Iraq War

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  Democrats Consider More Money For WarOctober 31, 2007 13:18 Democrats are debating whether to approve up to $70 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan, only a down payment on President Bush's $196 billion war spending request but enough to keep the wars afloat for several more months.

Such a move would satisfy party members who want to spare the Pentagon from a painful budget dance and show support for the troops as Congress considers its next major step on Iraq.

But it also would irritate scores of other Democrats, who want to pay only to bring troops home and who say their leadership is not doing enough to end the war.

"I cannot vote for another dollar that will be used to continue the president's occupation of Iraq," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.

The debate comes as the Government Accountability Office found enemy attacks in Iraq were on the decline, from about 5,300 in June to 3,000 in September.

But GAO also found that U.S. efforts to rebuild the country lacked clear direction — a weakness "compounded" by Iraq's lack of planning for oil production.

GAO predicted Iraq would need $20 billion to $30 billion over the next several years to reach and sustain oil production of 5 million barrels per day. Current production has consistently fallen below the U.S. goal of 3 million barrels per day, GAO states.

Democratic leaders caution that no decisions have been made on the war spending, including whether to approve any money at all. Also uncertain is which spending bill might contain the war money.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he didn't think Congress should approve the money and won't deal with it immediately. Delaying the money signals to voters that "the president does not have a blank check," he told reporters.

 
  Iraq, Afghanistan Could Cost $2.4 TrillionOctober 24, 2007 10:56 The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and anti terrorist efforts abroad could cost the country $2.4 trillion over the next ten years, according to a report Wednesday.

The money, over 70 percent of which would go to support operations in Iraq, includes the estimated $600 billion spent since 2001, Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag said in testimony before the House Budget Committee. That estimate includes projected interest, since the government is borrowing most of the funds required.

The $2.4 trillion would pay to keep 75,000 troops deployed overseas from 2013 to 2017. About 210,000 troops are currently deployed. It does not include the Pentagon's normal spending, which in 2007 is estimated to be about $450 billion.

The estimated $2.4 trillion works out to about $21,500 per American household.

Without interest, the war efforts are projected to cost about $1.7 trillion. Several lawmakers noted the wide gap.

"This entire war has been paid for with a government credit card," one lawmaker said.

The CBO also prepared another estimate, this one reducing the number of troops overseas to 30,000 beginning in 2010 and not relying on borrowed funds.

Under that scenario the wars are expected to cost about $1.2 trillion.

In the runup to the Iraq war in 2003, Bush administration officials said that forcibly changing regimes in Iraq should cost somewhere around $50 billion, and would be financed mostly through selling Iraqi oil.
  Iraq Drawdown To Begin In Volatile AreaOctober 16, 2007 19:54 Commanders in Iraq have decided to begin the drawdown of U.S. forces in volatile Diyala province, marking a turning point in the U.S. military mission, The Associated Press has learned.

Instead of replacing the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, which is returning to its home base at Fort Hood, Texas, in December, soldiers from another brigade in Salahuddin province next door will expand into Diyala, thereby broadening its area of responsibility, several officials said Tuesday.

In this way, the number of Army ground combat brigades in Iraq will fall from 20 to 19. This reflects President Bush's bid to begin reducing the American military force and shifting its role away from fighting the insurgency toward more support functions like training and advising Iraqi security forces.

The December move, which has not yet been announced by the Pentagon, was described to the AP by Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry, in a telephone interview Tuesday. It was confirmed by three other officials in Iraq, including Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, chief spokesman for the commanding general of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon.

 
  Sanchez: Iraq War 'A Nightmare With No End In Sight'October 14, 2007 00:07 A former commander of coalition forces in Iraq issued a harsh assessment of U.S. management of the war, saying that American political leaders cost American lives on the battlefield with their "lust for power."

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, coalition commander in 2003 and 2004, called the Iraq war "a nightmare with no end in sight," for which he said the Bush administration, the State Department and Congress all share blame.

Sanchez told a group of military reporters in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday that such dereliction of duty by a military officer would mean immediate dismissal or court martial, but the politicians have not been held accountable.

He said the Iraq war plan from the start was "catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic," and the administration has not provided the resources necessary for victory, which he said the military could never achieve on its own.

Still, he said, the U.S. cannot pull out of Iraq without causing chaos that would have global implications.

"After more than four years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism," Sanchez said.

Sanchez pointed to what he said was "neglect and incompetence at the National Security Council level" which has put the U.S. military into "an intractable situation" in Iraq.

 
  Bush’S Trillion Dollar Failed Adventure In Iraq.October 08, 2007 07:53 Based on the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) current spending estimates for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Iraq war will probably cost a minimum of one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000.00). If Bush is correct in predicting that the U.S. will remain in Iraq for one or more decades, the cost will probably eventually reach two trillion dollars.

The total cost of this war cannot even be estimated. The annual costs are increasing so dramatically, along with increasing U.S. casualties, that the side effects and repercussions are sending shock waves throughout our economy and the world. Expensive wars can bankrupt a nation. While the war costs are skyrocketing, Bush has been simultaneously cutting taxes. If any manager of any business were to increase spending while simultaneously cutting income they would be immediately fired. But this is exactly what Bush has been doing during his entire administration. This policy is totally irresponsible. The number of U.S. service personal killed is approaching 4000. The number of non military Americans killed in Iraq is even greater. The number of Iraqi casualties is staggering. The number of seriously wounded is in the tens of thousands. The number of returning U.S. soldiers who have or will develop mental problems may be as high as 50,000 per year. The long term costs to American society to care for these physically and mentally disabled veterans is unknown. Also an unknown number of seemingly healthy veterans will likely suffer from the effects of being exposed to the depleted Uranium used in the antiarmor shells. The continued use of these weapons is producing dangerous radiation damage to soldiers and civilians in Iraq. The U.S. is also using chemical weapons which expose the soldiers and civilians to white phosphorus. This exposure will likely cause an increase in cancer and birth defects in the future children of everyone exposed. The long term effects and medical costs of the radiation and chemicals cannot be estimated. The indirect expenses incurred by the families of the veterans for the rest of their lives also cannot be estimated. The soldiers who go to war and the soldiers who return home are not the same people. The personality changes that occur when a young soldier is repeatedly exposed to the brutalities of war, forever changes their lives. Wives and husbands of returning soldiers find themselves married to a stranger. This results in domestic quarrels, divorces, murders and suicides. These traumatic events seriously effect entire families, children, friends and relatives. It has an adverse impact on our entire society.

No one knows how long the Iraq war will last or how long the U.S. will continue to occupy the devastated country. The similarities to both the Korean war and the Vietnam war are many. In all three wars, the U.S. invaded and occupied a sovereign nation. All three countries were experiencing a civil war, though for different reasons. In Korea and Vietnam the civil war between the north and south was primarily about economic systems. In both countries, the north wanted to establish communism and the south, aided and supported by the U.S., wanted to establish capitalism. These two conflicts had decidedly different outcomes. In Vietnam, the U.S. finally withdrew, allowing the Vietnamese people to declare independence, end the civil war and unite the country. In Korea a different outcome resulted. The U.S. has remained in Korea at the partition between the north and south for the past fifty years. The U.S. still has approximately 40,000 soldiers in Korea guarding this border. Korea still remains a divided country. The north has established a communistic government, while the south has established a somewhat capitalistic democracy with U.S. support.
  Concerns About Private Security Ignored, Officials SayOctober 06, 2007 19:38 The State Department, which is facing growing criticism of its policy on private security contractors, overlooked repeated warnings from U.S. diplomats in the field that guards were endangering Iraqi civilians and undermining U.S. efforts to win local support, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Ever since the contractors were granted immunity from Iraqi courts in June 2004 by the U.S.-led occupation authority, diplomats have cautioned that the decision to do so was "a bomb that could go off at any time," said one former U.S. official.

But State Department leadership, unable to field U.S. troops or in-house personnel to guard its team, has clung to an approach that shielded the contractors from criminal liability, in the hope of ensuring continued protection to operate in the violent countryside.

The procedures have come under scrutiny since a Sept. 16 shooting involving contractors for Blackwater USA, the State Department's main security contractor, killed 17 Iraqis and set off a series of American and Iraqi investigations.

On Friday, in a tacit acknowledgment of the policy's shortcomings, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered drastic increases in supervision of the security contractors. Meanwhile, the House, flatly rejecting the current approach, on Thursday overwhelmingly approved legislation that for the first time would subject contractors to U.S. criminal law.

 
  Blackwater Portrayed As Out Of ControlOctober 01, 2007 17:19 Blackwater USA is an out-of-control outfit indifferent to Iraqi civilian casualties, according to a critical report released Monday by a key congressional committee.

Among the most serious charges against the prominent security firm is that Blackwater contractors sought to cover up a June 2005 shooting of an Iraqi man and the company paid, with State Department approval, the families of others inadvertently killed by its guards.

Blackwater has had to fire dozens of guards over the past three years for problems ranging from misuse of weapons, alcohol and drug violations, inappropriate conduct and violent behavior, says the 15-page report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Just after the report was released, The Associated Press learned the Federal Bureau of Investigation is sending a team to Iraq to investigate an incident that has angered the Iraqi government.

On Sept. 16, 11 Iraqis were killed in a shoot-out involving Blackwater guards protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy in Baghdad. Blackwater says its guards acted in self-defense after the convoy came under attack. Iraqi witnesses have said the shooting was unprovoked.

The FBI team was sent at the request of the State Department and its findings will be reviewed for possible criminal liability.

The 122 personnel terminated by Blackwater is roughly one-seventh of the work force that Blackwater has in Iraq, a ratio that raises questions about the quality of the people working for the company.

The only punishment for those dismissed was the termination of their contracts with Blackwater, says the report, which uses information from Blackwater's own files and State Department records.

 
  Texas Oilman Pleads Guilty In Iraq Oil/Food CaseOctober 01, 2007 10:44 Texas oilman Oscar Wyatt pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one of five charges against him for his role in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal.

Wyatt was accused of paying millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's government to win oil contracts from Iraq. Pending his sentencing on Nov. 27, he remains free on bail, but is not allowed to leave the country. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he could face 18 to 24 months in prison.

"I did not want to waste any more time -- I am 83 years old -- fooling with this operation. The quicker I get it over with the better," Wyatt told reporters.

The self-made tycoon known for his unfettered opinions and flamboyant style also agreed in U.S. District Court to forfeit $11 million.

Wyatt had faced a maximum of 74 years in prison if convicted in Manhattan federal court on all five original charges. The trial was cut short when a special hearing was called to hear the guilty plea.

Among the original charges was engaging in prohibited financial transactions with Iraq, which stemmed from deals alleged to have violated the U.N. oil-for-food program that was designed to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraq while it was under international sanctions.