Seems like just yesterday that a puffed chest former general and current envoy John Allen was boasting to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "In addition we're also discussing the coalition's next steps now that we've largely achieved the objectives of the campaign's first phase which was to blunt ISIL's strategic operation and tactical momentum in Iraq."
Oh, wait, that was yesterday.
Yet Al Jazeera reports today at least 20 Iraqi troops were killed when the Islamic States "seized a strategic bridge" in Anbar Province which "connects the cities of Baghdadi and Haditha" and Iraqi forces attempted (but failed) to take it back. In addition, the bridge is near the US-occupied Ayn al-Asad airbase (where the US trains -- among other things) and there was a suicide truck bombing outside the entrance to the base.
So the Islamic State is on the run?
Various US officials keep insisting that but reality rejects it.
That's how it is under Barack, that's how it was under Bully Boy Bush.
They appear to see the Iraq War as a 12-step program and that, if they spin the talk hard enough, reality will eventually bend to their will.
They pulled this in 2003 and it didn't happen.
They pulled this in 2004 and it didn't happen.
They pulled this in 2005 and it didn't happen.
They pulled this in 2006 and it didn't happen.
They pulled this in 2007 and it didn't happen.
. . .
As Vanessa Williams says at the end of "Running Back To You," "Get the message? 'Nuff said."
The Senate's concerned with what Barack's Authorization for the Use of Military Force (in Iraq, Syria, Disneyland and pretty much the entire world) says.
We covered some of Wednesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in yesterday's snapshot. Senator Bob Corker is the Chair, Senator Bob Menendez is the Ranking Member. Appearing before the Committee was retired Gen John Allen whom US President Barack Obama has named the Special Presidential Envoy for The Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Senator Barbara Boxer: Under Article I, Section 8, Congress has the power to declare war. I know that you agree with that, yes?
Ambassador John Allen Yes, ma'am.
Senator Barbara Boxer: Alright. So I hope you could then understand why we would want to be very precise when we do that because we're sent here by a lot of people who have a lot of kids who serve in the military and they're the fabric of our communities so we want to be careful. I just want to say I'm not even going to ask you to expand on this enduring word because you've said it very clearly. Your definition is no enduring presence could mean a 2-week presence of combat boots on the ground -- American combat boots on the ground -- or a two-year presence of American combat boots on the ground. And that answers a question the Democrats on this Committee have been searching for this-this definition and I think what you are proving with your honesty is there is none because its in the eye of the beholder. When you say to me if I vote for this, no enduring combat presence and I'm sending my kids there in my state for two years I would argue to you you've misinterpreted it. Yet the Congressional Research Service says there's really no definition. And if I wanted to take the administration to court as I would say, as a member of Congress, "I said no enduring presence," CRS says I wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on 'cause there's no definition. So I just think it's very important the administration hear this once again. I know poor Senator -- Secretary [of State John] Kerry had to hear it over and over from our side yesterday. But we're very uncomfortable with this language. And when Senator Menendez was Chairman, he cobbled together a really good AUMF that united all of us on our side because he essentially said no combat troops with these exceptions -- and he put in the kind of exceptions that I think you would agree with -- special forces operations, search and rescue, protecting personnel. And we would urge you, please, to go back and take a look at it. I just feel very strongly.
In yesterday's snapshot, we noted some exchanges on this issue. We'll note another from the hearing:
Senator Ed Markey: In the Authorization for the Use of Military Force text that the administration provided to this Committee. It said that it would prohibit "enduring" ground forces. And this was meant to convey that large numbers of [US] troops wouldn't be on the ground for a long time -- whatever that means. I voted for the 2001 resolution and I'm reminded that the US combat operations in Afghanistan were dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom. We are now past 13 years in that enduring fight and that resolution, of course, was also the basis for the justification of our actions in Somalia, in Yemen and the administration is saying quite clearly that they oppose the repeal of that and that the operations that are going on right now, in fact, are consistent with that 2001 authorization. Now causes great problems to me and I think many members of the Committee because even in the absence of the passage of a new AUMF, the administration is maintaining that they have the authority to continue -- as they have for thirteen years -- under Operation Enduring Freedom. And so that obviously is a problem for us because that sits there as an underlying authority for the next president -- Democrat or Republican who is sworn in on January 20, 2017 and most of us are will be sitting here then as you'll successor will be sitting here then and perhaps not with the same interpretation of the word "enduring." So my questions then go to is this going to open up a potential for an open-ended war in the Middle East? Will it allow for unfettered deployment of ground troops? And ultimately, whether or not we are opening up Pandora's Box -- especially in Syria?
The "enduring" aspect has attracted some media attention.
It's not resulted in any real media analysis.
Yes, tired whores like Rosa Brooks stepped up to justify and minimize it.
That's not an analysis -- though dim wits like Rosa probably think it is.
As Barbara Boxer noted in the hearing, there was an AUMF proposal before the White House (finally) submitted their wish list in February.
Until the new Senate was sworn in last January, the Democrats controlled the Senate. And Bob Menendez was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as Boxer noted, and crafted an AUMF that Democrats in the Senate could live with.
I thought it went too far but whatever.
It would have given Barack much of what he wants in the new AUMF.
What it wouldn't give him was "enduring."
Supposedly, this AUMF is needed.
That's confusing all by itself since the White House continues to insist that they will continue -- with or without an AUMF authorizing Barack's ongoing war actions -- to do what they're doing.
But, supposedly, this AUMF is needed.
In a playground, children may bicker in the sandbox over a toy that, for example, they want to use in a sand castle -- say a figure or plastic soldier or whatever.
At some point, they either resolve the issue (by themselves or via an adult intervening) or they stop playing together.
Is Barack a tiny child?
At his age, shouldn't he be the intervening adult?
The point is, if you can get most of what you want, adults in DC know to take it.
You never get everything you want from this or any Congress.
Compromise is the overwhelming acting principle.
So serious analysis of the requested AUMF would address how this is not a minor issue to the White House unless Barack is deeply stupid.
If this were a minor issue, it would have been ditched already, tossed overboard so everyone could move forward.
What exactly is Barack discussing and planning that's not being presented to the American people?
The Iraqi forces aren't up for much of anything.
Corruption and crime have reduced the force to a joke.
And that's why, despite the White House planning an operation to retake Mosul in February, the month is now ending with no such attempt.
Mosul was taken over by the Islamic State in June. Retaking it might have symbolic value.
But now the White House has aired the option that Mosul might be invaded soon . . . or in April . . . or in May.
These 'deadlines' are vaporous.
The reason for that, clearly, is that the Iraqi military is not thought to be up to the challenge of retaking Mosul.
For Mosul to be of any value, there has to be immediate operations.
By that I mean, think of the Islamic State as a tube of toothpaste and let's consider Mosul the middle.
Squeeze the middle of the tube and the toothpaste does not vanish.
Instead, it spreads out to both ends of the tube.
Should Mosul be retaken, the most obvious move for the Islamic State was to grab new areas or fortify existing ones.
Should an operation to retake Mosul be carried out and be successfully carried out, the immediate time after that effort would have to see a military force stepping up to ensure that the Islamic State fleeing Mosul did not spread elsewhere.
New Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter likes to play out variables with the press on what would lead him to recommend US ground forces in Iraq.
If you pay attention, the aftermath of taking Mosul fits Carter's definition.
So is this what's going on?
Is this what has the White House refusing to say, "Okay, take that whole 'enduring' clause out and let's move forward and let you pass an AUMF"?
It seems very likely.
A Tweet today raises an issue:
For those who don't know, a Status Of Forces Agreement is what gives legal protection to US forces in Iraq.
When the Iraq War started, the United Nations provided cover for the occupation (not the invasion) and it was a yearly authorization.
In 2008, due to the problems then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was having each year when he's push through the renewal (bypassing Parliament), Bully Boy Bush decided that the SOFA would be for more than a single year.
They got a three year deal (with one year clauses) in November of 2008.
Prior to getting that deal, Joe Biden -- then in the Senate -- had declared if the administration failed to get a SOFA by December 31, 2008, all US troops would . . .
They're remain locked down on US bases in Iraq until some deal was worked out.
The SOFA expired at the end of 2011.
We could go into why and all of that but we're not focused on that for this discussion.
Barack wants US troops in combat in Iraq.
You can't avoid that.
It's there in the AUMF.
So if there's no agreement -- such as a SOFA -- then it doesn't matter because US forces can't be put into combat on the ground in Iraq without an agreement which protects US troops from legal challenges for their operations in Iraq.
So why isn't the White House working on a SOFA?
These are issues people should be asking.
The US forces are in Iraq.
Has Barack betrayed them by putting them on the ground in Iraq without a legal protection?
If so, that would be an issue that could even rise to the level of grounds for impeachment.
That's not going to happen because the desire to keep US troops in Iraq is long rooted. Let's fall back to the April 30, 2013 Iraq snapshot:
December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed. We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way. It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."
Now let's go to the Decmeber 11, 2012 snapshot:
In yesterday's snapshot, we covered the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department of Defense of the United States of America. Angry, dysfunctional e-mails from Barack-would-never-do-that-to-me criers indicate that we need to go over the Memo a little bit more. It was signed on Thursday and announced that day by the Pentagon. Section two (listed in full in yesterday's snapshot) outlines that the two sides have agreed on: the US providing instructors and training personnel and Iraq providing students, Iraqi forces and American forces will work together on counterterrorism and on joint exercises. The tasks we just listed go to the US military being in Iraq in larger numbers. Obviously the two cannot do joint exercises or work together on counterterrorism without US military present in Iraq.
This shouldn't be surprising. In the November 2, 2007 snapshot -- five years ago -- we covered the transcript of the interview Michael R. Gordon and Jeff Zeleny did with then-Senator Barack Obama who was running in the Democratic Party's primary for the party's presidential nomination -- the transcript, not the bad article the paper published, the actual transcript. We used the transcript to write "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq'" at Third. Barack made it clear in the transcript that even after "troop withdrawal" he would "leave behind a residual force." What did he say this residual force would do? He said, "I think that we should have some strike capability. But that is a very narrow mission, that we get in the business of counter terrorism as opposed to counter insurgency and even on the training and logistics front, what I have said is, if we have not seen progress politically, then our training approach should be greatly circumscribed or eliminated."
This is not withdrawal. This is not what was sold to the American people. Barack is very lucky that the media just happened to decide to take that rather explosive interview -- just by chance, certainly the New York Times wasn't attempting to shield a candidate to influence an election, right? -- could best be covered with a plate of lumpy, dull mashed potatoes passed off as a report. In the transcript, Let-Me-Be-Clear Barack declares, "I want to be absolutely clear about this, because this has come up in a series of debates: I will remove all our combat troops, we will have troops there to protect our embassies and our civilian forces and we will engage in counter terrorism activities."
So when the memo announces counterterrorism activities, Barack got what he wanted, what he always wanted, what the media so helpfully and so frequently buried to allow War Hawk Barack to come off like a dove of peace.
In Section Four of the Memo, both parties acknowledge that to achieve these things they may need further documentation and that such documentation will be done as attachments "to this MOU." Thse would include things like "medical reports" for "dispatched personnel." Oh, some idiot says, they mean State Dept personnel. No, they don't. The US is represented in this Memo by the Defense Dept. This refers to DoD personnel. They may also need an attachment to go over "procedures for recalling dispatched personnel," and possibly for covering "the death of dispatched personnel with the territory of the host country." The Memo can run for five years from last Thursday (when it was signed) and, after five years, it can renewed every year afterwards. US troops could be in Iraq forever. The kill clause in this differs from the SOFA. The 2008 SOFA had a kill clause that meant, one year after notification of wanting out of the SOFA, the SOFA would be no more. The Memo doesn't require lead time notice. Instead, "Either Participant may discontinue this MOU at any time, though the Participant should endeavor to provide advance notice of its intent to discontinue the MOU to the other Participant."
Again, Barack got what he wanted. He'd stated what he wanted in 2007. He got it. If your life's goal is to cheer Barack -- that is the goal of the Cult of St. Barack -- start cheering and stop whining that Barack's been misrepresented. The Memo gives him everything he wanted so, for Barack, it's a victory. For those who believe in peace, for those who believe the US military should be out of Iraq, it's a tragedy.
Everything needed -- including US military going on combat patrols with Iraqi forces -- was granted in the MOU of 2012.
Nouri's frequently referenced it -- usually to whine and complain -- and the press either acts confused or doesn't grasp that there's an MOU out there.
This has not been a 'rush' on the part of the White House. It's been a carefully unfolding plan.
And any real analysis of the AUMF that Barack's requesting would acknowledge that.
Let's note another Tweet:
And that is correct. Throughout Nouri's second term, Sunnis were targeted, harassed and killed, displaced and branded "terrorists" (by Nouri) for the 'crime' of carrying out sit-ins.
And the world didn't talk about it.
And in the US there was such a desire to look the other way in order to protect Barack and the lie that he was antiwar and that he'd done something value with Iraq (when he insisted Nouri get a second term despite Nouri losing the 2010 elections).
And, sadly, it's true even now that what's being done to the Sunnis is ignored and excused by the administration, by Barack Obama.
Falluja, to cite only one example, continues to be bombed daily by the Iraqi military.
In its residential neighborhoods.
Even if 'terrorists' were in those neighborhoods, it is a War Crime to bomb them when civilians are present. It is known as "collective punishment" and it is a legally defined and legally recognized War Crime. That's by the international community, that's by the United States government.
But these bombings aren't called out by the US government. There's no threat to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of, "Stop these bombings or we will not send you . . . ."
So, yes, the Sunnis continue to be targeted and the world looks away.
Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reports:
Kurdish authorities are reportedly blocking the return of Arab Iraqis to their homes in Kurdish controlled areas. They are using the claim that the Arabs collaborated with the Islamic State militants, but it is just as likely that they are attempting to solidify their hold on expanded Kurdish territories.
At least 224 people were killed and 63 more were wounded. Airstrikes killed civilians in multiple cities in Anbar province.
Coalition airstrikes in al-Baghdadi killed nine civilians and 15 militants. Another 29 militants were reported wounded, and some were sent to Syria for treatment. Militants burned 26 people to death.
Griffis notes a reported attack on a museum in Mosul.
That reported attack has resulted in a public comment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:
Statement by Thomas P. Campbell,
Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
On The Destruction at The Mosul Museum
Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East. The Mosul Museum’s collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq. This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.
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February 26, 2015