Monday, July 30, 2007

The high cost of supporting the very rich:

Our good friends the Saudis are in the news again. It seems W. wants to give them and the other Gulf nations some $20 billion worth of weapons to supposedly counter the threat from Iran. Included in W.'s laundry list of death, according the WaPo, are "air-to-air missiles as well as Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which turn standard bombs into 'smart' precision-guided bombs." The NYT reports the deal includes also "new naval vessels." [The Saudi navy? Give me a freakin' break!]

Now beyond ensuring the good people in the U.S. defense industry continue to be lavished with another decade of tax-payer largess, what else is going on here? It's not as if the Saudis or the Emirates will ever use any of this weaponry; when have they ever so much as fired a shot in anger? Besides, I thought the agreement was that they sold their oil in petrol-dollars and we paid the butcher's bill to maintain the life-style they've become accustomed to. If anyone really believes the Saudis are ever going to risk their royal hides to defend themselves or our interests in the Middle East, I have some property in Florida I'd like to sell. The very notion is absurd!

And if the Saudi royal family is really that worried about the growing threat of Iran in the Gulf, they can just forgo building a palace or two and maybe cut out a few trips to Monte Carlo and pony up the bucks themselves. Why should we have to foot the bill to defend a small number of insanely rich oil tycoons who are already getting a dollar of every gallon of gas we pump into our tanks?

Already there are some rumblings in the Congress about this deal, New York representatives Anthony Weiner and Jerrod Nadler have already said they'll present legislation to block the deal "the minute Congress is officially notified." Of course, they're opposition has more to do with protecting the interests of Israel than their stated concerns about the Saudis not being "a true ally in furthering the U.S.' interest in the Middle East," meaning their support for Sunni insurgents most likely involved in killing US troops and the unchecked flow of suicide bombers they've been turning a blind eye to every since the war began.

Amazingly, according to the NYT, the administration hasn't tied the money to the Saudis cutting out their shenanigans Iraq, although they are apparently attempting to quietly pressure them to play ball. [Yeah, that'll work] An article in the NYT on Friday featured many "senior administration officials" expressing their frustrations with the Saudi government's active support in undermining the al-Maliki government. Zalmay Khalilzad, the former ambassador to Iraq wrote an Op-Ed in the NYT last week hinting that "several of Iraq's neighbors -- not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the United States -- are pursuing destabilizing policies." On Sunday he clarified this by admitting he was talking about Saudi Arabia. [well, duh!] And now Condi and SecDef Robert Gates are off to see the Saudis about their no so clandestine support for Iraqi insurgents.

I'm afraid I'm at a loss to understand what W. & Co. are playing at here. They're finally publicly discussing what many of us have known all along, that the Saudis are thwarting us at every turn in Iraq, yet they're attempting at the same time to convince the American tax-payer to give them $20 billion? [And, lest we forget, the Saudis not only supported Osama Bin Laden for years but also provided nine of the fourteen 9/11 attackers.]

What is the plan here? Are they thinking by embarrassing the Saudis in the press that this will cause them to change their policies in Iraq? If that's what their thinking, then I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like them to see. It's all very puzzling.

Of course, along with the 20 billion for the Saudis Condi Rice says, "We will move soon to conclude a new ten-year military assistance agreement with Israel. This agreement will provide a total of $30 billion to ensure Israel’s ability to defend itself." [Yeah right, so poor little helpless Israel can defend itself.] Congress can't say 'no' to Israel no matter how ridiculous the excuse, so maybe that's the game they're playing.

And the money to Israel would be receiving is an incredible 25% increase from what they've gotten in the past 10 years!

The NYT:

"A senior administration official said the sizable increase was the result of Israel's need to replace equipment expended in its war against Hezbollah in Lebanon last summer, as well as to maintain its advantage in advanced weaponry as other countries in the region."

So, in other words, not only are we putting a big "Made in America" sign on the leveling of half of Lebanon and 1000 dead Lebanese, we're also going to subsidize a gigantic arms race in the Middle East. That sounds like a great policy to me.

Again I would ask, just as in the case of the Saudis, why are we footing the bill for Israel's defense? According to the Economist, Israel's economy is roaring along at "a robust 5% a year, barely slowing even after last year's war in Lebanon. The Shekel is strong, the ratio to debt to GDP is down, the budget in surplus and foreign investment at record levels. GDP a head is about six times higher than that of Greece or Portugal."

Add that to the fact that, according to David Hirst in the Gun and the Olive Branch:

"Most Americans are almost certainly blithely unaware of the extreme munificence, the nec plus ultra of financial altruism, that their government lends itself to in their name. Since Israel gets its whole annual aid appropriation during the first month of the fiscal year, instead of the quarterly installment that every other recipient has to contend with, it can promptly invest any surplus finds in American Treasury notes,. And, since, on the other hand, the American government has to borrow the money to finance these donations, it pays interest on the self same funds on which Israel earns it. Taking such factors into account, economist Thomas Stauffer calculates that, since 1973, the actual cost, to the American tax-payer, of American aid to Israel added up to a whopping $240 billion."

[christian science monitor 9 december 2002; richard curtiss, daily star beirut, november 1999; washington report on middle east affairs, march 1997, september 1999, january 2001]

So what's another $30 billion or so among friends, right? It's not like there are 39 million Americans living in poverty or we lost an entire city a few years back or tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan vets are being neglected by the VA or anything like that. Hell, we'll just ask the Chinese for another loan, no problemo!

If Congress goes along with this scam they're even more gullible than I thought they were. Any Congressman who votes for this boondoggle should be tossed out of office for being dumber than a five year old.


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