Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Iraq snapshot

October 9, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, someone explain to Barack Obama that campaign material cannot be posted at a government site (yes, that includes the White House) unless your intent is to violate the Hatch Act, Barack talks Iraq (briefly), Nouri gets weapons from Russia, Jill Stein's campaign for president is looking very weak, and more.
Yesterday we noted Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate, delivered a foreign relations speech.  Today US President Barack Obama did.  If you're a dope -- like Michael A. Memoli of the Los Angeles Times -- you just type it up.  I'm sorry, is it only Republicans that have to be fact checked?  Barack's been president for nearly four years, at what point does he stop being coddled?
And if you can figure out the lunatic ravings of his campaign site, more power to you.  I couldn't.  Where's the speech?  I called a friend with the campaign and he told me, "Why it's at the White House."
At the White House.  How many times is this adminitsration going to break the Hatch Act?
Go to the White House's Speeches and Remarks page and you'll find the following:

Speeches and Remarks

The White House is not a campaign site.  I went over the legalities with Team Barack when they had their Twitter Feed issues (they were breaking the Hatch Act, they quickly changed their policies to be in compliance with the Hatch Act).  I don't feel like being nice today.  Team Barack has a ton of lawyers, at least one of them should know the damn law.  Campaign event speeches belong at the campaign website.  They are not official White House business.  They cannot be posted at the White House.  This is no different than what got Al Gore in trouble -- the phone calls -- only now we're talking online. 
If you're not grasping it, White House staff posts to the White House web.  Right away, you've got a Hatch Act issue if White House staff is posting campaign event material to the White House website.  I cannot believe how stupid Team Barack is.  And I'll put my hand on the Bible and say "stupid" and not "criminal."  It took two hours to explain the basics of how their Twitter feed was in violation of the Hatch Act.  I don't have that kind of time, especially for a candidate I'm not campaigning for, donating to, or voting for.  I expect the President of the United States to comply with the law.  That is not an outlandish expectation.  If Team Obama's attorneys are this stupid, that not only suggests the need for new attorneys, it goes to the man they're working for.
White House staff has now posted campaign event material to a government website.  Forget that it's the White House, for a moment, to a government website.  They are not in compliance with the Hatch Act and if we grown ups in the press -- which we so obviously do not (excepting the few like Jake Tapper) -- they'd be running with this story.  We'd have headlines "Potential Hatch Act Violation by White House" or "Another Potential Hatch Act Violation by White House."  But we have meek little general studies majors who never learned one damn thing about one damn thing and we're all victimized by their stupidity.
And today's speech where he remembers Iraq all the sudden?  It's got be the one damn speech they didn't break the Hatch Act by posting.
We can't get the text of the speech (supposedly it'll be faxed to me shortly, I don't have the time to wait) so we have to depend upon the accuracy of a dunce, a village idiot, by the name of Michael Memoli.  Fate has saved us.  The fax just came in. 
Ohio State University in Columbus was where Barack spoke this evening. 
On Iraq:
I want to use the money we're saving from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I want to use that to pay down our deficit, but also to put people back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and our schools all across America.  And Governor Romney said it was "tragic" to end the war in Iraq.  I disagree.  I think bringing out troops home to their families was the right thing to do.  If he'd gotten his way, those troops would still be there.  In a speech yesterday, he doubled down on that belief.  He said ending that war was a mistake.  After nine years of war, more than $1 trillion in spending, extraordinary sacrficies by our men and women in uniform and their families, he said we should still have troops on the ground in Iraq.   Ohio, you can't turn a page on the failed policies of the past if you're promising to repeat them.  We cannot afford to go back to a foreign policy that gets us into wars with no plan to end them.
That's Barack on Iraq in Ohio today.  It was not a major foreign policy speech.  It was actually very disappointing to read because there was no effort to say much of anything.  Did Barack think his college audience couldn't handle much more than simplistic statements.  I'm not talking him presenting a new map for foreign relations, I'm talking about some uplifting phrases.  This is the dullest speech in the world.  Maybe attorneys aren't Team Obama's only problem?
Reading Michael A. Memoli's nonsense, it becomes clear that Barack can say whatever he wants and will not be fact checked.   So let's do the work that the Los Angeles Times should have expected Memoli to do.
Barack: I want to use the money we're saving from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I want to use that to pay down our deficit, but also to put people back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and our schools all across America.
I would applaud you but you stated that repeatedly in your campaign speeches in 2008 -- and in your victory speech on election night (link is NPR, text and audio).  So you had four years and the US roads and bridges remain in need of repair.  You refused to do a public works project, the way FDR did to provide jobs, but we're supposed to believe you that this time you really, really mean it.
Barack:  And Governor Romney said it was "tragic" to end the war in Iraq.
Barack keeps repeating that lie.  FactCheck.org from September 7, 2012:
Making the case that Romney lacks foreign policy chops, Obama twisted Romney's words, claiming, "My opponent said it was 'tragic' to end the war in Iraq."
But that's not quite what Romney said. He was speaking of the speed with which Obama was withdrawing troops, not to ending the war in general.
During a veterans roundtable in South Carolina on Nov. 11, 2011, Romney criticized Obama's plan to remove troops from Iraq by the end of that year. Here's the fuller context of his comments, as reported by the New York Times:
Romney, Nov. 11, 2011: It is my view that the withdrawal of all of our troops from Iraq by the end of this year is an enormous mistake, and failing by the Obama administration. The precipitous withdrawal is unfortunate — it's more than unfortunate, I think it's tragic. It puts at risk many of the victories that were hard won by the men and women who served there.
A month earlier, when Obama formally announced the withdrawal of tens of thousands of troops from Iraq by year's end, Romney released a similar statement:
Romney, Oct. 21, 2011: President Obama's astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.
In December, Romney argued that Obama "has pulled our troops out in a precipitous way" and that he ought to have left a residual force of  "10-, 20-, 30-thousand personnel there to help transition to the Iraqi's own military capabilities."
Criticizing the "precipitous" pace of withdrawal and the president's failure to leave a residual force in Iraq is a far cry from calling the end of the war in Iraq "tragic."
"Obama twisted Romney's words" -- yes and continues to do so after being called out on it which makes it a lie.
Barack:  I disagree. I think bringing out troops home to their families was the right thing to do.
If you had actually done that, Barack.  I could probably vote in this presidential election and could vote for you.  If you had done that, if you had brought the troops home from Iraq.  I probably could ignore your assaults on whistle blowers, find some way to justify your persecution of Bradley Manning and other things.  Because Iraq really matters to me.  So I could probably find a way to lie to myself, write you a big check, go out and campaign for you and vote for you.  I might hold my nose, but I probably could have if you'd just done that.
But you didn't bring US troops home.  Some of them, over 15,000, you moved across the Iraqi border into Kuwait.  And there's no plans to bring that number down to zero.  In fact, June 19, 2012,  the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council." 
Page 12:
Kuwait is especially keen to maintain a significant U.S. military presence. In fact, the Kuwaiti public perception of the United States is more positive than any other Gulf country, dating back to the U.S.-led liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Kuwait paid over $16 billion to compensate coalition efforts for costs incurred during Desert Shield and Desert Storm and $350 million for Operation Southern Watch. In 2004, the Bush Administration designated Kuwait a major non-NATO ally.
* U.S. Military Presence: A U.S.-Kuwaiti defense agreement signed in 1991 and extended in 2001 provides a framework that guards the legal rights of American troops and promotes military cooperation. When U.S. troops departed Iraq at the end of 2011, Kuwait welcomed a more enduring American footprint. Currently, there are approximately 15,000 U.S. forces in Kuwait, but the number is likely to decrease to 13,500. Kuwaiti bases such as Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Field, and Camp Buehring offer the United States major staging hubs, training rages, and logistical support for regional operations. U.S. forces also operate Patriot missile batteries in Kuwait, which are vital to theater missile defense.
The report goes on to recommend that the troops stay there for years.  (Individuals would rotate out but approximately 13,000 US troops would be stationed in Kuwait for years.) 
In addition, Special Ops remained in Iraq.  They never left.  'Trainers' remained in Iraq (also US military).  And not only did Special Ops remain but Barack just sent more Special Ops into Iraq. Tim Arango (New York Times) reported September 26th, "At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence." 
Barack:  If he'd gotten his way, those troops would still be there.
Barack, "these troops" still are there.  And if Barack had gotten his way, even more would be there.  As Yaroslav Trofimov and Nathan Hodge (Wall St. Journal) remind today, "In Iraq, Washington's ability to influence the government in Baghdad was greatly diminished by December's pullout of American forces, ordered by President Barack Obama after Baghdad refused to accept the U.S. demand that remaining U.S. troops be immune from Iraqi jurisdiction."   I would love to hear Senator John McCain respond to this speech by Barack.  In November of last year, we defended Barack here from McCain's charge that Barack was misleading (lying) and intended to tank negotiations between the US and Iraq for US troops to remain in Iraq in large numbers.  And we even brought it up in the 2011 year-in-review:
Another reason offered for the refusal by the Iraqis to extend the SOFA or come to a new agreement came from US Senator John McCain. McAin's hypothesis is that Barack purposely tanked the talks (see the November 15th Iraq snapshot and Kat's report on the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing). Were that true (I personally don't buy that proposal), then the administration should be paraded before Congress due to the fact that, when the country was in three overseas wars (Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya), plus drone attacks of Pakistan and in an ever increasing economic mess, for Barack to have wasted some of the administration's most valuable players on negotiations that were intended to fail would be criminal negligence. Far more likely is that, as with his attempts to land the 2016 Olympics (for Chicago) which included traveling all the way to Denmark only to see the Committee rebuff him and select Rio instead. Barack's embarrassing failure was lampooned in Isaiah's 2009 "Dream Team Take Two" which found the players (Barack, Michelle, Oprah and Valerie Jarrett) attempting to bring the Mary Kay Convention to Chicago.
I think McCain would look at that single sentence ("If he'd gotten his way, those troops would still be there.")  and say that Barack can't have it both ways -- either he would have kept troops there but couldn't get a treaty passed or else he intentionally tanked a treaty because he didn't want troops there.
In addition,  Tim Arango (New York Times) reported September 26th, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions."  Troops would still be there?  But it's the White House right now that's negotiating to send more troops back into Iraq.
Barack:  In a speech yesterday, he doubled down on that belief. He said ending that war was a mistake.
No, he didn't.  He called out the way the White House did the drawdown (what Romney termed a withdrawal).
Mitt Romney:  In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America's ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The President tried -- and failed -- to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.
He is not saying ending the war was a mistake, he's saying the way Barack ended it was a mistake.  Barack's distorted and twisted Romney's words -- possibly because he knows the media is loathe to talk about the realities of Iraq today. 
Barack:  After nine years of war, more than $1 trillion in spending, extraordinary sacrficies by our men and women in uniform and their families, he said we should still have troops on the ground in Iraq.
He didn't say that yesterday.  I wouldn't be surprised if that was Romney's position but he didn't state that yesterday.   But if Barack doesn't believe the US should still have troops on the ground in Iraq, (a) why didn't he withdraw all US troops at the end of 2011 and (b) why is he attempting to negotiate a treaty to send even more US troops back into Iraq?
It's amazing how the Los Angeles Times refuses to hold Barack accountable until you realize that the Los Angeles Times responded to the Iraq War most infamously by dropping their columnist who was adamantly opposed to it -- Robert Scheer who went on to create Truthdig.  So in other words, the Los Angeles Times lied in real time and pimped the war.  They didn't whore as bad as the New York Times -- but outside of a cathouse, who could?   So now the LA paper continues to lie.  It lied to get US troops into Iraq, it lies to keep US troops in Iraq.
Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:
Let's go through what Mitt Romney said about Iraq.
[Romney:] In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran.
The press reports that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is responsible for the rise in violence.  I tend to be more skeptical of that claim and see this as less about terrorism and more as a fight for who will control the country.  In my view, the refusal to share power and bring in Sunnis is creating the same oppression that the Shi'ites lived under for decades.  But Mitt Romney expressed statements perfectly in keeping with the American press reports (and Salon's not challenged those reports or even been skeptical of them).  From the right and the left, you read about Iran and Iraq's increased relationship.  From the right, it's Barack's fault for what he's done in the last four years (his fault that Iran and Iraq are so much closer), from the left it's Bush's fault for starting the illegal war.  Regardless of who gets blamed, the reality is that Iraq and Iran are much closer than they were before 2003.
Today Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) has a report headlined, "Al-Qaeda making comeback in Iraq, officials say" and  "Surge in violence, new training camps show al-Qaidia revival in Iraq after US troop withdrawal."  Use the links.  Romney's statements were not controversial unless you're Joan Walsh or some other dishonest person.
Through Monday, Iraq Body Count counts 51 people killed in violence in Iraq since the start of the month.  Today All Iraq News reports that an official with the Ministry of Interior was targeted in a Baghdad assassination attempt but survived while his driver died in the attack and a Tal Afar roadside bombing has claimed two livesMu Xuequan (Xinhua) adds the Tal Afar victims were two brothers who are members of the PUK political party (Jalal Talabani's party) and reports 1 judge (Abbas al-Abadi) was shot dead in front of his Mosul home, a Mosul roadside bombing left "a deputy police chief and a policeman" injured, a Sulaiman Bek roadside bombing injured five members of one family and 2 Abu Ghraib roadside bombings resulted in 1 military officer and 1 Iraqi soldier being killed with two more soldiers left injured.  Press TV reports 1 "bodyguard of a lawmaker was killed in an ambush near the town of Mussayeb" and a Kirkuk car bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers with four more injured.
Al Mada notes State of Law has declared that Iraq is not attempting to form an alliance with Iran and Russia..   That Nouri al-Maliki's political slate felt the need to make that statement is more interesting than the statement itself.  Nouri, of course, is in Russia.  All Iraq News reports he's met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medevdev to discuss trade, economic and military issues.  UPI explains, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reportedly flew to Moscow Monday for talks on defense and trade amid signs Russia is trying to make inroads in on Iraq's multibillion-dollar rearmament program, which has been dominated by the United States.The word is that Baghdad, nearly a year after the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, Maliki will sign a $5 billion air-defense contract with Moscow." Hurriyet Daily News observes, "If the deal takes place, Iraq will be among five largest importers of Russian arms, according to Pravda."  AFP reports the deal did take place but it was a "$4.2 billion" arms deal --
30 Mi-28 attack helicopters and 42 Pansir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems."  And the two sides continue to explore additional weapons. Alberto Riva (International Business Times) explains:
It's a significant deal not only because of its size, but because it gives Iraq advanced capabilities it could use in the possible conflicts brewing in the region. The Mi-28 helicopter gunships would be deadly in any confrontation with Kurdish independence fighters over the status of Iraqi Kurdistan and its rich oil fields; the Pantsir missiles would be a strong deterrent against the air forces of Iraq's Sunni Muslim neighbors and potential enemies. That's an important factor now that Iraq has a Shiite-dominated government, and that those Sunni neighbors – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait -- all have powerful air forces, recently replenished with hundreds of American and European fighter-bombers of the latest generation.

And this isn't the end of Nouri's shopping spree.  AFP reports, "Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will head a government delegation to the Czech Republic on Thursday, with a potential arms deal involving several dozen Czech-made subsonic jet fighters likely to figure on the agenda."  Alsumaria notes that Nouri spoke in Russia today of unnamed forces wanting to topple Middle East regimes and used Syria as an example.  That will be interpreted as a hint that he was referring to the United States government.  The snub comes as Iraqi diplomats in DC, Dar Addustour notes, work to garner US support to get Iraq removed from Chapter VII by the United Nations.
While Nouri was out of the country, the Council of Ministers was 'hard at work.'  Alsumaria reports Nouri's Council of Ministers announced a decision today to kill wild pigs.  They fear they might be spreading disease. 
That passes for a functional government in Iraq.  In addition, Khalid al-Ansary (Bloomberg News) reports, "Iraq's Cabinet agreed to double the capital of state-owned Trade Bank of Iraq to one trillion dinars ($858 million), State Minister Ali al-Dabbagh, the official government spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement today."
In the US, US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  The House Veterans Affairs Committee notes:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Friday, Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, called on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to remove VA Chief of Staff, John Gingrich from his position due to his involvement in VA's conference scandal. To read Chairman Miller's and Ranking Member Burr's letter to the Secretary, click here.

To learn more about VA's OIG investigation, click here.

I normally would include a Jill Stein press release.  Stein is the Green Party's presidential candidate.  But it was just read to me and I said, "Don't copy and paste it in."  I have no idea why you need a "Paul Ryan" at your protest.  But if you -- and maybe you do, then you'd need a Biden as well.  Can't have Ryan without Joe.
I think Jill Stein is a sincere candidate.  But I'm not whoring.  And the Green Party has whored since 2000 so people are automatically suspicious.  That's why this community got behind Ralph Nader and not the Green Party nominee (it was Cynthia McKinney but the community had already gotten behind Ralph) (the community had gotten behind him, I've not stated who I voted for -- I've stated I didn't vote for Barack and I'd long noted I wouldn't vote for McCain). 
Jill Stein needs to be aware of this pitfalls if she's not already.  Her campaign was called out in Third's "Roundtable."
Jim (Con't): Let's kick things off with the presidential election.   Last week, we did various roundtables and Dona moderated "Campaign roundtable" and noted they'd run out of time before they could really discuss Jill Stein's campaign.  Jill Stein is the Green Party presidential candidate.  So let's start with Dr. Jill and then move to the debate last Wednesday.  Ann and Jess are Greens, they're supporting Jill Stein.  Everyone participating in this roundtable is except for Ava and C.I. who have announced that they don't intend to vote in the presidential election.  If they change their mind, they say they'll note it.  But Ann and Jess, why don't you kick things off on Dr. Stein.

Ann: It's October 7th and the Stein campaign hasn't updated their website since October 3rd.  I find that disturbing.  Jess and I were talking earlier and both agreed we'd note disturbances.  You're a third party candidate and the election is about four weeks away.  You need to be updating daily and you certainly cannot afford to go four days without  updating. 
Gary Johnson is also a third party candidate, the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party.  If you go to his website, not only do you find out he's raised a half-million dollars, you also see that he last updated Friday, October 5th.  It's one thing to take the weekend off -- which I don't think is ever smart for a third party candidate -- it's another to allow four days to pass with nothing new from your campaign.  I also notice that the campaign no longer allows people to leave comments like they did last month.  So there's nothing new and there's not even new comments you can read.  I'd say that's ridiculous.

Jess: Yeah and on the disturbing and ridiculous, they've got something on the main page that shouldn't have made it there to begin with.  Maybe if they'd updated throughout the week it would be gone.

Jim: It is?

Jess: About
a bunch of stupid little bitches who took part in a protest against Mitt Romney in Boston.  They dressed up as chickens.  Their point was that Romney was too scared to debate.  Let's work in Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The So-Called Presidential Debate" right now. 
Jess (Con't):   You'll note that Isaiah makes fun of Mitt Romney for being scared also.  But, hey, look, he also makes fun of Barack for the same thing.    Yeah, it's both of them.

C.I.: Actually, it is Barack.  But go on.

Jess: I'd agree with that too.  But the point is if you're going to protest, for example, the NFL tomorrow, you don't go stalk the New England Patriots.  They are number two, as of last year's superbowl.  You go with the biggest and the baddest, the New York Giants, who won the Superbowl last year.  If you only protest the Patriots to protest the NFL, you look like a little bitch.  If you're stupid enough to wear costumes nd your men and you  have women in cheesecake poses, the only real word for you is one we can't use here so I'll just repeat: bitches.  You don't look strong, you look incredibly pathetic.  And by posting that crap, Jill Stein's campaign looks incredibly pathetic.

Ann: I would agree.
Jess and Ann are Greens.  Their feelings are not mysterious or strange.  The Green Party in 2004 made a laughingstock of itself.  In 2008, Green Party members rushed foward to urge people to vote for Barack.  These things do not help the Green Party.
I believe Dr. Jill Stein is a sincere candidate.  But she's up against an opinion that she isn't -- and that would be true of any president from that party -- because the Green Party has refused to act like a political party for the previous two presidential races.  It's instead acted like it's the kid sister of the Democratic Party. 
If, with all the administration currently does, Jill Stein and her campaign can't do more than ridicule Paul Ryan (Mitt Romney's running mate), then that makes people wonder, "Is this another fake ass campaign from the Green Party?" 
We didn't include the b.s. that Ann and Jess rightly objected to, we didn't run that press release.  We're not interested in this one.  If Jill's campaign is just about 'Oh, Mitt and Paul are awful!,' then we've got more important things to focus on then faux candidates and their pretend efforts to run for office.
And it is Barack, by the way, as I said in the roundtable.  Barack can waive Jill Stein and Gary Johnson and anyone else into the debate.  George H.W. Bush waived H. Ross Perot into the 1992 debates.  Why?  He thought Perot would 'steal' votes from Clinton.  (No vote that a voter awards to a candidate is stolen.)  Bill Clinton was for Perot being included as well.  In fact, he was for it before Bush.  But when Bush, the sitting President of the United States, was for it, the contract with the corporation no longer mattered (the debates are put on by the two parties -- Democrat and Republican -- and they make long lists of what's possible and what's not, read Ava and my "TV: Jim Lehrer, notch below child molester" if this is news to you).  But if the goal is to get into the debates, and that's what the press release the Stein campaign has put out says, then you need to target the sitting president because that's the only one with the power.  Mitt Romney could demand or oppose the inclusion of third party candidates.  It wouldn't matter.  But if a sitting president demands it (as George H.W. Bush did and as Barack can do now), it will happen -- such is the power of the presidency.