United States News Digest
Iraq War Getting More Expensive
"Iraq Black Hole: The $2-Trillion War" is the title of a May-June Harvard Magazine article by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz based upon their report, "The Economic Costs of the Iraq War." What Bilmes and Stiglitz account for, apart from their very conservative outlay for the war itself of $500 billion, is the cost of disability for 17,000 wounded soldiers, the cost of offsetting Iraq War investment from the civilian economy such as infrastructure, the rise in re-enlistment settlements and death insurance payments, and the need to rebuild equipment supplies.
In addition, the Washington Post online reported April 27 on the official supplemental figure of $320 billion, that it says makes up one quarter of this year's budget deficit, and the official figure is causing "sticker shock" in Congress.
GAO Blasts Failure To Hold Contractors Accountable
David Walker, the head of the Government Accountability Office, told a May 25 hearing of the National Security subcommittee of the House Government Reform committee, that the lack of progress in rebuilding Iraq is due in part to the failure of both the Executive and Legislative branches to hold defense contractors accountable, CQ Today reported April 26.
At the hearing, subcommittee chairman Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn) told Walker: "You give us a list of some contractors, some areas within the DoD that need a look, and we will have a hearing or a series of hearings on that. The sooner you provide it to us, the sooner we will do it."
Shays was the only Republican attending the hearing; the Democrats present were Henry Waxman of California, and Chris Van Hollen and Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland. Waxman, who has been the driving force in the full committee for investigations and hearings, blasted Dick Cheney's Halliburton, which he said has "repeatedly overcharged" U.S. taxpayers.
Sen. Collins: FEMA Should Be Abolished
"FEMA is in shambles and beyond repair, and it should be abolished," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) April 27. She is the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has been investigating the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina. According to preliminary accounts (full report to be released this week), the Senate committee report points to many errors by FEMA director Michael Brown, Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff, and the Administration. But the committee calls for keeping whatever reorganized disaster agency is formed within the Department of Homeland Security.
Nissan's Racist Experiment in Mississippi
Lyndon LaRouche sketched a major flank against economic collapse and depression in the union fight about to be launched against Nissan Corporation's racist "auto plantation" at which 5,500 mostly African-American wage slaves are toiling in Canton, Mississippi.
A friend of LaRouche in the middle of the fight said April 26 that it is a top priority of both the UAW and the AFL-CIO nationally, precisely because it is "mission impossible"organizing Nissan, and in Mississippi. The Nissan racists, he said, are "just conducting an experiment, on an African American workforce, to see how low they can drive auto"; and LaRouche completely agreed that that is the way to attack this disgrace and "kick it in the ass."
The starting wage for most of the plant's employees, whom Nissan admits are more than 75% of them black, and actually more than 80%, is $9.50/hour; nobody will make more than $12.50/hour. The Nissan racists have been operating this plant for two years, said the organizer, and a large number of its workers are, in fact, still working for a temp contractor! They are at least five years from wage increases, from becoming vested in pensions, or a healthcare plan. The plant's sections are hermetically divided, so that no one can go from one part to another talking union. Nissan, like Wal-Mart, writes threatening letters to the plant's suppliers if they are about to agree to wage increases with their workers. "You can imagine how low the suppliers are working [wages], if Nissan's paying $9.50, he said."
The State of Mississippi was conned into giving Nissan, eventually, $460 million in free land and tax breaks for this one plant, and the wages are so low (one-third lower even than Nissan's main U.S. plant in Smyrna, Tennessee), that the state is cheated out of payroll taxes in almost equal amount.
Senator Warner May Hold Hearings on Rumsfeld
Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner (R-Va) is considering whether to hold a hearing to take testimony from the growing list of retired generals who have called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, as requested by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), a member of the committee. Warner's spokesman said that he will consult with committee members in the coming days; Warner has said the committee could not hold such a hearing before Memorial Day because of its heavy workload.
ABC pointed out April 26 that Warner's statement is notable for what it doesn't sayit says nothing good about Rumsfeld or supporting him. Warner did not attend an April 25 meeting of Armed Services Committee Republicans with Rumsfeld.
Meanwhile, three more retired flag officers, all of whom have previously come out against Rumsfeld on the torture issue, are supporting the retired combat generals who have called for Rumsfeld's firing.
Gen. David Irvine, who taught interrogation and military law for 18 years, says he has yet to meet any retired flag officer who is a fan of Rumsfeld, and he says he hasn't seen anything like this in 40 years. "I sense a great deal of distress among senior military officers over what's happened with prisoner treatment," Irvine said. "I believe the abuse is playing a significant part in how these generals are feeling and why they're speaking out. There's an understanding that whatever we're doing at Guantanamo and elsewhere constitutes license for others to do to us when our soldiers are taken prisoner in the future."
Retired Gen. James Cullen told Salon: "Personally, I don't believe the torture memos originated with Rumsfeld, but with Vice President Cheney and his top aides," adding that "Rumsfeld was quite willing to carry out those policies with enthusiasm. They were offensive to military culturea departure from the rule of law at the very core of military discipline."
Retired Adm. John Hutson, the former Navy Judge Advocate General, says that the criticism of Rumsfeld's conduct of the Iraq war is even more fundamental than the torture issue, on which Hutson has been very outspoken.
Rumsfeld Plans To Expand 'Long War' Around the Globe
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has approved plans to spread the war on terrorism to at least 20 more countries, according to a review in the April 23 Washington Post, which says that Rumsfeld approved the new three-part plan within the past month. There is an expanded role for the elite Special Operations forces, which have been developed over the past three years. The plans reportedly reflect an expansion of the Pentagon's roles into areas traditionally reserved for the State Department and the CIA. SOCOM has already dispatched small teams of Army Green Berets to U.S. embassies in about 20 countries in the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and Africa to do operational planning and intelligence gathering. An important aspect of these operations is that the Pentagon no longer needs the permission of the U.S. Ambassador before conducting military operations. Rather, the Pentagon can now get away with simply "informing" him.
The first of the three plans sets priorities, allocates resources, and sets nine key goals for targetting terrorist activities. The second plan is focussed on al-Qaeda and associated movements, including groups in Egypt, Africa, and Indonesia. The third plan sets out how the U.S. will retaliate in the event of another major terrorist attack on the U.S., depending on who is "believed" to be behind the attack. According to the Post, "Another attack could create both a justification and an opportunity that is lacking today to retaliate against some known targets," say unnamed defense officials familiar with the plan.
Younger Officers Debating Rumsfeld, Too
In addition to the senior retired generals, younger military officers, are debating Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's performance and the Iraq war policy, the New York Times reported April 23. Conversations with dozens of cadets and junior and mid-level officers by military reporters for the Times show that the issues raised by the group of retired generals calling for Rumsfeld's resignation are being debated in all ranks. Even many of those who say Rumsfeld should not resign think he should acknowledge errors and "show that he is not the intolerant and inflexible person some paint him to be," one Army colonel said. Two Army majors are quoted at length, attacking the senior leadership of the Army for going along with Rumsfeld's war plan without protesting, but, everyone knows that the responsibility for the tragedy in Iraq is a shared one: Even though they hate Rumsfeld, they know that President Bush gave the order and the Army went along "without saying a word." One Army colonel noted that while the military is over-deployed, there is little or no commitment from the rest of the nation, not even to retain battle-experienced junior officers, who are leaving the Army in droves.