Tag: Military

The real cost of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

September 5, 2010 | By | 5 Replies More
The real cost of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

What is the cost of the U.S. invasion of Iraq? The cost, which will continue to mount for decades, is staggering, even insane. It wasn’t $50 B, as W stated; it’s already in the trillions. Here are the numbers from the Washington Post. The reason for the U.S. invasion and occupation? Unknown. The deleterious effect on the soldiers, their families and the U.S. economy? Long term and devastating. For the hawks, it was fun going in with all those fancy weapons blazing, but they are not offering any ideas as far as cleaning up this catastrophic mess. And those hawks have absolutely nothing to offer to the massive number of Iraqi refugees, who have spilled all over the Middle East, placing an enormous burden on Syria and Jordan.

And combat is not “over,” per the recent lies of the Obama Administration. And the corrupt corporate media is, for the most part, not calling out the Obama Administration for this recent fabrication any more than they confronted the U.S. for the fictitious “reasons” for invading in the first place. The media excels at serving as official stenographer for U.S. politicians whenever the topic is war (and see this piece on a documentary by Phil Donahue, and this article regarding Amy Goodman’s views about the additional failures of the media). The corporate media bears thus much of the blame for the bleak economic future of the U.S.

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Definition of an insurgent

April 5, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More
Definition of an insurgent

Apparently, an “insurgent” is anyone the U.S. military deems to be hostile, this definition being illustrated by the military’s explanation for this horrific video taken from a military helicopter. It certainly makes you wonder how many other dead “insurgents” were, in any way, threatening American interests. Consider also, this recent statement by General Stanley McChrystal: “We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”

Then again, a person who is outspokenly interested in joining the Taliban is not an “insurgent” as long as that person is propped up by the U.S. government in order to rule over Afghanistan. See the latest on Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Will someone please tell me what the Afghanistan and Iraq “missions” are? It’s got to be about more than feeding the military industrial complex, right (and see here)?

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How big is the U.S. military budget?

April 1, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More
How big is the U.S. military budget?

This article by the U.K. Guardian puts it in perspective:

[T]he United States spent a staggering $607bn (£402 bn) on defence in 2008. Currently engaged in what will likely be the longest ground war in US history in Afghanistan. Harbourer of thousands of nuclear weapons. 1.5m soldiers. Fleets of aircrafts, bombs and seemingly endless amounts of military technology.

I know that many Americans would read the above paragraph with pride and contentment. I consider it succinct evidence that we are a paranoid war-mongering nation. I consider these enormous military expenditures tragic, considering all of the other things that we could and should be doing with most of that money.

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Payday loan opponents struggle to get a fair hearing

February 22, 2010 | By | 20 Replies More
Payday loan opponents struggle to get a fair hearing

Payday loans are high-interest short-term unsecured small loans that borrowers promise to repay out of their next paycheck, typically two weeks later. Interest rates are typically 300% to 500% per annum, many multiples higher than the exorbitant rates charged by banks on their credit cards. A typical payday borrower takes out payday loans to pay utility bills, to buy a child’s birthday present or to pay for a car repair. Even though payday loans are dangerous financial products, they are nonetheless tempting to people who are financially stressed. The growth of payday lenders in the last decade has been mind-boggling. In many states there are more payday lenders than there are McDonald’s restaurants. In Missouri Payday lenders are even allowed to set up shops in nursing homes.

Missouri’s payday lenders are ferociously fighting a proposed new law that would put some sanity into a system that is often financially ruinous for the poor and working poor. Payday lenders claim that the caps of the proposed new law would put them out of business. Their argument is laughable and their legislative strategy is reprehensible.

Exhibit A is the strategy I witnessed Thursday night, February 18, 2010. On that night, Missouri State Senator Joe Keaveny and State Representative Mary Still jointly held a public hearing at the Carpenter Branch Library in the City of St. Louis City to discuss two identical bills (SB 811 and HB 1508) that would temper the excesses of the payday loan industry in Missouri. Instead of respecting free and open debate and discussion regarding these bills, payday lenders worked hard to shut down meaningful debate by intentionally packing the legislative hearing room with their employees, thereby guaranteeing that A) the presenters and media saw an audience that seemed to favor payday lenders and B) many concerned citizens were excluded from the meeting. As discussed further down in this post, payday lenders are also responsible for flooding the State Capitol with lobbyists and corrupting amounts of money.carpenter-branch-library

When I arrived at 7:00 pm, the scheduled starting time, I was refused entry to the meeting room. Instead, I was directed to join about 15 other concerned citizens who had been barred from the meeting room. There simply wasn’t room for us. But then who were those 100 people who had been allowed to attend the meeting? I eventually learned that almost all of them were employees of payday lenders; their employers had arranged for them to pack the room by arriving en masse at 6 pm.

Many of the people excluded from the meeting were eventually allowed to trickle into the meeting, but only aspayday-employees other people trickled out. I was finally allowed into the meeting at 8 pm, which allowed me to catch the final 30 minutes. In the photo below, almost all of the people plopped into the chairs were payday lender employees (the people standing in the back were concerned citizens). This shameful tactic of filling up the meeting room with biased employees has certainly been used before.

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The dangerous prisoners of Guantanamo

February 14, 2010 | By | Reply More
The dangerous prisoners of Guantanamo

How dangerous are the most dangerous prisoners of Guantanamo? If you listened to the Bush Administration, you’d think that they were all hardened killers. But guess what happens when a real-life judge looks only at the government’s evidence regarding those the government hasn’t released willingly? Glenn Greenwald reviews recent information from the Washington Post:

Federal judges, acting under a landmark 2008 Supreme Court ruling that grants Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to challenge their confinements, have ordered the government to free 32 prisoners and backed the detention of nine others. In their opinions, the judges have gutted allegations and questioned the reliability of statements by the prisoners during interrogations and by the informants. Even when ruling for the government, the judges have not always endorsed the Justice Department’s case. . . .

This, of course, is a national travesty. Considering only the government’s evidence, judges have ordered the release of 32 out of 41 of the detainees. This is not an indication that the judges have been lenient; they are the same career federal judges who run the United States District Courts. Rather, these shocking statistics show that there is no meaningful evidence that most of the longest imprisoned detainees are guilty of anything at all. Consider also that the U.S. released most of the detainees a long time ago because even the U.S. admitted that it had no evidence of wrongdoing in most of these cases:

Since October 7, 2001, when the current war in Afghanistan began, 775 detainees have been brought to Guantánamo. Of these, approximately 420 have been released without charge. In January 2009, approximately 245 detainees remained. . . Of those still incarcerated, U.S. officials said they intend to eventually put 60 to 80 on trial and free the rest.

It’s a beautiful system, isn’t it? Imprison and vilify hundreds of innocent people, distributing their images to garner public support for a needless series of military occupations. More and more, I think of the U.S. as primarily a warmonger society. The evidence just keeps pouring in from every direction.

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The Onion: Bald Eagle frustrated at sterotyping

February 4, 2010 | By | Reply More
The Onion:  Bald Eagle frustrated at sterotyping

According to The Onion, an American bald eagle has spoken out, frustrated that so many people assume that he is pro-war.

Frustrated by the widely held assumption that he unequivocally endorses the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a bald eagle said Monday that his thoughts on the conflicts were far more nuanced than many Americans might expect. Speaking to reporters from his nest in the upper branches of a 175-foot ponderosa pine tree, the eagle explained that each member of his species was different and none should be taken for granted as a lockstep supporter of American military policy.

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The Politics of War Crimes

January 28, 2010 | By | 4 Replies More
The Politics of War Crimes

I sometimes can’t shake the feeling that everything is wrong. Down is up, wrong is right, war is peace, and lies are truth.

Take, for example, the issue of torture. We as a society have regressed to the point where we find it acceptable to use torture. We use it explicitly, openly, without any concern for the consequences. Of course, some of the consequences (like increasing terrorism) are inevitable, whether we choose to be concerned with them or not. But that’s really beside the point– the simple point that I am amazed by right now is that we torture people. That, and the fact that it’s not a major controversy. The Land of the Free, the Home of the Brave, with tyranny and torture for all.

Since the usual arguments against our torture policy have proven ineffective, I want to elaborate a bit. The usual arguments involve questions of efficacy– that is, whether torture is effective or not. (It’s not). In fact, the CIA officer who argued that waterboarding was so effective that it cracked hardcore terrorists the first time (and within 30 seconds!) has now recanted his story. When he came out with the story of how waterboarding worked so well, he was called the “Man of the Hour”, but now hardly anyone is mentioning that it was all lies. Go figure that a CIA guy would lie to his own countrymen, right? In any case, the issue of waterboarding, or any of the various “enhanced interrogation techniques“, is a red herring. The truth is that we are engaged in far worse abuses.

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Afghanistan jackpot

January 13, 2010 | By | 9 Replies More
Afghanistan jackpot

I’ve often written about my frustration with the U.S. occupation in Afghanistan. I don’t see any real progress. What business would be willing to keep spending huge amounts of money without seeing any progress? Yet our government continues to do this. And I have yet to see any meaningful government benchmarks regarding Afghanistan, probably because there aren’t actually any benchmarks. We have also kept our troops in Afghanistan because of the sunk costs fallacy; we are there shedding blood and inconceivable numbers of tax dollars because we’ve been there. It is circular and insane.

I can think of yet another reason that we are still there. All you need to do is follow the money. An acquaintance of mine recently informed me that a close relative of hers, formerly a career military man, quit the military but stayed in Afghanistan. For the past few years he’s been making $250,000 per year in Afghanistan doing essentially the same job that he had been doing with the military. She told me that there are large numbers of these private soldiers in Afghanistan making similar obscene amounts of money. If our mission in Afghanistan were really vital to national security, then we should be allowing our government military handle the situation. You know, the same guys who prevailed in Iwo Jima.

But no. The private contractors are swarming all over Afghanistan:

According to a report last week from the Congressional Research Service, there were about 64,000 uniformed U.S. troops in Afghanistan in September and 104,101 military contractors . . . The Obama administration’s planned deployment of 30,000 more troops in the coming months could require as many as 56,000 more contractors, the report estimated. Xe, the Moyock, N.C.-based private military company, is already on the ground in Afghanistan despite its controversial history in Iraq, and is in the running for additional contracts.

It’s also becoming clear that economically powerful companies are convincing our politicians that we need to be there, whether or not there is actually a well-defined mission. Even Blackwater (now renamed “Xe”) is in the thick of it. Charles Lewis reports:

Fascinated and alarmed by the Tammany Hall feeling of political favoritism or cronyism I was getting, we launched into another epic investigation and published “Outsourcing the Pentagon: Who’s Winning the Big Contracts” in the fall of 2004. We examined 2.2 million contract actions over six fiscal years, totaling $900 billion in authorized expenditures, and discovered that no-bid contracts had accounted for more than 40 percent of Pentagon contracting, $362 billion in taxpayer money to companies without competitive bidding. In other words, the multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts Halliburton had received actually weren’t such an aberration, unfortunately. Indeed, we found contractors had written the Department of Defense budget, were guarding our soldiers in the Green Zone in Iraq, had participated in the Abu Ghraib interrogations and when the Secretary of Army wanted to find out just how many contractors were being employed, he naturally hired a company to find it out.

That was back in 2004. It’s much worse now, which you can see by examining these links at Citizens for Legitimate Government. Check out this chart demonstrating that the high-priced private contractors far outnumber U.S. soldiers. Oh, and read the advertisements to see what kind of people are signing up to “fighting for our freedom” overseas:

Thousands of men and women have said goodbye to the 9-5 dead-end hometown job lock-down and are happily hopping from one country to the next. With nothing to worry about but where to spend their 3 months vacation or what to do with all the money they have made 99.9% of the population doesn’t have this luxury – because they don’t know about it. They have never even heard of High Paying International Civilian Contractor Jobs. Your career doesn’t have to be connected to just one country; you can work wherever you want! If it’s the Big Bucks that you’re looking for, then places like Iraq and Afghanistan are paying 6 figs.

What is the historical context of the ratio of contractors to soldiers?

According to a Congressional Research Service report obtained by the Federation of American Scientists blog Secrecy News, the ratio of contractors to troops is higher “than in any conflict in the history of the United States.”

The phenomenon Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex is alive and well. There are so very many better ways to spend these tax dollars. Actually, we are spending tax dollars that we don’t actually have in Afghanistan. And we’re spending and fighting regarding “terrorists” who are almost non-existent in Afghanistan.

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.

With 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at an estimated yearly cost of $30 billion, it means that for every one al Qaeda fighter, the U.S. will commit 1,000 troops and $300 million a year.

It’s time to pull the plug on this “war,” in which our main accomplishment seems to be protecting the opium trade.

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Spending priorities of the United States

December 25, 2009 | By | Reply More
Spending priorities of the United States

The Intelligence Daily puts the national defense budget in perspective. It is expected to hit almost $1 Trillion dollars in 2010:

The U.S. spends more for war annually than all state governments combined spend for the health, education, welfare, and safety of 308 million Americans.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz and finance authority Linda Bilmes offered these statistics in their book, The Three Trillion Dollar War:

“The Pentagon’s budget has increased by more than $600 billion, cumulatively, since we invaded Iraq.” With its 1,000 bases in the U.S. and another 800 bases globally, the U.S. truly has become a “Warfare State.” Today, military-related products account for about one-fourth of total U.S. GDP. This includes 10,000 nuclear weapons. Indeed, the U.S. has lavished $5.5 trillion just on nukes over the past 70 years.

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