United States News Digest
Justice Department May Block BAE-Saudi Eurofighter Deal
April 18 (EIRNS)There is currently an internal debate within the Bush Administration over whether to approve a BAE Systems contract to supply Saudi Arabia with Eurofighter Typhoon planes, according to the London Financial Times. The U.S. State Department must approve the transfer of U.S. technology on the fighter before Britain can export the planes to Saudi Arabia. The State Department reportedly wants to approve the deal, but the Justice Department, which is investigating whether BAE violated U.S. laws by bribing Saudi officials over the Al-Yamamah arms deal, is arguing that approval could hamper this investigation.
Meanwhile, the London Economist reported on April 17 that Britain is still stonewalling the U.S. request for evidence in the BAE case, so U.S. investigators are bypassing the British government and collecting documents directly and bringing witnesses to the United States.
Dean Pressures Superdelegates To Decide Now
April 18 (EIRNS)Appearing on the Wolf Blitzer show on CNN last night, Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, who just handed the operation of the Democratic Party convention website to the British-based firm WWP, demanded once again that the Democratic superdelegates make their choice for the party's Presidential nominee known now. "I need them to say who they are for, starting now. They really do need to do that. We've got to know who our nominee is. There is no reason we shouldn't know that by after the June 3 primary. We can't give up two or three months of active campaigning and healing time." Dean thus continues to act in the tradition of DNC chairman Jacob Raskob, who opposed Franklin D. Roosevelt's nomination in 1932, on behalf of J.P. Morgan and the British. Roosevelt won the nomination at the Democratic convention on the fourth ballot, and went on to win the election in November. Dean claims that his job is to enforce the rules, but where is the rule that the nomination has to be made two to three months before the convention?
Pentagon Study: Iraq War Is a 'Debacle'
April 18 (EIRNS)A new study, "Choosing War: the Decision To Invade Iraq and Its Aftermath," released two days ago, calls the war a "major debacle" that has been very expensive in terms of blood, money, and U.S. standing, that has "severely strained" the U.S. military, has turned Iraq into "an incubator for terrorism, and emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East." What makes the report of significant interest is first that it was published by the National Defense University, the nation's premier institution for the education of leaders in national security affairs, and secondly, its author, Dr. Joseph J. Collins. Prior to becoming a professor of national security strategy at NDU's National War College in 2004, Collins served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations, starting in 2001.
The study provides an assessment of the process that led to the decision to go to war, and Collins concludes that the tight link between Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "was a key association" in that decision. Collins also highlights Rumsfeld's penchant for micromanaging the invasion planning, resulting in a force that was too small to secure Iraq after the Saddam Hussein regime collapsed, and the failure of top administration officials to heed the warnings of experts of what was likely to happen once the Ba'athist regime was removed. The only thing missing from Collins' account is an understanding of the "perpetual war" intention behind the invasion of Iraq and the continuation of that intention in President Bush's refusal, more than five years after the invasion, to even consider an exit strategy.
Study Highlights Iraq War Vets' Mental Health Problems
April 18 (EIRNS)A study released yesterday by the Rand Corporation, which was conducted independently of the Department of Defense, estimates that, out of 1.64 million service members who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, approximately 300,000 are suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or major depression, and 320,000 may have experienced traumatic brain injury during deployment (from percussion of IEDs [improvised explosive devises], etc.). That estimate is based on a random survey of 1,965 individuals from all branches of the service. The study also found that only about half of returning veterans who met the criteria for PTSD or major depression sought help (fear of the negative consequences of using mental health services is still the number one reason), and that the Veterans Administration still has serious issues with providing access to care for returning veterans. Of those who did seek care, only slightly over half received a "minimally adequate treatment" (emphasis in the original).
The report estimates that PTSD cases stemming from the wars will cost up to $6.2 billion over two years and traumatic brain injury another $910 million. Pentagon officials are not disputing the findings. Col. Loree Sutton, an Army psychiatrist and director of the newly established Defense Center of Excellence for Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday, that the findings are consistent with earlier studies, both inside and outside the Defense Department, and highlight the importance of "closing the gap between knowledge and practice."
Durbin Presses Bush Administration on Food Emergency
April 18 (EIRNS)The Bush Administration's Director of Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Jim Nussle, came under bipartisan attack when he appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to seek supplemental funds to aid Iraq. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), disregarding the emergency Nussle was trying to sell to the Senators, pointed to the "real emergency." Urging Nussle to include $500 million for the nations undergoing a severe food crisis, Durbin said: "The price of rice in the last few months has gone up 83%. There are people starving.... So, I just have to tell you, when the head of the World Food Program asks for $500 million more in food aid, I want to ask you: Do you believe that is the kind of emergency we should include in the supplemental, to avert a crisis of starvation and political instability around the world?"
When Nussle attempted to sidestep the issue, Durbin said: "I met with Secretary Rice this week, and had breakfast with her. And she said: 'We need it. Give us the authority to buy some things locally so we can stretch it even further, but we need it.' So based on that, do you believe this administration should take this world food crisis and put it in the emergency category of things we need to do right now?"
London's WPP To Control Democratic Convention Website
April 16 (EIRNS)The Democratic Party, under its chairman Howard Dean, has given to the London-based political consulting monopoly, WPP Group, control of the creation and maintenance of the website for the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where the Presidential nominee will be selected. WPP is operating in this case through its subsidiary, Dewey Square Group. Michael Whouley, Dewey Square's president and founder, was a Democratic campaign consultant in 1992, who, immediately after Bill Clinton's inauguration, became a lobbyist for private interests pushing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). As one of the main promoters of London's free-trade dogma within the Democratic Party, Whouley became a prime asset to the WPP Group when they bought his company in 2006.
WPP Group's global political consulting practice emphasizes the destruction of the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt. Mark Penn, ousted as an advisor to the Hillary Clinton campaign on April 7, is chief executive of WPP's giant Burson-Marsteller subsidiary, which also includes operatives leading the campaign of Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.
McCain Gas Tax Plan Benefits Big Oil; Threatens Jobs, Economy
April 16 (EIRNS)Who will benefit from presumed GOP Presidential nominee John McCain's proposed Summer-long suspension of the Federal gas tax? Can McCain be the "economic idiot" he appears to be from this proposal, or is he in league with Administration ideologues who want to privatize and destroy the Federal Trust Fund for highway infrastructureor both? McCain, while speaking at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania April 15, unveiled his quick fix for "pain at the pump." He would eliminate a tax which is now only 5% of the average national price per gallon of regular gasoline, when that price itself has been run up by 45% in three years. He claims his plan would save drivers $10 billion. Not so, but the oil multinationals would pocket billions.
Critics quickly exposed the fraud. "Senator McCain has said he doesn't understand the economy. His gas tax proposal proves the point," charged Democratic Congressmen James Oberstar (Minn.) and Peter DeFazio (Ore.) in a statement April 15. They show how the proposal, expected to cut $3 billion in gas taxes intended for the Highway Trust Fund, translates into a loss of $12 billion in funding for highway infrastructure. This in turn will cost the economy a loss of 600,000 construction jobs. The giveaway to the fallacy of the McCain plan is that it fails to demand that oil companies reduce the price of gasoline. Thus, Oberstar and DeFazio note, "Oil companies would simply pocket the difference," of about 18 cents/gallon, adding to their obscene $155 billion profits in 2007, some $85 billion of which went into the coffers of ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP. Or as the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department put it, "If Senator McCain is serious ... he should lead the fight to stop oil companies from exploiting consumers."