Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stop the Benghazi lies -- it was known all along

Sharyl Attkisson (CBS News) reports on e-mails from the Benghazi consulate on September 11, 2012 during the attack and immediately after.  Her report includes:

Then, at 6:07 p.m., State sent out another alert saying the embassy in Tripoli reported the Islamic military group "Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibilty for Benghazi Attack"... "on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli."
The emails are just a few in what are likely a large number traded throughout the night. They are likely to become part of the ongoing political debate over whether the administration attempted to mislead in saying the assault was an outgrowth of a protest, rather than a planned attack by terrorists.

Grasp that on the day of the attack, the US Embassy in Tripoli knew that Ansar al-Sharia was saying on Facebook and Twitter that they were responsible. That is a detail that the claim of 'the intel failed us' does not back up. The administration's lies are unraveling. Ms. Attkisson's article contains links to the e-mails in full so make a point to check it out and, if you need or enjoy video, you also have the video option with her report.

It is a very important report.  And on Benghazi, a friend of C.I.'s passed this on, this is from Shmuel Rosner's "3 skeptical comments on the third presidential debate" (Jewish Journal):

Alas, the Obama defense of his actions is also irrelevant to the presidential race. Obama essentially says three things: 1. I said “terror”. 2. We are investigating what happened. 3. The intel was bad.
Excuse number 1 is ingenuous. Using the word “terror” doesn’t erase all the other things that were said by the administration. Excuse number 2 is obvious – investigation does not erase mistakes, it strives to make things better in the future. Excuse number 3 is undignified – blaming the intelligence community is the oldest and most used trick in presidential blunders. Moreover, all these excuses do not answer the fundamental question that was justifiably raised by the Romney team (that they raised it for political gains is obvious and doesn’t make it less pointed): Why does the Obama administration appear trigger-happy when it comes to blaming American actions for world problems - while on most other issues it is usually restrained and even slow in applying blame?

Those are three very strong points.  There are also strong points in "The only thing worse than the debate itself (Ava and C.I.)" from this morning.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Tuesday, October 13, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack gets creative on Iraq in a debate, 'fact checkers' ignore that the White House continues to negotiate to send more US troops back into Iraq, US Army data says over 18,000 US Army personnel in Iraq (but you have to go to the Guardian for that story, not the US press), the political crisis continues in Iraq and more.
Defense Video & Image Distribution System has the strangest story about how Col Matthe Riordan is leaving Iraq and Lt Col Kim Thomas.  And the photo is confusing as well -- it shows people in what appear to be US army uniforms.  But how could that be?
Fact checking last night's debate between US President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney, one outlet after another declared all US troops were out of Iraq, all troops had left.  So, as Joni Mitchell sings, "Help me, I think I'm falling . . ."  And the confusion just continues as Simon Rogers (Guardian) posts a chart from the US Army listing the US Army Deployments in 2012 -- this year.  If all US troops left Iraq at the end of 2011, then surely Iraq did not make the list of "Top 10 Countries" in 2012 for deployment, right?
Wait, there it is! Number five on the list of deployments with a little less than 20,000 US troops.  How can that be?  How can we have thousands of US troops in Iraq?  Didn't they all just tell us last night and this morning that all US troops left Iraq at the end of 2011?  How many are present?  Click on map, on Iraq (yes, geography can be hard -- especially for the US press) and you get the number 18,400 ("In 2012 there were 18,400 Army personnel deployed in Iraq"). 
So, CNN, you're wrong when you declare all "left Iraq in December 2011." 
And, Shashank Bengali (Los Angeles Times), you're wrong when you state: "The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December." 
And also on the dunce list, Susan Cornwell and Lucy Shackelford (Reuters) who maintain:  "The last U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq last December, ending a war launched in March 2003.
Why were they and so many others who've been silent for so long finally talking about Iraq?  Because it was a topic that came up last night when Bob Schieffer moderated a debate between the Democratic and Republican party presidential candidates -- President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney.  Covering the exchange,   Glenn Kessler (Washington Post) observed,  "Romney's right -- Obama did try to get a status of forces agreement, but could not get an agreement with the government of Iraq. So now he stresses the fact that he has removed all troops from Iraq, while knocking Romney for supporting what he originally had hoped to achieve."  Also weighing in on Barack's deception is the editorial board of the New Jersey Star-Ledger:
The claim is true. The problem is that Obama wanted to keep 10,000 troops on the ground in Iraq as well. He later cut that number to 5,000, and wasn't able to keep even that contingent in place only because his attempts to negotiate an agreement with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ended in failure. Obama had insisted on a guarantee that the remaining U.S. troops would be immune from criminal prosecution in Iraq, a demand that Maliki refused.
So for Obama to paint Romney as a die-hard combatant in Iraq was beyond misleading. It was a stunt. And given the emotions that still surround the troubled U.S. occupation, and the fact that Obama clearly knew he was being dishonest, he wins the whopper.
Grace Wyler (Business Insider) also points out, "Romney is actually correct on this point. The status of forces agreement -- put into place in 2008, before Obama took office -- called for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011. When that time came, the Obama administration tried to work out an extension of the agreement with the Iraqi government that would have kept an unspecified number of U.S. troops (likely between 3,000 and 5,000) in the country to train Iraqi security forces."  John Glaser (Antiwar.com) offers that Barack was dishonest due to the fact that the truth "conflicted with his attempts to claime he ended the war in Iraq."  Jeremy Hammond (Foreign Policy Journal) observes that, in the Iraq exchange, "Romney was being honest and Obama was, well, lying."  From Hammond's analysis:
While Obama is fond of taking credit for ending the war in Iraq, in fact, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) under which all U.S. combat troops were withdrawn at the end of 2011 was signed on November 17, 2008, under the Bush administration. Obama was critical of the SOFA, his publicly stated position being that the troops should be withdrawn sooner. "In contrast," the New York Times noted at the time, "President-elect Obama had campaigned under a promise to withdraw all American combat brigades from Iraq by May 2010".
Obama not only did not keep that promise, but his administration sought since as early as September 2010 to obtain a new agreement with Iraq under which 15,000 to 20,000 combat troops would remain beyond the deadline at the end of 2011; but "Obama insisted that it could only happen if Maliki requested it", wrote investigative historian and journalist Gareth Porter, since the White House "was worried about losing support from the Democratic Party's anti-war base as Congressional mid-term elections approached". The Wall Street Journal similarly pointed out that "Mr. Obama could face a political backlash at home if he doesn't meet his campaign pledge to bring troops home from Iraq", and by April 2011, the U.S. had dropped the number of troops it sought to keep in Iraq down to 10,000. The discussions over a new agreement "face political obstacles in both countries," the Journal also noted, "and have faltered in recent weeks because of Iraqi worries that a continued U.S. military presence could fuel sectarian tension and lead to protests similar to those sweeping other Arab countries".
None of the fact checkers bothered to acknowledge what  Tim Arango (New York Times) reported September 26th:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.
We don't want another Iraq, we don't want another Afghanistan. That's not the right course for us. The right course for us is to make sure that we go after the - the people who are leaders of these various anti-American groups and these - these jihadists, but also help the Muslim world.
And how do we do that? A group of Arab scholars came together, organized by the U.N., to look at how we can help the - the world reject these - these terrorists. And the answer they came up with was this:
One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment, and that of our friends, we should coordinate it to make sure that we - we push back and give them more economic development.
Number two, better education.
Number three, gender equality.
Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies.

Mark Leon Goldberg (UN Dispatch) points out, "Mitt Romney was almost certainly referring to the Arab Human Development Report. This is a groundbreaking study organized by the United Nations Development Program that gives regional scholars a platform to write dispassionate, self critical assessments of the Arab world's progress on a myriad of social development indicators. This includes indices like literacy rates; internet access; maternal mortality rates; primary school enrollment; adolescent fertility rates; higher educational attainment; among others."
"I was about to wake my children up to go to school when the blast took place collapsing walls and shattering the glass in the windows. Thank God the curtains prevented flying pieces of glass from injuring my daughters. Thank God none of them were hurt. When we will stop being killed like this?" Lamia Sami asks in a report by Lindsey Tugman (CBS News). Iraq was slammed with bombings today. Alsumaria quotes a Baghdad Operations Command spokesperson declaring there were five bombs (car bomb and sticky bombings) northwest of Baghdad alone today. Alsumaria counts 6 dead and 14 injured in bombings northwest of Baghdad. All Iraq News notes a Baghdad mortar attack left three people injured.
CNN adds a Baghdad car bombing has claimed 2 lives and left ten people injured and they count 11 dead and thirty-two injured in the day's violence. BBC News explains, "The latest attacks come ahead of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, which begins on Friday." Prensa Latina observes, "Media in this capital linked Tuesday's incidents to those which occurred last Saturday, also in areas that are predominantly Shiite Muslim, the great majority in Iraq, from which were reported eight dead and two dozen wounded, if data from official spokespersons are to be believed."
Iraq must build a new hydrocarbons regime to attract the necessary financing if it expects to solve its infrastructure problems and become the world's No. 2 exporter, an official of the country's government and the International Energy Agency's chief economist both said.
"We have an ambitious plan to double production by the end of this decade," Jabir Habeb, Iraq's ambassador to the US, said at an Oct. 22 seminar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on IEA's Iraq Energy Outlook, which was released earlier in October. "It may be more ambitious than the IEA's projections, but it's apparent there's no alternative."
That report's central scenario projected Iraq's oil production more than doubling to 6.1 million b/d by 2020 and reaching 8.3 million b/d in 2035. This growth in production of more than 5 million b/d by 2035 would make Iraq the largest contributor to more global supplies during that period, it indicated.
But the country will need to develop a hydrocarbons regime with the necessary transparency to attract foreign investments to repair badly neglected oil and gas production, pipelines, and terminals, IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol observed.
Dropping back to the October 18th snapshot:
Early this morning, Laura Rozen (The Back Channel) reported, "Oil giant Exxon Mobil is expected to soon announce that it is pulling out of non-Kurdish Iraq, an energy expert source told Al-Monitor Wednesday on condition of anonymity.  The decision would not apply to Exxon's contracts in Kurdish Iraq, which has been a source of on-going tension with Baghdad authorities for the company, the source said."  Ahmed Rasheed and Patricky Markey (Reuters) state the corporation didn't inform "Iraq of its interest in quitting the country's West Qurna oilfield project" according to unnamed sources.  Sometimes unnamed sources lie.  This may be one of those times.  This is very embarrassing for Nouri and his government and feigning surprise may be their effort to play it off.  'How could we have stopped it?  We didn't even know it was coming!'   That would explain why the 'big surprise' that isn't is being played like it is.  Derek Brower (Petroleum Economist) has been covering this story for over 48 hours (including a source that stated ExxonMobil had informed the Iraqi government) and he notes that ExxonMobil will be focusing all their "efforts on upstream projects in Kurdistan instead."  In addition to the claim in Rasheed and Markey's piece about  Iraq having had no meeting on this, Brower notes that a meeting took place today at the Ministry of Oil.  It would appear Nouri's spinning like crazy in an effort to save his faltering image.  (Nouri can certainly spend billions -- as he proved last week on his mad shopping spree for weapons, he just doesn't seem able to maintain releations with those who help Iraq generate large revenues.)
Al Rafidayn reports today that the Kurdistan Regional Government is now exporting oil on the international markets in spite of Baghdad's objections with many observers expecting this to lead to more tenstions between Nouri's Baghdad-based government and the KRG.

This as the political crisis continues in Iraq.  Goran Sabah Ghafour (Kurdish Globe) observes:
Iraq is now in the middle of nowhere vis-à-vis lack of governance. The public tease the bare-knuckle efforts of the Iraqi politicians to rule. Iraq's premier Nuri Kamal Al-Maliki works day in and day out to strengthen his stronghold by whatever means he has.
Everyday via the media and press we are exposed to nonsense from politicians. The public is disgruntled and blighted by the barking laughs of their leaders appearing on TV saying: "everything will be ok" while the country is on the brink of obliteration with nothing on the right track.
There are many requests at this point for Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug, to appear before Parliament.  Last week, the latest request was made and this was for Nouri to explain himself with regards to the Central Bank.  Nouri's resisting as he has with all other requests.  Per the Constitution, if Parliament summons a prime minister, he or she must appear before them.  But Nouri's never obeyed the Constitution.  Dar Addustour reports rumors of how Nouri may get his way yet again:  He has files on members of another party, apparently dating back to 2007, which would, if revealed, 'implicate' them in terrorism.  The most obvious blackmail targets are the Kurds and Iraqiya.  But if you think back to 2007 and the Diyala attack (by US forces and Nouri's Baghdad forces) that lasted through 2007, what may stand out the most is who they were kicking out: the Mahdi militia.  In other words, whether there's any proof of anything there or not, the most obvious target of his whisper campaign would be Moqtada al-Sadr.

State of Law (Nouri's political slate) is all over the Iraqi press insisting they're not the reason that the Fedral Court Act hasn't passed.  It's probably going to have the same legs that yesterday's story about the back and forth between Ammar al-Hakim (ISCI leader) and a Saudi newspaper did (no traction).

More interesting is State of Law echoing talking points of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (such as in this All Iraq News article). Or All Iraq News quoting State of Law MP Mansour al-Tamimi expressing support for Jalal.  This comes, no surprise, as All Iraq News features Iraqiya MPs quoting Jalal's committment to the process of resolving the political crisis.  Alsumaria notes that Jalal met with the Sadr bloc.  The bloc.  Moqtada, like many in Iraqiya, feels stabbed in the back by Jalal's actions last May.

Meanwhile, it's apparently not enough that two villages in Basra are being terrorized by packs of wild dogs, Al Rafidayn reports that large numbers of large rats are damaging store goods, farm produce and biting children throughout Basra.  Abu Mohammed is quoted stating that the plague of rodents has lasted for over a year now and that the residents see it as terrorism .  Abu Ali notes that rats have attacked their children resulting in nose and finger wounds and they have damaged their home.  It's as though the rats are coming out of the sand, says another and the bait and poison that once worked now does not.
Back to the US for a few veterans topics, Mike Kernels (News & Records) reports on the increased unemployment rate for veterans of today's wars with veterans aged 20 to 24 suffering from a 14.5% unemployment rate, 14.6% for Black veterans and 19.9% for female veterans.  Rick Maze (Navy Times) reports:
National Guard and reserve members who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are having a harder time than other veterans getting disability compensation claims approved by the Veterans Affairs Department.
New data obtained by Veterans for Common Sense under the Freedom of Information Act shows the denial rate for claims filed by reserve component combat veterans is four times higher than for post-9/11 combat veterans who were active-duty members.
Harvard's Linda J. Blimes (Sentinel Source) notes the veterans vote and states it's assumed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a slight lead.  The column's much longer that that but completely useless and, for the record, when you write "Romney does have some negatives, however" -- you probably need to have noted some negatives Barack has as well as some positives Romney would have.  It's a very one-sided column that will confirm many suspicions about Blimes from the last years and used those suspicions to dismiss her accurate financial models.  Unlike Blimes, NBC's Bill Briggs talks to actual veterans and four share what they made of the debates and what they think the most pressing issues for veterans are.  In addition, Disabled Veterans of America notes:
Held annually, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is led by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, but its true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. For specific ideas about how DAV members can support National Disability Employment Awareness Month, visit www.dol.gov/odep/. Suggestions range from simple, such as putting up a poster, to comprehensive, such as implementing a disability education program. Regardless, all play an important part in fostering a more inclusive workforce, one where every person is recognized for his or her abilities -- every day of every month.

For more information please visit the
Office of Disability Employment Policy Workplace Flexibility Toolkit.
That's this month.  Hopefully, you already knew that.  I didn't and wouldn't if it hadn't been e-mailed to us, so thank you for that e-mail.