Friday, July 22, 2011

News of the Empire: U.S. Blocks Oversight of Its Mercenary Army in Iraq

Exclusive: U.S. Blocks Oversight of Its Mercenary Army in Iraq | Danger Room |
Remember Nisuor Square? Seventeen Iraqi civilians died at the hands of Blackwater security contractors under contract to the US State Department. You might think this kind of activity has stopped or at least decreased but in fact it has increased and the same companies(with different names) still serve there. In an effort to maintain our imperial presence in Iraq the US is is placing a record number of diplomats in our Fortresses around Iraq. To protect these bases including the worlds largest embassy in Baghdad the State Department has spent 10 billion dollars to deploy a heavy combat battalion sized force of 5,500 mercenaries to protect their bases and to guard the movement of State personnel as they move from place to place in the same kind of armed to the teeth convoys that were involved in the incident in Mansour Square. So State has gone to war and they are refusing to inform the Inspector General charged by Congress with ooversight of their plans for things like rules of engagement:

Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), is essentially in the dark about one of the most complex and dangerous endeavors the State Department has ever undertaken, one with huge implications for the future of the United States in Iraq. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” Bowen tells Danger Room.

For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?

Anyone who says all our troops will be out in December is dead wrong. The mercenaries under whose watch many egregious abuses of human rights occurred will be there in combat brigade sized numbers and without Inspector General oversight.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cost of War: US war spending could top $4 trillion -

Study: US war spending could top $4 trillion - Americas - Al Jazeera English

A new study from Brown University estimates the eventual cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could reach 4 billion dollars. This is a billion more than the predictions that Joseph Stiglitz of the National Priorities Project, that VFP uses on our cost of war signs, and his colleague Linda Bilmas predicted in their book The Three Trillion Dollar War. Their book factors in replacing equipment and medical care for returning veterans to arrive at their 3 trillion dollar figure.

The Brown study builds on this information and also uses a Congressional Research Service report that estimates war costs to date at 1.4 Billion. The study then adds the debt incurred so far (185bn) and the increase in the base Pentagon budget (625bn) which results in a doubling of that budget since 2001. They then project these combined costs out a decade or more to predict a debt that may range from 3.2 trillion on the conservative side to as much as 4 billion dollars.

In addition the Brown study attempts to measure the human cost both to the US and to the nations we occupied.

Casualty figures are well-documented: 6,051 US soldiers have been killed, along with roughly 2,300 contractors and 18,000 members of the Iraqi and Afghan security forces.

(for Afghanistan) The report also includes the number of Pakistani soldiers killed - 3,520 - fighting the Taliban over the last decade.

Civilians have suffered far more, with at least 137,000 of them killed since 2001 - a figure the report says is almost certainly an underestimate.

"Nearly every factor that is associated with premature death - poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of access to health care, environmental degradation - is exacerbated by the current war," the report notes about Afghanistan.

It makes a similar statement about Iraq.

You can find more details of this new study at the cost of war site that we have used for many years. Two areas of interest are job creation that could be done with the savings and hidden costs not included in the estimates, including the Drone program and the budget of the National Intelligence Agency. The updates based on this new study are presented graphically"to spur public debate about America at war." So when we can get past the Mainstream media circuses, let the debate begin!