Obama “I Deserve a Second Term”

President Barack Obama said Sunday that he deserves to remain in the White House for four more years, even though the economy has been shaky throughout his first term in office.

“I deserve a second term, but we’re not done,” Obama said during a pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, who noted that Obama said in 2009 that if the economy hadn’t fully recovered by 2012, he would be a one-term president.

“When you and I sat down [then], we were losing 750,000 jobs a month,” Obama said. “Now we’re creating 250,000. We’ve created 3.7 million jobs over the last 23 months. We’ve created the most jobs since 2005, the most manufacturing jobs since 1990. But we’re not finished.”

The president also said he needs another term to boost manufacturing, energy and job training and that he also needs more time to ensure the country’s “return to old-fashioned American values,”.

“That means, for example, regulations that ensure that Wall Street is following the rules same as Main Street,” the president said. “But we’ve made progress. And the key right now is to make sure we don’t start turning in a new direction that could throw that progress off.”

While going from shedding 750,000 jobs a month to creating 250,000 is a good thing, it is hardly anything to brag about. Creating half a million jobs less per month than we were losing is an incredibly mediocre recovery especially considering that we spent at least a trillion dollars on said recovery. Obama’s green jobs initiative has been an abject failure and his administration has absolutely refused to prosecute any of the big banks for their role in the economic collapse despite mounds of evidence of criminal behavior. Add to that Obama’s signage of NDAA allowing for indefinite detention of American citizens, his attempt to negotiate an extension of troop presence in Iraq beyond 2011, his re authorization of the Patriot Act and secret assassination list that allows the President to kill whom ever he wants, including Americans, without due process.

Does Obama “deserve” another term? Absolutely not, but lucky for him his supporters are more interested in cheerleading than policy and the GOP leadership is too busy flying over the cuckoo’s nest.

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Anonymous Reveals Haditha Massacre Emails

The loose knit internet collective known as Anonymous have unveiled their release for this week’s installment of FuckFBIFriday. This time around their target is Frank Wuterich, the US Marine that admitted to killing Iraqi civilians and received no jail time for his crime.

Anonymous began circulating news early Friday that the website for Puckett and Faraj, the high-profile attorneys that represented Sgt. Frank Wuterich in his recent trial, had been hacked. Wuterich admitted to leading a Marine raid of two civilian homes in Haditha, Iraq in 2005, murdering 24 innocent civilians including women, children and an elderly man who was confined to a wheelchair.

Last month, a military tribunal completed a hearing on Sgt. Wuterich, more than six years after the notorious incident. He was reportedly expected to receive only 90 days of prison time but ended up getting none.

In response, hacktivists with Anonymous have uncovered gigabytes worth of correspondence from Sgt. Wuterich’s attorneys and affiliated parties and left the following message on Puckett and Faraj’s website.

As part of our ongoing efforts to expose the corruption of the court systems and the brutality of US imperialism, we want to bring attention to USMC SSgt Frank Wuterich who along with his squad murdered dozens of unarmed civilians during the Iraqi Occupation. Can you believe this scumbag had his charges reduced to involuntary manslaughter and got away with only a pay cut? Meanwhile, Bradley Manning who was brave enough to risk his life and freedom to expose the truth about government corruption is threatened with life imprisonment. When justice cannot be found within the confines of their crooked court systems, we must seek revenge on the streets and on the internet – and dealing out swift retaliation is something we are particularly good at. Worry not comrades, it’s time to deliver some epic ownage. And to add a few layers of icing to this delicious caek, we got the usual boatloads of embarrassing personal information. How do you think the world will react when they find out Neal Puckett and his marine buddies have been making crude jokes about the incident where marines have been caught on video pissing on dead bodies in Afghanistan? Or that he regularly corresponds with and receives funding from former marine Don Greenlaw who runs the racist blog http://snooper.wordpress.com? We believe it is time to release all of their private information and court evidence to the world and conduct a People’s trial of our own.”

Anonymous operatives also released a recorded phone message that they intercepted from the FBI and Scotland Yard. Hours later, The Associated Press reports that the FBI confirmed the interception and says it is going after the parties responsible.

U.S. Troops Leave Iraq and Get Replaced by 1,000s of Contractors

When President Barack Obama announced that all U.S. military forces will be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of 2011, it appeared to be the end of an era. However, in reality, thousands of Americans will be staying behind in the volatile country.

Once the U.S. military pulls out the remaining 41,000 troops in Iraq, the State Department will ramp up its own force of private security contractors, which is about 3,000 in size right now. By the end of January it’s expected to be 5,500. These guards will be supported by another 4,500 “general life support” contractors who will take care of food, medical services and other needs.
Among the financial winners in the new arrangement are Triple Canopy, which has a $1.5 billion contract to protect State Department official in Iraq; SOC Incorporated, which will protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad for up to $974 million; and Global Strategies Group, which has a $410 million contract to guard the U.S. consulate in Basra. Contracts to protect other consulates in Iraq are still out for bidding.
American diplomats predict the number of foreign contractors employed by the State Department will decrease over the next three to five years. This change will be due to the U.S. hiring more local Iraqis and an improved security situation in Iraq.
It almost goes without saying the CIA will also maintain a significant presence after the troops are gone.

Dozens Killed in Waves of Bombings in Iraq

At least 69 people were killed in 16 bombings in Iraq just days after the last American forces left the country and in the midst of  rising sectarian tensions between Shiite and Sunni politicians.

Most of the attacks hit Shiite neighborhoods, although some Sunni areas were also targeted. In all, 11 neighborhoods were hit by either car bombs, roadside blasts or sticky bombs attached to cars. There was at least one suicide bombing and the blasts went off over several hours. At least 14 went off in the morning and there were two more in the evening.

The deadliest attack was in the Karrada neighborhood, where a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden ambulance blew himself up outside the office of a government agency fighting corruption. Two police officers at the scene said the bomber told guards that he needed to get to a nearby hospital. After the guards let him through, he drove to the building where he blew himself up, the officers said.

“I was sleeping in my bed when the explosion happened” said 12-year-old Hussain Abbas, who was standing nearby in his pajamas. “I jumped from my bed and rushed to my mom’s lap. I told her I did not to go to school today. I’m terrified.” At least 25 people were killed and 62 injured in that attack, officials said.

The events of the past few days are beginning to look like the country’s nightmare scenario. The alliance betweem Sunnis and Shiites in the government is collapsing, large-scale violence with a high casualty toll has returned to the capital, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears to be making a move to grab the already limited power of the Sunnis.

Al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government this week accused Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country’s top Sunni political leader, of running a hit squad that targeted government officials five years ago, during the height of sectarian warfare. Authorities put out a warrant for his arrest.

Ayad Allawi, who heads a Sunni-backed party called Iraqiya, laid the blame for Thursday’s violence with the government.

“We have warned long ago that terrorism will continue … against the Iraqi people unless the political landscape is corrected and the political process is corrected, and it becomes an inclusive political process and full blown non-sectarian institutions will be built in Iraq,” Allawi told The Associated Press, speaking from neighboring Beirut.

One-in-three vets polled say Iraq, Afghan wars were not worth fighting…

One in three U.S. veterans of the post-9/11 military polled believes that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority think that America should be focusing more on domestic issues and less on foreign affairs according to an opinion survey released Wednesday.

Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and about 1,700 in Afghanistan. The costs of both wars combined has topped $1 trillion.

The survey also showed that post-9/11 veterans are more likely than Americans as a whole to call themselves Republicans and to disapprove of President Barack Obama’s performance as commander in chief. They also are more likely to have no religious affiliation than earlier generations of veterans.

The Pew Research Center conducted two surveys and polled two groups between late July and mid-September. The first group was made up of 1,853 veterans, including 712 who had served in the military after 9/11 but are no longer on active duty. Of the 712 post-9/11 veterans, 336 served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The second group was made up of 2,003 adults who had not served in the military.

Nearly half of post-9/11 veterans said deployments strained their relationship with their spouses, and a similar number reported problems with their children. On the other hand, 60 percent said they and their families benefited financially from having served in combat.

Asked for a single word to describe their experiences, the war veterans offered a mixed picture: “rewarding,” “nightmare,” “life-changing,” “eye-opening,” “interesting,” “lousy” and “hot.”

The report’s key findings were:

  • Half of post-9/11 veterans say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, while about 44 percent view the conflict in Iraq the same way. Only one-third (34 percent) say that both wars have been worth fighting and 33 percent say that neither war has been worth the cost.
  • Forty-four percent of post-9/11 veterans report that they have had difficulties readjusting to civilian life, and 37 percent say that — whether or not they have been diagnosed – they have suffered from post-traumatic stress.
  • Eighty-four percent of these modern-era veterans say the general American public has little or no understanding of the problems they face, with 71 percent of the public agreeing.
  • Overall, 16 percent of post-9/11 veterans report they were seriously injured while serving in the military, and most of the injuries were combat-related. Forty-seven percent say they know and have served with someone who was killed while in the military.
  • Many Americans agree that since the terror attacks in the U.S., the military and their families have made more sacrifices than the general public. But even among this group, only 26 percent say this gap is “unfair,” while 70 percent say that it’s “just part of being in the military”.
  • A vast majority expressed pride in the troops and three-quarters say they thanked someone in the military. But a 45 percent plurality say neither of the post-9/11 wars has been worth the cost and only a quarter say they are following news of the wars closely. Half of the public said the wars have made little difference in their lives.
  • About half (51 percent) of post-9/11 veterans say that the use of military force to fight terrorism creates hatred that breeds more terrorism; 40 percent say it is the best way to defeat terrorism. These views are nearly identical to those of the general public.
  • When asked about the draft, both veterans and the public agreed: The nation should not bring back the military draft, which was ended in 1973. Among post-9/11 veterans, 82 percent said they’re against reinstating the draft, compared with 66 percent of pre-9/11 era veterans and 74 percent of the general public.

 

The U.S. has lost at least $31 billion, as much as $60 billion, to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has lost billions of dollars to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan and stands to repeat that in future wars without big changes in how the government awards and manages contracts for battlefield support, independent investigators said Wednesday.

The Wartime Contracting Commission urged Congress to quickly put in place dozens of its recommendations to overhaul the contracting process. The commission even suggested that joint House-Senate debt reduction committee take a close look at the proposals.

“What you’re asking for is more of the same,” said Dov Zakheim, a commission member and a former Pentagon comptroller. “More waste. More fraud. More abuse.”

The commission, created by Congress in 2008, estimated that at least $31 billion and as much as $60 billion in U.S. money has been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade due to lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and corruption.

Yet new legislation incorporating the reforms remains a challenge for lawmakers deeply divided on the best way to reduce the deficit.

“If these recommendations are not implemented, there ought to be a Hall of Shame,” said Michael Thibault, co-chairman of the commission. “There’s an opportunity at hand.”

The commission’s 15 recommendations include creating an inspector general to monitor contracting, appointing a senior government official to improve planning and coordination, and reducing the use of private security contractors.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who co-sponsored legislation to establish the commission, said she plans to prepare legislation based upon the commission’s recommendations.

The commission’s report said contracting waste in Afghanistan and Iraq could grow as U.S. support for reconstruction projects and programs wanes. That would leave the countries to bear the long-term costs of sustaining the schools, medical clinics, barracks, roads and power plants already built with American money.

Overall, the commission said spending on contracts and grants to support U.S. operations is expected to exceed $206 billion by the end of the 2011 budget year. Based on its investigation, the commission said contracting waste in Afghanistan ranged from 10 percent to 20 percent of the $206 billion total. Fraud during the same period ran between 5 percent and 9 percent of the total, the report said.

Styled after the Truman Committee, which examined World War II spending six decades ago, the commission had broad authority to examine military support contracts, reconstruction projects and private security companies.

But the law creating the commission set this September as the end of its work, even as contractors continue their heavy support of U.S. operations in the war zones.

Security, transportation, food preparation and delivery, and much more are now handled by the private sector. At the same time, the officials responsible for monitoring contractor performance have been overwhelmed by increasing reliance on private companies.

“We are far more reliant on contractors than we ever were,” said commission member Charles Tiefer, a professor of government contracting at the University of Baltimore Law School. “We always bought munitions from them. But we didn’t used to buy much in the way of services from them.”

The commission cited numerous examples of waste, including a $360 million U.S.-financed agricultural development program in Afghanistan. The effort began as a $60 million project in 2009 to distribute vouchers for wheat seed and fertilizer in drought-stricken areas of northern Afghanistan. The program expanded into the south and east. Soon the U.S. was spending a $1 million a day on the program, creating an environment ripe for waste and abuse, the commission said.

“Paying villagers for what they used to do voluntarily destroyed local initiatives and diverted project goods into Pakistan for resale,” the commission said.

The Afghan insurgency’s second largest funding source after the illegal drug trade is the diversion of money from U.S.-backed construction projects and transportation contracts, according to the commission. But the report does not say how much money has been funneled to the insurgency. The money typically is lost when insurgents and warlords threaten Afghan subcontractors with violence unless they pay for protection, according to the report.

The Associated Press reported this month that U.S. military authorities in Kabul believe $360 million has ended up in the hands of the Taliban, criminals and power brokers with ties to both.

The military said only a small percentage of the $360 million has been garnered by the Taliban and insurgent groups. Most of the money was lost to profiteering, bribery and extortion by criminals and power brokers.

U.S. firm facing allegations of bribery and war profiteering…

Harry Sargeant III, a retired Top Gun pilot and former GOP fundraiser is facing a lawsuit in Florida that claims that his company paid off Jordanian government officials to control supply lines of fuel to U.S. forces in Iraq.

The lawsuit claims that an ex-CIA agent working at Sargeant’s oil company wired a $9 million dollar bribe to the head of Jordan’s intelligence agency in 2007. Mohammad al-Saleh, the plaintiff in the case, is a member of Jordan’s royal family. Al-Saleh claims that the payment was a kickback that helped Sargeant perpetuate a monopoly on shipping fuel though Jordan to U.S. bases in neighboring Iraq. A congressional investigation in 2008 confirmed the monopoly and accused Sargeant’s energy business, the International Oil Trading Co. (IOTC), of price gouging the Pentagon in what it called the “worst form of war profiteering.” A Pentagon audit found this year that IOTC was overpaid by as much as $200 million on fuel contracts dating from 2005. The company, however, insists it was underpaid and has sued the U.S. government for $75 million.

Al-Saleh is seeking $53 million in profits from the Pentagon contracts that he claims were wrongfully denied him when he was dropped as a one-third partner in IOTC by Sargeant and another defendant. Sargeant’s counsel has not disputed that al-Saleh was removed from the company, but argues that he was forced out by the Jordanian government without the company’s approval.

The whereabouts of the $9 million wire payment remains a mystery.Sargeant testified last week that he wasn’t sure where the $9 million ended up and “didn’t ask.” But he denied that it “directly or indirectly” benefited the Jordanian government. IOTC official Marty Martin, who headed the CIA unit formed to hunt Osama bin Laden during the Bush administration before joining Sargeant’s company in 2007, took the stand to face questions about his role in sending the wire payment. When asked what happened to the $9 million, Martin responded, “I don’t know.”

To win the contracts, companies had to present the Pentagon with a “letter of authorization” from the Jordanian government to send fuel-truck convoys through Jordanian territory to U.S. bases in Iraq.

In August 2007, IOTC’s contract lawyer, Ron Uscher, advised Sargeant, Martin and other company officials in an email that IOTC could ensure a monopoly on the fuel contracts if it managed to be the only company with the letter of authorization.

“Procurement becomes a sole source favoring IOTC,” he wrote. “Others can bid, but without the (letter of authorization), they cannot legally perform the contract in Jordan.”

Uscher then asked for ideas on how to “ensure that IOTC alone has the letter of authorization.”

Two months later, in October 2007, Martin sent a letter to the Jordanian spy agency, the General Intelligence Directorate (GID). He had formed a close relationship with the agency through his covert CIA work in the Middle East. He asked for assurances that the Jordanian government would grant no letters of authorization to anyone but IOTC for “current or future” Pentagon fuel contracts, and that it would make that intention clear to Washington. A month later, Martin wired the $9 million. Emails to the same GID representative show that Martin deposited the money in a government account “designated” for the head of the GID.

“We are ready for immediate transfer for Basha (the head of the GID),” Martin wrote on Nov. 7, 2007. “In addition to the bank details, we need a name on the account. After 9/11, much harder for numbered account from U.S. banks. :)”