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August 27, 2007

"The Insurgent Tax"

The real question is, why should anyone be surprised anymore?

BAGHDAD — Iraq's deadly insurgent groups have financed their war against U.S. troops in part with hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. rebuilding funds that they've extorted from Iraqi contractors in Anbar province.

The payments, in return for the insurgents' allowing supplies to move and construction work to begin, have taken place since the earliest projects in 2003, Iraqi contractors, politicians and interpreters involved with reconstruction efforts said.

A fresh round of rebuilding spurred by the U.S. military's recent alliance with some Anbar tribes — 200 new projects are scheduled — provides another opportunity for militant groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq to siphon off more U.S. money, contractors and politicians warn.

"Now we're back to the same old story in Anbar. The Americans are handing out contracts and jobs to terrorists, bandits and gangsters," said Sheik Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, the deputy leader of the Dulaim, the largest and most powerful tribe in Anbar. He was involved in several U.S. rebuilding contracts in the early days of the war, but is now a harsh critic of the U.S. presence.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad declined to provide anyone to discuss the allegations. An embassy spokesman, Noah Miller, said in an e-mailed statement that, "in terms of contracting practices, we have checks and balances in our contract awarding system to prevent any irregularities from occurring. Each contracted company is responsible for providing security for the project."

Providing that security is the source of the extortion, Iraqi contractors say. A U.S. company with a reconstruction contract hires an Iraqi sub-contractor to haul supplies along insurgent-ridden roads. The Iraqi contractor sets his price at up to four times the going rate because he'll be forced to give 50 percent or more to gun-toting insurgents who demand cash payments in exchange for the supply convoys' safe passage.

One Iraqi official said the arrangement makes sense for insurgents. By granting safe passage to a truck loaded with $10,000 in goods, they receive a "protection fee" that can buy more weapons and vehicles. Sometimes the insurgents take the goods, too.

"The violence in Iraq has developed a political economy of its own that sustains it and keeps some of these terrorist groups afloat," said Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, who recently asked the U.S.-led coalition to match the Iraqi government's pledge of $230 million for Anbar projects.

Despite several devastating U.S. military offensives to rout insurgents, the militants - or, in some cases, tribes with insurgent connections - still control the supply routes of the province, making reconstruction all but impossible without their protection.

One senior Iraqi politician with personal knowledge of the contracting system said the insurgents also use their cuts to pay border police in Syria "to look the other way" as they smuggle weapons and foot soldiers into Iraq.

"Every contractor in Anbar who works for the U.S. military and survives for more than a month is paying the insurgency," the politician said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. "The contracts are inflated, all of them. The insurgents get half."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he was aware of the "insurgent tax" that U.S.-allied contractors are forced to pay in Anbar, though he said it wasn't clear how much money was going to militant groups and how much to opportunistic tribesmen operating on their own.

"It's part of a taxation they put on trucks through all these territories, but it's very difficult to establish if it's going directly to insurgents," Zebari said.

Rats, Sinking Ships, Etc.

So I was off by about five months, big deal:

WACO, Tex., Aug. 27 — ­ Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.

Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.

Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Attorney General's resignation had not yet been made public.

Mr. Bush had repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as he faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department, including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and questions about whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

Gee, first MC Rove, now Gonzo. Bushco's wall is crumbling around him as we speak.

August 23, 2007

Bush Opens His Piehole

Yeah Bush is right: our withdrawal from Vietnam and abandoning that country to the communists was so devastating that we now need to normalize trade with them.


August 17, 2007

Just So Many Things Wrong With This. . .

Life under the bush era, folks:

PEARLAND — Korean War veteran Nyles Reed, 75, opened an envelope last week to learn a Purple Heart had been approved for injuries he sustained as a Marine on June 22, 1952.

But there was no medal. Just a certificate and a form stating that the medal was "out of stock."

"I can imagine, of course, with what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, there's a big shortage," Reed said. "At least, I would imagine so."

The form letter from the Navy Personnel Command told Reed he could wait 90 days and resubmit an application, or buy his own medal.

After waiting 55 years, however, Reed decided to pay $42 for his own Purple Heart and accompanying ribbon — plus state sales taxes — at a military surplus store.

August 16, 2007

Just Like A Farmer's Market In Peoria

Crooks and Liars has a rare footage of Fox Nooze doing some (quote, unquote) reporting in a Baghdad market where the words of the spokesmodel saying how the Surge is working is completely contradicted the sights and sounds caught on camera. You really must see this to believe it.

(Via the stalinists at Daily Kos)

August 8, 2007

Surge, Countersurge

While certain Democrats seem to be falling over themselves to throw a bone to the neocon warmongers by praising certain parts of the military operations, the number of roadside bombs have reached an all-time high in Eye-Rack:

Although coalition forces have claimed a number of successes in discovering caches of the bombs, the number of attacks in July, stated as 99, shows the insurgency has had no problem in obtaining supplies.

In recent weeks, US forces have focused operations on Sunni militants and, in particular, al-Qa'ida.

One of the initial aims of the "surge" was to combat Shia militias which, often in collusion with government forces, have been running death squads. However, the alleged use of the roadside devices shows the threat from the Shias, with many of the groups sponsored by Tehran, has not diminished despite numerous American missions.

Oh and here's this lovely little nugget:

Lieutenant General Raymond Odiarno, the deputy US commander in Iraq, said there had been an "all-time high" in July of attacks using the devices and that Shia militants were responsible for 73 per cent of the attacks that killed or wounded American troops in Baghdad.

So Ray "mock execution" Odierno admitted that his pet surge has sparked a full-blown shiite insurgency? Well hot dawg, we just have no choice but to stay in that sandbox, don't we?


August 7, 2007

What Our Soldiers Are Dying For

While the army announced that 26 soldiers have died in the past week, this is apparently what the Maliki government is up to:

The U.S. military says it believes that the Shia-led government in Baghdad is trying to cleanse the city of all Sunnis.

Sectarian violence has pushed most Sunnis into west Baghdad, and the Iraqi government is suspected of limiting basic services to the Sunnis in hopes of causing them to leave.

That would leave Sunnis even further unrepresented in the city, and it has cast a whole different light on the delay of provincial elections.

A government official claims, however, that Sunni politicians, fearful of losing to other Sunnis in the elections, are to blame.

Eye-Rack's First No-Frills Airline Bans Eye-Rackees

The Bushies, cons and contractors could teach Henry James himself a thing or two about irony:

An upstart airline operating weekly flights between Baghdad and Amman, Jordan, is billing itself as the first no-frills airline to operate out of Iraq, but the company is restricting more than just food and booze on its flights.

The airline is also banning Iraqis, Indians, Pakistanis and other non-Westerners from traveling.

Expat Airways said it is only accepting U.S. and Western citizens on its flights as it tries to capitalize on the thousands of U.S. contractors traveling in and out of the Iraqi capital each month. The airline, which landed its first 42-seat Russian Antonov turboprop at Baghdad International Airport Monday, is thought to be the first to bar passengers based on nationality.

U.S. and European carriers are restricted from the practice, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Ahmed al Musawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi Transportation Ministry, called Expat's flight restrictions ''immoral'' but said there are no federal laws in Iraq banning such actions.

August 3, 2007

"July The Lowest Month This Year For U.S. Casualties"

Icasualties.org puts the July total at 81, which ties it for two previous months this year. But give the MSM credit for catapulting the propoganda.