OMG, didya see “So You Think You Can Dance?” the other night? I know, too cool. Then after that one sports team I favor beat the sports team you prefer. Let’s talk about that! Also, I went to WalMart and got the cutest Hello Kitty underwear, and a slurpee. Then I got a new “Support the Troops” bumper sticker for July 4. LOL.
Also, a rocket attack on a US base near Iraq’s border with Iran killed three American soldiers Wednesday. The deaths came at the end of the bloodiest month for US troops in Iraq in two years.
More Americans died in Iraq this month alone than from January to March, which means that the death toll is governed by what THEY choose to do, not what WE do.
Even worse, it is all becoming more clearly about Iran. Wednesday’s rocket attack struck a US base in southern Iraq that is located a few miles from Iran. The Iranian link was evident from the type of rockets used. American intelligence officials believe the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah is one of the only militias to use IRAMS, or improvised rocket-assisted mortars, against US troops. They are made in Iran.
Kataib Hezbollah has links to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group and is solely focused on attacking US personnel. Kataib Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a June 6 rocket attack on a US base in Baghdad that killed five soldiers.
And not related in any way at all, even a tiny bit, Iraq today signed a $365 million agreement to install a pipeline network to import natural gas from Iran for power stations in the country. The pipelines will eventually supply 25 million cubic meters of Iranian natural gas a day to the Sadr, al-Quds and South Baghdad power stations in the Iraqi capital. The pipelines will bypass the Mansouriya gas field, which is due to supply gas to the two power plants instead of Iran starting 2016.
Read more about the US-Iran proxy war now underway in Iraq…
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
No matter what form of US military is left in Iraq by year’s end, the State Department takes over the mission from the Army on October 1 (don’t anticipate any parades, maybe a press release or infomercial) and will have to fend for itself in Iraq. No more US Army around to push the mean kids out of State’s way and protect their tender asses and smooth hands from reality.
State would like to hire its own army, 5500 mercs, dropping a couple of billion in protection money so that Sadr doesn’t steal the embassy’s lunch money. Congress may or may not ante up (it looks like things are covered for part of the next FY) but the task of supervising all those bad boys and filling in the security gaps the Army will leave falls on State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, or “DS” if you’re cool in a nerdy kind of cool way.
And of course DS is ready to step up to the plate.
Hah hah, of course not.
The spoilsports at the Government Accounting Office (GAO) said Wednesday that the DS nancy boys responsible for protecting US diplomats around the world are still not ready to assume all of their new security responsibilities in Iraq.
Despite State planning to spend roughly $1.7 billion on security in Iraq this year, DS themselves “acknowledged they are not designed to assume the military’s mission in Iraq and will have to rely on its own resources and the assistance of the host country [yeah right, Iraq] to protect the US mission in the absence of the funding, personnel, equipment and protection formerly provided by the US military.”
Among other tasks, the diplomats themselves will somehow be responsible for “downed aircraft recovery, explosives ordnance disposal, route clearance, and rocket and mortar countermeasures,” all of which they “have had little or no experience in providing.”
The horrible death of a State contractor last week in Iraq may be a sad portent of things to come.
Choose your Iraq assignments wisely and stay thirsty my friends.
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
As we approach the sacred July 4 holiday here in the US of A, here is yet another reason to be proud of America’s wars of choice. The UN High Commission on Refugees reports that America’s wars continue to create many of the world’s refugees: 4.7m originate from Iraq and Afghanistan, almost half the world’s total.
But we give as well as we take. Since the US started accepting refugees from the freedom of Iraq in FY 2007, we have taken in 58,811 of them fellas.
And just like us real Americans, those Iraqi refugees don’t have no jobs. It’s patriotism! Actually, because they are especially patriotic, unemployment among Iraqi refugees is estimated at nearly three times the national average of 9 percent, and up to 2,000 of those who arrived in the past four years may have left for other countries.
Not everyone wants Iraqis to live in America enjoying the fruits of our nationwide craze of unemployment. Senator Rand Paul has taken exception to the number of Iraqi refugees who have been granted asylum in the United States. “There’s a democratic government over there, and I think they need to be staying and helping rebuild their country,” he said. “We don’t need them over here on government welfare. Why are we admitting 18,000 people per year for political asylum from Iraq, which is an ally of ours?”
It’s actually a pretty good question.
Stand tall, Americans!
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
The US military expressed its “disappointment” that an Iraqi court acquitted three men captured as they tried to place a bomb on a highway south of Baghdad.
“We are deeply disappointed in the court’s decision,” said Colonel Reginald Allen, commander of the US military’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. “To free three suspects without a fair trial, after they were found at the crime scene with a clear intent to commit harm, undermines the rule of law and sends a terrible message that can only serve to embolden the enemies of a free and secure Iraq,” he added.
The statement said US force captured Mohammed Salim Lafta, Munif Hashim Shinawa and Saeed Ubayd Sabir on March 14 as they tried to plant an improvised bomb and that a triggering device was found in their possession. It said the trio was handed over to Iraqi authorities for trial in accordance with the terms of a 2008 security pact between Baghdad and Washington.
The military said the defendants’ June 20 trial had “lasted just two hours” and that “US military officials were not allowed to testify.”
Needless to say, no comment by the US Embassy in Baghdad, despite being the world’s largest Embassy (C).
Publisher’s Weekly wrote on June 27:
When it comes to our own missteps in the region, you won’t find a more shocking, saddening—and yes, hilarious—account than Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, the State Department insider’s firsthand account of how the U.S. is bungling the reconstruction of Iraq with symbolic rather than substantive efforts to provide relief (Van Buren’s image of the U.S. outfitting a local school with computers—rather than electricity—is unforgettable).
PW’s Top 10 Politics
The Future of Pakistan
Edited by Stephen Cohen. Brookings Institution, Oct.
Pakistan in the Age of Jihad
John R. Schmidt. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept.
Terrorists in Love:
The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals
Ken Ballen and Peter Bergen. Free Press, Oct.
We Meant Well:
How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
Peter Van Buren. Metropolitan, Sept.
Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State
William Arkin and Dana Priest. Little, Brown, Sept.
Pity the Billionaire: The Unexpected Resurgence of the American Right
Thomas Frank. Metropolitan, Jan.
A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America
Colin Woodard. Viking, Sept.
A Declaration for Independence
Lawrence Lessig. Hachette, Oct.
That Used to Be Us:
How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back
Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept.
Where China Meets India: Burma and the Closing of the Great Asian Frontier
Thant Myint-U. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept.
So who was the real winner of the US-Iraq War of 2003? Hmmm… US loses 4466 soldiers, drops a couple of trillion dollars for little-to-no return, so maybe not us. Iraq gets its civil society shredded and undergoes eight years of sectarian civil war, sees over 100,000 killed and is home now to a bustling al Qaeda franchise… nope. Iran sits on its hands while the US hacks away at its two major enemies, Saddam and the Taliban, while burning itself out economically? Yep, gotta go with Iran as the winner.
Now, in addition to winning our war strategically, it is looking good for Iran economically as well, at least vis-a-vis Iraq.
While Iraq flounders trying to gin up its oil industry, and Reuters headlines a story Iraq’s Moribund Manufacturing Sector Appeals for Help, it is good to know that economic relations between Iraq and former enemy Iran are, well, peachy.
The Tehran Times lets us know that Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi will visit Iraq on July 6 in order to take part in the Iran-Iraq Joint Supreme Economic Committee. The newspaper estimated the two countries’ current annual trade value at $4-5 billion.
Better yet, Iran just agreed to supply 9400 barrels of gasoil a day to Iraq for power generation. Ironic as Iraq sits atop one of the largest reserves of petroleum in the world, just out of reach apparently.
Politically, things are also smooth as butta. Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Hoshiar Zibary said on Wednesday that Iran and Iraq would sign an agreement to overcome “all the suspended problems between both countries.” “Iran is playing a positive role in Iraq and there is no objection for the strengthening of relations between the two countries,” Zibary said, highly assessing the “assistance, granted by Iran to the Iraqi people.”
But while trade is good, and oil is necessary, the real money is in tourism. More specifically, religious tourism, Iranian Shia pilgrims traveling to previously off-limits shrines in Iraq, is a huge source of economic exchange, albeit mostly one-way.
Iranian travel agencies control religious tourism to the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, preventing Iraqi travel agencies from rendering a similar service. The Iranian companies are associated with hotels, also owned by Iranians. The control by Iranian companies extends to tourists from Lebanon who combine a visit to Iraq with one to a religious site Mashhad, Iran. The Iranian domination also extends to security arrangement for protecting the tourists. That role is filled by one company owned by one of the religious parties in Karbala.
Business is booming. Najaf is in the midst of a hotel building frenzy in a bid to dramatically ramp up the number of visiting pilgrims. While thousands of mostly Iranian religious tourists already pass through Najaf every day on what are marketed as nine-day tours of Iraq’s holy Shiite sites, hoteliers and business groups in the city expect hotel capacity, currently at breaking point, to double in the next three years.
Elsewhere, markets in rural Iraq are filled with Iranian goods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. While the knitwear market is dominated by cheap Chinese stuff, other household goods are conspicuously marked “Made in Iran” and are snapped up by consumers.
We saw a little slice of this during our own time in Iraq. Peter’s PRT covered an area that included the city and mosque of Salman Pak. Once a center for chemical weapons production and secret police training under Saddam, Salman Pak is better known to most Iraqis and Iranians as a historical and recreational area, approximately 15 miles south of Baghdad near a peninsula formed by a broad eastward bend of the Tigris River. It is named after Salman the Persian, a companion of Mohammad, who is buried there.
Salman Pak is also site of the Arch of Ctesiphon, the remains of the once majestic Persian Sassanid capital (pictured above). Ctesiphon is one of the largest and oldest freestanding arches in the world. Before the US invasion of 2003, the area was a popular day trip out of Baghdad, and even sported a floating casino and villas for select Saddam friends.
The attraction now for Iranian pilgrims is the mosque, once a well-known Shia shrine, converted to a well-known Sunni shrine by Saddam and now once again a well-known Shia shrine after sectarian violence post-2003 blew away most of the Sunnis in the area.
On routine patrols through the area, Peter’s PRT would frequently see giant tour buses, with Iranian license plates and markings, hauling tourists around the city.
The Iranian tourists would take pictures of our military vehicles and gesture at us as we drove past, even as our soldiers scowled at them and pantomimed “no photos.”
Nothing weirder than to be spending one’s days freeing Iraq only to run into Iranian tour agencies being the most obvious beneficiaries of that freedom.
Read more about the US-Iran proxy war now underway in Iraq…
This latest unnecessary death brings to 4466 the number of American troops who have died in Iraq. Twelve US troops have died this month already, the highest number of military deaths since May 2009.
Michele, if you get a chance, would you please ask Barack why he wants to leave American troops in Iraq past the end of this year? Please also ask him why these continued deaths are necessary. He might listen to you.
Secretary of State Clinton said:
“We have now reached the height of the civilian surge. We will shift our efforts from short-term stabilization projects to longer-term sustainable development that focuses on spurring growth and integrating Afghanistan into South Central Asia’s economy. The aim of our civilian surge was to give Afghans a stake in their country’s future and provide credible alternatives to extremism and insurgency. Measured against these goals, and considering the obstacles we face, we are and should be encouraged by how much has been accomplished.”
John Kerry, no doubt jonesing for Clinton’s job in a second Obama term, piled on, claiming:
“Because of the gains made in Afghanistan and in the intervening months, I believe it was from a position of strength that the president was able to lay out the next phase of our Afghan strategy. If you really stop and think about it, we have met our major goals in Afghanistan.”
Wow, cool, looks like we won.
Well, maybe not. While Clinton brays on about the success of the civilian surge (isn’t there another word we can use? That one just sounds like a gay porno term, sorry), others see it, um, differently.
“I do not think that it was ever serious,” Michael Semple of Harvard University’s Carr Center, and a former deputy to the European Union special representative for Afghanistan, says of the diplomatic effort. Most of the Americans work out of the embassy in Kabul, he explains, and leave the confines only when escorted by armed guards. The security costs alone are staggering, running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for each dip. One result: they hardly see any ordinary Afghans.
“Either they’re attending meeting with other foreigners, or if they’re lucky, they’re meeting with a provincial governor,” Semple says. It’s not entirely their fault. The State Department’s John Herbst, who is helping to staff the civilian efforts in Afghanistan, admits that the Department has “a substantial risk-averse culture.”
Ok, but Clinton said the economy is doing better, right?
Afghanistan’s resemblance to a mafia state that cannot serve its citizens may only be getting worse, according to an upcoming report by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank.
The 46-page study looks specifically at Afghanistan’s heartland: the rural areas of Ghazni, Wardak, Logar and other provinces just beyond the periphery of Kabul. Unemployment is high, government presence is low and the insurgency operates with impunity. Corruption and cooperation with the Taliban reach the highest levels of local governance.
The report concludes:
“Nearly a decade after the U.S.-led military intervention little has been done to challenge the perverse incentives of continued conflict in Afghanistan,” the research group says. Rather, violence and the billions of dollars in international aid have brought wealthy officials and insurgents together. And “the economy as a result is increasingly dominated by a criminal oligarchy of politically connected businessmen.”
But what about Karzai, our man in Kabul, the US’ appointed leader (OK, OK, he wasn’t appointed, he won through election fraud the US turned a gimp eye toward)? This is the dude that Obama and Clinton have thrown in with to lead Afghanistan toward, what did Hilary say, “integrating into South Central Asia’s economy.”
Karzai’s not working out so well either.
According to the AP, which is not read at the State Department because their AOL-branded web browsers balk at the graphics, President Hamid Karzai is increasingly isolated and has surrounded himself with an inner circle of advisers who are urging him to move closer to Iran and Pakistan as the US draws down its role in Afghanistan. Their advice is echoed in Karzai’s anti-West rhetoric, which has heightened both in his public speeches and in private. He met recently with Iran’s defense minister, and constantly cautions against trusting the US to have Afghanistan’s best interests at heart.
Clinton’s outgoing Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry had some parting words for Afghans, throwing down on Karzai’s anti-US references like a hurt puppy:
“When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost – in terms of lives and treasure – hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people … they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here. When I hear some of your leaders call us occupiers, I cannot look at mourning parents, spouses, and children in the eye and give them a comforting reply.
“When we hear ourselves being called occupiers and worse, our pride is offended and we begin to lose our inspiration to carry on. Let me be clear – America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world. Nor do we seek to do so here. In fact, we serve here as friends.”
That’s pretty funny, especially the not occupying places line. Might ask the countries around the world that house American military bases gained through conquest about that one Karl. Really, with self-delusion being exhibited on Eikenberry’s scale, it’s not hard to see why the present war on Afghanistan is such a shambles. With self-delusion being exhibited on Eikenberry’s scale, it’s not hard to see why the present war on Afghanistan is such a shambles.
But to be fair, Obama, Karl and Clinton are not alone in their mushroom-fueled fantasy that we’re pretty much done in Afghanistan. Ever-faithful tool Leslie Gelb sees things like this:
Obama pointed to the fact that US troops have killed 20 of 30 al Qaeda leaders in the past year alone, including Osama bin Laden, but he could have said a lot more. His own White House aides surely told him, as they told me, that al Qaeda members in Afghanistan “number in the tens.” Let me repeat that: not in the hundreds or the thousands, but in the tens. And beating them down to this pulp was the main mission of US forces. Besides, the White House aides surely told their president that Taliban forces in Afghanistan now number between 20,000 and 40,000. (One might have hoped that our intelligence analysts could have been somewhat more precise about this figure.) Even 40,000 is a tiny total when compared to the 200,000 or so friendly Afghans now under arms and the millions of Afghans who purportedly are on our side and hate the Taliban.
If you haven’t yet spit your beer out or blown it through your nose in amazement, let’s dissect Gelb’s crap a bit.
— There are only 10 al Qaeda guys left alive in Afghanistan?
— The Taliban are down to 20-40k (only a 100% margin of error but we’ll skip that)?
— There are 200,000 (or so) Afghans under arms who are on our side?
OK, then why the fuck are we needing over 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan now for, and why the fuck do they need to stay there until 2014? There are only 10 a Qaeda guys in the whole country. Can’t we just have Chuck Norris go in an roundhouse kick their asses?
(Time out for a Chuck Norris joke. Chuck has a bear skin rug in his den. The bear isn’t dead; it is just too scared to move)
Problem Leslie: According to “A Crisis in Trust and Cultural Incompatibility,” a 70-page survey led by a US Army behavioral scientist, a decade into the war, the nominal allies are often at odds – nearly 60 Western soldiers have been killed by Afghan soldiers in the past four years, many deliberately, for perceived provocations.
The study says that because NATO soldiers are now being slain by Afghan partners at a rate of about one a week, generals can no longer write off the killings as isolated and rare events. “Such proclamations seem disingenuous if not profoundly intellectually dishonest,” reads the study. “The researcher hypothesized that many, if not most, resulted from deep-seated animosity, often stimulated by social and personal conflicts, as well as perceived cultural and theological affronts.”
With all this good news, you can expect Obama to appear next on the deck of an aircraft carrier with a boner, speaking under a moldy “Mission Accomplished” banner dug out of some White House closet.
Two more American troops were killed in Iraq Sunday while conducting operations. No further details were immediately available, and the names of the dead are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
The deaths bring to 4,465 the number of American troops who have died in Iraq.
Eleven American troops have died this month in combat related situations. The casualty figure is the highest number of combat related deaths since May 2009 when American forces were still operating freely in Iraqi cities.
— BAGHDAD – At least 12 people were wounded when a suicide bomber in a wheelchair blew himself up at a police station in Tarmiya, 15 miles north of Baghdad.
— RIYADH – A bicycle loaded with explosives wounded two security guards and two pedestrians when it blew up near a car carrying Mohammed Ahmed Hussein, the mayor of Riyadh, a town near Kirkuk, 155 miles north of Baghdad.
— SULAIMAN PEK – A sticky bomb attached to a car carrying a police lieutenant colonel who worked on the protection of oil facilities killed him late on Saturday in the town of Sulaiman Pek, 100 miles north of Baghdad.
There will no doubt be more violence later in the day, but now it is off to Walmart for some democracy shopping.
Oh wait, what? What is the Iraqi government doing about this continuous flow of violence? According to the New York Times, not much:
Fifteen months after an election that was supposed to lay the groundwork for Iraq’s future, the government remains virtually paralyzed by a clash between the country’s two most powerful politicians, who refuse to speak to each other.
In December, the two politicians, Ayad Allawi, leader of the Iraqiya bloc, and Nouri al-Maliki, the country’s prime minister, entered into an American-backed power-sharing agreement. But since then, the men have been unable to agree on who should run the Interior and Defense ministries, the government’s two most important departments.
The United States has been unable to end the stalemate, demonstrating to some analysts and Iraqis its waning influence here.
Have a nice day!
Let’s run down the list: Did they attack us, like Pearl Harbor? No. Are they Nazis enslaving Europe? Nope. Did they steal our women and sell off our children? No. Anyway, just accept that we are at war to free Libya from the people who govern it, who are actually also Libyans.
It looks like some more freedom bombs were dropped on Libya. CNN reports:
NATO airstrikes hit a bakery and a restaurant in the Libyan city of al-Brega Saturday, killing 15 civilians, a Libyan government official told CNN. NATO denied the claim and said it had struck key command-and-control centers.
This kind of thing always makes me angry. In The Dirty Dozen or Private Ryan, whatever they blew up was just crawling with Krauts. Nobody was standing around saying “Hey, was that a bakery or a command center we just blew up?” Where’s Vic Morrow when you need him?
Vic Morrow also didn’t rape women, and it appears that the earlier claims by US UN diplo drone Susan Rice that sex machine Qaddafi had given his troops Viagra to encourage them to be rapin’ everybody may not be true.
Allegations that Muammar Qaddafi ordered the mass rape of women and passed out Viagra to his troops to give them more zeal for the task have been widely cited – most recently by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). But independent researchers who have sought to corroborate the claim in Libya now say they have found no evidence to back it whatsoever.
“We have not spoken to any victims or anybody who has met victims, except for the one doctor who has spoken a lot to the media,” said the researchers. “We approached her to see if there was anything more to learn from her, on this particular issue; she couldn’t put us in touch with any victims.”
So yeah, we probably just made that shit up. Hey, it’s war you know.
The State Department still plans to hire some 5500 mercs to guard the Baghdad Embassy and other State nightspots in Iraq starting in 2012 when the cheaper services of the US Army may not be available.
The question being asked is, of course, what could possibly go wrong? Though earlier gangs of mercs working for State gunned down Iraqis here and there, no doubt confusing the concept of “diplomacy” with “murderous funtimes,” and mercs guarding the Embassy in Kabul were photographed doing vodka shots off each others’ butts (pictured), State blithely assures everyone that this time it will be different.
But why take someone’s word for it when you can write it into the contract? Army Special Forces in Afghanistan, who use locals to guard their camps, have actually written details of expected behavior into the contract.
Here are some examples from the Army paper that State may wish to adopt:
“Do not kill or torture detained personnel.” (good one!)
“No booby-trapping, burning or mutilation of corpses.”
“Do not attack protected persons or protected places like mosques, hospitals, cemeteries and schools.”
“Fight only combatants. Destroy no more than the mission requires. Returned fire with aimed fire. Must limit/eliminate collateral damage to innocent civilians.”
Specifying such details in the contract will no doubt help clean up the mercs’ act. It will certainly have as much impact as the software license agreements where one clicks “Accept.” Silly lawyers!
The Congressman and Peter spent over an hour together, with Dr. Paul asking some very probing questions. He and his foreign affairs staffer, who has read the book, agreed that the chapter Chicken Shit, about a failed $2.58 million project to process chicken in rural Iraq, best captured the insanity of what we faced in Iraq.
Four bombs ripped through Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad Thursday evening, killing at least 40 people in the worst violence the capital has seen in months, Iraqi officials said.
Stay tuned for the Shiite retaliatory attack in the next day or two, followed by the Sunni re-retaliatory attack, followed by the…
An American civilian aid specialist was killed in a separate attack. The State Department released this statement:
The United States condemns a terrorist attack in Baghdad today that claimed the life of international development and finance expert Dr. Stephen Everhart and wounded three others. Dr. Everhart was an American citizen who was working in Iraq for an implementing partner of the United States Agency for International Development’s Mission in Iraq. He was killed while working on a project to introduce a new business curriculum to a Baghdad university in a program supported by the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education. His support of efforts to advance a modern and efficient financial sector has benefited the people and business enterprises of Iraq and his lifelong dedication to public service has improved the lives of countless people around the world.
We are saddened by this tragedy and extend our thoughts and prayers to Dr. Everhart’s family and loved ones, and to the three other injured victims and their families.
blah blah hope and change, shit, wrong script blah blah move some “surge” troops out, keep 70,000 there anyway forever blah blah continue to spend two billion dollars a week in afghanistan blah blah nation building at home but no money for that, just words blah blah desecrate Lincoln’s eloquence in trying to end america’s bloodiest war by tying that to the abortion in afghanistan blah blah.
There is so much madness involved in the reconstruction business that there is room for as many metaphors to describe it as we collectively can gather. In We Meant Well, the author describes himself and his PRT Team as “fat walleted aliens descending from armored spaceships” to hand out cash.
An Army Captain doing reconstruction work in Iraq wrote a book, Father of Money: Buying Peace in Baghdad. The title refers to the author himself, who was called “Father Money” in Arabic for all the cash he gave away.
Our State Department brother in PRT land, Afghan edition, coined (get it?) a new description, saying his “PRT is seen as a gigantic, camouflage-swathed ATM” handing out US tax dollars. His most recent story of the bureaucratic insanity of trying to get anything done in Afghanistan ends on a double-down Debbie Downer:
I started to launch into my sustainability shpiel, about how we can’t just give away fuel if there’s no plan in place for the Afghan government to take over and all of that. “It’s not sustainable,” I said. But I found that I no longer had the will to fight and couldn’t bring myself to continue. We’ve been through this, a thousand times with a thousand different people. It just seemed so hopeless.
The whole story, as well as the whole blog, is well worth reading for anyone who still thinks reconstruction in Afghanistan (Iraq, Yemen Libya, or anywhere outside of Detroit or Kansas City) is worth spending money on.
For you diplomat wanna-be readers, don’t write things on your blog like “It just seemed so hopeless.” Instead, follow the pros. The Washington Post reported from Afghanistan that:
“American diplomats expressed guarded hopes about the transition, saying they had come to respect many of the Afghans they had trained and worked with.
However, they also acknowledged that there had been disappointments and frustrations, including political interference, corruption and what one official called a ‘narrow skill layer’ of trainable people in this impoverished post-war nation. The plan is to shift from a wartime ‘stabilization’ assistance program to what several called a ‘normal’ program of development aid.
Still, the uncertain security situation could have a major impact on where, whether and how fast the transition can be carried out.”
Now that sounds better, right?
On Tuesday, at least 27 people, many of them police, were killedand more than 30 wounded when a pair of bombs exploded by the house of the provincial governor in the central Iraqi city of Diwaniyah.
The explosion in Diwaniyah followed the bombing of a French embassy convoy in Baghdad on Monday, wounding several Iraqis, and a blast Sunday targeting a western security company guarding a client in the southern oil region of Basra. That attack, on a route traveled by oil companies and western firms, left one Iraqi and one Westerner wounded.
Meanwhile, despite elections in March 2010, and forming a government in December, the cabinet has failed to date to name its security ministers.
Meanwhile, most Iraqis live with minimal services, intermittent power, murky water, nonexistent sewers. Lack stalks the country; this article delves into the lives of those in Iraq who make a living scavenging US-left behind trash, reminding that some 23% of Iraqis live in poverty.
Gunmen blasted their way into government offices in central Iraq on last week with two car bombs and suicide blasts that killed seven people. Militants involved in the attack in Diyala’s provincial capital of Baquba exchanged fire with Iraqi security forces, holding them at bay, in a siege that lasted nearly three hours.
The fight only ended after US military assistance, including troops, armored vehicles and helos, arrived and intervened.
But we sort of knew the Iraqi Army just isn’t all that it can be. The Washington Post tells us:
According to Iraqi politicians and military officers, the country’s armed forces remain dysfunctional, with power dangerously decentralized and wielded by regional fiefdoms controlled by Iraq’s top politician.
Ho, ho, it’s funny. We have spent billions training the Iraqi Army and there is not much to show for it; these guys must be the slowest learners on the planet (ED: No, that would be the Afghan Police). The Iraqi Army remains an almost gleefully silly Third World organization. US soldiers whose unrelished task it was to “train” the Iraqis would tell tales of rifles so dirty and rusty that they would not fire, and levels of discipline so poor that it was scary just to be around the troops and their weapons.
On joint bases, such as FOB Loyalty (Peter had more than a few sleepovers there) where five Americans lost their lives in early June, Iraqi vehicles with mounted machine guns, full belts of ammo in the weapon, would be left parked here and there, sometimes left running out of fear they would not start later. It was not odd to see a loaded AK leaning against the wall, its owner having run off to the toilet. One training trooper watched with some sense of entertainment as a company of Iraqi BMPs tried to start their engines, only to find that about one out of three would not even turn over.
It’ll be awhile before the Iraqi Army is ready for varsity play. Eight years after invading, decimating and then disbanding the Iraqi Army, let’s not make their ineptitude a reason to remain in Iraq, ‘Kay?
It is critical not to buy into the media vibe that these attacks are “bad guys versus the government.” They are not. The “government” in Iraq is a hodge-podge of militias, gangs and factions, each one controlling a part of the whole. An attack against the police in an area is one faction seeking turf or exacting revenge. We use the term “government” only a a convenience.
And please note that these attacks continue in a steady stream while the US still maintains a sizable combat force in Iraq. A smaller, hold-on force post-December 2011 will be even more limp. Even worse, since these are factional struggles, anytime the US intervenes the US is choosing a side, whether we do it willingly or (most often) out of ignorance. That can only weaken our overall position by setting up US forces for a revenge strike, or allowing us to wake up one morning on the losing side without even knowing it.
Really kids, time to come home.
Enter Robert Gates, or rather, exit Robert Gates. Gates, first as head of the CIA and then as SecDef, played a significant role in America’s naughty actions over the past years in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, Horn of Africa… well, the list goes on and it is likely that the list Gates can make is a lot longer than what we know.
Yet it is only now, as he leaves office, that Gates is willing to speak up. The story in the New York Times is headlined Looking Back, Gates Says He’s Grown Wary of ‘Wars of Choice’.
In a summation statement, Gates said:
“When I took this job, the United States was fighting two very difficult, very costly wars. And it has seemed to me: Let’s get this business wrapped up before we go looking for more opportunities.
“If we were about to be attacked or had been attacked or something happened that threatened a vital US national interest, I would be the first in line to say, ‘Let’s go.’ I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice.”
(Insert the sound of one person clapping slowly here, ironic applause.)
It is easy, standing at the door, to suddenly reveal that all these years have been a mistake, that hey, behind the scenes you were wary of the very wars you publicly led. Gates wants it both ways, to be remembered as a loyal Federal wage slave while at the same time wanting history to record him as having known right from wrong. No doubt he has a book deal in the works where he’ll beat that theme to death for more money.
That is the easy way out. We will be unlikely to ever know what Gates said in private with any accuracy, and so only have his constant stream of public support to assess him by. Like his predecessor in this kind of thing, Robert McNamara, Gates is a coward. McNamara defended publicly and indeed enlarged the war in Vietnam, killing thousands, while privately holding significant reservations about his own actions. He tried to atone for his sins at the World Bank and through a weepy memoir, but one hopes he died a bitter old man as real penance.
If Gates had even a modicum of guts he would have spoken up long ago, and been willing to pay the price for it, instead of overseeing so many wars of choice he now says he was wary of. So forgive us if we are unmoved by Robert Gates’ recent statements. We’re sure he meant well.
And happy belated Father’s Day, Bob.
(Editor’s note: the title of Van Buren’s book, We Meant Well, is intended to be ironic. No need to write in to complain, citizens.)
Here’s a new review of WE MEANT WELL from the nice folks at Publishers Weekly:
In this shocking and darkly hilarious exposé of the reconstruction of post-Saddam Iraq, former State Department team leader Van Buren describes the tragicomedy that has been American efforts at nation building, marked by bizarre decisions and wrongheaded priorities. The streets of Baghdad are piled high with mountains of trash; food and clean water are increasingly scarce, but since 2003, the State Department has poured money into such absurdities as outfitting schools (that lack electricity) with computers and importing French pastry chefs to teach cooking lessons.
Programs are stymied by cultural ignorance, undermined by local corruption, and badly managed by well-intentioned if oblivious administrators. But photo ops have been enough to satisfy the higher-ups. “If publicity were democracy,” Van Buren remarks, “this place would have looked like ancient Athens.”
A story of the American ambassador and his lawn elegantly evokes the disconnect between American intention and Iraqi suffering: despite blistering heat, seed-stealing birds, and the astronomical cost of water, the ambassador demanded–and achieved–an emerald green garden within the embassy walls. “We made things in Iraq look the way we wanted them to look,” Van Buren writes.
With lyrical prose and biting wit, this book reveals the devastating arrogance of imperial ambition and folly.
In Peter’s book, one pervasive theme is the incredible amount of money that was wasted in Iraq; one chapter is entitled “Money and our Meth Habit,” and compares the waste he saw around him as a PRT Team Leader with the dope budget for Guns n’ Roses.
Among the more celebrated pissing away of cash episodes is the unsolved mystery of what happened to the $6.6 billion dollars the US Government lost in Iraq (some put the total missing as high as $18 billion).
After the March 2003 invasion, the Bush administration flooded the conquered country with cash to pay for reconstruction. Altogether between March 2003 and May 2004 $12 billion in cash was airlifted into Iraq. Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. Along the way, $6.6 billion was lost. Can’t be found, Unaccounted for. Gone.
Let’s take a second to figure out how much money $6.6 billion is. To begin with, it is about three entire fucking airplanes full of hundred dollar bills. The LA Times says it is enough money to run the Los Angeles Unified School District for a year. You can buy more than 20,000 Rolls Royce’s with that money (your cost may vary, dealer tax and prep applies).
Anyway, the money is gone and we have to find it, citizens.
This website hereby officially requests you to send in clues as to where the money is now located. You can stay anonymous, or, if you include your name, we will offer the following valuable prizes to the best clue:
— A free copy of WE MEANT WELL, plus author Peter Van Buren will call you and personally apologize for the parts that are not really that funny.
— Bloggeteer Jason, as part of a younger demographic (though Jason is a real person, he is not a gay girl in Damascus), will give up one of his private “stash” of now-rare Four Lokos, if you are old enough and physically attractive.
We also have feelers out to Gary Busey’s people, and hear Gary may donate some socks. We asked people near the subway for money, and will also throw in the $3.58 we got, plus the one Canadian coin (a “shilling”).
If you are famous or clever and want to donate a prize, you can write to us about that also. Don’t back down Colbert, we know you weren’t that drunk when you promised.
Send your clues to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not include the word “Viagra” in the subject line, and don’t type in ALL CAPS LIKE YOUR MOTHER. Offer void if it gets us in trouble.
Diplopundit has written a sad, excellent piece about the State Department’s hypocritical stance on online freedom of speech, how the Department spends millions abroad to ensure the rights of Mideast bloggers to criticize their governments, while spending tax dollars at home silencing its own employees who choose to blog objectively about State.
There are three kinds of State Department blogs (a whole list is here). The most benign are the so-called travelogue types, where families chronicle their adventures abroad. These blogs do sometimes run afoul of Mother State when they create anything less than a fully happy family picture of a particular country but usually putter along with their small familiar audiences.
The second category are the echo chambers, blogs written by State officials that simply reiterate the party line. They could be taken right from the day’s official talking points, and often are. State seems to leave these alone, allowing even one of its spokespeople in Iraq to have one.
Finally, there are those who write objectively about State, pointing out that some things are alright, some just OK and some in need of change. In contrast to the military, which has always encouraged soldiers to speak their minds and allowed/tolerated soldier blogs (some excellent writing about Iraq came out of this genre), State can act more like the Mafia than a freedom advocate, demanding that “nobody talks about the family outside the family.”
Diplopundit talks about this, and has served as a repository of State blogs that have gone dark under pressure. He refers to the people at Foggy Bottom whose apparent job it is to enforce the family rules as “tigers,” and notes that they try very hard to scare people into compliance because today, in a Wikileaked world, anything written down seems to splatter across the web. State has little interest in providing written blog fodder for those who might “talk about the family outside the family.”
The State Department has been known to muzzle its Foreign Service (FS) bloggers in various different ways. It had already driven an FS blogger to “sail into the sunset” (shaky current assignment, no forward assignment, etc, etc.). These FS bloggers write on their own free time, not on taxpayers’ dime. It has caused the shutdown of several blogs and continues to threaten its diplomats and their spouses who blog or tweet about stuff outside the chalked lines with all sorts of punishments. Always behind closed doors, of course, and in almost non-existent paper trail.
If you hear very little about this, it’s because the shutdown also comes with a non-disclosure agreement; if the blogger squeaks, they can send you to a mission in the Arctic region, or they send the employee, then the offending spouse blogger dines with guilt every single day afterwards.
Some will say that the “privilege” of speaking ends when you take a job at Foggy Bottom. Not true. The State Department has an official policy on its employees writing personal things and participating in social media. You can read it here and here.
There is actually nothing in there that prohibits employees from writing and speaking per se. There is a pre-clearance process, which on paper at least focuses mainly on three things: that the writing contain nothing classified, that the writing not contain anything protected by the Privacy Act and that the writer not misrepresent his/her personal views as State Department policy. There are some other common-sense restrictions on talking about contracts and procurement deals, and giving away details on policy arguments.
Nothing written down however that says “don’t write anything we won’t like or you’ll get whacked.”
One of the unexpected things about operating a blog like this is the emails we receive. Some of course are selling Viagra and manly growth pills, some (mostly written ALL IN CAPS!1!) are threats and many are thoughtful responses from Foreign Service people. These people, like the critical bloggers, are not out on a witch hunt despite sometimes being the targets of witch hunts themselves. They bought into the idea learned somewhere along the way that open discussion is good, that airing problems can help solve problems, that responsible criticism can make an organization’s other statements more credible, that free speech is not an abstract, or a tool swung just against foreign regimes that we oppose, but in fact an obligation.
Here’s the story:
ABEL / Aswat al-Iraq: Babel security forces announced that the US killed two civilians by shooting rockets at a bomb planted in a nearby area. The source told Aswat al-Iraq that a US force, supported by aerial back-up, dismantled an anti-tank bomb which was planted on the side of the road in Hashimiyah area, 30 km south of Hilla.
“The US forces shot two rockets at the area around the bomb, but when the Iraqi police forces came nearer, they found two civilians had been killed during the operation.”
It is all fake, made up, complete fabrication, no one was killed by the US. Even if true, would Iraqis believe a US statement claiming the story was false? What credibility does the US have at this point? While Americans forgot Abu Ghraid minutes after the next “Dancing with the Stars” premiered, Iraqis remember.
It happened. Accidents happen and no one, not even the Iraqi media, is claiming it was intentional. Drones rocket weddings. Kids get hit in the dark by tanks. Soldiers under stress shoot the wrong people. Yep, these things happen in war, which is why war is not a good way to rebuild a country or enhance relations. War only destroys things, like the freedom bombs being dropped all over Libya, Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere. You must stop the fighting first, then build the world’s largest embassy.
I don’t believe you, Jason. Iraqis forgive and forget also, and understand accidents happen.
Well gentle reader, no. Never mind Iraq– how do things go in inner city America when the cops “accidentally” gun down another unarmed black youth, or Taser-whomp a person peacefully protesting?
Anyway America, enjoy your freedom. And watch your backs.
This week saw the deaths of two more American soldiers in this stupid war.
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Bellard, 26, of El Paso and Sgt. Glenn Sewell, 23, of Live Oak died from wounds suffered when their unit in Wasit province in eastern Iraq was attacked by improvised explosives.
Both men had done more than their share of service for a lost cause.
Sewell’s awards and decorations include a Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, three Army Commendation Medals, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal with combat service star, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with combat service star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, two Overseas Service Ribbons, Combat Action Badge.
Bellard’s awards and decorations include two Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals, Meritorious Unit Commendation, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal with two combat service stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon and Overseas Service Ribbon.
Their deaths were for what? This?
On behalf of both men, thank you Barack Obama for your sacrifice. How’s the golf game? Think at all about the kids you killed today?
June 6, 2011: DynCorp International, the largest contractor in Afghanistan, has refunded a portion of $40.8 million to the State Department for work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
June 13, 2011: DynCorp International announced that it has been selected by the Department of State as one of five providers on the Criminal Justice Program Support contract.
These two stories are also unrelated:
August 20, 2010: Blackwater Worldwide reached an agreement with the State Department to pay $42 million for hundreds of violations of United States export control regulations.
October 1, 2010: Blackwater has won a piece of a five-year State Department contract worth up to $10 billion.
This story is also unrelated to any of the above:
(2008) “When I am president I will ask the Joint Chiefs for their help in reducing reliance on armed private military contractors with the goal of ultimately implementing a ban on such contractors,” (then Candidate Hillary Clinton) declared. Clinton slammed Obama on this issue: “Senator Obama and I have a substantive disagreement here. He won’t rule out continuing to use armed private military contractors in Iraq.”
Clinton released a statement saying she would endorse the Stop Outsourcing Security Act to “ban the use of Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq.” She declared, “The time to show these contractors the door is long past due.”
Hey ‘Merikans, feelin’ any prouder? Standin’ any taller? Hell boy, we are even freer today than yesterday because we are back baby, back cold killing Iraqis again that is. Man, it feels like the heady days of 2003 all over again, before all that nancy boy reconstruction heart and minds crap. Any Iraqi hearts and minds we were after today were splattered in the street.
Yes, it’s true. After a rocket attack against America’s Freedom Base at the Basra Airport (the place the sissy British abandoned earlier this year), we all put down some attack helo love on the guys we thought did it. We killed one and wounded some others, including a woman. They is the worst kinda’ bad guys.
This all just follows the new trend in Iraq, a bit o’ the old ultra violence. In fact, yep, another record fell, as this past week was the bloodiest in Iraq since the elections of March 2010. There were over 90 separate attacks documented, mainly in Baghdad and the districts surrounding it, although the southern city of Basrah also saw a rare suicide attack,
Well, in a week where the Iraqis wouldn’t pay us for invading them, at least there was some good news. USA! USA! USA!
Good Christ, we are never going to be finished with this war.
For example, in 2007, al Qaeda sent letters (letters!) to 45 Jews living near Sanaa, saying that if the Jews did not abandon their homes in ten days, they would be abducted and murdered and their homes would be looted. The Jewish community sent a complaint letter (a letter!) to President Salah, who promised that their homes would be protected. Good times.
Sure, 2001-2008, a lot about al Qaeda in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and more recently in Pakistan. Now Yemen. I could be wrong, but it is almost– almost– as if al Qaeda kept spreading to new places despite our killing as many Muslims as we can.
Some news from Yemen.
— Al Qaeda’s robust terror organization in Yemen is recruiting from a pool of hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees who have fled war in their homeland, according to U.S. and Yemeni intelligence officials. Approximately 700,000 Somali refugees have made Yemen their home, and that population is expected to continue to grow in the face of the collapse of the East African nation.
— Two American tourists were kidnapped by gunmen in Yemen Monday, and local officials said it was likely the group holding them had ties to al Qaeda.
— A US military official warned that the global links between the groups in Yemen pose a “significant danger to our own national security because the next attack in the US may not come from someone we suspect but from a recruit born right here or someone else, like a Somali refugee.”
— In April, 23 Somalis who entered Mexico illegally earlier in the year were believed headed for the US after being released by Mexican authorities.Several were directly connected to Islamo-terror group Al-Shabaab, according to the law enforcement documents.
— US makes a drone attack a day in Yemen. The increase of such attacks is part of a US strategy to employ more drones to curb what the US believes is a growing terror threat in Yemen. The US plans to begin supplementing US military drones with CIA drones.
Only intelligent comment made: A Yemen defence official, who requested anonymity, said he ws worried that US strategy may backfire. “The United States is turning Yemen into another Pakistan,” he said. He said relatives of innocent drone-attack victims will seek to avenge the deaths and resort to terror.
Can we please listen to that guy?
Can’t have it both ways? Don’t tell the State Department, who wants several billion dollars to assume the role of occupier in Iraq while at the same time demanding little oversight into how it spends taxpayer money.
In a previous post, we wrote how State refused to allow the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) to audit their police training mission. The US has spent billions training Iraqi police since 2003, and little has been accomplished outside the hemorrhaging of US money into the hands of Dynacorp, the contractor designated by the USG to steal all that money. State says SIGIR jurisdiction is limited to “reconstruction” activities, as opposed to “technical assistance and capacity-building.” A fight before Congress will resolve the matter since the kids can’t settle it on their own.
But better move fast Congress– SIGIR is scheduled to shut down in 18 months, so all State has to do is s-t-a-l-l.
Last week the Commission on Wartime Contracting asked State to justify in writing any decision to overturn recommendations in favor of suspending or debarring a contractor by other State Department officials, and also for the establishment of a permanent, government-wide special Inspector General for contingency operations.
State said no. Give us the money, stuff your oversight.
The commissioners called State’s opposition to the first recommendation–that it would be overly burdensome–“logically dubious.” After State Department management droid Pat Kennedy could not answer how often recommendations for suspension or debarment are overturned, the commissioners asked how it could be so burdensome if State didn’t even know how frequently it occurred. We hope that gets entered into his next performance review but kinda doubt it.
The commissioners were also skeptical of State’s opposition to a permanent, government-wide Inspector General (IG) for contingency operations. They cited historical examples of State’s history with IGs to support their skepticism of State’s position. For instance, just a few days prior to the hearing, the Washington Times published a story about attempts by State to oppose an investigation by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) based on lack of jurisdiction.
Commissioner Charles Tiefer questioned State’s will to hold its contractors accountable, citing the example of First Kuwaiti General Contracting and Trading. Tiefer noted that a 2009 audit by the State Department IG recommended that State recover $132 million from the contractor for its exceptionally shoddy work constructing the Baghdad Embassy. It has now been almost two years since the release of that report and as Kennedy acknowledged in the hearing, State still has not asked the company to pay up. We hope that also gets entered into his next performance review but again kinda doubt it.
A full accounting of the problems found in the Baghdad Embassy is worth reading.
To make matters worse, despite First Kuwaiti’s sad performance in Baghdad, the company continued to get work building for State in Saudi Arabia and Gabon as a subcontractor through an American company called Aurora, LLC, which some State Department officials suspect was established to serve as a front company for First Kuwaiti.
So why worry, eh?
Read more about the need for aggressive IG oversight at State in POGO’s November 2010 letter to President Obama.
From Iraq Business News, the only business news site I know that tracks violent deaths along with currency fluctuations. Viva!
The news source Oakville Patch, which is apparently something on the internet written for the two or three still-literate people left in Missouri, features a trip recap from their local Congressman Russ Carnahan, who just motored back in from a quick look-see at Iraq.
Carnahan, no doubt channeling the story telling expertise of Joe Dirt, explained that he thinks the progress the Kurds have made “can be an example particularly in their region to some of these emerging democratic governments around the Arab world.” Joe: Psst, they’re Kurds, not Arabs dude. Arabs would rather follow a camel off a cliff than be compared to Kurds.
As for his fellow Congressional traveler asking for Iraqis to repay the US for the cost of our invading them, Russ said “I would also point out that back in our own revolution, our fledgling democratic movement was financed primarily by France and specifically from Gen. Lafayette,” Carnahan added. “Later, Congress made an appropriation to at least partially pay him back for helping underwrite our own revolution. So there’s certainly a precedent for that sort of thing happening.”
And if you read the original story, there’s even a link to a Wikipedia article on General Lafayette. The article doesn’t seem to mention Lafayette paying for the American revolution, or the American invasion of France or much of anything else but who cares, he’s Joe Dirt and it don’t have to be true if its on the internet!
Anyway, Carnahan said many members of the US military felt there was a “glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel” that the long conflict was beginning to wind down.
“We’ve had a costly presence there in Iraq, and certainly a lot of investment there,” Carnahan said. “And it’s important for the country and for our economic security to have them succeed.”
Carnahan sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Now citizens, don’t we all feel better about the people running our country?
Video from Tahrir Square in Baghdad this weekend, clashes between pro-Malaki (Shiite) forces and anti-Malaki forces (Sunni).
Also this weekend, two beheaded in Mosul, five others killed in Basra, couple more in Baghdad.
Hey Iraqis, you’re free! Go thank a Vet.