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Saturday, January 28

The Week in Review

Trying to connect the dots is hard work. Bear with me.

Pentagon says Army is stretched too thin... Rummy says no, blames Clinton... Defense spending in the news is hard to follow but it's wasteful as hell at the very least... Bin Laden may strike again so we better continue to eavesdrop... Israel threatens Iran... Iran vows to retaliate... US and UK gear up... Palestine elects Hamas...War, war and more war on horizon... Bush suggests cutting the reserves and national guard anyway. WHAT?

Earlier this week a Pentagon study (written by former Army officer Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr. and funded by the Department of Defense, mind you) revealed that the Army was stretched to the breaking point. Rumsfeld argued that it was not true and that all the experience of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan has made the Army stronger, not weaker. It exhausts me just to read about all the troops going in and out of war, but that's just me.

Meanwhile, government media shill, Bob Schieffer reported on January 25th: "Defense Secretary Rumsfeld took strong issue today with former Clinton administration officials who say the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the U.S. military to the near breaking point...." But it was the other report, the one funded by the DoD, which made the news first. What do in a pinch? Blame the Clinton administration. It's not my fault, waaaaaa

This week, the president warned us that bin Laden may strike. We ought to take him seriously, he said. We will fight bin Laden by secret wiretapping programs (and I suppose it's also a good thing that our Army is stronger not weaker). The U.S. military plans to add nearly 8,000 troops to its elite Special Operations Forces(Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and the top-secret Delta Force) next year to bolster America's ability to fight terrorists and insurgents worldwide. WaPo reported that billions of dollars would be added to the Special Operations budget over the next five years, (if Congress approves the plan). That's good, I think. I still maintain that Special Forces should have taken care of bin Laden and Saddam rather than bombing the shit out of the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, but that would have been logical and not good for defense industry shareholders.)

Does anyone understand what is going on with the defense spending? I don't. Seriously. The US lost track of $9 billion in Iraq in 2004. Auditors were unable to verify that money given to Iraqi ministries was spent for its intended purposes. The money is still out there in limbo and no one seems to care. Paul Bremer disagreed with that audit at the time saying that it was hard work to have a transparent budget in a time of war.... so Bush slapped a medal of freedom on him anyway. Hard work is hard work.

The Defense Department is overpaying for appliances such as $20 for an ice cube tray that would sell at the dollar store for a buck. Why? Because they use a middle man who sets the prices rather than going to the manufacturer. It's a multibillion-dollar Pentagon purchasing system called the prime vendor program. The pentagon has dismissed claims from whistleblowers who call on the whistleblower hotline that there has been misspending. Maybe the hotline number is left over from the Clinton years. Critics charge that this program pissed away about $200 million. Not surprising. Why not hire a government employee to do the research and buy from individual manufacturers to save money? I could do it. Oh wait, that would mean that we weren't leaning towards a fascist dictatorship. Nevermind.

We also read that war with Iran may be looming. Israel threatened to attack Iran. If the US doesn't tell Israel to cool it, wouldn't the US be viewed as an accomplice by the Arab world? And that is really going to piss off the Iraqi's. Forget about ever having a stable government in Iraq. Iran has said it will strike back if attacked with "very effective missile defense." Uh oh. Thank god they don't have nukes.

Everything bush is saying about Iran, he said about Iraq. If I read between the lines here, he's saying that we invaded the wrong country. Since no one knows exactly where all of Iran's secret nuclear labs are. Is Israel going to have to bomb the whole country out of existence? Does anyone really think that Iran is just going to cower after being attacked? It just may take a bit longer for them to make nukes, if anything. But that is good news for war profiteers.

But wait, what middle eastern country is going to allow Israel to fly over its airspace to attack Iran? Flying over Saudi Arabia or Jordan would probably be viewed as an act of war. Perhaps Turkey? The whole thing sounds like a bunch of bullying. Maybe the US ground forces will just go into Iran and jail the wives of Iranian leaders to make them surrender. And we wonder why troops come home nuts from Iraq.

Bush is going to propose a trimming of the Army Reserves and the National Guard. Yes, that's right. Stop blinking your eyes. It's in today's news. But it's really just on paper. No one is really being laid off.

What the Army wants to do in the name of "achieving a new balance of troop strength" is lower the current alloted slots of of Reservists from 205,000 to 188,000 (the actual number of reservists). Likewise with the National Guard: cut the force from the alloted slots of 35,000 soldiers to 333,000 (the actual number of guardsmen). It sounds like they are just trying to futz around with the numbers so that when they make their reports, they won't have to admit that not enough people are signing up.

The article goes on to warn stockholders about changes in defense spending: GE and Rolls Royce which make the engines for the Joint Strike Fighter the military's next-generation combat plane may be dumped as suppliers. Tony Blair sent bush a handwritten note about this travesty. This will cut jobs here and abroad. If bush ignores Blair's note, what will Blair do to retaliate? Where does that leave stockholders? Buy Pratt & Whitney stock which provides back up in the alternate engine program?

See also
Lockheed Martin's bright future
Boeing is going to streamline its defense operations
4th-quarter spending dips

I really couldn't connect the dots effetively because everything seems contradictory on the surface. Y'all can feel free to help me out here. It does all seem to lie with money and oil if I read between the lines. In a nutshell, the biggest threat to the American people appears to be its government.

UPDATE SUNDAY AM: You can't make this up.
US Army forces 50,000 soldiers into extended duty
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army has forced about 50,000 soldiers to continue serving after their voluntary stints ended under a policy called "stop-loss," but while some dispute its fairness, court challenges have fallen flat.

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