Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, March 11, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Shi'ite forces and Shi'ite militias are said to finally enter Tikrit, War Crimes by these forces get media attention, Secretary of State John Kerry humiliates himself before a Senate committee, and much more.

What happens when an angry Frankenstein faces Congress?

That was this morning at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where Secretary of State Kerry,  Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Gen Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) provided testimony.

Or in Kerry's case, theatrics and laughter.

When not impatiently clicking his pen throughout the hearing, Kerry basically glowered -- as if the Committee were villagers carrying torches.

"I see a real danger of a ground troop creep here  converting this into not the region poliicing its own terrorism but like the air strike campaign that's 80% US, it's a US mission," declared Senator Tim Kaine in the hearing.

This resulted in a forced chuckle by Kerry.

It didn't result in any real answer.

Of course not.

Kerry can't even get honest that everyone in the administration is waiting on Gen Lloyd Austin's recommendation which the military chiefs expect will be for US troops in an on the ground combat role -- this was addressed -- again -- in yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing covered in Tuesday's snapshot.  From yesterday:

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.

John Kerry found Kaine's question hilarious.

This despite the fact that Kaine's remarks are similar to what many leaders in the region have said and have told Congress.  King Abdullah II of Jordan, for example, has noted this has to be a regional response and not a US dominated one.  For it to work, it has to be a regional response otherwise it is the West again attacking Iraq which only helps recruit opposition forces.

King rightly points out that while Kerry and other US officials insist the current war on Iraq is a coalition effort -- a coalition working with the government of Iraq -- the reality is that 80% of the air strikes are carried about by the US.

So if they can't get honest about that, why should the same US government officials be trusted when they claim that any efforts on the ground would be a coalition working with Iraq?

Most likely, as King points out, ground forces would be US troops with a few Iraqis and a handful of soldiers from other countries tossed in.

Though he can't get honest, John Kerry can lecture and did so repeatedly.

"So as long as we continue to work on the integration," he said waiving his clutched and unclutched right hand  throughout the air, "the  internal inclusivity of Iraq and its government -- to help the Iraqis to be able to do this themselves, help the region feel empowered by it, that is a long term recipe for the United States not to have as much risk and not to have to put ourselves on the line the way we have historically."

But that hasn't been done.

Iraq's Haider al-Abadi became prime minister in August and there's been nothing but empty talk.

He did finally get a budget passed.

Iraq's Parliament passed the 2015 budget on January 29, 2015.

And in August, this was going to happen before the end of September.

Didn't turn out that way.

In fairness to him, there is no 2014 budget.

Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki was never able to pass a 2014 budget.

But that's really all Haider has to point to.

The State Dept attempted to sell an 'oil deal' between the central government out of Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government as proof that Haider was being more "inclusive" than Nouri and as movement towards resolving Iraq's many crises that led to the current state of affairs.

However, that 'deal' is still not implemented.

It's nothing more than empty words from Haider al-Abadi.

It's a point Ari Mamshae (Rudaw) made today:

The government in Baghdad, particularlyAbadi himself, must know that if Baghdad wants to manipulate and control the KRG with these policies, it will only drive the separation between both capitals further and faster away. Sadly, Abadi is weak, impotent, lacking support and with many antagonists.  

And like Nouri, he appears to believe he can withhold funds from the KRG in an attempt to blackmail it.  When exactly, John Kerry, is the US working on the political issues because the KRG still doesn't have their share of the national budget?

They also don't have the weapons they need.

Though Kerry, Carter and Dempsey were all in agreement at the hearing that the issue was a thing of the past -- the Baghdad based government refusing to provide US weapons to the KRG.

Those weapons?

They're not paid for.

They're bought on credit.

And the US Congress has every right to ask where they're going.

But instead of getting honest answers, they get lies.  Lies couched in "I believe . . ."  so that when the lies get exposed (and they did when Dempsey and Kerry were lying earlier to Congress that Haider al-Abadi was providing Sunni tribes with needed weapons when he was not doing so), they get to fall back on, "I said, 'I believe,' I didn't say I knew it."

John Kerry has a lot of beliefs.

Too bad, he has so very few facts.

"We're convinced we have the authority," to continue war on Iraq today, Kerry insisted "because ISIL was al Qaeda.  They changed their name and then grew worse.  But for years -- I think it was about 13 years somewhere in that vicinity -- going back to uh, uh, uh, 2011 it called itself al Qaeda in Iraq.  That's who they were: al Qaeda in Iraq.  And, uh, they have, uh, extensive history of conducting attacks against US, uh, coalition going way back during that period of time.  They have had a long relationship between al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  They viewed themselves -- and still do actually -- as the, uh, legitimate heirs of the Osama bin Laden mantle.  They still view that.  They just see themselves in a more aggressive term and that's why they've had some disagreements in tactics with al Qaeda whom they separated from.  But separating doesn't change where they came from, who they were, when we first enaged in the fight with them. So this -- There is a legitimacy to the 2001 effort because it began a long time ago."

John thinks if he says it loud enough and puts those big old paws in the air, he'll frighten everyone into silence.

But just because he tells a lie doesn't mean anyone has to believe it.

First off, the term "al Qaeda in Iraq" is a western press creation.  When a group existed, it referred to itself as the Organization of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia which the western press turned into "al Qaeda in Mesopotamia" and the US press turned into "al Qaeda in Iraq."

The group was created by the Iraq War and was a bunch of different groups.  But if you follow its chief origin, you're left with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the group Ansar al-Islam -- which has nothing to do with al Qaeda and is/was part of a Kurdish separatist movement.  In 2004, the strand led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi declared their allegiance to the group al Qaeda -- three years after 9-11.

There is a simplistic nature to Kerry's revisionary remarks and it bears noting that, when the current administration went to war on Libya, they backed this strand which can be directly traced back to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force was passed before the group existed.  The group had nothing to do with 9/11 but Kerry loves to lie, doesn't he?

He's the idiot, remember, who was for the Iraq War before he was against it.

In a 2008 debate, when Democrat Ed O'Reilly was challenging him in the primaries, he made even more stupid remarks.

As Ed O'Reilly pointed out in the debate (link goes to footage), Kerry didn't read the National Intelligence Estimate before voting for war on Iraq.

"I did something better than read it," Kerry smugly boasted, he went and talked to the CIA.

Yes, reading is hard.

He never mentioned how wrong his vote was.

He's never admitted it.

He always maintains that was the right vote -- despite Iraq having no WMDs -- and that the problem was how Bully Boy Bush executed the war.

That was his position in 2004 and it was still his position in 2008 and remains so today.

When he does he apologize for that vote?

The only time I remember Kerry apologizing was over the incident where he spoke to high schoolers in California and declared they better stay in school or they'd end up in the US armed forces and fighting in Iraq.

It was an insulting statement to make and it's why he knew not to even try to run again for the party's presidential nomination.

In other words, no one ever swift boats John Kerry better than John Kerry swift boats himself.

Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- are bothered by the role of Iran in Iraq, by Haider al-Abadi's reliance on Iran and by the Baghdad-Tehran led assault on Tikrit which has found the US sidelined.

"Yes, Iran's influence has spread at this moment and we're deeply concerned about it," John Kerry insisted at one point under pressure from the Committee.  And Ash Carter would term the relationship "concerning."

But again, only after non-stop questioning and probably after finally getting a true gauge of the room they were trying to work.

Kerry went on to declare a little after mid-way through the hearing, "There are several battles taking place right now.  Not just Tirkit.  There are others.  Two out of three where, in fact, we are playing a central role in the other two -- hasn't been as heraled -- but it's making a difference.  And the Sunni Arab are prosecuting that."

Two out of three where the US government is playing the central role?

Sadly, no one asked him to justify his remarks.

If the US is playing the central role in attacks, I would assume they were leading those attacks -- both from the strategy room and on the ground.

Otherwise, you're just being a glory hog to proclaim that "we are playing a central role."

I'm not accusing John of lying there.  I am accusing him of being a glory hog.  It's a charge that's stuck to him throughout his career in public service.

Long before the hearing started, AP had reported that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had declared at a New America Foundation forum, "I am made uncomfortable by the growing Iranian influence in Iraq.  I am made uncomfortable by the fact that it looked like a Shia advance agasint a Sunni town [Tikrit]. [ . .]  It is clear to me that the Iranian policy is based upon Shia dominance of the new Iraqi state and that effort in itself feeds the Sunni opposition which ISIL then lives off of to resurrect their movement."

Despite that, the witnesses had to be coaxed and cajoled to speak of Iran and their remarks were superficial at best.

Let's note this exchange from the hearing regarding US President Barack Obama's request for an Authorization of the Use of Military Force.

Senator Ben Cardin: First, let me say I supported the use of force resolution that was reported from this Committee in the last Congress as did every Democrat.  And as I was listening to Secretary Carter explain the objectives of an Authorization for Use of Military Force and thought about what we had recommended it satisfied, I think, every one of your concerns.  And I was somewhat surprised because I think some Republicans were reluctant to support the use of force in the last Congress because the administration had not come forward with a request.  In fact, that was said by many of my Republican colleagues.  So I was somewhat surprised that the administration did not bring forward a resolution that was more consistent with what we developed in the last Congress and would have accomplished every one of the objectives that Secretary Carter pointed out.  So let me bring up three concerns in the time that I have.  Some have already been raised but I will try to get through as much of this as possible.  First, dealing with the 2001 authorization and why there is nothing included in your request that deals with the 2001.  Secondly, to deal with the interpretation of "enduring offensive ground combat operations."    And third, how you will determine associate forces.  All three give me concern.  In regards to the 2001 authorization, as has been pointed out, that was an authorization passed rather easily by Congress to go against those who were responsible for the attack of our country on September 11, 2001.  That's what the resolution says.  I think many of us are surprised that that authorization could be used today against ISIS in Syria.  The 2001 authorization is now the longest running use of force in American history -- four years longer than the Vietnam War, eight years longer than the Revolutionary War, ten years longer than WWII.  About one third of the Authorizations for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress have included limitations of time -- that's not an unusual provision to be placed in a resolution because Congress and administration need to work together.  As Secretary Carter pointed out the circumstances change, it's important that Congress and the administration speak with a united voice.  And Secretary Carter, I was very impressed by your comments about the Constitutional responsibilities between Congress and the administration.  And you fully understand a three year sunset on the ISIS specific authorization for the use of force.  Quoting from your statement, "To me, this is sensible and principled provision of the AUMF even though I cannot ensure that the ISIL campaign will be completed in three years."  So Senator Murphy and I have introduced a bill that would limit the 2001 authorization to the same that you have in the ISIL specific resolution.  And if Congress so chose to include a three year specific resolution on the 2001 authorization, would it be your view that would be a sensible and principled provision for Congress to include even though you cannot ensure that the military operation against those responsible for the attack on our country on September 11, 2001 can be completed in that time, that it be up to the next administration to come back as it would in the ISIL campaign?

Secretary Ash Carter: Uhm, uh-uh, Senator, uh, thank you for that. Uh, I, uh, can't give you a clear answer to that question.  Let me say why.  The 2001 authorization use of military force covered al Qaeda, uh, and its successive generations which have now extended for fourteen years.  There's still an al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula call themselves that and they intend to attack this country and we need to protect ourselves --

Senator Ben Cardin: But isn't that also true of ISIS -- 

Secretary Ash Carter: -- our authority to protect ourselves --

Senator Ben Cardin: Isn't that also true --

Secretary Ash Carter: -- Well there's a difference in your history of the tenacity of al Qaeda and its offshoots and their intent to attack our country and I think you have to take that into account about whether it makes sense to put a sunset on that one.  This one that we're embarking on with ISIL is a new campaign, a new group and so as I said in my statement I-I-I respect the desire uh to have a sunset uh-uh-uh clause that doesn't derive from any characteristic of the campaign that I know of yet that will predict that it will wrap up, uh, within three years.  But I think that we have history in the case of al Qaeda that it will -- it has perdured, it has lasted quite a long time and I think that ought to inform whether a sunset for the authorities contained 

Senator Ben Cardin: . Secretary if this is a new campaign --

Secretary Ash Carter: -- makes sense.

Senator Ben Cardin: If this is a new campaign,  I don't understand how you can use a 2001 authorization to justify the use of force. I think you can't have it both ways.  So I don't understand the distinction there when you're saying that 'it's a new campaign, we don't know what's going on and yet we can still use the 2001 authorization that was specific against the attack on our country

Secretary Ash Carter: I think the president -- I think another way of getting at your-your question, Senator, is the president has indicated a desire and a willingness to revisit the 2001 --

Senator Ben Cardin: And we're trying to help that along.

Secretary Ash Carter:  -- AUMF uhm, which I also, uh-uh-uh-uh, think, uh, makes sense in view of what you think has been fourteen years -- The only thing that I would say -- the only reason I'm hesitating here -- is that we have to protect ourselves against al Qaeda and its successors --

Senator Ben Cardin:  Congress -- 

Secretary Ash Carter: -- as it's still out there fourteen years after 9/11 

Senator Ben Cardin:  And our Congress will meet again and can always take up, as they will,  I assume, if this authorization is passed, and the next Congress with the next administration,  I want to just, uh, get one more question in.  The enduring offensive ground combat troops.  I looked at my Apple -- or my phone right here to get definition of what enduring is and it came up as "lasting permanent" on my iPhone.  So would you tell me why the term "enduring offensive ground combat operations" could not be interpreted to include operations such as our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since we didn't intend our troops to be there on a permanent basis, that we were liberating, we were not offensive?  Why couldn't an administration interpret that language to include a ground campaign similar to what we saw in Iraq?

Secretary Ash Carter:  I'll-I'll-I'll let, uh, Secretary uh-uh-uh-uh Kerry answer.  Uh-uh, I'm not a lawyer but the interpretation that I gave to that phrase is the interpretation that the, uh, those who drafted the AUMF, uh, make of it.  It is intended in the first instance clearly to rule out the kind of campaign we waged in Iraq and Afghanistan because we don't see that that cmapaign is necessary and that's one of the things that those words are supposed to cover.  So let me ask uh, uh, uh, Secretary Kerry to add to that. 

Secretary John Kerry:  Well I think the, uh, president, Senator, has been particularly clear about this and, uhm, there's a huge distinction between the kinds of operations that were conducted in Afghanistan and-and in Iraq where, clearly , we committed a significant number of troops for a long period of time to offensive operations on the ground.  The president has ruled that out.  And what he has done is, I think, offered you confining definitions that provide the limitations here.  And I think the English language provides them also, frankly. Uh, I don't happen to agree with Gen Allen's comment here about the two weeks -- two years.  I don't think anybody contemplates years or a year.  That's not in the thinking of the president. nor any of the considerations he's said.  What he's thought of only -- and what Gen Dempsey has been particularly clear about -- is not giving up the option under some particular circumstances where you might want somebody to -- Special Forces nature or embedded nature somehow to be accompanying people, to be assisting in some way.  I don't want to go into all the parameters on that.  

But I think it's been very clear how limited it is or an effort to protect or defend US personnel, our citizens, which is momentary

Kerry repeatedly tried to take control of the Committee -- while insisting he respected it.  It was usually on the topic of Iran -- a treaty with Iran, not Iran as related to Iraq.  We may go into that next time.

In their join post, Cedric and Wally note John Kerry called out the letter regarding a possible treaty signed by 47 Republican Senators.

  • Cedric and Wally remind of a time in 2004 when John Kerry was the one being wrongly called a "traitor" and accused of "treason" for declaring publicly that he'd been in multiple talks with foreign leaders (he'd never say who) and they wanted Bully Boy Bush to lose the 2004 election and blah blah blah.

    John Kerry was furious in 2004 when his own Swift Boating Mouth resulted in criticism and false cries that he was a "traitor" and had committed "treason."

    But today he stiffly lurches forward accusing others of the same.

    Botox has given him a new face; however, it's done nothing for his tired brain.

    Margaret Griffis ( notes, "Security forces have made their way into Tikrit and claim to be in control of as much as 90 percent of the city."

    So on day 11 of the operation to take Tikrit, Shi'ite forces and Shi'ite militias finally make it into the city?

  • What a proud moment.

    With more to come, right?

    Because 'liberation' by Shi'ite militias and forces in Iraq is usually followed by attacks on the residents of that area.  Last week, they were caught on film shooting an eleven-year-old Iraqi boy, executing him.

    This may finally begin to catch up with them.

    James Gordon Meek, Brian Ross, Rym Momtaz and Alex Hosenball (ABC News -- link is video and text) report:

     U.S.-trained and armed Iraqi military units, the key to the American strategy against ISIS, are under investigation for committing some of the same atrocities as the terror group, American and Iraqi officials told ABC News. Some Iraqi units have already been cut off from U.S. assistance over "credible" human rights violations, according to a senior military official on the Pentagon's Joint Staff.
    The investigation, being conducted by the Iraqi government, was launched after officials were confronted with numerous allegations of “war crimes,” based in part on dozens of ghastly videos and still photos that appear to show uniformed soldiers from some of Iraq's most elite units and militia members massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners, and displaying severed heads. 

    Margaret Griffis counts 226 dead in today's violence.

    Brian Ross