Thursday, May 06, 2010

Look who's prosecuting, look who's rewarding

There is no other way to describe the electoral alliance that was announced on Tuesday between the State of Law Coalition and the Iraqi National Alliance except as an Iranian one. What’s considered a purely sectarian alliance made sectarianism prevail over the nation, with the aim of excluding half of the Iraqi society, and of course the consequences will be detrimental.
In amazement, a Western official told me "how America handed over Iraq to Iran." The truth is that the first person to say this openly and in America was the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal when, in the presence of the then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he said that America had handed Iraq to Iran on a golden platter. A well-informed Saudi told me that the Americans, Rice in particular, were very angry that day, however today Prince Saud al Faisal's words have been confirmed decisively.

The above is from Tariq Allhomayed's "Iraq . . .It's an Iranian Alliance" (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) and from a view from Saudi Arabia to one in the US, Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation via Middle East Online) offers:

The announcement on Tuesday that Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq has joined with the pro-Iranian coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance, to seek to form Iraq's next government is the direct result of an intervention in Iraqi politics by Iran's ambassador in Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi. "The Iranian ambassador met with the Shiite parties a week ago, and he told them that Iran considers it a matter of its national security that the Shiites put aside their differences to form a government," Aiham Alsammarae, a former Iraqi minister of electricity, told The Nation. "He told them, 'Whatever you have to do, do it.'"
The Iran-backed agreement creates an enormous political problem for President Obama and his administration. Not only do the events in Iraq underscore the importance of getting talks with Iran back on track, but they raise the chances that civil war could once again break out in Iraq.

Serage Malik (The National Newspaper) observes, "In Iraq there is now a palpable feeling that the clock has, in some sense, been turned back and that the country may have finally slipped into the kind of sectarianism it appeared to be on course to escape just one year ago." Michael Hastings (The Hastings Report, True/Slant) offers a similar thought, "I doubt, too, if there will be much incentive for the Shiite government to start sharing more power with their Sunni rivals once the Americans leave. In fact, I expect the opposite–Maliki(or whoever else takes over) will likely continue to eliminate any political opposition, by both political(banning alleged Baathists etc) and martial(arresting, exiling, killing) means." Babk Dehghanpisheh (Newsweek) feels the coalition-sharing move means the three vying for prime minister now are: Ibrahim Jafari, Jafar al-Sadr and Nouri al-Maliki. Many wags consider Nouri now effectively shut out. Would that Iraq could be so lucky. (Betty shared her thoughts on Iraq's p.m. Tuesday night.)

In other news, Blood Money makers KBR has more problems. The Justice Dept issued the following yesterday:

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
U.S. Intervenes in Suit Against KBR and Panalpina Alleging Kickbacks Under the False Claims Act
Allegations of Kickbacks and Overbilling Related to Logistical Support in Iraq

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department has intervened in a whistleblower lawsuit against Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), Panalpina Inc. and others that alleges that employees of two freight forwarders doing business with the companies provided unlawful kickbacks to KBR transportation department employees. KBR is the prime contractor under the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP III) contract for logistical support of U.S. military operations in Iraq. The whistleblowers also allege overbilling by a KBR subcontractor in the Balkans, Wesco, under a military contract.

The United States is pursuing allegations that the two freight forwarders, Eagle Global Logistics (which has since merged with TNT Logistics and become CEVA) and Panalpina provided unlawful kickbacks in the form of meals, drinks, tickets to sports events and golf outings to KBR employees. The government will seek damages and penalties under the False Claims Act and common law, as well as penalties under the Anti-Kickback Act. The United States has declined to intervene in the remaining allegations of the relators’ suit.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by David Vavra and Jerry Hyatt who have been active in the air cargo business–the industry relevant to the case. Under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, a private citizen, known as a "relator," can sue on behalf of the United States. If the suit is successful, the relator may share in the recovery.

"Defense contractors cannot take advantage of the ongoing war effort by accepting unlawful kickbacks," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "We are committed to maintaining the integrity of the Department of Defense's procurement process."

The United States previously intervened in and settled the relators’ allegations that EGL included non-existent charges for war risk insurance in invoices to KBR for air shipments to Iraq, costs that KBR passed on to the Army. Two EGL employees pleaded guilty to related criminal charges. EGL paid the United States $4 million in the civil settlement.

The government also intervened in and settled the relators’ allegations that EGL’s local agent in Kuwait, a company known as Al-Rashed, overcharged it for the rental (or demurrage) of shipping containers. The United States resolved potential claims arising from that matter against EGL for $300,000. Finally, EGL paid the government $750,000 to settle the relators’ allegations that the company provided kickbacks to employees in KBR’s transportation department. Former EGL employee Kevin Smoot and former KBR employee Bob Bennett pleaded guilty to related criminal charges in federal court in Rock Island.

This case is being prosecuted as part of a National Procurement Fraud Initiative. In October 2006, the Deputy Attorney General announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force is chaired by the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and includes the Civil Division, United States Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies. The Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation participated in the investigation of this matter. This case, as well as others brought by members of the task force, demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.

The case is United States of America ex rel. Vavra, et al. v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 1:04-CV-00042 (E.D. Tex.).

Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg News) reports that shortly after the Justice Dept announced the above, the US Army announced they were awarding KBR "a no-bid contract worth as much as $568 million through 2011 for military support services in Iraq".

At CNN, Mohammed Jamjoom (link has text and video) reports on young Iraqi girls sold to the sex slave trade and then thrown behind bars like Zeina, a 15-year-old serving two years in an Iraqi prison, whose father took her out of the country to sell her to the sex slave trade and she managed to run away and make it back to Iraq:

Authorities in Dubai helped her return to Iraq, but more cruelty awaited her in Baghdad. The only way Zeina could make it home was to travel on a forged passport -- a very serious crime in Iraq.
After escaping her ordeal, Zeina found herself being prosecuted, rather than being comforted. As punishment, she's now serving two years in jail. A prison official confirmed her story.
Iraqi women's rights activists are outraged. "She refused to accept that her body had been sold. So this is how they reward her?" said Dalal Rubaie with the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq, "To put her in jail for two years? Where's the justice?"

We'll close with this from Cindy Sheehan's "Here Come Those Chickens Again" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox):

Then tonight, as I was driving, I heard on the radio news that Shahzad claimed that he did that because he was upset over the CIA drone-bombing program in Northern Pakistan. So, my initial suspicion was confirmed. Let's, for the time being, take Shahzad's "confessions" at face value. We really don't know what torture, lying, or other pressure was put on Shahzad, or why our government is so readily admitting that he was upset about drone bombings.
However, this incident also puts President Obama's recent remarks about threatening the Jonas Brothers with a Predator drone if they went near his two daughters in a different light, doesn't it? So many people on the "left" are defending Obama's joke -- rationalizing it as vigorously as they condemned and attacked Bush over his WMD joke at a White House Correspondent's dinner in 2004.
What if the bomb in Times Square went off and killed dozens of people, like happens frequently in Pakistan/Afghanistan/Iraq? Would Obama's joke still seem funny? I never thought joking about bombs that kill babies from the Joker that orders these bombings funny, anyway. But we all know that if Americans were killed, the shoe would be on an entirely different foot.

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