World-wide actions to mark anniversary of illegal US invasion

o Anti-war activists plan major protests this month
o 48 Vermont towns vote against Iraq War (Voice of Revolution)
o US military recruiters face resistance from young anti-war activists (RHC)
o The top ten war profiteers of 2004 (The Center for Corporate Policy)
o Bush's 'priceless' war (David Isenberg, Asia Times)


Anti-war activists plan major protests this month

HALIFAX (10 March 2005) -- THROUGHOUT the world March 19 to 21 have been designated Global Days for Peace Action to mark the anniversary of the illegal US invasion and occupation of Iraq on 20 March 2003. Nationwide protests are being planned throughout Canada and the United States

In Halifax anti-war activists will be holding a march and rally on March 19.

Two years ago huge anti-war demonstrations throughout the world were held. Over three thousand people gathered in the Nova Scotia capital to oppose the war on 15 Februarty 2003 and another 2000 on 20 March 2003.

Over the over two years abundant evidence has emerged to substantiate this stand of humanity and conscience against a war planned, prepared, and prosecuted in flagrant violation of international law. The pragmatic justifications that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that Saddam Hussein had links with Al Qaeda and was a threat to the United States have been exposed as complete lies. The US occupation has continued to brutalize the Iraqi people. Instead of "liberation", the Iraqi economy has passed entirely into foreign hands, the people are more impoverished than ever with increasing numbers of deaths due to malnutrition and lack of medical care, sectarian warfare is being incited, and there is no sign of US troop withdrawal. Reports indicate over 100,000 Iraqi fatalities and more than 1400 US-led coalition troops have been killed. Nevertheless a violent resistance struggle by Iraqis has continued to gather pace.

Meanwhile the Canadian government is increasingly involving itself in the Iraqi quagmire in the name of "post-war reconstruction" while it has also particpated in the destablization and occupation of Haiti despite the opposition of Canadian people to the war itself. Along with the permament deployment of naval warships on the strategic sealanes of the Persian Gulf since 1990, it is also assisting in the training of a puppet Iraqi police force.

While anti-war leaders are searching for ways to revitalize their movement in the wake of November's re-election of George W. Bush -- openly and proudly calling himself "The War President" and demanding $80 billion in war funding -- recent polls have shown that more Americans than ever favour bringing US troops home immediately. The opposition of Iraq war veterans and of families with loved ones in the war is also coming into the forground, as is the growing presence of young American soldiers escaping to Canada. On 1 March 48 of 56 cities in Vermont voted against the Iraq war in a series of special town meetings. Town meetings are traditionally held as a form of local government and go back to colonial days.

On 15 February thousands of people opposed to the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq demonstrated across Britain. The protest marked the second anniversary of a huge anti-war march -- on 15 February 2003 -- which gathered more than one million people in the British capital.

Activists are confident that mass demonstrations remain a potent tactic for changing public opinion, and building an organized force to oppose other imperial adventures such as the increasing sabre-rattling against Iran and Lebanon, Cuba and Venezuela, and North Korea. A popular consciousness is also emerging of the necessity of opposing the "visits" of US warships to Canadian ports and Canada's deepening involvement in aggression abroad under the banner of "No Harbour for War" and of establishing an anti-war government.

People are invited to gather at the Commons at 1:00 pm Saturday, March 19 for the march and rally. Organized by the Halifax Peace Coalition, with the participation of many other groups, this will be one of many actions taking place across Canada.

48 Vermont towns vote against Iraq War

IN AN EFFORT organized by a variety of forces, including Military Families Speak Out and the Iran Resolution Campaign, participants in Town Meetings in 48 Vermont towns passed resolutions opposing the war in Iraq and calling on the President and Congress to get the troops out of Iraq. The Meetings culminated an organizing effort by people across Vermont to provide a space for discussion and decision-making by the people.

Participants in an anti-war rally following the November elections decided that Town Meetings were an important arena to raise the issue of the Iraq war and pass resolutions against it. Town Meetings are traditional to the New England area and are open to all members of the town to participate in discussion and decision-making on various issues. However it takes considerable work to get those issues of greatest concern to the people on the agenda. Organizers had to secure petitions of five per cent of the voters in support of the Resolution to have it placed on the agenda. They also had to contend with pressure that matters such as war and peace do not belong on "town" agendas.

The organizers mobilized throughout the state, utilizing the work as a further opportunity to discuss the issues. Vermont has the highest number of deaths per capita for their National Guard troops sent to Iraq. One of the issues raised by the resolutions was the broad impact to families and communities, including issues like fire protections and other public safety matters, when so many of those involved in such work are sent and kept in Iraq.

People worked together to draft a resolution which was then sent to the towns. Vermont Military Families Speak Out described the resolution in this way:

"The resolutions point to the erroneous claims that were used to take the US into this war. They also point to the substantial costs of the deployment of the Vermont National Guard, including deaths, injuries and trauma for the troops, as well as hardships on families and employers. According to the group Military Families Speak Out, Vermont communities have been placed at risk due to the deployment of essential public safety personnel. Extended deployments in a war that should never have been fought leave Vermont without its full contingent of troops in times of emergency or natural disaster and also threaten the long-term viability of the Vermont National Guard as enlistment and re-enlistment rates decline."

The resolutions call on the Vermont state legislature to examine how National Guard deployments impact the people of the state. It calls on the Vermont Congressional delegation to assess the impact of the Iraq war and also to look into the issue of the role of the states, not the federal government, in determining deployment of the Guard. They also call on the President and Congress to withdraw all US troops from Iraq. Organizers produced buttons to popularize the resolutions saying "Only Resolution Can Stop War."

A total of 56 towns, or one out of every five, organized to produce similar resolutions and have them discussed and voted on at the March 1 Town Meetings. Forty eight of the towns passed the resolution, three voted it down and three tabled it.

People across the state and those following the story around the country agreed that the stand was representative not only of Vermonters, but Americans as a whole. Military Families Speak Out is working on organizing similar state-based campaigns all across the country.

*Voice of Revolution, USMLO

US military recruiters face resistance from anti-war youth

NEW YORK (26 February 2005)-- The US military spends more than three billion dollars each year to convince young people that enlistment will give them college money, job training and an alternative to working at McDonald's. And according to reports from high schools across the United States, the military has become more aggressive in scouting out students willing and able to serve.

In many New York City public schools that are predominantly Black and Latino, military recruiters have a heavy presence -- promising young people financial security and a fulfilling career. Recruiters roam the halls, set up tables and even pull students out of class.

But in recent months, a group of teenagers and anti-war veterans have been canvassing the neighborhoods where the recruiters frequent, hoping to convince students to consider other options. New York City organizers are educating people about alternatives to enlisting and the realities of military life. Vietnam veterans and anti-war activists are also visiting high schools, where they tell horror stories about their time in the service.

Giving young people a complete picture of the alternatives relies on the courage and initiative of activists, guidance counselors and principals. The recruiters' sales pitches, brochures and posters often go unchallenged because some schools fear they will lose federal funding if they limit the military's presence on campus.

Student anti-war activists are working to make sure young people avoid falling into military service because it seems like the only option for advancement. One high school student said: "It's either jail or the military" -- adding that many of her fellow students think that enlistment is the best they can accomplish.
Another student activist said that the recruiters are telling young people they can go to Germany or Japan, "but the reality is the vast majority are going to Iraq." In such a situation, a young recruit not only risks his or her life, but also becomes a murderer.

Radio Havana Cuba

The top ten war profiteers of 2004

The Center for Corporate Policy, 31 December 2004

1. AEGIS: In June, the Pentagon's Program Management Office in Iraq awarded a $293 million contract to coordinate security operations among thousands of private contractors to Aegis, a UK firm whose founder was once investigated for illegal arms smuggling. An inquiry by the British parliament into Sandline, Aegis head Tim Spicer's former firm, determined that the company had shipped guns to Sierra Leone in 1998 in violation of a UN arms embargo. Sandline's position was that it had approval from the British government, although British ministers were cleared by the inquiry. Spicer resigned from Sandline in 2000 and incorporated Aegis in 2002.

2. BEARING POINT: Critics find it ironic that Bearing Point, the former consulting division of KPMG, received a $240 million contract in 2003 to help develop Iraq's "competitive private sector," since it had a hand in the development of the contract itself. According to a March 22 report by AID's assistant inspector general Bruce Crandlemire, "Bearing Point's extensive involvement in the development of the Iraq economic reform program creates the appearance of unfair competitive advantage in the contract award process."

Bearing Point spent five months helping USAID write the job specifications and even sent some employees to Iraq to begin work before the contract was awarded, while its competitors had only a week to read the specifications and submit their own bids after final revisions were made. "No company who writes the specs for a contract should get the contract," says Keith Ashdown, the vice president of Washington, DC-based Taxpayers for Common Sense.

3. BECHTEL: Schools, hospitals, bridges, airports, water treatment plants, power plants, railroad, irrigation, electricity, etc. Bechtel was literally tasked with repairing much of Iraq's infrastructure, a job that was critical to winning hearts and minds after the war. To accomplish this, the company hired over 90 Iraqi subcontractors for at least 100 jobs. Most of these subcontracts involved rote maintenance and repair work, however, and for sophisticated work requiring considerable hands-on knowledge of the country's infrastructure, the company bypassed Iraqi engineers and managers.

Although Bechtel is not entirely to blame, the company has yet to meet virtually any of the major deadlines in its original contract. According to a June GAO report, "electrical service in the country as a while has not shown a marked improvement over the immediate postwar levels of May 2003 and has worsened in some governorates."

4. BKSH & ASSOCIATES: Chairman Charlie Black, is an old Bush family friend and prominent Republican lobbyist whose firm is affiliated with Burson Marsteller, the global public relations giant. Black was a key player in the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign and together with his wife raised $100,000 for this year's reelection campaign.

BKSH clients with contracts in Iraq include Fluor International (whose ex-chair Phillip Carroll was tapped to head Iraq's oil ministry after the war, and whose board includes the wife of James Woolsey, the ex-CIA chief who was sent by Paul Wolfowitz before the war to convince European leaders of Saddam Hussein's ties to al Qaeda). Fluor has won joint contracts worth up to $1.6 billion.

Another client is Cummins Engine, which has managed to sell its power generators thanks to the country's broken infrastructure.

Most prominent among BKSH's clients, however, is the Iraqi National Congress, whose leader Ahmed Chalabi was called the "George Washington of Iraq" by certain Pentagon neoconservatives before his fall from grace. BKSH's K. Riva Levinson was hired to handle the INC's U.S. public relations strategy in 1999. Hired by U.S. taxpayers, that is: Until July 2003, the company was paid $25,000 per month by the U.S. State Department to support the INC.

5. CACI AND TITAN: Although members of the military police face certain prosecution for the horrific treatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison, so far the corporate contractors have avoided any charges. Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba reported in an internal Army report that two CACI employees "were either directly or indirectly responsible" for abuses at the prison, including the use of dogs to threaten detainees and forced sexual abuse and other threats of violence. Another internal Army report suggested that Steven Stefanowicz, one of 27 CACI interrogators working for the Army in Iraq, "clearly knew [that] his instructions" to soldiers interrogating Iraqi prisoners "equated to physical abuse."

"Titan's role in Iraq is to serve as translators and interpreters for the U.S. Army," company CEO Gene Ray said, implying that news reports had inaccurately implied the employees' involvement in torture. "The company's contract is for linguists, not interrogators." But according to Joseph a. Neurauter, a GSA suspension and debarment official, CACI's role in designing its own Abu Ghraib contract "continues to be an open issue and a potential conflict of interest."

Nevertheless, the GSA and other agencies conducting their own investigations have yet to find a reason to suspend the company from any new contracts. As a result, in August the Army gave CACI another $15 million no-bid contract to continue providing interrogation services for intelligence gathering in Iraq; In September, the Army awarded Titan a contract worth up to $400 million for additional translators.

6. CUSTER BATTLES: At the end of September, the Defense Department suspended Custer Battles (the name comes from the company's two principle founders - Michael Battles and Scott Custer) and 13 associated individuals and affiliated corporations from all federal contracts for fraudulent billing practices involving the use of sham corporations set up in Lebanon and the Cayman Islands. The CPA caught the company after it left a spreadsheet behind at a meeting with CPA employees. The spreadsheet revealed that the company had marked up certain expenses associated with a currency exchange contract by 162 percent.

7. HALLIBURTON: In December Congressman Waxman (D-CA), announced that "a growing list of concern's about Halliburton's performance" on contracts that total $10.8 billion have led to multiple criminal investigations into overcharging and kickbacks. In nine different reports, government auditors have found "widespread, systemic problems with almost every aspect of Halliburton's work in Iraq, from cost estimation and billing systems to cost control and subcontract management." Six former employees have come forward, corroborating the auditors' concerns.

Another "H-bomb" dropped just before the election, when a top contracting official responsible for ensuring that the Army Corps of Engineers follows competitive contracting rules accused top Pentagon officials of improperly favoring Halliburton in an early-contract before the occupation. Bunnatine Greenhouse says that when the Pentagon awarded the company a 5-year oil-related contract worth up to $7 billion, it pressured her to withdraw her objections, actions that she said were unprecedented in her experience.

8. LOCKHEED MARTIN: Lockheed Martin remains the king among war profiteers, raking in $21.9 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2003 alone. With satellites and planes, missiles and IT systems, the company has profited from just about every phase of the war except for the reconstruction. The company's stock has tripled since 2000 to just over $60.

Lockheed is helping Donald Rumsfeld's global warfare system (called the Global Information Grid), a new integrated tech-heavy system that the company promises will change transform the nature of war. In fact, the large defense conglomerate's sophistication in areas as diverse as space systems, aeronautics and information and technology will allow it to play a leading role in the development of new weapons systems for decades to come, including a planned highly-secure military Internet, a spaced-based missile defense system and next-generation warplanes such as the F-22 (currently in production) and the Joint Strike Fighter F-35.

E.C. Aldridge Jr., the former undersecretary of defense for acquisitions and procurement, gave final approval to begin building the F-35 in 2001, a decision worth $200 billion to the company. Although he soon left the Pentagon to join Lockheed's board, Aldridge continues to straddle the public-private divide, Donald Rumsfeld appointed him to a blue-ribbon panel studying weapons systems.

Former Lockheed lobbyists and employees include the current secretary of the Navy, Gordon England, secretary of transportation Norm Mineta (a former Lockheed vice president) and Stephen J. Hadley, Bush's proposed successor to Condoleeza Rice as his next national security advisor.

Not only are Lockheed executives commonly represented on the Pentagon various advisory boards, but the company is also tied into various security think tanks, including neoconservative networks. For example, Lockheed VP Bruce Jackson (who helped draft the Republican foreign policy platform in 2000) is a key player at the neo-conservative planning bastion known as the Project for a New American Century.

9. LORAL SATELLITE: In the buildup to the war the Pentagon bought up access to numerous commercial satellites to bolster its own orbiting space fleet. U.S. armed forces needed the extra spaced-based capacity to be able to guide its many missiles and transmit huge amounts of data to planes (including unmanned Predator drones flown remotely by pilots who may be halfway around the world), guide missiles and troops on the ground.

Industry experts say the war on terror literally saved some satellite operators from bankruptcy. The Pentagon "is hovering up all the available capacity" to supplement its three orbiting satellite fleets, Richard DalBello, president of the Satellite Industry Association explained to the Washington Post. The industry's other customers - broadcast networks competing for satellite time - were left to scramble for the remaining bandwidth.

Loral Space & Communications Chairman Bernard L. Schwartz is very tight with the neoconservative hawks in the Bush administration's foreign policy ranks, and is the principal funder of Blueprint, the newsletter of the Democratic Leadership Council.

In the end, the profits from the war in Iraq didn't end up being as huge for the industry as expected, and certainly weren't enough to compensate for a sharp downturn in the commercial market. But more help may be on its way. The Pentagon announced in November that it would create a new global Intranet for the military that would take two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to build. Satellites, of course, will play a key part in that integrated global weapons system.

10. QUALCOMM: Two CPA officials resigned this year after claiming they were pressured by John Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for technology security to change an Iraqi police radio contract to favor Qualcomm's patented cellular technology, a move that critics say was intended to lock the technology in as the standard for the entire country. Iraq's cellular market is potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues for the company, and potentially much more should it establish a standard for the region. Shaw's efforts to override contracting officials delayed an emergency radio contract, depriving Iraqi police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers and border guards of a joint communications system for months.

Shaw says he was urged to push Qualcomm's technology by Rep. Darrell E. Issa, a Republican whose San Diego County district includes Qualcomm's headquarters. Issa, who received $5,000 in campaign contributions from Qualcomm employees from 2003 to 2004, sits on the House Small Business Committee, and previously tried to help the company by sponsoring a bill that would have required the military to use its CDMA technology.

"Hundreds of thousands of American jobs depend on the success of U.S.-developed wireless technologies like CDMA," Issa claimed in a letter to Donald Rumsfeld. But the Pentagon doesn't seem to be buying the argument. The DoD's inspector general has asked the FBI to investigate Shaw's activities.

Bush's 'priceless' war

By DAVID ISENBERG, Asia Times

WASHINGTON (24 February 2005) -- Although the exact cost of the Iraq invasion to the American taxpayer is not known, recent figures suggest it is a lot more than has been publicly suggested and will grow considerably higher. Part of the problem in estimating costs is that the war is obviously not over; it just keeps going, and going, and going.

According to a report on the cost of the war in Iraq released last week by the Democratic staff of the House Budget Committee, the war and ongoing insurgency could cost the United States between US$461 billion and $646 billion by 2015, depending on the scope and duration of operations.

The difference between the low and high-end estimates depends on potential costs in 2006 and beyond. The lower figure is based on a US withdrawal of forces within four years, per Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's prediction that all US troops could be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2008. The second estimate reduces US forces to 40,000 by 2010, per a previously released Congressional Budget Office model.

The Budget Committee report estimates are higher than previous estimates for several reasons: the war is lasting longer and is more intense, and the cost to keep US troops in the theater of operations is proving to be greater, than anyone anticipated.

Those estimates are also far higher than anyone had predicted earlier, including Lawrence Lindsey, President George W Bush's former chief economic adviser. In 2002 he predicted that the cost of a war with Iraq could range between $100 billion and $200 billion at best. The administration dismissed the figure, and Lindsey was soon fired.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global "war on terrorism", after the newest supplement is exhausted, could total about $350 billion over the next 10 years (excluding interest payments on the debt), assuming an eventual phase-down of US activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To date, Congress has appropriated $154 billion for the military operations and reconstruction in Iraq. In the upcoming weeks this total will grow after Congress enacts the president's $81.9 billion emergency supplemental appropriation to fund these operations through the rest of fiscal year 2005. This latest supplemental includes $64 billion for Iraq and increases the total cost to the US to more than $200 billion through 2005.

One obvious question when considering costs is why the government has to ask for supplemental appropriates in the first place. Why can't it be put in the annual budget request? According to Chris Preble, director of foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, "There is one good argument for not using Iraq costs for not being in the annual military budget. That is the risk you build in tens or hundreds of billions of dollars that are not applied to Iraq, but applied to somewhere else. However, that concern is completely overwhelmed by the fact that funding for war by supplements really seems to be intended to conceal some of the costs, and to present costs to Congress to be a fait accompli. Congress can't vote against such things without being accused of undermining troops in the field."

According to Chris Hellman, military-policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, DC, "It seems to me you have to ask the fundamental question. I believe if the president went to Congress and said we are going to put it in the top line and we need to fund it, Congress would say 'yes'. So why does the president go the supplement route? To a certain extent it hides the deficit. At least temporarily it distorts the true nature of the deficit."

Another reason, according to Hellman, is that "supplement appropriations are slushy. There is a lack of oversight, which gives a federal agency a lot of discretion. You are talking about $500 billion in total annual spending, of which 20% - the total of the supplement - is unaccounted for. No other agency has discretionary authority of 20% of its budget."

Then there are future costs that have hardly begun to be paid such as disability payments for those who are wounded in the "war on terror".

Larry Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the administration of president Ronald Reagan and a senior fellow the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank in Washington, DC, said, "You are going to have one in 10 die. That means a 90% survival rate. People forget about the VA [Department of Veterans Affairs] costs that have to be paid."

According to Hellman, "Nobody has made any effort to calculate those costs. One of the sad ironies of our technical proficiency is that our death-to-wounded ratio is completely reversed from previous wars. This could be a substantial burden to taxpayers for 40-50 years."

Then there is the reality that not all the money appropriated for the cost of war in Iraq or Afghanistan actually is spent on those wars. Korb said, "There are things in the supplement which should be in the regular budget, such as converting army brigades and the costs of military transformation, as well as regular operations and maintenance costs, plus odds and ends, like procurement of Black Hawk helicopters. Keeping these costs in the supplement allows the Pentagon to claim that their budget request comes in under last year's budget. But when you include the costs of items in the supplement they are over by about 10 billion."

Korb's claim is confirmed by the documentation provided by the White House. For example, the fact sheet it released about the supplement notes that it "includes $5.3 billion to begin implementing plans to restructure the army and Marine Corps into more flexible, self-sufficient modular units better able to deploy and fight the 'war on terror'."

Aside from the difficulty in tracking costs it is also unclear how well the money is being spent. Last month, Stuart Bowen Jr, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, released findings that the US occupation authority in Iraq was unable to keep track of the nearly $9 billion it transferred to government ministries, which lacked financial controls, security, communications and adequate staff.

So how much might it cost by the time it is all over? It is impossible to predict with certainty. But Korb estimates that "before it is all over the costs will run to half a trillion dollars".

But in the end the debate over the costs obscures a more fundamental question. "I think at the end of the day, whether they account for costs normally or via supplement, it is incumbent to come to Congress and say whether costs are worth the benefits. The Bush administration can't be left off the hook for their assumption that the war would be reasonably quick and inexpensive," said Preble.

David Isenberg, a senior analyst with the Washington-based British American Security Information Council (BASIC), has a wide background in arms control and national security issues. The views expressed are his own.

Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved.


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