Nobel laureate estimates wars’ cost at more than $3 trillion

WASHINGTON — When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration predicted that the war would be self-financing and that rebuilding the nation would cost less than $2 billion.

Coming up on the fifth anniversary of the invasion, a Nobel laureate now estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing America more than $3 trillion.

That estimate from Noble Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz also serves as the title of his new book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” which hits store shelves Friday.

The book, co-authored with Harvard University professor Linda Bilmes, builds on previous research that was published in January 2006. The two argued then and now that the cost to America of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is wildly underestimated.

When other factors are added — such as interest on debt, future borrowing for war expenses, the cost of a continued military presence in Iraq and lifetime health-care and counseling for veterans — they think that the wars’ costs range from $5 trillion to $7 trillion.

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The grand oil theft has begun: Oil giants poised to move into Basra

Western oil giants are poised to enter southern Iraq to tap the country’s vast reserves, despite the ongoing threat of violence, according to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s business emissary to the country.

Michael Wareing, who heads the new Basra Development Commission, acknowledged that there would be concerns among Iraqis about multinationals exploiting natural resources.

Basra, where 4 000 British troops are based, has been described as “the lung” of Iraq by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The region accounts for 90% of government revenue and 70% of Iraq’s proven oil reserves. It has access to the Persian Gulf and is potentially one of the richest areas in the Middle East, but continues to be plagued by rival militias.

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Former Halliburton subsidiary KBR’s 4th quarter profits up 65%

HOUSTON (AP) — Former Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc. said Tuesday fourth-quarter profit rose 65 percent, lifted by contributions from natural-gas projects, work in Iraq and a tax benefit related to a 2006 asset sale.

The Houston-based military contractor and engineering and construction firm said profit for the October-December period was $71 million, or 42 cents a share, up from $43 million, or 28 cents a share, in the prior-year period.

The most-recent quarter included income from discontinued operations of $23 million, or 14 cents a share, due to tax benefits from the 2006 sale of its production services group.

The prior-year period included a loss from discontinued operations of $2 million, or 1 cent a share.

Wall Street expected KBR to earn 32 cents in the quarter, excluding one-time items.

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14 Iranians in US custody in Iraq

The US troops in Iraq currently have fourteen Iranians in their custody, they had freed 10 others last year, a military official says.

The Iranians are “being held as imperative threats to security in accordance with United Nations Security resolution,” the US Central Command claimed in a statement from its headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

“The dates and times of their individual capture are not immediately available,” Major Brad Leighton, spokesman for the US military in Iraq told AFP on Monday.
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Inside the world of war profiteers

From prostitutes to Super bowl tickets, a federal probe reveals how contractors in Iraq cheated the U.S.

By David Jackson and Jason Grotto

Tribune reporters

February 21, 2008

ROCK ISLAND, Ill.—Inside the stout federal courthouse of this Mississippi River town, the dirty secrets of Iraq war profiteering keep pouring out.

Hundreds of pages of recently unsealed court records detail how kickbacks shaped the war’s largest troop support contract months before the first wave of U.S. soldiers plunged their boots into Iraqi sand.

The graft continued well beyond the 2004 congressional hearings that first called attention to it. And the massive fraud endangered the health of American soldiers even as it lined contractors’ pockets, records show.

Federal prosecutors in Rock Island have indicted four former supervisors from KBR, the giant defense firm that holds the contract, along with a decorated Army officer and five executives from KBR subcontractors based in the U.S. or the Middle East. Those defendants, along with two other KBR employees who have pleaded guilty in Virginia, account for a third of the 36 people indicted to date on Iraq war-contract crimes, Justice Department records show.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Rock Island sentenced the Army official, Chief Warrant Officer Peleti “Pete” Peleti Jr., to 28 months in prison for taking bribes. One Middle Eastern subcontractor treated him to a trip to the 2006 Super Bowl, a defense investigator said.

Prosecutors would not confirm or deny ongoing grand jury activity. But court records identify a dozen FBI, IRS and military investigative agents who have been assigned to the case. Interviews as well as testimony at the sentencing for Peleti, who has cooperated with authorities, suggest an active probe.

Rock Island serves as a center for the probe of war profiteering because Army brass at the arsenal here administer KBR’s so-called LOGCAP III contract to feed, shelter and support U.S. soldiers, and to help restore Iraq’s oil infrastructure.

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The Chicken Doves

Elected to end the war, Democrats have surrendered to Bush on Iraq and betrayed the peace movement for their own political ends

MATT TAIBBIPosted Feb 21, 2008 12:00 AM

Rather than use the vast power they had to end the war, Democrats devoted their energy to making sure that “anti-war activism” became synonymous with “electing Democrats.” Capitalizing on America’s desire to end the war, they hijacked the anti-war movement itself, filling the ranks of peace groups with loyal party hacks. Anti-war organizations essentially became a political tool for the Democrats — one operated from inside the Beltway and devoted primarily to targeting Republicans.

This supposedly grass-roots “anti-war coalition” met regularly on K Street, the very capital of top-down Beltway politics. At the forefront of the groups are Thomas Matzzie and Brad Woodhouse of Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq, the leader of the anti-war lobby. Along with other K Street crusaders, the two have received iconic treatment from The Washington Post and The New York Times, both of which depicted the anti-war warriors as young idealist-progressives in shirtsleeves, riding a mirthful spirit into political combat — changing the world is fun!

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Nukes in the Middle East War Theater? Low-Yield Earth-Penetrating Nuclear Weapons

Fig. 1 Diagrams like this one give the false impression that a low-yield earth penetrating nuclear weapon would “limit collateral damage” and therefore be relatively safe to use. In fact, because of the large amount of radioactive dirt thrown out in the explosion, the hypothetical 5-kiloton weapon discussed in the accompanying article would produce a large area of lethal fallout. (Philadelphia Inquirer/ Cynthia Greer, 16 October 2000.)

Despite the global sense of relief and hope that the nuclear arms race ended with the Cold War, an increasingly vocal group of politicians, military officials and leaders of America’s nuclear weapon laboratories are urging the US to develop a new generation of precision low-yield nuclear weapons. Rather than deterring warfare with another nuclear power, however, they suggest these weapons could be used in conventional conflicts with third-world nations.

Critics argue that adding low-yield warheads to the world’s nuclear inventory simply makes their eventual use more likely. In fact, a 1994 law currently prohibits the nuclear laboratories from undertaking research and development that could lead to a precision nuclear weapon of less than 5 kilotons (KT), because “low-yield nuclear weapons blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional war.”

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