Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Barack tells the American people one thing while planning something different

Scott Pelley:  The president has just informed Congress that he is doubling the number of US forces headed to Iraq.  These new troops are being sent in with helicopters and will be equipped for combat.  It was just 11 days ago that   President Obama announced that 300 advisors were headed to Baghdad to help Iraq fight an extremist insurgency that threatens to tear the country apart.  But he insisted at that time that US forces will not be returning to combat.  Apparently now the mission is growing.  Major Garrett is at the White House for us tonight.  Major?

Major Garrett:  Scott, White House officials insist this is not a signal of mission creep in Iraq.  They do acknowledge this means more forces with combat capability will be in Baghdad but argue their only mission will be to protect US embassy personnel, secure Baghdad's airport and, if necessary, beef up military escorts in the event that the security situation in Baghdad worsens to the point where large scale evacuations of US personnel are required.  These new forces -- we are told, Scott -- will not participate  in any way in the intelligence gathering or battlefield advising that the 300 Green Berets the President ordered to Iraq are now providing.

Scott Pelley:  Major, we mentioned that 11 days ago the President said that we were sending in 300 advisors.  Now that number is doubling to troops equipped for combat.  What has changed in that period of time?

Major Garrett:  Well those 11 days ago, Scott, the White House was concerned Baghdad would fall completely to these insurgents.  That's no longer the concern but there is  rising concern about the security of US personnel and officials here tell us the President wants to be positioned to protect US personnel in the embassy and, if necessary, if they're moved anywhere out of Baghdad or out of the country entirely because the situation in Baghdad had deteriorated entirely.

That's from Monday's CBS Evening News and, yes, we've covered this topic but there's an angle we've missed (and everyone else has as well).

Yesterday at the Pentagon, Rear Adm John Kirby gave a press briefing and went through the Iraq numbers:

I want to walk you through sort of what we're doing here and how. So we'll start going through time, but it's important as we go through this that I -- I clearly delineate there are two separate and distinct mission sets, the troops that are being sent to Iraq. First one is security assistance, and the second one is assessment teams and the joint operations center. This is the advisory -- eventually what will become the advisory mission, two distinct tracks here.
So the first order was the on the 16th of June for 270 -- actually, it was up to 275, is what the War Powers Resolution letter said, but roughly 270 is what we ordered up inside the military channels. A hundred and seventy of them got on the ground that same day -- actually, as you know, they kind of flowed in a little bit before the war powers letter went to Congress. So back then, we had a total of 270 authorized, 170 in country.
Next slide. The second order, the second War Powers Resolution letter went on the 26th of June. That authorized up to 300 advise and assess troops, advisers. And on the 27th of June, 180 had been in country. That's -- so you have 90 supporting the joint operations center in Baghdad and another 90 that comprised our assessment and advise teams. That brought the total to 570 authorized, but 350 actually on the ground. Everybody tracking on this so far? I figured if I use slides, I won't get the math wrong.
Next slide. The third order came on the 30th of June yesterday. That was for an additional 200 in the security assistance mission, separate and distinct from the assessment mission, an additional 200, and all 200 of them are now in and around Baghdad.
Additionally, you'll see the 100 up there in the top under the first order. Remember, the first order on the 16th of June was up to 275, but 270 is what we ordered. And we didn't put them all in country. You might remember, we told you that we were going to leave 100 of them or so outside the country in case they needed to be put in. We did put them in yesterday. So that other 100 came from the first order on the 16th of June.

  And then so all that comes down to the bottom there, a total of 770 authorized, 650 on the ground. And that's where we are right now. Okay?

Kristina Wong (The Hill) reported yesterday afternoon, "Officials would not say how many of the armed helicopters have been sent to the country, stating only that they will be based in Baghdad and could assist with evacuations of American personnel. The Pentagon also sent over additional surveillance drones."

So what's going on?

Barack's notifying Congress?  Suddenly he cares about the War Powers Act which he ignored with Libya? He broke the law there.

The actions that the he has taken make it clear that the White House is saying one thing to the public but plotting something else.

He's claiming that he has authorization for his actions under the 2002 Iraq War authorization.  He doesn't.  His January 2012 State Of The Union Address killed the 2002 authorization.

Barack offered a deceptive speech when he first noted in June that he was sending some more US troops back into Iraq.  He hasn't come before the people again.

But he keeps updating Congress.

June 16, 2011, then-White House spokesperson Jay Carney declared of the refusal to abide by the law (the War Powers Act):

As we made clear yesterday, we believe U.S. forces are not engaged in the kind of hostilities envisaged by the War Powers resolution.  U.S. operations do not involve a number of elements traditionally associated with hostilities, including sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces; the presence of U.S. ground troops -- let me reiterate -- not a single U.S. ground troop in Libya now or ever.  U.S. casualties also lack -- U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.  Our conclusion, therefore, that these constrained and limited operations do not amount to hostilities under the War Powers resolution is consistent with War Powers resolution interpretations put forward by administrations of both political parties dating back to the statute’s 1973 enactment.  

If you take the position the White House did on Libya, why are you taking a different one on Iraq?

The most obvious reason is you're anticipating that US forces will be "engaged in the kind of hostilities envisaged by the War Powers" Act.

Barack's been insisting one thing to the American people while preparing and planning for something different.

The 2002 authorization -- as many members of Congress are beginning to note publicly -- is no longer in play.  Barack's (falsely) operating under it.


Why not just do what he did in 2011 with Libya?

The obvious difference is that the Libyan argument rested on a series of notions Jay Carney outlined to the press.

Again, the White House appears to be planning one operation while selling another to the American public (and the Congress).

It's past time Barack defined what the Iraq mission is and defined it clearly and concretely.  As we noted last week, even Secretary of State John Kerry finds the mission confusing:

Even the administration is confused.  That was obvious today on The Lead with Jake Tapper (video), Jim Sciutto spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry.

Jim Sciutto: You said "sustained and intense" -- US military action would be "sustained and intense"  if the President decides to go forward.  Wonder if you could better define the time frame but also the measure of success if the President decides to go forward.  Is it ISIS destroyed?  ISIS retreating, partial  retreating?

Secretary John Kerry: That's precisely the strategy that needs to be defined as we go forward.  What I said would be intense would be the support to the government of Iraq and our efforts to try to help rebuild the military structure as well as hopefully support a new unity government.

"That's precisely the strategy that needs to be defined as we go forward."

Actually, that's precisely the strategy that needed to be devised, defined and explained before US 'advisors' were sent to Iraq.

It's passed time Barack held a prime time press conference on the issue of Iraq and explained to the American people exactly what his plan is, how it will be achieved and what measurements will spell progress.

The following community sites -- plus Susan's On the Edge, the Guardian, Jody Watley, Pacifica Evening News, McClatchy Newspapers,, Jake Tapper and Ms. magazine's blog -- updated:

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