Saturday, March 12, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, March 12, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the daily bombings continuing, AIRWARS notes the civilian dead from the 'coalition' bombings, the Defense Dept wants to talk short term interrogations, the press doesn't want to address the issue, and much more.

Oh, how the US government manipulates information.

Wednesday, Cheryl Pellerin with DOD News or Propaganda, wrote the following:

Leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant who are captured by the Expeditionary Targeting Force and held for questioning will be detained by the force only for short periods of time and the detention will be coordinated with Iraqi authorities, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told defense reporters here that ETF missions, first announced in October, are conducting operations as part of the coalition fight there against ISIL.

“One of the missions that we anticipate they will do is to capture a small number of ISIL leaders,” Davis said. “The detention of these [leaders] we anticipate will be very short-term [and] coordinated with Iraqi authorities.”

Well that's interesting where did it come from?

It came from the Defense Dept trying to seize the narrative.

Wednesday morning, they were still concerned that the US press might actually actually get off their lazy and useless asses and do their damn job.

The Defense Dept should never have sweated it because the US press never does their job.

Tuesday the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing which we covered in Tuesday's Iraq snapshot, "Magical Bernie trumps Tired Hillary" and in Thursday's Iraq snapshot.

Three generals testified before the Committee, Gen Lloyd Austin (CENTCOM),  Gen Joseph Vogel (Special Operations Command) and Gen David Rodriguez (US Africa Command).  The Chair of the Committee is Senator John McCain, the Ranking Member is Senator Jack Reed.

What had the Defense Dept sweating bullets was the following exchange from that hearing.

Senator Kelly Ayotte:  I wanted to follow up on an important question.  Both General Rodriquez and General Votel, this is something I've actually asked both your predecessors about and my concern is if we capture Ayman al-Zawahiri or Baghdadi -- [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi tomorrow where will we detain these individuals under long term law of war detention -- most importantly to interrogate them to find out all that we need to know about al Qaeda and ISIS?  And as I asked your predecessor going back to 2011, I asked -- I asked General [Carter] Hamm, your predecessor in AFRICOM, what would happen if tomorrow we captured a member of al Qaeda in Africa?  And you know what he told me?  He said I'm going to need some lawyerly help on answering that one.  I also asked the same of Admiral  [William] McRaven, your predecessor, General Votel.  And he said to me that it would be very helpful if there was actually a facility that was designated for long term, law of war detention and interrogation.  So I guess my question to both of you is tomorrow, if we capture these individuals, given the phenomenal work that the men and women who serve underneath you do ever day, where are we going to interrogate them?  Do you know that?  Do you know what you would do with them?  Especially if you wanted to have a long term interrogation of them?  

Gen Joseph Votel:  Senator, in my experiences, we've looked at operations where we're actually going to detains somebody we have had a plan in place before we actually conducted the operation for how we were going to potentially detain them and what their legal disposition would be -- whether that was back in the US courts --

Senator Kelly Ayotte:  No, General, we just recently captured someone in ISIS and as I understand it, they're not being -- they're being held short term and then they're going to be turned back to the Kurds.  So what about long term detention?  You would agree that long term interrogation is quite helpful, for example, in gathering the information that we needed to get [Osama] bin Laden.  That's what worries me

Gen Joseph Votel:  I --

Senator Kelly Ayotte: What do we do in a long term setting?  Do we know?

Gen Joseph Votel:  I--I would agree that there is a requirement for long term detention, Senator.

Senator Kelly Ayotte: And do we know where that would be now?

Gen Joseph Votel:  I-I don't know that.  That is a politica -- a policy decision that I think is being debated.

Senator Kelly Ayotte:  I think it's a policy decision that has basically never been made under this administration.  It's one that has been left up in the air which means it's left up in the air in a way I think undermines our national security interest.

So a captured member of the Islamic State can't be held and will be turned back over to the Kurds.

You'd think the CBS EVENING NEWS would open with that news or NBC NIGHTLY NEWS or . . .

No one wanted to touch it.

The news was, for those who can't catch it, in Iraq a member of the Islamic State was captured, the US briefly interrogated him and would now be handing him back to the Kurds.  This was due to not having a facility and this did not seem, to Gen Joseph Vogel, to be the appropriate thing to do.

You can disagree with him, agree with him or have no opinion on what should be done.

But it is news.

And news is what we're supposed to debate and discuss in a democracy in order to be informed citizens participating in our self-governance.

The day after the hearing, THE NEW YORK TIMES, for example, was front-paging 'news' like "Fasting Diets Are Gaining Acceptance" by Anahad O'Connor.

You know who does the most fasting in America?

The extreme poor.

It's not 'trendy' or 'buzz worthy,' so it doesn't make it onto the front page of THE NEW YORK TIMES -- or inside.

Nor does news that really matters like the Tuesday Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

The issue even arose Friday in a Defense Dept press briefing with Col Steve Warren (in Baghdad, briefing was via teleconference).

Q: Colonel Warren, what is the U.S. military's policy on detaining ISIS operatives?

COL. WARREN: Our -- our policy can -- I guess would best be summed up as short-term and case-by-case. So there's -- there hasn't -- there's only been two so far, and neither one has -- has been -- neither of those two have been the same. In the case of the first one, Umm Sayyaf, we held onto her for some time, and then eventually moved her over to the custody of the Iraqi government. In the second case, this -- the chemical guy, we only held onto him for a very short time, about two weeks, and then we moved him over.

So we're not equipped for long-term detention, we're not set up here for that, and so we're not in that business. But there's no real one-size-fits-all answer. As we take people off the battlefield, we're just going to have make, you know, the decisions as we go.

Q: And what is the definition of short-term detention, and is case-by-case, is that a -- the de facto policy?

COL. WARREN: Yeah. That is the policy, I think. That's -- at least that's how we're approaching it here at the CJTF. There isn't even a hard definition of short-term, 14 to 30 days is a ballpark figure. But even that is not really completely nailed down.

Q: How do I explain to my mother-in-law, Betty Harper, from Laurel, Mississippi and other Americans out there who are a little confused that if this war against ISIS is this comprehensive war, it's by all accounts going to take years to fight ISIS, how do you swear that with only holding a detainee for 14 to 30 days when there, I'm sure, a lot of information to glean from this person months down the road?

COL. WARREN: Well, I mean, this is not a catch-and-release program, Lucas. I mean, we've already captured them, and then we don't have the means to hold them. We just give them to the Iraqis to hold. You know, if we've got to go back and talk to them, we'll go back and talk to them. You know, if there's more information that comes, you know, if we have to confirm a piece of info or whatever the case, I mean, they're right -- they're still here in Iraq. We'll go get them and, you know, we'll interrogate them some more.

While the press wasn't interested in that, they did go overboard this week reporting on the capture of a major event -- according to the Defense Dept -- the capture of a big official in the Islamic State.

But, thing is, that story's already in doubt.

ALSUMARIA reports that the Chair of Parliament's Defense and Security Committee has announced that, despite us claims, there has been no chemical weapons officer of the Islamic State that has been captured.  These reports, he insists, are attempts to breed fear and terror.

On the Dept of MisInformation, US President Barack Obama said he would end the Iraq War.  He didn't.  He said he wouldn't put US troops back on the ground in Iraq again.  He did.  He said they wouldn't be in combat.  They are.

He recently sat down with fellow War Hawk Jeffrey Goldberg and the two talked war and more war for THE ATLANTIC.

At Brookings, Shadi Hamid offers a critique of A COUPLE OF WAR DICKS SITTING AROUND TALKING:

Obama’s tendency to distort beyond recognition the positions of his critics goes hand in hand with an apparent disdain for those critics and, perhaps more worryingly, an unwillingness to even so much as question his own decisions after he’s made them. Over the course of his conversations with Goldberg, the only thing he really blames himself for is having “more faith” in the Europeans than they apparently deserved. Elsewhere, he faults himself for underappreciating “the value of theater in political communications.” Of course, what Obama is faulting himself for is not clearly appreciating the faults of others.
It is jarring to hear, in such measured words, a president so confident in his own abilities (George W. Bush, contrary to popular perception, was willing to reassess his policies, shift direction, and accept outside counsel during his second term). The colorfully rendered Obama doctrine of “don’t do stupid s[**]t,” itself a phrase dripping with disdain, is little more than a reaction to critics who Obama thinks, presumably, support doing stupid s[**]t.
As troubling as all of these things are, especially in a president, they are not the most troubling thing that emerges from Goldberg’s interviews. As much as he himself might insist otherwise, Obama is basically a Huntingtonian at heart. I had seen flashes of a “clash of civilizations” in Obama’s various speeches, but these usually seemed like momentary lapses rather than omens of a more coherent philosophy. I think about Obama’s universally panned and seemingly non-representative endorsement of the “ancient hatreds” thesis to explain Middle Eastern conflicts (something I argued against in these pages). I think about his remarks from the Oval Office just a month prior, where he suggested that Muslims had some communal responsibility—just by virtue of them being Muslim—to do more to condemn and confront extremism.

I am not against the notion that Islam is in some way different than other faith traditions. I argue in my new book that Islam is “exceptional” in how it relates to politics, and that this has profound implications for the future of the Middle East. But this is not quite the same thing as viewing “Islamic exceptionalism” as something bad, unusual, or at odds with history. Being the liberal determinist that he is, Obama, like so many others, seems frustrated by both Islam and Muslims. Why can’t they just get their act together and stop being such a nuisance, distracting me from dealing with “emotionally contained” technocrats in Asia? This was a sentiment I noticed more and more after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January 2015: the desire, sometimes a demand, to see Muslims embrace liberalism, and an anger that many simply won’t. Too many Muslims, it seemed, were intent on defying the arc of history.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, life is getting even worse for refugees.  Friday, UNHCR issued the following alert:

The UN Refugee Agency is concerned about a rising trend of newly-displaced Iraqis being forcibly transferred to camps where restrictions on their freedom of movement are imposed in a manner disproportionate to any legitimate concern, including those related to security.
"While recognizing the responsibility of authorities to undertake security screening of people fleeing territory controlled by extremist groups, we urge the government to set up clear procedures and facilities for this purpose that are separate from camps established to provide shelter and other humanitarian assistance to displaced Iraqis," UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery told a news briefing in Geneva on Friday (March 11).
Nazrawa camp, in Kirkuk Governorate, was opened by UNHCR in November 2015 for internally displaced Iraqis seeking safety from conflict and severe human rights abuses, thanks to flexible funding from over ten donor countries.
It was opened in response to a long-standing request by the Kirkuk authorities for more support from the humanitarian community in their efforts to provide protection and assistance to large numbers of internally-displaced persons, or IDPs, in the governorate currently numbering nearly 400,000.
Approximately 2,000 displaced Iraqis are currently residing in Nazrawa camp. However, authorities have progressively imposed movement restrictions on residents of the camp. Since February 22 all residents have been confined to the camp, irrespective of whether or not they have completed security screening procedures.
Instances of forcible relocation of Iraqis into camps, as well as disproportionate restrictions on their freedom of movement, have also been recorded by protection partners elsewhere in Iraq.
In Garmawa camp in northern Iraq, Iraqis who were forcibly relocated to the camp from villages in Tilkaif District in 2015 continue to face restrictions on their freedom of movement. Similar concerns are also emerging in Salah Al Din and Anbar Governorates.
"We are concerned about this developing trend as freedom of movement is key to displaced people being able to exercise other rights, such as access to work, food, healthcare and legal assistance," Rummery told reporters.
"With the prospect of further displacement as military operations against extremist groups escalate, it is becoming increasingly urgent for the authorities to ensure both that IDPs are granted access to safety in a timely manner, and that camps maintain their humanitarian character," she added.

In addition to nearly one million Iraqis displaced since 2006-7, there are more than 3.3 million people in Iraq who have been displaced since January 2014. The displaced in Iraq continue to face challenges, including exposure to violence, disproportionate restrictions on access to safety and freedom of movement, forced encampment, and constrained access to basic services.

The continued suffering also includes living  in a country where bombs are dropped daily by planes flying overhead.  Today, the US Defense Dept announced/claimed/bragged:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack and fighter aircraft conducted nine strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, a strike destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun position.

-- Near Hit, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Ramadi, five strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL rocket position, two ISIL vehicles, an ISIL fighting position and three ISIL tunnel systems and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Sinjar, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL weapons cache.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

This week, Chris Woods, Kinda Haddad, Latif Habib, Alex Hopkins and Basile Simon (AIRWARS) noted the civilian deaths:

Latest assessments suggest more than 1,000 civilians may now have died in 18 months of Coalition airstrikes across Iraq and Syria. The estimate is fifty times greater than the number of civilian deaths so far admitted by the US-led alliance.
Airwars researchers have so far identified 352 reported civilian casualty events, in which Coalition aircraft allegedly killed between 2,232 and 2,961 non-combatants in the war against so-called Islamic State.

Based on credible public reports and confirmed Coalition strikes in the vicinity, some 166 of these incidents are currently assessed as having likely led to civilian deaths – with a reported range of 1,004 to 1,419 killed.

Isakson Statement on Chairman Miller Retirement Announcement


Senator Johnny Isakson (above) is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following last week:

Monday, March 10, 2016
Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777
Lauren Gaydos, 202-224-9126

Isakson Statement on Chairman Miller Retirement Announcement
‘Veterans will benefit from Chairman Miller’s tireless efforts for years to come’
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today released the following statement regarding today’s announcement by U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, that he will retire from Congress at the end of this term:
“From the moment he came to Congress, Jeff Miller has been a tireless advocate for the people of Florida and for our nation’s veterans. As chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, his commitment to ensuring that all veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve has led to landmark legislation such as the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act and the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act being enacted into law.
“With the knowledge that there is still work left to be accomplished, Jeff has not stopped fighting for our nation’s veterans. We are at the brink of yet another legislative breakthrough to bring much-needed accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs – a feat that Jeff has been hugely instrumental in crafting. I look forward to continuing our work on legislation to hold bad actors at the VA accountable and reform the institutional attitude at the department solely responsible for caring for our nation’s veterans.
“Veterans will benefit from Chairman Miller’s tireless efforts for years to come, and I wish him all the best in his retirement.”
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.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Friday, March 11, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the US government is accused of yet again lying about Iraq, the Iraqi government kills Sunni civilians, Moqtada al-Sadr holds another rally to back his best buddy Haider al-Abadi, and much more.

Thursday, the US Defense Dept announced/claimed:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter and ground attack aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 15 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, a strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Kirkuk, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Mosul, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Qayyarah, a strike destroyed an ISIL rocket rail.

-- Near Ramadi, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed four ISIL heavy machine guns, two ISIL supply caches, 11 ISIL improvised explosive devices, three ISIL vehicles and an ISIL vehicle bomb and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Sinjar, five strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL assembly area, an ISIL tactical vehicle, 12 ISIL rocket rails, an ISIL supply cache and six ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Tal Afar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

The bombings continue and are passed off as working towards peace.

And the Iraqi government, gifted with weapons and aircraft from the US and Russia, carries out its own bombings to ape the 'peace' efforts of bombings.

And the bombs fall on populated areas, never forget that.

So many in the media work overtime to cover that up, to pretend these bombs hit empty areas and that civilians are never killed.

It's a lie.

  • Iraqi Sunni woman killed yesterday by Iraqi army airstrikes on

  • The Iraqi government killed Sunni civilians in those bombings.

    's Tears moving down their cheeks Every idea and every memory caused pain Tears of Wipe them ??

    So much propaganda swirling around such a small piece of land.  But Iraq couldn't be made miserable if the truth was acknowledged, could it?

    Did someone say Whore of Baghdad?

    Yes, Jane Arraf.  She Tweets this morning.

  • Why is Jane Arraf Tweeting about protests?

    She spent all her time since the Hawija massacre ignoring real protests.

    Oh, that's right, this isn't a real protest.

    It's a rally, a propaganda effort on the part of cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr to back the current prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

    It's not a protest.

    Only a whore like Jane would call it protest.

    And remember, her whoring on Iraq goes back to the 90s when she was covering up for Saddam while working for CNN.

    Jane's been lying for years.


    Maher Chmaytelli (REUTERS) offers a truth bomb, "Iraq's powerful Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr wants Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to stay in power but replace his cabinet with professionals with no party affiliation so he can fight corruption, the head of the Sadrist bloc in parliament said."

    Did that reality just send Jane Arraf scurrying like the rat she is?


    Mohammad Sabah (AL MADA) reports Haider is scheduled to name his Cabinet members in the coming days.

    Well, the reality, he'll name some nominees.

    Parliament has to approve them.

    Equally true, his efforts to kick out members of his Cabinet currently?

    Not covered by the Constitution.

    Parliament can strip someone of the post.  The person can decide on their own to resign.

    But the Cabinet does not serve at the pleasure of the prime minister.

    That's not written into the Constitution.

    As Haider al-Abadi already knows because it's a reality Nouri al-Maliki had to live with -- publicly -- throughout his second term.

    So there's Moqtada whoring his followers to call for the Constitution to be trashed.

    And no one wants to go there or address that.

    ALSUMARIA notes that State of Law has expressed concerns about these demonstrations.  State of Law is the political coalition that is headed by former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki.  It must rankle Nouri that what he was held in check on, Haider may get away with.

    In news of real protests -- the ones you don't hear of because they're real -- AL MADA reports that citizens in Muqdadiyah on Wednesday took the street in large numbers to protest the lack of safety and demand better security.

    Jane Arraf never Tweeted on that, of course.  Why would she?

    Jane Arraf has never been anything but a megaphone for whomever happened to be the leader of Iraq going all the way back to Saddam Hussein.

    Let's stay with reality for a moment more.

    Western media echoing the US State Dept has made a number of claims this week.

    But they may not exactly qualify as true.

    ALSUMARIA reports that the Chair of Parliament's Defense and Security Committee has announced that, despite us claims, there has been no chemical weapons officer of the Islamic State that has been captured.  These reports, he insists, are attempts to breed fear and terror.

    The western world is full of Judith Millers.  Damn shame it's so short on truth tellers.

    Thursday, March 10, 2016

    The Nixonian Candidate: Hillary Clinton

    So at last night's debate, Cranky Clinton is asked if she'll drop out of the race if she's indicted and she refuses to address that.

    Which would appear to indicate that, in case she is indicted, she wants to leave all options on the table.

    Can she get anymore craven?

    If indicted, Hillary Clinton plans to continue to seek the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

    The reality is that the federal investigation alone should have had her making like John Edwards in 2008 and rushing to announce she was bowing out.

    You just don't do that.

    You don't risk an entire political party's nomination -- an election -- on the hopes that you may not be indicted.

    Just the cloud of suspicion over her should have been enough for her to do what was good for others and drop out.

    But what she has demonstrated is she does not operate on what is good for others, her only concern is herself.

    Callum Borchers (WASHINGTON POST) reports:

    Just in case you thought Univision and moderator Jorge Ramos would display a pro-Clinton bias in Wednesday's debate, the Spanish-language network's top anchor hit Hillary Clinton with a doozy of a question right out of the gate: "Would you drop out of the race if you get indicted?"
    [. . .]
    Clinton pivoted off Ramos's original inquiry to familiar talking points about retroactive classification and the private email habits of her predecessors, but when Ramos asked again, Clinton shot back: "Oh, for goodness — that's not going to happen. I'm not even answering that question."

    And here's Rob Wile (FUSION):

    Hillary Clinton dismissed the notion that she could face indictment over her handling of emails on a private server during her tenure as Secretary of State.
    “That is not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question,” she said when Fusion’s Jorge Ramos asked her whether she would drop out of the campaign for president if indicted. The exchange came Wednesday in the Univision Democratic Debate.

    For those playing at home, the correct answer is:  I will do what is good for my country.

    The answer we were looking for is, "I will do what is good for my country."

    Hillary's failure to make that point shows how deeply Nixonian she truly is.

    She seriously picked the wrong campaign song -- it should have been Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now."

    Because, apparently, nothing will.

    Even an indictment would not stop Hillary.  She refused to state the obvious answer, she refused to give the answer America needed to hear.

    The following community sites updated:

  • The e-mail address for this site is

    Wednesday, March 09, 2016

    Iraq snapshot

    Wednesday, March 9, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the training of Iraqi forces continues but with very unimpressive numbers, Gen Lloyd Austin breaks with the White House over the Kurds, we note the unresponsive State Dept under Hillary Clinton, and much more.

    We have to start with ignorance.  Every four years this comes up from someone. It's stupidity.

    This year, it comes up from Russ Belville who offers a very strong column at HUFFINGTON POST which falls apart in the final paragraph:

    So, no, Rude Pundit, I will not shut the f*ck up and resign myself to voting for Hillary-> if Bernie doesn't become the nominee. I will write in Bernie Sanders so Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC can count exactly how may votes they lost by running a moderate Republican neocon warhawk for the presidency. If we reward the DNC for merely not being the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing racist misogynist Islamophobes as they bow to the agenda of the one-percent, that's what they'll continue to be.

    I don't know what state Russ is in but it's very likely that Russ will end up voting for Hillary Clinton.

    B-b-b-but he says he will write in Bernie's name!!!!!


    Know your state rules.

    In most states, if you write in a name and they are not recognized as a write-in for that election, the vote is 'interpreted.'  If you write down any Democrat -- including dead ones like FDR and JFK -- the write-in vote goes to that political party.

    So if Bernie is not running in the state as a write-in candidate, the vote will be interpreted as a vote for whomever is heading the Democratic Party ticket and will be counted as a vote for Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination.

    You need to stop playing stupid.

    We have gone over this every four years.

    It's past time for people to learn that a write-in is actually the stupidest thing you can do if you are protesting.

    Because you can write in Minnie Mouse or Lady Gaga or Cher and it can be interpreted to be a vote for someone who is on the ticket -- Cher being a very public Hillary supporter, a write-in vote for Cher could be interpreted as a vote for Hillary.

    If there is a write-in candidate who will be recognized in your state, by all means vote for them if you'd like to.

    But if you're just writing in a name -- Bernie Sanders (if he doesn't get the nomination) -- grasp that you could very well end up voting for Hillary (if she gets the nomination) by writing in Bernie's name.

    While we're doing voter education, a common mistake eager voters can make is having one of those paper ballots that you fill in circles on and filling in all the circles -- or one circle if they're voting straight ticket (voting for the same political party in all offices) -- and then also writing in the name of Bernie (if he's on the ballot) or whomever (that is on the ballot).  Your vote will likely not be counted unless someone calls for a recount and then people go through the 'spoiled' votes or 'under votes' by hand.

    There are a lot of ways we think we can make our vote 'stronger' that instead make our vote not count.  Those are just of two of them.

    If the network news truly cared about voting -- and not about playing cheap with the coverage (we get the horserace coverage and not real coverage because it's very cheap to produce and put on the air) -- they would go over these things for the voter every four years.   (Especially after Florida in 2000 when the entire country was focused on the spoiled votes and the uncounted ones.)

    Again, Russ Belville has written an excellent and strong column but that last paragraph is 100% wrong in most states and before people think of writing in a candidate they need to find out their state's rules on write-ins and how their vote might be interpreted because in most states it will not count as a vote for the name they write in.

    Changing topics . . .

    In Iraq, the Iraqi Security Forces, which include Iraqi Army and Counter-Terrorism Services (CTS) forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and various Sunni and Shia volunteer elements, with the support of U.S. and Coalition air operations and advisors and materiel donations, have effectively halted ISIL's advance . The enemy is now almost exclusively focused on defending his strongholds rather than projecting combat power. Additionally, ISIL's counter-attack capability has been reduced as a result of battlefield losses, although we see the group conducting deadly terrorist attacks against Iraqi forces in Anbar and west of Baghdad, and, worryingly, civilian targets -- including in areas far from its control, in Baghdad and parts of the Shia-populated south.

    That's US CENTCOM commander Gen Lloyd Austin speaking at Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee which we covered in Tuesday's Iraq snapshot and this morning in "Magical Bernie trumps Tired Hillary."

    Austin was one of three generals appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to offer testimony in the hearing.  The other two were  Gen Joseph Vogel (Special Operations Command) and Gen David Rodriguez (US Africa Command).  The Chair of the Committee is Senator John McCain, the Ranking Member is Senator Jack Reed.

    The quoted section in bold above was from Austin's opening remarks.

    The opening remarks are sometimes also referred to as the prepared remarks or the written testimony because witnesses are supposed to submit those to the Congressional committees in advance.  This allows members of Congress (and their staff) to pour over that prepared testimony in advance and to come up with questions to expand on issues being raised in that testimony or questions on issues that they see are not being covered in the written statements.

    When Secretary of State John Kerry was a Senator, if he headed a Committee (such as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), he would urge witnesses to summarize (briefly) their pages of written testimony instead of reading them word for word.

    He was the exception.

    (And as Secretary of State, he himself reads every word dully and in monotone, eating up time and dragging each hearing down.  Were he the Chair of a Committee he was testifying before, he would cut himself off and tell himself to summarize the statement to save time.)

    In most hearings, most witnesses still read every word.  They may alter a word or two -- often due to getting lost while reading out loud from the pages before them -- but they don't usually introduce new ideas.  There's a time limit for these opening statements and non-government officials will sometimes see the warning light flashing (indicating time is almost up) and try to quickly summarize the rest of their pages.

    But for the most part, people stick to the written testimony when reading word for word.

    So this is from Austin's prepared remarks:

    We are making progress militarily in our efforts to defeat ISIL, as demonstrated by the recent victories in Ramadi and Shaddadi . However, military success will be lasting only if corresponding political progress is achieved in both Iraq and Syria . The Government of Iraq must take the necessary steps towards greater inclusiveness. Iraq will not remain a unified state long-term without the support of the major ethno-sectarian groups.

    And we are noting that because it's important and it's something the State Dept (and that includes Barack's Special Envoy Brett McGurk) repeatedly forget to address publicly.

    The White House continues to supply the Baghdad-based government in Iraq with weapons, US troops and money.

    And it never says, "Haider al-Abadi, you've been prime minister since 2014 and we're not seeing any progress on inclusion.  If you don't stop the persecution of the Sunnis, we're not sending use these jets" or whatever.

    Under Barack, the US State Dept doesn't do diplomacy.

    While Austin's point is very, very important, he made another remark that was also highly important.

    Gen Lloyd Austin:  Of note, the Kurish Peshmerga remain critical to our efforts on the ground in the northern part of the country.  They are irreplaceable and we must do all that we can to support them.

    Some readers will agree with him on that, some won't.

    Most members of the US Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- will agree with that remark.

    Does the White House?

    Actually, no, it does not.

    Nor does the US State Dept which tries to pretend it's being 'impartial' while toadying to the Baghdad-based government.

    That makes the statement important.

    You know what else makes it important?

    It appears no where in his written testimony.

    He wasn't two minutes into his opening remarks when he made this comment, reading from a version of his opening remarks that was pretty much word-for-word what he submitted (and what will be in the official record -- the written testimony is put into the official record).

    But that passage?

    His comments on the Peshmerga did not appear in the submitted remarks.


    Because the remarks would not have been cleared for submission had the statement appeared in them.

    The official position of the administration goes against those remarks -- as is clear in every State Dept press briefing.

    Since the fall of 2014, the US military has been on the ground in Iraq acting as trainers to the Iraqi forces.  We're noting that because Austin testified on the 'progress' there.  And maybe some will see it as progress, but I don't.

    According to the general, by the middle of December 2015, the US military had trained "more than 19,000 Iraqi security forces."

    19,000 is not impressive for approximately 16 months.

    19,000 is not impressive even for a year.

    At least 3,000 of the US troops in Iraq (approximately 4,450 US troops are in Iraq, per the Pentagon -- and this number does not include US Special Forces which are in Iraq and in combat operations in Iraq) are present for training.

    19,000 is not impressive.

    In fact, people should be asking why the number is so low.

    Is there resistance to training?

    That was the case when the State Dept was put in charge of training.  As Barack's drawdown began (pulling most but not all US troops out of Iraq), the mission in Iraq was transferred from the Defense Dept to the State Dept.  With State acting as lead, the Iraqi forces did not want training.

    They did not show up for training.

    Officials stated publicly that the money would be wasted because they didn't want training.

    That was US tax payer money.

    For those who missed that reality in real time, this is from the December 1, 2011 snapshot:

    "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the program?" asked US House Rep Gary Ackerman yesterday. "Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue."
    That was Ackerman's important question yesterday afternoon at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia hearing on Iraq.  US House Rep Steve Chabot is the Chair of the Subcommittee, US House Rep Gary Ackerman is the Ranking Member.  The first panel was the State Dept's Brooke Darby.  The second panel was the Inspector General for the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen and SIGIR's Assistant Inspector General for Iraq Glenn D. Furbish.  Chabot had a few comments to make at the start of the hearing.  They often echoed comments made in the November 15th Senate Armed Services Committee hearing [see the November 15th "Iraq snapshot," the November 16th "Iraq snapshot" and the November 17th "Iraq snapshot" and other community reporting on the hearing included Ava's "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," Wally's "The costs (Wally)" and Kat's "Who wanted what?" ]. But while Senators Joe Lieberman, John McCain and Lindsey Graham made their comments during rounds of questions, Chabot made his as the start of the hearing in his opening remarks. 
    Chair Steve Chabot: Unfortunately, these negotiations failed due to, in my opinion, mismanagement by this White House.  Amazingly, the White House is now trying to tout the breakdown and lack of agreement as a success in as much as it has met a promise President Obama made as a candidate. This blatant politicization calls into question the White House's effort to secure an extension.  Fulfilling a campaign promise at the expense of American national security  is at best strategic neglect and at worse downright irresponsible.  And the White House tacitly admits this in negotiating an extension in the first place. I fear, however, that our objective is no longer to ensure that Iraq is stable but merely to withdraw our forces by the end of this year in order to meet a political time line. Saying that Iraq is secure, stable and self-reliant -- as Deputy National Security Advisor Dennis McDonough  recently did -- does not make it so.  And to borrow a quote from then-Senator Hillary Clinton , It requires "the willing suspension of disbelief" to believe that withdrawing our forces from Iraq at a time when Iranian agents seek to harm at every turn our country and its allies advances our strategic interests.  Although I understand that Iraq is a sovereign country, I believe there is much more we could have done to secure a reasonable troop presence beyond the end of this year.
    McCain was wrongly criticized for not grasping Iraq was a sovereign nation in some press accounts. Wrongly.  McCain grasped that fact and acknowledged it repeatedly in the hearing.  Chabot may have wanted all of that at the start of the hearing to ensure that he was not misunderstood.  In addition, Chabot noted the "reports of obstruction and noncooperation on the part of the Department of State during SIGIR's audit.  This is extremely distressing and, to echo the sentiments of several of my colleagues in the other body which they recently expressed in a letter to Secretary of State Clinton, the Department of State is legally obliged to cooperate fully with SIGIR in the execution of its mission; jurisdictional games are unacceptable." In his opening remarks, the Ranking Member weighed in on that topic as well.
    Ranking Member Gary Ackerman:  He [Bowen] has testified before other bodies of Congress, he has released written quarterly reports, as well as specific audits and the message is the same: The program for which the Department of State officially took responsibility on October 1st is nearly a text book case of government procurement -- in this case, foreign assistance -- doesn't buy what we think we're paying for, what we want and why more money will only make the problem worse.  Failed procurement is not a problem unique to the State Department.  And when it comes to frittering away millions, Foggy Bottom is a rank amateur compared to the Department of Defense. As our colleagues on the Armed Services committees have learned, the best of projects with the most desirable of purposes can go horribly, horribly off-track; and the hardest thing it seems that any bureaucracy can do is pull the plug on a failed initiative.  How do we know the Police Development Program is going off-track?  Very simple things demonstrate a strong likelihood of waste and mismanagement.  Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the program? Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue.

    Ackerman went on to note how "the program's objectives remain a mushy bowl of vague platitudes" and how  it had "no comprehensive and detailed plan for execution, there is no current assessment of Iraqi police force capability and, perhaps most tellingly, there are no outcome-based metrics.  This is a flashing-red warning light."

    And I would argue that what's going on currently is another flashing-red warning light.

    19,000 is not an impressive number -- not for the time spent, not for the money spent.

    No clear cut plan has been presented to the Congress or, more importantly, to the American people.

    When you are spending the people's money, you need to be clear about the goals and the measures.

    Dropping back to that December 1, 2011 snapshot:

    Brooke Darby was sent before the Committee to spin.  I'm not going to waste much time or space on her testimony and I do feel sorry for her that she was farmed out on this assignment. "I can't answer that question," she said when asked anything that hadn't been covered in at least three other hearings or "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it."  (The last one to Gary Ackerman's question of if will take the State Dept 8 years to train the Iraqi police?)  I think she did a strong effort trying to sell the plan but I've heard it all the talking points before over and over -- and so had the Subcommittee, as was evident by their reactions -- and there's no point in including too much of it here.
    She referenced her conversation recently with Adnan al-Asadi, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior.  It was apparently a good conversation and he believes trainers and training are both needed.  Chair Chalbot asked if he denied the comments?  (He is among those dismissive of training in the SIGIR reports that Ranking Member Ackerman referred to.)  Darby testified that he didn't.
    [. . .]

    From that first panel, we'll note this exchange.
    Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
    Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
    Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
    [long pause]

    Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye."  Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.

    What Ackerman asked then should be asked today.  (Ackerman, a Democrat, was first elected to the US Congress in 1983 and served to the start of 2013 after deciding not to seek re-election in the 2012 race.)

    In the above, you'll see some problems for the State Dept -- at that time headed by Hillary Clinton.  Where you see "[. . .]," I've omitted parts not having to do with training.  If you read the December 1, 2011 snapshot, you'll see the Committee members clearly expressing impatience and frustration with Hillary Clinton's State Dept not being upfront and honest.

    That's her record.

    We documented it here.

    We now know that she used a personal server during this time.  It is clearly obvious that she did so to avoid public accountability -- her e-mails couldn't be searched because they existed on a private server and not on the State Dept server.

    But it wasn't just the public that Hillary showed disdain for, she showed it for Congress.

    She refused to supply them with detailed budgets, she refused to supply them with information, she refused to answer their questions.

    A Hillary presidency would be more of the same.

    She doesn't feel she's accountable to anyone.

    Which is another reason Senator Bernie Sanders' big win in Michigan Tuesday was so amazing and important.

    His campaign issued the following today:

    MIAMI – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders issued the following statement tonight after The Associated Press projected that he won Tuesday’s primary election in Michigan:
    “I am grateful to the people of Michigan for defying the pundits and pollsters and giving us their support. This is a critically important night. We came from 30 points down in Michigan and we’re seeing the same kind of come-from-behind momentum all across America.

    “Not only is Michigan the gateway to the rest of the industrial Midwest, the results there show that we are a national campaign. We already have won in the Midwest, New England and the Great Plains and as more people get to know more about who we are and what our views are we’re going to do very well.”

    On the morning of that historic win, when everyone in the media was still insisting Bernie would lose Michigan, Bill Curry wrote an important column that SALON published, "Hillary’s inevitability lie: Why the media and party elites are rushing to nominate the weakest candidate."

    The election’s best news thus far is the evidence it offers that a campaign funded by small donors that stays true to its principles can beat big money. But we don’t know how much dark and super PAC money Clinton commands, or its impact on the race. Here’s hoping the next time she says Wall Street is spending money to defeat her, Bernie points out that it probably spends as much to elect her and that the whole reason he’s running is to make it harder for Wall Street to cover its bets.
    Clinton began the race for the nomination 40 points up. Yet all these advantages — money, superdelegates, calendar, shutting down debates and withholding election results — couldn’t save her. She needed yet more help and got it from liberal lobbies that are all that remains of the great grass-roots movements that once drove all our social progress. Most are led not by grass-roots leaders but by technicians who seek money, access and career advancement and rely on the same consultants advising Clinton, Obama and a long list of corporate clients.

    It's a great column and demonstrated Bill saw what many were missing.  (Disclosure, I know Bill Curry.  And am so impressed that he wrote what he wrote -- I know him from the Clinton years and would not have expected him to publicly go against Hillary's campaign.  Good for Bill.)

    The US Defense Dept announced strikes on Iraq today.

    We'll note that in just a second.  But first, we're not Judith Miller or THE NEW YORK TIMES.  Just because the US government announces something doesn't mean it's true.  They've been shooting off their mouth in the last 24 hours.  It's probably lies -- but THE TIMES ran with it.

    I say probably lies because it's actually a response to Tuesday's hearing and comments a senator made.

    Hopefully, we'll have time to cover that this week.

    In the meantime, we'll close with the US Defense Dept's announcement on strikes:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 11 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
    -- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
    -- Near Mosul, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL assembly area.
    -- Near Ramadi, three strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed six ISIL fighting positions, five ISIL vehicles, and an ISIL vehicle-borne bomb.

    -- Near Sinjar, a strike destroyed five ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL mortar positions.
    -- Near Sultan Abdallah, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL mortar position and an ISIL assembly area and suppressing an ISIL fighting position.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.