lists of who was giving what. For this war, all they'll say is that the coalition consists of 1.23 billion people from nations on every continent (Aha! What they don't want you to know is that "every continent" doesn't include Antarctica -- which is firmly in the Saddam camp).

The lack of information is unfortunate, because by not listing coalition member contributions, the White House is only fueling speculation the coalition is a sham and that only the Brits and Aussies are sticking their necks out for this.

Luckily for you, Don't Panic's embedded reporters have unearthed a classified list of coalition contributions, which proves that each country is making an important contribution. Here are just a few:

Afghanistan -- leftover burkhas, unlimited supply of gravel. Angola -- land mines, provided that we dig them out of Angolan soil ourselves. Bulgaria -- some really tart feta cheese that'll go really well with the salad we're getting from Costa Rica. Costa Rica -- salad (see Bulgaria). Ethiopia -- gift certificates for TCBY and an old lighter. Iceland -- six autographed copies of Björk's Greatest Hits. Italy -- a pair of loafers that are simply to die for. Latvia -- "some stuff we found in the basement that we were just gonna throw away anyway." Micronesia -- cooler filled with Tab. Mongolia -- box of "I Love Mongolia" T-shirts. Netherlands -- will replace boycotted French brie with a nice selection of Goudas. Poland -- will provide as many Poles as is necessary to replace Iraqi light bulbs.

andisheh@creativeloafing.com

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