Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, December 10, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the House Foreign Affairs Committee explores the Islamic State, Barbara Boxer teams with Rand Paul to screech and preach for war, to pimp war on Syria you have to pretend time started in 2014, and much more.

US House Rep Ed Royce: After four months of the U.S.-led air campaign in Iraq and Syria, ISIS still controls essentially the same amount of territory as it did in the summer. One reason for this is the limited nature of the effort. We have conducted only about 1,000 airstrikes to date – or 250 per month - the vast majority being inside Iraq, leaving ISIS’ vast haven in Syria relatively unchallenged. This is a very slow pace. Consider that Desert Storm averaged 1,000 combat sorties per day. Moreover, the Committee is concerned by reports that targeting has been micromanaged from the White House. But even with this flawed air campaign, Kurdish and Iraqi Security Forces have pushed ISIS out of specific, key infrastructure areas such as the Mosul and Haditha dams. More coalition air attacks would mean more ISIS defeats.

Royce was speaking this morning at the House Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Islamic State today.

It was an interesting hearing.

First off, yesterday's snapshot covered the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing John Kerry testified at.  Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Ground Hog Day (Ava)," Wally at Rebecca's site with "Barack wants war all over the world (Wally)" and Kat with "John Kerry, damn liar."

They were all solid reports but Kat offered:

As I sat there listening to smug John Kerry lie and lie again, I wish I could make like Senator John McCain and storm out of the hearing.  (McCain stormed out because he does not believe the White House is providing enough support to the rebels in Syria.  I don't see them as rebels but that's another post.)
My storm out moment probably would have been when Kerry insisted, "This is the same group!  These are the same people, with the stamp and imprimatur of Osama bin Laden!"

The House Committee?

Very conservative.  Democrats and Republicans.  That's Ranking Member Eliot Engel and Brad Sherman, among others on the Democratic side.

Engel and Sherman had question (or comments) over and over on Iran.

Let's note this exchange between US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the State Dept's Brett McGurk.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:   [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Haider al-] Abadi has claimed no knowledge of the recent airstrikes but Iran has confirmed that they did carry them out.  So who currently controls the air space in Iraq given that the Iraqis don't have sufficient capabilities to maintain their own air sovereignty?  And if no coordination had taken place and the Iranians did indeed take this action with their own hands without coordinating, didn't Iran violate Iraqi airspace, will there be any repercussions for that?  As we continue our nuclear talks with Iran we ignore more as we continue our nuclear talks with Iran -- we ignore multiple violations that Iran continues to make as the talks take place.  Will this be yet another violation of Iran that we turn a blind eye to? Secretary [of State John Kerry] has called, uh, possible Iranian action in Iraq against ISIL as positive despite the fact that Tehran's incessant meddling in Baghdad and it's stoking of sectarian tension in Iraq and in Syria has played a large part in the rise of ISIL.  Is it the administration's view that having a Shi'ite Iran -- the world's foremost supporter of terrorism -- in spite of our nuclear talks -- invade Iraqi airspace to attack Sunni ISIL -- does the administration view this as a positive development? [. . .  Syria issues, we're concerned with Iraq]

Brett McGurk: Let me address your questions briefly.  First my testimony I did -- I did focus on the concern about the militias and Prime Minister Abadi's commitment in Brussels to begin to reign those in -- all armed groups within the structures of the state.  I also focused on the-the desire of this new government to have strategic independence in the region. And that's to his outreach to his Arab neighbors and also the  important outreach to Ankara which is happening now but was not happening over the past few years.

[. . .]

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Excuse me sir, would you say that Iran violated Iraqi air space?

Brett McGurk: I would have to defer to some of my DoD colleagues.

We'll note this from Brett's lengthy opening statement -- and we'll try to note the opening statement in full in its own entry by Saturday (hopefully before).

Brett McGurk:  Iraq's new government reflects the full diversity of Iraq, with Sunni, Shi'a, and Kurdish leaders sharing power through an equitable distribution of cabinet posts and portfolios. The government is also committed to an inclusive national program, as enacted unanimously by the 328-member Iraqi parliament. The national program encompasses key elements of  "functioning federalism," which is a driving principle for our policy. A functioning federalism envisions an Iraq with important powers delegated to provinces, empowering local leaders to protect their communities as an integral part of Iraq's constitutional structure. The national program encompasses this principle, outlining plans for the Government of Iraq to distribute greater governing authority to regions and provinces. Two central pillars of this concept include: (1) security reform -- with a smaller national army and more security responsibilities delegated to the provinces; and (2) equitable revenue sharing -- with local institutions resourced to provide for their communities, and deny space to extremists. The new Iraqi government has committed to building a smaller national army, consisting of eight divisions --  and focused primarily on national sovereign functions. Army units will be based outside cities, with a mission to protect borders, preserve the sovereignty of the state and be prepared to respond as over-watch units when local forces need support. Primary day-to-day security responsibility will be handled by local police and provincial-based national guards. In the Kurdish region, primary security will be handled by Kurdish forces, but with funding derived from national resources, and as a part of the constitutional structure. We believe that this security architecture -- based squarely on the model outlined in the Iraqi constitution and endorsed by the new Iraqi government -- is sustainable because it responds to realities on the ground, carries broad support within Iraq and is designed over time to deny space for any armed group to operate outside a legal framework, including ISIL. It will take time, however, to bring this program to fruition and a number of intermediate steps must take place along the way. That is why the new government, with our support, is working to train and equip thousands of tribal fighters in Anbar province, even before there is formal legislation to introduce the National Guard concept. These fighters will join Iraqi forces to clear their areas from ISIL, and may, ultimately,  become the backbone of local police and National Guard forces in the province. We have also been encouraged by Prime Minister Abadi's reform of the overly centralized security structures that had existed under the previous government. He has abolished the Office of the Commander in Chief which centralized security control inside the Prime Minister's office.  In addition, he has named a new Minister of Defense -- a Sunni Arab from Mosul --  and replaced nearly five dozen senior officers with new leaders who are now working to build trust with communities they serve.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee but the Republicans in the House impose term limits so now she continues to serve on it but Ed Royce is the Chair.

Ileana is someone I see as quick to see the worst (or vigilant, if you prefer) and she would probably argue I don't take threats seriously enough.

And that's fine and that's an honest disagreement.

I never struggle to figure out where she's coming from.  I disagree frequently with her viewpoint (no surprise there, I'm on the left, she's on the right) but I can figure out where she's coming from with no struggle because she's consistent.

I enjoyed attending the Committee hearings when she was the Chair.

For me, the walk out moment?  It's always when an idiot or a liar has the floor.

Yes, we're talking about Senator Barbara Boxer yet again.  We're also going to be talking about Senator Rand Paul.  Both are pretty much useless.

If you're looking for good news in last month's mid-terms (or for more good news) it's that Barbara Boxer will not Chair another hearing again for at least two years.

Boxer has never been smart but many were willing to look the other way when they thought she was on 'our side.'  Her stupidity should never have been ignored.  August 5, 2009, we called her out for her appearance on that day's The Diane Rehm Show where she plugged her latest co-written pulp fiction and snapped at caller including one who wanted her reaction to Nouri al-Maliki floating US 'trainers' staying in Iraq.

Barbara attacked the caller, treating him as stupid when she was the doofus.

Approximately two weeks prior, Margaret Talev's "Iraq's Maliki raises possibility of asking U.S. to stay on" (McClatchy Newspapers) had been published -- there was also  Anne Gearan coverage al-Maliki's remarks for AP.

Though she was already sitting on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and though she grandstanded on Iraq on that episode of The Diane Rehm Show, Barbara Boxer was such a dumb idiot that she was unaware what the prime minister of Iraq had said and such a dumb idiot that she 'corrected' a caller who had the facts right.

Her stupidity was on full display in yesterday's Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing.

At least she didn't claim, as she did in yesterday afternoon's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, that she was acting on the wishes of her constituents (of which I am one).  No, she admitted in the earlier hearing that she was confronted with debate on her desire to embrace war, war and more war.

There would be no debate allowed by Barbara at the hearing and she slammed and 'corrected' a Democrat on the Committee who dared to suggest that possibly some over-reaching or over-reacting might be taking place.

She announced she was not going to allow the hearing to turn into a debate.

Seriously, the ditz thinks that's her role as Subcommittee Chair?

She said they were going to move on.  But, instead of moving on, she proceeded to deliver a three minute lecture on why her opinion was right and how wrong everyone else was.

She then turned to USAID's Nancy Lindborg and insisted, "Would you focus us on this issue of human rights abuses?"

Nancy Lindborg:  Virtually all the Christians have left Mosul, Turkman and Shabat fled Mosul and Tikrit , 1/2 million Yazidis were driven from their ancestral homes. And Sunnis throughout the region have fled ISIL attacks.  Senator Boxer, as you noted, there have been terrible, terrible attacks and human rights abuses on men, women, boys and girls.  And I think under ISIL, for girls and women, they special -- they suffer a special hell where they've been raped, they've been sold into slavery and their rights have been secretly curtailed in areas controlled by ISIL.  I want to make three overarching points.  The first is that the US government is fully focused on humanitarian assistance throughout the region.  We are a global leader and although it's one regional crisis, women -- uh, uh -- people in the two countries have been effected in very different ways.  First in Iraq, most of the people fleeing ISIL are internally displaced.  They are living in informal settlements, scattered across 2,000 locations.  So this makes provision of humanitarian assistance that much more challenging.  You noted that the Mount Sinjar operation -- We had one of our seasoned humanitarian experts coordinating on the ground with the military during the seven nightly air drops. Without question, we saved thousands of lives through that operation.  Since August, we've sent $200 million of relief supplies, water, sanitation, support for shelter.  We are fully focused now on winter to ensure that people have the kind of assistance they need as cold weather returns.  When, and even with, the pace of deterioration in-in Iraq, it is absolutely critical that we maintain our focus on the protracted and extraordinary needs in Syria as well. 

The sheer stupidity is amazing.

Assad, we were told was brutal, Babs repeated that, and human rights violations took place while, in Iraq, we were told by Babsie, Rand Paul and various witnesses, had a population (Sunnis) that felt they were not included in the government.

What a load of nonsense.

Let's go to Rand Paul first or I'll unload on Babsie with a lot of curse words.

I have no problem with Christians or any religion.  I'm even fine with seeing Scientologists as a religion.

It doesn't bother me.

What does bother me?

The pet issue crowd, whether their pet issues is Christians or what have you.

Senator Rand Paul apparently has a personal hotline to God and the two talk constantly.  One wonders why he doesn't leave the Senate and attempt to become the US envoy to the Vatican?

Paul's an idiot.

I've avoided forming an opinion on him until yesterday's hearing.

Listening to him cite, as factual, claims by a certain Brit was appalling.  Apparently Rand Paul never heard that the same Brit lied in a hearing and threw a tantrum when he learned a few reporters were present and that they were going to print his lie that all Jews had left Iraq.  (Even now, there's approximately 5 in Baghdad.  There were more than when the Brit lied in 2006.  We called him out in real time.)

I don't have time to spoon feed an overgrown infant like Rand Paul.

It was amazing to here him whine over and over about Christians in Syria.

The ones in Iraq?

They didn't exist.

I have never been more offended by someone gabbing on and using Jesus Christ and God to justify their hunger.  Onward Christian Soldiers -- Onward Armed Christian Soldiers -- that was the hymn Rand couldn't stop singing.

I've not attacked him here.  I've never had a reason to.

But the face he showed at the hearing on Wednesday was disgusting, was a War Mask and was appalling fact-free.

Like Barbara Boxer (and the government witnesses), Rand had a concern for Syrian Christians but not for Iraqi ones.

Listening to their accounts, it was as though we were hearing all about how that evil Cinderella ran off with Prince Charming while her ugly step-sisters suffered.

Gone from the narrative was the beginning.  Unacknowledged was what happened in Iraq for years and years.  Once upon a time, for Barbara and Rand, began in 2014.

Let's review the answer Nancy gave:

Nancy:  Virtually all the Christians have left Mosul, Turkman and Shabat fled Mosul and Tikrit , 1/2 million Yazidis were driven from their ancestral homes. And Sunnis throughout the region have fled ISIL attacks.

Excuse me, Nance, when the heck did they go to Mosul?

And why?

Iraqi Christians fled Baghdad.  They did so because they were targeted and threatened by Nouri's Shi'ite militias that he allowed to roam freely and never held accountable.

Our Lady of Salvation Church was not just the scene of violence.  It was the scene of an attack in the midst of a worship service.

Apparently, the Lord Jesus Christ forgot to mention that to Rand in one of their many conversations.

Iraqi Sunnis don't have complaints, they have legitimate grievances.

But if you're starting point -- your false starting point -- is 2014, I guess you can lie about anything.

You can, as Nance did, pretend outrage over these refugees, this huge number of refugees.

Excuse me?

4.5 million was a huge number.  This was at the height of the ethnic cleansing Nouri over saw in 2006 and 2007.

Babsie's a hypocrite because she decried that in real time but now wants to pretend it never happened.

Sunnis and others in Iraq have been persecuted and targeted.

This was all ignored -- and this is key, pay attention -- because whether you're Rand Paul or Barbara Boxer, you want war on Syria.  You're very upset that ground troops aren't there.

If you want war on Syria, join the liars and preach the ahistorical b.s.

But if you want to be smart, you'll acknowledge what happened in Iraq.

You might even show the guts to acknowledge that the US government is responsible for a great deal of what happened since they installed Nouri as prime minister in 2006 and since they demanded he get a second term in 2010 (even after he lost the 2010 elections).

But this was nonsense.

Boxer didn't want truth and she attacked anyone who offered it.

She's a lunatic at this point.  She needs to leave the Senate.  Preferably in a straight jacket.

She wants war on Iraq too.  She made it clear in both hearings that she wants to give Barack everything he's asking for.

Here's what she told Diane Rehm about Iraq in August of 2009:

Senator Barbara Boxer: I regret that even after voting "no" on the War on Iraq, I should have been down there every day making my voice louder and stronger.
Diane Rehm: Why didn't you?
Senator Barbara Boxer: [Sighs] I thought that I said enough when I voted "no" and I continued to speak but not loudly enough and not clearly enough and you know that's why I like this novel because Ellen's my hero, she does everything right  I don't.
Diane Rehm: That's quite an admission.
Senator Barbara Boxer: Well it's true.
Diane Rehm: Alright.  Speaking of Iraq, there is some talk that the US may, before it's planned deadline, pull its troops out and declare victory.  What's your thought?
Senator Barbara Boxer: Well that is definitely some of the advice we're getting from some of our military people.  I think it's time to leave, I thought it was time to leave before, so much blood and sweat and tears and guts have been left there and I just have a view of this that-that the people of Iraq have an opportunity now to-to build their own country --
Diane Rehm: They're still killing each other.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well, you know what?  The people of Iraq have to decide if they want a country or they don't want a country and we can't decide it for them.

But now Barbara believes the US can decide it for the Iraqi people.

She has no consistency.  She has no scruples.  She has no ethics.

You cannot figure out what she's going to say except to bet it will be factually wrong.

At today's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Republicans and Democrats on the Committee were more honest that Barbara Boxer could ever be.  Unlike Rand Paul, they also didn't believe that history began in 2014.

They put the Senate Subcommittee hearing to shame.

And Rand Paul, before you next cite 4 beheadings 'recently' with the Brit as your witness, try grasping that (a) he's already lied in a public hearing and (b) he wasn't present.  He's not in Iraq.  Where is he?  Darting back and forth between the US and Canada to bang the war drum, insisting that ground troops must be sent into Iraq.

That's not to defend the Islamic State.

That's to note that you make an ass of yourself when you repeat 'pleasing tales' told by a known liar who tells of the beheading as though he were present when he wasn't even in Iraq "the other day" when he claims it took place.

Let's turn to some violence reported by those in Iraq.  IANS reports, "In the early hours of the day, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden tanker truck into a checkpoint of an army base and blew it up in the town of Dijla, also called Mkeshifah, some 40 km south of provincial capital Tikrit, leaving nine soldiers dead and 10 others wounded, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."  Sammer N. Yacoub (AP) notes the bombing injured twenty-two people and reports another "bomb struck near an outdoor market in the town of Madain, just south of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding five. And a bomb explosion in a commercial street in southern Baghdad killed two people and wounded seven."  Margaret Griffis ( counts 196 people killed in violence across Iraq today with 86 more left injured.

We're going to close with this is from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

Gretchen Andersen
Press Secretary
Tel: 212-982-9699

Washington, D.C. (December 10, 2014) – After passing the House yesterday by a unanimous voice vote, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act (H.R. 5059), critical legislation that will improve access to mental health care, moves to the Senate for consideration. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) urges the Senate to stand with our veterans and move quickly in passing the bill. The legislation was spearheaded by IAVA and named after Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Clay Hunt, a Marine who died by suicide in 2011.

“In the time since Clay’s passing, Richard and I have found many other veterans who share the struggles our son experienced,” said Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt. “While this legislation is too late for Clay, it is not too late for the veterans currently facing difficulty in accessing needed mental health resources. We are counting on the Senate to do the right thing tomorrow and get this bill passed.”

“No lawmaker should take issue with this vital legislation for our community,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “With 22 veterans dying by suicide each day, the minimal fiscal cost of this bill can’t compare to the human cost of continued inaction. Our veterans need the Senate to pass this bill today so it can be on the President’s desk by the end of the year. We need leadership from both sides of the aisle to get this done. All of America is watching closely to see who is supporting us, and who is against us. Any victory is a testament to the courage and tenacity of Susan and our motivated local IAVA leaders nationwide.”

Since the beginning of 2014 IAVA has been the leading voice for the post-9/11 veteran community, calling on members of Congress, the White House, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense to address veteran suicide.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act will:
  • Increase access to mental health care by, among other things, creating a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers as well as a one-stop, interactive website of available resources.
  • Better meet the demand for mental health care by starting a pilot program to repay the loan debt of students in psychiatry so it is easier to recruit them to work at the VA.
  • Boost the accountability of mental health care by requiring an annual evaluation of DoD and VA suicide-prevention practices and programs.
Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner met with Clay Hunt’s parents, Susan and Richard Selke, thanking them for their hard work to get the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act passed. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Speaker of the House,
Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner met with Clay Hunt’s parents, Susan and
 Richard Selke, thanking them for their hard work to get the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention
for American Veterans Act passed. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Speaker of the House,

Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder 
Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.