Weekend reading, showing how the world is changing

Content

Arming our own enemies in Iraq“, Gareth Porter, Salon (6 June 2008) — “Bush officials claim that Iran has supplied grenade launchers to Iraqi militants — but the real source of the weapons is U.S. negligence.”

Iraq law on Baathists not being implemented“, Reuters  (17 June 2008) — Often cited as a key sign of progress, it remains on paper only.  Was it passed just for effect in the US?

Military facing $100B in equipment repairs“, USA Today  (25 June 2008) — An aburdly low estimate, obviously not including aircraft service life expended.

House of Cards“, LA CityBeat (25 June 2008) — “You thought the housing crisis was bad? You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Mexico Cantarell oil field output falls again in May“, Reuters (26 June 2008) — #3 among the world’s super-giant oil fields, its rapid output decline has major effects on both Mexico and the world.

Who’s Actually Winning in Iraq?”, Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch (26 June 2008) — “Special Report from the Battlefields”

Global Oil-Supply Worries Fuel Debate in Saudi Arabia“, Wall Street Journal  (27 June 2008) — “Former Officials at Odds Over ‘Peak’ Theory; Crude Hits High”  One of the best recent articles about the oil crisis.

Excerpts from these stories

As always, I recommend clicking the links to read these in full.

Arming our own enemies in Iraq“, Gareth Porter, Salon (6 June 2008) — “Bush officials claim that Iran has supplied grenade launchers to Iraqi militants — but the real source of the weapons is U.S. negligence.”  Opening:

In recent months, Gen. David Petraeus charged that Iran has supplied powerful rocket-propelled grenade launchers to Shiite militias in Iraq. But according to the U.S. government’s own reports, there is no evidence to support that charge. In fact, the vast majority of RPGs in the hands of Shiite militants have come from either U.S.-purchased weapons intended for Iraq’s new security forces, or from Saddam Hussein’s old stockpiles, which the U.S. failed to secure when it took control of the country.

The Bush administration has long sought to create the impression that Iran has been playing a major military role in Iraq by supplying arms to Shiite militias, including the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s powerful Mahdi army. But to date, U.S. military officials have offered scant or even dubious evidence of Iranian military involvement in Iraq — and Petraeus’ allegation about the RPGs is a clear-cut case of unsubstantiated charges.

Iraq law on Baathists not being implemented“, Reuters  (17 June 2008) — Often cited as a key sign of progress, it remains on paper only.  Was it passed just for effect in the US?  Openign:

When the Iraqi parliament passed a law in January aimed at rehiring former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, U.S. President George W. Bush praised it as a step towards national reconciliation.  The Accountability and Justice Law replaced the deBaathification Law, under which tens of thousands of former Baathists, mostly Sunni Arabs, were purged from government and security posts following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

But five months later, implementation of the law is bogged down by infighting between politicians, and the committee once tasked with hunting out Baathists in government has found itself in the odd position of overseeing the process of rehiring them or offering them state pensions.

Military facing $100B in equipment repairs“, USA Today  (25 June 2008) — An aburdly low estimate, obviously not including aircraft service life expended.

The Pentagon faces a more than $100 billion bill to repair and replace worn out or destroyed equipment, vehicles and weapons, officials and members of Congress say, but paying for it may endanger plans to boost the size of the military.

The military is scrambling to re-equip because the Pentagon failed to plan for the long and expensive war in Iraq, said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who chairs the House panel that oversees military spending.  That failure, Murtha said, makes the Pentagon’s plan to add 92,000 new soldiers and Marines unrealistic. Although new troops would help reduce repeated, lengthy deployments, there are other more pressing demands, Murtha said.

“It’s going to come from personnel cuts,” Murtha said. “That’s where it’s going to come from. They know it.”

House of Cards“, LA CityBeat (25 June 2008) — “You thought the housing crisis was bad? You ain’t seen nothing yet.”  Excerpt

While many eyes are focusing on the housing meltdown and its hugely negative effect on an economy clearly moving into recession, few are paying attention to the next bubble expected to burst: credit cards.

… The coupling of home equity debt and credit card debt has gone hand in glove for years. The homeowners at risk can no longer use their homes as ATM machines, thanks to their prior re-financings and equity loans, often used in the past to pay off their credit cards. Indeed, homeowners cashed out $1.2 trillion from their home equity from 2002 to 2007 to pay down credit card debts and to cover other costs of living, according to the public policy research organization Demos.

To compound the problem, fewer people are paying their credit card bills on time. And, to flip the old paradigm, more are using high-interest credit card cash to pay at least part of their mortgages instead of the other way around.

Mexico Cantarell oil field output falls again in May“, Reuters (26 June 2008) — #3 among the world’s super-giant oil fields, its rapid output decline has major effects on both Mexico and the world.  Opening:

Crude output from Mexico’s struggling Cantarell oil field fell in May for the eighth month in a row to 1.038 million barrels per day, its lowest level in more than 12 years, Energy Ministry data showed on Thursday.  The fading jewel of Mexico’s oil industry, Cantarell has declined rapidly since 2004 and is pulling down overall oil production in the world’s No. 6 oil-producing nation, threatening Mexico’s status as a top supplier to the United States.

… Cantarell for years produced 60 percent of Mexico’s crude oil, and production peaked at around 2 million barrels per day in 2004.  But its May output fell again, from 1.074 million bpd in April, to stand at its lowest level since January 1996, according to Energy Ministry data.

Who’s Actually Winning in Iraq?”, Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch (26 June 2008) — “Special Report from the Battlefields”  Excerpt:

The American occupation of Iraq follows the same course as that of British rule after the First World War. At first there was imperial over-confidence following military victory and a conviction that what Iraqis did was of no importance. Then there was the shock and surprise of an Iraqi rebellion against the British in 1920 and the Americans after 2003. In both cases the occupiers responded by establishing an Iraqi national government but with limited powers.

… America is now behaving in much the same way {as did the Brits}. It is negotiating a security agreement to replace the present UN mandate. It is to all intents and purposes a treaty that will determine future relations between Iraq and the US. It is not being called a treaty only because President Bush does not want to submit it to Senate approval. But in effect it continues the occupation under another name.

… The Iraqi-American security agreement, which Bush wants signed by July 31, is a better barometer of where real power lies in Iraq than military developments on the ground.

… The crucial political and military question in Iraq is whether the Iraqi government’s success will be long lasting or temporary. Will it lose control once again if al-Sadr orders his militiamen back into the streets? Are al- Qa’ida and other Sunni insurgents simply lying low and waiting for American troops to leave? Again and again in the last five years, the US and its Iraqi allies have genuinely believed that they were winning on the ground only to see their supposed successes evaporate when their opponents launched a counter-attack. But for the moment at least Maliki’s grip on central government is stronger than ever.

… This may be misleading. The government’s position looks strongerthan it is because its opponents are waiting for the Americans to leave or draw down their forces.

Global Oil-Supply Worries Fuel Debate in Saudi Arabia“, Wall Street Journal (27 June 2008) — “Former Officials at Odds Over ‘Peak’ Theory; Crude Hits High”  One of the best recent articles about the oil crisis.  Opening:

Sadad al-Husseini and Nansen Saleri raced up the ranks at Saudi Aramco, the world’s most powerful oil company, working together for years to squeeze more crude from Saudi Arabia’s massive fields. Today, the two men have staked out opposite sides of a momentous industry debate.

Mr. Husseini, Aramco’s second-in-command until 2004, says the world faces a brute reality of depleting resources and ever rising prices. Mr. Saleri, until recently the company’s oil-reservoir manager, insists that with enough ingenuity and investment, plenty more oil can be found.

With oil prices having doubled over the past year, political leaders, Wall Street investors, commuters, airlines and car makers are all scrambling to divine where prices will head next. The disparity of opinion between two of the most knowledgeable men in the industry shows how much fog hangs over the most basic question of all — whether oil can be unearthed any faster than it currently is.

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