Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hot or not?: What's actually happening in Iraq today according to our own troops

(I took these photos when I was staying at the old Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad's Green Zone)

Every day for the past several years, I have been receiving press releases from the U.S. military in Iraq with regard to actions that our troops are taking there. And this morning it suddenly occurred to me that, strung together, all these releases may give me a more complete picture of what is actually going on in Iraq today -- that is, a picture of how involved our troops are in the day-to-day life of Iraq. Are they still over there every day, up to their eyeballs fighting bad guys? Or are our troops only nation-building over there at this point? Or are they now spending most of their days moving U.S. personnel and equipment out of Iraq and back home?

Back when Obama was campaigning for president, he promised to get us out of Iraq. "You can take that to the bank," he exclaimed -- and here's the video to prove it:

Well. We now know that President Obama, once elected, DID take a bunch of stuff to the bank -- Bank of America, CitiBank, etc. to be exact. He took over a trillion dollars to the banks, all newly printed up by the Federal Reserve. (Thank goodness that the Fed didn't pay off the banks with taxpayers' money! But, heck, the Fed had no choice. Us taxpayers' money has already been long gone.) But I digress.

So. Has Obama kept his campaign promise to get us out of Iraq? Let's take a look at some of the recent press releases from MNFI (Multi-National Forces-Iraq) in Baghdad and see if we can find out.

Yesterday I got a press release from MNFI's Baghdad Phoenix Base entitled, "Information Assurance Prepares Security Forces Against Cyber Threats". That sounds promising. "Twenty senior Iraqi leaders from all 14 Iraqi army divisions and four regional operations centers participated in the first information assurance trainers' course here." I could use some information assurance training too! Don't you just hate viruses? "The overarching objective of the seminar was to provide each attendee with 'train the trainer' instruction to take back to their units."

This next press release also came from Phoenix Base: "Maysan Province Security Unit Prepares for Election Demands". Does that mean that they are gonna eliminate the use of Diebold and electronic voting machines in Iraq? Let's read on. "Eighteen members of the Maysan Province Personal Security Detail and five instructors from the Iraqi Police Maysan Provincial Training Center completed a five-day basic PSD course here.... The training prepares them for increased responsibilities anticipated in support the upcoming federal elections." Wish we had had something like that in Ohio and Florida!

But wait. There's more. "Students were instructed on how to protect and conduct safe movement for dignitaries." This instruction isn't about vote-counting at all. "Class scenarios and practical exercises were used throughout the course to illustrate how to protect people while responding to attacks." This instruction is how to protect candidates and office holders from getting shot or blown up! Too bad we didn't have a class like that in Dallas in 1963.

Here's the next press release, coming from Camp Victory, just outside of Baghdad: "U.S. Paratroopers install vehicle scanners". Our troops are advising and assisting traffic check stations in Al Anbar province. The scanners help find "weapons, explosives, radioactive material and other contraband.... At a checkpoint east of Fallujah, where Iraqi army, police and provincial security forces jointly inspect vehicles traveling between Baghdad and Al Anbar province, the guards were happy to see the explosives detection equipment...." So. Now we know that traffic is flowing again around Fallugah -- but that deadly material is still coming into the city as well.

Next release: "ISF arrest suspected suicide, vehicle bomb facilitators in northern Iraq". Nope, Iraq is not all sweetness and light quite just yet.

And then we have this press release: "Iraqi Security Forces arrested 13 suspected members of the al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) terrorist organization Friday and today while conducting a series of joint security operations in northern Iraq." So the Iraqi army is now doing some of the heavy lifting over there. That's good news. "The 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Iraqi Army and U.S. advisors searched several residential buildings in southeastern Mosul Friday..." But U.S. troops are still involved. Looks like no one is going back to the States any time soon.

Let's see what else we can find. Here's some good news. "First Iraqi-Moderated Women's Conference Held. Thirty-nine women from the Ministries of Defence and Interior attended a conference discuss women's issues. This marked the first time an Iraqi woman moderated such an event."

Followed by bad news. "3 arrested as ISF track down Kata'ib Hezbollah member. Iraqi Security Forces arrested three individuals today while conducting a joint security operation in northern Baghdad. ISF and U.S advisors searched a building for an alleged weapons leader for the terrorist group Kata'ib Hezbollah. The suspect is believed to be coordinating attacks against security forces in Iraq." The Kata'ib Hezbollah, BTW, is a Iraqi insurgent group and has nothing to do with the Lebanese Hezbollah. Whew.

And then Iraq-U.S. joint forces arrested some more bad guys from a different group. "The 44th Iraqi Army captured three alleged Promised Day Brigade (PDB) members today during a joint security operation conducted in northeast Baghdad. Based on intelligence, Iraqi Army and U.S. advisors searched residential buildings and arrested two warranted individuals suspected of planning and carrying out improvised explosive attacks against Iraqis and security forces throughout Baghdad." So. We just learned that there are still several insurgent groups left in Iraq.

Most of the other press releases that I've read lately continued to run along these same lines -- both good news and bad news about how our troops are doing in Iraq. There's some good news about clinic and school openings, There's more bad news about insurgents and EIDs. And there's also a few stories about "non-combat related deaths" of our troops -- in traffic accidents? Another MWRAP roll-over? From over-eating in a DFAC?

Then we have "Iraqi Police arrest one in search for Bayji IED-cell member," followed by "Eight Kurdish students attend waterborne operations course". That's water BORNE operations, guys -- not water board operations. Get your mind out of the gutter. This is the new Iraq.

Then I got "ISF arrest two suspect AQI members," and "Suicide bomber and counter measures course teaches prevention". This all sounds really good -- like our brave troops over there are really trying hard. And I've been there. And they really DO try hard. And at around a billion dollars a month that the Fed is printing up to cover the costs of the New Iraq, I'm really glad to hear that the Fed is getting its money's worth.

All of these press releases are interesting and informative and I'm glad that I'm getting them and really like to keep informed about Iraq just in case I get an opportunity to embed there again.

But the real bottom line regarding all these very informative press releases is -- that nobody over in Iraq seems to be sending me any press releases about how our troops are getting ready to disembark from occupied Iraq in large numbers and come back home.

PS: Here's a video I made before I actually sat down and read all the above-mentioned press releases, sort of me trying to psych myself up for the task. This video also contains information on why baby carriers should be avoided mostly -- only I forgot to call them "baby carriers" and called them "car seats" instead. Babies DO need car seats -- while riding in cars. But babies also need to be held by real people, as much as humanly possible. And here's why: