Saturday, June 16, 2007

No, I don't

This is my first post here, cross-posted from Lotus, and I might as well get myself in trouble right away.

I do not support the troops.

Not even a little.

As people, as individuals, deserving by their very nature, by their very existence, as human beings of love and decency, yes, I do support them, most definitely and very likely well beyond the support they do and would get from those who scream "support the troops" the loudest, particularly those who increasingly let slip that the phrase really means "support the war," support the death, the terror, the carnage.

But not as "troops." Not as occupiers. Not when they exist, as Colin Powell recently said, for the purpose of "apply[ing] state violence."

Not when as far back as 2004 there were documented accounts of "widespread" abuse and torture of detainees, including electric shock, mock executions, burning with lit alcohol, and prisoners forced to kneel - legcuffed, handcuffed, and hooded - for up to 24 hours.

Not when the Pentagon's own survey of soldiers in Iraq just last fall showed more than 1/3 of them approving of torture, 2/3 saying they would not report a team member for abuse of civilians or destruction of their property, and less than half thinking non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect.

Not when one in 10 in that survey admitted they themselves had mistreated civilians.

Not when they engage in massacres at Haditha and war crimes in Fallujah.

Not when we know that Abu Ghraib was not an aberration.

Not when we know that Abu Ghraib had its roots in Guantánamo, where our paragons of honor and virtue took part in subjecting prisoners to beatings, sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and other "stress and duress," now doubly euphemized to "enhanced interrogation techniques."

And not when their superiors cover for them, lie for them, conceal for them, not when those superiors regard the complaints of Iraqi civilians as "outlandish" and not worthy of investigation - while killed American soldiers are "fallen angels."

And not when those superiors will even celebrate what a good job they are supposedly doing, as when Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, acting Army surgeon general, actually called last fall's Pentagon survey good news because more people admitted approving of torture than admitted having done it: "Not acting on those thoughts" proved the military's "leadership."

Now, yes, of course, it is proper and right that we call the higher-ups to account, that we make clear how they have sanctioned, even encouraged - sometimes tacitly, sometimes by suggestion, sometimes openly - the brutality, the abuses, the crimes. What's more, it's easy and natural to sympathize with those who are back home and now are haunted by the memories of what they did. It's even possible to sympathize with, beyond that, to understand, the situations the soldiers were in, the pressures to go along, the emotional desire to wrap themselves into the psychological climate surrounding them.

But while sympathy and understanding may eventually lead to forgiveness, they do not and must not lead to acceptance, to endorsement, to support. Over three years ago, I wrote this in response to the argument by a lawyer for one of the Abu Ghraib defendants that their client should not be held responsible because they had not received "proper training" about the treatment of prisoners:

Well, dammit, so what? Who the flaming hell cares? What kind of "proper training" does it take to realize that it's wrong to do things including

"[b]reaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee,"

along with stacking them naked in a pile, forcing them to simulate oral sex, forcing them to masturbate while you point, laugh, and take pictures?

I don't have to read the Geneva Convention to know that's just wrong. Just no excuses, no finessing, no evasions, flat-out wrong. And it can't be excused on the grounds of inadequate supervision.

I said it before: War brutalizes, war dehumanizes, war hardens the soul and drains the spirit. It turns you into what you say you oppose. It turns ordinary people from "a small town in Virginia" into brutes of a kind they likely would have claimed was impossible just a few months earlier. But at the same time remember that this came to light because one person refused to countenance it. One person, Specialist Joseph M. Darby, refused in at least this case to surrender to the dehumanization of war and reported it instead of reveling in it.
Conscience can stand against the tide.

I sympathize. As best as I can, not having lived through it, I understand. I support, I embrace, the human beings inside the uniforms.

But I do not support the troops.

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Desire to Hold Detainees Motivates Torture

The US military in Iraq has rules. For example, there were apparently rules against having non-trained interrogators conduct interrogations. So, according to pfc. Evan Knappenberger...

We didn’t call them interrogations. The terminology had to be changed, as is the case with many things we do in the military that we’re not really allowed to do. If you change the name, you can – you are allowed to do it but, because it’s not – it’s the same action, a different name. We call them tactical questionings.

Another set of military rules determines how to handle detainees. In a response to a question from DemocracyNow's Amy Goodman about who's in the room during a "tactical questioning" session, Knappenberger describes his experience:
Well, I can’t really go into specifics, but typically there would be one or two soldiers. At times it would be nobody more than two junior enlisted soldiers, and an Iraqi interpreter, and the suspect.

When asked about the kinds of questions asked he replied by describing the 24-hour rule:
the rule was we could hold these guys for 24 hours without doing any paperwork on them. And at the end of that 24 hours, if we had enough on them,... we’d keep them in. Otherwise we had to release them.

Basically, it's a rule that keeps one-day detentions secret by having no paper work. But, Knappenbergers' next statement that is even more troubling:

The problem then became getting something out of them to keep them.

Hmmm.... Imagine young, junior enlisted soldiers, who likely feel angry about their situation, trying to "get something" on a detainee to "justify" holding them longer. It's a formula for abusive treatment, that is, torture.

Take Action:

If you feel a responsibility to bring this flawed situation to someone's attention, you might consider contacting the US Department of Defense.

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The U.S. Needs Foreign Aid?

While the price tag for killing almost a million Iraqis and killing and maiming tens of thousands of Americans in George W. Bush's Iraq and Mid-East Debacle and making Bush's friends obscenely rich beyond their wildest dreams while their supporters giggle and drool their way through their trolling fishing trips here and elsewhere approaches half a trillion dollars... Mayor Nagin and the city leaders of New Orleans have received just over half of the $320 million FEMA has obligated for rebuilding city infrastructure and emergency response related costs. The city has estimated its damage at far more than that - at least $1 billion.

$1 billion? $1 billion? Approximately ONE FIVE HUNDREDTH of the money Bush and Cheney have spent creating the Iraq Debacle.

Bush's administration has not only been unwilling to provide the aid that New Orleans needs, it continues to block foreign aid offers.

NEW ORLEANS -- The cash-strapped city of New Orleans is turning to foreign countries for help to rebuild as federal hurricane-recovery dollars remain slow to flow.

Kenya Smith, director of intergovernmental relations for Mayor Ray Nagin, said city leaders are talking with more than five countries. He wouldn't identify the countries, saying discussions were in the early stages. But he said the city is "very serious" about pursuing foreign help.
Discussions with foreign representatives have been occurring off and on since the storm, but Smith said the city became re-engaged after a news report in April that millions of dollars in aid offered by foreign countries after Hurricane Katrina went unaccepted.

It wasn't clear how much of the $854 million in aid originally offered remained on the table. In Katrina's wake, Cuban President Fidel Castro's proposal to send more than 1,000 medical personnel to New Orleans was among the offers of aid.
Compassionate Conservat(dry heave)ism.

[Cross-posted at Edgeing]

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Short of a draft, the Army wants a few good (illegal) men

No Spanish-language “Be All You Can Be” posters are sprouting in Juarez, Tijuana or Nuevo Laredo, but, some of the people there or elsewhere on the border could find similar posters in U.S. barrios if a new immigration bill ever passes Congress.

A senior defense official expressed hope today that a provision in the stalled immigration bill that would have allowed some undocumented aliens to join the military won’t fall off the radar screen.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, provision in the immigration bill was expected to help boost military recruiting, Bill Carr, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, said today during a telephone conference with veterans’ group representatives.

The DREAM provision offered a way for high-achieving children of undocumented or illegal residents to join the military and, ultimately, become citizens, Carr explained.

“In other words, if you had come across (the border) with your parents, yet you were a minor child and have been in the U.S. school system for a number of years, then you could be eligible to enlist,” he said. “And at the end of that enlistment, then you would be eligible to become a citizen.”

Because the provision would have applied only to the “cream of the crop” of students who have demonstrated top aptitude, it would have been “very appealing” to the military, Carr said. “It would have been good for readiness,” he said.

Even with all these caveats and apparent protections, count me out.

First, I’m not sold on the present immigration bill in several ways.

Second, even if we had an immigration bill that was OK in other ways, this still strikes me as “predatory recruiting.”

Cross-posted at Socratic Gadfly.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Draft talk heating up again

That’s according to Robert Brown in the British magazine The First Post.

The story is two weeks old, but I just saw it.

He says:

The US is considering introducing a limited military draft if it is to keep its present force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon advisers have warned British colleagues. Next month, US forces in Iraq will peak at around 170,000, and GIs in the new units are being told they could be on operations for at least 15 months.

I don’t know who Fox’s British sources are, or what connections they have in the Pentagon, but this doesn’t seem totally fly-by-night.

Cross-posted at Socratic Gadfly.

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Senate Dems plan Iraq timetables again: an analysis

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to attach two Iraq timetable amendments to the 2008 defense appropriations bill.

Without immediately looking at the possibility of success, there are two incidents which do bring this back to the forefront (not counting Congressional Democrats’ sagging approval ratings as an “incident”).

First is Gen. Martin Dempsey’s admission that training of Iraq army and security forces remains inadequate, even woefully so:

Describing the U.S. effort in Iraq as a labor of Sisyphus, he said the metaphoric stone is “probably rolling back a bit right now in Baghdad. But I don't think it's going to roll over us.”

Dempsey depicted the level of violence tolerated by Iraqis as “mind-numbing” and acknowledged that a dearth of security has made some Iraqis nostalgic for the rule of Saddam Hussein, who was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. “You’ll hear people say, ‘You know, we were a lot more secure and safe during the Saddam regime,’ “ he told the oversight panel of the House Armed Services Committee.

Second is Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s direct blaming of Bush, and Bush’s stubbornness MO, for the 2006 loss of the Senate:
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said she thinks her former GOP colleagues Sens. Mike DeWine (Ohio) and Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) lost reelection because of Bush’s unpopularity.

“It’s definitely because of the president and his policies, more from the standpoint of immovability and not being willing to adjust policies in response to real-time circumstances,” she said. “It wasn’t just the fact that things weren’t working well in Iraq, it was the president wasn’t willing to adjust his policy to recognize and acknowledge that.”

Last year’s losses at the polls have shaped her Republican colleagues’ view of the president in 2007, she said, adding, “All of that had manifested itself in ways this year, leading to concerns about the president’s policies.”

Now, we’ve heard enough of this in the past, but, as the drip, drip, drip of not-so-good news from people like Gen. Dempsey picks up, senators and representatives may in fact start distancing themselves more.

So, where does this all lead?

Key for seeing how Republicans move is seeing how this plays out in their presidential primaries battle. Already, while trying to out-macho each other on terrorism in general, most GOP candidates not named McCain are trying to detach from Iraq itself, and even Big John has been somewhat critical.

Reid has plenty of GOP senator sound-bite quotes, in other words. Let’s see how well he plays his cards.

Because, between discontentment over Democrats’ previous “cave” and knowing how the Rovian PR machine works, Reid (and Speaker Pelosi) need to have their own PR work ready in advance. That’s where quotes from GOP presidential debates and elsewhere on the hustings will come in handy — rhetorically asking GOP senators if they want to be sticking their necks out at the same time their would-be presidential nominees are drawing theirs in?

Cross-posted at Socratic Gadfly.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Even if you were to support it, how could it be sustained?

Folks, the Army is in trouble. It is going to take at minimum two decades to rebuild our Army. Five years of rugged warfare conditions have taken a steep toll on man and materiel alike. It's broken all right, and George Bush is the vandal who broke it.

That the Army missed their recruiting goals for May by 9.27% is just the tip of the iceberg. The real fractures go much deeper. Young officers are leaving the service in higher numbers than at any time since Vietnam. It is unprecedented – but the Army has been hemorrhaging officers and senior NCO’s in leadership positions for at least the last two years. When I started getting up in arms about it was when I read an editorial by Lucian Truscott IV in the New York Times two years ago that confirmed what I had been witnessing.

This compromises the quality of the leadership of the officer corps. Army OCS has a 100% acceptance rate, and Republican members of Congress are having a hard time finding qualified candidates to even apply to West Point. (I know applications have been falling for at least two years, and I am looking for the supporting link for that claim)

Take this data point for instance: 97% of all eligible Captains are being promoted to Major. Traditionally that number has been between 70-80%. The promotion to Major has heretofore been the winnowing point for career officers. Now, if you have Captain’s bars and sufficient time in service, and you haven’t been court-martialed yet, you will get Oak Leaf Clusters.

Now consider that even though we are missing all those officers, qualified applicants are not being informed of the OCS option because their numbers are needed to bolster the enlisted ranks. This is counterproductive recruiting and short-term thinking.

This exodus of seasoned officers has resulted in what can only be classified as promotion by attrition. And that is no way to run an Army.

Now – let’s consider the recruits to the enlisted ranks. Fully 17% of the recruits into service in FY 2006 were admitted to service on waivers. Can anyone imagine a scenario in which that figure would improve when have already recruited everyone who is fit and willing? (Yeah, me neither.)

So lets recap: In our Army, we have a bunch of hinky troops – and not enough of ‘em, by the way – and no one to lead them. Also keep in mind that the Army uses accounting methods in the billet shell game that would make a Hollywood accountant blush. (h/t SPfY for that line).

This is a recipe for disaster and a broken military. It’s time we face the facts and deal with them. I do not believe our military has time to let Bush run out the clock on his failed presidency. Congress needs to get tough, and they need to do so now, while they are writing the Defense Authorization Bill for FY 2008. The way things stand right now, we have at least a 20 year rebuilding process ahead of us. And we can't pay for it with tax cuts. It's time for a gut-check.

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This is starting to look like "strategy" to me

In the past seven weeks, as many bridges have been targeted by jihadist fighters in Iraq, bent on crippling the populace both logistically and psychologically by destroying infrastructure. (.pdf map of Baghdad with bridges labeled can be found here. Hat tip to Larry Johnson at No Quarter.)

This is an ominous trend.

The most obvious place my mind goes when this disturbing development is considered is the “sitting ducks” that are inevitably created; where traffic will bottleneck at the remaining routes across rivers and highways. The bombing on Monday that took out a bridge over the Diyala River means that traffic must be rerouted through insurgent-controlled Baquba. “Victims, right this way…”

And that leaps logically to the second place my mind goes: the strategic implications. Supply lines have not been cut, but they have sure as hell been complicated by this development. If this trend continues, the potential to isolate and cut off those “surge” troops that “surged” into neighborhoods from supplies and support is all too real.

(On the Faux News front, Bill O-Lie-ley has decided to push the bullshit line that these explosions don’t matter, and not only that, but that by the very act of reporting on these events, CNN and MSNBC are helping the terrorists winThink Progress has more, including the video)

Seven bridges have been closed or seriously compromised by this effort that is starting to look a hell of a lot like a full-fledged strategy at this point. In addition, it has a huge psychological impact on the Iraqi populace that is directly affected by these attacks.

And when it comes right down to it, we don’t have the troops to secure the infrastructure, let alone the capitol much less the entire damned country. So can we accept the reality of the situation on the ground, please, before we lose another 3500 to Bush’s splendid vanity war?

[Cross-Posted from Blue Girl, Red State & Watching Those We Chose]

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Defunding Iraq: Misperceptions, Disinformation And Lies

The entire debate about NOT funding the occupation of Iraq and George W. Bush's Iraq and Mid-East Debacle revolves around one piece of propaganda that has been sold to the public in one of the most heinous aggregations of misperceptions, disinformation, and outright lies ever foisted on a public that cares for the lives of the American troops sent into Iraq, of which there are huge mis-perceptions and an incredible amount of disinformation, i.e. lies, spread by republicans and democrats and trolls.

The Bush Administration, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress alike, repeat almost daily that they will not defund the troops, with both sides vying for public support with the same bullshit.

It's the biggest load of crap there is.

The Democratic Leadership apparently is afraid of not funding the Iraq occupation either because they are afraid of being attacked by Bush and the GOP for not funding the troops, or because they want to continue the occupation.

They know it is a lie when Bush says it.

Yet they turn right around and tell people (repeating the lie) that advocating not funding the occupation is advocating not funding the troops.

Emergency supplemental funding for a war or for an occupation is not for the troops. It never has been for the troops. It will never be for the troops.

NOT passing emergency supplemental funding does not hurt the troops. It never has hurt the troops. It will never hurt the troops.

Not passing emergency supplemental funding is simply NOT FUNDING the occupation. That is all it is.

UPDATE June 12:
DEAN BAKER, Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research: [h/t to MO Blue]:
"The latest version of the 'hide behind the troops' mode of argument is to claim that Congress lacks the ability to end the war. The story goes that President Bush is commander in chief of the armed forces, and that if he does not want to end the war, then Congress cannot force his hand.According to this argument, if Congress were to use its control of the budget to restrict funding, it would jeopardize our troops stationed in Iraq by denying them the supplies and ammunition needed to defend themselves.

"This argument is garbage. Congress has the authority to require the top military commanders in Iraq to produce a plan for safely withdrawing our troops from the country. It can also require these commanders to give their best estimate of the cost of this plan. It can then appropriate this money, specifying that the funds be used for the withdrawal plan designed by the military."
--Institute for Public Accuracy
The situation is process analogous to to a business enterprise that has, for example, 100 employeees to whom they pay salaries and provide food and lodging. The budget for that is something planned for every year. We'll call that the budget for the 'troops'.

One year they decide to take on an extra contract to complete a project in another city and they send those 100 employees (troops) to the new city.

The project will require incurring added costs over and above the budget for the employees (troops), so management arranges a bank loan to pay for the added costs for transportation, materials, overtime, extra fuel required, etc. etc.

They then begin to run into delays, extreme competition from a better suited and skilled company, and start incurring huge cost overruns, which they cover with repeated visits to the bank for more loans.

Eventually the bank says look - this is bankrupting you and placing your employees in danger of being abandonded in the new city if you continue down this path - here is your last loan - it will cover you for 90 days, after which the bank will provide no more money for this project. Your regular budget covers your employment (troop) costs. Bring them home to their original city and continue operating there. Your project in the new city is failing.

None of the bank loans had anything to do with the regular budget for the employees (troops).
UPDATE June 14: Senator Russ Feingold, Fact Sheet

On numerous occasions, Congress has exercised its constitutional authority to limit the President’s ability to escalate existing military engagements.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Cambodia – In late December 1970, Congress passes the Supplemental Foreign Assistance Appropriations Act prohibiting the use of funds to finance the introduction of United States ground combat troops into Cambodia or to provide U.S. advisors to or for Cambodian military forces in Cambodia.

  • Vietnam – In late June 1973, Congress passes the second Supplemental Appropriations Act for FY1973. This legislation contains language cutting off funds for combat activities in Vietnam after August 15, 1973.

  • Somalia – In November 1993, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act includes a provision that prohibits funding after March 31, 1994 for military operations in Somalia, except for a limited number of military personnel to protect American diplomatic personnel and American citizens, unless further authorized by Congress.

  • Bosnia – In 1998, Congress passes the Defense Authorization Bill, with a provision that prohibits funding for Bosnia after June 30, 1998, unless the President makes certain assurances.
Defunding The Iraq War Is Supporting The Troops:
You Can't Hurt a Troop By Defunding a War:

The funding is not for the troops.

When President George Bush claims that the money is for the troops, he is quite simply lying. The funding is not for the troops.

When Senator Barack Obama or Senator Carl Levin claims to want to pressure Bush to end the war, while at the same time promising to fund the war forever in the name of funding the troops, we are being told something that cannot possibly make any sense. The funding is not for the troops. It is for the war. You can't end the war while providing it. You can't hurt a troop by denying it.

...the money that would be required to bring our troops safely home is such a small fraction of the Pentagon's budget, or even of the cash that the Pentagon has "misplaced" in Iraq, that there can be no question of ever cutting it off. The Pentagon could fund a withdrawal and never notice the financial expense.

So, when we talk about cutting off funding "for the troops," what are we really talking about?

We must be talking about their meals and armor and vehicles. But there are several problems with making that sort of claim. First, by cutting off funding after a certain date and demanding that the troops be brought home before that date, you are not denying them anything they need while they are deployed.

Second, we have never provided them adequate supplies and services, and the Congress Members who have pushed to cut off the war funding are some of the same ones who have pushed hardest to try to change that.

Third, the war funding has nothing to do with changing the level of equipment and services we provide the troops; the big bucks go to mercenaries, not troops; and the really big bucks go to the profiteers providing the worst services for the highest prices.

Fourth, if we start to talk about the need for troops to protect other troops, we get into an inescapable escalation without end.
When the Democrats or anyone else claim that the money is for the troops, they, just like George Bush, are quite simply lying. The funding is not for the troops.

The TROOPS are funded by regular appropriations. DOD budget. Emergency supplemental funding has nothing to do with "funding the troops".

It does buy, among other things such as logistical support from Halliburton, Parsons, and DynCorp, fuel, in theater equipment maintenance, bullets, cluster bombs, etc., etc., IOW all the "stuff" needed to continue the occupation. The troops use that "stuff" in the continuance of that occupation, and to defend themselves and stay alive (as best they can) while continuing that occupation. Defunding the occupation of Iraq and withdrawing or redeploying the troops does not hurt the troops. It helps them to stay alive.

Emergency supplemental funding is only for the occupation. When Bush says differently, or when the Democratic Leadership says differently, or when a troll here says differently.... it is a lie.

The "war" has been funded with emergency supplemental funding for years. There is plenty of money for withdrawing in regular budget without the emergency supplemental the Democrats recently passed.

War And Occupation Funding: More Cooking The Books By Bush And Pentagon?
"Since 9/11, Congress has passed at least one emergency bill to cover war costs, making supplemental spending the method of choice for the majority of funding for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terror," Alexander added. "Of the $510 billion spent thus far, $331.8 billion (about 65 percent) has come from supplemental spending legislation. If the so-called "bridge fund" included in the fiscal year 2007 appropriations bill is included, the total rises to $401.8 billion. That means nearly 80 percent of all funding for these wars was the result of emergency and supplemental spending, not regular budgetary means."

The total funds requested by the Defense Department for emergency spending is $163.4 billion, including $70 billion already provided as part of DOD's regular fiscal year appropriations plus a new supplemental request of $93.4 billion.

"If enacted, DOD's funding would increase by 40 percent above the previous year and would more than double from the FY2004 funding level," the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report says.
As Glenn Greenwald noted on May 26 in Salon:
In Newsweek, Jonathan Alter has a long article defending -- as lamentably necessary -- the decision of the Democrats to fund the Iraq war without any limitations.
Both of the premises which Alter sets forth here are correct: (a) de-funding does not even arguably constitute "endangerment or abandonment of the troops," but (b) "Americans have been convinced that it does." And therein one finds what is the most extraordinary and telling fact of our political landscape. Namely, our Iraq war policy was just determined, in large part if not principally, by a complete myth: that de-funding proposals constitute an abandonment or, more ludicrously still, "endangerment" of the troops.
Emergency Supplementals, besides the things I mentioned above, also pay for:
a U.S. force in Iraq that is effectively double the size that most people are aware of, and a system where national duty is outbid by profits:
Many Americans are under the impression that the US currently has about 145,000 active duty troops on the ground in Iraq. What is seldom mentioned is the fact that there are at least 126,000 private personnel deployed alongside the official armed forces. These private forces effectively double the size of the occupation force, largely without the knowledge of the US taxpayers that foot the bill.
Working for U.S. companies like Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorp and companies from other countries, according to Scahill's investigations:
Some contractors make in a month what many active-duty soldiers make in a year. Indeed, there are private contractors in Iraq making more money than the Secretary of Defense and more than the commanding generals.
Here is a video of Jeremy Scahill's testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense about the impact of private military contractors on the conduct of the Iraq War:

The full text of Jeremy Scahill's testimony is in his May 11, 2007 article at The Nation, "Outsourcing the War".

I repeat, Emergency Supplemental Funding is not for the troops. It is only for the occupation. When Bush says differently, or when the Democratic Leadership says differently, or when a troll here says differently.... it is a lie.

The "war" has been funded with emergency supplemental funding for years. There is plenty of money for withdrawing in regular budget without the emergency supplemental the Democrats just passed.

It's time for the Democrats in Congress to stop lying and start being honest with the public.

The lies are killing the sons and daughters of that public.

Rep. David Obey - last year (Library of Congress - Thomas 2006):

Congress appropriates funding for the Iraq war much like the Administration prosecutes it: recklessly, and without being honest with the American people.

Once again, funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars--$50 billion in this case--are provided as an `emergency supplemental' in this bill. All told, Congress will have provided the Defense Department with $450 billion of emergency funding for this war.

To treat funding for the Iraq war as an unexpected emergency is a perversion of the term. By way of comparison, the Vietnam War required only a single supplemental, after which it was financed through the regular budget process.

While not an emergency, this funding is provided as such because it is politically expedient. It allows the Administration and the Congress to avoid the budgetary tradeoffs and to hide the full cost of the war. It is part of the Administration's strategy of providing the facts about Iraq on the installment plan.

In April of 2003, the President signed the first Iraq supplemental providing $62.6 billion for the Defense Department. This was after the President's budget director told the New York Times that the war would cost between $50 and $60 billion.

In November of 2003, when the President signed a second supplemental providing $64.9 billion for the Defense Department, the White House termed it a 'one-time, wartime supplemental.' Nine months later Congress provided $25 billion of additional emergency funding.

In May of 2005, the President signed a third supplemental providing $75.7 billion for the Defense Department and told us that democracy was taking root in Iraq. Seven months later, as civil war rocked Iraq, Congress provided an additional $50 billion of emergency funding.

This week, Congress passed another $65.8 billion supplemental. The same day, in a surprise visit to Iraq, the President once again linked the Iraq war and the attacks of September 11th--an assertion that is patently false and that only he and the Vice President appear to still believe.

In this bill, the House will approve another $50 billion more in emergency funding for Iraq to cover operations through the spring of 2007. As was the case with previous Iraq supplementals, these costs will be tacked on to this President's greatest legacy--a massive $300 billion plus deficit. The result is that future generations will be forced to pay the financial costs of the President's failed Iraq policy.

For several years, I have asked the Administration to come forward with 5-year estimates of the war costs so that Congress could get a better sense of how to balance the books. The FY 2005 Defense Appropriations Conference Report included a general provision requiring the Administration to do just that. No such report was ever provided. The President chose to waive the requirement by certifying in writing that providing these cost estimates would harm national security.

The only harm that would come from providing estimates of future war costs would be to the political fortunes of those who insist on funding this war through emergency supplementals instead of being honest with the public about the war's real cost. More than three years into this war it is clear that honesty is too much to expect from this Administration.
Boston Globe, September 2006 Congressional Analysis: Cost of Iraq war nearly $2b a week:
The United States maintains it is not building permanent military bases in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the local population distrusts America's long-term intentions.

But for the first time, a major factor in the growth of war spending is the result of a dramatic rise in "investment costs," or spending needed to sustain a long-term deployment of American troops in the two countries, the report said. These include the additional purchases of protective equipment for troops, such as armored Humvees, radios, and night-vision equipment; new tanks and other equipment to replace battered gear from Army and Marine Corps units that have been deployed numerous times in recent years; and growing repair bills for damaged equipment, what the military calls "reset" costs.
So the only way the funding can be said to be "for the troops" is if the intention is to keep them in Iraq for many years.
The Pentagon, which had previously made public its own estimate of operating costs, has not released up-to-date war costs.

The Congressional Research Service report estimates that after Congress approves two pending bills, the total war costs since Sept. 11, 2001, will reach about $509 billion. Of that, $379 billion will cover the cost of operations in Iraq, $97 billion will be the price tag for Afghanistan operations, and $26 billion will have gone to beefed-up security at US military bases around the world.
Another major war cost is for infrastructure -- bases, landing strips, repair shops -- for the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. These "operations and maintenance" costs remained steady at about $40 billion per year in 2003, 2004, and 2005, but have spiked to more than $60 billion this year.

Those factors alone, however, are "not enough to explain" the spiraling increase in operating costs, according to the report.

"You would expect [operating costs] to level off if you have the same level of people," said the report's principal author, Amy Belasco, a national defense specialist at the Congressional Research Service. "You shouldn't have as much cost to fix buildings that were presumably repaired when you got there. It's a bit mysterious."

The Pentagon has not provided Congress with a detailed accounting of all the war funds, making it impossible to conduct a full, independent estimate of how much Americans are spending in Iraq and Afghanistan -- or to predict what future costs might be.
The Institute for Policy Studies, in The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Home the Troops, provides a detailed breakdown of the Human Costs... Security Costs... Economic Costs... and Social Costs of the Iraq occupation.

I couldn't do a cost/benefit analysis. I couldn't find any 'benefit'.

The Iraqis Have A Word: "Sahel"
PERHAPS no fact is more revealing about Iraq’s history than this: The Iraqis have a word that means to utterly defeat and humiliate someone by dragging his corpse through the streets.

The word is "sahel", and it helps explain much of what I have seen in three and a half years of covering the war.
Listen to Iraqis engaged in the fight, and you realize they are far from exhausted by the war. Many say this is only the beginning.

There's more: "Defunding Iraq: Misperceptions, Disinformation And Lies" >>

Sunday, June 10, 2007

This is tragic, that vets aren’t getting better mental health insurance

The biggest problem, other than Tricare’s stinted coverage and lack of therapists in its coverage, is that Guard and Reserve troops called to active duty aren’t getting active-duty level mental health insurance coverage.

Soldiers returning from war are finding it more difficult to get mental health treatment because military insurance is cutting payments to therapists, on top of already low reimbursement rates and a tangle of red tape.

Wait lists now extend for months to see a military doctor and it can takes weeks to find a private therapist willing to take on members of the military. The challenge appears great in rural areas, where many National Guard and Reserve troops and their families live.

Tricare itself needs to be improved, and Guard and Reserve on active duty should get 100 percent payment of premiums while called up.

Cross posted at SocraticGadfly.

There's more: "This is tragic, that vets aren’t getting better mental health insurance" >>