Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, February 6, 2019.  Donald Trump gave a speech last night, we ignore it to offer media critiques (including imploring lefty men to stop screaming into cameras and thinking that's what lefty women want) and to translate Donald Trump to English on the Iraq base issue.

US President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union speech last night.  Ahead of the speech, a CBS NEWS poll showed that the most pressing topic on the mind of Americans was foreign policy and national security.  Respondents ranked that the number one issue (93%) with jobs and economy second (92%) and healthcare third (80%).

If you stream the CBS NEWS video above, you'll learn about the poll.  You'll also learn that anyone can say anything on TV with no accountability such as this line, "Well President Trump has used his claim that ISIS is defeated to pull US troops out of Iraq and Syria." 


When did he ever make that claim?

I'd love to hear him make that claim.  But he hasn't.  Afghanistan and Syria are what he's talked about.  How do you get to anchor a segment on Iraq and not have your basic facts rights?

Better question, do the words "Quiet on the set" mean nothing?  While "the global war against ISIS" is being discussed, why are we hearing loud laughter throughout the segment?  Does no one know how to shut their  mouths?

Third, if you want to tip your news segment towards war you invite who? A Center for a New American Security member.  This one is the greasy faced Nicholas Heras.  Maybe some of the gigglers could have fetched Heras an alcohol wipe or some powder? 

CNAS is not just a hot bed of neocons, it's also where the failed counterinsurgency strategy was re-birthed.  It's amazing how they've walked away from that failure.  They don't mention it anymore.  Maybe because, if they did, their 'expert' qualifications would be called into question.

I'd love to say the left was doing a better job than CBS NEWS; however, I actually watched the RING OF FIRE video below.

I feel like Meg Ryan in SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE explain to Rosie O'Donnell the 'code' the little girl uses in her forged notes. 

First off, Donald Trump did not say on CBS' FACE THE NATION that they would be used to launch attacks -- the US troops he wants to keep on the base in Iraq.  What does he want?

He wants them to obtain intelligence.  He wants them to be on the ground.  He has more respect for military intelligence than for civilian intelligence.  And I'm already doing Trump to English don't make me now educate you on military intelligence as well.  (They predate the CIA and their abuses have been as outrageous as the CIA's abuses -- if not more so.  They spy overseas and they spy in the US.)  I'm not saying Trump respect military chiefs, I am saying he respects intel obtained by the military more than he does the intel obtained by the CIA.  There are numerous reasons for that and you can explore that on your own, we're not going to get lost in the weeds here.

Repeating, he wants them there for intel.

He made that rather clear and Margaret Brennan then attempted to spin it or fill in the blanks or put words in his mouth.  Let's go back to what he said to CBS on Sunday.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --but when it was chosen-- well, we spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Whoa, that's news. You're keeping troops in Iraq because you want to be able to strike in Iran?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, because I want to be able to watch Iran. All I want to do is be able to watch. We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up. And this is what a lot of people don't understand. We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you're going to trust the intelligence that you receive?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am going to trust the intelligence that I'm putting there, but I will say this: my intelligence people, if they said in fact that Iran is a wonderful kindergarten, I disagree with them 100 percent. It is a vicious country that kills many people.

This entire thing has been distorted.  What he said and what he intends has been distorted.

Now people may say, "Well under that scenario it is highly likely that US troops would be used to strike Iran."  Yes, I believe that too.

But that's not what Donald said and probably not what he thinks.

If we're talking about what he's saying and what his plan is, we don't need to lie.

He's very clear on what it's for: Spying.  He's very clear that it will be military intelligence ("I am going to trust the intelligence that I'm putting here").

If he does this, there is a possible outcome that is not what he's saying or factoring in. 

We can, and maybe should, argue that he is not thinking things through, considering all outcomes, etc.  But it is dishonest to say that he's planning to have US troops strike Iran from Iraq. 

It's dishonest and you're giving him a lot more credit for planning than he probably deserves.

Donald is also a greedy person and a bit of a tightwad -- again, I disliked Donald long before he became president and, unlike so many others, I didn't flatter him.  But he's greedy.  Money is his god.

And if you don't grasp that, you don't grasp that he's criticizing Barack when he speaks, as he did on Sunday to CBS, about the base in Anbar Province that the US has.

Dropping back to the June 29, 2012 snapshot for the previous day's House Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on National  Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations hearing:

Acting Chair Blake Farenthold:  I just have one more question so we'll just do a quick
 second round of questions. Ambassador Kennedy, you mentioned the Baghdad police
 college annex facility as one of the facilities.  It's my understanding that the United States' taxpayers have invested more than $100 million in improvements on that site. 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. Can you say with confidence that those sites now operating without leases or agreements will not be turned over to Iraq for free as was the case with the police development program?  And what would the cost to the US taxpayer be if they were to
lose without compensation all of those facilities?

Patrick Kennedy:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  First of all, the statement that has been --
that you were reading from about we are closing the Baghdad police development center because of a failure to have land use rights is simply factually incorrect.  We have a land
use agreement for that site. As part of the program -- the police development program -- there are periodic reviews that are underway and my colleagues who do that -- it's not
part of my general responsibility on the operating side of the house -- engage in reviews
on a six month basis both internally and with the government of Iraq.  It was always our
plan to make adjustments to the police development program  over time.  But the
statement that somehow we have wasted or had everything pulled out from under us because of lack of a land use agreement is very simply false. For our other properties
 in Iraq we have -- we have agreements for every single property we have in Iraq except
for one which is our interim facility in -- in Basra which is simply a reincarnation of a
 former US military there. But even in that regard we have a longterm agreement that
was signed with the government of Iraq by Ambassador Negroponte in 2005 in which
we swapped properties with the government of Iraq and they are committed to provide
us with a ten acre facility in-in Basra of our mutal choosing. And so we are covered, sir. 

 He said it.  Too bad it wasn't accurate or, for that matter, truthful.  We'll jump over to the second panel.

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
eport 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.

Acting Chair Blake Farenthold:  Alright, Mr. Carroll, I would also like to follow up a
question I had on the last panel about the use of Iraqi nationals in overseeing some
of our investigations of it -- does that?  I mean, what's your opinion that?  Does that
strike you as a good idea, a bad idea or something we're stuck with because there's
no alternative? It seems like Americans would be a little more concerned about how
their tax dollars were spent than the Iraqi nationals who are the receipients of those
tax dollars.  That's kind of a fox guarding the hen house, it looks like. 

Michael Carroll: [Laughing]  Well I-I personally I think it's a - like-like Ms. Rudman said
it's an additive sort of step.  We would do the same thing. For example, in some of the
places where it's absolutely prohibited because of security what we will do is contract
with a local CPA firm -- primarily out of Egypt -- and do a very comprehensive agreed
upon procedures document that they will go out and they will take pictures, they will
ask questions, they will do what we would do if we could get there. So I think that it
what Mara is talking about as well.  I don't see it as a problem.  In fact, I see it as an
adjunct to and it's not a replacement for USAID contracting representatives and technical representatives actually getting out and ensuring that the work is actually being done.
 That's not what these people are doing.  What these people are doing is just going out,
doing some monitoring and observing.  But it does not replace what the
responsibilities are for the Americans. 

Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Alright. Thank you very much.  And I'm not sure if I
want to address this to Mr. Courts or Mr. Bowen -- whichever one of you seems
most eager to answer can take this.  I haven't been to Iraq.  My information in the
 field of what it's like on the ground there is based on the things that I've read and
the reports that I've seen on television.  But a good many of our facilities are in
metropolitan areas including the capital Baghdad and I'm concerned that we are
struggling getting food and water to these folks in a safe manner.  I mean, what's
the procedure?  Is the food delivered?  How -- how is that handled and why is it a
problem in a metropolitan area? There are hundreds of thousands of people in
 these cities, Iraqi nationals, that need to be fed.  Obviously, it's more complicated
than just going down to the Safeway but I mean how is that handled?  And why is it
such a problem?

Stuart Bowen:  The State Dept, as Ambassador Kennedy indicated, continued the LOGCAP contract after the military withdrew in December and thus the process for bringing food
 into the country continued as well and that is via convoys that come up from Kuwait. 
There have been challenges.  That checkpoint has been occasionally closed.  There
have been security challenges with regards to those convoys and other reasons that
the shipments have been intermittent and has led to an occasional shortage of certain
 food stuff at the embassies.  [Former US] Ambassador [to Iraq James] Jeffrey emphasized repeatedly this spring his desire to move towards local purchase but that's been slow.

Is it wrong to note that the State Dept's Patrick Kelly was not honest with the Subcommittee or
that he chose to ignore the questions asked?  He wanted to insist (falsely) that there were leases
on all the Iraqi property currently occupied by the US diplomatic mission.  Again, that is not truthful.

In addition, he wanted to insist that turning over a facility the US taxpayer had spent over a million
dollars on was normal and natural.  It was neither.  US taxpayers, if asked, might have said, "Hey,
 turn it over to an Iraqi orphanage or youth project."

Or, noting the huge amount of widows due to  the war, might have said, "Turn it over as a facility for women and their children to live in."  But the same taxpayer that had no vote in whether or not to go to war got no vote in how to spend millions in Iraq..

Patrick Kennedy declared, "It was always our plan to make adjustments to the police development program over time."

That actually may be true.  (Or it may be another lie.)  But the fact is, the US State Dept refused to share the plan with Congress or the office of the Special Inspector for General Reconstruction in Iraq.  Kennedy might hope we forget that -- and certainly many in the press will rush  to assist him -- but those of us present at the hearings held in the last months of 2011 remember the State Dept refusing to answer questions.

When the US State Dept was tasked with the Iraq mission by Barack Obama (fall of 2011 -- and tasked because of the military drawdown which would push the mission over to State from Defense), millions of dollars were spent building various things -- buildings that were never used or used only briefly.  And these costly buildings were then just handed over to the Iraqi government.  Land lease agreements are a basic.  The State Dept showed no oversight or forethought.  That's not surprising.  From the start, they refused to answer Congress on what they would be doing.  They refused to explain how the money would be spent.  They stalled or lied over and over.  During this time, US House Rep Gary Ackerman made many important comments.  We'll drop back to a hearing covered in the December 1, 2011 snapshot:

Ranking Member Gary Ackerman:  He [Bowen] has testified before other bodies of Congress, he has released written quarterly reports, as well as specific audits and the message is the same: The program for which the Department of State officially took responsibility on October 1st is nearly a text book case of government procurement -- in this case, foreign assistance -- doesn't buy what we think we're paying for, what we want and why more money will only make the problem worse.  Failed procurement is not a problem unique to the State Department.  And when it comes to frittering away millions, Foggy Bottom is a rank amateur compared to the Department of Defense. As our colleagues on the Armed Services committees have learned, the best of projects with the most desirable of purposes can go horribly, horribly off-track; and the hardest thing it seems that any bureaucracy can do is pull the plug on a failed initiative.  How do we know the Police Development Program is going off-track?  Very simple things demonstrate a strong likelihood of waste and mismanagement.  Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the program? Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector General show 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.

[. . .]

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?
[long pause]

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.

Another Democrat worth noting would be US House Rep Gerry Connolly:

US House Rep Gerald Connolly: Madame Deputy Assistant Secretary, welcome. Is it your testimony here today that the State Dept is fully committed to transparency and accountability with respect to any and all programs it has oversight and responsibility for in Iraq?
Brooke Darby: We take our responsibility for accountability and cooperation with all of the  audit entities, with Congress very, very seriously.
US House Rep Gerald Connolly: No, ma'am, that was not my question.  Is it your testimony that you're fully committed to transparency and accountability with respect to those responsibilities?
Brooke Darby: We are absolutely committed to accountability.
US House Rep Gerald Connolly: Full accountability?  Full transparency and accountability?
Brooke Darby:  I'm not sure -- I'm not sure how you define that so . . .
US House Rep Gerald Connolly:  Well I guess I'm not sure why you avoid the word.  That was my question and you've ducked it three times.  Are we or are we not, is the State Dept committed to full transparency and accountability to the tax payers in the United States and the people who served in Iraq or not?
Brooke Darby:  We absolutely are accountable to the tax payers, to our Congress and to all of the oversight bodies who are looking into how we are spending our dollars, whether our programs are achieving success.  We are absolutely --

US House Rep Gerald Connolly:  Alright. I'll sort of take that as a commitment. 

The State Dept did a lousy job and they were not transparent and millions of US tax dollars were wasted on various buildings that were then turned over to the Iraqi government shortly after they were built because their intended use was not practical or needed.

Sunday, Donald Trump said "well, we spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it."  He's referring to the waste and wasted money that took place previously. 

If this is news to you, take it up with a lazy American media that never held Barack Obama or his administration accountable for anything. 

If a State Dept employee went before Congress tomorrow and danced around transparency the way Brooke Darby did in 2011, it would be outrage on Twitter and news on the cable chat and chews for days and days.

The RING OF FIRE clip is dishonest. 

Especially when Farron Cousins starts shouting about "how dumb can you get" regarding announcing the spying?   There's nothing at all stupid about that.  If you believe Iran is in non-compliance -- Donald does, I have no opinion one way or the other -- then announcing the spying is putting Iran on notice -- 'We are watching.'  And that's not stupid.

Yell all you want, Farron Cousins, it doesn't endear you to me.  It only makes me fear for people who may live in your home, fear for their safety around such a rage prone hot-head.

For anyone in Cousins orbit who may need it, the National Domestic Abuse hotline is 1-800-799-7233.

Some conservative women like that yelling.  It's why they listen to Rush Limbaugh.  Non-conservative women do not tend to love watching men yell and scream.  We've been yelled and screamed at enough and we're fully aware that RING OF FIRE is an outlet for men and not women so that yelling and screaming is also a way to talk over us.  In addition, that kind of yelling and screaming will lead many of us to stop listening to a program because in the real world that kind of yelling and screaming is usually followed by physical abuse.  It's not a cute act and RING OF FIRE would do well to stop trying to market it as a way to communicate.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, ANTIWAR.COM and the Center for Constitutional Rights -- updated: