Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The State Dept Gets Van Burened While the Spokesman Talks About Our $3 Billion F-16s Fire Sale to Support a Peaceful Iraq

Collage of images taken by U.S. military in Ir...Image via WikipediaI was expecting a tsunami to hit Peter Van Buren's cubicle in Foggy Bottom today.

Apparently, the tsunami ordered is on hold perhaps because Mr. Van Buren is on leave?

Instead, the State Department got Van Burened today with Peter Van Buren's story splashed across multiple media outlets. The State Department spokesman made the best possible response with a "no comment" to media inquiries; or she would have been there till midnight answering questions on pages x, and xx, and xxx and on and on. Too bad, I would have like to know if the Green Grass ambassador also ordered frangipanis?

Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, WikiLeaked at the State Department

CBS: When freedom's not free at the State Department

HuffPo: The Only Employee at State Who May Be Fired Because of WikiLeaks

Salon: Interrogated by the State Department

The Guardian

SpyTalk: State Department Harassing Officer Who Revealed Iraq waste

Mother Jones: The Only State Dept. Employee Who May Be Fired Because of WikiLeaks

Wired: State Department Employee Faces Firing for Posting WikiLeaks Link

A couple of days ago, NPR did a radio interview with Mr. Van Buren and it also did an accompanying piece entitled, The Greedy Battle For Iraq's 'Hearts And Minds'. Quick excerpts below:

Van Buren says many of his State Department colleagues who have read the book agree with him in private but have publicly shunned him for speaking out about what he saw in Iraq.

"Many of them accused me of picking on them or ... blaming them for things that I knew were institutional," he says. "They didn't make these decisions because they were stupid. I didn't make these decisions because I was stupid. We all knew we were told we were to do these things, and they're a little angry at me for labeling them as complicit in this when they knew that they weren't."
"Everyone in Iraq was there on a series of one-year tours, myself included," he says. "Everyone was told that they needed to create accomplishments, that we needed to document our success, that we had to produce a steady stream of photos of accomplishments, and pictures of smiling Iraqis and metrics and charts. It was impossible, under these circumstances, to do anything long term ... We rarely thought past next week's situation update. The embassy would rarely engage with us on a project that wasn't flashy enough to involve photographs or bringing a journalist out to shoot a video that looked good. The willingness to do long-term work ... never existed in our world."

Check it out here.

The good news is the New York Times has so far ignored the book.  That is always a good thing, see because landing there can get you usually toasted according to an early warning system. The book also has not made an appearance in WaPo or in Al Kamen's In the Loop column, landing there can also get you toasted with garlic. We are hoping that the Colbert Report would come knocking on Mr. Van Buren's door. The tragicomedic account with a dash of abrasive seems appropriate in that format. But one can hope.

Since there was no tsunami, we had to look around and see what else is going on in Iraq. Apparently, the United States of America is selling Iraq a dozen and a half of those F-16s at a total cost of $3 Billion. Well, at least some folks will be happy, and working, and putting together those planes. And this should calm some worries about the future of the F-16s.

Here is the Spokesman talking about "the cornerstone of the kind of cooperation that we hope to have in the future to support the secure, peaceful, democratic development of Iraq." Stop laughing, you over there!
QUESTION: Yes, two quick ones. One – I think this came up yesterday – an advisor to the Iraqi prime minister said that Iraq has signed a contract to buy 18 F-16s. Any comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Yes. Iraq has now made its first transfer payment for the purchase of 18 F-16 fighter aircraft, initiating this foreign military sale. These aircraft are going to help provide air sovereignty for Iraq and to protect its territory and deter or counter regional threats.

They also, as a significant military sale between us, are a symbol of the commitment that we’ve made to the Iraqi Government to have a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq on equal, sovereign terms.

And we expect foreign military sales of this kind, including items like the F-16, to serve as the cornerstone of the kind of cooperation that we hope to have in the future to support the secure, peaceful, democratic development of Iraq.

QUESTION: A couple things. How much was the first transfer payment?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a number on the first transfer, but the total value of the sale is approximately $3 billion.

QUESTION: And then are they – and this displays the full extent of my knowledge about F-16s – but are they the A/Bs or the C/Ds?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. Actually, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to send you to the military on that one to DOD.

QUESTION: Oh, come on. Oh, come on.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have which kind of F-16s we’ve got here.

I suppose some of our soldiers will be left in Iraq teaching them to fly those planes, do airplane maintenance, and such other things. Will they buy tanks, too, and drones, etc.,etc?  I think we know how this will end, sort of --- no permanent bases, just visiting.


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