Monday, July 06, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, July 6, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, an Iraqi war plane drops a bomb on a civilian area (and it's not Falluja), Barack launches into a lengthy Iraq 'update,' and much more.


Today, US President Barack Obama spoke publicly about the Islamic State.  The address took place at the Pentagon or, as ABC News put it, the address took place "in a rare visit to the Pentagon."

In other words, he may have visited all 50 states, but the Pentagon's never really been on his travel itinerary.

Dana Milbank (Washington Post) also noted the "rare visit" nature:

Obama had used the phrase before, but this was shock-and-awe-worthy — the commander in chief, in a rare visit to Defense Department headquarters, standing onstage with grim-faced and medal-festooned generals and likening war strategy to . . . an arcade game.

Milbank noted Barack "had used the phrase before."

That's true.

But the person who applied it to Iraq first and most persistently was Senator John McCain who began using it over and over in 2006.

For only one example of this, we'll flash back to the August 3, 2006 United States Senate Armed Services Committee hearing when the following exchange took place:

Senator John McCain: So, General Abizaid, we're moving 7,500 troops into Baghdad, is that correct?

General John Abizaid: The number is closer to 3,500.

[. . .]

McCain: And where are these troops coming from?

Abizaid: Uh, the troops, the Styker Brigade, is coming down from Mosul.

McCain: From Mosul? Is the situation under control in Ramadi?

Abizaid: Uh, the situation in Ramadi, is better than it was two months ago.

McCain: Is the situation under control in Ramadi?

Abizaid: I think the situation in Ramadi is workable.

McCain: And the troops from Ramadi came from Falluja, isn't that correct?

Abizaid: I can't say senator, I know that --

McCain: Well that's my information. What I worry about is we're playing a game of whack-a-mole here. We move troops from -- It flares up, we move troops there. Everybody knows we've got big problems in Ramadi and I said, "Where you gonna get the troops?" 'Well we're going to have to move them from Falluja.' Now we're going to have to move troops into Baghdad from someplace else. It's very disturbing.

It was hard not to recall that exchange as Barack spoke today.

Such as the quote from Barack's speech Milbank offers, "ISIL lost at the Mosul Dam. ISIL lost at Mount Sinjar. ISIL has lost repeatedly across Kirkuk province. ISIL lost at Tikrit. . . . ISIL lost at Kobani."



The dam may have been 'saved' via intense bombing from US war planes but who controls Mosul?

As Reuters noted Saturday, "The city has been under Islamic State control since the Islamist militants took over in June last year" and "[t]he Shi'ite-led government has promised a military offensive to retake Mosul but progress has been slow."

A year and one month to 'retake' Mosul?

Yeah, I'd say that's pretty slow.

Despite that reality, Barack was insisting at the Pentagon that "today, it's also important for us to recognize the progress that's been made."

And, of course, the Islamic State seized control of Ramadi in April and remains in control of it.

But Barack spun this as a 'victory' as well, insisting in his long winded remarks today that "the fall of Ramadi has galvanized the Iraqi government."

The claim is laughable in terms of scoring it as a 'win.'

It's also factually a lie.

Since August, the US has insisted that a national guard in Iraq was a possible solution.  They've prodded the government on that.

Parliament's refused to vote on it.

And the fall of Ramadi?

It didn't push it onto the agenda.  In June, for example, the Parliament made time to vote on a national anthem but tabled talk -- forget a vote -- on a national guard until the next session.

Desperate to find 'success' somehow, Barack insisted, "Altogether, ISIL has lost more than a quarter of the populated areas that it had seized in Iraq,"

As has been noted throughout the long Iraq War, Iraq is about the size of California.

And yet the Iraqi government -- with help from so many nations (Barack said 60 in his speech) -- still can't reclaim territory?

A year in and Barack sees regaining a quarter of the territory as progress?

How very sad.

As were his attempts to disguise his own failures by dubbing the battle against the Islamic State "a generational struggle" which would last years.

I'm sorry, I'm not remembering FDR insisting that the war against the Nazis was "a generational struggle."

But then, FDR addressed the issue, he didn't play kick the can and set up whomever followed him in office for failure.

Some outlets are insisting that Barack declared the 3,500 US troops he's sent into Iraq over the last year or so are it and no more will be sent in.

That's is incorrect.

Maybe listening to his blather put them to sleep?

Barack actually declared on that issue, "There are no plans to do so" -- no plans to send more US troops into Iraq currently.

But, of course, when he first began sending them in, he insisted that the number would be small and few thought he would reach 3,500.

Barack's failed and he needs to be called out.

He had the nerve to declare today, "Now all this said, our strategy recognizes that no amount of military force will end the terror that is ISIL unless it’s matched by a broader effort, political and economic, that addresses the underlying conditions that have allowed ISIL to gain traction."

He's not wrong about that.

He wasn't wrong June 19, 2014 when he said the same exact thing:

Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq's future. Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- all Iraqis -- must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence. National unity meetings have to go forward to build consensus across Iraq's different communities.
[. . .]
They have their own politics. And what we have tried to do is to give them our best advice about how they can solve their political problems. Now that they are in crisis, we are indicating to them that there is not going to be a simple military solution to this issue. If you start seeing the various groups inside of Iraq simply go to their respective corners, then it is almost certain that Baghdad and the central government will not be able to control huge chunks of their own country. The only way they can do that is if there are credible Sunni leaders, both at the national level and at the local level, who have confidence that a Shia majority, that the Kurds, that all those folks are committed to a fair and just governance of the country. 

Where he's wrong is that he's done nothing on the political.

Despite insisting June 19, 2014 that the only answer to Iraq's crises was a political solution, he has spent the last year doing nothing on this.

Today, he insisted, "Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they're defeated by better ideas."

No disagreement with the statement but where have his actions matched those words?

He has made a retired US general his diplomatic envoy -- he has made someone an ambassador who doesn't even appreciate the title, who holds his nose in disgust and insists instead on being called "general."

That's not how you work towards a political solution.

The 'general' has a roll dog.  The State Dept's Brett McGurk who, like his boss Secretary of State John Kerry, has confused his role and appears to believe he works for the Defense Dept.

Iraqi politicians could have used some help from the so-called 'diplomatic' arm of the US government.

Instead, that arm has been used in two ways.

First, it's been used to scare up countries to bomb Iraq and to send forces into Iraq.

Second, that arm has been held hostage by Iran.

Barack can't make the deal with Iran.

He keeps extending the deadline.

He keeps wasting US resources (including John Kerry) on this nonsense that has sidelined every year he's been in the White House.

Iran's calling the shots because Barack's never grasped the most important point of hard bargaining: You have to be prepared to walk away.

Now you can walk away and then return.

That's not weakness.

But if you say, "We will negotiate until X" and then X comes and goes and you continue negotiating?

No one takes you seriously.

They know you're not walking away, they know they're in charge.

And as Iran has held Barack hostage, Iraq has suffered.

Barack babbled on in that mindless, finger pointing manner that never really addresses anything but takes up a great deal of time.

People are asking, "Where is the transcript?"

Not even the White House itself wants to transcribe all that useless crap -- nor has any news outlet bothered.

We'll offer highlights (and you can click here for the video -- goes to DoD and not the embarrassing blog post by a White House blogger who needs to consider losing that idiotic grin photo -- at least when posting on serious topics).

"ISIL," Barack insisted, "is backed by no nation.  It relies on fear, sometimes executing its own disillusioned fighters."


That's sad.

Barack, of course, doesn't execute America's "disillusioned fighters."

He just persecutes them.

Which is why Chelsea Manning sits in a military jail for being a whistle blower.  It's why NSA whistle blower Ed Snowden remains in Russia.  (Former US Attorney General Eric Holder spoke of Ed today.)

The Islamic State is a terrorist organization.

I don't know many who debate that label.

But if you're going to give a speech where you brag about US "values" (as Barack did today), maybe you shouldn't be persecuting "disillusioned fighters" yourself?

Equally true, if you refuse to work towards a political solution -- as Barack has -- you're routing yourself into combat as your only role.

That needs to be recognized now.

Because that's where it's headed if the US does not immediately begin using its diplomatic influence to assist the Iraqi government in moving towards a political solution.

Barack's claims of success came on the same day that a horrible tragedy took place in Iraq as a result of the Iraqi military.

At least seven civilians are dead as a result of what the Iraqi government is calling an accidental bombing.  You know it's true since the Iraqi war plane dropped the bomb on Baghdad and not Falluja or any other Anbar Province city or town.  AFP reports the war plane accidentally dropped the bomb on eastern Baghdad and a spokesperson said "it fell on three houses." The pilot was flying a Sukhoi Su-25 which Iraq got "from Russia and Iran last year."  Shen Qing (Xinhau) updates the number of homes destroyed to six and notes the bomb also "caused damages to several nearby buildings and civilian cars, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."

Meanwhile, the US will be supplying Iraq with F-16s.  Rudaw reports that Shi'ite MP Abed Issawi is insisting that there is a conspiracy to prevent Iraq from obtaining the planes and that the US government is insisting the F-16s be stationed in Jordan.  Issawi is quoted declaring, "We have information the US has decided that the three F-16s should carry out airstrikes from the land of Jordan while Iraq has a big airbase in the Ziqar province in southern Iraq."

Iraq was briefly noted in the State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson John Kirby.

QUESTION: Iraq. John, have you heard about the Iraqi pilot accidentally bombed one of the Baghdad neighborhood? I don’t know if you heard of that, but my – this is not the question, but the question is about the F-16 jets, that there were communication between U.S. and Iraq that – to be shipped to Iraq in last month or this month maybe. But there are also the problem – maybe communication’s not a problem between U.S. and Baghdad, to be positioned in Jordan, not in Iraq. Do you have anything on that?

MR KIRBY: No, I don’t.

QUESTION: What about any update about Baghdad and Erbil deal? There are reports that --

MR KIRBY: Baghdad and Erbil what?

QUESTION: The deal, the oil deal. That it’s not working. Do you have any updates that you have your people on the ground?

MR KIRBY: Other – look, I’m not – I won’t – I don’t have any comments specifically about the discussions inside the Iraqi Government about this. We’ve long made clear that what we’d like to see is an oil revenue sharing system that’s good for all Iraqis. But I don’t have anything beyond that to speak to specifically.

On the inability to address Iraq?  The State Dept is appalling.

On Kirby's remarks re: the failure of last Decembers' 'agreement' between Baghdad and Erbil?

The remark is embarrassing when you consider what the State Dept has previously said going back to the hideous Victoria Nuland.  However, I believe this is Kirby's first statement on the deal and we'll avoid slamming him on it unless he begins yammering away on the topic.

Nuland couldn't stop from offering her personal opinions -- which misled Nouri al-Maliki on American laws and structures, by the way.

If Kirby doesn't want to go into it, then don't.

And we won't rip him apart.

But if he starts lecturing like Nuland -- or worse, lying like Nuland -- we will call him out.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 134 violent deaths across Iraq today.

Finally, in the June 27th snapshot, we covered the June 25th House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing with the big takeaway being: How did the VA end up with a shortfall?  It is big news and it is serious news.  I wasn't aware that Paralyzed Veterans of America and others had weighed in.  This is from Paralyzed Veterans of America:

June 25, 2015

Call for immediate action to address a reported $2.6 billion shortfall in medical care funding for FY 2015, a problem that could also repeat in FY 2016.

WASHINGTON, DC—The co-authors of The Independent Budget (IB)—AMVETS, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)— today issued the following joint statement calling on Congress and the Administration to end their political posturing and work together to immediately address a projected $2.6 billion shortfall in veterans medical care funding. 

“Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will testify before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that it faces a potential shortfall of nearly $2.6 billion in medical care funding for FY 2015, possibly even running out of money by mid-September.  VA’s data shows that overall demand on the VA health care system has increased by more than 10 percent between FY 2014 and FY 2015, while its budget has only increased by 2.8 percent. Unfortunately, that reality could lead to a potentially devastating outcome for the delivery of health care services to the millions of enrolled veterans, and the surprisingly large number of new veterans, seeking care. 

“Last year we released, The FY 2015 Independent Budget which recommended approximately $61.1 billion for total medical care for the VA in FY 2015.  However, in January 2014, Congress only provided approximately $58.9 billion for all medical care services provided by VA.  We proclaimed then that VA was being placed in a precarious position that could leave it woefully short in providing health care services.  Reports over the last two weeks suggest that may certainly be the case.” 

“It is clear that despite the negative media attention and pressures being placed on VA to address problems with access and accountability, veterans are seeking services from the VA—both inside the system and in the community—at unprecedented rates.  This continues a pattern of inadequate resources for rising demand that we have identified regularly for more than a decade, yet our calls for sufficient resources have too often fallen on deaf ears.”  

“We are distressed that Congress and the Administration seem intent on playing political games and appear more interested in assigning blame than finding solutions.  The simple fact is steps must be taken immediately to ensure the funding stream to provide critical health care services does not dry up.” 

“There are some leaders in Congress who attribute the shortfall only to VA inefficiency, waste and mismanagement and focus on demanding accountability.  On the other hand, the Administration cites insufficient resources, yet is reluctant to formally request an emergency supplemental appropriation, instead requesting authority to transfer resources from the $10 billion “choice” fund.  However, unless this impasse is resolved quickly, it will be veterans caught in the crossfire who will have to worry about when or whether they will be able to get the health care services they need.” 

“It’s time for Congress and the Administration to get serious about providing the additional resources needed – regardless of how they are provided – to meet demand on the system and to ensure that the interests of veterans seeking health care come first.” 

“We call on both Congress and the Administration to work together in good faith and swiftly find a solution that provides VA with additional funding this fiscal year to meet the needs of veterans seeking care both from VA and through VA’s purchased care programs.”

“In addition, we call for increased funding for next fiscal year (FY 2016) for both veterans medical care and construction, to ensure that VA can fully meet the health care needs of all veterans seeking care in the future.“

“Earlier this year, we released our Budget Report for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for FY 2016 and FY 2017, which identified a need for an additional $1.35 billion for veterans medical care in FY 2016 compared to the advance appropriation already enacted.  Similarly, funding for VA’s infrastructure to support the delivery of that care, primarily VA’s Major and Minor Construction accounts, are also inadequate.  We recommended $1.5 billion more for construction funding in FY 2016 than the Administration requested; and the House cut that request down by another $500 million.  In addition, Congress and the Administration must still reach a final funding solution to complete the Denver VA replacement medical center, a project whose completion we fully support, further increasing the need to boost funding.”

“America will not stand for her veterans being denied the health care they have earned and deserve. Congress and VA must work together now to ensure that no veteran’s health care is denied or delayed. It’s time to end the political games and keep the promise to the men and women who served.”


AMVETS: Dave Gai, 703-966-2267,
DAV: Charity Edgar, 202-641-4822,
Paralyzed Veterans: Lani Poblete, 202-416-7667,
VFW: Joe Davis, 202-608-8357,

AMVETS—A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard, Reserves and Merchant Marine. Learn more at

About DAV:
DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV, a non-profit organization with 1.2 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U. S. Congress in 1932. Learn more at

About Paralyzed Veterans of America:
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, Paralyzed Veterans has ensured that veterans have received the benefits earned through their service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (

About the VFW:

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprised of combat veterans and eligible military service members from the active, Guard and Reserve forces. Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is the nation's largest organization of war veterans and its oldest major veterans organization. With nearly 1.9 million VFW and Auxiliary members located in more than 6,800 Posts worldwide, “NO ONE DOES MORE FOR VETERANS.” The VFW and its Auxiliaries are dedicated to veterans’ service, legislative advocacy, and military and community service programs worldwide. For more information or to join, visit our website at