Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 10, 2014. Chaos and violence continue, reality continues to look bad, but Barack just knows he can spin it, and much more.

Wednesday night, US President Barack Obama gives an address on Iraq.

He will most likely note the aerial bombings the US and Iraq have carried out.

He may boast of alleged leaders killed -- leaders of the Islamic State -- but he won't note the civilian deaths.  He most likely won't note last Saturday's bombing of the hospital in Hawija.

Or the dead from that bombing.

Well the babies were premature.

Maybe Barack thought he was killing premature terrorists?

Barack won't note it.

He likely will ignore the points Reuters makes today as well:

  Kurdish and Shi'ite fighters have regained ground, but Sunni Muslims who fled the violence are being prevented from returning home and some have had their houses pillaged and torched.

Rather than help keep the nation together, the air strikes risk being used by different factions for their own advantage in Iraq 's sectarian and ethnic conflicts.

The fallout also risks worsening grievances that helped Islamic State find support amongst Iraq 's Sunnis, and allows the militant group to portray the U.S. strikes as targeting their minority sect. That may make it more difficult to bring Sunnis on side and convince them to fight the militants.

The bombings will most likely be presented as a 'strategy' and part of a 'mission' or 'plan.'

But they've been going on for some time and pretty much did what many feared.

Bobby Ghosh of Time magazine was the first one I heard point it out.  He was making the cable rounds back in June and he pointed out one of the problems with the US bombing anywhere in Iraq was that certain people could use the bombings as a means to destroy their rivals.

In Afghanistan in the early years of the Afghanistan War, the US government used to be so proud of how many terrorists they detained.

But they were usually farmers or herders, they weren't terrorists.

The same 'logic' that filled US overseas prisons and black ops with innocents is now being used to kill.

Barack won't admit that.

He probably will avoid the frankness Robin Wright (The New Yorker) offers:

Yesterday, more than four months after Iraq’s national elections, the country’s leaders finally formed a new government. Secretary of State John Kerry heralded it as a “major milestone,” with “the potential to unite all of Iraq’s diverse communities for a strong Iraq.” He said that the United States now stands “shoulder to shoulder with the Iraqis.” President Obama called to congratulate the new Prime Minister, Haidar al-Abadi, after his government was sworn in.

The process almost imploded, however, when disgruntled Kurds threatened a last-minute boycott over Baghdad’s failure, since January, to provide the Kurds with their agreed upon seventeen per cent of Iraq’s oil revenues, leaving northern Kurdistan unable to pay provincial salaries or its peshmerga fighters. The government is also short of the two positions most pivotal to national security, since the squabbling factions can’t agree on a minister for defense or for the interior.

And that's the thing.

If Barack talks like John Kerry?

Some in the US may buy it but many outside the US will be laughing.

People say -- some people -- that next week will find Iraq filling the posts of Minister of the Interior and Minister of Defense.

Of course they said that in January 2011.

And Nouri didn't appoint anyone.

Went his whole term with both those posts (plus Minister of National Security) empty.

We stood alone in pointing that out.

We stood alone in noting that if the violence was increasing, maybe you fill the position of Minister of Defense.

It's not that complicated.

But Nouri was in the midst of a power grab and the White House saw their role as running interference for Nouri.

Barack probably won't discuss that in the speech either.

But Tim Arango did.  Monday, in an online discussion, this exchange took place.

Q. How do you rate the Obama administration’s actions in Iraq? — eragon38

[Tim Arango]:  It’s not my job to rate the Obama administration’s actions in Iraq. But I will tell you that after 2011, the administration basically ignored the country. And when officials spoke about what was happening there, they were often ignorant of the reality. They did not want to see what was really happening because it conflicted with their narrative that they left Iraq in reasonably good shape. In 2012, as violence was escalating, I wrote a story, citing U.N. statistics, that showed how civilian deaths from attacks were rising. Tony Blinken, who was then Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s national security guy, pushed back, even wrote a letter to the editor saying that violence was near historic lows. That was not true. Even after Falluja fell to ISIS at the end of last year, the administration would push back on stories about Mr. Maliki’s sectarian tendencies, saying they didn’t see it that way. So there was a concerted effort by the administration to not acknowledge the obvious until it became so apparent — with the fall of Mosul — that Iraq was collapsing.

Also noting Nouri's role in today's crises is the editorial board of The National Newspaper, "ISIL were given a toehold in Iraq because the previous prime minister targeted Sunnis and refused to allow them a fair stake in the country. That will have to change. While Iraqi Shia are the majority, they cannot ostracise the largest minority. Mr Al Abadi will have to prove he can offer them real power in government as well as a real role in a nonsectarian Iraqi army."

Don't expect Barack to bring that up in his speech either.

Larry Mendte (Philly Mag) offers:

In many ways, ISIS fed on the President’s inattentiveness. It started with the Red Line in Syria that wasn’t. That emboldened ISIS to seize territory in Iraq that is larger than the state of Indiana. The President claims he was caught off guard, but there are reports the CIA warned him of this threat a year ago. And then, in between the beheadings of Americans, the President announced that he didn’t yet have a strategy to deal with ISIS.
However, it does seem now that the President is getting his act together.

'Getting his act together,' for Larry, means Barack's getting ready to put more US 'boots' on the ground.

Though Larry's giddy, others shouldn't be.

You can be against war, like me, and look on with dismay.

You can also grasp that if a country can't even pick someone to be their Secretary of Defense, are they really showing 'progress' that justifies US troops being used as pawns and clay pigeons yet again?

At Tuesday's State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Marie Harf attempted to spin:

QUESTION: Just on the question of the government formation, as of yesterday, when Secretary Kerry came out and spoke about it, two major members of the cabinet had not yet been selected, the defense minister and the interior minister. I just wanted to ask what, if any, concerns the Secretary has about the fact that these two positions have not yet been filled.

MS. HARF: We’re not concerned about it. Prime Minister Abadi said he will appoint these two in the next few days. We expect that he will do so. That will happen soon. It’s important that the security ministers reflect a general consensus. We commend the prime minister for continuing to work with all the political blocs to gain this consensus. So again, not a lot of concern on our part on that regard.

Kristina Wong and Martin Matishak (The Hill) report

Senate Democrats who initially expressed concerns about the expansion of the U.S. military mission in Iraq and Syria are now holding their breath ahead of the president's speech Wednesday night. 
Several Democrats over August recess called for President Obama to come to Congress for a vote to authorize military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but on Tuesday said they would wait and see.

Former US House Rep Paul Findley tells RIA Novosti, "If the president orders acts of war without congressional approval, he risks impeachment. If Obama wishes lawfully to order airstrikes in the territory of Iraq or Syria, he must first secure a resolution of approval from Congress."

The last word will go to Senator Patty Murray's office which issued the following:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, September 09, 2014                                                         (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: Murray Questions New VA Secretary on Department’s Culture and Accountability
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, attended a hearing with Secretary Robert McDonald and Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin focusing on the state of health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Senator Murray discussed the long wait times for primary and specialty care within the Puget Sound Health Care System as well as the wait times for new mental health care patients in Spokane.
WATCH Senator Murray question Secretary McDonald and Acting Inspector General Griffin.
Senator Murray’s full opening remarks:
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.
“I would like to start by thanking Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin and the Department’s Office of Inspector General for all the work they did in conducting this review.
“Your investigators and staff put together an incredibly important report on what happened at Phoenix. 
“Completing the other investigations, at nearly 100 medical centers, is an enormous task. 
“So I want to thank the OIG for the incredible dedication it will take to get the job done. 
“After many years of making critical contributions to veterans care and benefits, the IG rightly has a reputation of being objective, reliable and thorough in their work.
“Your findings will be vitally important to ensuring veterans across the country get the care they demand and deserve.
“I appreciate how Secretary McDonald has hit the ground sprinting in his new role and have taken immediate steps to get veterans off of wait-lists and into care.
“And while the VA’s latest data continues to show patient accessibility improving across the Department, I am still concerned about some of the facilities in my home state of Washington.
“Veterans receiving primary and specialty care within the Puget Sound Health Care System continue to wait longer than national averages for primary and specialty care…
“At Spokane, new mental health care patients wait over twice as long – 75 days – for their appointments.
“This must change.
“As VA continues to focus on providing veterans with timely access to care, it must also ensure veterans receive the highest quality of care.
“And as the IG’s report showed, that was all too often not the case at Phoenix.
“The IG found that the Phoenix Health Care System struggled with many basic quality of care issues like leaving routine physical examinations and evaluations incomplete or failing to conduct them at all; releasing mental health care patients before their medications were properly stabilized; and struggling to provide dedicated mental health care providers to patients.
“When we are talking about caring for our nation’s heroes and their families, we expect excellence.
“And as I have said repeatedly -- as transparency and accountability increase at the VA, so will the investigations and reports of additional concerns requiring even more action from the VA, the Administration, and Congress.
“So today, I want to hear how VA will address the findings of the IG, the VA access audit, and the White House’s review. 
“In addition, I’d like to hear how the VA will implement the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act. 
“Yesterday, we heard the Secretary speak about VA recommitting itself to its core values. 
“Today, we need to know how the Secretary will turn those commitments into real action, and to improved care for our nation’s heroes.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834
@PattyMurray | @SenateBudget | @MegRoh