Posts Tagged ‘war profiteering’

Fresh from the reported killing of more than 60 civilians, U.S. forces in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, killed nine boys gathering firewood in Afghanistan. General Petraeus says he’s sorry.

“We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and, most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions,” Gen. Petraeus said in a statement. “These deaths should have never happened.”

Too little, too late, general. Nine boys now lie among thousands of others who had a right to life independent of U.S. goals in Afghanistan, and “sorry” doesn’t cut it, especially from the general who’s tripling the air war over Afghanistan. Air strikes are the leading tactic involved when U.S. and coalition forces kill civilians. We know this. We use them anyway. These boys’ deaths, or at least the idea of these boys’ deaths, were factored in to a calculation and deemed insufficient to deter the use of air power long before they died, and their deaths don’t seem to have changed Petraeus’ or ISAF’s calculus. Sorry doesn’t cut it.

But at least Petraeus didn’t try to blame the boys’ families for blowing them up to frame him this time.

Sorry certainly doesn’t cut it for the brother of one of the dead:

“I don’t care about the apology,” Mohammed Bismil, the 20-year-old brother of two boys killed in the strike, said in a telephone interview. “The only option I have is to pick up a Kalashnikov, RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] or a suicide vest to fight.”

President Obama says he’s sorry, too:

President Obama expressed his deep regret for the tragic accident in Kunar Province in which nine Afghans were killed.  The President conveyed his condolences to the Afghan people and stressed that he and General Petraeus take such incidents very seriously. President Obama and President Karzai agreed that such incidents undermine our shared efforts in fighting terrorism.

Oh, good, he takes such incidents “very seriously.” Here’s a fun thought experiment: can you imagine President Obama (or any high-ranking visiting U.S. dignitary, for that matter) scheduling a visit to the graveside of any civilian victim of U.S.-fired munitions on his next trip to Afghanistan? Give me a call when the images from that photo-op make the front pages, would you?

I don’t doubt for a second that President Obama and much of Washington officialdom think that they take these deaths very seriously. Yet, they continue to rubber-stamp funds and to approve a strategy and various supporting tactics that are guaranteed to cause future incidents like these.  Because that’s the case, they’re conscripting tax money that we send to D.C. every year for the purpose of building our nation together into policies that we don’t support and which kill people for whom we feel no malice. In fact, the strategies and tactics are so ill-conceived that they’re putting our money into the hands of insurgents who kill U.S. troops.

From Talking Points Memo:

After nearly a decade of mismanagement, theft and fraud, the U.S. military still hasn’t found a way to staunch the flow of what is likely hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars in lost fuel in Afghanistan, some of which is sold on the black market and winds up in Taliban hands, a TPM investigation has found.

…When TPM asked Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), a longtime member of the defense spending panel, about the fuel losses on Wednesday, Moran was well-versed on the topic, noting that he and other members of the committee had received private briefings by defense officials about the thorny security, logistics and corruption issues posed by the fuel theft.

Over the years, the transport of the fuel into the country at times has involved agreements to siphon a portion to outside parties in order to guarantee safe passage of the trucks, Moran said, and some of that fuel has ended up in enemy hands.

This same news story also included mention of a report from last year that showed that U.S. taxpayer funds funneled through protection rackets was one of the insurgents’ most significant sources of funding:

…A House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee investigation last year revealed that the companies under the host-nation contract often paid private security contractors to ensure safe passage through Afghanistan. The security contractors, in turn, made protection payment to local warlords in exchange for their agreement to prevent attacks.

“In many cases, the investigation discovered, these protection payments made their way into the hands of warlords and, directly or indirectly, the very insurgents that U.S. forces were fighting,” Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), the ranking member of the national security oversight subcommittee, wrote in a January letter to Issa highlighting the problems with the trucking contract.

Even completed big-ticket completed projects intended to win hearts and minds for the coalition have resulted in new funding streams for insurgents. From Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON – By pumping more than $100 million into a hydropower plant, the United States sought to improve the lives of Afghans and win the hearts and minds of tribesmen and farmers who might otherwise turn to the Taliban insurgency. Instead, a prominent outside Pentagon adviser argues, the bungled boondoggle ended up funding the insurgents while doing little to help the United States end the war and bring troops home.

…Half the electricity from the project in the volatile Helmand province goes to Taliban territory, enabling America’s enemies to issue power bills and grow the poppies that finance their insurgency, he says.

With our money fueling the insurgency and our killing of civilians driving more people to join the Taliban’s side every week, it’s little wonder that the insurgency continues to grow in size and sophistication. But that brings us back to that calculation, the one that put those nine dead boys in the column titled “Acceptable Losses.” With official promises that more troops would lead to more security for ordinary Afghans having collapsed so badly that they read like a bad joke, what could possibly justify this continued bonfire of lives and resources in Afghanistan? The war’s not making us safer and it’s not worth the cost. Dragging this out until 2014 won’t change that one bit.

This week U.S. forces burned children along with the firewood they were gathering. If we allow this brutal, futile war to continue, you can bet that more children and more of our resources will be kindling to a fire that’s not keeping anybody warm. The American people want our troops brought home, and it’s time President Obama and Congress took that “very seriously.”

If you’re fed up with this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost, join a Rethink Afghanistan Meetup near you and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

While U.S. manufacturing exports dry up, one particular group of U.S. exporters are still raking in money: the arms dealers.

Via Trade and Taxes:

It turns out that in 2007 the US had the lowest share of global manufacturing output on record. For the first time since the UN began keeping these statistics in 1970, the US had less than 20 percent of global manufacturing.

But at the same time, according to CDI,

Global arms sales totaled nearly $60 billion in 2007, an increase of 9.2 percent from 2006 values. The United States was again the world’s most dominant arms exporter, making $24.8 billion (41.5 percent) of all global arms agreements.

Like a predatory lender during tax season, arms suppliers target the poorest countries for the bulk of their sales.

Developing nations continue to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by weapons suppliers.  During the years 2000-2007, the value of arms transfer agreements with developing nations comprised 66.6% of all such agreements worldwide.  More recently, arms transfer agreements with developing nations constituted 67.7% of all such agreements globally from 2004-2007, and 70.5% of these agreements in 2007.

Here’s Wikipedia‘s 2007  list of the top ten global defense contractors, with the U.S.-based companies in bold:

  1. Lockheed Martin
  2. Boeing
  3. BAE Systems
  4. Northrop Grumman
  5. General Dynamics
  6. Raytheon
  7. EADS
  8. L-3 Communications
  9. Finmeccanica
  10. United Technologies

U.S. arms sales worldwide totaled $24.8 billion in 2007. For the same year, we spent $22 billion on foreign aid. (That year, the U.S. government also paid $27 billion just to our largest defense contractor.)

How do you feel about that?

Dr. King said:

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

The numbers say “this business of burning human beings” is booming.

Some Christians are done with this business. Shane Claiborne, co-author of Jesus for President and author of The Irresistible Revolution, spoke about his experiences in Iraq at a nonviolent Good Friday protest last year at a Lockheed Martin facility (a U.S.-based company and the largest military contractor in the world). Shane spoke about worshiping with Iraqi Christians during Lent as the bombs fell around them during the 2003 U.S. invasion. During this season of Lent, let us acknowledge our own complicity with our nation’s militarism and resolve to put ourselves in the way to stop it.

From the Litany of Resistance:

One: For our scorched and blackened earth
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For the scandal of billions wasted in war
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For our leaders who wage war in our name
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For our Caesars and our Herods
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For our generals and tacticians
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For the men and women in battle
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For the men and women training for war
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For the scientists and researchers
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For the arms dealers and the merchants of death
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For our taxes that fund the evil of war
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: Deliver us, O God
All: Guide our feet into the ways of peace
One: In humility, we ask
All: Hear our prayer. Grant us peace.

Amen.