One Day of Iraqi Occupation = $720 Million

The Iraq war has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of U.S. military personnel. It is also costing $720 Million dollars each day - dollars that could be spent in much more constructive ways.


The privatization of War Inc. in Iraq

The world of warfare in Iraq began to change in the summer of 2003. By early 2004, the ubiquitous white sports utility vehicles used by security contractors like Blackwater, DynCorp and Aegis were a common sight on the streets of Baghdad, and private guards were taking posts outside buildings throughout the Green Zone.

Perhaps most telling, Coalition Provisional Authority director Paul Bremer's own security detail was made up not of U.S. troops but beefy, sunglass-wearing private guards. Bremer later signed an order giving such individuals - and the companies for which they work - immunity from prosecution in Iraq, a rule which was later incorporated into Iraqi law and which critics say has led to egregious injustices and human rights abuses.

Among the late entries into the security game was Triple Canopy, founded by several former U.S. Special Forces members six months after the Iraq invasion. Despite limited experience in the private security arena the company claims to have secured more than $100 million in revenue in its first year of operation. By 2005, Triple Canopy had won a contract worth tens of millions of dollars to provide security services at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

And within months [it was recruiting] in Latin America, enlisting high-ranking military officers to help fill hundreds of security positions. When the civil wars that marked much of the past 30 years in Latin America subsided, many army officers and soldiers who were disbanded didn't have any other opportunities.

Pratap Chatterjee, the author of Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation, writes: "What we're seeing here is the exploitation of poor labor. These companies are simply taking advantage of the market we all live in. This is the way globalization works. You tap into the global poor. The rule is that the lowest wage rules."

[Excerpt of article by Roxana Orellana, Salt Lake Tribune]


Bill Gates Calls for 'Creative Capitalism'

The Washington Post covers Bill Gates’ vision for a new kind of capitalism that would benefit the poor as well as the rich. Microsoft's chairman and co-founder, one of the world's wealthiest people, said business must work with governments and nonprofit groups to stem poverty and spur more technological innovation.

"We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well," he told corporate leaders and politicians at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. "I like to call this idea 'creative capitalism.'"

Meanwhile, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made public its intent to donate $306 million to help the small farmers in Africa and other parts of the world. The foundation said that agriculture must be aided in the developing countries because there is where most of the world's poorest people live.

"If we are serious about ending extreme hunger and poverty around the world, we must be serious about transforming agriculture for small farmers,” Bill Gates said.

Early on, Bill and Melinda Gates agreed to focus on a few areas of giving, choosing where to place their money by asking two questions: Which problems affect the most people? And which have been neglected in the past? So while they don't give to the American Cancer Society, they have pumped billions into the world's deadliest diseases - most importantly AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis - and failing public high schools in the U.S.


State of the Union

On Monday, President Bush delivers his seventh -- and mercifully, last -- State of the Union address. If it's going to be anything like the previous six, it will be loaded with misleading rhetoric that's completely detached from reality.

Bill Scher at The Huffington Post presents a video reality-check on Bush’s State of the Union fantasies, a critique on his speech last year:



Third World Warriors fight U.S. wars - for dollars a day

With U.S. forces stretched thin in Iraq, private security companies have swept in to fill the void. But abuses of third-world security workers abound. And in many cases, those helping to fight our wars can't even cross our borders.

For one year, Mario Urquia guarded the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, protecting American service members and diplomats in one of the most dangerous places in the world. He is just one of thousands of individuals from impoverished nations recruited to help fight a war for the richest country in the world. A special forces soldier in the Honduran Army with nearly 30 years experience, Urquia said he was contacted in the summer of 2005 by a senior officer, who asked him if he would go to Iraq on behalf of the U.S. State Department.

Against salaries of $150,000 a year and more being paid to American contractors, the $15,600 annual salary promised to Urquia in his contract might seem strikingly inequitable. But in the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere the wage seemed a king's ransom to the lanky, stone-faced mechanic, army reservist and father of five children.

The Congressional Research Service has estimated there are 182,000 individuals working under U.S. contracts and subcontracts in Iraq. And a federal Government Accountability Office report last year estimated that more than 48,000 of those individuals are armed. That makes America's private-for-profit security force - U.S. leaders resist the term "mercenary" - the second largest armed group in the dwindling coalition that currently occupies Iraq, well ahead of U.S. ally Great Britain.

It's unclear how many armed contractors come from third-world countries, but federal reports indicate less than a fifth are Americans. he rest are recruited from dozens of other nations, including many places like Honduras, that are not a part of the Bush Administration's so-called "coalition of the willing." And like Honduras, many of the nations from which private security contractors are drawn are steeped in abject poverty. In these places, critics say, billion-dollar American companies can find plenty of people willing to risk their lives for wages as low as $31 a day - and who don't have a voice when things go wrong.

[Excerpt of article by Roxana Orellana, Salt Lake Tribune]

More on Mario Urquia, homeless Iraqi vet

Mario Urquia is presently living on the edge of homelessness in Ogden, Utah - illegal in the nation he once stood to protect.

Urquia said he was given a debit card to access an account where his pay would be deposited. But when he tried to use it to buy food and supplies in Baghdad's Green Zone, it didn't work.

"We all complained, but they said: 'Don't worry, your money will be waiting for you when you return home,' " Urquia said. U.S. soldiers who knew of Urquia's situation would sometimes slip him some cash. Urquia said that money was all he had to spend while in Iraq.

More than a year after he returned, Urquia claims he still hasn't been paid. "Not a single penny," he said.

Arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border last spring, Urquia presented the visa, which was valid through September, expecting to be granted quick passage into Texas. But the world had changed since Urquia last visited the United States. Perhaps wary of the Middle Eastern stamps in Urquia's passport, the immigration officer took out a permanent black marker and voided the visa. Urquia said the officer gave no explanation.

"I said, 'How can you do this? Let me tell you, I went to Iraq for your country,' " Urquia recalled. "And he told me to shut up.'"

"Those who have risked their lives to help out the Americans desperately need a safe haven," said Jen Daskal, an attorney at the nonprofit Human Rights Watch. "Those individuals should be first in line."

[Excerpt of article by Roxana Orellana, Salt Lake Tribune]


George of Arabia

Since taking office, Bush has doubled the federal debt to more than $5 trillion. And, according to US Treasury figures, on net, foreign investors have purchased close to 100% of that debt. That’s $3 trillion borrowed from the Saudis, the Chinese, the Japanese and others.

Now, Bush, the Debt Junkie-in-Chief, needs another fix. George Bush didn’t go to Riyadh to tell the Saudis to cut the price of oil. The US Treasury, Citibank, Merrill-Lynch and other financial desperados need another hand-out from Abdullah’s stash. Abdullah, in turn, gets this financial juice by pumping it out of our pockets at nearly $100 a barrel for his crude.

Bush needs the Saudis to charge us big bucks for oil. The Saudis can’t lend the US Treasury and Citibank hundreds of billions of US dollars unless they first get these US dollars from the US. The high price of oil is, in effect, a tax levied by Bush but collected by the oil industry and the Gulf kingdoms to fund our multi-trillion dollar governmental and private debt-load.

The US Treasury is not alone in its frightening dependency on Arabian loot. America’s private financial institutions are also begging for foreign treasure. King Abdullah’s nephew, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, already the top individual owner of Citibank, joined the Kuwait government’s Investment Authority and others to mainline a $12.5 billion injection of capital into the New York bank. The Abu Dhabi government and the Saudi Olayan Group are taking a $6.6 billion chunk of Merrill-Lynch. So it’s no mere coincidence that Bush is in Abdullah’s tent when the money-changers made the deal just outside it.

Despite the Koranic prohibition on charging interest, the Gulf princes demand their pound of flesh, exacting a 7% payment from Citibank and 9% from Merrill. As the great economist Paddy Chayefsky wrote in the film The Network:

“The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. … It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity…. There are no nations, there are no peoples. There is only one vast and immense, interwoven, multi-national dominion of petro-dollars. … There is no America. There is no ‘democracy.’ The world is a business, one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work.”

[Excerpt from commentary by Greg Palas, author of The Network: The World as a Company Town]


US spent $43.5 billion on intel in 2007

Our tax dollars at work: The U.S. government spent $43.5 billion on intelligence in 2007, according to the first official disclosure under a new law implementing recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.

Intelligence spending has increased by a third over 10 years ago, in inflation adjusted dollars, according to Steve Kosiak at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

How the money is divided among the 16 intelligence agencies and exactly what it is spent on is classified. It includes salaries for about 100,000 people, multibillion dollar secret satellite programs, aircraft, weapons, electronic sensors, intelligence analysts, spies, computers and software.

Much of the intelligence budget ---about 70 percent---goes to contractors for the procurement of technology and services including analysis, according to a May 2007 chart from the DNI's office.

For comparison, last year's intelligence spending was about half the $91 billion President Bush is proposing to spend over the coming year on the Agriculture Department.


The Dollar and U.S. foreign aid

With the fall of the dollar, among other things, the humanitarian aid dollar will not go as far as it did last year.

Adds Patrick J. Buchanon, “And there is an element of comedy in seeing the United States going to Beijing to borrow dollars, thus putting our children deeper in debt, to send still more foreign aid to African despots who routinely vote the Chinese line at the United Nations. “


Beneath the gloss of The Global Economy

So how is the Global Economy, a modern Orwellian term, paying out?

On the surface, it is synonymous with instant financial trading, mobile phones, McDonald's, Starbucks, and holidays booked on the net.

Beneath this gloss, the touted Global Economy is the globalisation of poverty.

The majority of the world's human beings know trade only in street stalls, many have never even made a phone call, and live on less than two dollars a day so McDonald's and Starbucks is well out of their range. In fact, 6,000 children die every day from diarrhea because they do not even have access to clean water.