Monday, December 01, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Monday, December 1, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the UN lowballs the death toll yet again, Iraq's new prime minister makes efforts to address corruption, a US service member has died while deployed in Barack's war against the Islamic State, and much more.

Let's start in the US where two people don't have a grip on the facts: Jason Ditz and Medea Benjamin.

Jason Ditz ( argues the US focus keeps shifting with regards to the Islamic State.

That's a solid observation.

This isn't:

At the start of the war, Mount Sinjar was the clear focus, and the conflict was even couched as a humanitarian intervention specifically for the refugees there. When the refugee situation turned out to be dramatically overstated, the focus shifted toward ISIS in Iraqi Kurdistan and then Syria.

Mount Sinjar?

Never solved.  Yazidis are still held hostage -- at last count, it was 400 families.

The US didn't rescue anyone.  Those who were rescued by the Peshmerga (elite Kurdish force).

In October, Susan Rice went on Meet The Press.  Pressed to cite a 'success' for the White House in Iraq, she declared it was the rescue of the hostages on Mount Sinjar.

Less than 36 hours later, it was revealed that thousands of Yazidis remained hostages on Mount Sinjar. could have run with that.

Except it's the home of the pig-headed male.

I am not 100% right.

I'm wrong often.

When I am, I say so.

The head of, Justin Raimondo, decided to mock the Yazidis and their plight.

And that became the default position of

We pointed out here that nothing was going to be accomplished by Raimondo's nonsense except turning people off to what was being dubbed an "isolationist" position.  The American press wanted more war and was already ridiculing and admonishing those of us against more war on Iraq.

And then comes Justin playing into every stereotype of Ugly American.

Children are being terrorized -- as were adults -- and Justin's mocking it.

Nothing did more damage to the position of 'antiwar' than Justin's bulls**t.

He wanted to stop further war?

Well his ridicule of those suffering wasn't the way to do it.

For those making up their minds and those with a stance that was weak, the response to Justin's mocking of the suffering of the Yazidis was to recoil in disgust.

He did real damage to the 'antiwar' group.  (I belong to the peace movement.)

Justin staked out a position and he's too pigheaded, even now, to admit he was wrong.

This attitude?  It's not antiwar.

It's exactly why the world has so many wars.

People stake out a position and refuse to modify it or to admit they were wrong.

Justin can pretend to be antiwar all he wants but the reality is his mocking of the Yazidis did real damage.

Jason Ditz could probably write the truth, but this is Jason who praised Nouri al-Maliki, remember?

The thug and War Criminal was hero worshiped by Scott Horton (dee jay, not Harper's writer and college professor) and when Jason was a guest on the show, he'd join in on the grooviness of Nouri.

Even though Ned Parker had already exposed the torture chambers Nouri was running, even though Nouri had already launched a witch hunt on Iraqi's LGBT community and much more.

Let's move over to Medea Benjamin.  At the Guardian, she has a column noting the press' inability to question the war claims of the White House.  That's a good topic.  It's one we cover repeatedly.  Medea points out how fear was used to frighten people -- yeah, we covered that months ago.  Thanks for catching up, Medea.

We've also been covering the killing of civilians in the US-led air bombing campaign.

We've noted the inability of the western media to cover those deaths and how, if they were being covered, some of the public support for the bombings -- support in the US -- would erode.  So by all means, Medea, please work your way over to that part of the topic real soon.

Medea writes:

Day after day, night after night, the press relied on propaganda from both Isis and the US government to whip up fear and a thirst for revenge in the American public. Gruesome beheading videos distributed by Isis were played over and over. The media not only regurgitated official US messages but packaged them better than the government itself ever could. 

What is she saying, what does she mean?

We've covered this.

The US press did not cover all the beheadings.  They only cared about Americans and the first death horrified them because of their own huge egos and vanity run amok.

Once upon a time, when the press was supposed to strive for objectivity and to be impartial, there were questions about women reporters and abortion.  Could women cover the topic and be impartial?

Regardless of what camp you fall into on that question (I don't think most people impartial on the topic -- I'm firmly pro-choice), the reality is the press is not impartial.

Steven Sotloff and James Foley got attention -- got round the clock attention -- from the US media because they were reporters.

You did not, as a news consumer, get coverage of those beheadings.

You got obsessive cries from a self-interested group that doesn't give a damn when it's an aid worker beheaded by the Islamic State.

We made that comment in real time, we were correct as demonstrated by the deaths that followed and the lack of media coverage of them.

The press loves war, no question.

But the beheadings resulted in overheated 'coverage' that was nonstop and the reason for that was that the press was having a panic attack, a guttural cry of, "It could have been me!"

When that happens, when the media makes themselves the story, it's not just embarrassing, it's bad journalism.

If Stoloff and Foley's lives (and deaths) mattered (and I believe they did), then so did the others who were beheaded but were reduced to a single sentence in a generic report because they weren't reporters.

There was no grand conspiracy (unless Medea's arguing that the White House gave orders to the Islamic State to kill the two reporters).

The deaths just played into the US press' own vanity and they went crazy with it.

Today the arrest of federal police chief Abdul Hadi Saleh was ordered.  Iraq Times reports Minister of the Interior Mohammed Salem Ghaban ordered the arrest due to corruption with regards to salaries.  Corruption has been the focus of the last days in Iraq.  Loveday Morris (Washington Post via Stars and Stripes) reports:

The Iraqi army has been paying salaries to at least 50,000 soldiers who don't exist, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sunday, an indication of the level of corruption that permeates an institution that the United States has spent billions on equipping and arming.
A preliminary investigation into so-called "ghost soldiers" — whose salaries are being drawn but who are not in military service — revealed the tens of thousands of false names on Ministry of Defense rolls, Abadi told parliament Sunday. Follow-up investigations are expected to uncover "more and more," he added.

And today brought news of the Ministry of Interior, not just the arrest warrant already noted but also the firing of other members.  Al Arabiya reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday said he has retired 24 senior interior ministry officers, a day after he vowed to widen a crackdown on corruption in the crisis-stricken country.

According to Abadi's official Twitter feed, the move is part of “efforts to reform and rebuild Iraq’s security institutions.”

Who can you blame the corruption on?

There is one person you can blame the corruption.

He was the last Minister of Defense.

He was also the last Minister of the Interior.

Nouri al-Maliki, forever thug and former prime minister of Iraq.

In 2010, the White House got him a second term by ignoring the votes and the voters and using a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term.  To get political leaders to sign that contract, it also included promises for them.  But Nouri never honored those promises.  He used the contract to get a second term and then refused to implement the legal promises he made in the contract.

By the start of 2011, he still hadn't nominated people to head the security ministries.  While the western press -- especially US 'reporters' -- rush to insist it was only a matter of weeks until he nominated people for the posts, Ayad Allawi declared it wouldn't happen.  He called it a power grab.

Who was right?

The press or Allawi?


Nouri's second term ended this past summer.

And Iraq had no Minister of Defense, no Minister of Interior.

Had he nominated people for those posts and Parliament confirmed them, the individuals would be in charge of the ministries and Nouri couldn't get rid of them.  Only Parliament could remove them.

So instead Nouri put his flunkies into the unconstitutional post of 'acting ministers.'  This allowed him to control the two ministries.

During this period, violence increased.

That's on Nouri.

The Constitution of Iraq did not make one person prime minister and Minister of Interior and Minister of Defense -- and Minister of National Security -- another post Nouri refused to fill.  For those who missed it, back in July of 2012,  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."

Nouri instituted a power grab and he should have been held accountable.

That sadly didn't happen.

But he can be held accountable now.

Corruption in the two ministries?

Nouri was the one in charge of them.  The blame falls on him.

Al Quds' Said Arikat raised the corruption issue in today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq? I wonder if you have any comments on the ghost soldiers that apparently have been on the payroll in Iraq and whether the United States of America has raised this issue.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, as you know, this is an issue that, in fact, the prime minister raised in terms of his concerns about the number of ghost soldiers in the Iraqi army. We’ve seen his comments. We’re certainly encouraged that he continues to take steps to establish a more professional military force in Iraq. This follows his announcement – and there’s been a series of steps he’s taken, one on November 12th of the relief or retirement of 36 army officers, and the appointment of 18 new commanders as part of an effort towards rooting out corruption in Iraq’s defense establishment. We’re encouraged by these steps that follow other military realignments in September and the disbanding of the Office of the Commander-in-Chief. So we’ve seen him take a series of steps to create a more professional and unified military force, and that certainly is encouraging.

QUESTION: Okay. Now the United States being the primary trainer of the Iraqi military, how do they go about conducting or knowing that these units are good to train and these units are not good to train and so on? Is there – what is the criteria? How do they determine whether these are actual soldiers?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve seen the Department of Defense – and this is really a question more appropriately directed to them – speak to the assessment that they did over the last several months in terms of the needs of the Iraqi Security Forces and who needed more training, what different units may have been up to par and ready to move forward. But I’d point you to my colleagues over at the Defense Department.

QUESTION: Yeah. But I ask because it’s also a policy question since the United States is planning to organize or create a national or – national guard from the Sunni tribes.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not the – let me be clear, Said. It’s not the United States. It certainly is an initiative we support, but the Government of Iraq is leading the initiative --

QUESTION: The Government of Iraq. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- to form a tribal force that would be part of the Iraqi Security Forces structure to counter ISIL.

QUESTION: Okay. Because back in 2007 when – during the surge and one of the awakenings that were established, they were conducting themselves quite well. But then they inflated – I mean, the tribes inflated their numbers and so on to get basically a lot of money and a lot of funds which ushered in the collapse of the Iraqi army. I’m saying: How would you guard against this happening again?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, a number of steps have already been taken by the prime minister and by the central government to address this, and we certainly encourage those and will continue to have a discussion with them about what more can be done.

QUESTION: And finally, President Masum, the Iraqi president, met with the Iranian ambassador yesterday and he, of course, acknowledged the role of Iran, that Iran plays a good role in terms of aiding Iraq in its fights against ISIS and al-Qaida. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I would point you to them.

Actually, Jen Psaki, the State Dept was put over the training of Iraqi forces by US President Barack Obama as far back as October 2011.  So even if DoD has been put in charge as of July or August of 2014, you should be able to offer some form of comment.

Violence?  UNAMI released the following earlier today:

Baghdad, 1 December 2014 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 1,232 Iraqis were killed and another 2,434 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence in November 2014.
The number of civilians killed was 936 (including 61 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 1,826 (including 71 civilian police).  A further 296 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed (including Peshmerga, SWAT and militias fighting alongside Iraqi Army / not including casualties from Anbar Operations) and 608 were injured. 
“With nearly 12,000 people killed and nearly 22,000 injured since the beginning of 2014, Iraqis continue to be daily subjected to the unspeakable horrors of killing, maiming, reign of terror, displacement, extreme forms of intolerance and poverty”, Mr. Mladenov said.  “I take this opportunity to continue encouraging the Iraqi political, religious and social leaders to act decisively to rise above their differences in order to resolve the pending political, social and economic problems, and restore confidence among Iraq’s communities, more particularly those disaffected groups, as part of consolidating the democratic process”.
Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,253 civilian casualties (332 killed, 921 injured).  According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, the Governorate suffered a total of 1,026 civilian casualties (402 killed and 624 injured).  This included 71 killed and 437 injured in Ramadi and 331 killed and 187 injured in Fallujah.  Salah al-Din recorded 74 killed and 114 injured while Diyala recorded 37 killed and 71 injured.
CAVEATS: In general, UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas.  Figures for casualties from Anbar Governorate are provided by the Health Directorate and are noted below.  In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents.  UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care.  For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.
Disclaimer: The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq undertakes monitoring of the impact of armed violence and terrorism on Iraqi civilians in accordance with its mandate.  UNAMI relies on direct investigation, along with credible secondary sources, in determining civilian casualties.  UNAMI figures are conservative and may under-report the actual number of civilians killed and injured for a variety of reasons.  Where different casualty figures are obtained for the same incident, the figure as verified by UNAMI is used.

UNAMI and the UN have become a joke when it comes to Iraq.

And if you want to know stupidity?  It's saying, "Figures for casualties from Anbar Governorate are provided by the Health Directorate and are noted below" when, in fact, they are not noted below.

Who proofs these press releases?  

The Anbar figure is always kept out of the headline total and reduced to the equivalent of a footnote.  That was clearly the plan again today.  But today, they couldn't even provide the figures even though they insisted they were "noted below."

We used to note the daily violence and we'd do our monthly total and demonstrate how off the UN total was.  Events have allowed us to focus on other things.  We generally try to cite Margaret Griffis on the violence and include the monthly total these days.

But if you're not getting what an undercount that is, let's note some deaths today.

AFP reports, "At least 16 Iraqi border guards were killed on Monday (Dec 1) in a dawn assault by the Islamic State militant group on their post near the Syrian frontier, provincial and security officials said."  AP adds, "Another five officers were wounded as the group continues its control of most of the border crossings between the two countries."  Alsumaria notes a mortar attack to the south of Tikrit left 2 people dead and five more injured.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhau) reports 7 militants were killed in Sarha, 12 were killed north of Maqdadiyah, the Islamic State killed "12 Shiite militiamen" in a battle, and 1 Islamic State member was shot dead outside Duluiyah.

Now those are just some of the reported deaths.

And Xinhua counts 67 dead from violence today.  This wasn't a typical day, it's actually a slow day.

Multiply the slow day times 30 and realize what a joke the UN's November death toll is.

Let's stay with deaths.

Another US service member has died in Barack's never-ending wars.  AP reports DoD spokesperson Steve Warren announced a Air Force pilot's F-16 crashed yesterday killing the pilot who was "returning to its base in the Middle East."  The Defense Dept insists this doesn't qualify as a death in Iraq or Syria.

That is shameful.

The pilot died on a mission, the pilot was deployed.

Stop being so disgusting, so craven, that you'll dishonor the dead by lying.

He or she is a fatality in the ongoing wars.

And there may be more.   Jon Harper (Stars and Stripes) reports:

Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division will soon head to Iraq to participate in Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon announced Monday.
About 250 soldiers from the division’s 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment — based at Fort Bragg, N.C. — will begin to deploy later this month.

Their assignment will be “to conduct security operations in support of the mission to protect U.S. personnel and facilities,” Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters.

And if you want to be more discouraged, let's return to today's State Dept press briefing.  We've noted the upcoming diplomacy meet-up which the State Dept has failed to promote.


Apparently because they don't know a damn thing about it.

When Jen Psaki should be selling this as a major push towards the political solution Barack has insisted was needed, she's instead stumbling and unsure of what's about to take place this week.  When will she brush up on the meet-up?

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iraq, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’d like to ask about the meeting in Brussels this week. The first --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. The coalition meeting?

QUESTION: The coalition meeting, yeah. This is the first ministerial level meeting of the coalition?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you just give us a bit more on what you’re hoping --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there was – I think yes, it is.

QUESTION: There was --

MS. PSAKI: There was the meeting --

QUESTION: -- in Kuwait.

MS. PSAKI: -- in Kuwait.


MS. PSAKI: And there was also the meeting that took place – I believe it was earlier, even before Kuwait, that was sort of an early meeting --

QUESTION: Right, yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- of some of these European members. Just to be totally clear.


MS. PSAKI: Correct. There have been a couple of meetings, but go ahead.

QUESTION: All right, okay. So it’s not the first ministerial meeting, then. It’s the --

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is the first – this is significant in that you have representatives from the 60 coalition partner countries, or many of them, who will be attending. Obviously, we’re now a couple of months in, still early into this effort to degrade and defeat ISIL. It’s an opportunity to take stock of where things stand, obviously, discuss what needs to happen from here, provide updates on where countries stand. Certainly, General Allen will be playing a prominent role in this meeting. The Secretary will also be delivering remarks and I believe kicking the meeting off. So it’s an opportunity to do that where many of the countries will be already in the region for – whether it’s NATO or other meetings happening this week.

QUESTION: Do you expect something concrete to come out of it in terms of sort of where we go, a timetable, or deliverables, as you like to say?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I certainly don’t want to get ahead of the meeting, but I think the purpose is more to take stock and to determine – continue to coordinate from here. As we all know, we – the Secretary participates in a great deal of phone diplomacy, but always doing that in person he finds to be more effective. That’s true I think of many of these countries as well, and so this is an opportunity to have them all there in person.

QUESTION: And you mentioned again about the 60 coalition countries. Have any more come on board since the last list that you --

MS. PSAKI: We regularly update on our website. I don’t have any new countries to update, but I would point you to there and we can certainly check. I expect as we get closer to the meeting we’ll have a more specific list of the participants.

Again, the State Dept should be hard selling this meet-up.  They've done damn little with regards to efforts at diplomacy.  This meet-up should be big news.  So why is it that it's not treated as such?