Sunday, July 31, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

Yesterday, Simon Walters (Daily Mail) reported that the upcoming report from the Iraq Inquiry is said to be damning for War Hawk Tony Blair. Today the War Criminal tried to push back whining about "an attempt to pre-judge." Poor Tones, he apparently thought history's verdict would wait centuries but it appears it might come in a lot earlier. David Gunn (Scotsman) quotes MP Angus Robertson stating, "The tapestry of deceit woven by Tony Blair over the past decade has finally unravelled. Despite his best attempts to fudge the issue when he was called to give evidence, the Chilcot Inquiry has recognised the former prime minister's central role in leading the UK into the worst foreign policy disaster in recent history." Nigel Morris (Independent) notes, "The former prime minister faces criticism for not admitting to a secret agreement with President George Bush that Britain would join the invasion, and for claiming wrongly that Britain's intelligence showed "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. [. . .] Alastair Campbell, his former director of communications, is set to be criticised for 'spinning' intelligence material ahead of the war. Mr Campbell declined to comment last night." James Lyons (Daily Mirror) also notes the expected criticism, "The former Prime Minister is to be slammed over bogus claims about Saddam Hussein’s doomsday arsenal. He will also be savaged for making a secret pact with George Bush on going to war – and for keeping his Cabinet colleagues in the dark. Finally, he will be blasted for failing to plan for after the invasion, sources close to the Chilcot inquiry said." Until the report's released, no one's going to know what it says but right now it does appear a War Hawk might have to pay in some form for his lies and for starting an illegal war.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4477. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4477 still.

Reuters notes that 1 official with Ministry of Higher Education was shot dead along with his son in Baghdad and, dropping back to yesterday, that a Mosul roadside bombing left three security guards of "the head of Nineveh provincial council" injured. Aswat al-Iraq reports an armed clash west of Mosul in which 1 Iraqi soldier was killed. The two killed in Baghad have names and Aswat al-Iraq provides them: Dawood Salman Rahim was the official, his son was Hassanein.

Let's turn to the topic of withdrawal, Sara Sorcher (National Journal) reports, "Three out of four National Journal's National Security Insiders said it would be in the national interest to keep troops in Iraq beyond the end of the year." Really? Oh wow. Well I'll give that just as much weight as I did Trident's claim that 4 out of 5 dentists recommend it -- in other words, it's completely meaningless to me. Thanks for sharing, National Journal. Following Saturday's session of Parliament, Nouri al-Maliki held a press conference explaining what he did in the session -- or what he said he did. Aswat al-Iraq reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi states that no plan to extend the US military presence in Iraq was presented (Nouri also stated that) and that no report on the status of Iraqi forces was presented either. Nouri claimed in his press conference yesterday that he presented that report.

Nouri and his State of Law seem on a self-destruct mission these days. First up, Alsumaria TV reports, "State of Law Coalition MP Hussein Al Asadi affirmed that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has violated the Constitution by refusing to ratify the death sentences of former regime officials Sultan Hashem and Hassan Rashid." Jalal has others sign off on the death warrants so he can pretend like he's doing his part to stop executions in Iraq. He's done that as long as he's been president of Iraq (he's in his second term). Jalal's is a for-show position, granted, but it's one he's been allowed to keep for years. State of Law choosing to challenge Jalal over this will not go over well. And remember, Thursday State of Law attempted to do away with the Electoral Commission but didn't have enough votes. Antagonizing a large bloc by going after Talabani probably isn't the smartest way to gain additional votes for your continued efforts to destroy the independent Electoral Commission.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes this from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

US budget crisis: Obama will make poor pay for crisis

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Sadie Robinson looks at what's going on in America

Could the US government really default on its debts?

The US needs to raise its “debt ceiling”—the maximum amount it can borrow—to keep paying its debts. It reached the current borrowing limit, $14.3 trillion, in May.

But the Democrats, led by president Barack Obama, and the Republican Party can’t agree a plan to do this. They are wrangling over spending cuts.

The government can afford to service its debts until 2 August. After that, if a new ceiling hasn’t been agreed, the government will run out of cash.

What do the two parties disagree about?

Less than you’d think. They agree that they want to cut $3 trillion from government spending over the next decade.

Obama has said that he’s “willing to cut a historic amount of government spending”. He proposes to cut $650 billion from Medicare, Medicaid and other benefits.

This would plunge millions of working class Americans into dire poverty and ill health—and shove those already struggling to survive over the edge.

Their main disagreement, though, is how far the debt ceiling should be extended. Obama doesn’t want to deal with the problem again in 2012, an election year.

What would the cuts mean?

Medicaid is a health programme that allows some poor people to get healthcare.

It’s estimated that more than 50 million people rely on Medicaid—more than half are from ethnic minorities.

Obama is also happy with cuts to Medicare, a health insurance programme for 47 million older people and younger people with disabilities.

Obama is also proposing cuts to social security for 52 million unemployed, retired and disabled people—which even the Republicans were not initially calling for.

But isn’t Obama standing up to the Republicans?

Obama claims his own cuts plan is “extraordinarily fair”. But fair to who?

It’s true that he does want to end tax cuts that George Bush introduced and close some tax loopholes for the rich—unlike the Republicans.

But Obama is only prepared to raise less than $1 trillion this way. Meanwhile, he is prepared to force a huge $3 trillion worth of cuts onto ordinary people.

Why has the row broken out now?

The US Congress has voted to raise the debt limit ten times since 2001.

But the ongoing economic crisis has increased tensions between the Democrats and Republicans.

It has also hit Obama’s popularity ratings—and given confidence to some Republicans to try to ram through an assault on the working class.

A similar deadlock hit the government in April.

Politicians reached a shoddy compromise at the last minute. Democrats agreed to $39 billion worth of spending cuts in the budget up to September—a scale one senator deemed “historic”.

This round of cuts is 75 times bigger.

What would happen if the US did default?

It would dramatically intensify the global economic crisis. It’s unlikely to be allowed to happen, though.

The US owes much of its debt—$4.6 trillion—to itself. As Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of the Treasury, put it, “If Goldman Sachs is too big to fail, then so is the US government.”

A default would be unprecedented. US treasury bonds would be devalued. Lenders would charge the country higher rates. Global markets would go into freefall.

The real victims, though, would be working class people.

On 3 August the US is due to pay $23 billion in social security benefits. If they aren’t paid, tens of millions of people will have no money to pay their rent, their bills, or to buy food.

And if the crisis intensifies, those at the top of society will strain even harder to make those at the bottom pay for it.

Is there an alternative?

There’s more than enough money to fund key services that ordinary people in the US need.

The US is home to the most millionaires in the world—nearly 30 percent, according to the World Wealth Report.

And they are getting richer. Rich people in North America increased their wealth by 9.1 percent in 2010, to a staggering $11.6 trillion.

Like other neoliberal politicians, Obama says there are “tough choices” that have to be made.

That’s true. The choice is who pays for the economic crisis—ordinary people or the obscenely wealthy at the top?

There are also some less tough choices Obama could make. Ending the war in Afghanistan, for example, would save billions.

The US spends more than $20 billion every year just on air conditioning for its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The following should be read alongside this article:

Greece: 'bailout' makes crisis worse

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