Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, March 10, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq gets noted in the Senate, the assault on Tikrit may reach Tikrit . . . some day, 4D PAC emerges to advocate for war (though they hope you're too ignorant to catch on), Jason Ditz sports his  gross stupidity yet again, and much more.

This morning, US Senator John McCain declared, "Indeed, all four of the military service chiefs have testified that defense spending at sequestration levels would put American lives at risk. Now more than ever, a strong Navy and Marine Corps are essential to our nation's ability to deter adversaries, assure allies and defend our national interests."

He was speaking at a budget hearing the Senate Armed Services Committee was holding.  Mccain is the Chair of the Committee, Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member.  The witnesses appearing before them were Gen Joseph Dunford Jr (Commandant of the Marine Corps), Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus Jr. and Adm John Greenert (Chief of Naval Operations).

We'll come back to the hearing in a moment.

But let's think about what the Chair was saying.

Not in terms of the US but in terms of Iraq.

Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister of Iraq from 2006 - 2014.  There were no real public works programs to repair Iraq's crumbling infrastructure.  There were times when the yearly budget was such that Nouri could have given every Iraqi citizen in the country a billion dollars.  But didn't.

The money also didn't go to help address Iraq's problems -- such as the severe shortage of nurses and doctors (but especially nurses).  Instead, Nouri was fine with bringing in nurses from other countries.

This despite double-digit unemployment in Iraq and a severe need for employment.

Now there was money for Nouri's son to amass a fleet of sports cars in London as well as a bachelor pad where he -- contrary to the strict Shi'ite beliefs Nouri is supposed to hold (supposed to) -- entertained woman after woman.  There was money for Nouri's son to party.

But there was no money spent on the Iraqi people.

Nouri created his own political slate and dubbed it State and Law.

The point being, Nouri insisted, he was law and order and restoring that to Iraq.

And he ran in 2010 on the (false) claim that he'd restored order to Iraq.

The one thing he did pour money into was the Iraqi forces.

(Not the Peshmerga.  The Kurdish Regional Government paid the Peshmerga out of their portion of the national budget.)

In fact, the Iraqi forces were so 'covered' by Nouri, he was able to say, "I got this."

He was able to say, "I got this" -- and to refuse to US training for them.

This was noted in the November 30, 2011 House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia hearing on Iraq.  We covered it in the next day's snapshot (December 1, 2011).  The Ranking Member, US House Rep Gary Ackerman, noted how the US training program was being publicly rebuked by the Ministry of the Interior.  They did not want or need US trainers.  That was made clear.  (There was no Minister of the Interior.  Nouri refused to nominate anyone for the post so that he could control the Ministry himself.)

They didn't show up for training, these forces.

What's changed since then?

Not much.

CBS News reported Monday:

CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports there are already more than 2,500 U.S. military advisers and trainers in Iraq, but Dempsey said their work is being hindered by the fact that Iraqi units sometimes fail to show up for training, or arrive without the proper equipment.
"Right now we don't need more advisers on the ground," Dempsey told reporters on board the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, alongside his counterpart French Gen. Pierre de Villiers.
"We've got trainers and advisers that are waiting for some of the Iraqi units to show up, and when they've shown up -- a handful of them -- they've shown up understrength and sometimes without the proper equipment. The Iraqi government can actually fix that themselves," said Dempsey.

Back at the 2011 hearing when Ackerman was noting the Iraqi forces didn't want US training, he also noted that the Iraqi forces were unable to provide security to the country by themselves as he questioned the State Dept's Brooke Darby:

Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
[long pause]

Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye."  Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.

When will they be able to stand up?

Not then.

And apparently still not now.

In fairness to them, it turns out some of Nouri's spending was wasted on corruption and on paying people for service that they were not actually performing.

But the US is yet again working on training.

Iraqi forces, by themselves, are still not able to meet the goals McCain expects from US allies: "to deter adversaries, assure allies and defend our national interests."

The assault on Tikrit was announced (and begun) two Sundays ago. Kareem Khadder and Ben Wedeman (CNN) remind, "Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Iraqi forces on March 1 to retake Tikrit and Salahuddin province. Tikrit, best known to Westerners as the birthplace of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, fell in June to ISIS, which has captured parts of Iraq and Syria for what it says is its Islamic caliphate."

BBC News notes Iraqi officials are saying today  "parts" of Tikrit were entered (finally) as the assault reached day ten.

Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

Iraqi security forces and Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias on Tuesday pushed to the outskirts of the encircled city of Tikrit, residents and Iraqi officials said, after 10 days of heavy fighting that have seen government-aligned forces take control of two key towns north and south of the city.
News that government forces had arrived on the outskirts of Tikrit, which has been occupied by the Islamic State since last summer, was greeted triumphantly on state television, with officials claiming the militants had withdrawn from the city and predicting a quick victory.
But officials have made similar claims in the past about the success of operations against the Islamic State – last summer about a failed mission to retake Tikrit, and most notably last fall about the town of Baiji – only to see the gains they claimed evaporate before fierce counterattacks.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/03/10/259287/iranian-led-militias-close-in.html#storylink=cpy

On today's CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, Holly Williams reported (link is video) on the move towards Tikrit:

Holly Williams [. . .] Iraqi forces claim they're closing in on Tikrit.  Today, they seized the town of Alam -- five miles from the city.

General Saad Maan:  Now we are surrounding Tikrit from four directions

Holly Williams:  General Saad Maan of Iraq's Interior Ministry dismissed criticism from America's top general Martin Dempsey [Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] or Iraqi military's readiness.

General Saad Maan:  We are not kids in our work.  We have skills, We have a very big amount of experience.

Holly Williams:  But in Tikrit, progress is painfully slow as ISIS fights back with weapons including mines and suicide bombs

Reuters offers:

There have been fears that the Shi'ite-dominated security forces and militia would seek revenge on local Sunni residents for the Speicher killings. In the nearby village of Albu Ajil, local officials said houses had been set on fire by the militia.

Some houses were also set alight in al-Alam, but local tribal fighters said they belonged to security force members and government workers and were burnt by the retreating insurgents.

So  Reuters knows that the assault has already resulted in homes being set on fire in Albu Ajil and Reuters knows that some homes were burned in today's seizure of al-Alam.  Reuters doesn't know who burned the homes in al-Alam but they tie a pretty ribbon around it -- an orange one, like police tape intended to halt traffic -- only Reuters' orange ribbon is intended to halt thought and questions.

The topic of Iraq was raised briefly in today's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.  Excerpt.

Senator Lindsey Graham:  When it comes to Iraq and Syria, do you agree with me, when we take ISIL on -- and when I say "we," the United States and the region -- that we must win.

Gen Joseph Dunford Jr.: Yes, Senator.

Senator Lindsey Graham:  How many Marines were involved in the first battle and second battle of Falluja 

Gen Joseph Dunford Jr: The first battle, Senator, was about two regimental combat teams of in the order of 6,000.  The second battle -- and, of course, it was soldiers as well -- The second battle was about 14,000 US forces -- that's Marines and US soldiers.

Senator Lindsey Graham:  So-so do you agree with me, without that capacity, it would have been very difficult for the Sunni tribes to prevail over al Qaeda in Iraq at the time? 

Gen Joseph Dunford Jr.: Without?  Absolutely, Senator.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay, so we're about to fight a bigger force and how many members of our military do we have in Iraq today?

Gen Joseph Dunford Jr.:  Senator, I don't know the exact numbers but I think on the order of 3,000. 

Senator Lindsey Graham: How many of those are Marines?

Gen Joseph Dunford Jr.:  We've got about 500 Marines, Senator -- that are actually on the ground --

Senator Lindsey Graham:  Do you agree with me, both of you, that ISIL represents a threat to us, not just the region?

Gen Joseph Dunford Jr.: : I do, Senator.

Senator Lindsey Graham:  Do you agree with that, Adm?

Adm John Greenert:  I do, Senator.

Senator Lindsey Graham:  So anybody who thinks that defeating or destroying ISIL was their problem not ours is making a huge mistake? 

Gen Joseph Dunford Jr.:  I agree with that, Senator.

Adm John Greenert: We have to prevail, yes, Senator.

Senator Lindsey Graham:  Do you agree that it is in our national security interests to make sure that not only that they're degraded and destroyed but they don't come back?

Gen Joseph Dunford Jr.:  I-I agree with that, Senator. 

Senator Lindsey Graham:  Do you agree with me that the best way that you guarantee that you destroy and degrade ISIL is that you have some American ground forces to help the regional forces?

Gen Joseph Dunford Jr.: Senator, uh, right now, uh, I think it's critical that we provide US support.  And I think, as you know, we're waiting for Gen [Lloyd]  Austin to make a recommendation as to exactly what that support would be.

Senator Lindsey Graham:  Doesn't that guarantee the highest chance of success is to have some American capability on the ground enhancing our regional partners?

Gen Joseph Dunford Jr.:  Cer-Certainly my perspective would be as a link to supporting capability.

Senator Lindsey Graham:  Do you agree with me that any Marine, Soldier, Airman, Sailor who participated in these operations would be protecting the homeland?

Gen Joseph Dunford:  I-I believe that, Senator.

Senator Lindsey Graham: If somebody died trying to deal with ISIL in Iraq or Syria, they would have died on behalf of protecting their nation?

Gen Joseph Dunford: They would have died in protecting our national interest is clear, Senator. 

Senator Lindsey Graham:  Do you agree with me that if we don't stop ISIL sooner rather than later, the likelihood of another attack against this country grows?

Gen Joseph Dunford:  I think it grows but also I think if we don't stop them, there will be destabilization in the region as well as inamicable to our national interests.

Senator Lindsey Graham:  Do you worry about the King of Jordan if they don't at least get slowed down or degraded pretty quickly?

Gen Joseph Dunford: I do, Senator.

Senator Lindsey Graham:  Do you, Adm?

Adm John Greenert:  I do, Senator.  Yes, I do. 

Senator Lindsey Graham: So to both of you, and to those who serve under you, I am sorry that some of you may have to go back. I regret it more than you'll ever know.  But I think you know, better than anyone else, why you may have to go back.  And the only commitment that I will make as a senator from South Carolina, is that if you go back, you go back to win and that we get this right this time. 

Graham supported the Iraq War in 2003, he supports it now.

He's not alone.

A Democratic group has remade itself into 4D PAC and they have recommendations.

Recommendations do not include: "No war on Iraq."

But that's hardly surprising.  They see themselves as "center-left," others see them as War Hawks -- and saw them that way when they were known as VET PAC.  Back then, they were apologists for the Democratic Party.  They remain such today.

They sent out a mass e-mail today -- if you donated to a Democratic presidential candidate -- even as far back as John Kerry in 2004 -- there's a good chance you received the e-mail because pro-war groups always have access to big money and this group bought one e-mail list after another.

Their e-mail reads:

As you may have heard, the President’s request for a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIS has hit a political wall.
The rollout of the President’s proposal sparked such consternation from both the left and the right that leadership in both houses don’t know how to proceed. There's even talk of scrapping an AUMF vote all together.
That would be a bad outcome.
Without new legislation, this and future administrations will be able to rely on the near-limitless authorities granted by the post-9/11 AUMF, without Congressional approval. A new AUMF, even if imperfect, could restore Congress’ constitutional responsibility to oversee military deployments.
4D PAC has identified four core principles necessary in a new AUMF. Beyond these principles, we urge Members of Congress to allow some room for compromise.
  1. Repeal the 2002 AUMF and sunset the 2001 AUMF.
  2. Include a sunset clause for the new AUMF.
  3. Specify that the new AUMF will be the only authorization that applies to U.S. operations against ISIS.
  4. Give the president all the tools necessary to defeat ISIS.

Read our full memo and help us show Congress that it is in their interest - as well as America’s - to pass a new AUMF.

Barack's AUMF "has hit a political wall" -- and note that they don't see that as a good thing.

It's certainly not cause for them to rethink their advocacy of war.

And they insist it would be "bad" to scrap the AUMF.


Because, they whine, an AUMF "could restore Congress' constitutional responsibility to oversee military deployments."

That won't happen.

Barack, John Kerry, everyone in the administration has made clear that -- with or without an AUMF -- Barack will do what he wants.

How stupid are they in 4D PAC -- and how stupid do they think everyone else is?

They insist that the 2002 AUMF should be repealed -- that's the authorization for war on Iraq.  But note that the new one they want -- they just want that one to have a sunset clause -- they also want a sunset clause on the 2001 AUMF.

Now the 2002 -- that they want revoked -- covers only Iraq.

But the 2001 one was used to take war around the world and is so would the AUMF that Barack wants.  These won't be revoked, 4D PAC insists, just have sunset clauses attached.

The February 23rd snapshot noted that week's Law and Disorder Radio,  hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), which featured a discussion of  US President Barack Obama's recent AUMF request:

Michael Ratner:  Now there's three or four points in it that I want to mention because they're so shocking and surprising.  Let's just look at the scenario here.  The Democrats want to put some limits on it -- not very many, but some -- on this use of force.  The Republicans want an ever expansive use of force.  Not much real difference between them but in some of the details.  The first one comes up in what's known as the 'sunset clause.'  We've talked about sunset clauses here with respect to the PATRIOT Act, etc.  When liberals want to vote for something bad but they want to feel better about it, they say, 'Oh, we're going to put a sunset clause in!'  That means that in two, three, four years, whatever the sunset provision is, the law will end by itself and it won't be renewed automatically.  Well we know what happened with the PATRIOT Act -- which we predicted at the time -- was a lot of liberals voted for the PATRIOT Act because it had a sunset clause, that was their excuse.  'Oh, tell our liberal constituents it's going to set in four years.'  And, of course, it did set.  But, of course, before it did set, Congress went ahead and renewed it for another four, ten, whatever number of years.  So this one has a three year sunset clause.  Let's think about that.  One, they can renew it always.  But secondly, even if it sets in three years, the president -- and it won't be Obama anymore -- just goes back to the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force --

Heidi Boghosian: Right. 

Michael Ratner: -- which has no sunset.  So essentially the sunset clause is meaningless for lots of reasons except it gives liberals cover.  And for that reason, I oppose the sunset clause because I don't want liberals having cover.  They ought to vote for what they understand they're voting for which is  indefinite war against the world.  So that's one very bad provision. 

A sunset clause would be meaningless.

But 4D PAC knows that.

Which is why they want the 2002 AUMF (only covers Iraq) revoked (their term "revoked") but they want the 2001 AUMF and the 2015 AUMF to have "sunset clauses" -- even though they know the clauses are meaningless.

The 2001 AUMF and the 2015 that Barack requested have been and will be used as legal cover to allow war anywhere in the world.

That's not Congress showing their power or exercising their Constitutional duties.  It's Congress signing blank checks for war anywhere in the world.

4D PAC knows that.

4D PAC is War Hawk front.

No one should be fooled by them and they shouldn't be able to escape their past via a name change.

Let's move to a Tweet.

Great to embark on USS New Hampshire yesterday! The sub & its crew are incredibly impressive:
2 retweets 1 favorite

Shaheen was at today's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and we'll note this:

Senator Jeanne Shaheen: . . . a lot of the discussions during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been about the toll that's taken on our fighting men and women.  And one of the things that was clear yesterday -- not because anybody on The New Hampshire complained about it -- but the toll that the reduction in our ships and their capacity has on the men and women who serve on those ships because the deployments increase just as our deployments increased during Iraq and Afghanistan in a way that I think is less clear to the American public and the toll that that takes.  And I wonder -- Adm or Secretary Mabus -- if either of you would like to speak to what that shortfall in our ship capacity, the impact that that has on the men and women who are serving on those ships?

Adm John Greenert:  You explained it very well, Senator.  There's a commitment -- a covenant -- that we have for providing ready forces forward around the world to be -- like we like to say -- where it matters, when it matters.  If you have less ships to distribute, those which are out there will stay on the watch longer.

Let's turn to the topic of stupid idiots.  A real stupid trend is taking place.  The biggest idiot may be this dumb ass:

  • US Senators are allowed to say whatever they want.

    In America, we're supposed to have free speech.

    But members of Congress have it even more so.

    We aren't -- US citizens -- protected from lawsuits if we make remarks.  But members of Congress can say pretty much anything from the floors of Congress.

    We could debate whether the letter was right or wrong -- it's a letter that basically states, "Tehran, any deal you make with Barack Obama?  You need to remember he's got less than 2 years left in his term as president."  -- but no one wants to debate that.

    Instead dumb asses, hacks, human filth like Nancy Osborne want to scream "traitor!"

    That's a really serious charge and you don't make it lightly.

    Dumb ass Nancy says Dick Cheney would have thrown them in Guantanamo.

    She apparently knows Dick so intimately that she knows what he'd do.  Maybe she's been to bed with him?  Maybe she's just been on her knees in front of him?  Maybe she just has sexual fantasies about him?

    But, as a liberal, if you tell me that Dick Cheney would do X, my immediate reaction is I don't want to do anything like X because I loathe Dick Cheney and consider him a War Criminal.

    I've had it with the six years of dumb asses, of temple whores in the Cult of St. Barack.

    I've had it with them soiling the left because they're so damn in lust with Barack that they've confused that with being left or being liberal.  They've confused twisted sexual desire for Barack with an actual set of ethics.

    If you have a problem with the letter the Republicans sent, take out the letter.

    Mock the senators involved.

    Call them dirty names.

    And I won't care one bit.

    But when you start tossing around "treason," you've crossed a line.

    You should actually be expelled from public discourse because you're no longer just stupid, you are grossly immature and dangerous to the free exchange of information.  (It is these cries that took root and lead to witch hunts and 'purity tests' for citizens.)

    During the White House occupation of Bully Boy Bush, we watched this happen over and over and swore we'd never do it.

    But here we are, so few years later and we're doing it.

    It needs to stop.

    And the media needs to do their duty which is to weed out these wackos from the public discourse.

    If all you have to offer is "treason!" screamed at others, you really don't have anything to contribute and you should sit your tired and uninformed ass down.

    And shame on Jason Ditz (living up to his name yet again!) and Antiwar.com for refusing to call out these cries of "treason" but instead writing an ahistoric piece of drivel that looks like it came from the desk of attack fetus Paul Begala.

    law and disorder radio
    michael s. smith
    heidi boghosian
    michael ratner