Military Contractors Steal from Us

According to a NYT op-ed by Peter Navarro, an assistant to the president and the director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, published March 19th, 2019, argues that hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on the American military is justified for two reasons:

  • It assuages adversaries from threatening American interests , and
  • 2) Defense spending helps keep some manufacturing jobs alive.

As to the first point, America spent $610 billion dollars on defense in 2017, the largest amount of any nation. How much did the second-most on the list spend? $228 billion in China. What does that reason? It shows that America has no adversary abroad who could contend with our hegemony. It is beyond any argument that we need to spend this much when we already have a military so advanced. Some have even argued that since America has such an advanced nuclear arsenal it serves enough as a deterrent against others’ aggression, alone. Who needs tanks in a nuclear conflict?

As to point number two, the bloated defense budget is keeping some jobs here in the United States alive. But what we must focus on is the profits being made by companies making military equipment and providing defense services. It is well known that no-bid contracts are awarded more than often to companies by the government by the Dept. of Defense. But also, the heads of these companies are often former government officials who make the decisions about how that $610 billion dollars is spent. For example, V.P. Cheney first worked in the Department of Defense under Pres. Reagan then, once the regime had changed, Cheney went to sit on the board at Halliburton. When Cheney was picked by George W. Bush to be his V.P., and they conducted the invasion of Iraq, Halliburton received many no-bid contracts from the government for various services. Positions of government officials in the defense dept. have a revolving door between their time as so-called “servants of the people” and a private company’s board of directors.

The horrible crime is that even a small amount of $610 billion would be better spent elsewhere. We could rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, solve the housing crisis, fight the opioid epidemic, or even relocate and retrain the former manufacturing employees once their plants closedown. Just a thought…

5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/15/15)

  • John Boehner apparently has no idea what goes on in Congress despite being the Speaker.  Boehner stated it was important to investigate Benghazi again because some questions haven’t been answered, like these:

“Why wasn’t the security for our embassy in Libya given to our ambassador after repeated requests the night of the event,” Boehner continued. “Why didn’t we attempt to rescue the people that were there? Why were the people there told not to get involved?”

All of those questions have already been answered and answered multiple times by the Congress Boehner allegedly leads.  Maybe he didn’t notice the last report since the Republicans strategically released it on a Friday late in the day so the news cycle wouldn’t pick it up.  This was done, of course, since it debunked every argument they’ve made about questions still existing about the attack.  Regardless, the propaganda machine continues…

  • Republicans further show their immoral and disgraceful position on hard-working immigrants.  The GOP is out to stop immigrants with children who have worked jobs and paid taxes to the government for years from getting proper benefits for their contributions.  And it should be noted that many illegals have paid taxes and been a boost to federal tax coffers, particularly since they get little out of federal programs.  Some other commonly believed myths are busted in the article and should always be pointed out when discussing the issue:

Over the past decade, immigrants in the U.S. illegally have paid an estimated $100 billion in Social Security payroll taxes, even though few will ever be able to collect benefits…At least half are paying income and payroll taxes…Even if these immigrants pay taxes, they are ineligible for most federal programs. They cannot legally get food stamps, unemployment benefits, Pell grants or federal student loans. They cannot get Medicaid, except for emergency medical services, and are ineligible for subsidies under Obama’s health law.

  • Shiites are now reacting to ISIS brutality with brutality of their own, which has been going on since “Mission Accomplished”.  If people chose to ignore the fact that Shiite death squads were executing Sunnis in Iraq as soon as Saddam Hussein was out of power, that’s their choice to be ignorant.  But violence begets violence and that situation forced people to turn to more violent groups like ISIS so they could take revenge for the countless murders of their friends and families.  This isn’t to say it was/is right for anyone to join an extremist group or death squad.  But it does show how horrible the U.S. plan for post-invasion Iraq was just an absolute disaster and there is little that can be done by the U.S. to fix this bloody situation now.  And with this vicious reaction by Shiites against Sunnis, this situation is continuing to get worse.
  • The West is still disgracefully and inexplicably supporting the brutal monarchy in Bahrain.  Great piece by one of the activists for change in Bahrain who recently had his citizenship taken away from him after years of punishment, including torture, for expressing his opinion and calling for a better government in his home country.  It is a very reasonable question to ask why the West continues to display such hypocrisy on democracy when it comes to certain areas of the world.  (Spoiler alert: it’s oil.)
  • Egypt purchases military planes from France at the expense of its people.  I mentioned the purchase of the Rafale fighters a few days ago but this article points out two further realities of the purchase.  First, it’s not needed: “One thing is very clear,” says (Jon) Alterman (senior vice president and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies). “On the basis of national priorities there is no military urgency to buy more combat aircraft.”  Second, by spending the money on the military instead of infrastructure or social programs (clearly taking a cue from the U.S., unfortunately), this means the spending won’t go to put Egypt’s unemployed to work, which includes more than half of its citizens under the age of 25.  Stupid priorities now will equal a bad situation in the future.

The History of Maliki and Iraq’s Current Troubles

iraq1403715010Stop whatever your doing, right now. I mean, RIGHT NOW!!!

There is a great, must-read piece in The Post by a former U.S. official who worked in Iraq that relates how the Premiere Nouri al-Maliki came to power, and how his past and current actions, along with many of U.S. officials involved, has led to the dire situation Iraq finds itself in today.

The author is who was the longest continuously serving American official in Iraq, serving from 2003 to 2009, who acted as a special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors and as a senior adviser to three heads of U.S. Central Command. He was also a close associate to Premiere Maliki and explained his relationship with him in the following paragraph:

I have known Maliki, or Abu Isra, as he is known to people close to him, for more than a decade. I have traveled across three continents with him. I know his family and his inner circle. When Maliki was an obscure member of parliament, I was among the very few Americans in Baghdad who took his phone calls. In 2006, I helped introduce him to the U.S. ambassador, recommending him as a promising option for prime minister. In 2008, I organized his medevac when he fell ill, and I accompanied him for treatment in London, spending 18 hours a day with him at Wellington Hospital. In 2009, I lobbied skeptical regional royals to support Maliki’s government.

By 2010, however, I was urging the vice president of the United States and the White House senior staff to withdraw their support for Maliki. I had come to realize that if he remained in office, he would create a divisive, despotic and sectarian government that would rip the country apart and devastate American interests.

 America stuck by Maliki. As a result, we now face strategic defeat in Iraq and perhaps in the broader Middle East.
Hopefully, after reading that excerpt, you are hurriedly clicking on our link to get to this op-ed immediately. It is even more compelling than the excerpt leads on. So go read it! NOW!

 

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Embarrassingly Stupid Attack by Boehner’s Gov Page on Obama’s Foreign Policy

John Boehner’s government page decided to continue the attacks on President Obama’s alleged foreign policy failures by using a curious strategy: showing how much of an idiot Boehner, himself, is on foreign policy.

Let’s address the lunacy included in the post:

When Libya became leaderless, America infamously led from behind – then our posts in Benghazi were attacked.

I’m assuming Boehner wanted an American invasion to sort things out in Libya, which I’m sure would have been wildly popular among the voters (not really).  If only we had invaded to install a leader the U.S. liked and approved, everything would have been peaceful forever, just like in Iraq (not really).  The post also fails to mention the reason Libya became leaderless was because of Obama approving airstrikes that helped oust Gaddafi.  As for Benghazi, I’ll get to that.BO

The reset button with Russia was an embarrassing failure, underscored when a hot mic caught President Obama’s assurances to Vladimir Putin that he’d have “more flexibility” after the 2012 election. In Syria, the president didn’t bother to enforce the red line he established, and then turned to Russia for a political lifeline. Emboldened, Putin muscled his way into Ukraine.

First off, concerning Russia, the “flexibility” statement was technically made to Medvedev, not Putin.  Splitting hairs a bit but factually inaccurate.

Secondly, the Cold War ended a couple decades ago, a fact that the warfare queens on the right still ignore much of the time.  The statement was regarding missile defense and taking steps away from that whole “mutually assured destruction” thing, something we should all crave from our leaders.

Thirdly, Boehner chooses to completely ignore something else that probably emboldened the Russians even more: the feeble reaction of the U.S. government to Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  Why would he not include that?  Maybe because it happened three months before Obama was elected president and five months before he took the Oath of Office.

Then there is Syria.  I’m assuming Boehner is ignoring the explosive Seymour Hersh article detailing why the U.S. did not attack Syria.  In fact, if he wants to prove the Hersh points wrong and show we should have attacked Syria over the use of chemical weapons, he should be calling for the release of all documents showing what the CIA was doing in Benghazi prior to the attack.

The post also fails to point out the Syrian regime did give up its chemical weapons under threat of increased international intervention.

Then President Obama set five elite terrorist commanders free from U.S. custody.

Zero mention of getting a tortured American home for this exchange.  Zero mention of the Afghanistan war coming to an end and trading prisoners at the end of wars.  Zero mention they were released to the custody of Qatar, not immediately set free.  And if these five were so “elite”, why not ask for them to be put on trial to show how provable their elite abilities are in a court of law?

Then there is the point of ISIS gaining ground in Iraq.  The criticism of the decision by the Bush administration to invade Iraq on false pretenses is obviously ignored here but something else should be asked.  What exactly was being done about the Shiite death squads and brutal suppression of the Sunnis in Iraq by the previous administration after the invasion?  It’s as if that has nothing to do with what is happening now.

Sometimes, it’s just amazing what ridiculous claims the right will make.

Iraq and How It’s Going So Bad

IRAQ-3-articleLargeWith the troubling news coming out of Iraq these past few days I can only think what a waste the War was. We lost over 4500 service men and women and hundreds of billions of dollars, not to mention the fact that we were led into the conflict under false pretenses regarding WMDs. We were then sold a moralistic argument that we removed of a brutal dictator from power that Donald Rumsfeld, former Sec. of Defense, met and shook hands with in the 1980’s during the Iraq/Iran War.

Now the jihadi, Sunni-led ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is spilling out of Syria’s bloody civil war and invading Iraq at an alarming speed, taking city after city. They are now heading to Baghdad to settle old scores with Prime Minister Nurem Maliki, a Shiite, who has excluded Sunni’s from the government. Even former Baath Party members (the ruling Party of the Hussein Sunni era) are joining with ISIS in the goal of establishing a Islamic caliphate practicing Sharia law. Maliki now wants help from the U.S. in the form of airstrikes with jet fighters and drones, which according to sources reporting to the NYT seems very unlikely.

The borders of Iraq were set up by colonialists in the 19th century with no bearing or regard for lumping together people of different tribes, and now the current borders are being threatened by sectarian violence. It seems to me, more now then ever, that the Iraq War was a tragic waste.

 

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The Case Against Blackwater and How They’re Getting Away With It

SUB-JP-BLACKWATER-1-master675In 2007, according to an article in today’s NYT, operatives of Blackwater Worldwide (a company providing civilian contractors employed by the U.S. government during the Iraq War) perpetrated a mass shooting of Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square, killing 17. The article recounts some of the details of the massacre.

If you look at the facts that the NYT reports, you can see that the State Department conducted a cover-up of these murders whether if they are implicated in the court proceedings or not.

But the main gist of the story is the bumbling of the case against the involved contractors. It’s just amazing how wrong things have gone when such an important precedent could have been made, namely, if you are not officially a member of the U.S. military, but you are employed to act as one, you cannot act with impunity.

Read Here.

Will Iraq Fracture?

CIRAQaraf600_full_380A great piece in the CSM asking will the country of Iraq fracture into separate nations that will be determined by ethnicity, religion, or simple economic interests.

The piece goes through all of the contributing factors and is well researched with quotes from analysts and Iraqis themselves.

Read Here.

 

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Syria, Iraq, and America’s Maturation

As what once looked like an inevitable march to war in Syria stays on hold longer, it seems the United States’ public has put to use the lessons learned from the debacle in Iraq.  And one of the most important lessons was the reality that we can’t predict what the future will bring no matter how sure we think we are about it.22syria-cnd-articleInline

One of the biggest reasons for this unpredictability is the various groups found in these countries and the infighting that occurs after changes in power, a residual effect of their borders being created by colonialism.  Iraq is no exception and the violence there continues as we saw over the weekend.

And it’s possible the outcome of a power switch in Syria might be even more unpredictable than Iraq.  The CSM illustrated this in a recent article that attempted to estimate the number of fighters in various groups fighting against the Assad regime:

Jihadists – 10-12,000

Hardline Islamists – 30,000

Ikhwani Islamists – 30-40,000

Genuine moderates – 20-25,000

Kurds – 10,000

…statements that so-called “moderates” dominate the fight against Mr. Assad, as both US Secretary of State John Kerry and influential politicians like Senator John McCain have asserted, are not accurate.

The path ahead is very murky in Syria and that could very well be one of the reasons Americans are so reluctant to support military action against Assad, a clear change from the lead-up to the Iraq War as most polls illustrate.  A look at old data from Pew show 72% believed Iraq was the “right decision” in March of 2003 when the war began. A look at their data on Syria show 63% of Americans oppose airstrikes.

Obviously, we can’t say this is the only reason for the change as many factors will play a role in each situation.  But the reality that one of these groups would eventually take power and then be tasked with holding onto it peacefully in a post-Assad Syria should be a concern when judging this issue.  It would be foolish to think a magic wand could be waved and things would work out just perfectly, particularly when you consider the groups are already fighting each other at times instead of the Assad regime.

The situation in Syria is messy but Western intervention will likely only make matters worse in the long run.

Iraq War a Failure, Afghanistan Now on Its Way

There is very little in the way of a rational argument supporting the idea the Iraq War was in any fashion a success.  By just about any measure imaginable, it was an outright failure.  And the situation in the country continues to get worse, as indicated by just a sample of recent attacks:

And those reports are from the month of July alone.  As one article notes, “more than 2,500 Iraqis have died in attacks since April.”

This is also not counting the legacy of depleted uranium used by U.S. forces in Iraq which is causing huge increases in birth defects in cities such as Najaf and Fallujah where very heavy fighting occurred.

It appears Afghanistan is now headed for the same type of violent situation.  Civilian casualties are on the rise according to the UN, as noted by the CSM:

The report said that Afghan civilian casualties are rising, noting an increase of 23 percent in the first half of 2013…According to the report, between January and June of this year, 1,319 civilians were killed, while 2,533 more were injured. Women and children casualties are also on the rise, increasing by 61 and 30 percent, respectively.

It’s not impossible for these countries to make miraculous turnarounds and be thriving democracies with strong economies one day.  But that day is not in the foreseeable future and it would appear the U.S. occupations of both may have set that day back much further as the level of violence grows in each.

Which now begs the question: should the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan be considered a failure equal to that of Iraq?

Difficult Decision: History Suggests U.S. Should Not Use Heavy Hand in Syria

As the United States mulls its decision on when and how to intervene in the Syrian Civil War, we must ask the difficult question of whether a heavy U.S. intervention is good for the long-term prospects of the Syrian people.  History would suggest this might seem effective and the right thing to do in the short-term but be a mistake in the more distant future.

The problem with any outside influence intervening in a country’s civil conflict is the reality the losing side will assume they lost solely because of that foreign interference.  The opposition will continue to push, often violently, until they have regained power and relative internal “peace” begins.  The United States has had a very heavy influence in many countries in the post-WWII era so a quick look at some of the results should give us an idea of the long-term success.

Should we or shouldn’t we?

Guatemala

In 1954, the CIA supported a coup d’état that eventually led to a civil war lasting over three decades.  During that time the U.S. supported “government forces and state-sponsored paramilitaries [that] were responsible for over 93 percent of the human rights violations during the war…More than 450 Mayan villages were destroyed and over 1 million people became displaced within Guatemala or refugees. Over 200,000 people, mostly Mayan, lost their lives during the civil war.”  Safe to say this was a failure in the long-run for the U.S. and Guatemala would have almost assuredly been better off without our “help”.

El Salvador

During the civil war in this country, the United States chose to support the side that was also found guilty of egregious human rights violations.  The estimated casualty count: “more than 70,000 people were killed, many in the course of gross violation of their human rights…Despite mostly killing peasants, the Government readily killed any opponent they suspected of sympathy with the guerrillas — clergy (men and women), church lay workers, political activists, journalists, labor unionists (leaders, rank-and-file), medical workers, liberal students and teachers, and human-rights monitors.”  And it appears that the side opposed by the U.S. in that war has now taken power in the democratically elected government.  Another failure for the U.S.

Laos/Cambodia

Both of these countries fought part (Laos) or all (Cambodia) of their civil wars during the U.S. invasion of Vietnam.  The U.S. became involved in the fighting inside the borders of each while bombing both countries during the Vietnam War.  The U.S. supported the eventual losing side in both of these wars and the casualty counts were six figures in each.  Ultimately, two more failures for the U.S.

Chile

The CIA worked to bring about another coup in this country in 1973 which brought notorious human rights violator Pinochet to power.  His estimated damage to the citizens of Chile: “1,200–3,200 people were killed, up to 80,000 were interned, and up to 30,000 were tortured by his regime including women and children.”  Another black-eye on the U.S. record.

Others

Nicaragua’s history contains the familiar story of the United States supporting the losing side in the civil war and that side being in power through elections today.  Afghanistan has been a seesaw for the U.S., at best, and will likely be a very violent place in the years to come.  And the disaster that was the Iraq War might have been the beginning of even more violence to come at a level some are saying will be worse than Syria.  The list seems to continue to grow as the years go by.

Which brings us back to the current question of what to do about Syria?  We all have our own positions on this but one thing seems clear: it is likely to be a “lose-lose” situation for the U.S. government.  If we don’t intervene, a lot of people will die and the world will ask why we did nothing (kind of like how nothing was done to address the recent famine in Somalia that killed 250,000, half of which were children).  If we do intervene, it will fuel the fire of the Syrian government forces, even if they are beaten out of power, and they will likely continue with an insurgent movement long after the power in the country has changed hands.

This situation is a disaster in every way imaginable and whatever decision the Obama administration comes to on this it will likely be the wrong one when we look back on it in the years to come.