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Total number of comments: 37 (since 2013-11-28 15:36:18)

Brian

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  • Makdisi: The Tragedy of Obama's Middle East Policy
    • .
      Fellow JC fans:
      Reality Check. Please tell me if I am misreading what I think is a crucial issue in the poor relations that Professor Makdisi laments.

      I am under the impression that "the Muslim world" sees Guantanamo in 3 parts:
      -- Temporary detention pending trial of those that we intend to prosecute under the laws of our country, who we are convinced we will be able to convict and then sentence to life or death;
      -- Life in prison without any trial or review for those we are pretty sure deserve to be put on trial, but we fear we could not gain a conviction, even in a military "kangaroo" tribunal; and
      -- Indefinite (possibly for life) detention for about 85 men that have been completely exonerated by all US government agencies. Mostly Yemeni, these guys are being held in case they might do something untoward in the future.

      Seems to me that folks everywhere understand the first two categories, even if they don't agree. But I personally am outraged by that third category, because of how it offends everything that "America" stands for. I figure Muslims worldwide see these men as religious prisoners, since there doesn't seem to be any other real reason for holding and punishing them.
      What do you hear ?
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    • .
      If only.
      If only things were as good as Professor Makdisi reports, that the US is only estranged from the Muslim world.

      Every country that is not a member of the "industrialized West" now fears a US invasion on trumped up charges. How long will it take them to band together in self-defense ? Once that happens, we're in a world of hurt. There aren't enough bombs and bullets to persuade them all to like or forgive us.
      .

  • Obama dismisses Iran War Prospects, overrules Clinton
    • .
      In general, Lennart, I agree that retired officers do not get access to TOP SECRET stuff through their buddies.

      In particular, I don't know Powell's situation. But it is my take that any retired 4-star general or admiral who wants a consulting gig working for OSD, USMA, or a 3-letter agency or command where he or she served on active duty, gets it.
      They are ideal mentors.

      Most of these folks don't want any employment so close to the active force, because ethics regs limit their compensation to about $500 a day. Most go into the other side of the Military-Industrial Complex, and make far more moola, without having to file an OGE 450 Disclosure Form. And if they end up as a Director on the Board of Megaton, Inc., they still have access to all that classified stuff.
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  • Anzalone: From ‘Martyrdom’ Videos to Jihadi Journalism in Somalia
    • .
      For several years, the CIA in Somalia has been trying to plant the idea in Somalian minds that the rest of the Muslim world considers the Somali Muslims as racially inferior.
      Has that gained any traction, Mr. Anzalone ?
      .

  • Dear Rev. Graham: Obama was not born a Muslim and neither is anyone else
    • .
      Request for clarification, anyone:
      I'd heard from a Muslim acquaintance that everyone in the world is considered to be a proto-Muslim at birth, even an American with 2 Christian parents.
      IS this complete bunk, or is there something to it ?
      .

  • Taliban Ambush Kills 30 on Road Crew in Helmand;
    60% of Americans Oppose Afghan War
    • .
      NYT opinion piece explains the necessary evil of Mercenaries: link to nytimes.com

      Here's my take:
      If we need Mercenaries in order to maintain the current Operational Tempo, then we're trying to do too much.
      If an NGO, or a government agency, thinks they're helping the local population, but that local population cannot be bothered to protect those outsiders who are bringing upheaval in the name of progress, then the outsiders have failed to do the necessary preparatory work. First convince the locals that they will benefit, and they will welcome and protect you.
      .

  • Iraqis differ in Reactions to US Combat Troops' Departure
    • .
      Ir was disappointing to see in the Al-Jazeerah report, at about 1:15, that the Iraqi Police are using phony bomb-detecting equipment at checkpoints to screen cars for bombs.
      .

  • Public Souring on the Afghanistan War
    • .
      Jacko got his due with commemorations on the 1-year anniversary of his death.
      Who will note that Bowe Bergdahl will observe a 1-year anniversary tomorrow ? Will that be the top story at NYT or WaPo ?
      .

  • McCain Bashes Obama's Afghan Withdrawal Timetable
    As British, Poles, Dutch Plan Exit
  • Meh story about $1 Trillion in Minerals in Afghanistan
    • .
      The next major announcement from General Petraeus:
      "If the US public will just stay the course, within 12 years we can put together a deal and build a pipeline to carry gas and oil from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, thereby denying Iran any possible benefit from transporting the same gas and oil through their territory."

      .
      This, after all, is the pipeline deal that Texas oilmen tried to negotiate with the Taliban in Houston in the Summer of 2001. When those negotiations fell through and the Taliban went home, within weeks some Saudi dissidents attacked NYC on 9/11, and the response was to attack not Saudi Arabia but Afghanistan.
      .

  • Cameron Plans changed by RPG Threat;
    Taliban Resurge in Helmand
    • .
      I know a bit about RPG's as a surface-to-surface weapon. E.g., windage is counter-intuitive, due to configuration of "wings" at the back end. But I have NO IDEA about their effectiveness in a ground-to-air air defense role. Anybody ?
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  • Jewish Gaza Aid Flotilla Planned
    • .
      Or not.
      This inspection regimen could be set up without any explicit acknowledgment of the reasons for it.
      They may not have any right to do this, but in practical terms it is more satisfactory to me than the possibility of sinking vessels that cannot be stopped.
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    • .
      The government of Israel could respond by establishing an inspection facility in Limassol, Cyprus, and requiring vessels heading to Gaza Port to get cleared here first.
      .

  • "Peace is Terror, Protest is Terror"
    - The Israeli Ministry of Truth
    • .
      Just to be clear, "stun grenades" are also sometimes lethal. And when attacked with one, a target sure thinks it's a lethal attack.
      .

  • The Big Mistake in the New BP Ad
    • .
      To fix just the oil leak portion of this problem, setting aside the clean-up portion, would cost at least $2 Billion, if BP started off assuming the worst and resolved to stop any further contamination.
      But what we have seen are half-measures that assume the best.
      BP is trying every inexpensive approach, no matter how unlikely to solve the problem, on the outside chance that it will work. What has been attempted so far, from trying to shut the valve with a submersible, to the first containment structure, to top kill, to junk shot, to insertion tube, to the current top hat, BP has spent about $500K + $1 M + $1 M + $2 M + $4 M + $12 M. This has really been a matter of Public Relations for them, not a serious effort to stop the leak.
      From Day4, their only serious effort has been the "relief wells," which aren't so much to stop the leak as to establish a functioning wellhead so they can capture and sell the oil.

      There's one proprietary approach known to BP that they are sure will work, but it would take a boatload of money to implement.
      So BP says wait and see if the relief wells do the trick.
      But even BP gives them less than even odds of working.
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    • .
      Does anyone on this board actually believe that BP would make everything right, even if they could ?

      Historically, the oil industry has been profitable, and profits were limited only by the amount of capital that could be invested. Last Quarter, BP made about $2 Billion per month.

      The undersea BP Gusher is adding another 10,000,000 gallons or so to the mix every day, in my estimation. Roughly an Exxon Valdez per day. The crud will be washing up on Myrtle Beach in less than a month. The total damage will be in the multiple Trillions, as costly as, say, the Iraq War.

      BP will never in 100 years make enough money to pay all legitimate claims. It just isn't possible.

      So what does the future hold for BP ? Reorganization. Bankruptcy.
      Right now, and for the last month, BP has been preparing for this unavoidable eventuality. Assets are being hidden or removed. Severance agreements are being rewritten. Though Tony Hayward won't be the one to tell us this bad news; BP will hire some lackey to take the slings and arrows of an outraged public.
      Too bad our federal Government doesn't step up to the plate before BP is liquidated.
      .

  • Eyewitness Account: 'They began to fire machine guns ...'
    • .
      prompting me to trot out the worn cliche about "it's not the crime, it's the cover-up."

      In their rush to mislead about what happened, they unwittingly revealed that they had everything recorded.
      .

  • "The Ship Turned into a Lake of Blood": Israeli Commandos Used Beatings, Stun Guns, Live Ammo
    • .
      You be the judge of plausibility, Jim.
      Just as he has surrendered command of the military to Bush’s Generals,
      President Obama has put two violent radical extremist Zionists in charge of US foreign policy, Messrs. Emmanuel and Ross. In fact, one of them was in Tel Aviv planning this pirate attack last week. The leadership necessary to get the world community out of this mess cannot originate in the Obama White House.

      My hope is in the "Israel Caucus" in Congress. They are the only ones who can lead the nation out of this morass.
      If they can see that:
      *** an emboldened Apartheid Israel will force the US into more preventive wars, more wars of choice, more wars against Islam;
      *** and that such belligerence will invite retaliation on a much larger scale, visited on the American homeland;
      *** and if they can also see that a chastened Israel will stick its metaphorical finger down its own throat to vomit out its own terrorist government;
      *** and if they will put US interests ahead of facilitating the criminal conduct of Israel's criminal government;
      ---- then they will get the Congress to lead this nation to lead the world community toward a more secure era, and incubate a new option in Palestinian-Israeli relations, the option of accommodation.

      Israelis have a fundamental right to be safe. As long as the US is fully invested in Israeli-on-Palestinian terrorism, the threat level for retaliation is ratcheted up so high that the terrorist Netenyahu government looks like a smart choice. A peace-seeking Peres government would never do, when the only communications between the two sides involve ordnance.

      Israel would be much safer if it was a democracy, if it recognized that Arabs are human beings, if it allowed Arabs to live as human beings. As long as Israeli voters live in fear of the reign of terror facilitated by US funding and abetted by our tolerance of Israeli evil, there is no path to a better future.

      But if the US Congress, led by the large Jewish contingent, were to reproach the terrorist Netanyahu government, and make continued US taxpayer subsidy of Israeli industry, civil service, higher education, research, military weapons, agriculture, public housing and social security programs (about $7,000 per Israeli per year) contingent on the Israeli people voting in decent people to lead their government,
      it would be a Nixon-to-China moment.
      Such a bold move would have to be in response to a deep crisis. Is this high-seas piracy a big enough crisis ? The Turks have done all they can, as a faithful ally to both the US and Israel, to precipitate a sweeping change. Will our Congress capitalize on this rare opportunity ?
      .

      ps: in the era of photoshop, even video can lie. We really need an independent investigation to know what happened. It looks bad, but we really don't know. Israeli cooperation is necessary to get to the bottom. The US Congress is seen as a friend of the criminal Netanyahu government. They could do this investigation. It could be led by Joe Lieberman.
      .

  • Historic UNSC Condemnation of Israel, and of Gaza Blockade;
    World Body Demands release of Aid Activists, Ships
    • .
      Within weeks we will see videos from Taliban proclaiming solidarity with the activists aboard Mavi Marmara, and attributing spectacular bombings to US refusal to permit the world community to hold Israel accountable.

      We need us a pro-American Presidential Administration capable of assessing threats and opportunities, and taking action to secure the US.
      Dot #1: Under the current government, Israel is an outlaw nation, perpetrating crimes against humanity, and the victims appear to be selected based on them being being Muslim or Arab.
      Dot #2: The US prevents the UN or any other body or nation from holding Israel in check, or to account.
      Dot #3: It is far easier to take revenge on American targets than Israeli targets, since the US military positions targets throughout the Muslim world.
      I hope the next DNI can connect and interpret these.

      A chastened Israel would be a good neighbor and partner in peace.
      .

    • .
      Item #2 is a non-starter for most universities. There are US laws that prohibit any entity that does business with the federal government from participating in any boycott of Israel. Any university that divests as you propose would quickly lose all of its federal grants and contracts.
      That is the will of the US Congress.
      .

  • Israeli Commandos Kill as Many as 10-16 Aid Activists,
    wound over 50 as they Board, Capture Gaza Aid Flotilla
  • Kirchner: Bush angrily said War would Grow US Economy
    • .
      Do you, Dr. Cole, really wonder who else among the Republican elite fell for Bush’s stupidity of: war= growth ?

      In early August 2002, GW Bush announced that he had no plans to invade Iraq on his desk, and I believe that was a true statement. The matter had been settled long before that.
      On 5 August 2002, Dr. Sadoun Hummadi issued a blanket invitation to all members of the US Congress to come and see for themselves that Iraq had no WMD's. I contacted the Speaker's office and offered to act as an intermediary to my local Congressman in Colorado, Joel Hefley. I received a letter from the Speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly with a personal invitation to Congressman Hefley by fax. I took it down to his local office. When I told the staff why I was there, the Congressman refused to see me. The staff told me that the Congressman had told them to tell me that, if the President had determined that attacking Iraq was good for the country, then he would back the President.

      You may have forgotten: majorities in both houses of Congress voted to go to war against an undefined enemy, for an undefined time, to achieve undefined purposes.
      That bandwagon was pretty full.
      .

  • Petraeus Memo Widens scope of US Military Covert Operations in ME
    • .
      when DNI Dennis Blair had a tiff with Leon Panetta, Leon went crying to Obama and Blair got a pink slip.
      When Dave Petraeus got into it with Panetta, he just started up his own little mini-CIA and now ignores Leon. It's good to be oligarch.
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  • Taliban Attack Qandahar Airfield; Parliament goes on Strike
    • .
      One indelible lesson I learned in Infantry School concerned the 9 Principles of War developed by von Clausewicz. #1 is OBJECTIVE.
      "Objective – Direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective. The ultimate military purpose of war is the destruction of the enemy's ability to fight and will to fight."
      This upcoming non-operation in Qandahar lacks a defined objective. There are about 300 people at ISAF Headquarters whose job it is to develop plans and strategies, and to manage implementation. This office is called C-3. The Chief of this office is a 2-star General. C-3 has failed in their mission, before the first shot is fired.

      I anticipate the defense against this charge is that they are in a new type of warfare. But nothing that General Petraeus wrote about Counterinsurgency went beyond what von Clausewicz had written on the subject 200 years ago.
      .

  • Iran Threatens to Pull out of Nuclear Deal over new UN Sanctions
    • .
      The US only has 11 Carriers, and a Carrier makes one 6-month cruise every 2 years, generally. So, at any given time, there are only 3 or 4 carriers able to go to sea.
      One is more-or-less permanently at Yokohama, Japan. One is either in the Persian Gulf or in the Arabian Sea/ Gulf of Aden, looking for barefoot pirates. One is often in the Atlantic, cruising to the Mediterranean. When a 4th one is available, it's usually steaming between the West Coast and Hawai'i.
      Supposedly two more carriers can be put to sea within 30 days in an emergency, and 2 more in 90 days, but that is only for a short surge.
      At any given time, one carrier is undergoing a refueling that takes over 2 years, and 2 or 3 are being drydocked, upgraded and repaired.

      A supercarrier is a phenomenal weapons system, but unless it happens to be nearby when the next war starts, it will be pretty much useless. It's aircraft can only go out about 750 miles before they have to turn back. So, they have to loiter where we project they will be needed. Airbases in Qatar and Pakistan are much better ideas.
      .

  • Angry Tea Partiers are not the Moral Equivalent of Compassionate Democrats
    • .
      There are 2 different "T-parties." One is an entity within the GOP, funded by billionaires and led by Dick Armey. They try to fool the other T-party into thinking they are of like minds. The other T-party, the one that came first, has no national leaders, only local organizers. They are conservative, and do not consider the GOP to be conservative.

      Some folks who identify with the T-party no doubt are racist and want to keep whatever they can of their income from going to the poor, even that portion of their income that derives originally from taxes on those same poor.
      But the reasons that I have heard given by T-party sympathizers for opposing free health care for all is that nothing is free, and that the costs, and who will pay those costs, is being hidden in order to pretend that it will be free. While it may have happened, I never heard of a proponent of "public option" explain how it was going to be paid for, not in "rubber meets the road" detail. I assume that's because those advocates assumed that most of the voting public would not go along with the proposal if they understood it.
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  • Kabul Blast Kills 19, Wounds 52; 5 US Troops Dead
    • .
      After following the link to Tom Dispatch, and links from there to the LA Times, I am inclined to ask if it fair to characterize the Times Square bombing attempt as a "manned drone attack" in response to unmanned drone attacks.

      NeoCon advocates of endless war have complained about how our poorly armed adversaries rely on asymmetric tactics to overcome their weaknesses. Should they be happy now with this new quasi-symmetry ?
      .
      .

  • US Troop Withdrawal in Iraq on Track
    • .
      Obama was elected 4 Nov 2008. A Bush Administration official signed the "SOFA" 19 Nov 2008. The details of the SOFA were in flux until it was signed.
      Based on that sequence, I think Obama revised his 16-month pledge after he was elected. So, from here, it looks like he ran on that promise, he won on that promise, and then he repudiated that promise. Others may see it differently.

      .

      50,000 soldiers is another way of saying an Army Corps, which is traditionally 3 divisions plus the C2 and logistics to permit them to operate independently. With most Brigades being converted to the Brigade Combat Team model, take that with a grain of black powder.
      It took far fewer than 50,000 soldiers to conduct the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 along Route Tampa. 50,000 US soldiers are enough to invade and conquer any European nation except Russia, any South American nation but Brazil, almost any African nation*, or any Asian nation but China, India, Pakistan, or Indonesia. That's not enough manpower to occupy a typical nation, admittedly, but it is more military power than all but a dozen or so other nations can muster.
      I understand why a person might want to make excuses for President Obama, thinking that, any day now, he's going to turn into the person he campaigned as. I know, because although I did NOT want him to win, now that he did, I would much prefer the Candidate to the Reality.

      * - There aren't enough soldiers in the world to conquer Congo. While Iraq and Afghanistan are figurative quagmires, Congo is the real deal.
      .

  • Karzai Defeats Obama 2-1
    • .
      To deconstruct the whole "Counterinsurgency" meme, a couple of foundational points:
      Counterinsurgency is an effort to counter the effects of an insurgency, so there has to be an Insurgency first.
      An Insurgency is an uprising against a duly constituted and legitimized government, one that enjoys the consent of the governed, or something like that. The de facto government of Afghanistan is the collection of American officials who run the military occupation. The nominal government headed by President Karzai is widely regarded in Afghanistan to be quisling collaborators with a foreign occupation army.
      Thus,
      there is no legit national government supported by the populace. Viz, there can be no Insurgency, or a Counterinsurgency.
      What President Obama calls a Counterinsurgency could just as fairly be called an effort to subjugate the local population. What we call an Insurgency could also be named a Resistance to foreign occupation, and perhaps even colonization.

      "Strategic Communicators" are seeded throughout the US Government, using Ameri-centric labels to interpret events for the public, sparing them from having to think about such confusing matters. Consequently, the US public cannot fathom why the brown people of the global south show no gratitude for all we do to modernize them and liberate them. My neighbors cannot imagine that there is any other viewpoint than the one proffered by Dana Perino-Robert Gibbs. They cannot visualize the point of view of the other.

      Where to now, St. Obama ?
      .

  • Police: Shahzad has no Links to Taliban; Clinton Remarks Produce Firestorm in Pakistan
    • .
      As far as the likelihood of it actually exploding, I took demolitions training in the Army more than 30 years ago, so I welcome corrections.

      My recollection is that explosions are just rapid oxidation processes, fires, that burn relatively slowly if not ignited in a way that causes extremely rapid oxidation. To wit, the propane tanks in the supposed car bomb would likely not ignite at all; if anything else in the car had blown up, that explosion would have simply sent the tanks sailing through the air, possibly igniting as they were being propelled away at high speed, but the propane would not have contributed to the initial blast. To really contribute to the initial blast, the propane should have been released from the tanks so that it could mix with the surrounding air, forming a cloud of fuel-air mixture.
      The bags of fertilizer would simply have burst, spraying unburned pellets over a wide area. The "available nitrogen" was not really available for rapid oxidation. It should have been poured into a half-full barrel of diesel fuel in order to become explosive.
      I saw a photo of an alarm clock that was purportedly going to function as a sort of time-delay ignition source. From the photo I couldn't see how it would actually serve that purpose.
      Now, I've seen YouTube videos of kids mixing up explosives from hair care products, and they didn't need any blasting caps to ignite their homemade explosives, but I think that professional bomb makers like the stability and predictability of such standardized components. If I was ever going to make a bomb, I'd try to obtain blasting caps in order to ensure my own safety when assembling it, and to ensure that I controlled when it ignited. I don't know this, but I assume that 99% of IED's in Iraq and Afghanistan are ignited that way. I don't think this Times Square pretend bomber had a blasting cap.

      I suspect that, if it had worked, all it would have done was blown out the car's windows and set the car on fire. A person within 50 feet could have been injured by the flying glass. After the car was on fire, the propane tanks would have ruptured, accelerating the fire, but not producing what you would call an explosion.

      For comparison, almost all explosions in movies and on TV are gasoline explosions. Gas / benzin is poured over whatever is going to blow up; the pyro technician waits 30 seconds to 2 minutes for the gas to evaporate and mix with the air; then a blasting cap is remotely detonated. That's why the flames in a movie explosion billow. I've set off (or provided oversight of the ignition of) perhaps 40 or 50 explosions fueled with plastic explosives. It's over pretty quick, too fast for me to see the flames without the aid of a camera.
      This guy would have caused more damage by punching a hole in his gas tank, and then setting a lit cigarette in the path of where the liquid gas would flow.
      .

  • Guerrilla War Continues: 31 Killed in Iraq Attacks; Allawi, Maliki to Meet
    • .
      Somewhat off-topic, but as much as I criticize the Army, I have to give them props when they do good, and they are doing some good.

      link to fbo.gov

      Research is now underway on how to remove Depleted Uranium from the soil in Iraq.
      .

    • .
      as the great moralist and philosopher G Walker once said of the Iraq situation, "as they stand up, we will stand down." Looks like our departure is overdue.
      .

  • Salisbury: Times Square Rorschach Test
    • .
      Salisbury = party pooper.
      Just think of the money to be made by scaring people, and then selling them security services and technology.
      .

  • NATO Troops Kill MP Relative; Anti-American Demonstrations Nangarhar Demand US Withdrawal
    • .
      I find those stats a little encouraging, if the Administration starts making decisions on Afghanistan based on evidence.
      These stats tell a simple story: Pashtoons do not want to be subjugated by a colonial ruler. If our foreign policy brain trust is able to discern this lesson, we may actually pull out of that war, starting next Summer.
      Once our leaders decide to apply the values in our Declaration of Independence to the people of Afghanistan, perhaps we will replace the science of subjugation with the discipline of development. There's still time.
      .

  • India Urges Kabul not to Deal with Taliban; Logar Protesters Torch NATO Fuel Trucks
    • .
      5 months ago, the US military unit in command of Wardak and Logar Provinces (173 ABCT) advertised for a contractor to advise them on how to get along with the local population. All I know about Afghanistan is that the people there are proud and self-reliant, and that any interaction must be founded on mutual respect if its going to win hearts or minds. Well, I know a little more than that. I submitted a bid.
      I lost to one of the "Private Military Companies" that furnishes Mercenaries for road clearance, perimeter defense and night snatch raids.

      "Stupid" is a conscious choice, with foreseeable consequences. The officers responsible for this incident will never be held to account for their bad decisions, but they include the Colonel who chose to have Mercenaries advising on how to implement development efforts.
      .

  • Gates Worries about Iranian Nuclear Research, while Khamenei blasts US for Hiroshima
    • .
      Thanks, Juan. This is extremely helpful.

      I frankly didn't know what to do. We have this gaping gap in policy, with no plan for what to do if Iran achieved "nuclear latency."

      That's why I'm so grateful to you for suggesting "a land invasion and forcible regime change." It's a perfect fit, and just the right color.

      Your Secretary of Defense,

      Bob Gates
      .

  • Afghanistan Attacks Leave 13 Dead
    • .
      My takeaway from the article on poor training of the Afghan Police by contractors:
      Senator Scott Brown is the senior Republican on the Senate Subcommittee on Contract Oversight.
      He's been in office all of 2 months, and he's the SENIOR GOP member ? Our Congress simply does not think oversight of contracts is important.

      The main reason that there is so much corruption in contracts in these 2 wars is because there's very little transparency. This is Congress' fault. This is EASY to fix, but they won't do it.
      .

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