Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Spending and spinning

A U.S. government study released Monday found that Iraq has a budget surplus of $52.1 billion, with $11.8 billion that is readily available for spending on its security forces.
The study by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, comes as lawmakers prepare to debate a $2-billion funding request from the White House for the Iraqi security forces.
"Billions of dollars that Iraq has budgeted for security have gone unused. As U.S. troops withdraw, the Iraqi government must take a larger role in providing security throughout the country," the report said.

The above is from Ned Parker's "Iraq, GAO: Iraq has budget surplus, can pay for more of its own defense, report says" (Los Angeles Times). The topic of military spending will be addressed today on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (begins airing at 10:00 a.m. on many NPR stations and also streams online) when Diane is joined by Gordon Adams (American University), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Kori Schake (Hoover Institute). Blogger Dan Froomkin (Huffington Post) takes up back to Iraq as he adds:

The report makes a direct link between U.S. government spending -- including $642 billion on U.S. military operations there and $24 billion for training and equipping the Iraqi security forces -- and Iraq's cumulative surplus of $52.1 billion through the end of 2009.

For comparison purposes, Iraq's annual gross domestic product is $65.8 billion. Meanwhile, the U.S. national debt has soared from $6.4 trillion to $13.4 trillion since former president George W. Bush invaded Iraq and decided to borrow the money for wars and slash taxes.

Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) points out
, "Absent from all of this is that the design for the US-armed Iraqi Army was developed under US occupation and with heavy US influence. Nowhere is it questioned whether Iraq needs the large air force the US envisions them having, which seems to be mostly an excuse to sell American planes that will sit on the ground and occasionally need to be repaired with US-sourced parts." The money has sat there. It wasn't used on potable water or any of the basic needs of the people. Nouri's always sat on the stockpiles. His cheapness, in part, is why the Sahwa has still not been truly absorbed. Sahwa -- aka "Awakening" and also known as Sons of Iraq -- are resistance fighters originally put on the US tax payer payroll by the US military in order to get them to stop attacking US military equipment and US service members. (For those who object to the order, I'm going with the order Gen David Petraeus gave to Congress when he repeatedly testified in April 2008 on this subject.) He was supposed to absorb them into the Iraqi security forces and, those he wouldn't, civilian government jobs. He was also supposed to take over the payment of them. He has dragged his feet on both.

Today on NPR's Morning Edition, Kelly McEvers reports the latest on the Sahwa which includes the constant threats they receive. Sahwa Abu Hussein explains the letter he received this month: "You, those who have sold yourselves and honor to the occupiers, our swords will be very sharp and kill you. Your house will be stormed and burned to the ground." And those lucky enough to find jobs (security forces or civilian government jobs being one group, Sahwa still waiting being the other) have the same problem they've had since Nouri took 'responsibility' for payment, McEvers explains, "members in both groups rarely get paid on time if they get paid at all." Alsumaria TV reports, " Gunmen opened fire on the car of Awakening forces Leader in Latifiya Abdul Rahman Mohammad, in Latifiya town, causing him wounds, a security source said." In addition, Reuters notes a Jurf al-Sakhar home invasion in which assailants hanged a woman, a Mosul attack in which 1 person was shot dead departing from a taxi and a Mosul shooting in which 1 person was shot dead while inside his car.

Yes, the Iraq War continues though many seem unaware of that. Heather Wright (Pacer Times) lays the blame for that at the media's door, "The true culprits are the media. The headlines and leads placed in publications report things such as: 'End of United States combat in Iraq' and 'End of Operation Iraqi Freedom.' These items lead some people to believe that the troops are no longer in danger, which is far from the truth." Matthew Peterson (Vanguard) agrees:

It's a public relations move, and the U.S. media fell for it.
TV crews and reporters were there to watch the 42 Stryker Brigade leave Iraq on the 19th, and they enthusiastically toed the line in saying this was the end of combat operations in Iraq. We all love a heart-rending story, but we also deserve the truth.
Not only are 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq, but other soldiers are coming in to replace those who left.
Further, 3,500 mercenaries are scheduled to be deployed to Iraq to replace those regular troops that just left.
Moreover, regular U.S. troops are still being sent to Iraq, like the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which was deployed a week after the supposed end of combat operations.

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