Monday, December 7, 2009

Two interesting articles on Afghanistan war to share

Just came across two articles about the war soon to be in its nineth year. It is always great to see some alternative perspectives of the mainstream media on world events. It is just the beauty of free flow of information on internet. Check them out:

December 2, 2009

The World's Least Powerful Man
The Obama Puppet

It didn’t take the Israel Lobby very long to bring President Obama to heel regarding his prohibition against further illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Obama discovered that a mere American president is powerless when confronted by the Israel Lobby and that the United States simply is not allowed a Middle East policy separate from Israel’s.

Obama also found out that he cannot change anything else either, if he ever intended to do so.

The military/security lobby has war and a domestic police state on its agenda, and a mere American president can’t do anything about it.

President Obama can order the Guantanamo torture chamber closed and kidnapping and rendition and torture to be halted, but no one carries out the order.

Essentially, Obama is irrelevant.

President Obama can promise that he is going to bring the troops home, and the military lobby says, “No, you are going to send them to Afghanistan, and in the meantime start a war in Pakistan and maneuver Iran into a position that will provide an excuse for a war there, too. Wars are too profitable for us to let you stop them.”
And the mere president has to say, “Yes, Sir!”

Obama can promise health care to 50 million uninsured Americans, but he can’t override the veto of the war lobby and the insurance lobby. The war lobby says its war profits are more important than health care and that the country can’t afford both the “war on terror” and “socialized medicine.”

The insurance lobby says health care has to be provided by private health insurance; otherwise, we can’t afford it.

The war and insurance lobbies rattled their campaign contribution pocketbooks and quickly convinced Congress and the White House that the real purpose of the health care bill is to save money by cutting Medicare and Medicaid benefits, thereby “getting entitlements under control.”

Entitlements is a right-wing word used to cast aspersion on the few things that the government did, in the distant past, for citizens. Social Security and Medicare, for example, are denigrated as “entitlements.” The right-wing goes on endlessly about Social Security and Medicare as if they were welfare give-aways to shiftless people who refuse to look after themselves, whereas in actual fact citizens are vastly overcharged for the meager benefits with a 15% tax on their wages and salaries.
Indeed, for decades now the federal government has been funding its wars and military budgets with the surplus revenues collected by the Social Security tax on labor.

To claim, as the right-wing does, that we can’t afford the only thing in the entire budget that has consistently produced a revenue surplus indicates that the real agenda is to drive the mere citizen into the ground.

The real entitlements are never mentioned. The “defense” budget is an entitlement for the military/security complex about which President Eisenhower warned us 50 years ago. A person has to be crazy to believe that the United States, “the world’s only superpower,” protected by oceans on its East and West and by puppet states on its North and South, needs a “defense” budget larger than the military spending of the rest of the world combined.

The military budget is nothing but an entitlement for the military/security complex. To hide this fact, the entitlement is disguised as protection against “enemies” and passed through the Pentagon.

I say cut out the middleman and simply allocate a percentage of the federal budget to the military/security complex. This way we won’t have to concoct reasons for invading other countries and go to war in order for the military/security complex to get its entitlement. It would be a lot cheaper just to give them the money outright, and it would save a lot of lives and grief at home and abroad.

The US invasion of Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with American national interests. It had to do with armaments profits and with eliminating an obstacle to Israeli territorial expansion. The cost of the war, aside from the $3 trillion, was over 4,000 dead Americans, over 30,000 wounded and maimed Americans, tens of thousands of broken American marriages and lost careers, one million dead Iraqis, four million displaced Iraqis, and a destroyed country.

All of this was done for the profits of the military/security complex and to make paranoid Israel, armed with 200 nuclear weapons, feel “secure.”

My proposal would make the military/security complex even more wealthy as the companies would get the money without having to produce the weapons. Instead, all the money could go for multi-million dollar bonuses and dividend payouts to shareholders. No one, at home or abroad, would have to be killed, and the taxpayer would be better off.

No American national interest is served by the war in Afghanistan. As the former UK Ambassador Craig Murray disclosed, the purpose of the war is to protect Unocal’s interest in the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline. The cost of the war is many times greater than Unocal’s investment in the pipeline. The obvious solution is to buy out Unocal and give the pipeline to the Afghans as partial compensation for the destruction we have inflicted on that country and its population, and bring the troops home.

The reason my sensible solutions cannot be effected is that the lobbies think that their entitlements would not survive if they were made obvious. They think that if the American people knew that the wars were being fought to enrich the armaments and oil industries, the people would put a halt to the wars.

In actual fact, the American people have no say about what “their” government does. Polls of the public show that half or more of the American people do not support the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and do not support President Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Yet, the occupations and wars continue. According to General Stanley McChrystal, the additional 40,000 troops are enough to stalemate the war, that is, to keep it going forever, the ideal situation for the armaments lobby.
The people want health care, but the government does not listen.

The people want jobs, but Wall Street wants higher priced stocks and forces American firms to offshore the jobs to countries where labor is cheaper.

The American people have no effect on anything. They can affect nothing. They have become irrelevant like Obama. And they will remain irrelevant as long as organized interest groups can purchase the US government.

The inability of the American democracy to produce any results that the voters want is a demonstrated fact. The total unresponsiveness of government to the people is conservatism’s contribution to American democracy. Some years ago there was an effort to put government back into the hands of the people by constraining the ability of organized interest groups to pour enormous amounts of money into political campaigns and, thus, obligate the elected official to those whose money elected him. Conservatives said that any restraints would be a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.

The same “protectors” of “free speech” had no objection to the Israel Lobby’s passage of the “hate speech” bill, which has criminalized criticism of Israel’s genocidal treatment of the Palestinians and continuing theft of their lands.
In less than one year, President Obama has betrayed all of his supporters and broken all of his promises. He is the total captive of the oligarchy of the ruling interest groups.

Obama seems destined to be a one-term president. Indeed, the collapsing economy will doom him.

The Republicans are grooming Palin. Our first female president, following our first black president, will complete the transition to an American police state by arresting critics and protesters of Washington’s immoral foreign and domestic policies, and she will complete the destruction of America’s reputation abroad.
Russia’s Putin has already compared the US to Nazi Germany, and the Chinese premier has likened the US to an irresponsible, profligate debtor.

Increasingly the rest of the world sees the US as the sole source of all of its problems. Germany has lost the chief of its armed forces and its defense minister, because the US convinced or pressured, by hook or crook, the German government to violate its Constitution and to send troops to fight for Unocal’s interest in Afghanistan. The Germans had pretended that their troops were not really fighting, but were were engaged in a “peace-keeping operation.” This more or less worked until the Germans called in an air strike that murdered 100 women and children lined up for a fuel allotment.

The British are investigating their leading criminal, former prime minister Tony Blair, and his deception of his own cabinet in order to do Bush’s bidding and provide some cover for Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq. The UK investigators have been denied the ability to bring criminal charges, but the issue of war based entirely on orchestrated deception and lies is getting a hearing. It will reverberate throughout the world, and the world will note that there is no corresponding investigation in the US, the country that originated the False War.
Meanwhile, the US investment banks, which have wrecked the financial stability of many governments, including that of the US, continue to control, as they have done since the Clinton administration, US economic and financial policy. The world has suffered terribly from the Wall Street gangsters, and now looks upon America with a
critical eye.

The United States no longer commands the respect it enjoyed under President Ronald Reagan or President George Herbert Walker Bush. World polls show that the US and its puppet master are regarded as the two greatest threats to peace. Washington and Israel outrank on the most dangerous list the crazy regime in North Korea.
The world is beginning to see America as a country that needs to go away. When the dollar is over-inflated by a Washington unable to pay its bills, will the world be motivated by greed and try to save us in order to save its investments, or will it say, thank God, good riddance.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. His new book, How the Economy was Lost, will be published in January by AK Press / CounterPunch. He can be reached at:

Second article:

Obama's War: Why is the Largest Military Machine on the Planet Unable to Defeat the Resistance in Afghanistan

by Sara Flounders

Global Research, December 2, 2009

Just how powerful is the U.S. military today?

Why is the largest military machine on the planet unable to defeat the resistance in Afghanistan , in a war that has lasted longer than World War II or Vietnam ?

Afghanistan ranks among the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world today. It has one of the shortest life expectancy rates, highest infant mortality rates and lowest rates of literacy.

The total U.S. military budget has more than doubled from the beginning of this war in 2001 to the $680 billion budget signed by President Barack Obama Oct. 28. The U.S. military budget today is larger than the military budgets of the rest of the world combined. The U.S. arsenal has the most advanced high-tech weapons.

The funds and troop commitment to Afghanistan have grown with every year of occupation. Last January another 20,000 troops were sent; now there is intense pressure on President Obama to add an additional 40,000 troops. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. More than three times as many forces are currently in Afghanistan when NATO forces and military contractors are counted.

Eight years ago, after an initial massive air bombardment and a quick, brutal invasion, every voice in the media was effusive with assurances that Afghanistan would be quickly transformed and modernized, and the women of Afghanistan liberated. There were assurances of schools, roads, potable water, health care, thriving industry and Western-style “democracy.” A new Marshall Plan was in store.

Was it only due to racist and callous disregard that none of this happened?

In Iraq , how could conditions be worse than during the 13 years of starvation sanctions the U.S. imposed after the 1991 war? Today more than a third of the population has died, is disabled, internally displaced and/or refugees. Fear, violence against women and sectarian divisions have shredded the fabric of society.

Previously a broad current in Pakistan looked to the West for development funds and modernization. Now they are embittered and outraged at U.S. arrogance after whole provinces were forcibly evacuated and bombarded in the hunt for Al Qaeda.

U.S. occupation forces are actually incapable of carrying out a modernization program. They are capable only of massive destruction, daily insults and atrocities. That is why the U.S. is unable to win “hearts and minds” in Afghanistan or Iraq . That is what fuels the resistance.

Today every effort meant to demonstrate the power and strength of U.S. imperialism instead confirms its growing weakness and its systemic inability to be a force for human progress on any level.

Collaborators and warlords

Part of U.S. imperialism’s problem is that its occupation forces are required to rely on the most corrupt, venal and discredited warlords. The only interest these competing military thugs have is in pocketing funds for reconstruction and development. Entire government ministries, their payrolls and their projects have been found to be total fiction. Billions allocated for schools, water and road construction have gone directly into the warlords’ pockets. Hundreds of news articles, congressional inquiries and U.N. reports have exposed just how all-pervasive corruption is.

In Iraq the U.S. occupation depends on the same type of corrupt collaborators. For example, a BBC investigation reported that $23 billion had been lost, stolen or “not properly accounted for” in Iraq . A U.S. gag order prevented discussion of the allegations. (June 10, 2008)

Part of the BBC search for the missing billions focused on Hazem Shalaan, who lived in London until he was appointed minister of defense in 2004. He and his associates siphoned an estimated $1.2 billion out of the Iraqi defense ministry.

But the deeper and more intractable problem is not the local corrupt collaborators. It is the very structure of the Pentagon and the U.S. government. It is a problem that Stanley McChrystal, the commanding general in Afghanistan , or President Obama cannot change or solve.

It is the problem of an imperialist military built solely to serve the profit system.

Contractor industrial complex

All U.S. aid, both military and what is labeled “civilian,” is funneled through thousands and thousands of contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors. None of these U.S. corporate middlemen are even slightly interested in the development of Afghanistan or Iraq . Their only immediate aim is to turn a hefty superprofit as quickly as possible, with as much skim and double billing as possible. For a fee they will provide everything from hired guns, such as Blackwater mercenaries, to food service workers, mechanics, maintenance workers and long-distance truck drivers.

These hired hands also do jobs not connected to servicing the occupation. All reconstruction and infrastructure projects of water purification, sewage treatment, electrical generation, health clinics and road clearance are parceled out piecemeal. Whether these projects ever open or function properly is of little interest or concern. Billing is all that counts.

In past wars, most of these jobs were carried out by the U.S. military. The ratio of contractors to active-duty troops is now more than 1-to-1 in both Iraq and Afghanistan . During the Vietnam War it was 1-to-6.

In 2007 the Associated Press put the number in Iraq alone at 180,000: “The United States has assembled an imposing industrial army in Iraq that’s larger than its uniformed fighting force and is responsible for such a broad swath of responsibilities that the military might not be able to operate without its private-sector partners.” (Sept. 20, 2007)

The total was 190,000 by August 2008. (Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 18, 2008)

Some corporations have become synonymous with war profiteering, such as Halliburton, Bechtel and Blackwater in Iraq , and Louis Berger Group, BearingPoint and DynCorp International in Afghanistan .

Every part of the U.S. occupation has been contracted out at the highest rate of profit, with no coordination, no oversight, almost no public bids. Few of the desperately needed supplies reach the dislocated population traumatized by the occupation.

There are now so many pigs at the trough that U.S. forces are no longer able to carry out the broader policy objectives of the U.S. ruling class. The U.S military has even lost count, by tens of thousands, of the numbers of contractors, where they are or what they are doing—except being paid.

Losing count of the mercenaries

The danger of an empire becoming dependent on mercenary forces to fight unpopular wars has been understood since the days of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago.

A bipartisan Congressional Commission on Wartime Contracting was created last year to examine government contracting for reconstruction, logistics and security operations and to recommend reforms. However, Michael Thibault, co-chair of the commission, explained at a Nov. 2 hearing that “there is no single source for a clear, complete and accurate picture of contractor numbers, locations, contracts and cost.” (AFP, Nov. 2)

“[Thibault said] the Pentagon in April counted about 160,000 contractors mainly in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, but Central Command recorded more than 242,000 contractors a month earlier.” The stunning difference of 82,000 contractors was based on very different counts in Afghanistan . The difference alone is far greater than the 60,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan .

Thibault continued: “How can contractors be properly managed if we aren’t sure how many there are, where they are and what are they doing?” The lack of an accurate count “invites waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money and undermines the achievement of U.S. mission objectives.” The Nov. 2 Federal Times reported that Tibault also asked: “How can we assure taxpayers that they aren’t paying for ‘ghost’ employees?”

This has become an unsolvable contradiction in imperialist wars for profit, markets and imperialist domination. Bourgeois academics, think tanks and policy analysts are becoming increasingly concerned.

Thomas Friedman, syndicated columnist and multimillionaire who is deeply committed to the long-term interests of U.S. imperialism, describes the dangers of a “contractor-industrial-complex in Washington that has an economic interest in foreign expeditions.” (New York Times, Nov. 3)

Outsourcing war

Friedman hastens to explain that he is not against outsourcing. His concern is the pattern of outsourcing key tasks, with money and instructions changing hands multiple times in a foreign country. That only invites abuse and corruption. Friedman quoted Allison Stanger, author of “One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy,” who told him: “Contractors provide security for key personnel and sites, including our embassies; feed, clothe and house our troops; train army and police units; and even oversee other contractors. Without a multinational contractor force to fill the gap, we would need a draft to execute these twin interventions.”

That is the real reason for the contracted military forces. The Pentagon does not have enough soldiers, and they don’t have enough collaborators or “allies” to fight their wars.

According to the Congressional Research Service, contractors in 2009 account for 48 percent of the Department of Defense workforce in Iraq and 57 percent in Afghanistan . Thousands of other contractors work for corporate-funded “charities” and numerous government agencies. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development make even more extensive use of them; 80 percent of the State Department budget is for contractors and grants.

Contractors are supposedly not combat troops, although almost 1,800 U.S. contractors have been killed since 9/11. (U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 30) Of course there are no records on the thousands of Afghans and Iraqis killed working for U.S. corporate contractors, or the many thousands of peoples from other oppressed nations who are shipped in to handle the most dangerous jobs.

Contracting is a way of hiding not only the casualties, but also the actual size of the U.S. occupation force. Fearful of domestic opposition, the government intentionally lists the figures for the total number of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as far less than the real numbers.

A system run on cost overruns

Cost overruns and war profiteering are hardly limited to Iraq , Afghanistan or active theaters of war. They are the very fabric of the U.S. war machine and the underpinning of the U.S. economy.

When President Obama signed the largest military budget in history Oct. 28 he stated: “The Government Accountability Office, the GAO, has looked into 96 major defense projects from the last year, and found cost overruns that totaled $296 billion.” This was on a total 2009 military budget of $651 billion. So almost half of the billions of dollars handed over to military corporations are cost overruns!

This is at a time when millions of workers face long-term systemic unemployment and massive foreclosures.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have now cost more than $1 trillion. The feeble health care reform bill that squeaked through the House, and might not survive Senate revisions next year, is scheduled to cost $1.1 trillion over a 10-year period.

The bloated, increasingly dysfunctional, for-profit U.S. military machine is unable to solve the problems or rebuild the infrastructure in Afghanistan or Iraq , and it is unable to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure in the U.S. It is unable to meet the needs of people anywhere.

It is absorbing the greatest share of the planet’s resources and a majority of the U.S. national budget. This unsustainable combination will sooner or later give rise to new resistance here and around the world.

Global Research Articles by Sara Flounders

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