Backtalk, October 24, 2008

When Is a Child Not a Child?

It may have been worthwhile to mention in the article that Omar Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier and injured others; perhaps by doing a little research of their own your readers could come up with the rest of the information that should have been in the article and which would help them better form a judgment as to whether or why this individual should have been detained.

~ Robert Borland

Andy Worthington replies:


I’ve written at length previously about the charges against Omar: how he is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier, and how there appears to be a good case that the U.S. authorities either suppressed evidence – or altered evidence after the fact – which indicated that Omar may not actually have been responsible for throwing the grenade. (There’s a whole article about his background if you follow the link in the first line).

The issue at stake here is not why he was detained; it is about his age at the time he was seized, and the refusal of both the U.S. and Canadian governments to meet their commitments under the UN’s Optional Protocol. But even putting aside Omar’s age for a moment, if you want to raise the issue of Omar’s capture, perhaps you could explain to me why it is that, having been caught in a military context, during an ongoing military occupation, Omar was not regarded as an Enemy Prisoner of War, and protected from “cruel and inhuman treatment” and coercive interrogations, according to the rules laid down in the Geneva Conventions, and was regarded as a terrorist instead. Is it really acceptable, in Bush and Cheney’s Brave New World, for U.S. soldiers in a military context to be soldiers, but for anyone who opposes them to be labeled a terrorist?

Has the ‘Amber Light’ Turned Green?

What always bothers me about this kind of article is that all these matters are military secrets and the people who deal with them don’t simply blab them to their favorite barman or worse yet, to journalists. Those who do blab secrets simply never get to be “senior Pentagon officials”! I am therefore always inclined to assume that this sort of pseudo-confidential information is a plant and is, essentially, U.S./Israeli military propaganda designed to keep the pot simmering, so to speak, in the hope that the Iranians will get scared and make a mistake. If even little ol’ me smells a rat, what are the chances that the Iranians, with several thousand years of successfully playing international power politics behind them, are likely to be fooled?

~ Michael Kenny

Gordon Prather replies:

Obviously, dear reader, you have not spent several decades in various “policy implementing” positions in our nation’s capitol. Some of us have a pretty good idea who that “senior Pentagon official” is, know how he came to be there and remains there, and think we know why he “blabbed.” If “we” thought it was idle chitchat, I wouldn’t have written the column. I encourage you to reread a column I wrote on 14 September 2002, entitled “No nukes in Iraq – what then?” and others like it.

Liquidating the Empire

Among several imbecilities in Buchanan’s piece, “Liquidating the Empire,” I was particularly struck by his comment, “Where Ike spent 9 percent of GDP on defense, Reagan 6 percent, we spend 4 percent.”

Of course Ike was waging the huge Korean War. And Reagan, under the sway of notorious prevaricators Rumsfeld and Cheney and Wolfowitz, was boosting defense spending to counter a grossly exaggerated, “imminent” threat from the then-collapsing USSR. (See Robert Parry’s repeated dissections of this “hidden history,” e.g. “Obama’s Dubious Praise for Reagan,” and see also the Atlantic Monthly‘s good piece, “Reagan and the Russians.”)

But Buchanan must be a sucker for government fictions if he really believes we currently spend a mere 4% of GDP on defense. It’s more like 10%, and the evidence for this comes from “right-wing sources,” not the “anti-American left.”

First up is Paul B. Farrell’s piece, “America’s Outrageous War Economy!” You’ll find it at the Wall Street Journal-maintained Web site,

Farrell says we’re spending $1.4 Trillion on defense per year. We have a $13 Trillion dollar economy. You do the math. 10% is conservative!

O.K., so maybe Farrell hates America.

Very well, then, lets turn to Robert Higgs, Ph.D., whose piece, “The Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget Is Already Here” was published by the libertarian Independent Institute on March 15, 2007. Higgs unmasks our true defense costs. Ex-Afghanistan, ex-Iraq and ex-Homeland Security Department, the basic tab, as of 17 months ago, is $1Trillion per year. Add those “supplemental” costs – two ongoing wars and Homeland Security – and we’re at $1.4 Trillion + today, easy. That’s about $10,000 per American worker, per year.

But don’t be surprised that “conservatives,” particularly self-described, and proud, “fiscal conservatives” tout the official total. It’s how they justify chastising the poor, infirm and elderly to be “more reasonable” about the assets they drain from the feds. Those squandered resources, they argue, could be better spent on boosting our “flagging” defense!

Buchanan chimes right in on this theme, ticking off scads of new “threats” for which our military-industrial, protection racketeers clamor to protect us against, for a small fee, of course. To his credit, Buchanan says that we need to retreat from the role of Toppo Coppo. But the reasons he gives are not that we have no business being in that line of work in the first place, but that we need to quit because we can’t afford to do it anymore!


But, the fact is we can afford adequate defense. For let’s just look at who our potential “real” enemies might be… – Russia and China. Combined, they spend something in the vicinity of $100 Billion/year on defense. And if you add up all the money the entire rest of the world spends on defense, it’s some ~$500–600 Billion. We scarcely need to be spending at least twice what everyone combined spends, if not three times as much!

It’s our ever-expanding defense budget that poses the greatest threat to our national security. For it’s no longer about defending us from any likely, or even possible, threat anymore. It’s about saving corrupt defense contractors, legislators and lobbyists from the unemployment line and the prison cell. And, of course, it’s about bringing home the (borrowed) bacon, too!

~ Gary L. Aguilar, MD

Reagan Palled Around with Terrorists, Too

Jim Lobe has acknowledged erroneously placing Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the White House; there are other errors in the piece as well. Hekmatyar and Ahmad Shah Massoud received roughly 19-20% of arms shipments. There did exist Pakistani Army and ISI opposition to Massoud due to his collaboration with the Soviet 40th Army. Also, the story that Hekmatyar threw acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil, has been discredited. Vitaly Mitrokhin, a KGB archivist who defected to the West and wrote The KGB in Afghanistan, claims this story was KGB “active measures” or disinformation. This was done, according to Mitrokhin, due to the fact that Hekmatyar was the most effective anti-Soviet fighter. Milt Bearden, former CIA station chief in Islamabad said this story was “classic KGB disinformation.”

~ Bruce G. Richardson


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