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A 'fraud' bigger than Madoff

Senior US soldiers investigated over missing Iraq reconstruction billions
By Patrick Cockburn in Sulaimaniyah, Northern Iraq, The Independent

In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi scheme.

"I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad," said one US businessman active in Iraq since 2003.

Best Book on Iraq Occupation?

By David Swanson

I've only read a fraction of the books written on the war/occupation of Iraq, and even those are a large pile. It's tough to choose the best one, but one of the most readable and informative has got to be "Red Zone: Five Bloody Years in Baghdad," by Oliver Poole. This is also perhaps the book most likely to engage war supporters and make them think without being didactic and without pulling any punches.

Dahr Jamail's New Iraq Photo Albums

Album: Fallujah, 2009 (Views from inside Fallujah, February 2009.)

Album: Over 1 Million Displaced Persons In Baghdad (As of February 2009, there are over one million displaced people in Baghdad alone.)

Album: Various Photographs of the Occupation (2009) (Various pictures from the occupation in Iraq, February 2009)

Album: Fishermen on the Tigris River (Due to decreased water level, increased pollution, and a disastrous economy, Iraqi fishermen are struggling to survive.)

Album: Awakening Group leaders of Iraq’s Al-Anbar Province (Photos of two key leaders of the U.S.-backed Sunni militia)

The River Too Tells the Story

The River Too Tells the Story
by Dahr Jamail | Inter Press Service

There is less water now in the Tigris, and it is less clean. The river has fewer fish, and rising fuel and other costs mean they are more costly to catch. It's not, as Hamza Majit finds, a good time to be a fisher.

“It’s getting worse everyday,” Majit told IPS on board his fishing boat.

“You see the low water level,” Majit said, touching the bottom of the river, just two metres down, with a wooden pole. “We need higher water to hold our nets up. And this is the deepest point in the Tigris in this area. With the water this low, it makes it difficult to catch any fish.”

Shock and . . . Oil?

By Russ Baker, Author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, The Powerful Forces That Put it in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America

George W. Bush has left office and pundits are reviewing “the Bush legacy” -- a legacy sure to be defined by the disastrous Iraq war (with financial meltdown as icing on the cake). In the new book Family of Secrets, a probing history of the Bush dynasty, investigative journalist Russ Baker, shows that George W. Bush was hatching ideas for war on Iraq not only before 9/11, but even before he was elected president.

Tomgram: Dahr Jamail, Iraq from the Inside of an Armored BMW

Tomgram: Dahr Jamail, Iraq from the Inside of an Armored BMW | TomDispatch.com

Already it's begun -- the endless non-departure from Iraq. The Obama plan, restated many times during the presidential campaign, involved a 16-month schedule for withdrawing not all U.S. forces, but only U.S. "combat troops." Now, his (and, of course, George W. Bush's) generals are showing visible evidence of dragging their combat boots in the sand on the subject. We were given fair warning. Over the last two years, numerous military figures have claimed that, as fast as they got into Iraq, it would be hell just getting all the U.S. stuff now embedded there out -- and that's without even taking into account the political situation in that country. Recently, according to military leaks to the media, "U.S. military planners" have come up with two alternate scenarios to Obama's 16-month plan. One is reportedly 19 months long, the other 23 months long, and -- here's a shock -- the two top generals in charge, Centcom commander David Petraeus and U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, favor the 23-month approach.

Gates Orders Review of Ban on Photos of Coffins

Gates orders review of ban on photos of coffins
By Lara Jakes | Yahoo!News

Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a review Tuesday of a Pentagon policy banning media from taking pictures of flag-draped coffins of military dead, signaling he was open to overturning the policy to better honor fallen soldiers.

At least two Democratic senators have called on President Barack Obama to let news photographers attend ceremonies at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and other military facilities when military remains are returned to the United States. Obama told reporters Monday he was reviewing the ban.

US Iraq Casualties Jump to 71,119

US Iraq Casualties Jump to 71,119
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-In-Chief Obama suffered 27 combat casualties in the week ending Feb 10, 2009, as the official total rose to jumped sharply to at least 71,119 with monthly "non hostile" casualties posted.

The total includes 34,443 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,676 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 31, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*

The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries-mainly brain trauma from explosions (TBI) and PTSD diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**

Call-In Now to Pressure House Armed Services Committee on Iraq and Afghanistan!

From http://unitedforpeace.org

Tomorrow, February 12, the House Armed Services Committee is convening a hearing on 'U.S. Strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan: Balancing Interests and Resources'.

This is a large committee with 60 Representatives from many states around the country. United For Peace and Justice urges you to take a few minutes to help us put pressure on the House Armed Services Committee to use this hearing to raise the hard question, and put on the table the most critical issues about these two wars!

Here are the steps you need to take:

1) Click here for the full list of the members of the House Armed Services Committee.

2) Check that list to see if your Representative serves on the committee. If you find that person's name, click on that and it will take you to their website. From there, you will find the best phone number to use.

Why the GOP Is Going Down While Seeming to Go Up

Why the GOP Is Going Down While Seeming to Go Up
By Bernard Weiner | The Crisis Papers

The elites who pull the strings behind the curtain must have cringed every time George Dubya opened his mouth. The poor dummy couldn't help blurting out aspects of the actual agenda. "My job is to catapult the propaganda," he said. And, telling a citizen who criticized his policies: "Why should I care what you think?" And his thrice-stated "joking" remark: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just as long as I'm the dictator."

It's like watching someone being sucked down into quicksand. I'm referring to the sad, desperate struggle of the Republican Party to try to resurrect its electoral fortunes by championing the exact same policies that took them to embarrassing defeat in the Obama/Democratic landslide. By their actions, it's plain they got nuthin'.

Nothin' except to flail about in self-destructive obstructionism, basically in temper-tantrum mode. If we can't be victorious, they seem to be telling the Democrats (and, by extension, the country), we'll make sure you go down with us. This kind of schoolboy behavior is rolled out at a time in American history when the country's financial and governmental institutions are close to free-fall catastrophe unless some drastic corrective action is taken.

Misreading the Iraqi Election Results

Misreading the Iraqi Election Results
By Ivan Eland | Independent Institute

Now that their nemesis, George W. Bush, has left office, the mainstream media can be unbridled in their optimism about the future of Iraq. After 9/11, they chose to allow themselves to be duped by the Bush administration’s fairly lame reasons for the clearly unrelated U.S. invasion of Iraq and have been bitter about the quagmire ever since.

Given that Barack Obama, whom most media covered favorably during the election campaign, has taken office, their coverage of the recent Iraqi provincial elections indicates that they have flipped and now see a glass half full in Iraq rather than a glass half empty. They have touted the Iraqi elections as a wild success, with purple-thumbed Iraqi citizens depicted as supporting a centralized Iraqi state over autonomy for Iraq’s regions.

Not so fast.

Excuse Me, Mr. President

Excuse Me, Mr. President

Help Build the Iraq Memorial to Life

By Molly Gibbs

The Iraq Memorial to Life (IMtL) is born because your organization—and so many other organizations like yours—have been working hard for peace.

A powerful visual image of gravestones, on the National Mall in DC, will move Americans to end senseless death.

Thousands of memorial markers, carefully arranged, will bring home the full extent of Iraqi deaths to the American public and its legislators. The grieving that has long been a daily part of Iraqi life will be memorialized by small volunteer groups, and spread outward, community by community, as we prepare for the April display on the National Mall in DC. Reactions to both regional and national displays will bring attention to the human suffering caused by the Iraq war.

Sen. Leahy's and Rep. Conyers' Truth Commission Could Work but...

By Dave Lindorff

The similar calls by Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and House Judiciary Chair Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the crimes of the Bush/Cheney administration are potentially a terrible idea, but one that could turn out to be an excellent one, if handled correctly.

It would be a terrible idea if a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was just another 9-11-type body. That commission turned out to be worse than nothing, given that it was manipulated by the Bush administration to be toothless and that it ended up covering up more than it uncovered. Aside from the behind the scenes manipulation, the biggest problem with the 9-11 commission, though, was that is was not linked to any attempt to prosecute official wrong-doing.

Petraeus' Treason Spreads

Petraeus Leaked Misleading Story On Pullout Plans
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (IPS) - The political maneuvering between President Barack Obama and his top field commanders over withdrawal from Iraq has taken a sudden new turn with the leak by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus - and a firm denial by a White House official - of an account of the Jan. 21 White House meeting suggesting that Obama had requested three different combat troop withdrawal plans with their respective associated risks, including one of 23 months.

The Petraeus account, reported by McClatchy newspapers Feb. 5 and then by the Associated Press the following day, appears to indicate that Obama is moving away from the 16-month plan he had vowed during the campaign to implement if elected. But on closer examination, it doesn't necessarily refer to any action by Obama or to anything that happened at the Jan. 21 meeting.

UFPJ SAYS: YES WE CAN…END THE WAR IN IRAQ!

http://unitedforpeace.org

Pressing for a rapid and complete end of the occupation of Iraq remains at the heart of the antiwar
movement's agenda. What Washington does in Iraq will be pivotal in determining whether this
country moves toward an era of peaceful, cooperative engagement with the rest of the world or
stays mired in bloody, fruitless and never-ending wars.

In the context of this new administration, all eyes are focused on the future. But to move decisively
into a new era, we cannot forget:

**For the last six years Bush's propaganda machine has repeatedly termed its Iraq adventure the
"central front" in the fight against terrorism. Yet five years after "Mission Accomplished" U.S.
intelligence agencies agree that every day the occupation continues the threat of terrorism
worldwide increases rather than decreases.

**The invasion and then occupation of Iraq has been - and remains - a human, political and

Iraqi Women's Minister Resigns in Protest

Iraqi women's minister resigns in protest
By Kim Gamel | YahooNews!

An untold number have lost their husbands or other male relatives to violence or detention since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, often leaving them alone with children and virtually no safety net or job opportunities....Al-Samarraie warned of the desperate Iraqi women who have become suicide bombers. "Many of them are widows, or homeless or hopeless," she said. "No one opened the door for them."

Iraq's state minister for women's affairs has quit to protest a lack of resources for a daunting task — improving the lives of "a full army of widows" and other women left poor or abandoned by war.

Al Zeidi's face must be healing: He's got a trial date

Trial date set for Iraqi 'shoe-thrower'
By Steven Lee Myers, International Herald Tribune

BAGHDAD: The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at the former American president, George Bush, will go on trial on Feb. 19, charged with assaulting a foreign leader, a spokesman for the court and one of the man's lawyer said on Sunday.

Lawyers for the journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, 29, had tried to reduce the charges stemming from the incident, which made him a folk hero in much of the Arab world and beyond, but in setting a trial date a higher court let the most serious charges stand. If convicted, he could face as many as 15 years in prison.

Zaidi hurled his shoes at Bush on Dec. 14 during a joint press conference with Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, narrowly missing the former president. "This is a gift from the Iraqis," he shouted. "This is the farewell kiss, you dog!"

This Nation Needs a Fighter in the White House, not a Gabber and Glad-Hander

By Dave Lindorff

If the disaster of the so-called "stimulus" bill just passed by the Senate doesn't convince President Obama and his advisers that the strategy of "bipartisanship" that he has been espousing is a political suicide, nothing will.

The Republican Party, with the willing help of conservative Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Democratic turncoats like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), has forced Obama to agree to a joke of a stimulus package that is nearly half composed of tax breaks which will do nothing to bolster the economy (since most of the money will end up either paying down credit card debt or buying Chinese and Sri Lankan imports) and that is stripped of $40 billion to help struggling state and local governments.

Fresh from its rout in November, the GOP is, in fact, openly trying to sabotage Obama's economic stimulus plan, because the last thing Republicans want to see is an economy on the upturn in 2010 or 2012.

Obama weighing 23-month Iraq withdrawal option

By ROBERT BURNS, AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is considering at least two troop withdrawal options as it weighs a new Iraq strategy — one that would preserve President Barack Obama's campaign pledge to get all combat brigades out within 16 months and a second that would stretch it to 23 months, two officials said Friday.

A third, in-between option of 19 months is also being weighed, according to the officials, neither of whom would discuss the sensitive topic without being granted anonymity. One of the officials said the main focus appears to be on the 16-month and 23-month options; 23 months would run to the end of 2010.

IRAQ: No Voting for Thousands of Iraqi Kurds

By Peggy Gish, CPTnet

The mood was one of celebration. Iraqis in the northern Diyala province city of Khanaqin crowded into polling centers on provincial election day, 31 January 2009. Many dressed in their best Kurdish or Arab traditional clothing or wrapped in flags. "We are happy to express our democracy," several told us after voting, showing their purple tipped fingers.

As international independent election observers, CPT Iraq team members visited three polling sites. At each place, voting procedures seemed efficient, and workers seemed helpful and fair. We saw no threatening behavior on the part of Khanaqin police who guarded the sites and searched people going in. But not everyone walked out happy or with purple fingers.

No Unemployment Among Iraqi Gravediggers

By Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service

BAGHDAD — Amidst the soaring unemployment in Iraq, the gravediggers have been busy. So busy that officials have no record of the number of graves dug; of the real death toll, that is.

“I’ve been working here four years,” a gravedigger who gave his name as Ali told IPS at the largest cemetery in Baghdad, a sprawling expanse in the Abu Ghraib section of the capital city. “In 2006 and some of 2007, we buried 40- 50 people daily. This went on for one-and-a-half years.

“Twenty-five percent of these were from violence, and another 70 percent were killed by the Mehdi Army (the militia of Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr).” Only a few appeared to have died from natural causes.

“Most of the dead were never logged by anyone,” Ali said, “because we didn’t check death certificates, we just tried to get the bodies into the ground as quickly as possible.”

An Iraqi Army checkpoint was set up outside the vast cemetery a year ago.

My Son Wrote This Before He Shot Himself

From Dale Pierce

This is a poem my son wrote after returning from Iraq, before he shot himself for what Bush had him do in Iraq.

Got home almost a year and a half ago
We were so happy
That beer never tasted so good
Iraq was the farthest thing from my mind
That was the best week of my life.It crept up slowly
First just while sleeping
More real and scary than when it happened
After, it's on the mind awake
Never 10 minutes goes by without being reminded
Been home a year and a half physically
Mentally, I will never be home.

- "Still at War" by Noah Pierce, poem inside his funeral folder

Thanks Dale

PS. Go get him!

MORE POEMS: PDF.

General Betray Us Very Well Named

That little dork who came up to the shoulderpads of the players as he flipped the coin to begin the Super Bowl, that pathetic genocidist whom Admiral Fallon famously derided as an "ass-kissing little chickenshit," that hero to morons capable of intimidating small children and Congress members, General David Petraeus is now opposing the decision of our president to do exactly what we elected him to do and get out of Iraq within 16 months. Treason is the only word for it. General Betray Us is well-named.

UPDATE: I've heard an objection to using the term "genocidist." I think it's appropriate but recognize room for disagreement. A quarter of the population of Iraq is dead or displaced as the result of the work of generals who in some cases openly stated their desire to punish the people (supposedly) responsible for 9-11. If the term genocide is to be useful, it should -- I think -- encompass such actions. If the term suggests something else to you, please be assured that I don't mean that.

Security in Iraq: Relatively Speaking

By Dahr Jamail, www.truthout.org

If there is to be any degree of honesty in our communication, we must begin to acknowledge that the lexicon of words that describes the human condition is no longer universally applicable.

I am in Iraq after four years away.

Most Iraqis I talked with on the eve of the first provincial elections being held after 2005 told me “security is better.”

I myself was lulled into a false sense of security upon my arrival a week ago. Indeed, security is “better,” compared to my last trip here, when the number of attacks per month against the occupation forces and Iraqi collaborators used to be around 6,000. Today, we barely have one American soldier being killed every other day and only a score injured weekly. Casualties among Iraqi security forces are just ten times that number.

But yes, one could say security is better if one is clear that it is better in comparison not to downtown Houston but to Fallujah 2004.

Generals' Revolt Threatens Obama Presidency

By Dave Lindorff

If an article by Gareth Porter in run by InterPress is correct that CentCom Commander Gen. David Petraeus and Iraq Commander Gen. Ray Odierno, backed by a group of lower-ranking generals, are planning to mount a public campaign to try and undermine President Obama’s plan for a withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months, Obama needs to act fast and nip this dangerous act of insubordination in the bud.

Guns and Butter (Again)

Guns and Butter (Again)
Ivan Eland | Independent Institute

When you stop to think about it, people measure how well their lives are going not by their absolute state of being but by their situation relative to their expectations. For example, a poor person in a developing country may be ecstatic about getting a pair of shoes for the first time; in contrast, a billionaire may commit suicide after he loses $100 million in a down market.

The same is true for nations. The American elite has enjoyed the United States’ dominant status in the world since World War II and became thoroughly drunk with U.S. superiority in the last two decades after the demise of the Soviet Union left the country as the only superpower. This elite is resistant to accepting the reality that a multipolar world will soon be at hand.

Iraq tribes threaten to take up arms over poll

By Fadhel al-Badrani, Reuters

RAMADI, Iraq, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Tribal sheikhs who helped drive al Qaeda militants out of Western Iraq threatened on Monday to take up arms against the provincial government because of what they said was fraud in Saturday's provincial polls.

The election was the most peaceful in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, but there has been tension in the west of the country between Sunni Arab groups, many of whom boycotted the last provincial ballot in 2005.

Anbar province, Iraq's vast western third, was once the heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency against U.S. troops but is now largely quiet, thanks to tribal guard units known as Awakening councils that helped drive out al Qaeda militants.

In one of the toughest-fought contests of the election, the tribes have challenged the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), a Sunni religious party which has run the province since 2005.

Why Are We Still at War?

By Norman Solomon

The United States began its war in Afghanistan 88 months ago. “The war on terror” has no sunset clause. As a perpetual emotion machine, it offers to avenge what can never heal and to fix grief that is irreparable.

For the crimes against humanity committed on Sept. 11, 2001, countless others are to follow, with huge conceits about technological “sophistication” and moral superiority. But if we scrape away the concrete of media truisms, we may reach substrata where some poets have dug.

W.H. Auden: “Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.”

Stanley Kunitz: “In a murderous time / the heart breaks and breaks / and lives by breaking.”

Maliki Allies Ahead in Iraqi Election; Voters See Election of Maliki's Party as "Most Expedient Way to End the Occupation"

In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies look poised for a sweeping victory in provincial polls held Saturday. We speak to two independent journalists just back from Iraq, Rick Rowley and David Enders. Rowley said, "Many Iraqis saw this, the votes they were casting in this election, as a way to end the American occupation."

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