Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Harry Reid flashes his true colors

Today the US Embassy in Baghdad held their grand opening ceremony.  Missy Ryan, Peter Graff, Tim Cocks (Reuters) report that John Negroponte (Deputy US Sec of State, former US ambassador to Iraq) and Jalal Talabani (President of Iraq) were on the guest list for the highly exclusive get-together -- well the Embassy is in the highly fortified Green Zone and Al Jazeera notes the "tight security". The three rocked rocked the house with nearly one-thousand additional guests.  The Embassy's press releases brags, "The largest American Embassy structure to date, its scale reflects the importance of the U.S.-Iraq bilateral relationship.  Construction began in 2005 and was completed in 2008 at a total cost of $592 million." $592 million would prevent a huge number of home foreclosures here in the US, but, hey, at least they didn't try to hide the cost today, right?  Oops, they did try to hide the price tag.  CNN plays party pooper informing that the $592 million was "the original price tag" but "the cost could end up $144 million higher" according to a 2007 Congressional report.
The Embassy notes that the guests gather to watch the US flag being raised by six Marines with music provided by the Army's 4th Infantry Division Band.  That seven-person band is made up of "Commander, Iraq and Texas, Steadfast and Loyal Chief Warrant Officer Robert Nixon," "Commander, Fort Carson Colorado, Fit For Any Test Chief Warrant Officer Marvin Cardo," "First/Sergeant/Enlisted Band Leader, Fit For Any Test First Sergeant Jeremy Smelser," "Chief; Plans, Operations & Training Division/Rock Band Vocalist/Drum Major Sergeant First Class Dewayne Butcher," "Fit For Any Test, 'Nuf Said Sergeant First Class Troy Hascall," "Bringer of Rock, Burner of Things, Thrower of Towels, Fit For Any Test Sergeant First Class Sean Kerley" and "Trumpet Player, Chief, Logistic & Resource Management Division Sergeant First Clas Henry Reyna"
US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker went with a dark suit for the occassion and used the standard GOP red tie for a splash of color while Jalal Talabani demonstrated, that fatty arteries or not, he's still going to eat what he wants and be damn proud of it.  Which is how he turned a dark coat into a mumu.  Well done, Jalal!  Jalal knows the staff of the Mayo Clinic will suck the fat out of those arteries as often as necessary. Party like it's January 2007, Jalal! John Negroponte decided to indulge his Indiana Jones fantasy by wearing a hat (which he did remove for the US national anthem and the flag raising).  And that was just outside!!!  Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) drops the 411 on all the wack goings on including who played "the diplomatic equivalent of a Wal-Mart greeter": "A US Army lieutenant colonel".  Peter explains that the embassy has a schoolhouse; however, no need to worry that cramped the party mood today: "Although it's currently occupied by coalition forces representatives, embassy officials hope that one day, when the situation here normalizes, Iraq will be a family-friendly posting for diplomats. Just how far off that day is, embassy spokespeople are not willing to speculate".  Alaa Majeed (UPI) points out, "But the transfer does not suggest the Iraqi government is competent beyond the walls of the Green Zone, which houses most of the state ministries.  The Green Zone, since 2003, has split the capital, Baghdad, in two and emerged as a symbol of the inability of the government to bring dignity to the Iraqi people."   
Deborah Haynes (Times of London) describes the backdrop to Crocker's speech, "As he spoke, the sound of helicopters buzzed overhead, a reminder of the ongoing US military presence in Iraq despite the shift in power. All US forces in the country came under the authority of the Iraqi Government on January 1 after a UN Security Council resolution authorising their presence expired."  Talabani may have hit the party punch a little too hard because RTT quotes him declaring the US Embassy "will searve as a model for other peoples of the eastern world."  Declared . . . or warned? Apparently Negroponte was hitting the party punch as well which is why Reuters quotes him stating, "It is from here men and women, civilian and military, will help build the new Iraq."
And maybe Dick Cheney, president of vice, started celebrating the opening of the embassy early because "drunk" would probably be an improvement over "liar" which is how he came off yesterday on CBS' Face The Nation (link has text and video) as he insisted of Iraq, "I think we are close to achieving most of our objectives. We've seen a significant reduction in the overall level of violence; it's lower now than virtually anytime since we've been there in the spring of '03. We've seen the elimination of one of the world's worst regimes. We've seen the Iraqis write a constitution and hold three national elections. We've now entered into a strategic framework agreement with the Iraqis that calls for ultimately the U.S. completion of the assignment and withdrawal of our forces from Iraq. All of those things I think by anybody's standard would be evidence of significant success. And I think we're very close to achieving what it is we set out to do five years ago when we first went into Iraq."  The never met the benchmarks, Cheney, the ones defined by the White House.  Two years later and they still can't claim to have met the benchmarks for progress -- as defined by the White House.  These weren't longterm benchmarks.  These were benchmarks they were actually supposed to have completed at the end of 2007.  Two years later and they never managed to meet them.  You can fudge it and say "partial" (as the White House did) but, for example, a de-de-Baathification law that not only provides no oversight but is never implemented.  And if you're not grasping the reality of those benchmarks -- which the White House has treated as open-ended and the press has gone along with that lie . . .  May 16, 2007, Democratic Policy Committee, "In September, the Iraqi government publicly committed to meet a series of political benchmarks by the end of 2006 or early 2007, for advancing the national reconciliation process, including measures for amending the constitution; holding provinical elections; reforming de-Baathification laws; regulating the oil industry; and disbanding sectarian militas."  Dick Cheney wants to talk 'improvement,' refer to the benchmarks set by the White House and honestly tell the American people what was achieved. 
And on the issue of getting honest about Iraq, Condi Rice, get honest.  December 18, 2008 the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued [PDF format warning] "MEMORANDUM Re: The President's Claim that Iraq Sought Uranium from Niger".  Background, there was no attempt by Iraq to obtain yellow-cake uranium from Niger.  Former US Ambassador Joe Wilson went to great lengths to explain that fact and was 'thanked' by having his wife Valerie Plame outed as an undercover CIA agent. Bully Boy LIED in his 2003 State of the Union speech and also in a September 12, 2002 speech and a September 26, 2002 speech.  The September speeches  July 8, 2003, Bill Hemmer (CNN) spoke with Joe Wilson:
HEMMER: We'll take that answer as a bit of a foundation for this interview. Listen to what Condoleezza Rice said about a month ago, early June on "Meet the Press." I'm quoting right now. She says, "We did not know at the time -- no one knew at the time in our circles -- maybe someone knew down in the bowels in the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery" -- Condoleezza Rice back on June 8. You say that is not possible. Why not?
WILSON: Well, when I was at the National Security Council, and before I wrote my piece for "The New York Times," I actually checked with very senior officials of the National Security Council from the time I was there, as well as very senior officials in the vice president's office just to refresh my memory.

MR. RUSSERT: That was in January. And in June -- June 8 -- you were on MEET THE PRESS; I asked you about that, and this was your response.

(Videotape, June 8, 2003):

DR. RICE: The president quoted a British paper. We did not know at the time, no one knew at the time in our circles -- maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew -- that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery. Of course, it was information that was mistaken.

(End videotape)                

MR. RUSSERT: "No one in our circles." That has proven to be wrong.       

DR. RICE: No, Tim, that has not proven to be wrong. No one did know that they were forgeries. The notion of the forgeries came in February or in March when this was--when this came to the CIA. It is true that we learned, subsequent to my comments to you, that Director Tenet did not want to stand by that statement. And I would never want to see anything in a presidential statement -- speech -- that the director of Central Intelligence did not want to have there.

And I'm the national security adviser. When something like this happens, I feel personally responsible for it happening because it obscured the fact that the president of the United States did not go to war over whether Saddam Hussein tried to acquire yellow cake in Africa. He went to war over a threat from a bloody tyrant in the most volatile region of the world who had used weapons of mass destruction before, and was continuing to try to acquire them. And so, of course, this should not have happened.


That's all American has because as the Committee On Oversight and Government Reform note, Condi refused to provide them with testimony -- repeatedly.  At one point Alberto Gonzales (then US Attorney General) showed up allegedly offering remarks on her behalf and, in that capacity, Gonzales insisted Condi stated the CIA cleared the inclusion of the uranium claim in both September 2002 speeches. Not true.  The Committee explaines John Gibson ("Director of Speechwriting for Foreign Policy at the National Security Council) testified that "Michael Gerson, chief White House speechwriter, and Robert Joseph, the Senior Director for Proliferation Strategy, Counterproliferation, and Homeland Defense at the NSC" were pushing to include it in the September 12, 2002 speech and the CIA objected. More importantly for Condi, this section of the memo:


On September 26, 2002, President Bush delivered remarks in the White House Rose Garden urging Congress to authorize the use of force in Iraq.  During an interview with the Committee, Jami Miscik, the Deputy Director of Intelligence at the CIA, stated that NSC officials "woulnd't take [the uranium claim] out of the speech." As a result, she was asked to explain directly to Dr. Rice "the reasons why we didn't think this was credible."  Ms. Miscik stated that "[i]t was clear that we had problems or we at the most fundamental level wouldn't have been haveing the phone call at all."  According to Ms. Miscik, the CIA's reasons for rejecting the uranium claim "had been conveyed to the NSC counterparts" before the call, and Dr. Rice was "getting on the phone call with that information."  Ms. Miscik told Dr. Rice personally that the CIA was "recommending that it be taken out."  She also said "[i]t turned out to be a relatively short phone call" because "we both knew what the issues were and therefore were able to get to a very easy resolution of it."


So would Condi like to amend her public statement: "We did not know at the time, no one knew at the time in our circles -- maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew -- that . . ."?  She clearly did know.  The Deputy Director of Intelligence told her.  Is Condi going to be pressed on that before she leaves the State Dept?
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