Monday, March 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Barack's Friday speech gets some analysis, the US military announces deaths, a RAND report shows up on Wikileaks and more.
Friday Barack Obama spoke at Camp Lejeune. The spin was his decision to go from a 16-month 'withdrawal' to a 19 one was no surprise and he had always, always, always said he would listen to commanders on the ground. No. That's a lie. Sunday, Ava and my "TV: Felons, Frauds and Fluff," covered the exchange between ABC's Charlie Gibson and Barack Obama during the April 16, 2008 debate. But anyone who followed the Democratic Party's campaign for the presidential nomination knows the way it worked: Hillary gave an answer and then Barack tried to make it his own. So today we'll start by noting Hillary's answer. And you should notice that when Charlie Gibson moves over to Barack, he is clearing asking Barack if he is giving "the same rock-hard plegde" that Hillary just gave. From the transcript:
GIBSON: Let me just add a little bit to that question, because your communications director of your campaign, Howard Wolfson, on a conference call recently was asked, is Senator Clinton going to stick to her announced plan of bringing one or two brigades out of Iraq every month, whatever the realities on the ground? And Wolfson said, I'm giving you a one-word answer so we can be clear about it. The answer is, yes. So, if the military commanders in Iraq came to you on day one, and said, this kind of withdrawal would destabilize Iraq, it would set back all of the gains that we have made, no matter what, you're going to order those troops to come home?
CLINTON: Yes, I am, Charlie. And here's why. Thankfully, we have a system in our country, of civilian control of the military. And our professional military are the best in the world. They give their best advice. And then they execute the policies of the president. I have watched this president, as he has continued to change the rationale and move the goal posts when it comes to Iraq. And I am convinced that it is in America's best interests, it is in the best interests of our military, and I even believe it is in the best interests of Iraq that upon taking office I will ask the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and my security advisers to immediately put together for me a plan so that I can begin to withdraw within 60 days. I will make it very clear that we will do so in a responsible and careful manner because, obviously, withdrawing troops and equipment, is dangerous. I will also make it clear to the Iraqis that they no longer have a blank check from the president of the United States. Because I believe that it will be only through our commitment to withdrawal that the Iraqis will begin to do what they have failed to do for all of these years. I will also begin an intensive diplomatic effort, both within the region and internationally, to begin to try to get other countries to understand the stakes that we all face when it comes to the future of Iraq. But I have been convinced and very clear that I will begin to withdraw troops within 60 days. And we've had other instances in our history where some military commanders have been very publicly opposed to what a president was proposing to do. But I think it's important that this decision be made. And I intend to make it.
GIBSON: But Senator Clinton, aren't you saying -- General Petraeus was in Washington. You both were there when he testified. Saying that the gains in Iraq are fragile and are reversible. Are you essentially saying: I know better than the military commanders here?
CLINTON: No, what I'm saying, Charlie, is that no one can predict what will happen. There are many different scenarios. But one thing I am sure of is that our staying in Iraq, our continuing to lose our men and women in uniform, having many injured, the Iraqi casualties that we are seeing, as well, is there -- is no way for us to maintain a strong position in the world. It's not only about Iraq. It is about ending the war in Iraq so that we can begin paying attention to all of the other problems we have. There isn't any doubt that Afghanistan has been neglected. It has not gotten the resources that it needs. We hear that from our military commanders responsible for that region of the world. And there are other problems that we have failed to address. So the bottom line for me is: We don't know what will happen as we withdraw. We do know what will happen if we stay mired in Iraq. The Iraqi government will not accept responsibility for its own future. Our military will continue to be stretched thin. And our soldiers will be on their second, third, even their fourth deployment. And we will not be able to re-assert our leadership and our moral authority in the world. And I think those are the kind of broad issues that a president has to take into account.
GIBSON: And, Senator Obama, your campaign manager, David Plouffe, said, "When he is" -- this is talking about you -- "When he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most. There should be no confusion about that." So you'd give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order to bring them home?
OBAMA: Because the commander-in-chief sets the mission, Charlie. That's not the role of the generals. And one of the things that's been interesting about the president's approach lately has been to say, "Well, I'm just taking cues from General Petraeus." Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission. And, unfortunately, we have had a bad mission set by our civilian leadership, which our military has performed brilliantly. But it is time for us to set a strategy that is going to make the American people safer. Now, I will always listen to our commanders on the ground with respect to tactics, once I've given them a new mission, that we are going to proceed deliberately, in an orderly fashion, out of Iraq, and we are going to have our combat troops out. We will not have permanent bases there. Once I have provided that mission, if they come to me and want to adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration. But, ultimately, the buck stops with me as the commander-in-chief.
The buck does stop with Barack Obama who is now the president of the United States and he told the American people in the debate last April that he would stick to a 16-month withdrawal and that was the "mission." He would listen to the military commanders about how to implement the "mission," but the civilian command was the one responsible for setting the mission. He mocked Bully Boy Bush for falling back on "I'm just taking cues from General Peteraeus." And yet, Friday, when Barack sold his broken promise, he pushed the blame for it off on the military commanders. The buck stops with Barack Obama. He told the American people one thing in April and did another thing Friday. That's called "lying."
A lot of people believe that his announcement of a draw down means that the approximately 144,000 (or 142,000) troops in Iraq will begin leaving Iraq at a steady pace. That is not the case. For this year, the expectation is that it will drop 10,000 -- to either 134,000 or 132,000 -- and no more. January 2010, a 'draw down' is expected to begin. If nothing changes, of course, and something always changes. ABC News' Martha Raddatz explained this on Friday's Washington Week:
Gwen Ifill: And then, Martha, we get to today, in which he goes to Camp Leujune and he says 'we are -- I'm going to keep another campaign promise. I said we were going to be out of Iraq in sixteen months, well, maybe eighteen months, and then he says --
Martha Raddatz: Or nineteen.
Gwen Ifill: Or nineteen. 50,000 troops are going to stay behind. But they'll be gone by 2011. Is any of this possilbe.
Martha Raddatz: I, well, I think first of all you've got to look at his language. Certainly, they're going to start the draw down. And what I've been told is in the next six months, they'll only have eight to ten thousand soldiers and Marines leaving Iraq. The bulk of the draw down that he promised will start in probably January and February and then you'll have 80,000 troops pulling out of Iraq from January to August. That would leave 50,000 trooops. The thing I would quibble with is they will no longer have combat missions. Look at what the mission will be. And General Ray Odierno sent a letter out to the troops today saying essentially their goals would be training Iraqi secruity forces, conducting coordinated counterterrorism mission and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. I don't really know how you do that without combat troops and frankly all of the US forces are trained combat troops.
Note that as this is dicated, Washington Week has streaming video up of Friday's show but has not yet posted the transcript. Thomas E. Ricks (author of the new book The Gamble) evaluates Barack's speech today and offers, "The more I consider it, the more I think President Obama's Camp Lejeune speech last Friday was about how to stay in Iraq for a while, not about how to get out. . . . What's more, the planned troop reductions won't really happen in a big way until sometime in 2010, so Iraq can get through its national elections. (And a memo to everyone who is counting on the SOFA to bail us out of Iraq: Guys, that was about getting Iraq through 2009, not about what happens in 2011.)" He could have been directing the parenthetical to Phyllis Bennis (but he wasn't) who showed up last week so uninformed that The Third Estate Sunday Review awarded her a Katrina. (Ava and I were working on our TV pieces, we didn't help write the Katrina article.) Phyllis repeats the lie Crazy Ass Patrick Cockburn's been pimping that the White House was forced to sign that treaty. (If link to Phyllis article doesn't work, it's because you have to be a ZNet sustainer to see it.) The Third gang takes Phyllis to school, "Reality, Phyll, the White House pushed that treaty masquerading as a SOFA through. They did so over Democratic Congressional opposition -- that was Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Russ Feingold, Susan Davis and pretty much everyone including, yes, Barack. The White House ignored the objections, just as they ignored the Constitution. . . . Lying to yourself that the treaty the White House wrote and pushed through was forced on the White House may help you cum, Phyllis, but it's not reality." Phyllis also foolishly appears to have no idea on when (some) US troops might start leaving. When she grasps that only 10,000 tops will leave in the ten months left in this year -- and maybe grasps that will put the number at around the same number before Bully Boy Bush's 2007 'surge' -- she may feel that "three months" or one day more matters. Right now, she's worthless. Sorry, Phyllis, that's the reality. Chris Hedges (World Can't Wait) never saw himself as Barack's handmaiden which is why he can speak the truth so many others silence:
Barack Obama has shown that he is as capable of doublespeak as any other politician when he announced an end to the war in Iraq. Combat troops are to be pulled out of Iraq by August 2010, he said, but some 50,000 occupation troops will remain behind. Someone should let the Iraqis know the distinction. I doubt any soldier or Marine in Iraq will notice much difference in 19 months.
Many combat units will simply be relabeled as noncombat units. And what about our small army of well-paid contractors and mercenaries? Will Dyncorp, Bechtel, Blackwater (which recently changed its name to Xe), all of whom have made fortunes off the war, pack up and go home? What about the three large super-bases, dozens of smaller military outposts and our imperial city, the Green Zone? Will American corporations give up their lucrative control of Iraqi oil?
The occupation of Iraq will not be disrupted. Lies and deception, which launched the war in the first place, are being employed by Democrats to maintain it. This is not a withdrawal. It is occupation lite. And as long as American troops are on Iraqi soil the war will grind on, the death toll on each side will continue to mount and we will remain a lightning rod for hatred and rage in the Middle East. Add to this Obama's decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and even his most purblind supporters will have to admit the new president is as intent on maintaining American empire as the old.
USA Today offers the editorial "Obama declares end to U.S. presence in Iraq -- sort of:"
Despite Obama's certitude, the best answer is: maybe. Yes, the war is winding down, and Iraq is far calmer than it was two years ago. But the situation remains fluid, and Obama's commitment to get out is part goal, part guessing game.
The president's bid to fulfill the promise he made on the campaign trail -- to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office -- always came with a big asterisk. He would leave 35,000 to 50,000 "non-combat" troops in Iraq well beyond that promised drawdown period, now extended from 16 to 19 months. That's about a third of the 142,000 troops there now. What's more, the drawdown will be back-loaded, with troops leaving only slowly until after national elections this December.
And when would those "non-combat" troops come home? Under a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government, by the end of 2011. Even that isn't set in concrete, however. "If we're there beyond that, it'll be because of a new agreement ... negotiated with President Obama and based on what he thinks is in the best interests of our country," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday on Meet the Press.
At the New York Times, Emily S. Rubb covers the same Meet the Press apperance USA Today only mentions but somehow Rubb forgets to include the pertinent section. Intent on offering a feel-good experience, Rubb ignores that Gates repeated what he'd emphasized on Friday: "I think what he was referring to was that under the terms of the Status Of Forces Agreement, which is what we are operating under now, all US forces must be out by the end of 2011. It will require a new agreement -- or it would require a new agreement, a new negotiation -- almost certainly an Iraqi initiative -- to provide for some presence beyond the end of 2011. So in the absence of that agreement, in the absence of any negotiation for such an agreement, it is in keeping with the SOFA that, to say definitively, that we will be out at the end of 2011." And could the US remain in Iraq after 2011, Secretary Gates? "Well, I think we'll have to wait and see. I mean, it's a hypothetical. The Iraqis have not said anything about that at this point. So it remains to be seen whether they will take an initiative. I think what we should be -- my own view would be that we should be prepared to have some very modest-sized presence for training and helping them with their new equipment and providing, perhaps, intelligence support and so on beyond that. But again, it's hypothetical, because such a -- no such request has been made, and no indication that it will be at this point." Back to Sunday's Meet the Press (transcript to Gates' segment here) where Gates admitted that, yes, troops could be sent back in. (The Times wasn't interested in that despite the fact that their own Michael Gordon pressed Barack on that point in November of 2007 and Barack admitted that was the case.) At the Washington Post's Post Global Rami G. Khouri offers this opinion on troops going back in after some being leaving, "Absolutely not. American troops should leave Iraq and stay out. If ethnic strife flares up again in Iraq beyond its current levels, it will probably be due to three possible causes: lingering resentments and active revenge for the abuses of the Baathist regime; destructive forces unleashed by the American-led invasion that removed the entire state structure; or, meddling by external forces from neighboring countries. A return of American forces would not resolve any of those issues or lower their intensity, but would only exacerbate them." Meanwhile, link provided for laughter, Tom Hayden pretends he's of some use to the world and wants to insist that Thomas E. Ricks is wrong, wrong, wrong and Barack's announcment proves it and . . . Wipe the drool from your mouth, Tom-Tom, or use it to soak Barack's balls. But don't pretend you've offered anything resembling critical thought or even a summary. Ricks remains an analyst, you remain the ex-husband who pulled a Brinks truck up to your divorce settlement. Not content to spew at Thomas E. Ricks (who's actually been to Iraq, Tom, what's your excuse?), Tom-Tom goes after Chris Hedges, Ralph Nader supporters, Cynthia McKinney supporters and any lefty who refused to support the Christ-child at the ballot box, "When there was a choice between supporting Barack Obama and attending rallies organized by various Maoists, Trotskyists and neo-anarchists opposed to Obama and electoral politics, the grassroots peace movement headed for the precincts by the thousands." You just have to laugh, you just have to laugh.
Turning to one of the costs of the illegal war. Saturday the US military announced: "AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq -- A Multi National Force -- West Marine died as the result of a non-combat related incident here Feb. 28." Today they announce, "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier died March 2 from combat related injuries while conducting a patrol north of Baghdad." The announcements bring the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4254. The month drew to a close Saturday and while the media dropped interest in Iraq, violence increased. China's Xinhua explains, "Iraq's monthly civilian death toll in February rose slightly to a total of 258 from the previous month that showed the lowest level since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, authorities said on Sunday." These are figures which come from Iraq's ministries so these are low balled figures. AFP reports it's a 35% increase from January, "A total of 258 Iraqis were killed in violence in February, a sharp rise from the previous month that saw the lowest casualty figures since the 2003 US-led invasion, authorities said Sunday. Statistics compiled by the Defense, Interior and Health ministries showed that 211 civilians, 17 soldiers and 30 policemen lost their lives to violence across the country in February." So what can you do? You can stand up and join with The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War for an action this month. From IVAW's announcement:
IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21stAs an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)
To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing which left three people injured, a Balad Ruz roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left three more wounded and a Khalis bicycle bombing that claimed 3 lives and left sixteen people injured.
Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Mosul.
In Iraq, Kim Gamel (AP) reports the January 31st provincial elections remain a sore spot (and can be appealed through March 9th with seating of the winners to take place March 24th) as approximately two-thousand demonstrated against the results in Diyala Province today. Gamel reports they were Shi'ites and claim fraud in the voting whose results or 'results' gave 15 seats to Sunnis, 6 to Kurds, 5 to Shi'ites and 3 to an unnamed "secular party." Zaid Sabah and Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) call this demonstration "the first significant" one and note the demand "that the electoral commission be replaced, declaring that it was influenced by Sunni officials. Many Shiite voters in the province could not find their names on voter lists while large numbers of people displaced by violence could not return to their home areas to cast ballots, Shiite politicians have said."
Staying with Iraqi politics, let's drop back to the Jan. 12th snapshot:
Willam Brockman Bankhead was the Speaker of the US House of Representatives for over four years. He died unexpectably of a heart attack on September 15, 1940. (For those unfamiliar with Bankhead, he was the father of Tallulah Bankhead.) The following day, Sam Rayburn became Speaker of the House. The following day. December 23rd, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was forced out of the Speakership of the Iraqi Parliament. The week prior he had stated he was resigning. He attempted to take that back but a large number wanted him gone as Speaker and had wanted him gone for some time with repeated public efforts to oust him.
Today's March 2nd. They've had over two months to find a new Speaker -- it was their decision to oust Mahmoud al-Mashhadni -- and they still haven't done their job. Friday afternoon, Gina Chon filed "Iraq Parliament Members Squabble Over Next Speaker" (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) noting that Parliament still cannot pick a Speaker:
Now lawmakers are waiting for the country's Supreme Court to rule on how many votes are needed to select the next speaker. About a week ago, 136 lawmakers of the 230 who were present chose the Iraqi Islamic Party nominee Ayad al-Sammaraie as the next speaker. But some argued that the rules say he needs an absolute majority of the 275-member parliament, which is 138 votes.
The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni political party, accuses Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite Islamic Dawa Party, of unfairly trying to block Mr. al-Sammaraie, who is seen as a strong personality who could challenge Mr. Maliki's agenda in parliament. Those who opposed the vote say they are just following the rules.
In addition to fighting to become speaker of the parliament, Mr. al-Sammaraie also has the tough job of being head of the body's finance committee, which is currently studying ways to trim Iraq's $60 billion proposed national budget for 2009 by an additional 7 percent. Alarmed by falling oil prices, lawmakers say the current budget based on oil at $50 a barrel is unrealistic and further cuts are needed. There have already been three different versions of the budget submitted by the ministry of finance because of the falling oil prices.
In news of governmental leaks, Wikileaks posts a RAND study today. The November 2008 study is over 300 pages and [PDF format warning] entitled "Intelligence Operations and Metrics in Iraq and Afghanistan, Fourth in a Series of Joint Urban Operations and Counterinsurgency Studies" Russell W. Glenn and S. Jamie Gayton and it's noted, "The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Joint Forces Command. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community under Contract W74V8H-06-C-0002." The American people paid for the study and they didn't even toss out "And by viewers like you."
The text of the actual report is 86 pages. Appendixes and bibliography take it to over 300 pages. From page two, we'll note this passage:
The many overlapping insurgent, terrorist, criminal, and other foes that together comprise the heterogeneous enemy in Iraq -- and an only somewhat less varied one in Afghanistan -- continue to feed on their damaged societies. What appear to be randmo bombings, kidnappings, and other atrocities sometimes constitute a well-conceived insurgent campaign of exhaustion.
We note the above on Iraq for two reasons. First, because the news media, most recently David Martin on Friday's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, too often tries to 'short-hand' it to "al Qaeda." (Not even al Qaeda in Mesapotamia, just "al Qaeda.") Second because it leads in to this passage on pages 5 - 6:
Western Baghdad in September 2007 provides us a window on how some insurgents ply a strategy of exhaustion at the tactical level, one that challenges coalition leaders in both the intel and metrics realms. Shi'a militia groups, often one or another form of Jaish al Mahdi (JAM), would find a Sunni mosque within or near a mixed Shi'a and Sunni neighborhood. JAM forces would attack the mosque to draw fire from Sunni defenders, thereafter making an anonymous report of the shooting to nearby Iraqi Army (IA) forces in conjunction with a request for action to subdue the alleged Sunni instigators. Army forces (comprised priemarily of Shi'a personnel) would respond and declare the mosque troublesome. The imam would be removed and the mosque closed. Having eliminated a vital community resource for Sunni worshipers, JAM members further encourage local Sunnis to leave, often employing one or more of the following tactics:
* denying the neighborhood public services
* threatening individuals, e.g., putting a bullet in someone's mailbox with a note that the receiving family will be killed if it does not depart within 24 hours
* moving Shi'a families into homes abandoned by Sunnis
* establishing local Shi'a prayer sites.
Page 14 again makes clear that the military -- and military intelligence -- see the 'enemy' differently than the media repeatedly portrays it. Counterintelligence (war on a people) is "COIN" in the passage below:
Previous U.S. experiences with COIN operations demonstrate how difficult it is to obtain informaion on even a single insurgent threat. Consider the situation confronted in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 1970s. In that case, a single, coherent entity dominated threat analysis from the macro perspective (though it might have several interacting components, e.g., the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong, of VC). In Iraq, the number of insurgent organizations alone makes intel collection and analysis several orders of magnitude more problematic. Add criminal, terrorist, supposedly legitimate political, rogue military and police, or other threats and the task is yet further quantum levels more difficult.
Page 16 makes clear that COIN is war on the people with the following statements, "Checking for weapons might be the primary reason for soldiers or marines stopping vehicles at a traffic-control point (TCP). However, the location of TCPs should be influenced -- if not driven -- by a desire to collect information in situations that permit communication without exposing the talkers to insurgent retribution." Page 17 informs of "plans for the U.S. Army to increase the strength of its military-intel branch by more than 7,000 personnel by 2013" while page 18 repeats the 'need' for those in military intel to serve longer tours of duty because "Counterinsurgencies are marathons, not sprints. They are measured in years if not decades" (page 19). Then it's on to some whines (Orrin DeForest on why, oh why, couldn't they have had a "databank" during Vietnam), some 'comparisons' (cops in "Anytown, USA" have access to a database) to argue the 'need' for a database. First off, a police database is on individuals with warrants, etc. That's not really what's being proposed here and everyone grasps that, so let's not kid. Second of all, the ones using the database in "Anytown, USA" and the ones accessing it are people entrusted by the local population. If the police in "Anytown, USA" become an occupying force, there would be a huge backlash to their access to a database. Translation, your comparisons are faulty and illogical.
The study then moves on the ways in which intel sharing is 'harmed.' Such as little sharing across branches or across countries. For all the pages spent on this problem, they never notice the most obvious reason for 'need-to-know' blocking in any environment: a petty tyrant setting her or himself as an 'expert' who must be in control and in the loop at all times.
The report then worships CIA and Ford Foundation (they're the same thing) gadfly Richard Bissell. There's no time for the report to note that Bissell recruited organized crime to do a hit (Sam Giancana, Johnny Roselli, Santo Trafficante, Meyer Lansky and Carlos Marcello) and when that failed then planned the illegal Bay of Pigs invasion. They do have time to note Bissell being fueled by the Cold War and working on aeral spying of the USSR, the sort of thing that the report's authors feel is needed today with all those 'war on terror' types breathing all over the globe. In that regard, they note how successful they feel the Predator drones have been. The authors then develop further the notion that soldiers and marines are "sensors" and must be utilized as such.
We'll come back to the report in a moment but are jumping away at the soldiers and marines as "sensors" for a moment. Saturday, Steven Lee Myers "Soldiers in Iraq React Cautiously to Obama Deadlines for Troop Withdrawal" appeared in the New York Times. In that article, he spoke with various troops about Barack Obama's speech. At the paper's Baghdad Bureau Blog, Stephen Farrell revealed, "Finding an American on the streets of Baghdad is not as easy as it used to be. . . . You still see convoys on the main highways, of course. Raids and operations continue. But on the streets, on a day by day, hour by hour basis, there are far fewer Americans visible, and designedly so." The authors of the RAND report might need to counsel those they're advising that you don't do that, that once you begin spying on a people, you can't put it down and pick it up at will, you either keep it up or quickly lose ground.
Back to the report which yammers on about "metrics" at length and wants the military to leave the concrete for the metaphysical (lots of luck with that). At page 68, it gets interesting again when the authors decide to offer praise they can't back up. You have to wonder if anyone objected to the assertion at any point? Or if they figured that US tax payers can be bilked to pay for hokum? The authors write:
Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds provide money at lower tactical echelons that permit a unit to have an immediate impact in addressing community needs. They have generally been used well in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but their distribution has sometimes been less efective than desired. In some instances, an immediate win later brought notable drawbacks, as when generators purchased to assist those without power in turn created a diesel-fuel shortage. In other cases, the resulting product -- a well of refurbished community center -- can prove a temporary respite, since no one in the receiving community has knowledge of how to maintain the end result or parts needed for repair are available.
They can evaluate the CERP funds? Really? Well they may be called before Congress to do that because, thus far, Congress has been repeatedly stonewalled during testimony.
CERP was an issue during the September 10th House Armed Services Committee hearing (and see this entry by Mike). This is Committe Chair Ike Skelton's exchange with DoD's Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric S. Edelman:
Ike Skelton: The department's understanding of the allowed usage of CERP funds seems to have undergone a rather dramatic change since Congress first authorized it. The intent of the program was originally to meet urgent humanitarian needs in Iraq through small projects undertaken under the initative of brigade and battalion commanders. Am I correct?
Edelman: Yes, sir.
Ike Skelton: Thank you. The answer was "yes." Last year the Department of Defense has used millions of CERP dollars to build hotels for foreign visitors, spent $900,000 on a mural at the Baghdad International Airport and, as I understand this second piece of art, that CERP funds were used for. I'm not sure that the American tax payer would appreciate that knowing full well that Iraq has a lot of money in the bank from oil revenues and it is my understanding that Iraq has announced that they're going to build the world's largest ferris wheel. And if they have money to build the world's largest ferris wheel why are we funding murals and hotels with money that should be used by the local battallion commander. This falls in the purview of plans and policy ambassador.
Edelman: No, no, it's absolutely right and I'll share the stage here -- I'll share the stage quite willing with uh, with Admiral Winnefeld with whom I've actually been involved in discussions with for some weeks about how we provide some additional guidance to the field and some additional requirements to make sure that CERP is appropriately spent.
Edelman then tries to stall and Skelton cuts him off with, "Remember you're talking to the American taxpayer." Edelman then replies that it is a fair question. He says CERP is important because it's flexible. It's important because they're just throwing around, if you ask me. They're playing big spender on our dime.
Skelton: The issue raises two serious questions of course. Number one is they have a lot of money of their own. And number two the choice of the type of projects that are being paid for. I would like to ask Mr. Secretary if our committee could receive a list of expenditures of $100,000 or more within the last year. Could you do that for us at your convience please?
Edelman: We'll work with our colleagues in the controller's office and - and . . . to try and get you --
Skelton: That would be very helpful.
How did two authors evaluate a program (in time for a report issued in November) that Congress couldn't even get answers on? The truth is they didn't evaluate the CERP program despite their 'judgment' in the report. And around the time you start thinking this report will never end, they start quoting Sun Tzu (page 78). 20 years ago, they'd still have been padding the report with a quote from Niccolo Machiavelli. And that really takes us up to Appendix A which we may go into tomorrow. The key point is that the authors want a CIA-type military. That won't happen. Not just because the military on the ground sticks to the concrete tasks and not the esoteric but also because an intelligence apparatus already exists: Military intelligence. One of the most abusive elements when it came to spying on American citizens during Vietnam and the element everyone's played dumb on this decade despite the fact that they have been caught -- not just implicated -- in press reports of the last seven years spying on US citizens (citizens who are not serving in the military) who are on US soil. The RAND study forgets that when two abusive agencies collide, the citizenry tends to benefit. May that always be the case.
the washington post
the wall st. journal