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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

94b$ more USA weapons -- CRIMINAL THEFT

Pentagon, contractors cleaning U.S. out

If America were a true democracy,
would we vote this budget in?

# $471 billion, Pentagon: So unaccountable, it could not pass an audit, even if its books were in good enough shape to perform one.

# $38 billion, K-12 education: Many of our schools are dropping programs because of lack of funding.

# $50 billion, children's health care.

# $13 billion, humanitarian foreign aid.

# $6 billion, job training.

# $2 billion, renewable energy research.

# $8 billion, Environmental Protection Agency.

There is $1 trillion unaccounted for in the Pentagon. Wouldn't that more than cover SCHIP, help our infrastructure and pay for health care?

Everything Halliburton and KBR does in Iraq is marked up 1,500-2,500 percent. They have bilked American taxpayers out of billions of dollars, and no one holds them accountable.

The government depends on the dumbing down of the people, so we will be so busy working just to keep food on the table and bills paid (government loves the fact that we overspend), we won't have time to read what is really going on in this country.

It's sad that the rest of the world views America as the world's largest terrorist state. If you want to know what is really going on with the government, read Noam Chomsky's booklet, "9-11."

Joy Diamond


December 4, 2007
Admiral Mullen Declares Elephants Too Small

"Elephants and Budgets Too Small" was first published by on Dec. 3, 2007;

By Winslow Wheeler

Like many other advocates of more Pentagon spending, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, recently told the press that the nation needs to increase US defense spending from 3.3 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product to 4.0 percent. An increase of 0.7 percent should not be much. Why should that be any problem, especially if, as he and many others say, we spent much more during the Cold War, such as the 8.9 percent we spent in 1968 during the Johnson Administration.

Let's do the math. The latest data from the Treasury Department shows the Gross Domestic Product, the approximate size of the US economy, to be $13.4 trillion. If we increase the Pentagon's "share" of it from 3.3 to 4.0 percent, that 0.7 percent increase calculates to $94 billion: not exactly chicken feed. Next, we should put the Admiral's recommendation into context. Even though the percent of the Gross Domestic Product that we spend on defense has gone down since the Cold War, the dollar amount we spend on defense has been going up, not down. Actually, we spend more on defense now than we did at any time since the end of World War II; that's in inflation adjusted dollars, and it's according to the Pentagon's own official budget data in something called "National Defense Budget Estimates" for 2008. According to this volume, the previous highest point in post-World War II Pentagon spending was 1952 - during the Korean War - at $588.6 billion in today's dollars. President George W. Bush's Pentagon spending request for the new fiscal year, 2008, is above $660 billion. Despite the increase in actual dollars, the percent of Gross Domestic Product for defense has gone down because the economy has grown even faster than defense spending; thus, the ratio of the two has changed downward. Furthermore, the admiral's argument seems to imply the dollars to expand defense spending are easy to find. In a sense, he's right; you only have to do one of three things: 1) increase taxes; 2) cut other federal spending, or 3) increase the federal deficit. Admiral Mullen forgot to tell us which he preferred, or whether he wanted all three. Also, consider that at its current level, the Pentagon's budget is larger than the rest of the world - combined. According to the CIA's 2007 Word Fact Book, the rest of the world spent a little under $400 billion in 2006 on defense. That amount is for not just our potential opponents, whoever they might be; that's the entire rest of the world. Did I mention that the Cold War is over; that we no longer have anywhere a superpower opponent with a military budget that even approaches peer status with the US? For those who point to China and Russia as justification for higher Pentagon spending, consider their defense budgets estimated at an inconsequential $81 and a puny $21 billion, respectively, by the CIA. Admiral Mullen didn't make that absence of a serious competitor a part of his argument to increase Department of Defense spending, either. There are a few other things he forgot to mention. He's choosing the wrong numerator. He talks about increasing just the Pentagon's "baseline" budget. That's the part that pays for peacetime expenses, approximately $470 billion in 2008. His calculation excludes funds to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For 2008, the President's request for that is for $192 billion. Mullen's "oversight" is not inconsequential. When he compares today's spending to the past in terms of GDP, the previous years' data includes the spending for past conflicts, such as Korea, Vietnam, and the 1991 Gulf War. If the admiral were to perform an apples to apples calculation (i.e. one that included war spending to compare to the past), he would find that we're now spending just under 5 percent of GDP on defense. (And, that's not including nuclear weapons costs in the Department of Energy, Homeland Security spending, and a lot else that is defense related in the generic sense.) Congratulations, Admiral; we've hit and surpassed your target - were you to perform an evenhanded calculation. Finally, it is important to pay attention to what Admiral Mullen says he wants to spend his extra money on. He says he wants it to "recapitalize" our weapons inventory. He wants to modernize equipment totally unrelated to the wars, such as buying F-22s, which have yet to appear in the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan for a single sortie (and couldn't do much that is useful if they did). He also says he wants to replace much of the equipment worn out in the wars, sometimes to simply repair or replace the equipment with essentially the same item; sometimes to buy the next generation of hardware, instead, to propel modernization. In other words, Admiral Mullen doesn't want an extra $94 billion - each year - to augment the Pentagon's baseline budget; he wants it to augment the Pentagon's hardware purchasing budget. We've seen it many times before: the Pentagon can't find enough money to buy the hardware it wants. Even though its procurement budget is climbing, costs per unit have grown so much faster that far more money is needed to replace the existing inventory on a one for one basis. Typically, the generals and admirals get the additional money they ask for, but meanwhile the unit cost of hardware will have kept right on growing. The result: a larger hardware budget results in a smaller inventory - which by the way is also older, on average, and less well supplied with spare parts, maintenance, and trained crews. Spent as it has been in the past, Admiral Mullen's $94 billion will result in making these trends worse. The only thing that is different in Admiral Mullen's plea for more money is the tortured rationale. He wants us to think that his hardware budget should mirror the economy. Put another way, every time a new McDonald's opens up somewhere in the US, Admiral Mullen wants the taxpayers to give him a few billion dollars more. Elephants are the largest land-animals on earth, but they are small compared to an extinct dinosaur, such as a Brontosaurus. Admiral Mullen thinks this proves elephants are too small.
Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. He spent 31 years on national security issues for US Senators, from both parties, and the GAO. He is the author of The Wastrels of Defense (US Naval Institute Press) about Congress and national security, and his commentaries have appeared in the Washington Post, Defense News, Defense Week, Government Executive, Barron's, CounterPunch, and Soldiers for the Truth.



Leaders who've 'left the ground'

The media monitor a run-up to possible war with Iran


Many remember the final minutes of Stanley Kubrick’s film “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

A bonkers Air Force general orders a nuclear attack on Russia. The planes can’t be called back. Unfortunately, the Soviets have built a doomsday machine which, if triggered by being bombed, will automatically destroy the world.

Meanwhile, in the bunker under Washington, the president is confused, and a mad scientist, Dr. Strangelove, played by Peter Sellers with a Henry Kissinger-like accent, explains how a select percentage of superior people, like those in the bunker, can survive in abandoned mineshafts.

One bomber makes it through the air defenses and zooms in on Russia. Fanatically determined to fight communism, a pilot with a Texas accent mounts the nuclear bomb as it falls out of the plane. Riding it into the void, he waves his cowboy hat and yells “Wahoo!” as the planet begins to be blown to bits.

A recent Denver Post cartoon recalls this mad moment. Two bombs labeled “Pre-emptive Strike II” hurtle through space. George Bush, riding one, waves his cowboy hat, and Dick Cheney, riding the other and reading a CIA report, says that Iran may be five to 10 years from building a nuclear weapon, but “unfortunately, the American people are at least five and probably more than 10 years from being able to elect another administration like us.”

The country’s leaders, having started a war in Iraq they can’t control or end, want the world to believe we are ready to start another war next door in Iran.

When my NCR column reviewed the press coverage of the preparation for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I noted the mainstream press, with the exception of a few opinion magazines and NCR , failed to foresee the disaster in the making. Congress was cowed into submission, knocking its knees in fear of being labeled “unpatriotic.”

In recent weeks the administration has been beating war drums again. The bogeyman now is Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, allegedly both on the brink of making a nuclear weapon and undermining our efforts in Iraq by supplying the makings of roadside bombs to insurgents. The administration has declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, which may be one step short of justifying air strikes or an invasion to wipe them out.

Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary and Rudy Guliani’s foreign policy adviser, wrote in October that President Ahmadinejad is another Hitler. Mr. Podhoretz, who recently had a 45-minute meeting with President Bush, “prays with all his heart” that for the sake of the United States and Israel, President Bush will hit Iran before leaving office.

But this time both the intellectual and mass media, from The Chronicle of Higher Education to “Doonesbury,” are less supine.

In “Doonesbury,” Cheney has become the black-hooded, Darth-Vader-like Lord Cheney, who orders his minions to devise a plan where Iran’s neighbor, Berserkistan, will provoke Iran into a fight so that the United States can come to Berserkistan’s rescue.

On PBS Oct. 30, Charlie Rose asked Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whether the administration was playing a Cheney-Rice bad cop-good cop charade to scare Iran. Mr. ElBaradei replied that it wouldn’t work, for Iranians are a proud and ancient people. They have the scientific knowledge, but nuclear weapons are a long time away.

Mr. ElBaradei said the Iranians want good relations with the United States but are flexing their muscles. If attacked, several commentators say, they can hit Israel with missiles, cut supplies to U.S. troops in Iraq and kill them with missiles. They can draw in nearby Pakistan, a nuclear power. Oil prices could soar as the United States becomes trapped in a regional war for 20 years.

Seymour Hersh in the Oct. 8 New Yorker and on PBS’ “Frontline” Oct. 23 made it clear that yes, we are preparing another war, and it would be a terrible mistake.

The president’s position, according to Mr. Hersh, is that if things are going badly in Iraq, it is because of Iran, so we must confront Iran. The White House seems to realize that there is not enough popular support for a general bombing campaign, so Dick Cheney has pressed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “take out” Iran’s anti-aircraft missiles, prepare “surgical strikes,” using sea-launched cruise missiles on Revolutionary Guard bases in Tehran and elsewhere, followed by Special Forces land incursions on suspected training sites. All this on the grounds that the Guards are hurting our troops in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the CIA is building up its Iran desk for the conflict. Analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that the United States has classified weapons it might use against nuclear targets, and the History Channel on Nov. 5 depicted the massive ordinance penetrator bunker buster where one bomb pierces the earth to the underground target and the second follows down the hole to blow it up.

Other sources, however, point out that the case against Iran is flawed. The Iranian and Iraqi Shiites have traditionally been allied religiously as well as politically. Tufts University scholar Vali Nasr told Mr. Hersh that last year a million Iranians went to Iraq on pilgrimages and more than a billion dollars a year in trade link the two countries. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki told the Council of Foreign Relations last month that Iraq’s relations with Iran had “improved to the point that they are not interfering in our internal affairs.”

Furthermore, David Kay, former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, suggests that Gen. David Petraeus’ characterization of Iran’s interference may go beyond the evidence. There are so many weapons glutting the black market from both Iraq wars -- including stockpiles of the explosives used in roadside bombs as well as charges recovered from unexploded American cluster bombs -- that it is a stretch to blame insurgent weapons all on Iran.

Debating Mr. Podhoretz on the “Lehrer News Hour” Oct. 29, Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria said that even if Iran does develop a nuclear weapon, we could restrain Iran by deterrence as we restrained the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Deterrence, however, presumes rationality on both sides. As Mr. Cordesman says, the only way you could favor attacking Iran now “is if you become obsessed by computer war games and you’ve forgotten there are real people somewhere outside the computer.”

Speaking at the conclusion of the Sept. 23 “Frontline” broadcast, Iran’s former vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, said, “Leaders in both countries [the United States and Iran] don’t just see themselves as politicians; they also see themselves as carrying out the work of God. They’ve left the ground a bit. And that’s very dangerous for the world.”

Jesuit Fr. Raymond A. Schroth’s The American Jesuits: A History has just been published by New York University Press. His e-mail address is raymondschroth{}

National Catholic Reporter, December 7, 2007


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