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Auto executives plan to carpool to D.C.

November 24, 2008 | Airlines,D.C.,Dignitary visits,Economics,Iraq,Politics,Traveling

You know what that means.

Road trip!

Think they’ll blog about it? And take pictures of the Kum & Go? And pick up other execs along the way?

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., was the one who asked the executives if they flew commercial to Washington, D.C. None had.

I suppose Sherman had a decent question. So when will he get his D.C. colleagues to start road-trippin’ in and out of the city? Or maybe he’ll convince them to hitchhike when they go on their PR junkets to Iraq.

Posted by Becky @ 7:23 pm | 2 Comments  

Blackwater testifies before House committee

October 2, 2007 | Afghanistan,Death,Defense industry,Dignitary visits,Ethics,Iraq

Blackwater USA founder and owner Erik Prince testifies today before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, starting at 10 a.m. (streaming live here).

I still want to know: Who were the U.S. diplomats being guarded by Blackwater employees on Sept. 16, 2007, and will they be required to testify before the committee?

Posted by Becky @ 11:00 am | Comments  

Blackwater: Billion-dollar cowboys in Iraq

September 24, 2007 | Death,Defense industry,Dignitary visits,Ethics,Iraq


The headline says that “cowboy” aggression works for Blackwater. For Iraqis? Not so much.

But it is largely accepted that the Pentagon doesn’t have enough troops to fight both the war in Iraq and perform all the tasks contracted out to firms such as Blackwater, including protecting diplomats and other civilians in one of the world’s most dangerous places.

The Pentagon doesn’t have enough troops for protecting diplomats. Here’s a thought. For starters, why not stop the revolving-door dignitary visits by elected officials?

Posted by Becky @ 8:56 pm | 1 Comment  

Security problem fixed, Iraq is fun again

September 21, 2007 | Dignitary visits,Iraq

It’s a good thing they got that security stuff all figured out in Iraq, today of all days, because another congressional delegation, including Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. (his fifth visit), and Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, arrived today.

Posted by Becky @ 8:34 pm | Comments  

State Department halts dignitary visits … for four days

2008 campaign,Death,Defense industry,Dignitary visits,Ethics,Iraq,Military,MSM


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is pissed. Blackwater USA employees killed one Iraqi police officer and 10 Iraqi civilians and wounded at least 13 Iraqi bystanders in a shootout in Baghdad on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007. Maliki called the action criminal, threatened to prosecute those involved, canceled Blackwater’s operating license and ordered the company out of the country on Monday. On Tuesday, the United States suspended all land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials in Iraq outside the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Scratch that. Convoys guarded by Blackwater resumed today after suspending them for only four days. The U.S. embassy struck back at the prime minister, releasing a report that details corruption in his government.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got the prime minister to agree to set up a commission to “look into the matter.” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., asked Blackwater USA founder and owner Erik Prince to appear before the House Government Reform Committeeon Oct. 2, 2007, to determine if private contractors serve U.S. interests in Iraq and whether Blackwater USA “has advanced or impeded U.S. efforts.”

I’m curious. Who were the U.S. diplomats being guarded by Blackwater employees, and will they be required to testify before the committee?

Was it Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and his delegation — Reps. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., and fourth-timer Steve Pearce, R-N.M. — who recently returned from an “intense two-day tour” of Iraq? No. They were there the weekend before last.

Was it Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Ohio, and his delegation — Reps. John Boehner, R-Ohio, Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., Peter King, R-N.Y., Tom Latham, R-Iowa, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio — who just returned from Iraq? No. They were in Baghdad earlier last week. (Gosh, it’s hard to keep track, isn’t it?)

Was it third-time visitor Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and her delegation — Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., fourth-timer Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and third-timer Ken Salazar, D-Colo.? Maybe. They were on the heels of the other delegation and were in Iraq on Saturday and Sunday.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne E. Tyrrell said Blackwater’s contractors acted lawfully and that the “civilians” who were killed were armed enemies. An Iraqi report said Blackwater guards were not ambushed. Instead, they fired at a car when it did not heed a police officer’s call to stop, killing a couple and their infant. In video shot after the episode, the child appeared to have burned to the mother’s body after the car caught fire.

In the meantime, Blackwater remains in Iraq, and Rice is telling everyone she has ordered a “full and complete review” of security practices, including Blackwater, which has a $1 billion, five-year contract with the U.S. State Department.

USA TODAY added an update to its breaking-news blog:

Update at 4:45 p.m. ET:We’ve requested comment from Blackwater USA. In the meantime, campaign finance records show that Prince has been a big donor to the Republican Party. In July, he gave $20,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Nice try, but that’s just the beginning.

Prince also gave the National Republican Congressional Committee $25,000 in 2005, $25,000 in 2004, $20,000 in 2000, $15,000 in 1989, $1,000 in 1986, as well as $71,950 to the RNC Republican National State Elections Committee in 2000, and the following:

  • $1,000 on Nov. 2, 2004, to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who visited Iraq in September 2006.
  • $1,000 on Sept. 26, 2005, and $1,000 on Nov. 16, 2004, to Rep. Thomas DeLay, R-Texas, who visited Iraq in August 2003.
  • $1,000 on Oct. 29, 2004, to Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who visited Iraq in February 2005.
  • $500 on Sept. 21, 1999, $1,000 on Aug. 24, 2004, and $1,000 on March 31, 2005, to Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Minn., who visited Iraq in August 2003, September 2003, June 2004 and November 2004.
  • $1,000 on Oct. 29, 2004, to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who visited Iraq at least six times.
  • $2,100 on Aug. 23, 2006, to Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., who visited Iraq in November 2004 and February 2007.
  • $1,000 on Nov. 2, 2004, to Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., who visited Iraq in September 2003.
  • $1,000 on Jan. 4, 2006, and $2,000 on Dec. 19, 2005, to Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who visited Iraq in February 2004, September 2005 and April 2007 (his fifth visit).
  • $750 on Oct. 29, 2004, to Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who visited Iraq in February 2005.
  • $1,000 on Oct. 31, 2005, and $500 on Sept. 26, 2005, to Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., who visited Iraq in October 2003 and July 2005.
  • $1,000 on March 31, 2005, to Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., who visited Iraq in September 2003.

That’s just for starters. I’ll keep looking. The USA TODAY guy might want to do the same.

Posted by Becky @ 4:36 pm | Comments  

The high cost of dignitary visits, part 5

September 11, 2007 | 2008 campaign,Death,Dignitary visits,Iraq,Military

War is Peace — Freedom is Slavery — Ignorance is Strength

This war is about peace. — President George W. Bush

Sanctioned visits to Iraq by elected officials started in May 2003, and they have been back-to-back ever since. A National Guard general tried to see his troops in late 2003, but a Defense Department policy restricted his travel “for safety reasons” because a limited number of soldiers were available for security details. The general could not visit his troops, but more than 20 delegations visited Iraq in just eight months in 2003. (He finally got to visit his troops by the end of the year.)

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., started the parade of delegations to Iraq by requesting a visit in early 2003. The Pentagon and the State Department refused. He took off for Iraq anyway in April by joining a convoy of relief workers into Iraq.

This will not be my last time going to Iraq. — Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.

He was correct. He has been to Iraq 18 times … so far.

Less than a month later, a delegation left for Baghdad on May 23, 2003. Until then, Baghdad had been off limits because it was unsafe, even with armed military escorts. Elected officials insisted on going, however, saying they could not exercise “congressional oversight” from Washington. Three more delegations visited from June to August.

Even though 23 people died in a car bombing of the Baghdad United Nations headquarters on Aug. 19, 2003, an 11-member delegation visited the city on Aug. 25.

By the end of 2003, about a third of the U.S. Congress had visited Iraq.

The Pentagon promoted congressional visits, and House GOP leaders asked every Republican member to visit Iraq as soon as possible. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld believed visits would increase congressional support.

Surprise, surprise. They did.

I was hopeful that progress was being made, but based on the media coverage I had seen, I wasn’t certain. After three days of touring the country, I am now certain that we are making progress. — Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., after his Sept. 13-15, 2003, visit to Iraq (York Daily Record, Sept. 24, 2003).

War is peace.

U.S. House members were part of a delegation in Iraq, Oct. 6-10, 2003. Amory Houghton Jr., R-N.Y., said he was not concerned about his safety.

There’s a waiting list. A lot of people want to go. I think they’ll protect us pretty well. The one thing they don’t want to do is to have a bunch of congressmen slaughtered over there.— Rep. Amory Houghton, R-N.Y. (Star-Gazette)

(Delegation: Reps. Michael N. Castle, R-Del.; Jim Davis, D-Fla.; Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md.; Amory Houghton Jr., R-N.Y.; Ron Kind, D-Wis.; Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y.; Fred Upton, R-Mich.; Greg Walden, R-Ore.)

War is peace.

Right on their heels was an all-female delegation during the week of Oct. 20, 2003. Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, wondered if there was a more positive story in Iraq than often portrayed in media accounts that emphasize continuing violence and Iraqi and U.S. fatalities.

The positive stuff isn’t coming through. — Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio (The Columbus Dispatch, Oct. 10, 2003)

They wouldn’t be staying overnight in Iraq, though, for security reasons. (Delegation: Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash., Katherine Harris, R-Fla., Darlene Hooley, D-Ore., Sue Kelly, R-N.Y., Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.)

War is peace.

Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., visited Nov. 6, 2003, even after a military transport helicopter went down, killing at least 16 troops (FLORIDA TODAY, Nov. 3, 2003). Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., expected to leave for Iraq in mid-November 2003 even though a trip by another congressional delegation had to be cut short after a bomb blast ripped through United Nations headquarters (Rocky Mountain News, Nov. 15, 2003).

A suicide bomb killed about 50 people and injured scores of others near Baghdad on Feb. 10, 2004, but Gov. Kathleen Blanco, D-La., “presented a positive picture of the occupied country” during her delegation’s visit Feb. 10-11, 2004. Even though extensive security measures highlighted danger at every turn, Blanco said she never felt at risk: “We were well-protected.” Guard units in front and behind their vehicles escorted the delegation, and Apache helicopters flew overhead.

War is peace.

In April 2004, Rumsfeld, who extended the tours of some 20,000 troops, expressed surprise that the death toll was higher than he expected. April was the deadliest month of the war so far with 147 U.S. troops and hundreds of Iraqis killed.

Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah returned with renewed confidence in the importance of the war and that troop morale was high after his visit June 3-6, 2004.

Things were going fine in Iraq. — Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah (The Associated Press, June 7, 2004)

Unconcerned for his safety, Bennett reported a sense of optimism from Iraq. He blamed the slowed Iraq reconstruction on Americans who protested the way building and infrastructure contracts were awarded. (Delegation: Sens. Robert F. Bennett, R-Utah; Bill Frist, R-Tenn; John Ensign, R-Nev.)

War is peace.

Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and three others visited Baghdad and Fallujah, June 11-13, 2004. They wore body armor at all times, but Davis said,

… it wasn’t like there was a bomb going off every minute. — Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., June 2004

War is peace.

Two U.S. troops died on July 14, 2004, when a suicide bomb killed 11 and wounded 40 near the British embassy, insurgents beheaded a hostage and assassinated the governor of Mosul and the director general of Iraq’s Industry Ministry, capping off an explosion of violence in July, as almost 36 U.S. troops died in the first two weeks.

At least seven more delegations visited in August and September, during which time a mortar hit the roof of the U.S. embassy, and two mortar shells exploded about 500 yards from a delegation waiting to board a helicopter, and one U.S. soldier died in Baghdad that day.

Continued violence kept a September delegation from seeing much of Iraq up close, as they spent most of their time in helicopters and Humvees with tight security and flak jackets. Another delegation visited while officials sought freedom for several hostages. Two car bombs wounded American and Iraqi troops west of Baghdad on Sept. 26. Egyptian and British leaders urged the release of abducted workers and a civil engineer kidnapped with two Americans, later beheaded. Insurgents had kidnapped more than 140 foreigners and killed at least 26 of them. A rocket slammed into a busy Baghdad neighborhood, killing at least one and wounding eight. Hours later, another loud blast shook the U.S. embassy, where the delegation was.

A car bomb exploded in front of the Green Zone in October 2004, and another delegation arrived days later. Several more delegations visited from then until the end of the year. In January 2005, insurgents bombed the U.S. embassy, killing two Americans, while a delegation was in Baghdad for the elections. Yet another delegation visited in mid-January 2005.

As 55 people died in Iraq, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said none of the senators dared drive through Baghdad’s streets, even in armored cars during her Feb. 19, 2005, visit. Even so,

Much of Iraq was functioning quite well. — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Feb. 19, 2005

War is peace.

A delegation visited Baghdad on April 1, 2007. A U.S. soldier and American contractor died, and a rocket wounded five people. Officials acknowledged an increase in violence after 500 Iraqis and six U.S. troops died, while Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., visited Baghdad and insisted security was improving. Four soldiers died when an explosive detonated near their vehicle in Baghdad on April 1. (Delegation: Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Reps. Mike Pence, R-Ind.; Rick Renzi, R-Ariz.)

War is peace.

Under the table Winston’s feet made convulsive movements. … He was back at the Ministry of Love, with everything forgiven, his soul white as snow. He was in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody. He was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at his back. The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain. … But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself.

This just in — The surge is working.

Posted by Becky @ 10:57 am | 5 Comments  

MSM get even warmer on dignitary visits to Iraq

September 2, 2007 | Dignitary visits,Iraq,Military,MSM

They’re getting warmer, but I’m having a hard time not pulling a Chandler when he’s waiting for Joey to get the punch line and he blurts, “Get there faster!”

The New York Times published an editorial today, “What They Did on Summer Vacation.” (Sound familiar?) They called these visits “congressional junkets” that are really “self-aggrandizing sound bites and video clips.”


They said that “more than two dozen lawmakers went there during their vacations” and what they got was “meetings with people the administration wanted them to meet.”


They called these visits “pointless” and “political.”


Then they asked, “Do these trips have the slightest value?”

(Pause. Sputter. Pause.)

Get there faster!

Here is the Washington Post article the editorial mentioned, “Lawmakers Describe ‘Being Slimed in the Green Zone.'” It said three members of Congress (Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., and Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.) who recently visited Iraq were annoyed about “biography sheets” everyone had about each of them. These sheets included everything from how to pronounce their names to how they voted on the war to quotes they made publicly about the war. Nobody is sure who distributed the sheets.

They were stunned when Iraq’s national security adviser watched children’s cartoons while he met with them.

I bet the cartoon (unlike the meeting) wasn’t a rerun.

The Washington Post also published an article on Aug. 28, 2007, “After Tour of Duty in Iraq, Graham Backs ‘Surge.'”

(Sputter. Sputter. Sputter.)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wore fatigues and carried a pistol for his tour of duty in Iraq. He was there for two weeks.

I wonder if he saw anything like this while he was there. For two weeks.

Hat tip on video: valleyforge (who has posted the link all over the Internet)

Posted by Becky @ 10:15 pm | Comments  

Sen. Jim Inhofe: Iraq is fun!

August 31, 2007 | Dignitary visits,Iraq,Military

In a way, it was very exciting. — Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., of getting shot at in Iraq

A congressional delegation returned from Iraq this week with bigger and better bragging rights than their colleagues. Flak jackets and helmets? A car bomb at the embassy? Pah. Those are so 2003, suckas. The enemy shot at our plane!

Who will have the best “what I did on my summer vacation” story this fall in Washington? Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Ala., Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

Hat tip: Chewy

Posted by Becky @ 10:16 am | Comments  

MSM start to see patterns in dignitary visits

August 29, 2007 | Dignitary visits,Iraq,Journalism,MSM

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Damien Cave wrote an article for The New York Times on Aug. 26, 2007, Hear a General, Hug a Sheik: Congress Does the Iraq Circuit. They’re getting warmer but still have a lot of work to do. Hope they keep it up.

Posted by Becky @ 9:53 am | Comments  

Ministry of Truth: Iraq is fun!

August 28, 2007 | Death,Dignitary visits,Ethics,Iraq,Journalism,Military,MSM,PR

All you see among the talking heads is that another soldier was killed today. It must be taken into perspective. How many people were killed in Washington, D.C., at the same time? — Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., criticizing media coverage of Iraq after his visit there when rockets damaged an American-occupied hotel in Baghdad (Bucks County Courier Times, Sept. 29, 2003).


According to this chart, Washington, D.C., had about 250 murders in 2003. That’s 4.8 people killed every week.

In 2003 in Iraq:

That’s 12,930 people who died in Iraq, or 248 a week, the equivalent of people killed in D.C. in the entire year. What exactly was his point anyway? When just “another soldier was killed today,” what does he want the “talking heads” to report?

Maybe someone who works for the Ministry of Truth government can answer that.

Susan Phalen is a senior adviser for Iraq communications for the U.S. Department of Stateand oversees the Global Outreach Team for the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section. She has been to Iraq nine times as a public-affairs team leader. Phalen spoke Friday, Aug. 24, 2007, at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., at a luncheon held by the Conservative Women’s Network of the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute. The speech aired on C-SPAN. (I can’t get the video link to work, but maybe it will show up in the archives.)

She talked about “what’s happening in Iraq that you’re not getting from the media.” She described her work as “fun” several times.

In an interview published April 9, 2007, in the Omaha World-Herald, Phalen said:

Our goal is to try to show the American taxpayers what’s happening over here and what the story is beyond the bloodshed and the car bombs.

Almost in the same breath, she described living in the Green Zone where “rockets and mortars sometimes fly inside and explode.” She said that a rocket recently blew up just outside of a building where she was, killing several people and wounding several others.

Those of us on the inside tried to rush back out because we could hear screaming. But we couldn’t get out. They locked the building down. It was a very intense and emotional little while.

Yeah, sounds like fun! to me.

In an interview published April 26, 2007, by the Lincoln Journal-Star, the story Phalen told went “beyond the blood and the bombs” to the “good news” of Iraq. On this particular day, she visited the Army hospital in the Green Zone and found six children:

  • a malnourished 13-month-old named Shahar whose parents were killed by an IED (improvised explosive device).
  • a 7-year-old named Mohammed whose mouth was wired open because a sniper’s bullet pierced his jaw and cheek.
  • a 5-year-old named Zaib who was caught in crossfire and shot in the stomach.
  • a 10-year-old girl, who shares a room with her father; both were injured by an IED that killed her mother.
  • a 10-year-old boy, who was shot in the stomach.
  • a girl who could have been 6 or 10, who died by the time Phalen returned to the hospital that afternoon.

Hold on. I just lost my train of thought there for a second. Someone help me out here (because the reporter certainly didn’t). What was the “good news” part of this story again?

Back to her luncheon speech, Phalen criticized journalists for not leaving Baghdad to cover the rest of Iraq, which she does regularly, under full security by the U.S. military. They’re missing out on some good stories, she said.

Sigh. Tsk, tsk. Those journalists. They just don’t know how to have fun!

Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi was removed from Iraq for a “scheduled vacation” after she described an unfun Iraq in an e-mail to family and friends in 2004. It leaked and made the rounds in cyberspace. She wrote a diary for Columbia Journalism Review, eventually returned from vacation (newly assigned to Lebanon) and wrote an article about Iraq in 2006.

Sig Christenson, a military writer for the San Antonio Express-News, was in Baghdad the day Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., toured a Baghdad market in April 2007, declared it fun! and then later complained in the Washington Post about how journalists reported only bad news. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said the Baghdad market was just like a normal outdoor market back home in Indiana.

Christenson called bullshit in an Aug. 6, 2007, article on Nieman Watchdog. He said nothing in Iraq is normal, except death:

You can’t put lipstick on this little pig and pass it off as life in Indiana.

Yeah, but is it fun?

Posted by Becky @ 9:49 pm | 1 Comment  


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