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The $3-Trillion War

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Posted on Apr 16, 2008
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Flickr / Kevindooley

By James Harris

(Page 4)

Harris: You said earlier that it appears that no crimes have been committed or no laws have been broken.  Policy aside and politics aside, I think crimes have been committed; both American and Iraqi citizens have been wronged on a scale much larger than we will ever be able to imagine, and that there seems to be nothing tangible that we can reach out and say, “OK but at least that’s going to happen,” or “At least she’s going to make a change.”  I don’t see that, and it’s quite disheartening as you mentioned earlier.  This could be depressing.

Bilmes: Well, it could be, and I think one of the things that we found in writing the book was that, every single week, we kept coming across another incredible, unbelievable finding.  I mean, it was to the point where whoever—Joe or I—found it, we were saying, “No, this can’t be.”  But it was.  “No, this can’t be.”  But it was.  Just last week, another one emerged when it was discovered that the major contractor in Iraq, which is the Halliburton subsidiary KBR—and this really is an incredible one—has been employing its workers using a shell company in the Cayman Islands, thereby evading hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. taxes.  Now, this is not right.  Now, it was not breaking a law because there was no law saying you couldn’t do that because no one imagined it would be done.  But here we have a situation where sort of official, our official contractor, who is deeply embedded in every aspect of the war, is evading paying U.S. taxes for its employees.  And we will feel the pinch about this because eventually those employees will need Medicare and Social Security and they will have never paid into the system and this only exacerbates our already looming health care and Social Security crisis.

Harris: One of the things that this text, “The Three-Trillion-Dollar War,” does extremely well is outline a plan that prevents this from happening again.  It also speaks to some of the insufficiencies of the Constitution.  Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Bilmes: It certainly speaks to a series of limitations.  We do go through, in our book, a whole chapter of changes, legal and regulatory changes that we think should be enacted to prevent this kind of thing from happening again because we have certainly seen that it has been possible for this war to be conducted in a way that, I think, very few Americans—whether they were in favor of the war initially or not—very few Americans would have wanted to see the war conducted in the manner in which it has been.

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Harris: At a time when our nation appears desperately in need of a recipe for change, here comes this book, “The Three-Trillion-Dollar War.”  This should be required reading for every American citizen and every American politician, most certainly.  Linda Bilmes, thank you for joining us.

Bilmes: Thank you.

Harris: For Linda Bilmes, this is James Harris, and this is Truthdig.


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By John Howard, April 25, 2008 at 9:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Douglas, It seems you get off calling people dumb.  I think everyone is on the same team here and wants to make it better.  I bet you’re a Green Party member that finds it more rewarding to insult rather than solve.  Maybe your intellect would be better used working with people like Bilmes to solve the problem with the war than criticize. No wonder we are where we are.

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By Douglas Chalmers, April 21, 2008 at 7:30 pm Link to this comment

Dumb question…....

James Harris:”...... why is it important that we take this war, and our spending, more seriously…?”

Even dumber answer…..

Linda Bilmes:  ”.....what happened throughout this war, we have essentially translated the human cost into a financial cost, and then we’ve deferred that cost….... a volunteer Army, with soldiers and Marines who we pay, and with another army of contractors who we pay, but all of that money has been borrowed…”

Once again, so much for Harvard scholars whose contemporary shallowness is verified by whats-her-name’s re-interpreting “human suffering” as merely ”...the monthly—annual burn rate of the operations going on in the field…” It would hardly surprise me if she was actually from Harvard’s business school, uhh.

No wonder she actually found writing that book “challenging” as she barely seems to be able to come to terms with the concept of “human suffering” or the human condition at all in her academic fairyland. Then again, there are people on Wall Street who like to read things that way…..

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By eplebneesta, April 17, 2008 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment

Let’s at least garnishee all of the NeoCons’ assets until the war is paid for or they are up to their asses in brimstone. (And I don’t believe in that stuff. Especially not a hell made up by a 13th century Italian novelist.)
I know this is basically childish, but there is some value in not allowing these subhuman monsters to enjoy their ill-gotten blood money.

E Pleb Neesta

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By cyrena, April 16, 2008 at 7:43 am Link to this comment

We discovered, for example, that veterans who are enlisting and taking signing bonuses, if they are wounded, have been asked to repay their signing bonuses because they didn’t serve out their contract. We have found—and the GAO has chronicled hundreds of veterans who are being chased and hounded for small amounts of money that they allegedly owe the government, in most cases related to pieces of equipment that they lost because they were wounded or their vehicle exploded.

This is something that I’ve been aware of for some years now, in attempting to help what amounts to only a few of so many thousands of these veterans, to access the benefits and health care that they need.

But, it also brings to mind that the very same thing is happening on every single level where any of the corporate bureaucracy has the hammer, and that’s everywhere.

An example of the same is the experience of the widows of the American Airlines cockpit crew members who died on 9/11. (the United Airlines widows did NOT experience this problem). In short, these women were forced to go through multiple bureaucratic hoops, just to get their spouses final paychecks. The hold up? They wouldn’t release the checks because the crew members, who are paid (in part) based on their COMPLETED TRIP HOURS, had ‘failed to complete’ those flights/trips on their schedules for the day of September 11, 2001. The company held up their paychecks for weeks that turned into months, and these women had to eventually seek legal recourse to get their money.

And…NO! There isn’t the slightest thing ‘unusual’ about this. Actually, it is par for the course. Whenever and wherever any part of the corporate bureaucracy, (which includes the government, as they are now one and the same) can avoid paying anything that is legitimately due, or if they can squeeze or otherwise hound ‘the VICTIMS’ for monies that are NOT their responsibility, they do.

And…NO! There isn’t the slightest thing ‘unusual’ about this. Actually, it is par for the course. Whenever and wherever any part of the corporate bureaucracy, (which includes the government, as they are now one and the same) can avoid paying anything that is legitimately due, or if they can squeeze or otherwise hound ‘the VICTIMS’ for monies that are NOT their responsibility, they do.

I recently read an article that exposes how the private collection agencies hired by the IRS are actually COSTING more than they collect, and they hound citizens with phony claims of unpaid taxes. A friend sent me an e-mail revealing it as yet another ‘scam’ as if being perpetrated by some individual con artists. I explained that it was indeed a ‘scam’ but it was a government operation.

So, as awful as this is to be doing to our vets, the practice has long been used by multiple corporate entities; banks, insurance companies, you name it. Literally millions of citizens have been targeted at some point in time, and many have been hit multiple times. The unprecedented foreclosures are another example, because many of those have also been fraudulent and illegitimate foreclosures.

This is the same culture of scam and greed that has diminished the quality and availability of health care for our veterans. While there are still some dedicated professionals within the system, most have been run out and replaced with ...yep, private contractors for nearly every service provided..IF the vets can get any at all.

It makes me very ill.

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