Thursday, January 08, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, January 8, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, that Iraqi military operation to take back Iraq that was geared for February may be put off, US forces are training Iraqi soldiers in taking pride in their country, Iraq is ranked number three on a new listing (a listing no country wants to be on), US Senator Barbara Boxer announces her long overdue retirement, and much more.

Starting in the US where US Senator Barbara Boxer has (thankfully) announced she will not seek re-election in 2016.  Some are noting that Boxer was elected to the Senate in the 'year of the woman' with 1992 seeing so many women enter into the Senate.

Boxer got at that in a phone call with the press today where she noted Anita Hill.  The elections were proceeded by Hill-Thomas.  Clarence Thomas was nominated for the Supreme Court (by George HW Bush) and Anita Hill was one of the women he'd harassed.  Anita Hill stepped forward and was targeted and trashed by the likes of David Brock (of Media Matters).  She came forward in the Senate confirmation hearings.  Seeing Anita Hill questioned by one male on the Judiciary Committee after another underscored the gender imbalance and also drove home that so many men on the Committee just didn't 'get it,' just didn't grasp that harassment wasn't 'fun and games' but a very real issue of abuse of power.

It was thought and hoped that women would make a difference because they 'got it.'

Sadly, the case can't be made with Barbara that women 'get it.'

She disgraced herself repeatedly but never as much as she did once Barack Obama became President of the United States.

A woman who 'got it' would not be insulting Get Equal  for their advocacy efforts to end the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy and allow gay men and lesbians to serve in the military openly.

At their worst, the men on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1992 looked like people who didn't care about anything outside of their own limited understanding and weren't about to use their power to expand the rights of others.

That's exactly how Boxer came off with regards to LGBT issues when Barack became president.

Not only did she refuse to press on issues but she condemned those who did press -- she condemned and mocked Get Equal publicly and looked like a lunatic homophobe in the process.

The last six years were nothing but Boxer destroying her own image.

And it was never a strong image.

In a struggle to find something -- anything! -- to point to with pride, today she seized upon her 2002 vote on the impending Iraq War.  AP explains today "Boxer has said she is most proud of the vote that she cast against the war in Iraq."  Evan Halper (Los Angeles Times) notes:

The senator’s inability to persuade more colleagues to vote against the war in Iraq also continues to weigh on her, she said.
“Looking back, I wish I had done more to stop it,” she said. “I used to come down [to the Senate chambers] and read the names of the dead.... I couldn’t change things.”

No, you wouldn't change things.

It only took one senator to filibuster.  Former Senator Mike Gravel made that point repeatedly in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

In fact, let's note this from 2006, issued by the Gravel campaign (he was seeking the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination):

WASHINGTON, June 12 - On the eve of the "Take Back America Conference" in Washington, D.C. former United States Senator Mike Gravel, Democratic candidate for President of the United States, who, in 1971, staged a five month filibuster to end the draft, wrote an article published in "The Wayne Madsen Report.Com" ( entitled "HOW TO TAKE BACK AMERICA". The Senator said, "It is fine and right for Democrats and others to criticize, for example, the mismanagement by President Bush of his War on Iraq, but where were the filibusters in the face of obvious distortions and selective presentation of intelligence? Why did the Republican majorities and many of my fellow Democrats accept uncritically the intelligence fed to them while year after year fully funding the War?"
Senator Gravel in the Spring and Summer of 2002, appeared on several MSNBC shows during the run up to the Invasion of Iraq, where he asserted his opposition to the war while declaring that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction and that the Iraqi Government posed no threat to the United States. The Senator asked, "Where were the opposition to the War in 2002 and who stood up then to publicly oppose the President on national television? Where was the release of vital information during the rush to war on the House or Senate floor? What have our elected representatives done since to stop the war they have acquiesced in ever since?" The Senator continued," Americans may rightly wonder, after this abdication of responsibility, whether either party, or any branch of the existing government has the courage to handle the task of deciding issues of war and peace as well as the critical domestic challenges the nation faces."
Gravel noted that the same observation applies to the progressive agenda on domestic policy. Given the Administration's Rubik Cube like reform for its indecipherable Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or its tragically ruinous response to the Katrina disaster, the vast price in the form of mounting debt and deficits imposed by Mr. Bush's spend and spend and make wars policy that have also caused the price of gasoline to skyrocket and the choke hold that well funded interests have on policy debates from energy to social security, does anyone think that the kind of necessary fundamental change will pass through the Senate Finance Committee or rouse the Congress to action?
The Senator concluded, "The only way for Americans to take back America is for Americans to change its nation's politics and government, i.e. for Americans to take back some of its initial law making power they are implicitly granted in the Constitution, in both the Preamble and Article VII. That means a process of National Initiative, under which the people can propose and vote on laws directly at the federal level -– as they do in half the states and most cities and towns today. As the Federalist observed, 'The people can never willfully betray their own interests but they may possibly be betrayed by the representatives of the people.' If our Democracy is to flourish then we must let the people decide."
Listen to Senator Gravel on the Peter B Collins Show at and KSAC 1240 AM 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

What did Barbara Boxer do?

She voted "no" in 2002.

And that was it.

She did as little as possible.

And before some idiot rushes to defend her, she even admitted that in August 5, 2009 on The Diane Rehm Show:

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.

I regret it too -- that she was too damn lazy to do anything more.

That even as late as 2009, she was rushing around to promote a bad book she co-wrote while pretending to wish she'd actually done something.

Here's a thought: Stop wasting your time on bad books and promoting bad books and do something to the end the Iraq War

That would be the war that continues to this day even though she can't admit that.

Boxer's only accomplishment -- which some may argue contributed to the current crises in Iraq -- would be getting the US government to stop paying Sahwas.

In April 2008, with nearly 100,000 Sahwas, each earning at least $300 a day, being paid by the US government, Boxer wondered why the oil rich government of Iraq wasn't paying these Iraqis themselves?

That question led the US government to insist Nouri pick up the tab.  Which he kind-of, sort-of briefly never really did.


Boxer called Nouri al-Maliki a "thug" throughout his first term.

As most people know, Nouri's second term was his worst in terms of his abuses.

But, by then, Barack was president and Barbara no longer called out Nouri.

I could give her credit for another Iraq issue.  She worked behind the scenes on it -- we were in agreement with her on it -- but she did it behind the scenes and has never sought to note it (I know several reporters know about it -- I have no idea why they didn't note it).  But she did take a stand on an issue related to Iraq and when she did it -- more than any other Democrat standing up -- sent shock waves through the White House because she'd never threatened to go against Barack before.

Again, if she wants to go public on that, fine.  I'll thank her for it and praise her for it.  But I know about it due to offline events -- including meeting with her on the issue -- so I'll leave it offline unless she wants to public.  But I will state she did do one good thing, one stand up thing, on Iraq in the last six years.

I've never favored term limits and considered the notion unconstitutional.  However, as you begin to grasp the power of incumbency, it's clear that something needs to be done.  Boxer's not the only one who should be stepping down from the Congress.

Oh-oh, don't ya know
Don't wanna see you here no more
Pack it and move it
You spell, you read O-U-T out
Don't be bad
A mad hatter's beret
Sometimes you look like you just mad an escape
Don't be mad
Or lose your medicaid cool
Of course cool rhymes with fool
Don't go be bad 
Cause you been had
Don't go away sad, 

Don't go away mad
Just go away

-- "Just Go Away," written by Debbie Harry, first appears on Blondie's Parallel Lines.

From the one who held the power to the victimized,  Open Doors has published their World Watch List.  The Christian organization annually notes the countries where Christians face persecution.  They rank the 50 worst countries for persecution and Iraq makes the top ten:

1) North Korea
2) Somalia
3) Iraq
4) Syria
5) Afghanistan
6) Sudan
7) Iran
8) Pakistan
9) Eritrea
10) Nigeria

The organization states of Iraq, "The situation of religious freedom for Christians has seriously deteriorated under the influence of the establishment of the Islamic State in large parts of Iraq. In June 2014, a strict version of Islamic law was implemented in the area the militants of Islamic State hold. Christians were forced to convert, flee or pay a tax for religious minorities. As a result, many Christians fled. Moreover, the broader Iraqi society is turning more Islamic, with increased social control on women wearing a veil and observance of Ramadan. Christians most affected by persecution are converts from Islam. However, in areas held by radical Islamic groups all Christians are under great pressure."

And they offer:


  • For the thousands of refugees who have fled to northern Iraq or to surrounding countries
  • For Christians who have been left homeless and without jobs
  • That the Islamic State will be turned back and driven out of the Middle East 

Turning to some of today's violence, Alsumaria notes that a Baghdad suicide bomber took his own life and the life of 1 other person while injuring three more and a Tguetich suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers with one more left injured. Al Jazeera notes, "In western Baghdad, a suicide bomber set off his explosives belt among Shia worshippers who were leaving a mosque there, killing eight worshippers and wounding 16 others."  Also getting attention were bombings in Samarra.  Both Iraqi Spring MC and BBC News count five bombings.  Yang Yi (Xinhua) reports:

Islamic State (IS) militants launched a major attack on Samarra, a city of Iraq's northern central province of Salahudin, a provincial security source said.
The attack occurred at dawn when five suicide bombers blew up their explosive-laden trucks near the security checkpoints on a highway and at the western entrance of Samarra, some 120km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

In violence throughout the country, Margaret Griffis ( counts 249 dead and 108 injured.

But don't worry, Barack has a . . .

Well . . . he calls it a "plan."

Loveday Morris (Washington Post) reports on US training efforts with an article which opens, "Years after the U.S. military tried to create a new army in Iraq -- at a cost of over $25 billion -- American trainers have returned to help rebuild the country’s fighting force."

And the new money will be a waste as well judging by efforts Morris reports -- efforts like, in the words of US Sgt Maj Michael Grinston, "classes on the will to fight."

That doesn't generally come from classes.

Historically, it's come from one of two areas.  The first one is a feeling that you are vested in the country, a part of the nation and you want to defend it.  The second is fear.  Governments have rounded up people and forced them to fight via threats (to the individuals themselves and sometimes to their families).

Can it come from a class?

Possibly if (a) it's done in formative years and (b) it's done by Iraqis.

A foreigner is going to instill a will to fight in the Iraqi people?

Is Barack back in the Choom Gang?

That might explain why he thinks bombing Iraq from war planes since August counts as a 'plan.'

Of course, he's insisted everyone just be patient because, come February, the Iraqi military will retake the areas which have fallen to the Islamic State.

But what was said in October, for example, is no longer in the distant future.

February is next month.

Lolita C. Baldor (AP) reports US Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to reporters today and "he said it's still unclear when the Iraqi troops will be ready to mount an offensive against Islamic State militants that have control of portions of northern and western Iraq."

Still unclear?

Months ago, it was supposed to happen in February -- up until that was only 22 days away.

Then it became "unclear."

What's clear is that  Shi'ite militias continue to terrorize in Iraq.

In September 2013, Tim Arango (New York Times) broke the news  that Nouri had brought Shi'ite militias into the armed forces:

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

In August 2014, Nouri was replaced as prime minister by Haider al-Abadi.

Yet the militias continue to be part of the Iraqi forces.

Today, Josh Rogin and Eli Lake (Bloomberg News) report:

U.S. weapons intended for Iraq’s beleaguered military are winding up in the possession of the country’s Shiite militias, according to U.S. lawmakers and senior officials in the Barack Obama administration. These sources say that the Baghdad government, which was granted $1.2 billion in training and equipment aid in the omnibus spending bill passed last month,  is turning hardware over to Shiite militias that are heavily influenced by Iran and have been guilty of gross human-rights violations. 

An unnamed "senior administration official" frets over the dilemma.

It's not a dilemma.

It's a violation of the Leahy Amendment.

Per US law, no more weapons can be handed over.  These weapons are being used against Iraqi civilians -- primarily Sunnis.  This violation is supposed to mean arming Iraq comes to a halt.

The reporters note:

 “I am concerned by reports that U.S. weapons have ended up in the hands of Shi’a militia forces -- all the more so, given their history of committing atrocities with impunity,” Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate state and foreign operations subcommittee told us in a statement. Leahy is the author of the law that requires the U.S. government to cut off training and assistance to military units credibly accused of human-rights violations.

The so-called Leahy law applies only to military forces of a foreign government, not non-state actors. But in Leahy’s view, the prohibition should extend to the Shiite militias in Iraq because they are at least partly funded and under the supervision of the Baghdad government. Last year, the Obama administration determined that the Leahy law legally did not apply to the Iraqi tribal militias or Free Syrian Army. Nonetheless, the administration also determined that, as a matter of policy, it would vet these units for human-rights abusers as if they were foreign militaries.

The law's being broken.  Congress needs to hold hearings on the issue.

And Haider al-Abadi, 'new' prime minister of Iraq needs to be encouraged to get to work on the political solution -- one he promised to deliver as a condition to being named prime minister -- before things get even worse.

Instead of encouraging or offering conditions, the White House just hands things over freely apparently.  Paul McLeary (Defense News) notes, "The United States provided the Iraqi armed forces with $300 million in donated military equipment in 2014, and over the next two months will deliver six more Abrams tanks and 50 up-armored Humvees at no cost to the Baghdad government, according to information provided by the US Embassy in Baghdad."

Where's the plan, Barack?  Where's the plan?