Tag Archives: US State Department

Syria Claims Tacit Deal Between US, Russia on Ending War

by Jason Ditz

In an interview on Syrian state media today, top Syrian government adviser Bouthaina Shaaban claimed that there is a “tacit agreement” between the US and Russia on coming to some sort of agreeing on the ongoing civil war, and that some sort of negotiated settlement could happen soon.

The Russian government has been making claims to this effect for months, but the latest comments come just a day afterState Department officials publicly disavowed the notion and condemned Russia, suggesting they oppose the Russian strategy of negotiated settlement unless it includes unilateral surrender of the Assad government.

Yesterday’s State Department denial was particularly noteworthy, however, because months of other comments to the same effect came without an official peep, and with private suggestions from US officials that they were indeed warming to the idea of a “unity” deal before suddenly declaring their opposition to it.

If that wasn’t confusing enough, Pentagon officials are now talking up the idea that there are “overlaps” of interest between the US and Russia on Syria, suggesting the two sides could work together. They also, however, talked up the need for a “transition” to a new pro-US government.

US State Dept. Fights Terrorist Recruitment Using Graphic Video

The State Department has released a graphic video called “Welcome to the ‘Islamic State’ land” marketed to would-be terrorists in hopes of thwarting future recruitment to extremist groups such as ISIS by using gruesome imagery and footage of violent acts.

The video, age-restricted on YouTube, is an imitation recruitment video itself, beginning with the words “Run do not walk to Isis land.” Following are clips of people being shot, thrown into ditches, whipped, beheaded, and crucified. “Come over for as Syria is no longer for Syrians and Iraq is no longer for Iraqis. Where you can learn new skills for the Ummah! Blowing up mosques! Crucifying and executing Muslims…plundering public resources,” reads the video.

The video was created for a State Department project titled “ThinkAgain TurnAway”. The campaign also created accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. On its Facebook page, the project stated that its mission is “to expose the facts about terrorists and their propaganda.” On its Tumblr page, its description is “some truths about terrorism”. The State Department considers social media to be an important tool in intercepting possible terrorists before they join extremist groups.

The “Welcome to the ‘Islamic State’ land” video is the most macabre example of the campaign showcasing terrorism; their Tumblr and Facebook pages and Twitter account provide reported examples of ISIS members changing their minds about joining the group and wanting to return home. The campaign has also shared photos of acts that they report to be ISIS members mistreating civilians.

Buzzfeed described the effort as “trolling terrorists” because the campaign uses social media to jeer the extremists; one example includes a tweeted photo of female Kurdish soldiers targeted toward ISIS. One unintended consequence that major media outlets have yet to discuss is the possibility of the satirical recruitment video becoming lost in translation.

 

 

 

The video

Blackwater Rep Reportedly Issued Death Threat to US Investigator

As Iraq descends into civil war and as four former Blackwater employees stand trial in New York for alleged crimes related to a September 2007 civilian massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, the State Department has released documents from a 2007 report by Deputy Division Chief Jean Richter containing explosive allegations against the private defense firm. According to The New York TimesJean Richter was sent to Iraq in August of that year to investigate reports that the contracting firm Blackwater had failed in its duties to provide quality food and sanitation systems for US soldiers serving at a base in the war-torn nation.

Upon arrival, Richter asked Blackwater official Daniel Carroll, the project manager in charge of the camp suffering from inadequate facilities, why the firm had failed to respond to complaints regarding dining conditions that were affecting troop morale. Said Richter in his statement about the meeting, “In his response to my inquiries, Mr. Carroll claimed that the WPPS II Camp Baghdad was not technically Department of State property and therefore not under Chief of Mission (COM) Authority. Mr. Carroll accentuated this point by stating that he could ‘kill me’ at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq. A second individual present, Mr. Donald Thomas, then made a remark that compared the lawless working environment in Iraq to the ‘OK corral.'”

American embassy officials then took to Blackwater’s defense and ordered the State Department investigators to leave Iraq, complaining that the investigation had hampered the embassy’s relationship with the private contracting firm. Upon returning to the US, Jean Richter penned the highly-critical report which has just recently surfaced, noting the fact that the US government was losing control over Blackwater’s activities. Richter said in his statement, “The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves.” Going further, Richter said, “To me, it was immediately apparent that the Blackwater contractors believed that they were the de facto authority and acted accordingly, in an alarming manner.”

Just weeks after Richter sounded the alarm about corruption in the relationship between the State Department and Blackwater, the firm was implicated in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in the massacre at Nisour Square, which severely hampered the intended US mission in Iraq, ultimately crushing any chances that Iraqis would sign on to allow US forces to remain in the area after 2011. Blackwater employees have also been accused of widespread wrongdoing, ranging from the killing of civilians, heavy drinking, and an incident in which inebriated contractors wrecked a $180,000 vehicle while enroute to a party. Contractors were also using weapons which they were not certified to use, changing security policies without State Department approval, and allowing equipment to fall into disrepair, risking the lives of US diplomats and negatively affecting the living conditions and morale of US soldiers.

In October of 2007, following the Nisour Square massacre, the State Department interviewed Richter and another investigator, Daniel Thomas, Jr., who had witnessed the implied death threat, but ultimately took no other action in response to the allegations. As an added note, Russell Brandom, a writer for The Verge, pointed out on Twitter that “the Obama Administration is actively trying to imprison” James Risen, the author of the piece from The New York Times that originally sourced Richter’s statement about Blackwater. In 2009, Blackwater rebranded itself as “Xe” and was sold in 2011 to investors who renamed the company “Academi.”

Feds Spent $180k On Liquor Days Before & During Government Shutdown

Jack

By Michael Lotfi,

According to Washington Times journalist Jim McElhatton, the US State Department spent approximately $180,000 for liquor to stockpile US embassy liquor cabinets as the federal government prepared to shut down in September.

The $180k September liquor tab ends the fiscal year, which brought the total liquor costs to more than $400,000 for the year. This almost $1/2 million tab is more than 3x the tab for FY 2008.

The outlandish bills include:

– $5,625 for “gratuity wine” at the embassy in Rio de Janeiro on Sept. 29, which was followed by $5,925 for “gratuity whiskey” on the day the shutdown began.

-$22,416 in wine at the embassy in Tokyo.

-$15,900 in bourbon and whiskey in Moscow.

According to the report, the State Department purposefully went on a buying binge just before and during the shutdown so that there wouldn’t be any excess funds in their budgets, which would expose themselves to congressional budget cuts. Rather than save the tax-payers money, the feds opted to binge on liquor. Never-mind the fact that they would have had budget surplus if they hadn’t bought $180k worth of liquor.

To read more absurd ways the US government wastes your money, check out this article by Kristin Tate, Benswann.com journalist. 

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