Baghdad Burning, a blog written by an Iraqi woman during the course of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, has had its first update since 2007.
We learned that you can be floating on a sea of oil, but your people can be destitute. Your city can be an open sewer; your women and children can be eating out of trash dumps and begging for money in foreign lands.
We learned that justice does not prevail in this day and age. Innocent people are persecuted and executed daily. Some of them in courts, some of them in streets, and some of them in the private torture chambers.
We are learning that corruption is the way to go. You want a passport issued? Pay someone. You want a document ratified? Pay someone. You want someone dead? Pay someone.
We learned that it’s not that difficult to make billions disappear.
The accounting of the financial cost of the nearly decade-long Iraq War will go on for years, but a recent analysis has shed light on the companies that made money off the war by providing support services as the privatization of what were former U.S. military operations rose to unprecedented levels.
Private or publicly listed firms received at least $138 billion of U.S. taxpayer money for government contracts for services that included providing private security, building infrastructure and feeding the troops.
Ten contractors received 52 percent of the funds, according to an analysis by the Financial Times that was published Tuesday.
The No. 1 recipient?
Houston-based energy-focused engineering and construction firm KBR, Inc. (NYSE:KBR), which was spun off from its parent, oilfield services provider Halliburton Co. (NYSE:HAL), in 2007.
The company was given $39.5 billion in Iraq-related contracts over the past decade, with many of the deals given without any bidding from competing firms, such as a $568-million contract renewal in 2010 to provide housing, meals, water and bathroom services to soldiers, a deal that led to a Justice Department lawsuit over alleged kickbacks, as reported by Bloomberg.
The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.
A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.
Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.
“They worked hand in hand,” said General Muntadher al-Samari, who worked with Steele and Coffman for a year while the commandos were being set up. “I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centres. They knew everything that was going on there … the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture.”
Washington Post: *crickets*
One chilling moment in the film comes in an interview with retired General Anthony Zinni, a former commander in chief of US Central Command. In August 2002, the Bush-Cheney administration opened its propaganda campaign for war with a Cheney speech at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. The veep made a stark declaration: “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” No doubt, he proclaimed, Saddam was arming himself with WMD in preparation for attacking the United States.
Zinni was sitting on the stage during the speech, and in the documentary he recalls his reaction:
It was a shock. It was a total shock. I couldn’t believe the vice president was saying this, you know? In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD, through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program. And that’s when I began to believe they’re getting serious about this. They wanna go into Iraq.
That Zinni quote should almost end the debate on whether the Bush-Cheney administration purposefully guided the nation into war with misinformation and disinformation.
But there’s more. So much more. The film highlights a Pentagon document declassified two years ago. This memo notes that in November 2001—shortly after the 9/11 attacks—Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with General Tommy Franks to review plans for the “decapitation” of the Iraqi government. The two men reviewed how a war against Saddam could be triggered; that list included a “dispute over WMD inspections.” It’s evidence that the administration was seeking a pretense for war.
A defense contractor whose subsidiary was accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to torture detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has paid $5.28 million to 71 former inmates held there and at other U.S.-run detention sites between 2003 and 2007.
The settlement in the case involving Engility Holdings Inc. of Chantilly, Va., marks the first successful effort by lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers to collect money from a U.S. defense contractor in lawsuits alleging torture. Another contractor, CACI, is expected to go to trial over similar allegations this summer.
The payments were disclosed in a document that Engility filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission two months ago but which has gone essentially unnoticed.
Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.
The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. But with more than 300 drone strikes and some 2,500 people killed by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military since Mr. Obama first took office, the administration is still pushing to make the rules formal and resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about exactly when lethal action is justified.
Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.
Yes, after 300 strikes and 2,500 dead, Obama and his team are still debating when drone strikes are OK and when not.
“You pay $300,000 to buy a post as a security chief or military commander of a neighbourhood for a year and you have to get your money back. It’s like an investment. But you can never trust anyone in this country – they take your money and a year later they conspire against you and throw you in jail. They are like wolves.”
One of his subordinates explained how the officers procured their positions. “The commander of the district buys his post from the politicians or the office of the commander-in-chief. Then the commander rents the post of interrogation officer to his juniors for $10,000 to $15,000 per month, depending on the area. For a Sunni neighbourhood you have to pay a lot of money; for Shia not that much, because most of the arrests take place in the Sunni areas. Then you get your money back from the detainee.
“Sometimes you get really lucky and actually detain someone who is in al-Qaida, and then you can get your full investment in one go: you arrange for him to escape for half a million dollars.”
Kuwaiti prisoner Awdh Al-Shimri caught by Iraqi and US soldiers is made to clean out his dead comrades’ corpses when he finds a machine gun. He promptly uses it on his captors crippling or killing the cameraman. Voices are heard talking in Iraqi Arabic and US English.
Obama DOJ lawyer Marty Lederman, for instance, announced: because of secrecy powers, “we’re in armed conflicts with some groups the American public doesn’t know we’re in armed conflict with“.
You know how every time Michele Bachmann opens her mouth it’s kind of exciting because you never know what’s going to come out, but then it’s also terrifying because you’re worried whatever she says will be taken seriously? Well, brace yourselves because today she’s dropped a real doozy: she thinks the people of Iraq should pay us back for all of the money we spent invading them.
Using data from the National Priorities Project, ThinkProgress calculated ten investments America could’ve afforded if it didn’t spend $113 billion — the allotment made in Fiscal Year 2011 — on the war in Afghanistan. Each one of these policy options represents an equivalent $113 billion cost:
– Provide 57.5 Million Children With Low-Income Health Care For 2011
– Provide 23 Million People With Low-Income Health Coverage In 2011
– Give 20.2 Million $5,500 Pell Grants To Students In 2011
– Provide 14.35 million Military Veterans With VA Medical Care In 2011
– Give 14.7 million Children Head Start Funding In 2011
– Give 14.26 Million Scholarships To University Students In 2011
– Employ 1.93 million Firefighters In 2011
– Hire 1.75 Million Elementary School Teachers In 2011
– Hire 1.65 Million Police Officers In 2011
– Equip 67.8 Million Households With The Ability To Use Wind Power In 2011
– Equip 25.39 Million Households With The Ability To Use Solar Photovoltaic Energy In 2011
Plans to exploit Iraq’s oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world’s largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.
The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain’s involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair’s cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
The defector who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted for the first time that he lied about his story, then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war.
“Hundreds of the leaked war logs reflect the fertile imagination of the torturer faced with the entirely helpless victim – bound, gagged, blindfolded and isolated – who is whipped by men in uniforms using wire cables, metal rods, rubber hoses, wooden stakes, TV antennae, plastic water pipes, engine fan belts or chains.”
Today, WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of documents that give insight into what coalition forces experienced from 2004 to 2009.
From the official leak site, WikiLeaks claims the logs account for “109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 ‘civilians’; 23,984 ‘enemy’ (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 ‘host nation’ (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 ‘friendly’ (coalition forces).”
A standing order, known as Frago 242, directed coalition military personnel that no investigations were necessary if an Iraqi citizen was being tortured by an Iraqi official. Though coalition troops in many cases tried to persuade Iraqi officials to reprimand their security forces for torture, often times the Iraqis simply covered it up, and in one log were heard to say, “keep quiet because the Americans might hear his screams”.
Imagine if, an hour from now, a robot-plane swooped over your house and blasted it to pieces. The plane has no pilot. It is controlled with a joystick from 7,000 miles away, sent by the Pakistani military to kill you. It blows up all the houses in your street, and so barbecues your family and your neighbours until there is nothing left to bury but a few charred slops. Why? They refuse to comment. They don’t even admit the robot-planes belong to them. But they tell the Pakistani newspapers back home it is because one of you was planning to attack Pakistan. How do they know? Somebody told them. Who? You don’t know, and there are no appeals against the robot.
Now imagine it doesn’t end there: these attacks are happening every week somewhere in your country. They blow up funerals and family dinners and children. The number of robot-planes in the sky is increasing every week. You discover they are named "Predators", or "Reapers" – after the Grim Reaper. No matter how much you plead, no matter how much you make it clear you are a peaceful civilian getting on with your life, it won’t stop. What do you do? If there was a group arguing that Pakistan was an evil nation that deserved to be violently attacked, would you now start to listen?
The last US combat brigade in Iraq has left the country, seven years after the US-led invasion.
The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, began crossing by land into Kuwait in the early hours of Thursday, a military spokesman said.
Some 50,000 US troops will remain until the end of 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests.
A further 6,000 support troops will be in Iraq until the end of the month, when US combat operations will end.
Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) drew criticism and a call for his resignation Friday after saying at a party fundraiser that the United States was on the wrong side of history with its conflict in Afghanistan, a military fight he called "a war of Obama’s choosing."
"This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in," Steele said in a speech Thursday night in Connecticut in which he slammed President Obama’s military strategy.
"It was the president who was trying to be (too) cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan," Steele said, according to a video of his remarks that was circulated by Democrats on Friday. "Well, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan?"
Steele, seeking to clarify his remarks, said Friday afternoon that, "There is no question that America must win the war on terror."
He did not, however, correct his factual error about the war’s start.
I’d wonder how many people in the US would answer “Obama” when asked “who started the war in Afghanistan?”….
For several years, Afghan police recruits under the tutelage of private U.S. government contractors couldn’t understand why their marksmanship never improved.
The answer became clear earlier this year. Italian contractors also helping to train Afghan volunteers showed them that the sights on their AK-47s and M-16s had never been adjusted.
“We’re paying somebody to teach these people to shoot these weapons, and nobody ever bothered to check their sights?” Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said, after relating that story at a hearing Thursday.
To McCaskill, who chaired the hearing of the Senate Contracting Oversight panel, it illustrated why the U.S. has spent more than $6 billion on private contractors, but the police-training program remains rife with problems.
“It is an unbelievable, incompetent story of contracts,” she said. “For eight years we have been supposed training the police in Afghanistan. We’ve flushed $6 billion.”
Kelly Dougherty – then executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War – blamed the behavior of soldiers in Iraq on policies of the US government.
“The abuses committed in the occupations, far from being the result of a ‘few bad apples’ misbehaving, are the result of our government’s Middle East policy, which is crafted in the highest spheres of US power,” she said.
An update on that video released earlier today by Wikileaks, which shows US occupying forces shooting and killing civilians—including two Reuters journalists—in Baghdad. Wikileaks has released additional photographs and video that provide more background. These include interviews with survivors of the attack: a widow and her two children. And, above, one of the last two photos taken by war photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen before he was shot by American airmen during the 2007 incident.
Investigators looking into corruption involving reconstruction in Iraq say they have opened more than 50 new cases in six months by scrutinizing large cash transactions — involving banks, land deals, loan payments, casinos and even plastic surgery — made by some of the Americans involved in the nearly $150 billion program.
Some of the cases involve people who are suspected of having mailed tens of thousands of dollars to themselves from Iraq, or of having stuffed the money into duffel bags and suitcases when leaving the country, the federal investigators said. In other cases, millions of dollars were moved through wire transfers. Suspects then used cash to buy BMWs, Humvees and expensive jewelry, or to pay off enormous casino debts.
Western producers haven’t had access to oil fields in southern Iraq since 1972, when the country nationalized production including concessions owned by the companies now known as BP, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon.
The contracts awarded in two auctions, which pay a per-barrel fee for development work rather than granting a share in the production itself, will cost the companies a total of about $100 billion to develop deposits, Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said in December. Iraq, with the world’s third-largest oil reserves, will earn about $200 billion a year.
A group led by BP, which vies with Shell as Europe’s largest oil company, will receive $2 billion per year in fees to develop the Rumaila field. A Shell-led group will get $913 million and a group led by Exxon, the largest U.S. oil company, will receive $1.6 billion per year. Each calculation is based on the agreed-to per-barrel fee times the maximum production level.
Well them time for a banner:
A 2003 BBC story cast doubt on claims that Iraq could deploy WMDs within 45 minutes. UN weapons inspector David Kelly, revealed as the source, died mysteriously shortly thereafter. It seemed that if foul play was involved, it was the extensive public hounding that led to his apparent suicide. By imposing a 70 year gag on evidence relating to his death, however, the British government perhaps reveals more than a state secret could ever hide.
Tony Blair has said he would have invaded Iraq even without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and would have found a way to justify the war to parliament and the public.
The former prime minister made the confession during an interview with Fern Britton, to be broadcast on Sunday on BBC1, in which he said he would still have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
“If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” Blair was asked. He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]“.
A company paid more than $8 billion by the United States military to feed soldiers in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan has been charged with fraud.
Public Warehousing Company, a Kuwaiti company now known as Agility is alleged to have overbilled the United States in its contract to distribute food to soldiers. CBS News reported on the ongoing investigation two years ago
“This indictment is the result of a multi-year probe into abuses in vendor contracts in the Middle East involving the illegal inflation of prices in contracts to feed our troops,” said Criminal Chief F. Gentry Shelnutt, the current Acting U.S. Attorney for the case.
Peter W. Galbraith, an influential former American ambassador, is a powerful voice on Iraq who helped shape the views of policy makers like Joseph R. Biden Jr. and John Kerry. In the summer of 2005, he was also an adviser to the Kurdish regional government as Iraq wrote its Constitution — tough and sensitive talks not least because of issues like how Iraq would divide its vast oil wealth.
Now Mr. Galbraith, 58, son of the renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith, stands to earn perhaps a hundred million or more dollars as a result of his closeness to the Kurds, his relations with a Norwegian oil company and constitutional provisions he helped the Kurds extract.
In the constitutional negotiations, he helped the Kurds ram through provisions that gave their region — rather than the central Baghdad government — sole authority over many of their internal affairs, including clauses that he maintains will give the Kurds virtually complete control over all new oil finds on their territory.
Mr. Galbraith, widely viewed in Washington as a smart and bold foreign policy expert, has always described himself as an unpaid adviser to the Kurds, although he has spoken in general terms about having business interests in Kurdistan, as the north of Iraq is known.
So it came as a shock to many last month when a group of Norwegian investigative journalists at the newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv began publishing documents linking Mr. Galbraith to a specific Norwegian oil company with major contracts in Iraq.
Some officials say that his financial ties could raise serious questions about the integrity of the constitutional negotiations themselves. “The idea that an oil company was participating in the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution leaves me speechless,” said Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, a principal drafter of the law that governed Iraq after the United States ceded control to an Iraqi government on June 28, 2004.
This is how an American soldier is made.
For 27 months, Ian Fisher, his parents and friends, and the U.S. Army allowed Denver Post reporters and a photographer to watch and chronicle his recruitment, induction, training, deployment, and, finally, his return from combat. A selection of photos from Ian’s journey are posted below.
The story was written by Kevin Simpson with Michael Riley and Bruce Finley. It was reported by Riley in Colorado and at Fort Benning, Ga., Finley at Fort Carson and in Iraq, and photographer Craig F. Walker throughout.
The multimedia project, including all the photos, video and special features, can be viewed at www.denverpost.com/americansoldier.
June 24, 2007. 8:27 a.m. Day Three of basic training: The new soldiers are issued their M-16s. Ian held his awkwardly at first until receiving instructions. Then he became playful – after the drill sergeant passed – quietly making machine-gun noises as he pretended to fire.
A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”
In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into the country on Prince’s private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.