Tuesday, March 30, 2010

War costs, war 'end'

Michael George (WTMJ -- link has text and video) reports Spc Robert Rieckhoff was laid to rest in Kenosha with over one-hundred in attendance at yesterday's funeral. WKOW notes that his survivors include "his two children, Tyler and Katrina." The 26-year-old enlisted in 2001 and was on his second tour of duty when he was killed in Baghdad March 18th. In a second report, Michael George quotes Brig Gen Jeffrey Bannister stating, "Robert, he was loved. He was a phenomenal soldier, he was always leading the way within his platoon."

We're a left site but a visitor asked if we could note something from the libertarian CATO institute on the war and we will. This is from Justin Logan's "Are We Really Going to Leave Iraq? (part III)" (Cato):

I've been asking this question for a while now (see here and here). Now the influential liberal foreign policy analyst Kenneth Pollack and coauthor worry that the United States is headed for "premature evacuation" [.pdf] in Iraq. Pollack and coauthor argue that "if the United States turns away from Iraq prematurely, it would have dire consequences for Iraq, whose fragile government will be more likely to fail, and for the United States, because success in Iraq is vital to U.S. interests." Accordingly, the United States needs to aim at "securing a new agreement with the Iraqi government that would allow U.S. military forces to remain in the country beyond 2011."
Oh, and it’s not just Iraq. "Like Iraq, Afghanistan will require roughly 50,000 U.S. combat troops, probably rebadged as advisors, for many more years before it is able to stand on its feet."
It seems cruelly ironic that Pollack, whose most recent book is titled A Path Out of the Desert, seems only to have a bottomless stack of plans to keep America stuck on the treadmill in the desert he urged us onto more than seven years ago.

To a libertarian Kenneth Pollack seems like a liberal but few on the left would apply the same label to him. We'd be more likely to describe him as a "centrist." Yesterday we noted there would be a send-off for the nearly 200 members of the Arizona National Guard preparing to deploy to Iraq. Carol Ann Alaimo (Arizona Daily Star) reports today on the send-off ceremony and notes that the 180 National Guard members "leave behind more than 200 children."

Yesterday's snapshot covered the Commission on Wartime Conracting in Iraq and Afghanistan in DC. Kat covered it last night in "Commission on Wartime Contracting," Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Fraud and waste" and Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "The arrogance and waste of KBR." CBS News reports on the hearing:

In an example of waste, the Department of Defense’s Inspector General calculated that of $5 million charged for tactical maintenance work at a base in Balad, Iraq $4.6 million or 92% was wasted. While KBR says it reported this to the government, the Army did not ask the company to correct it. Commissioners criticized the Army for failing to act despite clear evidence that millions in taxpayer dollars were being wasted.
"We're paying for services that aren't needed," conceded Lieutenant General James Pillsbury, Deputy Commanding General of the Army Materiel Command.
Commissioner Clark Kent Ervin said the case in Balad was not an isolated incident. He pointed to a November 14, 2009 audit from the Defense Contract Audit Agency that found "on average across all sites in Iraq the average contract labor utilization rate was less than 11%," meaning 89% of KBR's labor was sitting idle between January and July 2009.

Dana Hedgpeth (Washington Post) adds, "There are roughly 102,000 contractors in Iraq, and each contracted worker can cost the government thousands of dollars a month, according to federal auditors. Commissioners said they were concerned that the U.S. military was not providing contractors with key information to help them synchronize their efforts with the drawdown of combat forces." Kimberly Hefling (AP) has a report here and I'm confused by the "much of the emphasis" being on KBR -- all of the emphasis was on KBR. KBR made up the second panel. The first panel was quizzed about KBR. It was a hearing on KBR. Talk Radio News Service offers a brief audio report here.

The following community sites have updated since yesterday evening:

We'll close with this from Chris Hedges' "Is America 'Yearning For Fascism?'" (Information Clearing House):

The language of violence always presages violence. I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.
"We are ruled not by two parties but one party," Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. "It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded."
The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends