Tuesday, October 30, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, corruption continues, the State Dept wants nearly $150 million next year for Iraqi police training, the same media that served up Chris Stevens' mother as a voice for all refuses to acknowledge Tyrone Woods' father, and more.
On October 16, 2012, the Council of Ministers dismissed Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) Governor Sinan al-Shabibi, amid allegations of corruption leveled against him. This peremptory and constitutionally questionalbe move occured as an audit of the DBI's foreign currency auctions surfaced. The audit purportedly found that perhaps 80% of the $1 billion purchased at weekly CBI-managed auctions was tied to illegal transactions, with the funds subject to those transactions potentially lost abroad to money laundering. This development is symptomatic of a troubled year in Iraq, evidenced by increased corruption, resurgent violence, deepening ethnosectarian strains, growing apprehensions about the conflict in Syria, and widening divides within the coalition government.
So notes the latest quarterly report from the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction which was released today. It's findings will largely be ignored by the US press that focuses on the disaster and aftermath from Hurricane Sandy and the race of president. Since we mentioned al-Shabibi, let's go back to the report:
The former CBI Governor is credited by many analysts for maintaining the stability of the Iraqi dinar and for keeping inflation and interest rates low -- all viewed as crucially important prerequisites for the kind of well-managed economic growth Iraq hopes to achieve with its enormous oil wealth.
Political opponents of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, along with many banking and financial experts expressed immediate concern that the dismissal of Dr. al-Shabibi -- who is widely viewed as personally honest and professionally effective -- was an attempt to bring the CBI and its $63 billion in reserves under executive branch control. They pointed to the CoM's action as just one of among several steps the Prime Minister has taken to concentrate power within his office. For example, in 2010, al-Maliki won a legal case that effectively shifted control of independent agencies, such as the CBI, from the Council of Representatives (CoR) to the CoM. In an advisory opinion issued in February 2012, the Higher Judicial Council affirmed the earlier ruling, this time naming the CBI. The ruling drew criticsm at the time as a violation of the CBI's independence as guaranteed under the 2005 Iraqi Constitution.
September 19th, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Robert S. Beecroft's nomination to be the next US Ambassador to Iraq. He was confirmed the Saturday after the hearing. We covered the hearing in the September 19th and 20th snapshots. Senator John Kerry is the Committee Chair, Senator Richard Lugar is the Ranking Member. From the hearing:
Ranking Member Richard Lugar: Now you mentioned the relative security of our embassy and what have you. In the past, there's been considerable discussion, not only among diplomats but among the American public about the size in Iraq. There was discussion when this was first built -- a monumental structure, to say the least. I remember at one conference, I suggested in fact that this structure is so big that it might really serve as a unifying purpose for Middle Eastern countries -- a sort of united forum in which they would all come together -- or like the Hague or what have you. And some people found some interest in this even if the Iraqis did not necessarily nor could our government since its our embassy. But what is the future, simply of all of the real estate, all of the responsibilites? They're huge and this is going to be an ongoing debate, I'm certain, in the Congress as we come to budget problems in this country.
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: Uhm, thank you very much. We-we recognize that this is an issue we started with an embassy that was staffed to address all possible contingencies, to follow up on the wonderful work that the US military had done in Iraq. Since that time, and again starting with Ambassador [James] Jeffrey, and it's something that I personally am continuing and have been very closely involved in and we will pursue -- We're calling it a "glide path exercise" where we're looking at what our objectives are and how we are resourced and staffed to meet those objectives. And what we've found is that we can prioritize and can focus our mission and will continue to do that on what we really need to accomplish. And as we do that, we're able to reduce personnel. Since the beginning of the year, we have reduced personnel by more than 2,000. We're now somewhere between 13,000 and 14,000 personnel in Iraq -- down from over 16. Facilities? We have given back in the last couple of days, facilites we had in Kirkuk, had an airbase up there, and facilities we had in Baghdad for police training center. And we have another facility in the next few days which we'll give back also in Baghdad. So we're reducing not just the number of personnel but we're reducing the number of pieces of property we occupy and use and we are very mindeful of the cost that it takes to support the mission in Iraq and I personally am dedicated to reducing those costs by again focusing on the mission on what we really need to achieve.
"Since the beginning of the year, we have reduced personnel by more than 2,000. We're now somewhere between 13,000 and 14,000 personnel in Iraq -- down from over 16." That's what he said. Turns out it wasnt true. From the report:
Although Ambassador Beecroft told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19 that the size of the U.S. Mission in Iraq continued to decline this quarter, reporting to SIGIR on the personnel totals indicated some ambiguity about actual numbers. U.S. Embassy-Baghdad reported that 16,035 persons supported the U.S. Mission in Iraq at the end of the quarter, including 1,075 U.S. government civilian employees and 14,960 contractor personnel. The Embassy said the discrepancy was due to earlier underreporting of certain staff categories.
Numbers are important, accurate ones even more so -- especially when the US government continues to spend vast sums in Iraq. For example, the report notes that the State Dept wants $149.6 million to 'train' the Iraqi police in Fiscal Year 2013. $149.6 million for one of the most trained and re-trained forces? For a force that the 'acting' Minister of the Interior stated does not need US training?
The US government has that money to waste when sequestration is supposedly looming, a 'financial cliff'?
Do people realize how many years the US has spent training the Iraqi police force? How much money?
We covered the November 30th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1st snapshot and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions. He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program? Interviews with senior Iaqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter didain for the program. When the Iraqis sugest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue." The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete? Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it." She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government. But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name. That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States." He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
8 years. 8 years of training last November. And for Fiscal Year 2013, the State Dept wants $149.6 million dollars to train yet another year?
From that hearing:
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye." Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.
The State Dept still can't answer Ackerman's question: "When will they be willing to stand up without us?" They can't even answer his second question: "Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?"
If sequestration kicks in and Americans see the safety net further gutted, you damn well better believe that $149.6 million dollars going to yet another year of 'training' the Iraqi police is going to be an issue.
Now let's talk about the 'acting' Minister of the Interior. That's Deputy Minister Adnan al-Asadi. He is one of the Iraqis Ranking Member Ackerman referred to in the November 30th hearing, "Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector Generals how utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue."
That the US State Dept had wasted ("de facto waste") approximately $206 million in training the Iraqi police since they took over October 1, 2011. How so? They spent $98 million on a Bsara training facility and $108 million on a Baghdad training facility.
What happened to those US-owned facilities?
The US turned it over -- at no charge -- to Nouri's government. Why?
The June 29th snapshot covered the most recent hearing on this topic (the June 28th House Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations hearing). Jason Chaffetz is the Subcommittee Chair but he'd stepped out of the hearing and US House Rep Black Farenthold was Acting Chair. As he established in his line of questions (to the State Dept's Patrick Kennedy and Peter Verga and the State Dept's Acting IG Harold Geisel, DoD's Special Deputy IG for Southwest Asia Mickey McDermott, US GAO's Michael Courts and SIGIR's Stuart Bowen Jr.), the US government did not secure a lease for the land. Here's that exchange.
Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Mr. Courts, Ambassador Kennedy and I got into a discussion about the absence of or presence of land use agreements for the facilities we have in Iraq do you have the current status for that information from your latest report as to what facilities we do and do not have land use agreements for?
Michael Courts: What Ambassador Kennedy may have been referring to that for 13 of the 14 facilities the Iraqis have acknowledged a presence through diplomatic notes. But there's still only 5 of the 14 for which we actually have explicit title land use agreements or leases.
Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Alright so I'm not -- I'm not a diplomat. So what does that mean? They say, "Oh, you can use it until we change our minds" -- is that basically what those are? Or is there some force of law to those notes?
Michael Courts: Well the notes are definitely not the same thing as having an explicit agreement. And as a matter of fact, there's already been one case where the Iraqis required us to reconfigure, downsize one of our sites. And that was at one of the sites where we did not have a land use agreement and so obviously we're in a much more vulnerable position when there's not an explicit agreement.
As Farenthold noted of the Baghdad Police College Annex, "It was intended to house the police department program -- a multi-billion dollar effort that's currently being downsized. And as a result of the State Dept's failure to secure land use rights, the entire facility is being turned over to the Iraqis at no cost. The GAO reports Mission Iraq has land use agreements or leases for only 5 out of all of the sites that it operates." That number has increased by only one since that hearing.
This is tax payer money being wasted at a time when the US government is supposedly in the midst of a fiscal crisis. These two facilities, worth approximately $206 million were turned over -- free of charge -- because the State Dept failed to secure land-lease agreements.
In other words, you could say: The US government built it, but it didn't own it.
Having wasted that amount of money, you might think the State Dept would stop trying to spend hundreds of millions in Iraq. And yet they want $149.6 million to spend in the next fiscal year just on Iraqi police.
And not a penny should be spent on this program. The Ministry of the Interior is over the police. But the Ministry has no minister. Adnan al-Asadi is the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior. An actual minister would have certain rights and powers and that would give him or her independence. Adnan al-Asadi is an 'acting minister' -- a qualification that doesn't exist in the Iraqi Constitution.
The Constitution requires Ministers be nominated and that the Parliament vote in favor of confirming them. Once that happens, a person has their position until the term expires, they resign or the Parliament removes them. Nouri can't remove them.
So if al-Asadi were Minister of the Interior, that's who the US would be interacting with on this program. Instead, they're interacting with the 'acting' minister who has no job protection and is kicked to the curb the second he displeases Nouri al-Maliki. al-Asadi is a puppet allowing Nouri to control the Ministry of the Interior.
Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." He's refused to name nominees and have them go before Parliament. This is a power grab. By January 2011, Iraqiya (the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 parliamentary elections, ahead of Nouri's State of Law) was calling it a power grab but the (US and European) press was insisting that it was only a matter of weeks before Nouri named nominees. We're closing in 2013 and he's still never named nominees. It was a power grab. It is a continuing power grab. The Parliament declared last week that they would take up this new 'classification' of 'acting' ministers.
The State Dept wants to waste more US tax dollars training people who work for a ministry that Nouri refuses to find a head for. That is not a recipe for success. It has not been a recipe for success.
The State Dept needs to be called before the Senate to answer for exactly what they're doing. As the SIGIR has repeatedly noted, they refuse to inform the Inspector General what they are doing in Iraq. This is on Hillary. She's Secretary of State. No, she doesn't have any power over Iraq and if she wants to go public with that information I will gladly back her up on that point. But as long as she's keeping her mouth shut and serving as Secretary of State, this is on her. And when she departs, it needs to be noted that while she was Secretary of State, hundreds of millions were wasted in Iraq and the State Dept refused to submit to Congressionally mandated oversight. Congress created the SIGIR.
Not only has the State Dept ignored the SIGIR, they have refused to answer questions from the Congress -- in writing or in hearings -- and they've provided false information to Congress (also known as lying). That's under Hillary Clinton's leadership unless she wants to talk about how Barack assigned Iraq elsewhere. Unless she wants to get honest about that, she needs to face a storm of criticism over the lost hundreds of millions by the State Dept while she was serving as Secretary of State. I like Hillary but my liking her doesn't bring back that money or prevent the loss of further millions.
While US infrastructure crumbles and citizens are threatened with sequestration kicking in automatcially, grasp that page 6 of the report notes the US government has "obligated $27.19 billion" on security training, equipment and buildings.
The fact of the matter is that the militias were using the US troops as an excuse to perform acts of terrorism and have targeted Iraqi civilians instead on so many occasions. Therefore, the departure of the US troops didn't even reduce those acts, in fact, it has increased them simply for the lack of a strong military presence in the country. No, the Iraqi army does not qualify as "strong military presence."
By concentrating evermore power into his own hands, and reserving positions of responsibility in Baghdad exclusively for his loyalists, the prime minister is building up fierce resentments, and the results cannot be good.
The bitter truth is that such policies fail to even benefit Mr Al Maliki's own constituencies. The rash of shootings and bombings over the Eid weekend predominantly targeted Shia communities. Al Qaeda in Iraq, and other radical Sunni groups, appear to be resurgent. But the security forces that are now dominated by Shia loyalists cannot take the fight to the militants without turning it into a sectarian war - "justice" in such a struggle is a subjective value.
But the security forces non-stop arrests of Sunnis are already fueling another sectarian war. Alsumaria notes 17 were arrested for 'terrorism' just south of Baghdad.
Even apart from the Syrian crisis, the United States should be getting tough on the Maliki regime to prevent Iraq's descent into authoritarianism. Although Prime Minister Maliki's first term had its successes, including the "Charge of the Knights" attack against Shiite militias in Basra in 2008, Prime Minister Maliki has become increasingly consumed by his own dictatorial ambitions. And a number of his actions have heightened sectarian tensions in Iraq. He cut a deal with the extremist Shiite party led by Moktada al-Sadr. He reneged on a promise to meaningfully include the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya list in government. He presided over what's being seen as a witch hunt against leading Sunni politicians, culminating in the sentencing to death in absentia of Iraq's vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi.
In addition, Mr. Maliki's government is plagued by incompetence, corruption and a contempt for human rights; ordinary citizens are fast losing confidence in the power of the democratic system. Mr. Maliki has further undermined Iraq's independent institutions, such as the electoral commission and the Iraqi central bank, by bringing them under his direct custodianship. And, most dangerously of all, he is concentrating power over Iraq's entire security apparatus in his hands by refusing to appoint permanent ministers to lead the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the Interior and National Security Council.
And power grabs are no longer enough for Nouri, apparently. As we noted yesterday, he wants a majority government -- just as US General Ray Odierno warned in 2010 but was dismissed and ignored because the White House thought they were better off listening to US Ambassador to Iraq and professional and willful idiot Chris Hill. A majority government is one that shuts out the other segments of Iraq. "White" Iraqiya -- I doubt they ever grapsed how racist that is -- made some stupid statements yesterday that some idiots repeated as though they were statements demanding Iraq be seen as an independent country.
If you're stupid and you love it, stay stupid. But stop inflicting it on the rest of us. White Iraqiya is a splinter group that did not get their way and specifically holds grudges against Saleh al-Mutlaq and Ayad Allawi who remain with Iraqiya. White Iraq is a tiny splinter group that makes a lot of noise but hasn't accomplished anything in two years of tantrums. They have gotten closer to Nouri and they may be among the ones getting close to Nouri. Ouday Hatem (Al-Monitor) reports:
Political sources told Al-Hayat that Maliki's coalition had reached a preliminary agreement with a number of blocs — some of which are included in the Iraqiya List — to form a majority government.
The sources revealed that "among these blocs is the Unity Alliance of Iraq, led by Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, and some members of parliament from the Kirkuk, Mosul, Anbar and Saladin provinces."
The sources explained that "the blocs within the National Alliance — except for the Al-Ahrar bloc, which represents the Sadrist Movement in parliament — are supporting this political step."
The sources confirmed that "the prime minister seeks to divide the Iraqiya List and the Sunnis by including tribal leaders and former Baathists, and by re-enrolling all former army officers."
Saying President Obama got us out of Iraq is like saying it stopped raining after superstorm Sandy moved on.
The death and destruction in Iraq for three years under Obama was unnecessary. The Iraqis hated us. Our last troops snuck out under the cover of darkness no different than the Nazis leaving Paris.
Obama could have quit Iraq the day after inauguration, and Iraq would have been no different today.
And that is so very true. Had he done that, he wouldn't have sent the message to the Iraqi people that democracy and voting don't matter. When you back Nouri, as the White House did in 2010, over the one who got the most votes, you're telling the Iraqi people -- who are experiencing what's being called "democracy" for the first time -- that voting and democracy don't matter and that elections can be overturned on a whim. That's not a message that any US service member should have died for. Shame on the White House.
As the father of a former Navy SEAL slain at Benghazi wonders why our secretary of state lied to him, we wonder why our CIA director abetted a lie that contradicted counterterrorism officials and the FBI.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, a media eager to deny George W. Bush a second term made Cindy Sheehan, who lost a son in Iraq, a national heroine and reported virtually her every word and move.
"Cindy Sheehan," gushed NBC News, "is single-handedly bringing the Iraq debate to Mr. Bush's doorstep."
But nobody in a mainstream media eager to see President Obama get a second term is bringing the Benghazi debate to the White House doorstep.
First, we applauded Cindy then and we applaud her today. The media and, sadly, a large number of the left don't want to hear the words "Cindy Sheehan" because they can't stand the fact that this woman who is allergic to war (to put it mildly) won't fall silent so Barack can pursue his bloody wars in an environment where no one calls him out. Second, take up with the likes of Jude Nagurney Camwell and other 'enforcers' who lied online back then. We didn't lie here and we called out Jude and the other liars who kept saying 'she's not opposed to war, she just wants answers.' Those were lies. And we walked away from those liars.
But Cindy was falsely portrayed by the media -- not by herself -- as someone who didn't really want to speak on the war or anything like that, she was just a sad mother who wanted answers. That's not who Cindy was or who she is. And she never pretended that this media lie was her. But that is why she got the media attention. 'She's non-political!'
Tyrone Wood's was one of the four Americans killed in Benghazi Septemeber 11th (the other three were Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Chris Stevens). The argument IBD's editorial board should be making is why does Chris Stevens' mother get to be everywhere and presented as a spokesperson for all four. She clearly does not represent Pat Smith (Sean's mother). She also doesn't represent Charles Woods (Tyrone's father). That's your argument if you want to be effective: You, the media, have allowed one woman to be the face of four Americans. Her views are not the only view and you have silenced and refused to hear the other parents involved. We do not have a class based society in the US and revolted against the British empire for many reasons including to reject a caste system. So why is the media pretending that Chris Stevens is somehow more important than the other three Americans because he was an ambassador?
Tyrone and Glen were veterans. They apparently were veterans who didn't just risk their lives to try to save lives on September 11th, they gave their lives to try to save lives on September 11th. How dare the media refuse to allow all the parents to speak and instead subject us to the pratteling -- yeah, I'm going there again -- ramblings of Chris Stevens' apethetic and uninformed mother and father.
Even when no other parents were speaking out publicly -- check our archives -- I made clear that the Stevens did not speak for all the parents. I also made clear that their call for this topic not to be discussed this way or that was b.s. because it was a terrorist attack. If Chris Stevens had taken his own life and his family said, "We just want him to be in peace"? Fine. That's a private matter.
This was a terrorist attack on Americans -- not people who happened to be Americans but on people because they were Americans. That makes it a national issue -- an international one. And the Stevens need to take their hurt and pain somewhere private if they don't like the way the deaths are discussed.
And the media needs to stop being so damn biased.
They are biased on this issue. There's no denying it. In fact, let me go to Ruth last night:
In addition to ignoring the details, the media has 2 other tricks they are playing right now.
1) Ridicule those asking questions.
2) Imply that only conservatives are demanding answers.
The second one bothers me the most. And not just because I am too far left to be a centrist, let alone a conservative. The main reason it bothers me is that the media knows if they play that false card, half the readers will stop reading right away. They will have no interest in the topic. They will tell themselves, "Oh, this is just what conservatives are saying. This is a conservative talking point." It is really amazing how those of us on the left who are asking questions are ignored in the media's attempt to clamp down on consumer interest in this story.
Ruth is 100% right.
That's part of the attempt to bury the story: To assert falsely that only the right-wing cares about it. That signals to people who aren't right-wing that they shouldn't care.
They should care. Four Americans are dead. Ruth's left-wing. I am left-wing.
This isn't about right or left -- although those who want to silence the discussion keep insisting otherwise. This is about an attack on four Americans. This is about an administration which refuses to answer questions.
Pretend for a moment that it's October 30, 2001 and it's the Bush administration refusing to call September 11, 2001 a terrorist attack.
We've dealt with what Barack said in the Rose Garden. He said in passing and it may not have referred to that day. Why was it in there? To cover his own ass. Which would indicate that a cover up is taking place. You don't do cover-your-own-ass from September 12th forward unless you have something to hide.
Questions are being asked and they need to be asked. Charles Wood has called out Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Charles Wood has every right to be heard and shame on anyone in the supposed news industry who won't report what Wood is saying. It doesn't require 'belief' or 'support.' It only requires that you are in the news business. If you are, the parent of an American killed in a terrorist attack now calling out the President of the United States is what is known as "news."
"When he finally came over to where we were, I could tell that he was rather conflicted, a person who was not at peace with himself," Woods said. "Shaking hands with him, quite frankly, was like shaking hands with a dead fish. His face was pointed towards me but he would not look me in the eye, his eyes were over my shoulder."
"I could tell that he was not sorry," he added. "He had no remorse."
Beck said he wanted to give the president "the benefit of the doubt," and asked Woods how he could be sure that Obama wasn't just uncomfortable or nervous during their conversation. Woods said it was Obama's "demeanor."
The right-wing that's objecting to differing treatment for Cindy Sheehan and Charles Wood is missing the point that Cindy was presented as just a blank,not too smart, hurting mother who wanted answers and didn't know a thing about politics or have a thought about war. That's not Cindy, she's very smart. But that's what the media presented and why they kept going to her before they couldn't take the fact that she was anti-war and was not going to be silent about that fact. If anyone wants Charles Wood to get the media attention he deserves, the answer is to point out that the parents of Chris Stevens were presented by the media as the voice of the four. And that's not fair nor is it accurate. The media needs to fix their narrative and the way to do that is to include the other parents involved.
In reality however there is no option within the electoral process for women. Our basic rights to control our bodies, or not to be blamed and shamed is not up for a vote. Despite what Obama supporters would like us to believe, these past four years have been a horror and have shown a dangerous trajectory. It is only through this overall context of the War on Women that the impact of these comments becomes starkly clear. State legislation aimed at limiting birth control and abortion has been proposed and enacted at unprecedented rates. The legislation that has passed includes but is not limited to: state sanctioned rape through vaginal ultrasounds, anti-science mandatory counseling prior to abortion, increased waiting periods for abortion, and gestational limitations. An analysis by the Guttmacher Institute found that 2011 saw the most restrictions on abortions passed through state legislatures ever: 135 anti-women laws were enacted.