Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 11, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the refugee crisis only gets bigger, Falluja's residential neighborhoods continue to be targeted by the Iraqi military, and much more.

We'll open by noting real reporting:

  • this article by was heartbreakingly prophetic about Iraq: The Iraq We Left Behind via

  • The New York Times' Kirkpatrick was offering deserved praise to Ned Parker.

    We've applauded Ned Parker and will again to be sure.  Timothy Arango is another one who contributes strong reporting.

    There are people we won't applaud.  But we'd still include them if they had anything to say.

    So I waste a great deal of time every day reviewing crap by the likes of Bill Moyers thinking they might have something worthy to share.  They don't.  They use Iraq for partisan purposes.  So they focus on 2002 and 2003 because it's so much simpler if the story of Iraq -- a populated country -- can be reduced to: "Bully Boy bad."

    BBB -- where's the third B?

    We're not saying his name.

    He's got a book to promote and a lot of people are working overtime to help him.

    Want to be sure he doesn't get another big publishing deal?

    Ensure the book flops.

    If it flops, he might have to get honest about Iraq or he might have to crawl back under his rock.

    But, look, there's Media Matters' analyzing what he said on Face The Nation!

    Why don't you create 'buzz' -- the publishing industry loves buzz because, outside of novellas geared towards horny virgin teenagers, books don't get much buzz in this country.

    So create a buzz and you're helping to sell the book.

    We're not going to help sell Bully Boy's book.

    And we'll probably avoid his name until his book junket is over.

    But Media Matters is promoting him like crazy.

    He lied on TV!!!!!


    That is news.

    Because he's never lied before, right?

    (That was sarcasm.)

    Has he ever been on TV and not lied?

    He left office in disgrace and he has no power today.

    Why anyone wants to treat him as anything but a joke is beyond me.

    But I won't help sell the book by feeding into 'outrage' and other emotions that can allow the publisher to market the book as 'controversial.'

    In the real world, there are many things that actually matter.

    Today in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming noted the Middle East refugee crisis:

    With efforts underway across Syria and Iraq to prepare displaced populations for the coming winter, UNHCR is increasingly concerned by a US$58.45 million funding shortfall that coupled with this year's sharp recent growth in internal displacement could leave as many as a million people without proper help.
    The shortfall affects our winter preparedness programmes, although we have already invested $154 million on winter aid for Syrian and Iraqi refugees and internally displaced, and means that UNHCR is having to make some very tough choices over who to prioritize: Factors we are considering include the elevation of refugee settlements, the composition of the family unit (e.g. number of children and female-headed households), family health concerns, new arrivals, available family resources, shelter conditions and other considerations.
    For those we're unable to prioritize, the conditions could nonetheless be very tough.
    While the problem is most acute in Iraq and Syria, there are also needs in other parts of the region. This will be the fourth winter away from their homes for many Syrian refugees and the first for the 1.9 million Iraqis who have become internally displaced this year. Many fled with nothing.
    In the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq, winter has already arrived in the higher elevations of Dohuk Governorate. Come December, temperatures can range from +5 degrees Celsius in more temperate areas to minus 16 degrees Celsius in the mountains. Snow and freezing temperatures are also common in many other parts of the region.
    But protecting people from cold requires funds. Right now, we estimate the overall winter shortfall for UNHCR's programme alone to be at least $58.45 million for some 990,000 people mainly newly internally displaced people in Iraq and Syria (including a gap of $27.4 million for internally displaced inside Syria, and $25 million for internally displaced in Iraq.)
    In Iraq, the needs are massive but funding has not kept up apace with the new displacement. With 1.9 million internally displaced people and 225,000 refugees and 300-500 more arriving daily in Northern Iraq from Kobane UNHCR is deeply concerned about its ability to meet urgent winter needs. Approximately 800,000 people are in need of shelter assistance, while 940,000 lack basic winter household items. With current funding, UNHCR now expects to reach only 240,000 displaced Iraqis with winter aid instead of the 600,000 we had planned to reach as part of an inter-agency effort. For example, our funding gap means we cannot provide tent insulation kits and boards for 140,000 people and 150,000 people cannot receive supplementary material like heaters and kerosene.

    New and multiple displacement inside Syria with people having to move several times inside the country in search of safety has fuelled an increase in the need for winter aid. Here, as part of an inter-agency effort, we are focusing on providing relief items including thermal blankets, winter clothing, extra plastic sheeting and reinforcing collective and private shelters currently housing thousands of displaced families. Priority areas for distribution of these items are in Aleppo and northern parts of the country as they are the coldest. UNHCR was planning to help 1.4 million people with winter but only has enough funds to provide kits for 620,000 people through December.

    The UNHCR estimates 1.9 million Iraqis have been displaced in Iraq in the latest wave of ciolence with another 190,000 having fled the country for safety.

    What's being done for the refugees?

    Barack can go to a meet-up with Secretaries and Ministers of Defense from sixty or so countries to plot violence but when and how does the US government address the refugee crisis?

    The ongoing refugee crisis?

    When Ted Kennedy was alive, there was some pressure on the White House to address the crisis by at least taking in Iraqi refugees.  Now days, there's no real pressure at all.

    At CNN, Human Rights Watch's Erin Evers reports on the living conditions for some of Iraq's internal refugees and offers:

    Given that the Iraqi government and U.S.-led coalition created the conditions these people are living -- by attacking their areas and often leaving them to the mercy of the militias -- the same governments should now step in to facilitate humanitarian access, lest history makes their "liberation" operation look more like a pathway to a massacre.

    Human Rights Watch was one of the signees on an open letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry last July.  In the letter, they addressed the ongoing refugee crisis and offered the following steps to address the crisis:

    •   A scale-up of immediate, direct humanitarian engagement in Iraq, including the KRI, to ensure that the U.S. government play a much greater role in addressing the urgent humanitarian and protection needs of vulnerable Iraqis, including those displaced by the escalation in hostilities in Anbar and northwestern Iraq.
    • Ongoing consultations with key stakeholders and monitoring implementation of the UN’s SRP to identify assistance gaps and protection challenges – including delays and problems with access – and ensuring appropriate bi-lateral efforts to address those unmet needs.
    • A comprehensive approach to assist Iraqis displaced during different waves of violence, including in Anbar earlier in this year and those who have remained displaced since the war.
    • Support to help families and communities hosting displaced people in the KRI.
    • Encouragement of the KRG to allow all Iraqis fleeing violence safety in the KRI regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or religious background.
    • More robust, longer-term engagement in Iraq’s peace and development through a continued presence of the USAID Mission and support for U.N. work in Iraq. This should include ongoing support for good governance, education, civil society, and conflict management programming. Many of these critical programs could be linked to humanitarian programs designed to help displaced individuals in Iraq.

    Which if any steps did the State Dept take?

    (Answer: None.)

    US President Barack Obama appears to have only one answer: Bomb and bomb again.

    Alsumaria reports a bomb southeast of Baghdad left two people injured,  a central Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, a northern Baghdad bombing left 3 people dead and ten more injured, an attack involving 3 Baiji suicide bombers left 7 civilians dead, and a Tarmiya suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers with seventeen more left injured.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing killed 1 person and left seven more injured, a roadside bombing near Buhriz left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and two more injured, and 1 corpse was found dumped in eastern Baghdad.

    In addition, despite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's September 13th promise to end the military's bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja, the bombings continue. NINA notes one family (woman, man, child) were killed in the latest bombings and seventeen more people were injured.  Again, this is the Iraqi military doing the bombing -- not the Islamic State.

    Falluja is in Anbar Province, it is a Sunni dominant city.  Sunnis feel targeted in Iraq -- by their own government.  Loveday Morris (Washington Post) notes how this issue is impacing current realities:

    In a flurry of meetings in recent weeks, tribal leaders have demanded that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi address problems of missing weapons and lack of support as they hold out against extremists in the face of mass detentions and executions. Hundreds of tribesmen have been summarily executed in the western province of Anbar over the past month, with hundreds more rounded up north of Baghdad.
    The slayings have underscored the predicament of Sunni tribes that have resisted Islamic State extremists, often with little help from the central government. The killings threaten to undermine the government strategy of mobilizing the Sunni tribes against the Islamic State in the tribes’ areas — a key pillar in efforts to crush the militants.

    “We demand that the government does something,” said Sheik Naim al-Gaoud, a tribal leader with the Albu Nimr. “We feel that we have been abandoned and neglected.”

    Sunnis feeling targeted is not paranoia.  They are targeted.  Even the Associate Press grasps that as they point out today, "The vengeance that Iraq’s Shiite militias mete out as they fight the Islamic State group can be just as brutal as that of their sworn sectarian enemies."

    For those who need visuals and/or specifics, follow these Tweets.


    And while Barack clearly has no answers, neither does Iraq's Prime Minister.   Reuters notes, "Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday he intends to remove concrete barriers from Baghdad, despite little sign of a respite from car bombs they were designed to thwart, and give a greater role to the Interior Ministry in securing the capital." Well, if he actually does it, that will put him ahead of Nouri al-Maliki who, shortly after becoming prime minister (in his first term), announced the walls were coming down (2006) but it would be years before even a few did.

    On those walls, I'm surprised the US Congress (among others) aren't suggesting any walls taken down be moved to Camp Hurriya to help protect the Ashraf community.

    There is no 'plan.'

    But there is plenty of room for failure -- daily and long term.  Press TV (link is text and video) reports US professor Stephen Zunes has stated, "Due to the bad reputation US forces had in Iraq during the occupation, US forces may end up creating a backlash that could inadvertently strengthen ISIS. [. . .] It was US policies which helped lead to the rise of ISIS originally so it raises serious questions as to whether a return of US forces will actually make things better."

    In the US today, Veterans Day was observed.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (which she formerly Chaired).  We'll close with this news release her office issued:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                       CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Tuesday, November 11, 2014                                                               (202) 224-2834

    Murray at Federal Way Veterans Day Ceremony: Let’s Reaffirm the Promise We’ve Made to our Nation’s Heroes

    (Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, delivered remarks at a Veterans Day event in Federal Way, Washington in which city officials honorarily renamed the downtown corridor "Veterans Way" and erected a 60-foot flagpole to recognize the service and sacrifice of local veterans.

    "So as we raise our great flag here today, and as Federal Way takes this step to rename this street to show deep gratitude and honor to our veterans, let us all join together in reaffirming the promise we’ve made to the men and women who answered the call of duty," said Senator Murray. "And let us recommit to working each and every day, not just on the Eleventh of November, to fulfill that promise, no matter what it takes."

    Senator Murray was joined in speaking at the event by Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, Federal Way City Councilman Bob Celski, Rich Garmong of King County Veteran’s Program, and Tom Leonard of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

    Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared:

    "Thank you Mayor Ferrell for that kind introduction. And thank you to the City of Federal Way for inviting me to be part of this most important day of remembrance and reflection.

    "I am so proud to represent a state that is willing to do whatever it takes to support our men and women in uniform, who are also our neighbors, family, and friends. I’m proud to represent this state at what I believe has been really a critical decade in the treatment of our nation’s veterans. It’s a time when our older veterans population are increasingly relying on VA care. But it is also a pivotal point for an entire generation of post 9/11 veterans who after more than a decade of repeated deployments, stress on their family and personal relationships, and coping with the visible and invisible wounds of war, have been facing a challenging transition home. And it’s a challenge that all of us have been tasked with meeting.

    "As you know, it’s no secret that back in the 'other Washington' there are some serious differences when it comes to many of the policies impacting our families most. But one issue that brings this country together—one area that there truly should never be a partisan divide on—is supporting our nation’s heroes.
    It brings us together because the American people understand that we have all made a promise to those who have signed up to serve. And we owe it to them to deliver. It’s a promise I have fought to keep as the daughter of a World War II veteran. A promise I know so many of you have openly embraced.

    "And as we usher in a new Congress next year, it will be more important than ever that we continue working together – across party lines – to put our veterans and their families first because we are nearing the end of a conflict that tested us as a nation, but one that also showed the courage and strength of our veterans. These are the moments that in the past we have responded to well – such as in the era that built the greatest generation. And ones where, sadly, our nation has stumbled.

    "We are at a defining moment in the history of how we treat our veterans. For many of us - particularly those who grew up with the Vietnam War - it’s clear we stand perilously close to repeating some of the same mistakes of the past. But I am working every day to avoid that.

    "The bipartisan VA reforms Congress passed in August are already helping to alleviate the long waits for care at VA hospitals across the country. These reforms, and the changes being made here in the Puget Sound, are important steps toward addressing the many issues we know exist within the VA system -- but they cannot be the final steps. There are still many other serious challenges we must work together to address – both Democrats and Republicans -- on behalf of our nation’s heroes.

    "Twenty-two veterans still take their own lives each day. Thousands of veterans are alone, coping with sexual assault. And while the VA has made commendable progress, it will be an uphill battle as we work to eliminate veterans homelessness and the claims backlog. But like all of you here today, I believe that when it comes to caring for our nation’s heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence.

    "So as we raise our great flag here today—and as Federal Way takes this step to rename this street to show deep gratitude and honor to our veterans -- let us all join together in reaffirming the promise we’ve made to the men and women who answered the call of duty. And let us recommit to working each and every day – not just on the Eleventh of November – to fulfill that promise, no matter what it takes. So I am proud to be your partner in that fight in the U.S. Senate. And I am so grateful for the unwavering support this community has provided.

    "So once again, I’d like to thank Mayor Ferrell and the City of Federal Way. I am honored to be here with you today."

    Meghan Roh
    Press Secretary | New Media Director
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    Mobile: (202) 365-1235
    Office: (202) 224-2834