Saturday, February 05, 2011

His friends





Cache Valley Daily reports 33 members of Utah's National Guard are deploying to the ongoing war in Iraq while Ray Arzate (CBS Atlanta) reports on a send-off ceremony for 60 members of Georgia's National Guard yesterday as they prepare to deploy to Iraq. Iraq Veterans Against the War's Geoff Millard is going back to Iraq and hopefully he'll be invited to discuss that on a radio program we can link to. He discusses the demilitarized IVAW Super Bowl with Dave Zirin on Zirin's Edge of Sports radio program (last weekly broadcast for January). I don't care for Zirin but I can link to his show without any self-hatred. The same is not true for a program that IVAW friends asked me to link to. A) I know Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan and I'm offended with any show that attempts to use Michael or his illness to press their own political agenda. I find that grossly offensive. If you have a guess as to how someone catches Parkinson, find a way to discuss it without insulting someone suffering from the disease. 2) I do not call for an end to sexist skin mags. I believe in free speech which does include the right to publish many things offensive. However, I also believe that the left needs to have some standards. If you would not publish in a racist magazine (and no one on the left should), you should not publish in a sexist magazine. (To be clear, we're not referring to Playboy or Penthouse but to the gutter trash that demonizes women's bodies and encourages mutiliation of women's bodies -- and I'm not referring to mutilation via implants.) I'm not in the mood to link to interviews with 'authors' who publish in those magazines or hear their 'jokes' about how, sadly, their articles in those sexist and dehumanizing magazines do not also feature the pictures found in the rest of the magazine. (Yes, I suffered through some of that damn program.) I'm not interested in hearing how a piece of trash is wonderful because he supports the First Amendment. Bob Barr made the last ten years about supporting the First Amenmdent (I'm not calling Barr a piece of trash) and I've yet to hear these same lefty sources take to praising Barr. The host of that program is a frightmare and that's why he's no longer on radio. For those and so many more reasons, and my inability to join in the trashing and dehumanizing of my own gender, I cannot and will not link to or transcribe that interview. (I also didn't hear Geoff's remarks or any of his segment, I gave the broadcast to the count of three -- the host and the first guest -- and then said, "No way.") Geoff's returning to Iraq and that's an important story but I would not link to praise or excuses for racism or praise or excuses for homophobia and I will not link to praise or excuses for sexism. Again, I don't care for Dave Zirin -- to put it mildly -- but can link to his program (Edge of Sports) with no self loathing. I cannot do the same with regards to the other audio program.
I have promised to promote this upcoming Iraq Veterans Against the War event:

February 25, 2011 9:30 - 10:30 am
Busboys & Poets, Langston room
14th & V st NW Washington DC
This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?
Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:
Geoff Millard (IVAW) Hart Viges (IVAW) Haider Al-Saedy (Iraqi Health Now)
Richard Rowely (
Big Noise Films)
And I would argue the commentary above does more to do that than would a transcript from the audio program in question. Hart Viges shares his thoughts on the upcoming visit here (it's two paragraphs or we'd excerpt from it). Let's stay on the topic of veterans, Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports that many veterans who mistakenly put their trust in "special government-backed mortgages," such as DoD's Homeowner's Assistance Program, have seen their homes taken away from them in foreclosures. In related news, Rick Maze (Army Times) reports that the US Labor Department released unemployment figures today and the unemployment "rate for veterans climbed to 9.9 percent, up from 8.3 percent the previous month. For Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans, the unemployment rate for January was 15.2 percent. This is a sharp increase from 9.4 percent in November and 11.7 percent in December, a clear trend of worsening job market for younger veterans, many of them combat veterans."
And there are more veterans from the wars each day because they are ongoing wars as noted in yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. The hearing was covered in yesterday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Jim Webb," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "It's a bi-partisan hole (Wally)" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "In appreciation of Lindsey Graham (Ava)." John T. Bennett (The Hill) reports on the hearing and the rush by so many to continue the US 'mission.' Let's get honest about what took place yesterday, a lot of people not wanting to be responsible if the civilian mishaps that might take place. Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "At the same time, in the face of ongoing instability on the ground, officials offered one of the first hints that the American military could stay in Iraq beyond this year. US troops must pull out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011 under the current security agreement." Jason Ditz ( points out, "Which goes against the official position of the administration, that every last soldier will be out of Iraq by the end of December as per the Status of Forces Agreement. Given the Obama Administration's penchant for false promises and abortive "ends" to the Iraq War, it's perhaps no surprise that even the SOFA deadline is at risk."

Don't want the mishaps (read "deaths" and "injuries")? Get the US out of Iraq. It's not that damn difficult. But, as Wally noted, the Iraq War is a bi-partisan hole that both are eager to dig. Bennett tells you that John Kerry (never trust a man who choses his career over a sick wife -- as we should have all learned from the John and Elizabeth Edwards saga) wants to start "a stand-alone funding bill to pay for civilian-led Iraq functions." Really? So off the books again, supplementals. Exactly what John Kerry and others condemned Bush for.

Apparently, for Democrats in Congress, the real problem from 2001 through 2008 with the wars wasn't the wars but that their fellow wasn't the one making the calls. Today they rush to continue the wars -- overtly (hopes of an extension of the SOFA or a new treaty that will allow US forces, under the Defense Dept, to remain on Iraqi soil) or covertly (transferring the forces over to the State Dept -- a word trickery allowed in the agreements). The Iraq War never should have started but Bush knew the minor objection from Democrats in Congress would vanish the minute troops were on the ground and that the bulk of them would refuse to oppose funding his illegal war out of fear that they would be demonized if something went wrong. It's Barack's war now and he too knows the score. He insists US forces are staying, one way or the other, and despite the Great Recession the US is still experiencing, he's confident that Congress will waste billions on continuing the war out of fear that, if they don't, they will be blamed for any attacks. "THE US EMBASSY IN BAGHDAD WAS INVADED TODAY AND UNKNOWN ASSAILANTS -- THOUGHT TO BE LINKED TO AL QAEDA IN MESOPOTAMIA -- QUICKLY SHOT AND BEHEADED EMBASSY STAFF!" The Congress fears that such an attack -- or one on any scale -- would lead to them being blamed because they didn't provide enough tax payer money to the continued war.
The way to avoid such an attack, or any at all, is to demand that the US leaves Iraq. But that requires bravery and you don't find a great deal of that from career politicians. So the State Dept will most likely get every cent that Barack wants it to have barring riots in US streets.
We're spending $2 billion a year now on State Department operations in Iraq alone, and we intend to spend $1 billion a year on construction for some years to come. That's some withdrawal! I know that when Sen. Barack Obama asked to be entrusted with the presidency by repeatedly saying, "I will bring this war to an end in 2009. It is time to bring our troops home," he only said "troops." But I can't believe that the voters who heard him anticipated leaving thousands of Americans and spending billions of dollars in Iraq for many years.
If members of Congress are looking for ways to cut a trillion-dollar deficit, they might look at our construction and employment and nation-building plans in Iraq.
And instead of aiding state and local communities, to continue the Iraq War, the State Dept is looking to rob state and local communities. Because the US tax payer hasn't given enough to the illegal war, the US State Dept now wants to raid local and state police forces. Yesterday, they posted the following:

The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs met last week with local and state law enforcement offices, as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, to discuss opportunities available within the Iraq Police Development Program beginning this fall. The bureau is seeking to recruit both active and retired U.S. law enforcement officers as the U.S. Department of State builds a team of senior level and expert advisors to serve one-year missions in Iraq.

Beginning October 1, 2011, U.S. Department of State, through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, will assume full responsibility for the development of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior's police and border forces while continuing strong support of professional development in the corrections and justice sectors. Under Department of State leadership, the Police Development Program will partner with the Government of Iraq in developing management, leadership and technical skills to support the rule of law and maintain Iraq's internal security.

Experienced U.S. police officers have the opportunity to contribute to this large, post-conflict police development mission, partnering with Iraqi ministers, commanders, and police chiefs who will have impact on the future of the Iraqi police service. Through the Police Development Program, the Department of State is contributing to the broader goal of promoting security, stability, and respect for the rule of law in Iraq.

While appearing before Congress currently (via Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey) to ask for the biggest budget in State Dept history, they now also want to poach trained police officers which will add to the costs for states and municipalities who will have to hire and train new officers instead of retaining current ones.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Bombings, polio, war, it's Iraq"
"State Dept wants to raid your community's resources"
"I Hate The War"
"Baked Onions in the Kitchen"
"In appreciation of Lindsey Graham (Ava)"
"How very, very sad"
"More appalling numbers from NPR's programming"
"america the beautiful and perfect"
"It's a bi-partisan hole (Wally)"
"So thankful Bill Moyers is off PBS"
"The net"
"Alicia Shephard: Waste of NPR money"
"John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Jim Webb"
"The Patriot Act (look away from Egypt, if you can!)"
"Who's Matthew Rothschild kidding?"
"The Cape"
"The Quotable Bully Mama"
"The beggar media"
"Realities you're missing"
"The Bride of Frankenstein and Street"
"Ted Glick's shocker"

Friday, February 04, 2011

Ted Glick's shocker


IN SHOCKING NEWS, TED GLICK HAS DECLARED, "About a week ago I started hearing from friends that I had been criticized in a column by Chris Hedges, 'Where Liberals Go to Feel Good,' online".




Starting in the US with President Barack Obama who declared, "It's time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money putting America back together." Of course, he said that back in Feburary 2008 when he was campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and would tell any lie with a happy smile. But what did War Hawk Samantha Power tell the BBC in March 2008, "You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in Marach of 2008, about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009. We can't even tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely on some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator." So yet another lie from the man who's told so many.
When Pretty Speeches told his lie about it being time to "start spending the money putting America back together," the US wasn't aware they were about to enter the Great Recession (as Marcia pointed out last night). Tuesday the US Ambassador in Iraq James Jeffrey and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Lloyd Austin appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to beg for more money -- specifically three billion to three-and-a-half billion for this year alone. As Wally noted in his report on the hearing, "We have a record number of US citizens on food stamps, if the ambassador doesn't know, and we can't even seem to keep unemployment payments going without repeatedly voting for extensions in Congress, but James Jeffrey is comfortable spending your money and mine in Iraq." Tuesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also released a 20 page report entitled [PDF format warning] "IRAQ: THE TRANSITION FROM A MILITARY MISSION TO A CIVILIAN-LED EFFORT." From the report:
The State Department is scheduled to assume full security responsibilities in a still dangerous and unpredictable environment and must strike a difficult balance between maintaining a robust presence and providing sufficient level of security. In almost any scenario, the United States will continue to have military personnel stationed at the American embassy in a non-combat role under the Office of Security Cooperation. As in many countries around the world, these troops will be responsible for enhancing the bilateral defense relationship by facilitating security assistance. But the size, scope, and structure of this presence remain undetermined, even at this late date. Perhaps most significantly, it is unclear what kind of security relationship the incoming Iraqi Government would like with the United States.
In the wake of such uncertainities, a complicated diplomatic plan has emerged that highlights a dilemma that will likely confront the nation for as long as counterinsurgency warfare and state-building are central components of American foreign policy: How can the State Department effectively operate in difficult security environments without the support of the American military?
The U.S. Government should ensure that the scope of the mission in Iraq is compatible with the resources available, including State Department capacity, the financial commitment from Congress, a degree of U.S. military support and the backing of the Iraqi Government.
The report highlights key issues and we'll emphasize the first two:
* First, it is unclear whether the State Department has the capacity to maintain and protect the currently planned diplomatic presence without U.S. military support.
* Second, uncertainty about the nature of the U.S. military presence in Iraq after 2012 is complicating all other aspects of transition planning.
Golly, gee, and here we thought the US military presence in Iraq had already been addressed. Or that's what we've been repeatedly told (lied to). The Senate Foreign Relations Committee runs through four options in their report. 1) All US troops leave at the end of 2011 ("except for a limited Office of Secuirty Cooperation housed within the embassy") which would require the State Dept scale back their current plans. 2) Many US troops leave at the end of 2011 but the Office of Security Cooperation is expanded with "military forces" who will "provide logistical support for the Iraqi army, shore up administrative gaps within the Ministry of Defense, and prove 'behind the wire' capabilities". 3) A new security agreement is negotiated to allow the US military to continue in Iraq. ("This approach should only be considered if it comes at Iraq's request".)
Imagine if, instead of lying and providing cover for Barack, Tom Hayden and so many others had stayed focused on the Iraq War and pressed for an end to it? Back to the report:
But regardless of whether the U.S. military withdraws as scheduled or a small successor force is agreed upon, the State Department will take on the bulk of responsibility for their own security. Therefore, Congress must provide the financial resources necessary to complete the diplomatic mission. Consideration should be given to a multiple-year funding authorization for Iraq programs, including operational costs (differentiated from the State Department's broader operational budget), security assistance, and economic assistance programs. The price tag will not be cheap -- perhaps $25 - 30 billion over 5 years -- but would constitute a small fraction of the $750 billion the war has cost to this point.
$25 to 30 billion is what the Senate Foreign Relations is prepping to spend over the next five year on the Iraq War. Yet two years ago this month, campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Barack insisted, "It's time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money putting America back together."
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies just pretty lies
-- "The Last Time I Saw Richard," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album Blue
Staying with the money issue, we'll again note this exchange from Tuesday's hearing:
Senator Ben Cardin: On that same side, the chairman's talked about a long term committment to Iraq, I think we all understand we're going to be there from the point of view of helping to rebuild the country. What can you tell us is being put in place to make sure that the US funds are being used in the most cost-effective way, that we have protections against US funds being used to help finance corruption -- local corruption -- in the country, how do we avoid that and what are we doing for promoting US values including gender equity issues, making sure that we continue to make progress? Do we have -- Do you have an accountability system in place that gives confidence that we should be considering a more permanent, longterm, committment to Iraq?
US Ambassador James Jeffrey: Yes, sir, on all of those accounts,Senator. First of all, this is an important priority for us and it's an important priority for this administration and the last administration. In fact, a unique institution, uh, the Special uh Inspector General for Iraq, SIGIR, has been set up and they have a very active uh program, they have dozens of uh people stationed or with us TDI either out in the field in Iraq. We also have the State Dept and other IGs but SIGR in particular has been very active in looking into assistance programs and how effective and how efficient they are and, uh, to what extent there is corruption. Uh, I, uh, meet with the head of it, with [Stuart] Bowen, with his deputy and with other members frequently. In addtition, uh, uh, since the time of [former US Ambassador to Iraq] Ryan Crocker, we've organized the embassy in a unique way: where normally we have the ambassador and then a deputy chief of mission But for the economic and assistance elements of it -- we've created essentially a second, uh, deputy chief of mission -- the assistant chief of mission, currently Ambassador Peter Bodde who looks into that and focuses directly on the issues of "Are we getting our bang for the buck?," uh, "Are we looking into corruption?," uh, and these kind of issues. Uh, a good deal of our assistance goes -- and a good deal of our political relationships with Iraqis and our engagement with them goes to issues such as gender equality, minorities, the refugee issue. We have a very, very broad dialogue with them. We played a role behind the scenes on some of the decisions taken in the Iraqi Constitution on -- under equality -- for example, 25% of the Parliament has to be uh, uh female. Uh, now there are problems with this at times. For example, uh Iraqis -- both men and women -- were unhappy with the makeup of the Cabinet. Uh, the prime minister then decided that he would have to hold off on completion of the Cabinet until he could find more female candidates and that process is ongoing.
And as we pointed out Tuesday: "In terms of SIGR, they do strong work. It's also after-the-fact work. Meaning, they are auditing programs that are often completed or the money is all spent. In other words, after the money (or the bulk of it) has been mispent. In addition, how dare an employee of the US State Dept claim responsibility for SIGIR which was created, in 2004, by an act of Congress. 'What are you doing' was the question Jeffrey was asked. The answer is: Not real damn much."
Today AFP reports a US jury found a Jordanian guilty of theft. The US Dept of Justice issued a press release yesterday explaining the man was 36-year-old Osama Esam Saleem Ayesh, "resident of Jordan hired by the Department of State as a shipping and customs supervisor at the embassy in Baghdad". Though DoJ is happy to note he was convicted of "two counts of theft of public money and one count of engaging in acts affecting a personal financial interest," that the first two convictions come with a maximum ten year sentence and the third with a maximum five year sentence and that he stole "nearly $250,000" of US tax payer money, they never note any of it being recovered. They're sketchy on other details as well. Such as when it took place. The Cypress Times reports he wired $243,416 from the US State Dept "to his wife's account in Jordan" and that he conducted his theft from November 2008 through June 2010. So he started stealing in November of 2008 and he wasn't indicted until (according to the DoJ press release) October 15, 2010? The criminal complaint was filed August 16, 2010. One person, two years of theft, of hundreds of thousands of dollars (which no one's rushing to insist were recovered) and we're supposed to believe James Jeffrey's lame remarks about checks to ensure the money is not wasted or misspent?
Switching over the US House of Representatives for a moment, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held their organizational meeting (their first meeting). I had noted earlier this month that they had no meetings scheduled and an e-mail to the public account reminds me that the now-Republican led Committee held a meeting January 26th. Of course, that's not the type of meeting I was referring to (and other House Committees this session held their organizational meetings earlier). I was noting that under Bob Filner's leadership, the House Veterans Affairs Committee and its Subcommittees held four hearings in the month of January -- not one of those was an organizational one. (You can refer to the January 11th snapshot.) They currently have two hearing scheduled for February and two for March (one in March is a joint-hearing with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee). Jeff Miller is the new Chair and, in fairness to him (and the Republicans), I will note what the e-mail didn't: the Democrats still haven't filled their seats on the Committee. That's nothing to do with Jeff Miller. The Democrats (minority party) have eleven slots on the Committee, four of which remain empty. Bob Filner is the Ranking Member. The Republicans have fifteen slots on the Committee, two remain absent. That does fall on Chair Jeff Miller. Of the four Subcommittees announced, the one we most often follow is the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs and the Chair of it will be Jon Runyan of New Jersey while Jerry McNerney of California will be the Ranking Member. In a press release which came with the e-mail, Chair Jeff Miller states, "I am honored to be chairing this Committee at such a critical time for our nation and its veterans. It will be the top priority of this Committee to ensure stringent oversight over veterans' programs. We must ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently to provide the best services and world class health care to nation's warriors and their families. I am also proud of the Committee's bipartisan oversight plan that lays out an aggressive agenda that includes 79 specific items. I consider this plan a basic blueprint for our oversight activities but, it is not exclusive and I expect to expand on it throughout the Congress."
Today the US Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Iraq and Jeffrey and Austin appeared before them to provide testimony. At the top of the meeting, Chair Carl Levin welcomed new Committee members Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Blumenthal, Rob Portman and Kelly Ayotte. In addition, he welcomed back to the Committee Senator John Cornyn who "previously served on the Committee for six years until 2008." As is so often the case, Chair Levin didn't try to pretty it up in his opening statement, instead laying facts as they were.
Chair Carl Levin: Last December, after eight months of discussions, Iraq's political leaders agreed to form a national unity government. But the agreement was only partial. Iraq still awaits the nominations by Prime Minister al-Maliki to the key cabinet positions of Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and Minister of National Security as well as the resolution of issues relating to the powers of the National Council on Higher Priorities, to be headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The pressure on the Iraqi government to fill in these large gaps must continue.
Yes, this was in stark contrast to the rosy "a government has been formed" we sat through on Tuesday. Levin noted the realities on violence, the realities on the security forces and offered a fact-based opening statement. Again, in stark contrast to Tuesday. Back to his opening statement (and we're jumping ahead, if there was room, we'd include the entire opening statement).
Chair Carl Levin: One major question is what security relationship the United States and Iraq will have once the 2008 Security Agreement expires in December. It is unclear whether the Maliki government will seek any type of continuing US military presence after December given the terms of the security agreement that all our troops be removed by this December. Iraq needs to engage with the United States sooner rather than later if such a request is going to be forthcoming. The government of Iraq should understand that the days of the American tax payer bearing the costs of developing Iraq's security forces are ending. Iraq has significant oil revenue which will continue to increase. According to the latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Iraq's efforts to attract foreign investment continue to 'bear fruit' and development of Iraq's oil fields is making 'better than expected progress.' We should work with the government of Iraq to make available the equipment and training it needs for its long-term security, but Iraq should not expect us to bear the costs of its security needs. Finally, an important issue for the government of Iraq remains the security of Christian and other religious minorities. During our visit we met with leaders of Christian communities, which have suffered from suicide attacks, targeted killings, kidnappings and other intimidation by violent extremist forces. These communities live in fear, and large numbers of Christians have either fled the country or uprooted to safer regions in northern Iraq. The leaders we met explained with pride how Iraq has been home to some of the earliest Christian communities and Iraqi Christians do not want to have to leave their country to feel safe. Iraq has a long tradition of religious tolerance. On our visit we urged the government of Iraq to act with urgency to provide the security necessary to preserve these ancient Christian and other religious minority communities and to protect its religious minorities. Ambassador Jeffrey and General Austin, we know from our conversations in Iraq and here that you will continue to keep the safety of the various religious minority communities in Iraq as one of your top priorities in your discussions with the government of Iraq.
After opening statements from Ranking Member John McCain, Austin and Jeffrey.
Chair Carl Levin: You talked about stability and security and self-reliance of an Iraqi state and an Iraqi government and that surely has been the goal. One of the threats to that success and that achievement of that goal and to the stability and security of Iraq is the failure of the political leaders of Iraq to reach conclusions on some critical issues. This has always been a problem, we've always expressed the importance of the political leaders coming together. Now some of the current political issues that are unresolved include the following: an agreement to create a National Council for Higher Policies with real executive power, headed by former Prime Minister Allawi. There's an agreement that the Council be created but there's no agreement on what their powers are. I think I mispoke. There's an agreement that such a Council be created, there's no agreement yet on what the powers of that Council will be. The positions of Minister of Defense, Interior and National Security are still unfilled. There is no agreement yet on oil policies, the division of oil revenues. These are huge issues that remain unresolved and I believe threaten the goals and objectives that we have and hopefully that the Iraqis have for themselves. Can you comment on this matter? Is it important that the leaders of Iraq get on with the decisions in those areas, Ambassador?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chair Carl Levin: And we're going to have a seven minute round, by the way. I usually announce how long the round of questions will be.
Ambassador James Jeffrey: It is vitally important that they finish the job of forming the government. Uh, they have taken most of the steps necessary but, uh, you have outlined several of the remaining issues that we've been pressing them on but more importantly they've been pressing themselves on. We have seen some progress in the last several weeks on the National Council and the two sides have basically agreed to everything but the modality of how to select Dr. Ayad Allawi. Everybody agrees that he should be selected. We think that this should be resolved in the next few days. I was in contact with President [Masoud] Barzani of the, uh, Kurdistan Regional Government, uh, this morning and the embassy with other people, uh, to take the temperature of where we are on these steps. There are also some names that are floating on compromise candidates for both of those ministries that you mentioned. And, again, we are encouraged by what we've heard over the past several days but the proof is in the pudding and we have to see uh, uh, if they will finish the job. It is very important that they finish the job and get on with the business of, uh, government. On the oil account -- two positive developments. Uh, as with everything else in Iraq, it moves forward in relatively small steps, Senator, but it does move forward. The, uh, Kurds and the other coalition parties agreed on a 19-point plan or on most of a 19-point plan that includes giving priority to a hydrocarbons law and a revenue sharing law. This vital. But meanwhile the central government, Prime Minister Maliki personally and the Kurdistan Regional Government have agreed on an interum step of allowing up to 150,000 barrels of oil in the Kurdistan Regional Government to flow out into the pipeline. This is a very significant development and it gives us hope that they will continue down this path, sir.
Chair Carl Levin: Thank you. General Austin, is the withdrawal of our forces by the end of this year as agreed to by President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki on track?
Gen Lloyd Austin: Thank you, Senator. It is indeed on track. Uh, we just recently completed our planning process that will, uh, will govern the rest of -- the remainder activities from now until the end of December. And we've issued Operations Order 1101 which again prescribes, uh, the major activities that we will be conducting focused on strengthening the Iraqi Security Forces, uh, reposturing our forces, uh, and also transitioning responsibilities, uh, to, uh, the Embassy, the government of Iraq and Central Command. We continue to synchronize that plan and we're also synchronizing the activities of the Embassy along with our activities as we -- as we go about executing the plan.
Chair Carl Levin: Thank you. Is there any indication -- and I'll ask this of both of you -- that Iraq is going to request that any elements of our military forces remain beyond December?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: We have received, uh, no such request, Senator. We are working with the Iraqis, as the general said, on the security elements of our post 2011 presence which will include a large OSCI element for our security cooperation and the police training which will be a major program both of these are under the framework of the Security -- uh, the Strategic Framework Agreement which was the second agreement signed in 2008. It does not have a deadline and calls for a broad cooperation across the spectrum of bilateral relations including specifically security. So we're working with the Iraqis now on just what exactly the components of that would be, sir.
Chair Carl Levin: Do you expect a request beyond that from the Iraqi government?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: We haven't yet, sir, and I-I can't say what they'll do in the future.
Chair Car Levin: We don't have any indication that such a request is going to be forthcoming? As of this time?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: As of this time there's no specific request on the table. They will want to see how we will meet their training and equipping needs uh with the program that we set up.
Gen Lloyd Austin: Senator, I echo the Ambassador's comments. We haven't had any requests. And, again, I think he covered the entire gamut there so I would not add anything to that.
On the National Council, Jeffrey was Happy Talking. Haider Roa ( reported yesterday that Iraqiya is very bothered by the delay and quoted Iraqiya member Saleh al-Mutlaq (second only to Allawi in terms of power in the Iraqiya bloc) stating he would be stepping down if there is not movement on the National Council while others express their dismay and Andan al-Sarraj (State Of Law -- Nouri's slate) insists that implementing is taking place.
In his questions, Ranking Member John McCain noted one obvious problem with the claim that US forces leave at the end of December.
Ranking Member John McCain: Are they [Iraq] going to be able to build an air force without US presence there?
Gen Lloyd Austin: They-they do have a number of options to both aquire equipment from-from or training from other nations. Certainly --
Ranking Member John McCain: So they would have to aquire equipment and trainers from other nations?
Gen Lloyd Austin: They-they would.
It's been known for years now that the US Air Force will have to be in Iraq beyond 2011 in order to train the Iraqi Air Force. How far back. From the June 14, 2007 snapshot:

The Pentagon report has many sections and one of interest considering one of the 2007 developments may be this: "There are currently more than 900 personnel in the Iraqi Air Force. . . . The fielding of rotary-wing aircraft continued with the delivery to Taji of five modified UH II (Iroquois) helicopters, bringing the total delivered to ten. The final six are scheduled to arrive in June. Aircrews are currently conducting initial qualifications and tactics training. The Iroquois fleet is expected to reach initial operation capability by the end of June 2007." By the end of June 2007? One of the developments of 2007 was the (admission of) helicopter crashes. US helicopters. British helicopters. Some may find comfort in the fact that evacuations and mobility will be handled by Iraqis . . . whenever they are fully staffed and trained. Four years plus to deliver the equipment, training should be done in ten or twenty years, right?

January 29, 2008, on Ned Parker and Saif Hameed's "Bomb Kills 5 U.S. Soldiers in Iraq" (Los Angeles Times):

They note the claims by puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki made over the weekend that can only be described as 'get tough' and how "Additional Iraqi tanks and aircraft arrived in Mosul" and I'll assume they think we're flat out stupid since there's no Iraqi "aircraft" to speak of and the Iraqi air force does not conduct missions and is begging for money to upgrade their air 'power.'

From the November 4, 2008 snapshot:

There's no rush to leave Iraq or even a desire. That needs to be grasped. Iraqi General Nasier Abadi made that pretty clear during Sunday's press conference in the Green Zone. Questioned by the Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan as to when the Iraqis would be able to handle "their own internal security . . . how many years are you away from reaching that goal," Abadi tried to distract by listing duties before declaring, "We have no duties or missions to protect the air on the borders of the country. But in case we have this responsibility, there is a brief that -- to the minister of defense, if he ask us to -- task us with that, a reportw ent also to the Prime Minister, what are the capabilities and the army's specifics to do those duties?" Asked how many years again, he responded, "Building an aerial force, building an Army is not easy, but it's still easier than building naval and air force. The naval force, as I said before, that the first ship will come in 2009 and the fourth will arrive in . . . at the end of 2011. In regard to 200- . . . Air Force, the first aircraft we will receive in 2011 until 2015. And that depends on the support and the help that the coalition forces can secure to Iraq so we can be able to maintain and defend our airspace and territories. Without that, there will be also agreements with the neighboring countries on the security of Iraq. But it's possible that we will go with those missions without having an air force or naval force because this is a common battle, it's not just an army's duty." Setting aside the naval force and focusing only on the air, if the period they'll be taking possession of aircraft will last from 2011 through 2015, how likely is it that they will be prepared to handle their own airspaceby the end of 2011?

And the two most recent major articles on this issue were Elisabeth Bumiller's "Iraq Can't Defend Its Skies by Pullout Date, U.S. Says" (New York Times, July 29, 2010) and Gareth Porter's "U.S. Envoy Secretly Offered Troops in Iraq after 2011" (Dissident Voice).
At today's hearing, McCain stated he was "very concerned about Sadr, his activities, his followers and his close ties with Iran as well as Talabani and others. I mean, I'll just be very -- And I'm deeply concerned about that." Talabani does have diplomatic ties to Iran and a bit more than that but I believe John McCain meant "Maliki." If that section had been clear, we'd be highlighting it but the Talabani aspect mucked it all up (especially when al-Maliki is close to Iran and wasn't included in the statement). It was also interesting to watch Jeffrey downplay "king maker" Moqtada al-Sadr. We agree with his comments and have made them here but in light of the press orgasm over Moqtada's (brief) return to Iraq, it was interesting to hear Jeffrey say of al-Sadr's bloc, "But at the end of the day, Senator, they received 660,000 votes out of more than 12 million cast. They have only 39 seats in the coalition which has roughly 300 seats and, uh, their role -- which is relatively minor in the government -- reflects their voting power."
We'll wind down noting Senator Jack Reed's foolishness.
Senator Reed: As the mission migrates from the Dept of Defense and from DoD to the civilian side, the State Dept, as it looks more like foreign aid than supporting troops in the field, the reality, which Senator McCain pointed out, in this environment, is going to be very difficult to sustain and he's also pointed out perceptively if we don't sustain this effort than we have invested a lot of blood and a lot of material in an effort that could be frustrated. That would be a tragedy.
And on that note (Reed and foolish), Wally will pick up tonight at Rebecca's site, Kat will report on the hearing at her site and Ava will cover it at Trina's site. (And we'll link to all three reports in tomorrow's snapshot.)

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

How he does it





Today in London, the Iraq Inquiry concluded public testimony as they heard from Jack Straw for the third time. It was a dodgy and nervous Straw appearing today when contrasted with his January and February 2010 appearances, one who took to quibbling over even basic defintions of "containment" ("it depends what you mean exactly by containment") such as when, at the start of the hearing, he declared, "If you mean by containment as I set out in my latest statement, containing and removing the problem of Saddam's failure to comply with United Nations' obligations, then containment remained the overall strategy of the government right up to the time when we took the decision to use military action, because in a sense [UN Security Council Resolution] 1441 was a continuation of a series of policies by the United Nations Security Council to secure the compliance of Saddam Hussein and to ensure that all his WMD had been removed,his programmes and capabilities had been broken up. As I said repeatedly, and it was absolutely explicit at the time, if Saddam had done that, then he would have stayed in post."
And with that Straw made clear that he just can't stop lying. If the issue was compliance, you don't run the UN inspectors out of the country before they have completed their work. But that is what happened. It was nearly eight years ago and so much has happened in the Iraq War that we need to drop back to shortly before it began. Tuesday, March 18, 2003, CNN reported, "Saying the United States 'will not be intimated by thugs and killers,' President Bush gave Iraqi President Sadam Hussein and his sons a 48-hour ultimatum Monday: Leave the country or face military action. The ultimatum was delivered in a 13-minute televised speech from the White House." UN inspections were ongoing when Bush made that statement. Dan Stober reported for Knight Ridder Newspapers on March 18, 2003:
As United Nations nuclear inspectors flee Iraq, some of them are angry at the Bush administration for cutting short their work, bad mouthing their efforts and making false claims about evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
Some inspectors are "scandalized" at the way President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, among others, have "politicized" the inspection process, according to a source close to the inspectors.
None of the nuclear-related intelligence trumpeted by the administration has held up to scrutiny, inspectors say. From suspect aluminum tubes to aerial photographs to documents -- revealed to be forgeries -- that claimed to link Iraq to uranium from Niger, inspectors say they chased U.S. leads that went nowhere and wasted valuable time in their efforts to determine the extent of Saddam Hussein's arsenal of weapons banned after the 1991 Gulf War.
Inspections were ongoing and the UN inspectors were forced to flee as a result of Bush and Blair. And the Iraq War began. It's a reality missing from Straw's spin. Committee member Roderic Lyne quoted from a letter Straw's office had written to Tony Blair (December 3, 2001) which declared, "Military intervention for the purpose of regime change would be illegal." Which is was. Which is why the Iraq War had to be dressed up by both the British and US government with lies. A paper to Straw followed the letter and Lyne said it "discussed, and I quote: 'How we could combine an objective of regime change in Baghdad with the need to protect important regional interest'. That second paper put a much broader case for regime change than dealing with the threat of WMD. Now your office received these papers and they the wrote to Number 10 to say that you thought the two papers were very perceptive, and that you hoped the Prime Minister would read them."
Straw got defensive and finally declared he was having similar conversations with then US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Committee member Roderic Lyne: But the second paper set out what has been described in an earlier evidence session as setting out a route map for regime change. Now you just commended the papers, said you hoped the Prime Minister would read them and they were very perceptive. Why did you commend a paper setting out a route map for regime change?
Jack Straw: You will have to forgive me. I was given no notice you were going to raise this.
Apparently Straw feels he must get the questions in advance if he's expected to answer them. And it was a huge dilemma for him because the paper and his praise of it to Blair was very revealing. Lyne told Straw, "I am very curious you didn't react to the second paper by saying regime change cannot be an objective of the UK foreign policy. Warn the Prime Minister."
We can go through Straw's lies bit by bit but there's really no point in that. Let's get to what the Inquiry may have come across. My opinion on what follows, feel free to disagree with my conclusions. Committee Member Roderic Lyne observed early on, as Straw was saying Blair wanted to be on Bush's side, "Get on side of President Bush but presumably not get ahead of President Bush on this issue or encourage President Bush to push it ahead at high speed?" To which Straw replied "certainly not" and more yada-yada.
But that is what the record shows. This is not to say that Bush is an innocent but this is to note that Tony Blair was not the poodle he was thought to be. (And poodle's don't generally end up with Blair's current post, how do you think that happened?) Of all the documents released by the Inquiry, the most interesting one is on the eve of the 2000 US election. The British find Al Gore (Democratic Party presidential nominee) and George W. Bush (Republican Party presidential nominee) to be similar in their stance on Iraq. Of then-current President Bill Clinton, the British lament his "line in the sand" that must be crossed before war would be declared on Iraq. They fear the same resolve in both candidates (Gore and Bush). Put that with the Chicago 1999 speech Blair gave (known as the Blair Doctrine). Blair wanted regime change and was willing to break the law to get it. You can tie it into the 'ultimate good' his religion preaches. Nick Cohen (Guardian of London) on Blair's religious ceremonies:

During their stay at the Maroma Hotel, a pricey retreat on Mexico's Caribbean coast, Cherie Booth/Blair took her husband by the hand and led him along the beach to a 'Temazcal', a steam bath enclosed in a brick pyramid. It was dusk and they had stripped down to their swimming costumes. Inside, they met Nancy Aguilar, a new-age therapist. She told them that the pyramid was a womb in which they would be reborn. The Blairs became one with 'Mother Earth'. They saw the shapes of phantom animals in the steam and experienced 'inner-feelings and visions'. As they smeared each other with melon, papaya and mud from the jungle, they confronted their fears and screamed. The joyous agonies of 'rebirth' were upon them. The ceremony over, the Prime Minister and First Lady waded into the sea and cleaned themselves up as best they could.

And maybe it would be blood and bones that Iraq was semared with, not melon and papaya, but it could be 'reborn' as well.
As Blair's inner circle repeatedly demonstrated to the Inquiry (Straw did so today), they knew what was legal and they knew what was illegal. And the reason for the split in the Cabinet is that some were trusted and some weren't. The inner circle has repeatedly insisted that somethings had to be kept (from the full Cabinet) because it might be leaked to the press but the reality is that Blair and his inner circle leaked to the press more than anyone and what was being protected was a portion of the Cabinet (including Blair) wanting illegal war and concealing that from the rest of the Cabinet. You can see the lines drawn in Richard Norton-Taylor's report for the Guardian last week of Adm Michael Boyce's testimony was a "striking contrast to previous evidence about the former prime minister's war aims" with Boyce testifying he was told regime change could not be the policy while, Richard Norton-Taylor notes, "Blair's closet advisers, including Sir David Manning have told the inquiry that the former prime minister assured President George Bush he was willing to undertake regime change. Lord Turnbull, cabinet secretary at the time, described Blair as a 'regime changer'." Or, another example of who was let in and who was kept out, take Richard Wilson, Cabinet Secretary and Head of Home Civil Service, telling the Inquiry January 25th:
Committee member Lawrence Freedman: I mean the July, 23rd meeting. A version of this is in the public domain -- recommended the establishment of an ad hoc group of officials under the Cabinet Office chairmanship to consider the development of an information campaign to be agreed with the US. Tom McKane told us in his evidence that this was not connected to the dossier and that work had not really started when he handed -- you left the Cabinet Office. Do you have any understanding of this ad hoc group?
Richard Wilson: I think Tom McKane would be right. If you remember -- you don't remember, because I have not told you -- after the -- this is memory -- after the Crawford meeting David Manning -- my memory is that David Manning sent me a minute, which has not been found on the file, so it is perfectly possible it is a figment, but I can see page 2 in my mind, and it had -- it simply said -- my understanding of Crawford, which you have very kindly not asked me about -- my understanding of Crawford, which is another twist in the story, was that we came back realising -- because the purpose of Crawford was to find out what the Americans were thinking, what Bush himself was thinking, because there were all sorts of people around him thinking all sorts of things -- where was Bush on this -- was that he was more serious about regime change and about the possibility, if necessary, of military action than we had grasped. The Prime Minister had asked for further work to be done on three areas, and this is relevant to in answer to your question. One of those areas was building up opinion both in this country and overseas for United Nations action on Iraq. My understanding of the group that was being set up on 23rd July was that was about this process of building up a campaign of public understanding in this country and overseas. I think Tom McKane's evidence is right.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Crawford?
Richard Wilson: No, other than I would quite like to know what happened to Crawford.
Blair did not twist Bush's arm on illegal war. (It's doubtful Bush cared much whether the war was legal or illegal as evidenced by his repeated comments that history would decide long after everyone was dead -- to which one can add, and after the criminals have escaped punishment.) But he did get him over the line in the sand Bill Clinton had drawn, the one Tony Blair's inner circle lamented.
Called for the third time to testify -- and supposedly spending six weeks preparing for today's appearance, Jack Straw couldn't answer a basic question and wanted to whine that no one told him that would be brought up. The inner circle (including Straw) papered over reality with various correspondence. That's why Lyne may have been getting at when noting Straw's finding that war for regime change would be illegal. There was no real reason to send that document. As documents the Inquiry released prior to 9-11 demonstrate, Tony Blair's Cabinet was already aware that war for regime change was illegal. But the papering over of what was really planned (such as finding a fake reason for war and piggy backing regime change on that) was part of concealing their real actions and motives. That's what the documents released by the Inquiry indicate and it's what the testimony indicates to me.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) observes of today's testimony, "The inquiry made clearer than ever that Blair had gone much further in private letters to President Bush than he admitted in public about the prospect of war to topple Saddam Hussein -- an aim of military action that Straw said repeatedly in written and oral evidence would be 'palpably illegal'." Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) has a report on Straw's testimony which needs to be read in full but we'll excerpt the opening:
On the final day of hearings at the Iraq Inquiry, Mr Straw admitted he advised the Cabinet that invasion would be legal without a fresh United Nations mandate days after Lord Goldsmith, the then attorney general, had said privately that the opposite was true.
In the end, Lord Goldsmith changed his mind about the legality of the war on the eve of the invasion and gave the green light to conflict without ministers ever being made aware of his earlier reservations.
Explaining the decision not to share important documents with the Cabinet, Mr Straw said that he and Mr Blair had been "depressed" after a Cabinet discussion on Iraq a year before the 2003 invasion had become public.
Richard Perle, John Bolton, George W. Bush and Colin Powell. These are only some of the names Jack Straw brought up in his testimony to the Iraq Inquiry today. For Bush, Straw had kind words; for Colin The Blot Powell, Straw stated Powell insisted that 'you couldn't delay action too long' (starting the illegal war). After returning from a brief break at 6:12 EST, Straw appeared even more agitated and frustrated and, at one point, lashed out at a previous witness (Steven Wall), labeling the testimony that had been offered "incredulous." One of his most important contributions this go round may be his explanation that "serious consequences" equals "military action."

One impression that's hard to escape is the death of Saddam Hussein and that Straw is obsessed with it. Guilt-ridden? He keeps bringing it up, without prompting. And sounds a bit like he's referring to the 'final solution.' Certainly, when you consider all the world leaders the US and British governments have protected from their people, prevented from going on trial, it is surprising on some level that they executed Saddam Hussein (Iraq was occupied and staffed with exiles, do not pretend that Iraqis executed him whether they wanted to or not, the occupiers were in charge). Is it guilt over the death or fear over later charges to come if the world gets behind calling out the illegal war? He insisted that Hussein was given the chance to disarm but, of course, that's really not what happened. And as he continued to harp on that and other details, it was hard not to notice his obsession with the death of Hussein.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The first real heir to Public Enemy







Starting with withdrawal. In reply to "When does the United States military leave?," Steven Lee Myers writes at the New York Times' At War blog:
This will be one of the most important and potentially divisive issues of the coming months. I wouldn't blame anyone for being confounded by the statements of various officials and observers, many of them contradictory. The fact is that neither the Obama administration nor Mr. Malik's government has so far decided, at least publicly, what role the American military will have in Iraq in the future, if any. The leaders' own advisers seem divided on the matter.
The security agreement President George W. Bush negotiated with Mr. Maliki over 2008 set a deadline to withdraw all American troops from Iraq's cities by June 30, 2009, and from the country entirely by Dec. 31, 2011. The withdrawal from the cities happened on schedule -- with a little fudging on municipal boundaries to allow bases in Mosul, Kirkuk and Baghdad, for example -- and American officials and commanders say the final withdrawal will also happen on schedule.
President Obama added only his own withdrawal timetable within the broad terms of the agreement, delayed a bit from his campaign promises, though not radically. He reduced the number of American troops to just below 50,000 last August and declared an official end to the American combat mission (also with a little fudging on what constitutes combat, as we've noted in several articles).
The schedule for withdrawing the remaining troops has not yet been made public, but it is expected to begin in the spring and be in full swing by August, with as few as 25,000 troops left by August, as I heard recently. In the State of the Union address, Mr. Obama again stated that the remainder of the troops would withdraw as planned, which would seem to rule out a future role for the American military, but not entirely.
My colleagues and I recently outlined some possibilities and the political difficulties both he and Mr. Maliki face as they grapple with the 2011 deadline. Iraq's security forces, while larger and increasingly confident, still require significant training and equipping, as many officials have noted. Keeping any significant number of American troops in Iraq to do that -- even in a purely advisory capacity -- will require an extension of the current security agreement, the negotiation a new agreement of some sort, or some more fudging. How that unfolds will be a major story this year.
Last week, we quoted from Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin's analysis of the State of the Union address and noted Myers would be answering questions left at that analysis. Today, his responses are online. We'll go out, at the end of the snapshot, with another section from his replies but the issue of withdrawal or not withdrawal is where we start. Steven Lee Myers also reports on a US military release that the military quickly retracted today:
"This was an internal staff action in the eventuality of the Iraqi government approving the sale," a spokesman here, Col. Barry A. Johnson, said in a statement. "It was not intended for distribution. Approval of the sale has NOT/NOT occurred and notification of any approval will first be made by the government of Iraq."
Mistakes happen in the fog of war, but what was telling was the specificity of the news release, dated Jan. 31.
It included the number of aircraft, the date of delivery in 2013, the fact that 10 Iraqi pilots were already training in the United States and the implication that Americans would continue to train the Iraqi security forces well after a deadline for a complete withdrawal by the end of 2011.
The US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, and the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Lloyd James Austin, appeared in DC this morning before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The hearing came, Salam Faraj (AFP), "[. ..] two days after a US watchdog said shortfalls in the capabilities of Iraq's security forces could undo security gains after American troops leave at the end of the year. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) noted that while Baghdad's forces had made major improvements, they suffered from poor logistics capabilities, and that corruption within the police and army had hampered their development." And as Mark Landler (New York Times) reports this morning on a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report to be released later today which states that US diplomats will be left unprotected in Iraq if the US announced plan for withdrawal or 'withdrawal' is followed: "Without thousands of additional soldiers -- a prospect that seems untenable, given political pressures in both countries -- the report recommends rethinking the American civilian presence, which is projected to number 17,000 diplomats, contractors and others in 15 sites in Iraq."
This was the Foreign Relations Committee's "first hearing of the new Congress," as Chair John Kerry noted at the start. He welcomed "five new members" to the Committee, Senators Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Tom Udall and Dick Durbin While that was Committee business and may be excused as such, his many, many words about Egypt? Including plugging his own guest column in the New York Times? As he went on and on -- still in his opening statement -- about Egypt and its importance to the US, you saw people looking around and appearing to wonder, "Is this hearing about Iraq or not?" Finally, he hailed the "success" and, with that lie, everyone knew he had found his way back to the topic of the hearing. (FYI, his office passed on this from Kerry on Egypt. He had no news release on Iraq -- no news release on the subject of the hearing he chaired this morning.) A woman next to me leaned in and asked, "Did he just say 'We are also here today?'" Yes, he did. He said "we are also here today" to discuss Iraq. Also? Iraq, he declared, "because of successes has moved off of the front burner, so to speak." Really? Seems it moved off the front burner of the hearing Kerry chaired because John Kerry was more interested in being a dog chasing a Hot Topic Ambulance down the street than in addressing the topic the hearing was called for. "In accordance with the 2008 bilateral agreements that were signed and negotiated by the Bush administration, American troops must leave the country by the end of the year," Kerry declared before adding "but these agreements also acknowledge -- and it's important for people to focus on this -- they also acknowledge the need for continued military cooperation." If that seems strange, strange was the hallmark of the hearing.
It was a very strange John Kerry, one who badly needed a hair cut (unless he's trying to ape Ben Nelson's look) and he was hunched over and, most importantly, shifty-eyed in a way that brought to mind his one-time nemesis Richard Nixon. Did anyone ever think he would end the Iraq War if elected? (I actually did. I can be wrong and often am. I was certainly wrong about John.) Whatever happened to the young man who publicly wondered,, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?" The current War Hark John Kerry obviously killed him and, judging from the excess pounds Kerry is packing, ate him as well.
Kerry, still yammering away in his never-ending opening statement, declared, "In the coming weeks I will explore the possibility of a multi-year authorization package for Iraq that would include the operational costs of the mission as well as the security and the economic assistance programs. This package could serve as a road map for the American public so that our effort in Iraq will end better than it began." Politicians can get into a trap -- not just them, Naomi Wolf's there currently -- where they paint themselves into a corner and instead of owning up to a mistake, risk a lot of money and a lot of lives. It's past time that the United States government got as honest as the American people: The Iraq War is a failure. Billions of tax payer dollars have been thrown at the 'problem' and it never made it right and it never will because when you start an illegal war, you can never rewrite the beginning. At the very root, this war that has cost countless Iraqi, US, British, etc lives, this war was corrupt. In England, they've had several inquiries into the Iraq War. Not in the US. In the US, our leaders will not admit the war was a mistake.
You might say, "Wait, Kerry's made remarks about it being one and so has Barack Obam and so has . . ." Those remarks were made when a Republican was in the White House. These days we get lies from John Kerry and Barack Obama about what a "success" Iraq is. If Barack had a brain, he would have, immediately upon being sworn in, withdrawan all of the troops from Iraq and stated the war was wrong. Then it wouldn't have been his war and anyone pointing to post-Iraq problems would have to deal with the fact that George W. Bush started it. (And for those who whine that Barack would have been breaking the SOFA, no, he wouldn't have been. The SOFA was never signed off on by the US Senate. Check the Constitution. And Barack and Joe Biden realized that when they were running for office and actively called out the SOFA and stated they would oppose it . . . until they got elected.)
Not only have billions been wasted on the illegal war, John Kerry now wants to waste more tax payer dollars when the US does not have them to waste. This was always the problem with setting up an illegitimate puppet government. When you do that, you can't leave. You have to stay in there in some form or another or accept the risk that the puppet government will topple as the people demand self-rule (as they should). John Kerry today is as scary as John McCain talking about a US presence in Iraq for a hundred years in 2008.
Ranking Member Richard Lugar, in his opening statements, knew what hearing he was at. No talk of Egypt and what the US 'must do.' Lugar noted, "As our military presence in Iraq diminishes, our civilian presence is being enhanced by thousands of personnel engaged in diplomacy, development and security cooperation of nearly one thousand Defense Dept personnel is planned to mentor the Iraqi military. Despite progress in Iraq, violence continues. The most recent erport on the security of Iraq by the Depts of State and Defense cites improved conditions but labels the situation in the country as 'still fragile.' Although the United States should continue preparations for winding down the military mission, withdrawal from Iraq cannot be the sole driver of our policy there. We have significant interests in Iraq and it is important that our government is exploring ways to further those interests in the absence of significant US military power in the country."
No, it doesn't sound like the US is leaving Iraq and that's what happens when an alleged peace movement turns itself into a 527 for a Corporatist War Hawk. Thank you, Leslie Cagan for whoring the movement. You are far from alone but no one sought the limelight more than you when Iraq was the media hot topic. And certainly, you surrendered on behalf of the peace movement with the idiotic message you posted the day after the 2008 election hailing Caeser, er, Barack, and folding up tent and going home.
At some point, a real reporter needs to press these 'strategic interests in Iraq' types like John Kerry on what those interests are because as they blather on endlessly about 'strategic interests' all they really telegraph is that this was a war about oil. If a reporter would press for that answer, they might get the truth or hear the ridiculous response Jeffrey offered the Committee:
US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey: Iraq's strategic importance is based on a number of factors. Iraq plays a central role in the Arab and Muslim worlds and hosts Shi'a Islam's holiest sites. Iraq has a diverse, multi-sectarian and multi-ethnic population. Geographically, Iraq is strategically positioned between major regional players, including Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Syria. Iraq represents the frontier between the Arab and Persian worlds. And because it is endowed with a significant portion of the world's oil reserves, Iraq will play an increasingly influential role in the global economy.
So for those not stupid enough to believe the US government is really concerned about the the "Shi'a Islam's holiest sites," we're left with the issue of oil. And, oh, but Jeffrey didn't offer that to the Committee verbally. It was in his written statement, one he referred to and credited to himself and the general. (And the State Dept foolishly posted the written statement here.) For his spoken statements, he wanted to warn everyone that "a Charlie Wilson's War" could take place in Iraq. And as domestic box office demonstrated, no one wants that bomb stinking up the cineplexes again.
If there's ever been a more dishonest hearing on Iraq that we've attended in the last five years, I'm failing to remember it.
For example, "Today, Iraq has the most inclusive government in their nation's history." That lie was via Gen Austin. That statement is appalling. If you're not getting why, let's drop back to last week. Manal Omar is the author Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity -- My Own and What it Means to be a Woman in Chaos. Starting in the 1990s, she has done humanitarian work in Iraq. NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq interviewed her last week.

NCCI: When was the last time that you were in Iraq? Did you notice any changes in women's status in the country at that time?

Manal Omar: The last time I was in Iraq was December 2010. Unfortunately, during my trip there was the announcement of the new government ministries. It was very sad to see that Iraqi women were not part of the list of ministries at all. Many of the women's organizations I have worked with for the last seven years called me and were in shock to see how Iraqi women continue to lose rights rather than gain them! After the previous elections, there were 6 female ministers; now there are none. Even the Ministry for Women's Affairs has an interim male Minister. This highlights that the challenge facing women is stronger than ever.

Even the Ministry for Women's Affairs has a man as Minister. And Austin wants to brag about how inclusive the government is? That's a shameful lie. And a sign of just how much people will spin to continue the Iraq War. When someone reveals either that much stupidity or that much duplicity, we're done with them and their opening one-liners.
Senator Ben Cardin asked about the refugee returns and Jeffrey noted that "the overaching reason why people don't return is concerns about security." But, happy talk time, he was convinced that people will return after they have seen that the security is there. Really? After two weeks of massive bombings, Jeffrey wants to appear before the Committee and happy talk security?
Senator Ben Cardin: On that same side, the chairman's talked about a long term committment to Iraq, I think we all understand we're going to be there from the point of view of helping to rebuild the country. What can you tell us is being put in place to make sure that the US funds are being used in the most cost-effective way, that we have protections against US funds being used to help finance corruption -- local corruption -- in the country, how do we avoid that and what are we doing for promoting US values including gender equity issues, making sure that we continue to make progress? Do we have -- Do you have an accountability system in place that gives confidence that we should be considering a more permanent, longterm, committment to Iraq?
US Ambassador James Jeffrey: Yes, sir, on all of those accounts,Senator. First of all, this is an important priority for us and it's an important priority for this administration and the last administration. In fact, a unique institution, uh, the Special uh Inspector General for Iraq, SIGIR, has been set up and they have a very active uh program, they have dozens of uh people stationed or with us TDI either out in the field in Iraq. We also have the State Dept and other IGs but SIGR in particular has been very active in looking into assistance programs and how effective and how efficient they are and, uh, to what extent there is corruption. Uh, I, uh, meet with the head of it, with [Stuart] Bowen, with his deputy and with other members frequently. In addtition, uh, uh, since the time of [former US Ambassador to Iraq] Ryan Crocker, we've organized the embassy in a unique way: where normally we have the ambassador and then a deputy chief of mission But for the economic and assistance elements of it -- we've created essentially a second, uh, deputy chief of mission -- the assistant chief of mission, currently Ambassador Peter Bodde who looks into that and focuses directly on the issues of "Are we getting our bang for the buck?," uh, "Are we looking into corruption?," uh, and these kind of issues. Uh, a good deal of our assistance goes -- and a good deal of our political relationships with Iraqis and our engagement with them goes to issues such as gender equality, minorities, the refugee issue. We have a very, very broad dialogue with them. We played a role behind the scenes on some of the decisions taken in the Iraqi Constitution on -- under equality -- for example, 25% of the Parliament has to be uh, uh female. Uh, now there are problems with this at times. For example, uh Iraqis -- both men and women -- were unhappy with the makeup of the Cabinet. Uh, the prime minister then decided that he would have to hold off on completion of the Cabinet until he could find more female candidates and that process is ongoing.
That is so blatantly false. It was only after Nouri named his (incomplete) Cabinet that women -- including Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's niece -- voiced their outrage over the lack of women in the Cabinet. But remember that because, according to the lie, we're going to see Nouri filling the remainder of his Cabinet with women. There are ten positions left. In terms of SIGR, they do strong work. It's also after-the-fact work. Meaning, they are auditing programs that are often completed or the money is all spent. In other words, after the money (or the bulk of it) has been mispent. In addition, how dare an employee of the US State Dept claim responsibility for SIGIR which was created, in 2004, by an act of Congress. 'What are you doing' was the question Jeffrey was asked. The answer is: Not real damn much. It would have been great if at some point -- maybe during Austin's non-stop praise for Iraqi security forces -- the targeting of Iraq's LGBT population -- by security forces -- had been raised. But that never happened.
For a scheduled hearing, there was surprisingly very little awareness of the issues effecting Iraq. It was equally surprising how little concern there was about money. At a time when Barack keeps saying everyone will have to cut back, Jeffrey estimated that they will need between $3 billion and $3 and a half-billion just for 2011. Only Senator Robert Menendez appeared concerned about the costs (as evidenced by his citing all the money the US has already spent on training and reconstruction).
Senator Robert Menendez: We will be watching it closely as well because after 58 billion dollars when we were told that Iraqi oil would fund the full cost of our invasion in Iraq and the cost of it, obviously, it's tough to see, here in America, the challenges that we have, the lack of investment that we have on critical issues and spending 58 billion dollars in Iraq and a continuum of anywhere from three and three-and-a-half billion dollars a year is -- is something that I think is going to be increasingly under a microscope.
After Menendez spoke, the Committee suddenly appeared to be interested in money. (An issue they'd mentioned prior only in terms of 'how much can we give you' and 'do you need helicopters' and other spending sprees). Jeffrey declared that it will cost over a billion dollars in the next fiscal years and hundreds of millions of operating costs. Chair John Kerry asked why the US was laying out two billion to maintain its presence and Jeffrey never had an answer.

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