Sunday, April 15, 2007



I mentioned my friend Fred, currently working on a high profile project in Baghdad, several times in the past. He's been there quite a bit over the last few years and he eschews living in the Greed Zone and includes a clause in his contract that he will not have to use Blackwell Security or have these or other murderous, mercenary fascists anywhere near his project. Last night he sent me and some other friends this relatively innocuous, unclassified notice from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to Americans working in Iraq.
NUMBER: 007-081
SUBJECT: Office of Hostage Affairs Situational Awareness Training
DATE: 04-15-07
TO: All Mission Employees

U.S. Embassy Baghdad Office of Hostage Affairs (OHA) will present its monthly Hostage Situational Awareness Training for COM personnel on Sunday, April 15 from 12:30-2:00 p.m. in Room M-100. Projected dates for additional upcoming training sessions are May 13, June 17 and July 15 - also to be held in room M-100 from 12:30-2:00 p.m..

Attendance is voluntary. This briefing is approximately one hour and fifteen minutes in duration with fifteen minutes allotted for questions and answers. The intent of this training is to raise awareness among embassy staff and others with regard to the current hostage-taking situation in Iraq and to effect prevention of kidnapping through education. Topics include an overview of the Iraq hostage-taking environment, kidnapping trends, tactics, motivations and recommended preventive measures.

Also presenting will be an Air Force subject matter expert in Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion (SERE) operations from the Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC). SSG Tony Raciborski will provide instruction on recommended actions to be taken in the event that individuals are kidnapped.

OHA can provide this training to embassy and other groups upon request.

“Prevention through Education”

Another friend, safely back from Baghdad, responded that "Ironically, much of the time I was in Iraq, I felt like I was under house arrest in the Embassy (really, the Palace of Iraq's head of state) thanks to the frozen cowardice of just this kind of thinking."

Did someone say "frozen cowardice?" Perhaps you saw Dick Cheney on Face the Nation this morning? The always deceptive and outrageously weasly Cheney predicted that the Democrats will back down, buckle under and give Bush a blank check for the Regime's occupation of Iraq and their endless and disastrous war against the Muslim world.

Cheney may be correct but there were Democrats who reacted with anger at his narrowly partisan and divisive tactics. According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "Cheney has long since lost credibility, so it should be no surprise that he would spend time this morning continuing to mislead us about the war in Iraq. The American people know that the height of irresponsibility is to put this country at risk by mismanaging a war from day one, drawing our troops further into a civil war, sending our troops to war without the armor or training they need, repeatedly misstating the grave realities on the ground in Iraq, and distorting deadlines for troop funding to score political points. After five years of war, the American people and our men and women in uniform deserve honesty about our future in Iraq and a policy that transitions our mission and allows the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future.

"Democrats are determined to make sure the troops have the funds they need, just like we demanded that they have sufficient body armor and training to go to Iraq and veterans care when they come home. We're also determined to fight for a policy worthy of their sacrifice. Unfortunately, the Vice President and this Administration are clinging to the same failed, irresponsible strategy that has put our troops and our country at risk, and are unwilling to work with Congress or listen to our military to change course in Iraq."

Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, while acknowledging Cheney's sneering point that the Democrats don't have the votes to override Bush's planned veto, says that Democrats are considering alternatives to force Bush and Cheney off their failed Stay the Course policy.
One option, Levin said today on "Fox News Sunday," is to include the Iraqi government benchmarks that the White House established for reducing sectarian violence and building a democratic governing and political system. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the benchmarks as "measurable, achievable goals and objectives" in a letter to Levin and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in late January. But most have not yet been met, and so far, the Iraqi government has not been penalized by the United States.

As an alternative to the withdrawal terms that Bush is sure to veto, Levin said Congress could spell out consequences should the Iraqi government continue to fall short.

"Those benchmarks would hopefully have some teeth in them, telling the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over and that they must meet their own benchmarks which they set for themselves to reach a political settlement on the sharing of resources and the sharing of power, or else there's going to be a response in terms of reduction in support both militarily and economically," Levin said.

Democratic leaders will visit Bush in his lair Wednesday and he's already said there will be no compromises and that he's simply having them there so he can tell them it's either his way or no way at all. Bush couldn't care less if troops in the field run out of ammunition or food. He only cares about his foolish policies which have been proven untenable again and again.


Despite the bitter obstructionism from Bush and his dwindling band of dead-ender allies in Congress, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, offered him an olive branch today and tried to talk him down off the limb of negativity and war with no end that he has steered himself to. From the Speaker:
The Democratic leadership of Congress will work with President Bush and our Republican colleagues to build consensus that provides for our veterans, protects our troops, rebuilds our military, holds the Iraqi government accountable, and responsibly winds down this war. Both the House and Senate have passed bills that call for accountability in the President's Iraq policy for the first time since this war began more than four years ago.

We are ready to work with the President to change the direction in Iraq, but the President must accept the facts and put aside partisan attacks and heated rhetoric. The fact is that the non-partisan Congressional Research Service has found that the Army could maintain its wartime operations well into July with the funding that Congress has already appropriated. The fact is that when Republicans were in control of Congress, they took four months to send the President an Iraq supplemental without any attacks from the White House. Democrats will send a bill to the President in far less time.

The President continues to push for a war without end, while the American people believe it is time for a new direction. Democrats want to work together with the President to responsibly bring this war to an end.

Senator Reid issued the following statement after a press conference with Lt. General Robert Gard (Ret.) and Brig. General John H. Johns (Ret.):
Today, in the fifth year of this civil war, U.S. forces are suffering losses at a rate not seen since the bloody battle of Fallujah over two years ago and there is no end in sight. Yet the President and the Vice President continue to desperately cling to their failed escalation strategy and attack those who disagree with them.

The American people, a bipartisan majority of Congress and senior military leaders, including these two distinguished officers standing next to me, have all called for a change of course in Iraq. But President Bush and Vice President Cheney refuse to listen. They are isolated in their thinking and are failing our troops and our country.

Congress is committed to fully funding our troops, changing the course in Iraq and responsibly ending the war. When Democratic leaders sit down with the President this Wednesday we will be bringing with us the concerns of the American people and the advice of military experts.

The President has a choice to make in the coming days-- cling to the discredited policies that have led our troops further into an intractable civil war or work with a bipartisan majority of Congress to make us more secure.

You get the idea Cheney is urging him to cling to the discredited policies? I do. I think Senator Feingold has had enough of their crap. “The Senate has passed a troop funding bill that gives the troops the equipment they need and gives the American people what they are demanding-– an end to the President’s misguided, open-ended military strategy. If the President vetoes the supplemental that will soon be on his desk, he will be delaying this funding from getting to the troops and defying the will of the American people.”

Even the courtly Robert Byrd, the Senate's ultimate gentleman, is getting fed up with Bush's and Cheney's disgraceful partisanship. "This latest statement by the President makes one thing very clear: the President is out of touch. On the most serious issue facing our country, the American people expect their elected leaders to put partisanship aside and work together in the best interests of our nation. Instead, the White House continues to cling to its failed Iraq policy, demonize dissenters, and vastly mislead the public.

"The President has repeatedly derided the priorities funded by the emergency supplemental bill and has told the American people that Congress does not support the troops. His words are at odds with the facts. The bill, which will reach his desk shortly, will fully fund our troops. It will also provide more funding for critical priorities that have been neglected by this Administration, including body armor, armored vehicles, and billions for military and veterans' health care.

"Congress has heard the people and crafted a new direction that will hold Iraqis responsible for their own future, and begin to extract our military from a deadly civil war fought in the streets of Iraq by methods which put our soldiers at a grave disadvantage. It is long past time for a reality check in this White House. The President needs to stop the political posturing and participate with the Congress in a constructive dialogue that best serves the interests of our great country, our troops, and the American people."

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