Friday, August 24, 2007

Iraqi Ministry and the Black Market Weapons Deal

It seems that this little story was mostly ignored by the mainstream media. Do you remember hearing of the $40 million black market arms deal between Iraqi and Italian partners for over 100,000 weapons? I'm sure the Fox News conservative pundits covered this, no?

Associated Press:

The Associated Press has learned that Iraqi government officials were involved in the deal, apparently without the knowledge of the U.S. Baghdad command — a departure from the usual pattern of U.S.-overseen arms purchases.

Why these officials resorted to "black" channels and where the weapons were headed is unclear.

The purchase would merely have been the most spectacular example of how Iraq has become a magnet for arms traffickers and a place of vanishing weapons stockpiles and uncontrolled gun markets since the 2003 U.S. invasion and the onset of civil war.

Some guns the U.S. bought for Iraq's police and army are unaccounted for, possibly fallen into the hands of insurgents or sectarian militias.

Some guns? SOME GUNS?! I don't think 190,000 missing assault rifles and pistols qualifies as "some". In my book, that qualifies as a "shitload".

"They really have no idea where they are," Rachel Stohl, a senior analyst at the Centre for Defence Information, told the Washington Post, which reported the GAO's findings. "It likely means that the United States is unintentionally providing weapons to bad actors."
Bad actors? Does that mean we'll see Steven Sagal or David Caruso roaming the streets of Baghdad with an AK-47 in their hands? I think you should replace "bad actors" with "the fucking insurgency", Ms. Stohl.

Here's the kicker: "...weapons distribution was rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly in 2004 and 2005. During that period, security training was led by General David Petraeus, now the top US commander in Iraq. "

And Petraeus, our fearless leader, the man who wrote the book on counterinsurgency, the savior of Iraq who'll give his long-awaited
assessment of the results of the surge in September (which will be written by the White House), blames the missing weapons on a clerical error.

"Some percentage" of weapons the U.S. military provided to the Iraqi army and Iraqi police units were not tracked by serial number because there were no procedures in place to do so within the Iraqi units, Petraeus said in an interview broadcast [August 7th] on Fox News Radio's "Alan Colmes Show."

From a practical standpoint, Petraeus added, it was more important to get the weapons to the Iraqis as they started to enter the fight against a strong insurgency than it was to keep meticulous records.

Sure, why do we need to keep track of 190,000 weapons with silly little things like serial numbers? That's just a little technicality, right? I mean, why bother writing stuff like that down? There's no possible way that if you give an Iraqi officer or policeman a weapon, that he'll just turn around and sell it to the nearest local militia warlord to whom he's more loyal, right? That just doesn't happen, does it?

190,000 missing weapons chalked up to bookkeeping deficiencies... unbelieveable. Were these the same accountants in charge of the
$9 billion missing in Iraq back in 2005 that's still unaccounted for?

What a bunch of clowns.

Advertising the War

Freedom's Watch, a right wing group headed by former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, is bankrolling a $15 million, five-week advertising campaign putting pressure on lawmakers whose backing of President Bush's Iraq war strategy may be wavering.

...The ads will run in 20 states and will urge viewers to ask their member of Congress to stand by Bush's plan. Organizers of the effort would not identify the targeted lawmakers, but a review of the initial TV ad placements — done by a group opposed to the war — shows most of them are in Republican congressional districts.

Take a look at this ad. Iraq war veteran John Kriesel lost both legs in a blast near Fallujah. When asked, Fleischer didn't even know the name of the soldier who appears in his ad.

This is the height of insanity: advertisements selling the Iraq War in swing states attempting to persuade the local constituancies to pressure their Congressional leaders into siding with Herr Bush's failed war policy. Reminds me of propaganda movies like this:

Looking at Mr. Kriesel, I understand his great sacrifice and his anger against those who attacked us. It's just a shame that Herr Bush and his cronies decided to sidetrack us into a war for oil, profit and power and therefore pulled out of Afghanistan before the job was done.

They speak of supporting the troops, but
delay in providing them the tools they need to make them safe. Bush authorizes a commission on veteran's care and fixing Walter Reed hospital, but then puts the Dole-Shalala Commission recommendations on the backburner. And they have absolutely no problem with using the military as a backdrop for their latest photo ops while opposing a Democratic effort to restore full educational benefits for returning veterans.

But using war heroes, families of fallen soldiers and images of planes running into the World Trade Center Towers to further disinform the misguided public into connecting Iraq with 9/11 -- using that as pro-war advertising is just beyond my comprehension and makes me sick.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The War As They Saw It

This was in the New York Times Op-Ed this past Sunday and I failed to mention it earlier.
Written by seven members of the US Army 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad, it does nothing but tell us the truth and shows us the reality on the ground in Iraq. Please do yourself a favor and read the whole piece (linked above).

Here's an excerpt:

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

I wonder how soon it'll be before the warmongers start swiftboating these seven brave soldiers?

UPDATE: It didn't take long for me to find
Tucker Carlson's take on this op-ed. The piece, by the way, was a response to assessments made in a previous op-ed by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack; and when [Carlson] interviewed Pollack, he did not challenge Pollack's opinions on whether progress is being made in Iraq, but he readily distrusts what actual military on the ground have to say.

Who are you going to believe? O'Hanlon and Pollack, or your lying eyes?

Daily Show: Barack Obama Interview

The Vietnam Comparison

Chickenhawk George had the nerve to compare the Iraq War to Vietnam. No, not in the sense that both were mindless wars which were/are unwinnable, but that if we were to pull out of Iraq now, it would have the same consequences as Vietnam.

Of course, cherrypicking bits of the Vietnam War while paying no attention to history, chronology or reality just doesn't work.

Watch as David Schuster donned his hipwaders and slogged through the "rhetoric". In my world, the definition of rhetoric is "bullshit".

Courtesy of Crooks and Liars

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Presidential Advance Manual

Sensitive - Do Not Copy

I love living in a Democracy, don't you? Too bad we're slowly losing ours.

Herr Bush doesn't like dissent. We all know that. We can see it in his face when he is questioned by an occasional reporter who hasn't checked his testes at the door before walking into the White House Press Room. And we've all heard the stories of protesters being arrested by his henchmen (formerly known as local police and the Secret Service) at events just for wearing anti-war shirts or holding anti-Bush signs.

But who knew to what detail they would try to prevent Herr Bush from even having these protesters in view? Now we have proof.


A White House manual that came to light recently gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of "deterring potential protesters" from President Bush's public appearances around the country.

...The manual offers advance staffers and volunteers who help set up presidential events guidelines for assembling crowds. Those invited into a VIP section on or near the stage, for instance, must be " extremely supportive of the Administration," it says. While the Secret Service screens audiences only for possible threats, the manual says, volunteers should examine people before they reach security checkpoints and look out for signs. Make sure to look for "folded cloth signs," it advises.
Why bother? Can Monkey Boy actually read?

They even have pointers on "rally squads" who should physically block the protesting and drown out the dissenters with chants of "USA! USA!" so Herr Bush doesn't see it.

The only reason we find this out is because of the lawsuits involving the people who were arrested.

For example, "Jeffery and Nicole Rank, who attended [a] Charleston event wearing shirts with the word "Bush" crossed out on the front; the back of his shirt said "Regime Change Starts at Home," while hers said "Love America, Hate Bush." Members of the White House event staff told them to cover their shirts or leave, according to the lawsuit. They refused and were arrested, handcuffed and briefly jailed before local authorities dropped the charges and apologized. The federal government settled the First Amendment case last week for $80,000, but with no admission of wrongdoing."

The White House of course, could not discuss the manual because it's an issue in two other suits.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hail Caesar?

Digby over at Hullabaloo brings up a group called Family Security Matters. ... Very scary... you should go to their website and peruse. Anyway, he's been getting emails about the group and how they've been scrubbing their articles. He copied one off the Google cache (because nothing ever goes away) and posted it to his site so we could all see how insane some people are.

Here are a couple of excerpts, but you should
read the whole thing:

Excerpts from:
Conquering the Drawbacks of Democracy
By Philip Atkinson

The inadequacy of Democracy, rule by the majority, is undeniable – for it demands adopting ideas because they are popular, rather than because they are wise...

The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead...

...By elevating popular fancy over truth, Democracy is clearly an enemy of not just truth, but duty and justice, which makes it the worst form of government. President Bush must overcome not just the situation in Iraq, but democratic government.

When the ancient Roman general Julius Caesar was struggling to conquer ancient Gaul, he not only had to defeat the Gauls, but he also had to defeat his political enemies in Rome who would destroy him the moment his tenure as consul (president) ended.

Caesar pacified Gaul by mass slaughter; he then used his successful army to crush all political opposition at home and establish himself as permanent ruler of ancient Rome...

...If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestiege while terrifying American enemies.

He could then follow Caesar's example and use his newfound popularity with the military to wield military power to become the first permanent president of America, and end the civil chaos caused by the continually squabbling Congress and the out-of-control Supreme Court...

This is the mentality that's out there. I suggest we all send Mr. Atkinson an e-mail or two responding to this article and others he may have written if you care to look up further lunatic rants.
Either he'll admit to writing it, or he'll deny it because it's no longer on the website, in which case you can call him a coward for not admitting to something he wrote. I haven't been able to find a direct e-mail, but I think you can get something to Mr. Atkinson

Question Everything

“Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.” - Euripides

Let's see what's been happening for the last couple of days, shall we?

The new Brownie: Mine Safety Czar Richard Stickler's credentials have come into question amid the Utah mine disaster that not only has failed to reach six trapped miners in its 15th day, but has also taken the lives of three of the nine rescue workers attempting to reach them.

"After his nomination was twice rejected by [a Republican led] Senate, President Bush gave Richard Stickler the mine safety job with a recess appointment."

Should we really be surprised by yet another Bush recess appointee's lack of competence? "Stickler used to be a mining executive who - according to various media reports - ran mines which had several fatalities and ' incident rate that was often twice the national average.'"

White House misses subpoena deadline... again!: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) revealed that the White House had missed its 2:30 PM deadline to turn over documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding legal justifications for the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program. The Committee had already pushed back the original July 18 deadline twice after the White House requested more time.

During questioning, Sen. Leahy revealed that during the 109th Congress, they were about to issue subpoenas but that Vice President Cheney had barred then Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter from doing so. Great separation of powers we had during the Republican led Congress, huh?

Oh, by the way, Cheney is still claiming that his office is not part of the Executive Branch.

Another Category 5 Hurricane: Hurricane Dean hit the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula at 165 miles per hour. But don't worry, I'm sure global warming isn't to blame for the ever increasing force of hurricanes.

Sen. Levin wants Maliki out: After a three day trip to Jordan and Iraq, to view the effects of our "successful surge" first hand, Sen. Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has apparently found his gonads and called for the ouster of Iraq Prime Minister Norui al-Maliki.

"I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government," Levin said.

Of course, those who continue to march in lockstep with Bush and the Republican Party, seize upon any positive statements from lawmakers returning from Iraq to portray Democratic leaders as wedded to failure there while the Democratic Party grows increasingly divided over the war's progress.

At times, such statements have been clearly taken out of context. When Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) returned from Iraq and said, "We're making some measurable progress," the GOP declared that the Democratic leadership had splintered on the war. What Republicans left out was the rest of Durbin's remarks: "We cannot win this war militarily. We just can't send enough troops."

At this point, can you trust ANY Republican in office to actually be realistic or truthful?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Stop Buying Products Made In China!

Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Over the past few months, products originating in China have been getting tagged for the dangers they pose. It started with a seafood scare in which caricogens and antibiotics used on the fish are not approved. Toothpaste had been contaminated. Then we came across not one, but two different children's toy recalls, in which lead paint and loose magnets were discovered.

Now this:

BLOOMBERG NEWS: A global manhunt launched by Johnson and Johnson has tracked to China counterfeit versions of an at- home diabetes test used by 10 million Americans to take sensitive measurements of blood-sugar levels.

Potentially dangerous copies of the OneTouch Test Strip sold by J and J's LifeScan unit surfaced in American and Canadian pharmacies last year, according to federal court documents unsealed in June. New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J and J, the world's largest consumer-health products maker, learned of the counterfeit tests after 15 patients complained of faulty results last September.

Tipped off by J and J, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a nationwide consumer alert in October without disclosing the link to China. While no injuries were reported, inaccurate test readings may lead a diabetic to inject the wrong amount of insulin, causing harm or death, the agency said.

Two questions: 1) Why is it that Johnson and Johnson, and not the US government, is doing the investigation and 2) why did we just find out about this problem when complaints started last SEPTEMBER?!

Call me cynical, but could it be that since China basically has us by the balls financially, our government didn't want to cause waves? It is so comforting to know that our well-being is first priority with our leaders.

Stop buying products made in China. Do you think I'm kidding?
Read this: Tainted Chinese Ginger Target of Recall
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspects less than 1 percent of the food imported into this country. While FDA officials could not be reached for comment Monday, they have previously said they try to make the most of limited resources by focusing on high-risk items and products from countries with a history of problems. "

Does Congress Know What It Votes On?

When the Patriot Act was introduced in Congress at the height of terrorist fears after 9/11, Congress hastily signed it into law without so much as thoroughly reading the 300 page document. You'd think they would have learned their lesson.

NY Times: Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records...

...“This shows why it is so risky to change the law by changing the definition” of something as basic as the meaning of electronic surveillance, said Suzanne Spaulding, a former Congressional staff member who is now a national security legal expert. “You end up with a broad range of consequences that you might not realize.”

...The legislation gives the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales broad discretion in enacting the new procedures and approving the way surveillance is conducted.

Although the mistake was initially made, Congress will seek to revise the surveillance legislation as soon as it returns from recess, even though it is only valid for six months. Administration officials said that "the Democrats were simply raising theoretical questions based on a harsh interpretation of the legislation."

Well, can you blame them? Even if the intent were pure, this administration has shown time and time again that when they have a choice to make, they will invariably take the low road when it comes to these types of matters.

There should never be any sort of rush when enacting any laws, especially those infringing on civil rights and liberties. I wonder when Congressional leaders will actually begin reading what they sign? It's akin to signing contracts with small print loopholes and getting screwed over and over again.