Do You Want the Military Industrial Complex Counting Your Votes?

Major Player in Military Contracts Seeks to Buy DieboldFor the last two years United Technologies has been seeking to purchase the Diebold Corporation. Diebold’s main business is ATM machines but, it is the manufacturer of election equipment under the name Premier Election Solutions. Its software is responsible for counting votes throughout the United States.
Business Week, in its report on the attempted purchase, wonders why United Technologies would want to acquire Diebold, writing “Some analysts are wondering how United Technologies would benefit from acquiring Diebold, which generates more than two-thirds of its revenue from ATMs – a business that United Technologies is not in.” Perhaps it’s not the ATM business that United Technolgies is interested in; maybe it is the election business?

Read more

Advertisements

Bush urges Opec to up output

It would be a “mistake” for Opec ministers meeting in Vienna to ignore the pain record-high oil prices were inflicting on the United States, President George W Bush said yesterday.

In some of his strongest language to date, Bush turned up the heat on the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, source of about a third of the globe’s oil supply.

Oil prices set new highs above US$100 ($125) a barrel this week and average US petrol prices crept nearer to their record of US$3.22 a gallon set last May.

“I think it’s a mistake to have your biggest customer’s economy slow down … as a result of high energy prices,” Bush said.

In real terms, the US oil price of US$103.95 a barrel set on Tuesday is the highest on record, including the price shocks of 1978-1980.

Read more

Cost of Iraq War Now Beyond Human Comprehension

War is hell — deadly, dangerous, and expensive. But just how expensive is it? Tools
More stories by William D. Hartung

How far off were they? Well, it depends on which figure you choose to start with. Here’s the range: According to key officials in the Bush administration back in 2002-2003, the invasion and reconstruction of Iraq was either going to cost $60 billion, or $100-$200 billion. Actually, we can start by tossing that top figure out, since not long after Bush economic advisor Larry Lindsey offered it in 2002, he was shown the door, in part assumedly for even suggesting something so ludicrous.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz championed the $60 billion figure, but added that much of the cost might well be covered by Iraqi oil revenues; the country was, after all, floating on a “sea of oil.” (“To assume we’re going to pay for it all is just wrong,” he told a congressional hearing.) Still, let’s take that $60 billion figure as the Bush baseline. If economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes are right in their recent calculations and this will turn out to be more than a $3 trillion war (or even a $5-7 trillion one), then the Bush administration was at least $2,940,000,000,000 off in its calculations.

Read more

The Myth of the Surge

Hoping to turn enemies into allies, U.S. forces are arming Iraqis who fought with the insurgents. But it’s already starting to backfire. A report from the front lines of the new Iraq

NIR ROSENPosted Mar 06, 2008 8:53 AM

Click here to see more photos taken by Danfung Dennis for this featureIt’s a cold, gray day in December, and I’m walking down Sixtieth Street in the Dora district of Baghdad, one of the most violent and fearsome of the city’s no-go zones. Devastated by five years of clashes between American forces, Shiite militias, Sunni resistance groups and Al Qaeda, much of Dora is now a ghost town. This is what “victory” looks like in a once upscale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets. Mountains of trash stagnate in the pungent liquid. Most of the windows in the sand-colored homes are broken, and the wind blows through them, whistling eerily. House after house is deserted, bullet holes pockmarking their walls, their doors open and unguarded, many emptied of furniture. What few furnishings remain are covered by a thick layer of the fine dust that invades every space in Iraq. Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush’s much-heralded “surge,” Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood. Apart from our footsteps, there is complete silence.

My guide, a thirty-one-year-old named Osama who grew up in Dora, points to shops he used to go to, now abandoned or destroyed: a barbershop, a hardware store. Since the U.S. occupation began, Osama has watched civil war turn the streets where he grew up into an ethnic killing field. After the fall of Saddam, the Americans allowed looters and gangs to take over the streets, and Iraqi security forces were stripped of their jobs. The Mahdi Army, the powerful Shiite paramilitary force led by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, took advantage of the power shift to retaliate in areas such as Dora, where Shiites had been driven from their homes. Shiite forces tried to cleanse the district of Sunni families like Osama’s, burning or confiscating their homes and torturing or killing those who refused to leave.

“The Mahdi Army was killing people here,” Osama says, pointing to a now-destroyed Shiite mosque that in earlier times had been a cafe and before that an office for Saddam’s Baath Party. Later, driving in the nearby district of Baya, Osama shows me a gas station. “They killed my uncle here. He didn’t accept to leave. Twenty guys came to his house, the women were screaming. He ran to the back, but they caught him, tortured him and killed him.” Under siege by Shiite militias and the U.S. military, who viewed Sunnis as Saddam supporters, and largely cut out of the Shiite-dominated government, many Sunnis joined the resistance. Others turned to Al Qaeda and other jihadists for protection.

Now, in the midst of the surge, the Bush administration has done an about-face. Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides — and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq — it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq’s central government. The Americans call the units by a variety of euphemisms: Iraqi Security Volunteers (ISVs), neighborhood watch groups, Concerned Local Citizens, Critical Infrastructure Security. The militias prefer a simpler and more dramatic name: They call themselves Sahwa, or “the Awakening.”

At least 80,000 men across Iraq are now employed by the Americans as ISVs. Nearly all are Sunnis, with the exception of a few thousand Shiites. Operating as a contractor, Osama runs 300 of these new militiamen, former resistance fighters whom the U.S. now counts as allies because they are cashing our checks. The Americans pay Osama once a month; he in turn provides his men with uniforms and pays them ten dollars a day to man checkpoints in the Dora district — a paltry sum even by Iraqi standards. A former contractor for KBR, Osama is now running an armed network on behalf of the United States government. “We use our own guns,” he tells me, expressing regret that his units have not been able to obtain the heavy-caliber machine guns brandished by other Sunni militias.

The American forces responsible for overseeing “volunteer” militias like Osama’s have no illusions about their loyalty. “The only reason anything works or anybody deals with us is because we give them money,” says a young Army intelligence officer. The 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, which patrols Osama’s territory, is handing out $32 million to Iraqis in the district, including $6 million to build the towering walls that, in the words of one U.S. officer, serve only to “make Iraqis more divided than they already are.” In districts like Dora, the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight. All told, the U.S. is now backing more than 600,000 Iraqi men in the security sector — more than half the number Saddam had at the height of his power. With the ISVs in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. “Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems,” as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it “balancing competing armed interest groups.”

Photo

Photo: Danfung Dennis/WPN

Read more


Advertisement

Iran sanctions vote signals a global rift

The passage this week by the United Nations Security Council of a third set of sanctions against Iran places a spotlight on two trends in the international community’s dispute with Tehran’s nuclear program.

Perhaps most striking is the relative retreat by the United States from leading status among Iran’s accusers, with European powers taking over the helm.

But there is also an emerging rift between some of the world’s developing countries and the big developed powers at the forefront of the effort to impose punitive measures against Tehran. For countries like Indonesia, South Africa, and Libya, which questioned the timing of the new resolution, Iran’s claim of victimhood at the hands of arrogant world powers seeking to control access to vital and lucrative technologies may be starting to resonate.

Read more

The Big Question: Why has Colombia invaded Ecuador, and why is Venezuela joining the fight?

Why are we asking this now?

At the weekend the Colombian army crossed the border into Ecuador to kill a Colombian rebel leader, and 16 other guerrillas, who were sheltering there. The move outraged the government in Ecuador, which broke off diplomatic relations with its neighbour and helicoptered 3,000 of its own troops to the border area.

Colombia’s other neighbour, Venezuela, also reacted. It also expelled Colombia’s diplomats and ordered thousands of troops, tanks and fighter jets to the border. Venezuela’s fiery president, Hugo Chavez, also warned that war could break out if Colombia crossed into Venezuelan soil. It is the worst diplomatic crisis in Latin America for many years.

So what really happened?

The Colombians say they first bombed a rebel camp on their own side of the border. They claim that rebels hiding across the border in Ecuador fired on them, so they crossed the border to fight back.

The Ecuadorean president, Rafael Correa, called that account an outright lie: “It was a massacre,” he said. The Colombian troops were backed by military planes, suggesting the raid was pre-ordained. When Ecuadorean troops reached the rebel camp they found the rebels were killed in their sleep “in their pyjamas”. The rebels were “bombed and massacred as they slept, using precision technology.” Colombian military sources seemed to corroborate this by revealing that US intelligence helped target the rebels by disclosing that the rebel’s deputy leader, Raul Reyes, was sporadically using a satellite telephone, whose signal could be pinpointed.

Read more

Venezuela: The Spectre of Big Oil

by Paul Kellogg

Global Research, March 4, 2008
The Bullet, Socialist Project e-bulletin
Email this article to a friend
Print this article
“Never again will they rob us — the ExxonMobil bandits. They are imperial, American bandits, white-collared thieves. They turn governments corrupt, they oust governments. They supported the invasion of Iraq.”

This was the response from Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to the successful lawsuit by the world’s biggest corporation (ExxonMobil), freezing $12 billion in assets of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA — a serious escalation in Big Oil’s long running dispute with Chávez and the movement he represents.

ExxonMobil isn’t suing PDVSA because it needs the money. The world’s largest publicly traded corporation recorded profits of $40.6-billion (U.S.) in 2007, up three per cent from 2006’s record of $39.6-billion. “If Exxon were a country, its 2007 profit would exceed output of two-thirds of the world’s nations. Its 2007 revenue of $404-billion (U.S.) would place it among the 30 largest countries, ahead of such middle powers as Sweden and Venezuela.”

ExxonMobil claims it is suing PDVSA because of a June 2007 deadline given by Chávez to Exxon and other Big Oil corporations operating in Venezuela, demanding they cede majority control in their heavy-crude upgrading projects in the country. ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips filed arbitration requests with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, and ExxonMobil simultaneously took legal action in courts in the U.S. and Britain, which on February 7 agreed with their claim, and ordered the freeze of PDVSA assets.

But there is much more at stake than a simple legal disagreement. First — many other Big Oil companies have agreed to Chávez’ terms and not gone to court — among them, Chevron Corp., Norway’s Statoil ASA, Britain’s BP PLC and France’s Total SA. Second, Venezuela is not the only country to confront Big Oil and demand that old contracts be renegotiated. Here in Canada, Newfoundland’s Danny Williams demanded and won an ownership share in the multi-billion-dollar Hebron offshore oil deal. Even the Tories in Alberta are forcing Big Oil to pay higher royalties. And in Russia, “both BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have ceded control in big, lucrative Siberian projects to Russian gas monopoly OAO Gazprom.”

Read more