Thursday, September 01, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Monday, September 1, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Alan Grayson wants credit (don't point out he didn't end the war), another prison break, Troy Yocum is days away from completing his hike, Vermont suffers due to the Iraq War and more.
Starting in the US where an Iraq War veteran is finishing an odyssey.  Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. "Hike" because part of raising awareness is reaching out and Troy went around the country -- by foot -- reaching out.  His hike began in April of 2010. Tamara Evans (WDRB) reports that this Saturday, September 3rd, around 1:00 pm, Troy's hike is set to end in Louisville where it all started ("He's expected to cross the finish line at the Louisville Slugger Museum between 1:00-1:30.") Troy notes it is 16 months and a week that he's been hiking across the country.  During that time, he's met more people than he can count and raised serious attention to issues facing veterans while, at the same time, raising a half-million dollars to help veterans in need. Matt Frassica (Louisville Courier-Journal) reports that in the sixteen months, Troy has:
been interviewed by Diane Sawyer and taken the field with baseball teams like the Yankees and the Reds, thanks to help from sponsor Louisville Slugger.
In New York, the Yankees donated $10,000, and the CEO of Modell's Sporting Goods, Mitchell Modell, pledged $260,000 to the cause. Customers at Modell's and Party City retailers have the option to contribute at the cash register, and those sponsors will present Yocum with the resulting donations on Sept. 14 in New York.
Most importantly, for Yocum, his fundraising has allowed Wish Upon a Hero to help 60 military families, providing things like food and supplies for tornado survivors and a trip to space camp for the son of a soldier who died.
Brown University's Costs of War project estimates that the financial burden to the US of these wars is between $3.2trn and $4trn. So far, 1,752 US service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan and 4,474 in Iraq. The UK has lost 380 soldiers in Afghanistan and 179 in Iraq. The civilian death toll in Iraq has been estimated at anything between 120,000 and one million; the comparable figure in Afghanistan is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. So many lives lost and so many resources squandered - and for what? These sacrifices haven't made us feel any more secure.
And a real life cost of the war can be seen by the residents of Vermont currently.  Tony Rutherford (Huntington News) reports, "Hurricane Irene has devastated Vermont; however, the National Guard has no helicopters in the state to help its citizens. The choppers, along with the men and women, are in Iraq."  As the week began, Sam Hemingway (Burlington Free Press) noted, "Eight helicopters on loan from the Illinois National Guard were expected to arrive Tuesday night in Vermont to help the Vermont National Guard deliver food, medicine, water and other supplies to 13 Vermont towns cut off from the rest of the state in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene." Yesterday evening (5:56 p.m. EST), Governor Peter Shumlin's office was noting utility outages throughout the state.  US Senator Patrick Leahy is from and represents the state of Vermont.  His office has posted photos online of the flooding and damages to Vermont.  Bernie Sanders is Vermont's other US Senator and he's currently in Vermont and has stated, "This is a devastating moment for Vermont." His office noted there were "12,000 power outages in the state" yesterday and that "Four teams from the Environmental Protection Agency, Vermont's Hazardous Materials team and Department of Environmental Conservation are visiting the hardest hit areas of the state to make preliminary environmental hazard assessments. Three of the teams are traeling by ground, one by air. The teams will be reviewing water and wastewater hazards. In particular, they will be looking for chemicals and other hazardous materials that have leaked, or are in danger of doing so."
Vermont could use the members of their National Guard and those helicopters.  They don't belong in an illegal war, they belong in the US.  Barack obama didn't just continue the illegal Iraq War he continued the 'new,' the 'novel' concept that a state's emergency forces, organized to protect a state, can instead be sent overseas and into combat.  All of Barack's pathetic defenders better grasp that if their Christ-child truly was different from George W. Bush, the first thing he would have done would have been said "no more" to sending the Guard overseas.  It's the "National Guard."  It's not the "International Police Force."  
On The NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, video and audio) tonight, the issue of waste and fraud were explored.  Margaret Warner introduced the segment:
MARGARET WARNER: Now, waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money during a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. After a three-year investigation, a Congressionally mandated commission yesterday issued a blunt finding, that between $31 billion and $60 billion has been misspent on the two wars. That's up to one-quarter of the entire $206 billion outsourced to private contractors for everything from security to food preparation to reconstruction projects. The last 10 years have brought more than 260,000 such contractors to work in war zones, where they sometimes outnumbered soldiers. The panel urged quick action on 15 recommendations to tighten controls.
She discussed the findings with Commission on Wartime Contracting member Dov Zakheim.  Excerpt:
MARGARET WARNER: Could that problem even be exasperated as the U.S. draws its troops down from Iraq in the next couple of years, or three years, Afghanistan, and, say, State Department or AID become even more dependent on private contractors for security, for example?
DOV ZAKHEIM: Absolutely.In fact, there are two ways that the problem is getting worse. One is the challenge of starting projects that the either the Iraqi government or the Afghan government cannot sustain. We built a power plant -- excuse me -- a water treatment plant in Iraq that has intermittent power and that is not being used. We built a prison that is not being used. The Iraqis don't want it. We have built schools in Afghanistan without teachers; health clinics, over 130 of them, in Iraq without the proper equipment and supplies. So you have got the problem that we're building stuff that won't be maintained.  And, at the same time, if you rely on security contractors in places where there's corruption, where there's danger, where maybe the contractors themselves are a danger, then you have got a problem as well. And we have recommended that, instead of simply focusing on the narrow issue of whether this is something government can or cannot do, you focus on the risk involved. Then we will clearly identify places where we just shouldn't have contractors.
Yesterday, the Commission on Wartime Contracting released its final report.
The Commission reported that between $31 billion and $62 billion of the tax money spent on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan has been wasted.  It also said that between $10 billion and $19 billion of what contractors billed and received was fraudulent.  In fact, $360 million of our tax dollars went straight to... the Taliban.
Wow.  Who could have imagined that?
Well... me.
When I saw that the Bush administration was doing nothing about fraud in Iraq, I revived a law going back to the Civil War that allowed whistleblowers to bring lawsuits in the name of the U.S. government.  I filed case after case, which were promptly greeted by the Bush administration with gag orders -- gag orders that they kept in place for years.  They didn't want any more bad news coming out of Iraq.
So I went on CNN, spoke to the New York Times and the Washington Post, and told America whatever I could say without violating those gag orders.  And when the Bush administration finally let one case out from under those gag orders -- and declined to prosecute it -- I took that case to trial, and won a $14 million judgment.  It was the third-largest judgment for whistleblowers in the 143-year history of that law.
Of course, if he hadn't stuck so close to Barack -- who was increasingly unpopular in Grayson's district by the end of 2009 and that only became more so in the lead up to the 2010 elections -- he might not have felt his only way to win was to destroy his opponent with some really bad commercials (I especially like the silence around the one where "liberal hero" Alan Grayson called his opponent a "draft dodger" -- right out of the Nixon playbook) and he might still be in Congress.  Then again, if he were, he'd either have to speak out against the continued Iraq War or break the hearts of his fan club.
In Iraq, there's been another prison break, this time in Mosul. Bushra Jhui (AP) reports that 35 people ar said to have "tunneled their way out" with 21 being caught and 14 remaining at large. AFP provides this recent context, "Officials said on August 6 that four prisoners and a guard were killed in clashes at a prison in the central Iraqi city of Hilla, during which eight inmates escaped. Six Iraqi police and 11 inmates were killed in a Baghdad jail mutiny in May, while 12 suspected Al-Qaeda members escaped from prison in the southern city of Basra in mid-January. At least two of the Basra escapees have been recaptured."  Alsumaria TV adds, "A similar incident occurred in Nineveh on April 3 as 23 prisoners escaped from Al Ghazalni prison in southern Mosul. On April 9 as well, 5 prisoners escaped a prison in Al Shifaa' region, eastern Mosul."    Reuters notes it was "a temporary jail" and that the prisoners are said to have made their way out via "a sewage pipe." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "A senior officer in the Mosul police department said the inmates had used metal plates and iron bars to dig nearly 150 feet out of the jail. He asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to discuss the escape."   Aswat al-Iraq cites Abdul-Rahim al-Shimmary as stating the escapees "were charged according to the Iraqi Criminal Law's Article-4 - Terrorism."

Who was in charge of this facility?

The Ministry of the Interior -- one of three security ministries that Nouri's failed to appoint a minister too. Before December ended, Nouri was supposed to have named a full Cabinet -- all the ministers. Nearly nine months later, he still hasn't done that (Political Stalemate II). How many prison breaks will there be before Nouri's held accountable for refusing to do his job -- his Constitutionally mandated job?

At what point does his inaction result in leaving his reputation in permanent disarray?

It really is something that the Parliament hasn't moved for a vote of no confidence as Nouri has refused to do his job. And his refusal is really something when you consider how Nouri created the nine month Political Stalemate I to hold onto the job he now refuses to do.
What more does Nouri have to do to be run out of office?  How about look the other way while foreign forces slaughter Iraqi children?
John Glaser: And you know what? An occupation can get really ugly.  And what unfortunately ends up happing in an occupation is that people get so desensitized, they get used to the war, that they end up not paying attention to really serious things. I just posted a blog just before this interview about WikiLeaks cables that reveled a War Crime on the part of US soldiers in Iraq.  In 2006, they raided a home and ended up killing a couple of guys, four women and three children -- on eof whom was three-years-old.  All had hands tied behind their backs and shot in the head.  That's a War Crime.
That's's John Glaser speaking to Antiwar Radio's Scott Horton. Tuesday's snapshot noted John Glaser's report on the latest WikiLeaks documents include a State Dept cable about US forces handcuffing.  Glaser explained:
Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay'ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra'a (aged 5) Aisha ( aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz's mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz's sister (name unknown), Faiz's nieces Asma'a Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.

McClatchy Newspapers provides a photograph of some of the ded children wrapped in blankets after the assault. Matthew Schofield (McClatchy Newspapers) adds, "The cable closely tracks what neighbors told reporters for Knight Ridder at the time. (McClatchy purchased Knight Ridder in spring 2006.) Those neighbors said the U.S. troops had approached the house at 2:30 a.m. and a firefight ensued. In addition to exchanging gunfire with someone in the house, the American troops were supported by helicopter gunships, which fired on the house."  Schofield's repot notes that the US refused to reply to the United Nations and that "Iraq's government also hadn't been forthcoming."  That's according to the UN's Philip Alston who maintains that he started a dialogue on March 17, 2006 and can track it up to 2010.  In April 2006, Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister and has been ever since.  So it would appear Nouri al-Maliki took part in the cover up.
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board calls for an inquiry, "A diplomatic cable includes evidence that U.S. troops in Iraq executed at least 10 civilians, including five children. The cable also suggests the incident was covered up. Although the U.S. military already has cleared American troops of any wrongdoing, the Obama administration has a duty to reopen the case. Ignoring the allegations or chalking the incident up to the fog of war is not an option if the United States wants to stand as a model to Iraq's nascent democracy."
Yesterday's snapshot included my distaste for Michael S. Schmidt's "Iraq War Marks First Month With No U.S. Military Deaths" which is in today's New York Times and also carried in today's Boston Globe (and I'm sure other papers as well). For how to cover that topic without being offensive (or insular) see Richard Allen Green's piece for CNN. And Jim Loney (Reuters) reviews the deaths of Iraqis in the 12 months since Barack Obama announced the end of "combat operations" in Iraq (announced August 31st) -- a period of time, Loney reports, that has seen "at least 2,400" Iraqis die.
Meanwhile will the US stay or leave at the end of the year?  To get to the latest we have to remember 2008 and wonder when you're exposed as a liar, a known liar, why any outlet would publish you?  From The Daily Caller:
In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama's relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama's conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, "Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares -- and call them racists."
Here's the thing, Spencer Ackerman -- the fey 'Atackerman' -- he's White.  He's encouraging false cries of racism to help his beloved Barck but he's not the one who has to live with the fall out from false cries of racism.  He's not an African-American woman or man who will have to go into a court room and prove discrimination.  His decision to cry racism falsely, to use it as a political tool, is beyond sad.
That he still works in the media would be a puzzler were it not for the fact that he works at what many see as a CIA-cut out, Wired.  Best friends with all the snitches, even ones paid by the government.  Spency wants to weigh in today.  Thomas E. Ricks' better half wants you to know that Iraqi politicians want weapons, they do not want US soldiers.
How does Spence know that?  It apparently came to him in the midst of last night's wet dream about Barack.  Even if you eliminate the Kurds from the discussion -- can't imagine why you would when they have such influence in Iraq -- you've still got independents, liberals and Natioanl Alliance members who've spoken to the Arabic press.  Ah, yes, Spencer, the great wise Spencer, can't read Arabic.
So Spence spits out what he casually pulls from US media.  Or maybe he doesn't.  Maybe it's a lie for the 2012 election?  Now that we know he'll lie to get a candidate elected, lie to the people and encourage other journalists to do the same, why would we ever trust a word he says?
If you're foolish enough to trust the man fired by The New Republic (how bad do you have to be to be fired by The New Republic, come on), then that's on you.
But if you can read Arabic or you know someone who can, look at this Dar Addustour article.  There were several like it at the star of this week in Iraqi publications.  Who's in Iraq right now?  Foreign forces?  US troops.  But, remember, Barack insists combat operations are over and that all combat troops pulled out of Iraq last year.  In 2010.
Funny, that's not how the Iraqi press plays it.  In the article, you see the US troops currently in Iraq being referred to as "combat troops."  "Trainers" -- not "comba troops" -- is what Iraq wants now.  And administration friends state that "trainers" also won't require a new SOFA.  In fact, "trainers" might be able to be signed off on by Nouri alone.  (Like he did the UN mandate in 2006 and 2007.)  Nouri -- who is already painting the planned September 9th protest in Baghdad as a conspiracy to overthrow him -- is known for his paranoia.  It's been his hallmark since 2006.  And he didn't need to be paranoid to know that without US forces on the ground these last years, he wouldn't have hung on as prime minister.  The puppet needs the occupation troops.
Logic and motive don't enter into Spencer's world unless it's a US presidential election and he needs to paint an enemey falsely as a racist -- then half-baked logic and twisted motives enter Spencer's world.  But, hey, he can at least fleetingly wonder if Nouri might be playing people iwht public statements?
Might be?
Turning to the world of legal news, Robert Snell (Detroit News) reports, "A Sterling Heights man and others stole rental vehicles and sold them in Iraq after spiriting the rides across the U.S.-Canada border, federal investigators said Wednesday. Adnan Hana was arrested along with 12 other people this week, capping a nearly two-year investigation dubbed 'Operation Hot Wheels' by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement."  Tresa Baldas (Detroit Free Press) adds, "According to a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday, the international rental-car scam involved luxury sedans and SUVs valued at from $25,000 to more than $60,000. The defendants legitimately rented the vehicles -- including Dodge Journeys, Toyota Avalons, a Chevy Tahoe and an Infiniti -- from national rental agencies in Michigan, Ohio and California, the indictment said."  Reuters notes, "Five of the vehicles the gang allegedly reported stolen were intercepted on shipping containers in Montreal bound for Iraq, authorities said." Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reminds, "Two weeks ago, San Diego authorities announced the arrest of 60 people allegedly involved in a drug- and gun-smuggling operation centered at a social club in El Cajon for Chaldeans -- Iraqi Christians -- who have emigrated to eastern San Diego County."
the los angeles times
tony perry
the newshour
margaret warner