Saturday, February 28, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, February 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, a lot of gabbing over the attack on the Mosul Museum but not any real analysis, Barack's desire for combat troops gathers more attention, is the Islamic State just desperate for more press or are they carrying out large acts as part of a farewell to Mosul, and much more

A friend who's a TV actress can talk Iraq every few months.  Whenever there's a story, for example, about how zoo animals are hunted in Iraq, she's all over it.  She's outraged.  She's angry.  Her speech can go on for 90 minutes -- and it is a speech, it's not a conversation.

And I guess I should be grateful that in a world of apathy -- in the United States of Apathy -- she thinks passionately about Iraq at all.

But, no offense to the big game animals, I'm really more concerned with human life in Iraq.  I didn't notice, for example, anyone getting upset about the slaughter when new buildings or US outposts in Iraq were accompanied by the ritualistic slaughter/sacrifice of an animal.

I bring this up because in Thursday's snapshot we quoted the Metropolitan Museum on the attack on the Mosul Museum.

We could have quoted any number of organizations or what have you.  To me, however, if it's a museum that's attacked, let's listen to what another museum is saying.  And I think it's valid for museums around the world to issue statements.

But there's valid and then there's questionable.

A.R. Williams (National Geographic) reports:

Islamic State militants released a video on Thursday showing the destruction of priceless antiquities in northern Iraq.
Running for more than five minutes, the video records men toppling statues in a museum and smashing them with sledgehammers, and attacking other statues at an archaeological site with a jackhammer.

And I think about it and, yeah, this is something National Geographic should be on, it's their reporting beat.  The Guardian carries a column by Haifa Zangana which notes:

Earlier attacks on Mosul’s heritage by Isis targeted the tomb of Nabi Yunus (the prophet Jonah), and the grave of Abu al-Hassan al-Jazari, a 12th- and 13th-century historiographer known as ibn al-Athir.
The destruction of Mosul’s history is a crime against people who are proud of their education and heritage, and fully aware of the value, for example, of the library of Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria (668-627BC), with its 22,000 cuneiform tablets. Destruction of monuments that have been preserved through 14 centuries of Islam in Iraq is widely abhorred. These actions can be likened to the barbarism of an extreme sect in early Islam that demolished the shrine in Mecca.

And there's no question Iraqi novelist Haifa should be weighing in.  But Pravada's got a report that opens, "Islamic State has committed yet another atrocity, adding vandalism and desecration of world cultural heritage to its list of crimes. UNESCO has expressed outrage over the attack on Mosul Museum and the destruction of statues and other artefacts, and has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council."  And AFP's report notes, "Archaeologists and heritage experts called for urgent action to protect the remains of some of oldest civilisations in the world."  BBC offers, "The reported destruction of the statues follows recent reports that IS burnt down Mosul Library, which housed over 8,000 ancient manuscripts."  And CNN has filed multiple stories including this one.

And we could go on and on with all the outlets filing stories.

But here's the thing, I can remember when Nouri used his Minister of the Interior to go after Iraq's LGBT and Emo and suspected LGBT and Emo communities.

And I can remember the reality -- not spin, not rumors -- of the violent deaths by stoning (often with bricks) or super-gluing the anuses, etc.

And I can remember the US press and the world press ignoring it for weeks and weeks.

I can remember getting traction with friends in the music press (including one who got a deal that I would stop slamming him if his publication tackled the story) and how even that took forever and took a mountain of work.

I love books, I love art, I love film and music but I don't think I value art more than I value human life.

But I'm not sure our modern press can say the same.

Forget the LGBT issue for a moment, it's also true 2010 through 2014 saw a vicious government assault on the Sunnis in Iraq and very few wanted to report on it.  Some, like Patrick Cockburn, did so begrudgingly and minimized while 'covering' it.  (Which is why Patrick Cockburn's reputation is so awful in the Arab world.)

I'm an artist.  I believe in art.  But I believe we can and do create new art every day.  And if you told me a ship was sinking and we could save five people or save Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa which was also on the ship for some reason, I'd say save the five people.

That's not me calling art or culture disposable but it is me noting that people are needed for art: they're needed to appreciate it, they're needed for it to have value.

So it bothers me that when people are being killed by their own government, the world press is happy to take a pass..  But some objects being destroyed gets the attention of the entire world press.

I love animals, I love art.  I just question the priorities of a global press which repeatedly finds ways to be outraged over something other than the deliberate killing of people.

Nearly fifteen months of daily bombings of civilian areas in Iraq -- in Sunni dominate Falluja -- by the Iraqi military -- bombings that have wounded and killed thousands -- has, in nearly fifteen months, received not even 1/4 of the coverage the attack on the Mosul Museum has received in 48 hours.

Again, I question the priorities of the global press.

For decades, the joke was that UPI was the Ethel Mertz of the global press.  These days Ethel Mertz seems quite a bit loftier than any press outlet.

(That reputation preceded the Unification Church's purchase of UPI -- preceded it by decades.  Ethel Mertz is the character Vivian Vance played on I Love Lucy, a character who always enjoyed sharing a juicy tidbit with Lucille Ball's Lucy Ricardo.)

The priorities seem skewed at best.  Like with this [PDF format warning] report by alleged friends like Minority Rights Group International and Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization.  The report supposedly is concerned with War Crimes in Iraq.  I'm supposed to be using this site to promote it.

The fact that I was being asked (strong-armed) into promoting the Friday briefing that the report would be released at while at the same time not being able to see the report myself ahead of time was enough to set my 'Spidey sense' tingling and I said no.

And I've now read the report and I'm glad I said no.

Is that a report?

Because it reads like a cry for war.

I also don't get the bravery or the need to call out the Islamic State.

What's next?  An emergency press release announcing Adolf Hitler was evil?

Watch this: Adolf Hitler should burn in hell!

Do you know I will probably not get one e-mail complaining about that statement.

It takes no courage to call out Adolf Hitler.

It also takes no courage -- if you're outside of Iraq or Syria -- to call out the Islamic State.

But a worthless report of 38 pages goes on and on about War Crimes carried out by the Islamic State while failing to note the War Crimes of the Iraqi government. But haven't they done that for years now?  Ignore the War Crimes?  Ignore Nouri al-Maliki's goons carrying out his orders to attack peaceful protesters?  But suddenly they're concerned about Iraq.

And they've so very big and brave -- what manly men they are, rising from their haunches to bravely call out the Islamic State.

In keeping with their ground breaking announcement that the Islamic State is bad, next week Minority Rights Group International and Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization will announce the shocking and ground breaking news that some children hate broccoli.

During the Bully Boy Bush era, Canada largely and wisely sat out the Iraq War.  These days, it's foaming at the mouth to get in its 'kills.'  Keith Jones (WSWS) observes:

Canada’s Conservative government is steamrolling its new “anti-terrorism” bill through parliament—legislation that tramples on core democratic rights and dramatically augments the power of the state and its national-security apparatus.
The Conservatives, who last fall sent Canada to war yet again, this time in Iraq, are also plotting to involve Canada still more deeply in US imperialism’s global offensive.
In both instances, the government is justifying its actions with the claim that Canada is under attack from Islamist terrorism.
This has been a constant refrain of Prime Minster Stephen Harper and his minsters since the killing of two members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) last October in separate incidents in St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec and Ottawa.

Harper and his Conservatives seized on these killings—the work of deeply troubled individuals who had no connection with each other, let alone any terrorist group in Canada or the Middle East—to advance a pre-planned right-wing agenda.

Minority Rights Group International and Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization churned out a report that also reads like a War Hawk attempt to spread fear and encourage more violence.  You sort of picture Stephen Harper flipping through with one hand while pulling his pud with the other.

The White House is facing severe criticism for announcing to the press last week that an attempt to drive IS out of Mosul will take place shortly -- no later than May.

Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) reports there are other objections to the White House announcement which include charges that the administration's underestimated the number of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and the level of their dedication:

With the legitimacy of the group’s cross-border claim of authority at stake, analysts said they found it unlikely that the Islamic State would easily give up control of Mosul or dedicate such a small force to protecting it. Many hundreds of Islamic State troops were committed to the failed effort to capture Kobani, a far less important city on the Syria-Turkey border, and Kurdish forces only 12 miles from Mosul report near-daily attacks by hundreds of Islamic State troops.
“The idea that ISIS will vacate Mosul without a substantial fight is almost laughable,” J.M. Berger, an expert on the Islamic State who’s affiliated with the Brookings Institution’s Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, said in an email. “The timing of the caliphate announcement with the capture of Mosul connects the credibility of the former to their ability to hold the latter in a pretty big way. The caliphate announcement was a clear signal they don’t intend to melt away into the hills.”

Read more here:

The various experts quoted in the article may be correct.

They may be correct in full or in part.

They may also be completely wrong.

I have no idea.

But the attack on the Mosul Museum?

Is the big takeaway there really 'lost cultural heritage'?

For all the hand wringing the press has done, they seem to be missing a point.

That act seems more like a closer.

If you've got a bill of artists performing and Diana Ross is one of them, chances are Diana's closing the concert.  Because she's a closer.  She's a big deal.

The attack on the Mosul Museum could be a closer too.

Meaning the Islamic State, with the announcement from the White House about an impending attack on Mosul, may be resorting to a few last big acts as they prepare to disperse to other areas.

May be.

I have no idea.

I do know that the Islamic State tends to be elusive and while some might argue they need to hold Mosul to prove their strength, it's also true that they've held it for nearly a year and that they could move to another area of Iraq or just move to strengthen their hold in Anbar.

We noted a little while ago that the Islamic State succeeds via fear and that their actions seemed to be getting more and more desperate in order to garner attention and spread fear.

That could be all the attack on the museum was.

But it could also be part of an attempt to pull off some big moments before they begin dispersing in part or in full from Mosul.

It's amazing that so many outlets can 'cover' an event without ever offering possible reasons for the attack.

Or are we so fear-based that we convince ourselves the attack is just part of 'evil'?

The Islamic State has had a game plan from day one.

The White House mistakenly believes dropping bombs is going to take on the Islamic State.  Dropping bombs isn't even playing catch up.

Lying to the American people isn't a way to defeat the Islamic State either.  Thursday's snapshot addressed the fact that the White House clearly plans to utilize US troops in on the ground combat despite Barack Obama's June 'promise' otherwise.  That's why the AUMF if worded the way it is.

We also noted in Thursday's snapshot that it was past time people started giving serious attention to analyzing the AUMF.

Trevor Timm (Guardian) actually does give it serious attention today and notes:

In the Senate hearing this week, the discussion focused on the nebulous language in the White House’s proposed bill and whether the Obama administration actually wants a ground war or not. The President, for months, has been insisting US combat troops would not be fighting on the ground - aside from their comically narrow definition of “combat troops” - but their war resolution paints a different picture. The language says it would “not authorize the use of the United States armed forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.” (emphasis mine)
That means combat troops are on the table, the question is only for how long.

It's Trevor Timm so we're noting the above but before anyone e-mails, Timm's factually wrong.  (Is that redundant?)

Wednesday's snapshot and Thursday's snapshot cover the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Barack's Special Presidential Envoy for The Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant testified at.  That's John Allen.

I was at that hearing and we reported on it.  I was at other hearings this week that we haven't had time for.  That includes veterans hearings and it includes Tuesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.  Tuesday is when John Kerry testified.

Timm writes:

 Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to draw a line in the sand at the Senate hearing: “If you’re going in for weeks and weeks of combat, that’s enduring,” he said. “If you’re going in to assist somebody and fire control and you’re embedded in an overnight deal, or you’re in a rescue operation or whatever, that is not enduring.”
Oh really? At the very same hearing, retired General John Allen, special presidential envoy for the global anti-ISIS coalition, said this: “Enduring might be two weeks, it might be two years.”

Kerry was at the Tuesday hearing.  He was not at the Wednesday hearing.  Timm needs to correct his error.  He also needs to pay a little more attention.  The link he offers goes to USA Today where an article clearly notes Kerry testified on Tuesday.

If that's not proof enough, we quoted Senator Barbara Boxer already in our previous coverage -- including this comment she made to Allen:

 I know poor Senator -- Secretary [of State John] Kerry had to hear it over and over from our side yesterday.  But we're very uncomfortable with this language.  And when Senator Menendez was Chairman, he cobbled together a really good AUMF that united all of us on our side because he essentially said no combat troops with these exceptions -- and he put in the kind of exceptions that I think you would agree with -- special forces operations, search and rescue, protecting personnel.  And we would urge you, please, to go back and take a look at it. I just feel very strongly.

I knocked Timm last week for his trouble with the facts.  The policy there is usually you've had three strikes before I call you out.  Timm had his three.  His 'reporting' is problematic and that's because he refuses to nail down the facts.  Kerry did not testify on Wednesday to that Committee nor did he appear at the same hearing as Allen.  These are facts.

You either get them right or you don't.

And it's not just him, it's also the Guardian's editorial oversight -- or lack of it.

If Timm doesn't correct his error soon look for various 'reports' (columns) to repeat the error.

Jessica Schulberg (Huffington Post) reports, "Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) indicated on Thursday that he may move to prevent President Barack Obama from deploying U.S. ground troops against the Islamic State by introducing a funding bill to limit how the money appropriated for the military campaign can be used."

That was at Thursday's House Armed Services Committee hearing.  I wasn't present at that hearing. I'm counting on  Jessica Schulberg to have nailed down her facts (she's never had a problem doing that in any piece of hers I've read).  People reading Timm's piece are counting on him to nail down his facts as well.

We've noted this week how Mosul may be symbolic -- taking it back from the Islamic State -- but that might be all it was.  Walter Smolarek (Liberation) addresses that possibility:

Such a victory would be a much-needed boost to the authority of the central government, led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. It would not, however, settle fundamental questions about the future of Iraq. Recent events have shown that the recapture of Mosul would be little more than a cosmetic sign of Iraqi national unity, which has been shredded by the criminal policies of U.S. imperialism.
Thousands of U.S. troops are deployed across Iraq, and even more may be sent to the country in the lead-up to the offensive. In order to placate both a skeptical domestic population as well as militias that are fighting IS but also fought the U.S. occupation following the 2003 invasion, the U.S. government has insisted that they will not engage in direct combat. Instead, the U.S. military presence, aside from the daily aerial bombardment, is claimed to be solely aimed at reconstructing and advising the Iraqi army.

With Congress considering a wide-ranging war authorization and the steady escalation of the U.S. military presence, the ability of the “advisors” to avoid combat, even if they wanted to, is highly questionable. 

Friday, Alsumaria reported 6 corpses were discovered dumped in Baghdad -- three of the six were brothers, all were shot dead.  They also noted a woman was hanged in Mosul after being accused of helping government security forces (Mosul is occupied by the Islamic State -- and has been since last June), a roadside bombing outside Baquba left 1 police officer dead and three civilians injured, and a Basra home invasion left 3 sisters and their father dead.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) noted 8 people dead from Baghdad "bombings and mortar strikes."

This morning, Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports 2 Balad Ruz car bombings leaving 11 people dead and another fifty injured while a Samarra suicide car bomber took his own live and the lives of 8 other people with fifteen more left injured.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The IRS investigation

Quick note: A few are e-mailing asking about the IRS hearing this week?  The plan is for that to be covered at Third.  We may or may not.  If Ava and I do it, we'll note the tuckered out pajama queen -- if we do it by ourselves.  But there were two veterans hearings that I also attended and they have shown up here yet.   I do what I can.  What I will do now is note this from the hearing Thursday night:

Opening Statement – Chairman Jason Chaffetz
February 26, 2015
“IRS: TIGTA Update”

The Internal Revenue Service.  The IRS

Perhaps no other agency, no other institution in our government causes more fear, more concern, more distress, or outright panic at the mere mention of their name than the IRS.
Entanglement with the IRS is never good.  Most Americans work hard, pay their taxes and just want to live a life free of harassment.

And most of the IRS employees are good, decent, hardworking, patriotic civil servants doing a tough job, working for their government and are honest in their dealings.  But not all of them.

Nearly two years ago the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, often referred to as TIGTA, did an audit that confirmed what many on this committee had feared and heard; the IRS was targeting and delaying the applications for 501(c)4 status of conservative non-profit organizations because of their political beliefs.

The IRS was on the lookout for applications that:  focused on the national debt, “criticize how the country is run” or that sought to educate the public on how to “make America a better place to live.”
These were conservatives trying to play by the rules, but some in the IRS didn’t want them in the game.  They didn’t want them to have a voice.

When it was first revealed that the IRS was targeting Americans and suppressing their First Amendment rights because of their political beliefs, President Obama said this:
“If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous. And there’s no place for it.”
“And they have to be held fully accountable. Because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they’re . . . applying the laws in a nonpartisan way.”

I agreed with the President then.  He was exactly right. But by the time the Superbowl rolled around, before any of the investigations were complete, the President concluded there was “Not even a smidgen of corruption.”  I have no idea how he came to that definitive conclusion without all the facts, but he obviously sent a signal as to how he would like this to be concluded.

On the one hand the President has come to a conclusion and on the other there is an on-going investigation by the Inspector General and the Department of Justice.

But Congress has a role.

As the new Chairman of this Committee I thought it would be appropriate to get an update on the investigation from the Inspector General.

I want us to focus on the facts, wherever they may lead us.  And thus far, the IRS, and specifically its Commissioner, has given us a lot of different answers to some fairly simple questions.

The Oversight Committee subpoenaed the IRS in Aug. 2013 seeking emails from Lois Lerner’s, as well as others involved in the targeting.

Months later we did not have all the Lois Lerner emails.  In an Oversight hearing on March 26, 2014 Commissioner Koskinen testified under oath he had all the emails and he would produce all the emails.

Yet on June 13, 2014 the IRS sent a letter to Senate Finance stating a multi-year tranche of Lois Lerner’s emails had been destroyed.

June 13, 2014 letter to Senate Finance Committee: “IRS confirmed the backup tapes from 2011 no longer exist because they have been recycled pursuant to the IRS normal policy.”

June 20, 2014 before Ways & Means:

Chairman Camp: “Your letter describes the Lois Lerner emails as being unrecoverable.” 

Commissioner Koskinen: “Correct”

Feb. 11, 2015 in an Oversight hearing:
Mr. DeSantis: “You’ve made the effort, you were not cavalier about this, you made the effort to find what the Committee wanted? Mr. Koskinen: “Yes”

The IRS Commissioner has said they went to “great lengths” and made “extraordinary efforts” to recover the emails.

This is but a small sampling of the Commissioner’s definitive and precise statements about the missing emails.  Yet, I believe what we will hear this evening is far different than what we were led to believe.

To the men and women in the Inspector General’s office, we thank you for the hard work, long days, and we look forward to ultimately reading your final report.


The violence, the silence and the sad excuses

Alsumaria reports 6 corpses were discovered dumped in Baghdad -- three of the six were brothers, all were shot dead.  They also note a woman was hanged in Mosul after being accused of helping government security forces (Mosul is occupied by the Islamic State -- and has been since last June), a roadside bombing outside Baquba left 1 police officer dead and three civilians injured, and a Basra home invasion left 3 sisters and their father dead.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) notes 8 people dead from Baghdad "bombings and mortar strikes."

The violence continues, the lack of political solutions does as well.  All Iraq News notes that Parliament held a session in Baghdad yesterday and 200 MPs attended.  There are 325 elected MPs for those keeping track.  It's amazing how little this seems to matter to anyone other than the Iraqi people (the protesters who demonstrated from December 2012 through January 2014 noted the failure of the Parliament to take the basic steps needed).

It's amazing that it's not huge news as the US media rushes to war and rushes to drag US troops along with them.

You'd think some adult in the room would say not 1 US service member was setting foot in Iraq until real political movement took place in the country.

Instead of adults, we get Just Security doing a reach around with US House Rep Adam Schiff and that's supposed to count for substance.

Instead of adults, we get British 'reporter' Lindsey Hilsum (Channel 4) offering justifications for stealing property:

Thank goodness for looting. If Henry Rawlinson, the British Resident in Baghdad, hadn’t removed a 16 tonne 7th century alabaster statue of a winged bull from Nimrud, near Mosul, in 1849, Islamic State vandals would be taking a sledgehammer to it right now.
He purchased it from the French archaeologist who ‘discovered’ it (had the locals never noticed the huge edifices in their midst?), sawed it into several pieces for ease of transport, and brought it back to London where it was reassembled.
The magical figure, one of two that once guarded an entrance to the citadel of the Assyrian king Sargon II (721-705 BC), is now one of the treasures of the British Museum. Last year 6.8 million visitors had the chance to see it.

If her ridiculous words result in anything, it should be a return to Iraq of the statue -- you can't buy something from a thief.  A thief isn't an owner.

Hislum is like a kidnapper who abducts a child from an orphanage and then points out that, six years later, it burned to the ground so her kidnapping was actually a good thing.

That such arguments even get aired publicly goes to the gross stupidity and the gross criminality in the so-called 'first world' which allows and encourages these actions and far worse -- they are the hallmark of colonization and 'pacification.'

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    Thursday, February 26, 2015

    Iraq snapshot

    Thursday, February 26, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, IS seizes an important bridge in Anbar, does US President Barack Obama need a SOFA to put US troops on the ground in Iraq, we continue to look at Wednesday's Senate hearing on the AUMF, and much more.

    Seems like just yesterday that a puffed chest former general and current envoy John Allen was boasting to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "In addition we're also discussing the coalition's next steps now that we've largely achieved the objectives of the campaign's first phase  which was to blunt ISIL's strategic operation and tactical momentum in Iraq."

    Oh, wait, that was yesterday.

    Yet Al Jazeera reports today at least 20 Iraqi troops were killed when the Islamic States "seized a strategic bridge" in Anbar Province which "connects the cities of Baghdadi and Haditha" and Iraqi forces attempted (but failed) to take it back.  In addition, the bridge is near the US-occupied Ayn al-Asad airbase (where the US trains -- among other things) and there was a suicide truck bombing outside the entrance to the base.

    So the Islamic State is on the run?

    Various US officials keep insisting that but reality rejects it.

    That's how it is under Barack, that's how it was under Bully Boy Bush.

    They appear to see the Iraq War as a 12-step program and that, if they spin the talk hard enough, reality will eventually bend to their will.

    They pulled this in 2003 and it didn't happen.

    They pulled this in 2004 and it didn't happen.

    They pulled this in 2005 and it didn't happen.

    They pulled this in 2006 and it didn't happen.

    They pulled this in 2007 and it didn't happen.

    . . .

    As Vanessa Williams says at the end of "Running Back To You," "Get the message?  'Nuff said."

    The Senate's concerned with what Barack's Authorization for the Use of Military Force (in Iraq, Syria, Disneyland and pretty much the entire world) says.

    We covered some of Wednesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in yesterday's snapshot.  Senator Bob Corker is the Chair, Senator Bob Menendez is the Ranking Member. Appearing before the Committee was retired Gen John Allen whom US President Barack Obama has named the Special Presidential Envoy for The Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    Senator Barbara Boxer: Under Article I, Section 8, Congress has the power to declare war.  I know that you agree with that, yes?

    Ambassador John Allen Yes, ma'am.

    Senator Barbara Boxer: Alright.  So I hope you could then understand why we would want to be very precise when we do that because we're sent here by a lot of people who have a lot of kids who serve in the military and they're the fabric of our communities so we want to be careful. I just want to say I'm not even going to ask you to expand on this enduring word because you've said it very clearly. Your definition is no enduring presence could mean a 2-week presence of combat boots on the ground -- American combat boots on the ground -- or a two-year presence of American combat boots on the ground.  And that answers a question the Democrats on this Committee have been searching for this-this definition and I think what you are proving with your honesty is there is none because its in the eye of the beholder.  When you say to me if I vote for this, no enduring combat presence and I'm sending my kids there in my state for two years I would argue to you you've misinterpreted it.  Yet the Congressional Research Service says there's really no definition.  And if I wanted to take the administration to court as I would say, as a member of Congress, "I said no enduring presence," CRS says I wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on 'cause there's no definition.  So I just think it's very important the administration hear this once again.  I know poor Senator -- Secretary [of State John] Kerry had to hear it over and over from our side yesterday.  But we're very uncomfortable with this language.  And when Senator Menendez was Chairman, he cobbled together a really good AUMF that united all of us on our side because he essentially said no combat troops with these exceptions -- and he put in the kind of exceptions that I think you would agree with -- special forces operations, search and rescue, protecting personnel.  And we would urge you, please, to go back and take a look at it. I just feel very strongly.

    In yesterday's snapshot, we noted some exchanges on this issue.  We'll note another from the hearing:

    Senator Ed Markey: In the Authorization for the Use of Military Force text that the administration provided to this Committee.  It said that it would prohibit "enduring" ground forces. And this was meant to convey that large numbers of [US] troops wouldn't be on the ground for a long time -- whatever that means.  I voted for the 2001 resolution and I'm reminded that the US combat operations in Afghanistan were dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom.  We are now past 13 years in that enduring fight and that resolution, of course, was also the basis for the justification of our actions in Somalia, in Yemen and the administration is saying quite clearly that they oppose the repeal of that and that the operations that are going on right now, in fact, are consistent with that 2001 authorization.  Now causes great problems to me and I think many members of the Committee because even in the absence of the passage of a new AUMF, the administration is maintaining that they have the authority to continue -- as they have for thirteen years -- under Operation Enduring Freedom.  And so that obviously is a problem for us because that sits there as an underlying authority for the next president -- Democrat or Republican who is sworn in on January 20, 2017 and most of us are will be sitting here then as you'll successor will be sitting here then and perhaps not with the same interpretation of the word "enduring." So my questions then go to is this going to open up a potential for an open-ended war in the Middle East?  Will it allow for unfettered deployment of ground troops?  And ultimately, whether or not we are opening up Pandora's Box -- especially in Syria?

    The "enduring" aspect has attracted some media attention.

    It's not resulted in any real media analysis.

    Yes, tired whores like Rosa Brooks stepped up to justify and minimize it.

    That's not an analysis -- though dim wits like Rosa probably think it is.

    As Barbara Boxer noted in the hearing, there was an AUMF proposal before the White House (finally) submitted their wish list in February.

    Until the new Senate was sworn in last January, the Democrats controlled the Senate.  And Bob Menendez was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as Boxer noted, and crafted an AUMF that Democrats in the Senate could live with.

    I thought it went too far but whatever.

    It would have given Barack much of what he wants in the new AUMF.

    What it wouldn't give him was "enduring."

    Supposedly, this AUMF is needed.

    That's confusing all by itself since the White House continues to insist that they will continue -- with or without an AUMF authorizing Barack's ongoing war actions -- to do what they're doing.

    But, supposedly, this AUMF is needed.

    In a playground, children may bicker in the sandbox over a toy that, for example, they want to use in a sand castle -- say a figure or plastic soldier or whatever.

    At some point, they either resolve the issue (by themselves or via an adult intervening) or they stop playing together.

    Is Barack a tiny child?

    At his age, shouldn't he be the intervening adult?

    The point is, if you can get most of what you want, adults in DC know to take it.

    You never get everything you want from this or any Congress.

    Compromise is the overwhelming acting principle.

    So serious analysis of the requested AUMF would address how this is not a minor issue to the White House unless Barack is deeply stupid.

    If this were a minor issue, it would have been ditched already, tossed overboard so everyone could move forward.

    What exactly is Barack discussing and planning that's not being presented to the American people?

    The Iraqi forces aren't up for much of anything.

    Corruption and crime have reduced the force to a joke.

    And that's why, despite the White House planning an operation to retake Mosul in February, the month is now ending with no such attempt.

    Mosul was taken over by the Islamic State in June.  Retaking it might have symbolic value.

    But now the White House has aired the option that Mosul might be invaded soon . . . or in April . . . or in May.

    These 'deadlines' are vaporous.

    The reason for that, clearly, is that the Iraqi military is not thought to be up to the challenge of retaking Mosul.

    For Mosul to be of any value, there has to be immediate operations.

    By that I mean, think of the Islamic State as a tube of toothpaste and let's consider Mosul the middle.

    Squeeze the middle of the tube and the toothpaste does not vanish.

    Instead, it spreads out to both ends of the tube.

    Should Mosul be retaken, the most obvious move for the Islamic State was to grab new areas or fortify existing ones.

    Should an operation to retake Mosul be carried out and be successfully carried out, the immediate time after that effort would have to see a military force stepping up to ensure that the Islamic State fleeing Mosul did not spread elsewhere.

    New Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter likes to play out variables with the press on what would lead him to recommend US ground forces in Iraq.

    If you pay attention, the aftermath of taking Mosul fits Carter's definition.

    So is this what's going on?

    Is this what has the White House refusing to say, "Okay, take that whole 'enduring' clause out and let's move forward and let you pass an AUMF"?

    It seems very likely.

    A Tweet today raises an issue:

    1. Do we have a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq? Anyone know? How are our soldiers to be protected from prosecutions under Iraqi law?

    For those who don't know, a Status Of Forces Agreement is what gives legal protection to US forces in Iraq.

    When the Iraq War started, the United Nations provided cover for the occupation (not the invasion) and it was a yearly authorization.

    In 2008, due to the problems then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was having each year when he's push through the renewal (bypassing Parliament), Bully Boy Bush decided that the SOFA would be for more than a single year.

    They got a three year deal (with one year clauses) in November of 2008.

    Prior to getting that deal, Joe Biden -- then in the Senate -- had declared if the administration failed to get a SOFA by December 31, 2008, all US troops would . . .

    come home?


    They're remain locked down on US bases in Iraq until some deal was worked out.

    The SOFA expired at the end of 2011.

    We could go into why and all of that but we're not focused on that for this discussion.

    Barack wants US troops in combat in Iraq.

    You can't avoid that.

    It's there in the AUMF.

    So if there's no agreement -- such as a SOFA -- then it doesn't matter because US forces can't be put into combat on the ground in Iraq without an agreement which protects US troops from legal challenges for their operations in Iraq.

    So why isn't the White House working on a SOFA?

    These are issues people should be asking.

    The US forces are in Iraq.

    Has Barack betrayed them by putting them on the ground in Iraq without a legal protection?

    If so, that would be an issue that could even rise to the level of grounds for impeachment.

    That's not going to happen because the desire to keep US troops in Iraq is long rooted.  Let's fall back to the April 30, 2013 Iraq snapshot:

    December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

    Now let's go to the Decmeber 11, 2012 snapshot:
    In yesterday's snapshot, we covered the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department of Defense of the United States of America.  Angry, dysfunctional e-mails from Barack-would-never-do-that-to-me criers indicate that we need to go over the Memo a little bit more.  It was signed on Thursday and announced that day by the Pentagon.   Section two (listed in full in yesterday's snapshot) outlines that the two sides have agreed on: the US providing instructors and training personnel and Iraq providing students, Iraqi forces and American forces will work together on counterterrorism and on joint exercises.   The tasks we just listed go to the US military being in Iraq in larger numbers.  Obviously the two cannot do joint exercises or work together on counterterrorism without US military present in Iraq.
    This shouldn't be surprising.  In the November 2, 2007 snapshot -- five years ago -- we covered the transcript of the interview Michael R. Gordon and Jeff Zeleny did with then-Senator Barack Obama who was running in the Democratic Party's primary for the party's presidential nomination -- the transcript, not the bad article the paper published, the actual transcript.  We used the transcript to write "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq'" at Third.  Barack made it clear in the transcript that even after "troop withdrawal" he would "leave behind a residual force."  What did he say this residual force would do?  He said, "I think that we should have some strike capability.  But that is a very narrow mission, that we get in the business of counter terrorism as opposed to counter insurgency and even on the training and logistics front, what I have said is, if we have not seen progress politically, then our training approach should be greatly circumscribed or eliminated."
    This is not withdrawal.  This is not what was sold to the American people.  Barack is very lucky that the media just happened to decide to take that rather explosive interview -- just by chance, certainly the New York Times wasn't attempting to shield a candidate to influence an election, right? -- could best be covered with a plate of lumpy, dull mashed potatoes passed off as a report.  In the transcript, Let-Me-Be-Clear Barack declares, "I want to be absolutely clear about this, because this has come up in a series of debates: I will remove all our combat troops, we will have troops there to protect our embassies and our civilian forces and we will engage in counter terrorism activities."
    So when the memo announces counterterrorism activities, Barack got what he wanted, what he always wanted, what the media so helpfully and so frequently buried to allow War Hawk Barack to come off like a dove of peace.
    In Section Four of the Memo, both parties acknowledge that to achieve these things they may need further documentation and that such documentation will be done as attachments "to this MOU."  Thse would include things like "medical reports" for "dispatched personnel."  Oh, some idiot says, they mean State Dept personnel.  No, they don't.  The US is represented in this Memo by the Defense Dept.  This refers to DoD personnel.  They may also need an attachment to go over "procedures for recalling dispatched personnel," and possibly for covering "the death of dispatched personnel with the territory of the host country."  The Memo can run for five years from last Thursday (when it was signed) and, after five years, it can renewed every year afterwards.  US troops could be in Iraq forever.  The kill clause in this differs from the SOFA.  The 2008 SOFA had a kill clause that meant, one year after notification of wanting out of the SOFA, the SOFA would be no more.  The Memo doesn't require lead time notice.  Instead, "Either Participant may discontinue this MOU at any time, though the Participant should endeavor to provide advance notice of its intent to discontinue the MOU to the other Participant."

    Again, Barack got what he wanted.  He'd stated what he wanted in 2007.  He got it.  If your life's goal is to cheer Barack -- that is the goal of the Cult of St. Barack -- start cheering and stop whining that Barack's been misrepresented.  The Memo gives him everything he wanted so, for Barack, it's a victory.  For those who believe in peace, for those who believe the US military should be out of Iraq, it's a tragedy.

    Everything needed -- including US military going on combat patrols with Iraqi forces -- was granted in the MOU of 2012.

    Nouri's frequently referenced it -- usually to whine and complain -- and the press either acts confused or doesn't grasp that there's an MOU out there.

    This has not been a 'rush' on the part of the White House.  It's been a carefully unfolding plan.

    And any real analysis of the AUMF that Barack's requesting would acknowledge that.

    Let's note another Tweet:

    1. Irani muhalls will kill all sunnis civilains in Iraq now world dont speak but after we die the world will cry for us

    And that is correct.  Throughout Nouri's second term, Sunnis were targeted, harassed and killed, displaced and branded "terrorists" (by Nouri) for the 'crime' of carrying out sit-ins.

    And the world didn't talk about it.

    And in the US there was such a desire to look the other way in order to protect Barack and the lie that he was antiwar and that he'd done something value with Iraq (when he insisted Nouri get a second term despite Nouri losing the 2010 elections).

    And, sadly, it's true even now that what's being done to the Sunnis is ignored and excused by the administration, by Barack Obama.

    Falluja, to cite only one example, continues to be bombed daily by the Iraqi military.


    In its residential neighborhoods.

    Even if 'terrorists' were in those neighborhoods, it is a War Crime to bomb them when civilians are present.  It is known as "collective punishment" and it is a legally defined and legally recognized War Crime.  That's by the international community, that's by the United States government.

    But these bombings aren't called out by the US government.  There's no threat to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of, "Stop these bombings or we will not send you . . . ."

    So, yes, the Sunnis continue to be targeted and the world looks away.

    Margaret Griffis ( reports:

    Kurdish authorities are reportedly blocking the return of Arab Iraqis to their homes in Kurdish controlled areas. They are using the claim that the Arabs collaborated with the Islamic State militants, but it is just as likely that they are attempting to solidify their hold on expanded Kurdish territories.
    At least 224 people were killed and 63 more were wounded. Airstrikes killed civilians in multiple cities in Anbar province.

    Coalition airstrikes in al-Baghdadi killed nine civilians and 15 militants. Another 29 militants were reported wounded, and some were sent to Syria for treatment. Militants burned 26 people to death.

    Griffis notes a reported attack on a museum in Mosul.

    That reported attack has resulted in a public comment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:

     Statement by Thomas P. Campbell, 

    Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
    On The Destruction at The Mosul Museum

    Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East. The Mosul Museum’s collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq. This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.

    # # #

    February 26, 2015