Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Selling out the soldiers

"Support our troops" ribbons and signs are everywhere as you ride around our little town, or across the south, or across the nation I'd imagine. But the reality is, we're not supporting our troops. They don't have what the need to do the job, they don't have protection and supplies that could perhaps help them out in these horrible circumstances, they're not paid what you'd expect for putting your life on the line everyday, when they get home the medical treatment is marginal, treatment for PTSS is weak, they bill you for your food if you're in the veterans hospital, and veterans benefits are constantly being cut. All this because they don't have the money.

Yet, the private contractors in Iraq are getting rich. Not just because they're granted no-bid, cost plus contracts. That's not enough for them. The latest report from the Pentagon puts the amount of questioned and unsupported charges - i.e. fraud - by Halliburton at $1.4 billion.

Yep, let me make that clear: ONE POINT FOUR BILLION AMERICAN DOLLARS. That's the part of it that they think was not legit. How much Kevlar and HV armoring would $1.4 billion buy? How much equipment to help soldiers? Instead, it's in the pockets of Vice President Cheney's friends, the owners, managers, stockholders, etc. of Halliburton. Who never even went to Iraq. Any questions?

Here are a few links:

Best source is Waxman's Government Reform site: http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/story.asp?ID=880

Links to media reports: CNN Money -

Common Dreams report from Agence France -
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0628-03.htm

Another good article at French site: http://bellaciao.org/en/

CSpan has a video of the testimony given at a hearing back in February - wonder why we never heard anything about this one? - that has details that are so telling and so infuriating one's grip on reality begins to slip when hearing it. How can human beings be this corrupt? this greedy? this insensitive to the lives of their fellow humans?

Looking at all this gives us insight into the mindset, the lack of humanity, and the cynicism at the heart of this whole empire-building project. This kind of thing is the real motivation behind it. Not freedom, not democracy, not even strategic military objectives. As the Congress people holding the forums, Dorgan, Durbin, Waxman, Lautenberg and Boxer, make clear, this is plain and simple war-profiteering. It's what three generations of the Bush family have been best at and how they've made their millions - read Kevin Phillips "American Dynasty" - so why should we be surprised that it's happening now? I suppose it's just the scale of it that shocks.

This is the lever we need to throw all our weight against to move public opinion against this war. These sleazeballs are profiting not just at the expense of the taxpayer but at the lives of the troops in Iraq. How much Kevlar and armor plate could we have bought for $1.4 billion? Letters to editors asking for info on these "hearings" and calling for real hearings is a good place to start.

Spread the word, spread the outrage. Bring the troops home now. Let Halliburton eat cake.


(Thanks to Bunkie at VAIW - Veterans Against the Iraq War, for stirring me up!
Following is the summary of the 2-hour Feb. hearing as posted in the VAIW forum, which originally came from the "Never Give Up" thread on the CafeUtne forum:)

<"Tuesday 15th February 2005 (00h24) :
Whistleblowers Detail Corruption and Fraud at Halliburton during
Senate Hearing
40 comment(s).
Senator Byron Dorgan convened a hearing to shed light on the recent
revelations of contractor corruption in Iraq. Democratic Senators
were fired up about the blatant fraud and theft from the American
taxpayers. And since Bush*s new budget cuts education again, it is
truly a theft from our children. No Republicans attended the hearing.
Senator Dorgan: "To see this kind of waste and this kind of corporate
culture say, *What the hell, it*s just the American taxpayer- stick
it to *em...* Shame on them, shame on them. And shame on those who
refuse to investigate... if we*re paying $2.60 today for gasoline [in
Iraq], it ought to stop this afternoon."

Details of the corruption:

Halliburton has reportedly overcharged us $100 million dollars for
fuel. They charged the US taxpayers $2.64 per gallon to import
gasoline from Kuwait to Iraq, $1 more than the going rate. (Note-
before the war, Iraqis bought gas for about a nickel per gallon.)
Halliburton charged for 42,000 meals per day when it only delivered
14,000 per day. "That*s not a snafu, that*s cheating," said Dorgan.
Buyers were instructed to purchase from *preferred suppliers* using
purchase orders less than $2,500. (because these were not audited)
Instructed not to use spreadsheets to avoid generating any kind of
electronic trail.
KBR managers frequently used phrases like, "don*t worry about the
price, it*s cost plus"
Cost Plus contracts gave no motivation to keep costs down since the
higher the price, the more $$ they made.
Halliburton has *earned* $9 billion in Iraq thus far.

Senator Dorgan was clearly furious at this information, "We want the
truth and we want it now. We are determined to shut down this waste
and abuse."


One example of waste was a contract for embroidered towels. The
original batch of plain towels was returned for the higher priced
towels embroidered with KBR*s logo- higher price translated to more
profit for KBR. If this practice was used for all purchasing in Iraq,
Halliburton may be forced to repay billions of dollars.

Senator Lautenberg, "When you have a business that says- the more
money you spend, the more you make- there is something unholy about
that."

Senator Durbin hit the nail on the head: "Why are we here on Capitol
hill, if it*s not to serve as an oversight of these activities.
Historically Congress has done that." During WWII a Democratic
President and a Democratic Congress launched the Truman Committee and
uncovered the truth. "And yet we find with a Republican President and
a Republican Congress, no Republican is willing to step forward and
ask the hard questions. Why? How can we explain this? I don*t think
there is an explanation."

Sen. Boxer sent a letter to Rumsfeld asking him to begin disbarrment
proceedings, "Halliburton should be banned immediately from bidding
on any federal contract for a number of years."

Representing Rep. Waxman, William Hartung said that this corruption
is also harming our troops. They don*t have the supplies they need
while money is being wasted through this corruption. Hartung said, "I
have never seen this level of corruption and cronyism."

Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense called for a War
Profiteering Committee to be formed. During World War II the Truman
Committee was launched with $15,000, it uncovered the same system of
cost-plus contracts and saved $15 billion. Sen. Lautenberg has tried
to get hearings on this for 9 months (he wrote three letters), but
the Republicans won*t even respond to his request. Note to Sen.
Lautenberg- perhaps it*s time to move beyond letter writing.

Senator Dorgan, "Clearly we*re being cheated, clearly we*re being
ripped off- Why doesn*t the DoD say, *End of this game, we*re not
going to put up with this.* "

Senator Durbin*s final thoughts, "If the American people follow this
hearing and what we have said, they are going to respond with an
outrage. Their money is being wasted and our soldiers are being
endangered because of this situation.... Where is the
accountability? ... This hearing is the beginning..."
Link

Friday, June 17, 2005

...and the Times (NY) confirms

... and a quick post-script to The Israeli Connection: the NY Times article on Conyers' hearing, though treating the event more seriously and even-handedly, fails to mention either McGovern's comment or Rep. Moran's question on Israel. The Times is probably highly sensitive to charges on anti-semitism, and thus reluctant to put such ideas in print.

In addition, here's a link to McGovern's reply to Milbank: raw story

Conyers also posted earlier remarks in response to the slam, at After Downing Street
Link

The Israeli connection

It's the unspeakable truth that's killing us. The unmentionable elephant in the room. The dirty little secret that undermines our integrity.

I haven't dared mention this here before, because I'm a rank coward and fear alienating many whom I love and respect. But Kurt Nimmo has convicted me of my sins, and so I'm saying it: Israel is the linchpin of American imperialism.

The Iraqi invasion clearly was mounted for a complex set of reasons - I began to realize just how complex last night when my daughter asked me to explain it to her - involving transnational corporate interests in the region (including future Chinese oil demands and such), "Great Game" geo-political/strategic concerns (note the countries within a few hundred miles radius of Baghdad), and general neo-con fantasies of a "Pax Americana."

But obviously (the moreso because it was not mentioned) a major concern was protecting Israel from Saddam. In that ancient conflict now known as Gulf War I, he actually fired SCUD missles at Israel. When the history of this period is written with full access and the impartiality of distance, it will be clear that all this is of a piece. Perhaps 'the Iraqi-Israeli Conflict' will describe it. I remember during the 2003 invasion I kept waiting to hear about concerns over SCUDs or other attacks against Israel, since that was such a big issue, and made such great TV viewing in the first Gulf War, but it never was mentioned.

I was suspicious even then as to why that obvious connection was not being made, why that was not being trotted out as justification for the invasion, since clearly there was such division over its advisability in the public mind. The administration's silence on that issue convinced me that it was among the real reasons for the invasion. Now we have this testimony from intelligence analyst Ray McGovern (it's reported, however facetiously, in Dana Millbank's Washington Post column today) telling Conyers' Congressional hearing on the Downing Street Memo that we went to war so "the US and Israel could dominate that part of the world."

Rep. Moran of Virginia brought up the subject, asking if protection of Israel was a reason for the invasion. Millbank's derisive treatment of the subject is likely only one of many to follow attempting to discredit and disallow any serious consideration of the questions. But they have been raised, and America is beginning to wake up: An MSNBC poll yesterday found that 93% of the over 24,000 respondents felt Bush had misled us to justify the invasion.

(Thanks to Kurt Nimmo's great blog, Another Day in the Empire, for the link to Millbank's report.)
Link

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Then the General spoke...

We've been saying it for a long time now, from the beginning really, us radical anti-war types, and perhaps a few other folks too, but no one would listen. Then the General spoke, and it's in the mainstream press!

The Detroit Free Press reported Monday that Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, no less than the chief military spokesman for the US in Iraq (so said the Free Press), said that the Iraq war "is not going to be settled through military options." Wow.

"The only way to end the guerrilla war, Alston and the officers believe, is through the Iraqi political process." That's the Free Press News Services' words. "Gen. George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, called the military efforts 'the Pillsbury Doughboy idea' -- pressing the insurgency in one area only causes it to rise elsewhere."

Lt. Col. Frederick Wellman, the military man in charge of training Iraqi security, said they can't stop the insurgency. "We can't kill them all," Wellman said. "When I kill one, I create three." He was referring to "tribal members joining the insurgency to seek revenge for relatives killed in fighting."

What was that Cheney said Memorial Day -- the insurgency is in it's last throes? Something along those lines. The Free Press even referenced that in it's article. This is remarkable in many ways, not least in that it's mainstream press reporting these things. I am reading more and more of these kinds of reports, as well as editorials in various daily papers across the country criticizing the war and even calling for withdrawal. Perhaps they just sense the sea change from the latest polls that show 60% of us feel the war is "not worth it".

Whatever is motivating this rash of speaking out on the war, it's the most refreshing thing I've heard this year. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even the Congress is beginning to wake up. The bi-partisan call for a deadline, even though it sounds like a long time away, is at least a move in the right direction. I think this is going to gain momentum now, and we'll hear stronger and more insistent voices from all corners.

Not that we can let up. The neo-cons will not give up easily, and there may be setbacks - clearly they will fight any admission of error till the last. But there is at last some movement that is encouraging.

And thanks to Stan Goff for the link to the Free Press article!
Link

Sunday, June 12, 2005

More from the Brits...

Thanks to Hanna's Blog, I've just read the latest "smoking gun" memo from the British. This one's from July 21, 2002 and is even more specific on the subject of "Iraq - conditions for military action." I'll not comment on this, just excerpt a few lines from it and you can draw your own conclusions... the title is a link to the entire document in The Sunday Times. The Michael Smith article is here. A few salient paragraphs:

PERSONAL SECRET UK EYES ONLY



IRAQ: CONDITIONS FOR MILITARY ACTION (A Note by Officials)


--engage the US on the need to set military plans within a realistic political strategy, which includes identifying the succession to Saddam Hussein and creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action

--The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.

--UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion

--We need now to reinforce this message and to encourage the US Government to place its military planning within a political framework ... because it is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action.

--US military plans include no specifics on the strategic context either before or after the campaign.

--The Conditions Necessary for Military Action

10. Aside from the existence of a viable military plan we consider the following conditions necessary for military action and UK participation: justification/legal base; an international coalition; a quiescent Israel/Palestine; a positive risk/benefit assessment; and the preparation of domestic opinion.

--We would regard the use of force against Iraq, or any other state, as lawful if exercised in the right of individual or collective self-defence, if carried out to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe, or authorised by the UN Security Council.

-- In practice, much of the international community would find it difficult to stand in the way of the determined course of the US hegemon. However, the greater the international support, the greater the prospects of success.

--Benefits/Risks

19. Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks. In particular, we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective as set out in paragraph 5 above. A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the US military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden. Further work is required to define more precisely the means by which the desired endstate would be created, in particular what form of Government might replace Saddam Hussein's regime and the timescale within which it would be possible to identify a successor.

--Domestic Opinion

20. Time will be required to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein.


Yes, I think this is all just fascinating in view of how the whole project is working out.
PBU25
Link

Thursday, June 09, 2005

MoveOn Petition

Move On has a link to John Conyers petition demanding that Bush respond directly to the "smoking gun" memo and its clear evidence that Bush lied to the public about what they knew and what their intentions were.

Sign up! Maybe he'll actually do something.

Here's the link:
http://www.moveonpac.org/tellthetruth/?id=5653-1240247-MOALPvnmhtV0SFAjoNbrwg&t=3
Link

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Downing Street memo

The "Downing Street memo" - what I have called the "smoking gun memo" - is finally getting some air time! We're a good five weeks down the pipeline from it's revelation in the London Times, but at last we're getting some response. Bush and Blair were asked about it in the press conference Tuesday, and USA Today reported on the non-answers today, dropping this hilarious paragraph into the story:

"
The Sunday Times' May 1 memo story, which broke just four days before Britain's national elections, caused a sensation in Europe. American media reacted more cautiously. The New York Times wrote about the memo May 2, but didn't mention until its 15th paragraph that the memo stated U.S. officials had "fixed" intelligence and facts."

Democracy.com has been pumping the issue, and Democracy for America (that's the Dean spinoff, I think) also has mounted a "spread the word" campaign including the full text of the memo. "After Downing Street" and attorney John Bonifaz are mounting an impeachment campaign based on the revelations in the memo.

Though some are suggesting the memo is not significant and that Americans are simply misinterpreting the British phrase "fixed around" as meaning "altered" when it only means "attached to" or something similar, this excuse ignores the clear context of the memo which says, as USA Today reports, "
Blair was told by the head of Britain's MI6 intelligence service that in 2002, the Bush administration was selectively choosing evidence that supported its case for going to war and ignoring anything to the contrary"

Isn't that what we've been saying all along, and well before the invasion?

ClearBlueSky lays it all out in no uncertain terms:

"
They are basing their argument on the idea that, if we went to the U.N., it had to be in good faith. On the contrary, everything, including Powell's speech, the Downing Street Memo, and countless other documents point to the fact that the U.S. HAD DECIDED TO GO TO WAR LONG BEFORE GOING TO THE U.N. and that the Bush administration lied to the American people. - To sum up, the shit is really getting deep...and yet they keep on lying."

I haven't checked CNN or the nets yet - of course, I'm sure Fox will report it all in it's usual "fair and balanced" way now that Bush has spoken.

All this only marks for us again how clear it is that the media, hiding behind the notion that they only need report what responsible, reliable, official sources say, continue to ignore anything it is not in the corporate interests to report.

Concerning that issue, check out this little piece by Todd
Smyth, at Independent Media:
You May be Brainwashed by the Corporate Media If...

... and one of the first ifs is, if you
"believe the
5 corporations who own almost all of the media
in the U.S. are liberal."

It's hilarious, but more truth than humor. It lays out
a number of interesting juxtapositions, among them these
10 things that increase corporate profits:
1. having a big war.
2. rebuilding the country that you attacked in that big war.
3. taking over all the oil reserves in the country
you attacked in the big war.
4. almost all privatization of government services.
5. tax cuts for the wealthy.
6. massive national debt...
7. weak gun control laws...
8. illegal abortions...
9. underfunded school mandates...
10. denying equal rights to selected groups...
... all of which (6-10) expand poverty, which
reduces wages, which ... INCREASES CORPORATE PROFITS.

That's what the Iraq invasion, the continued Iraq occupation, and the future plans for empire building by the Bush group are all about. It's the truth behind the entire right-wing agenda.
It's not complicated. (Check out this site for more on that: CNP - not catnip, on Hanna's Blog)

We need to stand up and speak out and call their hand on this whole project. How Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton and half the Democratic Party can speak at the "Take Back America" Convention last week and not even mention Iraq is beyond me. I got a fund-raising letter from the National Committee today, doesn't mention Iraq. I hope they don't think I'm gonna send them money if they can't address the issue that is at the core of the whole problem. I hope they don't think I'll ever vote for a Democrat again unless they get some spine and begin to address the real issues in this country.

Link