Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, April 29, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the State Dept continues to insist they care about the press (only the foolish don't scoff at that assertion), spokesperson Marie Harf lies in a press briefing about US policy, Iraq's Prime Minister and chief beggar Haider al-Abadi is in a snit fit over a bill in the US House of Representatives is considering, Ivan Eland apparently now doing psychic readings for select members of Congress, Bernie Sanders thinks he can run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination but somehow he and the press have missed some trouble brewing there, and much more.

We'll again start with the ridiculous US State Dept and their pretense that they give a damn about press freedom.  Thaer Ali, Iraqi journalist, was executed by the Islamic State in Mosul this week and the State Dept still hasn't found time to note that murder.  Or the attacks on the press from the Iraqi government.

Today, spokesperson Marie Harft, apparently finally recovered from the public spectacle she made of herself Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Dinner, handled the briefing.

MS HARF: Good afternoon, and welcome to the daily press briefing. I have a couple items at the top, so bear with me. First, in the State Department’s Free the Press campaign – and I think we have some photos, hopefully, coming up – we have two cases for today’s Free the Press campaign.
The first comes from Russian-occupied Crimea, where de facto authorities have shut down 11 of the 12 Crimean Tatar media outlets, including ATR TV – I think it’s up behind me now – the last independent television station serving the Crimean Tatar population. Occupation authorities also have banned most Ukrainian language programming, replacing content with Russian programming. These restrictions on media freedom are part of a worsening situation that demonstrates Russia’s disregard for the population of Crimea. Occupation authorities are systematically closing the space for freedom of expression and leading an intimidation campaign that targets independent journalists for detention and prosecution. All residents of Crimea should have access to a wide range of news, opinion, and information. We condemn Russia’s abuses and call for the end of its occupation of Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, as we’ve said.
I think the screens have gone on to our second case, which comes from Maldives, where an investigative journalist named Ahmed Rilwan has remained disappeared since August of last year. Mr. Rilwan, who wrote often about politics, criminal gangs, and Islamic extremism, was reportedly forced at knifepoint from his residence. We call on the Government of the Maldives to credibly investigate the disappearance of Ahmed Rilwan and to take steps necessary to create space for independent journalists to work without fear of violence or harassment.
And along the same lines here, moving on to the next item at the top, we congratulate Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, on being named the United Nations Educational – I think, yeah, let’s stay with the map – Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, goodwill ambassador for freedom of expression and journalist safety. As UNESCO’s goodwill ambassador, Amanpour will keep freedom of expression and journalist safety on the global agenda and serve as a voice to governments, reminding them of their obligation to assure that a free press flourishes and combat the culture of impunity that leads to fear and self-censorship among all media professionals. We look forward to her work.

QUESTION: She’s going to leave her position with CNN?

MS HARF: I think you’d probably ask CNN, but I doubt it.

Marie Harf's ridiculous statements come on the same day that Iraq's Minister of the Interior Mohammad Salem al-Ghaban launched his attack on the press blaming them for the Iraqi military's failures (many, many failures).  AP reports:

The comments by Mohammad Salem al-Ghaban, in charge of Iraq’s police, come after Reuters bureau chief recently left the country after threats against him by Shiite militias over a story about abuses and looting following the capture of Tikrit.
Ghaban also suggested that blame for the collapse of Iraqi forces last summer in the initial onslaught by the extremists lay at the feet of journalists.

AP's referring to Ned Parker who had to leave Iraq due to the public threats made against him.  These include the attacks on journalism that Haider al-Abadi was offering April 8th and April 9th.  Monday, we noted that Haider attacked the press twice -- once via a statement from the Cabinet of Ministers (written statement) and the second time was when he appeared before Parliament that day.

Marie Harf and others at the State Dept -- as they pretend to give a damn about press freedom -- have failed to note that.

They look so ridiculous -- but then Marie's been dubbed a "granny chaser" by a friend who attended Saturday's event -- and he has a hilarious routine he's built around that.

Let's move to more ridiculous from granny chaser Marie Harf.

QUESTION: Yes. Do you have any comment about this draft resolution at the Armed Services Committee that calls for the recognition of the Sunni fighters and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces as a country, and so they can be – directly receive aid and weapons from the U.S., not through the central government?

MS HARF: I saw that. I saw that. And to be very clear: The policy of this Administration is clear and consistent in support of a unified Iraq, and that we’ve always said a unified Iraq is stronger, and it’s important to the stability of the region as well. Our military assistance and equipment deliveries, our policy remains the same there as well, that all arms transfers must be coordinated via the sovereign central government of Iraq. We believe this policy is the most effective way to support the coalition’s efforts.
So we look forward to working with congress on language that we could support on this important issue, but the draft bill, as you noted, in the House – this is very early in the process here for the NDAA – as currently written on this issue, of course, does not reflect Administration policy.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you – broadly, do you support – do you believe it’s the Executive Branch’s prerogative to recognize countries?

MS HARF: I do.

QUESTION: Or is it the Senate Armed Services Committee?

MS HARF: This actually is the House --

QUESTION: House Armed Services Committee.

MS HARF: -- Armed Services Committee. The Executive Branch.

Oh, Marie.  Are you still hung over from Saturday?

Or are you that stupid?

Let's zoom in on this nonsense:

Our military assistance and equipment deliveries, our policy remains the same there as well, that all arms transfers must be coordinated via the sovereign central government of Iraq. We believe this policy is the most effective way to support the coalition’s efforts.
So we look forward to working with congress on language that we could support on this important issue, but the draft bill, as you noted, in the House – this is very early in the process here for the NDAA – as currently written on this issue, of course, does not reflect Administration policy.

It's always hilarious to watch Marie make an idiot of herself.

That's not US policy.

It wasn't policy under Bully Boy Bush.

It wasn't policy under Barack.

If you don't get how stupid Marie is (or what a liar she is), focus on one word: Sahwa.

Sahwa, largely Sunni fighters, were paid by who?

The United States.

Even after the press first reported Nouri had started paying the Sahwa, he hadn't.  Under Barack Obama, the US taxpayer was paying Sahwa.

Not through Baghdad, they were paying Sahwa directly -- each male fighter earned approximately $300 a month (female fighters earned less) -- and that was a little over 90,000 men -- and I use "men" intentionally.  No effort was ever made to count the number of female fighters (Daughters Of Iraq, they were called while the males were called Sons Of Iraq and both were also referred to as "Awakenings").

Not only were they paid by the US taxpayer, they were provided with arms by the US taxpayer.

And that's before we get into the CERP funds.

We can get into that too.

We can expose the lies of all Marie's ridiculous pronouncement today.

Again, maybe she was still hung over from Saturday?

Regardless, she didn't utter one true statement in what we quoted.

US policy has been to provide the Sahwa with money and arms.

That didn't go through Baghdad.

Bully Boy Bush and Barack both knew that sending it through Baghdad would mean it never would arrive because Nouri al-Maliki did not support Sahwa, he did not want them to exist, when the US finally stopped paying the bulk of Sahwa (well into 2010), Nouri refused to pay them, began having leaders and members arrested and worse (killing them is worse).

So Marie can stop lying about what was and wasn't US policy.

She looks like a ridiculous fool and there's no reason for anyone in the US or elsewhere to believe her after she lies so blatantly in a press briefing.

As we noted this morning and in yesterday's snapshot, the bill in the House of Representatives was making news in Iraq.  It has continued to do so.

Let's start with Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr. He is opposed to the US government directly funding and arming Sunnis and Kurds.  That's not surprising and it's completely consistent with his previous stands regarding US involvement.  It's also true that he grasps the process involved.  Alsumaria reports on his statement issued today calling the idea reckless and repeating his call for the US government to stay out of Iraqi affairs.  His objection continues to include the bombings carried out by the US war planes and others in the so-called coalition.

Again, Moqtada's stance is completely in keeping with his previous stance.  He wants no US involvement in Iraqi affairs.  And that's been his stance since the US invasion which is why he was so often labeled -- by the US press and US friendly press -- the "radical cleric" Moqtada al-Sadr.  The "radical" term was not because he was a threat to the Iraqi people -- Nouri al-Maliki was never called "the radical prime minister," for example -- it's because he called for all US forces to leave Iraq.  That's what made him "radical" in the eyes of the US government, its flunkies in the US press and its sycophants in the US friendly press.

This Alsumaria report contains more on Sadr's stance and, please note, he again understands the process by which the US Congress starts with a bill and how it eventually becomes a law (if it does).  Moqtada is better educated on that US process than are some of us living in the US.

All Iraq News headlines that Congress has approved the bill -- which would mean it then went to the President to be signed (or not -- refusal to sign would send it back to Congress).  It's a defense bill.  It has not been voted on.  The House Armed Service Committee has released the bill from Committee which means a House vote can take place.  Many bills end up buried in Committee, never seeing the light of day.  This one should now go to a vote.

While Moqtada's stance is in keeping with his previous positions, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is just a hypocrite.

Alsumaria notes that his office issued a statement decrying the bill.

All Iraq News quotes him stating that the bill "is rejected because it leads to divisions in the region and we call for not approving it."

Here's a little help for beggar Haider, those members of the House supporting that bill on the Committee?  They've got the backing of the members of their district.  They are directly elected.  There's no "two Senators regardless of population" nonsense.  The House is the voice of the American people.

And Haider better accept that real damn quick.

Because the only thing that pisses the American people off more than the US government wasting their money -- because it is the American people's money -- is the US government wasting their money on thugs and bullies.

And they really don't take to lectures from foreigners about how their money should be spent.

If Haider really opposes it, he should probably just keep his mouth closed because all his remarks will do, if widely reported in the US, is anger the taxpayers.

And he's a beggar, remember that.

He just visited DC and left with the promise of $200 million more in the sink hole that is his corrupt government.

Haider needs to be told that's not Barack's money to give, that's the US taxpayers.

And the House is the people's voice and because of that it has the power of the purse.

This is all new to Haider who grew up under a different system and then, like the coward that he is, fled Iraq to live for decades outside the country, returning only after US boots were on the ground in Baghdad.

So, in other words, Haider owes the US taxpayer a great deal.

And if he wants to continue begging for 'reconstruction money' -- with all the money pouring into Iraq for its oil, there's no reason for the US government to be footing the bill for reconstruction, there's also no reason for so many Iraqis to be living in poverty when the annual oil income alone could made every Iraqi in Iraq a millionaire and still have billions left over -- and for US help -- which the taxpayer is covering the cost on -- he might want to learn to sit his tired ass down and stop sharing his idiotic and hypocritical opinions in public.

Two billion dollars.  $2,000,000,000.  That's how much the US taxpayer has wasted since August on the war against the Islamic State -- just since August.

If Haider wants to pay that bill, he might have some right to hector and lecture.

But in the meantime, while he's begging for money, he probably needs to just shut his mouth.

He could do like Moqtada and say that there should be no US involvement in Iraq.

But unless he's prepared to do that, he needs to sit that tired ass down.

The US Congress -- House and Senate -- has spent the time since June 2014 -- when Barack finally turned on thug Nouri al-Maliki and insisted Iraq needed to find a political solution to end the crises -- has repeatedly asked US officials who have appeared before it about Haider's refusal to supply the Kurds and the Sunnis with the needed equipment and arms to fight the Islamic State.

While Marie Harf makes an idiot of herself -- consider her The Bride of Haider -- the reality is that Democrats and Republicans in Congress -- both houses -- are deeply disappointed in Haider's inability to work towards a political solution and are aghast that he has refused to supply the Kurds and the Sunnis.

Supply?  Let's be clear here, the US is providing arms and equipment to Iraq.

This is to fight the Islamic State.

And the supply was based on the belief that the arms and equipment were needed.

But if they're not going to be distributed, there's no need for them to be supplied.

Congress is appalled that, all these months later, Anbar remains under Islamic State control.  They are more appalled that Sunnis in the province willing to fight the Islamic State but are not being given the arms and equipment necessary to do so.

The Kurdish Peshmerga has always been (since the US invasion) the most skilled fighting force in Iraq.  And Congress is appalled that despite the Kurds carving out victories against the Islamic State, they are not receiving the arms and equipment they need.

Congress had okayed these supplies with the understanding that Baghdad, upon receipt of these supplies, would be distributing them to the needed areas.

That did not happen.

That has not happened.

If Haider had done what he was supposed to,  what he agreed to in order to get Congress to approve these supplies, the bill wouldn't have been needed.

While in DC this month, Haider begged for more.

Isn't that embarrassing to Iraq?

I'd think it would be.

It's the richest country in the region with billions coming in annually and yet there's Haider rushing off to the US to beg for more like some economically struggling country.

So he got a promise of more weapons but he got it on credit meaning Iraq won't have to pay for it right away.

And now he wants to have a hissy fit?

I'm sorry if you're begging for nickles and dimes, you pretty much need to take what's offered.

Iraq has more than enough income that their leader doesn't need to go begging.

But if he is going to beg, he's going to need to learn that any aid the US gives is approved by Congress and Congress can put any strings they want on it.

Next month, Mosul will have been held for year by the Islamic State.

And with all the aid and all the weapons the US taxpayer has paid for, Haider still can't take back Mosul.  Haider and his useless military still don't have the guts to go into Mosul.

You're begging the US taxpayer to go further into debt for your sinkhole government that (a) has a military that skittish (when not thuggish) and still can't be sent into Mosul a year later and that (b) is the one dividing Iraq.

Here, we talk about the fact that Haider is bombing civilian homes in Falluja, killing and wounding Sunni civilians.  This is a War Crime.

If Haider wants to pick a fight with the US House of Representatives, lots of luck getting anymore money because legally, due to these bombings, the US government actually should not be funding or supplying Baghdad with anything.

These daily bombings are legally defined War Crimes -- per US law and per treaties signed off on by the US.

Barack Obama is supporting War Crimes and covering for them.

If Haider wants to lecture the US Congress, he might find that they can supply more than a few lectures to him.

Again, if he wants to continue begging, the smartest thing for him would be to shut his mouth.

If he wants to adopt Moqtada's position?  No problem.

Do so.

It's an ethical position.

You want the US out, get the US out.

But as long as you're begging that the US spend billions dropping bombs and spend billions propping up your government, you'll take the assistance and you'll shut your mouth.

(Whose stance do I agree with?  Moqtada's.  The US has not created 'freedom' in Iraq.  Their latest appointed thug, Haider, is an embarrassment and has been since he visited NYC and declared that he had intelligence on bombings of the subways in NYC -- remember that?  He was the laughingstock of the world for that.)'s Ivan Eland discusses the bill with Russia Today:

RT: The bill also requires these security forces to be an independent entity from Iraq, so they can receive the aid separately from Iraqi national forces. What implications could that have on the US-Iraq partnership?

IE: The Republicans are unhappy with the Iraqi government’s dependence on Iran for training its Shia militias, and the Shia militias have been accused of some atrocities against Sunnis. The US doesn’t like Iranian influence in Iraq and so this bill says it funds the Peshmerga and other militias which would be Sunnis, but it also says that the government of Iraq doesn’t associate itself with the Shia militias; they’ll give you even more funds to the Peshmerga and other Sunni militias. So it doesn’t totally go away from the Iraqi government, but it puts a lot of pressure on them to dissociate themselves from the Shia militias which the Iraqi government probably is not going to do. 

That's an interesting take -- one that avoids reality.

Again, go to any hearing since June on this issue and you will find one Representative after another, one Senator after another, Democrats and Republicans, asking about the Kurds and about the Sunnis (Kurds most often due to the Peshmerga's record of success) and decrying the fact that they aren't being armed.  You will find Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, you will find Gen Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint Chiefs), you will find Brett McGurk, John Kerry and others with the State Dept all repeatedly insisting (lying) that this is a thing of the past and that Baghdad is now distributing the aid and equipment.

I realize Ivan Eland is obsessed with Iran.

I realize that yet again has painted themselves into a corner by taking sides on an issue before they should have.

But that's no excuse for lying.

And Ivan's lying if he's not noting what the US Congress has objected to for the last ten-plus months.

Or the fact that they have been repeatedly lied to by one US official after another sitting before them and testifying (some under oath, the House usually doesn't play when it comes to swearing in the officials) that this is all a thing of the past and now Baghdad is supplying the US-paid for arms and equipment to the Kurds and Sunnis as they were supposed to.

And let's stress that one more time.

The US Congress never agreed to supply Shi'ites only in Iraq.

That was never what the plan was.

The person in violation today is not the US Congress.

It's Haider al-Abadi who agreed to certain terms but thought he could give his word, grab the weapons and then break his word but have the US taxpayer foot the bill from here until the end of eternity.

And what I'm saying was actually again repeated in Congress today.  Ivan wasn't at that hearing but I've never seen him at any of these hearings -- which might explain his loose grasp on the facts and his resorting to mind reading in an attempt to figure out what's what.

From the hearing, we'll note this.

Former Ambassador Robert Ford:  We should not fall into the trap, and I've seen this discussed in some policy circles here in Washington, we should not fall into the trap of thinking that working with Iran will help fix our Islamic State problem.  The Islamic State rose in part -- not entirely -- but in part from long standing grievances and fears within Sunni communities in the Levant and Iraq about growing Persian and Shia influences.  Working with Iran, even indirectly, will feed the Islamic State narrative and will immediately help its recruiting.

We'll cover the hearing in Thursday's snapshot (and I'm nominating US House Rep Brad Sherman for a "truest statement of the week" at Third on Sunday).  We need to note two other things first.

First, Iraqi activist Yanar Mohammed was (briefly) on Democracy Now! today -- the program that always treats Iraq as an afterthought -- link is video, audio and text:

YANAR MOHAMMED: When the U.S. invaded Iraq, we were under the oppression of one single dictator. And there wasn’t much discrimination between the people of Iraq. Whoever was in opposition would be discriminated against. We did have problems of how to deal with dictatorship, but nowadays we are at the necks of each other. We found out that we are Sunnis, we are Shia, and we are given so many reasons to be killing each other. We have 10 million youth who are carrying machine guns and going to the rest of the country, killing the rest of the youth in that part of the country. We are in a very big trap where killing each other doesn’t seem to be ending soon. Once you are in the trap of hatred upon ethnic and upon sectarian lines, it takes many years to wash away, to cleanse this hatred. I feel that at this point, even when we destroy—when the Iraqi government destroys ISIS, we have a very big problem on our hand. There are major massacres that have been committed both ways, and these will not end, because the relatives, the children of the people killed, will still continue these massacres.
Women have been—women’s rights have been totally lost. By laws, they have been lost. By their status in the society, they have been lost. Our voices of the women are being silenced continuously. Our radio, community radio for women, was shut down by the government on June 12. They gave us different stories, and we still don’t know what’s the final story for silencing us, but we know that this is no democracy. Women cannot breathe. Youth are killing each other based on the sectarian ID. This is something we were not expecting. This is not democracy.

Might Marie Harft note what happened to the community radio for women in Iraq during her pretense of caring about journalism?

Don't count on it.

Margaret Griffis ( reports 69 violent deaths throughout Iraq today.

Secondly, someone's supposed to formally announce that he's running for a political party's presidential nomination on Thursday.  Bernie Sanders has told the AP he intends to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

A lot of people can intend to do whatever.

And anyone can say anything.

Doesn't make it so.

If the US Senator makes an announcement that he is running, the first question from the press should be, "Have you filed your paperwork?"  The next question should be, "And does the party recognize you as a nominee?"

Because right now, it might not.

The DNC leadership is not 100% on board with a Bernie run right now.

Some of that may be due to support for Hillary Clinton who is the only announced candidate in the Democratic Party's presidential primary.

But there's a bigger issue than Hillary or any other candidate.

Would you want, for example, George P. Bush, 20 years from now, still a Republican, running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination?

Noelle Bush could run on the GOP ticket and George P. could run on the Democratic ticket (both are children of Jeb and Columba Bush) and America could be faced with choosing the lesser  Bush.

It could happen.

If Bernie runs.

Bernie's not a Democrat.  He's a Socialist.

I have no idea why NPR feels the need to use air quotes around the term Socialist.  Maybe because they're just that immature.

There's nothing wrong with being a Socialist or a Republican or a Democrat or a Green or a Libertarian or a Communist or . . .

But  "Democratic Socialist" is not a branch of the Democratic Party, its a division of Socialism.

For those who are confused, this is from Democratic Socialists of America:

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States, and the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International. DSA's members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics.

Get it?

Because some at leadership in the party are pointing out that if non-Democrat Bernie Sanders is allowed to run in the Democrats primary, it sets a new standard and, by that new standard, no one can be stopped from running in the primary because they are a Socialist or a Republican or a Libertarian or . . .

Now anyone who meets the basic criteria can run for the office of President of the United States.

You don't have to belong to this party or that party or any party.

But that's running for president.

To run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, you would need to be a Democrat.

Tossing that to the side for Socialist  Bernie Sanders would create a precedent.

Bernie could silence any objections, of course, by becoming a member of the Democratic Party.