Thursday, August 28, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 28, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack speaks about Iraq, we note Chris Hill's continued stupidity as he continues to lie about Iraq, over 800 civilians in Falluja have been killed from Nouri al-Maliki's bombings, and much more.

Today on a KPFA newsbreak, Mark Mericle noted:

Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee is one of three lawmakers who have sent a letter to Republican House Speaker John Boehner calling for a debate and a vote on an authorization for the use of military force in Iraq when the House of Representatives returns on September 8th.  In a statement, Lee says that it's clear that the current US mission in Iraq is extended beyond the limited, specific and targeted scope of preventing genocide and ensuring the security of US personnel there.  Lee said the president must seek Congressional authorization before the situation escalates further. She was joined by Democrat Jim McGovern and Republican Walter Jones.  The three were the principle co-sponsers of a resolution that overwhelming passed the House with 370 votes.  It said the president should not deploy or maintain United States armed forces in a sustained combat role in Iraq without the specific authorization from Congress.

Time's Jay Newton-Small explains:

There are some in Congress who are calling on Obama to push through a War Powers Resolution. Article II of the Constitution grants the President the power to defend the country. But Article I gives only Congress the power to declare war. So, what in a post-war-on-terrorism era constitutes an actual war? In 1973, afraid of Vietnam mission creep, Congress passed the War Powers Act, which requires the President to consult Congress 60 days after engaging in hostilities. If you count bombing a foreign country as hostile — as the U.S. did against militants in northern Iraq on Aug. 7 — then the 60 days expires Oct. 7.
Theoretically, if Congress cares about not further weakening its oversight of the President’s ability to bomb whatever country he pleases, lawmakers will move to pass a War Powers Resolution in the next month. Presidents, including Obama, have argued that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional. But a turf fight over who gets to go to war is the last thing on Congress’ mind weeks before the midterm elections.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama insisted today that "throughout this process, we've consulted closely with Congress, and the feedback I've gotten from Congress is, is that we're doing the right thing."

He was speaking this afternoon at the White House -- in the suit that gave Cedric and Wally pause.

US President Barack Obama:  Second, in Iraq, our dedicated pilots and crews continue to carry out the targeted strikes that I authorized to protect Americans there and to address the humanitarian situation on the ground.  As Commander-in-Chief, I will always do what is necessary to protect the American people and defend against evolving threats to our homeland.  Because of our strikes, the terrorists of ISIL are losing arms and equipment.  In some areas, Iraqi government and Kurdish forces have begun to push them back.  And we continue to be proud and grateful to our extraordinary personnel serving in this mission.   Now, ISIL poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region.  And that’s why our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader, comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners who are taking the fight to ISIL.  And that starts with Iraq’s leaders building on the progress that they've made so far and forming an inclusive government that will unite their country and strengthen their security forces to confront ISIL.  Any successful strategy, though, also needs strong regional partners.  I'm encouraged so far that countries in the region -- countries that don't always agree on many things -- increasingly recognize the primacy of the threat that ISIL poses to all of them.  And I've asked Secretary Kerry to travel to the region to continue to build the coalition that’s needed to meet this threat.  As I've said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I'm confident that we can -- and we will -- working closely with our allies and our partners.  For our part, I've directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options.  I'll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy.  And I've been consulting with members of Congress and I’ll continue to do so in the days ahead.

Barack was several minutes late for the appearance which is strange until you realize he was supposed to begin speaking at four but had been scheduled to meet, also at four, with US Vice President Joe Biden and the National Security Council.  Barack is said to have met for four minutes ahead of the meeting.  A quick four minutes.  And, as he noted in his remarks, he was meeting with them later that evening as well.

"Them" was identified in this White House press release:

Readout of the President’s Meeting with the National Security Council on Iraq and ISIL

This afternoon the President met with his National Security Council to discuss the situation in Iraq, our ongoing efforts to support the Iraqi government, and our comprehensive strategy to counter the threat posed by ISIL in Iraq and Syria.  The President will continue to consult with his national security team in the days to come.  
 Participants in today’s meeting included:
The Vice President (via secure video)
Secretary of State John Kerry (via secure video)
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (via secure video)
Attorney General Eric Holder
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (via secure video)
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough
National Security Advisor Susan Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power (via secure video)
White House Counsel Neil Eggleston
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey (via secure video)
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Winnefeld
Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew Olsen
U.S. Central Command Commander Lloyd Austin (via secure video)
Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shaun Donovan
Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco
Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Caroline Atkinson
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns
White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and Gulf Region Philip Gordon
Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs Katie Fallon
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft (via secure video)

Suzanne George, Executive Secretary and Chief of Staff of the National Security Council

In an embarrassing article for the Guardian (Barack is seen as torn -- deer in the headlights, little puppy, etc.), Spencer Ackerman does note, "Obama’s national security team convened at the White House Thursday afternoon to discuss the contours of a still-inchoate strategy. Administration officials have recently begun describing Isis in apocalyptic and near-hysterical terms, even as they decline to endorse additional military action against it, a discrepancy that has prompted confusion in Washington and beyond."

Maybe these sketchy meetings explain in part why the 'mission' in Iraq still lacks a mission?

Josh Jordan Tweeted the following today:

  • Pew Poll - Obama approval on the issues: Economy 39-55 Immigration 31-61* Russia/Ukraine 35-52 Israel 37-48 Iraq 35-56* * = all time low

  • Francis Matthew (Gulf News) notes:

    This alarming lack of purpose is reflected in how the world’s superpower is confused about what it is trying to do. President Barack Obama has offered some deeply contradictory messages as he first authorised humanitarian support on a strictly limited basis, but then talked of refusing to allow Isil to continue and the necessity of a long drawn-out struggle.

    It is clear that the growing acceptance of the importance of defeating Isil is creating some very uneasy alliances, as the Iranians and Bashar Al Assad regime in Syria offer to work with the Americans and Saudis. This fits into the new pragmatic search for stability that will dominate the Arab world for the next few years, as regional and world powers work with any non-Islamist who can regain control of a nation state and impose an end to civil war and chaos.

    Here are some Tweets in reaction to Barack's speech:

  • Be fair re: President's admission we have no IS strategy: only been in office dealing w Iraq 6 yrs, Syria for 3, IS took Fallujah in Jan.

  • Where are people getting that Obama is an isolationist? Drone wars, extended Iraq War, stay in Afghanistan until 2024, Syria, Libya, etc.

  • We'll come back to Barack's event later in the snapshot.

    Let's knock out the discussion at the State Dept today in the press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki:

    QUESTION: We talked about – yesterday on Iraq we talked about the situation for – of the Turkmen in the north of the country.

    MS. PSAKI: Sure.

    QUESTION: Do you have any more information about the supposedly dire situation they’re in and what the United States might be planning?

    MS. PSAKI: Sure. I have a little bit on information. We are very concerned about the dire conditions for the mainly Turkmen population in Amirli as well as the ongoing humanitarian situation throughout northern and central Iraq. We’re focused on reviewing options to assess how we can best help alleviate the situation in Amirli. Our embassy and military personnel at our joint operation centers in Iraq are already working closely with the Iraqi Government to share information and discuss ways to provide relief to those in need, and certainly we’re having ongoing internal discussions as well.

    The Turkmen are the latest in-need in Iraq.

    It's a real shame when the in-need included gay and perceived gay teenagers that the US government couldn't and wouldn't do a damn thing.  Since Hillary was Secretary of State then, should she run for the presidential nomination, let's hope reporters have done their work and are willing to ask her why she failed so many in need?

    And will the in-need ever include the civilians of Falluja?

    We've noted repeatedly that Nouri is shelling civilian neighborhoods in Falluja and has been since the start of this year.  We've noted repeatedly that this is a War Crime and is legally defined as such.

    At what point does the White House intend to object to ongoing War Crimes?

    Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports:

    Many of the buildings are damaged or completely destroyed. Anyone who manages to get into Fallujah will see a city that looks as though it’s out of a picture taken just after World War II.

    “Some areas – such as al-Hay al-Sinaie and Nazzal – have been completely levelled,” one of the city’s tribal leaders, Ahmed al-Halbusi, told NIQASH. “It would be almost impossible for people to go back and live in those areas again because they are so damaged. Additionally the Iraqi air force is still shelling those areas even though we have no idea why.”

    Al-Halbusi was now looking after a five-year-old boy named Othman. “His whole family was killed in the Nazzal area,” al-Halbusi explains. “He was playing in his garden and his family were in the house when the house was hit. He was the only survivor.”

    There are dozens of similar stories. The Iraqi army has been attacking Fallujah since the beginning of the year. Every day the army shells the city two different ways – with ground artillery from their camps near the city. One of the major camps is the nearby Mazra camp.

    The people of Fallujah say that this method seems to be fairly ineffective and doesn’t cause a lot of damage. They are far more concerned about the second method the Iraqi army is using: air bombardment.  

    Military helicopters bomb the city too – some of these helicopters are old ones, dating back to Saddam Hussein’s army, and some are new Russian-made machines, received recently. The helicopters often use barrel bombs, locals say. When these land and don’t explode, they try to disarm them.

    Niqash can do a major piece on this, why are they the only ones who can?

    These War Crimes take place every day.

    We used the April 16th snapshot to demonstrate this, covering Nouri's bombings in January, February, March and April.

    Do we need to do that again?

    Spend an entire snapshot documenting these bombings and how many are left wounded or dead?

    Nouri gets away with it because it is often just a few this day and a few that.

    But we've pointed out that, over a prolonged period, these small daily numbers add up.

    Doubt it?

    National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    Spokesman for the hospital in Fallujah Dr. Ahmed Al-Shami said on Thursday that the number of the martyrs in Fallujah since the beginning of military operations by more than 8 months amounted to 812 people, while the total number of wounded to 2488 people.
    He told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that this is not the final statistics due to the continued bombardment of the city in addition to that a number of the martyrs were buried without arriving to the hospital and the wounded were treated in homes and health centers.
    He added that 16 percent of the martyrs are children and 19 percent of them women, while the injured proportion of children reached 11 percent and women 17 percent. 

    What is the number that will prompt disgust and lead to vocal rejection of Nouri's assault on Sunni civilians?

    The embarrassing UNHCR wanted to whine about 'terrorism' in Iraq.

    What is terrorism but not being safe in your own home?

    Read Mustafa Habib's piece for Niqash -- it's very clear that those civilians in the city are pretty much stuck there.

    They shouldn't have to leave their homes to begin with but now they have no choice.

    And these are the civilians Nouri kills and wounds daily.

    When does this become an issue?

    When the number killed hits a thousand?

    At the end of February, I was speaking to a friend in the administration about these murders -- they are murders, Nouri is a murderer.  And it was just so small, I was told, these deaths, and, besides, the US was working with him on getting a cease fire.  They'd eventually get a '48' hour cease fire.  But Nouri couldn't even honor that.

    I want to know what the magic number is that leads to an international outcry?

    I would have thought, myself, that the fact that these are War Crimes would prompt outrage.


    Very few acknowledge what's taking place.

    What continues to take place.

    And the silence that surrounds it goes to Nouri's enablers.  Patrick Cockburn is only one of many who have been silent.  Nouri has had many, many enablers.

    Take Barack's first US Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill.

    Chris Hill was a joke.  A lazy idiot who showed up for his confirmation hearing with his hair sticking out at all angles and food stains on his shirt (see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th one).

    The Pig-Pen Ambassador


    Isaiah captured the moment in  The World Today Just Nuts "The Pig-Pen Ambassador."

    That alone should have raised alarms.

    Hill's answers were even worse than his failure to dress to impress for a Senate hearing.

    And once he became ambassador, he dresses up as a Secret Service agent with some tawdry idiot dressing  as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to spoof the assassination of JFK.

    chris hill

    That's what trashy Chris Hill thinks passes for professional.  (Peter Van Buren  posted the photo to his blog here and here.)

    I'd love to leave Chris alone but he can't stop being a danger to himself and others.

    Gulf News runs Chris' latest crap today.  It opens:

    Nouri Al Maliki’s fitful departure from Iraq’s premiership recalled many other cliffhanger exits by unpopular political leaders. His leaving did not come a moment too soon for the many Iraqis who have laid all of the country’s current troubles at his doorstep.

    Do we see a problem already?

    Sunday morning, we offered "Nouri's not gone yet -- as Falluja civilians can attest."

    Chris is an idiot, over and over he's an idiot.

    When he left Iraq August 13, 2010, he swore to Anthony Shadid (New York Times) that the political stalemate he'd been no help in resolving was nearly over and that a power-sharing agreement "was just weeks away."

    Weeks away?

    Did he mean 12 weeks -- which is also known as three months -- because that's how much longer Nouri drug out the political stalemate.

    The idiot told NPR that Nouri would abide by the results of the 2010 election.

    But Nouri didn't.

    Over and over, Chris Hill has been wrong.

    Now he writes:

    Al Maliki, according to this view, was endlessly divisive, driven by authoritarian tendencies, lacking in elementary political skills, and incapable of leading an army in disarray. But his greatest failure was his inability to grasp that successful governance in Iraq requires reaching out to other communities, notably the Sunnis and Kurds.
    Instead, Al Maliki ordered preventive arrests of young Sunni men, supposedly in anticipation of their defection to terrorist groups, and hounded his political opponents, in some instances driving them out of government (and in one case into exile).

    No doubt, much of this narrative has a basis in fact. But if it were the whole story, the mild-mannered, western-educated prime minister-designate, Haider Al Abadi, would have an easy task in stitching things back together. After all, Iraq’s Sunnis would have every reason to support Al Abadi now that Al Maliki has gone.

    Chris needs to spare Nouri because he enabled him.  Calling him out now is calling out himself.

    If you don't get what a liar Chris -- or Patrick Cockburn or any of Nouri's concubines -- don't listen to me.  I've talked this issue to death.

    Let's instead hear from Barack again.  Here's what he said today:

    Keep in mind we had been in communications with the Iraqi government for more than a year indicating that we saw significant problems in the Sunni areas.  Prime Minister Maliki was not as responsive perhaps as we would have liked to some of the underlying political grievances that existed at the time.There is no doubt that in order for Iraq security forces to be successful, they're going to need help.  They're going to need help from us.  They're going to need help from our international partners.  They're going to need additional training.  They're going to need additional equipment.  And we are going to be prepared to offer that support.
    There may be a role for an international coalition providing additional air support for their operations.  But the reason it’s so important that an Iraqi government be in place is this is not simply a military problem.  The problem we have had consistently is a Sunni population that feels alienated from Baghdad and does not feel invested in what’s happening, and does not feel as if anybody is looking out for them.
    If we can get a government in place that provides Sunnis some hope that a national government serves their interest, if they can regain some confidence and trust that it will follow through on commitments that were made way back in 2006 and 2007 and 2008 and earlier about how you arrive at, for example, de-Baathification laws and give people opportunities so they're not locked out of government positions -- if those things are followed through on, and we are able to combine it with a sound military strategy, then I think we can be successful.  If we can't, then the idea that the United States or any outside power would perpetually defeat ISIS I think is unrealistic.
    As I’ve said before -- I think I said in the previous press conference -- our military is the best in the world.  We can route ISIS on the ground and keep a lid on things temporarily.  But then as soon as we leave, the same problems come back again.  So we’ve got to make sure that Iraqis understand in the end they're going to be responsible for their own security.  And part of that is going to be the capacity for them to make compromises.

    Barack needs to rebuke Chris Hill publicly.

    The White House fired Chris.

    Fired him for cause, in fact.

    Hill was a failure who couldn't hold onto his job.

    Now he's going to be presented as a trusted source?

    We'll close with this,   Zeke Miller (Time magazine) asking Barack a question and Barack's response:

    Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last year, you said that you believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress.  In response to Chuck’s question you said you don’t have a strategy yet, but you’ll reconsider that going forward.  But why didn’t you go to Congress before this current round of strikes in Iraq?  Do you not believe that that’s the case anymore, what you said last year?  And throughout your career you’ve also said that -- you raised concerns with the expansion of powers of the executive.  Are you concerned that your recent actions, unilaterally, had maybe -- have cut against that?

    THE PRESIDENT:  No.  And here’s why:  It is not just part of my responsibility, but it is a sacred duty for me as Commander-in-Chief to protect the American people.  And that requires me to act fast, based on information I receive, if an embassy of ours or a consulate of ours is being threatened.  The decisions I made were based on very concrete assessments about the possibility that Erbil might be overrun in the Kurdish region and that our consulate could be in danger.  And I can’t afford to wait in order to make sure that those folks are protected.
    But throughout this process, we’ve consulted closely with Congress, and the feedback I’ve gotten from Congress is, is that we’re doing the right thing.  Now, as we go forward -- as I’ve described to Chuck -- and look at a broader regional strategy with an international coalition and partners to systematically degrade ISIL’s capacity to engage in the terrible violence and disruptions that they’ve been engaging in not just in Syria, not just in Iraq, but potentially elsewhere if we don’t nip this at the bud, then those consultations with Congress for something that is longer term I think become more relevant.
    And it is my intention that Congress has to have some buy-in as representatives of the American people.  And, by the way, the American people need to hear what that strategy is.  But as I said to Chuck, I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.  And in some of the media reports the suggestion seems to have been that we’re about to go full scale on an elaborate strategy for defeating ISIL, and the suggestion, I guess, has been that we’ll start moving forward imminently and somehow Congress -- still out of town -- is going to be left in the dark.  That’s not what’s going to happen.

    We are going to continue to focus on protecting the American people.  We’re going to continue, where we can, to engage in the sort of humanitarian acts that saved so many folks who were trapped on a mountain.  We are going to work politically and diplomatically with folks in the region.  And we’re going to cobble together the kind of coalition that we need for a long-term strategy as soon as we are able to fit together the military, political and economic components of that strategy.  There will be a military aspect to that, and it’s going to be important for Congress to know what that is, in part because it may cost some money.