Friday, June 04, 2010

Can we get a headcount

Don't let Anthony Shadid be the chaperone for any school outing. Judging by his blog post this morning, Shadid should never do the headcount before everyone heads back to campus. At the New York Times' At War Blog, he writes, "There are fewer than 90,000 American troops still in Iraq." May 25th, Elizabeth Bumiller was reporting at the paper's same blog: "For more than a year it has been called 'Obama's War,' but on Tuesday the numbers made it official: For the first time since the United States led the invasion of Baghdad during the Bush administration in 2003, there were more American troops deployed to Afghanistan than Iraq -- 94,000 compared with 92,000." 92,000 was the official figure handed out by the Pentagon last week. Today, a week later, Shadid is saying "fewer than 90,000 American troops still in Iraq." Where did the 2,000 (apparently more than 2,000) go to? And when did this new head count take place?

Meanwhile, from Falluja, Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports on the US surplus sales:

After all that the U.S. occupation has taken from Iraq, Issawi said, Iraqis deserve to get something back -- even if it's just a low price on a laptop. "These are our things," he said. "They took these things from us, and now we are selling them back. They occupied our country by force."
Families buy $1,000 trailers once fashioned into sleeping quarters for soldiers and Marines. Base latrines have become cheaper alternatives to traditional dwellings made of brick and concrete. Air-conditioner units and large generators that can stave off Iraq's blistering summers are sold at half-price.

Earlier this week, we noted BP wants to get their unskilled hands on more Iraqi oil. Ben Lando (Time magazine) reports on this topic and it appears the US government is using US officials -- military and civilians -- as whores for BP:

Major General Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. forces in southern Iraq, towered over dozens of fellow visitors on a recent dusty morning in the Rumaila oil field in Iraq's oil capital Basra province. With U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill nearby, Brooks chatted up the president of Iraq operations for BP. In November BP signed a contract along with Chinese partners to develop the field. Rumaila was first drilled by BP a half century ago, but the company, along with other foreign oil companies, was kicked out in the 1970s when Iraq nationalized its oil sector.

A US commander and the US ambassador do not need to whore their positions by accompanying BP around. That's disgraceful and oh, so telling. So as Iraq continues to struggle, remember that Chris Hill, when not on a crying jag from his manic depression, could be found showing the fellows of BP a good time out in the oil field.

Joost R. Hiltermann examines the current situation in "Iraq's Summer of Uncertainty" (New York Review of Books):

The outlook is ominous. As the politicians dither, governmental institutions -- never particularly effective -- could become paralyzed, as senior officials fear for their careers if they make decisions that would anger Iraq's future rulers. Uncertainty over the country's prospects could spread through society and the economy. In a political vacuum, outside regional powers would almost certainly gain greater influence and be tempted to meddle more than they already do. The United States, which has been so eager to depart that it failed to craft an exit strategy, would then have trouble being heard over the din. Lacking strong support in Baghdad, parties and politicians would have little choice but to seek succour in neighbouring capitals, insinuating these states' countervailing interests into what is already a combustible mix. And Iraq's insurgencies could get a second wind, again making violence the primary mode of politics.

As dangerous as things are currently, the White House is sending Chris Hill around as the "professional date" for Big Oil? Is that, in fact, while the unqualified Hill was picked in the first place? Is it why, despite the disaster he's proven to be, he'll apparently be allowed to continue to mishandle things for another month?

TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Peter Baker (NYT), Michael Duffy (Time) and Doyle McManus join Gwen around the roundtable or at least in the NO WOMEN ALLOWED Club House. Seriously, Gwen, where the hell do you get off booking three men? Do you know how many times Gwen books an all female roundtable. As Maya Rudolph's character Jodi would say on Bronx Beat, "0.00." Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Melinda Henneberger and Eleanor Holmes Norton on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's bonus is a discussion on whether female soldiers suffer more under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Swindler
To understand how Bernard Madoff could have done what he did, listen to so-called "mini-Madoff" Ponzi schemer Marc Dreier tell Steve Kroft in his first television interview how he scammed $400 million. | Watch Video

The Case Against Nada Prouty
Former FBI and CIA terrorism fighter Nada Prouty was herself accused of aiding terrorism, but in her first interview, she denies she was anything other than a patriot. Scott Pelley investigates her case. | Watch Video

The Sharkman
Anderson Cooper dives unprotected with great white sharks and the South African who's spent more time up close with the ocean's most feared predator than anyone else. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, June 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) by John Dickerson (CBS News, Slate), John King (CNN) and Karen Tumulty (Washington Post). For the second hour? I'm not in the mood for the garbage. Last week, I got twelve e-mails pointing out that the program wasted time on Afghanistan when they'd just done Afghanistan the day before. Well they've done Israel before and they're going to be doing it again today? Iraq? With these panelists? Don't make me laugh. And, in response to questions last week: Never. Or, again, as Jodi would put it "0.00." The question: How many times has Diane devoted the program to the Iraq elections? Never. They concluded March 7th ("concluded" because that was a Sunday and early voting began the Thursday before). Despite filling two hours daily Monday through Friday, there has never been an hour devoted to Iraqi elections or, for that matter, to anything Iraq related since March. Two US service members died this week from the Iraq War (possibly three) but, hey, they've all moved on. And if Iraq falls off the radar today on the show -- as it did last week -- look for me to really let it rip in the snapshot because that will go perfectly with a headline that needs ripping apart and that was going to be the topic for last night's "I Hate The War."

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