As Americans, we appreciate the declines in American fatalities in Iraq over the past year. Sen. John McCain and Pres. George W. Bush insist this is evidence that the troop “surge” worked. However, in 2007, Bush established a set of 18 benchmarks to measure our success in Iraq. The U. S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) examined those benchmarks, one by one in August 2007 and found that only three had been accomplished.
Yesterday, GAO International Affairs and Trade Director Joseph A. Christoff testified before the House Budget Committee about Iraq’s Budget Surplus. During questioning, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) got Christoff to admit that as of August 2008, one year later, in spite of the “surge”, Iraq has only accomplished one of the remaining 15 benchmarks.
Now, this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual -is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.
Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administrationâ€™s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.
Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse â€” an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.
Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.
In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.
The President released his last budget, aka shell game. This lame duck budget is bringing us closer to what Paul Kennedy described in his book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers:
Once their productive capacity [is] enhanced, countries…normally find it easier to sustain the burdens of paying for large-scale armaments in peacetime and of maintaining and supplying large armies and fleets in wartime. It sounds crudely mercantilistic to express it this way, but wealth is usually needed to acquire and protect wealth. If, however, too large a portion of the state’s resources is diverted from wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes, then that is likely to lead to a weakening of national power over the longer term. In the same way, if a state overextends itself strategically–by, say, the conquest of extensive territories or the waging of costly wars–it runs the risk that the potential benefits from external expansion may be outweighed by the great expense of it all–a dilemma which becomes acute if the nation concerned has entered a period of relative economic decline.
Keep that in mind while reading this, Bush spending plan would leave near-record deficit.
President Bush, facing his final go-around on spending with a Democratic-run Congress during this presidential election year, on Monday unveiled a $3.1 trillion budget for 2009 that boosts defense spending and pares Medicare costs while leaving a near-record deficit.
It is unlikely that Bush will win all of what he is seeking in the budget, with Republicans and Democrats grappling for control of the White House. However, the president and Congress already are moving toward agreement on a tax-relief plan to stimulate the economy â€” and that is certain to sharply increase a federal budget deficit that had fallen from a record high in 2004.
“We’ve made a determination to drive up the deficit in order to stimulate the economy,” said Jim Nussle, Bush’s budget director. “I’d much rather work with a balanced budget … but I also would much rather make sure that our country is protected.”
The spending plan proposed by the White House envisions a 7.5 percent boost in defense spending, while acknowledging that the full costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not included.
It’s obvious where the president’s allegiances lie. He’ll run up a deficit for defense corporations and war but when it comes to health care for the children, the elderly, and the poor, he’ll slash that without thinking twice. As for our Congressman he thinks it’s a good start.
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, said, “The budget released by the president today is a good starting point for a bipartisan discussion that should balance the budget by keeping taxes low and wasteful government spending in check.”
I’m not sure what budget he’s reading. You can read much more about what a lame duck budget proposal really is at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), they’ve written this analysis, The Dubious Priorities of the President’s Budget.
The Presidentâ€™s budget would provide more tax cuts heavily skewed to the most well-off while cutting vital services for low- and moderate-income Americans, generating large deficits, and increasing the strain on states already confronting budget problems as a result of the economic downturn. The budget reflects misguided priorities that would leave the American people more vulnerable in a number of ways.
One last thing about Republicans and how they talk. This excerpt from yesterday’s RRL profile of GOP candidate for HD-52 Bryan Daniel. See if you can get what he’s trying to say.
He acknowledged there are pros and cons, when it comes to the state possibly providing property tax relief to homeowners by raising the sales tax.
“Voters are not of one mind on what is the correct formula, but they are of one mind that we need to figure it out,” Daniel said. “Voters are solution oriented, but they don’t expect a single answer. They know it is more in-depth.
“I think the voters would like to see that the Legislature looks at its budget like every household,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s advocating a raise in taxes; property or sales tax.
“Personally, where I come down is we probably ought to find a better balance between property taxes and sales tax.”
That’s a lot to digest and he’s spinning pretty good. What he’s trying to say, without saying it, is that while he doesn’t want to say he’s going to raise the sales tax, he wants to raise the sales tax. We continue to fund our state government with only a sales and property taxes, and according to Daniel they’re currently out of balance – with the property tax being too high. So unless we cut a bunch of programs out of our state budget, we’ll have to balance the sales and property taxes. Therefore, the sales tax will have to rise. That’s how I read Daniel’s logic. That is unless he wants to introduce some new kind of tax or raise the newly created business tax.
As Rep. John Carter (R-Exxon-Mobil) comes to the district later this week to hold seminars, this Friday (12/7) and Saturday (12/8), on the disastrous Republican Medicare Part D plan, his writer also had time to pen this hilarious blog post to The Hill’s Congress Blog. John Carter talking about putting partisanship aside for the good of the country is taking us from the ridiculous to the sublime.
A congressman who owes Tom DeLay for the success he’s achieved in the ultra-right wing of the GOP, has absolutely no credibility when it comes to pointing the partisanship finger, and should not be throwing stones. He is the face of partisanship, and the statements attached to his name in the above blog post make it obvious that he cynically thinks he can say anything, no matter what he reality is, and enough of his constituents will believe it.
As most the country watches the presidential debates from their living room, one group of military families at Fort Hood wants the candidates to come to them.
Military Spouses for Change is trying to lure Democratic and Republican candidates to address the largest military community in the country face-to-face.
“These candidates are asking to be the next commander in chief. I feel like our families and service members, if nothing else, deserve an audience,” organizer Carissa Picard said.
“If they were to come here it would mean that the soldiers make a difference, the soldiers mean something. That their lives and their families mean something. That they’re not just talking the talk, that they are actually going to make some changes and support the troops,” military wife and mother Inga Guenther said.
Seems fair enough. On their web site they have a handy Candidate Comparison. They also have a page about the forum scheduled for February 1, 2008. Here’s the first paragraph describing what they would like.
This forum is NOT about being for the war in Iraq or against the war in Iraq. This is about the fact that there IS a war in Iraq (as well as Afghanistan) and there are CONSEQUENCES to that war–consequences for our service members, for their families, for our country. We believe the candidates should have to talk about how they plan to identify and deal with these consequences.
It’s the least they should do for these families that have and continue to sacrifice so much.
â€œWe need answers to some very important questions: how corrupt is the Maliki government? Are top officials in Iraq stealing billions of dollars to fund insurgents for attacking and killing our troops? Is corruption undermining the chances for political reconciliation? Secretary of State Rice says she will answer these questions only on one condition– every Member of Congress who hears the answers has to keep the answers secret. Well, thatâ€™s an outrageous abuse of the classification system.â€
Only 21 members of the US House voted against this. All were Republicans and Carter was one of them. That’s how far off the reservation he’s gone.
The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans. I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room. The question is, will we be wise about how we pay for health care. I believe the best way to do so is to enable more people to have private insurance.
Well, the Frosts had access to an emergency room, but not to affordable private insurance. And SCHIP solved that problem.
Today, you are introducing a Senate resolution to condemn a recent advertisement from MoveOn.org in the New York Times. While the Senate is debating important legislation focused on bringing a responsible end to the war in Iraq, this is what you are focused on?
Why are you wasting the Senate’s and the people’s time by introducing a resolution about MoveOn.org’s ad?
Instead of public conversations about the large issues that are really important — the war on terror, the future of Social Security, education and health care for working families — we get distractions over non-issues and tirades over wedge issues to create divisions among people.
This is not why the people elected you to the U.S. Senate. We deserve better.
That presents the Pentagon with several painful choices if the U.S. wants to maintain higher troop levels beyond the spring of 2008:
Using National Guard units on an accelerated schedule.
Breaking the military’s pledge to keep soldiers in Iraq for no longer than 15 months.
Breaching a commitment to give soldiers a full year at home before sending them back to war.
For a war-fatigued nation and a Congress bent on bringing troops home, none of those is desirable
Well, some in Congress are, not Carter.
That’s what is so telling about Carter’s response to all of this. He doesn’t talk about how this fight has to be won, how we all must sacrifice in order to save our way of life, or anything grand like that. No, instead he attacks MoveOn.org!? Carter and the GOP’s attempt to divert attention from what’s actually happening in Iraq to MoveOn.org’s ad from last week is not surprising. The zeal in which they attack MoveOn, and try and stay away from the “facts on the ground”, is telling. It’s also why what Carter says on his “blog”, regarding MoveOn, that is so mendacious. We all know he didn’t care one bit when The Swifites “sucker punched” John Kerry in 2004. Except there is no “sucker punch” in the MoveOn ad. All it does is point to press accounts, shows the general’s prior statements, and asks a question. It allows the reader to decide. The ferocity with which they attack the messenger shows how scared they are of discourse like this on the war. (Sen. Cornyn’s taking it to the extreme, John Cornyn is Wasting our Time.)