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Failing work in Afghanistan is signal for a promotion

29 Nov 2010

This is what we’re doing in Afghanistan:

For more than a year, Afghan police chief Rajab Mohammed and his men have worked out of a dark, cramped mud home in a remote corner of Afghanistan while waiting in vain for construction workers to finish building the U.S.-funded police station across the street.

With winter fast approaching, some of the men, who’d been sleeping in a dirt courtyard, recently took over the idle construction site and set up cots inside the half-built station after they learned that the U.S. government had fired the Afghan company responsible for the project.

The U.S. is spending billions of dollars to build facilities like the one in Badakhshan for Afghanistan’s expanding national police and new garrisons for its army. The ambitious program is a linchpin of President Barack Obama’s strategy to strengthen Afghan security forces so 100,000 U.S. troops can come home.

However, like much of the wider Afghan reconstruction effort, it’s faltering, according to current and former U.S. officials, Afghan and American contractors, and contract documents.

Dozens of structures across the country either were poorly constructed or never completed at all. Tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers who were supposed to be living in garrisons by now are still housed in tents.

The stations and barracks represent a pattern repeated across Afghanistan: Construction projects are failing with such frequency that the administration’s initiative to reinforce the Afghan security forces could be hobbled.

While American policymakers struggle to find enough money to resuscitate the U.S. economy or rebuild infrastructure at home, American taxpayers are financing an unprecedented construction boom in Afghanistan for new schools and clinics, electricity and water and roads and bridges.

U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, has ordered a dramatic expansion in contracting. Other than asking a brigadier general to investigate problems with military contracts, so far he’s failed to address their flaws.

A McClatchy investigation has found that since January 2008, nearly $200 million in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects in Afghanistan have failed, face serious delays or resulted in subpar work. Poor recordkeeping made it impossible for McClatchy to determine the value of faulty projects before then. The military tries to recover part of a project’s cost, but in many cases, the funds were already spent.

The investigation also found that:

  • In a rush to award contracts to Afghan companies, the Corps accepts bids that don’t cover the cost of a project, including the expense of security and a contractor’s profit.
  • Rather than scrap a project that’s failing, the government sometimes rewrites the contract to require only the work that’s been done and declares the effort a success. The process is called “de-scoping.”

At the same time, a vast majority of the companies that McClatchy found were doing shoddy work haven’t been banned from getting new U.S. contracts, according to government records. U.S. taxpayer dollars also continue to go to firms whose true ownership is hard to determine, making it difficult to hold anyone accountable.

 

Delegitimisation inc.

29 Nov 2010

Akiva Eldar in Haaretz on yet another Zionist-created disinformation campaign breathlessly repeated by many Jews in the Diaspora. Why oh why can’t the world just accept Israel as a charming occupying nation?

The State of Israel is under the threat of delegitimization, “which is no less disturbing than Hamas and Hezbollah,” intoned Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a speech last week.

“Attempts by our enemies and their misguided fellow travelers to delegitimize the Jewish state must be countered,” warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu three weeks ago, in response to cries of protest by peace activists at the General Assembly of Jewish Federations in New Orleans.

“If the delegitimization continues it will be an obstacle to peace,” declared Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon recently. He added: “We are facing sophisticated enemies who are working in various ways to besmirch Israel’s reputation.”

Words like missiles. It’s an emergency. Hush, we’re shooting.

A look at the “guidebook” the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs is offering Israelis at the exit gates from the country reinforces the suspicion that the inflation in the expression “delegitimization” (formerly called “anti-Semitism” ) is not a random lexical construction.

“How many times have you had occasion to encounter information presented about Israel that was far from being real?” the tourist/good-will ambassador is asked before he is requested to “take part in changing the image of the State of Israel.” The booklet “Explaining Israel” reminds him of such things as the dates of the wars (including Operation Peace for Galilee ) and the victories (including the win by Maccabi Tel Aviv of the European Cup ), the humanitarian delegations and the invention of the disc-on-key.

There is not a single word about the Madrid conference, which paved the way to the direct peace negotiations and diplomatic relations with many important countries, such as China. There is no sign of the fact that the Oslo Accords opened doors to Israel in the Arab countries. Nor is there any trace of the peace with Jordan – a bonus for the Oslo agreement. Nothing about the Arab peace initiative, which is still waiting for an Israeli answer. The Public Diplomacy Ministry is also not mentioning that the European Union decided to upgrade relations with Israel – and then froze the process in the wake of the crisis of the Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla.

Israel is basking in the light of the delegitimization. It will not allow the inexhaustible tin of olive oil to be defiled by any hint of legitimization. It is much easier to give the world the finger when the whole of it is against you. If we say “delegitimization” enough times the public will believe there is no connection between what the gentiles say and what the Jews do.

 

Inside the Tamil Tigers from a man who knows

29 Nov 2010

An amazing interview with key former Tamil Tiger leader Thambiaiya Selvarasa Pathmanathan, alias “KP”. He’s currently under house arrest and monitored by the Sri Lankan regime. Some of this interview is filled with clearly scripted comments about the kindness of Colombo but despite this KP talks about the inside workings of the Tigers. The last months of the 2009 battle, too:

Q: Did you not try to save the [Tamils] civilians by getting the LTTE to release them [during the fierce months of fighting in 2008 and 2009]?

A: I did try at the start.

There was even an offer by the Americans to transport them by sea to Trincomalee. But the LTTE hierarchy was not agreeable. This attitude was most unfortunate and may appear as inhuman. I am not trying to condone or justify this action but when I reflect upon the past I think the LTTE leadership also had no choice. If they released the people first, then only the tigers would be left there. Thereafter all of them could have been wiped out.

I had a tentative plan with international endorsement. The LTTE was to lay down arms by hoarding them in specific locations. The words used were “lock –off”. That is arms particularly heavy weapons were to be locked off in specific places. They were to be handed over to representatives of the UN. Afterwards there was to be a cessation of hostilities in which the people were to be kept in specific “no firing zones”. Negotiations were to be conducted between the Govt and LTTE with Norwegian facilitation.

Tentatively about 25 to 50 top leaders with their families were to be transported to a foreign country if necessary.The middle level leaders and cadres were to be detained, charged in courts and given relatively minor sentences. The low level junior cadres were to be given a general amnesty.

The scheme was to endorsed by the west including Norway, EU and the USA. The Americans were ready to send their naval fleet in to do evacuation if necessary

Q: Was the Sri Lankan government agreeable

A: I don’t think there was any official intimation to Colombo but maybe they were sounded out informally. But the plan was never concretised because the main man concerned, Prabhakaran rejected it.

I had written an outline of the plan and sent it to him for approval. If he said “Proceed” I would have concretised it and started work on implementing it. But when I faxed the details in a 16 page memorandum he rejected the 16 pages in just three words “Ithai Etrukkolla Mudiyathu” (This is unacceptable)So I had to drop it

Q: Even if Prabhakaran had agreed to it do you think the Govt would have complied given the fact that the armed forces were on the verge of annihilating the LTTE?

A: I don’t know. Most probably the Govt may not have obliged because it was on the verge of victory and would not have wanted to be deprived of it. But the point is that it was never concretised and submitted to the Govt. Given the situation the LTTE was in, Prabhakaran should have taken it.

Q: Why did Prabhakaran reject it then?

A; I don’t know I can only guess.It is too painful to dwell on it because he is no more and I will always be thinking “why didn’t he accept this opportunity”?

 

Canberra just desperate to do America’s bidding, anywhere anytime

28 Nov 2010

Australia is little more than a reliable lackey, keen to follow Washington into every futile war and action they launch:

Australia is described as a “rock solid” but uninfluential US ally in secret US government documents made public by the controversial whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks.

A small number of the 250,000 cables have been released, leaving the US government in damage control and warning the release of the top-secret documents could endanger lives.

About 930 of the WikiLeaks documents were written by US officials in Australia, but it is not yet clear what information they contain and the WikiLeaks website was struggling under the massive amount of traffic.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland says he has established a taskforce to deal with any fallout from the new leaks, which he describes as of a “real concern” to the Government.

Mr McClelland says the Australian Federal Police is assessing if any Australian laws had been broken.

One confidential document from the US Embassy in Harare, seen by ABC News Online, describes Australia as a “rock solid” ally of the US.

 

So much for the noble power that helps its democratic mates

28 Nov 2010

How Wikileaks themselves introduce the latest revelations:

Wikileaks began on Sunday November 28th publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables, the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into US Government foreign activities.

The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret.

The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice.

The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments — even the most corrupt — around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.

The full set consists of 251,287 documents, comprising 261,276,536 words (seven times the size of “The Iraq War Logs”, the world’s previously largest classified information release).

The cables cover from 28th December 1966 to 28th February 2010 and originate from 274 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions.

 

US embassy in Tehran in 1979 had no idea about much

28 Nov 2010

How clueless were the Americans in 1979 when looking at the situation in Iran? A Wikileaks released document explains:

PERHAPS THE SINGLE DOMINANT ASPECT OF THE PERSIAN
PSYCHE IS AN OVERRIDING EGOISM. ITS ANTECEDENTS LIE
IN THE LONG IRANIAN HISTORY OF INSTABILITY AND INSECURITY
WHICH PUT A PREMIUM ON SELF-PRESERVATION. THE PRACTICAL
EFFECT OF IT IS AN ALMOST TOTAL PERSIAN PREOCCUPATION
WITH SELF AND LEAVES LITTLE ROOM FOR UNDERSTANDING POINTS
OF VIEW OTHER THAN ONE’S OWN.

THUS, FOR EXAMPLE, IT IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE TO AN IRANIAN THAT

U.S. IMMIGRATION LAW MAY PROHIBIT ISSUING HIM A TOURIST VISA

WHEN HE HAS DETERMINED THAT HE WANTS TO LIVE IN CALIFORNIA.
SIMILARLY, THE IRANIAN CENTRAL BANK SEES NO INCONSISTENCY
IN CLAIMING FORCE MAJEURE TO AVOID PENALTIES FOR LATE
PAYMENT OF INTEREST DUE ON OUTSTANDING LOANS WHILE THE
GOVERNMENT OF WHICH IT IS A PART IS DENYING THE VAILIDITY
OF THE VERY GROUNDS UPON WHICH THE CLAIM IS MADE WHEN
CONFRONTED BY SIMILAR CLAIMS FROM FOREIGN FIRMS FORCED
TO CEASE OPERATIONS DURING THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION.

 

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