Monthly Archives: October 2014

THE ECONOMICS OF WAR


Have you ever found yourself wondering why countries go to war? Especially wars that may be far from their own shores and may or may not have anything to do with themselves? It all comes down to the economics of war and it has been going on since countries and economies began. It is a historical fact that every country that has fallen upon hard economic times has found a way to become involved in a war. Employment goes up. Production goes up. Manufacturing gets a boost, and not just in what we would think of as “war related” areas. Soldiers need all the same things we at home need, in addition to armor, weapons, etc.. And under the pressure of things being needed “right now” oversight tends to become a bit lax. What am I talking about? Consider these facts:

The Black Market, political corruption, and profiteering have existed in every war , although seldom publicized by official government versions of the facts.  Government contracts that should have been awarded by virtue of best product, or price, have been given to contractors paying the highest bribes, or ‘contributions’ to politicians in positions to award those contracts.  In 1862, Lincoln’s first Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, resigned due to charges of corruption involving war contracts.  In 1947, Kentucky congressman Andrew J. May, Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs was convicted for taking bribes for awarding war contracts.

According to these articles in the New York Times, and the Opinionator Blog , Union soldiers in the Civil War had their uniforms dissolve in the first heavy rain, because Books Brothers, accused of obtaining war contracts through ‘questionable means’, often used decaying fabric pressed together and glued, to sew into uniforms that often lacked buttons or button holes.  In addition to Brooks Brothers, other wool mills made huge profits by cheating the government.  Some uniforms, made from non-regulation color, resulted in soldiers being mistaken for the enemy and killed by ‘friendly fire’.

Shoes, with soles made from wood chips, fell apart.  Guns failed to fire, with sawdust filled stocks and shells filled with sawdust instead of gunpowder.  Even horses and mules ordered and paid for by the government were delivered to the front, crippled, old, and sometimes blind.

Soldiers in the field were put at risk due to the corruption of greedy politicians taking bribes from contractors that knowingly supplied shoddy materials for their very lucrative government contracts.

Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, criticized war profiteering of U.S companies during World War I in War Is a Racket , saying some companies and corporations increased profits by up to 1700%, selling equipment and supplies to the U.S “that had no relevant use in the war effort”, and “It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war period. This expenditure Yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits.”

 Brent R. Wilkes, indicted defense contractor, was said to be thrilled when he heard the U.S. would be going to war with Iraq.  A former employee was quoted as saying “He and some of his top executives were really gung ho about the war… Brent said this would create new opportunities for the company…He was really excited about doing business in the Middle East.”

Steven Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation think tank, accused former CIA Director James Woolsey of both “profiting from and promoting” war in Iraq.

According to the Center for Public Integrity report, US Senator Dianne Feinstein and her husband, Richard Blum, made “millions of dollars from Iraq and Afghanistan contracts through his company, Tutor Perini Corporation. Feinstein voted for the Iraq resolution giving President George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq”.

According to Fox News, Halliburton received more than $600 million related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the potential of earning billions more without having any competition for those contracts.  Halliburton’s contract had no spending ceiling.

According to this International Business Times article, $138 billion of taxpayer money went to government contracts that included paying for “private security, building infrastructure, and feeding the troops”.  52 percent of the funds were awarded to 10 contractors.  The largest amount went to KBR, Inc., and its’ parent company, Halliburton. The company received $39.5 billion in Iraq-related no-bid contracts over the past decade, with a $568-million contract renewal in 2010 to “provide housing, meals, water and bathroom services to soldiers”, a deal that prompted the Justice Department to file a lawsuit over alleged kickbacks.

To recap a brief history of Halliburton and politicians, in February 1991, following the end of Operation Desert Storm, the Pentagon, led by Dick Cheney (Secretary of Defense during George H. W, Bush’s presidency), paid Halliburton subsidiary, Brown & Root Services, over $8.5 million to study the use of private military forces with American soldiers in a combat zone  (Wikipedia).  Cheney was the Chairman and CEO of Halliburton Company from 1995 to 2000.

According to Wikipedia , “In 1998, Halliburton merged with Dresser Industries, which included Kellogg. Prescott Bush was a director of Dresser Industries, which is now part of Halliburton; his son, former president George H. W. Bush, worked for Dresser Industries in several positions from 1948 to 1951.”

Cheney was Vice President under George W, Bush from January 20, 2001 to January 20, 2009.

Dick Cheney has been the most vociferous advocate for the U.S. to wage continuous war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It seems that businessmen no longer feel the need to pay politicians. Now they have simply become politicians.

ARMING THE ENEMY


Maybe it’s time for us to take a look at history, before we repeat our mistakes…

Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of American weapons and supplies often landed in the hands of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, during the Vietnam War, due to greed and corruption of individuals with access to those items (i.e. Corrupt American soldiers, ARVN soldiers, people working on American bases, etc.).

To avoid searches by American forces, contraband would be taken to Thailand and sold to the NVA and the VC. Once in Thailand, it was just a matter of heading north on the Ho Chi Minh Trail where eager buyers waited to receive those weapons, to use against American soldiers. This system of commerce was often referred to as ‘South Vietnamese Capitalism’, or the Black Market.

The Black Market has existed in every war, although seldom publicized by historians or official government versions of the facts. According to the Salem News, “Vietnam was our most corrupt war in history with a Mafia within our military stealing, not millions, but billions in food, weapons, uniforms, supplies of every kind… The culprits: Senior non-commissioned officers in the Army and Marines, some arrested but most promoted and retired honorably, some as multi-millionaires.”

After almost ten years of war in Iraq, honoring an agreement brokered by George W. Bush, the U.S. removed all American troops from Iraq. Keeping troops there beyond that time was not possible, since PM Maliki refused to provide the U.S. with immunity, a requirement for U.S. troops to remain on foreign soil. While in Iraq, the U.S. spent hundreds of billions of dollars fighting that war, building bases, equipping and training the Iraqi army, and re-building the country. American troops left Iraq December 15, 2011 in the hands of what was believed to be very well equipped and well trained Iraqi armed forces.

That belief turned out to be an illusion, when In June of 2014, Iraqi soldiers and police dropped their weapons and ran away from a fraction of their numbers in militant jihadists According to CNN , in Mosul alone, 800 jihadists ran off 30,000 soldiers and police.

Since then, ISIS has continued to roll across Iraq and Syria, capturing territory, oil fields, and military bases. With captured fighter jets and choppers, ISIS pilots are being trained by Iraqi pilots who have abandoned their post to join the jihadists.

According to this article in the World Tribune  and this article in Reuters, ISIS is forming its’ own air force. The third largest military base in Iraq has been captured by ISIS , according to an Iraqi news source. The base includes a training camp, the base of the seventh division of the Iraqi army, “…tanks, heavy weapons, munitions and stores, as well as spare parts, and different military supplies.”

In an article posted on the Huffington Post , ISIS captured “….at least one cache of  weapons (including grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers) airdropped by U.S.-led coalition forces that were meant to supply Kurdish militiamen…”.

According to the Business Insider, “…the group controls as many as 11 oil fields in both Syria and Iraq, analysts say. It is selling oil and other goods through generations-old smuggling networks under the very noses of the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq as well as authorities in Turkey and Jordan.” The article further states, “….their total profits from oil exceed $3 million a day.”

It is obvious that ISIS has abundant finances, should they desire to purchase weapons, but apparently, they don’t need to. Their growing supply includes entire military bases, left behind by a fleeing Iraqi army, and some have even “fallen from the sky”. Is it any wonder that they believe God is on their side? 

We should take these facts into account, as we endeavor to arm the Free Syrian Army. They may have been ‘vetted’ and determined to be our ally….but, didn’t we believe that about the Iraqi army, as well?

With elections approaching, many U.S. politicians are calling for an escalation of American involvement, including sending even more weapons to the area, and even having  American ‘boots on the ground’. Before we do that, we should remember that it is highly unlikely those politicians (or their families) will be part of those boots on the ground, and it would be a good idea to take a hard look at events past, and consider just who those weapons will be ultimately used against.

STRANGER IN THE MIRROR


A friend sent me this article last week showing ‘before, during, and after’ pictures of combat soldiers that have survived their tour of duty.  If it is true that ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul’, the photographs depicted in this article give a clear visual record of that fact.

My husband is a survivor of three combat tours during the Vietnam War.  Although the war was physically over for him almost forty years ago, he remains haunted by it to this day.  I can see it in his eyes and hear it while he sleeps.  The war will never end for him.  He still runs through those jungles, every night.  He still hears his dead team mates call to him in his dreams.  When he leaves the peace and safety of home and goes out into the world, he is on constant alert.  His eyes are always darting about as he scans his surroundings, always looking for possible threats and escape routes… always on guard and always ready for battle.

I have seen, first hand, how combat affects the human soul and permanently changes the soldiers that live it.  Innocence, once lost, can never be recovered.  My husband is still the same soul that went to war to fight for his country, but he is forever changed, hardened. At times he is seemingly inexplicably both filled with rage, and saddened.  He will never overcome his survivor’s guilt, he can never go back to the young man he was before his soul was forever scarred by war.

There was a time in this country when it was against the law to teach slaves to read and write.  The reason for this was that slave owners feared educated slaves.  They knew that once someone learned to read and write, they could not ‘unlearn’ it.  They knew an uneducated slave was easier to keep docile, while an educated slave could be downright dangerous.

The lyrics, “How you gonna keep em’ down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree” are from a popular World War I song and gives another example of that simple fact.   Once you ‘know’ something, you are forever changed by that information.

Even if they survive combat without physical wounds, the horror of combat and survivor’s guilt leave veteran’s permanently scarred.  They can never be the same as they were.  Their new personas are unrecognizable to everyone they knew, and far too often, to themselves as well.  The person they used to be is dead, buried under the burden of knowledge and experience they now carry.  The person that returns to the world has experienced sights, sounds, and horrors that loved ones cannot even begin to imagine, let alone understand, or relate to… so even though the veteran looks like the same person, they are not, and can never be, again.

I have met enough combat veterans to know that it is the same for each and every one of them.  They are all like my husband.  They all suffer permanently from the damage done to them by their experiences with War.  They all need help to return to the world.  They need the patience and understanding of people that love them.  More than that, they need the acceptance of those people to be unconditional.  The veterans who have been damaged by exposure to combat require acceptance for who they are now. For the most part, they are unable to cope with demands that they return to who they were, before they left home.  That is as impossible as unlearning to read.  The people that love a combat veteran must love them enough to accept the person they have become if they ever hope to help that veteran to heal. They must accept the fact that the person they knew before the war, is a casualty of that war, and will never return.

That is the only hope a combat veteran has of surviving their return to the world.  Our veterans have sacrificed so much for us.  We must not abandon our soldiers.  We must accept them, love them, and do everything within our power to help them as they struggle to survive their homecoming.   Returning veterans may not be the same people we remember them as, but they are still our husbands, fathers, sons and daughters, neighbors, and friends.  They have put their lives on the line, and they deserve our support.

If you want to get a better understanding of what I am talking about, I suggest you take the time to read “Heirs of Honor”. The author, my husband, lived the Vietnam War. He still lives it. His experiences will help you understand YOUR veteran better.

A MAN OF HONOR


The following post was contributed by Mrs. E. F. Grossman:

My husband and his best friend, Jim, served together from 1966 to 1969 as the sniper/spotter part of a U.S. Army Special Forces team during the Vietnam War.  Although they came from different backgrounds and different belief systems (Jim was a Mormon, my husband an Atheist), they bonded together and became closer than brothers.  That relationship lasted far beyond the war, until Jim became one of the more than 80,000 veterans that committed suicide by the late 1980’s, an act that devastated my husband, who mourns the loss of his friend to this day.

Jim was the son of a Bishop in the Mormon Church, and could have easily obtained a deferment from service in Vietnam by opting to go on a mission for the church.  But like thousands of Mormons who went to war for their country, in addition to serving on missions for the church, Jim saw no reason he should not do both.  After all, the Mormon Church has “…..a tradition of U.S. military service that dates back to the Church’s early history …. in 1830”, according to a 2012 article on Huffingtonpost.com.

Jim believed it was his duty to serve his country, so he enlisted in the Army, rather than wait to be drafted.  He saw no conflict in serving both his country and his church.  His plan was to go on his mission after the war.  However, after he signed up for his second tour of duty, against his father’s instructions, his father decided to punish him for his disobedience by forcing Jim’s girlfriend (the love of Jim’s life) to marry a much older member of the church, forbidding her to wait for Jim to come home, and ordered every member of the church to shun Jim.

In an act of incredible pettiness and cruelty, Jim’s father declared that Jim was no longer his son.  In an instant, Jim’s entire world was pulled out from under him.  Jim had lived his entire life as a faithful Mormon and dutiful son, and before going into the Army, Jim had never been away from home.  Re-enlistment had been his only act of disobedience to his father.  He did not deserve his father’s punishment, and my husband was never able to forgive Jim’s family for their betrayal and the pain they caused his friend to suffer.

Jim was a very brave and honorable soldier.  He was highly decorated with medals (Bronze Star, Silver Star, three Purple Hearts) and five commendations.  He was a large part of the reason my husband survived that war.  

Jim was a hero. According to a 2002 study by the Center for Studies on New Religions, more than 100,000 LDS members served in the military during America’s twelve year involvement in the Vietnam War.  According to an editorial from the LDS First Presidency, “Latter Day Saints are not slackers.  They are not conscientious objectors, and they are not pacifists in the usually accepted definition.”  In fact, the Church leadership saw an opportunity for LDS members to fulfill their mission by ‘spreading the word’ in Vietnam, in addition to fighting for their country.

Rather than wait to be drafted, a great number of Mormons (like Jim) voluntarily enlisted in the military and served their country during the Vietnam War, although, one of America’s most famous Mormons chose not to fight for his country.  According to an article in the Huffington Post, in spite of the fact that he vociferously advocated American involvement in Vietnam, even leading public demonstrations against groups protesting the war Romney avoided military service and the inherent dangers of combat “… at the height of the fighting after high school by seeking and receiving four draft deferments. They included college deferments and a 31-month stretch as a “minister of religion” in (Paris) France, a classification for Mormon missionaries that the church at the time feared was being overused”.  Romney was granted the deferment at the same time other Mormons were being denied that same status.  The Mormon Church was a strong supporter of the Vietnam War, and “…ultimately limited the number of church missionaries allowed to defer their military service using the religious exemption”.  Romney is “…among three generations of Romneys – including his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, and five sons – who were of military age during armed conflicts but did not serve”.

In addition, the article cites Romney’s versions of his ‘Vietnam-era decisions’ have changed, over the years. In 1994, he told the Boston Globe that he had no intention of serving in Vietnam. By 2007, during a bid for the presidency, he told the Boston Globe that he “was frustrated, as a Mormon missionary, not to be fighting alongside his countrymen” …and that he had “…longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam,” falsely implying that he could only choose one of those options.

According to a quote by Jon Soltz, a veteran of two Army tours in Iraq and chairman of VoteVets.org, “He (Romney) didn’t have the courage to go. He didn’t feel it was important enough to him to serve his country at a time of war.”  I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Soltz.

Lately, there have been multiple news articles hinting at another Romney run for president.  I find it very hard to trust a man with Mr. Romney’s history (both word and deed) to be America’s Commander In Chief, especially in time of war. He appears to be the kind of man who would have no problem with sending Americans to war, as long as he and his family members do not have to fight that war. There have been many heroic Mormons, like Jim, but I do not believe Mitt Romney is one of them. It appears that he has as little understanding of what it takes for men to go to war as he does of the 47%.  Americans cannot afford a Mitt Romney presidency.

WHO IS PROTECTING OUR PRESIDENT???


When someone is sworn in as the President of the United States, irregardless of political affiliation or personal belief or prejudice, the people of this country owe that president all the respect and loyalty due to that office. As Commander In Chief of our Armed Forces, especially during wartime, we owe the president our full support.  The constant attacks on President Obama and juvenile partisan bickering displayed by Congress serves only to weaken us in the eyes of the world, something we cannot afford, as it makes us appear divided to our enemies and opens us up to further attacks.

Recent items in the news may very well be indicators of the erosion of the level of care our leader is receiving. To wit:

  • According to MSN News, a security guard with a gun and a record of three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama while on his trip to Atlanta (September 16th), in violation of Secret Service protocols.  In addition, he failed to comply with requests from Secret Service agents to stop using his phone to videotape the president.  After questioning him and checking his background on a database, agents expressed their concern to the guard’s supervisor (from the private security firm employing him).  The guard was immediately fired and ordered to turn over his gun.  The Secret Service agents that allowed the man to share President Obama’s elevator car, had no idea the man was armed.
  • MSN News  also tells us of a homeless Army veteran climbed a fence, ran 70 yards past Secret Service agents and made it inside the East Room of the White House.   He had a folding knife with a serrated blade on his person, and Federal agents found a machete, two hatchets and more than 800 rounds of ammunition in his car.  This was his third encounter with law enforcement since July, when he was arrested by Virginia State Police for erratic driving.  Police found a map of the White House, a sawed off shotgun, and a ‘stash of weapons’ in his car.  Federal agents noticed him near the White House perimeter in August.  He had a hatchet in his waistband.
  • The Washington Post  tells us it took Secret Service agents four days to realize a man with a high powered rifle had fired at least seven bullets into the White House in 2011, due to several security lapses that resembled an episode of the Keystone Cops, exposing problems at ‘multiple levels’ of the Secret Service.

The Secret Service’s response to the incident infuriated the president and the first lady, who has spoken publicly about “…fearing for her family’s safety since her husband became the nation’s first black president”.  It would appear that fear is well founded since, according to the Secret Service’s threat assessment, President Obama has had ‘three times as many threats’ as his predecessors.

The Washington Post  reported Julia A. Pierson, the Secret Service’s director, was called to Capitol Hill.  Committee members questioned her about failed operational procedures and the “…questionable culture of an agency that once was the epitome of pride.”  Her answers left committee members, both Republican and Democrat, angry and dissatisfied.  The bipartisan concern for White House security was demonstrated when Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), often a harsh, partisan Obama critic, referred to him as “our president.”

Pierson resigned her position, after only eighteen months on October 1st, 2014. In an interview with Bloomberg News she stated she felt it would be ‘best for the agency’, blaming Congress for losing confidence in her, and the media for forcing her to resign. Nowhere in her public statements did she take ownership for her agency’s failures to perform their mandated task.

According to NBC News,  Joseph Clancy has been appointed as interim acting director by the Department of Homeland Security.  Clancy retired in 2011 to head security for Comcast Corp. after serving as special agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division for President Obama.  David Axelrod, one of President Obama’s oldest friends and longest-serving advisers, said on Twitter, “I knew Joe Clancy when he led the presidential detail.  You could not find a better person to repair the Secret Service”.

I hope that is true.  I am sure that President Obama must feel more secure with the safety of his family back in the hands of someone he knows and trusts.  Hopefully, Mr. Clancy will be able to bring the Secret Service back up to the level of competence that once earned it the reputation of an ‘elite group of professionals, willing to take a bullet to protect the President’.

I hope that publicity about recent failures of the Secret Service does not encourage anyone to attempt to attack President Obama, thinking they would have support from the members of Congress that have so vocally attacked the president.  It is only by representing ourselves as a united people that we can hope to defeat our enemies and keep our people safe.  

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