‘Cash starved’ Pentagon?

Buried in the business pages of the Sept. 30 New York Times was a story by Tim Weiner headlined, “Pentagon is Cash Poor Even as Spending Jumps.”

In the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the Pentagon budget is a record $500 billion, including funding for 77 weapons systems whose combined price tag will eventually total $1.3 trillion.

That astronomical sum is twice their original cost. The top 10 defense contractors, including Vice President Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, raked in $82.5 billion in contracts last year.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Weiner reported, became a smokescreen for ramrodding weapon systems through Congress no matter how expensive, unworkable, or useless in the “war on terrorism.”

Yet U.S. occupation forces in Iraq, Weiner said, are falling $1 billion short each month and are forced to beg Congress regularly for additional operating funds. This supplemental funding is a deceitful Enron-style accounting trick to hide the mushrooming cost of the war and occupation of Iraq.

Secondly, it exposes the cruel disregard for our soldiers’ safety, even as Bush and Cheney spout demagogy about “supporting our troops.”

The parents of some soldiers are spending hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets and mailing body armor to their sons and daughters in Iraq because Bush put them in harm’s way lacking this protection.

In the vice presidential debate in Cleveland Oct. 5, John Edwards pointed out that he voted against a supplemental appropriation because it contained a $7.5 billion “no-bid” contract for Halliburton coupled with a cut in combat pay for the troops.

The real question is why did Bush send the soldiers to die in the first place when he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, no Iraqi ties to Sept. 11? Surely this war for oil and empire is an impeachable offense that calls for a vote to remove Bush and Cheney Nov. 2. They deserve a long term in a federal penitentiary, not a second term in the White House.

Bush flouts Kyoto

The Russian cabinet approved the 1997 Kyoto Protocol Sept. 30, clearing the way for the parliament to ratify the agreement on curbing greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

To take effect, it must be ratified by at least 55 countries who were parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and who account for at least 55 percent of global emissions. The United States has rejected the protocol, but Russia’s approval would allow it to go into effect.

Scientists have grown more alarmed in their warnings that global warming is worsening and may reach a point of no return. Already, the polar icecaps and glaciers are melting, raising sea levels that ultimately will flood coastal cities and plains, such as those in Bangladesh and The Netherlands.

The arctic permafrost is melting, deserts in Africa are spreading, and there is a discernible rise in climatic extremes, with more violent storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding. The string of devastating hurricanes that lashed the Caribbean and the southern tier of the U.S. this season are a harbinger of worse to come if we do not act now.

The costs of this climate change run in the hundreds of billions globally each year and hit impoverished Third World nations hardest. The Kyoto Protocol is a minimum step to reverse the process and it is an outrage that the Bush administration continues to flout it, rejecting global warming as “unproven science.”

Why does Bush resist? Part of it is his “know-nothing” hatred of science, which also explains his rejection of stem cell research. Part of it is his contempt for international law. Another factor is his close ties to the petrochemical and auto companies.

These billionaires call the tune and George W. Bush dances. By contrast, Democrat John Kerry has endorsed the Kyoto Protocols and will be far more responsive to the demands of the growing environmental movement. It is another reason to vote to oust the entire oily Bush gang.