Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, May 28, 2013. Chaos and violence continue,  Iraq is again slammed with violence as the death toll for the month gets ever closer to 800, Jane Arraf goes on the radio to cover for Nouri, US Vice President Joe Biden's attempt to help backfired (we're not psychics for predicting it would last Friday) and only fuels talk in Iraq that the US is trying to partition the country and earns Biden the nickname of "The Godfather of the Divide,"  the wife of Tyrone Woods has a response to Hillary Clinton, the physically ugly and mentally challenged Kevin Drum declares himself 'bored' and more.

Violence swept Iraq today.   National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad suicide bomber driving a tank took his own life and the lives of 1 police officer and 1 civilian while leaving eight people (four were police officers) injured, a police officer was injured in a Baquba shooting, a Kuther clash left 2 suspects dead and a third injured, and a Samarra roadside bombing left two Sahwa injuredMohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes a Sadr City car bombing which has claimed 4 lives and left twenty-five injured.  By evening, Tawfeeq was reporting the death toll had risen to 7 and added, "Then on Tuesday night in the predominantly Shiite al-Shaab neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb went off near an outdoor market. That blast killed at least two people and wounded at least three others, according to police officials in the Iraqi capital."   The toll may increase further as the day goes on.  BBC News adds that "at least three policemen were killed in the northern city of Mosul in clashes between gunmen and police. A bombing near the city killed another policeman."  All Iraq News notes a Mosul bombing claimed the life of Colonel Faris al-Rashidi and left three more officers with Nineveh Police Intelligence injuredAlsumaria notes that the Iraqi military has killed 11 suspects in Babel Province today.  In all, AFP reports, today's violence has claimed 27 lives. 

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 759 violent deaths.  There are four days left in the month for them to count.  Including today's at least 27 deaths brings the death toll 786.

Yesterday saw 75 deaths in Baghdad alone.  Robert Camens (Irish Independent) reports, "The bombs struck just a few hours after the ministry of interior released a statement saying that the violence in Iraq cannot be seen as sectarian in nature because the bombs do not distinguish between Sunnis and Shia." Duraid Adnan (New York Times) reported that the bombing attacks in Baghdad began in "afternoon rush hour traffic."  All Iraq News counted 13 car bombs in Baghdad: "Sa'adon, Baghdad Jadida, Sabai'liBour, Maalif, Kadhimya, Sadriyah, Diyala Bridge, SHaab, Habibiya, Baladiyat and Jurriya areas." Aziz Alwan (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The bombs went off in and around mostly Shiite Muslim areas of Baghdad, the capital, at markets and other public areas that were teeming with civilians, and primarily were planted in cars or on motorcycles, authorities said."  The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following today:

Baghdad, 28 May 2013 –The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Martin Kobler, condemned in the strongest terms yesterday’s wave of bomb attacks that killed and injured dozens of innocent Iraqis in several crowded commercial areas of Baghdad.

“I once again urge all Iraqi leaders to do everything possible to protect Iraqi civilians. It is their responsibility to stop the bloodshed now,” said Mr. Kobler. “It is the politicians’ responsibility to act immediately and to engage in dialogue to resolve the political impasse and not let terrorists benefit from their political differences.”

 “We will continue to remind the leaders of Iraq that the country will slide into a dangerous unknown if they do not take immediate action,” UN Envoy stressed.

The violence is on Nouri for many reasons.  For example, back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." Those posts were supposed to have been filled by the end of 2010.  They've never been filled.  You can also look to the training that the Iraqi police received.    Walter C. Ladwig III (World Politics) has a really strong overview of the US-efforts at police training in Iraq.  We're noting this section:

Almost from its inception the program was criticized by Iraqi officials for neglecting their priorities and providing substandard training. Consequently, American advisers received little “buy-in” from their local counterparts. At the same time, auditors in the United States objected to the fact that little more than 10 percent of the funds allocated for the program would actually be spent on advising the Iraqi police -- the bulk of the money would be spent on providing security for advisers and sustaining them in the field.
In the face of these criticisms, the scope and size of the program was repeatedly scaled back, and in March 2013 it was canceled entirely, leaving Iraq’s 400,000 police without mentorship. The Afghan police assistance mission is still ongoing; however, observers anticipate that responsibility for the mission will similarly transition to the State Department when the U.S. military withdraws in 2014.

It's actually worse than what he's covering.  First, Jordan was training Iraqi police officers early in the war.  The US government stopped that.  As he notes in his piece, the DoD was over the training for a number of years.  With regards to the State Dept, however, there's a key detail.  It's really disturbing in fact.  It came out in the November 30, 2011 House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia hearing (we covered that hearing in the December 1, 2011 snapshot) as the State Dept's Brook Darby testified.  The State Dept being over the police program was really important, Darby explained, because they were going to spend time training the police on basic human rights -- in fact, on "gender and human rights."  She repeated this throughout the hearing, "The PDP [Police Development Program] mentors Iraqi police leadership on how to regularize their engagement with the people they serve while protecting Iraq's communities, its borders and respect for human rights."  She declared, "At the MOI's [Ministry of Information] request, PDP is already putting together a strategic plan on gender and human rights."

US House Rep Gary Ackerman: Why are we doing human rights and gender issues in Iraq and not Botswana?

Brooke Darby: Iraq, and stability in Iraq and security in Iraq, is very much in the US national security interest.  It is important to us to have a stable and secure partner in the region.  It is important to us to have a partner on combating the types of complex threats we face as a --

US House Rep Gary Ackerman: How important is it in terms of dollars?  Let's assume the rate is constant and it is $900 million a year.

Brooke Darby: Sir, we have already made an investment.

Why was human rights needed?  Darby repeatedly referred to what the US military had done, built a police force up from scratch over seven years. She praised their work on "very basic police skills" ("excellent job") but noted that human rights training was needed.

So by the testimony of the Deputy Assistant Secretary, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the State Dept, Brooke Darby, the Iraqi police were trained for seven years, from scratch, and human rights was never part of the program or gender rights.  So, in 2012, the State Dept was going to fix this with training in these issues (as well as other training).  The program got gutted and is no more.  And human rights were clearly never taught to the police.  That's why there are so many stories of abuses -- which is one of the reasons have been protesting since December.  It never should have waited so late but grasp that when the police program was cancelled under the State Dept it had not done any training on human rights -- under DoD or, briefly, under State.

How bad is the violence?  Iraq actually came up in today's State Dept press briefing conducted by spokesperson Patrick Ventrell.

QUESTION: Change topics? Iraq?


QUESTION: In the last couple days, there’s been a real spike in violence and the country seems to be coming apart. Is the United States doing anything on the ground to mediate --


QUESTION: -- other than condemnation? Can you share with us something that you are actually doing sort of urgently to meet the urgency of the situation?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, our Embassy is very engaged. The Vice President of the United States is very engaged.
Let me start, though, of course, with our strong condemnation. The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in Baghdad yesterday, where numerous car bombs detonated, killing and injuring scores of innocent people. We are deeply concerned by the frequency and nature of recent attacks, including the bombing of a bus today in Baghdad and a truck bomb north of Baghdad as well today. So the targeting of innocent people in an effort to sow instability and division is reprehensible, and our condolences go out to the victims and their families.
U.S. officials in Baghdad and Washington are intensively engaged. We’re in contact with a wide range of senior Iraqi leaders to urge calm and help resolve ongoing political and sectarian tensions. And the level of U.S. engagement is evidenced including by the Vice President’s engagement, which you saw the readouts to late last week.
So our talks from the Embassy, they’re focused on specific steps to avoid further violence and resolve key issues peacefully through dialogue and through the political process.

QUESTION: Why doesn’t the United States – I mean, there is a great deal of attention to the Syrian civil war, for instance. Conferences are being organized and so on, Friends of Syria, all that stuff, but Iraq, on the other hand, continues to bleed. And you are basically a very important ingredient of what is going on in Iraq. Why doesn’t the United States, for instance, lead an effort to reconciliation, to bring the groups together?

MR. VENTRELL: Said, we’re – we remain committed to supporting Iraq’s democratic system, and we urge Iraq leaders to continue to working toward a peaceful resolution, to work through their system, to work through dialogue. And so we continue to work to help Iraq overcome the threat of terrorism and its internal issues. So this is something we’re very actively engaged on and very focused on.

"The Vice President of the United States is very engaged," Ventrell stated.  That's not helping.  Friday's snapshot noted his three phone calls -- to KRG President Massoud Barzani, Speaker of Iraqi Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki --  and what a mistake this was:

I like Joe Biden.  But talk about tone deaf on the part of the White House, talk about the need for Arabic speakers in the White House. There is nothing worse they could have done then have Joe Biden speak to Iraqi leaders today -- this month. In the US, Joe Biden represents many things to different sets of people.  In Iraq?  He's got two images and let's focus on the most damaging: He proposed, as US Senator, that peace in Iraq would be possible only by splitting the country into a Shi'ite South, a Sunni central and the KRG in the north.  As Senator.  And we noted, while running for the presidential nomination, right before Iowa, Joe had noted if the US Congress didn't support then the idea was dead.  We covered that here. Most ignored it because Biden's campaign was losing steam (he'd quickly drop out of the race). It never registered in Iraq. They continue to see Biden as the man who wants to split up their country.  And the Arabic press for the last three weeks has been full of reports that it's about to happen, Iraq's about to split.  Nouri's been in contact with Biden, the Kurds came to Baghdad just to ensure that the split takes place, blah blah blah.  Whispers with no foundation -- they may be true, they may be false -- have been all over Arabic media -- not just social media, all of the Iraqi outlets have reported it -- and reported it as a done deal. So with the tension and fear rising in Iraq currently, why is Biden the go-to?  This was absolutely the wrong thing at the wrong time and these calls with the various leaders, whatever their intent (I'm told military issues were discussed with Nouri -- specifically more troops under the Strategic Framework Agreement and last December's Memorandum of Understanding with the Defense Dept), are only going to fuel more rumors in Iraq.

It didn't calm tensions and just fed rumors.  From Saturday:

The Godfather of the Division. That's what they're hailing US Vice President Joe Biden as in the Iraqi media.  We said in yesterday's snapshot that I could not believe the White House is so ignorant of what goes on in Iraq.  For weeks now, one article after another has been about whispers of dividing Iraq into three regions.  They've all noted Joe Biden in those reports (because he favored a federation as late as January 2008).  With all the stress and tension Iraq's currently facing, Joe Biden was the last person who needed to be calling political leaders in Iraq yesterday:  Nouri al-Maliki, Massoud Barzani and Osama al-Nujaifi -- forget their parties, just note that's Shi'ite, Kurd and Sunni.
[. . .]
Are you seeing the problems that the White House missed? There are already 3 major articles in the Iraqi press on this.  In fact, it's blown Karbala out of the cycle.  (Karbala had been insisting that Nouri take back those useless 'magic' wands that do not detect bombs.)  Of the three outlets, the one with the largest circulation is Dar Addustour.  They don't just call him The Godfather of the Division, they add that he's a hero to those who wish to rip apart Iraq.

Today, Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that last week's phone calls by US Vice President Joe Biden to KRG President Massoud Barzani, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  The calls are referred to as a "red herring" that the US is still attempting to split Iraq into three regions.  Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman states that Biden's is trying to throw dust into the eyes of Iraqis and distract them while the country is split in three.  He states that solutions for Iraq's future must come from Iraq not the US. 

Was the intent to enter a tense situation and sew distrust while upsetting Iraqis?  That is what was accomplished.   And the violence continues.  All Iraq News quotes Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi  stating, "The General Commander of Armed Forces, the Premier, Nouri al-Maliki failed once again in providing security in Iraq."  Yesterday,  cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr addressed the violence.  Alsumaria noted Moqtada declared that the country is without a government to protect it and that the people needed to eliminate hate from their heart.  He attacked Israel as the enemy and said the people had moved from God and were being punished.  Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi also weighed in.  NINA noted his call on "the government and security commanders, who refrained from coming before Parliament, to present acceptable justifications for the security deterioration that made the Iraqis pay dearly in the lives of innocent people."    Last week on The World Today with Eleanor Hall (Australia's ABC 00 link is audio and text), Madeleine Morris reported on the continued violence:

MADELEINE MORRIS: But Dr Anthony Billingsley, a seasoned Iraq watcher from the University of New South Wales thinks that blaming the violence on external forces is a red herring.

Rather, he believes the Iraqi leader has brought most of the current problems on himself by marginalising the country's Sunnis, the ethnic group of the former leader, Saddam Hussein.

ANTHONY BILLINGSLEY: It really requires Nouri al-Maliki to step back and say, okay, I'll moderate my hostility to Sunni. We will give them a look in. We will give them a chance to have some sort of impact on the political system.

But he's not showing any signs of that at the moment.

MADELEINE MORRIS: So in that case, you're not confident that there's going to be any let up in the bloodshed any time soon?

ANTHONY BILLINGSLEY: No, and it doesn't seem to be any particular impulse on the part of the government to address it. I mean, to talk about a reformed security system to an extent suggests that all he wants to do is go after the Sunni more effectively, rather than a reformed political strategy, which is what he needs to do.

MADELEINE MORRIS: It feels like we could be having this conversation in 2006.

ANTHONY BILLINGSLEY: That's correct. It's almost a revisiting of the same old problem, the problem of the relationship between the Sunni and the Shia, the unwillingness of the Sunni on one part to accept that they're now the second most powerful community in the country, not the first.

To figure out what's going on requires honesty.  Read the following from Mayura Iyer (Policy Mic) and see if you can catch the error:

Sunni protests have increased after the arrest of Sunni Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi in December 2012, and after Iraqi-backed helicopters killed dozens of peaceful protesters in the town of Hawijah on April 23.

She writes, "Sunni protests have increased after the arrest of Sunni Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi in December 2012" -- what?

al-Issawi was not arrested in December of since.  December 21st, the protests kicked off (they've been ongoing ever since).  Dropping back to that day's snapshot:

After morning prayers, Kitabat reports, protesters gathered in Falluja to protest the arrests and Nouri al-Maliki.  They chanted down with Nouri's brutality and, in a move that won't change their minds, found themselves descended upon by Nouri's forces who violently ended the protest.  Before that, Al Mada reports, they were chanting that terrorism and Nouri are two sides of the same coin.  Kitabat also reports that demonstrations also took place in Tikrit, Samarra, Ramdia and just outside Falluja with persons from various tribes choosing to block the road connecting Anbar Province (Falluja is the capitol of Anbar) with Baghdad.  Across Iraq, there were calls for Nouri to release the bodyguards of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi.  Alsumaria notes demonstrators in Samarra accused Nouri of attempting to start a sectarian war.

So what happened yesterday?  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports:

Iraq's Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi said Thursday that "a militia force" raided his house, headquarters and ministry in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people, and he holds the nation's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, responsible for their safety.  Members of the al-Essawi's staff and guards were among those kidnapped from the ministry Thursday, the finance minister said. He also said that his computers and documents were searched at his house and headquarters. He said the head of security was arrested Wednesday at a Baghdad checkpoint for unknown reasons and that now the compound has no security.

Kitabat explains that these raids took place in the Green Zone, were carried out by the Iraqi military and that Nouri, yesterday evening, was insisting he knew nothing about them.    In another report, Tawfeeq quotes al-Essawi stating, "My message to the prime minister: You are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people." BBC News adds, "Rafie al-Issawi, a prominent member of the al-Iraqiyya political bloc, said about 150 of his bodyguards and staff members had been arrested on Thursday." 

al-Issawi was not arrested in December, he has not been arrested since.  Policy Mic is incorrect in their accounting of events. But why should they be bound by facts when Jane Arraf so seldom is.  Appearing today on PRI's The World, Arraf chuckled throughout a report on violence -- it's not funny, Arraf -- and went on to mock people who believe the political crisis and politicians are behind the violence.  She never explains the political crisis but she goes on to mock people who believe politicians are carrying out violence.

It's a really crazy world she's moved in to in order to become the PR Team for Nouri al-Maliki.

First, if you're going to laugh at accusations of politicians being directly involved in violence, then you laugh at State of Law -- Nouri's State of Law.  State of Law MPs have been stating for over 7 days now that they have a list of politicians (it's now 15 supposedly on the list) who are 'terrorists' and responsible for the violence.

Jane Arraf goes on public radio to laugh at average Iraqi citizens when the people in the news saying politicians are 'terrorists' are members of the Parliament who belong to Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law.  It's a curious detail that escapes her.  But details always escape Jane when they make Nouri look bad.  Which is how she pooh-pahs the idea that a political crisis has led to the violence.

What a lie.

As briefly as possible, in 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections and the party or slate that won the most seats, per the Constitution, gets to have one of their members named prime minister-designate.  Once named, the person has 30 days to put together a Cabinet or someone else is named prime minister-designate.  Should the person put together a Cabinet (that means Parliament votes in favor of the nominees and all slots are filled) in 30 days or less, the person is no longer prime minister-designate but the prime minister.

Nouri's State of Law came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  Instead of stepping down and allowing a member of Iraqiya to be named prime minister-designate, Nouri refused to honor the Constitution and for over eight months created a political stalemate in the country.  The stalemate was ended by the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  US President Barack Obama wanted Nouri to have a second term and he had officials negotiate a legal contract that would go around the Constitution and give Nouri a second term.  In order to get the leaders of the other political blocs to sign off, Nouri had to put concessions into the contract -- such as Article 140 of the Constitution would be implemented (the status of oil-rich Kirkuk -- part of the KRG or part of the central government out of Baghdad -- would be decided by census and referendum), Ayad Allawi would head a newly created independent national security body, etc.

November 2010, The Erbil Agreement resulted in the end of the stalemate.  But Nouri refused to honor his promises in the contract after he used the contract to 'win' a second term as prime minister.  The press -- including Jane Arraf -- covered for him in rel time, it was too soon, he had to focus on this, but in a few weeks -- in a few months -- in ---  The day he was going to honor the contract never arrived.  By the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr were calling publicly for him to honor The Erbil Agreement.  He refused.

This led to the attempt to replace him as prime minister in the spring of 2012.  That would have taken place, all the signatures were there, but the US government placed heavy pressure on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Talabani suddenly announced he could not forward the petition (which would have immediately resulted in a vote in Parliament) because some people who had signed it now wanted their names off.  It was a made up excuse.  You sign a petition, you sign a petition.  You don't get to run after and say, "Wait! Wait! Take my name off!" You can vote differently when Parliament votes on it but your change of heart on a petition?  Once you sign it, you signed it.

The heavy pressured on Jalal from the US government no doubt further harmed Jalal's already questionable health.  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  At the start of the month, there were new rumors swirling about his health and, this past week,  Nouri al-Maliki attempted to have Jalal stripped of his post this month.  (Parliament rejected the notion.) Following that,  Al Mada ran a photo of Jalal Talabani seated outdoors with his medical team and noted the team states the Iraqi President's health has continued to improve and he will return to Iraq shortly.

But a contract was made to gift Nouri with a second term he didn't earn.  In exchange, he was supposed to do certain things.  He has never honored the contract and that has resulted in the first ongoing crises of his second term.  It's not minor.  And when people talk about this political crisis -- his inability to honor a power-sharing agreement (remember, the idiot's party came in second) -- this is what they're talking about.  But Jane Arraf won't tell you that or, it appears, anything else that might make Nouri look bad.

The Royal United Services Institute of London's Shashank Joshi wrote a column for CNN noting the problems the country faces:

Al-Maliki has undermined political institutions that were designed to be independent, such as the central bank and election commission. He has seized personal control of key army and intelligence units, many of them CIA-backed, including the 6,000-strong Iraqi Special Forces.
[. . .]
Taken together, Maliki's heavy-handed and sectarian actions have fanned flames that were never really extinguished. The result is a powerful sense of Sunni victimhood with many policies, such as de-Baathification (the removal of Saddam's party loyalists from positions of influence), seen as little more than collective punishment of Sunnis.

Jane Arraf won't recognize that.  The reality is that the Iraq people turned out to vote in 2010 and their votes were supposed to count and were supposed to matter.  They braved violence, they braved threats, they traveled by foot from polling station to polling station when their names weren't on the voting rolls.  They ignored Nouri's branding of Iraqiya as "terrorists" and "Ba'athists."  They ignored his use of the Justice and Accountability Commission to clear the field of many of his political rivals (whose names were then pulled from the ballots).  They did all of this because they wanted democracy.  But democracy required that when Nouri's State of Law came in second, Nouri step down.  He refused to and US President Barack Obama refused to back democracy.

You're the Iraqi people.  Your votes have been overturned.  A foreign country negotiated a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) to keep their puppet as prime minister for a second term.  This is an insult to you and your votes.  But you try to put a brave face on it because there's now a power-sharing agreement.  But Nouri refuses to honor it.  And when your politicians follow the Constitutional means to kick him out of office, the US steps in to protect him again.  At what point do you really feel that your country is your own?

Violence in Iraq?  When did the US government ever leave Iraqis with any other option?

Barack killed the ballot, circumvented the Iraqi Constitution, refused to insist Nouri honor the legal contract the US negotiated, how many times do you see the US government violate your sovereignty and still believe you have it?  Or that there's any way to be heard outside of violence?

Nouri al-Maliki and the US government are responsible for this violence because they have repeatedly ignored the will of the Iraqi people.

We noted Policy Mic's error earlier.  Let's note they get something right.  From Andrew Beale's column on Barack's speech last week:

Obama's always been happy to take credit for getting us out of Iraq. On the White House's web site, there's a statement reading "The end of our mission in Iraq marks the fulfillment of a promise Barack Obama made to the American people even before he became President." In his National Security Speech, the President said "We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops home."
Of course, when he said "we," what he really meant was "George W. Bush." That's right: Bush ended the war in Iraq. 
This goes against conventional wisdom -- how could Bush have ended the Iraq war when he wasn't even president? 
The answer lies in a little-discussed document called the "Status of Forces Agreement" signed by then-President Bush and Iraqi officials in 2008. The document states unequivocally that "All U.S. forces are to withdraw from all Iraqi territory, water and airspace no later than the 31st of December of 2011."
Obama, in fact, fought hard to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after the deadline had passed, but Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected his proposal to keep military bases in the country, forcing Obama to abide by the full troop withdrawal agreed to by Bush. 
Despite all this, U.S. forces are still in Iraq, with as many as 5,000 armed contractors remaining in the country.

No, he did not pull all US troops out of Iraq in the drawdown.  Dropping back to the April 30th snapshot:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "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.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Moving over to the US,  Senator Patty Murray serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office issued the following:

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

WALLA WALLA: Murray Celebrates New Veterans Facilities at Wainwright VAMC that She Helped Save from Closure 

On the day ground is broken on new veterans home, Murray recalls work to provide federal funding after 2008 closure left vocal veterans with nowhere to turn

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee, applauded the site dedication for a new State Veterans Home and the ribbon-cutting of a newly completed Residential Rehabilitation Unit building in Walla Walla. Senator Murray has a long history of working to support the veterans of the Walla Walla region, including her work in 2004 when she successfully urged the VA to reject the recommendation from the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) Commission that the VA close the facility in Walla Walla.

The State Veterans Home will replace the old nursing home that was shut down in 2008 after an independent audit determined that the facility posed an immediate threat and did not meet professional standards. Following that threat, Senator Murray led members of the Northwest Congressional Delegation in calling for immediate funding for a new facility. The Residential Rehabilitation Unit will provide substance abuse treatment for area veterans. 

“I am proud to be a partner in both of these projects and pleased that I was able to secure the federal funding to support the construction of both of these state of the art facilities that will help meet the long term care needs of veterans in the region,” Senator Murray wrote.  “The commitment we make to care for our servicemembers and veterans does not end when they return home.  It is so important we ensure these men and women have access to the quality care they deserve.”

For more about the new Walla Walla facilities visit HERE



Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

Twitter: @mmcalvanah

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

That's good news for veterans and it comes one day after Memorial Day was celebrated.   In an open letter to American Legion members and their families yesterday, AL National Commander James Koutz offered, " I hope that you will join me in remembering to honor not only veterans who were close to you but also all of our veterans who gave their all. While the mass media often makes this weekend out to be about barbecues and department store sales, it is up to each one of us to remind our communities about the true meaning of this day."  In San Diego, Craig Gustafson (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports that the names of Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were added "to the walls of the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial." September 11, 2012, a terrorist attack was launched on a US facility in Benghazi, Libya and four Americans were killed: Doherty and Woods along with the State Dept diplomat Sean Smith and US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods' family and friends gathered to honor them. Doherty's friend Navy Seal Capt Jason Ehret delivered the keynote address and noted, "Glen and Ty were the kind of men this country is proud to produce as citizens and as warriors.  That fateful night in Benghazie they did what I expect any SEAL would have done. . . . They ran to the sound of gunfire.  They had experiences all too well the hell of war and knew that Americans were in need of assistance."

At a January 23rd Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton embarrassed herself with theatrics better left in a court room and shameful from the mouth of a public servant as she exploded, "What difference does it make?"  [See the January 23rd snapshot. and the January 24th snapshot, Wally's coverage "Facts matter, Hillary (Wally),"   Ava's "20 are still at risk says Hillary in an aside (Ava)," Ruth's "Like watching Richard Nixon come back to life" and Kat's  "Can she not answer even one damn question?"]

Hillary proclaimed, "Was it because of a protest?  Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans?  What difference, at this point, does it make?"

Dorothy Woods, wife of the late Tyrone Woods, had an answer for her in San Diego yesterday, "In the face of that first incredibly insulting and ignorant question, let us follow their lead and challenge ourselves with making a difference, not only today but every day.  It is our moral responsibility to honor their sacrficie by speaking up for them, protecting them and caring for their loved ones left behind.  When we, as one nation under God, can do so, we assure that they will never, ever be just bumps in the road."

Kevin Drum (Mother Jones) couldn't make it 24 hours without yawning at the dead declaring today, "Are you tired of Benghazi! Me too."  You know what I'm tired of?  Circle-jerk male bloggers like Kevin Drum who see everything in terms of a partisan lens. I'm especially tired of little war whores like Kevin Drum who now get embraced by the left when they should have been run out of every left outlet for their support for the Iraq War.  Kevin's giddy on Bob Stretch The Truth Somerby.  I would have thought Bob's attack on Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson would have ended his time in the circle jerk -- especially since he lied about Valerie and Joe just to protect his friend 'reporter' Matt Cooper who Scooter Libby outed Plame to.  But ethics are in short supply in the blogger circle-jerk -- as are facts.

By the way, Kevin Drum's an idiot, read the original talking points, no mention of a video. He and Bob try to reach to graft the video onto the talking points, but it's not there, they're damn liars.  The points saying the attack was "inspired by the protests in Cairo" is not linking to the video.  If the CIA wanted to say the video was responsible, the original talking points would have included that.  But Kevin so busy fondling Bob's tiny prick, he can't deal with reality.  It's really funny how when Maureen Dowd or any woman deals with the totality of Susan's Rice's presentation, Bob Somerby roars (as much as pipsqueak can roar) about the need to be exact.  In fact, he's groused about reporters covering this, all these months later, not including Rice's full statements -- from five different Sunday programs!  But it's okay for them to add "video" to the talking points when there is no video originally mentioned.  It's called lying and it's dishonest.  But so are they, they whore for partisan reasons. 

They also don't want to point out that the full communications have not been released.  As we noted last week, Victoria Nuland sent an e-mail September 14, 7:39 pm.  It's released.  It's in the batch.  But it refers to other communications which have not been released:

I just had a convo with [deleted] and now I understand that these are being prepared to give to Members of Congress to use with the media. 
On that basis, I have serious concerns about all the parts highlighted below, and arming members of Congress to start making assertions to the media that we ourselves are not mking because we don't want to prejudice the investigation.
In the same vein, why do we want Hill to be fingering Ansar al Sharia, when we aren't doing that ourselves until we have investigation results... and the penultimate point could be abused by Members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings so why do we want to feed that either?  Concerned.

And "deleted" is "CIA OCA."  She didn't think she was getting her way (or "the building"'s way) so without notifying the people she was dialoguing with, she did an end run around them by bringing CIA OCA.  But that's not enough for her as we noted:

If you read the e-mails, which apparently few actually did, you come across Victoria Nuland at 9:23 PM (September 14th) writing,   "These don't resolve my issues or those of us my building leadership.  They are consulting with NSS."
Where are the e-mails from State to NSS?
It's worth noting that the wording is rather chilling when you compare it to her lengthy e-mails.  In an e-mail chain with multiple agencies, Nuland wants changes and doesn't feel she's getting what she wants.  At some point she and others at the State Dept discuss this and decide to bring in NSS to override the ongoing process/exchange.  Nuland feels no need to offer, "We may involve NSS in this."  She waits until after the fact to declare that because her "issues" aren't resolved, her leadership is "consulting with NSS."

So she does an end run around the chain of communication twice.  And the NSS communication has not been released either.  That's nearly two hours after she last did an end run.  Two hours worth of communications before she felt she (and her "building") had gotten what they wanted and she could let the other group know they were being outvoted.  CNN reports today, "A congressional committee on Tuesday subpoenaed current and former top State Department officials related to the development of 'talking points' by the Obama administration to publicly explain the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, last year."

That's the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  Chair Darrell Issa's request is [PDF format warning] here.  Among other things (it's five pages long), it notes:

The documents the White House released on May 15, 2013, did not answer outstanding questions about who at the State Department, other than spokesperson Victoria Nuland, expressed reservations about certain aspects of the talking points, including language that made clear the State Department had received prior warnings of threats in the region and was aware of previous attacks on foreign interests in eastern Libya, and that extremists linked to al Qa'ida may have participated in the attacks. Nuland's correspondence to the interagency suggests that she did not raise these concerns in a vacuum.

Again, Drum is bored.  He's never attended a hearing on Benghazi -- nor has Somerby -- so he has no idea of any of the issues involved.  But he knows he's bored.  Scary.  Last time he was bored, he ended whoring to start the Iraq War.  Maybe dumb idiots should be given a scope to cover and maybe if they're being paid to cover something, they need to haul their candy asses to Congressional hearings so that they know what the government witnesses -- Charlene Lamb's full testimony from last fall is still a mystery to Drum  -- are testifying to?

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