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Seamans: Yard Sale

06/25/10 7:55AM By Bill Seamans
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(HOST) Former foreign correspondent Bill Seamans has taken note of a new phenomenon in Iraq as the U.S. occupation gears down.

(SEAMANS) As we know, the support that our military forces need must be planned ahead of time by our supply and transport  officers---who are sort of the troops behind our troops.  All those tanks and Humvees and the fuel to drive them, all those guns and ammunition, all the food that fuels our troops, and the medical support they need, especially in battle---all this massive material and much more---countless millions of dollars worth---must be rationalized and ordered ahead of time and must shipped to arrive where and when our forces need it.  It's a massive challenge as strategically important as waging of battle itself.

But what we the people who pay the bills generally don't realize is that this huge supply machine works in both directions.  In Iraq right now our logistics persons are working in reverse as the Pentagon gears up for the scheduled reduction of our forces in Iraq  by the end of the summer.  Their big question is what to take along and what to leave behind.  Federal law says the Pentagon must show that no other division in the government needs equipment before it can be left behind or donated but that restriction was waved when we started closing down bases and donating equipment to the Iraqi government.

The Washington Post checked out the situation and said that a lot of the leftovers from the U.S. occupation of Iraq are being bought by civilians at bargains that would make American yard-sale groupies' hearts flutter.  Generators, trailers, dumpsters and air conditioners are part of the scene.  Even blast walls are being bought up by merchants selling them at a profit in provinces where explosions remain a threat.  Civilians are finding treasures like iPods and laptops.  Entire villages are chipping in to buy large communal generators and water purifiers.  All the above is in addition to the tens of millions worth of armaments being given to the emerging Iraqi army and police forces as they are trained by U.S. troops.

But with such spoils fraud is inevitable.  U.S. officials are said to be concerned that much of the tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment being turned over to the Iraqi government is being neglected or quickly stolen.  One merchant said that a truckload of Iraqi soldiers drove up offering to sell him laptops and flat screen tvs presumably looted from their government.

And finally, a most disturbing note---it's said that there are complaints that some of the items---especially vehicles, generators and air conditioners---are being given away in Iraq despite the fact that they are needed in Afghanistan, where we are building up our Army and Marine forces for an expected difficult campaign to drive the Taliban out of the city of  Kandahar.  So far, I've seen no Pentagon comment on this one.
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