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Stratfor: Conditions in Baghdad

Retired CIA analysts have long said we went into Iraq, using the pretext of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction; but, really to try to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East.      I got this from Stratfor via email.~LTG

Raw Intelligence Report:  Conditions in Baghdad

June 13, 2011
Editor’s Note: What follows is raw insight from a STRATFOR source in Baghdad, Iraq. The following does not reflect STRATFOR’s view, but provides a perspective on the situation in Baghdad.

After the fall of Baghdad in 2003, the city was a nice place despite the lack of law enforcement and government. By February 2004, most businesses were operating, people were happy and stores were open until midnight. There was no shortage of fuel, and electricity was more reliable. The city was very clean, and the crime rate was low. There was also no fear of kidnapping or car bombs. It was a functioning city with law, even without law enforcement. There was even a lion in the Baghdad Zoo, though I heard it later died.

On March 2, 2004, explosions shook the Shiite Kazimiyah district, killing tens and wounding hundreds. These explosions were the start of more attacks and car bombings between the Shia and Sunnis that increased in later years. In 2003 and 2004, Baghdad was a city where I envisioned living permanently one day. That is not the case now.

The roads are in very poor condition, with lots of garbage everywhere — some of it dating back to 2003. Many streets are blocked with concrete walls. There are many checkpoints inside the city manned by soldiers and police, but they did not seem to be well trained or prepared for potential threats. I hardly saw them checking cars or asking people for identification. We drove 400 kilometers (250 miles) and encountered more than 26 checkpoints; none of them stopped us to ask for identification. The soldiers and police at the checkpoints do not seem to be loyal to the Iraqi state but are there to get their salaries and make a living. The taxi driver told me that since the government does not enforce the law, the soldiers do not want to ask for identification and hold people accountable because they fear reprisals later. Therefore, they let everyone go and avoid problems.

At every checkpoint, there are devices the soldiers hold that detect explosives and guns, making it difficult to carry guns or explosives in a car. This made me wonder how so many assassinations have been carried out with guns with suppressors. I was told that most of the assassinations are inside jobs; the officials do not like each other and try to have each other killed. The officials’ guards are allowed to have guns, and it is these permitted guns that are used in some of the assassinations.

Traffic is another problem in Baghdad. There are traffic police on the streets, and there are traffic lights to regulate the traffic, but no one cares about the police or whether the light is red or green.

Early one morning, we headed to the Green Zone, the “safe” area where foreign embassies are located. In fact, the Green Zone did not seem safe. There were many security clearances — two Iraqi checkpoints and a U.S. Embassy checkpoint manned by Africans (security companies hire many workers from Africa). The African workers board buses and ask for identification and check the badges of people in cars. After entering the Green Zone, there are other checkpoints where people need to show special badges. Cell phones are banned, as is water and other liquids. We were not allowed to take some of my daughter’s medicine with us. The speed limit is 5 miles per hour, and there are very hard road bumps inside the Green Zone that I believe could break the chains of tank treads.

There is no sign of life inside the Green Zone. It is fully militarized and seems more like a military camp than anything. I did not even see a store inside the parts of the Green Zone we drove through.

Electricity is yet another problem in Baghdad and other areas. During the hot summer, there are fewer than 10 hours of electricity per day. People are very angry about this and hold the government responsible. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised in February to improve services. The people said no improvements have happened since then — there are shortages of electricity and water, sewage services are lacking, and there is unemployment.

Watch this video on the history of the Sunni/Shiite divide

According to the people I spoke with, the city is fully under Shiite control. I don’t mean just the security establishment, but the stores and businesses, too. During the sectarian conflict, most Sunnis left their houses and stores, which were taken by Shiite families who are unwilling to return them. The Sunni districts of Baghdad have been surrounded by concrete walls (like those found in Israel), and there are only one or two gates to get in and out. This has made the Sunnis unhappy, and they see it as a tool to control them rather than to protect them.

Corruption has made many officers and government employees rich. You can get an Iraqi passport for $1,500. When you go to any government ministry, nothing is done for you unless you pay them. The taxi driver handling some government staff said, “You need to understand that especially in the passport department, the officer tells you that you can’t get a passport and then he gets up and goes to the toilet. You need to follow him and give him some money; toilets are where the bribes are given.” He added that this is true for every government establishment, not just for passports.  (So, if a woman wants a passport, she has to follow the guy to the toilet and give him a bribe?  Ewwwwwww!   – LTG)

More Stratfor Raw Intelligence Reports Here

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Millionaire Nancy Pelosi Used Taxpayer-funded Jet to the End

Nancy Pelosi is one of the richest members of Congress. In 2007, she ranked 6th in the House in total wealth, with assets of at least $62.5 million. Despite that, she shamelessly exploited her perquisites as Speaker of the House, bilking taxpayers for millions in luxury travel, food, and wine for herself, family, and friends — until the very end.
H/t beloved fellow Tina.

A BKeyser design

Judicial Watch Uncovers New Documents Detailing Pelosi’s Use of Air Force Aircraft in 2010
By Tom Fitton – Judicial Watch – January 26, 2011
Despite the media firestorm over her military travel abuses, Nancy Pelosi continued to use the United States Air Force as her own personal travel agency right up until her final days as House Speaker according to documents we uncovered from the Air Force.
According to these new documents, which we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Pelosi used Air Force aircraft for 43 flights from January 1 to October 1, 2010. By comparison, Nancy Pelosi logged 47 flights in the previous nine-month period, April 1, 2009, to January 1, 2010, according to previous documents we uncovered.
So, in other words, she did not back off at all from her pattern of abuse.
Here’s a quick summary of what these documents include: a mission activity chart detailing all of former Speaker Pelosi’s flights January 1 to October 1, 2010, as well as detailed shopping lists for some flights, flight authorization forms, mission expense records and internal Air Force correspondence related to the flights.
And here are two quick highlights:

  • Pelosi used Air Force aircraft for a total of 43 trips, covering 90,155 miles, from January 1 through October 1, 2010. The Air Force documented in-flight expenses for 22 of these flights totaling $1,821.33. The Air Force did not provide expense information for the remaining 21 flights.
  • Former Speaker Pelosi received chocolate-covered strawberries as a birthday surprise on a March 26, 2010, flight. According to one internal Air Force email sent on March 25, 2010: “The speaker’s office is requesting egg salad sandwiches on wheat toast with fruit (watermelon, etc) for desert (sic). It’s the speaker’s B-Day tomorrow so we’re also asking for something like chocolate covered strawberries (dark chocolate preferred)…” The immediate response to the email from another member of the Air Force staff: “Copy all. We’ll plan something for the birthday and take care of the meal.”

…according to previous documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, Pelosi’s military travel cost the United States Air Force $2,100,744.59 over one two-year period — $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol.
In fact, check out this purchase list from one Pelosi-led congressional delegation traveling from Washington, DC, through Tel Aviv, Israel to Baghdad, Iraq May 15-20, 2008: Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Baileys Irish Cream, Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewar’s scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Corona beer and several bottles of wine.
We also uncovered internal Department of Defense (DOD) email correspondence detailing attempts by DOD staff to accommodate Pelosi’s numerous requests for military escorts and military aircraft, as well as Pelosi’s last minute cancellations and changes. For example, in response to a series of requests for military aircraft, one Defense Department official wrote, “Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi’s team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend?…[T]here’s no need to block every weekend ‘just in case’…” The email also notes that Pelosi’s office had, “a history of canceling many of their past requests.”
And finally, we also uncovered emails from the DOD that show that the Pentagon worked hand-in-hand with congressional offices prior to releasing documents under the FOIA regarding congressional military travel. These “heads up” emails involved FOIA requests filed by Judicial Watch, The Wall Street Journal, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call, among other organizations, related to the use of military aircraft by a number of congressional members, including Pelosi.
Nancy Pelosi demonstrated an alarming disregard for the men and women in the U.S. Air Force during her tenure as House Speaker. She may be gone from her previous position, and Speaker Boehner may have decided not to follow her corrupt example [and will fly commercial], but this scandal is not only about travel by the Speaker of the House.
Through the speaker’s office, other members of the House are able to obtain permission for the use of military luxury travel for congressional delegation trips abroad. These trips, known as CODELs, have exploded in number and cost. Speaker Boehner needs to reform this abuse of our military’s assets. This is the right thing to do for the U.S. Air Force and for the American taxpayer.

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