Wednesday, February 24, 2010

He's so pretty








"I don't know anything about police training but I think if I had a 2.5 billion dollar contract, I could figure out how to train police. That is outrageous," declared US House Rep Russ Carnahan today as he chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affair's Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight. The subcomittee heard from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen this morning about contracting issues, specifically the lack of oversight. We'll note this key exchange.
Stuart Bowen: This is the top story, Chairman Carnahan. We looked at this four years ago and the problem that we identified four years ago was lack of contract management -- raised in our first audit, issued in the first month of 2007. Then we got into the whole contract and found it was inauditable and so we issued a review in October saying the State Dept asked for three to five years to put things in order because it was just a mess. And then we went in in 2008 to see if there were remedial measures and there were but then we go in last summer and find the same problem, 3 person in country overseeing a contract that is spending hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars. And more-more disturbing the lack of clarity about who is supposed to do what. The in country contracting officer representative my people interviewed said, 'Well invoice accountability is being done back in Washington.' Ask them, they say it's being done in Iraq. Huge vulnearbility.
Chair Russ Carnahan: And with regard to the contractor, Dyncorp, describe how that contract was initially awarded.
Stuart Bowen: It was an existing contract that was held by the State Dept that was, that was used. I don't have the specific facts of the bidding, but it was -- it was -- it was in 2004 and used to apply to this -- to this program at the level of 2.5 billiion. And again as I said it was DoD money that went into it so I think DoD was looking for a vehicle that is could use to spend this money and it did so. I think there are some questions about that process. It certainly shows how bifurcated or disjointed both the source of the money, the contract management of the money and then the execution of the contract. All different places. Uh-uh, it shows, I think, just the lack of clarity in stabilization reconstruction contracting.
Chair Russ Carnahan: In your reviews, to what extent can you account for how that money has been spent?
Stuart Bowen: Uh, we're looking at the execution of it now. My auditors in Iraq today are reviewing that matter and the outcomes, which are an important question for you, we will answer in a later review.
Chair Russ Carnahan: And you expect that report out when?
Stuart Bowen: By July, no later than July.
Chair Russ Carnahan: I'm going to yield to Judge Poe.
US House Rep Ted Poe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. [To Bowen] Which of our government agencies, in your opinion, was most irresponsible about money? DoD, State Dept, USAID
Stuart Bowen: I think that the State Dept did not carry out its contract oversight responsibilities sufficiently enough. In this particular contract we're discuss -- discussing is the most egregious example and the most disturbing point is it hasn't remediated that weakness sufficiently today.
We attended three hearings today and I'll try to pick up the VA one tomorrow. But this hearing was the most sparsely attended by the press. It was scheduled opposite big-ticket or 'hot topic' hearings such as Senator Carl Levin's hearing (Senate Armed Services Committee) on contractors in Afghanistan which is where the bulk of the press went this morning. I was not at that hearing but I have the opening statements of the Chair (Levin) and the Ranking Member (John McCain) and have spoken to Senate staffers about it. Some of the statements and questions are built around a hope that something was learned about contracting in Iraq -- with attention to oversight and cost effectiveness. For example, McCain declared, "Too many scarce tax payer dollars were squandered in the rebuilding of Iraq. I hope we have learned lessons from our experience there." No, there have been no lessons learned. That was obvious throughout the hearing Bowen testified at today.
The problems he is addressing regarding lack of oversight are the same ones he first noticed in 2004, the same ones he flagged in his early reports are still being flagged today. What is the point of having an Inspector General over reconstruction if they have no power? And Bowen obviously has no power or else he doesn't know how to use it. The same mistakes do not get called out over and over unless no one's taking the issue seriously. And if John McCain or Carl Levin are really hoping that Iraq 'lessons' can be taken to Afghanistan, they better get serious in hearings and oversight about what's going on in Iraq still in terms of the lack of oversight on US monies spent.
Not only do they need to pay more attention to it, so does the press. Again, this Subcommittee hearing that Russ Carnahan chaired this morning? Barely attended by the press. Kat plans to cover an aspect of it at her site tonight and Wally's going to sit in for Rebecca tonight and cover another aspect of the hearing.
March 7th, elections are supposed to be held in Iraq. These are Parlimentary elections and the Parliament will then select a prime minister. Yesterday, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) offered a report on the campaigning:

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Nouri al-Maliki is Iraq's unlikely strongman. Initially seen as a weak compromise candidate when he was installed as prime minister four years ago, Maliki is now accused by his rivals of being a dictator in waiting. To secure another term, he needs to win big in Iraq's Shi'ite south. On a multi-city tour of the region this past week, Maliki told the crowds that he is a man who can deliver.

Nouri al-Maliki: We have achieved security. We've signed huge oil contracts which will give Iraq money. I'm not telling you that we want to achieve something, we have already achieved something.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Maliki's coalition, called "State of Law," did well in provincial elections last year but more recently his popularity has waned according to some Iraqi analaysts. A series of high profile terrorists attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere have called into question his security credentials and what some call his heavy-handed approach to governance has also provoked criticism. Maliki's main rival in the south is the Iraqi National Alliance It includes the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI, and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's political bloc. ISCI's leader, Ammar al-Hakim, was also campaigning in the south this week. Speaking to a crowd in Diwaniyah, he said the time is right for change.

Ammar al-Hakim: Iraq deserves better than what it has now. With the grace of God and your help, the Iraqi National Alliance will be able to revive this country.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Both sides are using whatever means they can to secure votes. In last year's provincial elections, Maliki won significant support from so-called tribal support councils that he established. In return for money and positions, tribal leaders promised to deliver votes for the prime minister -- and they did.

Of the process thus far, Olivia Ward (Toronto Star) offers this recap, "The election started with a call for unity, which gradually unravelled with scores of people killed in bombings, candidates targeted for assassination or attack, and up to 400 would-be candidates disqualified under a 'de-Baathification' law meant to prevent a resurgence of Saddam Hussein's supporters."
AFP states that the coalition led by al-Maliki and the one led by Allawi are the two chief rivals based on a new National Media Centre poll and they note the NMC "is linked to Prime Minister Maliki". Ayad Allawi is a candidate running. UPI reports unnamed 'sources' are saying that both "Tehran and Damascus would back Allawi" as the next prime minister. If false, the rumor may come from Ahmed Chalabi who is mentioned in the article. UPI claims "sources" for the rumor. Alsumaria TV, reporting the same claim, relies on a "source" -- "an informed governmental source speaking on condition of anonymity". If that source is indeed Chalabi, it would explain why Ammar al-Hakin is also targeted -- the unnamed insists that al-Hakim is in league with Allawi. Earlier this week Muhanad Mohammed, Waleed Ibrahim, Aseel Kami, Rania Elgamal, Souhail Karam, Mohammed Abbas and Richard Williams (Reuters) reported on Allawi's trip to Saudi Arabia spawning rumors (for some) and accusations within Iraq. Iran was worried as demonstrated by Press TV's report on the visit today.
For the record, there's nothing 'wrong' about ties with their neighbor Saudi Arabia. For example, Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Feb. 16th that their Embassy in Riyadh was doing workshops including their Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr. Ghanim Alwan al-Dumaili, doing a lecture on his work with NASA. And February 17th their Embassy in Tokyo hosted "the monthly meeting of Council of Arab Ambassadors. During the meeting the Charge d' affaires a.i. reviewed developments in Iraq and general elections which [are] to be held on the seventh of next March and the Iraqi government's keeness on the success of this national event." Yesterday Michael Wahid Hanna (World Politics Review) observed, "Iraq has also mismanaged its diplomatic relations with its regional counterparts. Most conspicuously, on separate occasions Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hampered international efforts aimed at thawing Iraqi-Saudi relations by lashing out intemperately against the Saudi monarch. Al-Maliki's rhetorical excess also reversed the historic re-establishment of full diplomatic relations with Syria in the aftermath of catastrophic coordinated bombings in Baghdad in August 2009." So the panic or alleged panic over Allawi seems a bit inflated at best. Tariq Alhomayed (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reminds, "The attacks made by the Dawa party and the supporters of the ruling regime in Iraq on Dr. Ayad Allawi can only be understood by recalling an important issue which is that Allawi's visit to Saudi Arabia came at a time that reminds the Iraqi electorate that Nuri al-Maliki's government is isolated from the Arab world, and this is something that has led to the isolation of Iraq as a whole. Of course, this is something that is troubling to the Dawa party followers and the State of Law coalition, especially since the Iraqi elections are just around the corner." Let's leave Allawi for a moment to note Chalabi. Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) explains today, "So you thought that Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami's Accountability and Justice (De-Ba'athification) Committee had done all they could to wreck Iraq's elections and advance their political agendas? Not even. Yesterday, in what al-Hayat calls a surprise move, Lami announced that the AJC had named 376 military, police and intelligence officers for de-Ba'athification. The list includes a number of important people in senior positions." Lynch offers his take on it which is that Chalabi is setting a trap because al-Maliki either drums out the latest group of 'Ba'athists' or else he looks like a sympathizer (with does not play for the "State Of Law" political party).
al-Maliki, Allawi are only two thought to be vying for prime minister. Reuters notes the two and others thought to be in the running: Bayan Jabor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Adel Abdul Mahdi, Ahmed Chalabi, Jawad al-Bolani, Qassam Daoud and Raad Mawlude Mukhlis. Reuters also examines some of the political alliances. The Ahrar Poliltical party issued the following today:
Yesterday on the Race to Parliament programme, Ayad Jamal Aldin declared that the Iraqi government has lost control
The leader of the Ahrar Party announced that the government had failed the Iraqi people by failing to tackle three major problems: a census, the constitution, and national reconciliation.
He blamed corruption for this failure and stated that Ahrar has a plan to unite Iraq and end bribery and dishonesty.
Ayad Jamal Aldin said: "This government has lost control and has been overrun by corrupters and outsiders intent on dividing and destroying Iraq.
"Ahrar is the only party to have a credible and detailed plan to end the violence and intimidation that every Iraqi faces every day. We will create a united Iraq with water, jobs, and electricity.
"On March 7 the Iraqi people have a choice. They can vote for more corruption, more violence, and more division. Or they vote for change, with jobs, security and unity. A vote for Ahrar is a vote for change."
Watch the video here.
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media Bureau
Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.
While some alleged 'Ba'athists' are being banned, Hannah Allam, Warren P. Strobel, Laith Hammoudi and Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy) and Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) report that candidate Abu Mahdi al Mohandas is campaiging on the stand 'I'm an enemy of the American government.' He tells McClatchy and the Monitor, "I was told, officially, by the speaker of parliament and a high-ranking Iraqi official that it's preferable I don't show up before the election because they couldn't assure I was protected. Since 2005, the Americans have conveyed a message through an Iraqi mediator that they'll kidnap or assassinate me." (Allam, Hammoudi and Arraf reported Monday on what may have been violence targeting a campaign -- link has text and video.)
Now back to Allawi. Andrew England (Financial Times of London) reports that he is accusing the current government in Iraq of "reviving sectarianism" through the previous bannings and they quote him stating, "It's a beginning of going back to the drawing table where they started sectarianism. You can sense it unfortunately, in the political landscape again. If this sectarianism becomes an issue, which it already is, and continues to do so then definitely we will slip into more violence and this may lead to a civil war." Meanwhile ever since John Jenkins, British Ambassador to Iraq, made it a 'hot topic,' military coup in Iraq just doesn't go away. The latest to wade in is Adil Abdel-Mahdi, Iraq's Shi'ite vice president. DPA reports that he has expressed concerns about "militarization" in Iraq and what that could mean for the country's future, noting, "There is a historical precende in this case. The country is set for military coups." Iraq has another vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi. Waleed Ibrahim and Rania El Gamal (Reuters) quote al-Hashemi declaring today, "(Reconciliation) is one of the projects that the government has failed at unprecedentedly and . . . the reason is that there is no real intention for national reconciliation. There is no real will for reconciliation."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Another joins the military coup chorus"
"The costs of war"
"Realities about Barack's Big Pharma Give Away"
"Give blood"
"The Great Recession continues"
"NPR's non-reporter Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson"
"NOW, Joanna Newsom, Sade"
"No, we don't know Petraeus' personal thoughts"
"Katha The Racist Pollitt"
"Nuclear Barack, Dumb Ass Harry Reid"
"Barry O, your stripper pole awaits"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.