What’s more interesting? War or Peace?
I ran a query on Google Trends, and you could probably have predicted that war is far more interesting than peace. Here’s the graph that resulted:
War is always more interesting that peace. That’s how we are wired. We find conflict so interesting that the news media creates conflict when there isn’t any naturally occurring. We are have thus become a society addicted to conflict, the more the better, it seems. Thus, with media reinforcing our dark urges to be entertained by violence, we have become a war-mongering society. In this post, I called our addiction “Conflict Pornography.”
Sting has written a Huffpo article declaring the “war on drugs” to be a failure:
Everyone knows the War on Drugs has failed. It’s time to step out of our comfort zones, acknowledge the truth — and challenge our leaders … and ourselves … to change.
Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.
Truthout has published a recap of what the invasion of Iraq has brought to the United States:
We are still shocked. We were never awed. We have not adjusted. The senseless waste of our blood and treasure, our honor and our reputation continue. Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom – the latter unleashed seven years ago today – have morphed into a single Operation Enduring Occupation, set to bankrupt this country financially as well as morally, to destroy our own security as it has that of the over 31 million people who populate Iraq and 32 million people of Afghanistan. . . . Of course, the loss of our troops (over 4,200 dead and 30,000 wounded) and treasure (three trillion dollars according to economics Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz), the perversion of our language, the mangling of our laws, the broken bodies and tortured brains of our veterans really bear no comparison with the suffering we have inflicted on the citizens of Iraq.
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.
Yesterday, I wrote on the massive new $636 billion “defense” spending bill passed by the House of Representatives. An article in today’s Wall Street Journal should make us further question the efficacy of this type of high-technology spending.
A MQ-1 Predator drone costs some $4.5 million dollars each. They have a wingspan of approximately 48 feet, weigh 2,250 lbs. when loaded, have a range of over 2,000 miles, and have a ceiling altitude of 25,000 ft. They can be loaded with two hellfire missiles, making them available for a combination of reconnaissance, combat or support roles. The MQ-9 Reaper drone, the larger and more-heavily armored cousin of the Predator, cost about $10.5 million each.
The Air Force maintains a fleet of 195 Predators (total cost ~$877.5 million) and 28 Reapers (total cost ~ $294 million). The New York Times reported earlier this year that they are flying 34 daily surveillance patrols in Afghanistan and Iraq, up from 12 in 2006. They transmit some 16,000 hours of video each month.
Insurgents can spend $25.95 to purchase Skygrabber, a program available on the internet which allows them to intercept the video transmitted by these drones.
First, some background:
- May 1, 2003 President George W. Bush, while standing in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, declares “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”
- October 27, 2007 Presidential candidate Barack H. Obama, speaking on the Iraq War, declares “I will promise you this: that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home, we will bring an end to this war, you can take that to the bank.”
- November 4, 2008 Candidate Obama is elected to the presidency.
- January 20, 2009 Obama’s inauguration.
- January 21, 2009 First full-day of Obama’s presidency passes with no sign that he intends to bring the troops home.
- February 18, 2009 President Obama orders 17,000 additional soldiers to Afghanistan.
- February 27, 2009 President Obama declares “Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.” Ok, so it’s not the “first thing he will do”, but he will definitely do it. Someday. For sure, all the troops from Iraq will be out by 2011. It’s hard to tell though, the 2012 elections will be right around the corner by that point…
Two new videos from Onion Network News:
And now a video about Ford’s new concept car: