Wednesday, April 09, 2014

John Kerry knows nothing about money



And I want to thank you for the way this Committee stands up for an active internationalist American foreign policy.  I spent enough time in Congress to know not to call anything that costs billions of dollars a bargain.  But when you consider that the American people pay just one penny of every tax dollar for the $46.2 billion in this request, I think it's safe to and if you ad OCO [Overseas Contingeny Operations] it's 50.1 -- I think it's safe to say that in the grand scheme of the federal budget, when it comes to the State Dept and USAID, tax payers are getting an extraordinary return on their investment.





This morning in DC, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing to discuss the US active duty and reserve forces.  Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Committee.  Senator James Inhofe is the Ranking Member.

Chair Carl Levin:  The Department’s fiscal year 2015 budget request proposes end strength reductions through fiscal year 2017 that would leave the nation with an Active Army of 450,000, or 20 percent less from its wartime high of 569,000; an Army National Guard of 335,000, or 6 percent less than its wartime high of 354,000; and the U.S. Army Reserve at 195,000, or 10 percent less than its high of 205,000. But these end strength numbers assume that the defense budget caps will be increased by $115 billion for fiscal years 2016 through 2019.

Appearing before the Committee were Gen Ray Odierno (Chief of Staff of the Army), Gen Frank Grass (Chief of the National Guard Bureau) and Lt Gen Jeffrey Talley (Chief of the Army and Commanding General of the US Army Reserve Command).

In his opening remarks, Odierno broke from his prepared statement.

Gen Ray Odierno:  Before I start, I just want to let the Committee know as soon as we're done with the hearing, I'll be traveling to Fort Hood to visit with the soldiers, family, commanders, those wounded and will attend the memorial service tomorrow.  Things continue to progress there.  I'm satisfied  that -- with the over all -- as we continue to investigate and look at this -- I'm satisfied that if we had not implemented some of the lessons learned in 2009, the tragedy could have been much worse than it was.  However, we still have much to learn about what happened and why and what we have to do in terms of our mental health screening assessments as well as taking care of our soldiers.  And the Army is committed to  thoroughly understanding what we must do and the actions we must take.  And we look forward to reporting to you what we have found as we continue and conclude our investigations at Fort Hood.

Those were his remarks on last week's Fort Hood shooting.  Eleanor Goldberg (Huffington Post) sums it up,  "On Wednesday afternoon, Ivan Lopez, 34, opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas, killing three and injuring 16 before turning the gun on himself. The violence was particularly disheartening because Fort Hood was the site of the worst mass killing at an American military installation, which left 13 people dead and more than 30 injured in 2009."  Will Weissert and Danica Coto (AP) report, "On Friday, authorities formally identified the dead as 39-year-old Daniel Ferguson, of Mulberry, Fla.; 38-year-old Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, of Puerto Rico; and 37-year-old Timothy Owens, of Effingham, Ill."

I wasn't at that hearing, a friend who was passed it on.  I was at today's Senate Foreign Relations hearing wasting my time -- or rather the Committee and John Kerry wasting my time.  Secretary of State John Kerry was the only witness appearing before the Committee.  Senator Robert Menendez is the Committee Chair and Bob Corker is the Ranking Member.

The hearing was a joke, a really bad joke.

Kerry denounced Venezuela's government for making 'dangerous choices.'  But Kerry didn't say one damn word about the War Crimes going on in Iraq.

The US government is making dangerous choices -- but in doing so, they're making very clear that they don't give a damn about democracy or -- more important to the world -- they don't give a damn about humanity which is why they installed and propped -- and continue to prop up.

Kerry tried to  boast, "No other nation can give people the confidence to come together and confront some of the most difficult challenges in the same way that we are privileged to do."

They're not giving people that.  Kerry can pretend all he wants but all the US government is demonstrating is what it demonstrated under Bully Boy Bush, a crass disregard for human rights and the law.

Kerry had the nerve to denounce Russia for "contrived" excuses.  Forget the Iraq War -- and the lies the US government -- including Democrats in Congress -- told.   Kerry screamed for war on Syria based on 'gassing' people to death with 'chemical weapons.'  But as Seymour Hersh's "The Red Line and the Rat Line," published by The London Review of Books over the weekend makes clear, Kerry, Barack Obama and others were engaged in propaganda to sell a war.  (Somebody slide the article over to Senator Ben Cardin -- his deep stupidity might be mitigated were he to read Hersh's report.) (For more on Hersh's report see Mike's "Can dickless Robert Parry go to a nursing home already?" and  Elaine's "Sy Hersh" -- also Marcia's "Polio" covered polio in Iraq.)

The State Dept wants approximately one billion for Iraq for the next fiscal year and the hearing was on the budget.  But Kerry didn't want to discuss the big ticket item.  No one did.  Only one senator even said the word "Iraq."

Yet . . .

On the eve of the anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime on April 9, 2003, the U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens to restrict movements around Baghdad, including travel through Baghdad International Airport.  U.S. government and Embassy-affiliated personnel are restricting their use of the Baghdad International Airport through April 12.  Beyond this date, American citizens are encouraged to evaluate all travel plans after reviewing the latest Embassy messages.  If you have an emergency, please call the American Citizen Services emergency line at 0760-030-4888 or 0770-443-1286.
The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in all areas of Iraq, including the IZ, maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance personal and operational security at this time.  U.S. citizens are advised to keep a low profile; vary days, times, and routes of travel; and exercise caution while driving and entering or exiting vehicles. 

You may recognize the above in bold.  You may think it's the warning the US Embassy in Baghdad issued
 that we noted in yesterday's snapshot.  It's not.  It's the warning that the US Embassy in Baghdad issued today.  It's so dangerous that they have repeated the warning.

But John Kerry didn't care and he didn't care to address Iraq.

Here's his full testimony on Iraq, "We've issued more special immigration visas in Afghanistan -- and in Iraq, incidentally -- than at any previous year."  That was in reply to an Afghanistan question from Senator Jeanne Shaheen.  However, when she asked him about Iraq?

He didn't have a word for it, not even "incidentally."

He did say this.

Secretary John Kerry:  And I want to thank you for the way this Committee stands up for an active internationalist American foreign policy.  I spent enough time in Congress to know not to call anything that costs billions of dollars a bargain.  But when you consider that the American people pay just one penny of every tax dollar for the $46.2 billion in this request, I think it's safe to and if you ad OCO [Overseas Contingeny Operations] it's 50.1 -- I think it's safe to say that in the grand scheme of the federal budget, when it comes to the State Dept and USAID, tax payers are getting an extraordinary return on their investment.

Pretty big words in many ways but especially when Friday brought the news of the State Dept being unable to account for $6 billion.  If you're late to the topic, refer to the report by Karen DeYoung (Washington Post).

Only one senator wanted to raise the issue of the $6 billion missing dollars.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen: On a note that is not so positive, last week it came to light that the State Dept's Office of Inspector General  has discovered that over the past six years contracts worth more than 6 billion dollars have lacked complete and -- in some cases -- no records and that many of the files for contracts supporting our US mission in Iraq couldn't be located.  So I was wondering if you could tell us what actions the State Dept is taking in response to the concerns that have been raised by the Inspector Generals?

Secretary John Kerry: Well let me begin by saying that the, uh, we hadn't had an Inspector General at the State Dept for [stops speaking to turn around and ask his staff a question] . . .  What?  [Continues testimony] for three-and-a-half years or more there was no Inspector General.


The stupidity.

There's no  excuse for it.

There wasn't an inspector general for Barack's entire first term.

After January 2008, there was no State Dept IG in Bully Boy's Bush's final year of occupying the Oval Office.  Since January 2008 until September of 2013, the office was empty.

Now I might not want to own up to that before Congress too if I was in violation of the 1978 law requiring an IG.

Four years and nine months.  That's the answer if you're just speaking of Barack's tenure as US president.  But the actual answer is that the US State Dept was without an IG for five years and eight months.

It's really sad (a) that Secretary Kerry didn't know the answer on his own and (b) that his staff he consulted mid-answer didn't know the correct answer.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen:  And I appreciate your swift action to try and --

Secretary John Kerry:  I decided that we needed -- It's important, it's an important part of oversight.  So I hired Steve Linick who is our current Inspector General who came from FHFA [Federal Housing Finance Agency] but who's also been a former federal prosecutor is an outstanding attorney and person for the job.  And-and I welcome the oversight.  That's number one.  Number two, I began this process looking at our liabilities.  It came from my time here on the Committee [prior to becoming Secretary of State, Kerry was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] -- when I traveled to Afghanistan and saw the contracting and recognized the corruption that existed in Afghanistan itself and other problems.  So when I first came in, I told folks we've got to really get a handle on what's happening here.  What we found is -- and what this Inspector General report confirms -- is that there have been some problems in just paper work management.  We know where the money -- No money, no six billion dollars has been lost. We-we --- The money is accountable. But it's keeping up with the paperwork.  Part of the problem is, we have learned, and this is really important to the budget process, every single entity of government where we're managing contracting is under-resourced, under-staffed and it's hard to keep up with the paper.  You say, "Well why not go electronic?"  Well some of these places electronic isn't exactly an option -- Afghanistan or some other places.  But it takes people and so we are under-resourced with respect to that.  But we are on it the Deputy Secretary of State for Management is pursuing this and we will have a report for the Inspector General showing exactly where they are and where they are going and this is a good process. And I think people should welcome this kind of oversight and process and get on top of things. 

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