Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, January 21, 2015.   Chaos and violence continue, Barack's speech gets some attention regarding Iraq, gets called out on the issue of the economy and the failure to address veterans issues, the Iraq Inquiry will not be publishing their report anytime soon, and much more.

Last night, US President Barack Obama blathered on about a couple who fell in love and it was one of the most embarrassing speeches ever given as a State of the Union Address.  We focused on Iraq last night.  Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) had hours to reflect on the speech before he weighed in today and here are his 'deep' thoughts re: Iraq, "He also glossed the fact that he's sent troops back to Iraq, with Baghdad at risk of falling to Islamic State." Kaveh Waddell (National Journal) adds, "The president mentioned Iraq, where Islamic State extremists have taken over significant swaths of land, only twice, compared to an average of five over his last five State of the Union speeches."

Things only got worse.

Barack declared, "Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, fewer than 15,00 remain."  And the do-nothing Win Without War responded with this Tweet:

"Our combat mission in is over." President Obama. When will our remaining 15,000 troops there come home, Mr President?
8 retweets 4 favorites

Now I know they're whores.  But are they stupid?  15,000 was not given by Barack as the number of US troops in Aghanistan, it was Afghanistan and Iraq.

Win Without War is a  group who thinks they can take over the Democratic Party from within.  It's never worked out that way for them.  They just whore and whore until they stand for nothing while they continue to try to herd voters over to the Democratic Party.

In 2006, they couldn't stop pretending to care about Iraq.


Not so much.

And then there's Ruth Conniff.

The aged princess of The Progressive is bound and determined to run the magazine into the ground -- and knowing Ruth, she'll succeed at that.

Ruth couldn't stop Tweeting throughout the speech.

But not about Iraq.

Remember this is the stupid woman that went on KPFA and bragged about how none of her friends had children who enlisted and she didn't no anyone who served in the Iraq War.

Ruth thought that was something to share.

No surprise, her ascension at the magazine has only resulted in an already muddied approach getting worse.

Unlike Ruth, many Americans do not veterans of today's wars.

March Forward!'s Mike Prysner offers his take at Veterans for Peace and concludes, "A system set up like this can only replicate the same heart-wrenching tragedies for people like us. No need to watch the State of the Union--we need a revolution."  Following Barack's speech, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following:

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 20, 2015) – Tonight, President Obama failed to address critical priorities for the veteran community, including restoring trust in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after last summer’s scandals and reforming veteran mental health care services. Despite praising the Joining Forces initiative to improve veteran unemployment and mentioning the VA disability claims backlog, the President remained silent on critical veterans issues.

Particularly disappointing was the President’s failure to affirm his administration’s support for urgent passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act – historic bipartisan legislation that will increase access to quality mental health care and combat veteran suicide. With 22 veterans dying by suicide every day, IAVA has partnered with more than 20 veteran service organizations and partners and lawmakers from both parties to promote the bill, named after Marine veteran Clay Hunt who died by suicide in 2011.

“Tonight, the Commander-in-Chief once again thanked our veterans and servicemembers for their selfless service to our country. However, actions speak louder than words,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “Yes, the President must speak to many constituencies in the State of the Union, but no other group fought and sacrificed for its country like veterans. After the VA scandal and marking more than 13 years of combat, veterans were hoping for a proactive policy agenda from our President. As the recent success of the film “American Sniper” attests, our country is beginning a sober discussion on the impact of the post-9/11 wars on our servicemembers, their families and our country, and we had hoped for the President to lead that conversation. He didn’t.”

Rieckhoff continued, “This next year will be crucial for the veteran community as more servicemembers return home and transition to civilian life. But in the address tonight, the President rarely mentioned veterans. Veterans exist, and many among us need assistance, particularly in the often overlooked area of mental health care. But we refuse to have our issues swept under the rug, and we will not rest until Congress passes and the President signs the Clay Hunt SAV Act, designed to combat the tragedy of 22 veterans dying by suicide every day.”

“Furthermore, in last year’s address the President committed to slashing the VA’s disability claims backlog. A year later, we are nowhere near “backlog zero.” Currently, more than 242,000 veterans are still waiting to get the benefits they earned. The state of the union is strong, but the state of the VA is still smoldering. Last summer, IAVA members and veterans across the country were shocked to learn about the alleged misconduct and wrongdoing at VA hospitals. For many veterans, the VA health care system is their only health care system. While we appreciate the efforts of Sec. McDonald and his team to enact reforms, we are frustrated the President did not mention how he will restore veterans’ faith in the VA after months of scandal. Our veterans don’t deserve to be ignored,” said Rieckhoff.

IAVA looks forward to Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union Address. As the first female combat veteran elected to serve in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Ernst is in a unique position to fight for the nation’s veterans, particularly the female soldiers who bravely served the country. Sen. Ernst served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and currently serves as a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. IAVA urges her to publicly address the veteran suicide crisis and to endorse urgent passage of the SAV Act as well.

At IAVA offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City, veterans attended SOTU watch parties and live-tweeted the President’s address using the hashtag #SOTUVets.

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.

Still on veterans, IAVA's Paul Reickhoff notes:

  • . is the first female post-9/11 vet in history elected to the Senate. National Guard CO in Iraq. Bio:

  • Jon Ward (Yahoo News) reports on Senator Joni Ernst's delivery of the Republican Party's response. National Journal has the full text of her response. Megan McCardle (Bloomberg News) provides this call, "Joni Ernst, the Iowa pig farmer turned legislator, wasn't quite as wooden as most of her predecessors, and having grown up with very limited means, she was able to deliver the Republican talking points without being painted as just another rich Republican who doesn't understand the first thing about being poor. But it was light years from articulating a substantial, affirmative agenda for her party. Though to be fair, maybe that's too much to expect from a 10-minute speech."

    Back to Barack and other critiques of his speech?  Patrick Martin (WSWS) offers:

    Perhaps the most striking aspect of Obama’s hour-long address, riddled with tired clichés and empty rhetoric, was the sheer unreality of the picture he presented of America, totally at odds with the actual experience of tens of millions of working people: mounting social and economic crisis, escalating attacks on democratic rights and the growing danger of world war.
    “The shadow of crisis has passed,” Obama claimed, declaring that the US has successfully emerged from the economic slump that followed the 2008-2009 financial crash. “At this moment, with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production—we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.”
    No one not hypnotized by the ever-rising share prices on the New York Stock Exchange can accept that as a serious description of American social reality. A few figures released in the past month make this clear:
    * Nine million workers are officially unemployed, another six million have dropped out of the labor force, eight million work part-time when they want full-time jobs and 12 million work for temporary employment agencies.
    * Real wages have fallen steadily for American workers since 2007, dropping another five cents an hour in December 2014. The real income of the average working-class family is now back to the level of 2000—15 years of stagnation in living standards.
    * The US poverty rate has risen from 12.6 percent in 2007 to 14.5 percent in 2013. Nearly half of all Americans and more than half of all US school children are poor or near poor.
    * One fifth of American children do not get enough to eat, while the overall rate of food insecurity has jumped from 11 percent in 2007 to 16 percent in 2013. One million Americans will be cut off food stamp benefits this year.

    Obama evaded any discussion of such figures, substituting instead the proposal for “middle-class economics,” a term deliberately chosen to conceal the ongoing attack on jobs and living standards of American workers. It is the latest brand-name his speechwriters have concocted for the policy of both capitalist parties, Democratic and Republican alike, of promoting the interests of American corporations and banks against their foreign rivals and the working class at home.

    Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) weighs in:

    The modern State of the Union address is designed to showcase the transparency of U.S. governance, with all three branches of the American State scrunched together in the space of a TV screen, applauding the leader. But late stage capitalism dare not reorder the world in the light of day. Since almost the beginning of the 21st century, lawyers and lobbyists for the global corporate class have been hammering out the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), sometimes called “NAFTA on steroids,” in total secrecy. Speaking to the American people, last night, President Obama feared to utter the treaty’s name. Instead, he asked “both parties to give me trade promotion authority” – ‘fast track’ passage of the legislation, unread by lawmakers – “to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.” If it were fair, of course, they wouldn’t keep it secret. By now, even the illiterate know that NAFTA and other “free trade” pacts smoothed the way for the export of U.S. jobs to the Global South and China, 20 years ago. But Obama inferred to the nation that the new deal will have the opposite effect. “More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.”

    For the record, there is no reason to believe that TPP will cause jobs to flow back to the U.S. from China – quite the opposite. But then, Obama didn’t exactly say that the jobs flow would be reversed; like the worst kind of liar, he only inferred it.

    Moving over to Iraq, Madre and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission issued the following statement:

    Media Contact: Suzanne Trimel,, +1-201-247-5057 (mobile)
    The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and MADRE, the global women’s rights group, condemn the recent killing of at least five individuals by the Islamic State, two of whom were allegedly murdered for homosexual conduct. While the story has been widely reported since January 17th as the execution of two gay men for homosexuality, no information available to date can independently verify the facts of their sexual orientation or shed light on the conduct for which they were executed. IGLHRC and MADRE emphasize the need for accuracy in understanding the executions and the urgent need to avoid inciting panic and risking further harm. In spite of the uncertainties surrounding the recent killings, however, the organizations point to the need for the international community to recognize the heightened risks facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Iraqis living under the Islamic State’s control.
    Summary of What is Known
    On January 17, the Islamic State’s local branch, the Neinava Province's Media Center, published on its website four labeled photos of its execution of two men who were thrown off a high building in Mosul, Iraq.
    The ISIS photos show crowds, including children, gathered to watch this horrific scene.
    The men’s names have not been made public.
    One of the photos in the series is captioned, “The execution is punishment for the person who committed the act of the people of Lot by throwing him off a tall building.” The term “people of Lot” is a euphemism for sodomy.
    According to the captions, the men were charged with sodomy, convicted by the Sharia court in the Neinava Province, and their punishment was in accordance with Sharia law.
    At the same time, the Islamic State posted captioned photos online of their execution of a woman they allegedly stoned to death for adultery and their crucifixion of two other men for "spreading corruption on earth" through "assaulting the Muslims with arms," "terrorizing the public," and "armed robbery."
    Summary of IGLHRC’s and MADRE’s Concerns
    IGLHRC and MADRE caution concerned members of the media, representatives of foreign governments and people of conscience generally in the strongest possible terms against assuming that the men identified as ‘gay’ and against assuming the men engaged in homosexual acts. Other than the photos themselves, very little is known about these executions. IGLHRC has tried to independently verify the events that occurred with little success to date. Without credible evidence, it is crucial to exercise extreme caution in how the event is reported and how the men are described.
    At this time, to publicly call Iraqi men “gay” can only do harm. If the men did not identify as gay, the allegation is inaccurate and obscures the Islamic State’s motivation for publicly labeling them as such. If the men indeed identified as gay, extreme caution should be exercised and consultation held with those they loved. If the men identified as gay, widespread publicity potentially exposes their families, loved ones and intimate partners to harm. Honor killings are pervasive in Iraq, so the safety of those most affected must be a paramount concern.
    Furthermore, to assume that the executions were for sodomy solely on the basis of information from the Islamic State is dangerous. Without evidentiary basis or independent confirmation, this sweeping allegation could be applied to anyone the Islamic State seeks to discredit—including human rights activists and anyone opposed to the Islamic State. Accusing opponents of homosexuality is a tried and true tool used to discredit political adversaries throughout the world.
    Accuracy is absolutely needed to moderate the level of fear of LGBTI Iraqis living in areas controlled by the Islamic State. During the anti-emo killings in 2012, rumors circulated alleging that upwards of a thousand people had been killed for perceived gender and sexual non-conformity, while the documented number was nearer ten. In response, IGLHRC interviewed LGBTI Iraqis and found that some fled the country, were shunned, isolated themselves at home too afraid to venture into the streets, and experienced high levels of suicidal ideation. The stakes today are high enough; allies in the media, foreign governments, and among concerned friends globally must understand accurately what occurred and avoid risky inflations of the threat level.
    ISIS Actions Underscore Fears Raised in 2014 by IGLHRC and MADRE
    Regardless of how any of the men or the woman executed identified or what they were executed for, the violence of the Islamic State and its tactics of intimidation are unacceptable in all instances. It is important to note that what the Islamic State describes as its “court system” is outside the bounds of international recognition, without adherence to due process and other established legal procedures.
    While the facts are unclear, the Islamic State’s very public execution of these men and very public assertion that they were executed for homosexuality underscores the fears IGLHRC, MADRE, and another co-author raised in a briefing paper issued in November, “When Coming Out is a Death Sentence.” In addition to documenting ongoing persecution of LGBTI Iraqis, the briefing paper raised concerns that LGBTI people (or anyone perceived as such) in Iraq were at imminent risk of death due to the stated intention of the Islamic State to kill anyone believed to be gay or engaged in same-sex activities. Its companion piece, “We’re Here: Iraqi LGBT People’s Accounts of Violence and Rights Abuses,” a collection of personal stories from LGBT Iraqis, describes the human costs to a community that has been largely rejected by family, community, militias and the state.
    Now that we have the Islamic State’s own boastful declaration of responsibility for these tragic deaths, it is clear that our fears of heightened risk for LGBTI Iraqis at the hands of the Islamic State continue to be well-founded. Despite cautions at this time, IGLHRC and MADRE urge the international community to focus on the specific dangers LGBTI Iraqis face within the context of the broader national crisis, including by expediting support for internal and external resettlement of people fleeing due to persecution.

    As we wind down, Felicity Arbuthnot has an important report at Dissident Voice which we'll excerpt some of tomorrow -- a promise I made yesterday but fail to keep today.  We don't have space or time and I don't have the energy.


  • Tony Blair is quoted in various outlets stating he doesn't care if the report is released.

    Which would indicate it's a whitewash.  Blair was the prime minister who sold the Iraq War in England.  And Blair's seen the report -- unlike the British citizens.  So if he says he's okay with it being released, it probably goes to the fact that the report doesn't really hold him accountable.