Saturday, December 20, 2008


OMG, Now all of the politicians and all the candidates care about me and my family. They love me. They spend the nights working for my comfort. Yet, I insist on neglecting everything and not going to the election. What an ungrateful man I am. What a bad Iraqi man I'm but there is only one small problem that makes me an ungrateful man. Its the problem of TRUST. I cant trust the candidates any more because those who came with the US forces let me down two times. Now they themselves ask for our votes. Why shall I trust them again!

That's from Laith Hammoudi's "Sorry, I cant Trust You On My Vote" (Inside Iraq, McClatchy Newspapers) and worthy of attention at any time but especially with provincial elections scheduled (currently scheduled) for January 31st. The hoopla of the ink-stained fingers will most likely be repeated and spin and gas baggery will pass for reporting and analysis so you might want to bookmark Hammoudi's piece for next month when you need some reality on the issue.

The US State Dept's Office of Inspector General has one and only one permanent office not based in the US: the Middle East Regional Office. The State Dept notes, "MERO provides oversight of Department activities and of crisis and post-conflict areas, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries such as Pakistan, Lebanon, and Egypt. The staff conducts audits, program evaluation, and investigations of contracts and grants, contractor performance and procurement issues, as well as program management evaluations. Audits and program evaluations of embassies in the region include security and security assistance, provincial reconstruction teams, refugee assistance, anti-corruption, police training, and rule of law programs. OIG assessments also include the effectiveness of foreign assistance programs in Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries in the region. OIG established an investigative capability in the Middle East and participates in the International Contract Corruption Task Force to address financial fraud involving Department employees, projects, and funds in Iraq, Afghanistan, at other U.S. missions, and in other crisis/post-conflict areas in the region. OIG also provides proactive assistance to the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and stabilization through increased oversight of post-conflict and anti-corruption activities." This week MERO released their third report. And this third report wasn't originally intended to be widely released to the public as is noted on the front page of the report:

This report is intended solely for the official use of the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or any agency or organization receiving a copy directly from the Office of Inspector General. No secondary distribution may be made, in whole or in part, outside the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, by them or by other agencies or organizations, without prior authorization by the Inspector General. Public availability of th edoucment will be determined by the Inspector General under the US Code, 5 U.S.C. 552. Improper disclosure of this report may result in criminal, civil or administrative penalties.

And at that point, the report was marked "SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED." Now red lines appear through that classification and through the paragraph quote above. The thirty-six page report (the last page is just "SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED" on the page twice and the second to last page is a PSA; the report ends with the "Panel Recommendation 15" section on page 36 which is the US Embassy in Iraq's response to the panel's recommendation) is entitled [PDF format warning] "Status of the Secretary of State's Panel on Personal Protective Services in Iraq Report Recommendations"

Walter Pincus covers the report in "Fatal Shootings by Iraq Contractors Drop in 2008" (Washington Post) which, on the headline, notes that the 2007 saw 72 deaths from contractors in its first ten months but the same period this year saw only one death and Pincus notes:

Improved oversight of the contractors, through a number of changes in procedure, led to the sharp drop in incidents, the department's Middle East Regional Office reported.
The State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security has assigned 45 additional special agents to Iraq, and one agent now accompanies most security movements. Cameras and recording equipment have been installed in security vehicles to record all motorcade movements and events, and all trips are tracked and monitored in real time by department personnel in a tactical operations center.

The basis for the drop in deaths comes from US Embassy figures. Page 10 of the report is an illustration entitled "Figure 1: Iraq -- Location of WPPS Private Security Contractors' Operations." WPPS is "Worldwide Personal Protective Services." The illustration notes DynCorp operates in both Erbil and Kirkuk, while Triple Canopy operates in Basra and Tallil and Blackwater operates in Baghdad and Hillah. Depending upon community interest in the report, we can go deeper or not. Pincus has pretty much covered it; however, there's a detail the report ignores and it's a detail that's dropped out since September 17, 2007. I've been (a) waiting to see if the Blackwater 'expert' would include it in one of his commentaries (for any confused, I'm not speaking of Walter Pincus) and he hasn't and (b) I've got other things to do. But an important detail dropped out and if something linked to in yesterday's snapshot had been known (by me) sooner, we would have gone into what falls away (nod to Mia). If a new talking point that emerged late Friday takes hold this weekend, we'll be addressing it in Monday's snapshot so if the report is of interest to you (community members) let me know and we can probe into at length. Otherwise, just rely on Pincus' report which is solid.

In other news, Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) provides an update on Lance Hering, the US Marine who disappeared in Colorado back in 2006 and was initially presumed dead. Hering was arrested last month and Perry reports that he entered a guilty plea yesterday and will lose over a thousand dollars worth of pay but will serve no time (sentenced for time served).

The Iraqi Parliament has shot down the UK agreement (and "others" -- according to Reuters, presumably Australia, Romania, Estonia and El Salvador) stating that there should be a treaty and not merely a law passed.

The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

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Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot;
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Ruth's Ruth's Report;
and Stan's Oh Boy It Never Ends

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