Sunday, October 31, 2004

The New York Times > AP > International > Weapons Remain Unaccounted for in Iraq

The New York Times > AP > International > Weapons Remain Unaccounted for in Iraq:
"From the deserts of the south and west to the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq is awash in weapons sites -- some large, others small; some guarded, others not. Even after the U.S. military secured some 400,000 tons of munitions, as many as 250,000 tons remain unaccounted for.

Attention has focused on the al-Qaqaa site south of Baghdad, where 377 tons of explosives are believed to have gone missing -- becoming a heated issue in the final days of the U.S. presidential campaign."

But with the names of other sites popping up everywhere -- al-Mahaweel, Baqouba, Ukhaider, Qaim -- experts say the al-Qaqaa stash is only a tiny fraction of what's buried in the sands of Iraq.

``There is something truly absurd about focusing on 377 tons,'' said Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst and Iraq expert with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. He contends Iraq's prewar stockpiles ``were probably in excess of 650,000 tons.''

Underscoring the depth of Iraq's militarization before the March 2003 invasion, the Pentagon says U.S.-led forces have destroyed 240,000 tons of munitions and have secured another 160,000 tons that is awaiting destruction.

Through mid-September, coalition forces inspected and cleared more than 10,000 caches of weapons, U.S. arms hunter Charles Duelfer said in a recent report. But up to 250,000 tons remains unaccounted for, according to military estimates, much of it in small stashes scattered around the country.

The Bush administration has touted the thousands of tons of explosives it did find after the March 2003 invasion as a sign of success, and officials argue that U.S. forces pushing to Baghdad to topple Saddam Hussein could not stop to secure every cache.

Critics, however, say war planners should have committed more troops to the task of securing sites or let U.N. inspectors back to help.

The debate is sharpened by the possibility that whatever munitions unsecured may since have fallen into the hands of Iraqi insurgents leading a bloody campaign of bombings and attacks on U.S. forces since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Among the sites that don't appear to have been secured was a cache of hundreds of surface-to-surface warheads at the 2nd Military College in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Each warhead is believed to have contained 57 pounds of high explosives.

Peter Bouckaert, who heads the emergency team for New York-based Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press he was shown a room ``stacked to the roof'' with the warheads on May 9, 2003. He said he gave U.S. officials in Baghdad the exact GPS coordinates for the site, but that it was still not secured when he left the area 10 days later.

``Looting was taking place by a lot of armed men with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades,'' Bouckaert said Saturday in a telephone interview from South Africa.

``Everyone's focused on Al-Qaqaa, when what was at the military college could keep a guerrilla group in business for a long time creating the kinds of bombs that are being used in suicide attacks every day,'' he said.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The NYTimes > Washington > Missing Explosives: Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache

The New York Times > Washington > Missing Explosives: Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache:
"A videotape made by a television crew with American troops when they opened bunkers at a sprawling Iraqi munitions complex south of Baghdad shows a huge supply of explosives still there nine days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, apparently including some sealed earlier by the International Atomic Energy Agency."

The videotape , taken by KSTP-TV, an ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, shows troops breaking into a bunker and opening boxes and examining barrels. Many of the containers are marked "explosive." One box is marked "Al Qaqaa State Establishment," apparently a shipping label from a manufacturer.

The ABC crew said the video was taken on April 18. The timing is critical to the debate in the presidential campaign. By the Pentagon's own account, units of the 101st Airborne Division were near Al Qaqaa for what Mr. DiRita said was "two to three weeks," starting April 10.

The tape, broadcast on Wednesday night by the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis, appeared to confirm a warning given earlier this month to the agency by Iraqi officials, who said that hundreds of tons of high-grade explosives, powerful enough to bring down buildings or detonate nuclear weapons, had vanished from the site after the invasion of Iraq.

The question of whether the material was removed by Mr. Hussein's forces in the days before the invasion, or looted later because it was unguarded, has become a heated dispute on the campaign trail, with Senator John Kerry accusing President Bush of incompetence, and Mr. Bush saying it is unclear when the material disappeared and rejecting what he calls Mr. Kerry's "wild charges."

Weapons experts familiar with the work of the international inspectors in Iraq say the videotape appears identical to photographs that the inspectors took of the explosives, which were put under seal before the war. One frame shows what the experts say is a seal, with narrow wires that would have to be broken if anyone entered through the main door of the bunker.

The agency said that when it left Iraq in mid-March, only days before the war began, the only bunkers bearing its seals at the huge complex contained the explosive known as HMX, which the agency had monitored because it could be used in a nuclear weapons program. It is now clear that program had ground to a halt.

The New York Times and CBS reported on Monday that Iraqi officials had told the agency earlier this month that the explosives were missing, and that they were looted after April 9, 2003, the day Baghdad fell.

Yesterday evening, the Pentagon released a satellite image of the complex taken just two days after the inspectors left, showing a few trucks parked in front of some bunkers. It is not clear they are the bunkers with the high explosives.

"All we are trying to demonstrate is that after the I.A.E.A. left, and the place was under Saddam's control, there was activity," said Lawrence DiRita, the Pentagon spokesman. It is not clear from the photo what activity, if any, was under way.

On Thursday, a top Iraqi official said the interim government had spoken to witnesses who said the material was still at Al Qaqaa at the time Baghdad fell.

The videotape , taken by KSTP-TV, an ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, shows troops breaking into a bunker and opening boxes and examining barrels. Many of the containers are marked "explosive." One box is marked "Al Qaqaa State Establishment," apparently a shipping label from a manufacturer.

The ABC crew said the video was taken on April 18. The timing is critical to the debate in the presidential campaign. By the Pentagon's own account, units of the 101st Airborne Division were near Al Qaqaa for what Mr. DiRita said was "two to three weeks," starting April 10.

NYTimes > Middle East > 4 Iraqis Tell of Looting at Munitions Site in '03

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Missing Explosives: 4 Iraqis Tell of Looting at Munitions Site in '03:
"Looters stormed the weapons site at Al Qaqaa in the days after American troops swept through the area in early April 2003 on their way to Baghdad, gutting office buildings, carrying off munitions and even dismantling heavy machinery, three Iraqi witnesses and a regional security chief said Wednesday.

The Iraqis described an orgy of theft so extensive that enterprising residents rented their trucks to looters. But some looting was clearly indiscriminate, with people grabbing anything they could find and later heaving unwanted items off the trucks.

Two witnesses were employees of Al Qaqaa - one a chemical engineer and the other a mechanic - and the third was a former employee, a chemist, who had come back to retrieve his records, determined to keep them out of American hands. The mechanic, Ahmed Saleh Mezher, said employees asked the Americans to protect the site but were told this was not the soldiers' responsibility.

The accounts do not directly address the question of when 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives vanished from the site sometime after early March, the last time international inspectors checked the seals on the bunkers where the material was stored. It is possible that Iraqi forces removed some explosives before the invasion. "

But the accounts make clear that what set off much if not all of the looting was the arrival and swift departure of American troops, who did not secure the site after inducing the Iraqi forces to abandon it.

"The looting started after the collapse of the regime," said Wathiq al-Dulaimi, a regional security chief, who was based nearby in Latifiya. But once it had begun, he said, the booty streamed toward Baghdad.

Earlier this month, on Oct. 10, the directorate of national monitoring at the Ministry of Science and Technology notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that the explosives, which are used in demolition and missiles and are the raw material for plastic explosives, were missing. The agency has monitored the explosives because they can also be used as the initiator of an atomic bomb.

Agency officials examined the explosives in January 2003 and noted in early March that their seals were still in place. On April 3, the Third Infantry Division arrived with the first American troops.

Chris Anderson, a photographer for U.S. News and World Report who was with the division's Second Brigade, recalled that the area was jammed with American armor on April 3 and 4, which he believed made the removal of the explosives unlikely. "It would be quite improbable for this amount of weapons to be looted at that time because of the traffic jam of armor," he said.

The brigade blew up numerous caches of arms throughout the area, he said. Mr. Anderson said he did not enter the munitions compound.

The Second Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division arrived outside the site on April 10, under the command of Col. Joseph Anderson. The brigade had been ordered to move quickly to Baghdad because of civil disorder there after Mr. Hussein's government fell on April 9.

They gathered at Al Qaqaa, about 30 miles south, simply as a matter of convenience, Colonel Anderson said in an interview this week. He said that when he arrived at the site - unaware of its significance - he saw no signs of looting, but was not paying close attention.

Because he thought the brigade would be moving on to Baghdad within hours, Al Qaqaa was of no importance to his mission, he said, and he was unaware of the explosives that international inspectors said were hidden inside.…

Pentagon officials said Wednesday that analysts were examining surveillance photographs of the munitions site. But they expressed doubts that the photographs, which showed vehicles at the location on several occasions early in the conflict, before American troops moved through the area, would be able to indicate conclusively when the explosives were removed.

Col. David Perkins, who commanded the Second Brigade of the Third Infantry Division, called it "very highly improbable" that 380 tons of explosives could have been trucked out of Al Qaqaa in the weeks after American troops arrived.…

He conceded that some looting of the site had taken place. But a chemical engineer who worked at Al Qaqaa and identified himself only as Khalid said that once troops left the base itself, people streamed in to steal computers and anything else of value from the offices. They also took munitions like artillery shells, he said.

Mr. Mezher, the mechanic, said it took the looters about two weeks to disassemble heavy machinery at the site and carry that off after the smaller items were gone.

But then, they failed to account for the video.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

NYTimes > Campaign 2004 > The Candidates: Iraq Explosives Become Issue in Campaign

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > The Candidates: Iraq Explosives Become Issue in Campaign:
"The White House sought on Monday to explain the disappearance of 380 tons of high explosives in Iraq that American forces were supposed to secure, as Senator John Kerry seized on the missing cache as "one of the great blunders of Iraq" and said President Bush's "incredible incompetence" had put American troops at risk.

Mr. Bush never mentioned the disappearance of the high explosives during a long campaign speech in Greeley, Colo., about battling terrorism. Instead, evoking images of the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and traveling with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, at his side, Mr. Bush made an impassioned appeal to voters to let him "finish the work we have started." But he also charged that his opponent had abandoned the defense principles of Democrats like John F. Kennedy.

"Senator Kerry has turned his back on 'Pay any price and bear any burden,' " Mr. Bush said, "and he has replaced those commitments with 'wait and see' and 'cut and run.' "

Yet even as Mr. Bush pressed his case, his aides tried to explain why American forces had ignored warnings from the International Atomic Energy Agency about the vulnerability of the huge stockpile of high explosives, whose disappearance was first reported on Monday by CBS and The New York Times.

In several sessions with reporters, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, alternately insisted that Mr. Bush 'wants to make sure that we get to the bottom of this' and tried to distance the president from knowledge of the issue, saying Mr. Bush was informed of the disappearance only within the last 10 days. White House officials said they could not explain why warnings from the international agency in May 2003 about the stockpile's vulnerability to looting never resulted in action. At one point, Mr. McClellan pointed out that 'there were a number of priorities at the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom.'

Asked about accusations from the Kerry campaign that the White House had kept the disappearance secret until The Times and CBS broke the story on Monday morning, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, said the White House had decided 'to get all the facts and find out exactly what happened in this case, and then whether there are other cases.'

Ms. Bartlett went on to say, 'So doing it piecemeal - I don't think that would have been the responsible thing.' He said that so far, no other large-scale cases of looting of explosives had been found."…

While the White House sought to minimize the importance of the loss of the HMX and RDX - two commonly used military explosives that can also be used to bring down airplanes or to create a trigger for nuclear weapons - the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, took the unusual step on Monday of writing to the United Nations Security Council to report that the explosives were gone. He usually sends a report every six months, and his last was just a few weeks ago.

"He doesn't do that to report trivia," a European diplomat familiar with Dr. ElBaradei's views said. "It's something that is considered grave."

Dr. ElBaradei said his agency, whose inspectors were barred from returning to Iraq by the Bush administration after the invasion, had informed the multinational force in Iraq of the disappearance 10 days ago, hoping for "an opportunity to attempt to recover the explosives before this matter was put into the public domain." However, he noted Monday's news coverage and said he had to inform the full Security Council.

Bush Accuses Kerry of Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

As a quarterback, Bush is a shrill cheerleader.

NYTimes > Middle East > Weapons: Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Tracking the Weapons: Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq:
"The Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives - used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons - are missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations."

The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year.

The White House said President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was informed within the past month that the explosives were missing. It is unclear whether President Bush was informed. American officials have never publicly announced the disappearance, but beginning last week they answered questions about it posed by The New York Times and the CBS News program "60 Minutes."

Administration officials said Sunday that the Iraq Survey Group, the C.I.A. task force that searched for unconventional weapons, has been ordered to investigate the disappearance of the explosives.

American weapons experts say their immediate concern is that the explosives could be used in major bombing attacks against American or Iraqi forces: the explosives, mainly HMX and RDX, could produce bombs strong enough to shatter airplanes or tear apart buildings.

The bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 used less than a pound of the same type of material, and larger amounts were apparently used in the bombing of a housing complex in November 2003 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the blasts in a Moscow apartment complex in September 1999 that killed nearly 300 people.

The explosives could also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon, which was why international nuclear inspectors had kept a watch on the material, and even sealed and locked some of it. The other components of an atom bomb - the design and the radioactive fuel - are more difficult to obtain.…

The International Atomic Energy Agency publicly warned about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion it specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured, European diplomats said in interviews last week. Administration officials say they cannot explain why the explosives were not safeguarded, beyond the fact that the occupation force was overwhelmed by the amount of munitions they found throughout the country.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, said Sunday evening that Saddam Hussein's government "stored weapons in mosques, schools, hospitals and countless other locations," and that the allied forces "have discovered and destroyed perhaps thousands of tons of ordnance of all types." A senior military official noted that HMX and RDX were "available around the world" and not on the nuclear nonproliferation list, even though they are used in the nuclear warheads of many nations.

The Qaqaa facility, about 30 miles south of Baghdad, was well known to American intelligence officials: Mr. Hussein made conventional warheads at the site, and the I.A.E.A. dismantled parts of his nuclear program there in the early 1990's after the Persian Gulf war in 1991. In the prelude to the 2003 invasion, Mr. Bush cited a number of other "dual use" items - including tubes that the administration contended could be converted to use for the nuclear program - as a justification for invading Iraq.

After the invasion, when widespread looting began in Iraq, the international weapons experts grew concerned that the Qaqaa stockpile could fall into unfriendly hands. In May, an internal I.A.E.A. memorandum warned that terrorists might be helping "themselves to the greatest explosives bonanza in history."

Earlier this month, in a letter to the I.A.E.A. in Vienna, a senior official from Iraq's Ministry of Science and Technology wrote that the stockpile disappeared after early April 2003 because of "the theft and looting of the governmental installations due to lack of security."

In an interview with The Times and "60 Minutes" in Baghdad, the minister of science and technology, Rashad M. Omar, confirmed the facts described in the letter. "Yes, they are missing," Dr. Omar said. "We don't know what happened." The I.A.E.A. says it also does not know, and has reported that machine tools that can be used for either nuclear or non-nuclear purposes have also been looted.

Dr. Omar said that after the American-led invasion, the sites containing the explosives were under the control of the Coalition Provisional Authority, an American-led entity that was the highest civilian authority in Iraq until it handed sovereignty of the country over to the interim government on June 28.

"After the collapse of the regime, our liberation, everything was under the coalition forces, under their control," Dr. Omar said. "So probably they can answer this question, what happened to the materials."

Officials in Washington said they had no answers to that question. One senior official noted that the Qaqaa complex where the explosives were stored was listed as a "medium priority" site on the Central Intelligence Agency's list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion. "Should we have gone there? Definitely," said one senior administration official.

In the chaos that followed the invasion, however, many of those sites, even some considered a higher priority, were never secured.…

The Qaqaa stockpile went unmonitored from late 1998, when United Nations inspectors left Iraq, to late 2002, when they came back. Upon their return, the inspectors discovered that about 35 tons of HMX were missing. The Iraqis said they had used the explosive mainly in civilian programs.

The remaining stockpile was no secret. Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the arms agency, frequently talked about it publicly as he investigated - in late 2002 and early 2003 - the Bush administration's claims that Iraq was secretly renewing its pursuit of nuclear arms. He ordered his weapons inspectors to conduct an inventory, and publicly reported their findings to the Security Council on Jan. 9, 2003.

During the following weeks, the I.A.E.A. repeatedly drew public attention to the explosives. In New York on Feb. 14, nine days after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented his arms case to the Security Council, Dr. ElBaradei reported that the agency had found no sign of new atom endeavors but "has continued to investigate the relocation and consumption of the high explosive HMX."

A European diplomat reported that Jacques Baute, head of the arms agency's Iraq nuclear inspection team, warned officials at the United States mission in Vienna about the danger of the nuclear sites and materials once under I.A.E.A. supervision, including Al Qaqaa.

But apparently, little was done. A senior Bush administration official said that during the initial race to Baghdad, American forces "went through the bunkers, but saw no materials bearing the I.A.E.A. seal." It is unclear whether troops ever returned.

By late 2003, diplomats said, arms agency experts had obtained commercial satellite photos of Al Qaqaa showing that two of roughly 10 bunkers that contained HMX appeared to have been leveled by titanic blasts, apparently during the war. They presumed some of the HMX had exploded, but that is unclear.

Other HMX bunkers were untouched. Some were damaged but not devastated. I.A.E.A. experts say they assume that just before the invasion the Iraqis followed their standard practice of moving crucial explosives out of buildings, so they would not be tempting targets. If so, the experts say, the Iraqi must have broken seals from the arms agency on bunker doors and moved most of the HMX to nearby fields, where it would have been lightly camouflaged - and ripe for looting.

But the Bush administration would not allow the agency back into the country to verify the status of the stockpile. In May 2004, Iraqi officials say in interviews, they warned L. Paul Bremer III, the American head of the occupation authority, that Al Qaqaa had probably been looted. It is unclear if that warning was passed anywhere. Efforts to reach Mr. Bremer by telephone were unsuccessful.

But by the spring of 2004, the Americans were preoccupied with the transfer of authority to Iraq, and the insurgency was gaining strength. "It's not an excuse," said one senior administration official. "But a lot of things went by the boards."

Early this month, Dr. ElBaradei put public pressure on the interim Iraqi government to start the process of accounting for nuclear-related materials still ostensibly under I.A.E.A. supervision, including the Qaqaa stockpile.

"Iraq is obliged," he wrote to the president of the Security Council on Oct. 1, "to declare semiannually changes that have occurred or are foreseen."

The agency, Dr. ElBaradei added pointedly, "has received no such notifications or declarations from any state since the agency's inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq in March 2003."

A Lost Stockpile

Two weeks ago, on Oct. 10, Dr. Mohammed J. Abbas of the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology wrote a letter to the I.A.E.A. to say the Qaqaa stockpile had been lost. He added that his ministry had judged that an "urgent updating of the registered materials is required."

A chart in his letter listed 341.7 metric tons, about 377 American tons, of HMX, RDX and PETN as missing.

The explosives missing from Al Qaqaa are the strongest and fastest in common use by militaries around the globe. The Iraqi letter identified the vanished stockpile as containing 194.7 metric tons of HMX, which stands for "high melting point explosive," 141.2 metric tons of RDX, which stands for "rapid detonation explosive," among other designations, and 5.8 metric tons of PETN, which stands for "pentaerythritol tetranitrate." The total is roughly 340 metric tons or nearly 380 American tons.

Five days later, on Oct. 15, European diplomats said, the arms agency wrote the United States mission in Vienna to forward the Iraqi letter and ask that the American authorities inform the international coalition in Iraq of the missing explosives.

Dr. ElBaradei, a European diplomat said, is "extremely concerned" about the potentially "devastating consequences" of the vanished stockpile.

Its fate remains unknown. Glenn Earhart, manager of an Army Corps of Engineers program in Huntsville, Ala., that is in charge of rounding up and destroying lost Iraqi munitions, said he and his colleagues knew nothing of the whereabouts of the Qaqaa stockpile.

Administration officials say Iraq was awash in munitions, including other stockpiles of exotic explosives.

"The only reason this stockpile was under seal," said one senior administration official, "is because it was located at Al Qaqaa," where nuclear work had gone on years ago.

As a measure of the size of the stockpile, one large truck can carry about 10 tons, meaning that the missing explosives could fill a fleet of almost 40 trucks.

By weight, these explosives pack far more destructive power than TNT, so armies often use them in shells, bombs, mines, mortars and many types of conventional ordinance.

"HMX and RDX have a lot of shattering power," said Dr. Van Romero, vice president for research at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, or New Mexico Tech, which specializes in explosives.

"Getting a large amount is difficult," he added, because most nations carefully regulate who can buy such explosives, though civilian experts can sometimes get licenses to use them for demolition and mining.

An Immediate Danger

A special property of HMX and RDX lends them to smuggling and terrorism, experts said. While violently energetic when detonated, they are insensitive to shock and physical abuse during handling and transport because of their chemical stability. A hammer blow does nothing. It takes a detonator, like a blasting cap, to release the stored energy.

Experts said the insensitivity made them safer to transport than the millions of unexploded shells, mines and pieces of live ammunition that litter Iraq. And its benign appearance makes it easy to disguise as harmless goods, easily slipped across borders.

"The immediate danger" of the lost stockpile, said an expert who recently led a team that searched Iraq for deadly arms, "is its potential use with insurgents in very small and powerful explosive devices. The other danger is that it can easily move into the terrorist web across the Middle East."

More worrisome to the I.A.E.A. - and to some in Washington - is that HMX and RDX are used in standard nuclear weapons design. In a nuclear implosion weapon, the explosives crush a hollow sphere of uranium or plutonium into a critical mass, initiating the nuclear explosion.

They just don't get it, do they?
So our people continue to die.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The New York Times > Economic View: Counting the Hidden Costs of War

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Economic View: Counting the Hidden Costs of War:
"Consider a seemingly simple question: What is the cost of the Iraq war to the United States? President Bush and Senator John Kerry have given different answers, but both candidates have ignored what may be the biggest cost item: the war's impact on the overall economy.

After all, the real cost of war is not only the money spent but also the economic effects, good or bad. For example, World War II led to huge levels of production and employment in the United States, while the Vietnam War dragged down economic growth as it wore on."

So, after 19 months of conflict in Iraq, how has the war affected America's economy, and what about the future?

Of course, calculating the net effect of a continuing war is neither easy nor exact. That's why many analysts are reluctant to try. But a few knowledgeable economists have made reasoned estimates, and the results are surprising.

The economic cost incurred so far may be as large as - or larger than - what has actually been spent directly on the war. (While estimates vary, the official figure for spending stands at around $120 billion since the conflict began.) And there are likely to be major economic costs as long as the war continues.

But start with the economic impact to date. Two economists, Warwick J. McKibbin of the Brookings Institution and Andrew Stoeckel of the Center for International Economics in Australia, have calculated that the war may have already cost the United States $150 billion in lost gross domestic product since fighting began in March 2003. That is close to one percentage point of growth lost over the past year and a half. If that figure is correct, the nation's annual economic growth rate, which has been 3.7 percent during this period, could have been nearly 4.7 percent without the war.

Where does that $150 billion figure come from? The study took into account factors like higher oil prices, increased budget deficits and greater uncertainty. When analyzing the effects of uncertainty, the authors estimated the impact of the war on financial markets, business investment and consumer spending.

Of course, the results of any economic model are open to debate, and the $150 billion estimate is no exception. Some economists, like David Gold at the New School University, argue that the figure may be too low while others, like Mark Zandi of, contend that it's on the high side.…

Most economists would agree that the war has hurt the economy, mainly through higher oil prices and continuing uncertainty. The war's effect on oil prices is hard to disentangle from factors like higher global demand and supply disruptions, but it is commonly thought that the war's role has been significant.

"It isn't a coincidence that we have oil prices breaching the key $50-a-barrel threshold one and a half years into this war," said Stephen S. Roach, Morgan Stanley's chief global economist.

Mr. Zandi says the war has clearly "had a very large impact on our economy and on the psyches of business and consumers." He explained it this way: First, in the period before the war, fear and uncertainty held back the economic recovery. Then, as the initial invasion succeeded, the economy recovered strongly and found its footing again. Now, as the war drags on, higher oil prices and shaky confidence are dampening the pace of growth and job creation.

What really worries economists, though, is the future economic impact. "The longer this war runs, the weaker our long-run growth will be," Mr. Zandi said. That is because spending on things like the occupation and peacekeeping in Iraq does not do anything to bolster the American economy's productive capacity.

And it adds to the growing budget shortfall. "With a budget deficit already at 3.5 percent of G.D.P.," Mr. Roach said, "that's a really big deal."

To see how big the future economic costs could be, consider a study prepared by William D. Nordhaus, a Yale economist. Back in 2002, when the merits of going to war with Iraq were being debated, Professor Nordhaus published a thorough analysis of the potential economic costs. It has become the most influential study on the topic. (Mr. McKibbin and Mr. Stoeckel collaborated with Professor Nordhaus, and they relied on many of his assumptions to build their model.)

Professor Nordhaus calculated how much output the economy would lose, based on two possibilities: a quick victory or a long conflict. Although he has not updated his results, the long-conflict version has turned out to be pretty accurate so far. He estimated that such a conflict would result in $140 billion in direct government spending, a figure that we are already near. He also predicted that oil prices would spike and that heightened uncertainty would hurt the economy. In addition, he expected large additional costs associated with the occupation and peacekeeping operations as well as with reconstruction and nation-building efforts.

Adding it all together, he came up with a whopping figure of $1.9 trillion in costs during the decade after the invasion.…

Isn't it strange though that when Kerry estimates a cost of $180 billion, he's said to be lying, but somehow Bush isn't. They're both too low.

And what's a life worth? Anyone know?

The New York Times > National > Part-Time Soldiers, Injured but Not Yet Home

The New York Times > National > Part-Time Soldiers, Injured but Not Yet Home:
"Staff Sgt. Jeffrey A. Elliott returned to this country with a back injury after his unarmored truck hit a roadside bomb in Iraq. Yet 15 months later, he still has not made it home for good.

A member of the Washington National Guard, Sergeant Elliott is hoping to finish whatever treatments may soothe the degenerating disk in his back and for the military to complete the paperwork for his case, now promised within weeks. He is living out of a suitcase in a barracks while his wife and children wait, 220 miles away.

Under a web of Army rules, Sergeant Elliott and thousands of other part-timers injured on duty are navigating a system suited to full-time soldiers. Most are required to stay on a military base to get government medical treatment, to collect their active-duty salaries and to finish military evaluations that will decide whether they return to duty or leave with severance or disability payments."

Full-time soldiers recuperating with Sergeant Elliott have to wait, too, but they have lives here - their spouses and children, their churches and their jobs. Long before Iraq, they lived on the base or just down the road.

The rules are affecting a growing number of part-time soldiers, as the military is deploying the National Guard and Reserves in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere at rates unprecedented since World War II.

Many of the injured say they have grown embittered from being away from home so long. Some see the extended separations as one more indication that military leaders consider the needs of part-time soldiers - once taunted as weekend warriors - as less important than those of the full-time troops.

They view themselves as casualties not just of bombs and heart attacks and ankle twists, but also of poor planning for a war that is increasingly being fought by the nation's part-time military.

In March, a year after the war began, after thousands of part-time soldiers had already returned home sick or wounded, and as complaints began emerging from homesick soldiers, the military said it would begin a test program to let some part-timers receive active-duty pay while being treated at hospitals and Veterans Affairs sites closer to their homes. But even now, only a few are actually receiving that service.

Since January 2003, more than 16,000 reservists and guardsmen have been placed on "medical holdover" - waiting for treatment and the military to decide if they are fit for duty - either because of injuries overseas or because of medical problems found while they were training to be deployed. Of the 4,240 part-time soldiers now on such status, 904 are being treated in their own communities under the Army's Community Based Health Care Initiative. Many others, including residents of more than half the states across the country, cannot even apply.

Col. Barbara J. Scherb, who oversees the initiative for the Army Forces Command, was asked why military leaders had not planned a way for reservists and guardsmen to be treated near their homes before now. "No one really thought much about this before," she replied.

Colonel Scherb described the slim participation in the program. "I think a lot of it is because it's new," she said in a telephone interview, "and, quite candidly, because we're sort of making this up as we go along."

Some of the waiting soldiers, at Fort Lewis and at other bases, said that they had never heard of Colonel Scherb's program or had learned of only one or two soldiers who had been allowed to join it.

Many said they had become resigned to living apart from their families for unknown months more - even longer, in some cases, than their colleagues who served complete stints in Iraq.

Most of the injured find themselves back on the base where their unit first assembled before going overseas. Others are flown to other bases because of a military hospital's medical specialty, and some have been delivered to bases closer - not always close, but closer - to home. Officials at Fort Lewis say many of their injured part-time soldiers live near the base, which is 45 miles from Seattle.

But data from the office of the Army's surgeon general show that some Oregon guardsmen, for example, are recovering in Fort Bliss, Tex.; some part-time soldiers from Wyoming and Florida are on medical holdover in Fort Dix, N.J.; and a handful of New Jersey troops are at Fort Riley, Kan.

"Unfortunately, the timetable of the soldier wanting to go home may not correspond with the treatment they need," said Jaime Cavazos, the spokesman for the Army Medical Command. "We're trying to provide them with the care they need."

Unlike the most gravely injured soldiers, receiving round-the-clock treatment at the finest military hospitals, these are ordinary soldiers with more ordinary wounds. The loneliest and the impatient can elect to go home, even if they still need medical attention. But that can be an expensive trade-off; military rules dictate that they lose their active-duty salaries even though they may still be too injured or ill to return to their civilian jobs.

Someone who leaves active duty and seeks treatment from his own doctors qualifies for military medical insurance, known as Tricare, for only six months. Advocates for the National Guard say one in five guardsmen lacks medical insurance from his regular job, leaving no room for health problems that may linger.

Political and military leaders have pledged to make Veterans Affairs benefits, including access to the 157 V.A. hospitals and 845 clinics across the country, available to Iraq war veterans for two years, but most soldiers are not eligible until they are retired from military service or discharged from active duty.

There have been exceptions to the rule, V.A. officials said, but only in cases when the Department of Defense has chosen to refer a soldier to the V.A. for care.
It is uncertain how much it would cost the Army to allow all part-time soldiers to receive their pay as well as their treatments at home. Some say the military would save in housing expenses, but would be unable to control health care costs. For now, military officials say they are unsure even what the medical costs will be for their current community-treatment program.

The requirements for that program are numerous. A soldier's home must be in one of 23 participating states; he must live near a private medical facility or a V.A. hospital suited to treat his particular problem and accepting Tricare; if he is capable of any work, which most of these soldiers are, he must live near an armory, recruiting station or another military facility for work, and the military must not have begun the process of determining whether he is no longer able to be a soldier - which can take months.

Military leaders began considering such a program, Colonel Scherb said, after they realized there might soon be overcrowding of part-time soldiers at military bases around the country. There is room for only 5,000 of these injured soldiers at bases, she said, and the numbers were mounting by late last year. Fort Lewis had also begun its own similar, smaller program for "remote care" late last year, a program Sergeant Elliott said he was allowed to join briefly.

In recent weeks, the numbers of those allowed to go home for treatment while still receiving active-duty pay has grown significantly, Colonel Scherb said, and she expects that to continue rising.

"Everybody is committed to making this work," she said.

But the future of the program seems uncertain. Announcing it in March, the Army described it as temporary, saying, "Once the number of soldiers needing care drops to a level that can be managed from Army posts, the program will be reduced or closed."

I think no more need be said.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The New York Times > Special > After Terror, a Secret Rewriting of Military Law

The New York Times > International > International Special > After Terror, a Secret Rewriting of Military Law:
"In early November 2001, with Americans still staggered by the Sept. 11 attacks, a small group of White House officials worked in great secrecy to devise a new system of justice for the new war they had declared on terrorism."

Determined to deal aggressively with the terrorists they expected to capture, the officials bypassed the federal courts and their constitutional guarantees, giving the military the authority to detain foreign suspects indefinitely and prosecute them in tribunals not used since World War II.

The plan was considered so sensitive that senior White House officials kept its final details hidden from the president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and the secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, officials said. It was so urgent, some of those involved said, that they hardly thought of consulting Congress.

White House officials said their use of extraordinary powers would allow the Pentagon to collect crucial intelligence and mete out swift, unmerciful justice. "We think it guarantees that we'll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve," said Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a driving force behind the policy.

But three years later, not a single terrorist has been prosecuted. Of the roughly 560 men being held at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, only 4 have been formally charged. Preliminary hearings for those suspects brought such a barrage of procedural challenges and public criticism that verdicts could still be months away. And since a Supreme Court decision in June that gave the detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court, the Pentagon has stepped up efforts to send home hundreds of men whom it once branded as dangerous terrorists.

The story of how Guantánamo and the new military justice system became an intractable legacy of Sept. 11 has been largely hidden from public view.

But extensive interviews with current and former officials and a review of confidential documents reveal that the legal strategy took shape as the ambition of a small core of conservative administration officials whose political influence and bureaucratic skill gave them remarkable power in the aftermath of the attacks.

The strategy became a source of sharp conflict within the Bush administration, eventually pitting cabinet secretaries and other officials against one another over issues of due process, intelligence-gathering and international law. In fact, many officials contend, some of the most serious problems with the military justice system are rooted in the secretive and contentious process from which it emerged.

Military lawyers were largely excluded from that process in the days after Sept. 11. They have since waged a long struggle to ensure terrorist prosecutions meet what they say are basic standards of fairness. Uniformed lawyers now assigned to defend Guantánamo detainees have become among the most forceful critics of the Pentagon's own system.

Foreign policy officials voiced concerns about the legal and diplomatic ramifications, but had little influence over the policy. Increasingly, the administration's plan has come under criticism even from close allies, complicating efforts to transfer scores of Guantánamo prisoners back to their home governments.

To architects of the policy for dealing with terrorist suspects, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon represented a stinging challenge to American power and an imperative to consider measures that might have been unimaginable in less threatening times. Yet some officials said the strategy was also shaped by longstanding political agendas that had relatively little to do with fighting terrorism.

The administration's claim of authority to set up military commissions, as the tribunals are formally known, was guided by a desire to strengthen executive power, officials said. Its legal approach, including the decision not to apply the Geneva Conventions, reflected the determination of some influential officials to halt what they viewed as the United States' reflexive submission to international law.…

There is an insanity that drives this administration to do everything in the dark. A deep desire to be beyond accountability. It goes beyond the desire to abrogate international law. There is a desire to, if possible, reinterpret the constitution, if not to amend it, and when that's to slow, to ignore it.

After all Bush thinks he's guided by a higher power.

Friday, October 22, 2004

A Closer Look at Bush's Attacks on Kerry's Health Care Plan

A Closer Look at Bush's Attacks on Kerry's Health Care Plan:
"Bush said the Kerry plan “involves bigger and more intrusive government, expand the government’s health care rolls by nearly 22 million, … the largest expansion of government health care in American history, 8 out of 10 people would be placed on a government program” and small businesses would have the incentive to drop their private insurance and throw people into government programs. He said the Kerry plan would cost $1.2 trillion"


Mr. Kerry’s plan has three main elements:
an expansion of Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, both programs for the poor, so that all children and more low-income adults would be covered;
an arrangement so individuals and small businesses not now eligible for group plans could buy private insurance now available to federal employees;
and government rebates to employers to cover most of the cost of catastrophic health insurance claims (over $30,000 per beneficiary in 2006).

Asked if this would amount to a government run health system in the United States, John Sheils, a vice president of the Lewin Group, an independent consulting firm, said, “No, I don’t think so. 97 percent of the people who have insurance now would have the same coverage.”

The Lewin Group found that the Kerry plan would put more than 20 million new people under government health coverage which was mentioned by Mr. Bush in last week’s presidential debate.

It would hardly be the largest expansion of government health insurance in history, much less than the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960’s and involving fewer people than even Mr. Bush’s legislation enacted last year to offer prescription drug coverage under Medicare. The vast majority of the 20 million would be children in low-income families.

The plan would actually make health insurance less expensive for small businesses. They would be able to take a tax credit to offset 50 percent of the cost of offering employees coverage and because the catastrophic coverage would lower the payments for premiums…

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Chicago Tribune | Bush gets endorsement from Tehran

Chicago Tribune | Bush gets endorsement from Tehran:
"The head of Iran's security council said Tuesday that the re-election of President Bush was in Tehran's best interests, despite the administration's labeling of Iran as part of 'the axis of evil' and threats of sanctions over the country's nuclear ambitions.

Democrats have harmed Iran more than Republicans, said Hasan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council. 'We haven't seen anything good from Democrats,' he told state-run television in remarks that, for the first time in recent decades, saw Iran openly supporting one U.S. candidate.

Iran historically prefers Republicans. Democrats tend to press human-rights issues."

Now isn't that a hoot?

Just when you think you've heard everything, along comes reality, stranger than fiction. Maybe they like the incompetence of the Bush foreign policy.,1,675998.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed

Hack's Target: Memo for the President-Elect

Hack's Target: Memo for the President-Elect:
"Since our commander-in-chief announced “mission accomplished” on May 1, 2003, the insurgents have seized the initiative in Iraq. And we’re also not winning the even-more-consequential worldwide battle against the Islamic jihadists. All because our forces are trying to do too much with too little the wrong way.

Lately, I’ve been shoveling through literally truckloads of reader queries along the lines of “OK, Hack, you spent most of the past two years griping, so what’s your solution?” It’s a question that needs an answer. So, as a long-term student of insurgent warfare and a soldier who’s fought guerrillas in post-World-War-II Italy, during the Korean War and for more than four years in Vietnam, here’s what I would do:"

* Immediately fire SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, all of his Pentagon senior civilian assistants and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers.

* Replace Rumsfeld with retired Gen. Anthony Zinni and give this tough, smart, proven leader a free hand to bring in the best people to reshape and streamline our armed forces for the long counterinsurgency fight ahead.

* Fire National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and replace her with retired Gens. Wes Clark or John Sheehan.

* Establish a military objective – an often-neglected Principle of War – that will include: how the U.S. is going to regain the lost initiative (another neglected Principle of War) and how we’re going to take and hold the turf seized by insurgents; how we will then win the Iraqi people to our side in the fight against the insurgents; how the nascent Iraqi defense shield will eventually replace our forces; and a detailed, coherent exit plan.

* Force our coalition partners in Iraq to either move out of the safety of their forts and start participating in the campaign or go home. So far, they’ve added little to the fight except providing an opportunity for politicos to crow about the unity of a coalition in which we’re doing almost all the heavy lifting.

* Replace our conventional-thinking generals in Iraq and in other hot spots with leaders – preferably Special Forces – who understand the nature of insurgency, and leave them in place until we execute our exit plan.

* Double and then triple the size of our forces in Afghanistan – or we’ll soon be following in the Soviets’ loser boot-steps. This is one of the main events in our global fight with insurgents and should receive top priority.

* Establish a comprehensive course on counterinsurgency warfare that every commander from lieutenant to general would be required to pass, culminating in a butt-busting final exam certifying that graduates have qualified for counterinsurgency warfare at their particular level. A fail would mean immediate discharge.

* Toughen boot-camp standards for all soldiers and make them as realistic, demanding and disciplined as those sweated through by past generations. Then maintain this level throughout the regular and Reserve forces.

* Merge the Army National Guard and Reserve forces into one formation modeled after the Marine Corps Reserves but configured for the post-Cold War fight against international insurgency.…

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

NYTimes > Washington > Military: U.S. Has Contingency Plans for a Draft of Medical Workers

The New York Times > Washington > The Military: U.S. Has Contingency Plans for a Draft of Medical Workers:
"The Selective Service has been updating its contingency plans for a draft of doctors, nurses and other health care workers in case of a national emergency that overwhelms the military's medical corps.

In a confidential report this summer, a contractor hired by the agency described how such a draft might work, how to secure compliance and how to mold public opinion and communicate with health care professionals, whose lives could be disrupted."

On the one hand, the report said, the Selective Service System should establish contacts in advance with medical societies, hospitals, schools of medicine and nursing, managed care organizations, rural health care providers and the editors of medical journals and trade publications.

On the other hand, it said, such contacts must be limited, low key and discreet because "overtures from Selective Service to the medical community will be seen as precursors to a draft," and that could alarm the public.

In this election year, the report said, "very few ideas or activities are viewed without some degree of cynicism."

President Bush has flatly declared that there will be no draft, but Senator John Kerry has suggested that this is a possibility if Mr. Bush is re-elected.

Richard S. Flahavan, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, said Monday: "We have been routinely updating the entire plan for a health care draft. The plan is on the shelf and will remain there unless Congress and the president decide that it's needed and direct us to carry it out."

The Selective Service does not decide whether a draft will occur. It would carry out the mechanics only if the president and Congress authorized a draft.

Under the plan, Mr. Flahavan said, about 3.4 million male and female health care workers ages 18 to 44 would be expected to register with the Selective Service. From this pool, he said, the agency could select tens of thousands of health care professionals practicing in 62 health care specialties.

"The Selective Service System plans on delivering about 36,000 health care specialists to the Defense Department if and when a special skills draft were activated," Mr. Flahavan said.

The contractor hired by Selective Service, Widmeyer Communications, said that local government operations would be affected by a call-up of emergency medical technicians, so it advised the Selective Service to contact groups like the United States Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties.

Doctors and nurses would be eligible for deferments if they could show that they were providing essential health care services to civilians in their communities.

But the contractor said: "There is no getting around the fact that a medical draft would disrupt lives. Many familial, business and community responsibilities will be impacted."

Moreover, Widmeyer said, "if medical professionals are singled out and other professionals are not called, many will find the process unfair," and health care workers will ask, "Why us?"

NYTimes > Middle East > How Many Iraqis Are Dying? By One Count, 208 in a Week

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Tallying the Dead: How Many Iraqis Are Dying? By One Count, 208 in a Week:
" It began with the killing of two Iraqi civilians in a suicide bomb attack against an American military convoy in the northern city of Mosul last Monday. It ended Sunday evening, when a car bomb killed seven Iraqi police officers and civilians at a Baghdad cafe where police officers had apparently broken their fast during this month of Ramadan.

A weeklong effort to tally Iraqi casualties shows soldiers, insurgents, politicians, journalists, a judge, a medic and restaurant workers among the victims. They included Dina Mohammed Hassan, a television reporter killed by three men who called her a collaborator, and Ali Hussein's son and nephew, nighttime guards who died when Americans bombed a restaurant in Falluja.

From Oct. 11 to Oct. 17, an estimated 208 Iraqis were killed in war-related incidents, significantly higher than the average week; 23 members of the United States military died over the same period."

The deaths of Iraqis, particularly those of civilians, has become an increasingly delicate topic. Early this month, the Health Ministry, which had routinely provided casualty figures to journalists, stopped releasing them. Under a new policy that the government said would streamline the release of the figures - which were clearly an embarrassment to the government as well as to the Americans - only the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers is now allowed to do so.

"It's a political issue," a senior Health Ministry official said last week.

This account was pieced together from partial tallies by the Iraqi government, reporting by Iraqi employees of The New York Times stationed in Falluja, Mosul and Najaf, and counts from hospitals, news agencies and the American military.

The tally remains imprecise and does not fully answer many of the most charged questions about the war. How can civilians be distinguished from insurgents? How can contradictory accounts of the same death be reconciled?

According to a report by the Health Ministry, which last April began compiling figures for all regions except the Kurdish north, 3,040 Iraqis were killed in war-related incidents during the 22 weeks from April 5 to Sept. 6 - a little more than 138 deaths a week. The dead included 2,753 men, 159 women and 128 children. There are no agreed figures for civilian deaths in Iraq over all since the war began in early 2003, but the best estimates, by private groups and independent news organizations, place the figure in the 10,000 to 15,000 range.

While many Iraqis blame American airstrikes and other military actions for taking the lives of innocents, they also believe that foreign fighters are behind the suicide attacks that tend to kill more Iraqis than Americans.

The United States military emphasizes that the targets of its actions have been insurgents, and it also blames them for other deaths and damage that result from such raids.

The Secretariat of the Council of Ministers gave only partial figures for last week, releasing the numbers for only four days and mostly for Baghdad and the nearby cities. Of course, casualty figures tend to vary greatly depending on their source. On the first day of the seven-day period, 12 Iraqis were reported killed, including in the Mosul suicide attack. The other deaths took place in the three locations that proved the deadliest over the week: Falluja and Ramadi, where American forces have been engaged in combat, and Baghdad.

On a highway outside Falluja, five passengers in one car were killed in an incident involving American soldiers.

According to residents and hospital officials, the five - Kadhim Ahmed Hussein and his two sons, Jawad and Dhiya; and Layla Awad and her son Ali Khalaf - were driving from the Lake Habbaniya area, where they had sought shelter during the ongoing fighting, to check on their houses in Falluja.

According to the United States military, the car approached a checkpoint at a location that an American patrol had cordoned off.

Because the driver ignored warnings to stop even as the patrol received fire from elsewhere, the soldiers fired on the car. People in Falluja, however, said the five were shot without provocation.

On Tuesday, 46 Iraqis were reported killed. Just after midnight, an American warplane flattened Falluja's most popular restaurant, Hajji Hussein, famous for its kebabs. The military said it was a meeting place for terrorists and was no longer frequented by ordinary people. Ali Hussein, the owner, said his son and nephew, who had been working as nighttime guards, were killed in the strike.

He denied that insurgents came to the restaurant, which was founded by his father.

" main a and

The largest number, at least 15, were reportedly killed in an attack against an Iraqi National Guard outpost near Qaim, along the border with Syria. Many Iraqi insurgents are believed to be based on the other side of the border and to receive support from Syrians.

On Wednesday, 10 people were reportedly killed, including a police captain in Baquba, 35 miles northeast of here.

Thursday, with 58 reported deaths, was the week's deadliest day and was also punctuated by suicide bombs inside the Green Zone, the site of the American Embassy and Iraqi government ministries.

Many Iraqis regarded by insurgents as collaborating with the Americans or the United States-backed government have been assassinated, and several were killed Thursday.

South of here near Latifiya, Kamel al-Yassiri, an official with the secular National Democratic Coalition Party, was gunned down while driving on a highway; he was buried in Najaf the next day. In Mosul, a photographer who has worked for Western news organizations, Karam Hussein, 22, was gunned down outside his home.

In Baghdad, a judge was shot to death while leaving his home for work; around the same time, Ms. Hassan, 38, a reporter for the Kurdish television network Al Huriya, was also killed.

She had received three letters warning her to quit her job, said colleagues who were waiting to pick up her body outside the city morgue. She joined the network nine months ago after long working at the Ministry of Information, they said.

"We used to joke to her that she should use the money she had saved to fix her teeth and get married," said a colleague, Naseer al-Timimy. "But because she was an orphan, she felt she needed to hold on to her money."

Monday, October 18, 2004

The NYTimes > National > Study Says White Families' Wealth Advantage Has Grown

The New York Times > National > Study Says White Families' Wealth Advantage Has Grown:
"The enormous wealth gap between white families and black and Hispanic families grew larger after the most recent recession, a private analysis of government data has found."

The NYTimes > National > The G.I.'s: Soldiers Saw Refusing Order as Their Last Stand

The New York Times > National > The G.I.'s: Soldiers Saw Refusing Order as Their Last Stand:
"What does it take for a man like Staff Sgt. Michael Butler, a 24-year veteran of the Army and the Reserve who was a soldier in the first Persian Gulf war and a reserve called up to fight in the current war in Iraq, to risk everything by disobeying a direct order in wartime?

On the morning of Oct. 13, the military says, Sergeant Butler and most of his platoon, some 18 men and women from the 343rd Quartermaster Company, refused to deliver a shipment of fuel from the Tallil Air Base near Nasiriya, Iraq, to another base much farther north.

The Army has begun an inquiry, and the soldiers could face disciplinary measures, including possible courts-martial. But Jackie Butler, Sergeant Butler's wife, and her family in Jackson say he would not have jeopardized his career and his freedom for something impulsive or unimportant.

The soldiers, many of whom have called home this weekend, said their trucks were unsafe and lacked a proper armed escort, problems that have plagued them since they went to Iraq nine months ago, their relatives said. The time had come for them, for her husband, to act, Ms. Butler said."

… Other soldiers completed the mission the platoon turned down, the military kept functioning, and the Army has cast the incident as isolated.

But as the soldiers involved in the refusal in Tallil and others begin to speak out, it is growing more apparent that the military has yet to solve the lack of training, parts and equipment that has riddled the military operation in Iraq from the outset, especially among National Guard and Reserve units.

Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers, commander of the 13th Corps Support Command, which the 343rd reports to, said at a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday that he had ordered two investigations into the incident and the concerns expressed by the 18 soldiers "regarding maintenance and safety.''

General Chambers said preliminary findings showed that the unit's trucks were not yet armored and were among the last in his command to get such protection, because they usually functioned in less dangerous parts of Iraq. None of the trucks in his command were armored when they arrived in Iraq, General Chambers said. He told reporters that he had ordered a safety and maintenance review of all trucks in the 343rd.

"Based on results of this investigation other actions may be necessary,'' the general said, but he added, "It's too early in the investigation to speculate on charges or other disciplinary actions.''

General Chambers described the episode as "a single event that is confined to a small group of individuals.''

A number of Army officers contacted in recent days said such an apparent act of insubordination was very unusual, particularly among such a large number of soldiers in a single unit and especially since the military is all volunteer.

The incident has prompted widespread interest among military families who have complained in months past of inadequate equipment and protection for their soldiers.

The soldiers in the platoon are described as devoted to the military and unabashedly patriotic. A wall of Sergeant Butler's living room is covered with certificates and citations from the Army. Another member of the 343rd, Specialist Joe Dobbs, 19, of Vandiver, Ala., had his bedroom painted the dark blue of the American flag. And another soldier in the unit, Sgt. Justin Rogers of Louisville, Ky., liked to walk around town in his uniform when he was home on leave, said Chris Helm, a 14-year-old high school student and his first cousin.

When Sergeant Rogers went home for a two-week leave in July, his brother Derrick asked whether the war and all the deaths were worth it. "His answer was simple," Derrick Rogers said. "He said, 'If I didn't feel like it was worth it, I wouldn't be there.' ''

Ms. Butler did not want to speak for her husband on his feelings about the war. Better he should do that when he is finally home, she said, which is scheduled to be sometime next year. But Sergeant Butler knew he would be called up, once the war against Iraq was begun in March 2003. Late last year, he reported to Rock Hill, and quickly, his confidence was shaken, his wife said. He saw that the equipment to be shipped with his unit was "not very good," Ms. Butler said.

Once the unit arrived in Iraq, the inadequacy of the platoon's equipment and preparedness was thrown into sharp relief against the dangers the country posed. Although the unit is based near Nasiriya in the Shiite-controlled south, which is not as volatile as Sunni-dominated areas, the whole country has been convulsed by battles and uprisings during most of the 343rd's tour of duty. "This is not the first time that there has been a problem with these charges and stuff, with them not having armor, not having radios," said Beverly Dobbs, mother of Specialist Dobbs. "My son told me two months ago - he called me, he said, 'Mom I got the scare of my life.'

"'I said what's wrong?'" Ms. Dobbs said. "He said, 'They sent us out, we come under fire, our own people was shooting and we didn't even have radios to let them know.' They're sending them out without the equipment they need. I don't care what the Army says."

Something is really wrong here, and I doubt that it's the soldiers. The only thing that will clear this up is to demand accountability. We must hold to account, the military, the media, and above all, the Bush Administration. It's time to scream bloody murder

con·cept: Accessory Before the Fact to Murder

con·cept: Accessory Before the Fact:
Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
- President Bush, Oct. 7, 2002

When you claim that a preemptive war is necessary because the enemy has weapons of mass destruction, the logical, indeed the only, thing to do when you've deposed that enemy, is to immediately sieze and control his ammunition dumps and weapon centers, to sieze and guard all buildings that might have information about hidden weapons, for the safety of your own forces.

When you never had plans to do so, you're either totally incompetent, or your proclaimed cause was never anything but a pretext.

I'm afraid with this administration, we have evidence that both of these are true.

They really expected a people who had a history of western occupation was going to greet them with flowers, and their actions showed that WMD, weapons of mass distruction weren't important enough to secure,
conventional weapons weren't important, order wasn't important. Oil, and only oil was important."

Failure to secure those conventional arms, in a country that virtually was an ammo dump, makes George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and others accessories before the fact to the murder of our people by improvised devices from those same weapons caches. Makes them accessories to the maiming of tens of thousands of our own, and uncounted tens of thousands of Iraqis.

There is no other explanation for the extraordinary, willful refusal to do the things necessary for the troops safety. Remember, they thought they were going to pay for the war and occupation with Iraqs own oil. But, even in a best case scenario, if Iraqis had greeted us with flowers, as in the liberation of Paris, there would have still been Baathists and members of the Republican Guard who would have known were the weapons were, and would have been prepared to use them on our troops.

The only acceptable explanation for not immediately securing the caches we knew of, for not siezing the information needed to find the rest, is the knowledge that WMD weren't there, coupled with incompetence that ignored the minor threat of conventional explosives because the major threat of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons was a sham.

From Bob Herbert, October 18, 2004
A War Without Reason
There should no longer be any doubt that the war in Iraq is an exercise in lunacy. It was launched with a spurious rationale, the weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be a fantasy relentlessly stoked by obsessively hawkish middle-aged men who ran and hid when they were of fighting age and the nation was at war.

Now we find that we can't win this war we started. Soldiers and civilians alike are trapped in the proverbial briar patch, unable to move around safely in a country that the warmongers thought would be easy to conquer and then rebuild.

There is no way to overstate how profoundly wrong they were.

Our troops continue to die but we can't even identify the enemy, which is why so many innocent Iraqi civilians - including women and children - are being blown away. The civilians are being killed by the thousands, even as the dreaded Saddam Hussein is receiving first-class health care (most recently a successful hernia operation) from his captors.…

It Gets Worse

We now know that they didn't even guard the nuclear materials and equipment that the UN inspectors had already inventoried and sealed.

Whole buildings have disappeared, dismanteled under the watchful eye of sattelites, but not coalition troops, not American troops.

Nuclear materials from Iraq have tuned up on the black market in Holland.

Not a day goes by, without attacks that improvise their explosives from the caches we failed to guard. Brave men and women are coming home minus legs and arms, blinded and brain damaged, or in body bags, because of the gross dereliction of a self-proclaimed “War President”

It's Time to Scream Murder

By the time the nonexistent liberal “media” Bush complains about wake up, there may be mushroom clouds over America

Sunday, October 17, 2004

More Papers on Bush's Guard Duty

More Papers on Bush's Guard Duty:

"Weeks after Texas National Guard officials signed an oath swearing they had turned over all of President Bush's military records, independent examiners have found more than two dozen pages of previously unreleased Guard documents about Mr. Bush.

The examiners, two retired Army lawyers, went through Texas files under an agreement between the Texas National Guard and The Associated Press, which sued to gain access to the papers. The 31 pages of documents include orders for high-altitude training in 1972, less than three months before Mr. Bush abruptly quit flying as a fighter pilot.

Officials from the Defense Department and Texas National Guard officials have repeatedly said they found and released all of Mr. Bush's Vietnam-era military files, only to discover more. A Texas National Guard spokesman, Lt. Col. John Stanford, defended the continuing discoveries, saying Guard officials did not find all of Mr. Bush's records because they were disorganized and in poor condition, in boxes filled with dirt and dead bugs.

Mr. Bush's Guard service has come under scrutiny in this wartime election season. Some Democrats accuse him of shirking his duties in 1972 and 1973, when he did not show up for training for as long as six months at a time. Democrats have contrasted the combat service in Vietnam of their presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry, with Mr. Bush's stateside service as an F-102A fighter pilot in Texas."

Aside from questions raised, or questions never raised, about Bush's service. There is the unasked question of why this administration does everthing it can possibly do away from scrutiny or accountability.

The News Media have failed us badly. They've allowed a continuing criminal enterprise to masquerade as the executive branch of the United States government. A crime that worsens with every soldier killed, crippled, or maimed by roadside bombs, improvised from the arms caches we refused to guard.

ResourceShelf's DocuTicker

ResourceShelf's DocuTicker:
"Docuticker is a daily update of new reports from government agencies, ngo's, think tanks, and other groups. DocuTicker is compiled by the librarians who bring you"

Essentially DocuTicker is a daily update of new reports and other research culled from various sources, including think tanks, research institutes, and government agencies. The site is set up as a weblog, and visitors can search the archives dating back to the creating of the site earlier this year, or just scroll through recent entries. Some of the more recent entries include a report on the use of antibiotics in animals and a report from the 2000 Census on black same-sex households in the United States.

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2004.

By the way it's powered by blogger

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > Broad Use Cited of Harsh Tactics at Base in Cuba

The New York Times > Washington > Broad Use Cited of Harsh Tactics at Base in Cuba:
"Many detainees at Guant?namo Bay were regularly subjected to harsh and coercive treatment, several people who worked in the prison said in recent interviews, despite longstanding assertions by military officials that such treatment had not occurred except in some isolated cases.

The people, military guards, intelligence agents and others, described in interviews with The New York Times a range of procedures that included treatment they said was highly abusive occurring over a long period of time, as well as rewards for prisoners who cooperated with interrogators."

One regular procedure that was described by people who worked at Camp Delta, the main prison facility at the naval base in Cuba, was making uncooperative prisoners strip to their underpants, having them sit in a chair while shackled hand and foot to a bolt in the floor, and forcing them to endure strobe lights and screamingly loud rock and rap music played through two close loudspeakers, while the air conditioning was turned up to maximum levels, said one military official who witnessed the procedure. The official said that was designed to make the detainees uncomfortable as they were accustomed to high temperatures both in their native countries and their cells.

Such sessions could last up to 14 hours with breaks, said the official, who described the treatment after being contacted by The Times.

"It fried them,'' the official said, explaining that anger over the treatment the prisoners endured was the reason for speaking with a reporter. Another person familiar with the procedure who was contacted by The Times said: "They were very wobbly. They came back to their cells and were just completely out of it.''

Those who spoke of the interrogation practices at the naval base did so under the condition that their identities not be revealed. While some said it was because they remained on active duty, they all said that being publicly identified would endanger their futures. Although some former prisoners have said they saw and experienced mistreatment at Guantánamo, this is the first time that people who worked there have provided detailed accounts of some interrogation procedures.

One intelligence official said most of the intense interrogation was focused on detainees known as the "dirty thirty,'' believed to be the best potential sources of information.

In August, a report commissioned by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld found that tough techniques approved by the government were rarely used, but the sources described a broader pattern that went beyond even the aggressive techniques that were permissible.

The issue of what were permissible interrogation techniques has produced a vigorous debate within the government that burst into the open with reports of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and is now the subject of several independent investigations.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, the administration has wrestled with the issue of what techniques were permissible in interrogations, with many arguing that the campaign against terrorism should entitle them to greater leeway.

Pentagon officials would not comment on the details of the allegations. Lt. Cmdr. Alvin Plexico issued a Defense Department statement in response to questions about the new accounts, saying that the military was providing a "safe, humane and professional detention operation at Guantánamo that is providing valuable information in the war on terrorism.''

The statement said: "Guantánamo guards provide an environment that is stable, secure, safe and humane. And it is that environment that sets the conditions for interrogators to work successfully and to gain valuable information from detainees because they have built a relationship of trust, not fear.''

The sources portrayed a system of punishment and reward, with prisoners who were favored for their cooperation with interrogators given the privilege of spending time in a large room nicknamed "the love shack'' by the guards. In that room, they were free to relax and had access to magazines, books, a television and a video player and some R-rated movies, along with the use of a water pipe to smoke aromatic tobaccos. Those prisoners were also occasionally given milkshakes and hamburgers from the McDonald's on the base.

The Pentagon said the information gathered from the detainees "has undoubtedly saved the lives of our soldiers in the field. And that information also saves the lives of innocent civilians at home and abroad. At Guantánamo we are holding and interrogating people that are a clear danger to the U.S. and our allies and they are providing valuable information in the war on terrorism.''

They always claim they're saving lives, or getting a killer off the street, that they're careful, and limit what they do. But, the whole point of diong things in the dark, is to be beyond accountability, beyond punishment, beyond the law.

My guess is that, they would be hard pressed to come up with a single case where lives were clearly saved. All studies of torture, find that it's a great method of confirming the torturer's bias, because thetortured tend to say whatever they think the torturer wants to hear.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Paralyzed, a Soldier Asks Why

Paralyzed, a Soldier Asks Why
Sergeant Simpson's expertise is tank warfare. But the Army is stretched thin, and the nation's war plans at times have all the coherence of football plays drawn up in the schoolyard. When Sergeant Simpson's unit was deployed from Germany to Iraq, the tanks were left behind and the sergeant ended up bouncing around Tikrit in a Humvee, on the lookout for weapons smugglers and other vaguely defined "bad guys."

He said he felt more like a cop than a soldier.

One evening last April, Sergeant Simpson was the passenger in the lead vehicle of a four-vehicle convoy on a routine patrol in Tikrit. "It was a little housing area," he said. "We were just there to show a presence."

Iraqi soldiers were in the second vehicle of the convoy.

"I looked back and the Iraqi truck had stopped for some reason," Sergeant Simpson said.

He waved the driver forward, but the truck remained motionless. "That was odd," he said. "They wouldn't follow us. Then I happened to look down between two houses and I saw an Iraqi guy standing in the alley with like a remote control key for a car. And that was odd because there were like no cars in the whole little housing area."

Sergeant Simpson had been taught that key remotes can be used by insurgents to set off explosives. "So I knew right then something was wrong, and I raised up my gun to fire at him. But before I could get my weapon all the way up he pushed the button."

The bomb hidden in the road exploded with terrific force just a few feet from Sergeant Simpson.

"When I saw the explosion go off, I tried to jump back into the center of the Humvee for more protection," he said. "Everything went in slow motion for about 15 seconds. I saw scrap metal and dust and everything flying by me, and I felt it hitting me all in my legs and my back. It felt like hot metal burning my skin everywhere."

"It hurt so bad, I couldn't cry," he said.

The sergeant's spinal cord had been severed. On the short drive back to their home camp, he felt as if he was dying. "I would open and close my eyes," he said, "and all I could see was my family."

Sergeant Simpson is paralyzed from the waist down. He said he remembers hearing, as he was airlifted from Baghdad back to Germany, the moans and the cries and the weeping of the many other wounded soldiers on the plane. And he remembers the grief of the severely wounded soldiers in the military hospital in Landstuhl, where most of the evacuees from Iraq are taken. He saw amputees, and soldiers who were paralyzed or had suffered brain damage or other crippling injuries.

"Some of them never wanted anybody to come into their room," he said. "They never wanted to talk to anybody. The ones with the lesser injuries - you know, maybe got shot in the arm, that kind of thing - they were more upbeat."

Sergeant Simpson is married to a German woman, Shirley Weber, and they have two children. He is trying to get his family into the U.S., but the red tape is formidable. "The separation from them - that's the hardest thing to deal with," he said.

…asked if he still loved the military itself, he paused and then said:

"Not as much. That's basically because we were over there, all these young guys, doing our jobs, but we really didn't know why we were there. I ask myself, 'What was our purpose?' And to this day I still can't figure out our purpose for being there."

For want of a nail … the kingdom was lost
Failure to guard ammo dumps, kills, cripples, and maims by the thousands.Even if we're only talking about Americans,it's criminal. And if, we're also talking about Iraqis, it just might be a war crime.

If weapons of mass destruction were all important, why is it, that while we had people looking for hidden weapons we didn't guard the material and equipment we knew about. Equipment which has disappeared. Material, which has turned up on the black market in Holland.

We might just see that mushroom cloud over an American city, but it won't be because of Saddam Hussein

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Last Debate Offers a Crucial Test but Not the Final Word

Last Debate Offers a Crucial Test but Not the Final Word

From the candidates' first meeting in Coral Gables, Fla., to their finale in Tempe, Ariz., last night, the debates have been the public's clearest window into just what different people Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry are - and just what different presidents they would be. The tightly structured format minimized Mr. Kerry's penchant for prolixity and magnified Mr. Bush's instinctual impatience. Mr. Bush's certainties clashed with Mr. Kerry's subtleties, and the president's optimism was challenged by Mr. Kerry's skepticism.

As a rule, Mr. Bush summoned sweeping, time-tested labels, as he did last night, to paint Mr. Kerry as sitting "on the far left bank" of the American mainstream in an effort to appeal to core Republican supporters, while Mr. Kerry invoked the language that Bill Clinton used so successfully with swing voters, pledging to support "people working hard, playing by the rules, trying to take care of their kids."

But if both men often played to type, there were times when they played against their common caricatures last night. Mr. Kerry will never be warm and fuzzy, but television is a medium that loves a cool persona and he spoke calmly while Mr. Bush occasionally seemed agitated, as he has, to one degree or another in each debate.

Mr. Kerry has a confessed fondness for nuance, but he gave clear and direct answers last night on topics that Mr. Bush dodged, declaring his belief that people are born gay and that he would not appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. On the question of homosexuality, Mr. Bush told the moderator, "You know, Bob, I don't know," and on abortion, he twice avoided a direct answer, saying only that he would not have a "litmus test" for judges.

At one point, Mr. Bush, who prides himself on his plain-spokenness, lapsed into Washingtonese, citing the "Lewin Report," a private consultant's analysis of Mr. Kerry's health care proposal, a reference that surely mystified most viewers.

In many ways, last night's encounter was the most subdued of the three, and it will almost surely be the least watched, competing as it did against not one but two baseball playoff games.

Neither candidate made anything that would count as a major gaffe, and neither seemed to score a knockout punch. But Mr. Kerry repeatedly chastised Mr. Bush for lost jobs, the growing gulf between rich and poor, inequitable pay for women and lack of health insurance. Mr. Bush ignored the specifics of many of Mr. Kerry's complaints, instead frequently citing his efforts to improve American educational standards.

"This is one of those classic years where the debates actually did change the direction of the race," said Alan Schroeder, an associate professor at Northeastern University and author of "Presidential Debates: 40 Years of High-Risk TV." "It doesn't always happen that way. It doesn't even often happen that way. But clearly something in that first debate caused voters to take a second look at John Kerry, and take another look at George Bush."

He added, "The question is, are the debates conclusive, or are they just one more chapter in an ongoing saga that has another plot twist or two yet to come."

Bush has a lot to worry about.
When a group that has more republicans than democrats(ABC's flash poll), after your best performance, thinks that Kerry won the debate, his strategy of caricature and misdirection has failed. Oops, he never admits failure does he? A lot of people just noticed that the emperor has no clothes.
con·cept: October 2004