Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 19 Week In Review

Week In Review
March 19 2013
by Bill Onasch

No Hallmark Cards For This One
Today is the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Unlike in Afghanistan, it could not be a NATO operation. Most European governments, and even Canada, thought it was a bad idea and sure to give them political grief. Only Bush’s ever loyal pal, the “New Labor” Tony Blair, eagerly contributed the blood and treasure of the British working class from day one until the very end.

The so-called neocon advisers to the second President Bush thought the only remaining superpower should start acting like one. They devised what they initially grandly proclaimed as the Bush Doctrine that declared in effect that the USA could and would militarily intervene anywhere, any time, to protect and advance their interests. None of their resumes included service to their country in uniform but, of course, they had staff to take care of such mundane stuff as fighting. Convinced victory would be swift and low cost, they picked Iraq to be a Shock and Awe example to the world of what happens to those winding up sideways to the Bush Doctrine.

It certainly was not a sneak attack. A big majority in Congress passed the bipartisan Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 five months earlier. They accepted the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and would soon use them. While this falsehood was exposed by the Guardian and Independent in Britain, and Der Spiegel in Germany, the mainstream media in this country pretended to take it seriously.

In the ensuing interval fierce debates raged and huge demonstrations were held across the world--and smaller regular ones erupted in every American city and town. Two months before the invasion US Labor Against the War was launched. Even Pope John Paul II and Jimmy Carter publicly appealed to Bush not to do it.

The first Gulf War, under the first President Bush, had also been met with a massive antiwar movement. But that war quickly ended in victory for him before protests cost him much political damage.

That was the scenario envisioned by the smartest guys in the room on March 19, 2003. For the first few weeks it looked good for them. They even staged the famous landing by the President on an aircraft carrier decorated with a huge banner proclaiming Mission Accomplished.

But the mission was never accomplished. Iraqi resistance was dogged and widespread The downsized all-volunteer U.S. Army was not equipped to carry out two major wars simultaneously. Reserves and the National Guard had to be mobilized along with tens of thousands of private contractors for logistics and security. This situation tarnished the invincible superpower image throughout all of the remainder of Bush’s time in office and two years of Obama’s. The current President followed through on the last big Bush plan to walk away from a combat role in Iraq in order to escalate the other, older, still ongoing unjust war in Afghanistan.

The neocons devised an insidious strategy in Iraq of dividing their enemy by inflaming old, long dormant hostilities between Shia, Sunni and Christian. This bloody nightmare continues even after U.S. withdrawal.

Hundreds of thousands of widows and orphans struggle for survival in Iraq today. The precise numbers of war-related dead from all causes will never be known. The respected Iraq Body Count project has verified 172,907 civilian and combatant violent deaths. 4,486 of those were American GIs.

The true total financial cost of the Iraq War is also difficult to pin down. The Congressional Budget Office estimates 1.9 trillion dollars. Two award-winning economists wrote a book entitled The Three Trillion Dollar War. That would make it roughly equal to the entire Social Security Trust Fund.

While Saddam was an evil dictator the surviving reforms of the Baath Socialist revolution that he replaced had given Iraq not only the best health care system in the Arab world but also the highest degree of freedom for women. Both have become distant memories.

Long considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities Baghdad will remain scarred for generations to come.

The only law from the old regime strictly enforced by the occupation and those succeeding it is the ban of trade union rights. As Iraqi unionists continue an heroic struggle workers in this country have an obligation to continue solidarity.

Elementary human justice calls for reparations by the USA and Britain for the horrendous damage they caused through an unjust war based on a lie. Instead, Iraq is still paying reparations to those who carried out the first Gulf War against them.

Even more in today’s age of Globalization, the guiding words of the great Eugene V Debs ring true–no war but the class war.

Nothing Too Good For Our Veterans
Without a doubt, the number one motive for working class kids signing up with today’s volunteer Army is the chance to later go to college without piling up a huge student loan debt. It can be a tough way to work yourself through school but it’s seen as the best path by many. But now when politicians say nothing is too good for those who served it means that is what they are giving them. Because of the Sequester, tuition assistance for vets has been cancelled for the rest of the fiscal year.

In an AP story about the costs of war a deficit hawk fretted about the debt run up by benefits paid to the widows and children of deceased and disabled soldiers and vets,

“ Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator and veteran who co-chaired President Barack Obama's deficit committee in 2010, said government leaders working to limit the national debt should make sure that survivors of veterans need the money they are receiving. ‘Without question, I would affluence-test all of those people,’ Simpson said.”

It’s too bad they didn’t means test the wars.

I Did the Math
My wife Mary usually has NPR on whenever she’s in the house. The other day some expert–I missed her name and title–was on beating the drum for raising the age for Social Security. She explained how when the program first started most only lived to take it for a few years. Now many draw it for thirty years.

Most future retirees under the present rules will not be able to collect the full benefit until they are 67. You don’t have to be a math wizard to calculate thirty more years would mean living til 97. While some individuals make it that far or even farther their numbers are rare indeed. Yet this nonsense is constantly repeated as Gospel by not only politicians but financial motivator stars such as Suze Orman.

How long you live is greatly affected by class and skin color. A recent Washington Post article reviewed a study of adjoining counties in Florida. In affluent St Johns County, women can expect to live to be nearly 83, four years longer than they did just two decades earlier. Men have improved even better, living six years longer to 78.

Poorer Putnam County was a different kettle of fish. Life spans have barely budged since 1989. Women gained less than a year, now averaging 78. Men improved at a slightly better rate to 71–seven years less than the county next door. If those men had to work til seventy--as now being widely proposed--they would get about a year of their SS benefit.

These class/race discrepancies are a big factor in placing the USA in fortieth place among the nations of the world in life expectancy. Our average for both genders is 77.9. Despite the U.S. embargo that includes medicine and medical equipment, Cuba comes in at 78.5. Our Canadian cousins stand at 80.54. In Italy, where life expectancy is 81.37, normal retirement age is 60.

If your job is sitting at a computer or telephone working til seventy might not be a challenge. But if you make your living in a factory, restaurant, construction site, hospital, mine, or–as I did in my last job, driving a bus–working to three score years and ten can be exhausting, maybe even dangerous to you and others.

Of course, raising the retirement age is not the only trending attack on the old and disabled. President Obama is again renewing his plea that Republicans help him adopt the so-called “chained” Consumer Price Index to govern any future cost-of-living adjustments. The current one is inadequate with its heavy weighting of computers and other electronics falling in price over big increases in food, fuel, and health care that consume most retiree income. The chain intentionally distorts real living costs even more and is actually a cut in benefits.

One factor ignored by those lamenting their retiree burden is the enormous growth in productivity since Social Security was established. After decades of toil that made the richest ruling class in history wealthier than ever we have earned some time at the end to do what we will while we can. We would also like to be able to put food on the table, pay our heat and light bills, and the health care costs Medicare doesn’t cover. We will not suffer in silence or surrender our entitlements gracefully.

Nor will my generation be content to just get ours. Our kids and grandkids deserve to expect a secure retirement, even better than ours, as well

Reality TV
You couldn’t ask for a better example of the market place as custodian of the environment. A New York Times article entitled Unwanted Electronic Gear Rising in Toxic Piles says,

“ As recently as a few years ago, broken monitors and televisions....were being recycled profitably. The big, glassy funnels inside these machines — known as cathode ray tubes, or CRTs — were melted down and turned into new ones. But flat-screen technology has made those monitors and televisions obsolete, decimating the demand for the recycled tube glass used in them and creating what industry experts call a ‘glass tsunami’ as stockpiles of the useless material accumulate across the country.”

That’s all for this week.

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