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August 29
Partial Transcript, Abrams Report, April 5, 2005

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An archive of blogs dedicated to the exploitation of war for profit and the military-industrial complex.

August 10, 2003
 
As our soldiers suffer in Iraq with inadequate water, food, sanitation, and shelter, President George W. "Bring 'em On" Bush treated his top fundraisers to a private barbeque near his ranch.

The Bush re-election campaign shuttled about 350 top fund-raisers to Crawford, Texas, for the event. The favored few had collected $50,000 each for the privilege of chowing down with the President and his advisor, Karl Rove.

But even as he enjoyed the best of Texas cuisine during his month-long vacation, the President assured the nation he is focused on Iraq.

On Friday, the President stood in the driveway of his ranch home with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and declared there had been "good progress. Iraq is more secure."

Mr. Bush would not say whether he shared the assessment of the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who said Thursday that U.S. forces will remain in Iraq at least two years.

Mr. Bush would only say "I will do what's necessary to win the war on terror." Mr. Bush said Americans have "got to understand I will not forget the lessons of Sept. 11," when America was hit with its worst ever terrorist attack.

The president also would not say whether he had an estimate on how many more soldiers would die. Nor did he answer a question on future costs of the American presence in Iraq.
["Bush Sees Iraq Progress," CBS News, August 8, 2003]

It's a good thing he's focused on Iraq. If he were less focused he might forget the war entirely.

To be fair, one reason the President can't estimate cost is that logistics in Iraq became the Mother of All Snafus. Soldiers have lived for months in primitive shelters without windows or air conditioning. Some are without fresh food and showers and telephones and toilets. For a time they weren't even getting their mail. Although news stories say conditions have improved, soldiers continue to write the Stars and Stripes and David Hackworth's web site with tales of deprivation.

This soldier wrote to Hackworth in mid-June that troops were so desperate for water they had to purchase water of dubious quality from Iraqis. They also have been short of food. "Soldiers are trying, in vain, to keep mosquitoes from consuming them nightly, and using hoses from an Iraqi latrine stall to get water enough to maintain their hygienic needs," he writes. "There are soldiers, to this day, that live in squalor."

Another soldier wrote,

While the Army did a great in winning the war, what is not being covered is how broke the Army logistics system is and the damage it is doing to the long term readiness and moral of the Army. The Army seems to have this NTC rotation mentality, which consists of fuck it live in the dirt and filth you only have to be here for a month. That works at NTC, but it seems no one has thought of how to sustain an Army in the field for weeks and months at a time.

 ... Our supply lines are clear. There is no excuse why basic health and safety issues and moral issues like mail cannot be addressed. They are not being addressed because the army doesn't know how anymore. Units spend their lives preparing for 2 week warfighters and one month NTC rotations and never think, "okay, how are we going to live out here for six months or a year." Its just not part of the Army's thinking anymore and it s a shame. ["Everything Is Just Peachy Keen in Iraq," Soldiers for the Truth, June 11, 2003]

This letter from Stars and Stripes is dated July 27:

During the day the temperature reaches 127 degrees in the shade.... Due to a lack of bottled water, each soldier has been limited to two 1.5 liter bottles a day. We’ve had two soldiers drop out due to heat-related injuries. A person with common sense knows that a normal person can’t survive on three liters of water a day."

There's No Business Like War Business

Behind the logistical breakdown in Iraq is a Pentagon team with no personal experience on a battlefield and only a theoretical view of battle. Throughout American military history, most of the work of supplying troops in the field was performed by the military itself. But, beginning in the Clinton Administration, supply and support personnel were shifted into combat jobs and defense contractors were hired to take their place. And, writes David Wood of Newhouse News Service, "This shift has accelerated under relentless pressure from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to make the force lighter and more agile."

"When you turn these services over to the private market, you lose a measure of control over them," said [Peter] Singer, a foreign policy researcher at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington. ...
 
Thanks to overlapping contracts and multiple contracting offices, nobody in the Pentagon seems to know precisely how many contractors are responsible for which jobs -- or how much it all costs. That's one reason the Bush administration can only estimate that it is spending about $4 billion a month on troops in Iraq. White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten said this week he could not even estimate the cost of keeping troops in Iraq in fiscal 2004, which begins Oct. 1. [David Wood, "Some of Army's Civilian Contractors Are No-Shows in Iraq," Newhouse News Service, July 31, 2003]

Can we say, "this is the fault of management"? I think we can.
 
Long-time CEO Rumsfeld and his civilian lackeys are running the military like a corporation. And, as in most corporations, the Suits at the top of the ladder and the worker bees in the cubicles and factories live on different planets. The Suits concern themselves with profits and growth but forget the product. Employees? Employees are cost, and employees in Asia work cheaper.
 
Next we'll hear the Navy is being outsourced to India.
 
To see clearly what went wrong with logistics in Iraq, look no further than Dick Cheney's old outfit, Kellogg Brown & Root. Last fall the Army hired the Houston-based contractor to draw up the master plan for supporting U.S. troops in Iraq with civilian contractors. But KB&R failed to deliver on its own contracts. The modular barracks, showers, bathroom facilities, and kitchens it had been paid to deliver were AWOL.
 
Part of the blame lies with the cost of insuring civilians in a combat zone. Rates skyrocketed by 300 and 400 last March as the contractors waited in Kuwait for the war to start. And civilians cannot be ordered to go into a combat zone. Many of them, sensibly, bailed.
 
'Course, you'd think the well-paid geniuses who drew up the master plan and greedily anticipated record profits from the war would have anticipated this. Guess not.
 
Warfare 101
 
Military historian Martin van Creveld defines logistics as "minutely coordinating the movements of troops...and supplies...in such a way as to make everything and everybody...appear at exactly the right moment" (Supplying War, 1977). Any sensible person can see that military logistics are a little more complicated than running a McDonald's. However, we're dealing with CEOs, so "sensible" is not an operative word. "Greedy," maybe.
 
(The Bush cartel must've thought the Plan brilliant -- outsourcing support and supply would reduce the Pentagon budget and put money into the pockets of some of their biggest campaign contributors at the same time. Win/win!)
 
According to van Creveld, throughout military history logistics have been nine-tenths of the business of war. Unfortunately, there's no glory in it, and people with a CEO mindset look at logistics and think, cost. A common metaphor is the "teeth to tail" ratio. The thinking is that an effective military beast should have more teeth and less tail. Therefore, the military should focus on teeth -- the ability to kill -- and not waste its time with mundane support details. The problem with this metaphor is that food and water and soap and bug spray and spare parts are not "tail"; they are legs and torso as well, and the beast will die without them.
 
However, anyone who has done time in a factory or in a honeycomb of office cubicles will recognize the CEO philosophy at work. In business, marketing and finance are the "teeth"; products and the employees who create them are the "tail." Hi ho, hi ho, to India we go.
 
What happened to the professional military? Rummy and his minions have shoved them to the margins. In a recent op ed in the Houston Chronicle, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel Karen Kwiatowski described what she observed during three years of service in the Pentagon. She described functional isoloation of the professional corps, who were kept out of the loop of policy decisions; cross-agency ideological cliques who made the real decisions; and groupthink that elevated opinion into "fact."
Saddam is not yet sitting before a war crimes tribunal. Nor have the key decision-makers in the Pentagon been forced to account for the odd set of circumstances that placed us as a long-term occupying force in the world's nastiest rat's nest, without a nation-building plan, without significant international support and without an exit plan. Neither may ever be required to answer their accusers, thanks to this administration's military as well as publicity machine, and the disgraceful political compromises already made by most of the Congress. Ironically, only Saddam Hussein, buried under tons of rubble or in hiding, has a good excuse. [Karen Kwiatowski , "The Pentagon Has Some Explaining to Do," The Houston Chronicle, August 3, 2003]
But last Friday, the Commander in Chief and the Secretary of Defense stood together in Texas, on the other side of the world from the mess they made, and congratulated each other on how focused they were and how well their plans were turning out. And, dutifully, the news media reported this.
 
Fortunately for Rummy, media attention has been diverted to Ah-nold's gubernatorial campaign. The troops in Iraq couldn't get media coverage today if they chipped in and paid for it.
 
In times like these, I ask myself, WWTD -- what would Truman do? Harry, I think, would have ordered Rummy to haul his butt to Iraq to straighten out the mess, now. Instead, for the next few years we will see armies of consultants who've never set foot on a battlefield make big bucks explaining how to avoid the mistakes of Iraq.
 
It's the American CEO way.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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From the April 29, 2003, Mahablog

Or, Shrub's political capital and 50 cent will buy you a can of beans
 

A U.S.-financed bonanza of reconstruction and nation-building work is about to roll across Iraq, and U.S.-based firms with close links to the Pentagon and State Department are cashing in.

School systems, textbooks, airports, police operations, local government, water plants and sewers will be overhauled and in some cases created from scratch by U.S. contractors, paid out of U.S. funds.

The initial round of contracts totals about $1-billion (U.S.). Independent analysts say the cost of rebuilding Iraq could reach $20-billion a year over several years. [Paul Knox, "White House Fast Tracks Tenders to Rebuild Iraq," The Globe and Mail, April 19, 2003]

$20 billion. Now, where have we heard that figure before? Oh, yes ...

Soon after Sept. 11, President Bush promised New York City more than $20 billion in federal aid. A year later, only a fraction of that money has been spent.

Thousands of aid applications are sitting in government offices, while the cash flow has been slowed by red tape and a lack of consensus over how to rebuild the World Trade Center site.

Restrictive guidelines have prevented others from even qualifying for the money.

Garment workers in Chinatown say they have been neglected while large corporations have pocketed millions. Small businesses complain they have been overlooked. ...

While the largest charities have distributed 60 percent of the $2.4 billion in donations they have raised for Sept. 11, the federal government has handed out about 14 percent -- or roughly $3 billion -- of its $20.9 billion total. [Shannon McCaffrey, Associated Press, September 2002]

The April 17 blog was all about New York City and how it is tottering on the edge of a very deep fiscal abyss. If, after September 11, a "bonanza of reconstruction and nation-building work" had been focused on New York City, the outlook would now be very different. As many as 2000 small businesses in lower Manhattan were wiped out by the September 11 attacks. Money promised to help these businesses never materialized. What financial aid actually arrived went to big corporations.

The Bushies are sending textbooks and teachers to Iraq to create a school system. New York City's school systems, not exactly a point of pride to begin with, recently suffered massive budget cuts. Thanks.

And it isn't just New York. Counter-terrorism programs in Los Angeles, a major point of entry to the United States, are weakened by lack of federal money, money that was promised but not yet delivered.

John Miller, former co-host of ABC News' "20/20," now wears a cop's pager and a loaded sidearm on his hip. His new job is special assistant to the Los Angeles police chief in charge of counterterrorism....

But even with the anti-terrorism funds in the supplemental appropriations measure recently passed by Congress, Miller and others in his position complain that Washington has failed to send enough money quickly enough for them to do their jobs.

On the eve of the war in Iraq, for example, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn went to the city council to shake loose more than $4 million in emergency funds to outfit the 9,000-member LAPD force with Level C protective suits. They include a disposable jumpsuit, mask, boots and gloves -- "what would protect them from about 90 percent of what's out there," Miller said. [William Booth, "Terrorism, and Money, Worry a City," The Washington Post, April 16, 2003]

Fiscal Shock and Awe

Oregon is short $2 billion thanks to Shrub's economy and needs money for education, public safety, and other programs. (See also, "All but GOP See School Crisis.")

Florida's public schools and state universities are facing massive budget cuts -- it hasn't been so bad since the last Bush administration.

Massachusetts' "shock and awe" budget reduces school funding by billions.

Wyoming plans to raise cash by selling state buildings (and then leasing them back). Maybe next they'll try to pawn the lieutenant governor.

New York considers cutting the lieutenant governor's job as an unnecessary frill. The pawn shop wouldn't take him.

Not Exactly Into Multitasking, Is He?

Now that the War in Iraq has delivered a bump in Shrub's approval ratings, the Bushies are preparing to focus on the economy.

Bush and many members of his cabinet plan to fan out across the country this week, carrying to the public the message that the same team that has delivered victory in Iraq now stands ready to restore jobs and wage growth at home.

"When we make a pledge, we mean it. We keep our word. And what we begin, we will finish," Bush said last week in the Rose Garden.

"We are defending the peace of the world," said Bush. "We're also building the prosperity of our country.''

As the nation's attention turns from war in Iraq to pocketbook issues at home, White House aides say Bush is poised to pivot with them, in hopes of converting his post-war popularity into political successes on the way to a second term.

"He's raring to go on the economic front," said one White House official. "He doesn't believe in holding on to political capital,'' the official said, "he believes in spending it.'' [Bob Deans, Cox News Service, April 18, 2003]

I don't know about you, but I had to pick myself up off the floor after that one. Hoo boy, that is FUNNY! And the Bushies can say this stuff with a straight face. It's brilliant, I tell you.

It's a shame Shrub's political capital won't pay for textbooks, of course, but it's entertaining as hell.

Bonanza!

So far, all the contracts for the work of rebuilding Iraq have gone to giant American multinationals with close ties to the GOP. These include:

This is the most blatantly corrupt administration in American history. Other administrations have been corrupt, but they tried to keep it quiet. This administration doesn't even care who knows about it. They are supremely confident the American public will support them as long as the corporate-owned "news" media continue to support them.

My greatest fear is that they are right.

Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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