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All The President’s Men

“These guys and gals make ordinary criminals feel squeamish”

By John S. Tully

The New York Herald Sun
October 27 2005

On one of the final episodes of HBO’s remarkable Six Feet Under, a character named Vanessa gently consoles the grieving sister of an Iraqi war veteran who has just committed suicide after losing many limbs. She tells the woman of watching her kids; sleeping; just being. Right then and there it seems to take the woman’s pain and turn it to something beautiful. There’s 2000 dead soldiers, sailors and Marines, thousands more injured for life, and countless dead and injured Iraqis.

It’s just getting to be too much for the American people.

America tortures and kills prisoners of war, lies about its soldiers’ deaths, allows its citizens to starve for days after a hurricane and produces its own news.
Meanwhile the press breaks a collective arm patting itself on the back for its gut-check Katrina coverage.

Too little and too late.

While we’re at war, a cadre of cowards has brazenly robbed the Treasury blind, mortgaging our great-grandchildren’s future as the last five years has been a cash-grab of epic proportions for the fat Republican-only lobbyists in Washington D.C.. As Mr. Bush completely alienated the rest of the free world, the un-free world got more dangerous. The Cowboy President didn’t want to use diplomacy when he could with North Korea so now they want their own reactor. Unfortunately, the intelligence agencies are in shambles, and Donald Rumsfeld’s “lighter, quicker, faster” military is decimated, demoralized and stretched dangerously thin. Meanwhile, China and Japan own much of our debt.

There is still a lack of adequate equipment for our troops on the ground in a war done so completely nearsightedly and on the cheap that families have to send goggles and boots to their children in Iraq and taxpayer-paid mercenaries/private contractors from companies like CACI make four times as much as the enlisted man. Meanwhile, Halliburton’s Kellogg Brown and Root and American oil companies are reaping windfall profits while heating-oil bills double for that widow in Detroit. Up on Capitol Hill, the Republican Senate leader Bill Frist is in serious legal trouble and House leader Tom Delay has now stepped down after being indicted in Texas… twice. The chief purchasing official for the United States of America you ask? Why, he’s just been frog-marched from his office in handcuffs for multiple counts of fraud on the federal government. During a so-called War on Terrorism the Federal Emergency Management chief gets his important job because he is a buddy of the old chief. The criminalization of politics?
These guys and gals make ordinary criminals feel squeamish.

So many troubling occurrences have in fact already gone down the memory hole so far this year that these cold winds of autumn will surely blow more truth away; too many stolen billions, too damn many lives. Somebody in The White House is going to jail for revealing a CIA agent’s identity or lying about it to investigators. The great New York Times helped to sell this war on stories by a reporter named Judith Miller who had sources like a fellow named Curveball, well known by international intelligence agencies to be a fabricator, Jordanian-convicted criminal and American advisor Ahmed Chalabi and the Vice-President’s chief advisor Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Mr. Chalabi was issued an arrest warrant last year by the Iraqi government but now he’s firmly in place again as leader of a Shiite Iraqi coalition. Curveball was last seen fleeing from a prison in Iraq and Ms. Miller went to jail for 89 days for not revealing her source to Independent Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. She was released after reaching a deal and revealed that Mr. Libby was one of her sources for the information about Mr. Wilson’s wife. She claims to have written it in her notes as Valerie Flame.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

This foul mess is greased by a Mainstream Media who butter Americans with a steady
diet of Paula Abdul-Tryst /Brain-Dead Woman /Missing Blond-Girl stories. Lately the press has been hammering home the notion that this leak of a C.I.A. agent’s name is a very complicated story. It’s not but one can understand why, to journalists like Andrea Mitchell and Tim Russert, it must seem complicated, because so many of them are such active participants in the Wink-Wink Washington Game that it completely clouds their judgment. The leak story is simple. It’s about the dirty politics of war.

Between President Bush telling Americans in a State Of The Union speech that Iraq was seeking uranium, and Condoleeza Rice talking that nuclear nonsense about not wanting to wait until we had a “mushroom cloud” in our skies, the deal was sealed to go to war.
In the end, this main reason for invasion, the imminent nuclear threat posed by Saddam and Iraq, was fabricated. Ambassador Joseph Wilson called the administration on this lie and they ruined his wife’s career in the C.I.A for revenge. Mr. Wilson had been sent by the C.I.A. to Niger Africa to see if Iraq had actually tried to get the specialized yellowcake uranium to make a nuclear bomb. He found no evidence of this, neither has anyone else, and he wrote an op-ed piece to this effect. The Bush Administration, in order to punish Mr. Wilson for revealing their big war lie, told some journalists on the White House beat that he had been sent there by his wife, C.I.A. agent Valerie Wilson, who had been undercover for years under the alias of Plame, and was now at headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

They were sure to get some so-called fair journalists like Evan Thomas of Newsweek to backhandedly trash Joseph Wilson’s integrity on John Donald Imus’ program and some politicians to label it simple partisanship. Don’t forget the Drudge/Rush/Freepers, they’re almost as mean and nasty as their heroes in the Oval Office, where wishful thinking and self-delusion rule the day; get in their way and you’ll pay. They’ll turn on anyone who disagrees with them. Ask Richard Clarke, Gen. Shinseki or Paul O’Neill.

Don’t worry, here comes mealy-mouth media-darlings David Brooks and Tom “Pakistani Cabdriver” Friedman to tell us a nice story that will make us feel better.

But now, even the administration’s personal water-carriers are starting to criticize the President over this latest Supreme Court debacle.

The president nominated an unqualified, lightweight, personal friend and advisor Harriet Meirs to the highest court in the nation and the right-wing is absolutely crushed. Like little children who aren’t getting what they thought had been promised, columnists George Will, Bill Kristol and the Republican activists are fuming and furious and beginning to go off-message.

Egads!

Their loyalty to this administration’s consistent and constant shenanigans is finally wearing thin. The very machine that keeps the disinformation going is breaking down.
It’s hard work these days for the White House to cover its tracks and they can’t even blame the Democrats. The first Court crisis began this presidency and this week’s indictments, the Meirs mistake, and the mess in Iraq signals the end.

Leandre Rice, a newly returned soldier from Iraq, came home with a skull fracture, vicious burns all over his body and no more eyesight. He’ll never see his twins born two months ago.

It’s too much for the American people; too many mistakes and too many lies.

As Mr. Libby wrote in a letter to Judy Miller while she was in jail: “It is fall now. … out West, where you vacation, the Aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them..”

Many of the the President’s men are starting to turn and it’s not going to be pretty.

© 2005 THE NEW YORK HERALD SUN

The Darkness Has Come

There are approximately 8.8 billion missing in Iraq; completely unaccounted for

THE DARKNESS HAS COME
BY JOHN TULLY
THE LOS ANGELES SUN
MARCH 25

Last year the oily and corrupt House majority leader, Congressman Tom DeLay, personally used the Department Of Homeland Security to track down and locate members of the Texas State Legislature who had fled to Oklahoma after Mr. DeLay tried to redistrict his home state into illogical shapes that were straight off of a sushi plate.

This week Mr. DeLay subpoenaed a brain-dead woman to Capitol Hill to score political capital from the religious and rigid right, and distract from his vast legal problems, including the illegal use of campaign funds and his current successful attempt to literally change the House’s ethics rules, written in secret.

Texas, of course, is where they execute retarded people and adolescents.

Irving Kristol’s son Bill, the neoconservative dreamer and top propagandist for the Iraq invasion since his co-founding of The Project For A New American Century, had his expert say on Fox News the other day. He claimed that one of the neurologists who had examined Terri Schiavo said: ” She can recover substantially if she gets the proper rehabilitation. ”

It almost makes you long for the days of uninterrupted Atlanta courtroom-killer news and video.

There are approximately $8.8 billion missing in Iraq; completely unaccounted for. The money was entrusted to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. Never one to miss an opportunity for irony, George W. Bush nominated yet another chief architect of the Iraq invasion, Paul Wolfowitz to run The World Bank. That’s a perfect triangle of failure with a secretary of state who did a miserable job advising Bush on National Security and an attorney general who tried to find legal loopholes in torture laws.

A recent document uncovered Halliburton’s newest overcharge of $108 million for Jordanian and Turkish fuel—”The cost data did not reconcile to KBR’s (Halliburton subsidiary) accounting” – and added to countless overcharges totaling close to two billion dollars. Meanwhile, Congress decides to investigate steroid use in professional baseball.

They must not know that Chandra Levy’s killer is still on the loose.

The media swine scoffed and smirked at veteran journalist Dan Rather’s final plea for courage as they ripped apart Michael Jackson for wearing pajamas and blanketed the airwaves with coverage of Martha Stewart. It’s always hard to figure out, week in and week out, who the biggest media weenie is. George Will and David Brooks both could hardly wait to make immediate cheeky/mealy-mouthed references to France in discussing the Syrian mess in Lebanon. Everyone in the cool kids media club was praising Bush for his bold leadership, though almost two months have gone by since the Iraqi election and the many sides are still fighting, and the country is a bloody mess.

Or is it the three-headed liberal weenie, The Evan Thomas/ Howard Fineman/ Chris Matthews Monster with their newest shtick, the just-so-wacky-it-might-work: “George Bush is an idiot-genius who had to lie to America to get us into a war to bring freedom to the Middle East.” Subtitle: “We won’t know for 50 years”

Talk about mission creeps.

In fact, all three men were performing it brilliantly last week, after about 20 minutes of adolescent discussion of Mr. Jackson’s wardrobe and Ms. Stewart’s homecoming, on radio legend Don Imus’ program. That hardly left them any time to discuss the brand-new appointment of America’s chief diplomat to the United Nations, John Bolton.

The little coverage and criticism the media did give the truly absurd nomination usually referred to a bad joke that Bolton had once told about cutting off the top floors of the UN building and it not mattering. But the consistently undiplomatic Bolton once seriously asserted, “We (United States) are the Security Council.” One of the few reporters left in Washington, Mark Shields, remarked that the nomination was “like naming Howard Stern as your chief of protocol or Mary Baker Eddy as your surgeon general.”

Back in the middle of 2003, before Jon Stewart was a big star, Chris Matthews was on The Daily Show and was asked about the presidential election and the long list of Democratic candidates. The war that Mathews had passive-aggressively cheer leaded had not been going well. The questions that he had failed to ask the politicians and leaders about the preparation and planning for the war were coming home to roost. With all his experience in “Wershington” as he calls it in his Pennsylvanian drawl, working for the late, great Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, among others, this would have been a perfect opportunity to educate the young people about the issues on a cool TV show and discuss the politics involved with them.

But Mr. Matthews tried to be hip and irreverent, and summarized the whole field of candidates by giddily telling Stewart that Congressman Dick Gephardt had big eyebrows.

Hilarious.

Tip O’Neill was probably rolling in his grave that summer night. And just about the same time out in Colorado, an old salty dog named Hunter S. Thompson was stewing about the sorry state of affairs in America.

The journalist and author fumed: “It is genuinely incredible. The U.S. Treasury is empty, we are losing that stupid, fraudulent chickencrap war in Iraq, and every country in the world except a handful of corrupt Brits despises us. We are losers, and that is the one unforgivable sin in America.

“Beyond that, we have lost the respect of the world and lost two disastrous wars in three years. Afghanistan is lost, Iraq is a permanent war zone, our national economy is crashing all around us, the Pentagon’s ‘war strategy’ has failed miserably, nobody has any money to spend, and our once-mighty U.S. America is paralyzed by mutinies in Iraq and even Fort Bragg.

“The American nation is in the worst condition I can remember in my lifetime, and our prospects for the immediate future are even worse. I am surprised and embarrassed to be a part of the first American generation to leave the country in far worse shape than it was when we first came into it. Our highway system is crumbling, our police are dishonest, our children are poor, our vaunted Social Security, once the envy of the world, has been looted and neglected and destroyed by the same gang of ignorant greed-crazed bastards who brought us Vietnam, Afghanistan, the disastrous Gaza Strip and ignominious defeat all over the world. The stock market will never come back, our armies will never again be No. 1, and our children will drink filthy water for the rest of our lives.”

He ended his diatribe by declaring “Big Darkness Come Soon”

The day after Thompson killed himself, the beat-up, piled-upon and tired-looking Mr. Rather declared simply and dramatically: “Gonzo is dead”

This fact was immediately evident upon watching the cable news channels.

CNN’s Judy Woodruff introduced two young women at computers who were reading weblogs to gauge the reaction to the sad news. One of the women stated that Thompson had basically pioneered the practice of Gonzo Journalism. Don Imus’ producer stooge Bernard McGuirk and sports stooge Sid Rosenberg just could not, for the life of them, figure out what all the fuss was about regarding Thompson’s death. “What did he ‘eva do?” chortled the pool-ball headed producer. “Who is this guy?” laughed Mr. Rosenberg.

But their questions would soon be answered by the newsbunnies at MSNBC who were broadcasting Live from the Studio with In-Depth coverage of the top story: The darkness had indeed come.

©2005 NY HERALD SUN

State Dept. Extends Blackwater Contract in Iraq

Raw Story

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By Stephen C. Webster

Published: September 2, 2009

The mercenary group formerly known as Blackwater International, which was banned from Iraq by its government after a Baghdad massacre which killed 17 civilians, will see its contract extended in the country by the U.S. State Department, according to a published report.

ABC News reporter Kirit Radia notes: “Sources say the department has agreed to temporarily continue using the subsidiary known as Presidential Airways to provide helicopter transport for embassy employees around Iraq until a new contract with another security company, Dyncorp International, is fully implemented. Presidential Airways is an arm of U.S. Training Center, which is a subsidiary of the company Xe, formerly and still commonly known as Blackwater.”

Controversy has surrounded the private security firm practically since it was founded, but erupted anew recently when former employees accused Blackwater’s founder and former CEO of murdering or facilitating the murders of other employees who were preparing to blow the whistle on his alleged criminal activities.

The sworn statements also say that founder Erik Prince and Blackwater executives were involved in illegal weapons smuggling and had, on numerous occasions, ordered incriminating documents, e-mails, photos and video destroyed. The former employees described Blackwater as “having young girls provide oral sex to Enterprise members in the ‘Blackwater Man Camp’ in exchange for one American dollar.” They add even though Prince frequently visited this camp, he “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men.”

One of the statements also charges that “Prince’s North Carolina operations had an ongoing wife-swapping and sex ring, which was participated in by many of Mr. Prince’s top executives.”

The former employees additionally claim that Prince was engaged in illegal arms dealing, money laundering, and tax evasion, that he created “a web of companies in order to obscure wrong-doing, fraud, and other crimes,” and that Blackwater’s chief financial officer had “resigned … stating he was not willing to go to jail for Erik Prince.”

The company was also allegedly involved in the planning stages of the CIA’s assassination program, which was reportedly never used, then scrapped by CIA chief Leon Panetta.

Prince has repeatedly insisted his company has done nothing wrong and Blackwater continues to fulfill its contracts with the United States government.

For the massacre of Iraqi civilians, five Blackwater guards were arrested and charged with manslaughter. A sixth guard flipped and agreed to testify against the others. Government informants later claimed the company tried to gather up and destroy weapons involved in the slaughter.

The State Department announced last January that it would not be renewing Blackwater’s contract for security services in Iraq when it was set to expire in May, however the Obama administration decided to extend it through Sept. 3, according to The Nation Jeremy Scahill.

ABC reported the new contract extension is for an unspecified amount of time and could end “within weeks or months.”

When it is finally allowed to expire, Blackwater’s involvement with Iraq will have ended, completely.

We are the most powerful nation in the world. There is no excuse, only corruption.

We are the most powerful nation in the world. There is no excuse, only corruption.

On a Plane Ride Home From Paris Sitting Next to a Douchebag With an Ed Hardy Shirt Reading Glenn Beck's Book

TEEVEE1

1441!

by John Tully
The New York Herald Sun
July 26, 2009


Whether it was Michael Wolff’s “piece” in Vanity Fair on Politico or the Paris tap water that produced the explosive diarrhea on a hot sweaty July night in the City of Lights, we’ll never know…

Time moves both slow and fast in these Dog Days of Summer and the memory hole of the past eight bloody years is fading and digging deeper.

I take you back to the city of D.C.

A few years ago…
A quaint city, soon to written about like Rome, gilded on their own lily and pathetic to boot.

Sucked in to television, watching the camera moves, editing, and heavy music to a story about a mom and a dad and a wife who lose their little/big man to a fiery explosion in Iraq. The soldier leaves a “just in case” final video for his bride, tells her of his deep love, and urges her to go on with life: “get married, have kids”  It’s a noble gesture from a brave young man and the camera cuts to the weeping widow watching the tape.

The evening news comes on and the 80 year-old man who marched against Iraq in a February freeze watches a report on two dead Marines and 17 Iraqi dead civilians . Remember seeing that look on the face of the Marines’ mother or the site of yet another widow with two babies that finally punches the gut.

At this point in the war,  President Bush hadn’t been to one funeral service for them.

Remember.

Remember banned television cameras at the arrival of the bodies from Germany, at the base in Delaware .

The cowering, obedient press corpse giving the President a free pass after 9/11 and the Administration using it to make the United States less safe, less secure, and spoil environmental and geopolitical progress for years to come.

Remembering Television and Freedom Fries and Terror Alerts here in Paris 6  years later, the mind once again boggles and crunches the serious, sad, mistaken war of choice that ignored all plans and warnings of consequences.

Powered by arrogance and breathtaking hubris and television’s Meet The Press and This Week With Will for the latest talking points of the day.

MR. RUSSERT: All right, this way: Should the blogs, talk radio, cable TV—should people lower their voices, and, and, and control their rhetoric?

Remember that very same week when the Vice-President poked a fat finger in the eye of Russia while the Bush Administration reflexively rejected the first written communication from Iran in seventeen years. Neither Vice President Cheney’s speech or the letter was ever mentioned on either program.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney had blown the cover of longtime C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame who it turns out was working on nuclear proliferation. Her contacts through front company Brewster Jennings were actively working the underground nukes world. That intel might have been helpful that very same week in dealing with Iran.

Instead, the latest Cool-Kids Media Club Memes emerged: “Anger on the Blogs”

That’s right. Three different allusions to blogs and anger on both Meet The Press and This Week complete with an obligatory question from Tim Russert to new/old ham Newt Gingrich.

Schmuck David Brooks, perpetual mealy-mouthed defender of the Bush administration throwing out his  shoulder shrugging off the incident at Haditha in front of two shocked Marines: Mark Shields and Jim Lehrer.

Remember when columnist Tony Blankley said the war protests were organized by the communist party and the Press corps labeled Al Gore as Crazy for his pre-war criticism about invading Iraq.
How about when war hero Max Cleland was derisively compared to both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in a television advertisement by his republican opponent, Saxby Chambliss during their Senate race? Mr. Cleland lost his legs and an arm during Vietnam but the republican claimed the democrat was soft on National Security. Mr. Chambliss sat out the war with a bad knee.

Go back in time and recall when Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz had no idea how many Americans had been killed in Iraq and called the idea of two hundred thousand troops needed in Iraq as  “wildly off the mark”

It’s apparent that there Was Not a massive intelligence failure and the administration indeed was warned about the vagueness of the information about Iraq.

Remember that classic “Everybody thought-even-France and Germany” song about W.M.D.’s.
The Memory-Hole pieces together the events of the past six years but can never illuminate fully how one of the most brilliant countries in history could now be cowardly defending war atrocities and blaming, as Mr. Blankley said that very same week about the incident at Haditha: “Over reporting by a gleeful media is more damaging than any single fact”

Come to think of it-maybe that gleeful, fluffy, Politico piece that completely failed to mention the publication’s Reagan connection was responsible for that gut bomb the other night.

Either way, I’m still sick as a dog.

JT

Paris, France

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The Crimes of George W. Bush [Video]

The Official Failures of Rebuilding Iraq

Official history details failures of rebuilding Iraq
Sunday, December 14, 2008
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BAGHDAD: An unpublished, 513-page federal history of the U.S.-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.

“Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience,” the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag – particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army – the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces – the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.”‘

Powell’s assertion that the Pentagon inflated the number of competent Iraqi security forces is backed up by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of ground troops in Iraq, and L. Paul Bremer 3rd, the top civilian administrator until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the U.S. government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.

The bitterest message of all for the reconstruction program may be the way the history ends. The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed.

By mid-2008, the history says, $117 billion had been spent on the reconstruction of Iraq, including some $50 billion in U.S. taxpayer money.

The history contains a catalog of new revelations that show the chaotic and often poisonous atmosphere prevailing in the reconstruction effort.

When the Office of Management and Budget balked at the U.S. occupation authority’s abrupt request for about $20 billion in new reconstruction money in August 2003, a veteran Republican lobbyist working for the authority made a bluntly partisan appeal to Joshua Bolten, then the Office of Management and Budget director and now the White House chief of staff. “To delay getting our funds would be a political disaster for the President,” wrote the lobbyist, Tom Korologos. “His election will hang for a large part on show of progress in Iraq and without the funding this year, progress will grind to a halt.” With administration backing, Congress allocated the money later that year.

In an illustration of the hasty and haphazard planning, a civilian official at the U.S. Agency for International Development was at one point given four hours to determine how many miles of Iraqi roads would need to be reopened and repaired. The official searched through the agency’s reference library, and his estimate went directly into a master plan. Whatever the quality of the agency’s plan, it eventually began running what amounted to a parallel reconstruction effort in the provinces that had little relation with the rest of the U.S. effort.

Money for many of the local construction projects still under way is divided up by a spoils system controlled by neighborhood politicians and tribal chiefs. “Our district council chairman has become the Tony Soprano of Rasheed, in terms of controlling resources,” said a U.S. Embassy official working in a dangerous Baghdad neighborhood, referring to the popular TV mob boss. “‘You will use my contractor or the work will not get done.”‘

The United States could soon have reason to consult this cautionary tale of deception, waste and poor planning, as both troop levels and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan are likely to be stepped up under the new administration.

The incoming Obama administration’s rebuilding experts are expected to focus on smaller-scale projects and emphasize political and economic reform. Still, such programs do not address one of the history’s main contentions: that the reconstruction effort has failed because no single agency in the U.S. government has responsibility for the job.

Five years after the invasion of Iraq, the history concludes, “the government as a whole has never developed a legislatively sanctioned doctrine or framework for planning, preparing and executing contingency operations in which diplomacy, development and military action all figure.”

“Hard Lessons” was compiled by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, led by Stuart Bowen Jr., a Republican lawyer who regularly travels to Iraq and has a staff of engineers and auditors based here. Copies of several drafts of the history were provided to reporters at The New York Times and ProPublica by two people outside the inspector general’s office who have read the draft but are not authorized to comment publicly.

Bowen’s deputy, Ginger Cruz, declined to comment for publication on the substance of the history. But she said it would be presented Feb. 2 at the first hearing of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, which was created this year as a result of legislation sponsored by Senators Jim Webb of Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, both Democrats.

The manuscript is based on about 500 new interviews, as well as more than 600 audits, inspections and investigations on which Bowen’s office has reported individually over the years. Laid out for the first time in a connected history, the material forms the basis for broad judgments on the entire rebuilding program.

In the preface, Bowen gives a searing critique of what he calls the “blinkered and disjointed prewar planning for Iraq’s reconstruction” and the botched expansion of the program from a modest initiative to improve Iraqi services to a multibillion-dollar enterprise.

Bowen also swipes at the endless revisions and reversals of the program, which at various times gyrated from a focus on giant construction projects led by large Western contractors to modest community-based initiatives carried out by local Iraqis. While Bowen concedes that deteriorating security had a hand in spoiling the program’s hopes, he suggests, as he has in the past, that the program did not need much outside help to do itself in.

Despite years of studying the program, Bowen writes that he still has not found a good answer to the question of why the program was even pursued as soaring violence made it untenable. “Others will have to provide that answer,” Bowen writes.

“But beyond the security issue stands another compelling and unavoidable answer: The U.S. government was not adequately prepared to carry out the reconstruction mission it took on in mid-2003,” he concludes.

The history cites some projects as successes. The review praises community outreach efforts by the Agency for International Development, the Treasury Department’s plan to stabilize the Iraqi dinar after the invasion and a joint effort by the Departments of State and Defense to create local rebuilding teams.

But the portrait that emerges overall is one of a program’s officials operating by the seat of their pants in the middle of a critical enterprise abroad, where the reconstruction was supposed to convince the Iraqi citizenry of U.S. good will and support the new democracy with lights that turned on and taps that flowed with clean water. Mostly, it is a portrait of a program that seemed to grow exponentially as even those involved from the inception of the effort watched in surprise.

On the eve of the invasion, as it began to dawn on a few U.S. officials that the price for rebuilding Iraq would be vastly greater than they had been told, the degree of miscalculation was illustrated in an encounter between Donald Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, and Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who had hastily been named the chief of what would be a short-lived civilian authority called the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.

The history records how Garner presented Rumsfeld with several alternative rebuilding plans, including one that would include projects across Iraq.

“What do you think that’ll cost?” Rumsfeld asked of the more expansive plan.

“I think it’s going to cost billions of dollars,” Garner said.

“My friend,” Rumsfeld replied, “if you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.”

In a way he never anticipated, Rumsfeld turned out to be correct: Before that year was out, the United States had appropriated more than $20 billion for the reconstruction, which would indeed involve projects across the entire country.

Rumsfeld declined comment on the report, but a spokesman, Keith Urbahn, said quotes attributed to him in the document “appear to be accurate.” Powell also declined to comment.

The secondary effects of the invasion and its aftermath were among the most important factors that radically changed the outlook. Tables in the history show that measures of things like the production of electricity and oil; public access to potable water, mobile and landline telephone service; and the presence of Iraqi security forces all plummeted at least 70 percent, and in some cases all the way to zero, in the weeks after the invasion. Subsequent tables in the history give a fast-forward view of what happened as the avalanche of money tumbled into Iraq over the next five years. By the time a sovereign Iraqi government took over from the Americans in June 2004, none of those services – with a single exception, mobile phones – had returned to prewar levels. And by the time of the security improvements in 2007 and 2008, electricity output had, at best, a precarious 10 percent lead on its levels under Saddam Hussein; oil production was still below prewar levels; and access to potable water had increased about 30 percent, although with the nation’s ruined piping system it was unclear how much actually reached people’s homes uncontaminated.

Whether the rebuilding effort could have succeeded in a less violent setting will never be known. In April 2004, thousands of the Iraqi security forces that had been oversold by the Pentagon were overrun, abruptly mutinied or simply abandoned their posts as the insurgency broke out, sending Iraq down a violent path from which it has never completely recovered.

At the end of his narrative, Bowen chooses a line from “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens as the epitaph of the U.S.-led attempt to rebuild Iraq: “We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us.”

James Glanz reported from Baghdad, and T. Christian Miller, of the nonprofit investigative Web site ProPublica, reported from Washington.

Blackwater Guards Charged With Manslaughter

Dispatch from Baghdad

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

(God Bless You Guys)

Iraqis applaud charges against Blackwater guards

The shooting that killed at least 17 in a Baghdad traffic circle last year resonates strongly among Iraqis, who believe it was unjustified and are eager for justice.

By Tina Susman and Usama Redha

December 10, 2008

Reporting from Baghdad — The traffic circle hums on a cool and sunny afternoon, as motorists round the center median with its fake orange palm tree that sparkles at night, blooming flower beds and chunky sculpture.

On such a calm day in Baghdad, it is hard to imagine the carnage that erupted here in Nisoor Square in September 2007, when Blackwater Worldwide security guards killed at least 17 Iraqis in a hail of machine-gun bullets and grenades, but the evidence remains.
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Bullet holes pock the small shelter where traffic cops dived for cover. Splotches scar the wall of a school off the square that prosecutors say was hit by American gunfire. Memories rankle people familiar with the story, which still resonates powerfully in Iraq even as the legal repercussions have shifted to courthouses thousands of miles away in the U.S.

Five Blackwater employees, all of them U.S. military veterans, were charged Monday with manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in the case, which strained U.S.-Iraqi relations and galvanized Iraqi opposition to the Western security companies that had operated with impunity here.

Starting Jan. 1, private security details such as Blackwater will be subject to Iraqi jurisdiction if accused of crimes committed while off American bases, a change demanded by Iraq’s government after the Blackwater incident and others involving different companies that resulted in civilian deaths on a smaller scale.

The current Blackwater defendants won’t face trial in Iraq, but they could face decades in prison in the United States if convicted, something that pleases Iraqis such as Ali Abdul Ali.

“This is good,” said Ali, an unemployed military veteran. “It means no one is above the law, even if he’s an element of foreign forces. It also means the victims will get justice.”

Ali, who comes often to an abandoned bus stop near Nisoor Square to sit in the sunshine and think about life, has a friend whose mother was among 20 Iraqis shot and wounded in the incident. Like other Iraqis in the circle that day, the friend said the shooting was unjustified, he said.

“These people were armed and they were shooting innocent people,” Ali said.

That’s not how the Blackwater guards tell it. They say their convoy came under attack as they escorted U.S. State Department officials and that they fired in self-defense.

In the square Tuesday, the sound of gunfire was constant and clear over the cacophony of car engines, tooting horns and sirens from the intimidating convoys that still tear through the circle, but it was from an Iraqi police firing range nearby.

Police officers stationed in the circle were happy to discuss the Blackwater case and to show off the bullet holes from that day. One of them quickly interrupted his lunch of beans, rice and bread to weigh in.

“I heard about [the charges against the Blackwater employees] yesterday on the news,” said the officer, who like his colleagues was not authorized to speak to reporters and would not give a name. “Because they killed 17 innocent people, of course they should be arrested.”

The policeman, who has worked this spot for five years, was not in the square the day of the shooting but came to work the next day to see wrecked cars, blood-stained streets, bullet casings. He pointed to a section of gnarled concrete in the busy street a few feet away.

“That’s where the doctor and her son died,” he said, referring to Mahasin Mohssen Khadum Khazali and her son, Ahmed Haitham Ahmed Rubaie, who were in a white sedan that the Blackwater guards said they suspected of being rigged to explode.

“Justice should be served. These victims — their rights should be taken into consideration,” said another policeman, edging in front of the first cop and quickly taking over the conversation. This officer said that if the Blackwater guards are convicted, they should die.

“This is the law of God. In the Arab world, anyone who kills someone, he should be killed,” he said.

They scoffed at the idea that the guards might have felt genuinely threatened because of the situation in Baghdad at the time. Violence was far worse then, when attacks on U.S. forces were daily events. That month, 70 foreign troops, including 66 Americans, were killed across Iraq, according to the independent website icasualties.org. Last month, the total was 17.

“This place is surrounded. It is secure,” the second officer said, noting the national guard base on one side of the square and another government building on the other. “It’s impossible” that anyone could have felt threatened, he said.

Minutes later, a U.S. military convoy entered the circle. Civilian traffic ground to a halt to let the vehicles pass, but they stopped midway through. A group of U.S. soldiers walked toward the Iraqi police.

“Let’s have it,” one of them sternly said to a U.S. journalist who had been filming the square, referring to the memory chip of his video camera.

The soldier uttered an obscenity about filming the convoy but backed off without taking the memory chip after another American intervened, satisfied that the journalists were more interested in the scene at the square, not the convoy that had rolled into view.

Afterward, one policeman joked that it was good the journalists were of the “same tribe” as the soldiers. If they’d been Iraqis, he said, they would have been locked up.

Susman and Redha are Times staff writers.

tina.susman@latimes.com

General Barry McCaffrey Exposed For The Ultimate Spineless Shill That He Is

THE NEW YORK TIMES

November 30, 2008

One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex

In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.

The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.

Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.

Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. “No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed,” he said.

Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.

“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.

Read more

President-Elect Barack Obama's Press Conference | Dec 1 2008

Part Two

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