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Old 09-27-2011   #1
ganulv
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Default The greedy battle for Iraq’s ‘Hearts And Minds’

Just one(!) highlight from the interview linked below: the PRTs were throwing around so much cash that Iraqis coined a term which is glossed herein as ‘a large pile of Benjamins.’

http://www.npr.org/2011/09/26/140711...arts-and-minds
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Old 09-27-2011   #2
Rex Brynen
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Just one(!) highlight from the interview linked below: the PRTs were throwing around so much cash that Iraqis coined a term which is glossed herein as ‘a large pile of Benjamins.’
One of my students who deployed to Iraq related how some of those piles of cash from PRTs or CERPs would fuel the insurgency. It became quite embarrassing after raids, apparently, to trace back the serial numbers of US currency in insurgent hands, only to discover it had originated with the US government....

The explanation was easy to find: in order to placate militants who might be angry if one took cash from the US military, enterprising local Iraqis would automatically donate a share to the insurgency.
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Old 09-27-2011   #3
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I remember the early pitches for this book a few months ago: a rollicking tale of foolishness by a dimwitted bureaucrat mis-assigned to "rebuild" Iraq. Ha. Ha. Buy my funny book.

Sorry, but I was one of those civilians brought in in late 2007 to unscramble the mess made by folks like him---desperate to deliver for their superiors---no matter how much they knew what they were doing was harmful and wasteful.

This kind of routine character was exactly the problem, while other folks, including competent FSOs and military folks, fearlessly sought to get beyond them (at least during their particular year).

From early days, my immediate colleagues and I were very much aware that young soldiers were out getting shot to keep our projects going, so to promote and support projects that were irrational was an absolute disgrace.

It would be nice if this happy-go-lucky fellow would, at some time, start his press hype interviews with a reverential deference for those who shed blood for him to goof off and rollick around Iraq for a year while wasting millions of US dollars and a year's worth of important Iraqi reconstruction time---after things quieted down in 2010.

No wonder he had a bad relationship with the military.
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Old 09-27-2011   #4
Steve the Planner
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Rex:

Right. The practical effect of COIN/Money As A Weapon, in an accurate post-conflict analysis, will be none too pretty, whether by DoD, DoS, or SIGIR.

The focus should have been less on "Win Friends and Influence People" and more on the [practicalities of getting basic systems restored and getting out of their way to rebuild their own country.

The Tikrit poultry plant was always a shiny bangle for the self-licking puppies, even when there was no capacity for basic poultry production: feed, feed mills, hatcheries, and fattening barns were more important than the poultry processing plant---the gap was basic civilian infrastructure, security and free movement of goods--- roads, bridges and free movement of goods, not poultry plants and refrigerated bongo trucks.

The Iraqis would reopen the poultry industrial components once there was an economics to support it. Money was never an issue for the rich folks who owned this stuff.

It took a lot of courage for the folks who tried to put breaks on this stuff and steer back to basics.
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Old 09-27-2011   #5
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Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
It would be nice if this happy-go-lucky fellow would, at some time, start his press hype interviews with a reverential deference for those who shed blood for him to goof off and rollick around Iraq for a year while wasting millions of US dollars and a year's worth of important Iraqi reconstruction time---after things quieted down in 2010.
At the risk of being accused of puppy kicking, I don’t understand why that would matter. What difference would it make if a commissar who spent 1948 in the Soviet Sector of Berlin failed to acknowledge the sacrifice of the Red Army three years earlier in the first chapter of his tell-all? What difference would it make if an ex-union lobbyist failed to acknowledge the blood left in the streets by garment workers prior to giving a narrative of what s/he observed about organized labor in today’s America?
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Old 09-27-2011   #6
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Ganulv:

Right.

This guy's continuous insulting slurs of Iraqis, and Iraq in general, far outweigh his fuming disdain for the (1) loser military nuts, (2) the dopes, creeps and incompetents that he was forced to "lead," and the (3) the stupid crooks he worked for.

What difference would it make.

Where do they find these people?
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Old 09-27-2011   #7
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Ganulv:

This guy's continuous insulting slurs of Iraqis, and Iraq in general, far outweigh his fuming disdain for the (1) loser military nuts, (2) the dopes, creeps and incompetents that he was forced to "lead," and the (3) the stupid crooks he worked for.
I didn’t really get fuming disdain from the interview. His tone came across as a bit effete to me, if anything. And I didn’t hear any insulting slurs of Iraqis. He clearly had issues with at least one colonel in particular, but I don’t know that he thought he was a loser nut as much as he was puzzled as to why anyone should think the guy was qualified to do development work in the first place.

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Where do they find these people?
Stanford, Georgetown, Davidson, etc.… All institutions which to be sure count very effective FSOs and colonels as their own, but whose training does not by itself mean one is up to snuff for the task at hand.
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Old 09-27-2011   #8
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I read the excepts from Amazon.

Apparently, almost everyone (but him) was some kind of a creature from the Star Wars bar. Very uncomfortable if you happened to be any of these people (or the various thieving Arabs he described).


Bio shows he is an Asian specialist, fluent in Mandarin, with multiple assignments there.

I know for a fact that FOB Falcon's EPRT had one of the best dry land/range ag specialists assigned to it in late 2008, who had previously spent nine months in Tuz.

My experience with EPRTs, including at FOB Hammer, was that they were some of the best and most committed of the DoS folks. The good ones were like human sponges when in Baghdad or at the MND---always looking for ideas, resources and assets to take back.

You either loved that kind of work or didn't---getting out to the towns and on the streets.

He obviously hated it, and was not effective at finding the resources needed to bring back a set of positive accomplishments.
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Old 09-27-2011   #9
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Default Leave it to the OLD US of A

I like that article. It is one thing to go over the and get out the regime...its an entirely different thing to continue the garbage we are doing. And if we are staying over there get someone in there who knows a little accounting 101.

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Old 09-27-2011   #10
jmm99
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Default On & from Mr. Van Buren - Today

Here I was, happily listening to Dropkick Murphys, when I came upon these:

From Mother Jones, The Only State Dept. Employee Who May Be Fired Because of WikiLeaks (by Andy Kroll, Sep. 27, 2011).

From Pacific Free Press, The Accidental Spy: The Only Employee at State Who May Be Fired Because of WikiLeaks (by Tom Engelhardt, Sep. 27, 2011).

From TomDispatch, Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, WikiLeaked at the State Department (by Peter Van Buren, September 27, 2011).

Van Buren's blog, We Meant Well.

A 14-page excerpt from the book.

For a $100 donation to TomDispatch, you get a autoed copy of the book - or for $100 to Amazon, you can buy quite a few Dropkick Murphys CDs.

Regards

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Old 09-27-2011   #11
Steve the Planner
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jmm:

Forgive my dragging you into legalese, but its seems to me that had Van Buren brought legitimate claims of waste, fraud and abuse, instead of just righting about his wacky adventures related to them, he would have full whistleblower protection.

The explanations by Tom Englehardt (American Empire Empresario) seems to co-mingle individual constitutional protections, press rights, and governmental employee duties (of one with a clearance) pretty freely and incongruously.

Why wouldn't State ask a cleared employee, for example, who writes the blog bearing his name which references a secret cable? What they do about it is a separate issue than whether they should investigate it. No?
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Old 09-28-2011   #12
jmm99
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Default StP - Not even you could drag me into legalese ....

or a whistleblower analysis here.

I'd suspect (not a legal opinion) that Peter Van Buren does not really feel threatened by the loss of his job at State. Using Wikileaks in a headline is simply good attention getting. Mr. Englehardt writes politics, not law.

I'd view all of this as pretty much politics as usual for the (mostly) guys who write at Antiwar.com (Kelley, however, being one of the gals). That is not a left-wing site (though some left-siders dwell there); but a Randolph Bourne brand of libertarianism and non-interventionism. These folks (the columnists) are not political babes in the woods.

I was reminded of Scott Ritter (not one of my favs as a person) when I read the 14-page excerpt from Van Buren's book. In any event, I don't think Mr. Van Buren is much interested in reforming State from within.

Bourne was an interesting "anti-warist" of the early 1900s - now enshrined by a think tank. Coincidentally, I've been studying the volume from the Holmes SCOTUS History series dealing with the "Insular Cases" just after 1900. There were as many conflicting policy and legal constructs re: military occupations and nation-building then as there are now.

Regards

Mike

Last edited by jmm99; 09-28-2011 at 02:11 AM.
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Old 09-28-2011   #13
Steve the Planner
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I got the creepy feeling reading the excerpts that I was reading were a compendium of different articles (the list is in the back of the book) that some smart editor had amassed but needed a "personality" to tie it all together---which was Peter van Buren's role.

The first time I had that creepy feeling was a few months ago when I checked out his blog, and there was a weird statement about how the blog was authored under Van Buren's name but written by some unspecified people. (Same thing DSS was looking at, I guess).

Weird, but, like you said, there is no effort to reform anything, change anything or explore possible changes----just a lot of: Let's make fun of it all and get fun, notoriety and profit.

I penned a few drafts in the past about the Iraq civilain program but found two things: (1) There was no way to do it without appearing so wholly negative (to a reader wrapped up in the actual chaos) that you couldn't carry on to a useful point (for which there are many; and (2) you couldn't do it without injuring many people, most of all those Gold Star parents and wounded vets.

This is exactly what I assumed an editor with no skin in the game would turn all of this into for his commercial advantage.

I hope Tom Englehart (Oh, I mean Peter van Buren) makes plenty of money so that, at least, he doesn't have to do it again.
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Old 09-28-2011   #14
jmm99
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Default What you say, StP,

Quote:
... (1) There was no way to do it without appearing so wholly negative (to a reader wrapped up in the actual chaos) that you couldn't carry on to a useful point (for which there are many; and (2) you couldn't do it without injuring many people, most of all those Gold Star parents and wounded vets.
re: both Iraq and Astan. I've had those thoughts here at SWC to some extent; but more so in face to face with the youngsters (that's anyone under 50 ) going to or come back from.

At times, the best COA is this:

Smaller Cup of Shut.jpg

HT to Steve Blair for the link to the large version.

Regards

Mike
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Old 10-07-2011   #15
Steve the Planner
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Default Iraq PRTs

Ok, so I stuck my neck out in a more public space: Foreign Policy.

So the good, the bad, and the public has said their piece.

Now, for the real audience, and the many more things I can always learn from you.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...en_%20donnelly
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Old 10-07-2011   #16
jmm99
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Default Good approach,

StP - it told your story following your outline and not Van Buren's - and you write well for a Mick.

BTW: Kelley Vlahos has continued to beat the political polemic drum over at Anti-war, Who’s Afraid of Peter Van Buren’s Book?

She is delivering red meat to those who agree with her - typical of what passes for political discussion today. The bottom line is "if you're not with us, you're against us."

Regards

Mike
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Old 10-07-2011   #17
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Default Yes it was...

Quote:
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StP - it told your story following your outline and not Van Buren's - and you write well for a Mick.
Ah sure and ye all write and speak well, it's the drinkin' y'see that's kept the Emerald Isle and her sons from rulin' the world...

Great job, Steve. BZ, Three thumbs up (I'll borrow one somewhere...).
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Old 10-07-2011   #18
Steve the Planner
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Scouse by birth mate, but we are from Wexford and IoM (Last visited for the thousandth anniversary of parliament (Tynwald, 1979)).

Does alcohol fuel the pen more than genes?

Somebody sent comments from the PVB website---apparently I am a "has-been contractor" from Iraq.

I thought that when I was sworn in on the steps of the State Department's main hall, and they issued me a Diplo Passport, that maybe I was a little more than just one a contractor. What did I know?

PS: Helped to have Tom Ricks as pro bono editor/press agent.

Here's the part I think I learned from that cathartic exercise:

1. Rumsfeld's Pentagon could never have ended the war, nor could State as it was.
2. War has three parts: Beginning, middle and end, each of which is a separate part that somebody has to go and do.
3. Iraq was surprisingly well resources with civilian expertise, via the 2008 civilian surge, if and when it was used.
4. The military in 2008 became committed and synchronized to end the war (much more than many recognize), and they were an (the?) essential factor (contrary to the myth that the military cannot produce peace).
5. Regardless of the military aspects, the Surge was essential to create the conditions for the end, which effectively occurred with the execution of the SOFA.
6. Without those 2008 combined successes (civ/mil/Iraq turnover), we would still be debating the troop deployments for next year.
7. You did not have to be pro-iraq war to be pro-iraq end of war (the 2007/8 part).
8. Only the Iraqis can make peace with themselves, create a future.
9. These factors may not be applicable to Afghanistan, which is a different problem set.
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Old 10-07-2011   #19
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Default Post Script to We Meant Well Response Article

Peter van Buren and his Wemeantwell.com website just removed a series of defamatory comments about me with an email from him advising me to "Chill out" Buddy.

Code for: "Wink.Wink. I am just trying to hype my book."

Beyond that, a local Iraqi GIS poster to his site wrote in to say that the agencies I identified had nothing to do with GIS in Iraq. The real "Lions of Iraq GIS' were Mr. Duane, Mr. Moko and Mr. Sam.

Note that each was an employee of RTI, a prime "contractor" of USAID, who ran the very effective GIS local-implementation program (LPG I, II and III) which Peter's poster experienced through site visits in 2008 by those very "lions" he named (who much appreciated his comments when I passed them on).

When not on site, they were back in Baghdad with the very large combined military/civilian/US/Iraqi team making it happen. They truly were "lions" of getting GIS out to the provinces in 2008.

Wait a minute: Effective "contractors" as "lions" of civilian reconstruction doing marvelous work in Iraq?

Doesn't that run directly contrary to Peter Van Buren's supposed thesis of "We Meant Well"?

(Wink. Wink. Just hypin' his book, buddy!)

Maybe he will send some of his profits to the many civilian "contractors" killed in Iraq (see Tom Rick's prior coverage of the many "contractors" who died in Iraq)? (Wink, Wink. Buddy)
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Old 10-07-2011   #20
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Default Hmm ...

Well, Steve, you're "nerdy" and "albeit not as clever" as PvB (link). I think you're winning.

Regards

Mike
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