Thursday, October 27, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, October 27, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, 18 dead in Baghdad from 2 bombings alone, Nouri's crackdown continues, a province wants independence, we look at the GOP candidates with regards to Iraq, and more.
We were going to avoid the GOP and their statements on the 'end' of the Iraq War because it hasn't ended.  We're not big on false impressions but we're also not big on the people promoting false impressions.  As long ago noted, VoteVets is a Democratic Party organ. That's all it is.  Ashwin Madia is the perfect fake face for a fake group. Madia shows up at Huffington Post to survey statements on the Iraq War by the GOP presidential contenders and deem all crazy and stupid.  He ignores Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul.  Reminder: All the people he quotes buy the notion that the Iraq War is ending.  That's not reality.  And "all" include Madia. 
We'll start at the end of his list with Herman Cain.  "I can't for the life of me understand why you'd tell the enemy what you're going to do and when you're going to do it. That's just not common sense, I'm sorry."  I have no idea there and will say Madia probably made the right call based on the fact that that's the entire quote from the original news report.  As reported, Cain's remark makes no sense.  (Again, that may be due to his not being quoted in full.)
Michele Bachmann: "And while we're on the way out, we're being kicked out by the very people that we liberated . . . And to think that we are so disrespected and they -- they have so little fear of the United States that there would be nothing that we would gain from this." That's from Face The Nation (CBS).  Here Madia plays people for fools. He tells you what Bachman 'means' when he could have quoted her in full (instead of using elipses).  Madia argues elsewhere in the piece about the "power" of Moqtada al-Sadr.  If Madia believes he has all that power, then it's not a huge leap to feel that he has "so little fear" that the US is being disrespected.  I could make a joke here about Bachmann but won't.  Instead, I'll note that her opinion isn't uncommon in America. 
Madia lumps Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum together because they both speak of how Iran has allegedly increased power.  Madia wants to insist that was always the case.  Well if that's the case, then the two candidates would be correct.
Mitt Romeny's called Barack's claims an "astonishing failure" because he didn't secure an agreement to continue the occupation.  Rick Perry also feels things are being risked by Barack's claims and argues "The President was slow to engage the Iraqis and there's little evidence today's decision is based on advice from military commanders." Let's deal with Perry first.  Perry's lying or stupid because of that statement?  Seems like Perry's statement is an awful lot like Roy Gumtan's "Did Obama engage as U.S.-Iraqi troop talks faltered?" (McClatchy Newspapers).  White House response to the article is here. (I have not commented on either the story or the White House response.) So if Perry's wrong, so is McClatchy.  Now for Mitt Romney.  His long quote ends with, "The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq."
Madia huffs, "Rick Perry and Mitt Romney seem to take the position that withdrawal is a diplomatic failure that contradicts the advice of military commanders.  As an aside, neither Romeny nor Perry have offered any evidence that our military commanders want an indefinite presence in Iraq."  Seem to take the position? That is their position.  Offer proof? Well they could go with the open testimony Senator John McCain has put on the record in hearings. 
But in terms of what the military in Iraq wanted, we don't know because our government refuses to tell us. Ava reported on the House Oversight Committee's Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations hearing October 12 at Trina's site.  Here's the key exchange:
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Ambassador Vershbos, let's talk about the number of US troops, what the Iraqis are requesting or authorizing. How many is the president authorizing?

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: Mr. Chairman, no decisions have been made, uh. Discussions are still ongoing, uh. On the nature of the relationship from which would be derived any --

Chair Jason Chaffetz: So the number of 3,000 to 4,000 troops that we here, is that accurate or inaccurate?

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: As I said, there's a lot of things going on in these discussions which predate the announcement of October 4 when the Iraqi leaders took the position they're taking regarding no immunities so obviously the discussions now have taken on a different dimension so beyond-beyond that I really can't say because nothing's been decided. The shape of the relationship will be determined in part by how this issue of status protection is-is addressed. So it's a work in progress. Even as we speak discussions are taking place between our ambassador [James Jeffrey], uh, the commander General Austin, and Iraqi leaders. So it's really difficult to give you more than that today.

Chair Jason Chaffetz: Now there was a report that General Austin had asked for between fourteen and eighteen thousand troops. Is that true?

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: Again, I-I can't comment on internal deliberations. A lot of different ideas have been

Chair Jason Chaffetz: Wait a second, wait a second --

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: --tossed around in the last few

Chair Jason Chaffetz: -- do you know what the actual request was?

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: Uh -- the military leadership was asked to provide a range of options and they've done that and that was the basis on which we engaged the Iraqis and now the discu --

Chair Jason Chaffetz: Do you know what General Austin requested?

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: I can't talk about that in an open session, Mr. Chairman. It's classified.

Why is it classified? Hmm.  Jon Huntsman was ignored in the article.  This is the statement he issued in response to Barack's speech:
On the occasion of the announcement that U.S. forces will withdraw completely from Iraq by the end of the year, we should take a moment to reflect on the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform.  We are forever grateful for their service to America, and are eager to welcome our troops home.
President Obama's decision, however, to not leave a small, focused presence in Iraq is a mistake and the product of his administration's failures. The president's inability to reach a security agreement leaves Iraq vulnerable to backsliding, thus putting our interests in the region at risk. An ideal arrangement would have left a small troop presence that could have assisted with the training of Iraqi security forces and vital counter-terror efforts.
Before we go further, you can support the Iraq War and want it to on longer, you can be opposed to it (at the start or at any time) and feel that it needs to continue, there are many, many options.  We were always kind to Thomas E. Ricks about his opinion which was the war was a mistake but that if the US left it would cause turmoil and violence so the US needed to stay.
It is very likely that the US departure -- today, tomorrow, whenever -- will see turmoil and violence.  Our take is that it's a puppet government put in place, a number of exiles put in charge of Iraqis, and that when the US is no longer able to prop it up, the Iraqi people may well try to take it down and replace it with real representatives.  When an occupying power leaves a country, there's always the chance of violence or revolt.  But our take is that day comes whenever the US leaves and staying isn't going to change that.
While we were kind to Thomas E. Ricks, he was attacking one person after another -- what a great speaking tour he must have had! -- for insisting (rightly in my opinion) that the US needed to leave Iraq.  He lacks the ability to see beyond his point of view. 
I'm not sure whether Ashwin Madia lacks the ability or if he doesn't care to utilize it because he's having so much fun with his tribalism.  But there are any number of sincere reasons for feeling Barack's 'end' is wrong.  (Sincere doesn't mean 'right.'  We have opposed the illegal war from the start here.)
1) Prestige.
This is what Michele Bachmann is most likely getting at.  Barack's end has no prestige and, yes, may project weakness on the world stage. Bully Boy Bush was a mad dog on the world stage and while it can be demonstrated that his actions and behaviors harmed goodwill towards the US and actually made the United States less safe, it's also true that his nutty behavior, his instability, may well have prevented attacks on the US.
My opinion: The illegal war was always going to be a failure due to the lies needed to support it and continue it.  The only way you save your country from mass embarrassment is by having the honesty to tell the truth when you do end a war like that. Barack isn't really ending the Iraq War so his speech based on lies was never going to acknowledge how wrong and illegal the Iraq War was.
2) Iraqis.
You can be concerned what happens to Iraqis who were collaborators with foreign powers, you can be concerned with Iraq's LGBT community which has long been targeted, you can be concerned with Iraqi Christians or any religious or ethnic minority, you can be concerned with how Sunni and Shi'ite engage . . .  There are any number of humanitarian reasons a person might have to argue against what Barack presented in his speech.
3) The US did not win.
That's very difficult for a number of Americans to deal with.  Any politician reflecting that same denial will most likely pick up a number of votes -- how many, I don't know, but those people exist. For these people the war was a sports event that did not play out until the end but got halted due to rain.  This is the group that will spend years arguing that the US could have won but that the government forces the troops to fight with their hands tied and that if the US had the 'guts' to use nukes or whatever else, the war would have been won.  This group will never, ever admit that the Iraq War was illegal or toy with the concept of just wars.  For some, they can't see beyond the immediate so logical avenues are closed.  For others, there's a belief that their country must always be number one, must always be victorious, must always be right.  (And I'm sure there are other groupings in that as well.  There were among the Vietnam revisionaries as well.  Peter Hart's calling out a stepping stone to revisionary history in this critique of Richard Engel.)
4) I thought you were getting lunch.
The American people were lied to and told the war would pay for itself.  It will cost over $6 billion dollars, probably more like $15 billion when all the costs are in (that includes caring for wounded veterans).  Some people, not all, sit down at the table and order up something, love it while they're eating it and then when the bill shows up, uh-oh, that's suddenly too much money to spend.  Having spent billions and billions with nothing to show for it, some Americans, experiencing buyer's remorse, are going to feel, "Wait, can we stay there long enough to figure out how our country benefits from this."
5) Iran
I don't put a great deal of weigh into Iran is now tight with Iraq!!!! A lot of people do.  The US military, the White House, etc.  That GOP presidential candidates worry about this is not surprising.  The Bush Administration and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) encouraged the country to worry about Iran incessantly. (And Barack's administration has encouraged that.)   Iran tops the 'enemies list' largely due to the fact that, of all the White House's enemies, the country's leader is youngish and apparently healthy (contrast that with other popular White House targets such as Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea).  The reason the Cold War lasted so long was because so many Americans were willing to buy into it.  I don't think human behavior has changed a great deal in 40 or so years nor do I believe that we had, on a national level, an honest reflection that allowed us to see as a people how misguided the Cold War was.  Meaning those feelings are still out there and a politican can tap into them very easily.  (I'm not accusing any of the politicians listed above of being insincere.  I don't know any of them, I'll assume all are sincere.)
Why don't I think Iran's a big area of concern?  I could be wrong, I often am.  But you've got still unsettled borders and you've got water issues.  Those are problems for any two neighbors.  When you add in that the Iranian regime is seen as more repressive than most Iraqis would want, there's another problem.  (Both the 2009 provincial elections and the 2010 parliamentary elections can be seen as a rejection of fundamentalism and sectarianism and as a desire for a national identity.)  In addition, you have past conflicts with Iran.  At present, I think Iran and Iraq sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g is a fear related belief and not a reality based analysis.  I could be wrong or events could change the way the countries interact.
We're not horse race central.  I'm not interested in the US presidential election (vote for who you want or don't vote, I don't care, there's no litmus test here).  I had avoided the Republican presidential contenders comments because the Iraq War's not ending.  But now that they're being cherry-picked and slammed for their comments, we've weighed in once and that's it.  But I'm really tired of it and if we weren't taking on media beggars in our piece Sunday, Ava and I would be taking on a certain comedic 'genius' who is yet again be looking with the facts.
Not all seeking the GOP presidential nomination fell for Barack's spin.  As noted before,  
 Mary Stegmeir (Des Moines Register) reported US House Rep Ron Paul told a town hall over the weekend that the US isn't walking out of Iraq anytime soon, "I predict we will be very, very much involved in Iraq. I think it will be unstable for a long time to come, and we will continue to spend a lot of money in Iraq." Matched up against Barack Obama, he would be able to claim that, he, unlike Barack, never voted to continue the war. While Barack arrived in the Senate to late to vote on the 2002 authorization (Ron Paul voted against it), Barack did manage to vote to continue the Iraq War over and over and over. Ron Paul's also called for the US to leave Afghanistan. He's opposed Barack's illegal Libyan War. Barack's a War Hawk. At present, of those seeking the presidential office, Ron Paul's the only one with a voting record that demonstrates he is not a War Hawk.
Since political races in the US are generally about little else besides money, let's stay with the topic of big bucks.  Charley Keyes (CNN) reports, "The mystery of $6 billion that seemed to go missing in the early days of the Iraq war has been resolved according to a new report." Keyes is referring to a new report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction entitled [PDF format warning] "Development Fund For Iraq: The Coalition Provisional Authority Transferred Control Over Most Of The Remaining DFI Funds To The Central Bank Of Iraq." Table 1 explains where the money being addressed came from -- most from "Proceeds from Oil Exports" ($11,362,662,000) with "Oil for Food" being the second biggest source ($8,100,000,000).  Tony Capaccio and David Lerman (Bloomberg News) add that the $6.6 billion earlier said to have been lost is not lost and was not lost.  Really because that's kind of one-side reporting. 
Yes, the SIGIR did assert that $6.6 billion was missing months ago but the government in Baghdad had an official response and that's really not noted in the US coverage today.  From the June 22nd snapshot:
Today Al Mada reports that Parliament's Integrity Commission has officially notified the United Nations in writing that they would like their assistance in finding out what has happened to the $17 billion they saw was lost in reconstruction funds (the money is Iraqi money from the oil-for-food program). The article reminds that the Development Fund was set up by the UN and overseen by L. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority. In another article, Al Mada quotes Integrity Committee member Jawad Alshahyla stating that the $17 billion is a preliminary number and it may increase as a result of additional information. He also states that prior to contacting the UN, they had notified Nouri al-Maliki's office and the Ministry of Finance. Dar Addustour notes that the original figure -- provided by the US -- was $6 billion and says that it's urgent the money is found -- possibly due to the fact that Iraq's 2012 budget has a shortfall of at least $12 billion dollars (they budgeted close to $100 billion for 2012 and are set to be short at least $12 billion). Last week, Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) reported that $6 billion was missing in food-for-oil money that was supposed to have been used for reconstruction.  Mu Xuequan (mu) points out that even if the money did end up stolen, "the CPA issued an order granting immunity to the U.S. personnel and institutions working in Iraq after the 2003 invasion."
Sunday Al Jazeera reported (link has text and video), "Osama al-Nujaifi, the Iraqi parliament speaker, has told Al Jazeera that the amount of Iraqi money unaccounted for by the US is $18.7bn - three times more than the reported $6.6bn. Just before departing for a visit to the US, al-Nujaifi said that he has received a report this week based on information from US and Iraqi auditors that the amount of money withdrawn from a fund from Iraqi oil proceeds, but unaccounted for, is much more than the $6.6bn reported missing last week."  AFP notes Osama al-Nujaifi intends to raise the issue while visting DC this week. AP notes al-Nujaifi has a meeting schelued with US Vice President Joe Biden today. Eamon Javers (CNBC) adds, "The New York Fed is refusing to tell investigators how many billions of dollars it shipped to Iraq during the early days of the US invasion there, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction told CNBC Tuesday. The Fed's lack of disclosure is making it difficult for the inspector general to follow the paper trail of billions of dollars that went missing in the chaotic rush to finance the Iraq occupation, and to determine how much of that money was stolen."  Jason Ditz ( explains, "The Federal Reserve claims that since the account was from the Oil for Food account the SIGR is not entitled to know anything about the account. Fed officials said they would continue to cooperate in the investigation, without disclosing what appears to be the only useful information they might have."
And while US outlets are running with the lowest figure, in Iraq they remember.  Dar Addustour notes the amoung was $17 billion and then that a 'decree' has been issued in the US that the lost money is found but where is the "documentations to support that the money was disbursed" and they point out that the US has "acquitted its own leaders" while questions remain.  John Glaser ( has questions about all the Iraq money the Federal Reserve had and has:
The issue of the tens of billions of dollars -- at least that portion of the total which has been made public -- being sent to Iraq for what the US and Iraqi governments call reconstruction and then being lost, stolen, unaccounted for, etc. is indeed a criminal level of recklessness and negligence. But another aspect of these shady giveaways is perhaps more fundamental. At the beginning of the Iraq War, the US government secretly commissioned the New York Federal Reserve to create money in order to covertly fund the war and the newly-crafted client regime in Iraq. The American people were not informed, Congress was in the dark, and the total amounts and the beneficiaries involved are to this day being kept secret.
This clandestine collaboration of unaccountable public-private institutions colluding to facilitate warfare and secure profits in the process understandably leads to questions of the legitimacy of these institutions. The Federal Reserve system has long been tied to the most egregious genre of violence perpetrated by the state, that is war. Yet hardly any support in Congress exists to impose restrictions and accountability on the Federal Reserve, and the institution itself seems entrenched beyond the grip of those most affected by its policies. Both Americans, and Iraqis.
"President Barack Obama said last week that American troops will empty out of Iraq by New Years 2012," Russia Today noted yesterday.  "That doesn't mean, however, that the United States' presence will vanish completely."  They then note that the CIA will remain in Iraq and:
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor added yesterday that the talks between the militaries of the two nations will discuss how to implement a strong security in Iraq "that meets our mutual interests." He notes that tactical exercises and "regular coordination" might be on the table, but that US forces will not be permanently based in Iraq.
That decision comes, however, after the United States has invested around $2.4 billion in posts in Iraq, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. Currently the US embassy in Baghdad is home to 1,000 civilian officials and troops over the course of 21 buildings in 100 acres.
"This American embassy is massive," former Reagan administration official Paul Craig Roberts tells RT. "It's still there. It's huge. There is nothing like it on the face of the earth. It must have some purpose. So we can't really say that the Americans are not going to continue to control Iraq from behind the scenes."

Even without the presence of U.S. troops, America's footprint in Iraq is immense. In addition to the fortress near the site of Saddam Hussein's palace, two additional, $100 million buildings are slated to be built outside Baghdad as mini-embassies in the north and south of Iraq. Iraqis know that U.S. troops acting as trainers will still be in Iraq, both as a permanent presence of less than 200 and as an undetermined presence of U.S. troops permanently stationed in neighboring countries. In addition to these troops and embassy personnel, a large and robust force of CIA agents are presumed to be on the ground. As one of the largest contingencies of foreign personnel in any sovereign nation, it is no surprise that Iraqis refused to bargain away their right to enforce their own laws by giving our troops immunity from prosecution.

The use of a huge personnel force, with a large number of private contractors, has even stoked the ire of some Republicans. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, in a recent letter to President Obama expressed his dismay at the drastic increase of contractors as a private army in Iraq. "The American people have a right to know the past, present and future status of private security contractors in these regions," Mr. Issa wrote. Taken a step further, the American people have a right to know that our stated withdrawal is far from a true withdrawal of our presence from Iraq.

And Sam Biddle (Gizmodo) raises important issues with regards to the CIA and drones as he speaks to Global Security's John Pike:
 "UAVs provide a persistent surveillance capability that satellites do not," Pike explains, giving the government more reason to keep them flying over Baghdad long after american soldiers have been shipped home. The war on terror is indefinite and sprawling, with every inch of the globe a potential target. The near future of Iraq -- especially post-occupation --will be a shaky one. The CIA doesn't want shaky futures. "Any area where we feel the government doesn't have effective control of its territory, and [it] can't be solved via law enforcement -- that's why we have drones." Iraq has no air force. Iraq's ability to prevent itself from harboring enemies of the CIA is dubious. This gives America's drone fleet a self-justification to fly ad infinitum, and for a smaller war of distant humming and craters to continue as long as the CIA wants.
 Al Sabaah reports Interior Ministry flack Adman al-Asadi he has stated that 'trainers' really aren't needed but any that are used will not be paid for by Iraq. He insists the costs will come out of billions the Congress has granted for expenses such as housing. He noted that there are thousands of mercenaries in Iraq and that Blackwater's been replaced by Triple Canopy (among others) and that the US Embassy provides cover for it.
Al Sabaah reports Nouri al-Maliki met with Mohammad Karim Khalili who is vice president "of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan" and Nouri bragged about how he had battled terrorism and "succeeded" as a result of having built up the security forces. Nouri forgot to credit his most important weapons -- false charges and forced confessions. Currently, he's launched another witch hunt against opponents and is, yet again, labeling them 'Ba'athists!' He's usually successful deploying the B-bomb. The only time there's been significant pushback was when he attempted to label the Friday activists protesting in Tahrir Square as 'Ba'athists.' He quickly realized that even the B-bomb has some limits.

Al Sabaah reports that the crackdown is ongoing and the government claims it has arrested 75% of the 'Ba'athists' so far (over 500 arrested, they brag). Sounding a great deal like Hogan's Heroes' Col Klink insisting, "We have ways to make you talk," Ministry of the Interior flack Adnan al-Asadi declares that "We have eyes and ears allowing us to detect a plot of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Ba'ath Party." And to apparently make it sound even more of-the-moment, al-Asadi adds there is PKK involvement in the plot as well. What's worse? The lie or that fact that Nouri and company clearly thought it would be easily believed?

Well puppets don't get picked for their brains. Nor do thugs and Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr supported the measures taken by Iraqi minister of higher education to demote some universtiy personnel who were connected with the former Baath Party, as stated by his office." Did he? Well if they're 'Ba'athists' and 'dangerous' why were they demoted? Aren't they going to pollute the campuses just by being present?

But back to those eyes and ears al-Asadi was claiming, Al Mada reveals that the government is stating their source for the 'tips' about the alleged Ba'athist plot to take over Iraq came from the Transitional Government of Libya. The so-called rebels. A number of whom were in Iraq killing both Iraqis and US troops and British troops, several years ago. And supposedly prepping to rule Libya currently so you'd assume they had their hands full.

Tim Arango (New York Times) maintains that "secret intelligence documents" were discovered by the so-called 'rebels' that provided a link between Libya's late president Muammar Gaddafi and Ba'ath Party members and that Mahmoud Jibril made a trip to Baghdad to turn over the info. Jibril was acting prime minister who stepped down October 23rd. (We're back to when puppet regimes meet!) One would have assumed he had other things to focus on. It's also curious that this 'rebel' would have 'learned' after the fall of Tripoli of a plot. Curious because, unlike a number of 'rebel' leaders in Libya, Langley didn't ship Jibril in from Virginia, he was Gaddafi's hand picked head of the National Economic Development Board (2007 to 2011). One would assume he would have been aware of any big plot long before the so-called rebels began the US war on Libya.
The crackdown and targeting likely fueled a major event today.  AFP reports, Salahuddin Province's council voted for the province to become semi-autonomous like the KRG (the article says "autonomous") and the measure should now go before the voters of the province so they can register their desire. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the move, in a 20 for and zero against vote, "is expected to spur Anbar, the neighboring mostly Sunni province, to follow suit. Probably not a good day to be predicting Nouri successfully completing his term (which ends in 2014) -- when will the Oxford students learn, when?  And it's not a good day to be claiming that "security in Iraq good" or, worse, "very good."
Reuters notes 2 Baghdad bombings have claimed 18 lives and at least thirty-eight are injured.  They also report 1 police officer shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, a second Baghdad roadside bombing left four more people injured, a third Baghdad bombing left three people injured (two were police officers), an Iskandariya motorcycle bombing claimed the lives of 1 adult and 1 child and left two more people injured, a Jbela roadside bombing injured one person, 1 coprse was discovered in Mosul and, dropping back to yesterday, a Samarra grenade attack killed 1 Iraqi soldier, a Mosul armed conflict ended with 3 'militants' being killed, and a Kirkuk sticky bombing injured one person.  In addition, there was a Basra house raid in which 6 Sadrists were arrested by "Iraqi security forces backed by U.S. forces."
mcclatchy newspapers
laith hammoudi
al sabaah
al mada
dar addustour
the new york times
tim arango