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.