Friday, November 14, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Friday, November 14, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the only person outside the Iraqi government working towards a political solution is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the US sends another military officer into Iraq (while yet again ignoring diplomacy),  General Martin Dempsey's remarks about US troops possibly fighting on the ground in Iraq continues to garner attention, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi makes clear she's neither a friend to veterans or to women, and much more.

The war on women never ends.  The latest attacking women include US House Rep Nancy Pelosi.

Tammy Duckworth is not only a member of Congress, she's also a veteran of the Iraq War.  Nancy Pelosi chose to 'honor' veterans this week by announcing that a veteran who lost both legs in combat would not be allowed to vote by proxy on the issue of who would hold what office -- for example, who would be the next Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Duckworth is at home in Illinois.  Why doesn't she just fly to DC?

CBS News notes Duckworth "was told by doctor that it was unsafe for her to fly at this stage in her pregnancy."

Joining Pelosi in the war against women?  US House Rep Rosa DeLauro who feels that if you grant an exception for Duckworth, you might have to grant exceptions for everyone.

Doesn't Rosa sound like a homophobe against marriage equality?  Is she afraid that granting Duckworth the right to vote by proxy will lead to people marrying goats?

Who knows.

What is known is that US Senator Patty Murray busted her rear to ensure that the Senate explored the issues effecting wounded veterans who try to start a family.

What is known is that Nancy Pelosi and Rosa DeLauro  had other things to do.

On her website, Rosa proclaims she "believes that as a nation we have an obligation to ensure that these brave men and women who serve our country, as well as their families, have access to the medical care they need" -- wait.  If a doctor's orders prevent Duckworth from flying to DC -- and they do prevent her from doing so -- how is Rosa maintaining her belief?

Oh, that's right, she's not.

Again, it was Senator Patty Murray that led on the issue of the needs of wounded veterans when it came to starting families or adding to their families.

It wasn't Rosa or Nancy.  Those two?  They always seemed to have something 'more important' to do.
The choice -- or so-called choice -- Tammy Duckworth is being given is, if you want to vote, you'll have to put your pregnancy and your own health at risk.

That is a war on women and Nancy and Rosa are leading it.

Nancy doesn't give a damn about rules.  Remember Denver in 2008?  She stopped the delegate vote, remember?

The vote on the Democratic head for the Energy and Commerce Commission is yet another battle between Nancy and Steny Hoyer who are each backing different candidates.  Nancy's taken to referring to Hoyer -- snidely -- as Martin Frost.  (In 2002, Nancy took on Frost and won.  She also worked hard to ensure that he was redistricted out of office in Texas' redistricting plan.  Nancy worked overtime to save certain House members but not Frost who she tossed to the wolves.)

For Nancy (and her supporters) this pissing match justifies denying a pregnant woman a vote.

She should be ashamed of herself.

AP notes Tammy Duckworth has stated she will abide by the decision and that she thinks her colleagues for considering her request.  That was a classy move -- and again, it didn't come from Nancy.

Nancy's tasteless and tacky move comes as Disabled American Veterans' Garry J. Augustine (Turlock Jounral) pens a column noting the mistreatment of America's women veterans:

Based on currently available data, it is clear that our country isn't fully meeting the unique physical, emotional and employment needs of women veterans. When they return home, they receive less support than their male counterparts from government programs primarily designed for men.
Today, nearly one in five women veterans has delayed or gone without necessary health care in the past year. One in 11 is unemployed. Former servicewomen experience homelessness at between two to four times the rate of their civilian counterparts.
It's unacceptable that the women who honorably served our country-our mothers, spouses, sisters and daughters-are at risk. A new report released by my organization, Disabled American Veterans, finds that the federal, state, and community programs to support women transitioning out of military service have serious gaps that put some women veterans in jeopardy.

We might suggest Congress could help with that but as Nancy Pelosi's made very clear, the needs of women veterans don't matter to her at all.

Yesterday, the House heard from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey.  The main takeaway was Dempsey's reminding that US troops taking part in combat on the ground was not, in fact, off the table and a possible recommendation he might be making shortly.

Dempsey's reminder was an issue raised in the US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki today.

QUESTION: Can I stay on ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Chairman Dempsey’s comments yesterday that he can envision – I’m paraphrasing – that he can envision contingencies in which U.S. troops would accompany Iraqi troops. Is there a disconnect at all between the DOD’s desire to preserve options for the battle and the Administration’s stance that no ground troops will be sent at all to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Chairman Dempsey also made clear in his testimony that he has not made that recommendation. And he also stated that he does not see a scenario when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent. So it was obviously a large hearing, but he was consistent with our view, which is that yes, there are challenges on the ground; yes, there’s a need to continue to train and support and build up the Iraqi Security Forces; but obviously, the President will make any decision, and the chairman hasn’t even made a recommendation to him.

QUESTION: Sure. And he was talking about the future, but he didn’t explicitly rule it out. And he did say that for example, the fight to retake Mosul could be a situation where the Iraqi army would have difficulty on their own, which might require some close support from the U.S. But do you not agree that that is any – that there’s any kind of gap there between what you and Josh Earnest have said?

MS. PSAKI: If you look at the full context of his entire remarks, he also made clear that he doesn’t see a scenario where we would get more engaged with a larger military contingent. So yes, he was having a dialogue with members of Congress, and certainly, that’s part of what happens in any testimony, but the fact is the President makes the decision anyway. 

The fact is Barack told the American people "no boots on the ground" and yet "boots on the ground" remains a possibility -- one discussed as Dempsey attempts to 'inform' Congress.

As Justin Raimondo ( observed:

Whatever the President’s real views, we are sliding down the Iraqi slope pretty rapidly. Hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear of another few hundred GIs being quietly shipped to Iraq – "non-combat" troops, to be sure. Yes, they’re going over there to engage in some pretty dangerous and potentially lethal "non-combat" – and when they start getting killed in numbers high enough to notice, will they come back in non-bodybags? 

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) points out:

The Pentagon is “certainly considering” sending US ground troops into Iraq for inevitably bloody battles to retake Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and to secure the predominantly Sunni Anbar province and its border with Syria, the top uniformed US commander told a Congressional hearing Thursday.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the House Armed Services Committee barely one week after the Obama administration ordered the doubling of the number of US troops deployed in Iraq, with another 1,500 “advisers” being sent into the country, most of them to embattled Anbar province.
With the new US war in the Middle East now in its fourth month, there is every indication that this was only the first in what will prove a series of military escalations as Washington pursues a strategy that extends well beyond the stated aim of “degrading and destroying” ISIS.

As the latest wave in the never-ending Iraq War heats up, the White House wants Congress to provide them with legal cover for the actions Barack has already (illegally) taken.  Specifically, the White House wants an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by the US Congress.

Earlier this week, Laura Koran and Ashley Killough (CNN) reported US Senator Tim Kaine declared that "there's no legal authority for the current U.S. mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria" and quoted him stating, "We have been engaged in a war -- that is not about imminent defense of the United States -- without legal authority."  The reporters notee the senator "has proposed a new, limited authorization specifically targeted to the current mission against ISIS."

At yesterday's House Armed Services Committee, US House Rep Walter Jones stated:

US House Rep Walter Jones:   Now we are going to possibly be asked by the President of the United States -- like we were by George W. Bush -- to authorize an AUMF.  This is nothing but an abdication of our Constitutional responsibility.  To give any president an AUMF.  We tried this past year in June when we had the NDAA bill, Adam Schiff tried to sunset out the AUMF that we gave to President Bush -- which is what was used by President Obama.  And I do not understand how we in Congress can continue to abdicate what the Constitution says is our responsibility.  Before I get to a brief question, James Madison once said this, "The power to declare war -- including the power to judging the cause of war  -- is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature."  And I do not believe sincerely because when -- this happens to be President Obama.  He wants to have another AUMF or an extension of what we have.  I hope that the Congress -- both parties -- will look seriously at what is our responsibility because it's not going to be but so long.   

H.A. Goodman (The Hill) weighs in noting:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is correct in claiming that President Obama’s decision to send 1,500 more soldiers back to Iraq is illegal. We now have over 3,000 American soldiers back in a country we left in 2011, when the president fulfilled a promise of ending the Iraq War. The illegality of the Obama’s decision lies in the fact that Congress has not been consulted on matters that could easily lead to another war. Sending military advisers to train Iraqis seems to be a last ditch effort at succumbing to media and political pressure on the part of our president. Nobody wants to be in the White House if Bagdad falls to ISIL, but Saigon fell in 1975 and Gerald Ford didn’t send Americans back to Vietnam. ISIL indeed poses a threat, but not enough of threat to jettison Constitutional principles in the name of national security. 
Paul, in a recent Daily Beast op-ed, explains exactly why Obama is breaching certain laws by increasing troop levels without consulting the American people. The Kentucky senator cites both the Constitution and the War Powers Act to highlight Obama’s overreach in doubling the size of our military presence in Iraq: 
"If the Constitution were not enough, the War Powers Act reiterates the legislature’s prerogative. The War Powers Act does not allow for any military action to take place that is not authorized by Congress or to repel imminent attack. Period. The only exception is military action to repel an imminent attack. In that case, the president has 60 days to report to Congress. Obviously, it’s an exception that doesn’t apply to any of our current wars."

Former US House Rep Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth Kucinich (Huffington Post) point out of the White House's desired  AUMF,  "This new request rests not on fraud, but on hubris -- the vainglorious notion that we will, at last, 'stabilize' (remake) Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, that US military might trumps culture, religion, history. "

Reuters notes Gen Dempsey has landed in Iraq on an "unannounced visit."  All these years later, US officials still have to sneak into Iraq.  The State Dept's Brett McGurk Tweeted:

Back to the US State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Yesterday Chairman Dempsey said – he was talking about the cost of the fight against ISIL and so on, but he said something very interesting about Iraq. He said that we expect them to have an inclusive government and inclusive participation of all parties, otherwise you are going to leave them – I’m paraphrasing – to their own volition, so to speak. Is there like a time limit to see how inclusive the Iraqi Government is and is functioning and so on before you say, “That’s it, we give up on you”?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t – I don’t think that’s exactly what he said. I know you’re paraphrasing in your own way --

QUESTION: I’m paraphrasing.

MS. PSAKI: -- but I think, one, we do think, absolutely, that it’s very important that not only they govern in an inclusive way but that the Iraqi Security Forces are inclusive and the way that they fight back against ISIL is inclusive. Now, Prime Minister Abadi has done a great deal of outreach to the Sunni tribes. He’s visited a number of regions to do that outreach. There was even an event just a couple of days ago earlier this week at the Al Asad Air Base where the speaker made reference to weapons and supplies that tribal fighters will be provided.
So certainly, just – the proof is in what happens, of course, as is true in any scenario. But we have seen them attempt to do a great deal of outreach. We’ve been doing a great deal of outreach through General Allen, through Ambassador McGurk, and we do feel that’s an important part of how things will be effective moving forward.

QUESTION: Okay. Seeing how the Sunni tribes were – felt alienated or felt abandoned, as a matter of fact, after the Americans left Iraq and their pay was cut off and so on, and everybody’s talking about some sort of a national guard that will bring in the Sunni tribes, is there any movement in that direction? Has any – has there been any progress, let’s say, in that area?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just mentioned the fact that Prime Minister Abadi – he visited Sunni tribal leaders in Amman and Baghdad and stressed in public remarks that he will advocate for all Iraqis. We’re in the implementation stage – they are – of the national guard program, but obviously, beyond that it’s also about incorporating and including people from many different backgrounds into the ISF forces.

QUESTION: Yes, please --

QUESTION: So you are satisfied with his efforts so far on bringing the leaders of the --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen him take a number of – make a number of steps – take a number of steps, I should say – as well as people within the Iraqi Government to be more inclusive. Obviously, this is something that they’ll have to continue to work hard at implementing. There’s a great deal of mistrust, as we all know, and it’s going to take some time to incorporate everyone back in together.

The above would matter at any time but it especially matters when there's no real progress in Iraq.  Months into US President Barack Obama's so-called 'plan' to address the Islamic State, Cassandra Vinograd  (NBC News) reports:

U.S.-led airstrikes have failed to slow the number of ISIS attacks and its defiant militants are now racking up a higher body count than ever before, according to data provided exclusively to NBC News.
Analysis of IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center's (JTIC) database shows the current face — and pace — of the group's battle for Syria and Iraq.
Data showed that ISIS massively stepped up attacks after conquering the Iraqi city of Mosul on June 10 — and has stepped them up further since airstrikes were launched in August. Deaths caused by ISIS also climbed since the key city was overrun and have continued to rise since the U.S.-led coalition started bombing the militants.         

The plan is a failure thus far.

That's even more clear in Richard Engel and Carlo Angerer (NBC News -- link is text and video) report:

Active soldiers in the Iraqi army also told NBC News that they need more training. While they said they were willing to take on ISIS, they said they felt ill-prepared.
A 32-year-old sergeant from Baghdad, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said that the army was simply not prepared for battle and that it would take a long time to get rid of ISIS.         

Despite this fact, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey, declared at yesterday's House Armed Services Committee,  "There is no change, and there is no different direction."

He also ridiculously insisted, "I think progress purchases patience."

There is no progress.

And, no, the claims of liberating an oil refinery (in Baiji) from the Islamic State (all over the news this morning) would not constitute progress.

I don't believe Barack sold this latest wave of war on "We must make the oil safe!"

AP notes Baghdad was struck by a car bombing which killed 15 people and left thirty-four more injured.  But, don't worry, soon Iraq's oil may be safe and doesn't that matter more than the Iraqi people?

Because if the Iraqi people mattered to the White House, they would be focusing on the government and working to help it on issues of inclusion.

Near the start of last month, the White House's official liar Susan Rice took to NBC's Meet The Press to specifically cite Mount Sinjar as one of the "very important successes" in Barack Obama's 'plan' to confront the Islamic State.   Yet only dyas later, Alsumaria reported that Yazidi MP Haji Kndorjsmo is calling for the government to rescue 700 families who are still trapped on Mount Sinjar.

Yazidis remain trapped on Mount Sinjar, months after Barack supposedly liberated them, but the 'rescue' of an inanimate object, an oil refinery, will be sold as 'progress.'

Margaret Griffis ( reports:

At least 97 people were killed; about half of them were civilians. Another 122 people were wounded as Baghdad suffered a series of bombings today.

Military forces declared the town of Baiji liberated. Joint Iraqi, Peshmerga and Shi’ite militiamen fought for months to liberate the city and are in the final stages of retaking the refinery just outside of town. That refinery was the largest in Iraq before the Islamic State took over the city. Other sources say the militants are still in control of the city. At the very least, the city is filled with bombs and booby-traps making access difficult. At least 17 militants were killed.

Barack insisted to the American people that Iraq required a political solution.  But all he and the US government have focused on is a military solution.  In fact, the only figure outside the Iraqi government attempting to aid a political solution is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Last month, he called out the corruption in the Iraqi military.  All Iraq News notes al-Sistani made several calls on Friday.  His representative Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalayi applauded Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's decision earlier this week to relieve military commanders who were not performing their jobs and who were engaging in corruption.  al-Sistani's representative called for the political blocs to do something similar, identity "the sources of corruption" and purge them of their ranks.

Noting that al-Sistani met with al-Abadi October 20th and with Iraqi President Fouad Massoum November 11th, Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) explains:

Concerning Sistani’s previous position of boycotting politicians, there is a fine line between intervention of the religious authority in politics and isolation from it. This is why Sistani insisted on forgoing a political position or interfering in politics. It would not be in line with the democratic path. At the same time, he has been protecting the country's democratic and civil framework through his social authority. This policy sustains the independence of both the state authority and the religious authority within a cooperative and constructive context.
The independence of the religious authority is a concept that Sistani strongly defends. Even when he opposed a third term for former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, he tried not to overstep this principle. Instead, he supported the independence of the state from the religious authority and expressed his discontent through indirect messages. For instance, he continued not to host politicians, and let his spokesmen, including Sheikh Karablai and Sayyid Ahmad al-Safi, deliver statements during Friday prayers in Karbala.
Sistani welcomed Massoum and Abadi to reaffirm his previous positions, which also clarify what led him to previously boycott politics and reveals why he supported the political shift that brought Abadi to power rather than Maliki. Sistani’s stance toward the Abadi government, his open messages of support in achieving change, fixing past mistakes and implementing reform should not be viewed as unconditional. The religious authority’s support is bound by the government’s ability to keep its promises to the Iraqi people. Sistani has vowed to support the reformist trend of the new government as long as it makes progress. Any slackening or failure by Abadi to follow through with reforms, and Sistani will change his position, turning his support to criticism.
Sistani’s conditions for backing Abadi’s government are not a secret. They are unrelated to the religious authority and the Shiites' role in it. Rather, they are about the ability of Abadi’s government to bring about social consensus, open itself to others in the country and abroad and fix the imbalance stemming from state corruption and past bad leadership.