Pentagon does not account for Billions; Congress sends more Cash

by Robert Burns

The House prepared Tuesday to send President Barack Obama $33 billion to pay for his troop surge in Afghanistan, unmoved by the leaking of tens of thousands of classified military documents that portray a war effort beset by Afghan shortcomings.

War Pigs continue financing Genocide in the Middle East

From Obama on down, the disclosure of the documents was condemned anew by administration officials and military leaders, but the material failed to stir new anti-war sentiment. The bad news for the White House: A pervasive weariness with the war was still there — and possibly growing.

At a Senate hearing on prospects for a political settlement of the Afghan conflict, there was scant mention of the leaked material, posted on the website of the whistleblower group WikiLeaks, but there were repeated expressions of frustration over the direction of the fighting.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who has questioned the realism of U.S. goals in Afghanistan though he supports the war, pointedly asked why the Taliban, with fewer resources and smaller numbers, can field fighters who are more committed to winning than are Afghan soldiers.

“What’s going on here?” Kerry asked with exasperation.

Still, the House seemed ready to vote final approval for more than $33.5 billion for the additional 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and to pay for other Pentagon operational expenses. Other non-war provisions brought the total bill to nearly $59 billion.

Republicans were strongly behind the major war spending, with opposition coming mostly from members of Obama’s own Democratic Party who argued that the money could be better spent at home. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the leaked documents revealed corruption and incompetence in the Afghanistan government.

“We’re told we can’t extend unemployment or pay to keep cops on the beat or teachers in the classroom but we’re asked to borrow another $33 billion for nation-building in Afghanistan,” McGovern said.

At the separate Senate hearing, meanwhile, Sen. Edward Kaufman, D-Del., questioned whether the U.S.-led war effort is capable of pushing the Afghan government to provide the kind of leadership that wins the confidence of the population.

“Can we carry this off?” Kaufman asked.

In his first public comments on the weekend leak of tens of thousands of documents, Obama said it could “potentially jeopardize individuals or operations” in Afghanistan. But he also said the papers did not reveal any concerns that were not already part of the war debate.

Obama said the shortcomings in Afghanistan as reflected in the leaked documents explain why, last year, he undertook an in-depth review of the war and developed a new strategy.

“We’ve substantially increased our commitment there, insisted upon greater accountability from our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developed a new strategy that can work and put in place a team, including one of our finest generals, to execute that plan,” Obama said. “Now we have to see that strategy through.”

The leaked documents are battlefield reports compiled by various military units in Afghanistan that provide an unflinching view of combat operations between 2004 and 2009, including U.S. displeasure over reports that Pakistan secretly aided insurgents fighting American and Afghan forces.

Even as the administration dismissed the leaked documents as outdated, U.S. military and intelligence analysts were caught up in a struggle to limit the damage contained in the once-secret files now scattered across the Internet.

In Baghdad, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters he was “appalled” by the leak, which he said had the potential of putting troops’ lives at added risk.

Officials also are concerned about the impact the disclosures could have on the military’s human intelligence network built up over the past eight years inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The people in that network range from Afghan village elders who have worked behind the scenes with U.S. troops to militants working as double agents.

Beyond expressions of disgust at the document dump, the political fallout in Washington appeared limited.

Advocates of pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan said the leaks reinforced their argument for disengaging. War supporters said they illustrated why Obama was right to decide last December to send an additional 30,000 troops and step up pressure on the Afghan government to reform, while pressing Pakistan to go after insurgents on its side of the border.

At the State Department, spokesman P.J. Crowley said efforts to explain to Afghanistan and other allies that the U.S. government played no role in leaking the documents seemed to have paid off.

“We’re very gratified that the response thus far internationally has been moderate, sober,” Crowley said.

In his only reference to the leak, Kerry called the new material “over-hyped,” said that it was released in violation of the law and that it largely involved raw intelligence reports from the field.

The House, meanwhile, prepared to approve legislation to pay for the extra 30,000 troops.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., said he was torn between his obligation to bring the bill to the floor and his “profound skepticism” that the money would lead to a successful conclusion of the war.

Even if there were greater confidence, he said, “it would likely take so long it will obliterate our ability to make the kinds of long-term investments in our own country that are so desperately needed.”

US lawmakers call for end to Afghan war

PressTV

The Democratic and Republican lawmakers have called on President Barack Obama to provide Congress with a clear plan to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.

The lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum called Thursday for an end to the Afghan war.

A group of US lawmakers said the war was a drain on US “blood and treasure”.

“Every dollar spent and every life wasted in Vietnam was just that: A waste,” said Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler.

The revolt against Obama comes as Washington is expected to pump another 37 billion dollars into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief, Leon Panetta, recently admitted that the Afghan war has proven to be much harder and longer than anticipated. He also alluded to serious problems in the US-led war, acknowledging that the Taliban are gaining an upper hand in the battle.

This is while Obama has promised to start withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan in July 2011.

The rising foreign casualties have sparked anger among the public in the countries allied with the US in Afghanistan.

In addition to the foreign troops’ casualties, thousands of civilians have also lost their lives either in US-led raids or in the Taliban-led militancy across the violence-wracked country. Rising number of civilian causalities is undermining support for the presence of US-led forces in the country.

The US-led invasion of Afghanistan was launched with the official objective of curbing militancy and bringing peace and stability to the country. Nine years on, however, US and Afghan officials admit the country remains unstable as civilians continue to pay the heaviest price.

Corrupt Newspapers ‘softened’ Torture After U.S. began Using it

By Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
July 2, 2010

Torture, as a tool to obtain information from a human being is disgusting, inhumane and illegal by all measurements in past and

Do as I say, not as I do. This seems to be the motto of the torturers and the pandering media.

modern societies.  It is unthinkable that anyone with red blood in their veins could consider it acceptable to torture a person in order to obtain information that as it has been widely demonstrated, (1) has never provided any useful details to prevent a disaster.  In the western world, torture is mostly seen as unjustified, (2) and only some power men who control the militaries of the world still agree to use torture in various forms to get details of ‘plots’ to attack the free world.  Only a population that never experience torture as a tool to criminalize citizens could hesitate before the question, Is Torture Ever Justified? (3)

How would public perception change if the media that feeds propaganda to them on a daily basis simply began to indirectly condone or soften torture as a tool the government uses in times of war? A study conducted by Harvard reveals that the four newspapers with more circulation in the U.S. effectively mischaracterized the use of waterboarding -as a form of torture- after it was discovered the United States waterboarded and humiliated prisoners.  (4) The study conducted by Law students at Harvard says that The New York Times, the USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal either refused to call waterboarding torture or did it in only and handful of their articles that talked about the use of torture by the United States.

We found a significant and sudden shift in how newspapers characterized waterboarding…   … from 2002‐2008, the studied newspapers almost never referred to waterboarding as torture. The New York Times called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture in just 2 of 143 articles (1.4%). The Los Angeles Times did so in 4.8% of articles (3 of 63). The Wall Street Journal characterized the practice as torture in just 1 of 63 articles (1.6%). USA Today never called waterboarding.

According to the study, newspapers were more likely to call waterboarding torture if another country was the perpetrator of the crime.

The New York Times, 85.8% of articles (28 of 33) that dealt with a country other than the United States using waterboarding called it torture or implied it was torture while only 7.69% (16 of 208) did so when the United States was responsible. The Los Angeles Times characterized the practice as torture in 91.3% of articles (21 of 23).

Although waterboarding has been debated and talked about since the beginning of the century, it was never so close to home as it has been in the last decade.  After 9/11, and in the middle of a careless campaign to hunt a nonexistent enemy, the U.S. launched a military assault in Iraq and Afghanistan to find and kill the murderers who had killed innocent Americans.  There was very little concern in the public’s mind as to how this goal was achieved and what would it take to bring them to justice.  Then came Abu Ghraib (5) and a mass awakening took place.  Was the U.S using the very same techniques it had condemned in the past?  The answer was YES.

Harvard’s study examined the newspapers’ coverage using electronic databases.  “Our research team word searched for the term “waterboarding”, these included classifying the practice as “torture,” giving it some lesser, negative classification (such as calling waterboarding “inhuman”), giving it a softer, less negative classification (such as calling waterboarding “objectionable”), or not characterizing the practice at all.”  The study analyzed the reporting of four major newspapers using Proquest, LexisNexis, and the NY Times website archives.  Read more about the methodology on page 5 of the study.

“The results of this study demonstrate that there was a sudden, significant, shift in major print media’s treatment of waterboarding,” concludes the study.  After the Abu Ghraib scandal, the four studied newspapers changed the word torture for “harsh” and/or “coercive”, to describe waterboarding.  This behaviour was seen both in articles considered as “news” as well as those classified as “opinion”.  Although Harvard’s study does not provide any possible reason why this change in wording occurred, it does cite an article by New York Times editor Clark Hoyt, who said that this behaviour was a deliberate decision made by Journalists and Editors in an effort to remain “neutral”.

The study refutes Mr. Hoyt’s statement with the fact newspapers comfortably called waterboarding and other practices of the sort “torture” before 9/11 and even before 2004 without any reserves.  Another reason why Mr. Hoyt’s affirmation is baseless, is that waterboarding had been labeled torture and an illegal practice by American law, international law, and the very same newspapers that now justify their actions by calling themselves “neutral”.

(1) http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-torture-does-not-work-as-history-shows-777213.html

(2) http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/military_0604.pdf

(3) http://hotair.com/archives/2009/12/04/pew-poll-public-support-for-torture-at-five-year-high/

(4) http://www.hks.harvard.edu/presspol/publications/papers/torture_at_times_hks_students.pdf

(5) http://www.antiwar.com/news/?articleid=8560

Peak Oil no More

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

So there is plenty of oil and gas after all. Prices will tumble along gently until well into the next decade. We are becoming more

The existence of massive abiotic oil reserves around the world has confirmed that Peak Oil is just a lie.

efficient in our use of energy, with 3pc extra savings annually. That is a faster pace than the rising real cost of fuel. Mankind will not run out of fuel for a very long time.

That at least is the story today from the International Energy Agency. Their medium-term outlook for fossil fuel markets is a dazzling contrast with last year’s warnings that a combination of break-neck industrialisation in China and lack of investment in new oil fields (thanks to the credit freeze) would exhaust global spare capacity by 2013.

The IEA said then that we would need “four new Saudi Arabias” within a generation to cope with the rise of China, and there were no such Saudi Arabias in sight. Such are the perils of forecasting the volatile variables of supply and demand for oil.

What has changed – apart from human emotions? For starters, the global gas market has been undergoing a revolution as a result of a) liquefied natural gas, a technology that is only just coming into its own and allows countries such as Qatar to ship their once useless reserves of gas on frozen hulls across the world; LNG output will increase by 50pc from 2008 to 2013. Actually, this is not that new, but never mind.
b) advances in US gas extraction from rock, which have turned the US into the world’s biggest producer of gas. Europe is jumping on the bandwagon. “The development of unconventional gas in North America is of global significance,” said the agency. Indeed it is. The knock-on effects run right through the energy complex.

The IEA now expects spare capacity of oil to remain at a comfortable 3.5m barrels a day (bpd) in 2015, with consumption edging up by an extra 1m bpd each year to around 90m bpd (or 92m if global growth is stronger). All this is quite manageable. It talked of a “gentle nominal price escalation through mid-decade, with prices rising from $77 to $86″.

The alarmist stories we heard last year from certain City banks about collapsing supply (I will spare the names) were wildly wrong. The IEA’s upward revisions from 2009 come from the US, Russia, Colombia, Canada, Mexico, Norway, Egypt, and even the UK (+80,000).

Supply is rising from off-shore Brazil, the Caspian, Canadian oil sands, and biofuels, offsetting declines in the North Sea. Non-OPEC output will actually grow from 51.5m (bpd) to 52.5m by 2015. No crisis there … Latin America will jump from 3.9m to 5.1m, the old Soviet bloc from 13.3m to 13.8m.

On the demand side, America’s gasoline use is slowly “evaporating”. Consumption is falling by 0.6pc a year. This will continue after the new standard of 35.5 miles per gallon for light vehicles that came into force in April. Battery technologies for electric vehicles are on the cusp of a break-through, so long as lithium does not run short, (Half the world’s reserves are in Bolivia). Japanese researchers have built an 8-wheel prototype with a motor in each wheel that massively extends battery life because less energy is lost. “The transportation game-changer is just beginning,” said the IEA.

There are “demand risks”. Large parts of Asia, Latin America, and the Mid-East are at cusp of the “critical oil demand ‘take-off’ zone of $3,000 to $4,000 per capita income” when use explodes – ie, when they move from bicycles to scooters to cars, and install air-conditioning. Demand from emerging economies will make up 52pc of total global consumption by 2015. ( The rich countries have already hit the “S Curve” of saturation, followed by a long slow slide).

I am not an oil expert, just a curious spectator like many readers. I keep an eye on energy markets because they are a window into the global economy and the world’s strategic system.

I pass on the report without taking any particular view, and would be interested in your thoughts. My own suspicion is that Peak Oil has not been conjured away quite so easily as the IEA suggests, especially after BP’s debacle in the Gulf of Mexico.

At the very least, the marginal cost and risk cost of deep-sea drilling has rocketed. This must affect projects off Brazil, Angola, the Norwegian Arctic, and up in Russia’s `High North’. If the spill keeps gushing into the Autumn it may do to sea drilling, what Three Mile Island did to the US nuclear industry for thirty years.

Jeremy Leggett from Solarcentury and a member of the UK’s Task Force on Peak Oil argues that Big Oil has systemically overstated reserves for years to inflate share prices, shielded by captive regulators. Their deception compares to the systemic errors of the banks in the credit crunch, but ultimately on a bigger scale and with potentially more nefaste consequences.

I reserve my judgement on this. The energy market is infuriatingly opaque. But on balance, I think IEA was closer to the truth last year.

China to be the new largest manufacturer, shortly

FT

The US remained the world’s biggest manufacturing nation by output last year, but is poised to relinquish this slot in 2011 to China– thus ending a 110-year run as the number one country in factory production.

Chinese workers

The influx of cheaply made goods is imminent as China becomes the largest producer for a global consumer market.

The figures are revealed in a league table being published on Monday by IHS Global Insight, a US-based economics consultancy.

Last year, the US created 19.9 per cent of world manufacturing output, compared with 18.6 per cent for China, with the US staying ahead despite a steep fall in factory production due to the global recession.

That the US is still top comes as a surprise, since in 2008 – before the slump of the past two years took hold – IHS predicted it would lose pole position in 2009.

However, a relatively resilient US performance kept China in second place, says IHS, which predicts that faster growth in China will deny the US the top spot next year.

The US became the world’s biggest manufacturer in the late 1890s, edging the then-incumbent – Britain – into the number two position.

Hal Sirkin, head of the global operations practice at Chicago-based Boston Consulting Group, said the US should not despair too much at the likelihood that it would lose the global crown in manufacturing to China.

“If you have a country with four times the population of the US and a tenth of the wages, it is fairly obvious they will pull ahead at some time in productive capabilities,“ he said.

Last year, according to IHS, goods output by the US totalled $1,717bn, ahead of China at $1,608bn.

However in 2011, on the basis of IHS’s estimates, China’s factory output will come to $1,870bn, a fraction ahead of the projected US figure for the year.

If China does become the world’s biggest manufacturer, it will be a return to the top slot for a nation which – according to economic historians – was the world’s leading country for goods production for more than 1,500 years up until the 1850s, when Britain took over for a brief spell, mainly due to the impetus of the industrial revolution.

The IHS figures are worked out on the basis of current-year output numbers, translated into dollars, with no adjustments for inflation. If the figures are calculated in inflation-adjusted, constant price terms, then I HS believes that the US will keep its top role in manufacturing for a little longer.

On an inflation-adjusted basis, which is based on a forecast that US inflation will be lower than that in China over the next few years, China is forecast to take over the number one position in manufacturing in 2013-14.

According to the IHS numbers, world manufacturing output last year came to $8,638bn (€6,979bn, £5,825bn) or 16.7 per cent of global gross domestic product.