Category Archives: Iraq

>Trading One Republican Palace For Another

>The latest news from Baghdad concerns the inauguration of the beleaguered $700 million, 104-acre military base “embassy” inside the Green Zone.

This is the same military base “embassy” that was the subject of an angry letter from Rep. Henry Waxman when the building’s construction went over budget and behind schedule. The thing was built by private contractor First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co., which of course received a no-bid contract after the U.S. State Dept. waived a law requiring open and competitive bidding.

First Kuwaiti GT&C then found itself under criminal investigation for gross human rights abuses it perpetrated while building our U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

We should be so proud. It is, to quote Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, “a symbol of the deep friendship between the two peoples of Iraq and America.”

Indeed what a perfect symbol it is.

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Filed under Baghdad Embassy, Iraq

>Today Is Different

>From Inside Iraq blogger Dulaimy, on the aftermath of the shoe incident:

Around 12:30 p.m. several vehicles loaded with Iraqi soldiers accompanying two or three buses stopped in mid of the square and tried to close it (like every day) but they couldn’t.


Drivers refused to obey, saying we are tired of closed roads.

The horns of tens of cars were loud, angry drivers yelling at soldiers who picked up their rifles trying to stop the cars that refused to stop.


Shots in the air and pointing rifles to vehicles failed, the convoy had to park in another place.


They convoy wanted to park in the mid of the circle because the soldiers wanted to talk and discuss something in mid of the square… imagine.


The drivers made it and the military saw, for the first time I think, a mass anger for blocking roads.


I have seen this square almost every day during the last four years and nothing like this happened.

And there’s more

University students rallied for Zaidi in Fallujah on Wednesday, drawing the attention of U.S. forces.

Students raised their shoes and threw rocks at American soldiers, who reportedly opened fire above the crowd. Protesters said that indirect fire wounded one student, Zaid Salih. U.S. forces haven’t confirmed the account.

Still more:

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s parliament speaker announced his resignation Wednesday after a parliamentary session descended into chaos as lawmakers argued about whether to free a journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush.

Iraq descends into chaos. No one could have anticipated that ….

Meanwhile, some of our idiot media–this one from the “liberal” NPR–calls the Iraqis “ingrates”:

WILLIAMS: But on a serious level, how many American lives have been sacrificed to the cause of liberating Iraq? How much money has been spent while they’re not spending their own profits from their oil? American money. So I just think it’s absolutely the act of an ingrate for them to behave in this way. Just unbelievable to me.

You know, we could always …. LEAVE.

Just sayin’ ….

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Filed under Iraq, shoe incident

>Those Aren’t Chocolates And Roses

>[UPDATE]:

The New York Times reports:

He also called the incident a sign of democracy, saying, “That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves,” as the man’s screaming could be heard outside.

Uh … okie dokie.

Pay no attention to the screaming protester.

Oh and I’d love to see someone try this in the U.S. The only people allowed close enough to the president for the past eight years have been loyalty-oath-signing supporters of the Republican Party.

Enough with the lies.

————————–

President Bush ducks as angry Iraqi throws shoes at him and yells, “This is a goodbye kiss, you dog!”

I guess it’s safe to say that Muthathar al Zaidi will be getting a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay for his trouble.

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Filed under Iraq, President Bush

Iraq Cancels No-Bid Oil Contracts

Say goodbye to those no-bid contracts for Iraq’s oil that western oil companies snapped up earlier this summer:

Iraq Cancels Six No-Bid Oil Contracts

By ANDREW E. KRAMER and CAMPBELL ROBERTSON
Published: September 10, 2008

An Iraqi plan to award six no-bid contracts to Western oil companies, which came under sharp criticism from several United States senators this summer, has been withdrawn, participants in the negotiations said on Wednesday.

Iraq’s oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, told reporters at an OPEC summit meeting in Vienna on Tuesday that talks with Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, Total, BP and several smaller companies for one-year deals, which were announced in June and subsequently delayed, had dragged on for so long that the companies could not now fulfill the work within that time frame. The companies confirmed on Wednesday that the deals had been canceled.

While not particularly lucrative by industry standards, the contracts were valued for providing a foothold in Iraq at a time when oil companies are being shut out of energy-rich countries around the world. The companies will still be eligible to compete in open bidding in Iraq.

I criticized these deals here when they were first announced in June. They further proved my suspicion that we are in Iraq for oil; it was especially suspicious that the exact same Western oil companies that Saddam Hussein had thrown out of the country 36 years ago—Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP—were the same companies now negotiating for no-bid oil contracts. Just a coinky-dinky, I’m sure!

Of course, oil and natural gas deals are still being signed at a fast and furious pace. Most noteworthy is that Iraq’s Oil Ministry signed a major deal with China’s national oil company, China National Petroleum Corporation. Our little Iraq War has worked out very well for the Chinese. Maybe they’ll send us a thank you note.

Meanwhile, an interesting little sidebar to all of this comes buried at the end of the story:

Senator Schumer said Wednesday that he would propose an amendment to the defense appropriation bill in Congress that would specify that should Iraq sign any petroleum contracts before passing the [hydrocarbon] law, profits from those deals would go to defray United States reconstruction spending in Iraq.

I’m wondering how fair that is. One the one hand, Iraq is sitting on $79 billion in oil profits while we’re sinking deeper into debt.

On the other hand, they certainly didn’t ask us to invade their country and ruin their infrastructure and stoke the fires of sectarian violence that left Iraq teetering on the precipice of civil war.

Plus, we’ve done a piss-poor job of reconstruction–and yes, I know security has been the main stumbling block hampering this effort. But still, corruption has been rampant , war profiteering and fraud by contractors like KBR has added considerably to the cost. So who should pay for this? The U.S. taxpayers? The Iraqis? Should KBR and Halliburton give back some of the billions of taxpayer dollars they stole misused?

Maybe we should just send the bill to George and Dick.

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>Horses Mouth

>John McCain thinks Iraq is “a peaceful and stable country now.” Seriously. Follow the link and listen to the clip yourself.

Let’s take a look at this ”peaceful and stable country,” shall we?

It’s been two days since Rania Ibrahim, 15, was detained by Iraqi Security Forces when they discovered the explosive packed vest around her chest in the northern city of Baqouba.

At first she told police that she had no idea where the vest came from, the next day she told me her husband’s relatives gave it to her but she didn’t want to die, she didn’t know what the vest was.

Today her story changes yet again. She tells us that her husband told her about the beauty of death, convinced her that paradise awaited her if she killed herself and others for the cause of Al Qaida in Iraq.

Teenage suicide bombers are a sign of a peaceful, stable country?

Here’s a story from August 26:

BAGHDAD — A bomb killed at least 25 people in an attack on a group of Iraqi police recruits outside a police station in northern Diyala Province on Tuesday, Iraqi security officials said.

Here’s one from August 15:

Iraq bombing kills 15

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber killed 15 people Sunday night, including at least six U.S.-backed Sunni Arab fighters, near a crowded outdoor market in east Baghdad, security officials and local leaders said.

I know, I’m cherry-picking the bad news. There’s been good news, too. Like the one about the world’s biggest Ferris Wheel coming to Iraq. Some folks wonder how it will turn without electricity:

I can not describe the pain of my heart when I read the news. I even can not my feelings now. I wish I can cry. I wish I had power to do something, to change this ill reality. We don’t have power in our houses and our great officials plan to build the biggest Ferris wheel.

Yesterday was one more hot and moist day of August. We don’t have an air conditioner in our house because we don’t have enough power. I can buy four but they will be not more than a decoration. We use the air cooler which is not really effective but it’s better than nothing. I spent the day at home. My two years old son was crying all the time because the poor child can not stand the hot weather. I tried to keep him always near the air cooler but its never enough. My son is only one child. We have hundreds of thousands all over Iraq.

Instead of building new power plants, our government is planning to waste our money by doing useless projects. With the beginning of 2008, The PM said that 2008 would be the year of building and reconstruction. It looks that the rebuilding of our government means only changing the pavements and planting few flowers here and there.

That’s some peaceful, stable country you have there, Senator McCain.

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Filed under Iraq, John McCain

KFC-Fallujah Hoax

I saw this video when it made the rounds last week. It shows U.S. troops, supposedly in Fallujah, ordering buckets of chicken in the city’s new Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. Fox News saw it too, and turned it into a news story about how well things are going in Iraq–so well, in fact, that even war-torn Fallujah has embraced America’s fast food restaurants.

Well, hold the hot wings, soldier. It’s starting to look like it’s a hoax:

Last Thursday, Fox News ran a brief segment on a KFC restaurant opening in Fallujah before segueing into an interview with former CENTCOM Commander Tommy Franks, who was asked to comment on the presence of an American fast food restaurant in the notoriously violent Iraqi city. “Do they have a drive-thru window?” Steve Doocy asks. “They get in and get out. And, so far, they do it safely,” answers Brian Kilmeade:

Now, call us cynical, but something about that segment seemed off — oddly upbeat even. On Friday I put in a call to KFC headquarters to ask if the Fallujah chicken joint is the real deal. KFC told me they were looking into the matter. Today, Yum! Restaurants International spokesman Christophe Lecureuil wrote me back:

I understand you wanted some details about the store in Falluja that looks like a KFC. This store is not approved by KFC International and we have working with the US Military to warn the troops of this situation.

Not surprisingly, TPM goes on to report that “the story seems to have popped up two weeks ago in a report by a Marine public information officer.”

Of course.

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Filed under FOX NEWS, Iraq, media

>Book Your Next Vacation In Baghdad!

>It is easy to understand the frustration Iraqis have with the opening of a 5-star hotel in Baghdad’s Green Zone, when ordinary citizens still lack electrical power, running water, hospitals, security, and all of the other comforts we take for granted here in America.

Writes one Iraqi journalist:

I wish I have the magical stick. I would bring all the Iraqi and American officials and force them all to live one full week in Shoula neighborhood, one of the poorest neighborhoods of Baghdad. I wish they try for seven days managing their life with ten Amperes power for only five hours a day, without clean bottled water and of course with the ration food cards. Do you think they would ever think about building a five star hotel?

Of course not. It’s clear that this 5-star hotel is purely for visiting dignitaries, businessmen, and Western officials who anticipate doing business in Iraq as things settle down on the security front. Surely no one expects top officials with ExxonMobil, Chevron or BP to stay in any old, war-battered hotel, do they? Perish the thought.

This is our priority. It has always been our priority. We don’t care if the citizens of Baghdad have reliable power or fresh running water or garbage pick-up. But come hell or high water, Rex Tillerson, Ray Hunt, Jeroen van der Veer, David O’Reilly and their minions must have luxurious accommodations when they visit Iraq to work on their contracts.

Free hand of the market. Huzzah!

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Filed under Iraq

>Breaking: Blackwater Banned From Iraq

>Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of thugs and mercenaries:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Iraq’s Interior Ministry has revoked the license of Blackwater USA, an American security firm whose contractors are blamed for a Sunday gunbattle in Baghdad that left eight civilians dead. The U.S. State Department said it plans to investigate what it calls a “terrible incident.”

Earlier this year I attended a workshop with an Iraq War veteran, a National Guardsman. He told me when U.S. troops would get to a street or area they needed “cleared” (his word, not mine), something that the military is forbidden to do, they’d call in the guys from DynCorp and Blackwater and have them do it. I have no way of verifying what he told me, but let me add he was very pro-war, and believed in the mission. He’d be there now if his wife hadn’t told him she’d divorce him if he reenlisted.

In all of this talk about the troop “surge” and numbers of soldiers deployed, no one has ever mentioned all of the private contractors serving in Iraq. This CNN story puts the number at 25,000, but last December the Washington Post reported on a new military census that put the total closer to 100,000:

There are about 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq, not counting subcontractors, a total that is approaching the size of the U.S. military force there, according to the military’s first census of the growing population of civilians operating in the battlefield.

[ … ]

In addition to about 140,000 U.S. troops, Iraq is now filled with a hodgepodge of contractors. DynCorp International has about 1,500 employees in Iraq, including about 700 helping train the police force. Blackwater USA has more than 1,000 employees in the country, most of them providing private security. Kellogg, Brown and Root, one of the largest contractors in Iraq, said it does not delineate its workforce by country but that it has more than 50,000 employees and subcontractors working in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. MPRI, a unit of L-3 Communications, has about 500 employees working on 12 contracts, including providing mentors to the Iraqi Defense Ministry for strategic planning, budgeting and establishing its public affairs office. Titan, another L-3 division, has 6,500 linguists in the country.

The Pentagon’s latest estimate “further demonstrates the need for Congress to finally engage in responsible, serious and aggressive oversight over the questionable and growing U.S. practice of private military contracting,” said Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who has been critical of the military’s reliance on contractors.

Indeed, for those serious about ending this war, instead of demanding an end to funding, what if we demanded an end to private contractors? Because short of reinstating the draft, I just don’t see how we could make up for the loss of those additional 100,000.

Unless some pro-war conservatives out there want to enlist?

* crickets *

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Filed under Blackwater USA, DynCorp, Iraq, military contractors

>GOP Fingers In Iraqi Pie

>Maybe this is how our government has always worked. Maybe I’m being naive. But personally I am alarmed to learn that a GOP lobbying firm has taken on former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi as a client, and they are using former administration security officials to lobby Congress and the Washington media elite to promote Allawi over current Iraqi PM al-Maliki.

Well, that explains why I’ve been hearing so much anti-Maliki rhetoric in the MSM lately.

Allawi, of course, was the interim Iraq PM who was defeated in the 2005 elections. Iraqi voters gave Allawi a purple finger in 2005 but democracy, shemocracy. Who cares about elections? He’s hired a bunch of former Bush Administration officials to help him get back into power where he thinks he belongs.

But gee, wasn’t it just last week that President Bush said this:

“Prime Minister Maliki’s a good guy, good man with a difficult job and I support him,” Mr. Bush said in a speech to military veterans.

“And it’s not up to the politicians in Washington, D.C., to say whether he will remain in his position,” Mr. Bush said. “It is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy and not a dictatorship.”

Democracy, fuck yeah! Ain’t it grand!

Maybe President Bush can to tell Philip Zelikow, former foreign policy consultant to Condoleezza Rice, to quit meddling in the affairs of the “democratically elected” Iraqi government, then. Zelikow works for the GOP lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, (yes, as in former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the firm’s founder), which has a six-month, $300,000 contract to promote Allawi.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote, Zelikow has been hawking his pro-Allawi message all over ABC News –without revealing he was paid by Allawi to do so. Ooops.

And then there’s this little gem from Thursday’s press gaggle:

Q Gordon, can I ask — a Republican lobbying firm, Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, has now signed on as a client to former Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi, and they’re promoting him as a potential alternative to Maliki. They’re starting to lobby members of Congress and their staff, saying Maliki is basically not the answer.

Is the White House concerned about allies, Republican lobbyists, allies of the White House lobbying against Maliki, essentially? And is the White House at all involved in this — publicly saying you support Maliki — privately, are you giving any sort of a wink and nod to Allawi that he could be an alternative?

MR. JOHNDROE: To your second part, no. Decisions about the Iraqi government are going to be made by the Iraqis in Iraq. This is an elected government right now. If former Prime Minister Allawi is interested in become Prime Minister again, that would be an issue that he would need to take up with the Iraqi people, probably best taken up in Baghdad rather than Washington, D.C. So I just —

Q But if the President keeps saying that Maliki is the answer and he thinks he’s got the best chance of political reconciliation, why would Republican lobbyists want to undermine what the President is saying publicly?

JOHNDROE: Maybe it’s a really good contract.

Maybe it was a good contract? Are you kidding me? If it’s private enterprise, it’s OK? If someone is making money off of it, it’s OK? Even if it undermines our foreign policy, even if it tries to unseat an “elected” head of state in the “sovereign” nation of Iraq? If these were Democrats pushing for this kind of regime change, we’d be hearing calls of treason. But it’s Republicans, and someone is making $300,000 off of it. IOKIYAR.

It gets better. It’s since come out that the person working Allawi’s account at Barbour, Griffith & Rogers is none other than Robert Blackwill, former presidential envoy for Iraq and the guy who basically created the Iraqi government. From Friday’s press gaggle:

Q What does that say about the President’s policy that one of his former deputy national security advisors is now working against Maliki?

MR. JOHNDROE: Far be it for me to judge why people sign contracts for whatever reason. I’m sure they have a desire to help out their client. But they’re former administration officials; administration policy remains unchanged. There is a sovereign, elected government with Prime Minister Maliki and the presidency council. They are working to come up with some sort of political accommodation in Baghdad and that’s where things stand in reality on the ground.

Yeah, well, until a bunch of Bush allies are successful in unseating that government.

You can only ignore the ramifications of this for so long. Either President Bush is lying, and he doesn’t support Maliki but he wants to continue with the charade that Iraq has some kind of sovereign, democratically elected government, or he can’t control his own party. Either way, it doesn’t look good.

[UPDATE]: Thanks for playing along, CNN:

Lineups for today’s TV news shows:•CNN’s “Late Edition,” 10 a.m. — Guests: Former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat; Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican; Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, No. 2 U.S. military commander in Iraq; former senator Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat.

(h/t, (Atrios)

[UPDATE 2]: TPM has tracked down all of BGR’s Iraq-related lobby contracts and it’s a bit of a shocker. Even more shocking:

It’s not just Barbour Griffith & Rogers, and it’s not just Ayad Allawi. Ten different U.S. firms are registered through the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Act database as having active contracts with various Iraqi factions.

BGR is by a large margin the powerhouse firm representing Iraqi clients. Holding a contract that will be worth $100,000 come September 9 is the much smaller Focus on Advocacy and Advancement of International Relations, run by a certain Muthanna al-Hanooti out of Dearborn and Washington D.C. Since September 13, 2006, Hanooti has represented the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest constituent part of the larger Sunni parliamentary bloc, known as the Tawafuq.

So Iraq’s Sunni’s are also lobbying the U.S. Congress and media. I have to wonder if this has had any bearing on the anti-Shia rhetoric we’ve been hearing in the press.

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Filed under Ayad Allawi, Barbour, Griffiths and Rogers, Iraq, Maliki

>Brookings Two Iraq Account Challenged

>Interesting. The O’Hanlon/Pollack account of the glorious success of President Bush’s surge in Iraq has been challenged by someone who actually accompanied them on their tour. Anthony Cordesman, military analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joined the Brookings Institute’s Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack on their recent trip to Iraq and said he did not see the same progress that they recounted so glowingly in their infamous New York Times editorial. Yeah, that same editorial that had bloggers like Bill Hobbs, Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt screaming “I told you so!!!”

ThinkProgress has the video and written report:

I did not see any dramatic change in Iraq during this trip. Many of the points, the problems which exist there are problems which have existed really since late 2004, if not earlier. I didn’t see a dramatic shift in the ability of the Iraqi’s to reach the kind of compromise that is almost the foundation of moving forward. […]

But I also want to stress another thing. I did not see success for the strategy that President Bush announced in January.

I’m sure the media, and right-wing bloggers, are going to be all over this story.

** crickets ** crickets ** crickets **

I have to wonder how many people have to die to save the egos of a handful of desperately wrong people? What a tremendous waste.

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Filed under Anthony Cordesman, Iraq, Ken Pollack, Mike O'Hanlon