Thursday, October 26, 2006

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (10/26/06)


One might think from all the politically inspired fear generated in Washington that something inconceivable happened when North Korea conducted an underground nuclear explosion. Having a nuclear device is not the same as having a compact, efficient bomb or warhead that can be delivered on a missile. North Korea still has a long way to go. Let's put the test--a low-yield, inefficient device--into realistic perspective.

The world is a veritable nuclear-armed camp today. Consider how many nuclear warheads exist on the planet, who has them and when that nation first tested a nuclear weapon; the numbers are estimates from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: United States (1945), 5,735-9,960; Soviet Union/Russia (1949), 5,830-16,000; U.K. (1952) >200; France (1960), 350; China (1964), 130; India (1974), 75-115; Israel (1979), 75-200; Pakistan (1998), 65-90; North Korea (2006), 1-10. Portions of North Korea's technology came from A. Q. Kahn's secret nuclear bomb program in Pakistan. After Pakistan revealed that it had The Bomb, the U.S. called it a rogue nation for making it in secret. Pakistan has since become our great ally because of its commitment to our ill-defined war on terror.

And how many nuclear weapons tests have occurred over the last 61 years, particularly test in the atmosphere that spread contamination? The United States leads in such testing, having conducted 1,127 nuclear and thermonuclear tests, including 217 in the atmosphere. The Soviet Union/Russia conducted 969 tests, including 219 in the atmosphere; France, 210, including 50 in the atmosphere; the United Kingdom, 45, with 21 in the atmosphere; China, 45, with 23 in the atmosphere; India and Pakistan, 13, all underground; South Africa (with Israel) one atmospheric test in 1979. Three states, India, Israel and Pakistan declined to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty to which 190 other nations are signatories. On Jan. 10, 2003, following the U.S. accusation that it had started an enriched uranium program, North Korea withdrew from the treaty.

For the moment, however, North Korea should be the least of our worries. A U.S. Department of Energy task force has warned of the vast number of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, "poorly controlled and poorly stored." One of the first acts of the Bush administration was to cut back a modest program to assist Russia in safeguarding these weapons and providing alternative employment for nuclear scientists, a decision that increased the risk of the weapons falling into the wrong hands.

What we should be worrying about are the ticking bombs in our own midst--more than 100 aging, outmoded and obsolete nuclear power plants, prone to accidents and of doubtful security. What we should perhaps fear from North Korea is the sale of weapons or technology to terrorists. North Korea already sells much of its limited military technology to other countries. But let us not forget that the world's largest arms merchant is the United States. Recently, we supplied the weapons used in Lebanon by Israel, loathsome flesh-mutilating cluster bombs indiscriminately dropped on unarmed civilians and still littering the landscape.

The implications of North Korea's test are disturbing for other reasons. First, hostilities in the Korean peninsula have never formally ended; what we have is an armed truce. American troops would be vulnerable to a nuclear device, however primitively delivered. Second, the North Korean test came at a time when George W. Bush was exploring military options to end Iran's nuclear program--even though we have no proof that Iran intends to create nuclear weapons. There's no denying its fear of nuclear-armed countries it sees as hostile. In 2003, defense analyst Harlan Ullman warned prophetically that a country like Iran, feeling threatened, "might hurry its nuclear weapons program after seeing the United States lead an assault on Iraq." The mess we made of Iraq and lack of available troops makes it virtually impossible for Bush to stage the invasion of Iran advocated by neocons now thoroughly discredited by their wrong guesses about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.

Some form of air attack on Iran's deeply buried nuclear facilities by the U.S. or Israel cannot be ruled out, but traditional bombs and cruise missiles would be ineffective. A few military theorists have advocated using ICBMs with nuclear warheads--but these would arouse violent worldwide protests. The Pentagon may be considering use of non-nuclear ICBMs--arming a portion of the U.S. fleet with non-nuclear warheads to achieve deeper penetration underground. However, Russia's anti-missile forces are on high alert against the launch of even a single American ICBM, and we can ill afford a Dr. Strangelove hair-trigger scenario that increases the danger of nuclear destruction by accident.

Thus, an unexpected outcome of the North Korean test may be that aerial bombardment of Iran is now more unlikely. How can the U.S. justify an attack to prevent the development of nuclear energy in Iran when we have done nothing about North Korea, which actually has nuclear weapons? Moreover, Iran is an Islamic nation; our relations with the rest of the Islamic world are already in disarray. The way to allay our fear of nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea is through negotiations. The U.S. must abandon its arrogant refusal to talk and deal with other countries. Our adamant silence works against our own vital interests.

However much we may wish that nuclear weapons had never been devised, at this uneasy period efforts leading to nuclear disarmament are almost certainly doomed to failure in a world heavily armed with nuclear weapons. Why would any nuclear power give up weapons that magnify the influence and prestige of the nation that has them. And why should other nations, facing both the immense power of the United States and its often-bullying tactics, not want to have them? The entire Western world looked the other way as Israel went about developing nuclear weapons. Why does little Israel need them? Why did the Soviet Union, which spent so much on armaments that its economic system collapsed, keep its costly nuclear arsenal?

If Western nations can understand the uneasy fear that drove Israel to want atomic arms, why can't they understand why North Korea might want them? For years, the United States has refused to talk and threatened and punished North Korea in many ways. President Bush has treated the North Koreans with the same dismissive contempt and intimidating attitude he has displayed toward other countries. How could this approach ever achieve anything but what it has now produced?

Editorial writers are fond of calling North Korea irrational and unstable, but such descriptions are wrong. Soviet-style regimes have been extremely stable. Any regime that has lasted for more than half a century can hardly be called unstable. Only when Soviet-style governments experimented with reforms and loosened their absolute hold on people's lives were they toppled. In North Korea, there is little likelihood of a Gorbachev emerging to assume power.

North Korea may have acted bizarrely at times during the last fifty years. In turn, the United States has pointedly isolated and ignored North Korea. From its point of view, its actions have not been irrational. In fact, it is U.S. policy toward other nations that has been irrational.

How else to explain more than forty years of trying to ignore the existence of Castro's Cuba so close to our shores or our foolish attempt to unseat its leader with the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion and assassination?

How else to describe the vicious war in Vietnam that cost more than 58,000 American lives?

How else to characterize the ill-advised invasion of Iraq and the resulting trillion-dollar war without end?

Irrational is indeed the only word that fits these reckless adventures.


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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (10/19/06)


"Mugged by reality" aptly describes the reason for the sudden and abrupt shift in public sentiment away from the Bush administration. Beset by scandal and obsessed with pursuing the chimera of victory in the remote sands of Iraq, it has allowed North Korea and Iran to pursue nuclear dreams. Another result is verbose excesses by nervous politicians like Sen. John McCain, who calls his campaign bus the "Straight Talk Express."

Straight talk was not what he was peddling one day after North Korea's nuclear weapon test. At a campaign event in Michigan, he reminded "Senator Clinton and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration's policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated [with North Korea] was a failure. Every single time the Clinton administration warned the Koreans not to do something--not to kick out the IAEA inspectors, not to remove the fuel rods from their reactor--they did it. And they were rewarded every single time by the Clinton administration with further talks."

Not so fast, Senator. The facts of what really happened after North Korea's secret nuclear weapons program was disclosed in 1993 tell a completely different story. Bill Clinton had been president for little more than a year when North Korea announced it was preparing to remove the fuel rods from their Yongbyon nuclear reactor, withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it had signed in 1985 and expelling the weapons inspectors who had been keeping tab on the rods. Uncontrolled, the rogue country could soon be building about 30 Nagasaki-sized nuclear weapons annually.

Far from rewarding North Korea for its actions, Clinton urged the U.N. Security Council to consider sanctions. North Korea announced that sanctions would trigger war, a threat still echoed today. Although not known for being hawkish, Clinton instructed the Pentagon to draw up plans to meet the threat. These included the dispatch of 50,000 troops to South Korea to beef up the 37,000 stationed there since the 1950s, and over 400 combat jets, 50 warships, and additional battalions of Apache helicopters, Bradley fighting vehicles, multiple-launch rockets, and Patriot air-defense missiles. Clinton also ordered an advance team of 250 Army logistical specialists to set up headquarters in Korea to manage this massive influx of troops and equipment. His actions sent a clear signal to the North Koreans he was willing to go to war to keep the fuel rods under international control. Clinton let it be known that removal of the fuel rods meant crossing a "red line," and he was prepared to launch an air strike on the Yongbyon reactor even if it provoked war.

Simultaneously, Clinton set up a diplomatic back channel to resolve the crisis peacefully by sending former President Jimmy Carter to Pyongyang to talk with Kim Il-Sung, then the leader of North Korea and the father of the present "dear leader," Kim Jong-il. Carter was an ideal choice for this mission. As president, he had once announced he would withdraw all U.S. troops from South Korea. He quickly backpedaled when the idea met stiff opposition--but it endeared him to Kim Il Sung. After Carter left office, the dictator issued a standing invitation for him to visit. Carter's trip was widely portrayed at the time as a private venture, unapproved by President Clinton.

It is now known that Clinton quietly recruited Carter to make the trip. The Clinton administration was divided over Carter. Those who had served under him--Warren Christopher, Clinton's secretary of state, and Anthony Lake, his national security adviser--opposed the trip. Carter was a loose cannon who would ignore orders and freelance a deal, they warned. Vice President Al Gore was for the trip as the only way out of the crisis. Clinton sided with Gore. As Clinton saw it, Kim Il-Sung needed a way to save face, Oriental style, and Carter might be able to offer that. As it turned out, both sides in the internal debate were right: The dictator backed down, and Carter negotiated the framework of an agreement, announcing its terms live on CNN, only minutes after telling Clinton.

Kim Il-Sung abandoned his threats, the fuel rods were not moved and the inspectors were not evicted. Four months later, on Oct. 21, 1994, the United States and North Korea signed a formal document called the Agreed Framework based on those terms. In it North Korea renewed its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, agreed to lock up the fuel rods and to allow the inspectors to return and monitor the facility. In exchange, with financial backing from South Korea and Japan, the U.S. would provide two light-water nuclear reactors to generate electricity, supply fuel oil, and pledge not to invade North Korea.

This document effectively clamped a lid on North Korea's nuclear program until 2002. Honoring its terms, Pyongyang kept the fuel rods locked up and the inspectors monitored the site. Gradually, Washington and Pyongyang were to set up diplomatic and trade relations. In an annex to the accord, all parties agreed the nuclear fuel from the light-water reactors would be shipped to a third country for recycling--a course President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed recently for Iran's nuclear fuel. The agreement fell apart in 2002--but not for the reasons advanced by Senator McCain. Initially, North Korea kept its side of the bargain. The same cannot be said of our side.

Because the accord was not a formal treaty, Congress did not have to ratify the terms, but balked at the financial commitment. So did South Korea. The light-water reactors were never funded. Steps toward normalization were never taken. In 1996, one of Pyongyang's spy submarines washed up on the coast of South Korea; Seoul reacted by suspending its share of energy aid, and Pyongyang retaliated with typically inflammatory rhetoric. We now know that about this time the North Koreans also secretly started to ship missile technology to Pakistan in exchange for Pakistani centrifuges.

Compare Clinton's decisiveness with wishy-washy George W. Bush. Beginning his first term in office in January 2001, he proclaimed the Agreed Framework to be dead and announced that he had no interest in talking with the North Koreans. A few months later, intelligence revealed that North Korea had been enriching uranium--a much slower method of achieving a bomb than by reprocessing plutonium. (The bomb the North Koreans set off last week was not a uranium bomb but a plutonium bomb--a bomb created on Bush's watch--not Clinton's.) After the discovery of North Korea's uranium enrichment, Bush toughened his stance against negotiations even more.

The North Koreans tried to replay the 1994 scenario, threatening to unlock the fuel rods, expel the inspectors and renounce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Through former ambassadors Bill Richardson and Donald Gregg, however, they exhibited willingness to back off their threats if the Agreed Framework were reinstated--but George W. Bush wasn't interested in playing the negotiating game. Stymied, toward the end of 2002 the North Koreans unlocked the rods and evicted the inspectors, thus crossing the "red line" Clinton had drawn. Bush, famous for belligerence and saber rattling, took no military action. He called for no sanctions. He tried no diplomacy. It was George W. Bush who did nothing--not Bill Clinton.

And while we're assessing blame for Bush's total inaction, the record shows that soon after George H.W. Bush, the president's father, moved into the White House, the CIA discovered that near their nuclear reactor at Yongbyon the North Koreans were building a reprocessing facility to manufacture weapons-grade plutonium from the fuel rods. Five years later, Bill Clinton stopped the North Koreans from moving the rods into this facility. Eight years after Clinton's decisive action, George W. Bush passively allowed the North Koreans to move them. Welcome to reality, Mr. President.


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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (10/12/06)


Dashiell Hammett's now-classic 1929 mystery novel The Maltese Falcon and fledgling director John Huston's 1941 film feature a marvelous exchange between two principal characters: the sinister fat man, Casper Gutman, played by Sydney Greenstreet, and detective Sam Spade, played by Humphrey Bogart. They are about to talk about the elusive "black bird."

Gutman: You're a close-mouthed man?
Spade: [shakes his head] No, I like to talk.
Gutman: Better and better! I distrust a close-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking's something you can't do judiciously unless you keep in practice. [sits back] Now, sir, we'll talk if you like. And I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk.

Would that President George W. Bush were a man who likes to talk to a man that likes to talk. At a time when the North Koreans were practically begging for discussions, and when their journey down the dangerous nuclear path could have been brought to a halt or reversed, he refused to talk to them. The Bush White House has consistently scorned diplomacy, regarding it as a sign of weakness. When retired Gen. Colin Powell, a few months into his service as Bush's secretary of state, announced that he would pick up where President Clinton left off in discussions with North Korea that had frozen plutonium production and missile testing for years, Bush quickly rebuked him and vetoed that course. He insisted that any negotiations by his administration would have "a different tone" from those of the Clinton administration. Instead of negotiating, the Bush administration has consistently favored bluster, empty threats and tough talk.

At the very moment George W. Bush took the oath of office as president in January 2001, North Korea's nuclear reactor had been frozen for seven years under a 1994 agreement negotiated by the Clinton administration. In fact, toward the end of Bill Clinton's term, U.S. officials were so sure they were close to agreement that Clinton considered emulating Richard Nixon's trip to Beijing by becoming the first American president to visit Pyongyang. Hard-line conservatives had long objected to the deal that froze North Korea's nuclear program, which had been given the unwieldy name of "Agreed Framework." Ironically, their resistance stemmed largely from its provision for the construction of two light-water nuclear reactors that were actually to be financed not by the United States but by Japan and South Korea.

Determined to kill the Agreed Framework, hard-liners in the newly elected Bush administration looked for an excuse to scrap it. They found one when U.S. intelligence discovered a secret North Korean program to enrich uranium. After confronting Pyongyang with the evidence, we cut off delivery of the diesel oil promised under the Agreed Framework. North Korea responded by ordering international inspectors to leave the country, and restarted its nuclear reactor. In order to obtain plutonium for nuclear weapons, they began reprocessing the 8,000 spent fuel rods stored in a holding pool that had been under the control of the evicted inspectors.

The following year in the 2002 State of the Union address came the president's infamous blanket labeling of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the "axis of evil"--a speechwriter's three-nation Frankenstein creation. "The U.S. will not permit the world's most destructive regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons," he promised. The president next added insult to injury with his now-famous intemperate remark to Bob Woodward, then researching his book Bush at War: "I loathe Kim Jong-II," and his description of North Korea's pudgy ruler as a "pygmy" (he is only an inch taller than five feet) and a "spoiled child." Tough talk and personal insult may play well in American politics but indiscreet, undiplomatic cowboy language is especially frowned upon in Asia, where such words are considered pointedly rude, unseemly and threatening.

Unlike the Clinton administration, which had stated in no uncertain terms that it would attack if North Korea attempted to reprocess the plutonium rods, the Bush administration left the consequences of such action purposely vague to keep Pyongyang in the dark about consequences. They also wasted time in trying to include neighboring nations, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, in meetings. For its part, North Korea insisted that it wanted to talk only with the United States. Following President Bush's reelection in 2004, the administration finally hammered out a "statement of principles" that included economic assistance, security guarantees and normalization of relations with the U.S. In return, North Korea would agree to abandon its nuclear program. The new policy also held out the hope that Pyongyang would get the light-water reactors originally promised under Clinton's Agreed Framework.

Like a sleight-of-hand magician, the Bush administration has kept the country's attention focused on Iraq in a calculated attempt to avoid close scrutiny of its lack of a lucid policy toward North Korea and Iran, military or otherwise. Now the chickens have come home to roost, and the blame game begins. This country has known for more than fifteen years that North Korea has been separating plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel for possible use in a nuclear weapon. It should not have come as a surprise that North Korean scientists would be able to test a nuclear device. George W. Bush's ill-defined strategy for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is now completely in disarray. North Korea has demonstrated that they have created a device that can implode, however imperfectly, and compress a quantity of plutonium into a critical mass, creating a nuclear explosion. Historically, North Korea has now become the ninth nation to test a nuclear weapon.

Responding to last Sunday's event, President Bush focused on the dangers stemming from a spread of nuclear technology. After a hurried phone call to the leaders of China, South Korea, Russia and Japan, he said, "Once again, North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond." Criticizing North Korea for passing missile technology to Syria and Iran, he called the Pyongyang regime "one of the world's leading proliferators." The U.N. Security Council also quickly denounced the North Korean action and began work on a U.S.-sponsored resolution punishing North Korea for violating a moratorium on nuclear testing.

The U.S. proposal also would authorize international inspection of all cargoes moving in and out of the country to prevent Pyongyang from selling nuclear technology to other nations or to terrorist groups. The latter will undoubtedly be a hard sell. China and Russia, until recently North Korea's only friends, are now making noises that indicate a willingness to join in sanctions of some kind. China, which supplies more than 70 percent of North Korea's fuel and 40 percent of its food is deathly afraid of punishing impoverished North Korea so severely that its rickety economy collapses. Already victims of periodic, almost endless famine, its starving population could stream into China in the event of North Korea's complete breakdown and overwhelm the border provinces of Jilin and Liaoning.
There is, of course, more than enough blame to go around and be shared by three major international blunderers who contributed to today's stalemate: George W. Bush, who refused to negotiate with the North Koreans; Chinese President Hu Jintao, who has long avoided a direct confrontation with his immediate neighbor; and the third player in this high-stakes game, Kim Jong-Il, so cut off from reality he had convinced himself that Washington would welcome negotiations.


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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (10/05/06)


"Insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results." This wisdom, a favorite of engineers and scientific researchers, is called to mind by the growing resemblance of the Iraq mess to our experience in Vietnam. Who's to blame? Start with a supine Congress's failure to declare that a state of war existed between the United States and Iraq. Doing so would have made it possible for Iraqi forces to formally surrender their units and their arms to Coalition forces instead of melting away with their weapons and munitions. Congress abdicated its responsibility and gave the President the power to wage a pre-emptive war, with all-too predictable consequences.

Our stubborn, incurious frat-boy president lives in a bubble, has a comic book attitude toward the war and a predilection for telling flatulence jokes. Totally unwilling to consider alternative courses of action, for him it's "my way or the highway." His vice president, Dick Cheney, is the power behind the throne, a role he shares with Karl Rove. Cheney has a good reason for wanting to "stay the course"; his former firm, Halliburton, gets richer the longer the occupation persists--and so does he. Those clamoring for the impeachment of George W. Bush would be wise to ponder the implications of a truly frightening thought: "President Dick Cheney."

Then there's defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the arrogant micromanager of all things military at the Pentagon. "Stuff happens" was his comment about the looting of Baghdad's hospitals, universities and museums. When a Tennessee National Guardsman complained about the lack of adequate armor on vehicles, his response was, "You go to war with the army you have." A curious comment coming from someone who had personally created the very army fighting in Iraq. And let us not forget the handmaiden to this triumvirate, secretary of state (and former national security adviser) Condoleezza Rice who cannot remember ever being warned about impending terrorist attacks.

Now it can be told: It seems that Vietnam War dinosaur Henry Kissinger, Nixon's Secretary of State, has met regularly--and secretly--with President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Seeing the lack of progress in Iraq through the prism of Vietnam, Kissinger became a behind-the-scenes source of advice on our policy there. He even produced a copy of his 1969 memo to President Richard M. Nixon in which he wrote: "Withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public: The more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded." Obviously fighting the Vietnam War over again, Kissinger reiterated this message in a column last year in The Washington Post: "Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy." Now we know the origin of "stay the course."

It is no coincidence that only two days after retired Gen. Jay Garner arrived in Iraq as head of postwar planning, he was notified that L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer, a Kissinger protégé, would be arriving to replace him. Among his first acts, Bremer, the presidential envoy and putative Proconsul, signed two disastrous orders. The first prohibited some 50,000 members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from holding government posts. The other disbanded the Iraqi military, leaving hundreds of thousands of disgruntled, unemployed and still armed troops at loose ends. Bremer was rewarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Much of the blame for our present predicament must be laid at the doorstep of defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a veritable Darth Vader and control freak at the Pentagon. When Rumsfeld took over in 2001, he became enamored of a concept that had been circulating in military circles, and made it his own. Called "military transformation," this theory of warfare scrapped old concepts in favor of lighter, faster, more agile--and more lethal--combat forces. In the mid-1990s, the development of "smart bombs," precision-guided munitions capable of destroying enemy targets with a single shot, combined with high-resolution intelligence sensors in drones and rapid communication networks meant a revolution on the battlefield. If enemy forces could be knocked out from the air, less armor and artillery would be needed, and their long and sluggish supply lines could be dispensed with. Unfortunately, the resulting force was unsuited for crucial occupation duty.

Rumsfeld's ambitious plans for reorganizing and downsizing the Army did not sit well with the military brass. Friction quickly developed with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki. In retaliation, Rumsfeld's office leaked the name of Shinseki's successor fourteen months before his retirement, thus effectively making him a lame duck. Rumsfeld treated officers of all ranks harshly, and was proud of his practice of "wire brushing" them by asking questions he knew they could not answer and then chewing them out and demeaning them in public. In Rumsfeld's eyes, this is his way of letting them know who's the boss. Experts see the passive acceptance of flawed Rumsfeld battle concepts without protest by senior officers as payback for his callous and insensitive treatment of them.

Transformation was a great idea on paper; its execution by former naval aviator Rumsfeld was something else. Among the wasteful items still carried on the Pentagon budget but better suited to the Cold War are F-22 stealth fighter planes, each costing about $170 million; continued development of the F-35 Joint Strategic Fighter, a smaller version of the F-22; a new souped-up version of the F/A-18 fighter plane--all to be used against enemies whose air forces can barely get their outmoded aircraft off the ground; a new Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine at a time when the Navy already has a surplus of existing submarines.

The administration has followed a calculated plan to keep this nation perpetually in a state of fear for political advantage so the public will be oblivious to the breakdown of our armed forces. Traditionally the three services have shared equally in budgeted funds. The Army has borne the brunt of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet Rumsfeld has limited the Army's budget for fiscal year 2008 to $114 billion. In an act bordering on insubordination, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, who came out of retirement to take over as Army chief of staff, declined to submit his budget requests, saying that the Army needed another $17 billion simply to repair equipment or there was no point in submitting a budget.

The statistics are grim: The 3rd Infantry Division is scheduled to go back to Iraq soon on a third tour of duty, yet two of the division's four brigades aren't combat ready, having none of their armored vehicles and only half their troops. Nearly 1,500 Humvees, M2 Bradley fighting vehicles and other vehicles await repair at the Red River Army Depot in Texas. The same situation is true of 500 M1 Abrams tanks at the Anniston, Ala., depot. None of the Army's five largest depots is operating at more than 50 percent of capacity--all because of lack of money.

Drunk on neocon-induced dreams of military glory, George W. Bush has spent astronomical amounts on Iraq as compared with the pittance spent on rebuilding New Orleans. The U.S. is the only democracy in the developed world that does not offer health care to its citizens as a right. We rank 43rd in infant mortality behind such superpowers as Cyprus, a small island in the eastern Mediterranean, Andorra, a tiny country in the Pyrenees, and Fidel Castro's Cuba. As in Vietnam, thousands of brave soldiers have been killed and wounded in Iraq--for what? Insanity indeed is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.


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