Saturday, August 11, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- August 11th edition

August 11, 2006: A U.S. soldier provides security in Tikrit for a ceremony marking Iraq's assumption of security for the area.

August 11, 2002:

UN backs Iraq resolution

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously passed a resolution which gives Iraq a "final opportunity" to disarm or face the consequences.

The resolution, which threatens Iraq with "severe consequences" if it does not comply with its terms, was passed by 15 votes to nil.

Even Syria, which had been expected to abstain, supported the text drafted by the United States and backed by Britain.

The fact that Russia, Iraq's traditional ally, also voted for the resolution will send a strong signal to Saddam Hussein that he will face war if he refuses to stop developing weapons of mass destruction.

Today's vote was called by the US yesterday after France dropped its opposition to the new resolution.

It represents a significant victory for President George W Bush who began a campaign in early September to get the UN to deal with the threat posed by Saddam.

Mr Bush welcomed the unanimous vote, telling a press conference at the White House that Iraq faced the "severest consequences" if it ignores the UN demands.

He said: "The outcome of the current crisis is already determined. The full disarmament of weapons of mass destruction will occur. The only question for the Iraqi regime is to decide how."

He added: "With the resolution just passed, the United Nations Security Council has met important responsibilities, upheld its principles and given clear and fair notice that Saddam Hussein must fully disclose and destroy his weapons of mass destruction.

"He must submit to any and all methods to verify his compliance. His co-operation must be prompt and unconditional or he will face the severest consequences."

Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, said the resolution had given Iraq a "new opportunity" to disarm following the departure of weapons inspectors four years ago.

He told the Security Council at the UN headquarters in New York: "I urge the Iraqi leadership for the sake of its own people to sieze this opportunity and thereby begin to end the isolation and suffering of the Iraqi people."

Tony Blair, speaking at a Downing Street press conference, said Iraq had been in "material breach" of UN resolutions passed after the Gulf War.

He said today's vote meant that there must be "no more games, no more deceit, no more prevarication, obstruction or defiance" from Iraq.

Mr Blair said: "Everyone now accepts that if there is a default by Saddam, the international community must act to enforce its will. Failure to do so would mean having stated our clear demand, we lacked the will to enforce it."

The resolution says that Iraq should accept the UN demands within a week and provide within a month a report of its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes, as well as details about its missile delivery systems.

Under the terms of the resolution, weapons inspectors will have "immediate, unimpeded and unconditional" rights to search any suspect building.

They should begin work within 45 days and must report on their progress by February next year.

After today's vote, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will carry out the weapons inspections with the UN agency Unmovic, said the inspectors were ready to return to Iraq in 10 days time.

Read the rest at the Telegraph

August 11, 2003:

Letting Up On Osama

George W. Bush hadn't mentioned Osama bin Laden's name in months, but he said recently that the U.S. was "slowly but surely" dismantling bin Laden's terrorist operation. As the hunt for Saddam Hussein intensifies, some U.S. officials are suggesting that the focus on the former leader of Iraq has come at the cost of eliminating the eccentric Saudi millionaire behind the 9/11 attacks.

For nearly two years, bin Laden has been on the run in isolated parts of Afghanistan and eastern Pakistan, U.S. officials believe, staying out of sight, relying on the help of local tribes and traveling only in very small groups of devoted followers. Last fall, as the U.S. began planning the invasion of Iraq, Washington shifted many of its highly classified special-forces units and officers who had been hunting bin Laden in Afghanistan, moving them to Iraq, where they performed covert operations before the war began. By December many of the 800 special-forces personnel who had been chasing al-Qaeda for a year were quietly brought back home, given a few weeks' rest and then shipped out to Iraq. "They all basically picked up and moved," says a senior U.S. official. When the A-team members left, they took a lot of their high-tech equipment (and Arabic speakers) with them. And while they were replaced by fresh troops, many of the new units comprise reservists who, rather than specializing in countering Islamic threats, were trained for operations in Russian-and Spanish-speaking countries.

The Administration was warned by skeptics inside the government that the switch-out would take some of the pressure off al-Qaeda, but the impending war with Iraq--which emphasized special forces as no war plan ever did before--took precedence over all other issues last winter at the Pentagon. Now some have come to believe that the change in emphasis allowed bin Laden to disperse to other parts of the world operatives who survived the initial months on the run. "The reason these guys were able to get away," says a former Bush official, "was because we let up."

Read the rest at Time

August 11, 2004:

Bush responds to Iraq critics in new ad

Details of a new television ad from President Bush to begin airing Wednesday:

Title: “Solemn Duty”

Length: 30 seconds

Producer: Maverick Media

Airing: National cable networks and selected local media markets in 19 battleground states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin.

Script: “I’m George W. Bush, and I approve this message. My most solemn duty is to lead our nation to protect ourselves. I can’t imagine the great agony of a mom or a dad having to make the decision about which child to pick up first on September the 11th. We cannot hesitate; we cannot yield; we must do everything in our power to bring an enemy to justice before they hurt us again.”

Key images: Bush, in a short-sleeve shirt, sits next to his wife, Laura, in a casual environment, with soft lights and a couch behind them. Bush does not face the camera. There is a close-up of Bush’s hand near his heart and of the couple’s faces.

Read the rest at Newsweek

August 11, 2005:

Whistleblower faithfully fights on

WASHINGTON – In the world as Bunnatine Greenhouse sees it, people do the right thing. They stand up for the greater good, and they speak up when things go wrong. She believes God has a purpose for each life, and she prays every day for that purpose to be made evident.

These days she is praying her heart out, because she is in a great deal of trouble.

Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse is the Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting ("PARC" in the alphabet soup of military acronyms) in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lest the title fool, she is responsible for awarding billions upon billions in taxpayers' money to private companies hired to resurrect war-torn Iraq and to feed, clothe, shelter and do the laundry of American troops stationed there.

She has rained a mighty storm upon herself for standing up, before members of Congress and live on C-SPAN to proclaim things are just not right in this staggeringly profitable business.

She has asked many questions: Why is Halliburton – a giant Texas firm that holds more than 50 percent of all rebuilding efforts in Iraq – getting billions in contracts without competitive bidding? Do the durations of those contracts make sense? Have there been violations of federal laws regulating how the government can spend its money?

Halliburton denies any wrongdoing. "These false allegations have been recycled in the media ad nauseam," the company said in response to a list of e-mailed questions from The Associated Press.
Now Bunny Greenhouse may lose her job – and her reputation, which she spent a lifetime building.

She is a black woman in a world of mostly white men; a 60-year-old workaholic who abides neither fools nor frauds. But she is out of her element in this fight, her former boss said.

"What Bunny is caught up in is politics of the highest damn order," said retired Gen. Joe Ballard, who hired Greenhouse and headed the Corps until 2000. "This is real hardball they're playing here. Bunny is a procurement officer, she's not a politician. She's not trained to do this."

Greenhouse has known for a long time that her days may be numbered. Her needling of contracts awarded to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) predated the war in Iraq, beginning with costs she said were spiraling "out of control" from a 2000 Bosnia contract to service U.S. troops. From 1995 to 2000, Halliburton's CEO was Dick Cheney, who left to run for vice president. He maintains his former company has not received preferential treatment from the government.

Since then, she had questioned both the amounts and the reasons for giving KBR tremendous contracts in the buildup to invading Iraq. At first she was ignored, she said. Then she was cut out of the decision-making process.

Last October, she was summoned to the office of her boss. Major Gen. Robert Griffin, the Corps' deputy commander, was demoting her, he told her, taking away her Senior Executive Service status and sending her to midlevel management. Griffin declined to be interviewed by the AP.

Her performance was poor, said a letter he presented. This was a surprise. Her previous job evaluations had been exemplary, she said.

If she didn't want the new position, she could always retire with full benefits, the letter noted.

Over my dead body, said Greenhouse.

"I took an oath of office. I took those words that I was going to protect the interests of my government and my country. So help me God," she says. "And nobody has the right to take away my privilege to serve my government. Nobody."

She has hired lawyer Michael Kohn, who successfully represented Linda Tripp in her claim that the Pentagon leaked personal information after she secretly taped Monica Lewinsky's confessions of a sexual affair with President Bill Clinton.

Two weeks after Greenhouse's trip to the woodshed, Kohn wrote an 11-page letter to the acting Secretary of the Army, requesting an independent investigation of "improper action that favored KBR's interests."

The status of an independent investigation by the Defense Department is unclear. "As a matter of policy, we do not comment on open and ongoing investigations," said Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Rose-Ann Lynch.

Halliburton is also under federal investigation for alleged favoritism by the Bush administration. FBI agents questioned Greenhouse for nine hours last November about that probe. In March, a former employee was indicted for taking bribes while working for KBR in Iraq.

Company spokeswoman Melissa Norcross said KBR has "delivered vital services for U.S. troops and the Iraqi people at a fair and reasonable cost, given the circumstances."

When Gen. Ballard hired her in 1997, she was overqualified – three master's degrees and more than 20 years of contracting experience in private industry and the military.

"She is probably the most professional person I've ever met, " Ballard said.

Ballard used her, he said, to help him revolutionize the Corps – by ending the old-boys practice of awarding contracts to a favored few, and by imposing private-industry standards on a mammoth, 230-year-old government agency.

"The Corps is a tough organization. And I'll tell you, it's not easy to be a woman in this organization, and a black one at that," said Ballard, who was the first black leader of the Corps.

He is not optimistic about her future.

"I think you can put a fork in it," he said. "Her career is done."

At Corps headquarters, few speak to her, she said, and her bosses write down what she says at departmental meetings. "They want me out," Greenhouse said.

In her job, Greenhouse is mandated by Congress to get the best quality at the cheapest price from the most qualified supplier. Over her objections, KBR was awarded three multibillion-dollar, war-related contracts, two of them without competitive bidding.

Greenhouse's most strenuous complaints were over the Restore Iraqi Oil contract, estimated at $7 billion, originally planned to handle oil field fires that might be started by Saddam Hussein's troops. When that didn't happen, it morphed into an agreement to repair oil fields and import fuel.

KBR was given the contract in March 2003. In Greenhouse's view, that process violated federal regulations concerning fair and open bidding. Halliburton denies that.

Later, she would tell Democratic members of Congress: "The abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have ever witnessed during the course of my professional career."

At the Corps, Greenhouse said she was told KBR was the only qualified firm.

With the country on the brink of war, she reluctantly signed the RIO contract. But next to her signature, she boldly wrote an objection to the only thing she felt she could challenge – the contract's length, five years. One year would have been more than fair, she said.

"I caution that extending this sole-source contract beyond a one-year period could convey an invalid perception that there is not strong intent for a limited competition," she penned in neat cursive.

Greenhouse is a registered independent. Her husband, Aloyisus Greenhouse, is retired after a long Army career as a senior procurement officer. They have three grown children.

Bunny grew up in the segregated South. Her brother is Elvin Hayes, the Hall of Fame basketball player. She followed her husband's military postings, moving and then moving again. In each place she found her own way, and her own job.

Her husband watches what is happening to her and tries to bite his lip.

"Bunny has a lot of faith. She really believes that someone will stand up and say, 'This is wrong.' But I don't think a person exists like that in the Department of Defense."

But in her world, Bunny Greenhouse's faith still beams.

"I simply believe that we have callings and purposes in this life. I walk through this life for a purpose. I wake up every day for a purpose. And every day I say, 'Here I am. Send me.' "

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

August 11, 2006:

The War Bush Isn't Fighting

When unsmiling agents at the airport take away your contact lens solution, your toothpaste, and your cologne or after-shave, remember Osama bin Laden. Remember the real war on terrorism that the Bush administration and its allies decided not to fight, preferring cowboy-style military adventures.

The revelation yesterday of the elaborate plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean with liquid explosives reminds us of the real threats we face -- as opposed to the phantom threats that George W. Bush and Tony Blair have conjured to justify their disastrous war in Iraq.

The airliner conspiracy seems to have all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda extravaganza: careful and sophisticated planning, the intent to shock the world with simultaneous detonations, cold-blooded determination to murder innocents by the hundreds, and a timeline that comes suspiciously close to the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Sending a cascade of Boeings and Airbuses into the frigid ocean would have had the kind of theatrical impact that al-Qaeda always seeks.

But it doesn't really matter whether the plotters were al-Qaeda soldiers taking orders from bin Laden or just a group of like-minded admirers working on their own. The plot demonstrates that al-Qaeda lives on, either as a functioning organization or, even more chillingly, as an inspiration to jihadists around the world.

Shoe bombs didn't work, and now we shuffle through the metal detectors in our socks. Liquid explosives didn't work, and now we will fly with unbrushed teeth. We can be sure that somewhere in some anonymous apartment, maybe in Paris or Frankfurt or Karachi, a group of unknown conspirators has absorbed the failure of the London plot and already begun to develop a new approach to mass murder.

President Bush said that the uncovered conspiracy is "a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation." If only the president would fight that war. If only he hadn't turned away from the hunt for bin Laden to chase his neocon advisers' delusions of spreading pro-American democracy at the point of a gun.

Let's check what else was in the news yesterday. In Iraq, a suicide bomber killed at least 35 people and injured more than 100 by blowing himself up near a famous shrine in the city of Najaf, which is holy to Shiite Muslims. Meanwhile, U.S. troops moved into the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad in an attempt to end a reign of lawlessness. All this violence is part of a sectarian civil war that was made possible by the U.S. invasion -- and that is growing in intensity under the open-ended U.S. occupation. Iraq, says Bush, is a vital theater in the war against terrorism.

In other news, Israeli forces continued their systematic destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure by targeting a historic lighthouse in the heart of Beirut, in an apparent attempt to knock Lebanese state television off the air. This comes after Israeli forces had already destroyed every bridge over the Litani River, all of Lebanon's major roads and much of the Beirut airport, all in the name of cutting off supplies to the Hezbollah militia -- and all with no complaint from U.S. officials. Lebanon, says Bush, is another vital theater in the war against terrorism.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks of building a "new Middle East," but the Bush administration construction plan seems to begin with setting the old Middle East on fire. The bungled occupation of Iraq has drawn new recruits to the jihadist cause around the world, and now the disproportionate Israeli assault on Lebanon is doing the same thing. We are at war with an ideology, and pounding it frontally just disperses it. It's like trying to smash mercury with a hammer.

Maybe the discovery of the airliner plot will bring us back to the real world. There are deadly enemies out there, and one way to fight them, as the British demonstrated yesterday, is through intelligence. One way not to fight them, as the Bush administration continues to demonstrate, is through reckless military action that may kill terrorists but also kills innocent civilians and thus creates a new generation of terrorists -- doubtless including some bright young man or woman who will come up with a new idea for downing civilian airliners.

Read the rest at the Washington Post