Written 309 pm Feb 14, 1991 by nicriesdif in cdpcries.regionews PEACE DIVIDEND DOWN WAR IN

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----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Written 3:09 pm Feb 14, 1991 by ni:criesdif in cdp:cries.regionews PEACE DIVIDEND DOWN: WAR INDUSTRY DIVIDENDS UP To appear in the magazine "Pensamiento Propio" #78 Mar. 1991 By Nick Cooke [The Gulf war] is a new excuse for the arms race.... Those who produce weapons should be very happy today because they will have much more work." Oscar Arias. Former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize winner. "The defense contractors are going to cash in.... There are days when I wonder if they didn't put Saddam Hussein up to this whole thing." Pat Shroeder. US Congresswoman and member of the House Armed Services Committee. "Come on Wall Street, don't move slow. Why man, this war is going to go. There's money, good money to be made By supplying the army with the tools of the trade" Country Joe and the Fish. From the song "I feel like I'm fixin' to die rag", banned from radio play in the US during the Vietnam War. It didn't take long for the Pentagon and the military- industrial complex to solve their existential dilemma which was provoked by the end of the Cold War and the decline in the threat presented by its old adversary, the Soviet Union. Faced with an attack on its budget and talk of a "peace dividend" (funds which could be diverted from the military towards other areas of the government), the US defense/war planners counterattacked in defense of their "raison d'etre". The Pentagon's first battles in the Gulf war resulted in a victory, not on the desert battlefield but in the corridors of power in Washington. Every February, the US administration presents its budget proposals for the coming fiscal year (October to October). In last year's debate, there was a lot of talk about reducing defense spending. The global budget deficit had reached the astounding figure of 1.6 million million dollars ($1,600,000,000,000) during the Reagan years and now it was proposed to somehow reduce that figure by $500,000 million by 1996. The defense expenditures of 2.4 million million dollars over the eight years of the Ronald Reagan administration had obviously contributed significantly to the overall deficit and became a target for the Democratic Party legislators in the US Congress. Since half of the approximately $300,000 million per year spent on defense was to protect Europe from the now diminished Soviet threat, the possibility existed to redirect those funds to other projects or to use them to slow down the growth of the fiscal deficit in order to alleviate the effects of the oncoming economic recession. Over the course of the budget debate, the George Bush administration agreed to implement cuts in the Pentagon budget in exchange for approval from the Democrats for the levying of new taxes and the implementation of cutbacks in some federally-funded social services. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, General Colin Powell, predicted in May that over the course of five years, the budget would be trimmed by 25% of the over $300,000 million average annual figure. (To put this figure into a more graphic perspective: if that many one dollar bills were lined up end to end, they would circumnavegate the globe at the Equator and there would still be enough left over for making seven trips between Baghdad and Tel Aviv. If they were stacked, the pile would be as high as nine Mount Everests. If someone were to count them at a pace of two per second, it would them 9.5 years. That amount of money would finance the Nicaraguan government budget for 500 years using the 1991 budget figure as a benchmark.) Powell was playing with numbers. The proposed cutbacks would in effect be implemented at a slower rate than those in the last years of the Reagan administration, and the profit margins of the military industry were to be maintained. For example, instead of producing 132 B-2 Stealth bombers at a cost of $530 million each, 75 were proposed, at a per unit cost of $815 million. The Search For A New Just Cause Begins While the budget debate continued in Washington, the media began to focus the world's attention on a new threat: Iraq. Saddam Hussein had attempted to import vital electronic components for the construction of nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein was trying to develop a new long-range artillery piece capable of lobbing shells - with nuclear, chemical, or bacteriological warheads - thousands of miles. A new "devil" was being created to justify the need for the United States to continue playing the role of the world's policeman. The "evil empire to the East" was diminishing as a threat as fast as the Soviet superpower was breaking up. Libya's "madman" Khadaffi was keeping quiet. Panamanian "strongman" Noriega was in jail in Miami. Nicaragua's Sandinistas ("the red tide") had taken a dive at the polls. Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini had died, and its ten-year war with Iraq had greatly reduced the menace of the spread of Islamic revolution. The "war on drugs" and being prepared for possible small- scale regional conflicts in the Third World were being used to argue for maintaining some of the Pentagon's high-tech weaponry modernization programs, but neither was sufficient to justify the requests being made for defense funding. Iraq began to provide the necessary justification. Reports went around the world about the massive military might of the Mesopotamian megalomaniac who wanted to take over the Middle East. He has tanks, airplanes, a million-strong army, and chemical and bacteriological weapons, maybe even a nuclear capacity. Iraq has the fourth or fifth largest military in the world and the world was told that something must be done to counteract this threat to its security. In July, a dispute erupted with Iraq accusing Kuwait of stealing $24,000 million worth of oil and of depressing the world price of oil by over-producing. On July 18, Iraq moved thousands of troops into position along its border with Kuwait. Then on August 1, the United States made what appeared to be a strange diplomatic move. Alice Glaspie, the US ambassador to Iraq, told Hussein that "Bush personally wants to expand and deepen relations with Iraq.... We don't have much to say about Arab-Arab differences, like your border differences with Kuwait. All we hope is that you solve these matters quickly." Hussein, it seems, interpreted this to mean that the United States was giving him the green light. The next day, Iraqui forces rolled across the border and took over its former province, the kingdom of Kuwait. Despite claiming to have been taken by surprise, US diplomacy moved quickly the next day to beat Iraqui diplomats to Syria and Egypt and line them up against Hussein. The Bush administration had found just the just cause it was looking for. "The first principle of a just war," said Bush on January 29, "is that it support a just cause. Our cause could not be more noble." The United States presented itself to itself and to the world community as the defenders of national sovereignty against agressor nations like Iraq and new Hitlers like Hussein. Bush could now make his dream, expressed during his election campaign, of "a thousand points of light" come true with bomb bursts over Baghdad and Basra. Top Dollar Top Guns Last August, at the outset of what came to be called the Gulf crisis, Bush was more honest about his motives. Speaking to a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he stated, "I will oppose the defense budget slashers who are out of tune with what America needs to keep freedom secure and safe." He told the assembled veterans that a lesson to be learned from the Gulf crisis is that the military be given "the tools to do its job." He mentioned as examples new nuclear missile launch systems, the B-2 Stealth bomber, and the Strategic Defense Initiative (the SDI or "Star Wars" program). Despite the arms limitation agreements reached previously with the Soviet Union, and despite the decline in power of that superpower, the Pentagon together with the defense industry maintained their plans to continuously rearm the US military with weapons systems which as well as being more and more sophisticated, carried a higher and higher price tag. Some prices on the list include: $4.4 million for an Abrams battle tank; $50,000 for a copperhead anti-tank shell; $1.35 million for a Tomahawk cruise missile; $1.11 million for a Patriot anti-missile missile; $50.43 million for an F-15E fighter bomber; $11.7 million for an Apache AH-64 attack helicopter. A list as long as the prices are high. In the past, critics of Pentagon policy pointed to the exhorbitant amounts paid to producers of these weapons. But now, with the war against Iraq underway, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney says that all those who complained about paying $800 for a screw, one of the examples of overspending cited most often, can see that it was well worth it because the weapons work. Back in November, Cheney said that the Gulf crisis "reminds everyone that even with significantly improved relations between the US and the Soviets, there is still a significant requirement for a US military force in the world." He was happy about the results of the recently-concluded budget debate. The final figure awarded to the Pentagon was only $18,800 million less than the previous year's allocation instead of the $24 million cut proposed in September. (The final figure for defense of $288,300 million is coincidentally almost equal to estimates for the 1991 increase in the US fiscal deficit of $293,700 million, which in turn is a figure double that of the annual figure from 1987 to 1989.) This does not include the major portions of the budget given to NASA for it work in outer space which are dedicated to military purposes. Dealing With Debt In The Desert This budget allocation, however, did not include the money being spent at the time for Operation Desert Shield; that was financed until October 1 with a special assignation of $2000 million, an advance on what at that time was going to be an estimated cost of $17,500 million until September 1991. (A figure roughly equal to the amount solicited from the United States by Nicaragua in the International Court of Justice at the Hague for reparitions as a result of the war -ruled illegal by the Court- which Washington waged over the past eight years against Nicaragua.) But the Pentagon spent more than was intended and by December 31, 1990, the price tag had already reached $10,000 million. The White House calmed financial worriers in Washington by saying that 80% of that figure was covered by foreign donations. The Pentagon had won a multiple victory as a result of the Gulf crisis, and still not a shot had been fired in anger. Not only was its budget not cut by as much as was expected, special funds were being granted and other countries were digging into their pockets to pay for the action. That, according to the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Richard Darman, is now running at somewhere between $500 million and $1000 million each day. The lack of precision in calculating the daily costs of Operation Desert Storm calls into question the budget office's estimates of what the whole war will cost. It made guesses in January, one for a short war and another for longer conflict. The short war scenario includes 3000 dead and wounded US troops and 200 tanks and 100 aircraft destroyed at a total cost of only $17,000 million. The other scenario had 45,000 dead and wounded and 900 tanks and 600 aircraft destroyed at a cost of $35,000 million. If the destroyed equipment is replaced, the figures would rise to $28,000 million and $86,000 million respectively. By the first week of February, three weeks into the war, the US government claimed that pledges totalling $66,000 million had been made by Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the Kuwaiti rulers in exile. The US State Department was placing pressure on the European members of the allied coalition to make their contribution to the war effort, offsetting the costs being incurred by the United States. The Saudi Arabian royalty, it would appear, are willing to continue contributing indefinitely. "This is a battle for survival," said one Saudi official, "and a few [thousand million] dollars don't mean much in that context. We will pay whatever it costs." But this "noblesse oblige" expressed towards Bush's "just cause" has another dimension. Last September, it was estimated that if the price of oil rose by $10 a barrel - which compared with the July 28 price of $21 it almost has - Saudi Arabia would earn more than $36,000 million a year extra over and above its expected earnings. Since then, the inflow of money has increased even more by the boosting of Saudi production levels in order to compensate for the gap created by the loss of production by Kuwait and Iraq. A new commensal relationship is being consumated between the Saudi royal family's petro-dollars and the military-industrial complex. A necessary question to ask is to what extent is Saudi export capital invested in the military industry in order to reap the benefits of the war dividends. New Budget: Star Wars To Fly Again Last year, the military-industrial complex lobbied Congress successfully to reduce the proposed cuts in the defense budget. Jobs is one argument it used to apply pressure: some 136 members of Congress have significant amounts of military industry in their district. An example of this was the successful counterattack made against the proposal to eliminate the $603 million program to develop and produce the V-22 Osprey vertical take-off airplane. The argument that helicopters can do the job just as well was brought down to earth by the promise of jobs in 34 states that would be created in a time of a threatened economic recession. More jobs are also being created by the war in the Gulf and that may prove beneficial to the US economy. Alan Greenspan president of the US Federal Reserve Bank even calculated that a "short war" would aid a US economic recovery. Planners were concerned about a 2.1% drop in the Gross National Product in the last quarter of 1990. Jobs are created because industry needs to produce desert camouflage uniforms, chemical warfare suits, pre-packaged meals for the troops, water bottles, gas masks... even condoms to slip over the muzzles of the soldiers' rifles to stop sand from getting into the barrel. The defense industry and the Pentagon have intensified their attack on the idea of trimming the amount allocated in the budget with the Gulf crisis. They are hoping for even more money in order to guarantee, according to them, that the United States retains its status as a superpower on the rise. Northrop Corporation uses the argument to favor spending on the B-2 bomber program that a Hussein or a Khadaffi could soon have anti-aircraft technology capable of tracking and downing any other type of combat plane which does not have the stealth capability of shielding itself from radar. The Gulf war and the use of Patriot anti-missile missiles (which are reportedly 50% effective) has given new life to the arguments in favor of the Star Wars program which was cut back from $4,500 million to $2,900 million in the recent budget. The program is being brought down to earth by the war planners who now talk of using the technology to develop what they call Theater Defense Missiles or TDM in order to better counter the threat of SCUD missiles like those that Iraq has, or - giving a hint of where possible new future "devils" may come from - in the event of a further break-up of the Soviet Union and the possible threat that could be posed by a renegade ruler of a republic in which Soviet nuclear missile launch facilities are located. Also talked about are the side benefits of the research into how to develop an ultra-high-velocity missile which theoretically could be launched from a jeep in order to destroy a tank. The argument now is that 12 countries each have over 100 tanks. Logically, the Pentagon will have to then propose a new program to develop tanks that are not vulnerable to such a missile. The weapons chain is an endless one. The budget debate for fiscal year 1992 (to begin in October) has already begun. The Star Wars program is high on the list of Bush's priorities and he is asking for an increase up to $4600 million for it. However, in order to appear to be appeasing the continuing desire of some legislators to cutback on overall spending, he is proposing a minimal cut in the defense allocation of about $3000 million, a little over 1% of its total. Yet once again, this figure does not include the costs of an ongoing war in the Gulf, or elsewhere. The budget planners are hoping that it will all be over before the new budget is passed in October. Time, and the plans of the US military policy makers, will tell. CHEMICAL WEAPONS: DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO George Bush has made much of the possibility that Iraq may resort to chemical warfare. In the past, he has called for an end to this threat in general in his dealings with the USSR. In May 1990, the United States and the Soviets said that they agreed to ban chemical weapons production and destroy existing stockpiles. As well, the United States had placed pressure on companies in Germany and India to not sell 257 tons of thionyl chloride (TC), a vital component in the manufacture of Sarin nerve gas, to Iran. At the same time, however, the US Defense Department was trying to rescue a budget pledge of $47 million in funding for a program underway to upgrade chemical weapons. In order to justify further funding, it needed to obtain 80 tons of TC. But they ran into a problem. Two companies in the United States that make the chemical refused to sell it to them, saying that production of chemical weapons had been prohibited. One of the companies, Mobay in Pittsburgh, is a subsidiary of the German company Bayer A. G. which was under investigation for having sold equipment to Iran which could be used to produce chemical weapons. The Pentagon responded by threatening to use a 40-year old law which authorizes the government to force firms to cooperate on the basis of national security. 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