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Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

I never supported the Iraq war. I believe the entire affair was no more than a vendetta instigated by George Bush against Saddam  Hussein. Perhaps it was due to Saddam’s failed assassination attempt against George Bush Senior. Who knows? It certainly wasn’t about weapons of mass destruction. Nor was it about the “War on Terror”. Whatever the reason that Bush/Cheney had for it, they waged a war that caused the loss of many American soldier’s lives. Similarly, the war in Afghanistan is also questionable. After all, nearly all of the Al Qaeda terrorists who commandeered the aircraft on September 11th were from Saudi Arabia. One might think it would have made more sense to retaliate against Saudi Arabia – Osama bin Laden’s homeland. However, in the odd workings of the Bush/Cheney mind – the mind that condoned torture of prisoners, illegal wiretaps on American citizens, and the use of trials by military tribunals for people suspected of supporting terrorists, instead of using the U.S. justice system – America freely attacked two countries without cause. (It doesn’t make sense to say that America attacked Afghanistan because they had trained Osama bin Laden because it was America that had taught the Afghans these same tactics. In essence it was almost as if America had trained Osama bin Laden.

Once the wars began, George Bush/Cheney was anxious to hide the cost of war – American war dead from the American people. Thus the war dead were brought to Dover Air Force base in secret with no news coverage. The American people were not to know the human cost of the war – George Bush had learned that lesson from the Vietnam war. He knew that by managing the news the American people could be kept under control. He didn’t need any demonstrations in the streets.

There was, however, another problem for George Bush/Cheney.  What should be done with unidentified body parts of dead soldiers? For example, suppose a young Army volunteer soldier steps on a land mine and get blown into dozens of pieces? Or what about the soldiers who are flying to a battle and their helicopter crashes and they are burned beyond recognition? Or what should Bush/Cheney do about the soldier who takes a direct hit from a mortar shell and is split into three or four pieces? Should the military hold funerals for these people? It seems that Bush/Cheney decided that wasn’t necessary because by virtue of being dismembered these young men were no longer people – they were “medical waste”. Bush/Cheney apparently decided that the best thing to do with the remaining pieces of the young volunteer soldiers was to just throw them into the dump in Virginia.

So they did. The remains – i.e. arms, legs, fingers – whatever – were simply incinerated and literally dumped into a landfill, along with the garbage. That, apparently, is what hospitals do with “medical waste”, and it seems that is what America’s volunteer soldiers had become – medical waste. A sort of road kill – that’s all. And the government didn’t bother to tell the families of the soldiers what they had done. The complete lack of honor accorded to these soldiers by the U.S. government is horrific. The treating of war dead as garbage is reminiscent of the utter lack of humanity in the Nazi concentration camps. It smacks of the depravity of Pol Pot in Cambodia. It sends a clear message of a government that has lost its soul and humanity – it has simply become a heartless killing machine caring nothing for those on whom it drops its bombs and caring just as little for American soldiers who get shredded into pieces while fighting for…for…I wonder – just what are they fighting for?

So where is the outrage from President Obama? Where are the voices of Congress? Where is the American Legion? It was a news story for a day. OK, everyone. Let’s move on to the next thing. And so it goes in today’s America. No one is accountable. The desecration of the war dead is of little to no interest to the public. Life goes on. I wonder what’s at the movies this weekend…

Bring on the bread and circuses! Ave imperator! Moritori te salutant!

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It’s sort of like the Emperor’s New Clothes, isn’t it?  Everybody pretends that we have waged a successful war. Mission accomplished!!  It’s like we don’t want to admit what surely everyone knows: the whole thing was a fraud.  Remember the reason we went to war? I do. Weapons of mass destruction – that was it. Old George Bush told us the Iraqis had them. He was sure of it. They had nukes. They had yellow cake from Niger. Colin Powell dragged out the high altitude photos – just like the Kennedy administration did before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Remember how the U.S. had taken photos with U-2 spy planes of the Russian ICBMs that were being set up in Cuba? I do. So there was old Colin Powell doing the same thing, showing the world the photos taken from spy planes or satellites. “Look.” he said, “biological warfare equipment!! Chemical warfare equipment!!”

The sabres rattled.  The stern warnings were pronounced. Saddam Hussein loudly protested that he had no weapons of mass destruction. He didn’t have any nukes, he said.  He didn’t have any biological warfare labs. He didn’t have any chemical warfare labs. “Hah!” said George Bush. “You’re a liar, Saddam. A rotten liar.” we all said. (We meaning the U.S. collectively – not necessarily you and me.)  Saddam kept protesting and old, sly George just rattled the sabre more loudly. The we launched. Shock and awe. Death from above. That would do it. Those Iraqis would surrender in a few days, right? No. They didn’t.

Then, as we were constantly told that victory was imminent, this new entity comes along – Al Qaeda in Iraq.  Whoever heard of them anyway? Saddam hated Al Qaeda. You never heard a peep from Al Qaeda when Saddam was in power, but when the U.S. drove him underground (literally), they surfaced. And then the U.S. found that if they  were looking for a fight, well they found one.  And so, the war on weapons of mass destruction (which never existed and old, sly George and old, sly Colin, and old, sick, sly Dick probably knew that all along – from day minus one even) was quietly forgotten and the war in Iraq became a war against the terrorists – who were happily saying goodbye to our troops in Afghanistan who were leaving to fight the war against terror in Iraq.

Well, I am glad to report the war on terror and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is over. Yep. The last of our combat troops are gone. President Obama was true to his word and now we can all sleep better, knowing we don’t have to worry about those Iraqi “nucular” missiles.

Here’s the thing I don’t understand: as of the end of 2009 there were 4287 Americans killed in Iraq and 30,182 wounded. Where are the protests? Doesn’t anyone get it? This wasn’t a patriotic war. Iraq didn’t attack us. They didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. George Bush just decided he was going to eliminate Saddam Hussein and he did, all based upon trumped up “evidence” that was shaky on the day it was created.  Where is America’s outrage? Where is the Tea Party when you need them? Where is Sarah with her indignation? Doesn’t she get it?

When I look back at Vietnam and the riots in the streets and the civil disobedience, I wonder why we were so indignant then about a war that had a very tenuous justification and now we are OK with a costly war in both human lives and our treasure. But now I know why. It’s the draft. Or, more precisely, the lack of a draft. See, in the old days when Uncle Sam beckoned you had to go. Now, you don’t because Uncle Sam doesn’t beckon – he just pays good money to people, many, many of whom can’t hope for a job that pays as well as being an Army grunt. We have a professional military these days. (Thanks to Tricky Dick Nixon) Some would say we have  a mercenary army. So why should anyone be outraged about all the unnecessary deaths and ripped apart bodies? They’re all volunteers aren’t they? And that is really it, isn’t it? There are no demonstrations in the streets because if you don’t want to go you don’t have to go.

So what about, you know, the ethics of the whole thing? You know. The lies, the fabrications, the complete ignoring of international law. What about that? Who cares? Or so it seems, anyway.

So, as we celebrate our glorious victory in the name of Pax Americana, our legions return home from the lands of the foreigners. They go to their bases and prepare for their next war. Professional soldiers.

Meanwhile, sly George smugly sits and gloats while sick Dick lurches from hospital to hospital and Colin is still trying to figure out what happened to his career and his reputation. And the American people? What do they think?

Tea Party People!  Please enlighten me!  Was the whole thing just a big mistake? Was it a secret plan crafted by geniuses in the White House basement? Was it all for nothing? Are we wrapping up a glorious era or a gory error?

You can Go ask Sarah, I suppose, but I don’t think she’ll know. (My apologies to Grace Slick.)

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As economists now start talking about the U.S. entering a Depression rather than a Recession, the discussion still centers on the effects of our overly exuberant Real Estate Bubble.  It was a bubble that sucked in the entire world as other countries either emulated the U.S. policy of giving mortgages to people who really couldn’t afford them, or they invested in U.S. toxic mortgages, or both.  In retrospect, the popping of such a ludicrous bubble was inevitable – so why didn’t we all see it coming? Why weren’t the governments of the world raising the alarm in 2003 or 2004?  It’s probably because most of us don’tbb recognize bubbles until they pop; and then we say, “Oh yeah, it was a bubble all right.”

If we care to look a little more carefully at our economy – if we dare – we would probably find that we have been the beneficiaries of other simultaneous bubbles.  For example the War Bubble.  After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S., which already was spending enormous amounts of money on defense, geared up for the War on Terror, the War on Afghanistan,  and the War on Iraq.  The Defense Department budget grew, we created a separate line item in the budget for the Global War on Terror, and we created the Department of Homeland Security with its own huge budget.

The 2009 U.S. budget calls for a Department of Defense budget of $651 billion. The 2009 budget also calls for a Homeland Security budget of about $38 billion.  Combining these we have total planned expenditures for war, in some way or other, of about $700 billion.  It is interesting to note that some economists predict that the total cost for the Iraq War alone could eventually reach $4 trillion. Now were talking real money!

According to Nouriel Roubini, the NYU economist who predicted our current economic meltdown, the total amount of losses in the financial sector, due to bad real estate loans and bad business loans will be about $3.6 trillion.  So what does this have to do with defense spending? The similarity is this: the frantic economic activity during the Real Estate Bubble: borrowing, buying, and selling, injected trillions of dollars into the economy that trickled down and trickled up to all levels.  In the case of the War Bubble a very similar thing is happening. The U.S. government has borrowed a lot of money from China to finance the Iraq War. However, this cost has not been obvious to the American public because a vast amount of this money was spent either in the U.S. or paid to U.S. contractors involved in the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  For many Americans, employees of Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Halliburton, and many, many others, their weekly paychecks have come, either directly or indirectly from the War Bubble.  In short, we have been living on two bubbles: a Real Estate Bubble and a War Bubble. Now, we are about to pop the War Bubble.

As the U.S. pulls out of Iraq and the Obama administration scales back much of our defense spending to more rational levels it seems inevitable that we will all feel the impact as defense contractors scale back.  Defense and war related jobs will be lost.  Hundreds of billions of dollars per year that had been flowing into the economy and trickling up and trickling down will stop flowing.  If the Real Estate Bubble doesn’t send us into Depression, the ending of the War Bubble – combined with the popping of the Real Estate Bubble certainly will.

Unless, of course, the Obama administration takes preemptive action and pumps a lot of money into the economy right away.  The Obama administration’s current plans are to pump about $825 billion into the economy to create new jobs.  The question is this: is that enough? Is this really enough to compensate for the double bubble economy that has been driving our economy throughout the Bush administration? I don’t think so.  He’ll need to put in more money – lots more.  Our economy is now in a screaming nose dive.  Now is not the time to be stingy. Obama should be thinking trillions, not billions.

Even more important, Obama needs to think about creating a stable economy, and a stimulus that builds roads and bridges is nothing more than a temporary fix, a finger in the dike, because it doesn’t create long term, self-sustaining businesses. It’s called a stimulus, but what is it that is being stimulated? There is not an infinite, unending consumer market for roads and bridges.

We also need a science and technology stimulus because that is where we have a chance to find and create the next generation high tech industries that can be the foundation of a 21st Century, self sustaining economy.  This is the best opportunity to get the U.S. away from a bubble economy.  So far, I don’t see much evidence of such a concept, and while the roads and bridges stimulus thing will help in the short term, we need to recognize that ultimately it’s only a Roads and Bridges Bubble.

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Last night was a melancholy one at the Republican Party Convention, not because their President wasn’t there, but because the stale smell of defeat was in the air, swirling around the empty seats of the Xcel Energy Center. Sure they were still trying to beat the drums of war. The colors of the flag, especially red and white – the color of blood and bandages – were everywhere you looked. But there was a certain lifelessness about the Party, as if everyone knew the party was over.

Everywhere you looked there were old men and even older women shuffling along the aisles, their gray hair or balding heads identifying them from afar. They would stiffly approach each other, the tired old men and women, and then cautiously and with a touch of frailty, dry lips would place a pretend kiss on an arid, crinkled cheek. They took their seats, oblivious to the rows and rows of empty seats in the upper sections of the Center, safe and distant from the scores of protesters in the streets outside that got scant, if any, notice from the right wing U.S. media.

Check out http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/0903/uselection.html

The planned excitement got underway with a telling of the sad story of a young, and very brave soldier who died in the meaningless war in Iraq. You could almost hear the drums beginning to beat, the trumpets sounding the charge, and you could almost see our flag waving proudly again as our heroic Commander in Chief led the charge against all enemies foreign and domestic. You could almost buy into the old mantra that everyone opposed to the glory of war is un-American, that peace is a dirty word, and that, if you only believe in George Bush it will all come true. Only believe.

Then we saw the Vietnam vets, and I remembered my friends whose names are written on the black wall of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. I think it is impossible to stand in front of that memorial and not have a tear come to your eye as you fully comprehend the vast waste of lives, the heartrending toll of another, older, meaningless war. That was Lyndon Johnson’s war, a Democratic President, a Texan.

Our Republican President Bush, also a Texan, addressed the Convention by video link from the White House, claiming he was too busy with the Hurricane Gustav stuff to attend, but everyone knew the real reason he wasn’t there. They say Vice President Cheney has left the country, bound for who knows where, and really, who cares?

It all dust and ashes now at the Republican Convention in the Twin Cities: the ashes of another stupid war and the dusty, fading memories of the pointless loss of lives of our brave, young men.

When will they ever learn?

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I’ve been wondering: if we still had the draft, would our soldiers still be in Iraq?

On July 1, 1973, after much debate, President Richard Nixon signed legislation creating the all volunteer military that we have today. Until then the majority of people who served in the armed forces (and there were millions and millions) in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam were draftees. So why did President Nixon decide that we needed to completely change the makeup of our armed forces? His explanation was that we were in a different world now: our nation was confronted by highly trained, professional armies of other nations that were certainly far more effective than ours. Hey, we lost in Viet Nam, remember? These foreign professionals (I wonder if he was referring to the Viet Cong here? Probably not, I guess. Actually, I’m not sure who he was referring to, come to think of it – maybe the Russians or the Chinese? He didn’t say; it was just “them”.) They were better trained, they were bigger, they were stronger, they were smarter, they were faster, and therefore, much more likely to be successful in armed engagements because they were – well, they were just superior, professional forces!

That Dick Nixon was a smart one, but, you know, not everybody trusted him, and in retrospect, I have to admit that they were sort of right about that. He was our only President to be impeached and then resign in disgrace. It was all about that Watergate thing and how the Republicans hired these burglars who got caught breaking in to the Democratic campaign headquarters, or something like that. Seems that Dick might have OK’d the whole thing in advance. Hey, is that so bad? Anyway, his successor, Gerald Ford, as his first act as President, pardoned Nixon for all his misdeeds and then Dick retired into obscurity. So that was all set straight. Today, Nixon is pretty much forgotten, but his legacy of an all-volunteer army lives on. Did you know they used to call him “Tricky Dick”? I wonder why people said that?

It is interesting to note that our current President, George Bush, has heartily endorsed Nixon’s all volunteer army. He wrote on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Nixon’s establishment of the new armed forces that, “For the last 30 years, we have been fortunate to have a military composed entirely of volunteers.” Yes, George, that sure has turned out to be a good idea hasn’t it?

The Iraq war is our first major war since Viet Nam, but the remarkable thing is how differently people have reacted to it on the home front. Remember the marches in the streets with hundreds of thousands of people protesting the Viet Nam war? Remember the slogan’s like “Hell no, we won’t go!” Remember all the people who burned their draft cards and all the people who fled to Canada to avoid fighting in the Viet Nam war? Remember all the news reports of the slaughter in the jungles, the daily reports of American dead, the photos of dying soldiers, and flag-draped coffins? It was a time of war and riots in the streets. Remember how the National Guard soldiers shot and killed those student protesters at Kent State University? It was pretty clear that a lot of Americans were very unhappy about the war, but they were even more unhappy about the prospect of being drafted to fight in a war that they thought was unjustified and immoral.

Good old Dick Nixon, he was an unrecognized genius. His solution has eliminated all the messy protests and gave future Presidents a well trained military force that can be used almost anywhere for any reason, and no one is going to complain about it. He decided that if we make it attractive enough, (you know, give soldiers good pay, good tuition benefits, free housing, free medical care, good schools for their families, exclusive stores where they can buy stuff at prices much less than any other U.S. citizen, a great retirement plan, and a lot more) we can get lots of people to join the military and have long, fruitful careers as “volunteer” soldiers, willing to fight when told without all the needless questioning of whether this was a moral war or not. After all, what does morality have to do with it anyway?

Dick’s plan is working just fine. We now have a well-trained, all-volunteer, military in Iraq. Nobody is protesting in the streets because no one is being dragged off to fight in a war they don’t believe in. The news of the war is carefully managed without all those upsetting photos of dying soldiers, napalm attacks, public executions of Viet Cong, burned babies, and funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, and such. I mean, do we really want to see all that anyway? Isn’t there something else on TV, like a football game or something? I think I can see why the Bush-Cheney team likes this. Let’s face it we don’t object to the Iraq war because it really doesn’t involve us. Not only are the casualties of little interest, but so are the secret CIA rendition flights, the torture of prisoners, and the utter destruction of a country that had absolutely no involvement in the 9/11 attacks and absolutely no weapons of mass destruction. I could go on, but really – who cares?

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