Thursday, March 10, 2016

March 10: Time is running short

The cost of the war in Afghanistan has been wildly (under)estimated at something over a  trillion dollars. Guess what the Iraq war cost. Start guessing at 3 trillion dollars. You're probably still on the low side.

Little things add up. For example, the U.S. made extensive use of mercenaries rented out by a company called Blackwater (which just happened to be a company Vice-President Dick Cheney had founded, and still had a large interest in.) The pay for a Blackwater mercenary was and is well over a thousand dollars a day.

A very high proportion of the wounded  ( in their tens of thousands) require treatment to this day in the very expensive American medical system. As well a very high proportion of veterans of that that war suffer stress disorder; and those who do not commit suicide as a result of it will require expensive treatment for the rest of their lives.

Then there are the costs of many billions in 'reconstruction'. In fact, almost no reconstruction was done. The money was given out to private contractors who were well-connected. Such a contractor would take on the rebuilding of a bombed-out school, slap a coat of paint on the outside, and declare it fully restored at a very high price. Other contractors were paid to restore the country's electricity system. I'm not sure of its condition now; but as recently as a couple of years ago, it was working only half time, and that unreliably - making factories, hospitals, schools, homes almost unusable.

As a result of that war, the U.S. government usually sets a figure of 150,000 or so Iraqi dead. Eminent British medical researchers have set it at 1,500,000, I have an excellent source I shall mention later that estimates it was over 2,000,000, the great majority of them civilians.

Millions more fled the country. Those who stayed have lived ever since in wretched poverty. Iraq has effectively been destroyed. Within a short time, it will either disappear from maps or what remains will be much, much smaller.
Why did this happen?

Because Saddam Hussein was a bad man? Well, there are lots of bad men out there. The Royal family of Saudi Arabia springs to mind, as does president Erdogan of Turkey, and George Bush who murdered all those women and chldren and created such a huge debt. The presidents before Bush were pretty bad men, too. They're the ones who destroyed democatic government in Iran and installed a bloody dictator in order to give American and British capitalists control of the oil fields. Then, when Iran got rid of the dictator, they paid Saddam Hussein to invade Iran.

The U.S. will be paying this enormous debt, with interest, perhaps forever, along with another one or two trillion for Afghanistan.

Effectively, Iraq and Afghjanistan were lost wars. And the cause of their loss was greed coupled with a complete lack of any moral sense. And the cause of the greed and the lack of moral sense was what  we like to call capitalism.
Capitalists did well out of those wars and mass murders. They had all those lush, overpriced government contracts. And many of them don't pay any taxes. No. It's the American people who will have to pay back those trillions of dollars. And they will pay it back not just in taxes but in the rising mass of poverty in the U.S., in bad health care, In public disorder as people take out their anger and frustration on anyone who looks different or has a different religion. Those trillions of dollars are why whole families are living on sidewalks, why schools are in advanced decay, why universities are becoming unreachable for any but the rich.

It's the American people, minus the billionaires, who will have to pay that back. The rich create wealth? Yeah. Tell that to Latin America, to Africa, to the middle east; tell it to the poor and the homeless.

The war in Iraq was a classic, capitalist war. It was fought to benefit major capitalists, and to be paid for in money and lives by everybody but the major capitalists. Norbert is fond of saying that any tax is a  "tax grab" as though it were some sort of thievery. It doesn't have to be. Taxes can come back to us as in medicare, education, roads..... But taxes that grab our money (and our lives) to make billionaires richer are real 'tax grabs'. The don't spend it here. They spend it anywhere in the world where labour is cheap and regulations don't exist.
But Norbert would never say that. His idea of proving a case is calling people names.

The reality is that Iraq and Afghanistan made a very few people wealthy, put the people of those countries at least a century back in social development, created far worse poverty than existed before, have created an intense hatred for us in the very large Muslim world (and much of the rest of the world), and given an immense boost to what it pleases us to call 'terrorists'. And it appears to be creating greater poverty here.

Last night, I was reading a book by two, U.S. economists who were major figures in the economic planning for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are pretty reliable sources. They mention on the first page that the original cost estimate for the Iraq war was $50 billion. Of course, that was using business methods in their accounting.

The Three Trillion Dollar War is an excellent book by economists Jospeh Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes. It's not a fun read. Given a choice between a book by economists and comic books like Pogo, Peanuts, or Calvin and Hobbes, I'd choose any of those three before I would choose a book on economics. But this one can be read quickly, and still convey the general idea.

You can get it at the Moncton Library just as soon as I return it.
The first page of today's Irving press really has first page stories. But it goes downhill fast from there, so on p. A4 the big news, half-page story is that a new Canadian Tire store in town will have a self- serve Tim Horton's bar. Hold me back.

The editorial is about money again. Essentially, it says 'something must be done'.
Norbert writes a hate rant about NB liquor. Apparently, his problem with NB liquor is that it's not privately owned. It scared me. As I read it, I realized suddenly that this province is controlled by howling mobs of communists, many of of them indoctrinated at Liquor NB. Same thing with all them there doctors and nurses. I cannot recall that Norbert has ever written a column critical of private business.

Rod Allen writes a column that should be on the sports page.
Louise Gilbert is very interesting on cultural development in Moncton.

Alec Bruce has a column that has a paragraph I have never before seen in an Irving paper. The column is about climate change. "The only reason this province has not embraced a truly effective plan to battle climate change has to do with competing interests that constantly agitate for keeping the province's economy tied to the past."

That's worth thinking about.
Canada&World is recommended reading for those who are not interested in Canada or the world. There's more gush about the Trudeau visit to Washington. What it does not tell or even hint at is - why is Obama mounting this spectacular? The U.S. wants something out of this. It wants something big. What is it?
Vice-President Joe Biden has attacked Palestine for not  condemning a stabbing in Israel that killed an American. Israel has killed thousands of Palestinians, stolen Palestinian land, destroyed uncounted Palestinian homes. How come Biden never demanded an Israeli apology for those?

For that matter, Israel deliberately attacked an American warship in the 1967 war, killing 34 US servicemen. The attacked were deliberate, repeated, and prolonged. There was no apology for that, and no request for one.
There's really nothing in Canada&World that will tell you anything about anything.
Here is an attempt to explain the extremely complex wars in Syria. What it doesn't go into is why the U.S. is involved in it - except for some vague charge that Assad is a 'bad man'. Clinton was a bad man. So was Bush. So is Obama. And each of them has killed far more people than Assad has.

Assad was elected president by a huge margin. No, I wouldn't suggest it was democracy. The margin was suspiciously high. However, it was as honest and democratic as any American election of the past century. And our good buddies in Saudi Arabia don't have elections at all. Anyway, how another country is governed is no business of the U.S. or anybody but that country itself. So why has the U.S. funded and supplied a rebellion? Why has it cooperated with ISIS in Syria?   And why is Canada in this?

It's because the U.S. wants control of all middle east oil. Or, more correctly, U.S. capitalists want control of all middle east oil. And Russia wants the same for its capitalists.

This is all, like Iraq, monstrously expensive. But the capitalists  have tax havens. We don't. So we pay for these wars. And, of course, the Syrian nation gets destroyed - just like Iraq and Afghanistan.

One would think that some day it would occur to us that greed is not really a good reason for war, and it's economically disastrous for over 99% of us.
And it's quite possible that Syria is the reason that Obama is making a big deal out of Trudeau's visit. (or it could be the Trans-Pacific trade deal.)   And both of these are the products of greed.

Also in today's The Guardian is an opinion piece by Diane Francis, a Canadian journalist of deserved respect. (Alas, I can't recommend it because it's disappointingly naive and shallow.)  
The following one is about the American use of drones, in   this case it is about a drone attack that killed 150 people in Somalia. As always, we are told they were all terrorists. As always, we are given no evidence.

There are really two things wrong with this.
1. The US is not at war with Somalia. It is illegal to attack a country you are not at war with.
2. Research into drone killings indicates that most victims, by far, are quite innocent people. But the US government always announces they are terrorists even when, as usual, it has no idea who they are.  
And here's a story that will bring tears to the eyes of those who remember the Harper government boosting the F-35 fighter as the key to our future. (And the Trudeau government telling us it was still considering the F-35 for the Canadian air force.)

And note that the U.S. government has been bankrolling this project to the tune of 1.5 TRILLION dollars. Ain't it wonderful the way capitalist competitiveness is so often avoided by capitalists making us pay for their schemes?
It was the picture at the top of this story that caught my attention. Putin is no angel. But he is, if anything, gentler than Obama. The build-up of the U.S. military on the Russian border is certainly a reckless and very, very dangerous thing to do. As matters have been going, the U.S. has no interest whatever in peaceful settlements to anything. (There's no money for the big capitalists in peace.)

To think that the world can simply go on as it has is highly delusionary. And suicidal.

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