Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, September 17, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Barack insists no combat troops in Iraq, but dropping bombings requires combat pilots, and much more.

This afternoon in Florida, US President Barack Obama declared,  "The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.  They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as they fight for their own country against these terrorists."

Barack was attempting to push back against remarks Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff, made yesterday when he and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Dempsey made comments such at this:

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. 

In response to that and other remarks yesterday, Barack declared today,  "The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.  They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as  they fight for their own country against these terrorists."

I don't understand how he can say that.

US troops are in Iraq.  Iraq War veteran J.R. Salzman Tweeted:

  • Why does POTUS keep saying we won't have combat troops in Iraq when we already do, and why won't the media call him out on it? Come on.

  • Why indeed?  They're there and they have a combat mission in Iraq.

    Dempsey acknowledged that in the hearing yesterday.

    Gen Martin Dempsey: 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. 

    That is a combat role.

    And it sounded like one in Barack's speech today when Barack stated, "So, last month, I gave the order for our military to begin taking targeted action against ISIL.  And since then, our brave pilot and crews -- with your help -- have conducted more than 160 airstrikes against these terrorists.  Because of your efforts, we’ve been able to protect our personnel and our facilities, and kill ISIL fighters, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory.  They’ve helped our partners on the ground break ISIL sieges, helped rescue civilians cornered on a mountain, helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children."

    It sounds like combat because it is combat.

    US Senator Kelly Ayotte Tweeted:

  • POTUS said today our troops in Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission. What do you call dropping bombs from planes?

  • Trevor Timm Tweeted:

  • And The Atlantic's David W. Brown offers:

    Dempsey's remarks appears to have stripped the pretense off what's taking place in Iraq.

    Mark Landler and Jeremy W. Peters (New York Times) note:

    The general’s statement lays bare the challenge the president will face in selling an expanded military campaign to a war-weary American public. Mr. Obama, seeking to allay fears of another Iraq war, has promised that American ground troops will not be involved in fighting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In a sign of the administration’s mixed message, the president pointedly did not call it a war, while his advisers later did.
    But the realities of a prolonged campaign, General Dempsey said, could make such a hands-off approach untenable, particularly if the battle against the militants moves into densely populated cities where airstrikes are less effective and the chances of civilian casualties are much higher. His candid testimony, hours before a divided House of Representatives began debating whether to approve Mr. Obama’s request for authority to arm the Syrian rebels, drew expressions of concern from antiwar groups and could further complicate the political dynamic for the president.

    All Iraq News adds:

    The U.S. already has hundreds of advisors on the ground in Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Senate panel he cannot rule out combat troops returning to Iraq, albeit in a limited role.
    "If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific (militant) targets, I will recommend that to the president," Dempsey said.
    Such actions, he added, would be considered "close combat advising."
    President Barack Obama has maintained U.S. combat troops would not be returning to the country. U.S. ground troops left the country in 2011 after nine years.
    "At this point, (the president's) stated policy is we will not have US ground forces in direct combat," Dempsey said. "But he has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis."

    As David Jackson (USA Today) notes, "President Obama doubled down Wednesday on an increasingly questioned pledge."

    Barack's push back today was especially surprising since he was aware of what Dempsey was going to say and knew of the opening remarks.  Jim Acosta and Kevin Liptak (CNN) note the White House was briefed on Dempsey's opening claim:

    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. 

    Briefed ahead of time.  Elaine noted it at her site, we noted it in the snapshot, these were prepared remarks, submitted in writing before the hearing began.  Dempsey read from the written statement word for word.  These prepared remarks went around the administration -- including to the White House -- before they were allowed to be submitted to Congress.

    For CNN, it's a messaging mis-step.  That may or may not be the issue. It may also be the White House testing the waters.  Iraq War veteran Austin Bay (Creators Syndicate) offers:

    Dempsey's testimony addressed a genuine military and diplomatic contingency. His honest answer, however, also serves as a political hedge. "Ineffective" is an iffy term and gives the Obama administration rhetorical space to deploy Army and Marine ground forces to Iraq and Syria after the November elections. At that point, ticking off Democratic peaceniks won’t distract from his golf game.

    Barack's 'plan' still isn't a plan. 

    Christi Parsons (LA Times) reports:

    Defeating the extremists requires a strategy that emphasizes diplomacy, intelligence and economics, said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
    Those tools aren’t as easy to see in the short term, said Alterman, but “they present the only path to victory: crippling the organization’s networks, denying the group safe haven and undermining the conditions that make it attractive to potential recruits.”
    “While the Obama strategy is more than merely a military strategy, it appears militarily focused,” Alterman wrote in an email Wednesday. “The president’s speech on Iraq and Syria focused on military instruments, and used the language of the military, twice promising to 'degrade and destroy' the Islamic State. Perhaps the president was seeking to capitalize on the urgency of this month’s murders, and only military instruments seemed urgent enough.”

    Meanwhile the leader of Iraq had a few comments to make and did so in an exclusive interview he granted to the Associated Press.  Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared "out of the question" foreign troops being sent into Iraq.  He also insisted that the world leaders needed to address the Islamic State in Syria.

    In Iraq, the violence continued.  National Iraqi News Agency notes air strikes killed 26 suspects in Dhuluiya, an attack and a clash in Mansuriyya left 3 rebels dead and three civilians injured, Baghdad Operations Command stated they killed 5 snipers, aerial bombings in Qaim and Akashat left 11 suspects dead and five more injured, an aerial bombing outside Muqdadiyah killed 5 suspects, an Al-Siger battle left 11 rebels and 4 Iraqi soldiers dead (four more Iraqi soldiers were injured), a military strike near Dhuluiya left 4 people dead and ten more injured, the corpses of 7 police members were discovered in Tikrit, 1 corpse was discovered dumped "northwest of Baghdad," a Muqdadiyah mortar attack left 3 civilians dead and seven more injured, and a Ramadi suicide truck bomber took his own life and the lives of 9 other people with eleven more left injured.

    Monday, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr objected to the outside 'interest' in Iraq's affairs.  National Iraqi News Agency reported:

    Sadr said in a statement carried his signature and stamp today, " The / Black House / decided to launch attacks on Iraqi territory and this American decision perhaps came after its remorse to its fake withdraw."
    He added: " if you came back again we will back."
    Sadr added, "the government should not get help from the occupier whatever, even under the pretext of (the Islamic State), which is not exist except in the imagination, but is a creature of Americans."

    Sadr's statement came as All Iraq News reported John Kerry was boasting in Paris that many countries are offering "to send troops into Iraq."  While Sadr is now said to have left Iraq (for Lebanon), Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.

    I'm really not in the mood to go into it.

    I wouldn't be noting it at all but John Kerry's being attacked.  Undeservedly.

    The Secretary of State declared at the hearing:

    As I came in here, obviously, we had some folks who spoke out, and I would start by saying that I understand dissent; I’ve lived it. That’s how I first testified in front of this country in 1971. And I spent two years protesting a policy, so I respect the right of Code Pink to protest and to use that right.
    But you know what? I also know something about Code Pink. Code Pink was started by a woman and women who were opposed to war but who also thought that the government’s job was to take care of people and to give them healthcare and education and good jobs. And if that’s what you believe in – and I believe it is – then you ought to care about fighting ISIL, because ISIL is killing and raping and mutilating women, and they believe women shouldn’t have an education. They sell off girls to be sex slaves to jihadists. There is no negotiation with ISIL; there is nothing to negotiate. And they’re not offering anyone health care of any kind. They’re not offering education of any kind, for a whole philosophy or idea or cult, whatever you want to call it, that frankly comes out of the Stone Age. They’re cold-blooded killers marauding across the Middle East making a mockery of a peaceful religion.

    And that’s precisely why we are building a coalition to try to stop them from denying the women and the girls and the people of Iraq the very future that they yearn for. And frankly, Code Pink and a lot of other people need to stop to think about how you stop them and deal with that.

    Now you can disagree -- and I certainly do -- with his assembly of facts, factoids and fictions in the above.

    And if that's what was focused on, fine and dandy.

    But so many little worthless worms want to whine about 'poor' CodeStink.

    Kerry's remarks towards CodeStink are fine.

    There's nothing wrong with them.

    He's noting their right to speak out in a democracy.

    I see that as a good thing.

    I'm not offended by his remarks towards CodeStink.

    Those trying to gin up outrage are pretty much worthless when it comes to thought or analysis.

    Senator Robert Menendez is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    Rather than focus more on the hearing today, let's close with this from Senator Menendez's office:

    Menendez Commends Senate Passage of Autism Bill

    July 31, 2014

    WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today hailed the Senate's passage of the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (Autism CARES) Act, which is the identical companion to Menendez’s Senate bill, S. 2449. The unanimous Senate passage was the final Congressional step needed to get the bill to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

    “The Senate’s action today ensures these vital autism programs are reauthorized and continue providing research, services and supports individuals with autism and their families have come to rely on,” said Sen. Menendez. “The Autism CARES Act is a model of bipartisan, bicameral cooperation – and I am proud I was able to work on it and look forward to seeing the President sign this critical legislation into law.”

    According to a recent report by the CDC, autism rates climbed nearly 30% between 2008 and 2010, to 1 in 68 children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, from 1 in 88 children. In New Jersey, that prevalence is 1 in 45 children. 

    Senator Menendez is the leading advocate in Congress for individuals with autism and their families, having secured the passage of the 2011 reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act. Additionally, he authored the Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation (AGE-IN) Act to address the needs of youth and young adults as they transition out of school-based support to independent adulthood. Several key policies from this legislation are incorporated in the Autism CARES Act.