Saturday, February 13, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, February 13, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, Hillary War Hawk Clinton remains under fire for her lies and blood lust, it appears that the Kurds are about to get sold out by the US government again, the Iraqi government continues to persecute the Sunnis, and much more.

Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State and forever War Hawk Hillary Clinton are facing off against one another for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.   Bernie notes that he voted against the Iraq War in 2002.  A defensive and hostile Hillary tries to insist that was years ago and no answer to what is taking place today.

But that vote had long lasting effects.

As did Hillary Clinton's defense of and support for the Iraq War.

That vote isn't even a 'mistake' in her eyes until she's seeking the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination.

James Zogby (HUFFINGTON POST) lists the consequences of that illegal war and notes:

One final "unintended consequence" of the war was not only the growth of extremist currents in the Arab world but the unleashing of an emboldened Iran on the region. With Saddam and the Taliban defeated, Iran was able to expand its influence in Iraq and project its claim to be the leader of the "resistance against the West".
As Bernie Sanders correctly notes, it wasn't just the Bush Administration that supported this disastrous war. The Democratic-led Senate passed the resolution that was used to justify the invasion. And so, dear critics and cynics, before suggesting that Sanders lacks the wisdom to conduct foreign policy, pay attention to the judgment and foresight he demonstrated in what he has rightly termed the most critical decision Senators were called on to make in this century.

In bringing up his opposition to the war, he is not only distinguishing himself from Hillary Clinton, who supported the invasion, he is also correctly laying the predicate for a more thoughtful realist-based foreign policy grounded in respect for international law and institutions, cooperation with partners, and diplomatic engagement.   

Hillary and he spinners try to reduce the Iraq War vote as a minor blip when, in fact, it goes to exactly who she is and what she believes in.

None of their spin or justifications have managed to refute the basic points Stephen Zunes raised in "The Five Lamest Excuses for Hillary Clinton’s Vote to Invade Iraq."  Unable to refute those points, they just ignore them.

Instead, they offer garbage like "Hillary Clinton has finally found a good answer on her Iraq vote."  No, her snippy little comment that a 2002 vote doesn't address the Islamic State today is not a good answer for anything.

If anything, it should underscore the fact that she herself has no plan for addressing the Islamic State and that, while she was Secretary of State, the US government played footsie with Nouri al-Maliki.

In April of 2008, she publicly called Nouri a thug.

And last month, at a debate, she insisted, "If there is any blame to be spread around, it starts with the prime minister of Iraq, who sectarianized his military, setting Shia against Sunni."

Nouri lost the 2010 elections.  So how did he end up with a second term as prime minister?

The US brokered a legal contract -- The Erbil Agreement -- which overturned the election and overruled the Iraqi people.

Hillary was Secretary of State at that time.

She doesn't appear to want to talk about that.

Maybe she's lucky so many people just focus on her 2002 vote?

Gloria La Riva (CINDY SHEEHAN'S SOAPBOX) weighs in on Hillary and Mad Maddie Albright:

In 2003, Senator Clinton supported invasion and occupation of Iraq. In 2011, as Secretary of State, she was chief advocate in the Obama administration in calling for the bombing war that killed, wounded and displaced unknown numbers of Libyans and devastated the country.
After the torture and murder of Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, Clinton laughingly told a CBS interviewer: “We came, we saw, he died.
Albright and Clinton thus share much in common both with each other and their far more numerous murderous male counterparts in the top levels of the U.S. imperialist state machine. That they who have worked to destroy the lives of so many millions of women would now presume to lecture young women on “feminism” and attempt to shame them into supporting Clinton is a despicable travesty.

Maria Bustillos (LOS ANGELS TIMES) sums up where she stands on the candidates:

Sanders voted against the Iraq war resolution, while then-Sen. Clinton allied herself with the Bush regime and voted for it. For this reason, she personally bears a small part of the responsibility for hundreds of thousands — perhaps over a million — avoidable deaths in a stupid war that brought nothing but grief to that unfortunate country, and our own. I do not care whether Clinton is a woman or a space alien: I cannot and will never support a Democrat in a primary who did not speak out forcefully against invading Iraq at the time.
That is a deal-breaker — I can hardly believe that my party has seen fit to put a pro-Iraq war candidate on our ticket at all — but there are a lot of other reasons I don't support Clinton.

Ralph Nader (DISSIDENT VOICE) offers:

But it is in the area of foreign and military affairs that “Hillary the hawk” is most vulnerable. As Secretary of State her aggressiveness and poor judgement led her to the White House where, sweeping aside the strong objections of Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, she persuaded President Obama to bomb Libya and topple its dictatorial regime.
Gates had warned about the aftermath. He was right. Libya has descended into a ghastly state of chaotic violence that has spilled into neighboring African nations, such as Mali, and that opened the way for ISIS to establish an expanding base in central Libya. Her fellow hawks in Washington are now calling for U.S. special forces to go to Libya.
Whether as Senator on the Armed Services Committee or as Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton has never met a war or raid she didn’t like, or a redundant, wasteful weapons system she was willing to aggressively challenge. As president, Hillary Clinton would mean more wars, more raids, more blowbacks, more military spending and more profits for the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower so prophetically warned about in his farewell address.
So when Bernie Sanders properly chided her for having as an advisor, Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under Richard Nixon, she bridled and tried to escape by asking Sanders to name his foreign policy advisors.

In fact, Kissinger and Clinton do have much in common about projecting the American Empire to brutal levels. Kissinger was the “butcher of Cambodia,” launching an illegal assault that destabilized that peaceful country into the Pol Pot slaughter of millions of innocents. She was the illegal “butcher of Libya,” an ongoing, unfolding tragedy whose blowbacks of “unintended consequences” are building by the week.

With a record with so little to praise, Hillary and her supporters have turned to smearing Bernie Sanders.  Not everyone's going along with the Clinton attacks. At POLITICO, Lawrence Korb reflects on Bernie and foreign policy:

Sanders has demonstrated these principles in Congress. Before the 2016 campaign, I briefed him once, in 2006, when we discussed a foreign policy paper I had coauthored about how the United States could begin a strategic, phased withdrawal from Iraq. Unlike many of his Democratic colleagues, who characterized our plan as cut-and-run, Sanders supported it. He recognized that Iraq was not the most critical front in the war against terror; that America’s involvement there was creating more terrorists in the region and around the globe than we were capturing or killing; and that the Iraq War was diverting attention and resources from the necessary war in Afghanistan.
Sanders’ military restraint extends to spending, too. Since coming to Congress, he has argued forcefully and repeatedly for eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon so that we can reduce defense spending. There is no need for the United States to spend more than the next seven top-spending countries in the world combined, several of which are our allies, and more in real dollars than we spent annually on average during the Cold War. As President Obama has pointed out, while America has many challenges in the world, we are not in the midst of World War III.

The Iraq War continues with the US Defense Dept bragging/announcing/claiming the following today:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 17 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Baghdadi, a strike destroyed four ISIL rocket rails.
-- Near Albu Hayat, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
-- Near Fallujah, a strike denied ISIL access to terrain.
-- Near Habbaniyah, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL front-end loader.
-- Near Makhmur, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions.
-- Near Mosul, five strikes struck three ISIL tactical units and destroyed 11 ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL excavator and an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Ramadi, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, destroying four ISIL staging areas and an ISIL bed down location and suppressing an ISIL fighting position.
-- Near Sinjar, two strikes destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions.
Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

Month after month, US President Barack Obama has presented a 'plan' and nothing is accomplished.  

The US government and the Iraqi government have refused to address the core issues which include the persecution of the Sunnis. 

Tim Arango (NEW YORK TIMES) reports:

When Iraqi ground forces and American aircraft began assaulting the city of Ramadi more than a month ago, Ghusoon Muhammed and her family fled to the government’s front line, as did many other Sunni Arab families who had been trapped for months. Soldiers sent her and the children one way, and her husband another, to be interrogated in a detention facility.
She has not seen him or heard from him since.   She and her children, who will most likely not be able to go home to Ramadi for months given the destruction, have been left to wait in a ramshackle tent camp here in Anbar Province.  She is desperate, and adamant: "The innocent people in jail need to be released!" she said.
Standing nearby on Sunday was another woman, Karima Nouri.  Her son an auto mechanic, was also taken away by the authorities, and she has had no word about him for weeks.  Ms. Nouri said the government considered civilians who remained in Ramadi to be sympathizers of the Islamic State.

When this is taking place -- again taking place -- don't pretend that anyone's addressing anything.

Liar and Barack's special envoy Brett McGurk appeared before Congress this week.

Special Envoy Brett McGurk:  We will not put a timeline on when Mosul will be liberated, but shaping operations to lay the groundwork for isolating ISIL inside the city have now begun. Kurdish Peshmerga forces two months ago liberated Sinjar, cutting off a highway that feeds Mosul from Syria. This operation was launched simultaneously to the SDF taking al Hawl, and began the bifurcation of northern Iraq from Syria – making it harder for ISIL to move material and supplies. These constricting operations will continue, and set the stage for political efforts to organize and coordinate liberation operations. My visit to Baghdad last week focused on ensuring close cooperation between political leaders, as well as Iraqi Security Force and Peshmerga commanders. Thanks to the great efforts of our Department of Defense colleagues, and our Ambassador in Baghdad, Stu Jones, there is now a joint command center established east of Mosul to synchronize all of these efforts going forward. Mosul will not be a D-Day like assault. Nor will we announce when key events are to take place. But ISIL will feel increasing pressure inside this city -- day-to-day and week-to-week. This slow and steady suffocation is now underway. We are killing ISIL members inside Mosul every week. We are also uprooting their sustainment network and have destroyed the cash storage sites used to pay, recruit, and train their fighters.

In June of 2014, the Islamic State seized Mosul.

The Baghdad-based government has been in no hurry to rescue the citizens or liberate the city.

On the global stage, Baghdad has sported its cowardice for all to see.

McGurk was appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.  We covered some of the hearing in Wednesday's snapshot and in Thursday's snapshot.

We'll note this exchange.

US House Rep Paul Cook: Picking up on that question of the Turks and the Kurds, point blank, is there any hope for a separate homeland for the Kurdistan?  I don' think geography favors it.  But we've disappointed the Kurds so many times and after all of their fighting and everything else, particularly with the pressure with the Kurds -- I just don't . . . I think we're going to betray them once again.  Can you comment on that?

Special Envoy Brett McGurk:  Well the Kurds -- and I've dealt with my friends, the Kurds, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for almost a decade now.  And you're right, there's a historical memory of what happened to the Kurds after WWI which is something I think we all have to recognize and be sympathetic to.  Uhm, the Kurds in northern Syria we've developed a relationship with over the last 18 months or so in the counter-ISIL campaign.  I was able to go into northern Syria last week and meet a number of them.  And they have the same -- it's a very similar historical narrative.  Uhm, however, at this moment in time, creating new, independent states is not something that I think would be particularly stabilizing.  So when it comes to northern Iraq, and the Kurds, as I mentioned, I think before something like that can be discussed in a serious manner, first you have to get ISIS off the southern border, it's all jihad-istan on the entire southern border of northern Iraq and the Kurdistan region.  Second, the economic situation has to stabilize.  And, third, the political situation has to stabilize.  So right now, I think the Kurds of northern Iraq, uh, and recognize this.  Nobody is trying to do the impossible and create a unified Iraq that is a glowing democracy.  But a federal Iraq, which is defined in their constitution, which empowers local leaders, empowers the Sunnis in the provinces, empowers the Kurds in northern Iraq, empowers the Shia in southern Iraq is something that's realistic, is something that is in Iraq's constitution and something that we support.

For those paying attention, it appears the Kurds are about to get stabbed in the back yet again.  And, for the record, the Iraqi constitution also has a measure for independence but when provinces attempt to utilize that the US government suddenly has no interest in defending the country's constitution.

Winding down,  David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  This is from Bacon's "An Intentional Homeless Community" (EAST BAY EXPRESS):

Michael Lee started living on the streets of San Francisco last May. He had traveled to the city from Las Vegas to seek medical treatment. When he arrived, he searched for cheap, temporary housing in some of San Francisco's most affordable neighborhoods, but he had seriously underestimated the cost of living in the nation's most expensive city.

"I was under the impression the rent was $300 a month, and I brought the resources for sixty days," he said in an interview. "I was going to go back to Las Vegas afterwards and go back to work. But the first place I walked into, they told me it was $300 a week. The next was $400 a week, and then $500. People were laughing at me - $300 a week is actually cheap on Skid Row. So I wound up living on the streets."

Lee soon heard of a large encampment in Berkeley that homeless activists had set up to protest the US Postal Service's plan to sell Berkeley's historic downtown post office building. So he moved across the bay and quickly became a leader of the Berkeley camp. He advocated for a plan to transform the old post office building into a community resource: "A homeless contact center run by homeless people," he said.

"Why [were] homeless people the main defenders?" Lee asked rhetorically, referring to the post office.  "Without community resources we can't get a hand up. There's just no place to go. This is where we live, unfortunately - on the sidewalks. We don't want to live in a community where private developers, the One Percenters, have everything."

The following community sites updated: