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August 27, 2007

Your Tax Dollars At Work
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:57 AM * 25 comments

Remember how Georgie wants to start a war with Iran because they’re funding and training (some of the) insurgents in Iraq?

He can start a war a little closer to home if he wants and save on travel costs. It seems that the US is funding the insurgents too.

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.

And:

WASHINGTON - Nearly one of every 25 weapons the U.S. military bought for Iraqi security forces is missing and many others cannot be repaired because parts or technical manuals are lacking, a government audit said Sunday.

The Defense Department cannot account for 14,030 weapons — almost 4 percent of the semiautomatic pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons it began supplying to Iraq since the end of 2003, according to a report from the office of the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

The missing semiautomatic pistols, assault rifles, machine guns and other weapons will not be tracked easily: The Defense Department registered the serial numbers of only about 10,000 of the 370,251 weapons it provided — less than 3 percent.

And:

BAGHDAD

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades longer than Casey’s assessment.

Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.

“None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better,” said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. “They’re working for the militias or to put money in their pocket.”

Comments on Your Tax Dollars At Work:
#1 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Now, to be fair, there is always going to be a certain level of funding in Iraq that will end up in non-contractor hands. It's just not possible to watch every dollar and every contractor and every supplier 24 hours a day over there.

At least local contractors are getting --some-- of the work; I remember a bridge repair project in Baghdad that was estimated to cost under a million with local design/construction, that ended up costing millions when awarded to Haliburton.

Even if 100% of the work was done by US contractors, they'd still have to deal with local suppliers and labor, so the money would still end up in insurgents' hands one way or another. It's just a rotten situation over there any way you look at it.

#2 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:37 AM:

Steve Gilliard (RIP) had been saying that for years: the Iraqi security/police forces and the insurgents were the same people.

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:44 AM:

My first question was, "They didn't write down the serial numbers? Whaaaaat? The Army didn't record the serial numbers of their weapons?"

Then the image of a black bridge floated before my eyes and all became clear.

#4 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:49 AM:

black bridge? I haven't had my caffeine yet today....

#5 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:51 AM:

Recording the serial numbers? Isn't that one of those "quality control" things that just waste corporate profits?

#6 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 12:05 PM:

If I were cynical I would think that those in charge were feeding the situation that would keep certain people in control instead of trying to solve the situation and have a resolution. But that would only be if I were cynical.

#7 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 12:06 PM:

And how many of those guns were US manufactured anyway. If I'm remembering right, they chose to buy Kalashnikov-type weapons, essentially the same weapon issued to the Iraqi Army in the old days.

Of course, if you need to issue assault rifles to the Police you're recruiting, it's not a good sign.

#8 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 12:27 PM:

What the Cheney administration always wanted in Iraq was a client government that was just strong enough to sign a binding contract (assigning development rights to oilfields, for example) but too weak to actually enforce the terms of it.

That's where the real money is. The assorted billions in war profiteering is more like the loose change in the sofa cushions.

Actions that appear irrational and disorganized make a little more sense when you realize there's several trillion dollars (at current commodity pricing) under Iraq. Lots more if we're really past the Hubbert peak.

#9 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 12:47 PM:

“None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better,” said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. “They’re working for the militias or to put money in their pocket.”

"Which one are you, General?"

It's bad enough when I think of my OWN Perfect Comebacks half a day late. Ah, well.

#10 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 01:34 PM:

Bush also claimed that Iran was funding Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Given that Al Qaeda in Iraq is fckng at WAR with The Madhi Army (which actually is funded by the Iranians), the idea of Iran training and arming them is sort of like the the Mafia arming and training the Armenian mob.

But why should reality get in the way of propaganda?

#11 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 01:44 PM:

he idea of Iran training and arming them [AQ Iraq] is sort of like the Mafia arming and training the Armenian mob.

Worse. It's like the Mob training and arming the ATF.

#12 ::: Johan Larson ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 02:17 PM:

That middle item ("Nearly one of every 25 weapons the U.S. military bought for Iraqi security forces is missing...") doesn't particularly surprise me, under wartime conditions. When the pressure's on, the last thing you worry about is paperwork, particularly for semi-expendables like rifles. Only one in 25 missing sounds pretty good, actually. If my employer were to audit its records for PCs, I doubt 96% would turn up at their last recorded location.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 02:45 PM:

George W. Bush, redefining incompetence downward since 1946.

#15 ::: Raka ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 03:42 PM:

[Prez Bush] can start a war a little closer to home if he wants...

No! Stop helping! We need him over there, slaughtering and torturing and destroying infrastructure so that he doesn't do it here.

Granted, that doesn't appear to have worked so far.

#16 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 03:54 PM:

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:44 AM:

"My first question was, "They didn't write down the serial numbers? Whaaaaat? The Army didn't record the serial numbers of their weapons?"

Then the image of a black bridge floated before my eyes and all became clear."

This the f*cking Army - they'd record the serial numbers of t-shirts, if they had them. When (IIRC) 200K weapons go missing without serial numbers being recorded, it isn't an accident.

and what's with the bridge?

Johan, the figures that I had heard were ~200K rifles and pistols (plus a *lot* of body armor). I don't think that it's 4%.


#17 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 04:54 PM:
Given that Al Qaeda in Iraq is fckng at WAR with The Madhi Army (which actually is funded by the Iranians)...
The Mahdi Army is a nationalist Shia movement opposed to Iranian influence over Iraq. The Dawa party and the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, on the other hand, have close ties to Iran, where their leaders lived in exile during the Iran-Iraq war.
#18 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 07:21 PM:

There actually is a good reason for the Army not to have the serial numbers -- but it is little comfort.

The weapons given out were AK-47's or derivatives from existing stocks, and some of these arms were diverted to bad actors such as Charles Taylor in Liberia, long before they got to Iraq. These weapons were from Bosnia and Serbia and were transported (with NATO approval) to Iraq by -- wait for it -- private contractors. (In some cases they may have come from stocks that we gave to the Bosnian federation in the first place.) To get or check the serial numbers the Army would have to open each crate and check the weapons individually, even if they had the proper documentation. A job like that, if it was done at all, would have been handed to still yet another private contractor.

These weapons were handed out as quickly as possible, and there are stories of these weapons being handed out in large numbers to Iraqi troops as they headed into battle. It is quite possible that significant numbers of these weapons never actually were in the physical custody of the Army, but were passed on from one contractor to another from Bosnia directly to Iraqis, contractors which would have been compensated for how quickly they could move them. I'm not sure if any documentation on these weapons would have meant much.

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:02 PM:

Of course documentation would mean a lot.

One traceable serial number found in the hands of an insurgent would be far better data than you could get from waterboarding a hundred taxi drivers.

But getting useful intelligence isn't our priority.

#20 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:53 PM:

Jim @ 19:

I think I managed to make myself obscure. You are quite right that accurate documentation on these weapons would supply important intelligence. The problem is that, in my opinion, the process by which they arrived in Iraq, already proved to be leaky and outside the control of the Army, can not be trusted to produce documentation that actually matches the arms delivered. This is one of those cases where bad information is worse than no information -- in the latter case you know you are ignorant.

#21 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 02:51 AM:

I just posted this with a really bogus URL that google conjured up for me (yes, I should know better, my head hangs in shame), and as a result it's in mediation purgatory. So here's the same post with a useful URL. If the gnomes in the high tower could just toss that other post, I'd appreciate it.

According to a GAO report some stocks of munitions stored by the Iraqi army have never (as of late 2006) been checked or secured since the massive looting of munitions in 2003. Considering that there were certainly hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of tons of munitions that went missing then, it's not surprising that the insurgents and the militias have access to such quantities of arms and explosives. Does anyone know if the Iraqi Army had EFP rounds before the invasion? I wonder if some of those armor-piercing bombs Bush and Cheney are trying to blame on the Iranians were actually stolen out from under the noses of the US occupying forces.

#22 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 03:16 AM:

I'm reminded of The Dogs of War--the book rather than the film--which explored the general murkiness of the arms trade, some time in the early Seventies, during the setup for a coup in Africa, sponsored by a mineral extraction company,

Some of the weapons used were illicit WW2-surplus, of German manufacture. Others were acquired, with a veneer of legality, from munitions manufacturers.

And nobody in reality ever seems to bother to trace serial numbers to discover just who armed the rebels.

But Iraq is too big a mess to be the intended result of a conspiracy. Something like Nigeria might be what people were trying for, but that's sliding slowly towards chaos, after all the tears of exploitation. If it isn't incompetence; if chaos was the plan; all we can do is spoeculate as to why the Bushistas want to keep Iraqi oil of the market.

Peak oil?

#23 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Dave Bell @ 22

the tears of exploitation

I don't care if you intended it or not, that is one fine phrase.

#24 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 02:39 PM:

Greg H at # 17

The Mahdi Army is a nationalist Shia movement opposed to Iranian influence over Iraq.

Sadr has ties to groups in Iran. Not the leading political groups, but he's getting funding from some of the clergy there.

It is a lot more complicated then him being on the payroll of the Iranian government.

#25 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 12:33 AM:

Al-Sadr has spent a lot of time in Iran. He ran over and hid when he thought we going to crack down on him personally...

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