Wednesday, June 09, 2004

From the Marine Corps to the Oil Corps

From Anthony Swofford's Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles (New York: Scribner, 2003, p. 10-11):
After we sit for an hour in the hydration tents, the colonel calls a battalion formation and proudly announces that we are taking part in Operation Desert Shield. He explains that the Kuwaiti-Iraqi conflict is not yet out concern, but that currently our mission is to protect, to shield, Saudi Arabia and her flowing oil fields. We'll be shielding enough oil to drive hundreds of millions of cars for hundreds of millions of miles, at a relatively minor cost to the American consumer. We joke about having transferred from the Marine Corps to the Oil Corps, or the Petrol Battalion, and while we laugh at our jokes and we all think we're damn funny jarheads, we know we might soon die, and this is not funny, the possibility of death, but like many combatants before us, we laugh to obscure the tragedy of our cheap, squandered lives with the comedy of combat and being deployed to protect oil reserves and the rights and profits of certain American companies, many of which have direct ties to the White House and oblique financial entanglements with the secretary of defense, Dick Cheney, and the commander in chief, George Bush, and the commander's progeny.
The cost of the Gulf War II is much steeper than that of the Gulf War I:
[Doug] Henwood [the author of After the New Economy and publisher of the Left Business Observer] pegs the military costs in Iraq to date at about $143 billion, with the tab rising $4 billion to $5 billion a month. Reconstruction has cost about $20 billion so far, with another $50 billion to $100 billion still needed, Henwood reports.

"If the occupation goes on for three years, which is what the military pundits say is likely, the total bill could come to $362 billion. Add to that an estimated 0.5 percent knocked off GDP growth because of high oil prices, and that's another $50 billion," he says.

Add it all up, and the bill comes to nearly $4,000 per household, not including interest. "I wonder how people would react if they got a bill from Washington for that amount," he said. (Sean Gonzalez, Cape Cod Times, May 25, 2004, republished in Sam Smith's Undernews, May 27, 2004)
What has not changed is soldiers' humor that masks anger and despair: "On the side of his helmet [Sergeant] Sellers has, in violation of regs, attached the unmistakable pin and ring of a hand grenade. Next to it is written, 'Pull Here'" (Christian Parenti, "Stretched Thin, Lied to & Mistreated," The Nation, October 6, 2003, p. 11).

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