Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, June 15, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, Donald Trump serves as a distraction, the Sunnis continue to be persecuted, and much more.

The faux outrage continues regarding GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump comments regarding theft in Iraq and US troops.   We addressed it this morning in "Did the sacred cow moo?" and noted this non-story was sucking up all the oxygen in the room on the topic of Iraq.  It continues to do so.

Again, it's faux outrage.

It's not a conversation.

It's partisan spin and crap, it's marketing, don't mistake for truth or thought.

Two exceptions?

Thomas E. Ricks (FOREIGN POLICY) who opens his piece with, "Bottom line: Trump is right, some soldiers did steal money in Iraq. Not only from baskets of cash for compensation, but from Iraqis carrying their own cash."  And at the Libertarian outlet REASON, Ed Krayewski explores the topic and notes:

But this is a little bit of a manifestation of Trump Derangement Syndrome. After he made his comments, the Trump campaign insisted Trump was referring to Iraq soldiers. In the speech he didn't specify. But that's irrelevant. The fact is that U.S. soldiers and contractors, indisputably, stole money, up to billions of dollars. Democrats like to fashion themselves anti-war, especially when talking about Republicans and especially when Democrats are not in power. But President Obama made his perceived military toughness ("Osama bin Laden is dead") a cornerstone of the 2012 re-election and Democrats have not been shy to wrap themselves with the flag in a similar manner as Republicans in the service of a partisan, sectarian agenda.

The truth is U.S. soldiers were convicted of $50 million worth of crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Were Trump's comments about U.S. soldiers (and they appeared that way at least to me when reading the initial comments), there would be nothing controversial or inaccurate about them. And it's no more a controversial or inaccurate statement applied to Iraq soldiers, who also participated in thefts of money and equipment.

Near the end of last month, Drew Griffin (CNN) reported:

Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald downplayed Monday the time it takes for veterans to receive medical treatment by comparing the "experience" of waiting for health care to Disneyland guests waiting for a ride.
"When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what's important?" McDonald told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington. "What's important is what's your satisfaction with the experience?"
American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett excoriated McDonald: "The American Legion agrees that the VA secretary's analogy between Disneyland and VA wait times was an unfortunate comparison because people don't die while waiting to go on Space Mountain." 

It was a deeply stupid comparison and ill thought out remark, especially for someone who worked at Procter & Gamble for 33 years, retiring as Chairman of the Board.

The day after making his Disneyland comparison, McDonald issued this statement:

On Monday, I made some remarks on how we’re working to improve Veterans' satisfaction with the care they receive from VA. It was never my intention to suggest that I don't take our mission of serving Veterans very seriously. 
In fact, improving access to care is my number one priority and the priority I have set for the entire department. For the last two years, the huge majority of VA employees have worked tirelessly to improve the timeliness of the care and benefits we provide to Veterans. 
As I've told Veterans Service Organizations, Members of Congress, and myriad other groups of Veterans stakeholders, our goal is to ensure VA becomes the Number 1 customer-service organization in government. 
To do that, we are following many of the best practices of private sector health care providers and exceptional customer-service organizations. 
At VA we take our mission of caring for those who "shall have borne the battle" very seriously; we have the best and most noble mission in government. 
If my comments Monday led any Veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don't take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that. Nothing could be further from the truth. 
 As we approach the Memorial Day holiday and pay tribute to the sacrifices of courageous men and women who placed the interests of others above their own, we at the VA remain focused on our mission to care for those who bravely served our Nation.

Stupid comments aren't the end of the world.

The outrage in response to McDonald's comments, however, was not solely over the comments.

It had to do with the VA itself and the continued wait times and the continued backlog.

McDonald made a bad analogy and did so at a time when promises are not being met to veterans.

His bad analogy came as many veterans were still outraged over wait times and the backlog.  And over the many scandals such as the hiring scandal last fall which led to the resignation of Allison Hickey, undersecretary of benefits at the VA.

And the outrage increases with the growing realization that Hickey and the 'reforms' she touted was mere paper pushing and shell games to put a positive spin on a lack of real progress.

Following up on those issues, or Barack Obama's failed promise to endless veterans homelessness, might serve some real purpose.  The continued nonsense over Trump's remarks is about trying to game an election -- nothing else.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Bomber, attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 20 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, a strike destroyed an ISIL homemade explosives cache.

-- Near Bashir, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL command-and-control node and two ISIL assembly areas.

-- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed 11 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL heavy machine guns and six ISIL light machine guns and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Mosul, six strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and foreign fighter support facilities including an ISIL operations center, two ISIL headquarters and an ISIL weapons factory and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Qayyarah, six strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and an ISIL communications facility and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, four ISIL assembly areas, five ISIL mortar systems, an ISIL mortar position, nine ISIL boats, eight ISIL rocket rails, an ISIL rocket system, an ISIL weapons cache, an ISIL ammunition cache and an ISIL vehicle bomb and suppressed a separate ISIL tactical unit and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Ramadi, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL boat.

-- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike destroyed three ISIL rocket rails and three ISIL rocket systems and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Tal Afar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

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. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

Let's note the section entitled "U.S. Policy Response to the Islamic State" from the Congressional Research Service most recent "Iraq: Politics and Governance" report (March of this year) by Kenneth Katzman and Carla E. Humud:

The gains by the Islamic State in Iraq in mid-2014 posed a threat to the territorial and political integrity of Iraq, and caused the Obama Administration to resume an active military role in Iraq. President Obama stated on September 10, 2014 , that U.S. policy is "to degrade and ultimately defeat the Islamic State." That statement represented an escalation of the U.S. response well beyond the responses undertaken as the ISIL challenge increased in late 2013. From late 2013 until the ISIL capture of Mosul in June 2014, the United States took several actions: 

* Delivered and sold additional weaponry . The Defense Department supplied Iraq with several hundred HELLFIRE air-to-surface missiles for use against ISIL training camps. 
* Additional Training . The Department of Defense increased bilateral and regional training opport unities for Iraqi counterterrorism (CTS) units to help burnish ISF counter insurgency skills. By June 2014, U.S. Special Operations Forces had conducted two sessions of training for Iraqi CT forces in Jordan. 
* After the Islamic State's capture of Mosul in June 2014 , the U.S. response broadened significantly into a multifaceted strategy to try to degrade and ultimately defeat the Islamic State .

The military component of the strategy, conducted in partnership with several dozen other countries playing various roles, is termed "Operation Inherent Resolve."

* Advice and Training . The United States has deployed over 3,500 U.S. military personnel to train and advise the ISF, peshmerga forces, and Sunni tribal fighters. 
* Air Strikes . Since August 8, 2014, U.S. military action in Iraq has included airstrikes on Islamic State positions and infrastructure. 
* Weapons Resupply . Since mid-2014, the United States has delivered to Iraq significant quantities of additional weapons, HELLFIRE missiles , and the F-16s previously purchased. In addition to support for the ISF, the Administration has supplied weaponry and ammunition to the peshmerga of the KRG, via the Iraqi government. Under the Arms Export Control Act, all U.S. foreign military sales (FMS) go to central governments, not sub-national forces. However, Section 1223 of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act ( P.L. 114 - 92 ) grants the President authority to provide arms directly to the peshmerga and to Sunni security tribal security forces if the President reports that Iraq has failed to increase inclusiveness of ethnic and sectarian minorities in governance and in security institutions. The legislation appeared intended to address KRG complaints that their efforts against the Islamic State suffers from Baghdad's slow passage to the KRG of U.S-supplied weaponry although numerous sources say the flow to the peshmerga has improved substantially since late 2015. KRG officials continue to assert that they have a deficiency of heavy weapons --particularly those that can stop suicide attacks from long range. 
* Military Aid. The Administration is providing substantial amounts of military aid to help the Iraqi government counter the Islamic State threat. For FY2015, over $1.6 billion in  "Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO)" funding for an "Iraq Train and Equip Fund" has been provided. For FY2016, the Administration is providing $715 million for those purposes, supplemented by a request for $250 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Iraq. That amount is provided in the FY2016 Consolidated Appropriation ( P.L. 114 - 113 ). For FY2017, the Administration has requested $620 million in Train and Equip funds as well as $150 million in FMF - OCO. 

"The military component of the strategy," it reads.

But search in vain through all the pages of the report for any other component of the so-called strategy.

June 14, 2014, Barack insists the only solution to Iraq's crises is a political solution.

And yet every bit of US energy has been channeled solely through the military.

Nothing has been done to address the conditions that aided the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq.

In other words, the persecution of the Sunnis continues.

Here family killed This is the case of the Sunnis in On the hands Here for 13 years

Iraqi Sunni woman her Children arrested & tortured by Shia militias without guilt or charge in

:Names of dozens of missing persons who disappeared at hands of Hashd factions in al-Azrakiya in NW Fallujah