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Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

New Afghan War Plans Could Cost US Taxpayers an Extra $125 Billion

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment

by: Ben Arnoldy   |  The Christian Science Monitor | Report

New Delhi – As leaders at the NATO summit in Lisbon meet this weekend to discuss strategy in Afghanistan, US war planners have been signaling that troop withdrawals set to begin in 2011 will be mostly symbolic and that the handover to Afghan forces in 2014 is “aspirational.”

Such could cost American taxpayers handsomely at a time when deficit cutting has gripped Washington. According to one estimate, softening those deadlines could add at least $125 billion in war spending – not including long-term costs like debt servicing and health care for veterans.

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“I don’t think anyone is seriously talking about cutting war funding as a way of handling the deficit,” says Todd Harrison, a defense funding expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. But higher war costs “could hurt the base defense budget [and] the rest of the discretionary budget.”

A Shift in US Deadlines

Currently there are some 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan, which includes the 30,000 troop surge announced by President Obama in December 2009. At that time, the president also said the US would “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.”

Such was interpreted by many Americans and Afghans to be a significant withdrawal in 2011. In recent months, with the situation in Afghanistan showing few signs of stabilizing, US officials have focused more on 2014 as the date for withdrawal.

Speaking at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Mr. Obama described the timeline as “a transition to Afghan responsibility beginning in 2011 with Afghan forces taking the lead for security across Afghanistan by 2014.”

But the Pentagon on Thursday said the goal of handing over security duties to the Afghans in 2014 was “aspirational.”

“Although the hope is, the goal is, to have Afghan security forces in the lead over the preponderance of the country by then, it does not necessarily mean that … everywhere in the country they will necessarily be in the lead,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

Crunching the Numbers

So how much extra would it cost if the bulk of the withdrawal starts rather than finishes around 2014? About $125 billion, says Mr. Harrison at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, at that’s just through 2014. He uses two different troop level scenarios – one high, and one low. He calculates costs based $1.1 million per soldier per year, which reflects the five-year average in Afghanistan.

The lower cost – $288 billion – assumes that the troops involved in Obama’s surge would be withdrawn by 2012, and that by the end of 2014 only 30,000 US troops would remain. The higher cost – $413 billion – assumes no drawdown will happen until 2013, and 70,000 US troops would remain by the end of 2014. The difference: $125 billion.

Another defense analyst, Anthony Cordesman with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has a slightly higher estimate at $441 billion. That jumps to $476.5 billion by including State Department expenses and immediate medical costs for veterans.

But he says nothing can be read into the talk about 2014.

“The nice thing about 2014 politically is that by then you’ve either won, in which case the deadline doesn’t really matter anymore … or if you haven’t succeeded you are out any way,” Dr. Cordesman says.

Both Harrison and Cordesman caution that future cost estimates are difficult to make.

“There’s no good way of doing it,” says Harrison. “It depends on intensity of operations, the number of troops we have deployed, and it also depends on the mission that we give them.”

Some missions are more costly. For instance, the Pentagon has reportedly decided to dispatch tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the war. That will add to the price tag given the fuel and transport costs.

“The enemy [also] gets a voice how much this is going to cost us,” says Harrison.

War Spending in Cost-Conscious Washington

For its part, the Defense Department has not tipped its hand to the bean counters. Pentagon estimates for supplemental budget requests for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) – Afghanistan and Iraq – contain low placeholders of $50 billion annually starting in 2012. The request for 2011 is $159 billion.

The guessing game over the OCO does not factor in all the total costs of a war. One of the biggest unknowns is the cost of medical care for veterans decades down the line. Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have argued that health care for Iraq war veterans will top $600 billion. Other costs beyond operations, like debt servicing and macroeconomic factors, could drive that war’s total cost over $3 trillion.

In Afghanistan, the US will also be paying for many years to support the Afghan security forces that it trains because their cost exceeds Kabul’s revenues.

But focusing solely on the OCO costs, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost a combined $1.1 trillion to date. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than any US conflict except World War II.

Cordesman points out that as a percentage of GDP, current defense spending and war costs are historically low. Iraq and Afghanistan together consume about 1.2 percent of America’s GDP. By contrast, in their peak years of conflict, World War II consumed 35.8 percent of American GDP and the Vietnam War consumed 2.3 percent of GDP.

Harrison, too, says the $125 billion over four years is nowhere near the scale of the US’s annual trillion-plus deficit.

But others say war spending will heat up as a topic in deficit-conscious Washington – particularly when the Pentagon has to put forth real numbers early next year rather than placeholders for 2012 war spending.

“When that happens in a Congress where they are counting every penny – or I guess every billion – to suddenly show up and say we kind of misestimated this, it’s going to be triple what we said, that’s going to be embarrassing to say,” says Charles Knight, co-director Project on Defense Alternatives.

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Is America on the path to ‘permanent war’?

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were the Cana...

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were the Canadian newsmakers for 2006.

By John Blake, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some scholars say U.S. is on an unsustainable path to “permanent war”
  • Author: “Fixing Detroit should take precedent over fixing Afghanistan”
  • America’s “global occupation force” betrays Founding Father’s vision, book says
  • Afghan war supporters says nation’s enemies have declared permanent war on us

CNN — When the president decided to send more troops to a distant country during an unpopular war, one powerful senator had enough.

He warned that the U.S. military could not create stability in a country “where there is chaos … democracy where there is no tradition of it, and honest government where corruption is almost a way of life.”

“It’s unnatural and unhealthy for a nation to be engaged in global crusades for some principle or idea while neglecting the needs of its own people,” said Sen. J. William Fulbright, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in 1966 as the Vietnam War escalated.

Fulbright’s warning is being applied by some to Afghanistan today. The U.S. is still fighting dubious wars abroad while ignoring needs at home, says Andrew J. Bacevich, who tells Fulbright’s story in his new book, “Washington Rules: America’s Path To Permanent War.”

As the Afghanistan war enters its ninth year, Bacevich and other commentators are asking: When does it end? They say the nation’s national security leaders have put the U.S. on an unsustainable path to perpetual war and that President Obama is doing little to stop them.

Bacevich has become a leading voice among anti-war critics. He is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, a former West Point instructor and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

He’s also a Boston University international relations professor who offers a historical perspective with his criticism. He says Obama has been ensnared by the “Washington Rules,” a set of assumptions that have guided presidents since Harry Truman.

The rules say that the U.S. should act as a global policeman. “Fixing Iraq or Afghanistan ends up taking precedence over fixing Cleveland or Detroit,” Bacevich writes.

His solution: The U.S. should stop deploying a “global occupation force” and focus on nation-building at home.

“The job is too big,” he says of the U.S. global military presence. “We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough troops. There’s a growing recognition that the amount of red ink we’re spilling is unsustainable.”

Thomas Cushman, author of “A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Argument for War in Iraq,” says Bacevich is mimicking isolationists who argued before World War II that the U.S. couldn’t afford to get involved in other country’s affairs.

“No one wants a permanent war, and nobody would argue that our resources could be better spent at home,” Cushman says. “But the people we’re fighting against have already declared permanent war against us.”

Does Obama buy into the “Washington Rules”?

The questions about the Afghanistan War come at a pivotal moment. The Obama administration plans to review its Afghanistan strategy next month.

The president had pledged to start withdrawing some U.S. troops next July. Obama and NATO allies in Afghanistan recently announced that combat operations will now last until 2014.

Those dates matter little to Bacevich.

“Obama will not make a dent in the American penchant for permanent war,” he says. “After he made the 2009 decision to escalate and prolong the war, it indicated quite clearly that he was either unwilling or unable to attempt a large-scale change.”

Bacevich says the notion that the U.S. military has to stay in Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda a sanctuary doesn’t “pass the laugh test.”

“If you could assure me that staying in Afghanistan as long as it takes will deny al Qaeda a sanctuary anywhere in the world, then it might be worth our interests,” he says. “Pakistan can provide a sanctuary. Yemen can provide a sanctuary. Hamburg [Germany] can provide a sanctuary. ”

John Cioffi, a political science professor at University of California, Riverside, says the nation’s “increasingly unhinged ideological politics” makes it difficult for the country to extract itself from battles in Afghanistan, Iraq and Central Asia.

“The U.S. is not on the path to permanent war; it is in the midst of a permanent war,” Cioffi says.

Permanent war is made possible by massive defense spending that has been viewed as untouchable. But that may change with the recent financial crisis and the decline of the nation’s industry, Cioffi says.

More ordinary Americans might conclude that they can’t have a vibrant domestic economy and unquestioned military spending, Cioffi says.

“All this points to a time in the future when the government will no longer have the resources or popular support to maintain what amounts to an imperial military presence around the world,” he says.

Yet leaders in the nation’s largest political parties may still ignore popular will, says Michael Boyle, a political science professor at La Salle University in Pennsylvania.

“While the public tends to be much more concerned with domestic issues, both the Democratic and Republican foreign policy establishments tend to be more internationalist and outward-looking,” Boyle says. “This makes them far more willing to conclude that nation-building missions in Afghanistan are essential to national security.”

Birth of the ‘Washington Rules’

The debate over permanent war may sound academic, but it’s also personal for Bacevich.

His son, a U.S. Army officer, was killed in Iraq, a war he opposes. And Bacevich has written several other books on the limits of American military power, including “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.”

Bacevich says the Washington Rules emerged when America was exceptional — right after World War II when a newly empowered U.S. deployed a global military presence to contain communism and spread democracy.

Communism’s threat has disappeared, but U.S. leaders continue to identify existential threats to justify the nation’s global military empire, Bacevich says.

The cost of that military empire is immense: The U.S. now spends $700 billion annually on its military, as much money as the defense budgets of rest of the world combined, he says.

Bacevich says the Founding Fathers would be aghast. They thought that “self-mastery should take precedence over mastering others.”

“It’s not that the Founding Fathers were isolationists or oblivious to the world beyond our shores,” Bacevich says. “Their reading of history led them to believe that empire was incompatible with republican forms of government and a large standing army posed a threat to liberty.”

What Bacevich’s critics say

William C. Martel, author of “Victory in War,” says the U.S. didn’t build a global military presence after World War II out of hubris but because of necessity. Much of the world had been destroyed in 1945.

“We had no option but to be engaged as a global leader,” he says. “If we did not stand up to totalitarianism, the world would have been a much worse place.”

Martel, an associate professor of international security studies at The Fletcher School at Tufts University in Massachusetts, says the U.S. must have a global military presence to confront radical groups that seek weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. military may fight in Afghanistan “for years.” But it’s also been in Germany and Japan for decades, Martel says.

“We have a $14 trillion a year economy,” Martel says. “We’re spending roughly 4 percent of our GDP on defense. That’s historically where we’ve been for decades. I don’t see that as unaffordable.”

Permanent war can, perversely, boost the nation’s economy, says Jerald Podair, a history professor at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.

After World War II, most observers predicted a return to the Depression, Podair says. But Cold War military spending drove the nation’s economy to its longest period of sustained economic expansion in history.

Transferring military money to domestic needs will not stimulate the American economy the same way war spending will, Podair says.

“It is sad to say that ‘war is the health of the state,’ but during the last 70 years, that has generally proved to be true,” Podair says. “Unfortunately, the United States may have to ‘fight’ its way out of recession, just as it did during World War II and the Cold War.”

Obama, though, might fight his way to a presidential defeat in the 2012 election if he doesn’t find a way to pull the U.S. off the path to permanent war, Bacevich says.

If Obama is still waging war in Afghanistan in 2012, he’ll be in trouble, he says.

“That’s going to pose difficulty for him in running for re-election because many of the people who voted for him in 2008 did so because they were convinced that he was going to bring about change in Washington,” Bacevich says. “But the perpetuation of war wouldn’t amount to change.”

Find this article at:
http://us.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/11/23/war.afghan/index.html?hpt=C2 

 

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The Family Jewels, A Veteran’s Story

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment

by Greg Palast
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In 1930, when my father was an 8-year-old kid in Chicago, he asked his older brother why people were outside in the cold snow in a long line.

His brother Harold said, “It’s a bread line.  They don’t have anything to eat.  They’re hoping for bread.”

My father ran to his mother’s bedroom and grabbed her diamond brooch, ran downstairs, and gave it to a man in the line.

Later in the Depression my grandfather lost all his money.

The important thing is, that after my father gave away the jewels, no one in his family chastised him.

Here’s what you need to know about my father and maybe about me:  My father worked in a furniture store in the barrio in Los Angeles, where he sold pure crap on lay-away to Mexicans.  Then, later on, he sold fancier crap to fancier people in Beverly Hills and he hated furniture, and he hated the undeserving pricks and their trophy wives who bought it.

Dad figured it this way:  The bankers, the union-busters, the Bushes — whoever ran the show — were all a pack of vultures and the rest of us were just food.

And when I turned 8 myself, my dad gave me some important jewelry:  His medals from World War II.  He wanted me to lose them, to throw them away, anything.  It was March 8, 1965.  I know the exact date because the US Marines had landed at Da Nang, Vietnam.


Gil Palast (1921-2010)
(click to enlarge)

My father won the medals in the Pacific jungles for freeing the oppressed.  Then, that day in 1965, that degenerate Lyndon Johnson ordered my dad’s Army to return to the jungle to oppress the free.  Johnson and Nixon, and the rest of the gangsters, had turned my dad’s medals into garbage.

But life wasn’t all garbage and Nixon and furniture.  My parents danced. In fact they were champs. Even in their 70s they won a medal in the tango.

Today my mother needs oxygen to breathe and my father, after his stroke, needed a walker frame to move. A little while back they decided to have a nice day out.  My mom dressed up in her goofy red, white and blue patriotic garb, strapped on a canister of oxygen, and my father, limping a few inches at a time, made it to the local grocery store – to join the union picket line.

This past Saturday was my mother’s birthday, her 89th.  My father, in the hospital, told her to have a real blowout of a party.  She did.   It was a hell of a celebration.

The next day, as we had expected, my father died.

He was happy my sister and I had flown in on time.  He was especially happy that we don’t sell furniture.

His last words were to my mother, “Happy birthday.”

***

My mom and dad don’t want anyone to send flowers. My mother asks that if you’d like to honor Gil Palast to please send a donation to our not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund. My father was damn proud of what we do.

I’d be just as happy, if you have a couple bucks, to take your mom and dad out dancing.

***

Greg Palast is an investigative journalist and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His reports can be seen on BBC Newsnight.

Subscribe to Palast’s Newsletter and podcasts.
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www.GregPalast.com

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Attn. All Flag-Wavers. You Want War? Pay For It

November 1, 2010 1 comment

By Eric Margolis

October 31, 2010 “Information Clearing House” — NEW YORK – October 29, 2010 — I don’t ever recall seeing such an ugly, dim-witted, childish American election as this coming week’s mid-term vote.
A national frenzy has seized America. Fierce debate and name-calling has raged about job losses, the nation’s growing $12 trillion debt, mandatory health care, socialism – and even witchcraft. Sarah Palin, the patron saint of low IQ Americans, has hovered over this sordid contest like an evil Halloween wraith.

If we believe polls, the Democrats look like toast. President Barack Obama may be ready to join the ranks of the unemployed.

What did Democrats think would happen when they eagerly took over the monumental financial and military mess created by George W. Bush and the Republicans? No wonder Republicans are gleefully rubbing their hands. But now they may be next to get stuck with Bush’s Tar Baby.

Amidst all the low-brow invective, Tom Brokaw, the respected former national news host for NBC News, recently wrote a fine opinion column, “The Wars That America Forgot About.”

He quite rightly asked why the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been ignored during the election race. After nine years of combat, 5,000 US dead and 35,000 seriously wounded soldiers, and expenditure of over $1 trillion – silence.

These longest and second most expensive wars in US history have dropped off the radar. Not even the latest WikiLeaks shocker, which revealed the US condoning death squads, torture and mass human rights violations in Iraq, became a campaign issue.

No one raised the scandalous fact that US-run Afghanistan and Washington’s political satraps there produce and export 94% of the world’s heroin. Russian drug authorities just claimed that Afghan heroin kills 10,000 Russians annually.

The Iraq and Afghan wars are ignored, Brokaw rightly says, because Americans are totally focused on high unemployment and economic insecurity. America’s wars have become irrelevant.

The US professional military represents less than 1% of the population, mostly working-class people from small towns in America’s rural, poorly-educated heartland.

It’s not like Vietnam War days, when millions of Americans were drafted to serve in the war, creating huge public protests that eventually ended the war.

The US has adopted Imperial Britain’s model of small, all-volunteer armies fighting in remote colonial wars to supposedly bring the light of Christianity and justice to benighted natives.

However, it now costs $1 million per annum to keep each of the 120,000 US troops in Afghanistan. The US has also deployed over 40,000 armed mercenaries in that nation.

Americans have become psychologically detached from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, even as the specter of stalemate or even defeat in both conflicts looms.

Brokaw calls on Americans to re-engage and give their wars the public and politicians the attention they urgently need.

Waging stealth wars it undemocratic and unwise.

During World War II, America’s “Home Front” was engaged in the conflict by war taxes, rationing, buying war bonds, collecting clothing and metal, and accepting shortages of consumer products.

By contrast, President George W. Bush actually cut income taxes in wartime, the only time in US history this has happened.

In an act of profound financial deception, instead of funding the Afghan and Iraq Wars through higher taxes, the Bush White House and subservient Congress financed the wars by “Emergency Supplement Requests,” which were supposed to be only used short-term for natural disasters and the like.

Bush’s view appears to have been, “après moi, le deluge.” He raised the national debt to vertiginous levels, vastly expanded the size of government, increased military spending by 50%, on top of cutting taxes.

The first wave of the deluge came in 2007-2008, as a financial cataclysm hit America. More is on the way as the US stumbles from one financial crisis to another – the latest being bankrupt states and pension funds.

The real $1 trillion plus costs of the wars were quietly added to the $12 trillion national debt, America’s credit card. Funds to finance these huge war loans was borrowed from China and Japan, putting America ever deeper in thrall to the Asian powers, and undermining its finances.

The Obama administration and Democratic-controlled Congress continued Bush’s dishonest method of war finance, hiding costs from the public.

America’s wars should be fully funded through direct taxes. History shows great powers cannot long go on waging imperial wars on credit. Look at Spain, Holland, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union. Which empire do we think will be next?

A special war tax ought to be levied on all Americans to fully cover the mounting costs of Afghanistan and Iraq. We must pay for our wars and world hegemony.

It will be interesting to see how all the flag-waving Republican “patriots” will react when asked to pay for the wars they so passionately support from the safety of their sofas, and at no apparent cost.

Make Americans actually pay for Afghanistan and Iraq and these wars would be ended in short order.

But if Republicans likely retake Congress, it is most unlikely a war tax – or any major new taxes –will be implemented. Republicans have gone from being the party of balanced budgets and pay as you go to a northern version of Argentina’s wild spending Peronista Party.

Right-wing Republicans will press for more war, in more places – financed, of course, by the magic of credit. Few stop to think that this manic borrowing it wrecking America.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 29 October 2010 – http://www.ericmargolis.com

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U.S. Superbase on Guam

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

German Heinkel He 111s which went into service...

Image via Wikipedia

Source: Cryptogon

Via: Telegraph:

The US is building an £8 billion super military base on the Pacific island of Guam in an attempt to contain China’s military build-up.

The expansion will include a dock for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, a missile defence system, live-fire training sites and the expansion of the island’s airbase. It will be the largest investment in a military base in the western Pacific since the Second World War, and the biggest spend on naval infrastructure in decades.

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Atrocity Now: Wikileaks Release Puts Spotlight Back on Continuing War Crime in Iraq

October 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Official photograph of General David H. Petrae...

Official photograph of General David H. Petraeus, commander, U. S. Central Command

Article Source


October 25, 2010

By Chris Floyd

Many, many years ago, I noted in the Moscow Times that shortly after the 2003 invasion, the United States had begun hiring some of Saddam‘s old torturers as the invaders sought to quell the then-nascent “insurgency” — i.e., the opposition to foreign occupation that when carried out by white men, such as the French during World War II, goes by the more ringing name of “resistance.” Here’s part of that report, from August 29, 2003:

Here’s a headline you don’t see every day: “War Criminals Hire War Criminals to Hunt Down War Criminals.”

Perhaps that’s not the precise wording used by the Washington Post this week, but it is the absolute essence of its story about the Bush Regime’s new campaign to put Saddam’s murderous security forces on America’s payroll.

Yes, the sahibs in Bush’s Iraqi Raj are now doling out American tax dollars to hire the murderers of the infamous Mukhabarat and other agents of the Baathist Gestapo perhaps hundreds of them. The logic, if that’s the word, seems to be that these bloodstained “insiders” will lead their new imperial masters to other bloodstained “insiders” responsible for bombing the UN headquarters in Baghdad and killing another dozen American soldiers while Little George was playing with his putts during his month-long Texas siesta.

Naturally, the Iraqi people even the Bush-appointed leaders of the Potemkin “Governing Council” aren’t exactly overjoyed at seeing Saddam’s goons return, flush with American money and firepower. And they’re certainly not reassured by the fact that the Bushists have also re-opened Saddam’s most notorious prison, the dread Abu Ghraib, and are now, Mukhabarat-like, filling it with Iraqis men, women and children as young as 11 seized from their homes or plucked off the street to be held incommunicado, indefinitely, without due process, just like the old days. As The Times reports, weeping relatives who dare approach the gleaming American razor-wire in search of their “disappeared” loved ones are referred to a crude, hand-written sign pinned to a spike: “No visits are allowed, no information will be given and you must leave.” Perhaps an Iraqi Akhmatova will do justice to these scenes one day.

One of the first stories out of the gate from the gigantic new release of classified documents on the Iraq War by Wikileaks details the willing connivance and cooperation between the American invaders and their Iraqi collaborators in perpetrating heinous tortures against Iraqis. As we know, the Americans themselves were not exactly averse to atrocious maltreatment of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis they have rounded up, overwhelmingly without charges or evidence, over the long, long years of this godforsaken enterprise. (As we’ve often noted here before, at one point early in the Iraq War, the Red Cross estimated that 70-90 percent of the more than 20,000 Iraqis then being held by the Americans as “suspected terrorists” were not guilty of any crime whatsoever. And of course many thousands more have been “churned” through the system since then. Which is doubtless one of the main reasons why there is still an active “insurgency” in Iraq after so many years of continuous “counter-insurgency.” And yes, even after the “victorious” surge led by St. David Petraeus, and after the bogus “end of combat operations” declared by the Peace Laureate himself.)

But the Guardian story focuses on another key feature of the entire American Terror War — indeed, of American foreign policy for a great many bipartisan decades: using proxies to do your dirty work. The Wikileaks documents spell out case after case of torture by the American-installed Iraqi lackeys — often under the watchful eyes of American forces … and countenanced, officially and formally, by the invaders. The Guardian reports:

This is the impact of Frago 242. A frago is a “fragmentary order” which summarises a complex requirement. This one, issued in June 2004, about a year after the invasion of Iraq, orders coalition troops not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict, such as the abuse of detainees, unless it directly involves members of the coalition. Where the alleged abuse is committed by Iraqi on Iraqi, “only an initial report will be made ” No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ”.

…Hundreds of the leaked war logs reflect the fertile imagination of the torturer faced with the entirely helpless victim bound, gagged, blindfolded and isolated who is whipped by men in uniforms using wire cables, metal rods, rubber hoses, wooden stakes, TV antennae, plastic water pipes, engine fan belts or chains. At the torturer’s whim, the logs reveal, the victim can be hung by his wrists or by his ankles; knotted up in stress positions; sexually molested or raped; tormented with hot peppers, cigarettes, acid, pliers or boiling water and always with little fear of retribution since, far more often than not, if the Iraqi official is assaulting an Iraqi civilian, no further investigation will be required.

Most of the victims are young men, but there are also logs which record serious and sexual assaults on women; on young people, including a boy of 16 who was hung from the ceiling and beaten; the old and vulnerable, including a disabled man whose damaged leg was deliberately attacked. The logs identify perpetrators from every corner of the Iraqi security apparatus soldiers, police officers, prison guards, border enforcement patrols.

As the Guardian notes, the Americans were fully aware of what their charges were doing:

….There is no question of the coalition forces not knowing that their Iraqi comrades are doing this: the leaked war logs are the internal records of those forces. There is no question of the allegations all being false. Some clearly are, but most are supported by medical evidence and some involve incidents that were witnessed directly by coalition forces.

It should also be noted that many of the Iraqi “interrogation techniques” noted above have also featured systematically in the American gulag during the Bush-Obama years. In fact, we know that there is a trove of photographic evidence of rapes and tortures that have been seen by top American elected officials, including members of Congress, who talked openly of how sickening these documented atrocities were. Yet this evidence is still being withheld from the American people — at the express order of Barack Obama, and the connivance of his fellow militarists in Congress.

Speaking of the Peace Laureate, the Wikileaks document show that these countenanced and/or winked-at atrocities by the American-installed structure in Iraq are still going on today. They are not just relics of the bad old Bush years:

And it does continue. With no effective constraint, the logs show, the use of violence has remained embedded in the everyday practice of Iraqi security, with recurrent incidents up to last December. Most often, the abuse is a standard operating procedure in search of a confession, whether true or false. One of the leaked logs has a detainee being beaten with chains, cables and fists and then confessing to involvement in killing six people because “the torture was too much for him to handle.”

These are the direct fruits of the staggering act of evil that was — and is — the illegal, immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq. No, let’s go further than that. These acts are just the latest fruits in an astonishingly brutal and coldly deliberate 20-year effort to destroy the Iraqi people: an effort carried out through four presidential administrations — two Republicans, two Democrats — with the complicity of successive British governments. It is a crusade that has involved two massively destructive major military campaigns and more than a decade of draconian sanctions, all of which have led to the needless deaths of more than one and a half million innocent people.

The Bush-Clinton sanction regime — which also included a continual military component of bombing attacks — is part and parcel of what has happened in Iraq during the past hellish decade … and what is still happening there. As Joy Gordon notes in her landmark study of this cold-blooded berserkery, Invisible War, the sanctions regime:

caused hundreds of thousands of deaths; decimated the health of several million children; destroyed a whole economy; reduced a sophisticated country, in which much of the population lived as the middle class in a First World country, to the status of Fourth World countries — the poorest of the poor, such as Rwanda, Somalia, Haiti; and in a society notable for its scientists, engineers and doctors, established an economy dominated by beggars, criminals and black marketeers.

Gordon’s detailed, richly sourced and morally horrifying account of the sanctions era must be read to be believed. However bad you thought it was, the reality was much worse. I hope to be writing much more on this seminal work in the weeks to come. I strongly urge you to read it. But suffice to say for now that the manner in which Bush and Clinton officials used that dead hand of bureaucracy and cool, convoluted legalistic jargon to hide a crazed policy of murderous intent reminded me of nothing so much as the dealings of Nazi officials with the Jewish ghettos of Warsaw and Lodz before their final destruction.

We”ll have much more here on the Wikileaks release as people begin combing through the 400,000 documents. Wikileaks has done us all a great service by putting this vast war atrocity — which is still going on — back on the front pages, forcing the murderers and their accomplices and “continuers” in the halls of power to scurry around like rats caught in the light, twisting and squealing, trying to find some way to obscure the gobs of blood dripping from their hands and lips.

Author’s Bio: Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many others. He is the author of Empire Burlesque: High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium, and is co-founder and editor of the “Empire Burlesque” political blog.


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British government announces unprecedented social cuts

October 22, 2010 Leave a comment

recent Logo of Labour Party

Recent Logo of Labour Party

 

By Ann Talbot
21 October 2010

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government’s autumn spending review has introduced the most savage package of public spending cuts ever seen in Britain. Half a million public-sector jobs will be lost as £83 billion, or $128 billion, is cut from the budget. Another half million private-sector jobs will go as a result.

Spending for welfare benefits will be slashed by a total of £18 billion between the cuts contained in the spending review and those already made in the emergency budget earlier this year.

The military faces an 8 percent average cut in spending, as major programmes are slashed or postponed under the Strategic Defence Review.

These cuts come on top of the plans inherited from the previous Labour government. Even before the election, the National Health Service was planning to cut £20 billion under Labour spending plans.

The coalition government aims to sharply reduce Britain’s £109 billion deficit ($172 billion) within the next four years. At 11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), this is one of the highest deficits among OECD countries and the second highest in Europe, after Ireland. Britain’s total net debt reached 64.6 percent of GDP, or £952 billion in September. The government borrowed more than £16 billion last month alone. This is the highest September figure on record.

These record levels of debt have put the government under pressure from what the Financial Times dubs “bond vigilantes”—major investors who sell treasury bonds to force governments to slash public spending. Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain have all come under this type of market pressure and have responded with harsh austerity programmes. Britain’s austerity package is proportionately tougher than any of these, but the bond markets and sterling only held stable after Wednesday’s announcement.

So much of the plan had been leaked in advance that the markets were not surprised by the measures and had already factored in this level of spending cuts. Traders are now concerned that the speed of the cuts that Chancellor George Osborne has announced may precipitate another recession in Britain.

The average level of cuts is 19 percent across all government departments. But some departments will face much deeper reductions.

The Home Office is to reduce its spending by 23 percent and the Foreign Office by 24 percent. Local authorities will experience a 28 percent cut in the funding they receive from the central government. Universities face a 40 percent cut. The government will reduce the amount it pays per student by £9,000. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will implement a 41 percent cut. The budget for social housing will be cut by 60 percent.

Housing is one of the worst hit sectors. New social housing tenants will have to pay much higher rents, which will rise to 80 percent of market levels. They will have only short-term tenancies rather than the security of tenure that current residents enjoy. Vulnerable low income people in need of housing will be forced into the private rented sector or face homelessness. Cuts in housing benefit, which allows those with low incomes to rent accommodation, will threaten many tenants with eviction.

The disabled face savage cuts. The Employment and Support Allowance, which assists those who are unable to work because of physical or mental disability, will now be limited to one year. After that, the disabled will be forced to accept work under the same terms as the able-bodied unemployed. Disabled people who currently receive help with mobility costs will lose this allowance if they are in residential care. Many will find themselves effectively imprisoned in their homes.

Senior citizens will be hit by changes in disability benefits and the increase in the pensionable age from 65 to 66 by 2020. Cuts in local authority spending will hit all disabled and elderly people who depend on council-run services such as transport, day centres, home-based and residential care.

The government claimed that its cuts package would be “fair” and that the burden would be shared by all sections of society. In fact, early calculations based on Treasury figures indicate that the poorest 10 percent of society will be hit hardest by the spending review. The bulk of the cuts will fall on low- and middle-income people. The Institute for Fiscal Studies branded the spending review as “regressive” because the poorest half of society would bear most of the burden.

Schools have been promised a 0.1 percent increase in funding. But the increase will go only to some schools and will have to cover the cost of rising pupil numbers. Most of the so-called extra money will come from savings made elsewhere in the education budget.

An estimated 40,000 teachers are expected to lose their jobs, according to official figures. Funding for 16 to 19-year-olds will be cut. They will lose the Education Maintenance Allowance, which was designed to encourage them to stay in school or vocational training. Both young people and children will suffer from cuts in local authority-funded youth clubs, play schemes, and psychological and social support.

Journalists have likened the government’s policies to those of the 1920s and others to the austerity measures of the post-war Labour government as it struggled to pay off the debts Britain had incurred in World War II. In reality, neither comparison is apt, because the 1945 Labour government created the welfare state at the same time as it imposed fiscal austerity, and in the pre-World War II period the modern welfare state did not yet exist.

Chancellor Osborne’s spending review is an attempt to roll back social gains built up in Britain over the entire period of the Twentieth Century. The measures he announced seek not merely to reduce public spending, but to dismantle the welfare state.

The government has seized the opportunity presented by the financial crisis to engage in a major piece of social engineering that will turn back the clock. The aim of the spending review is to institutionalise and cement in place the gross levels of inequality that have developed over the last three decades. It expresses the economic and social interests of the financial aristocracy that now dominates politics in Britain and globally.

If the scale of the cuts outlined in the spending review is historically unprecedented, the same must be said of the response from the Labour Party and trade unions. Only between 500 and 2,000 people took part in a union-organised demonstration outside Parliament yesterday. A few similar low-key demonstrations are planned up and down the country in the coming weeks.

Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader, did not even take part in the demonstrations, breaking a promise to do so. Labour spokesmen have insisted that that the opposition supports the objective of cutting welfare, with Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson accepting the denial of benefits to disabled people under the Disability Living Allowance scheme and the clawing back of £2.4 billion in child tax credits from poor working families.

Former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling was already committed to making deeper cuts in public spending than those made by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. If Labour had won the election, it would have cut at least 20 percent from every department of government.

While the austerity measures of the 1920s led ultimately to the general strike of 1926 and a crisis of rule in Britain, the trade unions are determined that nothing of the kind should happen in response to the coalition government’s attacks on the jobs and living standards of working people.

Lord Fowler, who under Margaret Thatcher was secretary of state for health and social security, and later employment secretary, has warned of union unrest. “We are in for a turbulent period of demonstrations, protests and industrial action”, he said. But the trade unions have not made any such threats.

The union leaders do not dispute the need to cut a budget deficit that was incurred by bailing out the banks and fighting a decade-long war in Iraq and Afghanistan, fearing only that cuts made too quickly threaten a recession.

Opposition to the spending review cannot come through either the Labour Party or the trade unions. Resistance will only be possible by a rebellion against organisations dedicated to the suppression of the class struggle.

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