By Alan W. Dowd
Back to War
Perhaps this unsurprising piece of news from the frontlines will give pause to proponents of blanket amnesty for the detainees held in Guantanamo: Pentagon and Congressional officials confirm that some former Gitmo guests have returned to the battlefield.
“We’ve already had instances where we know that people who have been released from our detention have gone back and have become combatants again,” according to Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of a House intelligence committee. A Pentagon spokesperson told United Press International that “At least five detainees released from Guantanamo have returned to the battlefield”—about ten percent of the 57 Afghans released by the US military.
And that’s just the known cases. Given the hardcore hatred that animates America’s terrorist enemies, it seems likely that many more of these paroled prisoners are back at war, forcing American troops to defeat them a second time.
In an impressive, almost omnipresent, show of force, the Pentagon conducted a massive worldwide military exercise in late July and early August to demonstrate America’s ability to respond simultaneously to crises and threats virtually anywhere on the planet.
Dubbed “Summer Pulse 04,” the operation deployed seven aircraft carrier strike groups (the Reagan, Washington, Truman, Kennedy, John Stennis, Kitty Hawk, and Enterprise) and more than 20,000 sailors into five different theaters of operation. Once deployed, the carriers conducted war games with 23 allied nations. All told, US Naval forces participated in 13 separate exercises in the Sea of Japan, Persian Gulf, Atlantic and PacificOceans, and Arabian, Baltic, Mediterranean, Red and NorthSeas. Some of the sailors may bristle at the phrase “war games,” though. The Washington’s contribution to Summer Pulse, for instance, was 7,592 sorties in support of Coalition forces in Iraq, as the US 2nd Fleet reported after the exercise.
According to Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, Summer Pulse underscored the Navy’s “24/7 by 365” ability to answer the president’s call.
The Iraqi people earned back their political sovereignty and independence in late June, but they remain homeless in cyberspace. You see, Iraq’s Internet domain name—“.iq”—is currently controlled by a company in Texas. That company is under investigation for possible ties to Hamas, which means that it could be years before the Internet Corporation for Assigned Name and Numbers (ICANN) is cleared to transfer “.iq” back to Iraq, as the British newspaper The Evening Standard reports.
The snag in Iraq is already causing problems for Iraqi businesses. In light of this, Paul Bremer urged ICANN to expedite the transfer before he left his post as head of the Coalition.
Liberated Afghanistan, by comparison, regained its “.af” domain just six months after requesting it. But more than a year after the fall of Saddam’s regime, the Iraqis are still waiting for their cyber-sovereignty.
Long Live Pork
In 1995, President Clinton famously declared, “The era of Big Government is over.” Not according to a study conducted by Citizens Against Government Waste. The Atlantic Monthly highlighted some of the more eye-catching findings of the study in a recent issue.
-Congress larded up the federal budget with a record-setting 10,656 pork-barrel projects in FY2004 (a 13-percent increase over FY2003 and a 28-percent jump from FY2002).
-Projects included $50 million to build an indoor rain forest (in Iowa); $5 million for a project that tries to capture energy from the aurora borealis; and hundreds of thousands for research on berries.
-All told, the tab for such projects was $22.9 billion. On a per-capita basis, Alaska gobbled up more at the pork-barrel trough than any other state. Hawaii, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Montana trailed close behind. The Atlantic Monthly notes that all of these states have senators on the Appropriations Committee.
Don’t Blame DoD
The pork-barrel frenzy serves as yet another reminder that the growth of government cannot be blamed on the Pentagon. In fact, The American Enterprise has found that “national defense consumes vastly less of your federal taxes compared to 40 years ago.”
In 1965, national defense consumed 43 cents of every tax dollar. Today, it accounts for just 19 cents of the federal dollar. In 1965, Social Security and retirement programs claimed 17 cents of the tax dollar; medical benefits took another penny. Today, medical benefits devour 23 percent of the federal budget, while Social Security and retirement claim 25 percent.
Published monthly in the American Legion Magazine, Under the Radar provides a snapshot of current challenges in international politics, U.S. foreign policy and national security.