December 27, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, more weapons for
Nouri, more deaths for Iraqis, protests continue, a major one is planned
for tomorrow, we look at the issues facing the selection of a US
Secretary of Defense, and more.
"I should have seen the s**t coming down the hall," sings Greg Dulli on the Afghan Whig
's "When We Two Parted" (New Year's Eve, the Whigs will be rocking it at Bogart's in Cincinnati
). When it comes to Thomas E. Ricks, most of us did. It was only a matter of time before he turned on Emma Sky and, today, at Foreign Policy he does
We're aganostic on Emma but we can enjoy the implosion as Ricks argues
Sky is wrong (and the subtext is Tommy Loves David Petraeus best so he
turns on Emma and her US military patron Gen Ray Odierno). While
chuckling over the dynamics and drama Thomas E. Ricks churns out, we're
also left with this 'stellar' advice:
anything could be recommended at this point, it would be for the Obama
Administration to abandon the unwanted meddling in Iraqi police affairs
and ineffective training, and to openly and effectively engage that
broad Iraqi public through positive political focus on the "plain
vanilla" operations of civil government systems and technical advice,
which the United States has an abundance of and the Iraqi public
Iraq is a
failed-state. You realize too late that Thomas E. Ricks is not only a
War Hawk but also completely ignorant. You realize what you always
feared: Thomas dabbles. The police program has been greatly scaled back
and that happened long ago -- and rather publicly even in the US
press. Iraq does not move forward under Nouri.
some point, the US government is going to have to grasp what various
NGOs already have. But there's Thomas Ricks, who should know better,
talking about actions that transfer technology to a despot. In doing
so, they alarm the Kurds and the Sunnis and make Iraq even less stable.
Poor Thomas E. Ricks. When he died as a reporter, he was reborn as the chief sales person for the munitions industry.
December 24, 2012 -- The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified
Congress Dec. 21 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government
of Iraq for Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) operations and
maintenance services and associated equipment, parts, training and
logistical support for an estimated cost of $125 million.
Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale of Very Small Aperture
Terminal (VSAT) operations and maintenance services, equipment
installation services, upgrade VSAT managed and leased bandwith, video
teleconferencing equipment, 75 VSAT Equipment Suites (consisting of 1.8m
VSAT terminals, block up covnerters (BUCs), low-noise down converters
(LNBs), required cables and components, iDirect e8350 modem, network
operation and dynamic bandwidth equipment, and iMonitor softward),
spares and repair parts, tools, personnel training and training
equipment, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and
contractor representative technical support services, and other related
elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $125
This proposed sale will contribute
to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by
helping to improve the security of a friendly country. This proposed
sale directly supports the Iraqi government and serves the interests of
the Iraqi people and the United States.
proposed sale will continue U.S. support to the development of Iraqi
Defense Network (IDN) VSAT terminals. Iraq intends to use these defense
articles and services to provide command and control for its armed
forces. The purchase of this equipment will enhance the Iraqi
military's foundational capabilities, making it a more valuable partner
in an important area of the world and supporting its legitimate needs
for its own self-defense.
The proposed sale of this support and services will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
principal contractors will be 3Di Technologies and L-3 Communications
Company in Hanover, Maryland. There are no known offset agreements
proposed in connection with this potential sale.
of this proposed sale will require U.S. Government or contractor
representatives to travel to Iraq for delivery of operations and
maintenance services, installation of new sites for each year of
required operations and maintenance services, and field services to
install and move VSAT sites and training for a period of one year.
There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.
This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.
Let's look at the two claims in the press release:
The purchase of this equipment will enhance the Iraqi military's
foundational capabilities, making it a more valuable partner in an
important area of the world and supporting its legitimate needs for its
own self-defense. The proposed sale of this support and services will
not alter the basic military balance in the region.
2) This proposed sale directly supports the Iraqi government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States.
regards to one, how is Iraq's military foundational capabilities
increased without "alter[ing] the basic military balance in the
region"? And since Nouri al-Maliki's own State of Law can't go a month
without proclaiming that some segment of Iraqi military is plotting to
overthrow al-Maliki, how is it in the interests of the region to arm
Even more importantly, who are these
weapons to be used on? Not only is there a valid concern that Nouri
will use weapons on the Iraqi people, there is Nouri's notorious
paranoia. Do you put a loaded gun into the hand of the crazy person
ranting on the street about how people are out to get him?
regards to the second assertion -- there's no way this helps the US and
it's even more difficult to see how this $125 million purchase helps
the Iraqi people.
David Romano (Rudaw) observes
that $6 billion was the annual budget for Iraq from 1997 to 2003 and
the people were provided with food, with electricity, with basic public
Today's Iraq enjoy an
unimaginably higher budget. Oil revenues bring in some one hundred
billion dollars a year. One would think that with such vast sums of
wealth, the country would enjoy spectacular increases in standards of
living. Instead, garbage lies uncollected on street corner after street
corner, with little children playing in disease-ridden alleyways.
Security remains elsuive as kidnappings, mafia shakedowns and political
assassinations cast a shadow across entire communities. Baghdad and
other cities still lack electricity, with noisy portable generators
rumbling through the night and spewing their pollution across entire
neighborhoods. Some twenty-five billion dollars "spent" on restoring
the country's electrical grid seems to have produced little tangible
results, possibly because the business interests who rent generators
don't want the electric grid restored.
Explain to me again how the Iraqi people are helped by this $125 million weapons contract? Today, Alsumaria reports
4 deaths -- including two sisters, one 12 and one 18. From Wednesday's snapshot
yesterday's rains have caused 3 deaths and two people to be injured in
Baghdad -- two deaths from a house collapsing due to the rain and one
from electrical death (with two more injured in that as well) and that
main streets in the capital are sinking. All Iraq News notes Baghdad has been placed on high alert because of the torrential rains.
You could mistake Baghdad for Venice in this All Iraq News photo essay which notes that students are forced to walk through the high standing water to get to schools. They also note
of Tuesday's rainfall: Baghdad had the most yesterday (67 mm) followed
by Hilla, Azizia and Karbala (rainfall was also recorded in Samawa,
Rifai and Basra -- of those three, Basra was the highest and Baghdad's
rainfall was three times Basra's). It's not just Baghdad. Alsumaria notes that after ten house[s] collapse[d] in Wasit Province village, the Iraqi Red Crescent began evacuating the entire village.
Al Mada notes
today that Iraqis who might plan to travel Italy no longer need visit
Venice to see streets of water, they just need to step outside their
homes and they can take in the beauty of water surrounding houses,
riding a car through the Sadr section of Baghdad can be like a gondala
ride in Venice.
As Iraq crumbles, Nouri's
spending $125 million on a weapons program (which will allow him to
track Iraqis via satellite)? This helps the Iraqi people how?
is no ethical justification for the US government to allow this sale.
Greed isn't ethical but they could be honest and admit that greed is why
they'll gladly grab $125 million that should instead be spent improving
the lives of the Iraqi people. "Greed" would be a honest reason for
the deal. Again, not an ethical reason, but an honest one.
that protests continued today in Iraq with the highway to Jordan and
Syria being blocked "for a fifth day" and that along with the protest in
Ramadi, there was also a protest in Mosul. Earlier today, Alsumaria reported
that a protest has been called for Friday (Moqtada al-Sadr has added
his endorsement) and the focus of the protest will be women prisoners.
This has been building for some time with the treatment of women in
Iraqi prisons and detention centers been a focal point for weeks now
with allegations of rape and torture. Kitabat notes
that calls for the women prisoners to be released were frequent at most of this week's rallies. Alsumaria notes
that Moqtada al-Sadr told the network through his spokesperson (Salah
al-Obeidi) that he regrets statements at demonstrations that go to
sectarianism and against the Iraqi national identity and he stated he stands with the calls the protesters are making
the reports of allegations and torture and what Committees in
Parliament have discovered, led to Nouri's freak out where he threatened
to arrest members of Parliament who talked about the torture and rape.
Yesterday, he was insisting he had the power to do so. Al Mada notes
today that Nouri's remarks are in conflict with the Iraqi Constitution.
A law shall regulate the rights and privileges of the speaker of the
Council of Representatives, his two deputies, and the members of the
Council of Representatives.
A. A member of the Council of Representatives shall enjoy immunity for
statements made while the Council is in session, and the member may not
be prosecuted before the courts for such.
A Council of Representatives member may not be placed under arrest
during the legislative term of the Council of Representatives, unless
the member is accused of a felony and the Council of Representatives
members consent by an absoulte majority to lift his immunity or if he is
caught in flagrante delicto in the commission of a felony.
C. A Council of Representatives member may not be arrested after the
legislative term of the Council of Representatives, unless the member is
accused of a felony and with the consent of the speaker of the Council
of Representatives to lift his immunity or if he is caught in flagrante
delicto in the commission of a felony.
that is not in keeping with the claims Nouri's made this week that he
will just strip MPs of their immunity and have them arrested. The above
section of the Constitution is very clear. But Nouri's never really
abided by or honored the Iraq Constitution. And when he went after Vice
Presdient Tareq al-Hashemi, he didn't follow the rules. To do so would
have required Parliament to vote against al-Hashemi and Nouri was
(repeatedly) rebuffed in his efforts against al-Hashemi as well as
against Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. December 2011, Nouri
targeted Tareq and Saleh who were both Sunnis and also both members of
Iraqiya, the political slate that beat Nouri al -Maliki's State of Law.
This month, he targeted Rafia al-Issawi who is the Minister of Finance
and also happens to be Sunni and a member of Iraqiya.
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi
warned against a "civil war that would divide Iraq." He described Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a "liar, despotic and bloody," and
predicted "a spontaneous popular uprising" that would topple Maliki.
According to him, Iran
"is leading the war machine against the Syrian people." He called on
President Barack Obama to "correct the mistakes of his predecessor."
all of the Syrian refugees Iraq has accepted are Kurds into Iraqi
Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous state in the north that exercises many of
its own policies. Authorities elsewhere in Iraq have refused all but
9,000 Arab refugees for fear that the highly sectarian violence across
the border in Syria may whip up similar flames in Iraq. The Kurds,
though, are eager to help out their brethren, even if their resources
are already stressed. So far, the Kurdish government has spent $11
million for the camp, but much more is needed. "We plan an international
appeal," Bakir says.
Aside from the
tent shortage, there is also a shortage of food, especially for single
men who have their own area on the far side of the camp. Families also
have a shortage of water. The newer arrivals have to share one water
drum per three or four families, which doesn't translate to enough
drinking or cooking water, let alone water to bathe with. The lucky ones
get one shower a week. Electricity hasn't been a problem – there's
enough for everyone to run lights and cookers. But there's not enough
for heaters and the chills of winter are setting in.
main reason for the shortages is because UNHCR didn't expect the sudden
surge of refugees, says Jerome Seregni, a UNHCR spokesman. "Since
December 2011, Iraq has continued to receive Syrians with an average
rate of 1,000 persons monthly from April through June to suddenly 1,000
persons weekly during August to October," Seregni says. "And although
in November/December the number of arrivals was slightly decreasing,
nevertheless 200 to 500 daily Syrians were registering in the camp."
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees does work around the
world assisting those in need. If you are interested in donating to the
UNHCR, you can visit this web page
(where you can donate securely online or obtain information on sending a donation in via regular postal mail).
to the US, once upon a time we noted Joe Conason. We've ignored him
for several years now to be kind because I know for a fact 2008 was not a
pretty year for Joe as he tried to be ethical and a journalist. The
two were not rewarded on the left. So when someone tells me about Joe's
latest column -- for the last years -- I just roll my eyes and know he
suffered (and suffered unfairly) in 2008. But there is no lifetime hall
Joe has an intensely idiotic column
that would be embarrassing from a 'journalist' like Air Berman but is
shameful from Joe. Joe's all Chuck E. In Love on Hagel. And rewriting
history in the process. Because US President Barack Obama might
nominate Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, a lot of whoring's taking
place and Joe is just an embarrassment. Here is Chuck Hagel as seen by
the Democratic left in 2004:
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel used to be chairman of ES&S. He
became Senator based on votes counted by ES&S machines.
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, long-connected with the Bush family,
was recently caught lying about his ownership of ES&S by the Senate
7. Senator Chuck Hagel was on a short list of George W. Bush's vice-presidential candidates.
deal with Joe's nonsense. Vote Vets is a joke and will always be a
joke. It's 'membership' is a joke because people join after having been
misled and then find out that it's nothing but a Democratic Party
organ. And after they leave, it turns out that they're still counted as
a member. Vote Vets does nothing to help veterans, it does a lot to
provide cover for Democrats. If Ari Berman was citing them as
reputable, you wouldn't be surprised but Joe?
top of that, Joe wants you to know that Hagel is qualified because
Hagel was in the military. If that's qualified, then Joe is not
qualified to speak because he wasn't in the military and he's of the age
that he could have volunteered to go to Vietnam. So by his logic,
maybe he should just be quiet.
Today? Gregg Zoroya (USA Today via WTLV) reports
approximately 50% of US service woman deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan
self-disclose that they were sexually harassed while deployed and
approximatly a quarter of the women also self-disclose having been
sexually assaulted while deployed. Melissa Jeltsen (Huffington Post) explains
"Researchers contacted 1,100 women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan
and asked them questions about sexual assaults and harassment while
deployed." You'll note that Joe Conason and Michael Hirsh avoid this
issue -- even though the assault has been an issue for some time, even
though addressing it and changing the tone is one of the major roles
of the Secretary of Defense. Joe and Michael are too busy scratching
their crotches to actually think what the Secretary of Defense does.
do get that right? We also get that the Secretary of Defense is not
deciding wars. That's the President's job. Hirsh and Conason want you
to believe that Republican Chuck Hagel is an oracle and seer. How about
we deal with reality?
Chuck Hagel is too old
for the job and he brings nothing to the job that's different than what
Robert Gates did. I know Leon Panetta and I fear, honestly, for Leon's
health. He's had to knock himself out in this position. I blame Gates
for that because Gates didn't do half of what was needed. Didn't even
try. That doesn't mean Panetta should be graded on a curve. But it is
why I say that the position, right now, needs to be going to someone
younger than might be expected. It needs youth and energy and it needs
someone not afraid to shake things up to force change. How does Hagel
provide any of that? (He doesn't.)
Conason seem unaware of the actual duties of the Secretary of Defense.
Maybe that's why they fail to note DoD's release, last week, of [PDF
format warning] the "Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies
The report notes that there was a 23% increase in rapes reported when
compared to the last annual report (and the report notes that many rapes
go unreported). 51% of women and 10% of men surveyed reported being
the victim of sexual harassment. There are a number of disturbing
details in the report -- hopefully the House Armed Services Committee
will hold a hearing next month on the report because there are a number
of issues that US House Reps Loretta Sanchez, Susan Davis, Chellie
Pingree and Niki Tsongas have asked about before (and usually been
denied answers on -- such as how many restricted rape reports become
unrestricted). But I'm especially bothered by what DoD says happened
with 27 people who were found by the Command to be guilty of rape or
assault. I'm bothered by the 'punishment' they received which doesn't
seem sufficent to me and I believe that this needs to be explained in a
full hearing. For example, I'm sure a lot of rapists would love it if
being found guilty of rape just meant that they were kicked out of their
So what's in Hagel's background
that tells us he's going to address this issue? That he has the desire
to? That he has the energy to?
Hagel is from
the same square box thinking as Robert Gates. Barack Obama needs to go
bold with this decision because 'safe' choices -- standardized DC
'leadership' think -- has not resulted in changes for those issues, nor
for the suicide crisis, nor for homeless veterans of today's wars. The
overall rate for homeless veterans has fallen. But the rate for
veterans of today's wars has increased. UPI reports
today that the number of Afghanistan War veterans alone -- just that
one war -- who are homeless had doubled in since 2010. You can say,
"Veterans, that's a VA issue!" No, it also has to do with what
information and resources service members are made aware of before they
become veterans. These are all serious issues and they're not addressed
or even noted in passing in the superficial writing of Conason and
If you're not weighing those issues,
you're not talking about the post at hand. You may be drooling over
Chuck Hagel. Certainly Joe Conason appears to when he writes, "Already
he has felt obliged to apologize for a nasty remark he once made in
reaction to President Clinton's nomination of James Hormel as the first
openly gay U.S. ambassador." As Greg Sargent (Washington Post -- I'm surprised too but glad to be surprised by Sargent), Hagel's remarks were
"Ambassadorial posts are sensitive. They are representing America. They
are representing our lifestyles, our values, our standards. And I think
it is an inhibiting factor to be -- openly aggressively gay like Mr.
Hormel -- to do a better job.""
That's not a nasty remark,
it's a bigoted remark. As Sargent also noted, Hormel has never received
an apology from Hagel. Hagel only made his public 'apology' when this
became an issue in the news cycle. In addition, he was against ending
Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It would appear for Chuck Hagel to be
comfortable as Secretary of Defense, we would need to build a time
machine for him, first, so it could be 1952 all over again. And Joe's
working overtime to paint Hagel as the victim of a neocon plot but,
reality, Steve Clemons (The Atlantic) reports
that neocon Zalmay Khalilzad
is endorsing Hagel.
is not qualified. Two Democrats who are would be: Susan Rice and
Patrick Murphy. For all the reasons Rice was wrong for the State Dept,
she's right for the Defense Dept. Someone young and not afraid to shake
things up or ruffle feathers is needed at this point because there
needs to be a change in the culture of the Pentagon itself. Rice's
record indicates she would be effective, she would go after logical
goals in a variety of ways -- including inspired and inventive means.
Patrick Murphy is a former member of the US House of Representatives and
also an Iraq War veteran. He too would shake things up. We've seen
that in his ability to bond with other veterans to fight real issues --
health care, benefits, discrimination. His has not been the typical
path of a veteran who goes to Congress. After Rice and Murphy, the most
obvious choice would be a medical doctor with training and experience
in sucicdes and/or assaults. These issues have got to be taken care
of because the US military is not healthy until they are. Allowing the
military to remain unhealthy is not only abuse, it puts them and the
general society at risk.
When Hirsh and
Conason want to leave the kiddie pool and talk about real issues in the
grown up world, we'll gladly welcome them over. In the meantime,
they're lovely cheerleadrs for Hagel but they're not offering anything
of depth or value. And speaking of superficial, Joe Conason should
dwell in writer's hell for including Vote Vets' ridiculous statement
that Hagel would "put troops first." I'm not able to think of any
Secretary of Defense who doesn't make that claim -- even Donald Rumsfeld
makes that claim. What a stupid remark, what an insult to the veterans
that this passes for 'leadership' from Vote Vets. That's the job of
the Secretary of Defense. Again, Joe should dwell in writer's hell for
terms of reference are very broad, but the essential points, as set out
by the Prime Minister and agreed by the House of Commons, are that this
is an Inquiry by a committee of Privy Counsellors. It will consider the
period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the
run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath.
We will therefore be considering the UK's involvement in Iraq, including
the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as
accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that
can be learned. Those lessons will help ensure that, if we face similar
situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to
respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best
interests of the country."
The Inquiry committee members are Sir John Chilcot (Chairman), Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sir Martin Gilbert, Sir Roderic Lyne and Baroness Usha Prashar.
Inquiry took evidence over a number of months, with as many hearings as
possible held in public. The first round of hearings began in autumn
2009 and continued into early 2010. After a break for the general
election, the Inquiry resumed its public hearings in June for a period
of five weeks. The Inquiry held its final round of public hearings
between 18th January - 2nd February 2011. The Inquiry intends to deliver
its report as soon as possible (see the homepage).
The Inquiry committee intends to include in the report all but the most
sensitive information essential to our national security. The report
will then be debated in Parliament.
For more information, see the following sections:
and Ford Rojas report that David Cameron's government is refusing to
release certain documents that are likely to detail how then-Prime
Minister Tony Blair made a deal with Bully Boy Bush to go to war on Iraq
before he ever consulted Parliament. Military Families Against the
War's Reg Keys is quoted stating, "The report was supposed to be
published in 2011, when it was still a very hot potato, but by the time
we eventually see it people might think it was all a long time ago and
it doesn't really matter any more." Surprisingly, the normal chatty,
can't stop talking about himself Tony Blair has no statement posted at his online office