Monday, January 25, 2010

The joke that never ends

Monday, Monday. At last! The weekend starts again. ("At last!" was a joke.) So now we have to wait and wait for the weekend. But we can get a laugh now via Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Commander of the Groin"

Commander of the Groin

Hey, we can also get a laugh via Barack! This is from Josh Gerstein (Politico):

Ya think? Hey, here's another 'mistake' you might want to consider, Barry: Shutting out single-payer advocates but inviting in insurance and Big Pharma lobbyists.

Think about that one too.

In fact, face the fact that you f**ked up big time. It was such a f**k up that it tops Bush. You really should hang your head in shame.

Okay, let's talk Third. Along with Dallas the following worked on the latest edition:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

What's we come up with?
  • Truest statement of the week
  • Cindy Sheehan racks up another truest.

  • Truest statement of the week II
  • This one is the New York Times. It's about Ahmed Chalabi.

  • A note to our readers
  • Jim breaks down the edition. This was a much, much better edition.

  • Editorial: Pull all US troops out of Iraq
  • I like this editorial and I like that Ty says some right-wingers read it and e-mailed basically "Maybe you people aren't so crazy. Yeah, the US should leave." I really think if the Panhandle Media gave a damn about Iraq, there would be a huge cry to end the war right now because the right's awakened from their slumber (with Bush gone). And there are still enough of us on the left (not at all represented by Panhandle Media) who will speak out regardless of who is in the White House.

  • TV: Doing the John Edwards
  • I love this. I really love this commentary. They nail it and it's hilarious. They're covering Haiti 'reporting' and much more.

  • Roundtable
  • This roundtable more than made up for last week's. And this edition more than made up for last week's. What was the big difference? Among other things, Ava and C.I. showed up with four story suggestions. I was for all four. They ended up doing two themselves when all four were put on "maybe" by Jim. My Howard Zinn idea is not killed, by the way. C.I. asked me if I had the Howard Zinn Reader? I don't. She's bringing me a copy when she comes into Boston Friday. She wants to work that in to the piece we're talking about doing. She says I'll understand why immediately.

  • Toxic Barry
  • Short feature!!!!! :D Third had e-mails from two bloggers, by the way, about how this guy named Jeffrey Mayes is pissing a fit that people are using his photos. Uh, Martha Coakley put your photos up on Flikr. Take it up with her. But because of that, we made sure not to use little Jeffy Mayes' photos.

  • There is no such thing as rape (Ava and C.I.)
  • Ava and C.I. call out NPR for refusing to call rape "rape." (NPR referred repeatedly in the story to it as "sex" until the last sentence.)

  • Iraq
  • The Iraq feature.

  • The war on Social Security
  • This war continues, you better accept it. If the left doesn't get its act together, the safety net is going to be gone. And Barry's fiscal talk today really just sets the stage for it.

  • Go Gidget!
  • We wanted to do a piece on idiots. Juan Cole is one such idiot. He says the Iraq War is over. Well tell it to the Iraqis. Then tell it to the Americans still stationed there.

  • The Futility of Norman Solomon (Ava and C.I.)
  • Ava and C.I. took on Normy.

  • The Revolution will be streamed?
  • Check out the video link. This is a pretty interesting set of videos (YouTube link only has one video, the other link has four).

  • Highlights
  • Wally, Cedric, Ruth, Betty, Rebecca, Marcia, Stan, Ann, Kat, Elaine and I wrote this.

Okay, that's it, here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday January 25, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, the Iraq Inquiry continues in England, the witch hunt against Nouri's political rivals continues in Iraq, and more.
US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq at the end of last week as the intended March elections faced further threats. Will they take place? Will they be seen as fair and free or, for that matter, legitimate? All has been thrown into question by the moves of an extra-legal body assuming powers it does not have to ban this candidate and that candidate. Over 500 thus far with more said to be coming. Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition, Liane Hansen spoke with Quil Lawrence (who is in Baghdad) about the purging/witch hunt of political candidates and who was involved in the purging . . .

Liane Hansen: Ahmed Chalabi sounds -- it's a familiar name. Isn't he the man who was blamed with passing bad information to the Bush administration in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq?

Quil Lawrence: Exactly. Chalabi's on the Iraqi political scene for years. He's never been elected to a post in Iraq but he is such a shrewd political survivor that he's managed to pull of this move and again become one of the most powerful people for this moment in Iraqi politics. It doesn't look like he's done anything strictly illegal. Chalabi himself right now is conveniently out of the country.

[. . .]

Liane Hansen: Well did Vice President Biden actually weigh in on the controversy?

Quil Lawrence: He was walking kind of a fine line. He didn't want to come to Iraq appareing that he was here to save the day especially of how it might look if he didn't save the day. But Iraqi politicians had been saying for days before he arrived that he had been offering suggestions. Publicly Biden's team only said that they were concerned that this process wasn't transparent enough. And that is very clear on the streets of Iraq. No one really understands how this all happened. It leaked out at first it wasn't made public very forthrightly and no one's seen the evidence. At least one prominent name was allowed to withdraw, allowed to get his name off the list in agreement in return for taking his name out of the hat for the election. So people are very confused about this and it is giving that sort of perception of a taint to the process.
Chalabi's running things or ruining things on the extra-legal Accountability and Justice Commission. The most prominent among the candidates banned is Saleh al-Mutlaq of the National Dialogue Front. On the most recent Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) which began airing Friday, he spoke with Jassim al-Azzawi.
Jassim al-Azzawi: You have challenged this ban, you've resorted to the courts. Exactly on what grounds are you basing your challenge and when will the courts give its verdict?
Saleh al-Mutlaq: Well I don't have any allegations to challenge the court but since they've said they have allegations, we went to the court. We sent our lawyer to go there just to register in order that we will not lose the time that we are allowed to go to the courts to reject the allegations against us. We sent many people to the Ministry of Accountability and what they call 'Justice' to give us -- to give us the allegations. They refused. They refused to give us anything. And in fact I know that they have nothing. They have nothing against us to prove that we are being subjected to the law so that we could be out of the election. But anyway, we are going now to the court, so let's see what's going to happen.
Jassim al-Azzawi: Until we hear from the courts regarding your appeal, but let me take a hypothetical case, let me just suppose that the courts affirmed the ban and did not allow you to run in the March 7th election. What then?
Saleh al-Mutlaq: Well first I trust the Iraqis though and I trust the jugdes. And actually the judges that I have seen their names, I asked for many people that they know about them, they say that they are very professional, they are fair and they are good judges. But at the same time, I have to say that, you know, there is a problem. That at first they were being appointed by the Parliament, the de-Ba'athification committee, they call it now Accountability, the first day they said three of them are Ba'athists, none of them know who is the Ba'athists among them. So they try to let them be scared from the beginning. They try to influence them politically so they could have a biased decision. But I still believe that our law, our judges are quite good. I trust them. And I feel that they have -- you know, they cannot go anywhere rather than saying we were right in doing all what we did and they have no allegations against us to prove that we will be out of this election.
Jassim al-Azzawi: [Overlapping] Yes, I shall come to the scare tactics and the fear politics that you mention but before that, I guess our international audience would like to know, who stands behind this campaign to disbar more then 500 people? Some of them such senior figures as yourself. The National Dialogue Front has about 12 members in Parliament. You've been in politics for many, many years. I guess the logical question is: Who's behind it? It is my role as a presenter and a journalist to ask the tough questions and perhaps it's your role as a politician and even your perogative not to answer. Let me give you a couple of options and see which one you lean on. Is it Ahmed Chalabi, the former head of the de-Ba'athification? Is it Prime Minister al-Maliki fearing that Saleh al-Mutlaq has the wind behind him and one day he might even become the president of Iraq? Or is it another force? Who is exactly orchestrating this?
Saleh al-Mutlaq: Well Ahmed Chalabi could not do what was done alone. I think there's a power behind that and my belief is that Iran is behind that and Ahmed Chalabi is only a tool -- Ahmed Chalabi agenda is a tool to do this. And Ahmed Chalabi is not alone. We discovered that Ahmed Chalabi now has an intelligence association in Iraq and he worked with so many people outside the Iraqi government. And what happened really surprised everybody. The same day that this decision was taken, everybody was saying, "I know nothing about it." You ask al-Maliki, he says, "I know nothing about it." You ask the president [Jalal Talabani], he says he knows nothing about it. You ask the Chairman of the Parliament, he knows nothing about it. Then who is doing that? We discover there is a small organization which does not exist legally. The de-Ba'athification committee has been frozen -- including Ahmed Chalabi himself -- has been frozen by the prime minister and by the president. And another committee, which is the Accountability, came in but it was not formed because the Parliament did not vote on the names that were being proposed by the prime minister because most of them are from al Dahwa Party [Nouri's party].
Jassim al-Azzawi: Let me stay with you for the thrust of your analysis and that is Ahmed Chalabi and behind him is Iran. It is quite telling you say that because you have joined in your analysis, the Americans because the Americans have discovered Ahmed Chalabi has great coordination with Iran. As a matter of fact, when they raided his offices several years ago, they actually charged him, they told him: "You have given all the codes to Iran."
Saturday Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reported, "Biden's national security advisor Anotony Blinken said the vice president would offer no specific proposals to resolve the controversy, but would emphasize the Obama administration's concern that the electoral process should be transparent and inclusive. The BBC added, "Mr Biden began by meeting the UN secretary general's special representative for Iraq, Ad Melkert, for a working breakfast, before holding talks with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki."
At An Arab Woman Blues, Layla Anwar offers her take on these and other crimes taking place in Iraq and we'll note this reminder she gives about the ongoing illegal war on Iraq:
The first thing to do is to break that image, that myth, that most people hold in their heads, namely that the American neocons policy towards Iraq as embodied by Bush and Co is strategically different from the so-called Democrats as embodied by Obama and that consequently the aims are different. This is a MYTH. A political myth grown out of some false loyalty to a belief that the Democrats are fundamentally different from the Republicans in American politics.
Reidar Visser (Iraq and Gulf Analysis) sees signs that Biden's visit had little to no effect, ""
Indications are that Vice-President Joe Biden came up against a wall of resistance when he visited Baghdad yesterday in an attempt at dealing with the recent row over de-Baathification. Apparently, both Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as well as the parliamentary speaker, Ayad al-Samarraie, went out of their way to defend the idea of "non-interference" in what they refer to as the Iraqi "constitutional" process. Also President Jalal Talabani, who had briefly indicated a position more compatible with the US preference for a delay of the whole de-Baathification process, seems to have fallen into line. At the end of the day, the three Iraqi leaders gathered for a meeting and settled for the worst possible outcome: Those excluded will simply have to await the outcome of their individual cases in the hastily-assembled special appeals tribunal for de-Baathification cases that came into existence only one week ago – the very solution advocated by Ali al-Lami and Ahmed Chalabi of the de-Baathification board all the way. Doubtless, "un-Baathifications" will be available for sale to those who can pay the right price (much in the way they were sold and bought last week) and may go some way to reduce the sense of marginalisation; after all, the aim behind this whole plot was probably just to secure a sufficiently sectarian climate before the elections, which has already almost been achieved. Before leaving, Biden expressed complete "confidence" in the Iraqi process.
Along with questions of legitimacy, it is also thought that if the matter is not resolved, if candidates are not allowed to compete the elections, violence will increase.
This as Baghdad was slammed with bombings today. Chip Cummins (Wall St. Journal) reports hotels were targeted in the bombings resulting in a death toll of at least 36 with seventy-one more wounded: "The attacks targeted the Ishtar Sheraton, Babylon and al-Hamra hotels, popular with both visiting businessmen and, in the case of the Sheraton and al-Hamra, journalists." Anthony Shadid and John Leland (New York Times) explain, "In neighborhoods near the hotels, which are within a mile of so of each other, residents spilled into the streets wailing, as plumes of dust, smoke and debris wafted across the skyline. Staccato bursts of gunfire echoed through the streets, as security forces tried to cordon off the bombing scenes, some of them draped in the banners and flags of a major Shiite Muslim commemoration this week." The Washington Post offers a photo essay here and 'plume' does not begin to describe the smoke rising from the Shearton bombing (AFP's Sabah Arar took the photo), it looks like a huge mushroom cloud rising in the sky the equivalen of four Sheratons stacked on top of one another. Leila Fadel, Ernesto Londono and Debbi Wilgoren (Washington Post) note that 3 of the paper's Iraqi correspondents were wounded in the bombings. Oliver August (Times of London) reports, "Someone said later that they saw a red flash just before the explosion. All I saw was the contents of my office, my bedroom, my kitchen flying through the room. The windows were blown out, pictures and bookshelves lay strewn across the floor." Jane Arraf and Laith Hammoudi (Christian Science Monitor) report that "some of the Iraqi residents of the nearby homes stood in the rubble of their damaged houses. Others -- their faces grim -- walked in the street covered in debris" and they quote one Iraqi exclaiming, "If anyone else tries to take pictures of my house I'll kill them." Along with the bombings, there were shootings. Fadel, Londono and Wilgoren report, "At the Hamra compound, witnesses said the attack began when two men in business suits opened fire on the security checkpoint. As guards retreated from the bullets, they released the gate lock, and a minibus laden with explosives drove past the blast walls. The guards shot the driver of the minibus, but the bomb ripped through an apartment building and shattered the glass and walls of homes and hotels in the surrounding area." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) also covers that attack, "Witnesses at the Hamra said checkpoint guards had come under fire from a few men dressed in business suits. During the firefight, the gate to the compound was opened and a white Kia van entered and exploded in a section of the compound with private homes. The blast ripped open a huge crater." Phillippe Naughton (Times of London -- link also has a Sky News video story) offers, "Outside the Sheraton, a high-rise tower with views of the Tigris River and the fortified Green Zone on the other side, the blast left a three-metre-deep crater in the parking lot. Cars were torn apart by the spray of metal and glass, which littered the lawns and courtyards of the popular fish restaurants along the river." Al Jazeera quotes journalist Ahmed Rushdi stating, "These hotels were supposed to have major security because its open for all the foreign journalists. Targeting these major hotels means that everyone here in Baghdad is targeted." John Leland tells New York Times Radio's Jane Bornemeier, "The thing that struck me was that really a mile away from these explosions -- or nearly a mile away -- as soon as the blasts came, our neighbors sort of started to walk into the streets crying. There was tremendous sorrow here in addition to the blasts and the violence."
Leland goes on to note that 'bomb detectors' are still in use. From Friday's snapshot:

Whether they can trust Barack or not, it appears they can't trust 'bomb detectors.' Caroline Hawley (BBC Newsnight -- link has text and video) reports that England has placed an export ban on the ADE-651 'bomb detector' -- a device that's cleaned Iraq's coffers of $85 million so far. Steven Morris (Guardian) follows up noting that, "The managing director [Jim McCormick] of a British company that has been selling bomb-detecting equipment to security forces in Iraq was arrested on suspicion of fraud today."

Riyad Mohammed and Rod Norldand (New York Times) reported on Saturday that the reaction in Iraq was outrage from officials and they quote MP Ammar Tuma stating, "This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device." Despite the turn of events, the machines continue to be used in Iraq but 'now' an investigation into them will take place orded by Nouri. As opposed to months ago when they were first called into question. Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) adds that members of Parliament were calling for an end to use of the machines on Saturday. Martin Chulov (Guardian) notes the US military has long -- and publicly -- decried the use of the machines, "The US military has been scathing, claiming the wands contained only a chip to detect theft from stores. The claim was based on a study released in June by US military scientists, using x-ray and laboratory analysis, which was passed on to Iraqi officials." October 25th brought Bloody Sunday to Iraq's calendar, December 8th brought Bloody Tuesday, August 19th brought Bloody Wednesday and, apparently, today brings Bloody Monday. All the "bloody" days share the common threads of multiple bombings in Baghdad and the expectation that this is part of the violence to do with elections. Whomever is responsible for the bombings (al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is already being blamed -- and that's usually where the 'investigation' begins and ends -- blame them and it's 'solved') may be testing and/or exhibiting weak spots. If that is the case, that could mean some spectacular bombings are planned for when elections get closer. Martin Chulov (Guardian) offers these observations:
The ease with which the hotels' security perimeters were penetrated, especially the Hamra and Babylon, has rattled locals who want to believe that things are safer now. But even more shocking is how big car bombs were again driven through highly strategic and ostensibly secure areas of the capital, past numerous checkpoints and security forces that are more competent now that at any time since the invasion.
Of further concern is the timing of today's blast, within minutes of the execution of one of Saddam Hussein's most ruthless loyalists, Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali. He is the man who gassed the Kurds of Halabja, killing more than 5,000 in 1988. Chemical Ali is the most high-profile figure executed since Saddam himself.
The office of the UN's Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement today: "The Secretary-General strongly condemns the bomb attacks in Baghdad today that have killed dozens of people and injured scores more. No cause can justify these attacks on civilian targets. He extends his heartfelt condolences to the Government of Iraq and to the victims of these criminal acts, as well as to their families."
As noted yesterday on the KPFA Evening News:
Anthony Fest: A committee investigating Britain's involvement in the Iraq invasion will interview former prime minister Tony Blair this coming Friday. Blair was a staunch ally of US president George W. Bush during the Iraq invasion and kept a large contingent of British troops in southern Iraq for years. The five member panel is chaired by longtime civil servant John Chilcot and the investigation is known as the Chilcot Inquiry. It's already taken reports from many high ranking present and former Briths government officials The former chief legal adviser to the Foreign Office is scheduled to speak to the committee on Tuesday. According to Britan's Observer newspaper, Sir Michael Wood plans to tell the committee that, in his opinion, Britain went to war illegally in 2003. According to the Observer, Wood thinks the Iraq invasion would only have been lawful had there been a second United Nations' resolution. Also scheculded to speak on Tuesday is Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Wood's deputy during the build up to the invasion. She resigned from the Foreign Office two days before the British and US invasion of Iraq began because she believed the invasion to be a crime of aggression. This according to the Observer article.
Andy Jack (Sky News) observes, "Ministers are bracing themselves for the biggest week at the Iraq Inquiry, leading up to the grilling of Tony Blair over whether he misled Parliament to take Britain into war." This Friday, January 29th, the former prime minister and all time poodle Tony Blair will appear before the Iraq Inquiry in London. A major protest is expected to take place outside as War Criminal Tony testifies. From Stop The War Coalition's "Protest on Tony Blair's Judgement Day: 29 January from 8am:"

Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, Broad
Sanctuary, Westminster, London SW1P 3EE

On Friday 29 January, Tony Blair will try to explain to the Iraq Inquiry the lies he used to take Britain into an illegal war.

Writers, musicians, relatives of the dead, Iraqi refugees, poets, human rights lawyers, comedians, actors, MPs and ordinary citizens will join a day of protest outside the Inquiry to demand that this should be Tony Blair's judgement day.

There will be naming the dead ceremonies for the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in Blair's war. Military families who lost loved ones in Iraq will read the names of the 179 British soldiers killed.

Join us from 8.0am onwards.
The Telegraph of London reports that security for Blair's appearance could cost 250,000 pounds and that "road blocks, exclusion zones" will be used by the police who will also "deploy teams of armed officers and rooftop surveillance teams." David Brown and Adam Fresco (Times of London) report, "The demonstration will be the biggest test for Scotland Yard since the G20 protest in April last year when protesters caused millions of pounds of damage in the City and member of the public died after a confrontation with officers from the Territorial Support Group. Scotland Yard is preparing to use the controversial 'kettling' tactic in which protesters are enclosed within police cordons for many hours." Caseell Bryan-Low (Wall St. Journal) adds that Blair's spokesperson, asked of the upcoming appearance, attempted to spin the conversation to another topic, "The spokesman said Mr. Blair remains focused on his charitable foundations, governance initiatives in Africa, advocacy for climate change and his work in the Middle East." Meanwhile the Daily Mirror reports that British families whose loved ones were "killed in Iraq are demanding a private showdown with Tony Blair this week." Robert Winnett (Telegraph of London) adds they are asking for a 15-minute meeting with Blair. Mark Townsend, Toby Helm and Paul Harris (Observer) report, "There has been talk among the relatives of protests at the moment Blair arrives, as the media relays pictures across the world. Some relatives have vowed to turn their backs on the former PM as he enters. Others have talked of painting their palms red to signify 'blood on the hands' of the 'guilty' man. There has been discussion of throwing shoes at him, imitating the Iraqi reporter who flung his footwear at the US president, George Bush, in 2008." No one knows what will happen, that's the disclaimer, but tonight I spoke to two friends who have been covering the Inquiry and their guess -- guess -- is that nothing will be thrown but the families might turn their backs. That's based on the behaviors of the family members thus far. Military Families Speak Out announces the following:

Blair at Iraq Inquiry: Join Military Families on 29 January
Members of military families who lost loved ones in the Iraq war will read the names of all 179 British soldiers who died.
1pm - 2pm on Friday 29th January at the QE2 Conference Center, London
Military Families will join writers, musicians, Iraqi refugees, poets, human rights lawyers, comedians, well known actors, MPs and ordinary citizens in a day of protest, performance and politics outside the Iraq Inquiry on Friday 29 January, as Tony Blair faces his judgement day.
If you'd like to take part in some way please call Andrew on 07939 242 229 or contact us via email:
Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) covers the legality issues here. Iraq Inquiry Digest also notes the weekend's other big news in England: Dr. David Kelly's records are sealed for 70 years. David Kelly was the one who leaked to the BBC that the intel Tony Blair was flaunting in public to argue for the Iraq War had been "sexed up." Blair and company demanded a witch hunt -- even though they knew it was Kelly who leaked it. Shortly after Kelly was put through the dog and pony show he was found dead. For "state secret" reasoning, Kelly's medical records from the autopsy are locked away for 70 years -- a fact that the public was not informed of when the draconian decision was made (in addition, some witness statements that the public never heard have been locked away for thirty years). On Twitter, Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogs the hearings. and is asking "What would you ask Blair on Fri 29th? Send 140 char Qs here or longer form Qs to - selection will be posted pre-29th"
Today the committee heard from Des Browne (Secretary of State for Defence from May 2006 through October 2008) and John Hutton (Secretary of State for Defence from October 2008 through June 2009) (link goes to transcript and video options). Not much was learned today about the Iraq War but a great deal about the mind-set of some over it. Des Browne whined.
Des Browne: You asked me the effect -- I think it is well-known, because I made no secret of it, that I found it difficult to come to terms with the death of our people in the operational environment. I had no military experience. I hadn't the benefit of military experience, which helps people to cope, I think, at the strategic level, and I found it difficult to personally to deal with the losses of our people in the operational theatre, and I become focused, I think rightly, on our people and their families and on our support for them during the time that I had this awesome responsbility.
"Awesome responsibility"? A bit of bragging, true, but note it was a responsibility he obviously wasn't up to. The deaths? The families suffer those losses and they really don't need an official to play like it was all about them. Vanity and self-centered, Browne is a real piece of work. The bragging never ceased, "It was a difficult environment to work in, but I, in a sense, kept my eye on the ball all the time. I knew what was needed to come together to have any prospect of a sustainable resolution of the nature of the violence in Basra." Bragging and stupid. There was no 'victory' and not even any 'resolution' for Basra. The British were hemmed in by constant attacks and finally left. That's the story of Basra. 2006, the non-stop attacks begin. Why doesn't Browne know this? He does know it. He's lying. Just like he lied when he claimed that he didn't take from one 'operational environment' (Iraq) to supply another (Afghanistan). Of course he did. That he thought he could get away with such a lie is rather telling -- it either tells on his need to lie or it tells on his lack of respect for the committee or maybe both. One battlefield wasn't robbed from? Then why did John Hutton talk about (no "point pretending otherwise") that there were not enough British military helicopters in Iraq? There weren't enough because the military was stretched thin. We'll note one exchange from Browne:
Committee Member Usha Prashar: Mr Browne, I would now like to move on to look at the US and the UK policy at the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007, because it was in December 2006, the Baker-Hamiliton report, the Iraq Study Group Report recommended the beginning of a phased withdrawal of US troops, and it also discussed the possibility of the need to divert troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Was this report in line with what your American interlocutors were telling you in the last month of 2006?
Des Browne: It is a very specific question, and I have to say that I would be -- I would be, to a degree, guessing about precisely that time. My strong recollection of that time when the Baker-Hamilton report was published, was that the American administration and the American military leadership said, "We will take some time to consider this and we will give a considered response," and my recollection was that that's what they were saying to me as well, because I think there may well be, you know, public recording of me being interviewed about this at the time, in which I said, "That's what they have said they will do, and I think that's a very wise thing for them to do". So my recollection was that they were playing their cards very close to their chests.
Today the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has released the [PDF format warning] report entitled "Department of State Grant Management: Limited Oversight of Costs and Impact of International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute Democracy Grants." (Note, page one of the report carries the date January 26, 2010.) What's the 37 page report dealing with? An estimated $248 million in tax payer dollars that the State Dept turned over to the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) in the form of 12 grants. The Dept's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) has not tracked the $248 million as noted on page two of the report: "While IRI and NDI stated they have assessed the impact their grants have had in achieving grant objectives, DRL has not required that IRI and NDI provide these assessments in progress reports, as required by the grant agreements."

SIGIR "found that only 41% of the grant funds were actually spent on direct program activities. More than 60% of IRI's expenditures and almost 50% of NDI's expenditures were for security and overhead costs; mostly security. NDI spent almost one third of its funds on security, and IRI spent more than one half of its funds on security. Thus, only approximately $47 million of the approximately $114 million was spent on direct program activities."

It needs to be noted that when the term "security" is used in Iraq in terms of an "expense," that does not merely refer to contractors, it also refers to the paying off various 'bodies' (militias, thugs, etc.).

What are these two groups we're talking about? The report defines them as "nonprofit, nonpartisan" and notes the groups insistence that they exist "to advance freedom and democracy worldwide" -- such a sweet way to put it. From Lisa Ashkenaz Croke and Brian Dominick's 2004 article entitled "Controversial U.S. Groups Operate Behind Scenes on Iraq Vote" (The New Standard):

Even as the White House decries the ominous prospect of Iranian influence on the upcoming Iraqi national elections, US-funded organizations with long records of manipulating foreign democracies in the direction of Washington's interests are quietly but deeply involved in essentially every aspect of the process.
"As should be clear, the electoral process will be an Iraqi process conducted by Iraqis for Iraqis," declared United Nations special envoy, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, in a September 14 statement to the Security Council. "It cannot be anything else."
But in actuality, influential, US-financed agencies describing themselves as "pro-democracy" but viewed by critics as decidedly anti-democratic, have their hands all over Iraq's transitional process, from the formation of political parties to monitoring the January 30 nationwide polls and possibly conducting exit polls that could be used to evaluate the fairness of the ballot-casting.
Two such groups -- the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) -- are part of a consortium of non-governmental organizations to which the United States has provided over $80 million for political and electoral activities in post-Saddam Iraq.
Both groups publicly assert they are nonpartisan, but each has extremely close ties to its namesake American political party, and both are deeply partial to the perceived national interests of their home country, despite substantial involvement in the politics of numerous sovereign nations worldwide.
NDI is headed by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who took over the chair from former president Jimmy Carter. Republican Senator John McCain chairs IRI. Both groups have highly controversial reputations and are described throughout much of the world as either helpful, meddlesome, or downright subversive, depending on who you ask. In some places their work has earned praise from independent grassroots democracy advocates, but in many Third World republics, both groups have been tied to alleged covert plans to install US-favored governments.

The SIGIR report declares the State Dept "awarded grants to NDI and IRI to conduct democracy-budiling activities in Iraq." Really? What does the American have to show for those $248 million? The monies were awarded from August 2004 through June 2009. Shouldn't there be some benefits visible to the naked eye by now?

A lot's made out of the work or 'work' they do to 'advance' women's rights. But look at the grants and the dollar amounts speak for themselves. Both organizations were awarded $1.8 million dollars each in May 2008 for "Women's Democracy Initiative." It's the lowest grant either group received. The grant money starts flowing in 2004 and it's not until May 2008 that people stop to think about Iraqi women? Sort of tells you the priorities right there.

The IRI receives approximately $113.7 million in US tax payer dollars while the NDI received approximately $134.5 million in US tax payer dollars. That's the money they received just for Iraq -- please keep that in mind. They suck up millions and millions of tax payer dollars -- largely under the radar -- for 'work' in various countries around the world.