Saturday, June 13, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, June 13, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the State Dept tries to spin the meaning of bases in Iraq, Barack's legal rationale is dubbed 'thin and shallow,' Amy Goodman sells war,  BBC News never sees torture or forced confessions -- only guilty people (who've not yet been convicted of any crime), and much more.

Earlier this week, as Barack Obama again sent more US troops into Iraq, The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel offered this:

  • This should not be part of Pres's legacy-- Obama Does Have a Strategy in Iraq: Escalation

  • I knew when it went up because a friend at The Nation immediately called and said it had to be -- had to be -- included in a snapshot.

    It was, the friend insisted, a statement.

    I scoffed at the notion but said we'd note it at some point if there was time.

    Today, we make time.

    As weak as Katrina's Tweet ('statement') is, she now stands like a giant for what she Tweeted.


    All things fake-ass eventually lead to Amy Goodman -- the Porter Goss of the '10s.

    Thursday on the weak ass and fake ass Democracy Now!, Goody Whore was pimping war.

    She brought on a ridiculous guest -- the Guardian's Shiv Malik -- because his revisionary faux history exempts Barack as a player and pins blame on all others.

    So eager was she to wash Barack clean that she brought on a War Hawk and gave him time to insist, "Now, that doesn’t mean that America should simply carry on focusing on al-Qaeda and not regear its intelligence machine, its military machine towards ISIS. You know, if you were wondering what’s a greater threat, ISIS certainly is."

    Most adults are able to grasp that Amy should have pushed back against this urge for warring.

    And if you've seen Goody play Last Journalist Standing, you know damn well that she's always preaching that when a guest goes on Charlie Rose or wherever and expresses an opinion it's the host's job to push back against it -- especially if it's promoting war.

    That was then.


    If you're preaching war on her show, she'll let it slip on by, don't stop, slip on by . . .

    With Goody pimping war, Katrina vanden Heuvel's weak Tweet (which couldn't call out Barack, only express horror at escalation) suddenly makes her come off like MLK brought back to life.

    Judged against an ever shrinking baseline, Katrina manages to stand stall.

    Not all the left once against the illegal war has turned to silence or weak stances.  For example, Thomas Gaist (WSWS) is able to report honestly what's going on:

    The Pentagon is preparing to develop a network of new US military bases in strategic areas of Iraq, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Thursday.
    The new US garrisons will house further deployments of hundreds more US troops, beyond the deployment of an additional 450 US forces announced by the Obama administration on Wednesday.
    The Pentagon aims to establish a chain of “lily pads, if you will, that allow us to continue to encourage the Iraqi security forces forward,” Dempsey said. US military planners are already looking at possible locations for bases in central Iraq, he added.
    “We’re looking all the time at whether there might be additional sites necessary,” Dempsey said while speaking to reporters during a visit to Europe this week.
    The US currently maintains a force of some 3,100 troops in Iraq, a figure set to increase to nearly 3,600 as a result of the new deployment announced Wednesday.
    The US may eventually decide to go “all-in” with its intervention, State Department spokesman Admiral John Kirby said in statements earlier this week. Even in such a scenario, the war would likely continue for at least 3-5 more years, Kirby said.

    While WSWS talks reality, the State Dept played words games on Friday in the press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jeff Rathke.

    QUESTION: Continue Iraq?

    MR RATHKE: Go ahead.

    QUESTION: Yeah, just on the – like the consideration of adding more bases and troops to Iraq. So if this becomes a reality and you’ll reoccupy the bases that you used to --

    MR RATHKE: Well, wait, I think it important to make clear here that there is no contemplation of U.S. bases. The U.S. train and advise and assist program in support of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi Security Forces are located on Iraqi bases where we have a presence that is necessary to carry out that mission. But these are Iraqi bases.

    QUESTION: But didn’t General Dempsey say that those bases will be used by the United States? He called them the “lily-pad” bases.

    MR RATHKE: Well, I think what the chairman said is consistent with the strategy the President has laid out, and that strategy is if there is a request from the Iraqi – if there’s a request from the Iraqi Government and the President’s military advisors recommend additional venues to further train, advise – to further the train, advise, and assist mission, then the U.S. Government would consider that. And I think that’s been clear.

    QUESTION: So while we’re seeing this kind of incremental increase in the number of troops and bases in Iraq, they are being used by --

    MR RATHKE: But, no, no. Again, you’re using this word “bases,” and I want to be really clear about that word, because what we’re talking about are – is U.S. support at Iraqi bases --

    QUESTION: Okay. Iraqi bases.

    MR RATHKE: -- where we are carrying out a train, advise, and assist mission.

    QUESTION: But you’re using them.

    MR RATHKE: Well, but not exclusively. For example, at Taqaddum where the 450 or so additional U.S. personnel will be located, that is the Iraqi operations headquarters. So these are in no way U.S. bases. These are Iraqi bases where the U.S. is carrying out our mission to support the Iraqi Security Forces.

    QUESTION: Okay. Well, with this gradual increase in the number of troops, why shouldn’t Americans or Iraqis be worried that the United States will actually commit itself to a long war – slide itself into a long and bloody war that it used to fight for, like eight years?

    MR RATHKE: Well, the mission I think is quite clear. We are on the one hand carrying out airstrikes in support of Iraqi Security Forces under Iraqi command and control to push ISIS out of Iraq. And on the other hand, we have a train, advise, and assist mission which is in support of Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi Security Forces, and that is our mission. That mission is not changing. The ways in which we’re carrying out that mission have just been revised to include additional personnel carrying out the train, advise, and assist mission. But you’re --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MR RATHKE: -- presupposing a completely different mission, and that’s not the mission that the United States has in Iraq.

    QUESTION: And you’re saying this is not a change in strategy. This is just completing the --

    MR RATHKE: No, as I think people have – as I think several U.S. Government officials have said in the course of this week, the strategy remains the same; of course, we’re always looking at ways to better execute the strategy. And in response to a very specific request from Prime Minister Abadi for additional support in advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces and supporting their integration with the Sunni militias in Anbar, the United States has decided to commit additional personnel to that effort. So – but I think that’s --

    QUESTION: Just --

    MR RATHKE: -- that’s been quite clear.

    QUESTION: Just one more. Will any of these new troops go to Kurdistan, or just to the center of Iraq?

    MR RATHKE: Well, we have existing efforts in Kurdistan at the joint operations center where they work closely with their Kurdish colleagues.

    QUESTION: The new forces, in other words.

    MR RATHKE: And so the new – but the additional forces are focused on the Taqaddum base. My colleagues from the Department of Defense have offered more detail about that, but I don’t want to – I don’t – I take a certain suggestion from your question that we’re not doing things with Kurdish forces, and nothing could be further from the truth. Our partnership in the Kurdistan region, with the Kurdish forces, has been an important part from the very start of our train, advise, and assist mission and that continues.

    But Jeff Rathke is only one sick joke in a wealth of embarrassments.

    Few could ever top 'reporter' Orla Guerin (BBC News) who offers:

    Iraq's newest enemy, Islamic State, is in residence in the city of Ramadi just 110km (70 miles) west.
    We came face to face with members of an IS cell in the capital, who are now in custody. They are accused of helping to plan bomb attacks that killed about 50 people late last year.
    The cell leader, Haider Mansur, limped into view, in a yellow prison uniform. We were told he injured himself trying to evade arrest. The 34-year-old was handcuffed and had shackled feet. He said he was studying accountancy before Islamic State came calling. With his short hair and neatly trimmed beard, he almost looked the part.

    No, Orla, you didn't come 'face to face,' you were taken to Haider.

    You were taken to Haider who is a suspect.

    Haider has not been convicted of anything -- a fact -- a fact -- that you failed to acknowledge in your so-called report.

    He is injured which indicates he may have been tortured -- as so many in Iraqi custody are or has the BBC banned Human Rights Watch from employee laptops and tablets?

    The long history of forced confessions in Iraq are not a secret.

    But Olra gets taken to an injured suspect who is in custody and Orla presents him not as a suspect but as a convicted criminal.

    Orla Guerin is the reason so many people around the world hate reporters -- they refuse to do their job.

    And entertainment programming like Dr. Who, Coupling, Call The Midwife, Sherlock, Orphan Black, etc may give the BBC a glow around the world but Orla Guerin's 'report' dulls that shine immensely.

    'Reporters' were quick to hail the 'liberation' of Tikrit in April as a 'success' as well.

    Despite the fact that it was a failure.

    It was a failure for many reasons.

    First of all, it was supposed to take a few days for the Iraqi forces to arrive in Tikrit.  It took weeks.

    Second of all, all the Iraqi forces -- military and Shi'ite militias -- needed was the leader of Iran's Quds Forces, right?

    That's what they thought.

    But instead, thousands of Iraqi forces were held at bay by a handful of Islamic State fighters.

    Third, that likely would have continued had Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi not begged for US war planes to strike.

    The response is in dispute -- some say the US government demanded Shi'ite militias (and Iranian Quds Force) leave the area first but others say the Shi'ite militias (and Iranian Quds Force) left because they were disgusted that the US was going to provide support.

    At any rate, the 'liberation' of Tikrit just underscored that nothing was going to happen in terms of military advances in Iraq without US support.

    Fourth, it was a failure because of the looting and violence the Shi'ite militias carried out -- not rumored, captured in photographs.  The response to this was Haider lying that it didn't happen and journalist Ned Parker (Reuters) being forced to leave Iraq because he dared to report the truth and the response was for him to be threatened, for his face to broadcast on state television, for Haider to attack him (not by name) in two consecutive speeches and state that Ned Parker's type of reporting was a threat to Iraq and finally for Haider to visit DC and mock Ned Parker while Haider insisted he wished he had -- and vowed he soon would -- the power to control all the press in Iraq.

    And when he said that?

    No one seemed to care enough to report it even though he said it at a public forum.

    (What the world press ignored, we reported on -- see the April 16th snapshot.)

    Fifth, despite claims to the contrary, Tikrit was never fully under Baghdad's control.

    And now, less than two months after the so-called 'success'?

    Charles Lister breaks it down in a Tweet.

  • Tikrit.  The somewhat 'success' isn't even that now.

    Poor Haider, such a failure he's probably making thug Nouri al-Maliki seem better to the US government by contrast.

    Nouri al-Maliki's a War Criminal.

    But the US government tolerated and ignored his crimes throughout the second term they insisted he get (over ruling the Iraqi people in the process).

    When Nouri terrorized Iraq's LGBT community, the White House looked the other way (and lashed out at Congressional lawmakers who were objecting to the persecution).

    When Nouri targeted and killed Iraqi journalists and activists, the White House looked the other way with idiots like failed US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill insisting that a thug was what Iraq required to 'whip it into shape.'

    When Nouri arrested the spouses and children and parents and siblings of suspects -- people whose only crime was being Sunni and being related to suspects -- the White House stayed silent.

    When Iraqi women and girls were tortured and raped in prisons -- and the Iraqi Parliament documented these allegations -- the White House stayed silent.

    When Nouri attacked peaceful protesters, the White House stayed silent.

    Today, they're staying silent as Haider continues Nouri's crimes.

    They're pretending that it's okay and that they're focused on 'the bigger picture.'

    But when a so-called leader terrorizes a people, there is no bigger picture.

    Meanwhile Marisa Taylor and Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) report:

    As U.S. military operations against the Islamic State approach the one-year mark, the White House has failed to give Congress and the public a comprehensive written analysis setting out the legal powers that President Barack Obama is using to put U.S. personnel in harm’s way in Iraq and Syria.
    The absence of an in-depth legal rationale takes on greater urgency with Obama’s decision this week to dispatch up to an additional 450 U.S. military trainers and other personnel to Iraq and to establish a second training site for Iraqi forces in war-ravaged Anbar province, most of which is under Islamic State control.
    The only document the White House has provided to a few key lawmakers comprises four pages of what are essentially talking points, described by those who’ve read them as shallow and based on disputed assertions of presidential authority.

    Read more here:

    I'm not a Richard Haass fan, I'm not a Richard Haass foe.

    I'm neutral.  But he did have a Tweet worth considering today.

  • / parallels 1)flawed decisionmaking; 2) incremental tweaks to failing policy; 3)discredited partner-not scale of US commitment

  • It's hard to disagree with those three points.

    There are certainly many, many more points to make but it is very hard to disagree with his three conclusions.

    Kristina Wong (The Hill) notes many members of Congress are expressing skepticism of Barack's move to continue the same 'plan' -- which hasn't worked -- but with more US troops being sent to Iraq.  From Wong's report, we'll note US House Rep and Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton:

    “Military trainers on the ground, I mean, that is really a combat role. … When the Iraqi unit that we were partnering with came under fire … that started the battle of Najaf, which was some of the most brutal fighting of the war until that time,” he said. 
    "So an advisory mission can very quickly become a ground combat mission. I mean, let's not forget: The Vietnam War started as a military advisory mission." 

    Anthony H. Cordesman (CSIS) addresses Barack's 'plan' with these observations:

    There may be some merit in sending in 450 more advisors and support personnel to Iraq – raising the U.S. total to some 3,550 – and focusing on creating Sunni forces in Anbar. There may be some merit in deploying U.S. combat aircraft more forward to an Iraqi air base at Al Taqqadum in Anbar, and there may be some merit in trying to directly integrate more Sunnis into the Iraqi 7th and 8th divisions – the two divisions that will have to try and drive ISIL forces out of Anbar.
    But , creeping incrementalism is rarely a way of correcting a failed or inadequate strategy, and this approach certainly is not a new strategy or a way of addressing the problems that the existing strategy does not address. The announcements of the last few days do not, by any means, reflect a new strategy, they do not address the problems in the existing strategy, and some proposals seem to be of questionable effectiveness.

    [. . .]

    It does not address Iraq’s deep and growing internal political and military divisions between Arab Sunni, Arab Shi’ite, and Kurd – divisions likely to be steadily fueled by Iraq’s much lower oil revenues, Iranian pressure, and the Kurdish seizure of new disputed territory in Ninewa and around Kirkuk. It has been clear from the start that success in Iraq required a far better solution to its internal problems – and quite possibly some form of federalism – as well as much more effective governance.

    Iraq has to make its own decisions, but providing strong U.S. encouragement, plans, options, and a truly proactive U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are changes in strategy that are long overdue. So is a U.S. aid plan that focuses more on helping the Iraqi government reform and address Sunni and Kurdish expectations and needs. Leading from the rear is one thing, remaining in the rear and doing little or nothing is quite another. And, this is particularly true when there is no apparent end game for lasting stability and security in either Iraq or Syria.

    As the White House continues to ignore working towards a political solution -- one that Barack swore June 19, 2014 was the only answer to resolve Iraq's crises -- the violence continues.

    AFP notes 4 suicide car bombings in Hajjaj today have left at least 11 Iraqi forces dead with twenty-seven more people injured.  As for yesterday,  Margaret Griffis ( counts 131 violent deaths across Iraq on Friday.


    Rotherham marchers stand up for journalists’ union rep Phil Turner

    This is a repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

    Rotherham marchers stand up for journalists’ union rep Phil Turner

    Hundreds turned out in solidarity with reporter Phil Turner, who local newspaper bosses want to sack, reports Alan Gibson

    Published Tue 9 Jun 2015
    Issue No. 2457

    There were 16 union and campaign banners on the protest
    There were 16 union and campaign banners on the protest (Pic: Nigel Newton Smith)

    Some 250 defiant union members and supporters demonstrated in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, last Saturday in support of victimised local journalist Phil Turner. 
    Council workers, teachers and lecturers marched alongside anti-racist, LGBT and anti-war activists. They condemned Phil’s employer, the Rotherham Advertiser, for deciding to “select” him for redundancy.
    The array of 16 union and campaign banners on the protest showed the widespread solidarity for Phil. He has been a campaigning reporter in the town for three decades.
    Phil’s NUJ union officer Chris Morley told the rally the “selection” was a sham.
    He said  that new owner Nick Alexander was out to rid the paper of its Father of the Chapel (shop steward).
    Phil has worked tirelessly to sustain union organisation there for almost 30 years. He has led two strikes against attempts to derecognise the NUJ, and fought off an earlier attempt to victimise him.
    Phil Turner
    Phil Turner (Pic: Guy Smallman)

    Rotherham MP Sarah Champion and Linda McAvan, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, have written to Alexander calling for Phil’s reinstatement.
    And workers at the newspaper were set to strike on Thursday of this week.
    Trade unionists and campaigners spoke in support of Phil, including Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh.
    Many made the point that trade unions are now in the front line of the Tories’ attacks following Labour’s shock defeat in the general election. That’s why reps such as Phil and Candy Udwin at the National Gallery (see right) are being victimised.
    Some told of causes Phil had championed, such as campaigning to stop the fascist BNP and EDL exploiting the anger over widespread child abuse. Others spoke of his work supporting the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-85.
    Fred Sprague of Rotherham NUT spoke of Phil’s solidarity whenever workers took industrial action.
    “It’s payback time,” he said. “It’s now us that need to deliver solidarity to Phil.”
    He read out a letter of support from NUT general secretary Christine Blower and deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney.
    Phil thanked everyone for their support. “It’s clear we need to keep up the action,” he said.
    “It’s great that my members are taking one-day strike action this Thursday.
    “Please get down to the picket line and show your solidarity, organise as many messages of support as you can, and take collections to sustain the campaign.”
    Complain to, copying in the Advertiser’s editor and HR officer
    Send messages of support and solidarity to Phil at 

    the socialist worker

    Friday, June 12, 2015

    Senate Approves for New Denver VA Hospital, Temporarily Avoids Construction


    Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and his office issued the following:

    Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777
    Thursday, June 11, 2015

    Senate Approves Funding for New Denver VA Hospital, Temporarily Avoids Construction Shutdown
    Isakson to VA, Obama administration: ‘…take responsibility for this deeply flawed project and develop a workable plan to get the job done once and for all.’
    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today praised the Senate passage of legislation that will allow the construction of the new Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) medical center in Denver to continue.
    The legislation authorizes the VA to use $150 million in its existing fiscal year 2015 budget for the project in order to avoid a looming shutdown on June 12, 2015 and provide enough funding to continue construction through at least the end of this fiscal year. 
    Since construction began in 2012, the seriously flawed project has been plagued by numerous delays and hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns. Originally slated at $800 million for the project, the medical center is now expected to cost taxpayers $1.7 billion – making this hospital the most expensive construction project in the VA’s history.
    “From the very beginning, this project has been about making sure Colorado veterans get the care they deserve,” said Isakson.  “I’m proud to join Sen. Gardner in introducing legislation that will allow construction to continue and give the Department of Veterans Affairs ample time to get its act together and develop a workable plan to finish the project.”
    “Congress has now done everything that it can to ensure the continuation of this project,” Isakson continued. “The VA and the administration must now clean up the mess they’ve made. I urge Secretary McDonald and President Obama to finally take responsibility for this deeply flawed project and develop a workable plan to get the job done once and for all.”
    Last month, Congress passed H.R.2496, which modestly increased funding authorization to avoid another shutdown of the project after the VA exceeded its original budget of $800 million. Upon passage, Senator Isakson called on the VA to develop a plan to fund the construction of the hospital using its own existing resources.
    In response, the VA submitted a plan to finish the project by reworking its fiscal year 2016 budget, a move that, based on the options the VA provided, would either cut funding to other construction projects or drastically hinder the VA’s ability to provide health care to veterans.
    “Instead of thoughtfully examining their budget to identify wasteful spending, the VA has developed an irresponsible plan that would make unacceptable, across-the-board cuts to vital programs for veterans,” said Isakson. “Both of the VA’s options – to take money from other VA construction projects or take money from healthcare funding – rob veterans in other parts of the country of the care they deserve. These options are non-starters.”
    The legislation passed today will prevent a construction shutdown and allow the VA to develop a feasible plan to reprogram its fiscal year 2016 funds without depriving other veterans of necessary services or care.
    The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.

    Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.

    Pretend not to notice

    Wednesday, the White House announced:

    In furtherance of his comprehensive strategy to degrade and destroy the ISIL terrorist group, President Obama has approved additional actions to enhance the implementation of the counter-ISIL campaign.
    To improve the capabilities and effectiveness of partners on the ground, the President authorized the deployment of up to 450 additional U.S. military personnel to train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces at Taqaddum military base in eastern Anbar province. The President made this decision after a request from Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and upon the recommendation of Secretary Carter and Chairman Dempsey, and with the unanimous support of his national security team. These new advisors will work to build capacity of Iraqi forces, including local tribal fighters, to improve their ability to plan, lead, and conduct operations against ISIL in eastern Anbar under the command of the Prime Minister. This effort will complement the ‎efforts of U.S. and coalition trainers at the four previously-established training sites in Al-Asad, Besmaya, Erbil, and Taji, where over 9,000 Iraqi troops have already been trained, with an additional 3,000 currently in training. These additional U.S. troops will not serve in a combat role and will augment the 3,100 U.S. troops who have already deployed to Iraq.
    This train, advise, and assist mission builds on lessons learned during the past several months and is just one aspect of our commitment to support the Iraqi Security Forces. Toward this end, the President has also directed the expedited delivery of essential equipment and materiel in coordination with the central government to Iraqi forces, including Peshmerga and tribal fighters, operating under Iraqi command, to ensure that our partners have the equipment needed to effectively fight ISIL.
    The President also approved a comprehensive approach to aid the Iraqi government’s efforts to support the people and communities living in areas newly liberated from ISIL. At the President’s direction, the United States has been working closely with the Iraqi government, the global counter-ISIL coalition, and the United Nations to develop a holistic framework to help the Iraqi government provide sustained security, services and assistance, and local governance among other key support. The United States fully supports the development of an international fund facilitated by the United Nations to help these communities across Iraq recover.
    More broadly, we will continue our efforts to leverage all instruments of power to counter ISIL globally and most importantly, to protect the US Homeland. Thousands of foreign fighters – including Europeans and some Americans – have joined ISIL in Syria and Iraq. We remain concerned that these trained fighters will return to their home countries and carry out attacks and seek to inspire supporters to conduct attacks at home, and the President directed his national security team to intensify efforts with coalition partners to stem the flow of foreign fighters to and from Iraq and Syria.
    The President also reaffirmed U.S. support for the efforts of Prime Minister Al-Abadi and other Iraqi leaders to build an inclusive and effective governance structure within which all of Iraq’s diverse communities feel that they have a say in determining the future of their country. In this regard, the U.S. will fully support the plan endorsed by the Council of Ministers on May 19 for the liberation of Anbar, as well as the Iraqi Government’s priority of de-centralization to empower local communities in line with the Iraqi Constitution. This “functional federalism” effort being pursued by the Iraqi government is integral to ensuring that ISIL – once defeated – can never again return to Iraqi soil.

    And while mission creep allows the number of US troops in Iraq to increase, there's also the issue of bases.

    Barbara Starr and Alexandra Jaffe (CNN) report:

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said Thursday that the U.S. military strategy in Iraq could require opening multiple outposts at Iraqi bases near the front lines of battle, which would mean sending hundreds of additional troops to the region to help fight ISIS.
    Dempsey told reporters aboard a plane with him in Italy that the plan the White House announced earlier this week to establish a base at Taqaddam could be replicated in other parts of Iraq. He said they are considering bases that he described as "lily pads" near the front lines that would support Iraqi troops. 

    And on the topic of the US troops, Micah Zenko (The Atlantic) offers a walk through:

    It is easy to conceive of this latest limited addition of U.S. troops to Iraq, and nearby countries, in isolation, and as the logical and necessary next step in the expanding campaign against ISIS. However, the White House has been announcing troop deployments, with varying justifications and objectives, for over a year now. If you are one of the few people truly interested in how the United States has gradually slid into this open-ended conflict, with little public debate, and zero congressional input, it is worthwhile to review some of the notable milestones along the way.
    On June 16, 2014: “275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.” This package was initially described as being for force-protection and intelligence-gathering purposes. Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby pledged that the deployment “will be of a limited duration” and would be “a discrete, measured, temporary arrangement to help us to get eyes on the ground, to figure out what’s going on and get a better sense of it.” This language is worth bearing in mind, because Kirby told MSNBC earlier this week that even if the U.S.-led coalition went “all in” to defeat ISIS “it’s still going to take three to five years.”

    And he's correct about "one of the few people truly interested."

    You can go to Twitter and find various fools Tweeting about what happened prior to January 2009 (when Barack was sworn in) while ignoring every year since,

    You can see idiots Tweet about how IS is because of 2003 or 2004 or 2005 while ignoring when the Islamic State gets it foothold in Iraq -- Nouri al-Maliki's second term as prime minister (2010 - 2014).

    The attacks on the Sunnis allowed the Islamic State to find support in Iraq.

    The failure to address these issues -- the needed political solution Barack Obama spoke of June 19, 2014 -- is why the Islamic State continues to have a foothold in Iraq.

    These are the points General Ray Odierno made on CBS This Morning yesterday (see Thursday's snapshot).

    The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley and Jane Fonda --  updated:


    The e-mail address for this site is


    Thursday, June 11, 2015

    Iraq snapshot

    Thursday, June 12, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, more civilians killed in coalition air strikes, it's left to General Ray Odierno to talk about the needed political solution, the year long US battle against the Islamic State leaves US taxpayers nearly $3 billion in debt, and much more.

    The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson offers some consolation, "Don't feel bad if you’re confused about what the United States is trying to accomplish in Iraq. President Obama doesn't seem to know, either --  or else he won't say."

    Yes, no one gets Barack Obama in trouble more than Barack and his own mouth and his declaration Monday ("We don't yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis.") continues to haunt.

    In June of last year, he sent US forces into Iraq to determine what to do.  

    Apparently, their efforts were in vain since all this time later Barack still doesn't know what to do.

     "We don't yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis."

    Many have noted over the ensuing months that Barack's 'plan' was less than a plan -- so much less than a plan.  And on Monday, Barack chose to agree with his critics. 

    It was June of last year when Barack announced that the only solution to Iraq's crises (plural) was a political solution.  

    Yet his 'plan' ended up being to send US troops into Iraq as 'trainers' and to have US war planes bomb the country daily.

    The political solution would, apparently, have to wait.

    And it has which has rendered any US efforts useless.

    From time to time, State Dept officials such as Brett McGurk or Antony Blinken will try to insist that efforts to get Sunnis to join in combat against the Islamic State qualifies as a political solution.

    No, it doesn't and, no, Barack was not referring to that on June 19, 2014 when he declared a political solution the only answer for Iraq.

    What can't be discussed by the White House, gets aired on CBS This Morning (link is video):

    Gen Ray Odierno:  Well I think first I would just say that you've got to understand why this is happening.  And my thought is we had this in a good place three or four years ago and-and Iraq was safe, the economy was growing, we turned it over to the Iraqi government.  I believe it's because the Iraqi government has not been able to bring all the different groups together.  Until you solve that problem, in my mind, it doesn't matter how many people you put on the ground --

    Charlie Rose: That's right.

    Gen Ray Odierno:  And so my worry is: Could I put 150,000 soldiers on the ground and defeat ISIS?  Yes. But then --

    Charlie Rose:  If you put 150,000 --

    Gen Ray Odierno:  But then what?

    Charlie Rose:  If you put 150,000 on it, it would defeat ISIS?

    Gen Ray Odierno:  Yeah.

    Charlie Rose:  But then what?  But then what? 

    Gen Ray Odierno:  You have to solve the political problem.

    Charlie Rose:  It would go right back to where we are.  A year later it would be right back to where we are today.  So I believe before we even consider anything like that, we need to solve --

    Gen Ray Odierno:  The political problem.

    Charlie Rose:  -- the political problem. 

    Gayle King:  But do you think -- General, do you think we're leading towards ultimately boots on the ground?

    Gen Ray Odierno: I-I think what we're trying to do -- Listen, in order to solve this problem, you need the Arab communities to solve this problem.  The United States cannot solve this problem by itself.  We need the Arabs to step up.  We need them to understand we have extremism here and they have to help us and include the Iraqis --

    [cross talk]

    Gayle King: And why haven't they done that?

    Gen Ray Odierno:  Well again, there's this underlying -- there's this underlying throughout the Middle East, there's this underlying Sunni - Shia issue.  Iran, Saudi Arabia -- Sunni - Shia issue -- that's playing out.  And that's what's making it more difficult for us and for anybody else to help them defeat this threat. 

    Gayle King and Charlie Rose are two of the hosts of CBS This Morning.  The third host is Norah O'Donnell who also took part in the interview.  She raised some issues I'd like to get to next snapshot but we don't have time tonight. 

    Our point above is that General Odierno can and will talk about what is needed while the State Dept stays silent.

    A political solution is needed, a unified government that is not targeting Sunnis.

    This effort should be led by the State Dept but it's not leading on it, it's not helping with it, instead the White House has tasked the State Dept with using diplomatic channels to try to bring in more trainers and war planes from other foreign countries.

    The political solution is not being addressed.

    It's being ignored.

    Ray Odierno is correct that a political solution is needed and it is the only thing that will change anything.

    Without a political solution, as he notes, you can still defeat the Islamic State "but then what" because all the issues that led to the rise of IS in Iraq are still present so you're just going to have a new group rise up or a new variation of IS.  The Islamic State took root in Iraq because of the various crises.  Until the roots of those crises are addressed, it doesn't matter whether or not IS is defeated because it or something similar will always spring up.

    So what is Barack doing?

    Ian Bremmer (Time magazine) explains, "Aversion is the name of the game these days. Obama talks a big game about ISIS and how it must be destroyed, just like he talks big about how Russia must leave Ukraine. But he carefully avoids mentioning who exactly will defeat ISIS or drive Russia out of Ukraine. It looks like Obama is doing just enough to drag out these difficult challenges --  and hand them over to the next President."

    And that pretty much sums up Barack's supposed 'plan.'

    A year in, that pretty much sums up Barack's 'plan.'

    This despite the fact that AP reports the fight against the Islamic State is costing American taxpayers $9 million a day with the total at $2.7 billion so far.

    Under Bully Boy Bush, the US antiwar movement -- or 'movement' -- used to object to US boots on the ground and to military bases.  The biggest criticism US House Rep Nancy Pelosi faced on Iraq during that period came over US military bases in Iraq and her ludicrous attempt to redefine the term "permanent" to justify the goal of keeping longterm bases in Iraq.  (Nancy said nothing was permanent -- and as her many facelifts have proven, nothing is permanent.)

    Today there's barely a peep over either issue and, let's be clear, this is also about US bases in Iraq.

    A day after the White House announced the deployment of 450 more U.S. troops to Iraq and a new training hub in Anbar province, Army General Martin Dempsey said the Pentagon was considering more sites in strategic areas such as the corridor from Baghdad to Tikrit and further north toward Mosul.
    Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged these might require sending more U.S. troops, which already numbered about 3,100 in Iraq before Wednesday's announcement. His spokesman said American forces could also be moved from within Iraq to avoid troop increases.

    A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Richard Becker spoke with Russia Today about the White House announcing the 450 more troops to be deployed to Iraq.

    RT: Why do you think the US decided to deploy a military unit which mostly specializes in combat rather than training activities?

    RB: I think that they see the weakness, it’s very clear to them. They invested tens of billions of dollars in building up the Iraqi military but it hasn’t worked. I remember way back in January 1975, the army of South Vietnam that was constructed in a similar way under occupation was rated the fifth largest military in the world and five months later it didn’t exist anymore. The US government, the Pentagon and the White House are trying to find a way to salvage this situation, to salvage something in Iraq after all that blood, mostly blood on the Iraqi side of course, but it’s not clear that they do have any kind of a clear strategy in that regard.

    RT: The US has pulled out of Iraq but now it's going back in. Is this an admission it never really succeeded?

    RB: This has been a disaster for US policy. You can see with the great arrogance that the Iraqi government was dismantled back in 2003, the military was dismantled, there are always proclamations about Iraqis welcoming the US troops and how this was all going to be a new day for Iraq and the entire Middle East. And instead it turned into a disaster. The US barely escaped from outright defeat back in 2009 and 2010. Then it pulled out the troops. But the instability that was introduced into the whole region by the US invasion of Iraq, by its allies’ support for the opposition in Syria, its dismantling of the Libyan state, all of this has come togetherto create a situation which Washington doesn’t really have a grip on how to deal with. They are trying some of these things but it doesn’t appear that this will push back IS. 

    Meanwhile the coalition bombed the town of Hawija.  Iraqi Spring MC posted this at their Twitter feed:

  • : إحدى الصور الملتقطة لآثار القصف الحكومي على سوق الحويجة والذي خلف أكثر من 100 قتيل من المدنيين.

  • Margaret Griffis ( counts 61 violent deaths across Iraq.

    We'll close with this from the forever bumbling US State Dept -- Thursday press briefing by spokesperson Jeff Rathke.

    QUESTION: Yesterday, Speaker of Iraqi Parliament al-Jibouri met with Deputy Secretary Blinken. Do you have anything to share with us about that meeting?

    MR RATHKE: Yes. We put out a fairly detailed readout last night, but maybe if I can hit a couple of highlights, and I think the – it’s important that this meeting took place on the same day that the White House and the Department of Defense announced additional steps in our train, advise, and assist mission with Iraqi authorities.
    The meeting with the Parliamentary Speaker al-Jibouri was an opportunity for our side to stress that our support for the campaign to degrade and defeat ISIL, as well as to discuss ongoing political initiatives that address the needs of the Iraqi people, and at the same time the deputy secretary highlighted the U.S. deployment of additional personnel to al-Taqaddum base. And this is in support of the Iraqi Council of Ministers’ five-point plan, which was approved back on May 19th, and that includes as a central element accelerating the training and equipping of Sunni volunteers and other steps to assist people in Anbar to retake their province from ISIL.

    QUESTION: On Monday, Mr. al-Jibouri at the U.S. Institute of Peace said without arming the tribal forces, it’s impossible – that’s what he said – to recapture Ramadi or those areas. Do you share his view on that issue?

    MR RATHKE: Well, we have – as we have said, that we are working with, we will be working with Sunni forces in Anbar, including through this train, advise, and assist mission, to expedite the delivery of weapons. As we have consistently said, this is done in coordination with the Iraqi central government, and it will continue to be done in coordination with the Iraqi central government, because that’s a central element of our policy. And indeed, our additional steps and the deployment of additional advisors that was announced yesterday is focused precisely on supporting the Iraqi Council of Ministers’ plan. Prime Minister Abadi and his government want to accelerate the training of Sunni volunteers, and so we’re going to be taking these steps to support that

    QUESTION: He also raised another concern that the Sunnis have at the USIP. He said last time in 2007, when the United States armed the Sunni groups, after the United States left, most of those people who were armed were chased and tried by the Iraqi Government, quote/unquote. That’s what he said. But now the Sunnis need a – some sort of guarantor that the same thing is not going to happen again after ISIS is gone. Are you willing to provide that guarantor for the Sunnis and encouraging them to be part of the fight and they won’t be in trouble by the law?

    MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not sure specifically what you mean by guarantee, but again, it is the Iraqi Government’s policy and it is the prime minister’s policy supported across ethnic and sectarian lines by the council of ministers to accelerate the training and equipping of Sunni tribal fighters. So I’m not going to draw a connection between the policy now that the prime minister stands behind and whatever might have happened in the past.

    QUESTION: But in all fairness, right after the awakening, councils were formed and they were paid because they were overseen by the Americans, by Petraeus at the time. Right after you – the Americans left, they stopped paying them, then they started putting them in prison. So I mean, there is a legitimate grievance there. I mean, I don’t know if you agree.

    MR RATHKE: Well, again, as I said in my answer to Namo’s question, we’re – if you look at the situation now, what is important is that there is an Iraqi Government policy which supports the training and equipping of more Sunni tribal fighters. And that’s what we’re supporting.