Uncle Sugar spent $43 million for a $500K gas station in Afghanistan

Our Afghan CNG filling station

The U.S. Department of Defense spent an estimated $43 million to build a single gas station in Afghanistan, the federal government’s oversight authority for reconstruction in the Central Asian country said Monday. The revelation marks the latest example of alleged overspending identified by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction…

SIGAR’s report called the plan to build a compressed natural gas (CNG) filling station in the small northern Afghan city of Sheberghan “ill-conceived,” and said it came at an “exorbitant cost to U.S. taxpayers.” The report noted that the gas station should have cost roughly $500,000…

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera…

“One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation or outcome,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko said in a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter that accompanied the report.

Read the whole report [.pdf] if you feel like getting pissed off over millions of taxpayer dollars wasted, stolen, and misused. In a war that accomplished nothing other than decades of enmity and agony to come. A present from conservatives and cowards in Congress and the White House.

American mercenaries get serious prison sentences for Iraq murders


The youngest victim — 9-year-old Ali Kinani

Rejecting pleas for mercy, a federal judge on Monday sentenced former Blackwater security guard Nicholas Slatten to life in prison and three others to 30-year terms for their roles in a 2007 shooting that killed 14 Iraqi civilians and wounded 17 others.

The carnage in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square, a crowded traffic circle, caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone and remains one of the low points of the war in Iraq.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Slatten, who witnesses said was the first to fire shots in the melee, to life on a charge of first-degree murder. The three other guards – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – were each sentenced to 30 years and one day in prison for charges that included manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and using firearms while committing a felony…

Prosecutors described the shooting as an unprovoked ambush of civilians and said the men haven’t shown remorse or taken responsibility. Defense lawyers countered that the men were targeted with gunfire and shot back in self-defense.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Martin urged the court to consider the gravity of the crime as well as the sheer number of dead and wounded and “count every victim.”

“These four men have refused to accept virtually any responsibility for their crimes and the blood they shed that day,” Martin said…

Mohammad Kinani Al-Razzaq spoke in halting English about the death of his 9-year-old son as a picture of the smiling boy, Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, was shown on courtroom monitors. He demanded the court show Blackwater “what the law is” and claimed many American soldiers died “because of what Blackwater did.”

“What’s the difference between these criminals and terrorists?” Razzaq said.

And that, my friends, has always been the difference between fighting for national liberation, fighting for freedom against a foreign power occupying your nation – and terrorists willing to murder civilians regardless of what kind of freedom they say they’re fighting for.

It started with the brutal bombing of civilians in Madrid by Hitler’s Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War – and was carried on with glorious abandon and self-justification by the US Air Force carpet-bombing, dropping napalm on civilians in VietNam. Contemporary examples include scum from AlQaeda and ISIS – and hired gunslingers like these convicted thugs.

You can actually get down to pretty fine points arguing military history. This ain’t one of them.

Blackwater thugs finally convicted of killing Iraqi civilians

Blackwater and Bush

Three security guards working for the private US contractor Blackwater have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a group of unarmed civilians at a crowded Baghdad traffic junction in one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.

A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of one charge of first-degree murder. All face the likelihood of lengthy prison sentences after unanimous verdicts on separate weapons charges related to the incident.

The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.

But attempts to prosecute the guards have previously foundered because of a series of legal mistakes by US officials, and the case had attracted widespread attention in Iraq as a symbol of apparent American immunity.

Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.

The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence…

Federal prosecutor Anthony Asuncion said: “These men took something that did not belong to them: the lives of 14 human beings. They were turned into bloody bullet-riddled corpses at the hands of these men.”

“It must have seemed like the apocalypse was here,” said Asuncion in his closing argument, as he described how many were shot in the back, at long range, or blown up by powerful grenades used by the US contractors.

“There was not a single dead insurgent on the scene,” claimed the prosecutor. “None of these people were armed.”

Sounds like the qualities sought after by your local police department – guaranteeing these gangsters a job when they return to the States. That’s not just a smartass remark. It’s already part of the process of turning our local PD’s into military police.

RTFA for all the details. Personally, I think the GUARDIAN is too kind referring to “a series of legal mistakes by US officials”. Because never in over a half-century of civil rights activism have I ever seen any American officials make “legal mistakes” on behalf of someone poor, Black, working class.

The 14 victims killed by the Blackwater guards on trial were listed as Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, Osama Fadhil Abbas, Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Sa’adi Ali Abbas Alkarkh, Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, Ghaniyah Hassan Ali, Ibrahim Abid Ayash, Hamoud Sa’eed Abttan, Uday Ismail Ibrahiem, Mahdi Sahib Nasir and Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein.

Someone in the United States ought to remember their names.

Archbishop Tutu refuses to share a platform with Tony Blair

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pulled out of an event because he refuses to share a platform with Tony Blair.

The veteran peace campaigner said Mr Blair’s support for the Iraq war was “morally indefensible” and it would be “inappropriate” for him to appear alongside him.

The pair were due to take part in a one-day leadership summit in Johannesburg, South Africa…

In a statement, Dr Tutu’s Office said: “Ultimately, the archbishop is of the view that Mr Blair’s decision to support the United States’ military invasion of Iraq, on the basis of unproven allegations of the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, was morally indefensible.

“The Discovery Invest Leadership Summit has leadership as its theme. Morality and leadership are indivisible.

“In this context, it would be inappropriate and untenable for the archbishop to share a platform with Mr Blair…”

Tony Blair’s office responded by saying – blah, blah, blah…

Desmond Tutu reminds all of us that there have always been leaders whose religious standards care most of all about fighting for peace and freedom. A special contradiction this week as we get to witness Cardinal Dolan making a special appearance at the Republican Convention to emphasize their shared ideology on the repression of women, willingness to deny civil rights to folks in the LGBT community. No doubt he wouldn’t have the least problem sharing the stage with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Kudos to the Archbishop with a heart and conscience.

Auditors find US wasted millions on Iraqi police training facilities, billions on training!

Report from auditors finds that massive US programme to train Iraqi police was unwanted and led to ‘de-facto waste’.

More than $200m was wasted on a programme to train Iraqi police that the government in Baghdad neither needed or wanted, US auditors have found.

The Police Development Programme, which was to be the single largest programme launched by the US State Department anywhere in the world, was envisioned to be a five-year, multi-billion dollar effort to train local security forces after the US military pulled out last December.

A report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, to be released today, found that the US embassy in Baghdad never received a written commitment from Iraq to participate in the programme.

Now, facing what the report called Baghdad’s “disinterest” in the project, the embassy is massively cutting what was planned to be the centrepiece of ongoing US training projects in Iraq.

According to the report, the embassy now plans to turn the $108m Baghdad Police College Annex over to Iraqis by the end of 2012, and will also stop training at a $98m site in the southern city of Basra…

“A major lesson learned from Iraq is that host country buy-in to proposed programmes is essential to the long-term success of relief and reconstruction activities”…auditors wrote in a 41-page summary of their inspection…

In ordinary English – understand we’re talking about a government made up of survivors of Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

The report concluded, “the decision to embark on a major programme absent Iraqi buy-in has been costly” and resulted in “a de-facto waste”…The findings have called into question funding needs at the US embassy in Baghdad, the largest such mission in the world…

In a July 26 letter responding to a draft of the report, Carol Z. Perez, an acting US assistant secretary of state, said that the embassy would be requesting additional funding for the police training programme in 2013…

Moreover, Perez said, the embassy had been assured by Adnan al-Asadi, the Iraqi principal deputy interior minister, that his country is committed to a streamlined version of the training programme.

The auditors, however, said that those assurances fall short of a written commitment. They quoted al-Asadi as telling US inspectors that the police training programme was “useless”.

Bush’s imperial adventure into the Middle East will go down in history as comparable to the political and military disaster that was VietNam. We weren’t wanted. We did nothing useful to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

We convinced the few people who may have been sympathetic to the United States in the Middle East and the rest of the world – that our foreign policy is as backwards as the rules of order governing Congress. And our nation is run by liberals and/or conservatives who have learning nothing from our past – or the failures of every imperial nation that preceded us.

Teachers and students at West Point question US war doctrine

For two centuries, the United States Military Academy has produced generals for America’s wars, among them Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, George S. Patton and David H. Petraeus. It is where President George W. Bush delivered what became known as his pre-emption speech, which sought to justify the invasion of Iraq, and where President Obama told the nation he was sending an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan.

Now at another critical moment in American military history, the faculty here on the commanding bend in the Hudson River is deep in its own existential debate. Narrowly, the argument is whether the counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq and Afghanistan — the troop-heavy, time-intensive, expensive doctrine of trying to win over the locals by building roads, schools and government — is dead.

Broadly, the question is what the United States gained after a decade in two wars.

“Not much,” Col. Gian P. Gentile, the director of West Point’s military history program and the commander of a combat battalion in Baghdad in 2006, said flatly in an interview last week. “Certainly not worth the effort. In my view.”

Colonel Gentile, long a critic of counterinsurgency, represents one side of the divide at West Point. On the other is Col. Michael J. Meese, the head of the academy’s influential social sciences department and a top adviser to General Petraeus in Baghdad and Kabul when General Petraeus commanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Nobody should ever underestimate the costs and the risks involved with counterinsurgency, but neither should you take that off the table,” Colonel Meese said, also in an interview last week. Counterinsurgency, he said, “was broadly successful in being able to have the Iraqis govern themselves.”

You now know – from this point in the conversation forward, this is a flunky whose understanding is ruled by ideology and politics.

Continue reading

The Pentagon not only wastes our money — they managed to lose $2 billion they got from Iraq!


Pentagon policy on issuing contracts for Iraq reconstruction

The U.S. Defense Department cannot account for about $2 billion it was given to cover Iraq-related expenses and is not providing Iraq with a complete list of U.S.-funded reconstruction projects, according to two new government audits…

The Iraqi government in 2004 gave the Department of Defense access to about $3 billion to pay bills for certain contracts, and the department can only show what happened to about a third of that, the inspector general says…

Although the Department of Defense had “internal processes and controls” to track payments, the “bulk of the records are missing,” the report says, adding that the department is searching for them. Other documents are missing as well, including monthly reports documenting expenses, the audit says.

“From July 2004 through December 2007, DoD should have provided 42 monthly reports. However, it can locate only the first four reports…”

Sounds like the Pentagon performed exactly up to the standards required by Bush and Cheney. Which means none at all.

Separately, the inspector general’s office sent a letter Sunday to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq complaining that the U.S. government is not providing Iraq with a complete list of reconstruction projects…

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction was created in 2004 to continue oversight of Iraq reconstruction programs.

In some nations, civil servants and bureaucrats are part of an honorable profession. They exist and function on behalf of the best interests of the country.

The tradition in much of our local, state and federal bodies is to either have a safe, secure job offering a better life of retirement than private industry – or to have a safe, secure job offering an easy way to steal.

Republican congressman says Iraq should repay us for invading their county – WTF?


He knows what we’ve done even if Rohrabacher doesn’t care

The U.S. Embassy in Iraq is distancing itself from statements made by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher that led to a government spokesman saying the congressman and his delegation are not welcome in the country

Dana Rohrabacher, the chairman of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee…told reporters during a news conference at the embassy in Baghdad that he suggested Iraq repay some of the cost of the war.

“Once Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country … we would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the United States some of the mega-dollars that we have spent here in the last eight years,” said Rohrabacher, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency…

It was unclear whether the U.S. Embassy recorded the news conference. It did not make any video or audio recordings of Rohrabacher’s statements available to the media…

“We have contacted the U.S. Embassy and they said the remarks of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher expressed his own opinion and not the official opinion of the United States,” the spokesman said…

Traveling with Rohrabacher were Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri; Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, a Republican member of Rohrabacher’s subcommittee; Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina; Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas; and Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of California.

Telephone calls to the district and Washington offices of all five congressmen were either not answered or not immediately returned.

Once again, the world gets a clear vision of the worst in American foreign policy. Guided by imperial greed, the stink of military power put to tasks benefitting the Oil Patch Boys above all else, Rohrabacher emphasizes his role as spokesman for the most reactionary, power-hungry thugs in Congress.