Rethinking Afghanistan; The Terror Tax



Rethink Afghanistan (Part 3): Cost of War

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Tax time is reason enough to reflect on our budgets, personal and national.  How realistic are our expenditures?  Do we spend more than we earn?  Does our income allow for a few irrational indulgences?  Do discretionary dollars exist?  Might we consider our ample debt.  Does this represent a temporary deficit, easily resolved, or an obligation that cannot be paid promptly.  We may wish to rethink our reality.  At home, families have taken scissors to credit cards.  More than the minimum payment is made.  The intention is to lessen liabilities and increase savings.  In the month of April, after we pay Uncle Sam, most of us concluded, it is time to clean our own fiscal house.  Next, we move to the nation’s ledger.  

Expenses

The largest share of our moneys go to military operations.  The terror tax has become a tremendous burden of American household and communities.  Yet, few wish to rethink this “duty.”

Much to the chagrin of those who do not favor debt, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were paid for on credit.  Taxes were not increased to pay for the two wars.  Indeed, President Bush cut tariff obligations for the American people while he increased the number of dollars devoted to military operations.  

The cash spent on what most would agree were and are protracted conflicts was not placed on the official ledger.  Nor did it exist in American coffers.  What were classified as “emergency supplemental” expenses were made available on loan.  Other countries, rich in resources, furnished the dollars the United States desired.  The currency would need to be re-paid, with interest!  That concept alone could be considered a tax on terror, or an attack on Americans who disfavor debt.

The current Commander-In-Chief promised he would not engage in such tactics.  The Obama Administration would be transparent.  What would be spent on war would be visible in formal, administrative, concrete calculations.  To that end, in February 2009, perhaps before most Americans filed a return, President Obama submitted his budget.  Headlines screamed, Obama’s budget is the end of an era.

Cash and Change On Hand

Change had come.  Obama re-thought Bush policies.  More money would be officially allocated to military operations.  The Pentagon Does Well with Obama Budget. The financial planned commitment to the Pentagon is an abundant $533.7 billion.   This amount represents a 4 percent increase over the previous 2009 allocation. This total excludes money for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The budget includes an additional $75 billion in 2009 for “overseas contingency operations,” a reference to the battles still ablaze in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locales.  Come 2010, $130 billion more will be available for combat.

Insufficient Funds

Cautions presented six months ago, on October 15, 2008, by the Congressional Research Service apparently were not heeded by the new Administration.  Citizens also did not realize, cash for these conflicts is not countless.  It never was.  Calculations were offered.  However, then, as now, the numbers were ignored.  Perhaps, all aspects of the ostensibly perpetual wars were not rethought.

Economic Cost of War in Afghanistan

The War in Afghanistan has cost U.S. Tax payers $172 billion to date, with a request for roughly $13.4 billion to fund the war through the remainder of Fiscal year 2009 expected in March or April.  This brings the total cost through FY 2009 to $185.1 billion.

This figures reflect the budgetary cost alone.  Projected costs over the long term are likely to total more than half a trillion dollars when future occupation and veteran’s benefits are taken into account.  Interest payments could add another $200 billion to that figure. (1) All told, this is more than the size of the recent bailout of Wall Street, and rivals the historic economic stimulus bill just passed by Congress.

Countries outside the United States have spent additional billions on the War in Afghanistan, with the UK contributing roughly £4.5billion (2) and the cost to Canada totaling $7.7 billion to $10.5 billion in Canadian dollars through 2008. (3).

Thus far, you and I, the American taxpayer, borrowed one hundred and eighty five billion dollars, or more,  to fight a war thought futile in Afghanistan.  In Iraq the dollars devoted to deploy each troop, one individual, was $500,000.  That is five hundred thousand dollars!  The money spent on a single soldier sent to Afghanistan is expected to be eight-hundred thousand greenbacks.

Financial Future in Doubt

Many Progressives may wish to wail, “George W. Bush is to blame.”  However, people from the political Party that takes pride in the actions of this President might rethink that truth.  

Days before American tax payments were due, Mister Obama asked Congress for an additional eighty three and four tenths billion dollars ($83.4) to fund the war just through the end of the year!  After Mister Obama assured Americans supplemental expenditures to pay for wars would not be requested, the President rescinded the pledge.  Excuses were made.  Explanations given.  Citizens were told the additional allotment would be the first and the last made by President Obama.

It seems circumstances caused the Chief Executive to rethink his stance on spending and Afghanistan.  Perhaps, citizens will also rethink their position.  In truth, only the people have the power to insist, it is time to cut the funds for war.

Rethinking Afghanistan Realities . . .

Footnote References . . .

1.  The $3 Trillion War. By Linda Bilmes  and Joseph Stiglitz.  Vanity Fair. April 2008

2.  Cost of war in Afghanistan soars to £2.5bn, By Richard Norton-Taylor.  The Guardian. Friday 13, 2009

3.  Economic Cost of War in Afghanistan.

References  and Resources . . .

Government ignores veteran and soldier suicides

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published Friday, December 28, 2007

While prosecuting its war on the Iraqi people I had been in Iraq for about two months when my brigade suffered its first fatality. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. Nobody wanted to believe that it had happened. The deployment was supposed to be quick and easy; we were supposed to be greeted with flowers and return home within a few months. ??As the sounds from the memorial service echoed in our barracks, there was silence-only the recorded sounds of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” Nobody wanted to talk about the realization that we may never return home. Nobody wanted to talk about the situation we had gotten into; the number of Iraqi people who were dying because of the invasion. Most of all, nobody wanted to talk about the soldier who had died.

The bullet that killed him came from his own rifle, but nobody wanted to talk about that either. Everyone wanted to believe the official story, that it was an accidental discharge. To consider anything else meant accepting that surviving the war was more than just surviving combat. Making it home alive does not necessarily mean making it home safe.

According to the Pentagon, at least 152 soldiers have committed suicide while serving overseas in the phony “war on terror.” It can be safely assumed that this number is much higher, as the military brass would rather explain a suicide as a “tragic accident” rather than a result of combat stress. ??In fact, the Army maintains to this day that it has not yet found a link between combat stress and suicide. The Army’s Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, has asserted: “We have not made a connection between the stress on the force and some massive or even significant increase in suicides.” ??This position ignores the truth about serving an imperialist army in an imperialist war. ??It was exposed by a recent CBS News study on suicide levels among veterans. The study showed that veterans commit suicide at twice the rate of civilians. The suicide rate among people in the United States as a whole is 8.9 per 100,000 people. The level among veterans is at least 18.7 per 100,000 people.

Veterans of the imperialist “war on terror” experience a higher rate of suicide with at least 22.9 suicides per 100,000 people.

The Veterans Administration does not keep a record of veteran suicides. It actively avoids these terrible statistics. Countless cases have come to light about soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being denied treatment, being diagnosed as having a “pre-existing” condition and being accused of lying to escape military service. ??The military brass has stooped so low as to blame suicides on “Dear John” letters, poor upbringing by parents, and “underdeveloped life coping skills.” ??False excuses like these allow the Pentagon to absolve itself of all responsibility. The military is able to circumvent paying disability benefits. It also permits the warmongers to distort the situation in Iraq to serve their own interests. The Pentagon only cares about advancing its military goals. It cares nothing about the soldiers it uses to spread imperialism.

It cares nothing about the Iraqi people, over a million of whom have been killed in this criminal war and occupation.

A criminal war

I have experienced first hand the bureaucracy of the VA system. I have walked into the mental health office and been pointed in a hundred different directions, told to come back another time, and told to drive over an hour to another VA office. After several months of frustration, I ended up with a bag full of pills. This was the treatment I was offered.

Private Jonathan Schulze also received the run around from the VA. An Iraq war veteran suffering PTSD, he tried to check himself in to a VA psychiatric unit in Minnesota. With the aid of his parents, he explained to his counselor that he was suicidal and insisted on being admitted. Instead, he was placed on a long waiting list. The following day, his parents called the VA and pleaded for their son’s admission. They received no cooperation. Four days later, haunted by memories of war, Jonathan Schulze went into his basement, tied an extension cord around his neck, and hanged himself.

Private Jason Scheuerman could not wait until he returned home from Iraq to seek treatment for PTSD. He informed his fellow soldiers and commanding officers that he was suicidal. He was experiencing some of the most extreme symptoms of PTSD, including hallucinations. When he finally received a mental health evaluation, the psychiatrist concluded that he did not meet the criteria for a mental health disorder. The psychiatrist also informed his leaders that he was “claiming mental illness in order to manipulate his command.” ??Not only was Scheuerman denied treatment and forced to remain on combat duty, but he also was punished by his superiors for seeking mental help and threatened with jail time. Shortly thereafter, there was a letter posted on Scheuerman’s barracks closet. Inside the closet, his lifeless body was discovered. “Maybe finally I can get rid of these demons, maybe finally I can get some peace,” he wrote.

The U.S. government will not adequately care for the soldiers it sends to do its biding. It will use them as cannon fodder, then leave them to die alone in a basement or in a dark closet. ??With the recent data displaying a suicide epidemic, the VA has vowed to improve its psychiatric treatment. This is nothing but empty promises. Soldiers will continue to kill and be killed in an unjust war on the Iraqi people. If they return, many will be plagued by trauma. ??But soldiers have the power to break this cycle. If soldiers want to fight a just battle, one that will serve their interests and not the interests of the ruling class, they can join the fight against the system that profits from human suffering. ??Not one more Iraqi should have to die. Not one more Iraqi family should have to leave their homes to flee the imperialist occupation of their country.

Not one more U.S. soldier should fight and die in Iraq. And not one more will have to if they refuse to fight in this criminal war.  

McKinnon Extradition? Crime, Penetrating Pentagon Computers ©

Gary McKinnon, also known as Solo is now 39 years of age.  He is a Briton, from Wood Green, north London.  He is a calm and steady man, and today he stood before the courts as such. Family and friends were at his side.  They wanted to actively show their support.  After, the proceedings all exited and were met by the press.  The media asked if the group would pose for photographs or make a statement.  These requests were denied.  For McKinnon and his entourage, the day was done; it had been quite a trying one.  The trial was a fight against extradition.

It seems an embarrassed America wants to punish this man for his crime against the States; they believe that only they can do this well.  US government officials are not willing to trust their dearest friend and ally, the United Kingdom.  They do not think that the Brits can deliver the dictum or carry out the penalty.  American bureaucrats do not believe that the United Kingdom will castigate this criminal as well as they themselves can.  Therefore, American attorneys are posed to present their case.  They want the head of Gary McKinnon on a skewer, an American skewer.

According to the United States government, from February 2001 until March 2002, McKinnon hacked into 97 military and National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] computers.  This action caused an estimated $700,000 in damages.  McKinnon is thought to have exploited poorly secured Windows systems.  He is suspected of attacking networks run by NASA, the Pentagon, and twelve other military installations.  His efforts affected systems in fourteen states.

McKinnon said of this endeavor, “It was easy, easier than expected.”  Many believe that for Gary McKinnon it was an adventure. He loved the hunt; as a young man he was looking for ways to pick locks.  He knew that defense computers were supposedly “locked” tight and this intrigued him.  McKinnon wanted to see if he could open these impenetrable systems.

Mr. McKinnon had long been interested in defense computers.  He wanted to determine if the technology these departments use truly defends against invasion. He explored and discovered these software systems were flawed.  He would live to regret this finding, for it changed his life in a way he had not imagined.  Perhaps, it was not the discovery that altered his life; instead, it was the way in which he revealed it.

Gary McKinnon boldly scripted a note stating, “US foreign policy is akin to government sponsored terrorism these days . . . I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.”  He left this message on an Army computer.  This communiqué was a threat, a threat to the image of the United States government and at the Department of Defense.  Officials were livid; an appearance of strength was lost.  Revealing the vulnerability of US computer systems is a crime against illusion. Though not an act of treason or terrorism, this action is punishable by law.

Gary McKinnon had not been considered a powerful man in the past.  Yet, he exhibited power beyond what others expected.  A manager and former supervisor to Gary McKinnon spoke of this saying, “He was personable, relatively happy around the office.”  While working at the London-based telecom equipment seller, Corporate Business Technology Limited, Mr. McKinnon was thought to be a friendly chap, though an unremarkable fellow.  The supervisor offered, “You wouldn’t have realized that he could do what he did.”

McKinnon, worked for CBT for approximately ten months, leaving late in 1999. He left on good terms. “As I remember it, he decided to leave because he was bored working here,” says the manager. “But at the time that he left, he didn’t have any place to go to.” The American government claims, he went off to entertain himself.  Gary McKinnon probed the Pentagon; he assessed the ease with which he could penetrate Department of Defense computers.

By 2001, the unemployed systems administrator was hacking into United States government computers.  In February 2002, he is said to have shut down Internet access to 2,000 military computers in the Washington area.  The systems were down for a full day.  Prior to this effort, he scanned networks for vulnerabilities, extracted administrative accounts and passwords, snooped on network traffic, and installed hacking software.  McKinnon, Solo is also accused of deleting system logs.

In March 2002, United Kingdom police arrested Mr. McKinnon.  However, it was not until November 2002 that an indictment was filed by US Federal Grand Jury.  Eight computer crimes were listed in the official dossier.  The lapse of time is significant, and was mentioned by the defense in today’s extradition hearing.

Karen Todner, McKinnon’s solicitor, spoke on her client’s behalf.  She argued that as a Briton her client ought to be tried in the UK.  Later, in a prepared statement Ms. Todner furthered her case, “Gary McKinnon continues to vigorously contest extradition which was only belatedly requested by the US government. The British public need to ask themselves why British citizens are being extradited to the USA when the US government has not ratified the extradition treaty between the two countries.”

Great question, why is it that American officials profess, “Do as I say, not as I do?”  US authorities do not sanction expatriation contracts; yet, they expect to seek one.  This seems quite a contradiction.  American authorities want the United Kingdom to honor what they do not.

Currently, McKinnon is out on bail; however, if convicted in United States, McKinnon faces charges punishable by fines.  He could serve as much as 80 years in prison.  A guilty ruling in the United States would mean a life lost.  I know not whether a British ruling might be less severe; however, imprisonment in a land so far from family and friends would certainly place an unimaginable strain or the supposed “felon.”

Thus we have today’s hearing.  It was held at London’s Bow Street Magistrates’ Court.  United States prosecutors detailed and restructured the allegations against Mr. McKinnon.  American attorneys now say Solo seized control of over 53 US Army computers, 26 US Navy computers, 16 NASA systems, one US Department of Defense computer, and one US Air Force computers.

Mark Summers, the lawyer representing the US government said,  “The defendant’s conduct was intentional. His objective was to disrupt the operation of the US government; thus endangering public safety.”  Summers stressed the seriousness of the supposed attacks, however, he and the American authorities passionately proclaimed, “No classified information was obtained through the year long assaults.” Authorities also emphasize McKinnon acted alone.

These positions are important to note.  They are meant to reassure an already anxious American public.  Some ask, Gary McKinnon: Scapegoat or public enemy?

Crimes against the United States are punishable by law, American law.  Penetrating Pentagon computer systems is certainly a crime; however, American citizens, be reassured, this man acted alone.  He is not a terrorist.  Nonetheless, we will treat him as such.

How dare he think to threaten America security systems!  Does he really believe that demonstrating the vulnerability of the strongest nation in the world is acceptable?  He must know that we will punish him, harshly!  All people throughout the globe must know that the United States will take strike out against any intimidation.  Let it be known, “No man or woman show that America security can be compromised.  If they do, they will suffer, publicly, privately, and in prison!”  According to the United States government, Gary McKinnon must be penalized severely, American style.

Volunteer Armed Forces Or Victims Of Vouchers ©

Are American armed forces a collection of volunteers, or, are most, the victims of vouchers?  We, as a nation, turn to the poor; the hopeless, to those that feel helpless, and we ask them to join the armed forces in the name of patriotism.  Yet, most do not feel particularly patriotic; they do not endorse a war that was instigated on false premises.  Few feel loyal to a country that let them down, one that did not provide for all equally.

Many of these disheartened grew up in substandard housing.  Millions of them have received a less than adequate education.  For some, their race is not treated with respect; for others their religious practice is not honored.  Nonetheless, this country asks these individuals to serve.  A nation that shows little if any reverence for the disadvantaged wants them to enlist.  Knowingly, these men and women refuse.  They decline to place their own lives on the line, the frontline.  The do not wish to tempt fate and this is why recruiting numbers are down.

The youth of American and even those slightly older, those that are now being offered enticements, do not long to be among the hundreds of thousands that leave their homes for a far away place.  Life in a land of war is not their preference.  Coming back to the States with a chest full of medals does not appeal to them.  Numerous have observed, first-hand, that often, a decorated uniform only hides the scars beneath it.

Our less privileged men and women do not wish to return home safely in a body bag.  These men and women do not desire a life of doubt or possible death.  The poor and less fortunate youth of America do not yearn for a career of misfortune.  A flag-draped coffin is not the future they hope for.  For the first time, the Army and Marines admit, for the entire year, recruitment objectives were not met.

Yet, there are appearances to be kept.  We as a country must allude to patriotism; we must establish a sense of strength.  Our citizens must impress upon others that we are a united front.  To this end, the Pentagon proselytizes.

Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine recruiters attempt to convince the youth to serve their country; they ask the youthful to join the armed forces voluntarily.  However, as the wars linger on, garnering “volunteers” is a struggle.

When recruiters cannot induce induction, cannot entice enlistees, they resort to rewards.  The Department of Defense is turning to Congress; asking for further funding.  Armed forces wish to offer rewards to those that relent.  The military hopes that the dire straits of the poor, the helpless, and the hopeless will work to their advantage.  The armed forces are banking on the belief that struggling souls will choose to be victims of vouchers.

Therefore, the armed services are asking Congress to approve as much as $40,000 in bonuses.  The current benefit of $20, 000 is no longer enough; $20 thousand can buy a car; but it cannot buy a soldier.  The cost of war is great and growing greater; lives are at stake.  Perhaps, $50,000 would be better; this amount would help new troops purchase a house.  Nevertheless, novice soldiers will pay for this prosperity.  To receive these benefits individuals are required to enlist for eight long years.  They are obliged to leave their families, to leave their homes, to leave the safety and security that we all covet.  These soldiers are required to give their hearts, souls, and possibly, probably their lives to military service.

For the most part, this nation’s armed forces are not literally “volunteer”; they are not a group of unpaid helpers.  They are a collection of the coerced; cash is the catalyst for their action.  The military seeks out those in need and then offers them money, lots, and lots of loot!  For hard cash seems to quiet the nerves of the reluctant, or at least it allows a person to forget what they are truly facing.

These poor and hopeless are our strength, our numbers, our soldiers, and our troops and thus, we support them.  We buy their patriotism and create a second-class, those that are victims of vouchers.

I offer the thoughts of others and references that document the disparity among our troops.

Army Recruiting More High School Dropouts to Meet Goals, By Eric Schmitt

This is an excellent yet, frightening piece, The Children’s Crusade by Jennifer Wedekind, In These Times

Military Families Speak Out About Recruiting Practices; Families Say ‘Examine the Real Problem — Call for A Stand-Down on the War in Iraq

Tillman Tale Tells Truth of Pentagon ©

Pat Tillman, the patriot, left a lucrative career to serve his country. His brother joined him; they each enlisted in the Army and served as Rangers. The brothers wanted to participate, to express their love of country; they chose to protect and defend and to do so with honor. They were stationed in Afghanistan; they were actively supporting this nation. However, there is reason to believe that this nation did not fully support them.

They, the Army, knew within days, though they chose not to tell the tale of “gross negligence.” While investigating the death of former National Football League player, Pat Tillman, Army investigators quickly discovered that “friendly fire” was the cause of his death. Army officials realized that fellow Rangers killed the famous serviceman. However, they did not disclose this truth; they destroyed it. Officers did not tell the Tillman family or friends what really happened. They intentionally led the public astray for they feared retribution. They waited; they waited for weeks.

The Pentagon and Whitehouse promoted the Tillman passing; ceremonies were televised. It was, it is, a great story.

The nation honored the life and passing of a great man. Yet, the true tale was not told until later. Those in power dreaded a candid accounting, what might it mean for the “war effort.”

Soldiers on the scene knew and said so immediately. According to a 2000 page report, Tillman “was killed by a barrage of American bullets as he took shelter behind a large boulder during a twilight firefight.” Nonetheless, officials did not deliver the truth. Instead, erroneous information was released, the facts deliberately suppressed. “Critical evidence” was destroyed!

Army officers concealed the facts from Tillman’s brother who was also serving as an Army Ranger. Tillman’s brother was nearby during the attack, though he did not witness it. Paul Boyce, an Army official stated, “Notifying families in a timely way that they have had a loved one killed or severely injured is complex and imperfect work. We can do better." The telling is complex. It affects more than friends and family; it affects public support.

If we, the people knew the truth of war, particularly of this war, would we support our President, our Pentagon, or the “theoretical” cause for all this killing?