Thursday, March 22, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad denies that
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's bodyguard was tortured to death, Baghdad
states he was sent to a hospital, as the day progresses, they change that to
"hospitals" (pretend not to notice, the press did), Iraqiya's prepared to bring
up the ongoing political crisis at the Arab League Summit (scheduled for the end
of this month in Baghad), the US Congress hears that DoD can't be successfully
audited because everything is in such disarray, and more.
"The purpose of today's hearing is to review the accuracy of pay to active
service members in the US Army," explained US House Rep Todd Platts in his
written statement this moment as he co-chaired a joint-hearing. "The hearing
will examine the findings of an audit conducted by the Government Accountability
Office of the Army military payroll accounts for Fiscal Year 2010. In 2010,
there were nearly 680,000 active duty Army service members whose pay was handled
by the Defense Finance Accounting System, or DFAS, centered in Indianapolis.
GAO conducted its audit of DFAS in order to verify the accuracy and validity of
Army payroll transactions."
Because of various issues with documentation, there's no way for the
Government Accountability Office to truly do an audit. Chair Platts noted in his
written statement, "The Army payroll is also a significant portion of total
Department of Defense. As a result, the Department of Defense cannot pass an
audit unless the payroll systems are auditable." It you can't audit, there's no
accountability and no real oversight.
That hearing started a little late and there was concern about votes being
called shortly so to speed things along, Platts, Chair of the House Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Organization,
Efficiency and Financial Management and Senator Thomas Carper, Chair of the
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Federal Financial Management
Committee, waived their opening remarks and entered the written remarks into the
record. Appearing before the two Subcommittees were the Army Reserve's LTC Kirk
Zecchini, the GAO's Asif Khan, the Army's Director of Accountability and Audit
Readiness James Watkins, the Army's Director of Technology and Business
Architecture Integration Jeanne Brooks and Aaron Gillison, the Deputy Director
of Defense Finance and Accounting Service-Indianapolis.
US House Rep Darrell Issa is the Chair of the House Committee on Oversight
and Government Reform and he made a surprise appearance as well.
Chair Darrell Issa: I came here for two reasons. First of all,
when the House of the People [House of Representatives] and the other
house [Senate] get together, it means that we have what it takes to move
positive legislation all in one room so it's always preferrable to have us hear
the same thing and come away from a hearing knowing we have to act and how we
have to act. So the second reason is that, Colonel, like you, I was an enlisted
man, paper leave and earning statements, 1970, it was real paper, as it was for
Senator Carper. If one piece of paper got ripped out of there, it was gone
forever. My enlisted time was fairly uneventful although I had a lot of TDY
[Temporary Duty] and a lot of different supplemental dollars as an EOD enlisted
man. But when I was commissioned, I saw the other side of it. I was
responsible for up to 200 men and women who were constantly having to get
compassionate pay, they were having to get 25 or 50 dollars because when the
PCSd [Permanent Change of Station] in the paper work got lost. We would keep
them sometimes for a couple of months not getting their real pay because there
was a problem -- particularly if they were coming from overseas. That was
approaching half a century ago. We've come a long way, we've come from paper to
electronic. But we haven't come far enough to have the kind of proactive effort
to where you should never have to say, "Well how do we pay this person? What do
we do? Do we send them to the USO or do we in fact find some other way?" And,
more importantly, do we no longer have people who receive pay and then somehow
say, "Oh, that was a SNAFU and for the next six months, we're going to be
deducting." I represent [Marine Corps Base] Camp Pendleton and, as a result, I
see that happening. Naval assets and private assets have to find ways to take
care of families because there's been an overpayment and then it has to be
repaid. Last but not least, I had the pleasure of leaving the Army and the only
time I've ever been audited -- personally audited -- was the year I left the
Army and there's nothing worse than trying to explain all these various per
diems in pays that are tax free if X,Y and Z to a man who's never served in the
military but whose job it is to get a little money out of you. So I believe
that when we get to where we do the job right, it will for our men and women in
uniform, especially those who have families who are also earning and they've got
to bring these together in a predictable way to make payments. So I'm glad to
see that my good friend Chairman [Edolphus] Towns is also here. That gives us
an awful lot of legacy of this Committee to hear it and to respond. So, Mr.
Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you all for being here
today and I yield back.
Edolphus Towns is the Ranking Member (and former Chair) also chose to
submit his opening statements for the record. The lack of accountability, the
inability to do an audit, should be disturbing from a taxpayer stand point.
We're going to focus on LTC Kirk Zecchini who has served 28 years (for any
wondering, he's served in both of the current wars -- Iraq and Afghanistan) and
his testimony to provide one person's struggle to get the pay they deserve and
have earned. The excerpt that follows will be in order but we'll do jump cuts
(indicated by: "[. . .]") to work through several examples.
Chair Todd Platts: In your time, have you ever had an instance
where you -- because pay was not properly provided to you -- that it ended up a
hardship, financial hardship, because of incorrect balance in a checking account
or are you aware of any soldiers you've served with who have?
LTC Kirk Zecchini: Well, from my personal experience, the only real
hardship that I encountered was when I was in Afghanistan and my pay just
stopped for about a month-and-a-half and I still had a mortgage and I still had
bills to pay back home. Fortunately, I had a little bit of savings while I was
still deployed but, yeah, that was a really tense period, not knowing when the
pay was going to get turned back on again.
Chair Todd Platts: In that example, where it was delayed, was there
any compensation -- meaning any interest for the two months that were not
properly paid when it finally was?
LTC Kirk Zecchini: No, sir.
[. . .]
Chair Thomas Carper: I guess you're not the only person you served
with who had some problems with pay. We did in my unit, I presume you had
problems in your unit. Were the problems similar in nature to those you
experienced, or were they different? Were there any commonalities? Or was it
just across the board, wide variety of problems?
LTC Kirk Zecchini: I can't say that I've ever experienced the same
Chair Thomas Carper: How about when you think of your colleagues
with whom you served? Did they have similar problems or were they different
kinds of problems?
LTC Kirk Zecchini: I would have to say different. Again, my
experiences were different from the typical Guardsman, where I had a lot of
active duty time, a lot of TDYs. I did a lot more than outside of the
Chair Thomas Carper: Sure sounds like you did.
LTC Kirk Zecchini: So I'd have to say that mine were a little bit
different and broader than most of my peers.
Chair Thomas Carper: You allued to this, but I think you said
there was a period of a month or two when you didn't get paid at all. And when
I think of overseas, I was married and had no wife or children and the Navy
pretty much took care of our immediate needs, they fed us and gave us a place to
sleep and there was medical care and that kind of thing and so we were able to
save -- guys like me, we were able to save like every other pay check. We
didn't make much money but we didn't spend much either. I had no wife or
children to support. I tried to help my sister a little bit to go to college but
that was the big obligation I had. But that's not the case with a lot of folks.
Especially today when we have a lot of Reservists deployed to activated
deployed, we have a lot of Guardsman and women activated deployed and they do
have families. And when they have problems with their pay, it's a whole lot
more difficult and a lot more complex. Okay, put yourself in the position of
just providing good advice through us, but for us, to the folks who are charged
with fixing these problems. I realize we'll never get to perfection. That
should be our goal. And if you were just to provide some advice, good advice,
with the folks charged with fixing this, and our job is to have oversight and
try to make sure that it's addressed, what would be the advice? It can be fairly
general, it doesn't have to be specific. One of the best, I'll give you an
example, we had a guy before us testifying on the Finance Committee a couple of
months ago on deficit reduction and I asked him what do we need to do on deficit
reduction -- he's Alan Blinder, former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve,
professor of economics at Princeton -- and asked what do we do on deficit
reduction? His big deal on deficit reduction is health care cost -- if we don't
reign in corporate health care costs we're doomed. He said I'm not a health
economist but I asked him what you'd do about reigning in the deficit, he said,
"I'm not a health care economist but here's what I'd do: I'd find out what
works, I'd do more of that." That's exactly what he said. "I'd find out what
works, do more of that." I said, "You mean find out what doesn't work and do
less of that?" And he said yes. So that's actually pretty good advice in
everything we do, not just reigning in health care costs. But what should we do
here? What should the folks in the Dept of Defense do to address this
LTC Kirk Zecchini: Well obviously, I have seen a lot of changes in
28 years from paper statements to electronic statements now. And those have all
been, you know, good things. Most recently Defense Travel System came online,
where you can enter your travel claims online and that was huge. That really
took the paper work piece and it streamlined the process for travel vouchers.
You get paid now in three or four days where it used to take you a month to get
your travel pay.
Chair Thomas Carper: So that's a great improvement?
LTC Kirk Zecchini: Yes. DTS was, in my mind, great. But not
everyone has access to DTS. I had access because I was full time federal
technician where most traditional Guardsman and Reservists don't -- don't have
that system yet.
[. . .]
Ranking Member Edolphus Towns: How many times did you [. . .] have
the pay problem during your years of service?
LTC Kirk Zecchini: After I started talking to Mr. Tyler last week,
I started thinking back to my career. I gave him some good examples but -- the
ones I just testified to -- but I can think of several other ones that weren't
such a big deal and they were pretty easy to fix at the unit level. But
Ranking Member Edolphus Towns: It was so many times you can't
remember? Is that what you're saying?
LTC Kirk Zecchini: Yes.
Ranking Member Edolphus Towns: Wow. How widespread is the problem
LTC Kirk Zecchini: I mean, you hear people talking about pay
issues, you hear, you know, just dining chow how talk, people always -- somebody
always seems to have a pay issue that they're dealing with.
Ranking Member Edolphus Towns: How long did it take, the longest
period, for you to correct your pay?
LTC Kirk Zecchini: The example I mentioned about my
one-and-a-half-months without pay in Afghanistan that was the longest that I
ever went without a pay check. But the longest that I ever had to deal with a
problem in getting resolution to the problem was the one where I didn't get my
various allowances from my missions in Southeast Asia. That took about a
Ranking Member Edolphus Towns: Wow. Could you just walk us
through one process of how you went about it to get paid? Just
LTC Kirk Zecchini: About what?
Ranking Member Edolphus Towns: Walk us through a process you had to
take in order to get paid. In other words, you didn't get your check and what
you had to do in order to get it?
LTC Kirk Zecchini: Well the example I mentioned about the pay in
allowances from Southeast Asia, I was working in Bangladesh and the Philippines
and all through Southeast Asia. Each of these different countries has a
different rate for hostile pay fire in the Philippines or hardship duty pay in
Bangladesh and I wasn't even aware that these allowances were there when I was
performing the duty. It was just through talking with my active duty
counter-parts who were there with me that I was informed that we were entitled
to these allowances. So when I got back to Ohio, I went back to my unit and
inquired about getting these allowances. I actually had to look through the
regulations. There's a chart they have in the rig that tells you that if you're
in this location during this time of year, you're entitled to this much money.
It was a pretty complex set of numbers and my unit clerk, my unit administrator,
certainly didn't know how to process that, so that's when it got pushed up the
chain of command. It went to Military Pay. Military Pay didn't seem to know
anything about it. And, you know, time went on, I put together a spread-sheet. I
actually did a lot of the legwork for them to make it easier to understand what
I was supposed to get as opposed to what I did get. And, uh, it languished.
And eventually I wrote a letter to the Ohio Inspector General requesting
assistance. And that's when I finally got some action.
[. . .]
Chair Todd Platts: At what point in that year-and-a-half long
process [on the Southeast Asia pay issues], how long had you tried working
through the channels before you went that route to get it taken care
LTC Kirk Zecchini: I went to my unit initially in August of 2004, I
would say the very next month, in September, it got pushed up the chain to the
Ohio State Headquarters.
Chair Todd Platts: Alright.
LTC Kirk Zecchini: And I worked the issue with them probably until
August of '05 when I was getting ready to go to Iraq, I knew I was going to be
deployed again, so at that point I really just had to do
Chair Todd Platts: Right. So-so, for about a year, you kind of
worked through the regular channels without success and this is something, once
you were aware of, seems pretty straight forward. You were in this country, you
qualified, yet a year later, you still weren't being compensated
LTC Kirk Zecchini: And it was a significant dollar amount too. It
Chair Todd Platts: Roughly, round number?
LTC Kirk Zecchini: As I recall, it was a couple thousand dollars
Again, main point regarding waste and oversight: It can't be determined
because the DoD can't be truly audited with so many problems with regards to
their records. Main point with regards to those who are serving, it is a battle
just to get paid and to be paid what you've earned.
From the Congress, to the north, Michael Bell is a former Canadian diplomat
of many years and now is Professor Bell at the University of Windsor where he
focuses on the Middle East. From time to time, he also writes a column for the
Globe & Mail
. Today he weighs in on Iraq
:The Americans had sufficient control and influence to
prevent a rout in Iraq, but as that control dissipated and their efforts at
democratization became increasingly problematic, they changed horses. Since
their departure, they have devoted their best efforts to helping Mr. Maliki
consolidate Iraq as a viable state player because of its geostrategic
importance, despite his increasingly well-documented abuses. Barack Obama's
administration is proceeding, reluctantly, with the sale to Iraq of more than
$10-billion in military equipment, much of which is serviceable for control and
intimidation.Mr. Maliki has
increasingly used the power of the state to consolidate his own autocracy,
accused by human-rights groups of intimidation, corruption, deceit, torture and
cronyism. Witness the arrest warrant issued for his Sunni vice-president, Tariq
al-Hashimi. Witness his son and deputy chief of staff Ahmed, reputed to be the
most powerful person in his entourage. Anyone deemed a threat is at risk for
their lives in Mr. Maliki's Iraq.
And that's Iraq today. Don't
expect to hear about those realities from the White House. Tareq al-Hashemi is
Sunni and is a member of Iraqiya -- the political slate who won the March 2010
elections but Nouri having the White House's backing meant that elections in
Iraq didn't matter, that what the people wanted didn't matter, that 'democracy'
was as much a pretense under Barack Obama as it was under Bully Boy Bush. Tareq
al-Hashemi was in the semi-autonomous Kuridsh region of Iraq when Nouri
al-Maliki issued a warrant for his arrest. He has remained in the KRG as a
guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani.
Baghdad has repeatedly demanded that he be handed over. It's cute to watch
Nouri not get his way for once. (At least so far.) al-Hashemi has noted that
Nouri controls the Baghdad judiciary and that he cannot receive a fair trial in
Baghdad (which is correct as evidenced by nine Baghdad judges pronouncing
al-Hahsemi guilty last month despite the fact that no trial had taken place --
the Iraqi Constitution makes it the law that you are innocent until proven
guilty in a court of law, that's not a slogan, that's not a bumper sticker, it's
written into the Iraqi Constitution, it is the law -- the very same law the
judges are supposed to be upholding but clearly either ignore or are ignorant
of). al-Hashemi has asked that the trial be held in Kirkuk.
Since December, those working for Tareq al-Hashemi have been rounded up by
Nouri's forces. At the end of January, Amnesty International was
for the Baghdad government "to reveal the whereabouts of two women
arrested earlier this month, apparently for their connection to the country's
vice-president. Rasha Nameer Jaafer al-Hussain and Bassima Saleem Kiryakos were
arrested by security forces at their homes on 1 January. Both women work in the
media team of Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is wanted by the Iraqi
authorities on terrorism-related charges." Yesterday, al-Hashemi noted that his
bodyguard had died and stated that it appeared he had died as a result of
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi
is calling for the international community to call out the death of his
bodyguard, Amer Sarbut Zeidan al-Batawi, who died after being imprisoned for
three months. al-Hashemi has stated the man was tortured to death. The photo
Alsumaria runs of the man's legs (only the man's legs) appear to indicate he was
tortured, welts and bruises and scars. They also report
that the Baghdad Operations
Command issued a statement today insisting that they had not tortured al-Batawi
and that he died of chronic renal. They also insist that he was taken to the
hospital for medical treamtent on March 7th and died March 15th. Renal failure
would be kidney failure. And that's supposed to prove it wasn't torture?
If you work for an outlet that just spits out what you are told and didn't
actually learn a profession, yes. Anyone with half a brain, however, apparently
that's half more than the average journalist possess today knows to go to
science. The Oxford Journal
is scientific. This is from the Abstract
for GH Malik, AR Reshi, MS Najar, A Ahmad and T Masood's "Further observations on acute renal failure following physical
" from 1994:
Thirty-four males aged 16–40 (mean 25) years in the period from
August 1991 to February 1993 presented in acute renal failure (ARF), 3–14 (mean
5) days after they had been apprehended and allegedly tortured in Police
interrogation centres in Kashmir. All were beaten involving muscles of the body,
in addition 13 were beaten on soles, 11 were trampled over and 10 had received
repeated electric shocks.
Out of that group? 29 did live. Five died. I don't think the Baghdad
Command Operations created any space between them and the charge with their
announcement of renal failure as the cause of death. But, hey, I went to
college and studied real topics -- like the law and political science and
sociology and philosophy -- and got real degrees not glorified versions of a
general studies degree with the word "journalism" slapped on it. So what do I
A bit more than Salam Faraj (AFP) who not only
cause of death wrong -- BCO issued a press release, kidney failure is layman's
term, the press release uses renal failure, don't interpret, report, don't
improve, be factual. I thought there were some guidelines for reporters but
apparently reporting's nothing more than a creative writing class and a whim.
He refused treatment, Faraj wants to introduce into the record. When? Because
Faraj can't even give you the damn dates from the BCO press release -- such as
March 7th al-Batawi was taken to the hospital. These are things that should be
in the report. Their absences means AFP
is more into gossip than
reporting and also makes AFP
look really stupid to anyone who can read
Arabic and wonder why AFP
missed all the details of this story --
details contained in a public press release? It's cute to that March 15th isn't
there in the report either. But AFP
does want you to know that on
March 18th, the body was handed over to the family -- the family that
didn't talk to. It's something, but heaven help us all of that
passes for solid reporting. Someone denies torture and says, oh, cause of death
was . . . It's incumbent upon you to look into that given cause and its
relationship to torture if it has any. If you didn't do that, you didn't do any
reporting. You did stenography. Nothing more.
a much briefer account and
does a far better job. They also note that Iraqiya MP Salman al-Jumaili has
called today for an investigation and is stating that human rights organizations
should also be examining the death. Reuters also does a better job
but you have to wonder if all the 'additional details'
(embellishments and filigree?) that the government keeps adding aren't being
tracked and noted. Example, originally, it was stated he was taken to one
hospital. That was by the Baghdad Command Operations in their official press
release. Later in the day, the Supreme Judicial Council spokesperson
Abdul-Sattar al-Briqdar stated "he was sent to several hospitals." Why did the
number change? Why is the spokesperson weighing in? Has the Supreme Judicial
Council conducted an investigation? If so, did they complete it rather fast?
Wasn't the body turned over to the family too soon for an autopsy? Wouldn't an
autopsy be needed for a spokesperson for the courts to pontificate at such
length and with such certainty?
Iraqiya is headed by Ayad Allawi. Al Mada reports
that Iraqiya is said to be planning
to present a memorandum to the Arab Summit (due to be held in Baghdad at the end
of this month) which will detail a number of unresolved and internal issues
including Iranian threats to Iraqi forces, human rights violations and the
refusal to implement the Erbil Agreement. In addition, they plan to address the
lack of national partnership. Alsumaria notes
this plan as well and quotes a
spokesperson for Iraqiya stating that the Arab League Summit is supposed to be a
discussion of Arab peoples and therefore the issue is pertinent and valid. Dar Addustour notes
that there is
supposed to be (another) prep committee meeting on the national conference to
address the political crisis this coming Sunday.
Yesterday Lale Kemal (Today's
, "An advisor to a senior Turkish state official
quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as telling US President
Barack Obama following the US withdrawal of troops from Iraq in late December of
last year that 'you [US] left Iraq in the hands of Iran once you withdrew'." Alsumaria TV notes
that Turkish warplanes bombed Arbil Province. Dar Addustour
a woman and her four children were slaughtered in Saffron and
that security checks are being carried out -- apparently door-to-door searches
-- in the neighborhood (all five were killed by a knife or knives). Iraqi youths
continue to be targeted for being Emo and/or gay or for being thought to be one
or both. Al Jazeera has a very strong overview of the issue
(link is photos, text and videos)
and we'll grab that topic tomorrow (and
I'm saying that here to make sure that happens, we'll also grab a Jane Arraf
weekend report that I've had to keep pushing back and pushing back).
Oh and those other Iraqis -- a throw away line -- who sacrificed
their lives. In other words, you know, American lives are all that count here,
you know, American chauvinism and support for the American military that's
carrying out illegal, unjust and immoral wars and committing War Crimes. So,
anyway, with that, I am glad to be talking about Iraq. You know, we can't erase
the memory of Iraq, of what happened there and the lessons we should be
learning. And I agree -- I like David's point: "No, repeat the lies that were
told. Let the people know.' But you know, I thought about it, it's just -- my
book actually deals with the history of US and British intervention in Iraq
since the 1920s. It goes through the Iran-Iraq War, the sanctions. It's
interesting because now there's a big thing about the IAEA and Iran, right?
Well you if you read my book, you'll find out the IAEA was involved in planning
coup de'etats and assassination attempts against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Of
course, that's not mentioned. But anyway, so I-I-I think it's very important to
ponder the real lessons of Iraq. And that's what I want to do today. And not
feel, "Oh, well." You know, this is reflected in our attendence here. "Oh,
that's over with. Let's move on." Or let's move no where. We really -- The
Iraq War is incredibly revealing of the nature of this system, the illegitimacy
of the entire system and the need for fundamental change and revolution if you
stop and think about this. And that's what I want to reflect on a little bit
here today. So,first of all, what I want to start out with is a quote which I
think -- I want to deconstruct this. This is from BAsics, from the talks and writings of
Bob Avakian who is the leader of the Revolutionary
Communist Party that I support, I write for its newspaper Revolution. He
writes, "The essence of what exists in the US is not democracy but capitalism,
imperalism and political structures to enforce that capitalism and
imperalism." What the US spreads around the world is not democracy, the
imperalism and political structures to enforce that imperialism." So just think
about that. Not democracy, but capitalism, imperialism, political structures to
support it. We didn't vote for the Iraq War, if you remember. And when the
Iraq War began, 15 million people around the world and I mean hundreds of
thousands in this country went out to the biggest protest since sometime in the
sixties. 'Oh, that's a focus group.' Never mind. In other words, the political
structures were not in anyway reflective of what people needed or want, they
reflected the needs of capitalism and imperalism. That's what they were doing.
Did the war reflect the consent of the governed? "Oh, here's what we're going
to do in Iraq. Would you like us to do that?" No, it's -- as David pointed out
-- one lie after another. And I liked your ten lies because it is hard to get
how contorted and inflated and all this: 'No, Saddam Hussein's a Sunni and he's
a secular ruler but, no, he's in bed with al Qaeda, the Islamic fundamentalists
who, by the way, hate him.' And never mind, so we heard it on Fox News. You
know, what about the so-called free press? That's supposed to be a pillar of
democracy. It wasn't just that they repeated lies, they suppressed anyone who
spoke the truth. Phil Donahue? Gone. [. . .] And then what does that say
about the nature of that system? In other words, this quote I read, what the
essence of what exists points to the fact that the economic base of society, the
capitalistic system, is what sets the terms, not public opinion, not the
interests of people, not how you vote, none of that. The system is determined
and the terms are set by the needs of this capitalist, imperialist system and
the political structures serve them. And what are the needs of that system?
This is a system that demands global exploitation of labor -- go see the Mike
Daisey Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs, Apple and all their parts made in China
and so on and so forth. And it demands control of resources. It demands
control of markets. And all of this is enforced how? By military bases. 732
military based in what -- 120 or 130 countries and one war or intervention after
another -- by violence. And this is how the system actually functions, this is
how it works. And this is actually what was behind the Iraq War because a lot
of people realize that lies were told in the Iraq War but they don't realize why
the war was fought. You know, this is the biggest lie of all. And the New York
Times sometimes will say, 'Well it's true that Judith Miller made a mistake in
her reporting. You know, we'll leave aside the fact that all of this was
deliberate, it wasn't a mistake, it wasn't bad intelligence." But what they
never tell is you is: "Oh, by the way, this was a war of imperialism. Because
since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we the US ruling class have realized
that we have an opportunity to create an unchallenged empire across the globe
because we don't face any other super powers. And if we don't seize this
opportunity, our window of the unipolar moment" as they called it "would vanish
and we'd be in big trouble because we have a lot of problems and contradictions
in our own system and we're facing China and Russia, they could re-emerge. In
fact, let's not let any regional powers rise to challenge us." And this was the
driving logic behind the whole war on terror and the invasion of Iraq. A lot of
people thought, "Oh, the invasion of Iraq was a 'diversion' from the 'real war
on terror'." No, it wasn't. It was the perfect embodiment of the "real war on
terror" which was never about catching a few dozen or a few hundred or however
many there were al Qaeda or Saudi or whatever groups did the 9-11 attacks. It
was about restructuring the entire Middle East and Central Asia and locking it
more firmly under US domination. And, yes, defeating Islamic fundamentalism
because it was creating problems for the US. This is a big reason they don't
like Iran. And then using that region really as a hammer against the rest of
the world. Why is the Middle East so important to the functioning of the system?
And here, I do think people, I do think the capitalist class overall benefits
from this. That's what keeps the wheels humming and turning. Yes, there are
contractors that made some money. Sure, but that's not the essence of it
because one US president after another, Democrat or Republican -- it doesn't
matter, has considered the control of the Middle East central to US global
power, right? This is why Israel looms so large for the US, because it's their
military outpost. The Middle East, 60% of the world's energy sources. Energy is
a strategic commodity that allows you -- It's not about SUVs and do consumers
have good gas prices? It's about global dominance. Because if you control oil,
you can shape the global economy and you can control powers that depend on
Time and space permitting, I would love to highlight more of that
conversation tomorrow. If that's not possible, we may grab it next week.