Friday, February 09, 2007

The Lie Factory

AP reports that DefSec Robert Gates says today he's got "pretty good" evidence that Iran is supplying the Iraqi insurgency with more sophisticated IEDs. [Those Sunni insurgents who would just assume kill the Iranians as look at them.] He says ""I think there's some serial numbers, there may be some markings on some of the projectile fragments that we found." 'I think?' That's good enough for me, let's nuke 'em!

I don't know, sounds kind of flimsy but whatever may be lacking evidence-wise can always be manufactured later on. Gates also said the second aircraft carrier now in the Gulf was there to "reassure" our allies, not to attack Iran. I'm sure two aircraft carrier battle groups poised to pounce on Iran at the slightest provocation is providing many hours of restful uninterrupted sleep to the tiny Gulf States sitting in the line of fire. Oh, but I forgot, they have new Patriot missile batteries to protect them. When these Patriot missiles aren't shooting American fighters jets out of the sky, they sometimes come close to hitting missiles. ( So Raytheon says, anyway.)

Gates' latest bogus assertions come on the heels of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's head honcho, doing his level best to keep the bellicose rhetoric at fever pitch telling a captive audience of air force commanders yesterday that any attack by the US on Iran would cause "a response from all sides by Iranian people on their interests all over the world." To put a finer point on this threat, the Revolutionary Guards kept everyone on their toes by shooting off some more land to sea missiles claiming that they could "hit different kinds of big warships throughout the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman, and the northern Indian Ocean." (Would those "big warships" be US aircraft carriers by any chance?)

All of this saber rattling is all really no biggie, though, as Gates explains: "It's just another day in the Gulf." Yes, just another day of throwing wild accusations around with no basis in fact to create a causus belli for another war. Just like they did before the Iraq invasion, W. and company are putting this stuff out there and seeing what sticks. Like, for instance, the story going around that insurgents who abducted and killed five American soldiers on Jan. 20 in Karbala were trained by the Iranians. There's not a shred of evidence behind this claim, but as the NYT reports, "Officials said the sophistication of the attack astonished investigators, who doubt the Iraqis could have carried it out on their own -- one reason a connection to Iran is being closely examined."

Somehow the Iraqi insurgents have managed to fight the most powerful and advanced military in history to a stand-still for almost four years, yet American investigators are "astonished" that they were able to get hold of some uniforms that looked vaguely general issue, had stun grenades and had fake IDs. The Iraqis have never been known to dress up in phony uniforms or present fake IDs, who else could it have been but the Iranians? What isn't being "closely examined" is why Iranian agents would help Iraqi Sunnis, their sectarian enemies, launch such an audacious raid on American troops. I know it doesn't make any sense, but they've got evidence, you betcha'.

Do they? Remember last week when military officials in Baghdad were going to show reporters all the evidence they had about Iranian interference in Iraq but then had to cancel the big show for lack of any? The latest NIE says, contrary to W.'s assertions about clear Iranian meddling, that Iraqi sectarian fighting is "self sustaining" and that Iranian and or Syrian influence is "not likely to be a major driver of violence." [Where's Douglas Feith and his Lie factory -- Sorry, "Office of Special Plans" -- when you need him?] Mark Hosenball writes in this week's Newsweek that "three U.S. officials familiar with unpublished intel said evidence of official Tehran involvement [in Iraq] is 'ambiguous,' in the words of one of the officials."

Gates keeps saying there's no "intention" to go to war with Iran but there's nothing like stumbling into a war by accident to clear up all that ambiguity, is there? Because if both sides keep pushing, something is bound to go wrong. One of these days, the Iraqis or the Americans are going to arrest, kidnap or kill the wrong Iranian diplomat or launch a raid on the wrong Iranian "liaison office" and all hell is going to break loose. This, I guess, would suit Cheney and his minions’ just fine.

Another shock and awe extravaganza on every 24-hour news channel would sure put an end to any talk in Congress of voting for resolutions against the surge. Hell, it might even put an end to all these investigations going on in Congress looking into the administration losing billions of dollars on Iraqi reconstruction. Cheney's former company Halliburton would sure breath a sigh of relief. Mission accomplished!

Condi Rice: Liar, liar, pants on fire.

The WaPo reports:

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was pressed yesterday on whether the Bush administration missed an opportunity to improve relations with Iran in 2003, when Tehran issued a proposal calling for a broad dialogue with the United States, on matters including cooperation on nuclear safeguards, action against terrorists and possible recognition of Israel. Although former administration officials have said the proposal was discussed and ultimately rejected by top U.S. officials, Rice, who was then national security adviser, said she never saw it." [Yeah right!]

I found it interesting Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "I think I would have noticed if the Iranians had said, 'We're ready to recognize Israel.' . . I just don't remember any such thing."

Since when has the recognition of Israel ever been the main precondition to talks with Iran? Her contention that she wouldn't have paid attention to any proposal that didn't start with the recognition of Israel is completely outrageous. Particularly coming from her, one of the main architects of the Iraq war, a war that's cost us 3,100 American lives defending a country that also refuses to recognize the existence of Israel. [Talk about a red herring!]

Rice claims, "I have read about this so-called proposal from Iran. We had people who said, 'The Iranians want to talk to you,' lots of people who said, 'The Iranians want to talk to you." Yet, apparently, she never bothered to ask anyone where this information was coming from? And, naturally, it never dawned on her to ask what the Iranians were offering either.

Glenn Kessler writes that in the document, "Iran offered to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, 'decisive action' against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending 'materiel support' for Palestinian militias and accepting a two state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Imagine what the Middle East would look like today if she had taken the slightest interest in acting on the Iranian offer. Oh right, her story is that she never saw it. One of her staff members, Flynt Leverett, says he saw the document floating around Foggy Bottom but she's says, "First of all, I don't know what Flynt Leverett is talking about, quite frankly. Maybe, I should ask him when he came to me and said, 'We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it.'"

You know, she's got a good idea there. I'm thinking perhaps it might be informative for the Foreign Relations Committee to ask Leverett what he did or didn't tell her about the Iranian proposal and then have her back to testify again -- this time under oath. Being compelled to tell the truth just might help to refresh her memory on the issue of what she did and didn't see. I remember her saying repeatedly after 9/11 that there wasn't anyway she could have known terrorists would use planes as missiles -- until, that is, it came time to testify under oath at the 9/11 commission hearings. [Inthesetimes]When it became clear to her that she just might perjure herself repeating that particular bald-faced lie, she quickly changed her story and said she'd "misspoke."

To even a five year old it should be obvious she is not telling the truth about what she knows about this crucially important document. Leverett says he saw the two page document in a fax machine, but it wasn't his job to put it on her desk. That job would have fallen to rabidly pro-Israel Elliot Abrams, who is her national security adviser in charge of the Middle East and what is laughingly called "democracy promotion." [You're doing a hecuva of job Elliot!] Leverett says, "If he did not put it on her desk, that says volumes about how she handled the issue."

Yes, we're paying dearly for the way she handled the issue and she should be held accountable. Bring her back up to the Hill and make her testify under oath. Too many lives have already been lost not to know the truth of the matter. Did the Bush administration have a chance to make a "grand bargain" with Iran? Did they blow it or did they simply decide confrontation was the better option? Many thousands of more lives might be in the balance if this administration continues on its present bellicose course, we have a right to know. The Senate has a duty to the American people to get to the bottom of this.

[See an interview with Leverett on the document at the Council on Foriegn Relation's web site.]

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fallujah I, the Blackwater ambush and Henry Waxman

Yesterday, Henry Waxman had the family members of the four Blackwater USA employees killed in Fallujah in 2004 -- Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague -- up to the Hill to testify about their wrongful death lawsuit against Blackwater. In their testimony in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee the four women alleged that Blackwater failed to provide their loved ones with adequate protection to ensure their safety. They said the men were sent into the hornet's nest of Anbar undermanned and lacking sufficient armor for their vehicles. Blackwater even skimped on giving them maps which led to them to drive right into an ambush before they even knew what was going on.

Despite Rep. Darrell Issa's [Of Gray Davis re-call fame] dismissing the testimony of the distraught family members as a stunt to gain attention for their suit, Waxman's investigation, according to the FT, "lies at the heart" of the family's lawsuit. It's all very complicated, but what's at issue is whether companies that the pentagon gave no-bid contracts to, ripped off the American taxpayer to the tune of millions of dollars.

Along with Waxman's investigation the FT reports today that "The US military is weighing up whether to force Halliburton to pay back what could amount to tens of millions of dollars in fees it charged the army to pay for private security contractors in Iraq."

Specifically, the army wants to know if Halliburton paid private security subcontractors, which would have violated the terms of its $16 billion logistics contract, known as a Logcap. "Under the terms of the Logcap, Halliburton is prohibited from using security contractors, such as Blackwater." Yesterday in testimony before Waxman's oversight committee, Tina Ballard, deputy assistant secretary of the army, admitted that an army probe had found that KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, had subcontracted Blackwater to protect another subcontractor, ESS, a food services company (a subsidiary of Compass of the UK), under a Logcap subcontract.

Got all that? No one else does, either. The more you go into this maze, the more it starts to resemble Kenny Boy's Enron corporate shell games.

The FT: "Henry Waxman . . . said that after three years investigating the [Fallujah] ambush, it was still unclear whether the men, who were working for ESS, were ultimately working under a contract held by KBR -- which would have violated contracting rules -- or Flour, another contractor, because Flour had offered conflicting information on the issue." [Note: The first person sent over to Iraq to oversee the fiasco was Jake Garner, a former executive of Flour.]

Waxman said: "It's remarkable that the world of contractors and subcontractors is so murky that we can't even get to the bottom of this, let alone calculate how many millions of dollars taxpayers lose in each step of the subcontracting process."

To say nothing of the lives lost in this one incident. Keep in mind that images of the contractor's burning corpses hanging from that bridge, in turn, led to calls for revenge from the pages of the Washington Times and other like minded right-wing outlets. [See my LTTE in the WaTi 4/6/04] Just four days later, under pressure from W.'s bloody minded base, an ill-conceived revenge assault was launched against Fallujah, [Now known as Fallujah I] which ended in a ignomious retreat and the deaths of 27 US service members. [No one knows how many Fallujians were killed.]

There are 100,000 private contractors roaming around Iraq, all of them operating under the different agendas of their various corporate masters, none of them beholden to any law. As Kathryn Helvenston, the mother of the one the Blackwater employees killed in Fallujah, told Waxman, "It's like the Wild West over there and there is no accountability."

Hopefully, now that there's a new sheriff in town, this all will change. The sooner the Democrats get to the bottom of this criminal contractor free-for-all in Iraq (and Afghanistan) the better. The cleansing effects of sunshine thrown into the dark recesses of W.'s dirty war should help to mitigate the painful hang-over we've all got coming.

[Read more about Blackwater and the Fallujah ambush at Frontline: Private Warriors]

See also Halliburton Watch

Note: What we need is an updated Public Utility Holding Company Act. According to ECD this 1935 New Deal law "Was designed to correct holding-company abuses in the form of nonuniform accounting standards, excessive charges to subsidiaries, obstruction of state regulations, and a growth that was unrelated to operating properties."

In other words: shell games. One way to deal with this shady contractor morass, is to outlaw it.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Senate debates W.'s fait accompli

The WaPo reports:

"A long-awaited Senate showdown on the war in Iraq was shut down before it even started yesterday, when nearly all Republicans voted to stop the Senate from considering a resolution opposing President Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional combat troops into battle. . . .The Senate's 49 to 47 vote last night to proceed to debate on Bush's new war policy fell 11 votes short of the 60 needed to break the logjam."

[Note: Inquier reports "All Philadelphia-area senators voted in favor of proceeding with debate except Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.)]

Eventhough the actual floor "debate" is bogged down, this dithering in the Senate has been going on since the 25th of January when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-9 to send a resolution to the floor condemning W.'s plans. Joe Biden said then that, "My intention was to send the first of many messages -- direct and unequivocal -- to the president: Stop what you are doing."

What has happened since then? Nada, zilch, nothing.

Meanwhile, as the Senate contiunues its pathetic pantamime, Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H) is helping to gum up the works by putting up hius own resolution which is meant to put everyone on record supporting the troops. Kind of like what happened with John Murtha back in June. A debate about withdrawl turns into a race to vote against buring the flag.

The WaPo reports that Gregg's proposal, "Would staunchly back the White House and the president's decision to boost troop strength in Iraq. It recognizes the power of the president to deploy troops and the 'responsibility' of Congress to fund them -- before stating that 'Congress should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of funds.' . . . Gregg appeared to struggle to define the purpose of his proposal, insisting at one point that it is vital to protecting U.S. troops but then acknowledging that none of the resolutions under consideration would have any impact."

That's the whole point right there. The Senate is living in some alternate universe where rules of order and deliberative edicate actually mean something. No matter what nonbinding resolution they come up with, the clock is ticking in Iraq. Since Joe Biden got his resolution passed out to the floor for debate on the 25th, 40 US soldiers have died in Iraq. The surge is already on. When is the Senate going to wake up?

Here is a partial list of US deaths since the 25th of Jan.


25-Jan-2007 Private 1st Class Michael Balsley Baghdad (east of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

25-Jan-2007 Sergeant Alexander H. Fuller Baghdad (eastern part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

25-Jan-2007 Corporal Mark D. Kidd Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire

25-Jan-2007 Private 1st Class Darrell W. Shipp Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

26-Jan-2007 Private 1st Class Nathan P. Fairlie Ba’qubah - Diyala Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

26-Jan-2007 Major Alan R. Johnson Muqdadiyah (Died in Balad) - Diyala Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

27-Jan-2007 Private 1st Class David T. Toomalatai Taji - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

27-Jan-2007 Lance Corporal Anthony C. Melia Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire

27-Jan-2007 Corporal Timothy A. Swanson Taji - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

27-Jan-2007 Sergeant Mickel D. Garrigus Taji - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

27-Jan-2007 Private 1st Class Jon B. St. John II Taji - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

28-Jan-2007 Chief Warrant Officer Cornell C. Chao Najaf (north of) Hostile - helicopter crash

28-Jan-2007 Specialist Carla J. Stewart Tallil - Dhi Qar Non-hostile - vehicle rollover (M-1114 HMMWV)

28-Jan-2007 Captain Mark T. Resh Najaf (north of) Hostile - helicopter crash

29-Jan-2007 Lance Corporal Adam Q. Emul Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire

30-Jan-2007 Sergeant Alejandro Carrillo Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire

30-Jan-2007 Sergeant Milton A. Gist Jr. Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

30-Jan-2007 Sergeant Corey J. Aultz Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire

31-Jan-2007 Sergeant William M. Sigua Bayji - Salah ad Din Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire

31-Jan-2007 Corporal Stephen D. Shannon Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - rocket attack

31-Jan-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire

01-Feb-2007 Sergeant Major Michael C. Mettille Camp Adder - Dhi Qar Non-hostile - illness - heart attack

01-Feb-2007 Private 1st Class Tyler Butler Baghdad Non-hostile - vehicle accident

01-Feb-2007 Hospitalman Matthew G. Conte Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire

01-Feb-2007 Private 1st Class David C. Armstrong Baghdad Non-hostile - vehicle accident

01-Feb-2007 Gunnery Sergeant Terry J. Elliott Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire

01-Feb-2007 Specialist Eric R. Sieger Buhritz - Diyala Non-hostile - vehicle rollover

02-Feb-2007 Specialist Alan E. McPeek Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire

02-Feb-2007 Private Matthew T. Zeimer Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire

02-Feb-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Taji (near) - Baghdad Hostile - helicopter crash

02-Feb-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (south of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

02-Feb-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (south of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

02-Feb-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Taji (near) - Baghdad Hostile - helicopter crash

03-Feb-2007 Staff Sergeant Ronnie L. Sanders Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

04-Feb-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Diyala province Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire

04-Feb-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (north of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

05-Feb-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire

06-Feb-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (southwest of) Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
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