Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ugly and crazy








Dar Addustour has a breaking news report this evening that American journalist Daniel Smith has been arrested in Baghdad by Iraqi forces (the arrest was Friday). If the report is correct and the name is correct, this is most likely Daniel Wakefield Smith who in addition to text reporting is also a photojournalist (not to be confused with retired US Army Col Dan Smith who has offered commentary and analysis on the Iraq War). Dar Addustour is the only one reporting the story currently and they say that there is confusion regarding what he was arrested for with some saying it was for the Friday protests in Baghdad (covering it or participating in it? that's not explained) while others are saying he was arrested for spying on Iraqi officials.
Friday, October 21st, while Barack was spinning the country and the press was sleeping on the job, another US soldier died in Iraq. The Defense Dept issued the following today:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn.
Pfc. Steven F. Shapiro, 29, of Hidden Vally Lake, Calif., died Oct. 21 in Tallil, Iraq. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Divison, Fort Hood, Texas.
For more information media may contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at 254-187-9993/2520 or []
Their address is wrong and you're taken to a site that can harm your computer. You'd think DoD could get this right. It's www.forthoodpresscenter.com/go/site/3439/ The Pentagon's count of US military personnel who've died in Iraq currently stands at [PDF format warning] 4484. That's 63 deaths since Barack Obama proclaimed combat operations ended August 31, 2010. How many US military personnel will die after December 31, 2011 and will the press continue to avert their eyes?
Yochi J. Dreazen (National Journal) examines the issue of Special-Ops and notes they will remain in Iraq and Afghanistan and, "Many conventional troops have done four or five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. By contrast, Special Operations troops have done 10, 12, and even 14 tours." He quotes Adm Eric Olson who stated back in February that although 100,000 US troops left Iraq, only "about 500 special operations" troops departed implying the bulk of Special-Ops remained. In addition, yesterday Walter Pincus (Washington Post) noted, "Denis McDonough, White House deputy national security adviser, told PBS's News Hour on Friday night that the United States and Iraq woul still conduct periodic naval and air exercises." Meanwhile James Denselow (Guardian) observes "there is a huge gap between rhetoric and reality surrounding the US departure from Iraq." And he goes on to back that up explaining, among other things, the ongoing neogtiations to put US 'trainers' under the NATO mission (a 2004 agreement), the large number of contractors and much more. We'll note this paragraph:
In September, Iraq made the first payment in a 1.9 billion pound deal to buy 18 F-16s. The agreements mean that despite the claim that Iraq took full responsibility for its airspace in October, effective aerial sovereignty will be in the hands of the Americans for years to come as they help to patrol the country's skies and control its airspace, and train its air force. A senior Iraqi politician explained to me last week: "We are absolutely incapable of defending our borders. We don't even have one fighter jet to defend our airspace."
Al Mada reports that before US Vice President Joe Biden visits Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will be visiting DC. Both visits will focus on the issue of US 'trainers' as negotiations continue. The paper notes that the Kurdish Alliance is expressing concern over the issue of neighboring countries (Turkey and to a less extent Iran) attacking Iraq. A non-Kurdish government source notes that there is only a short amount of time between now and the end of the year but that he believes they can work out an understanding with the US that will provide a mechanism to ensure the safety of Iraq. Rumors swirling in the Iraqi government include that the US, in this round of negotiations, is pressing for 1500 US troops based out of the Baghdad embassy. Dar Addustour notes both visits as well as Ayad Allawi's trip to London (he's on it now) where he's meeting with David Cameron (British Prime Minister) and others. As Trina pointed out last night, Patrick Martin (WSWS) is also noting Nouri's trip to DC: "Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is to visit Washington in December for further talks, and Obama held out the possibility of a future agreement to station US troops in Iraq in the guise of training Iraqi soldiers in the use of weapons systems the Iraqi government is buying from American military contractors."

The Pakistan Observer notes Moqtada al-Sadr's comments that the US "is seekign to maintain its occupation of Iraq through keeping trainers and private contractors" in Iraq. The CIA isn't leaving Iraq either. Eli Lake (The Daily Beast) reports:
The programs involve everything from the deployment of remote sensors that scan the wireless spectrum of terrorist safe havens to stealth U.S.-Iraqi counterterrorism commando teams, and their status is uncertain as a U.S. diplomatic team negotiates with Iraqi leaders, according to officials, who made clear the CIA intends to keep a footprint inside the country even as troops leave by Dec. 31.

"There are of course parts of the counterterrorism mission that the intelligence community, including CIA, will be able to take on from other organizations—and there are parts of that mission that it won't," said one U.S. counterterrorism official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of secret negotiations with the Iraqis.

Also addressing realities is Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque via World Can't Wait):

So we have a baseline of 5,000 militarized forces remaining indefinitely in Iraq, with no immediate limit on an expansion in their numbers. And of course, all the stories make it abundantly clear that the Americans will quickly negotiate a new "security agreement" with Iraq, which will include -- or even be in addition to -- thousands of military "advisers" to help "train" the Iraqi forces, especially with the multitude of new weapons that Washington's war profiteers are lining up to sell to the "sovereign" government in Baghdad. How many troops will be involved in these "agreements"? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Again, we don't know.
And as Glenn Greenwald and others have pointed out, none of these numbers include the "Special Forces" and CIA paramilitaries that will inevitably be ranging across Iraq, no doubt in large numbers. Iraq is hardly going to receive less attention from the American black ops and death squads than Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and the dozens of other countries where Washington is waging secret war.
Thus it is almost a certainty that by the end of 2012, there will be, at the barest minimum, at least 8,000 to 10,000 heavily armed personnel under the direct control of the United States government stationed at strategic points throughout Iraq; the actual figure will doubtless be higher, perhaps much higher. But this is a bare minimum -- numbers which tally almost exactly with the final goals of the American war machine in the "failed" negotiations on extending the present form of the occupation.
David R. Francis (Christian Science Monitor) deludes his readers (and possibly himself) that the US is leaving Iraq and the delusions never stop, "Throw in the replacement of vehicles, weapons, equipment, etc., and the eventual tab for the United States could reach $4 trillion to $6 trillion, according to University of Columbia economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University budget expert Linda Bilmes. Those are big numbers." They'd be even bigger if Francis factored in the continued spending on Iraq. All US forces are not withdrawing -- as he wrongly writes -- and neither is the US tax payer money.
As Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) noted Sunday, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has released a new report. The report [PDF format warning] is entitled "Iraqi Police Development Program: Opportunities Program Accountability and Budget Transparency." The 18-page report (plus appendices) paints a disturbing picture. As with Congressional hearings we've attended, the State Dept refused to provide SIGIR with needed information and documents. Though the State Dept has planned since 2009 to take over the training of Iraqi police, they have no assessment of the force's current capabilities. To call what they have shared with ISGR "planning" is being extremely generous. In its opening, the report notes: "We believe this audit raises serious concerns regarding the PDP [Police Development Programs]'s long-term viability. The continual downsizing of the program, the planned use of unspent funds, and the lack of transparency regarding the use of program funds for 'Embassy platform' purposes (e.g., security, life support, and aviation) raise red flags about the program's fund requirements."
As the report makes clear early on, these are not concerns about something that will happen in the near future (for instance, January 1, 2012), these are concerns about a program the State Dept is over and executing as of October 1, 2011 and for Fiscal Year 2012, State wants $887 million for this program. This after 8 billion US tax payer dollars being spent in the last eight years "to train, staff, and equip Iraqi police forces to maintain domestic order" and that money was spent on, among other things, increasing the size of the police force. Prior to the start of the Iraq War, police forces numbered 58,000 and today it has increased to 412,000 police. Population estimates for the country range from as low as 23 million to the CIA's 30,399,572 (July 2011 estimate) which would be an estimate of roughly 24 million when you subtract the Kurdish population. (My opinion: The US should not be training the Kurdish police. They do have a training center in Erbil. But they shouldn't be doing it. The Kurds don't need it and it's a waste of money. That is not to say Kurdish forces are perfect -- they aren't -- or that there are not human rights abuses -- there are -- but it is to state that the KRG is not starting from ground zero the way the rest of Iraq supposedly is.) 412,000 police officers for a population of 24 million (CIA figure minus KRG numbers). The US has a population of over 300,000,000. How many police officers -- including federal law enforcement -- does the US have? At the end of 2007, Kevin Johnson (USA Today) reported that figure was 800,000. The US has twice the number of police officers as Iraq (minus KRG) but over 12 times the population (ibid). And US tax payers have spent $8 billion on achieving that. (And at a time when the "Super" Congress must find $1.2 trillion in spending cuts for the US government.)

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