Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 24, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the US government announces more bombs dropped on Iraq, one service member who died in Iraq is identified while another is remembered by those who knew and loved him, Barack Obama apes John Kerry (not a good thing), and much more.

Russell Hulstine (News On 6) reports on a memorial service planned for today to honor Master Sgt Joshua Wheeler who died in combat last month in Iraq, "The 39-year-old was killed October 22 when he and dozens of U.S. special operations troops and Iraqi forces raided a compound near the city of Kirkuk, freeing approximately 70 Iraqi prisoners."  US Senator Jim Inhofe posted the following to his Facebook page:

Senator Jim Inhofe
Government Official28,162 Likes
November 18 at 7:02am
Today at 11AM Eastern, an American hero and Oklahoman will be laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery. Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler of Roland, Okla., gave his life in Iraq helping to release 70 individuals that were being held hostage by ISIS. Senator James Lankford and I spoke on the Senate floor in remembrance of Wheeler and shared stories we learned from his friends, family, and fellow soldiers of the selfless life he led in dedication to his country. I hope you will take a moment to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkDQYeAQ6GM

Mitch De Leon (Gospel Herald) reports on the memorial:

"He was a soldier, but I didn't realize he had all of these accomplishments, all these achievements - it just blows my mind," said Zack, the brother of Master Sgt. Wheeler, during the memorial tribute held in his honor in his hometown in Roland, Oklahoma, according to 5News TV. The mourning family member added, "He's an American hero. That's just how Josh was. He just wanted to take care of people. I just hope his sons know how big of a hero he was."
Master Sgt. Wheeler graduated from Muldrow High School in 1994. He became part of the US Military in May 1995 when he entered as an infantryman. Throughout his career, he garnered some awards for his service to the nation. These included 11 Bronze Stars in which four had been for valor as well as a Purple Heart, which was given posthumously.

Joshua Wheeler's memorial tribute comes a day after another US service member who died in Iraq was identified.  Fox 5 News reports, "A soldier from Fort Drum in northern New York died on base in Iraq last week, according to the Department of Defense.  Pvt. Christopher J. Castaneda, 19, of Fripp Island, South Carolina, died November 19, 2015, in a non-combat-related incident at Al Asad Air Base, the DoD said. He and his unit were in Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve."  The office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued the following:

Governor Cuomo directed flags on state government buildings to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday, November 24, in honor of a Fort Drum Soldier who died in Iraq on Thursday, November 19.

Pvt. Christopher Castaneda died in a non-combat related incident at Al Asad Air Base. He was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, of the 10th Mountain Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team. He was a resident of Fripp Island, South Carolina.

"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend our deepest sympathy to Pvt. Christopher Castaneda's loved ones," Governor Cuomo said. "We are saddened by his loss and join his fellow soldiers, his family, and his friends in honoring his service to our nation."

Governor Cuomo has directed that the flags on all State buildings be lowered to half-staff in honor of and in tribute to New York service members and those stationed in New York who are killed in action or die in a combat zone.

While others have dealt with loss, the White House has embraced spin and worse.

Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "President Obama, in Malaysia as part of his long-planned trip to Asia, was supposed to be focusing heavily on the Pentagon's 'Asia pivot' as the military component of his visit, but instead is finding himself talking non-stop about the ISIS war, eager to defend his existing strategy in the conflict."

So eager that he's launching attacks -- baseless ones.

Josh Feldman (Mediaite) notes Barack declared last week, "I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that's coming out of here during the course of this debate."

So Barack is aware of the power of rhetoric?

Would never know by his refusal to curb John Kerry's ugly, vile mouth.

The Islamic State is most likely not overly upset that the US House of Representatives is currently calling for more safeguards for any refugees from Syria or even if they decide to bar the refugees.

But they probably do take offense to being called "Da'esh" which is seen as a slur.

John Kerry's been using the term for a year now.

At the start of 2015, Joshua Keating (Slate) was pointing out how Barack wasn't joining John in that game. But as Jon Levine (Mic via Yahoo! News) observes, those days are gone.

Paris gets attacked, Barack gets criticized and suddenly he tosses aside his common sense to act like a hysteric.

The immigration issue has no real impact on the Islamic State or on who they recruit.

Barack using the d-word?

Can we say this has no effect?

Last month, Lydia Wilson (The Nation) published the results of her interviews with captured Islamic State members being held by Kurdish authorities in Iraq:

Many assume that these fighters are motivated by a belief in the Islamic State, a caliphate ruled by a caliph with the traditional title Emir al-Muminiin, “Commander of the faithful,” a role currently held by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; that fighters all over the world are flocking to the area for a chance to fight for this dream. But this just doesn’t hold for the prisoners we are interviewing. They are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering questions about Sharia law, militant jihad, and the caliphate. But a detailed, or even superficial, knowledge of Islam isn’t necessarily relevant to the ideal of fighting for an Islamic State, as we have seen from the Amazon order of Islam for Dummies by one British fighter bound for ISIS.
 In fact, Erin Saltman, senior counter-extremism researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, says that there is now less emphasis on knowledge of Islam in the recruitment phase. “We are seeing a movement away from strict religious ideological training as a requirement for recruitment,” she told me. “If we were looking at foreign fighter recruits to Afghanistan 10 or 20 years ago, there was intensive religious and theological training attached to recruitment. Nowadays, we see that recruitment strategy has branched out to a much broader audience with many different pull factors.”
There is no question that these prisoners I am interviewing are committed to Islam; it is just their own brand of Islam, only distantly related to that of the Islamic State. Similarly, Western fighters traveling to the Islamic State are also deeply committed, but it’s to their own idea of jihad rather than one based on sound theological arguments or even evidence from the Qur’an. As Saltman said, “Recruitment [of ISIS] plays upon desires of adventure, activism, romance, power, belonging, along with spiritual fulfillment.” That is, Islam plays a part, but not necessarily in the rigid, Salafi form demanded by the leadership of the Islamic State.
[. . .]
These boys came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003, in the chaotic and violent Arab part of Iraq, ruled by the viciously sectarian Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki. Growing up Sunni Arab was no fun. A later interviewee described his life growing up under American occupation: He couldn’t go out, he didn’t have a life, and he specifically mentioned that he didn’t have girlfriends. An Islamic State fighter’s biggest resentment was the lack of an adolescence. Another of the interviewees was displaced at the critical age of 13, when his family fled to Kirkuk from Diyala province at the height of Iraq’s sectarian civil war. They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe. This is not radicalization to the ISIS way of life, but the promise of a way out of their insecure and undignified lives; the promise of living in pride as Iraqi Sunni Arabs, which is not just a religious identity but cultural, tribal, and land-based, too.

Is it hard to grasp reality or have too many just ignored reality for too long?

The Islamic State spreads because of the way Sunnis are persecuted in the region.

The Islamic State spreads and grows because no one will stand up for the Sunnis on the world stage.

Those sympathetic to IS feel Sunnis are being humiliated.

So how the hell is the answer to start using a term that is seen as derogatory to describe a Sunni group?

You want to push those sympathetic to IS even closer to the Islamic State?

Mock the Islamic State.

Let Barack play your basic moron on Comedy Central instead of president, let him go into the gutter and who do you think wins that battle?

Barack acting like a braying ass will help how?

Barack should be trying to maintain dignity while making calm and rationale statements against the Islamic State and its actions.

Doing that will allow him a shot at being heard by those who might be attracted to the Islamic State.

Contrast that with his using the d-word and mocking.

At a time when the driving force for IS recruitment is the persecution and humiliation, in what world is the answer to be seen as bullies talking trash?

Wilson appeared on Democracy Now! last week:

AMY GOODMAN: What drove the ISIS prisoners that you talked to? And describe the setting where you talked to them.

LYDIA WILSON: So, they were prisoners. They had been through due process. They had been found guilty of terrorism for various vehicle explosions and assassinations within Kirkuk. And so, I was given access by the police, and I was interviewing them before they were serving their sentence.
And so, they were quiet, to begin with. And when I gave them a chance to talk and to ask more open-ended questions, it became very clear that they were fueled by a lot of anger, anger primarily against the Americans, but also against their government, that they perceived as Shia, sectarian, and anti-Sunni. They perceived that everybody was against them, that they weren’t given a chance in their own country. And many of them were poor. They were very low education rates—one was illiterate entirely—and big families and often unemployed. So, ISIS was not only offering them a chance to fight for their Sunni identity, but they were offering them money. They were being paid to be foot soldiers. And, I mean, one of them was the eldest of 17 siblings, and his story was that he hurt his back and couldn’t earn any money as a laborer, which he had been doing.

Now, this money was greatly appreciated by them all, but that’s not to say it’s only economic need. There was this driving anger against Americans, against the occupation—but not in terms of this ideology that we see coming out of the ISIS official publications or through social media. It was anger—it was much more personal. It was much more about their own childhoods and adolescences, that they had been blocked from having a normal life because, as they saw it, of the American occupation.


There are some serious issues to address.

John Kerry is clearly not qualified to address them.

Hopefully, Barack is.

He's in the White House until late January 2017.

Hopefully, he can do something during that time.

He needs to.

Guy Taylor (Washington Times) reports:

Key tribal leaders from Iraq’s Sunni Arab population say U.S. officials have failed to work with them in the fight against the Islamic State and assert that Russia is now increasingly eager to fill the void — even inviting influential sheikhs to visit Moscow and air their grievances.
While the Obama administration admits its push for a “Sunni Awakening 2.0” to break the Islamic State’s hold on Iraq has gone more slowly than hoped, the claims made by five separate Sunni tribal sheikhs in interviews with The Washington Times paint a far bleaker picture, one in which Washington appears to have bungled a chance to recreate an approach that worked against the terrorists in the past.

How does this address the perception that no one will stand with the Sunnis?

It doesn't.

It pushes the message that no one cares about the Sunnis.

Certainly Lara Logan didn't give a damn about them on Sunday when she did the report on 60 MINUTES which only acknowledged the Sunnis when speaking of . . . the Islamic State..

Sunni fighters against the Islamic State don't apparently exist -- not in Lara's report.

So Sunnis risk their lives in Anbar Province to fight against the Islamic State and Lara Logan can't even acknowledge them?

And you wonder who's winning hearts and minds.

The United States government has refused -- repeatedly -- to stand up for the Sunnis.

This was most obvious with regards to spring massacre.

The April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

The US could have stopped that.

One call to Nouri saying, "Cut it out or we cut the funding."

That's all it would have taken.

But the US government -- the White House -- was still determined to stand with Nouri.

(Hawija is over 98% Sunni.)

Time and again, crimes against the Sunnis were ignored and/or tolerated by the US government.

Barack has a lot of work to do to make up for the impression he's already set.

Mocking the Islamic State to the giggles of various Shi'ite thugs will not help Barack but it will make some Sunnis even more hostile towards those they see as degrading and attacking the Sunni population.

Meanwhile new developments in the war on the Islamic State?  Pacifica Evening News puts it mildly, "Turkish Military Downs Russian Jet, Complicating Global Response to Syrian Civil War."

The US Defense Dept claimed/bragged yesterday:

Strikes in Iraq
Bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 19 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Abu Hayat, one strike struck an ISIL staging area.

-- Near Rutbah, one strike struck an ISIL vehicle bomb facility.

-- Near Fallujah, three strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL vehicles and wounded two ISIL fighters.

-- Near Habbaniyah, one strike destroyed an ISIL artillery piece.

-- Near Kisik, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Makhmur, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun and two ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Mosul, one strike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Ramadi, five strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle, eight ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL house bomb, two ISIL recoilless rifles, an ISIL weapons cache, an ISIL building, and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Sinjar, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL fighting position, and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Sultan Abdallah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed five ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Hit, one strike destroyed an ISIL bridge section.

Today, they added:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 17 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, one strike stuck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL staging area and an ISIL building.

-- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle bomb and three ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Mosul, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Ramadi, eight strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL excavator, an ISIL bunker, five ISIL weapons caches, five ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL buildings, an ISIL mortar position, an ISIL bomb, an ISIL staging area, damaged three ISIL entrenchments, and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Sinjar, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed one ISIL fighting position and an ISIL supply cache.

-- Near Sultan Abdallah, three strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL light machine gun and three ISIL fighting positions.

It's not working.

And it's past time Barack devoted significant resources to diplomacy to work out an actual political solution.

Turning to the arts, Friday, Carly Simon's SONGS FROM THE TREES was released -- Kat reviewed it here (she also reviewed Adele's 25)-- and it's the musical companion piece to Carly's memoir BOYS IN THE TREES which went on sale today.

Boys in the Trees

A Memoir

Carly Simon
Flatiron Books

Simon's memoir reveals her remarkable life, beginning with her storied childhood as the third daughter of Richard L. Simon, the co-founder of publishing giant Simon & Schuster, her musical debut as half of The Simon Sisters performing folk songs with her sister Lucy in Greenwich Village, to a meteoric solo career that would result in 13 top 40 hits, including the #1 song "You're So Vain." She was the first artist in history to win a Grammy Award, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award, for her song "Let the River Run" from the movie Working Girl.

The memoir recalls a childhood enriched by music and culture, but also one shrouded in secrets that would eventually tear her family apart. Simon brilliantly captures moments of creative inspiration, the sparks of songs, and the stories behind writing "Anticipation" and "We Have No Secrets" among many others. Romantic entanglements with some of the most famous men of the day fueled her confessional lyrics, as well as the unraveling of her storybook marriage to James Taylor.