The Pentagon takes command

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Quote of the day:

“‘We want to find places where France now has special privileges and ask whether it’s smart to continue those,’ one American official said.”
(Elisabeth Bumiller, “U.S., Angry at French Stance on War, Considers Punishment,” the New York Times, April 24, 2003)

The other day someone unleashed Newt Gingrich — remember him? — who promptly took out after the State Department, calling it, in essence, a nest of peace-loving, accommodationist vipers. He did everything but wave a piece of paper and claim that on it was a list of known communist (Martian, French?) traitors in the State Department. (Remember, as the New York Times reported recently, Republicans have a new language for betrayal and so speak of Democratic Senator Kerrey as looking “French.”) And where’s Gingrich been all these years. Well, here’s a shock to the system — at the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board among other places, as Jim Lobe of the Asia Times relates below. Of course, Gingrich is not completely wrong. Three veteran State Department officials did resign, issuing eloquent statements, during the run-up to war in Iraq. They were our first government refusniks of this era — and when it comes to our government’s militarized foreign policy, the State Department is reputedly rife with disaffection.

For another version of this intra-Washingtonian surprise assault take a look at Jay Bookman’s column in Gingrich’s home state paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Loose cannon Gingrich finds a new target. He says in part:

“Again, all this could be dismissed as the rantings of a washed-up politician starved for attention if not for Gingrich’s role on the Defense Policy Board and his close ties to the Pentagon establishment. The speech marks an escalation in the Defense Department’s attempt to seize control of the entire foreign-policy portfolio, including Iraq, the Middle East peace process and policy toward North Korea.

“It’s important to note that as far back as Sept. 19-20, 2001, barely a week after the attacks of Sept. 11, Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz met for 19 hours of closed sessions with Gingrich and other members of the Defense Policy Board. The topic: war on Iraq.

“These days, with the Taliban gone and Saddam gone, Gingrich and his friends need a new target. They seem to have found it in Powell.”

“It’s important to note that as far back as Sept. 19-20, 2001, barely a week after the attacks of Sept. 11, Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz met for 19 hours of closed sessions with Gingrich and other members of the Defense Policy Board. The topic: war on Iraq.

“These days, with the Taliban gone and Saddam gone, Gingrich and his friends need a new target. They seem to have found it in Powell.”

The White House, of course, denied yesterday that Colin Powell and the State Department had anything but the President’s full backing, while at the Pentagon they were publicly saying, “Newt who?” and issuing the expectable denials. (” a Pentagon spokesman said that to the best of his knowledge, no one at the Defense Department had seen Mr. Gingrich’s speech or was familiar with its content ahead of time.”) And it’s true, this is just a tiny, inside-the-Beltway gale, a passing moment. But what’s not passing is the power of the Pentagon — and its allied defense contractors. (Steven Weisman, Under Fire, Powell Receives Support From White House, The New York Times)

Money talks, they say. If so, having a $400 billion budget, still on the rise, while the rest of the social budget is being strip-mined, makes the Pentagon the 800 pound gorilla in any room. The interlocking system of the petro-military-industrial complex (economist James Galbraith’s phrase), at whose heart sits the Pentagon, is a juggernaut and its men are in the process of taking over global planning, much of foreign policy, and aspects of domestic policy as well. It’s probably an insult to the gentle gorilla to use it, even imagistically here, but when you have that kind of weight there’s a natural tendency to throw it around.

Think of this moment in Washington and the world as a little like the recent mobilization for war. There was plenty of jaw-jaw going on during all those months, and Powell’s State Department got to do its thing, but the build-up of troops in the Gulf and the planning for war never faltered during the process, nor is it likely to do so now that what’s at stake is a Pentagonized foreign policy, whether in relation to “punishing” France (and bringing Europe into line) or scotching negotiations with North Korea in favor of a new round of “regime change.” The new Iraq is, after all, being run by a military proconsul (Gen. Tommy Franks) who is over a civilian proconsul, Jay Garner, who turns out to be a former general. The military and the civilians — in our brave, new world, they all turn out to be military men: no State Department diplomats, no French anythings, no UN inspectors allowed. That’s our direction (though it seems the Shiite clerics and faithful of Iraq may have more to say about that than we imagined).

Below in addition to Lobe, you’ll find the veteran reporter for the Village Voice, Jim Ridgeway, laying out what our petro-military-industrial footprint may look like in Iraq (thanks to Danny Schechter’s column at for pointing this piece out to me); the Nation‘s Mike Klare, making clear that the one thing we really planned for in Iraq was the thing everyone knows we weren’t there for — oil (and even then the northern oil fields were looted and trashed). And finally, the scholar Seymour Melman, who has toiled almost alone in the study of the military-industrial complex for so many years, offers us a small chart of equivalencies that gives some sense of what we lose every time the Pentagon gains (and the kind permission to reproduce it in full here — unfortunately, it loses some of its formatting here, but you can get its full impact by going to the ZNET website). Tom

Gloves come off on the US home front
By Jim Lobe
Asia Times
April 23, 2003

Only a week after United States military forces consolidated their control of Baghdad, a new war has broken out, this time in Washington. The opening cannonade was delivered on Tuesday by the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives (1995-98) and member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, Newt Gingrich, at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Gingrich, who is close to Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, aimed the full fury of his rhetorical fire on a building located about two kilometers to the southwest, the State Department, which he accused of actively subverting President George W Bush’s agenda in Iraq and beyond. “The last seven months have involved six months of diplomatic failure and one month of military success,” Gingrich charged, adding, “Now the State Department is back at work pursuing policies that will clearly throw away all the fruits of hard-won victory.”

To read more Lobe click here

Corporate Colonialism
Companies . . . March!
By James Ridgeway
The Village Voice
April 23 – 29, 2003

Like one of the 19th-century European colonial empires, the Bush government is calling on Bechtel, Halliburton, and other major corporations to take over the job of running the Iraqi colony. These companies are to act in the name of the government. They are to be paid out of our taxes. It might just as well be the British East India company. The colonial corporations become the instrument of the nation-state, in this case to undertake the reconstruction of Iraq. They, not the government, are the purveyors of laws and customs and democratic ideals.

The main instrument of the U.S. in Iraq is not the Pentagon, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or the Army Corps of Engineers, but the Bechtel Group. The giant international engineering outfit has won a contract worth up to $680 million that gives the company a leading role in rebuilding Iraq, a job that eventually may cost $100 billion.

To read more Ridgeway click here

It’s the Oil, Stupid
by Michael T. Klare
The Nation
May 12, 2003

On the second day of the invasion of Iraq, US commandos seized two Iraqi offshore oil terminals in the Persian Gulf, capturing their defenders without a fight. “Swooping silently out of the Persian Gulf night,” exulted James Dao of the New York Times, Navy SEALs claimed “a bloodless victory in the battle for Iraq’s vast oil empire.”

Dao’s dramatic turn of phrase revealed more about the Administration’s plans for Iraq than almost every other report from the battlefield. While American forces turned a blind eye to the looting of Iraq’s archeological treasures, they moved quickly to gain control over oilfields, refineries and pipelines. Even before Iraqi resistance had been squelched, top US officials were boasting that Iraq’s oil infrastructure was safely in American hands.

To read more Klare click here

Looting Our Lives
by Seymour Melman
April 22, 2003
The strong — perhaps savage — accusation in the title of this short paper is in response to the post 9-11 marshalling of resources for enlarging the war powers of the U.S. government. All this is in support of a worldwide drive for profit and power, without limit, by the Bush-Cheney state capitalist directorate. A principal ?cover story? for these processes is the Guns and Butter dogma: the U.S. can afford both without limit.

See for yourself in the following data.

Cost of building housing for the 600,000 homeless families in the U.S. [1]
= $59 billion = FOR THEIR WARS

Army Comanche Helicopter program $48.1 BN & Navy Joint Standoff Weapon program $11.2 BN (SAR) [2]

Investment needed to provide 20% of U.S. electricity supply from renewable & clean sources [3]
= $80 billion = Navy SSN 774 Virginia Class Submarine program $71BN & Navy Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle program $8.7BN (SAR) [2]

Annual shortfall to meet federal safe drinking water standards and replace aging facilities [4]
= $11 billion = Total cost of the Navy’s “Future Surface Combatant” program (SAR) [2]

Additional annual investment needed to improve the condition of U.S. roads and bridges [5]
= $42 billion = Navy Trident Sub program $35 BN & Army Interim Assault Vehicle program $7 BN (SAR) [2]

“More than twice the net value of the plant and equipment in America’s manufacturing industries” [6]
= $5.3 trillion = Costs of creating U.S. Nuclear Weapon Overkill Capacity, 1940-96 [7]

Rehabilitation of all unsafe U.S. dams [8]
= $2 billion = Tactical Tomahawk Cruise Missile (SAR) [2]

Electrification of 50 miles of main-line railroad [9]
= $210 million = One Global Hawk Unmanned Drone (PAC) [2]

Annual cost to provide sanitary water to the 2.4 billion people worldwide [10]
= $10 billion = 2 Navy CVN6-B Aircraft Carriers (SAR) [2]

3,500 miles of Maglev (magnetic levitation) Train Lines, running at 266 miles per hour [11]
= $99 billion = F-22 Raptor Advanced Fighter program, [$228 million / plane] (SAR) [2]

Research program to develop zero emissions, coal gasification power plants [12]
= $11 billion = Amphibious Assault Ship program (SAR) [2]

100 New Natural Gas School Buses to replace high- polluting diesel buses [13]
= $12.7 million = One Longbow Apache Helicopter (PAC) [2]

Expand Medicare to everyone in the U.S., saving 18,000 Americans annually from death due to lack of health insurance coverage [14]
= $41 billion = C-17A Heavy Airlift Airplane program (SAR) [2]

Portion of “No Child Left Behind Act” left unfunded in 2003 federal budget This program was to help schools in impoverished areas. [15]
= $ 4 billion = C-130 Aircraft Avionics Modernization program (SAR) [2]

Annual cost to enroll 1100 Children in Head Start Pre School Programs [16]
= $7.9 million = One “Upgraded” Abrams Tank (SAR) [2]

Five years of funding for a global tuberculosis control program [17]
= $9.1 billion = E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System program (SAR) [2]

Fix deteriorating U.S. school buildings [18]
= $268 billion = One third of the estimated cost of the Joint Strike Fighter program. [19]

Estimated cost of reopening the 64 general hospitals closed in 2000 [20]
= $3.1 billion = CH-47F Cargo Helicopter program cost. (SAR) [2]

Enacted and proposed cuts to New York City Public Libraries, FY 2003 & 2004 [21]
= $52 – 55 million = Two MH-60 S Helicopters (PAC) [2]

Cost of salaries for an additional 561,000 nurses, an increase that will be necessary by 2010 [22]
= $20 billion = DDG-51 Guided Missile Destroyer program (SAR) [2]

1. AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust 2002 Annual Report, p2. ;
2. SAR = DoD Selected Acquisition Report Summary Tables September 30, 2002. PAC = DoD Program Acquisition Costs By Weapon System. February 2002.
3. “Renewing Where We Live”. Union of Concerned Scientists:
4. American Society of Civil Engineers “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure”, Drinking Water:
5. Federal Highway Administration “2002 Status of the Nation’s Highways, Bridges, and Transit” :
6. Seymour Melman, After Capitalism, P 100.
7. Seymour Melman, After Capitalism, P 100.
8. Association Of State Dam Safety Officials, April 16, 2002:
9. John E. Ullmann, Engineering estimate.
10. New York Times “Price of Safe Water for All: $10 Billion and the Will to Provide It” Nov 23, 2000.
11. New York Times, “China Tests German-Made Fast Train; Deal Awarded” January 1, 2003
12. Seymour Melman and Ben Abrams, engineering estimate.
13. Rebecca Sayre, Union Of Concerned Scientists; also
14. Thomas Bodenheimer, M.D. Physicians for a National Health Program: ;
Karen Davis, President, The Commonwealth Fund The hidden cost of a fragmented health insurance system:
15.Office of Congresswoman Tubbs Jones:
16. Administration for Children & Families, “Head Start Program Fact Sheet”, FY 2002:
17. Global Plan to Stop TB Phase 1: 2001 to 2005 page 15.
18. NEA estimate:
19. George Runner, “Califronia Needs to Compete for Key Military Jet Contract,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 2, 1997.
20. Seymour Melman, engineering estimate; Office of Inspector General , “Hospital Closure 2000”
21. The City Of New York, Summary of Reduction Programs, Fiscal Year 2004 xecutive Budget ,
22. US Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupation Projections and Training Data, 2002-3

* Seymour Melman is Professor Emeritus of Industrial Engineering, at Columbia University. His latest book is After Capitalism: From Managerialism to Workplace Democracy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001). A web site offers selected papers by Seymour Melman, including recent, 2002-3, shorter papers on the U.S. war in Iraq. The website includes a complete outline, with bibliography, for a course on War Economy that previously was offered at Columbia University. Research and layout by Benjamin Abrams. L