June 8, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Brett McGurk's e-mails
finally makes the mainstream news, Brett McGurk's idiotic remarks to the
Senate Committee still don't (today we explores his lies to the
Committee on Sahwa), Nouri al-Maliki ensures that the political crisis
continues in Iraq, the US military finds an increase in the number of
suicides, and more.
Chon's not the story here. She may be at other sites and that's their
business. CJR should certainly be exploring the issue of sleeping with
your source. Here our focus is on McGurk except to point out that any
woman who has an affair with a married man who then leaves his wife
should be very wary of him being back in the same situation when he
first cheated with her. In other words, history tends to repeat.
Once you said you were in love with me
And maybe you still are
But the passion you once showed me
Now is lost among the stars
And you fancy some new fancy girl
Who'll come and change your life around
But she just turned the corner in her car
changed? Why the sudden interest from the press in covering the
e-mails? Because reporters on the State Dept beat pressed State Dept
spokesperson Victoria Nuland about the e-mails.
On another subject, this nomination of Brett McGurk, is it in trouble?
And can you confirm that the State Department is investigating
allegations of these emails between him and Ms. Chon of The Wall Street
NULAND: Well, first of all, on the subject of the emails, they're out
there for everybody to see. I'm not going to get into emails between Mr.
McGurk and the woman who subsequently became his wife. With regard to
Mr. McGurk's nomination, I think you know that he spent the better part
of the last decade serving our country in and out of Iraq, working for a
Republican administration, a Democratic administration. He is, in our
view, uniquely qualified to serve as our ambassador, and we urge the
Senate to act quickly on his nomination.
So obviously you're sticking with him. But can you confirm that --
because there are reports -- that the State Department actually has
looked into these alleged emails, or the allegations that these might
have compromised security or sensitive information?
MS. NULAND: I don't have anything to say on the emails.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
Because, I mean, there are rules for Foreign Service officers to not
get into situations where you're blackmailed. There's sort of a sense
that you have to act morally. There are these regulations in your
guidebooks. And some people have lost security clearances over having
extramarital affairs. So I wonder why it is that this doesn't seem to be
-- factor at all into your decision in keeping this -- keeping his
nomination out there.
NULAND: Again, we consider him uniquely qualified. All of the necessary
things were done before his nomination, and we urge the Senate to
confirm him. Jill.
Can you confirm that those emails actually came from the State
Department system, in -- within the State Department system?
NULAND: I'm not going to speak about the emails. They're out there for
you to look at. They're obviously very much available for anybody to
QUESTION: Aren't you investigating how they were leaked? They're from your own system.
MS. NULAND: I'm not going to get into our internal issues here.
QUESTION: Well, why not? You talk about WikiLeaks all the time. Those were essentially emails.
MS. NULAND: Goes to your usual point, Matt, that we speak about --
QUESTION: What, the lack of consistency?
MS. NULAND: Yes. (Laughter.)
Yeah. Oh, okay, great. When -- you said you did -- all the necessary
things were done before his nomination. What are those necessary things?
Was that like a security clearance and vetting and --
MS. NULAND: All that stuff.
Well, I mean -- no, I -- what are they? I don't know. What has to be
done, not just in his case but in any nominee's case?
MS. NULAND: His nomination was managed in the exact -- with the exact same processes that we use for everyone.
QUESTION: Well, okay. What does that mean? I mean, does that mean that there's an FBI check or --
MS. NULAND: I'm going to refer you to the White House for how they do this.
QUESTION: All right. And then --
QUESTION: Just one more on that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
If you do -- if you did do that, are you sharing this with members of
Congress who have severe problems with his nomination?
MS. NULAND: We always work with Congress on our nominees, and we're continuing to do that in this case.
Can you confirm that there has been at least one meeting with -- on the
specific issues, not on the specific issues that were about the emails,
with people on the Hill?
NULAND: I'm not going to comment on the specifics of our conversation
with Congress, but in all these nomination procedures, we work with the
Hill on any --
MS. NULAND: -- issues that they have as our --
QUESTION: But are you --
MS. NULAND: -- nominees are being reviewed.
But are you aware that this -- that people from the State Department
have gone to the Hill and/or have spoken to members of the committee who
have raised concerns about these specific issues. And by these specific
issues, I don't mean the more specific substantive issues that senator
-- people like Senator McCain have raised. I'm talking specifically
about the emails. Do you know if they have been -- if this issue has
been discussed with people on the Hill?
NULAND: Beyond saying that we continue to work with appropriate members
and staff on his nomination in support of it, as we do with all
nominees, I'm not going to get into details.
"Matt" above is Matthew Lee with the Associated Press
. He reports on it here
and avoids mentioning Gina Chon by name. While I have stated that she
is not the issue, I am not going to render her invisible. I have no
desire to include the name of the wife cheated on but while I'm not
going to examine Gina Chon's motives or explore ethical issues on her
end or quote her in the e-mails, I'm not going to vanish her. When you
enter into a sexual relationship with a high ranking government
employee, especially a married one, you're risking exposure. As a
member of the press, that's something Gina Chon understood before she
ever went to Iraq. I mention Lee vanishing her because that's another
reason the story's not being covered.
the Iran-Contra hearings -- a detail Robert Parry and others always
ignore -- a journalist was outed (TV journalist) for knowing about what
took place and covering it up. It was in the news cycle for about 2 to 3
hours. Then the press did what it does best: Protect its own. I've
mentioned the journalists' name before and will again. But we'll not go
there today because I'll hear, "Do you always have to beat up on ___?"
from friends at ____'s network.
But a big
reason that the e-mails weren't covered was due to the fact that Gina
Chon is a member of the press. As a result, I will be rethinking my
policy here for next week. We're already in a gray area because I'm not
big on sex scandals. (And my family has had their own aired out in the
press.) But we didn't cover this as "Cheating husband!" I wasn't even
aware Brett McGurk was married when I learned what the Senate Committee
was hearing. We covered this as: You want to be a surpervisor but you
used government time and government equipment to go in search of a
bootie call, you then concealed the affair from your supervisor because
it was a serious conflict and now you're going to supervise?
glad that McGurk doesn't have a sexaul harassment lawsuit against him,
but reading those e-mails -- which are only four years old -- I'm not
real sure he's someone who understands work boundaries.
with no supervisory experience, I do worry that the tone he will set
will not be encouraging for women or for their safety. "Oh come on,
boss," you can hear a male staffer telling McGurk, "I just sent her an
e-mail about my blue balls. You know what that's like, e-mailing a
woman about your blue balls. I wrote her about masturbating too because
I saw your e-mails and realized that's how someone 'so f**king smooth'
does it." Peter Van Buren notes today
, "Readers of my book, We Meant Well
will remember an incident where an innocent romantic email from a male
State Department contractor to a female soldier kicked off a major
incident that ended up with the contractor being swiftly fired for
misuse of the official email system for personal use. If McGurk is
allowed to end up as ambassador, that would be only the latest in a
long series of double standards of conduct at the State Department. "
is not a minor issue and how sad, telling and pathetic that neither
female senator on the Committee bothered to show for the hearing.
into this already complicated environment, the White House wants to put
a man who can't keep it in his pants? Married less than 2 years and he
can't keep it in his pants? In a war zone and he can't keep it in his
It's not a minor issue. Can an Iraqi
woman meet with McGurk? And if she does -- remember social taboos are
on the rise in Iraq since the US declared war and put thugs in charge --
will this result in it being assumed she too 'got down' with the
'playa'? You can not put a man with that reputation in Iraq without
asking, "How will this effect Iraqi women?" The most obvious way is
they won't be able to interact with him for fear of how any interaction
would be interpreted. So no Iraqi woman can meet with him one-on-one to
share concerns. That doesn't bother the State Dept?
why the hell not. Iraqi women were sold out under Bully Boy Bush and
for all of his pretense otherwise, Barack Obama clearly doesn't give a
damn about Iraqi women.
I would think how
this effects over half of the Iraqi population would be of grave
concern; however, we've yet to see a White House concerned about Iraqi
women since the start of the illegal war.
Huffington Post does a lousy job of covering the story
We're focusing on issues here. Can he be successful in management when
he has no experience and a record of lying to his superiors and
breaking rules and regulations? We're not being Arianna Huffington in
the 90s sniffing through Bill Clinton's briefs. Maybe that's the only
way Arianna and her website know to cover a story? Sink into the
filth? Or maybe it's just more of her: 'Write a bad blog post so we can
say we covered it and we aren't really in the tank for Barack.' Chris McGreal (Guardian) covers
the story seriously and raises real issues. I don't believe that
McGurk passed on classified information but -- as Mike noted last night
-- that is a serious concern around Congress currently for other
reasons. My issue is that he's not qualified. That was the opinion
before the e-mails. He doesn't have the exeprience needed, he doesn't
speak Arabic, Iraqiya objects to him, Iraqi women will be left out of
the discussions but now someone who just four years ago was breaking the
State Dept guidelines is going to be put in charge of the largest US
embassy project in the world?
explains, "A Republican senator, James Inhofe, cancelled a meeting with
McGurk in a sign that unease about the emails could raise problems. Any
senator is able to put a hold on the nomination." Helene Cooper (New York Times) adds
"Mr. Inhofe has not yet put a hold on Mr. McGurk's nomination, an aide
said" and quotes the aide, Jared Young, stating, "I don't think we'd say
we've reached the decision point yet." Jared Young tells Aamer Madhani (USA Today)
, "Until those issues are cleared up, he will not meet with Mr. McGurk." In addition to the hiding of an affair, Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) notes
that McGurk "may have been videotaped while engaged in a sex act on the
roof of Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace with a different woman."
It's oral sex with him on the receiving end. And since March when Peter
Van Buren published a blind item, everyone has whispered that the blind
item about the blow job on top of the Republican Palace was one of
Brett McGurk's many sexual adventures in the Green Zone. Paul Richter has a good report for the Los Angeles Times
Need a video report? As usual, you can count on Jake Tapper who is
able to confirm -- unlike all the other outlets today -- that the
e-mails are genuine. Click here for his video report
Near the end, Jake Tapper explains, "And, George, even McGurk's allies
say now that with these e-mails out there, he will have to answer more
questions about this on Capitol Hill."
(If you covered this before 5:00 pm EST on Thursday and I didn't mention you, it was not intentional. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
and in Monday's snapshot we'll note you covered it before the American
mainstream media covered it. And that's true always for left sites and
center sites, but that applies to any right-winger as well. Drop an
e-mail with a link so we can include you so you get your credit. And if
you want some gossip, as I work in this link, Peter Van Buren is the
author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
Let me note that some at the State Dept are stating that Peter is
behind the leak. No, he wasn't. But there are many other stories
that will be leaked out if the State Dept and the White House continue
to target Peter. Their little witch hunt and demonization of Peter has
offended several career employees.)
note. Since leaks are such a big deal, let me note I wasn't told by
anyone about the e-mails. I was present in the outer office when it was
being discussed in hushed tones. Anyone who knows me knows don't
whisper around me. If people talk at a normal volume, I'm busy, I'm
returning calls on my cell phones and I'm going through my planner. But
you start whispering and I hear it. You cannot get far enough away if
you're whispering. When you start whispering, you're right in my ear.]
the snapshots, we've been covering the interesting parts of Brett
McGurk's Wednesday testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
such as when he elected to school everyone on al Qaeda in Iraq -- and
directly contradicted Congressional testimony provided by Leon Panetta
(Secretary of Defense) and contradicted the public remarks of James
Clapper (Director of National Intelligence). The Committee just ignored
all the conflicts in his claims. Today we focus on Sahwa. Here's what
the nominee had to say.
McGurk: The Sons of Iraq is also something that we need to watch very
closely. So far, about 70,000 have been incorporated into government
positions. About 30,000 Sons of Iraq are still manning checkpoints.
They are getting paid out of the current budget -- I've been told out of
the current budget. They get paid about $300 a month which is slightly
below the per capita GDP.
his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka
"Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over
91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help
Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure
infrastructure and roads. These volunteers have contributed
significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost
because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved
-- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts." Again, the
US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat
How much lunch money is the US
forking over? Members of the "Awakening" Council are paid, by the US, a
minimum of $300 a month (US dollars). By Petraeus' figures that mean
the US is paying $27,300,000 a month. $27 million a month is going to
the "Awakening" Councils who, Petraeus brags, have led to "savings in
vehicles not lost".
this was the week that Petreaus and Crocker went from House Committee
to Senate Committee to House Committee . . . Offering their testimony.
in one of the last smart things she may have done, Senator Barbara
Boxer raised the issue of why is the US taxpayer footing the bill for
Sahwa? She asked why Nouri wasn't paying the cost? This forced the
administration to insist that they would explore that. Had Boxer not
raised the issue, it never would have been raised. By the end of the
week, it was stated that the US was going to ask that Nouri pick up the
tab. This was at the height of Sahwa. Their number did not increase.
In fact their numbers decreased because they've been repeatedly targeted
with violence. In the year Petreaus testified, for example, 528 Sahwa died from attacks and another 828 were injured in attacks
. Attacks haven't been their only problems. In January of this year, Dan Morse (Washington Post) reported
United States transferred full management of the force to the Iraqi
government in 2009, with the understanding that 20 percent of the
fighters would be given jobs in Iraq's police or military units and that
the government would try to find the others civil service or
But the process has
moved slowly. Sons of Iraq members say they are denied jobs because they
are Sunni, even as the Iraqi government welcomes onetime Shiite
insurgents into jobs. The government says that it is committed to hiring
Sons of Iraq members but that education levels prevent some of them
from getting security jobs.
its inception in 2005 they received salaries of around 250 dollars
monthly for manning checkpoints and patrolling their own areas. But
those low revenues have vanished today with the withdrawal of the
"The original plan was to gradually integrate our men
into the Iraqi security forces but now we're all starting to realise
that those were just fake promises," Abdullatif Majid Latif, commander
of the militia in Samarra, explains at the militia headquarters in the
"I have 2,000 men who have families to take care of in a
desperate situation. All of them still remain loyal to Sheikh Khalid
Fleieh but I wonder how long will this last," adds the military
Abdullatif's men belong to the approximately 100,000 today
lining up in the Sahwa militia. The first stage of an initially
ambitious plan was to incorporate a quarter of them into the security
forces. Today, things are not working as expected. Everyone wonders
what will happen to thousands of broken armed men.
militiaman Abdulljabar Abdulrahim is categorical: "If I'm not paid in
April I'll quit and look for something else, either in the construction
or the cleaning sectors," he says, armed with an AK-47 rifle and dressed
in sweatpants and slippers.
do the above reports fit with the claims Brett McGurk made? They
don't. As usual he spun pretty for his friend Nouri. He didn't,
however, tell the truth to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On
the Clapper and Panetta issue, you could just write him off as dumb.
But the problems of Sahwa finding employment and getting paid have been
documented by the major newspapers since 2009. As of March of this
year, nothing changed. But Brett McGurk wants to insist otherwise.
have not been given government jobs. That's a bold face lie. The best
year on hiring was 2009. And about a tenth of that was hired in 2009.
In 2010 and 2011 you see the drop-off in hiring. 2009 was the best
year. McGurk's figures don't add up.
if the Senators hadn't been so quick to rush through the hearing --
those that bothered to show up -- we'd know for sure whether Brett
McGurk was an idiot or a liar. But you don't give the testimony he did
-- as we've now documented in three snapshots -- unless you're
uninformed or lying.
lack of experience in administration and supervision is brought up, the
White House insists to Senators that McGurk makes up for that with his
vast knowledge of Iraq. He didn't display vast knowledge, he displayed
highly limited knowledge.
He is not qualified and, if he was smart, he'd withdraw his nomination.
the administration were smart, they'd learn to give a damn about Iraqi
women. This is Barack third nomination for US Ambassador to Iraq. All
three have been men. If we're supposedly modeling behavior for Iraq,
we're not doing Iraqi women a bit of good. Stop kidding that these all
male appointments (and all male under Bush as well) help Iraqi women.
continued violence in Iraq helps no one but leaders who benefit from a
terrorized population. AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted today:
a Baghdad attack on Col Mohammed Yunis' car left him dead and his wife
and their two children injured, Assad Mohammed was shot dead ("official
in the office of deputy parliament speaker Qusay al-Sohail), 1 Iraqi
soldier was shot dead in Kirkuk and a Baladruz roadside bombing claimed 1
life and left two people injured. Alsumaria reports
that the owner of a power generator center (electrical plant?) in
Diwaniyah was approached last night by angry citizens with one
throwing an unknown sharp object which killed him. The citizens were
upset by the continued lack of electricity.
In Iraq, the political crisis continues. If you're having trouble keeping track of who's who, Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) offers
a look at the various political blocs.
Al Rafidayn reports
that Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq gave
a speech yesterday at the Cultural Forum insisting that while he has
defended the government he has also criticized it. In his speech
yesterday, Ammar declared that ISCI was not part of the problem but that
they wanted to be part of the solution and to support everyone. That
would be a change because all Ammar's supported so far this year was
Nouri is facing a no-confidence vote in Iraq. His refusal
to honor a signed contract between him and the political blocs has
ticked off many. The Al Rafidayn
article notes that Daw's
Abdul Halim Zuhairi (Dawa is a political party -- Nouri's political
party; State of Law is Nouri's political slate) is insisting that
Moqtada al-Sadr is harming the nation and splitting the Shi'ite ranks.
Right there is your problem.
Moqtada al-Sadr is splitting Shi'ite ranks?
That's a sectarian way of looking at -- apparently the only way Dawa knows how.
You'd think the statements would be condemned. They won't be. But Alsumaria reports
Nouri did make a speech today insisting that tolerance was needed.
He's not punished anyone with Ministry of Interior for targeting and
demonizing Iraqi youth suspected of being Emo (the Ministry of Interoir
went into the schools trashing those children -- and the Interior has no
minister because Nouri won't nominate anyone -- he can only control
it when there is no minister).
Regardless of whether or not
there's a no-confidence vote, what has happened is that Iraqi leaders
have demonstrated they can go beyond sects and work together -- Moqtada,
KRG President Massoud Barzani, Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi and others.
They've presented a united front arguing that the Erbil Agreement needs
to be followed as agreed to.
Pentagon doesn't like to use the term "crisis," especially when
discussing the suicide rate of service members. But the situation
reached crisis level long ago. The latest news is even worse than
before. Mark Thompson (Time magazine) explains
: New Pentagon data show
U.S. troops are killing themselves at the rate of nearly one a day so
far in 2012, 18% above 2011′s corresponding toll. "The continual rise in
the suicide rate has frustrated all in the military," says Elspeth
"Cam" Ritchie, a retired Army colonel and chief psychiatric adviser to
the Army surgeon general. "The rise in the suicide rate continues
despite numerous recommendations from the Army and DoD task forces."
Stephanie Pappas (Live Science) explains
, "Even as the civilian suicide rate
remains steady at about 11 deaths per 100,000 people, military suicide
rates have been climbing over most of the past decade. In 2001, for
example, the suicide rate per 100,000 people in the Army was nine; that
number rose all the way to 19.3 by 2008. Over the same time span in the
Marine Corps, the suicide rate per 100,000 rose from 16.7 to 19.9,
according to a 2011 report by the research institute the Rand Corp." Tonight on The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, video and audio), Kwame Holman explained
among U.S. forces are on the rise this year. According to the Pentagon,
military suicides now are averaging nearly one per day; 154 active-duty
service members took their lives in the first 155 days of the year.
That's an 18 percent increase over the same period last year.
deaths also now are outpacing the number of U.S. combat troops killed
in Afghanistan. Some research has pointed to multiple tours of duty and
post-traumatic stress as contributing to the rise in suicides.
Yesterday on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, David Martin filed a report (link is text and video)
David Martin: Spc Carl McCoy survived two tours in Iraq only to take his own life and shatter the life of his wife Maggie.
Maggie McCoy: He shot himself. In the bathroom.
David Martin: Here in this house?
Maggie McCoy: Yes.
Martin: That was 2008, when the Army did not have enough mental health
counselors. McCoy had scheduled an appointment with a counselor at Fort
Campbell, Kentucky. But that morning --
Maggie McCoy: They called and cancelled.
David Martin: And they cancelled because?
Maggie McCoy: They didn't have anybody to see see him. That was the day before he killed himself.
Martin goes on to float the Pentagon's 'possible' reason for the increase: The economy.
Mollie (GetReligion.org) weighs in with
"Suicides don't just mean that chaplains must arrange and perform
funeral services but also that they must deal with units that are
devastated. He said that one of the things they work on is doing
respectful funerals without glorifying the suicide victim since studies
(and his personal experience) indicate that it can lead to copycat
suicides or other problems. He mentioned another recent situation of
overseeing a funeral for an atheist who had left explicit instructions
about what could and could not be said at his service. Since what he
wanted said and not said wasn't exactly something that many — or any,
in this case — chaplains could get on board with, the chaplains at the
base came up with a creative workaround that honored the dead soldier's
wishes without compromising anyone else's religious views." AP has a video report
which includes Major General Dana Pittard writing on a blog: "Be an
adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the
rest of us." No, that's not helpful or needed and it's actually
damaging and keeps people from seeking the help that they neeed.
Robert Burns (AP) notes
"The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq
and Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade
ago. The military also is struggling with increased sexual assaults,
alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other misbehaviour." David Martin
was oblivious to that apparently.