Saturday, June 27, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, June 27, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Corrine Brown provides the laughs, VA may start rationing care this fall, Haider al-Abadi attempts to explain the fall of Ramadi, and much more.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  Friday, he gave a speech that is attracting attention. Dan Merica (CNN) reports:

Throughout the speech, his first detailed comments on global issues since announcing his candidacy last month, O'Malley criticized the way that foreign policy has been dealt with for years, an implicit critique of Clinton given her role as secretary of state during the first Obama administration. He particularly highlighted the war in Iraq and the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, two events inextricably tied to Clinton.
"The invasion of Iraq -- along with the subsequent disbanding of the Iraqi military -- will be remembered as one of the most tragic, deceitful and costly blunders in U.S. history," O'Malley said at TruCon 2015, a foreign policy conference in Washington. "And we are still paying the price of a war pursued under false pretenses."

O'Malley has been on a streak of late and gave a speech this week to the Truman National Security Project -- a speech that offered a rallying cry, "No nation ever off-shored its way to greatness."

In the speech, O'Malley also addressed the issue of global warming:

Nowhere is this more collaborative approach more important than in confronting the growing and immediate challenge of severe climate change.
For years, the Pentagon has recognized global warming as an urgent national security threat.
Your organization’s leader—former Army Captain Mike Breen—put it best at a recent Congressional hearing, when he said:
“Over 97 percent of climate scientists say that man-made climate change is a reality.”
“As a combat leader, if 97 percent of my intelligence indicated that I was about to face a lethal danger that would risk the lives of my paratroopers—I would be committing unconscionable malpractice if I did not listen and act.”
Mike is right.
The energy technologies needed to combat climate change exist today—it’s only the political will that is lacking.
America can, and must, lead the way—by pursuing an ambitious plan to ensure our country is powered 100 percent by clean energy, by 2050.
Climate change is not only a very real existential threat to human life, it is also the greatest business opportunity to come to our country in a hundred years.
We must seize this opportunity by creating an American Green Jobs Agenda that is a match for the climate challenge.
We need to invest in resilience—from the Jersey Shore to California’s Central Valley.
We need to spur innovation—to develop cutting-edge technologies that will create jobs at home, and unlock new markets abroad.
We need to embrace new ideas at the state level, as we have in Maryland— where, in just eight years, we increased renewable energy capacity by 57 percent, became a clean-tech jobs hub, and cut carbon emissions by 10 percent.
America’s leadership and example are essential.
Because climate change is a global challenge—with global consequences. It is the transformation that transforms everything.
And by confronting this challenge, we can realize global economic opportunities—and job opportunities—for the United States.
We must partner with emerging markets, in our own hemisphere and beyond, to distribute renewable energy solutions and green design.
We must aggressively push for global emissions agreements in venues like the upcoming UN climate summit in Paris.
And we must seed, scale, and deploy American-made renewable energy technologies throughout the world.
To reduce mankind’s carbon footprint.
To preserve the living systems of this earth—for ourselves and our posterity.

That's where we could be.

Let's drop back to where we are.

"We're short -- we're short in '16," declared VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson on Thursday regarding Hepatitis C care.  "I  -- You know, the budget's what, 650? six-hundred-and-fifty-million?  Somewhere in that neighborhood.  Six-hundred-and-fifty to seven-hundred-million dollars for '16 and-and that -- We won't -- That won't be adequate unless we ration that care."

Gibson was testifying before the US House Veterans Affairs Committee Thursday morning.

To avoid rationing care for Hepatitis C cases in 2016?

Gibson advised, "The other option is -- as we're doing right now -- is basically, when we run out of money to do it inside VA, we refer those to care under Choice and-and rely on that-that sort of safety valve."

The problems go beyond 2016.

Gibson insisted, "We're in a situation where we're going to have to start denying care to veterans because we don't have the resources to be able to pay for it.  And-and that's -- I don't think anybody wants to see that happen.  It will be a very -- a very unpleasant and unsatisfactory situation.

And that's not him talking about the 2016 budget or about Hep C.  That was in reply to US House Rep Julia Brownley's question about the current shortfall this year and what that means come August.

Over $350 million can be pulled from the Veterans Choice Program funds to cover costs that do not meet the criteria for Veterans Choice Programs, Gibson and the VA are insisting.

US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  In his opening remarks, he outlined many problems revolving around the newly announced 'shortfall' in the budget.  We're using his written statement and using it as written (with paragraph breaks) because a number of topics are covered in it and it will be easier to read and comprehend

Given the extensive pent-up demand for care that was exposed during last year’s hearings on wait time manipulation, VA had ample time to adjust its budgetary needs with the Office of Management and Budget to prevent what we are now seeing.  
In February through April of this year, Secretary McDonald appeared at four separate budget hearings.
Since those have concluded, the Secretary and I have met and spoken regularly on a number of important, emerging issues.
At no point in those hearings or in our subsequent discussions since, has the Secretary expressed to me that the Department had a budget shortfall of such a magnitude – one that threatens VA’s ability to meets its obligations to our nation’s veterans.
Nor did other VA leaders or officials communicate how much in the red VA was either - even though the Committee was informed late last week that the Department knew as early as March that there were giant disparities between the amount of money that VA was spending and the amount of money budgeted.
The only message that Congress received in March regarding the state of VA’s budget was the quarterly financial report VA submitted to the Appropriations Committee  for the first quarter of fiscal year 2015, which showed that VA was actually under plan in terms of its spend out rate.
Meanwhile, just two weeks ago VA proposed a plan – that Congress authorized at the Department’s urging - to transfer one hundred and fifty million dollars in fiscal year 2015 funding to support the continued construction of the replacement medical center project in Denver, Colorado.
VA also proposed an across the board recession of just under a one percent in fiscal year 2016 funds to devote to the Denver project – a proposal, by the way, that the Veterans Health Administration’s Chief Financial Officer told Committee staff last week that she did not even know about until after it had already been transmitted to Congress.
Those actions clearly show that VA leaders believe that moving forward with the Denver project – which is not scheduled to open to veteran patients until 2017 at the earliest - is a higher priority for the Department than ensuring that veterans who need care now are able to access that care.
I have come to expect a startling lack of transparency and accountability from VA over the last years; but failing to inform Congress of a multi-billion dollar funding deficit until this late in the fiscal year while continuing to advance what I believe are lower priority need that further deplete the Department’s coffers in support of a construction project that benefits no veteran for at least two more years is disturbing on an entirely different level.    
Earlier this week, VA issued a “fact sheet” that claims that VA “formally requested limited budget flexibility” in February and March and May of this year and, “plainly articulated” VA’s need for additional resources.
Buried on page one hundred and sixty seven of the second volume of VA’s budget submission is a single statement that reads: “[i]n the coming months, the Administration will submit legislation to reallocate a portion of Choice program funding to support essential investments in VA system priorities…”

Secretary McDonald repeated this statement in his budget testimony without providing any additional supporting details or justification and, to-date, no legislative proposal has been submitted by the Administration. 

Miller is the Chair and, thanks to Nancy Pelosi's shenanigans, the laughable Corrine Brown is the Ranking Member.

Thursday, I didn't have my Corrine-To-English translator ring on me so we'll just note a little bit of her opening remarks.

Ranking Member Corrine Brown:  The VA is facing a shortfall of 2.6 billion for veterans healthcare.  This shortfall must be address [sic] ammediately [sic].  We cannot put the health and lives of our veterans at ris [sic] by spending our time and attention pointing fingers and assigning blame.  VA will be facing an additional shortfall at the start of the next fistal [sic] year in October 

We have to stop there.

We have to.

Corrine goes on to say that the country is headed towards a government shutdown -- she uses shutdown twice.  Both times she probably would have been bleeped on TV.

She always invents her own words and here she took the "u" in "shutdown" and replaced it with an "i" both times she said it.

A government sh*tdown.

The fist time she said it, people were looking around.  Then she said, "Let me say that again, we are headed towards a government sh*tdown" and several on the Committee appeared to bite their lips to avoid laughing.

On her third time using the term, she did manage to say "shutdown."

Keep playing with the English language, Corrine, it works if you work it.

Corrine used her time to ask about fee based care and Choice.  Yes, Choice is fee based.  Many grasped that before Corinne's question but everyone grasped it after Sloane explained Choice.

Well . . .

Everyone but Corinne Brown.

After he finished describing it, she asked, "And Choice?"

A confused Sloan Gibson replied softly, "That is Choice."

Oh, Corrine Brown.

We're not done with the wig hatted Corrine but for now let's note an important exchange in the hearing.

US House Rep Ralph Abraham:  I was in a district last weekend and had three separate providers come up and say, "I haven't got my money.'  And this has been going on for two and three years.  So what are we doing about this, Secretary?  I know that you gave us some good figures before that the VISN 16 [South Central VA Health Care Network] -- of which I'm a part of 

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson:  Yes.

US House Rep Ralph Abraham: -- was doing better  --

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson:  Yes.

US House Rep Ralph Abraham (Con't):  -- but the word on the street, so to speak, is --

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson:  Yes. 

US House Rep Ralph Abraham (Con't):  -- there's still some issues out there.

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson: Two things.  First, of all, it's one of the advantages of Choice -- the provider gets paid by the third party administrator and that's consistently happening within thirty days.  We watch that and monitor that. VA is historically known to pay low and slow and, uh, that is not how you want to deal with your provider network --

US House Rep Ralph Abraham:  So we got something in place that --

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson (Con't): -- and so what we've done over the last nine months or so is-is organizationally consolidate.  We-we were -- We were organizationally doing this payment processing through twenty-one separate VISN headquarters in seventy different physical locations -- processing invoices for care.  And I would tell you, based on what we've heard, we were probably doing it in 150 different ways. And so we've consolidated organizationally.  We've be-begun to tackle the staffing issues, the process issues and the technology issues -- none of which were being tackled unless they were being addressed in some kind of a workaround situation and in some location somewhere.  We had, for example, locations where instead of establishing a call center that's available to handle inbound questions from providers about their payment, we'd have a processor that's processing a payment and the phone would ring, they'd answer the phone and-and, you know, doing business in a way that you'd never see in the private sector.

US House Rep Ralph Abraham:  Right.

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson: So we've now got that all organizational reporting.  We're seeing the times improve.  Part of what they're doing is they're sailing into a head wind.  They've got a 40% increase in invoices being presented for payment over last year.  Now the good news is-is they're processing a lot more invoices then they did a year ago.  But they're barely keeping up.

And now for what we'll call When Corrine Brown Attacks.

Ranking Member Corrine Brown: Uh-uh-uh -- May I respond to your comments because I don't think you was [sic] here when we spassed [sic] the prescription drug bill.  And when we passed it, WE DIRECTED THE SECRETARY NOT to negotiate the price of the drugs so that [popping and rolling eyes] was a part of the bill.

US House Rep Mark Takano:  Oh, Ms. Brown, I was -- 

Ranking Member Corrine Brown:  It would be illegal for the Secretary to uh-uh-uh address the issue.  [Entire Committee looks appalled at the crazy woman in the wig.  Corrinne notes it slowly.]  I'm just clearing up.  You waddn't even here when we did it.  But in addition to that, in the Affordable Care Act that is now standing, we are doing away with that doughnut hole that you talking 'bout so that seniors will not be out of pocket for that additional money.

US House Rep Mark Takano:  Ms. Brown, I was aware of that and I was merely trying to suggest 

Ranking Member Corrine Brown:  [Yelling to cut him off] The veterans --

US House Rep Mark Takano:  [Calmly] The VA is doing business in a better way 

Ranking Member Corrine Brown:  Well absolutely.  Thank you.

Like an old grizzly bear in a bad wig, Corrine went after another Committee member.

It should be noted that Takano is a Democrat, that Corrine was ripping into a Democrat.

And that Takano's concern was with the drugs the Hepatitis C patients were receiving.

But when a grizzly Corrine Brown gets angry, she snarls, growls and paws at her prey.

In New Zealand, there's concern over what the attack on Iraqi military leader means for New Zealand's Kiwi troops in Iraq.  Bevan Hurley (Stuff) reports:

A top Iraqi commander at Camp Taji was killed in an ambush at his home, according to reports, in a sign of deteriorating security at the base where Kiwi troops are stationed.
Iraqi media reported the officer, said to be a Lieutenant Colonel, was shot dead this week and a further 13 people have been killed by improvised explosive devices, rocket and gun fire in Taji since 143 Kiwi troops arrived May.

Meanwhile, Margaret Griffis ( counts 68 violent deaths across Iraq on Friday.  And today the US Defense Dept announced:

Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted seven airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
-- Near Baghdadi, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL excavator.
-- Near Huwayjah, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying two ISIL buildings, an ISIL cache, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Beiji, an airstrike struck an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Habbaniyah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL mortar tube.

  -- Near Tal Afar, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL heavy machine gun firing position, destroying an ISIL building.

Barack can drop bombs, he just can't lead on a political solution.  It's now a year since he insisted the only answer was a political solution and yet he's done nothing to arrive at one.

Struan Stevenson (The Hill) observes:

When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi assumed office in September 2014, many held high hopes that he would alter the sectarian policies of his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki, who alienated the Sunni population and facilitated the rise of ISIS. Nine months into his tenure, al-Abadi’s plan for national reconciliation lies in tatters, leaving many to believe that Iraq is now a failed state. Urgently needed judicial reforms have never been implemented, nor has Abadi supported the creation of a national guard to arm and train the Sunni tribes to fight against ISIS. These are major mistakes. Instead, al-Abadi has relied upon the brutal Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, which operate outwith any official framework and openly target and discriminate against Sunnis and other ethnic minorities. 

The laughable Haider al-Abadi is in the news again today.  AFP reports:

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Saturday that Iraqi forces made an “unauthorized” withdrawal from Ramadi last month, leading to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group’s takeover of the Anbar provincial capital.

“The withdrawal of the forces from Ramadi was unauthorized -- the orders were the opposite. The forces had to resist, and if they had resisted, we would not have lost Ramadi,” Abadi said in televised remarks.

I seem to recall a similar point made by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and how Haider and various underlings strongly objected to the remarks.

It's becoming obvious, by the way, that Haider is not in charge of the military.

Clearly, Nouri al-Maliki remains the defacto ruler and that's why Iraq is not progressing politically.

We've noted a POLITICO roundtable this week.  I recommend it and think it has a wide range of opinions.  At Foreign Policy, Peter D. Feaver is less impressed and offers a critique which includes:

The latest issue of Politico Magazine has a lengthy conversation between several experts on the subject of “Who Lost Iraq?” The piece, which puts the question to a dozen panelists, including veterans from both administrations, purports to be a comprehensive discussion, but I found it oddly incomplete and unsatisfying. In particular, I found it striking that the group did not address the long list of actions that the Obama administration took (and didn’t take) that plausibly contributed to the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. Bush’s actions and Iraqi actions are covered in some detail, and rightly so. But Obama’s? Not so much (except for a brief but trenchant summary from Kim Kagan).
For the record, let’s stipulate that the Bush administration will always bear some responsibility for the situation in Iraq, for good or for ill. Invading Iraq was a consequential step, one that President Bush likely would not have made if he had known then what we know now about Iraq. (Of course, that counterfactual is a logical impossibility, because the only reason we know what we know now is because the United States invaded — a fact that partisan critics consistently ignore.)

Let’s also stipulate that the Iraqis will always bear some responsibility for the situation. I would go further: They bear the lion’s share of the responsibility. U.S. leaders made many mistakes, but not nearly as many as Iraqi leaders did and continue to make.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Inspiring video (David DeGraw)

David DeGraw notes an inspiring video:

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An expert leaves his fly open and his inexpertise slips out

Peter van Buren has a piece about "5 strategies that won't work" or some such topic that's everywhere -- The Nation, Salon, etc.

One problem with the piece, if you're going to talk possibilities in Iraq, you need to talk about what is being floated.

Where is the White House's plan/hope to use foreign fighters from surrounding countries?

As noted in the following (first is Third editorial, the other three appeared here):

"Editorial: Barack's actually trying to ramp up the..."

  • Iraq snapshot
  • Barack wants Gulf states to send ground troops int...

  • Iraq snapshot

  • sending in foreign troops is a plan/hope of the administration.

    This was revealed in the House Armed Services Committee hearing two Wednesdays ago.

    Ranking Member Adam Smith: The Chairman and I met last week with the Sunni leader of the Iraqi Parliament [Salim al-Jabouri] and one of the things he said during our meeting that surprised me a little bit as we were talking about the difficulty of getting support from the Baghdad government and sort of shifting focus to where could the Sunnis in that path sort of from Anbar up into Syria where ISIL is most dominant and he expressed disappointment, frankly, that the other Gulf states -- Saudi Arabia, UAE -- or even Turkey, to go up north.  It did not seem to really be willing to provide much support -- uhm, even Jordan as well -- uhm, for the Sunnis in that area.  Uhm, number one is do you agree with that assessment?  I tend to take this guy at his word.  Uhm, and number two, why?  Uhm, it would seem to me that defeating ISIL is something that would be very important to Saudi Arabia -- amongst the others there.  Why aren't they doing more, uh, to help those groups that want to resist ISIS in that part of Iraq and Syria? 

    Secretary Ash Carter:  That's a critical question and it goes back to something that you said in your opening statement about other Sunnis and Arab forces countering ISIL.  And I too met with Mr. Jabouri last-last week who said the same thing  and I think he was speaking on behalf of a number of the Sunni forces -- political forces in western Iraq who would like to see more support and recognize -- as I think you noted and the Chairman noted in the operning statements -- that Americans and westerners  are, uh -- can lead and enable but if they get too high a profile that becomes a problem in its own right.

    Ranking Member Adam Smith:  Exactly.

    Secretary Ash Carter:  Therefore all the more reason to get others uh, uh involved -- Sunnis involved in the fight.  Now the-the head -- one thing I'll note is the heads of state of the GCC were here in Washington and we went to Camp David -- about three weeks ago.  And I would say that this was one of the major themes of our conversation with them.  The other one being, to get them back to what the Chairman said checking Iranian malign influence which they're also concerned about.  Their concern about ISIL is genuine but their actions, I think, can be greatly strengthened.  And that was one of the principle things that we talked about, getting - leading them in the train and equip program --

    Ranking Member Adam Smith:  But again --

    Secretary Ash Carter:  Sorry?

    Ranking Member Adam Smith:  Yeah, I got all that.  But why?  Why isn't -- What, in your opinion, having worked with these people, why isn't it happening?

    Secretary Ash Carter:  Well  one reason is that they simply lack the capacity and so we talked a lot about building special operations forces that had counter -- as opposed to air forces.  We have enough air forces.  We're looking for ground forces. 

    Secretary of Defense Ash Carter talks about not needing to build the air forces (the coalition has enough o those) but instead "we're looking for ground forces."

    That is the hope of the White House as Barack increases the number of US troops, bit by bit, in Iraq -- that other nations will send in ground forces.

    Is that going to work?

    Define work.

    And we say that because of this paragraph by van Buren:

    Among the boots-on-the-ground crowd are also some former soldiers who fought in Iraq in the Bush years, lost friends, and suffered themselves. Blinking through the disillusion of it all, they prefer to believe that we actually won in Iraq (or should have, or would have, if only the Bush and Obama administrations hadn’t squandered the “victory”). Needed now, they claim, are more US troops back on the ground to win the latest version of their war. Some are even volunteering as private citizens to continue the fight. Can there be a sadder argument than the “it can’t all have been a waste” one?

    Wining hearts and minds is not anything a jerk like van Buren ever focuses on.

    My opinion: the Iraq War was illegal, it broke with all norms and mores on top of being illegal.

    That said, had US troops left after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, the US government could have declared "victory."

    There were other key moments where they could have as well.

    Sending foreign troops into Iraq today -- or just US troops (which would also be foreign troops) -- is a failed strategy because what happens after?

    van Buren -- and those who republish him -- are just a little too eager to trash US troops.

    They really should be ashamed.

    US troops can take tough talk -- even trash talk.

    But if you're trying to build some form of consensus, writing like van Buren does is not helpful.  And calling the troops "delusional" is neither helpful nor accurate.

    Again, there are points where the US military succeeded.

    People like van Buren can't even be honest about the surge.

    Bully Boy Bush 'surged' (increased the number of US troops in Iraq) near the end of his term.

    The 'surge' had 2 points.  First, the US military was supposed to quell the increasing violence.  Second, doing so was supposed to create the space for Iraq's politicians to address a number of issues (including the benchmarks the White House set for the US Congress to measure success -- and determine whether or not to continue funding the Iraq War).

    The military accomplished their task.

    So, yes, they succeeded.

    The surge failed on the second part.

    This is important not just because it's factual.

    It's important because Barack's doing the same thing -- just not calling it a surge.

    That's what his plan is.

    The troops sent in and the warplanes dropping bombs are supposed to assist and allow the Iraqi politicians and officials to create the political solution (and he's stated only a political solution ends the crises).

    So since August, the US has been dropping bombs.

    And what's going on politically?

    Barack has spoken of the need for a national guard.

    The thought was that it would be voted on in the fall.

    It wasn't.

    Instead, the Iraqi Parliament has recently voted on a national anthem.

    And they're saying maybe next parliamentary session they might vote on the national guard proposal (that's what the Shi'ite National Alliance is saying).

    Maybe vote.

    If you don't understand how Bully Boy Bush's surge failed, you're not getting why Barack's measures are doomed as well.

    van Buren writes:

    Washington’s current man in Baghdad, Prime Minister al-Abadi, hasn’t moved his country any closer to Sunni-Shiite reconciliation than his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, did. In fact, because Abadi has little choice but to rely on those Shiite militias, which will fight when his corrupt, inept army won’t, he has only drawn closer to Iran. This has ensured that any (American) hope of bringing Sunnis into the process in a meaningful way as part of a unified government in a unified state will prove to be a pipe dream.

    There I disagree but he may be right.

    He's not the only one saying that.

    But as someone who called out Nouri in real time -- someone who didn't wait until 2014 to call out his thug behavior and how it was sending the country into crises (check 2012, you'll see me writing about where this was leading and I was correct) -- I really don't see why there's this oh-he's-trying.

    He said, for example, September 13th that the bombing of residential homes in Falluja -- bombings carried out by the Iraqi military -- had ceased and were no more.  The next day they resumed.  They continue to this day.

    Does he control the military or not?

    We asked that in September.

    If he does, he's at fault.

    If he doesn't, he's useless.

    There's also the various footage of him and thug Nouri being buddy-buddy that's been all over Arabic social media.

    There's also the fact that he is a member not just of Nouri's Dawa political party but of Nouri's political slate State of Law.

    Why are we pretending he's any different than Nouri?

    No results demonstrate a difference.

    Here, van Buren is just wrong:

    Go back to 2011 and it’s unlikely anyone could have imagined that the same guy who defeated Hillary Clinton and gained the White House based on his opposition to the last Iraq War would send the United States tumbling back into that chaotic country. If ever there was an avoidable American crisis, Iraq War 3.0 is it. If ever there was a war, whatever its chosen strategies, in which the United States has no hopes of achieving its goals, this is it.

    We could have.

    And we did.

    And I'm sorry van Buren thinks he can write about everything when he so clearly can't.

    We knew this was possible long before 2011 -- we knew it in 2007.

    Because we paid attention.

    November 4, 2007, the following appeared at Third:

    NYT: "Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq"

    The story you should have seen Friday.

    The New York Times
    Friday, November 2, 2007
    "Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq"
    by Michael R. Gordon and Jeff Zeleny

    Presidential candidate and US Senator Barack Obama who is perceived as an 'anti-war' candidate by some announced that he would not commit to a withdrawal, declared that he was comfortable sending US troops back into Iraq after a withdrawal started and lacked clarity on exactly what a withdrawal under a President Obama would mean.

    Declaring that "there are no good options in Iraq," Senator Obama went on to explain that even with his 16 month plan for withdrawal, he would continue to keep US troops in Iraq, agreeing that he would "leave behind residual force" even after what he is billing as a "troop withdrawal."

    "Even something as simple as protecting our embassy is going to be dependent on what is the security environment in Baghdad. If there is some sense of security, then that means one level of force. If you continue to have significant sectarian conflict, that means another, but this is an area where Senator Clinton and I do have a significant contrast," Senator Obama offered contrasting himself with his chief opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination. "I do think it is important for us not only to protect our embassy, but also to engage in counter-terrorism activities. We’ve seen progress against AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq], but they are a resilient group and there’s the possibility that they might try to set up new bases. 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."

    The Senator insisted, "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. How large that force is, whether it’s located inside Iraq or as an over the horizon force is going to depend on what our military situation is."

    The positon of the majority of Americans in poll after poll is that all US troops need to be brought home by 2008. Senator Obama's strategy calls for bringing some troops home, should he be elected president, in his first sixteen months; however, he is not, by his own words, an advocate of a "Out of Iraq" strategy.

    While maintaining that he would remove all combat troops in sixteen months he did agree that the forces left behind to fight "terrorists" would be performing "a combat function."

    He also spoke of deployment, and presumably bases, "in places like Kuwait" in order "to strike at terrorist targets successfully."

    Returning the topic of leaving US forces in Iraq even after what he's billed as a "withdrawal," the Senator delcared, "As commander in chief, I’m not going to leave trainers unprotected. In our counterterrorism efforts, I’m not going to have a situation where our efforts can’t be successful. We will structure those forces so they can be successful. We would still have human intelligence capabilities on the ground. Some of them would be civilian, as opposed to military, some would be operating out of our bases as well as our signal intelligence.

    The senator also admitted that he was comfortable with sending troops back into Iraq after what he's terming a "withdrawal" though he wanted to split hairs on what constituted "armed force."

    In what will be seen as a blow to his Democratic-center-slightly-left admirers such as the editor and publisher of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Senator Obama touched on the topic that led to a brief flurry of disappointment when he refused to take all options off the table regarding Iran. In the interview yesterday, he repeated, "I don't think the president of the United States takes military options off the table." In addition, he also endorsed the Bully Boy's unproven claim that the Iranian government is equipping the resistance by declaring, "Iran has shown no inclination to back off of their support of Shia militias as a consequence of the threats that they've been receiving from the Bush and Cheney administration."

    All in all, a candidate our readers can rest assured will not rock the boat or fundamentally change the current direction of the country.

    That's the story they could have written based upon the interview conducted by Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny. As C.I. noted in Friday's "Iraq snapshot," the interview the reporters conducted hit harder than the sop they wrote up on it that ran on Friday's front page of the paper.

    And November 2, 2007's Iraq snapshot had already noted that then-candidate Barack was saying that even if he pulled US troops out of Iraq, he was fine with turning around and sending them back in if things got rocky in Iraq.

    I'm sorry Peter van Buren's writing about a topic he's so unprepared for.

    But that's his problem.

    Or maybe it's a problem for the masses since he's set himself up as the great expert?

    The following community sites -- plus Susan's On the Edge -- updated:

  • The e-mail address for this site is

    Thursday, June 25, 2015

    Iraq snapshot

    Thursday, June 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the State Dept has "nothing on that" when asked about the arrest of a journalist, an Iraqi dies learning to fly an F-16, and much more.

    Derek Jordan (Sierra Vista Herald Review) insists, "The Iraqi pilot whose F-16 fighter jet crashed north of Douglas Wednesday night was part of a group of Iraqis being trained by the Air Force to fly F-16s in the fight against Islamic State terrorists."

    The training is part of the deal that comes with the F-16s and the training aspect was in place as far back as 2008.  It predates concerns over the Islamic State (you can check the reporting of Elizabeth S. Bumiller, among others, for reports on the F-16 deal).

    US State Dept spokesperson John Kirby noted the time issue when asked about the death in today's State Dept press briefing:

    QUESTION: On Iraq, specifically about this F-16 – Iraqi F-16 that crashed in Arizona, obviously part of the Iraqi pilot training program, have you reached out or has there been any contact with the Iraqi Government? Because there are rumors out there that the Iraqi pilot who died was actually someone named – and this is unconfirmed – Mohammed Hama, the son of a prominent Iraqi Air Force general, which is why I ask if there’s been any contact with the Iraqis to confirm his identity.

    MR KIRBY: Well, first, our thoughts and prayers go to the family. This is a tragic accident, obviously. I don’t have any more detail about the identity of the pilot, and that’s something that I would, as you might understand, refer you to the Iraqi Government to speak to.

    QUESTION: Since the State Department has authority over the foreign military sales of these jets, do you know when and how many jets are expected to be delivered – the F-16s are expected to be delivered to Iraq?

    MR KIRBY: There’s – the whole program covered 36 jets, and as I understand it, they have taken possession of about a dozen of them. So there are still others in the program that still are in the delivery process.

    QUESTION: Possession in the United States or possession --

    MR KIRBY: Possession in the United States.

    QUESTION: And putting on your old military cap there, were these brand new jets, or were these sort of repurposed, used jets?

    MR KIRBY: I’d have to get back to you, Justin. I don’t know exactly what serial number they all had and how fresh they came off the assembly line.

    QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?

    MR KIRBY: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Several weeks ago, actually, it was mentioned that it was expected that the rest of these jets would be handed over to the Iraqis. Do you have a timeline on when that would happen?

    MR KIRBY: I don’t have a timeline for the remainder that they don’t have. But obviously, it’s an ongoing sales program. It’s not being handed over to them. And I just don’t have a schedule of exactly what the deliveries are going to look like.

    QUESTION: It was just I know that the Iraqi authorities were quite keen to get them up and running in Iraq, because obviously, all of the fight against ISIL.

    MR KIRBY: Sure, sure. Yeah. I mean, everybody shares a sense of urgency about helping Iraq deal with the threats that the country is facing inside their borders. These jets are a component of that ability for them to fight ISIL, but I just don’t have any more detail on the schedule of deliveries.

    QUESTION: John, these airplanes were supposed to be delivered some time back. What is the cause of delay? Is it lacking – a lacking training program? What is causing the delay in delivering these airplanes to Iraq?

    MR KIRBY: Well, your question connotes that there is a delay. I mean, it’s a 36-aircraft buy, and typically, on a purchase that size they’re not all delivered all at once. As I said, they are in possession of about a dozen of them. There are others still in the delivery process. It’s not a matter of delay. This is a sort of – it’s not uncommon or atypical for – especially when you’re buying something as big as fighter jets, for it to --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MR KIRBY: -- for there to be a time component here in terms of when they’re delivered. So I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s been a delay. And again, they’re taking possession here in the United States. We’ve talked about that before, and that’s where the training is occurring.

    QUESTION: To your knowledge, do the Iraqis – are the Iraqis able to get some Russian fighter jets, like Sukhois or old Sukhois or anything like this? Are they using now in their air force Russian-made fighter jets?

    MR KIRBY: I am not an expert on the Iraqi order of battle and their air force. You’re asking can they? Of course they can. It’s a sovereign country. They can buy --

    QUESTION: I understand they can --

    MR KIRBY: But I don’t know what – I mean, that’s a great question for the Iraqis to speak to, the components and the elements of their air force. They expressed, obviously, a significant interest in the F-16, which is a very capable aircraft, obviously. And so we’re working with them on the delivery of those aircraft and training their pilots on how to fly them. That’s our focus, and the Iraqis can speak to the other things that they’re buying for their own national defense.

    The Sierra Vista Herald Review portrays the program as necessary to combat the Islamic State because . . .

    That state of the art air brigade the Islamic State has?

    It's overkill in terms of response.

    It's overkill in terms of expectations.

    This week has seen a number of Iraqi commanders and military forces sound off in the press about the failures of Barack Obama.

    The US President is far from mistake free.

    But the criticism has been that he's not given enough weapons, that he's not given enough support?.

    They do realize he's the President of the United States, right?

    He's not serving the Iraqi people.

    And when in history has any domestic military felt they had the right to whine that they weren't getting enough assistance from any other country?

    Iraq's security forces are supposed to be responsible for the protection and safety of their country.

    They've never managed to pull it off but it is their job.

    Any assistance they may receive is just that: Assistance.

    It's 'in addition to' -- the primary responsibility remains on them.

    I don't fear the criticism is fair of Barack at all.

    It's criticism rooted in greed and entitlement.

    But mainly it's about refusing to take ownership of your own failures and instead pushing them off on others.

    If the Iraqi military is unhappy with the equipment they have, they need to take that up with the Iraqi leaders and officials who have failed them.

    Where are all those weapons they bought from Russia, for example?

    October 9, 2012, with much fanfare, then prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  He strutted and preened and was so proud of himself.  Yet shortly after taking his bows on the world stage, and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.

    Then it was back on.

    But the scandal refused to go away. As 2012 came to a close, the Iraq Times stated Nouri was offering up his former spokesperson  Ali al-Dabbagh and others to protect the truly corrupt -- the truly corrupt -- according to members of Parliament -- including Nouri's son who got a nice little slice off the deal.  These charges came from Shi'ite MPs as well as Sunnis and Kurds.  Even the Shi'ite National Alliance  spoke  out.  All Iraq News noted National Alliance member and one-time MP Wael Abdul Latif  called for Nouri to quickly bring charges against those involved in the corruption.

    Never happened.

    And the laughable Haider al-Abadi, new prime minister, supposedly committed to ending corruption, has yet to go after those officials who stole millions from Iraq.

    So if you're part of the Iraqi security forces and you're unhappy with the equipment you have you can point fingers at two groups of people: (a) those security forces who tend to drop their weapons and abandon their tanks the minute they feel the Islamic State is looking at them and (b) the corrupt officials who used the billions in oil dollars not to protect the country but instead to line their own pockets.

    As we've repeatedly noted, Iraq's annual revenues could make a billionaire -- each year -- out of nearly the entire estimated population.

    Instead, year after year, so many Iraqis live in poverty.

    The Iraqi people need an accounting of who's been stealing their money.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 174 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    Back to today's State Dept press briefing:

    QUESTION: On Iraq – yeah. On Iraq, yesterday I asked about the arrest of a journalist by the Kurdish security forces. I don’t know if you have anything for the report for me. And a second one is there is a kind of a crisis of the President Barzani’s term. It will come to an end in August and there is a kind of a problem like how – what is going to happen. What is the position of United States Government? Would you prefer having an election despite the security challenges, or a status quo just to extend his term because of the security situation as they would claim that?

    MR KIRBY: I don’t think we’re going to make statements from here about internal Iraqi politics.

    QUESTION: But democracy is something that you – I mean, elections – you are – it’s something that you are talking about always.

    MR KIRBY: Writ large, generally, yes. We’re in favor of government that is responsive and representative of the people that occupy a state, but I am not going to get into internal Iraqi politics and discussions from the podium.

    QUESTION: What about the journalist arrest? Do you have that, any --

    MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything on that, no.

    The State Dept never has "anything on that" unless they're trying to shame a government the US opposes.  If it's Iran or Russia, they have plenty "on that."

    But when it's a government that they're propping up, they never "have anything on that."

    You may remember the days in April when they spent time shaming the governments that they didn't like as part of  'World Press Day' and how they even issued this statement:

    The U.S. Department of State launched its fourth annual “Free the Press” campaign today as part of the Department’s efforts to honor the fundamental importance of a free and independent media in the days leading up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
    As in years past, the Department will profile on a daily basis journalists or media outlets that are censored, attacked, threatened, disappeared or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting. The purpose of the campaign is to speak out for reporters who otherwise cannot; to call on governments to protect the right to free expression; and to emphasize our own commitment to promoting free expression here in the United States and around the world.
    From April 27 to May 1, the Department Spokesperson will highlight emblematic cases of journalists or press outlets under threat around the world at the Daily Press Briefing. The cases will be profiled on and they will be tweeted out using the hashtag #FreethePress.
    For more information, please contact Chanan Weissman at or 202 647 4043.
    For more information on the State Department’s work on democracy, human rights, and labor rights follow @State_DRL or @HumanRightsGov, or visit

    Yet two months later, asked about a journalist being arrested in Iraq, they have not one word to say,  they "have nothing on that."

    Final topic,  David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  This is from Bacon's "California Appeals Court Rules Farm Worker Law Unconstitutional" (Working In These Times):

    FRESNO, CA -- On May 18 in Fresno, California, the state's Court of Appeals for the 5th District ruled that a key provision of the state's unique labor law for field workers is unconstitutional.  Should it be upheld by the state's supreme court, this decision will profoundly affect the ability of California farm workers to gain union contracts.

    At issue is the mandatory mediation provision of the state's Agricultural Labor Relations Act.  Using this section of the law, workers can vote for a union, and then call in a mediator if their employer refuses to negotiate a first-time contract.  The mediator, chosen by the state, hears from both the union and the grower, and writes a report recommending a settlement.  Once the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) adopts the report, it becomes a binding union contract.

    Associate Justice Stephen Kane, in a 3-0 ruling, said the law illegally delegates authority to the mediator.  The Fresno district of the appeals court is well known for its conservative bent.  United Farm Workers Vice President Armando Elenes immediately announced that the union would appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

    The case has attracted the attention and support of some of the country's most powerful conservative and anti-union organizations.  Some have intervened to file briefs challenging the law.  Others have joined with the grower in this case, Gerawan Farms, in an elaborate campaign to remove the United Farm Workers as the bargaining representative for the company's workers.

    Workers say they already feel the impact of the challenge to the law.  According to Ana Garcia Aparicio, "At this company we've had many issues and injustices. This is the reason it is so important for us that our contract be implemented."

    We Want Our $25 Trillion Back! Audit & Recoup Extracted Wealth (David DeGraw)

    David DeGraw addresses the waste of the people's money:

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    We Want Our $25 Trillion Back! Audit & Recoup Extracted Wealth

    We demand a publicly transparent commission to audit and recoup wealth that has been extracted from the US economy through corrupt practices. Preliminary estimates lead us to believe that at least $25 trillion has been extracted. +Read More

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