Part I of this article explained that the US was always a warrior, imperial nation,
building it in steps and addicted to its madness. First we took it from its original
inhabitants; then we expanded it beyond our borders by seizing the half of Mexico
we wanted; later we established colonies abroad; and now, our method of choice
is to rule the world through compliant leaders in client states everywhere serving
our interests. We began doing it gradually following WW II when we emerged as
the only dominant nation left standing, unchallengeable as the world's only economic,
political and military superpower. Even before the war ended, we planned to take
full advantage of that indomitable status once it did. We pursued it throughout
the "cold war" and in the 1990s when it was over. Then came 9/11, the
gloves came off in the Bush administration, and top officials in it ended any
pretense of what our real aims are. The rest, as they say, is history, and the
nations we target in our quest for world dominance and our own people at home
pay a dreadful price. Below is a case study of our imperial madness in Iraq documenting
how painful that price is.
A Case Study In Imperial Mayhem and Madness and Its Disasterous Consequences
- First the Victims
If the US had a slogan or motto on how best to fight wars it might be "all's
surely fair in war as well as love." The only rules we observe are the
ones we make up as we go along. With that code of conduct and with total disregard
for the rule of domestic or international law, designated targets can only expect
their earth scorched followed by a living hell delivered in the name of democracy
and liberation. Iraq, like Southeast Asia in the sixties and seventies and Nicaragua
and El Salvador in the eighties, is a classic example with Afghanistan being
more of the same. The people on our receiving end of our gunsights know democracy
American-style is none at all.
For anyone paying attention to events unfolding in Iraq from the few credible
sources available (meaning unembedded journalists, reports from our disillusioned
military and leaks including high level ones), there's little doubt the situation
on the ground is disastrous and getting worse - for us as well as the Iraqis.
From these reports on the ground, we continue learning more of what the Pentagon
and administration try to suppress, always with the full cooperation of the
corporate-run media. But the truth can't be hidden, the lies are unravelling,
and the charade of progress is being seen as a shamless myth.
For 26 million Iraqis, liberation American-style is none whatever. For them
it's an endless living hell nightmare since the US first attacked and invaded
in January, 1991. At that time we deliberately and illegally destroyed essential
infrastructure like power generating stations and clean water facilities vital
to the health, welfare and safety of the people. We also wontonly slaughtered
many thousands of defenseless civilians and Iraqi military who had given up
the fight they wanted no part of in the first place. The likely toll was at
least 100,000 killed in just a few weeks of brutal one-sided combat mostly inflicted
from the air against a target country we knew was defenseless. Our initial cost
was modest for an operation involving 580,000 military personal - 146 killed
(including by friendly fire) and 467 wounded. A far greater cost to US forces
would show up later that's discussed below.
What followed Operation Desert Storm was a dozen years of continued air-assault
bombings along with oppressive and unjustifiable economic sanctions. Combined
they destroyed all the institutions of a modern civil society which Iraq was
prior to 1991. They left in their wake an epic humanitarian disaster by every
measure imaginable including median Iraqi income creating mass poverty. Because
of the country's oil wealth, Iraq was once the most advanced and developed country
in the Middle East with a per capita income of $2,313 in 1979. By 2003, that
income had declined to $255 per capita and in 2004 it had fallen further to
about $144. It's easy to understand why based on a study by the college of economics
at Baghdad University that estimated the unemployment rate to be about 70%.
Even the so-called "oil for food" program did little to relieve the
crisis prior to the current invasion and war. It wasn't intended to as the US
plan was to inflict the greatest possible hardships on the people hoping it
would encourage them to rise up and topple Saddam. In fact, it had the opposite
effect despite the severity of the toll. Instead of blaming Saddam, Iraqis relied
on him for whatever relief they could get. It wasn't much or nearly enough because
the US allowed him little to give.
The combination of war and economic sanctions likely caused the death of at
least one million by even conservative estimates including 500,000 children.
Other estimates put the number as high as 1.5 million in total by the end of
the nineties. When Denis Halliday resigned in 1998 as UN head of Iraqi humanitarian
relief he said he did so because he "had been instructed to implement a
policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has
effectively killed well over one million individuals, children and adults."
He went on to say 5,000 Iraqi children were dying needlessly every month.
Conditions got far worse following the US illegal aggression beginning in March,
2003. The daily toll of death and destruction from the ongoing endless conflict
is unknown precisely, but even honest conservative estimates are appalling and
shocking despite efforts by the Pentagon to suppress them. The British Lancet
reported in October, 2004 by their "conservative assumptions" an Iraqi
toll of about 100,000 "excess deaths" post March, 2003. They then
updated their earlier estimate in February, 2006 to a likely 300,000 that seven
months later is considerably higher. Other assessments suggest an even greater
number, up to 500,000 according to one estimate a few months ago. Whatever the
true number, the US inflicted disaster on Iraq and its people is one of epic
proportions in all respects.
It's destroyed a once prosperous nation and left in its wake today a surreal
lawless armed camp wasteland with few or no essential services like electricity,
clean water, medical care, fuel or most everything else needed for sustenance
and survival. It shows up in Baghdad's morgue that can't cope with the number
of corpses it gets daily while those still living can't get desperately needed
care at hospitals unable to provide it. It's also there in the US-run torture-prisons
where anyone can be brutalized in a kind of a ritual foreplay for no reason
at all. Thing's aren't improving. They get steadily worse as the occupation
grinds on and death squads room at will including the US "Salvador option"
ones modeled after the types used in the Reagan era against the leftist guerrilla
resistance in El Salvador in the 1980s that murdered many thousands. This is
what life in most of Iraq is now like, and it clearly warrants the label genocide.
It also makes all US officials at the highest levels responsible for it guilty
of egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity. Will they ever be held
to account for what they've done? Never, as long as the US occupier lives by
the rules of victor's justice that insures none at all for the victims.
A notable sign of US-style justice happened at the end of July when the Pentagon
awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (DDSM) to retiring General Geoffrey
Miller who supervised the infamous US torture-prisons at Guantanamo and later
Abu Ghraib. The DDSM was established by Richard Nixon's 1970 Executive Order
so the Secretary of Defense could award it to officers of the US Armed Forces
"whose exceptional performance of duty and contributions to national security
or defense have been at the highest levels." Clearly generals or other
officers in charge of torture now qualify for the award.
The Toll of Mayhem and Madness On Our Own Military Forces On the Ground
No one should ever believe anything from government sources, especially our
own. We practically invented and defined the art of disseminating lies and practicing
deceit. We're at it daily, particularly in how and what we report on the war
in Iraq. The military holds update briefings at its media nerve center for the
war - CentCom. It's a worthless exercise there and whenever else US officials
report on the war. Anyone expecting to get a true picture of conditions on the
ground won't ever because the most important information known is censored or
suppressed. In times of war, the first casualty is truth, and the corporate-run
media is always willing to oblige to keep it that way.
The Pentagon is also ready to use its muscle to censor, shut down, or destroy
any news source in the country that may reveal what it wants suppressed. It
repeatedly harasses and assaults Al-Jazeera closing it down and in 2003 attacked
its Baghdad offices by air killing one of its correspondents and injuring another.
Previously in Afghanistan in November, 2001, Al-Jazeera's Kabul offices were
destroyed by a US missile in a deliberate attempt to stop unfavorable news reports
from coming out. Another time a US tank with no provocation fired point blank
at the Palestine Hotel in the capitol where most non-embedded international
journalists are based killing reporters from Reuters and the Spanish network
Telecino. These are just a few examples of the deadly effects of US efforts
to silence honest news reporting from the country. The International Press Institute
(IPI) keeps a journalist death watch count and reports that including all of
2003 76 journalists have been killed in Iraq by all assailants making this country
by far the most dangerous venue in the world for members of the fourth estate.
That number has now been updated by other sources that report since March, 2003
to the present 107 journalists and other media workers have been killed in this
most dangerous of all places for them to work.
In spite of the danger and toll its taken, much of what Washington and the
corporate-run media conceal is being reported from unembedded journalists and
a growing number of unofficial accounts emerging or leaking out. They show what
conditions are really like on the ground and the effect the conflict has had
on US ground forces in the country. They're being increasingly stressed and
terrified out of their minds, most are physically and/or psychologically traumatized
or ill, many quite seriously from the deadly effects of depleted uranium (DU)
poisoning and other toxins that have already disabled as many as 350,000 or
more Gulf war veterans according to what can be pieced together from the little
information the Veterans Administration (VA) reports (they don't explain from
what or make a serious effort to find out). The psychological toll is also growing
from witnessing or obeying orders to participate in the daily barbaric slaughter
of Iraqi civilians including women, children, the elderly and infirm. The result
is the rate of suicides is believed to be rising to alarming levels as is the
number of desertions the Pentagon reports to be about 40,000 since 2000 from
all branches of the military, half of them from the Army. Over 5,500 of them
are Iraq related (the Pentagon keeps this very quiet) with many dozens more
joining their ranks each month. In addition, many others are refusing to return
to Iraq for another tour of duty after serving there one or more times. Those
who do it unannounced are being quietly discharged in most cases, while the
ones going public to denounce the war saying they won't serve in it any longer
face courts martial, dishonorable discharge and possible prison terms.
Little of the above information has been reported, but most disturbing of all
is the true unreported daily death and injury toll of US military personnel
that's far higher than the official numbers. Department of Defense (DOD) reports
are now being quietly circulated indicating over 12,000 dead, not the current
announced total approaching 2,700. That figure includes thousands of previously
unreported deaths of US military personnel who died en route to German or other
hospitals or after arriving there. There's also evidence from Military Air Transport
Service (MATS) manifests that show many more bodies shipped to Dover Air Force
Base than are officially reported when there are any reports at all.
The true number of serious injuries has also been grossly understated. It could
be twice as high as the official numbers based on reports from the Landstuhl
Regional Medical Center in Germany alone that has treated over 25,000 wounded
military patients even as the DOD only officially acknowledges around 15,000
in total and then quietly at first increased the number to about 19,000. These
injuries, rarely discussed, include loss of limbs, brain damage and other debilitations
that will scar those affected by them for the rest of their lives if after treatment
and recovery they even survive. And there's never any mention of the later physical
and/or psychological pain and suffering veterans endure or how many of them
had or likely will have their lives shortened as a result of the time they spent
in combat theaters "serving their country."
In addition to the stress of trauma, possible death or serious injury US forces
face, they must also cope with the problems of daily life on the ground making
their lives difficult or too often unbearable. Many of their Forward Operations
Bases don't get enough daily drinking water and other necessities such as proper
food to eat regularly. It makes an intolerable situation even worse. For many
there's also a lack of basic amenities like clean clothes, a daily shower and
a comfortable bed to sleep in. In addition, the equipment on the ground is being
consumed and not replaced including weapons, vehicles, ordinance, body armor
and most everything else. Despite the multi-billions spent on this imperial
adventure, too little of it is going to "the boots on the ground,"
because too much of it is budgeted for corporate friends of the administration
feasting on huge no-bid contracts. The situation isn't improving. In fact, it's
steadily deteriorating despite official denials.
By the time our forces are finally withdrawn from Iraq, as one day they will,
the human disaster will be almost incomprehensible. From just a short one-time
deployment during the 1991 Gulf war, hundreds of thousands of our forces sent
there are now on some form of disability either from the deadly effects of DU
poisoning, the stew of other toxins they were exposed to, the physical injuries
they received or the permanent psychological scars they may take to the grave.
But the worst is yet to come. Beginning with the Afghanistan war in late 2001
and the Iraq war from March, 2003, over 1.3 million of our military forces have
served one or more tours of duty for extended periods in what are beyond question
the most dangerous and toxic environments on earth. The best estimates (because
the VA won't say) are that between 30 - 70% of Gulf war vets so far are now
on some kind of disability. If only that same range is applied to the 1.3 million
of our military now serving or having served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001,
between 400,000 and 900,000 of them may end up on disability or die from exposure
to the DU munitions used in these wars which we've learned are vastly more toxic
than the ones used in the Gulf war. And if they manage to avoid DU poisoning,
they may succumb to the effects from the many other toxic pollutants they had
to live with or become scarred or maimed for life from the violent environments
they had to serve in or the acts they had to commit fulfilling their duty there.
In simple terms, it's likely we can expect an eventual overall catastrophic
human disaster and one being covered up because of its enormity. US high officials
and Pentagon brass that planned this holocaust to both sides likely knew the
human cost to our forces alone would be high but decided anyway the innocent
mostly young people we sent to fight were expendable and could be written off
to be replaced by new and fresh equally innocent recruits - as long as their
dirty secret never gets out. The lives lost or ruined on both sides are dismissed
as "collateral damage" or just a "price that has to be paid."
It's a human price and one that's paid to enrich well-connected big corporations
that love wars because they're so profitable.
The Madness of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution gives the power to declare war
solely to the Congress. The Founding Fathers rightfully believed that authority
so important they codified it. They wanted to assure that for the single most
important issue a nation ever faces, that awesome power would never be placed
in the hands of a single individual like the president. They wanted only the
legislative branch to have it and only exercise it after careful, deliberative
debate. That branch still has it, but for the last 65 years it's abrogated its
authority and allowed Presidents from Harry Truman to George W. Bush to usurp
it. The result has been the many wars we've fought since WW II along with the
many we encouraged, supported and financed plus all the CIA covert mischief
and abuse going on at all times.
The result is that every war this country fought in since WW II from Korea
to Iraq to the one now planned and "signed off" on by George Bush
against Iran and possibly Syria and Venezuela as well to oust President Hugo
Chavez to begin on future so far unknown dates was and will be acts of illegal
aggression. In each case the US either committed the first overt hostile act
or goaded its designated target country enough to do it to provide us with a
casus belli for the war we planned and intended to wage. We provoked the North
Koreans (through our South Korean proxies) enough in 1950 to get them to respond
to give us an excuse to enter a civil conflict between the North and South.
We did the same thing again to Iraq (through our Kuwaiti proxies) in 1990-91.
In each case, from Korea to the present, we did it against adversaries that
never threatened to attack us or had any intention to. Our actions each time
were planned, willful acts of illegal aggression, which is what the Nazis were
tried for at Nuremburg.
The Tribunal called their crime the "supreme international crime"
and specifically said: "To initiate a war of aggression....is not only
an international crime, it is the supreme crime, differing only from other war
crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
For the last 55 years, the US has repeatedly committed "supreme international
crimes" but has yet to be held to account for any of them. In a just world,
those in power during each of those illegal wars would have been put in the
dock, tried, convicted and either hanged like the most egregious Nazis or given
appropriate prison terms for their crimes. The US has also violated the UN Charter
that allows a nation the right to use force in its self-defense only under two
conditions: when authorized to do it by the Security Council or under Article
51 that permits the "right of individual or collective self-defense if
an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security Council has taken
measures to maintain international peace and security." By attacking another
nation without provocation and with no Security Council authorization, the US
violated this sacred covenant. It also violated the US Constitution that says...."all
Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States,
shall be the supreme Law of the Land." The Bush administration continues
to remind us of its disdain for all laws that conflict with its policies.
It should also remind responsible people that's why the International Criminal
Court was established by the Rome Statute of 1998 to which the US is a signatory.
The Court's authority became effective after receiving its required number of
ratifying signatures in 2002 to be a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals
for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide as defined by the Nuremberg
Charter of 1945. However, the Bush administration refuses to participate in
the Court unless its military personnel are given immunity from prosecution
- an outrageous demand made for obvious reasons. As a result, no US official
or military offender will be held to account before the court unless brought
there against their will which isn't likely. That's not how things work in a
world ruled by victor's justice. Only losers pay the price in that kind of world,
even when they're victims.
Besides committing the supreme international crime of illegal aggression, the
US is a serial offender in other ways. It violated international law by waging
war without restraint using every weapon it chooses including illegal chemical
and possibly biological agents. During the 1950s the effects of such agents
were ilicitly tested in selected US cities including New York and San Francisco
on our own unwitting population. However, through the years post WW I, the 1925
Geneva Convention Gas Protocol and various succeeding Geneva Weapons Conventions
outlawed the use of chemical and biological agents in any form for any reason
in war. In addition, under various UN Conventions and Covenants that are binding
international law for its signatories, the use of any weapons that cause harm
after the battle including away from the battlefield, harm the environment,
or kill, wound or cause harm inhumanely are illegal and banned.
Since the Gulf war in 1991, the US has routinely used illegal weapons including
depleted uranium munitions in four wars that spread deadly toxic irremediable
radiation over the target sites attacked and a vast area beyond them. These
DU weapons are poisonous under international law and violate all the above conditions.
Even the respected Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is legally non-binding
to its signatories, implies a moral duty never to use any weapons as potentially
harmful as DU ones or any chemical or biological agents.
In all its wars the US has also willfully violated international law by deliberately
attacking non-military targets as a tactical strategy against area "resistance."
It's also been callously indifferent to heavy civilian "collateral damage"
(words that signify war crimes for some) in attacking military ones. The choice
of weapons has been indiscriminate as well and include ones judged illegal and
outlawed. In Iraq these have been chemical gases, questionable cluster bombs
and a terror weapon called "flashettes" which explode and shoot out
1000s of nails in all directions with deadly results. Two even more deadly terror
weapons have been indiscriminately used in Iraq including in civilian areas.
One is the napalm-like white phosphorous bombs and shells, known as Willy Pete,
that burn flesh to the bone and can't be extinguished by water that only makes
it worse when used. The other is an updated version of napalm called Mark 77
firebombs which do about the same thing to flesh.
One other terror weapon likely also is used called a thermobaric bomb which
is a modification of still another prohibited weapon called fuel air explosives
(FAE) that in their original form are enormously powerful and destroy and incinerate
structures and people. The thermobaric update contains polymer-bonded or solid
fuel-air explosives in its payload. It's also able to penetrate buildings, underground
shelters and tunnels creating a blast pressure great enough to suck the oxygen
out from the spaces and lungs of anyone in the vicinity. Used against civilians,
these weapons are illegal under the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional
Weapons. However, George Bush arrogantly dismisses the Geneva Conventions claiming
they don't apply in the "war on terror." He echoed the sentiment of
his then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales (the current Attorney General)
whose memo in early 2002 stated: "The nature of the new war (on terror)
places a high premium on other factors such as the ability to quickly obtain
information from captured terrorists.....In my judgment, this new paradigm renders
obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders
quaint some of its provisions." Such is the language of tyrants and those
around them in high places. The Pentagon also acts with disdain for the law
and freely uses whatever terror weapons it chooses against any target.
The sum of these actions and policies is that the George Bush's legacy will
based on the notion of endless illegal aggression in the "permanent state
of war" his administration declared after 9/11 that now has been rebranded
as "the long war" against "Islamo-fascism." It also sanctions
the use of banned weapons against civilians, and it believes the most sacred
international law is quaint, obsolete and out of date. Is it any wonder this
administration has laid waste to scores of villages, towns and cities across
Iraq and Afghanistan and done it not just to destroy targets but to send a message
that no restraint will be shown to crush all resistance against imperial aggression.
This scorched earth policy is called the "Fallujah model" which, of
course, was the city in al-Anbar province of 350,000 US ground and air forces
attacked full-force in November, 2004. It was done using most every terror weapon
they had, other than nuclear ones, to inflict maximum destruction including
to essential infrastructure like water, electrical power and hospitals to wipe
out whatever resistance was there. Now the same model is being used against
the people of Ramadi, the capitol of al-Anbar and a city larger than Fallujah
that was surrounded and attacked by a large combined US and proxy Iraqi force
beginning on June 9. The assault is still ongoing, and in the words of its US
commander, it's unclear how long it will take to "pacify" the city.
What the commander meant but left unsaid was that US style pacification means
mass killing and destruction like what was done to Fallujah or alternately following
the "Leningrad", "Ben Tre" or "Jenin" model. Whether
the plan is to break the will of the people and starve it to submission, "destroy
the town to save it" or just inflict barbaric retribution in an act of
vengeance and do it against innocent people there, these acts are outrageous
war crimes and crimes against humanity. What the commander also didn't say is
what's been coming from unembedded and leaked reports on the ground - that despite
the intense and protracted effort to suppress the resistance, the US military
has effectively lost control over all of al-Anbar province west of Baghdad that
comprises about one-third of the country. This assessment was confirmed in August
by Col. Pete Devlin, the Marine Corps chief of intelligence, who characterized
the situation there as beyond repair and that US forces have lost the battle
in al-Anbar. It's happened in spite of the intense fighting across areas under
US control including the tactical strategy of committing war crimes and crimes
The latter crimes are those the Nuremburg Charter cited to explain what Hitler
did to the Jews. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) ruled these actions
are the historical and legal precursors to the international crime of genocide
as defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime
of Genocide. From the 15 year unrelenting assault against the Iraqi people beginning
with the Gulf war, the devastating economic sanctions, continued bombings throughout
the 1990s up to the 2003 illegal war, occupation and daily crimes committed
under it, the US is as guilty of genocide as were the Nazis against the Jews
and all others they sought to eliminate.
Add to that the systematic use of torture at the hellhole prisons with names
now well-known and many others around the world the CIA and military run or
"rendition" victims to so they can learn how American justice works.
It's the same way it worked in Nazi Germany and under all other regimes run
by tyrants. Victims have no rights and can be treated any way their oppressors
choose. International laws that are the supreme law of the land are quaint and
ignored, the notion of innocent unless or until proved guilty is a nonstarter,
and knowing torture isn't an effective way to break resistance and obtain credible
information hardly matters. When you're the world's only superpower, can decide
alone what's lawful or not, and are on the rampage, who'll be brave or foolish
enough to challenge you? Few, in any, dare.
Is Justice Possible in A World Where Might Makes Right
The rule of law is sacred and should protect us from oppression and injustice.
It doesn't because a greater force prevails - the power of the strong over the
weak, to write the laws it wants and ignore all others, to recklessly pursue
its ends, to pillage and plunder because it can get away with it. It's called
the law of might makes right, ruled by the code of victors' justice where only
the vanquished are held to account and no one has rights except the powerful
who make their own. It's a world of lawlessness, disorder and endless conflict,
our world, and it's brought to us by a rogue superpower posing as a model democratic
state. Those under its oppressive heel, now and in the past, know it well. For
many of them it's the curse of having too much of a valued natural resource
the US wants to control and exploit. It was true for Iraq and is no different
for Iran and Venezuela that also are on the US target list.
What's clear abroad is also true in the US where sacred constitutional law
and the political process are effectively dead letters. So too are long-established
international laws and norms that interfere with the plans of the new rulers
of the world. The power of the Executive declared it so, and the Congress (a
Greek chorus posing as a legitimate legislative body) went along - while a modern-day
Rome slowly burns and threatens all humanity with its fallout.
It never should have been this way nor was it intended to following WW I. Because
of the frightening horror from that conflict, 63 nations, including the US,
were signatories to the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 that renounced war as an
instrument of foreign policy and said never again. The Pact failed to prevent
WW II that began 11 years later nor has the UN formed in its aftermath been
able to do be any more successful. This world body was established to maintain
international order and security and to develop friendly relations among nations
to strengthen universal peace. Its stated mission in its Charter was that it
was to be an international body "to save succeeding generations from the
scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind."
It hasn't done it and never will as long as it's a wholly owned subsidiary of
the reigning superstate (aka predator) that co-opts it to serve its interests
and prevents it from functioning as it should. What can all humanity look forward
to if the institutions established to protect us don't work, and the only rule
of law is the one of the jungle and survival of the fittest and most powerful.
More on this below.
A Possible Hidden Economic Connection to the Iraq War and Future Ones
The clear connection to the Iraq war, and likely ones in some form planned
against Iran and Venezuela, is the ocean of oil each country literally floats
on. Saddam became a target for regime change when he refused to submit and cede
control of it to the US demanding he do it. Now the Iranian mullahs and its
President Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez may be next in our target
queue for the same reason. Like Iraq, with only conventional weapons for defense,
these two countries are no match militarily against an all out US assault unlike
North Korea that may have a nuclear deterrent giving that country a degree of
invulnerability only states with that type weapon have against an aggressive
superpower. The US picks its targets judiciously, and like a schoolyard bully
never attacks an adversary that can put up a decent fight - at least by its
There also may be another motive behind our belligerence besides the clear
oil related one. It's much less visible, not discussed, and well concealed beneath
the radar. It relates to the notion believed by some economists that flawed
and/or out of date methodologies are used to compute some of our key economic
data like the gross domestic product (GDP), the total employment and unemployment
figures known as the monthly jobs report, and the federal deficit. The reasoning
goes that if the unemployment rate today was computed by the same methodology
used during The Great Depression when it rose to 25% of the working population,
the true current figure would be about 12% instead of the reported 4.7% which
includes part-time workers and anyone working as little as one hour during the
reporting period. It also excludes all those who wish to work but have stopped
looking (discouraged workers) because they can't find any.
A cover story just out in the September 25 issue of Business Week magazine
lends credence to the notion that official published government data is manipulated
and flawed to look better than, in fact, it is. The article is titled: "What's
Really Propping Up The Economy." It states since 2001, all newly created
private sector jobs (1.7 million) came from one source - the health care industry
which includes the drug companies and insurers offering health insurance. This
one industry today represents 12% of the workforce and $2 trillion in annual
spending (about one-sixth of the nation's GDP and growing). The story goes on
to explain that without the private sector jobs from this one source "the
nation's labor market would be in a deep coma" so that while some other
sectors like construction and areas related to it added 900,000 jobs since 2001,
that gain was offset by "the pressures of globalization and new technology
(that) have wreaked havoc on the rest of the labor market" resulting in
factories closing and shrinkage in other areas. Even information technology,
"the great electronic promise of the 1990s," turned into a bust as
far as its ability to generate new jobs. Instead of creating any, it lost 1.1
million of them since 2001 and now employs fewer people than in 1998 "when
the Internet frenzy kicked into high gear."
This kind of data doesn't reflect a healthy, expanding economy and clearly
is a strong indication of one showing very disturbing signs. The current situation
is still further complicated by a failing policy of imperial overreach, massive
and out-of-control federal deficits discussed below, and the greatest housing
boom in history that propped up the economy, became a bubble, and is now unwinding
and likely to become painful before it ends. Just how much and how fast won't
be known until a future time when an assessment is made of the amount of damage
done and what economic conditions are in its wake. It may show things to be
lots different than the rosy way they're portrayed now by most analysts.
It may be why at least one economist (maybe an honest one) believes a more
accurate calculation of the real GDP indicates it's contracting and not expanding
in a healthy fashion as is now reported each quarter. And most disturbing of
all is an analysis of the federal deficit, the computation of which has been
miscalculated since the Johnson administration began using accounting gimmicks
to hide the true costs of the Vietnam war. If the deficit were calculated based
on GAAP methodology (the accounting rules required of all publicly traded corporations
in preparing their financial statements), the true figure would have been $665
billion for fiscal year 2003 and $760 billion for 2005 instead of the reported
$375 billion 2003 figure and $318 billion for 2005. But that greater figure
expands to an astonishing $3,700,000,000,000 ($3.7 trillion) for 2003 and a
similarly frightening one for 2005 if the annual increase in the net amount
of unfunded Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and government pension obligations
are included. This shadow deficit has been mounting since the Johnson years
and shows that the US government in fiscal year 2003 had a negative net worth
of $34,000,000,000,000 ($34 trillion) by one estimate.
Another economist paints an even grimmer picture than the one above. That economist,
Boston University Professor Laurence Kotlikoff, prepared a recent detailed report
for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in which he stated, by some measures,
the US is already bankrupt and unable to pay its creditors (the ones holding
its debt instruments and due its entitlement payments). Professor Kotlikoff
wrote that a country's solvency depends on its ability to honor its lifetime
fiscal obligations which are the difference between all required future spending
and the revenue expected to be received to do it. That gap will widen exponentially
as the accumulated US sovereign and other debt obligations plus the amount of
revenue needed to cover the bill for retiring Baby Boomers' unfunded liabilities
of social security, medicare, medicaid, government pensions and all else rises
to an incomprehensible and unmanageable $65,900,000,000,000 ($65.9 trillion)
by the calculations he used from a study by two other professors. Professor
Kotlikoff explained this figure is over five times the current US Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) and double the national wealth. He added that if his analysis
is right, it means the US is bankrupt, will face a fiscal calamity ahead and
will have to default on its debt, entitlements and other obligations.
Professor Kotlikoff had more to say on this matter in a recent extended essay
he wrote for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review July/August issue
titled "Is the United States Bankrupt?" In it he stated that future
US workers would need to be taxed at the rate of 55 - 80% over their working
lifetimes to pay for the estimated $80 trillion in unfunded future entitlement
liabilities or more than six times the current US GDP. Whichever of his two
numbers is more accurate (if either one is), Professor Kotlikoff is beginning
to be heard and is gaining some adherents. They believe the US faces a potential
future fiscal meltdown even though it's understood the nation's balance sheet
isn't static and includes increasing assets as well as liabilities that must
be figured into any bottom line calculation of net obligations. So as dire as
the current and future situation may be, the true state of the problem likely
won't be known precisely until the inevitable day of reckoning arrives revealing
how ugly it is.
What is known is that whichever analysis of the problem is right, the future
consequences eventually will likely shake the world and change our way of life
at home irrevocably at the least. So how does that relate to this country's
addiction to war and the current notion of permanent or long ones. Simple. Hot
wars stimulate the economy and make it grow - especially extended ones. They
require lot's of spending, but so far the funding's there for them from institutional
and foreign investors willing to buy our sovereign debt and the Federal Reserve
always cooperative by printing up lots of ready cash. But all this comes at
a price. Along with shamless tax cuts for the rich and massive corporate welfare
subsidies and war-related contracts, it's caused the federal budget and current
account deficits to balloon exacerbating an unmanageable fiscal problem since
2001 alone the result of George Bush's reckless policies of excess greed and
imperial overreach. The latter is his new "long war" policy, and the
more of them we wage, the more positive it is for the economy and corporate
profits - in the short run. Without them and their spoils, the economy might
not be as healthy or could even be in trouble.
So the nation may face a Hobson's choice: continue our profligate spending
ways or see our fiscal house of cards collapse - a conundrum with no solution.
The larger our economy gets, the more dependent it is on wars and militarism
for economic stimulus. It results in more debt to get the same bang for the
bucks we now spend like drunken politicians. It's an unending cycle requiring
increasingly greater capital infusions without end in a sort of fiscal game
of musical chairs, but one where we dare not let the music stop. Because our
economy is so large, we need huge amounts of capital to maintain growth. But
finding it becomes harder, and our addiction to it is like being on a treadmill
we can't get off of. As a result, we may heading for an eventual day of reckoning,
like the one Professor Kotlikoff envisions, no one wants to imagine or confront.
It's the same problem a drug addict has needing bigger fixes for the same effect.
That behavior guarantees a bad ending, eventually killing the addict. In the
same way, no nation can spend and borrow beyond its means forever and always
need more for the same results. Nations doing it are like out of control drug
addicts and face the same unavoidable fate. They can delay the inevitable but
not forever. The penalty for the sins of excess are high, painful and certain.
The day eventually comes when the "piper" must be paid. It may not
be next month or next year, but "pipers" are very patient and always
have the final say. Richard Nixon's former chief economic advisor, Herb Stein,
said it well: "Things that can't go on forever, won't." He might have
added how unpleasant it is when the day of reckoning comes.
The Road to Hell Is Paved with Endless War, Its Fallout and A Future
No One Wants
The US is now at a dangerous watershed moment struggling to save the tattered
republic and our sacred constitutional rights. Unless we reverse the present
course, our future may be the one Orwell foresaw when he wrote: "If you
want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face....forever...."
Like the totalitarian state of Oceania led by Big Brother in his best known
book 1984, we're waging a permanent long war; no one is safe anymore - from
our own government; we're all being illegally surveilled; anyone may be forcibly
taken away, detained, tortured or murdered - all to make the world safe for
a brave new world order ruled ruthlessly by capital that's called democracy.
It's one without a political process because the Congress gave it up to a "Unitary
Executive" with the power to abrogate the separation of powers doctrine,
bypass the lawmakers and courts and act as he chooses to protect the nation's
security or for whatever other reason he decides.
We're now nearing a crisis because George Bush chose to invoke the wartime
contingency "national security initiatives" established during the
Reagan years that gives the President the power to suspend the Constitution
and declare martial law. Bush did it by signing executive orders post 9/11 giving
himself absolute power in times of whatever he alone decides is a "national
emergency." If he assumes it, he'll become a dictator, accountable to no
one, which he claims the right to do on his say alone. The only sensible recourse
is for mass people action (like now ongoing for weeks in the streets of Mexico
against authoritarian rule) to prevent our crossing the Rubicon and passing
from a shaky republic to the tyranny of a full-blown national security police
state and a future no one wants. It can happen here just as it did in ancient
Rome and in Weimar Germany when the good people there lost their model democratic
state. They allowed Hitler to steal it while they weren't paying attention.
They bought into his demonic appeal to his divine mission as the nation's savior
(sound familiar?) and his pretense to be protecting them from an outside threat
that didn't exist. That history should remind us how fragile our sacred liberties
are and how easily they're lost when tyrants are allowed to go unchecked and
unchallenged. We're at a moment now when there's still time to act before it's
too late to save a nation conceived in liberty that may soon no longer have
it. Edmund Burke explained it long ago when he said: "All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." I'm sure today
he'd remember the importance of women.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog address at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Read from Looking Glass News
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CENTURY OF U.S. MILITARY INTERVENTIONS: From Wounded Knee to Afghanistan
Statistics for United States Imperialism
and Plutocracy the American Way
Imperial Democracy: (Buy One, Get One Free)
OR IVORY SNOW? Public Power in the Age of Empire