Saturday, December 13, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, December 13, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the Islamic State shoots down a helicopter, the Yazidis have a hired gun paid for with US money, we examine Barack's non-plan yet again but this time focusing on the line of questioning provided by US House Rep Ted Poe, and much more.

Tian Shaohui (Xinhua) reports:

Insurgents shot down an Iraqi army helicopter and killed the two pilots aboard during clashes in Salahudin province in north of Baghdad, a provincial security source said on Saturday.
The crash occurred on Friday near the town of al-Mu'tasim, just south of the city of Samarra, some 120 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, during the battles between the Iraqi security forces and Islamic State (IS) militants around the al-Mu'tasim, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

In addition to that attack on Friday, Margaret Griffis ( reports 169 people died from violence across Iraq yesterday.

Which shines a light on the lies told to the US Congress this week. Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  This was covered in Tuesday's snapshot,  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."  Wednesday, the State Dept's Brett McGurk testified before the House Foreign Affairs Comittee and we covered it in Wednesday and Thursday's snapshot (and will continue covering it later in this snapshot).  Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations held a hearing and we covered it in the Wednesday snapshot (and noted it elsewhere repeatedly).

The Tuesday Subcommittee hearing was an embarrassment and we've called out Subcommittee Chair Barbara Boxer and Ranking Member Rand Paul.  We've largely ignored the others -- the spook, the hired gun, all of them.

The hired gun?

When news of Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar broke, at this site we were for air drops of food and water and medical supplies for the thousands trapped on the mountain by the Islamic State and we were against bombings.  We built our case around the plight of the Yazidis historically.  We ignored one person, one woman, except to offer a Tweet by a journalist of the Cry Baby.

Cry Baby may not have been a fair call when she was speaking before the Iraqi Parliament and shooting out the tears.  It may have been fair.  We didn't call her that then but I did think it.

And Cry Baby went on to become a hired gun.  Early on in August we noted the Yazidis had no US p.r. firm but that they were being used in the US in an effort to promote wider war on Iraq.

Let's also note the bitchiness of Yazidi speakers in Iraq.

Iraqi Christians were being attacked and killed and when the Yazidis ended up trapped on the mountain, a number of them started whining to the press that Iraqi Christians got all the attention.

Iraqi Christians get very little attention in the mainstream media.  When the western press does cover them, it's usually because they're taking up arms in Iraq to protect themselves.

Whether it's true or not, bias charges are better left to others.

When there are at least two groups under attack and one of them whines the other gets more attention -- true or not -- it looks petty and bitchy.

And here's a little more reality for the Yazidis, Christians are a larger group in the world and when you start whining that Iraqi Christians are getting more attention -- especially when they're not -- you risk pissing off a lot of people who will no longer help you amplify your issues.

And while outsiders can say that Palestinians get far more attention, for a Yazidi to write that also looks petty and bitchy -- so maybe Cry Baby shouldn't have written this post?

Cry Baby.

Again, we've only previously noted her in a journalist's Tweet.  And that was due to a request and due to it being pointed out that she was a woman, "you run a pro-women, feminist site and you haven't noted her."

We should probably name cry baby, I don't think she was named in the journalist's Tweet, just identified as a Yazidi who was a Member of Parliament.  We did name her when she was in a helicopter crash.  Her name is Vian Dakhil.

And since her tearful performance -- and I am calling it a performance -- she's attracted foreign money but no one wants to talk about that.

No one wants to question how this woman's everywhere all the sudden.

She was at the hearing on Tuesday, she was speaking to the Woodrow Wilson Center, at John Cabot University, she's just been everywhere outside of Iraq.  And the reason is she's now a hired gun to promote war and she's represented by a public relations group.

And as I listened to her spin at Tuesday's hearing, I knew all of that but thought, "There's so much more to focus on."  Then she started making the media circuit.

First off, know your facts or don't appear before Congress.

She's lucky she appeared before Boxer and Paul who are so eager for war that they also don't care about the facts.

Before the Subcommittee she tried to present herself as the voice of the Yazidis.

She is not.

Some Yazidis bill themselves as that and that alone.

Others bill themselves as Kurds.

That split alone, forgetting everything else, means she cannot speak for all Yazidis.

Equally true, she's not from the city with the biggest concentrations of Yazidis (that would be Shekhan followed by Sinjar -- she is from Mosul originally and then moved to Erbil).

At the hearing, she made one ridiculous statement after another.  Here's one example:

Since the invasion of the so-called Islamic State in June 2013, I have been working tirelessly to bring attention to the plight . . .

It was January, at the start of the year, when the Islamic State seized Falluja.  And the Islamic State was in Iraq prior to that.   As a member of the Iraqi Parliament and as a member of the KDP, she's actually supposed to speak for all of Iraq and should know these basic facts.  Added: April 8, 2013 is when the press begins -- world press -- acknowledging the Islamic State is in Iraq. They were there prior to April.

It was an awful hearing and we would have ignored her but then she went on NPR's Here and Now and NPR highlights this section of her remarks regarding what the US needs to do:

“They first started out with a great mission and attack on ISIS, and that made us very happy. That was only for one week. After one week, they stopped. They suspended airstrikes and we were kind of surprised. We were looking to see why they were suspended for a while, and we’re hoping to understand why.”
“What is really urgently needed right now, there are five women and children being held by ISIS and we really need assistance right away to help them be free and run away from ISIS. Plus humanitarian aides are mostly needed at the moment for those refugees who ran away from ISIS and made a way to get to the shelters. We’re here to tell the people in the United States that this is what we are living through right now in Iraq, and that’s what we need your help with at the moment.”

We've been nice.

Maybe too nice.

Maybe I've baby-ied?

Here's some harsh truths.

You claim to have 500,000 Yazidis, ma'am, there are no more than 30,000 Islamic State members in Iraq.

Maybe you should stop traveling to other countries to speak and do media appearances to advocate for war and instead return to Iraq, pick up a gun, urge your fellow Yazidis to take up arms and address the problem yourself.

If that sounds harsh, well your request for US forces on the ground due to five people being held sounds stupid and insane.

Worse yet, it also sounds cowardly.

Stop coming to the US demanding US troops and start using your position as a Member of the Iraqi Parliament to advocate for action from your own country's troops.

Call me harsh, call me a bitch, call me the c-word, I don't care.

The reality is there are international incidents.  For example, an attack on an Olympics game, on an international conference, etc. would fall under that and would prompt an international response.


When Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped, the US government did not go whining to Canada, Mexico or England for help.

Here, we didn't buy into the need to send US troops to another country to "Save Our Girls" (none of which were Americans) and I don't buy into sending US troops into Iraq for 5 or 50 kidnap victims.

That's a matter for the Iraqi government -- and if it can't address these issues, then it's a matter for the Iraqi people to demand a new government.

In fairness to Vian Dakhil, for decades now, the US government has presented itself, as Phil Ochs put it, as the "Cops of the World:"

We pick and choose as please, boys
Pick and choose as please
You'd best get down on your knees, boys
Best get down on your knees
We're hairy and horny and ready to shack
And we don't care if you're yellow or black
Just take off your clothes and lay down on your back
'Cause we're the cops of the world, boys
We're the cops of the world
Our boots are needing a shine, boys
Boots are needing a shine
But our Coca-Cola is fine, boys
Coca-Cola is fine
We've got to protect all our citizens fair
So we'll send a battalion for everyone there
And maybe we'll leave in a couple of years
'Cause we're the cops of the world, boys

And having presented that way, it's understandable that some around the world will wrongly assume the US military is just one 911 call away.

But that's not reality.

Nor is it reality that Vian Dakhil is speaking for most Iraqis.

However many Yazidis Vian Dakhil speaks for, the reality is that Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr speaks for many more and he is among the Iraqi leaders who are saying the US military needs to be out of Iraq.  In addition, the highest ranking Catholic leader in Iraq again this week decried the US' assault on Iraq noting that the bombings were not helping anyone.  As Ines San Martin (Curx Now) reported earlier this week:

The top Catholic official in Iraq says the current US-led bombing campaign will not dislodge the radical Islamic State, and he is pleading for a stronger response from the international community to ensure Christians can remain in the region.
“Bombing is also killing people, destroying the infrastructure, houses, schools, churches,” said Patriarch Louis Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

So Vian Dakhil's remarks are really not typical.

You are hearing them in the western media and you are hearing her in Congress because a right-wing group is now bankrolling her and the call for greater war on Iraq.

There was a story this month about how Yazidis in the US were calling for greater war on Iraq.  That story was shopped around to at least six journalists who passed on it because it was propaganda.  Sadly, not everyone has ethics so two did write it up.

We've long defended the Yazidis here -- in part because they were wrongly characterized by the western press in the early days of the Iraq War as "devil worshipers" -- but we'll do less of that now.

That's too bad because the Yazidi people are not responsible for the money that is now supporting MP Vian Dakhil or for the other p.r. efforts being made.

But the fact that some levels of self-appointed leadership are now engaged in propaganda means all stories are suspect and I don't have the time to check them out with friends.  So the Yazidis will still be noted but far less than what we once did.

And the reality will always be, for any country whose citizens are kidnapped, you need to work that out on your own.  If your country can't handle a kidnapping, it needs a new government and needs it desperately.

The US government should stop the bombings immediately and focus all attention on helping the Iraqi officials arrive at a political solution which allows all Iraqis to be included and which promotes an Iraqi identity.

Instead, we're stuck with bombings passed off as a 'plan.'

There is no plan.

That was obvious in the hearings this week.

And we're going to focus now on yet another Congressional exchange, this one from the Wednesday House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Ambassador would you say that the administration is at war with ISIS or not?

Brett McGurk: Congressman, having seen it up close, I would say that we are at war -- at war with ISIS.

US House Rep Ted Poe:  It  seems to me that our strategy is two-fold or maybe three-fold at this point.  Send aid to different groups -- countries.  There's sixty something countries that I understand are in the co-alition to fight ISIS.  One is to do airstrikes as the chairman has mentioned.  The success of those airstrikes depends upon who you're talking to.  I do not believe they have been quiet as successful as we had hoped they would be.  The other is to take Syrian moderate rebels -- vet, train and equip them to go back to Syria and defeat ISIS.  How many of those people have been vetted, trained and equipped and sent back to Syria to fight ISIS.

Brett McGurk: Congressman, again I have to say it's a DoD program and it's --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  It's none!  Correct, Ambassador?

[Cross talk]

US House Rep Ted Poe:  I mean, you're the Ambassador.  You're represent the State Dept, the United States.  We're at war with this country -- we're at war with ISIS.  You can't tell me politically whether we have armed -- vetted, armed and trained anybody yet and sent them back to fight in Syria  --

Brett McGurk:  No

US House Rep Ted Poe:  -- in ISIS.  You can't answer that question?

Brett McGurck:  No, I think I can answer that question.  I did answer it.  The answer right now is: No.  And --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  So none.

Brett McGurk:  d-designed -- It was designed to be a longterm program and we hope

US House Rep Ted Poe: I understand Ambassador, just a second --

Brett McGurk:  We hope --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Now you wait a minute.  I'm asking the questions, you give the answers.  The answer is, 'We have not trained any.'  And none of them are back over there. Meanwhile ISIS is beheading people and committing all kinds of atrocities.  But our plan -- if I understand our strategic plan -- it's to help aid, it's to drop bombs -- it's to train mercenaries to go back and fight ISIS in Syria -- none of which have been trained.  How long is it going to take before we get all these people that are being trained back in Syria to fight?  How long do you think that it will take?

Brett McGurk:  Well Congressman, the program is to train 5,000 per year.  And the training, we hope, will start in March.

US House Rep Ted Poe:  So a year from March?

Brett McGurk:  And the program is to build --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  A year from March?

Brett McGurk:  -- about 5,000 by then.  And we have to be very careful --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Excuse me, Ambassador, I'm not clear.

Brett McGurk:  And we have to --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Will it be 5,000 in March that will be trained?  Or will it be a year from March -- 2016 -- before we have those 5,000 fighters that we send back to Syria?

Brett McGurk:  It's 5,000 trained per year.  And part of the reason is the vetting standards.  And we're being very careful about this.  But we're not sitting on our hands --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Excuse me, Mr. Ambassador,

Brett McGurk:  -- a lot of things in parallel.

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Excuse me, Mr. Ambassador, answer the question.  Is it 5,000 in 2016?  In March?  That's our hope?  To have them trained by then?

Brett McGurk:  The training, we hope, will begin in March.  So it's --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  But it will take a year to train 5,000 people?

Brett McGurk:  Yes, that's right.

US House Rep Ted Poe:  So March of 2016?  Then we have a plan.  Then we have fighters.  Then we send them to Syria.  There's no telling what ISIS can do in that year and however many months it is.  Does the United States have some other strategic plan other than arming these folks that aren't going to show up until 2016 dropping bombs -- that are marginal, whether they've been successful -- and helping with military aid to some of these coalition countries?  Is there a strategic plan overall that you know about in the State Dept?

Brett McGurk:  Yes.  The train and equip program is one small element of an over all campaign.  And this is a multi-year campaign.  And phase one -- Phase one is Iraq.  What we're doing in Syria right now is degrading ISIL's capacity.  And every time that we have had a local force on the ground that we could work with -- and Kobani's a good example of this or a Free Syrian --

US House Rep Ted PoeReclaiming my time.  What are we doing in Syria right now?  I mean people are dying in Syria  and the calvary isn't showing up until 2016 the way I understand it.  Is that correct?

Brett McGurk: Those trained and equipped units are not the only units on the field that we could work with in Syria, Congressm--

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Who else are we working with in Syria?

Brett McGurk:  Well we're working right now in Kobani with a number of elements.  We're killing about a 100 fighters a --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Who are these people that we're working with

Brett McGurk:  Well Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga thanks to a deal we worked out with the Turks to open up a corridoor to the Kurdistan Region  --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Are they working in Syria or are they working in Iraq?

Brett McGurk:  In Syria we've brought the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga from Iraq to Kobani.

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Last question, I'm sorry I'm out of time, last question: Are we going to put more boots on the ground, American military, in the Middle East to defeat ISIS?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, the president's policy is not to put combat forces on the -- on the ground in Iraq.  But we have advisors --

US House Rep Ted Poe:   Be careful.  Middle East.  I'm not going to talk about Iraq. In the Middle East.  Are more Americans going over to the Middle East to fight ISIS?

Brett McGurk:  We have about 30,000 troops in the region now but uh --

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Are more Americans going over to the Middle East to fight and defeat ISIS?  Other than what's already there?

Brett McGurk:  Right now I think we have a pretty large substantial deployment  force in the Middle East. I don't see the need for more right now.  But again, I need to defer to my DoD colleagues.

US House Rep Ted Poe:  Because you don't know.  I yield back.

That's part of the 'plan'?

That's how Barack Obama plans to address things?  With forces who will arrive ready in March of 2016?

No wonder his 'plan' will take years.

A general note in closing, if you're sending things that aren't about Iraq to the public e-mail account, I'll work them in if I can and only if I can.  We focus on Iraq and we focus on veterans.  If you're article isn't about that it may or may not get noted.  If you think, X number of years ago, you called something right then maybe you should write something new and not just send me your piece (on something not about Iraq and not about veterans) from X number of years ago.