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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Nouvelle explosion des dépenses du Pentagone

by Hassane Zerrouky

Pentagon’s Latest Spending Spree

Translated Friday 13 October 2006, by Carol Gullidge

To a background of accelerating American casualties in Iraq, an increase in American defence spending – based, at least partly, on the illusion of prospective victories in Iraq and Afghanistan – is to lead to a drop in future spending on the poor and elderly.

It is in a context of the worsening situation in Iraq that Congress has increased its defence budget for next year by 25 billion dollars.

A new blow for George W. Bush, less than four weeks from the mid-term elections of 7 November. Between Saturday and Wednesday, 21 American soldiers were killed, eight of them in one day in Baghdad. “Some days are tragic, and today is one of them,” declared the US Army spokesman, Colonel Barry Johnson[*]. In fact, American losses don’t generally exceed one or two soldiers per day. Since the Iraq invasion, 2,736 American military have been killed, whilst the number of wounded – 19,910 recorded at the end of August, 2006 – has since then exceeded the 20,000 mark.

800 to 900 attacks per week: White House cover-up

The extent of these acts of violence, where, according to journalist Bob Woodward, US forces are attacked on average every 15 minutes – totalling 800-900 attacks each week – has been covered up by the White House. Ironic indeed, considering that it has just allocated 20 million dollars to the 2007 defence budget in order to provide for prospective victory celebrations in Iraq and Afghanistan! As it happens, all the experts are agreed in saying that the situation is only going to get worse in 2007...

It’s in this worsening context that Congress has adopted the 2007 defence budget, which has risen to 447.6 billion dollars, including 70 billion for military operations in Iraq – an increase of 25 billion on the 2006 budget. Out of the 70 billion dollars, 17 are destined exclusively towards replacing equipment that has been worn out or destroyed by the war. And, according to the highly official Congressional Research Service (CRS), the monthly cost of the Iraq War has been estimated at 8 billion dollars per month during 2006, compared to 6.4 billion in 2005. To put this into its full context: the monthly cost of American military spending is higher than the GDPs (Gross Domestic Product) of Burkina Faso, the Congo, and Mali added together. The CRS puts an estimate of 507 billion dollars on the cost of the “War against Terrorism” since 2003. A total well below that advanced by Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, who puts it at over 1,000 billion dollars.

Drop in Social Spending

One thing is certain. In the context of a marked slowing down of American growth and a budget deficit verging on 300 billion dollars at the end of 2006, expenses due to the war in Iraq are going to lead to a reduction in social spending. The American president has, in any case, demanded reductions in retirement insurance provision, as well as health cover for the elderly (Medicare), and for the poorest (Medicaid).

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE

* Lt. Col. Barry Johnson is quoted in the New York Times and elsewhere as saying: “Obviously, this was a tragic day with eight killed in 24 hours.”

(http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/03/world/middleeast/04iraqcnd.html?ex=1160884800&en=cc8ef1399a64af6f&ei=5070)


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