Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 16, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the Senate hears about Iraq, US Gen Martin Dempsey provides a laundry list of what would make him call for US boots on the ground in combat in Iraq, all that and Jethro Tull.

This morning in DC, the US Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the issue of Iraq, Syria and the Islamic State which they insist upon calling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.  They shorten it to "ISIL" which they insist upon pronouncing as a word making it sound as if they're referring to a renegade von Trapp family member, one who goes around singing "Sixteen Going On Seventeen."

The hearing opened with a small number of protesters declaring "No more war!" and other statements before Committee Chair Carl Levin brought down the gavel and called the hearing to order.

Once the hearing started, CodeStink's Medea Benjamin would attempt to grab some headlines by yelling at the top of her lungs.

Chair Levin would ask her to take a seat or leave -- repeatedly.  It was hard to tell what offended Carl more, Medea's screeching or her visual frightmare of her camel toe and exposed muffin top (her shirt rode up because she was holding a sign which read "MORE WAR = MORE . . . EXTREMISM").

As she was escorted out of the room, Carl Levin offered, "Thank you for leaving and thank you, good-bye."

Fake Ass Medea was the topic of Isaiah's comic on Sunday and, in "TV: Barack's Delusional Love Slaves," Ava and I noted her ridiculous and craven whoring for the White House which found the alleged peace activists (reality, she's just an attention seeker) insisting:

I think President Obama has been hounded by the media, by the war hawks in Congress, mostly from the Republican side but also from the Democrats, and is going into this insane not only bombing in Iraq, but also talking about going into Syria, at a time when just a couple of months ago the American people had made it very clear that we were very tired of war.

Poor little Barack.  President of the United States, bullied by those mean members in the press, putting ice on the bruises left by Maureen Dowd's printed punches, oh, poor Barack on the ropes again.  Poor baby.  If only he had power, if only he had a spine and a mind and . . .

Medea's continued crap is racism.

It's real racism.

It strips a person of their own agency, of their own action.

Barack is one of the most powerful people in the world right now.

If he does something, it's because he wants to.

Medea wants to argue that Barack is stupid or that he's too weak to stand up for himself.  She's basically Stepin Fetchit-ing Barack.  He's a grown up, he's educated and he's the President of the United States. Medea's patronizing attitude is insulting and is racist.

Mommy Medea needs to face the fact that her little one is all grown up.

Medea can make up all the excuses and offer the perverted fantasies she can think up.

That won't change reality.

Nor did her screeching in a Congressional hearing manage to do a damn thing.

 After she was escorted out, a man shouted and was removed from the hearing as the witnesses returned to reading from their prepared remarks.

Later, during questioning, a woman would shout, "Senator McCain, you have no authority to speak on this issue."

Oh, CodeStink.

How you've grown to be an embarrassment for those of us on the left.

I don't like John McCain.  I wouldn't suggest that he has no authority to speak.  I believe the citizens of Arizona voted him into office, first of all.  Secondly, every American -- even CodeStink members -- have the "authority to speak."  That's what it means to live in a democracy.

How sad that CodeStink has to resort to tired lies and falsehoods when they should fostering democracy and democratic principles.

While Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stumbled repeatedly as he read his opening statement out loud, Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff, managed to read from his prepared remark with considerable ease -- even when his remarks were shocking.

Gen Martin Dempsey:  At this juncture, our advisors are intended to help the Iraqis develop a mindset for the offensive and the actions to match it. Our military advisors will help the Iraqis conduct campaign planning, arrange for enabler and logistics support, and coordinate Coalition contributions. To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisors should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the President. 

This was not stated in response to a question.  This statement was not uttered in surprise.

It was part of Dempsey's prepared remarks, submitted in writing before the start of the hearing and read out loud at the start of the hearing.

The fact that it rejects Barack's insistence that there will be no US 'combat' troops in Iraq did not appear to phase Dempsey or, for that matter, Hagel who sat next to him as Dempsey made the statement -- and made the statement mere minutes after Hagel was declaring

To support Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish forces, the President announced last week that we would deploy an additional 475 American troops to Iraq.  Part of that number includes approximately 150 advisors and support personnel to supplement forces already in Iraq conducting assessments of the Iraqi Security Forces. This assessment mission is now transitioning to an advise-and-assist mission, with more than 15 teams embedding with Iraqi Security Forces at the headquarters level to provide strategic and operational advice and assistance.  The rest of the additional 475 troops include 125 personnel to support intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions out of Erbil and 200 personnel to increase headquarters elements in both Baghdad and Erbil . . . helping us better coordinate military activities across Iraq.  By the time all these forces arrive, there will be approximately 1,600 U.S. personnel in Iraq responding to the ISIL threat. But, as the President said last week, "American forces will not have a combat mission."

From Hagel repeating Barack's claim of "American forces will not have a combat mission" to Dempsey declaring, "To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisors should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the President."

All before a single question was asked.

And these prepared statements?

They're not only delivered in writing ahead of time to the Congressional Committees, they're distributed throughout the administration.

The White House signed off on Dempsey's remarks.

It is their trial balloon?

Or their cover-your-ass moment where Barack can come back later, after US troops are fighting (there are credible reports already that they are fighting alongside the Kurdish peshmerga) and say, "Well we told Congress it was a possibility"?

Certainly, Iraq's news outlets treated the remarks by Dempsey as news.  All Iraq News filed multiple stories noting the remarks, "The US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Martin Dempsey, hinted Tuesday that he would consider recommending a more direct involvement of US ground troops in the military's ongoing campaign against the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State (also ISIS or ISIL)," "Dempsey, who has long been reluctant to re-introduce US forces into Middle Eastern wars, signaled that some of the 1,600 US military “advisers” Obama deployed to Iraq since June may directly fight Isis, despite Obama’s frequent public assurances that US ground troops will not engage in combat," and "The US head of the US Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey,  stated that the US advisors might accompany the Iraqi security forces in their military operations."

Sidebar, Dempsey was never "reluctant."

I don't know where All Iraq News is getting that.

We were at the 2011 hearing where Dempsey, sitting next to then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, was chomping at the bit for US forces to remain in Iraq.

You may remember that because we covered it here.  I believe only the New York Times bothered to cover it elsewhere.

But in the years that followed, people have called Senator John McCain a liar for his version of the drawdown backstory.  He's not been lying or even misinformed and we've defended him on that.

It'll be interesting to see if anyone notes what Dempsey said in the hearing, during McCain's questioning, after Hagel begged off answering.  Dempsey returned to that 2011 hearing testimony.  Again, it'll be interesting to see who covers that or ignores it.

Dempsey didn't just raise the point of US forces being in a combat role in Iraq once.

He raised it repeatedly in the hearing.  For example, in response to Chair Levin's questions in the opening round, Dempsey would declare, "As I said in my [opening] statement, however, my view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward.  I believe that will prove true.   But if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States then I would of course go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of US military ground forces." 

Another example?  Ranking Member Jim Inhofe asked about the issue in his round of questioning.

Ranking Member Jim Inhofe:  In your opinion, let me ask you two questions, Gen Dempsey.  In your opinion, are the pilots dropping bombs in Iraq -- as they're now doing -- a direct combat mission?  And, secondly, will US forces be prepared to provide combat search and rescue if a pilot gets shot down?  Will they put boots on the ground to make that rescue successful?

Gen Martin Dempsey: Yes.  And yes.

Are you following it?

Dempesy says he'd recommend ground forces if things got more violent.

And if a US pilot was shot down.


We'll note this exchange from the hearing.

Senator Jack Reed: Gen Dempsey, we've had a debate going on and on about some boots on the ground, no boots on the ground, no boots on the ground but military personnel on the ground.  It might help us all if you could clarify precisely what our forces are doing in Iraq today.  And you've also suggested that if the situation changes, you might recommend -- or come to us with recommendations that they would enhance their mission or change their mission.  Can you clarify what they're doing? 

Gen Martin Dempsey: I can.  Thanks for asking, Senator.  The -- First of all, I think everyone should be aware when we talk about "combat forces," that's all we grow.  When we bring a young man or woman in the military, they come in to be a combat soldier or a combat Marine or a combat -- We don't bring them in to be anything else other than combat capable.  But that's different than how we use them.  And in the case of our contributions in Iraq right now, the airmen, as the Chair -- as the Ranking Member mentioned, are very much in a combat role.  The folks on the ground are in a very much advisory role. They are not participating in direct combat.  There is no intention for them to do so. I've mentioned, though, that if I found that circumstance evolving that I would, of course, change my recommendation.  An example, if-if the Iraqi security forces and the peshmerga were ready to retake Mosul a-a mission that I would find extraordinarily complex, it could very well be part of that particular mission to provide close combat advising or accompanying for that mission.  But for the day to day activities that I anticipate will evolve over time, I don't see it to be necessary right now.
So he'll also recommend US forces on the ground in combat if he feels the Iraqi military is undertaking a "complex" mission?

Dempsey appears to be preparing reasons/excuses for US forces to go into combat -- in fact, thus far, everything short of an unprovoked sneeze would appear to result in Dempsey calling for US troops on the ground in combat.

But it's not a war, remember that.  The White House doesn't want to call it a war.

Monday, Nick Gillespie (Reason) noted US Secretary of State John Kerry had finally used the term "war" to describe the US and the Islamic State.  In today's hearing, Chuck Hagel also used the term, noting, "We're at war with ISIL as we are with al Qaeda." Gillespie explained of Kerry's usage:

By claiming ISIS is an al Qaeda affiliate, Kerry and the Obama administration is weasel-wording its way around not going to Congress for a new authorization to use military force (AUMF) or outright declaration of war. The White House is claiming that any action against ISIS is justified under the 2001 AUMF that sanctioned any actions against those responsbile for the 9/11 attacks (meaning al Qaeda). But ISIS and al Qaeda are at war with each other, so that's a tough sell out of the box. It's like claiming that, I don't know, despite being marketplace rivals, Puma and Adidas are affiliates because the Dassler brothers started the competing firms.

That explanation is true of Hagel's use of the term today as well.  Amy Davidson (The New Yorker) has also explored war and it's literal meaning:

That prospect -- an engaged military, a disengaged public -- is part of the reason that the name we give this fight matters. Under the War Powers Resolution, the President is required to get congressional approval within sixty days of going to war. (Counterterrorism, by contrast, is something that even local police departments can undertake.) Obama said that, while he would “welcome congressional support for this effort,” formal approval was not necessary: “I have the authority to address the threat.” By way of justification, he and his aides have referred to Article II of the Constitution, which designates him Commander-in-Chief. Like some of their predecessors, they hold that the President has a great deal of leeway to act on his own in matters of “national security,” as Obama put it in a letter to Congress last month, or in “protecting our own people,” as he said on Wednesday. That’s well and good in certain emergencies, but if “national security” is defined too broadly it would follow that the only wars in which Congress has a role are those which somehow don’t pose any danger to Americans.

Back to the hearing which contained a lot of garbage.  Can you find the laugh line in the following?

Secretary Chuck Hagel:  The $500 million request the President made in June for this train and equip program reflects CENTCOM’s estimate of the cost to train, equip, and resupply more than 5,000 opposition forces over one year. The package of assistance that we initially provide would consist of small arms, vehicles, and basic equipment like communications, as well as tactical and strategic training. As these forces prove their effectiveness on the battlefield, we would be prepared to provide increasingly sophisticated types of assistance to the most trusted commanders and capable forces.

As they prove their what on the what?

The Iraqi military may have demonstrated something in the last few days -- that they won't listen to the prime minister.

From yesterday's snapshot:

Real reporting from Iraq would focus on real issues such as the question of was an order given or not?
Because if an order was given and the Iraqi military refused to obey it, there would be no reason for the US government and others to come to the 'aid' of government.
Third's "Editorial: The bombing of civilians continues in Iraq" noted Iraq's new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, ordered an end to the military bombing civilian targets on Saturday.
That's what al-Abadi declared publicly.
Yet on Sunday,  Falluja General Hospital was bombed and, in addition, Iraqi Spring MC noted the bombings of residential neighborhoods in Falluja also continued with 6 civilians left dead  and 22 more injured.
Was al-Abadi lying on Saturday?
Or did the Iraqi military ignored orders given by the prime minister?
If it's the latter, if an order was given and the Iraqi military refused to follow it, there's no point in any foreign government 'helping' at this point.

Was an order given or not?

The question remains pertinent.

National Iraqi News Agency reports today that military bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods resulted in "4 civilians killed and 21 other wounded, including women and children."

If the new prime minister of Iraq gave an order on Saturday to end these bombings then the Iraqi military is in open defiance of him and of civilian control.

If that is the case, the US government is legally forbidden from training and supplying the Iraqi military.

This isn't a minor point and the failure of the press and of the Congress to raise this issue is appalling.

Equally true, Hagel and Dempsey insisting repeatedly in the hearing that the Iraqi military and government are standing up?

They did that on the same day that the Iraqi Parliament has refused to confirm the nominees for Minister of the Interior and Minister of Defense. Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports, "Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi put forward Sunni lawmaker Jaber al-Jabberi as his candidate for defense minister, and Shiite lawmaker Riyad Ghareeb as his pick for interior minister. Parliament, which could confirm the nominees with a simple majority, voted 118-117 against Ghareeb, and 131-108 against al-Jabberi."

At a time when the Iraqi government -- if not the Iraqi people -- are asking for various foreign fighters and weapons, they can't even get it together to fill the heads of the security ministries?

Anyone remembering US President Barack Obama's talk about how the Iraqi government would have to demonstrate this and that to get US military support?

Let's go back to the hearing to note this:

Gen Martin Dempsey: If we were to take Basher Assad off the table, we'd have a much harder time forming a coalition but I think what you'r hearing us express is an ISIL first situation.  I don't think we'll find ourselves in that situation --

Senator John McCain: You don't think that the Free Syrian Army is going to fight against Bashar Asad who has been decimating them?  You think these people you're training will only go back to fight against ISIL?  Do you really believe that, General?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  What I believe, Senator, is that as we train them and develop a military chain of command linked to a military structure that we can establish objectives that defer that challenge into the future, we do not have to deal with it now.

Senator John McCain:  That's a fundamental misunderstanding of the entire concept and motivation of the Free Syrian Army. 

Let's turn to the ongoing violence that Barack's bombings are/were supposed to solve.

National Iraqi News Agency reports Baghdad Operations Command declared they killed 2 suspects in Mahmudiyah and that they killed 4 people who they hope were terrorists via a Halabsah air strike, a US military aerial bombing in Mosul resulted in 12 deaths, Ibrahim Jihad Hamad ("Associate Director of the Integrity Commission in Kirkuk") was shot dead outside his home, a Tikrit mortar attack left 4 people dead,
Babylon Operations Command announced they killed 15 people via an air strike, a Baghdad bus bombing killed 1 person and left seven more injured, a Tuz Khurmato bombing left 1 person dead and eight more injured, an armed clash in al-Siger left 4 rebels dead, 9 people were killed in mortar attacks "south of Dhuluiya," while, in Dhuluiya, a rocket attack killed 3 women, 2 children and 3 men, and 1 corpse was discovered dumped in the streets of Baghdad.

And that's just some of today's violence.

The State Dept's Brett McGurk Tweeted the following today:

The photo?  This White House press release covers it:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Readout of the President’s Meeting with General John Allen, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and Ambassador Brett McGurk, Deputy Special Presidential Envoy

The President met today at the White House with General John Allen, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and Ambassador Brett McGurk, Deputy Special Presidential Envoy. The President underscored the importance of maximizing coordination with allies and partners to build a strong coalition with broad international participation. The President stressed that the comprehensive approach to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL requires a wide range of political, diplomatic, military, economic and other efforts. He also expressed his deep appreciation for the work and sacrifices of U.S. servicemen and women as well as diplomats engaged in the struggle to counter ISIL. The President thanked General Allen for his many years of service in uniform and for continuing, since his retirement, to serve his country in a civilian capacity.

Let's go out with music.

The rock band Jethro Tull has a lasting place in musical history.    Ian Anderson was a lead singer and guitar player in the band.  October 5th, Ian will be donating his time and talent with a concert in Richmond, Virginia:

Join the Global Campaign against IED’s on Sunday, October 5, 2014 for a special night with Ian Anderson to honor our veterans, first responders, and to raise awareness of the global threat from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
All proceeds from the concert go to support programs helping our heroes and responding to the threat from IEDs.
There will be a pre-show VIP reception, special guests, and other events honoring our heroes. You can even snap a photo with “the man himself” after watching the show from your private backstage box if you enter and win “The Ultimate Fan Experience with Ian Anderson”!
You can also attend a special “Dinner in the Dark” to honor war blinded veterans on October 4, 2014 in Richmond. For special advanced reservations for the show and all related events and to enter the Ultimate Fan contest, follow this link (www.CampaignAgainstIEDs.org/Tull) – even if you can’t attend the show, please consider donating to support this worthy cause.

“We don’t always ask our leaders to take us into war, but we all seek to help bring democratic freedoms and human rights – especially for women and children – to troubled nations throughout the world. On behalf of the brave young men and women of our troops abroad, I urge you to support the victims of IED madness, now in need of rehabilitation and care. For them and their families, please support the Global Campaign against IEDs.” – Ian Anderson