Wednesday, February 07, 2007

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Senior military officers, including members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have told President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that the new Iraq strategy could fail unless more civilian agencies step forward quickly to carry out plans for reconstruction and political development.

The above is from Thom Shanker and David S. Cloud's "Military Wants More Civilians to Help in Iraq" in this morning's New York Times. You can read further into the article but, if you do, you'll quickly ask yourself, "What's the point?" The details are slightly new-ish but it's the same old story.

We're weeks away from the four year mark of the start of the illegal war and the issues of (a) reconstruction, (b) who will be on the ground for the illegal war and (c) what to do are still running rampant. There has been no leadership, only greed, motivating the illegal war from day one.

If you paid attention and your memory is long, you may recall the pre-war complaints about the administration wanting to rely on civilians (this was the 'not enough troops are being sent in' argument). You'll probably remember all the points, in fact.

And you may factor in all the exposures of corruption in the contracting 'process' (no bid) and in the actual construction, all the money that disappeared. Nothing's changed. There's still no plan. Bully Boy makes a speech and some rush to applaud it but it's still the same thing it was when it started which is no concern for the Iraqis -- who were supposedly going to be to 'liberated' - and just a lot of opportunities for big business to grab a great deal of US tax dollar monies and a great deal of Iraqi assets.

In its better moments yesterday, the House of Represenatives' Oversight and Government Reform Committee touched on that. Martha notes Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Democrats, Bremer Spar Over Iraq Spending" (Washington Post):

House Democrats criticized former Iraq occupation administrator L. Paul Bremer yesterday for disbursing nearly $9 billion in Iraqi oil revenue without instituting accounting systems to track more carefully how Iraqi officials were using that money.
In a five-hour hearing, Democratic members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee probed whether the money, which was provided to Iraqi government agencies to pay salaries and fund other operations in 2003 and 2004, was spent properly. The Democrats cited an audit conducted two years ago by the special inspector general for Iraq's reconstruction that found that Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) engaged in "less than adequate" managerial and financial control of the money.

The funds were provided to the Iraqis in cash, often in shrink-wrapped packages of $100 bills. The committee's chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), said the U.S. government flew nearly $12 billion in cash into Baghdad on military cargo planes from May 2003 to June 2004.
"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," Waxman said. Because of the way the CPA kept track of the payments, Waxman said, "we have no way of knowing whether the cash shipped into the Green Zone ended up in enemy hands."
Bremer responded that he was trying to make the best of a bad situation. Iraqi ministries, he said, lacked modern financial management systems, and the country's banks could not handle electronic fund transfers. Waiting to implement new accounting and banking practices, he insisted, would have resulted in lengthy delays in paying salaries and pensions.

That is what is known as a lie. During that period, if the banking industry in Iraq had troubles, they stemmed from Bremer and his Bremer Law Number 40 which was all about opening Iraqi banks to foreign investment and control. The Bremer orders weren't about the best interests of Iraqis or the best interests of Americans, they were about destroying the existing system and implementing a neocon wet dream. Whether it was sending experts packing under the cover of "de-Bathification" or destroying the taxes that protected local products (the same sort of practice the US has to protect US commodities), he was there to do a job and the realities of that job are rarely told.

Why is water still not potable (or running in many areas), why is electricty still a problem? Because Bremer wasn't there to obey international laws and see that the US complied with them, he was there to destroy the Iraqi system for foreign investment and the profit of big business.

And now they want to go back to the tired squabble of more civilians on the ground. After Bremer, Iraq's had quite enough of American interference.

Kim Gamel (AP) reports:

A Sea Knight helicopter went down northwest of Baghdad on Wednesday, the military said, the fifth helicopter lost in Iraq in just over two weeks. Meanwhile, a U.S. military spokesman said the Baghdad security operation is in progress.
The CH-46 helicopter went down about 20 miles northwest of the capital, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said, but he declined to comment on casualties.
"A quick reaction force is on site and the investigation is going on as we speak," he said. "It would probably be inappropriate for me to talk about whether or not there are or are not casualties."
Witnesses said the helicopter had been shot down in a field in the Sheik Amir area northwest of Baghdad, sending smoke rising from the scene, in a Sunni-dominated area between the Taji air base, 12 miles north of Baghdad, and Garma, 20 miles west of the capital. and Garma, 20 miles to the west of the capital. The long-awaited Baghdad security operation has begun, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said Wednesday.
"The helicopter was flying and passed over us, then we heard the firing of a missile," said Mohammad al-Janabi, a farmer who was speaking less than a half-mile from the wreckage. "The helicopter, then, turned into a ball of fire. It flew in a circle twice, then it went down."

Robert Burns (AP) notes:

More American troops were killed in combat in Iraq over the past four months - at least 334 through Jan. 31 - than in any comparable stretch since the war began, according to an Associated Press analysis of casualty records.
[. . .]
The recent rise in U.S. combat deaths has developed with relatively little notice in Congress, which has focused on the broader issue of whether to begin withdrawing forces and, now, whether to opposed Bush's troop buildup.
The American public clearly has soured on the war. In an AP-Ipsos poll taken Jan. 8-10 , 62 percent said they thought, looking back, that it had been a mistake to go to war, while 35 percent said invading was the right decision.

Over a hundred US troops have been announced dead since December 31st. Reuters reports charges against US soldier Mario Lozano:

A Rome judge on Wednesday ordered a U.S. soldier to stand trial on homicide charges for shooting dead an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq in 2005 as he was escorting a newly freed hostage to safety, prosecutors said.

Nicola Calipari is the intelligence agent who was killed. He was in Iraq to rescue kidnapped journalist Giuliana Sgrena. On their way to the airport, which was communicated, the car came under fire from US troops. Calipari was killed, Sgrena was wounded as was Andrea Carpani.

If you're new to the topic, you can refer to Democracy Now! and a good starting point is
"Naomi Klein Reveals New Details About U.S. Military Shooting of Italian War Correspondent in Iraq" from March 25, 2005:

Naomi Klein: And the other thing that Giuliana told me that she's quite frustrated about is the description of the vehicle that fired on her as being part of a checkpoint. She says it wasn't a checkpoint at all. It was simply a tank that was parked on the side of the road that opened fire on them. There was no process of trying to stop the car, she said, or any signals. From her perspective, they were just -- it was just opening fire by a tank. The other thing she told me that was surprising to me was that they were fired on from behind. Because I think part of what we're hearing is that the U.S. soldiers opened fire on their car, because they didn't know who they were, and they were afraid. It was self-defense, they were afraid. The fear, of course, is that their car might blow up or that they might come under attack themselves. And what Giuliana Sgrena really stressed with me was that she -- the bullet that injured her so badly and that killed Calipari, came from behind, entered the back seat of the car. And the only person who was not severely injured in the car was the driver, and she said that this is because the shots weren't coming from the front or even from the side. They were coming from behind, i.e. they were driving away. So, the idea that this was an act of self-defense, I think becomes much more questionable. And that detail may explain why there's some reticence to give up the vehicle for inspection. Because if indeed the majority of the gunfire is coming from behind, then clearly, they were firing from -- they were firing at a car that was driving away from them.

On the topic of Ehren Watada, KPFA's The Morning Show will speak with Aaron Glatnz about the court-martial today on the news break (7:00 to 9:00 am PST, newsbreaks come at the top of the hour).

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