Ret. intel officer: US troops violated Rules of Engagement in Reuters shooting

I wonder if Obama is going to do anything about this, or will he follow in the Bush tradition like he has been where the illegal wars are concerned.

From Raw Story (with video):

During a Monday appearance on MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show, a retired intelligence officer claimed that U.S. forces violated the military’s Rules of Engagement in events depicted by a video released by whistleblower site WikiLeaks, which allegedly shows the murder of civilians and journalists in New Baghdad, Iraq.

The Pentagon maintains that no crime was committed and no investigation will be carried out.

In the video, U.S. military personnel apparently mistook the cameras slung over the backs of two Reuters journalists for weapons when they opened fire on them and a group of people on July 12, 2007.

The video purportedly shows the deaths of Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22 and Saeed Chmagh, 40, along with six other people on a street corner. It also shows US forces firing on a minivan in which two injured children were found.

“The military did not reveal how the Reuters staff were killed, and stated that they did not know how the children were injured,” Wikileaks states.


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Obama Declares War On Pakistan


Webster G. Tarpley
December 14, 2009

featured stories   Obama Declares War On Pakistan

featured stories   Obama Declares War On Pakistan

Obama declared all-out war on Pakistan during his December 1, 2009, West Point speech.

Obama’s West Point speech of December 1 represents far more than the obvious brutal escalation in Afghanistan — it is nothing less than a declaration of all-out war by the United States against Pakistan. This is a brand-new war, a much wider war now targeting Pakistan, a country of 160 million people armed with nuclear weapons. In the process, Afghanistan is scheduled to be broken up. This is no longer the Bush Cheney Afghan war we have known in the past. This is something immensely bigger: the attempt to destroy the Pakistani central government in Islamabad and to sink that country into a chaos of civil war, Balkanization, subdivision and general mayhem. The chosen strategy is to massively export the Afghan civil war into Pakistan and beyond, fracturing Pakistan along ethnic lines. It is an oblique war using fourth-generation or guerrilla warfare techniques to assail a country which the United States and its associates in aggression are far too weak to attack directly. In this war, the Taliban are employed as US proxies. This aggression against Pakistan is Obama’s attempt to wage the Great Game against the hub of Central Asia and Eurasia or more generally.

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Iraq Swears by Bomb Detector U.S. Sees as Useless

From The New York Times:

BAGHDAD — Despite major bombings that have rattled the nation, and fears of rising violence as American troops withdraw, Iraq’s security forces have been relying on a device to detect bombs and weapons that the United States military and technical experts say is useless.

The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works “on the same principle as a Ouija board” — the power of suggestion — said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod.

Still, the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each. Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints, have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of physical inspections of vehicles.

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Largest Iraq bombing in two years may have been inside job

From Raw Story:

Sunday’s twin suicide bombings in Baghdad that killed at least 155 people and wounded 500 others may have had help from within Iraq’s security apparatus, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported Monday.

“This was a really well coordinated attack on an area in Baghdad that’s supposed to be well protected,” Maddow told viewers. “In order to reach their targets, the bombers driving these truck bombs had to pass through several checkpoints that were guarded by security forces and those security forces were supposed to be using hand-held devices designed to detect explosives.”

Maddow quoted a comment from Brian Katulis, a Middle East expert at the Center for American Progress, who wrote, “You don’t want to do this kind of attack without having someone on the inside. It implies infiltration of the government. If there is an objective, it’s to send a message to whoever is in power that not everyone recognizes them as being in charge.”

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Judge closes Blackwater trial to public

From Raw Story:

Prosecution of five Blackwater employees could be thrown out over immunized statements

A US District Court judge has barred the public from attending — or the media from reporting on — hearings in the trial of five Blackwater employees charged over the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square in 2007.

A breaking story at the Washington Post reports that hearings to determine whether evidence against the accused was properly collected will be kept under wraps.

At issue are statements the State Department collected from Blackwater immediately after the incident. In exchange for the employees’ co-operation, the State Department, then under the control of the Bush administration, granted the Blackwater guards immunity from prosecution over their statements.

The current case being pursued by the Justice Department is being crafted so as to avoid using the immunized statements. But Judge Urbina ordered hearings into whether those statements were used to gather evidence after all. If it turns out they were, the judge will likely throw out the case against the five Blackwater employees, the Post reports.

The Nisoor Square massacre took place on September 17, 2007, when Blackwater guards escorting a State Department convoy through Baghdad opened fire on civilians in Nisoor Square, in what is largely considered an unprovoked act. Evidently the Blackwater guards started firing when a civilian vehicle was spotted driving down the wrong side of the road near the convoy.

The Post reports:

The five guards — Paul Slough, Nicholas Slatten, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Donald Ball — are charged with voluntary manslaughter and weapons violations in the killing of 14 civilians and the wounding [of] 20 others. The Justice Department alleges that the guards unleashed an unprovoked attack on Iraqi civilians in Nisoor Square while in a convoy. One guard, Jeremy P. Ridgeway, has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against the others.

The proceedings underway in the District’s federal court, known as Kastigar hearings, will probe how well investigators gathered evidence without being tainted by those immunized statements. If the judge finds the government’s case is tainted, he might be forced to throw out the indictment.

The State Department canceled its Iraq security contract with Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, shortly after President Obama’s inauguration. The Post reported at the time that the company had made $1.3 billion from contracts with the State Department.

More “Change”: US actually increasing personnel in Iraq

When are people going to wake up and realize that so much of what they show us on the “news” is nothing but distraction from reality? While the “Change(TM)” candidate continues to campaign, he also continues the same foreign policies put into place by his predecessor.


By John Byrne~Raw Story

US forces are not withdrawing from Iraq.

Well, its soldiers are. But not civilian contractors. Despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to withdraw US troops from the war-torn country, the US is planning to award contracts to protect US installations at a cost to taxpayers that could near $1 billion.

In fact, the Multi-National Force-Iraq just awarded $485 million in contracts just last week, while Congress enjoyed its summer recess. Five firms will handle private security deals to provide security for US bases. It’s a neat rhetorical loophole that will allow US officials to say that the country has withdrawn from Iraq, while its contractors remain.

“Under a similar contract with five security contractors that began in September 2007, the MNF-I spent $253 million through March 2009, with needs growing over that 18-month period,” the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus wrote in Wednesday editions. “That contract, which was to run three years, had a spending limit of $450 million.

Pincus cites an Inspector General’s report, whose fine print notes that these contracts could swell to a whopping $935 million. An earlier IG report documented manifold allegations of fraud and government waste (PDF here).

Victory Base Camp, one of the US’ largest installations, will likely require “approximately 2,600 security personnel,” the report said — just by itself.

The Pentagon’s “quarterly report on contracting showed a 19 percent increase from the three previous months in the number of security guards in Iraq hired by the Defense Department. The Central Command attributed the increase, from 10,743 at the end of March to 13,232 at the end of June, mainly to “an increased need for PSCs [private security companies] to provide security as the military begins to draw down forces.”

Private guards replaced soldiers at 19 locations. Are taxpayers getting their money’s worth by awarding contracts to more efficient private firms?

Nope: security companies are billing the US for more people to do what the military is able to do with less.

“Camp Bucca, primarily a detention facility, called for ‘417 personnel to free up approximately 350 soldiers for combat operations,’” Pincus notes. “At Forward Operating Base Hammer, the task order called for 124 private guards to allow 102 soldiers to take on combat activities.”

At another installation, Camp Taji, about 900 private contractors replaced 400 soldiers.

Report: State Dept. extends Blackwater contract in Iraq

From Raw Story:

The mercenary group formerly known as Blackwater International, which was banned from Iraq by its government after a Baghdad massacre which killed 17 civilians, will see its contract extended in the country by the U.S. State Department, according to a published report.

ABC News reporter Kirit Radia notes: “Sources say the department has agreed to temporarily continue using the subsidiary known as Presidential Airways to provide helicopter transport for embassy employees around Iraq until a new contract with another security company, Dyncorp International, is fully implemented. Presidential Airways is an arm of U.S. Training Center, which is a subsidiary of the company Xe, formerly and still commonly known as Blackwater.”

Controversy has surrounded the private security firm practically since it was founded, but erupted anew recently when former employees accused Blackwater’s founder and former CEO of murdering or facilitating the murders of other employees who were preparing to blow the whistle on his alleged criminal activities.

The sworn statements also say that founder Erik Prince and Blackwater executives were involved in illegal weapons smuggling and had, on numerous occasions, ordered incriminating documents, e-mails, photos and video destroyed. The former employees described Blackwater as “having young girls provide oral sex to Enterprise members in the ‘Blackwater Man Camp’ in exchange for one American dollar.” They add even though Prince frequently visited this camp, he “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men.”

One of the statements also charges that “Prince’s North Carolina operations had an ongoing wife-swapping and sex ring, which was participated in by many of Mr. Prince’s top executives.”

The former employees additionally claim that Prince was engaged in illegal arms dealing, money laundering, and tax evasion, that he created “a web of companies in order to obscure wrong-doing, fraud, and other crimes,” and that Blackwater’s chief financial officer had “resigned … stating he was not willing to go to jail for Erik Prince.”

The company was also allegedly involved in the planning stages of the CIA’s assassination program, which was reportedly never used, then scrapped by CIA chief Leon Panetta.

Prince has repeatedly insisted his company has done nothing wrong and Blackwater continues to fulfill its contracts with the United States government.

For the massacre of Iraqi civilians, five Blackwater guards were arrested and charged with manslaughter. A sixth guard flipped and agreed to testify against the others. Government informants later claimed the company tried to gather up and destroy weapons involved in the slaughter.

The State Department announced last January that it would not be renewing Blackwater’s contract for security services in Iraq when it was set to expire in May, however the Obama administration decided to extend it through Sept. 3, according to The Nation Jeremy Scahill.

ABC reported the new contract extension is for an unspecified amount of time and could end “within weeks or months.”

When it is finally allowed to expire, Blackwater’s involvement with Iraq will have ended, completely.