• Iraq War Anniversary: Me and Colin Powell in the NYC

    March 24, 2014 // 15 Comments »




    I love New York. What other city in the United States has public art openly mocking former Secretary of State and Bush Lickspittle Toady Colin Powell?


    In the High Line Park, in the Meatpacking District, stands a bust of Colin Powell, his mighty frame bursting out of well-sculpted living rock. Held in his hand (see arrow) is a vial of fake Iraqi anthrax. The statue mimics Powell’s actual performance at the UN.

    Powell Sells Out America

    Last week marked the 11th anniversary of the Iraq War, so Powell’s self-debasement took place some 11 years ago. A little recap is due.

    Colin Powell, as Secretary of State, lent his considerable credibility and gravitas to the case for war with Iraq. Powell spoke publicly before the UN General Assembly, and privately in depth with America’s allies, about mobile biowar labs, weapons of mass destruction and the imminent danger Saddam Hussein posed. While many people knew Bush was an idiot puppet, and Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld psychopathic fibbers, Powell convincingly represented the United States’ case for war.

    Of course, everything Powell said was a lie. If Powell somehow did not know what he was saying was a lie even as the words oozed out of his mouth that day, he soon came to know, as did the rest of the world, that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, and that the whole 2003 invasion of Iraq was a thin sham. In his autobiography, Powell had this to say:

    A blot, a failure will always be attached to me and my UN presentation. I am mad mostly at myself for not having smelled the problem. My instincts failed me. There is nothing worse than a leader believing he has accurate information when folks who know he doesn’t don’t tell him that he doesn’t.


    Doing the Right Thing

    And of course as soon as Powell found out the intel was not just flawed, but completely made up, he resigned in a dramatic protest and attempt to restore America’s credibility, right? Powell went to the media and told everyone that the Iraq War was started on false pretenses? Nope. He served out his four years as Secretary of State.

    Powell-erful stuff. One hopes that the over 4,400 Americans who died in Iraq, the over 100,000 Iraqis who died and the taxpayers who watched a trillion dollars poured into the sand there are equally moved to know that it was all a “blot.” The direct relation between the chaos unleashed by the upsetting of the balance of power in the Mideast through that invasion, and the engorging mess in Syria, Libya and everywhere else, is just a sideshow one guesses to that “blot.”

    Another Blot?

    Colin does love his blots. He said this about Hillary Clinton and the deaths of four Americans at Benghazi:

    I think she’s had a distinguished record. And I don’t think that this one incident– which is one of these things that those of us in government have been through many, many times where suddenly an action happens late at night– I don’t think it’s a blot on her record.


    Enjoy

    It is almost comical to remind that Powell served out his full term as Secretary of State, and was never prosecuted, punished or sanctioned for his lies. He now reportedly earns $40,000 a speech, and is in demand for fundraisers and motivational sales events.

    We’ll enjoy your statue in New York City Colin. You eventually will enjoy your time in Hell, cellmates with Robert McNamara, and please spend every day you have left on this planet meditating on the souls of the people who died in Iraq because of your lie, and your utter lack of responsibility in not speaking up. Only cowards remain silent, and that is your legacy. But do enjoy the money. That is your penance.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    A Child’s Treasury of Tweets on Syria

    September 11, 2013 // 5 Comments »

    (Follow me on Twitter as @wemeantwell or I’ll just keep repeating myself here)


    US isn’t the world’s policeman Obama says. No, we’re the world’s George Zimmerman.

    The question no journalist will ask Obama: Mr. President, if you use the military again, tell me how this ends?

    And by the way, what wars had Obama ended? Even the end of the Iraq war was negotiated by Bush. (Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, AFRICOM)

    Our US military pinpricks are really BIG.



    The policy on Syria is in such disarray that it’s obvious Kerry is just making things up as he goes along.

    No truth to the rumor that Colin Powell will speak alongside Obama to make the case for war.

    Scary White House videos from Syria were on YouTube, but now “significant” as intel community gives stamp of “authenticity”

    How’d that last Middle East thingie work out for ya? Marines moved closer to Libya as 9/11 anniversaries approach.

    Iran warned the U.S. twice in 2012 that Syrian rebels the U.S. supports have chemical weapons of their own.

    Russia proposes Syria turn over chem weapons to avoid war. Predicting U.S. will claim Syria can’t be trusted in 5, 4, 3, 2…

    Pathetic: Susan Rice citing Bush officials who sold the WMD scam to Americans on Iraq as supporters of Syria strikes.

    When Obama said “There is no NSA spying on Americans,” he lied. But it’s cooool if you trust him on #Syria …

    When Obama talks about the dead children in Syria, do ask him why Syria is a crisis but North Korean labor camps are not even mentioned.

    日本の歴史の本で発見:”パールハーバー:。ただ空爆、地上の歩兵を持つ” (Found in the Japanese archives: “Pearl Harbor: Just an airstrike, with no boots on the ground.”)

    WaPo (slogan: Obama’s Stenographer) fans flames quoting unnamed source (Israel) about new threat– Syria bioweapons!

    Because it’s the morally right thing to do: France says it won’t act alone on Syria, waits for the UN.

    Obama: the world cannot remain silent on Syria. Meanwhile, the world disagrees and remains silently unconvinced.

    The world has set a red line, he says, but somehow he’s the only one in the world talking about it.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, nor a policy. We do not need another war in the Middle East.

    Happened to be reading the chem weapons treaty. Says disputes settled by the UN. Nowhere does it say US’ obligation.

    Hagel either lied or was stirring up propaganda: Russia does not supply Syria with chemical weapons.

    Other popular international norms: don’t torture, don’t render, don’t violate sovereignty by drone, don’t indefinitely imprison people without trial.

    Obama in Egypt: OK to kill your own people. Obama in Syria: Killing your own people means war.

    Assad helped the U.S. torture rendered CIA prisoners.

    Some brown-skinned dude called me a sissy in the bar, so I beat him to ensure my credibility. Not related to Syria in any way.

    If I hear anyone, ever, say “boots on the ground” again, I will puke. Deal with it: It’s US infantry dying on another MidEast battlefield.

    Watching Kerry make things up on the spot today, one can’t help but wonder at what point those pharmaceutical grade hallucinogens kicked in.

    Kerry says multiple Arab nations support US attack on Syria, says can’t name countries in unclassified setting because “It’s complicated.”

    Party Outta Bounds in Pyongyang Ya’all: Kerry says failure to bomb #Syria will cause celebration in North Korea.

    Kerry gives weasel answer on “boots on the ground” ’cause a) special forces likely already on ground and b) more troops may go in to seize chemical weapons.

    Just called my Congressional reps’ offices to tell them vote no on Syrian attack. Call your reps today.

    Syria, thank you for calling. Your attack is important to us. Please stay on the line, and our cruise missiles will be with you shortly.

    What is wrong with these people– Kerry says Syria is now a “Munich moment.”

    I took a nap and now the war with Syria isn’t about sending a message to Assad anymore? It’s now about sending a message to Iran?

    Legal basis for attacking Syria? If the president does it of course it is legal.

    Kucinich: “Syria Strike Would Make U.S. Al Qaeda’s Air Force.” Well, there’s something we can all get behind.

    Once-great BBC ran Syrian-rebel supplied propaganda photo– actually taken years ago in Iraq– to stir up war fever.

    UN says will take weeks to analyze Syria samples for evidence of chem weapons; Kerry says US already has proof.

    Mix n’ Match: Obama’s strategy stands in contrast to 2011, when he sought UN authorization for Libya but not approval of Congress.

    Kerry: “Assad regime’s chem attack is a crime against conscience, humanity, the norm of int’l community.” AS ARE DRONES AND GITMO.

    If the US is sincere about a humanitarian response, send doctors to the refugee camps and nerve gas antidote and gas masks to Syria.

    Don’t you wish Nobel Peace prizes came with an expiration date after which they self-destruct?



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    Overheard in the White House: Why We Are Going to War in Syria

    September 4, 2013 // 18 Comments »




    Mr. President, we’re going to have to convince the American people about this war with Syria. Our polling shows more support for nuking Miley Cyrus the next time she twerks on TV than for your policy.

    She does have a sweet little–

    We have the Congressional midterms coming up, and Boehner is up my ass about defunding my healthcare legacy. I need this vote, or Hillary’s gonna kill me.

    Right, right, sir.

    (Licking of chops heard)

    Kill them! Kill them all!

    Easy Susan, I promise you’ll see the post-attack color close up photos first, then you pass them to McCain like always.

    Yes, It likes the Precious Photos, It likes them.

    Somebody get her some water or something?

    So what’s our reason for Syria?

    Hey, do we still have to put five bucks in the tip jar if we say ‘Slam Dunk’?

    Seriously now people, we are committing American lives at risk here.

    (General laughter in room)

    OK, OK. We go to war in Iran–

    Syria.

    OK, war in Syria because of a red line.

    Is that the same as a line in the sand?

    No, ours is red. Very different.

    Good one, sir.

    Well, Americans have not been hooked tight enough by the red line. We need another reason.

    OK, evil dictator, killing his own people, yadda yadda.

    That has some traction, but roughly half of the dead in Syria were killed by ‘our own’ rebels, and those were their own people too. What else?

    U.S. credibility?

    (General laughter in room)

    I think U.S. credibility went down the freaking toilet when you promised to close Gitmo and didn’t.

    Shut up Chuck. Nobody asked you.

    Goddammit, I served in Vietnam.

    Yeah, so did John Kerry and Colin Powell, and you don’t see them whining.

    So why don’t we just go old-school and say the Syrians attacked us in the Gulf of Tonkin?

    Would that work?

    Dammit, I had friends killed in Vietnam because of that lie.

    I think one of my frat brothers’ dad got greased in Laos. Is that over there too?

    Also, I read somewhere that we used napalm, white phosphorus and Agent Orange over there. Are those chemical weapons?

    Yeah, but that’s history.

    Not to the victims and their malformed children still alive, nor to the loved ones still mourning their dead at America’s hand.

    O.K., back on track, how about, um, violation of international law?

    (General laughter in room)

    Maybe with our drones, ongoing indefinite imprisonment at Gitmo, torture, renditions, black sites, NSA spying on foreign heads of state, bringing down a sovereign leader’s plane because we thought that son-of-a-bitch Snowden was on board, pushing international law too hard might not be the best thing.

    Easy Chuck.

    Yeah, especially since until around 2006 we were rendering prisoners into Assad’s Syria for out-sourced torture.

    Dammit Chuck!

    OK, back to Iran. We bomb the hell out of Syria to send a message to Iran.

    What message?

    That they can’t support evil regimes.

    But the Iranians have been supporting bad guys in Lebanon forever, these days the Taliban in Afghanistan, and basically control our allies in free Iraq. Hell, they even sent Qods force guys into Iraq to kill our own troops. Not sure here why Syria, now, is the place for a message.

    So what do we have left?

    I’d say we just keep saying ‘WMD, WMD’ over and over again until Americans beg Congress for a military strike on Syria.

    I like that a lot. Any opposition? No? OK then, we go with WMD scare tactics.

    Might as well.

    Agreed. It worked last time.

    O.K., thanks everyone. And thank you gentlemen for coming back to Washington to help see this through. John, would you be kind enough to walk W., Dick and Condi out please?




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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    Handy Quiz for Intervening in Syria

    June 6, 2013 // 16 Comments »


    As a public service to Obama and his spanking-new National Security Advisor Susan Rice (Rice’s autobiography should be titled Failing Upward by Sucking Upward), here is a handy checklist to consult before deciding to intervene further in Syria.

    Is it Iraq again? That went well.

    Does it have oil?

    Does it pose a direct threat to America, i.e., knife to our throat?

    Can you define specifically what U.S. interests are at stake (no fair just citing generic “world peace” or “evil dictator”)?

    Is Syria’s evil dictator somehow super-worse than the many other evil dictators scattered across the world where the U.S. is not intervening?

    Did Syria attack any U.S. forces somewhere? Kidnap Americans? Commit 9/11?

    Does the U.S. have a specific, detailed follow-on plan for what happens if Assad departs?

    Does the U.S. have a specific plan to ensure weapons given to the rebels, some of whom are openly al Qaeda, won’t migrate out of Syria as they did in Libya?

    Does the U.S. believe its secret deal with the rebels to hand over Syria’s chemical weapons after they take power is airtight?

    Can the U.S. tell with accuracy the “good” rebels from the “bad” rebels?

    Has the U.S. considered in detail what affect a rebel (Sunni) victory in Syria will have on chaotic Iraq next door?

    Why are Syria’s chemical weapon so different than say North Korea’s or anyone else’s that intervention is a good idea?

    Extra Credit Questions

    If the U.S. is regime-changing in Syria, why does the U.S. still diplomatically recognize the Syrian government? Discuss.

    Why did the U.S. render prisoners to Syria for torture by Assad just a few years ago but now thinks he is an evil dictator? Discuss.

    Since the American electorate overwhelmingly chose Obama over McCain in 2008, why is Obama acting more like McCain every day? Discuss.

    Exactly why, after Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and drone wars everywhere, does the U.S. need to get sucked in to yet another Middle East quagmire? Discuss.


    Obama and Rice, if the answer was “No” to any of the above questions, you should not intervene in Syria.


    Bonus: The blogging software I use for this site requires “tags” be created to mark posts for searches. When I first started, the only country tag I needed was “Iraq.” Since then I have had to add Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iran, multiple African nations and now Syria as places America is openly at war.




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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    Use the Twitter to find WMDs, Win $10,000

    August 29, 2012 // 7 Comments »

    I think this is one of those days when what the Onion says and what the Times says are too close.

    Your State Department, always on the Edge (of something, perhaps collapse) is running what appears to be a real contest, with a $10,000 prize. The winner will suggest a way that “innovation” can be used to help in arms control. State says:



    Can innovation bring about creative ways to prevent “loose nukes” from falling into the hands of terrorists? Can smart phone and tablet apps be created for the purpose of aiding on-site inspectors in verifying and monitoring treaty commitments? Are there new ways that we can use existing data, such as Twitter streams, to generate information that will be useful to arms control and nonproliferation verification and monitoring? This Challenge is an experiment in that thinking. It seeks creative ideas from across the general public, from garage tinkerers and technologists; to gadget entrepreneurs and students.


    So Citizens, let’s all roll up our sleeves and create something for the State Department!

    Apart from the overall ambiguity of what they are talking about, and leaving aside the creepy meme of enlisting citizens as crowd-sourced tattletales and snitches (“we have been working to elevate American ‘civilian power’ to advance our national security interests, making partners of the United States government and its citizens”), here are some ideas that I think might make good entries into the contest:

    — A Tweet from President Assad telling inspectors exactly where to look for the WMDs. (sure winner)

    — A smartphone app that randomly generates excuses for not finding any WMDs.

    — A script that sends out a Tweet saying “Did you find any yet?” to weapons inspectors every ten minutes.

    — Another Twitter gadget that sends out regular Tweets for other State Department people to instantly RT (to yet more State Department people) saying thing like “We are vital” or “State: Keen and Innovative.”

    — A widget that searches eBay automatically for “surplus plutonium” and “dirty bombs done dirt cheap.”

    — An undercover app that looks for the hashtags #WMD #Jihad #IamaTerrorist_and_hereisMyAddress

    — An app that turns your cell phone camera flash into a flashlight so you can look for WMDs in dark places.

    — An Instagram filter that auto-superimposes images of real WMDs into any photo to make it look like we found stuff.

    — An app that uses your phone’s GPS to create a list of countries to invade when we can’t find any chemical weapons in the country where we are actually looking (set to auto-update to exclude America’s allies on that day).

    — This real app, rejected by Apple, that tracks actual US drone strikes.

    — New version of Angry Birds with hidden WMD icons to sharpen hunting skills.

    — Something that plugs into phones like Square and beeps every time a young Muslim male comes within twenty feet. He probably doesn’t have any WMDs but you can arrest him, imprison him indefinitely and torture him until he admits to something, bastards.

    — An app called “My WMDs” that auto-displays maps of Israel, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, then, when you tap on one of the maps for more detail, the image is replaced with one of Syria and the app makes a “Hah Hah” sound before squirting tepid urine on you (iPhone only)


    You know some idiot at State is getting promoted for this idea, tying one of the Secretary’s pet words (innovation) into something “online” with all the modern interweb buzz words the old people running Foggt Bottom don’t understand but want to drop in conversation to seem cool, like pretending to like “now” music from “hip” bands. All told, about as innovative as adding a light switch to the refrigerator light.

    Jeez, this is about the stupidest freaking thing I have ever heard about.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    Please Please Please Buy Me This OIF Train Set!

    August 12, 2012 // Comments Off on Please Please Please Buy Me This OIF Train Set!




    For the occasional few who write in asking how they can help support this blog, please please please buy me this Operation Iraqi Freedom train set! I know it is out of production, but maybe on eBay or at some yard sale!

    If you buy me this, I promise you can come over. We’ll pretend there are weapons of mass destruction in my back yard, and drive the train to look for them under the bushes. We’ll drink beer, and fib to each other about finding the massive weapons. Then, when we’re bored, we’ll bust up the train set and invade somewhere else. It’ll be so cool!

    Bonus: If you’re Colin Powell and you buy me this train set, I’ll let you pretend you didn’t do it a year from now.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    Colin Powell has the Manhood of a Kardashian

    May 4, 2012 // 22 Comments »

    Colin Powell, as Secretary of State, lent his considerable credibility and gravitas to the case for war with Iraq.

    Powell spoke publicly before the UN General Assembly, and privately in depth with America’s allies, about mobile biowar labs, weapons of mass destruction and the imminent danger Saddam Hussein posed. While many people considered Bush an idiot puppet, and Cheney and Rumsfeld psychopathic fibbers, as they beat the drums for war, Powell convincingly represented the United States’ case for war.

    Of course, everything Powell said was a lie.

    Now, pimping a new book, of course, Colin tells all:

    A blot, a failure will always be attached to me and my UN presentation. I am mad mostly at myself for not having smelled the problem. My instincts failed me. There is nothing worse than a leader believing he has accurate information when folks who know he doesn’t don’t tell him that he doesn’t.

    So why did no one stand up and speak out during the intense hours we worked on the speech? Some of these same analysts later wrote books claiming they were shocked that I have relied on such deeply flawed evidence.

    Try to get over failure quickly. Learn from it. Study how you contributed to it. If you are responsible, own up to it.


    Right Colin you gutless turd, it was all someone else’s fault. And of course as soon as you found out the intel was not just flawed, but completely made up, you resigned from the Bush Administration in protest, right? You went to the media and told everyone that the Iraq War was started on false pretenses, that you knew there were no WMDs as soon as you found out the truth in 2003? 2004? 2005?

    Right Colin, you did all those things before 4484 Americans died in Iraq?

    Of course you did not Colin, because you have the manhood of a Kardashian.

    Enjoy your time in Hell, Colin, roommates with Robert McNamara, and please spend every day you have left on this planet meditating on the souls of the people who died in Iraq because of your lie, and your utter lack of responsibility to speak up.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    Lots of Blood, Less Oil

    November 14, 2011 // Comments Off on Lots of Blood, Less Oil

    Musings on Iraq reports that for the last four months, Iraq has seen a steady decline in its oil exports even though production has gone up.

    The major reason is that the country’s oil industry is at capacity. Monthly fluctuations have been the result of attacks, equipment problems, and recently, bad weather. That’s reflected in October 2011’s numbers.

    2011 has witnessed new highs in oil production and exports for Iraq. In 2009, it auctioned off a number of petroleum fields to foreign energy companies, and they have been hard at work since then to boost the country’s output. That has led to over 2 million barrels of day in exports each month, and just under 3 million barrels a day in total production, something that had not been achieved consistently since the 2003 invasion.

    At the same time, Iraq has not been able to significantly go past that mark because its export facilities are at capacity. To add to that, the oil industry faces constant problems like old equipment to terrorist bombings. That has driven down exports for the last few months. Until the whole industry is thoroughly renovated, something that the government plans to do, these trends will continue.

    Read more about Iraq’s capacity problems, and why solutions lie years if not decades into the future. Infrastructure problems are the primary but not only issue.

    For those keeping score at home, yes the Neocon script for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was clear that the flood of crude oil out of a free Iraq would pay for the war, both in actual costs and as a reward for having the courage to invade. Yeah, I know, they lied about that too, just like the WMDs. And yes, there is a pattern.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    Get a Free Understanding of the Iraqi-U.S. Bilateral Relationship

    August 10, 2011 // 4 Comments »

    Out of work like most Americans? Tired of daytime TV and feeling some survivor’s guilt over not having done your part in creating a free, democractic and, hell, we’ll go there, sexy Iraq? You can now be an unpaid intern at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington DC!

    Yes, it is true. No need for body armor, sand in your boots or an IED taking off your leg. Right in the heart of hipster Dupont Circle, you can work for free at the Iraqi Embassy. You are assured of “involvement in governmental affairs, as well as a general understanding of the Iraqi-U.S. bilateral relationship.”

    The photo above is the actual Iraqi Embassy, which looks alot like a house I rented in college with four other guys.

    Pretty much anyone who is or was a “student” can apply. Details are on their website (which is no doubt paid for by your tax dollars. Hah! I just checked the WHO IS listing for the Iraqi Embassy website, and they are run by GoDaddy!).

    Intern jobs are listed as available in the usual categories, such as:

    The American Administration Outreach Intern will assist staff in a variety of projects relating to the US government directly. The American Administration Outreach Intern will be expected to research and compile a daily digest of events, briefings, and media releases from the White House, State Department and anywhere else that is relevant to Iraq.

    Yawn. Google, CTRL+C, CTRL+V, then Angry Birds ’til lunch. Nothing about doing WMD research, sucking up to the Iranians, messing with Kurds, stealing oil from Kuwait or other traditional topics, but I’m sure they’ll tell you more on your first day of work.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    WMDs Used in Baghdad Today!

    July 12, 2011 // 2 Comments »

    Chlorine gas sickened over 700 people in Baghdad today.

    Health officials say hundreds of people have been sickened by a chlorine gas cloud that leaked over Baghdad after an explosion at a water treatment plant.

    Dr. Ali Bustan al-Fartousi, manager of the Rusafa health office in the capital’s east, said no one died in the Tuesday night accident and nearly all of the 700 people treated had been released from hospitals.

    Al-Fartousi said most of those affected were from the sprawling Sadr City neighborhood where many of Baghdad’s poorest Shiites live.


    This justifies everything! The damn Iraqis have been hiding this chlorine gas all these years, waiting for the right moment to use it against their own people. It is a good thing we deposed Saddam or who knows where this would have led.

    Sadly, it is hard to say anyone lives closer to the ground and has suffered more than the poor bastards who live in Sadr City, a slum within a slum. Sorry this had to happen to them.




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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    Occupying Iraq, State Department-style

    June 8, 2011 // 5 Comments »

    Way out on the edge of Forward Operating Base Hammer, where I lived for much of my year in Iraq as a Provincial Reconstruction Team leader for the U.S. Department of State, there were several small hills, lumps of raised dirt on the otherwise frying-pan-flat desert. These were “tells,” ancient garbage dumps and fallen buildings.

    Thousands of years ago, people in the region used sun-dried bricks to build homes and walls. Those bricks had a lifespan of about 20 years before they began to crumble, at which point locals just built anew atop the old foundation. Do that for a while, and soon enough your buildings are sitting on a small hill.

    At night, the tell area was very dark, as we avoided artificial light in order not to give passing insurgents easy targets. In that darkness, you could imagine the earliest inhabitants of what was now our base looking at the night sky and be reminded that we were not the first to move into Iraq from afar. It was also a promise across time that someday someone would undoubtedly sit atop our own ruins and wonder whatever happened to the Americans.

    From that ancient debris field, recall the almost forgotten run-up to the American invasion, the now-ridiculous threats about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, Secretary of State Colin Powell lying away his own and America’s prestige at the U.N., those “Mission-Accomplished” days when the Marines tore down Saddam’s statue and conquered Baghdad, the darker times as civil society imploded and Iraq devolved into civil war, the endless rounds of purple fingers for stage-managed elections that meant little, the Surge and the ugly stalemate that followed, fading to gray as President George W. Bush negotiated a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011 and the seeming end of his dreams of a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East.

    Now, with less than seven months left until that withdrawal moment, Washington debates whether to honor the agreement, or — if only we can get the Iraqi government to ask us to stay — to leave a decent-sized contingent of soldiers occupying some of the massive bases the Pentagon built hoping for permanent occupancy.

    To the extent that any attention is paid to Iraq here in Snooki’s America, the debate over whether eight years of war entitles the U.S. military to some kind of Iraqi squatter’s rights is the story that will undoubtedly get most of the press in the coming months.

    How this won’t end

    Even if the troops do finally leave, the question is: Will that actually bring the U.S. occupation of Iraq to a close? During the invasion of 2003, a younger David Petraeus famously asked a reporter: “Tell me how this ends.”

    Dave, it may not actually end. After all, as of October 1, 2011, full responsibility for the U.S. presence in Iraq will officially be transferred from the military to the Department of State. In other words, as Washington imagines it, the occupation won’t really end at all, even if the landlords are switched.

    And the State Department hasn’t exactly been thinking small when it comes to its future “footprint” on Iraqi soil. The U.S. mission in Baghdad remains the world’s largest embassy, built on a tract of land about the size of the Vatican and visible from space. It cost just $736 million to build — or was it $1 billion, depending on how you count the post-construction upgrades and fixes?

    In its post-“withdrawal” plans, the State Department expects to have 17,000 personnel in Iraq at some 15 sites. If those plans go as expected, 5,500 of them will be mercenaries, hired to shoot-to-kill Iraqis as needed, to maintain security. Of the remaining 11,500, most will be in support roles of one sort or another, with only a couple of hundred in traditional diplomatic jobs. This is not unusual in wartime situations. The military, for example, typically fields about seven support soldiers for every “shooter.” In other words, the occupation run by a heavily militarized State Department will simply continue in a new, truncated form — unless Congress refuses to pay for it.

    It would better serve America’s interests to have an embassy sized to the message we now need to send to the Middle East, and it shouldn’t be one of boastful conquest.


    A place to call home

    After initially setting up shop in a selection of Saddam Hussein’s Disneyesque palaces (in one of the dumbest PR moves of all time), plans were made to build an embassy worthy of the over-the-top optimism and bravado that characterized the invasion itself. Though officially photos of the inside of the Embassy compound are not allowed for “security” reasons, a quick Google search under “U.S. Embassy Baghdad” turns up plenty, including some of the early architectural renderings of the future gargantuan compound. (Historical minifact: back in 2007, TomDispatch first broke the story that the architect’s version of the embassy’s secret interior was displayed all pink and naked online.)

    The blind optimism of that moment was best embodied in the international school building stuck in one corner of the embassy compound. Though a fierce civil-war-cum-insurgency was then raging in Iraq, the idea was that, soon enough, diplomatic families would be assigned to Baghdad, just as they were to Paris or Seoul, and naturally the kids would need a school. It may seem silly now, but few doubted it then.

    Apartments were built, each with a full set of the usual American appliances, including dishwashers, in expectation that those families would be shopping for food at a near-future Sadr City Safeway and that diplo-tots Timmy and Sally would need their dinners after a long day at school. Wide walkways, shaded by trees and dotted with stone benches — ultimately never implemented — were part of the overall design for success, and in memory now serve as comic rim-shots for our past hubris.

    In la-la land they may have been, but even the embassy planners couldn’t help but leave some room for the creeping realities of an Iraq in chaos. The compound would purify its own water, generate its own power, and process its own sewage, ensuring that it could outlast any siege and, at the same time, getting the U.S. off the hook for repairing such basic services in Baghdad proper.

    High walls went up rimmed with razor wire, and an ever-more complex set of gates and security checkpoints kept creeping into the design. Eventually, the architects just gave up, built a cafeteria, filled the school building with work cubicles, and installed inches-thick bulletproof glass on every window. The embassy’s housing for 4,000 is, at present, packed, while the electrical generators run at capacity 24/7. They need to be upgraded and new units added very soon simply to keep the lights on.

    And now, the embassy staff in Baghdad is about to double. One plan to accommodate extra personnel involves hot-bunking — sharing beds on day-and-night shifts as happens on submarines.

    The embassy will also soon need a hospital on its grounds, if the U.S. Army truly departs and takes its facilities with it. Iraqi medical care is considered too substandard and Iraqi hospitals too dangerous for use by white folks.


    You and whose army?

    A fortress needs guards, and an occupier needs shock troops. The State Department’s army will be divided into two parts: those who guard fixed facilities like the embassy and those who protect diplomats as they scurry about trying to corral the mad Iraqis running the country.

    For static security, a company named SOC will guard the embassy facilities for up to $973 million over five years. That deflowered old warhorse Blackwater (now Xe), under yet another dummy corporate name, will also get a piece of action, and of the money pie.

    SOC will undoubtedly follow the current security company’s lead and employ almost exclusively Ugandans and Peruvians transported to Iraq for that purpose. For the same reasons Mexicans cut American lawns and Hondurans clean American hotel rooms, embassy guards come from poverty-stricken countries and get paid accordingly — about $600 a month. Their U.S. supervisors, on the other hand, pull down $20,000 of your tax dollars monthly. Many of the Ugandan and Peruvian guards got their jobs through nasty intermediaries (“pimps,” “slavers”), who take back most of their meager salaries to repay “recruitment costs,” leaving many guards as little more than indentured servants.

    Long-time merc group Triple Canopy will provide protection outside the embassy fortress, reputedly for $1.5 billion over a five-year span. The overall goal is for State to have its own private army in Iraq: those 5,500 hired guns, almost two full brigades worth of them. The Army guards Fort Knox with fewer soldiers; my Forward Operating Base made due with less then 400 troops and I slept comfortably.

    The past mayhem caused by contracted security is well known, with massacres in public squares, drunken murders in the Green Zone, and the like. Think of the mercs as what the Army might be like without its NCOs and officers: a frat house with guns.

    Most of them are Americans, though with a few exotic Brits and shady South Africans thrown in. They love 5.11 clothing and favor fingerless leather gloves. Think biker gang or Insane Clown Posse fan boys.

    Popular is a clean-shaven head, no moustache but a spiky goatee teased straight out. You know the look from late-night convenience store beer runs. They walk around like Yosemite Sam, arms out as if their very biceps prevented them from standing straight. They’re bullies of course, flirting inappropriately with women and posturing around men. Count on them to wear the most expensive Oakley sunglasses and the most unnecessary gear (gold man-bracelets, tactical hair gel). Think: Jersey Shore rejects.

    Aggressive tattoos on all exposed skin seem a prerequisite for membership in Club Merc, especially wavy inked patterns around the biceps and on the neck. They all let on that they were once SEALS, Green Berets, SAS, or Legion of Doom members, but of course they “can’t talk about it.” They’re not likely to disclose last names and tend to go by nicknames like Bulldog, Spider, Red Bull, Wolverine, or Smitty.

    If arrogance was contagious they’d all be sneezing. All Aryan, all dudely, and now all that stands between those thousands of State Department personnel and Iraq. Oh yes: the seersuckered and bow-tied diplomats are supposed to supervise the mercs and keep them on the right diplomatic path, kind of like expecting the chess club to run herd on the football team.

    With the U.S Army departing in whole or in part by year’s end, most of the array of Army air assets State used will need to be replaced. A recently released State Department Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) “Report on Department of State Planning for the Transition to a Civilian-led Mission in Iraq Performance Evaluation” explains that our diplomats will, in the future, have their own little Air America in Iraq, a fleet of 46 aircraft, including:

    * 20 medium lift S-61 helicopters (essentially Black Hawks, possibly armed)

    * 18 light lift UH-1N helicopters (new models of ‘Nam era Hueys, possibly armed)

    * Three light observation MD-530 helicopters (Little Birds, armed, for quick response strike teams… er, um, observation duties)

    * Five Dash 8 fixed-wing aircraft (50-passenger capacity to move personnel into the “theater” from Jordan)

    The OIG report also notes that State will need to construct landing zones, maintenance hangars, operation buildings, and air traffic control towers, along with an independent aviation logistics system for maintenance and fueling. And yes, the diplomats are supposed to supervise this, too, the goal being to prevent an Iraqi from being gunned down from an attack helo with diplomatic license plates. What could go wrong?

    How much?

    At this point, has cost started to cross your mind? Well, some 74% of embassy Baghdad’s operating costs will be going to “security.” State requested $2.7 billion from Congress for its Iraq operations in FY 2011, but got only $2.3 billion from a budget-minded Capitol Hill. Facing the possibility of being all alone in a dangerous universe in FY 2012, the Department has requested $6.3 billion for Iraq. Congress has yet to decide what to do. To put these figures in perspective, the State Department total operating budget for this year is only about $14 billion (the cost of running the place, absent the foreign aid money), so $6.3 billion for one more year in Iraq is a genuine chunk of change.

    Which only leaves the question of why.

    Pick your forum — TomDispatch readers at a kegger, Fox news pundits following the Palin bus, high school students preparing to take SATs, unemployed factory workers in a food-stamp line — and ask if any group of Americans (not living in official Washington) would conclude that Iraq was our most important foreign policy priority, and so deserving of our largest embassy with the largest staff and largest budget on the planet.

    Does Iraq threaten U.S. security? Does it control a resource we demand? (Yes, it’s got lots of oil underground, but produces remarkably little of the stuff.) Is Iraq enmeshed in some international coalition we need to butter up? Any evil dictators or WMDs around? Does Iraq hold trillions in U.S. debt? Anything? Anyone? Bueller?

    Eight disastrous years after we invaded, it is sad but altogether true that Iraq does not matter much in the end. It is a terrible thing that we poured 4,459 American lives and trillions of dollars into the war, and without irony oversaw the deaths of at least a hundred thousand, and probably hundreds of thousands, of Iraqis in the name of freedom. Yet we are left with only one argument for transferring our occupation duties from the Department of Defense to the Department of State: something vague about our “investment in blood and treasure.”

    Think of this as the Vegas model of foreign policy: keep the suckers at the table throwing good money after bad. Leaving aside the idea that “blood and treasure” sounds like a line from Pirates of the Caribbean, one must ask: What accomplishment are we protecting?

    The war’s initial aim was to stop those weapons of mass destruction from being used against us. There were none, so check that off the list. Then it was to get rid of Saddam. He was hanged in 2006, so cross off that one. A little late in the game we became preoccupied with ensuring an Iraq that was “free.” And we’ve had a bunch of elections and there is a government of sorts in place to prove it, so that one’s gotta go, too.

    What follows won’t be “investment,” just more waste. The occupation of Iraq, centered around that engorged embassy, is now the equivalent of a self-licking ice cream cone, useful only to itself.

    Changing the occupying force from an exhausted U.S. Army that labored away for years at a low-grade version of diplomacy (drinking endless cups of Iraqi tea) to a newly militarized Department of State will not free us from the cul-de-sac we find ourselves in. While nothing will erase the stain of the invasion, were we to really leave when we promised to leave, the U.S. might have a passing shot at launching a new narrative in a Middle East already on edge over the Arab Spring.

    Embassies are, at the end of the day, symbols. Sustaining our massive one in Iraq, with its ever-lengthening logistics and security train, simply emphasizes our failure there and our stubborn inability to admit that we were wrong. When a country becomes too dangerous for diplomacy, like Libya, we temporarily close our embassy. When a country becomes dangerous, but U.S. interests are still at stake, as in Yemen, we withdraw all but essential personnel. Similarly, in Baghdad, what’s needed is a modest-sized embassy staffed not by thousands but by scores — that is, only the limited number of people necessary to make the point that it is no longer an extension of a failed occupation.

    Nothing can change the past in the Middle East, but withdrawing the troops on schedule and downsizing our embassy radically to emphasize that we are no longer in the business of claiming more space for the American empire might very well help change the future.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq