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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Iraq: We're Winning, Right?

Right? Hello? Anybody out there?

Hmmm. About two months ago, in early September, General David "God" Petraeus testified before Congress that we were winning most winningly in Iraq. Everything, according to the general, was going just peachy-keen in The Land Of The Brown People. A week later, the WaPoo reports, the U.S. military commanders in Iraq put out "Help Wanted" ads, seeking private contractors to take the place of soldiers in combat-supply warehouses on U.S. bases throughout Iraq, the soldiers in question being required to do other, more urgent, soldierly tasks, like patrols and combat and stuff.
"With the increased insurgent activity, unit supply personnel must continue to pull force protection along with convoy escort and patrol duties," according to a statement of work that accompanied the Sept. 7 request for bidders from Multi-National Force-Iraq.


Some locations may end up being "completely manned by contract personnel," the statement says.
The contract workers will be given room and board, but medical care will only be provided for emergency medical and dental needs, danger to life, limb, and eyesight, broken bones or teeth, and life-saving drugs like insulin. Everything else is just not going to be provided.

Sounds like pretty rough conditions for a "winning" team.

Meanwhile, Bootsie Ferragamo, our doughty Secretary of Shoe-Shopping, plans to order up to 50 diplomats to Iraq next year. Apparently, they're a tad short of diplomatic personnel there. One can't help but wonder what happened to the others, you know, the ones who, er, used to be there? Incidentally, the WaPoo assures us that this is the first such large-scale forced assignment since the Vietnam War.

For some reason hitherto incomprehensible to me, Bootsie actually expects people to volunteer. And if they don't, or not enough of them do, she's bloody well ordering them to schlep their diplomatic asses over to the Baghdad embassy next summer.

In case you weren't up to speed on the issue, this is the same Embassy building that Reuters has claimed is "indefinitely delayed" while its Kuwaiti contractor fixes a punch list of problems, the State Department said on Tuesday. So far the cost overrun is around $150 million, and U.S. lawmakers say the building is marked by shoddy work by the contractor and poor oversight by the State Department. McClatchy's Washington Bureau has reported that the fire-safety systems don't work, the electrical system has melted down, due to the counterfeit wiring used by the contractor, and there are a slew of other problems with appliances and water mains.

Victims of the forced draft of diplomats will include "people who have not had a recent hardship tour," according to Bootsie's second in command.

Bootsie has ordered that positions in Iraq be filled before any other openings at the State Department headquarters in Washington or abroad are available. Victims have 10 days to file a written notice of objection. The review panel will consider the objections, but absent a serious, documented medical condition, the department will either send you there or fire your ass, boys and girls.

The union representing U.S. diplomats has officially objected to the Iraq call-up, referring to it as "a death trap." Well, the soldiers don't get to complain, so why the hell should you. Why not kill our few remaining foreign service officers who have any understanding of Islamic culture or speak the language? Then we can revel in our splendid isolation!
Steve Kashkett, vice president of the American Foreign Service Association, says: "Directed assignments, we fear, can be detrimental to the individual, to the post, and to the Foreign Service as a whole."

Kashkett said the association had contended in meetings with Rice and Thomas that a diplomatic draft is unnecessary and that "thousands" of diplomats have volunteered for Iraq over the past five years. "We're not weenies, we're not cowards, we're not cookie pushers in Europe," he said. "This has never been necessary in a generation."


At congressional hearings last summer, Kashkett testified that medical and psychiatric symptoms have become a growing problem for personnel serving in high-danger zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yeah, nothing like having mentally and psychiatrically damaged individuals serving in the diplomatic corps to enhance your standing. Wheeee!

Over at First Draft, Holden consoles the soon-to-be-drafted diplomats about Condi's care for their earthly remains, in the unlikely event of anything, uh, untoward, shall we say?
Are you a career State Department employee hesitant to volunteer for service in Iraq or Afghanistan? Well, if your worst fears are realized and you are killed at one of those posts Condi has already arranged for your death to be ignored.

If terrorists attack the U.S. embassy in Iraq and injure or kill American diplomats serving there, the State Department does not have to investigate the incident as it would if it occurred anywhere else in the world, thanks to a tweak to federal law.

Two years ago, the State Department quietly requested -- and received -- a legal provision exempting the secretary of state from a requirement she order rigorous after-action investigations into incidents against embassies or personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the congressman who sponsored the bill. The reason, the lawmaker told ABC News at the time, was that Rice was reluctant to send investigators into harm's way.
Go read it, fellas. Pretty educational.

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