Fanning the Flames

[Updated below]

John Burns and Kirk Semple report for the New York Times:

The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, connivance by corrupt Islamic charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.

The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says $25 million to $100 million of that comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry, aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials.

As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid for hundreds of kidnap victims, the report says. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by American officials as including France and Italy — paid $30 million in ransom last year.

A copy of the seven-page report was made available to The Times by American officials who said the findings could improve understanding of the challenges the United States faces in Iraq.

Here’s the critical part:

The report offers little hope that much can be done, at least soon, to choke off insurgent revenues. For one thing, it acknowledges how little the American authorities in Iraq know — three and a half years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein — about crucial aspects of insurgent operations. For another, it paints an almost
despairing picture of the Iraqi government’s ability, or willingness, to take steps to tamp down the insurgency’s financing.

Iraq government officials are probably in on it. Why would they want to stop it?

“If accurate,” the report says, its estimates indicate that these “sources of terrorist and insurgent finance within Iraq — independent of foreign sources — are currently sufficient to sustain the groups’ existence and operation.” To this, it adds what may be its most surprising conclusion: “In fact, if recent revenue and expense estimates are correct, terrorist and insurgent groups in Iraq may have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist organizations outside of Iraq.”

Some terrorism experts who saw the report are skeptical of its findings, and say that data and conclusions both seem speculative. The report was compiled by an interagency working group headed by Juan Zarate, deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.

American, Iraqi and other coalition forces are fighting an array of shadowy Sunni and Shiite groups that can draw on huge armories left over from Mr. Hussein’s days, and benefit from the willingness of many insurgents to fight with little or no pay. If the $200 million a year estimate is close to the mark, it amounts to less than what it costs the Pentagon, with an $8 billion monthly budget for Iraq, to sustain the American war effort here for a single day.

Seems to me this indicates that the longer our troops stay in Iraq, the more likely the insurgency will grow into something bigger and more widespread.

Prediction: Tomorrow rightie blogs will complain that the New York Times is aiding the enemy by reporting this stuff, even though its stuff the bleeping enemy already knows.

Update: My prediction comes true. Rightie #1:

The leakers also broke federal law by providing classified information and reports to reporters. Such leaks, regardless of the purpose or intent of the leakers, is a criminal act. … the leakers may have provided critical details of the surveillance of the insurgency, but the report indicates just how little the intel services actually know about what is going on. Wonderful.

The New York Times article clearly says that the 7-page document they obtained provided no “documentation of how authors had arrived at their estimates. … such data may have been omitted to protect the group’s clandestine sources and methods.” I read the article and saw nothing that came even close to “critical details of the surveillance of the insurgency” other than there doesn’t seem to be much effective surveillance. There’s nothing in this document that the insurgents in Iraq don’t already know. The only people in the dark are American citizens.

Rightie #2:

When will this kind of baloney stop? Does classified even mean anything anymore to our MSM?

Ok, stupid questions. Of course they care little about the security of our intelligence nor our country. As long as they can keep towing the liberal line and promote their ideals then hey, everything is up for grabs.

Consequences be damned.

The “consequences,” of course, is that the American people might find out how badly our government is botching the War in Iraq. The “enemy,” I suspect, already knows what it’s up to.

Righties, translated: Please keep us ignorant! Any effort to shatter our delusions is treason!

From the Left — Chris at AMERICAblog:

So I’m guessing that many on the right will now use this as a new chance to flog the anti-France sentiment again but we already know that our own accountants have identified an $800M gap in the books and we know that US taxpayer money, weapons and equipment goes in the front door and out the back door to help crooked individuals as well as the insurgents. How is it even possible to be in this war for so long and yet know so little? Who in the hell is putting blinders on? It’s no wonder the war is going so poorly when the US leadership knows so little.

So when Cheney said the US would be greeted with flowers, was this was he was talking about? Is “flower” a code name for “self financed insurgency?” He’s such a clever guy, isn’t he?

David Kurtz

The overwhelming impression I’m left with from the piece is that more than three and half years after ostensibly seizing control of Iraq, the U.S. government is still largely ignorant of the armed groups arrayed against its efforts there.


It would seem the primary thing that has emboldened the terrorists–and strengthened their hand–since 9/11 has been the disastrous incompetence and adventurism of the Bush administration.

13 thoughts on “Fanning the Flames

  1. Pingback: The Moderate Voice

  2. The article neglected to mention the BILLIONS that went missing during Bremmer’s tenure in the CPA, of course a lot of that probably ended up in offshore accounts for Iraqi ex-pats.Anyone heard of Ahmed Chalabi lately?
    Sisyphus made agood point regarding secularism, but as the Aga Khan pointed out, the problem is far deeper.It is rediculous to blame the current leaders of the various Muslim nations for several reasons. We must realize that many Muslim countries were “created” by the British in tribal lands just several generations ago.This is hardly enough time to build a modern state, especially when the corruption factor is added to the mix.Many Muslim nations have the “curse” of vast natural resources such as oil and gas which is exploited by the west. A good book on this subject is “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins.
    There is a section in my old “Indonesia Handbook” travel guide regarding Islam in Indonesia. Islam was not spread in Indonesia” by the sword”, but through trade.The author states lure of Islam in Indonesia “It’s appeal was first and foremost psychological. Radically egalitarian and possessing a scientific spirit, when Islam first arrived in these islands it was a forceful revolutionary concept that freed the common man from his Hindu feudal bondage.Until Islam arrived, he lived in a land where the King was an absolute monarch who could take away his land and even his wife at whim.
    I wish I could present the entire section on Islam, it’s rather long, but well worth reading. The west fears RADICAL Islam, and rightly so. Clashes between Communists and radical Islam in Indonesia (1965) and Afghanistan(1980’s) killed millions and brought the old Soviet Union to it’s knees. Both conflicts were aided and abetted by the U.S.
    In the near future we can expect conflicts across North Africa, West Africa,Asia, and the M.E. when empire and Islam collide.
    We will hear far more about the Kazakh than Borat.Condi’s tanker was named for the work she did there.

  3. Is it 1984 yet?
    The line from rightie #2: —“When will this kind of baloney stop? Does classified even mean anything anymore to our MSM?”–set off such a feeling of phony issue surrealism.

    We are supposed to sit in a theater, watching actors create and make ‘reality’ of a straw-issue world, BUT the whole production is crafted to be a substitute for critical thinking by the mass audience.

    Act One
    Opening scene: Bushites classify any/all information that might offer old-fashioned ‘plain facts’.
    Second scene: Bushite spin artists then select and doctor certain classified materials to embed concepts of ‘us-vs-them’ which gives audience fact-substitution rallying points woven of straw.
    Third scene: Bushite media manipulators leak doctored classified materials.
    Fourth scene: Audience obediently boos NYT for printing ‘plain facts’ [straw issue succeeds];
    Fifth scene: audience obediently lumps ‘insurgents’ into ‘bad guys’ category [ ‘it’s their country’ fact succeessfully replaced with ‘now we better destroy them for having any power left’ [straw categorization succeeds]

    teaser for Act Two
    Stay seated to find out why we will need to seize the Iraq oil fields in order to ‘thwart the bad guys’ and ‘succeed in Iraq’.

  4. To classify or not to classify, that is not the question apparently. In 2004 the fed government classified 15.6 million times at a cost of $7.2 billion. Ostensibly, the president or designated agency heads make requests for classification, but in fact just about anybody collecting a paycheck from the fed gov. can make the request (which is very rarely challenged.)

    Obsessed as it is with secrecy, the Bush administration wraps it in security thereby, in its eyes, the obsession is justified. Security is not the issue: Secrecy is the issue.

  5. There’s enough material for a book in the following issues:

    When is it proper to classify information to protect methods and sources?

    When is it wrong to classify? For example: to hide waste, fraud, corruption, and outright stupidity?

    Why is it NOT a criminal act to use ‘classified’ status to hide your own screw-up? IMHO if you sign the order to classify a document, you should risk a jail term if you are concealing info the public HAS a right to know. Watch the bureaocrats pass the decision UP, to save their asses.

    What was the INTENT of the founding fathers to give the press a special status in the Bill of Rights?

    What are the limits of that special status? This issue touches on journalists protecting sources on one end of the spectrum and the moral obligation of the publisher not to put troops or spies at risk by revealing specific information while operatives (spies or troops) are in the field.

    How do we prevent the press from being co-opted by their chief source of revenue (advertising) and complicit in supporting a fascist state? (I intend the true meaning of fascist a condition where government is a tool of corporate greed.)

    You, as an individual, need to have answers to these MORAL questions before you can respond to the mindless minions who want to undermine the right of a free press to inform. We need to have a sophisticated ethic to make our governemnt accountable and combat the pressure that Wall Street can bring to bear on the media through advertising revenue.

  6. I collect a paycheck from the federal government and I have no control over what is classified and what is not. In fact, I work in various groups who ask for information that used to be available to the public and will be told it is no longer available. I am a very low level federal government employee who has worked hard for 30 years for the federal government. The secrecy that exists now did not exist in my early years. It has only occurred since Bush took over. It just boggles my mind that outing a CIA operative for purely political reasons is okay to the righties; but such info in this article is not. Nixon tried to use national security as a reason to keep all his activities covered up; but, Judge John Sirica came up with a way to discover the information. We need another Judge Sirica to handle the Bush secrets.

  7. Bush’s righties were absolutely right: Democracy is the best way to keep the malignant nutcases from getting too much power.

    Too bad they’re wrong about everything else.

  8. When people go to work for the CIA, NSA, etc. they swear to obey the rules under pain of prosecution. I know there are times where the greater good is served by violating this oath, but if the leak is important enough to cause you to break an oath then it is important enough to go to jail for. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

    On the other hand, those who have NOT agreed to such rules are not bound to obey them and should be given all first-ammendment protections.

  9. mah, I am part of the french coalition that the wingers hate. I’m half french. I love the way we are blamed for everything gays and liberals don’t get blamed for. It amuses me.

  10. Bush has made such a farce out of classifying information that it’s to the point where I could give a shit about who says what or whether it’s classified or not. It’s like Donna mentioned in comment # 5 above..we’ve been spoon feed such a steady diet of bullshit from the government and the media (acting as the government’s purveyors of disinformation) that we’re numb to the sources of our information.
    I’m just not getting it with these righties and their indignation over irrelevant information being released by leak for public consumption. To my mind, the insurgency has sustained itself from day one, except for the few hundred tons of high explosives and 800 million dollars in small arms that we so graciously bestowed upon their efforts at resistance through our own mismanagement.

    I read today where the Iranian’s are taunting Mr.Bring- it-On by offering to pull his ass out of the quagmire in Iraq. The only problem there is that Bush is too stupid and vain to accept a good offer in humility.

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