Friday, June 12, 2015

Iraq Tweet

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Why military leaders believe US escalation in Iraq is inevitable via
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Why military leaders believe US escalation in Iraq is inevitable via

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The political solution would, apparently, have to wait.

And it has which has rendered any US efforts useless.

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

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

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

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

Charlie Rose: That's right.

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

Charlie Rose:  If you put 150,000 --

Gen Ray Odierno:  But then what?

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

Gen Ray Odierno:  Yeah.

Charlie Rose:  But then what?  But then what? 

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

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

Gen Ray Odierno:  The political problem.

Charlie Rose:  -- the political problem. 

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

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

[cross talk]

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

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

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

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

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

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

The political solution is not being addressed.

It's being ignored.

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

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

So what is Barack doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Margaret Griffis ( counts 61 violent deaths across Iraq.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Thursday, June 11, 2015

    Come Back To The Five and Dime, Robert Parry, Robert Parry

    There is much lacking in Robert Parry's latest column.

    And maybe next time I'll mock an aspect of it.

    Maybe I won't.

    For now, I just want to note that as iffy the steps he's taking are, it's the bravest thing Parry's done since 2007.

    For that I will applaud him.

    Prior to the ascension of Barack, Robert Parry was an important writer.

    He used his brain.

    He explored serious topics.

    His writing mattered.

    Then came Barack and Robert became just, as Tina Turner once sang, "A Fool In Love."

    So I will applaud this latest column as an important one for him.

    And I really, really hope this is a sign of a returned Robert Parry.

    The title is a steal from the Cher, Sandy Dennis, Karen Black (Robert Altman directed) film Come Back To The Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.

    Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

    Wednesday, June 10, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the White House announces more US troops to Iraq, the plan or 'plan' remains the same (and continues to lack a longterm strategy), various people weigh in on Barack's decision, the State Dept continues to wish they could carry guns and shoot-shoot bullets of fire while ignoring the diplomatic role they're supposed to be pursuing, nearly 300 violent deaths in Iraq today, and much more.

    Yesterday's whispers and speculation were accurate, Barack's sending more into Iraq. Today, the White House issued the following announcement:

    The White House
    Office of the Press Secretary
    For Immediate Release

    Statement by the Press Secretary on Additional U.S. Steps in the Counter-ISIL Effort

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

    Kristin Donnelly, Alicia Jennings and Halimah Abdullah (NBC News) note, "The U.S. troops will not serve in a combat role and will augment the more than 3,000 U.S. troops who have already deployed to Iraq, according to administration officials. The first wave moving to the Taqaddum base will be forces already in country on the ground, and then the administration will pull additional forces from out of country to that site."  Wolf Blitzner (CNN -- link is video) explained it this way, "President Obama is now planning to send another 450 US troops to Iraq after confessing just days ago that the US lacked a 'complete strategy' for fighting the terrorist group."

    On All Things Considered (NPR -- link is audio and text), host Audie Cornish discussed Barack's move with NPR correspondent Tom Bowman:

    CORNISH: There are these 450 U.S. military trainers. Is this actually a change in U.S. strategy, or are we seeing more of the same?

    BOWMAN: You know, it's really more of the same. The U.S. will now have about 3,500 troops there. And we're seeing a bit of a change in focus with these new troops - trying to get more Sunni tribal members to fight alongside the army that is largely Shia and take on the so-called Islamic State. Now, they'll be working out of a base not too far from Ramadi. It's called Taqaddum, and it's also, interestingly, where the Marines were stationed during the war. And, of course, Ramadi is a provincial capital, as you said, that was seized by ISIS just a several weeks ago.

    Later in the broadcast, Cornish spoke with former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker who stated, "I think the real significance of the announcement today is not in the number of trainers. It's in the indication that the U.S. is thinking seriously about this, is engaging, perhaps in a way we haven't so far. So I hope there's more to follow. That would be the significance."  US House Speaker John Boehner participated in a press conference today and was one of many weighing in on the announced action.  Martin Matishak (The Hill) quotes Boehner stating, "I support the tactical move the president's taking, but where's the overarching strategy to deal with state -- the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the region, Iran, and to deal with ISIL and all of their related groups?"

    The news prompted a roundtable discussion on The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text and video) where co-anchor Judy Woodruff spoke with "former U.S. Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta, former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, retired General Anthony Zinni, former Undersecretary of Policy at the Department of Defense Michele Flournoy, and retired U.S. Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich."  Excerpt.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Andrew Bacevich, what about you? Is this the right thing to do right now?

    COL. ANDREW BACEVICH (RET.), Boston University: Well, I think it’s a very modest adjustment to the existing policy. And the emphasis here is on very modest.
    The policy is based on the assumption that we have the capability to create effective Iraqi forces. Now, when you think about it, we have been trying to do that for 10 years now. We have not succeeded, and I’m a little bit skeptical that the addition of 450 trainers is going to make that much of a difference.
    I’m sure that they will be able to transfer some important skills to the people that they train, but will they be able to transfer the will to fight, which would seem to be the fundamental problem with the Iraqi forces that have basically been taking a licking from ISIS?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: General Zinni, what about you?

    GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI (RET.), Former Commander, U.S. Central Command: Well, I think it’s an indication that we continue to underestimate the capability of ISIS, the enemy, and overestimate the capabilities of the Iraqi military to deal with this.
    The strategy from the beginning has had several flaws, in my view. One, it believes that time is on our side. It’s been a year now that ISIS has occupied land inside Iraq and has basically not moved much, and we haven’t been able to move them much. And, second, it depends on some magical ground force that’s going to appear through some coalition or the resurrection of an Iraqi military that’s effective.
    That hasn’t happened. Third, it’s based on an Iraqi government that is — to follow what Andrew said, is going to create more in the hearts of the Iraqi military to be willing to fight, and that hasn’t materialized either.
    So I think this is almost deja vu to Vietnam before we committed the ground forces. We dribble in more and more advisers and support. It’s not what’s in the hands of the soldiers. As Andrew said, it’s what’s in their hearts, and that’s going to be the difference. And I don’t think we can continue to let this thing just go on as it is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me turn to Secretary Panetta.
    Why are not those concerns yours, Secretary Panetta? Why shouldn’t Americans be concerned that, if the Iraqis don’t have the will to fight, why should more U.S. trainers make a difference?

    LEON PANETTA: This isn’t just about Iraq. This is about a threat to our national security.
    If ISIS is allowed to have a base of operations in Iraq, make no mistake about it, their intentions are to use that as a base of attacking our country and attacking our homeland. That’s why we have got to push the Iraqis to make sure that the Sunnis do engage and that they’re armed, and that the Kurds do the same.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Colonel Bacevich, though, you’re saying that you don’t think the Iraqis have that will.

    COL. ANDREW J. BACEVICH: Well, more than that, with all due respect, I think Secretary Panetta is vastly exaggerating the threat posed by ISIS.
    The threat posed by ISIS to the United States of America is actually very, very limited. We probably should be worrying more about drug lords in Mexico, in terms of a direct threat to our safety. ISIS threatens the stability of a region that we ourselves destabilized, as a result of our own folly back in 2003. And that’s worth remembering, because we therefore ought to be just a little bit humble about thinking some kind of commitment of American military power directly or indirectly is going to fix the problem.
    The evidence is quite clear. U.S. military intervention in this region creates greater instability, not stability. If we want to somehow find a way to put the region back together again, we need to look to someone else to assume the principal burden for taking the fight to ISIS.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me turn to Michele Flournoy.
    Why isn’t he right, that the U.S. really is overestimating the strength of ISIS; we should be more worried about what’s going on in our border to the south than we are about this fighting forces thousands and thousands of miles away?

    MICHELE FLOURNOY: I think we need to look beyond the snapshot of ISIS today.
    ISIS is the new jihad — violent jihadist vanguard in the Middle East and globally. They are displacing al-Qaida as the — sort of the group to follow and the group to emulate. They are gaining ground in Libya. They are gaining ground even in Afghanistan.
    They, I think in the next few years, if not stopped, will displace al-Qaida and be a global network that will not only have objectives locally, but will have transnational objectives. We already see thousands of foreign fighters coming from Europe, primarily other states in the Gulf. Those fighters will eventually return and be looking to carry out jihad in their home countries.
    But on this question of will to fight, I think the key question is political. The Sunnis have been persecuted by a Shia-dominated government in Iraq. They will fight if they believe that there is a — they’re going to be treated differently in the end. That’s what will create the will to fight on the part of the Sunni population.

    Again, many weighed in today.  Among them, BBC News' Jon Sopel shared this take on the decision:

    After the fall of Ramadi and then the suggestion by the US defence secretary that the Iraqis didn't have the will to fight, this announcement is an admission that the strategy isn't working.
    What is striking is that these additional troops will be operating from a military base in Anbar province, where Islamic State has made major gains.
    The aim is to bring Sunni tribes into the fight against IS - they have so far refused to get involved out of their mistrust of the Shia dominated government in Baghdad.
    Involving them is now a key component of Pentagon strategy.
    But it will mean the US trainers will be operating close to IS front lines, and that will present its own security concerns for the US, and an opportunity for Islamic State.

    Some attempts were made to provide context.

    For example, Bryan Bender, Nahal Toosi and Philip Ewing (POLITICO) offer, "President Barack Obama was elected on a promise of extricating the U.S. military from Iraq -- what he called a 'clean break.' More than six years later, he’s found there’s simply no escaping the pressure to send U.S. combat forces back."

    The War Without End.

    It's not a new creation.

    Nor is Barack the first failure in the Oval Office when it comes to ending a war.

    It would be nice if reporters took the issue seriously and began pressing Barack for serious answers.  Granted, he gives so few real press conferences.  He's more likely to take a few questions at one of those photo op events after he meets with some foreign official, the people he calls on know they're going to be called on and they play their roles like actors not like journalists.

    It was pioneering journalist and legend Nancy Dickerson who got serious with then-President Richard Nixon.  Nancy Dickerson was the subject of the book On Her Trail written by her son John Dickerson who continues to write for Slate and is the new moderator of Face The Nation (CBS).

    In January of 1971, two years into his first term as president, Nancy Dickerson brought up campaign words.

    "Mr. President, speaking of your campaigns, you made the kickoff address in New Hampshire in 1968," Dickerson reminded.  "You made a speech [about] how the next President had give this country the lift of a driving dream."

    Nixon used that phrase repeatedly during the campaign -- his first successful one -- for the presidency.

    "Well," Nancy Dickerson pointed out,  "as yet, many people have failed to perceive the lift of a driving dream.  I wondered if you could articulate that dream for us briefly and tell us how you plan to specifically get it across to the people in the next two years?"

    "Miss Dickerson," Tricky Dick responded,  "before we can really get a lift of a driving dream, we have to get rid of some of the nightmares we inherited.  One of those nightmares is a war without end.  We are ending that war."

    We are?

    "We" wouldn't.

    The war Nixon 'inherited' wouldn't end during his first term.

    Nor would it be ended by him.

    He'd leave in disgrace during his second term, forced to resign to avoid criminal charges (the Watergate scandal).  The war would wind down under his presidential replacement Gerald Ford.

    Barack appears in no danger of impeachment but the Iraq War (he 'inherited') most likely won't end before he leaves office.  Per his own words, the current phase will continue beyond January 2017 when the next US president is sworn in.

    It's a shame there's no equivalent to Nancy Dickerson currently assigned to the White House beat.

    Phyllis Bennis (IPS) explains:

    Almost nine months after President Obama admitted that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to challenge the Islamic State — and just days after he said he still has “no complete Iraq strategy” — the non-strategy suddenly has a name: escalation.
    [. . .]
    The official reason is linked to the Islamic State’s recent seizure of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and a key city only 70 or so miles from Baghdad. (As Business Insider so nicely put it, Ramadi is closer to Baghdad than New York is to East Hampton.)
    Obama and other top U.S. officials initially attempted to downplay the significance of Ramadi, describing the inability of the Iraqi military to defend it as simply a “tactical retreat.” But there’s no question that the loss of the city, followed quickly by the Islamic State’s seizure of the strategic Syrian city and ancient ruins of Palmyra, reflected a serious consolidation of the group’s military power.
    Since then it’s been a rough few weeks for Obama’s war on ISIS.
    On June 2, news broke that the Iraq military had managed to lose 2,300 armored Humvees, at least 40 M1A1 tanks, 74,000 machine guns, and 52 or more howitzers, mainly to the Islamic State. Weapons were abandoned by fleeing troops, captured on the battlefield, and in some cases likely sold to ISIS and other militias. In a Reuters article caustically titled “Dude, Where’s My Humvee?” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi admitted blithely, “we lost a lot of weapons.”
    The Reuters writers were equally direct: “The United States is effectively supplying the Islamic State with tools of war the militant group cannot otherwise hope to acquire from its patrons.”

    The above will allow as honest.  The rest?

    Phyllis is becoming a real embarrassment.

    I don't have time to placate and/or shame her into truth telling the way Elaine did a few years back when Phyllis was lying about the bodycount (Iraqi dead).

    And I'm at the point where I'm probably going to start calling a whore a "whore."

    Phyllis desire to lie and whore is destroying everything she ever stood for.

    I hope when Barack's out of office and Phyllis grasps the tattered remains of her one formidable reputation to her naked body in the public square, she'll still feel propping up a War Hawk, lying for him, was worth it.

    It is so damn amazing to me just how many Socialists in the US have gone out of their way to prop up a Democrat.  What really is in it for them when they whore like this for a Democrat?

    I don't enjoy Ezra Klein's whoring.  But he's a Democrat whoring for a Democratic president so I can at least understand why he's chosen his occupation.

    As a Democrat, I've always assumed Socialists (and Communists) were far more dedicated than I was and far more honest since they didn't have to self-check to make sure they weren't offering knee jerk defenses of their own when it came to politicians.

    But if Barack's two terms in the White House have made anything clear, it's that Socialists will rush to whore for him even faster than Democrats.  Certain Socialists. at any rate.

    At World Socialist Web Site, Tom Hall covered this group of unethicals last week with "The Bernie Sanders campaign and the American pseudo-left."  So it's no surprise that it's at WSWS today where Bill Van Auken cuts through the nonsense and offers the real historical context:

    The bellicose sentiments of the American ruling class found expression in the testimony delivered to a US Congressional panel last week by longtime Pentagon advisor Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington DC think tank.
    “The US needs to act upon a key lesson from Vietnam,” Cordesman told Congress. “Generating or rebuilding forces in the rear is not enough, and is an almost certain recipe for failure. New or weak forces need forward deployed teams of advisors to help them actually fight.”
    In other words, Iraqi government troops will fight only if they are led by US “advisors” sent into combat with them. One would think that the larger lesson of Vietnam is that such tactical remedies cannot overcome the underlying problem of getting an indigenous force to fight on behalf of a corrupt puppet regime imposed by US imperialism.
    The second prescription provided by Cordesman is that the Pentagon cast off its “restrictions on the use of airpower” and accept the “grim realities of war.”
    “The US cannot make avoiding all civilian casualties a strategic objective,” he insisted, adding, “There is nothing humanitarian about saving a small number of civilian lives and opening up whole towns and cities to prolonged occupation by threats” such as ISIS.

    Given that reports compiled by independent journalists place the number of Iraqi and Syrian civilians killed in the air strikes conducted by the US and its allies at between 418 and 850, what Cordesman is advocating is a Vietnam-style slaughter from the air. He speaks for influential layers of the ruling establishment and the Pentagon that want a quick resolution of the crisis in Iraq so that they can turn their attention to the preparation of far more catastrophic wars against nuclear-armed Russia and China.

    Every day, at every White House press briefing, every State Dept press briefing, reporters should be asking, "Where's the political solution?  What's the US government doing to help Iraq reach a political solution?  June 19, 2014, the president said a political solution was Iraq's only hope so what's being done towards that?"

    The Defense Dept can handle bombings all by itself.  It doesn't need the State Dept but, for whatever reasons, the State Dept has confused itself with the Pentagon.

    For example, the State Dept's Deputy Secretary Tweeted this:

    Discussed add'l US train/advise support for Iraqi forces w/ CoR Speaker al-Jibouri tonight. United in fight vs. ISIL.                              


    So you've met with the Speaker of Iraq's Parliament?

    Iraq's Parliament is unicameral.

    That means there's only one house.

    In the US, the Congress is bi-cameral and has the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The United Kingdom has the House of Commons and the House of Lords in their legislative body.

    But Iraq just has one house.  So Salim al-Jabouri is basically Iraq's Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader rolled into one.

    And this is who the State Dept's deputy speaker chose to talk military with?

    Not to address the issues of unity and reconciliation?

    Or issues that the Parliament hasn't voted on (such as the national guard -- there's a military issue big boy Antony could have grabbed).

    al-Jabouri is the highest ranking Sunni official in the Iraq government (the only possible equal would be Osama al-Nujaifi who serves as one of Iraq's three vice presidents and being one of three may reduce al-Nujaifi's power).

    al-Jabouri comes to the US and it's not treated as a major event and a major opportunity to engage in diplomacy on issues related to national unity, reconciliation and much more?

    But almost one year ago, Barack Obama stood before the American people and the world and proclaimed the only answer to Iraq's crises was a political solution?

    This morning, we noted Amnesty International's report on the Yazidis carrying out revenge attacks -- the victims extracting vengeance.  Part of the cycle of violence that will not stop without unity and reconciliation.

    Margaret Griffis ( notes 268 violent deaths across Iraq today -- but Barack sees no pressure to work on that political solution?

    Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  This is from Bacon's "ENFORCEMENT IS NOT THE ANSWER TO EUROPE'S MIGRANT CRISIS" (Al Jazeera America):

    Every day people launch themselves in rickety boats into the Mediterranean, hoping to navigate the perilous passage to Europe -- hundreds drowning in the attempt.  In the last weekend of May alone, European naval and merchant ships rescued more than 5,000 migrants after boats issued a distress call, according the European Union border control agency, Frontex.  The death toll is on the rise.  At least 1, 770 people have died so far this year. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) warns that the migrant death toll could reach 30,000 in 2015.

    Others die in the sea off Southeast Asia, hoping to get to Australia, or any country other than the one they left.  Meanwhile, hundreds die every year crossing the desert through northern Mexico into the United States.  Some perish from thirst and exposure, some fall from railroad cars heading for the border, while dozens more are murdered simply because they're vulnerable migrants.

    Over the last two months, the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean has captured the global spotlight.  But so far the EU response has focused on enforcement and a crackdown on traffickers. Recently some European political leaders proposed using their navies to stop boats carrying migrants, returning the refuge-seekers to their points of origin, mostly in Libya, and then sinking the craft.  This enforcement-based approach not only ignores the primary drives of migration but also jeopardizes millions of people who are seeking refuge from repressive regimes.

    The governments of wealthy countries all use heavy enforcement against migrants as a supposed deterrent to migration.  Australia's navy seizes boats on the high seas, and tows them to the isolated island nation of Nauru.  There it pays a private contractor $1.2 billion to keep migrants in a detention center. The U.S. continues building privately-run detention centers.  The latest, the South Texas Detention Center, already holds 2400 mothers and children from Central America.

    International law guarantees the right to seek asylum.  Seizing boats and mass detentions are violations of this basic right, and endanger migrants themselves.  EU rules and standards require identifying migrants and hosting them in adequate conditions.  Asylum seekers' cases must be assessed on an individual basis in the first country in which they arrive.  They must be allowed to reunite with family members who are already living in EU countries.

    bill van auken

    Wednesday, June 10, 2015

    Chicken S**t of the week

    That award will go to Information Clearing House.

    I was reading Robert Parry's latest bit of nonsense there when I noticed this:

    It is unacceptable to slander, smear or engage in personal attacks on authors of articles posted on ICH.

    Those engaging in that behavior will be banned from the comment section.

    So let me get this straight.

    You can (and do) engage in any attack on Israel -- in articles or in comments at ICH -- and that's okay.

    You can attack people who leave comments -- attack them in the comments.

    You can pretty much do anything except insult the delicate flowers who write for (repost at) ICH.

    Freedom of speech, understand, does not extend to critiques of crap ass writers.

    Dissident Voice pulled this crap before pulling their commenting.

    Information Clearing House is the Chicken S**t of the week.

    Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

    Tuesday, June 10, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack contemplates sending more US troops into Iraq, Barack's Monday snub(s) of Haider al-Abadi get some press attention, more civilians killed in coalition airstrikes and much more.

    US President Barack Obama is said to be readying to send more US troops into Iraq.  Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) explains, "In a major shift of strategy in Iraq, the Obama administration is planning to establish a new military base in Anbar Province and send hundreds of additional American military trainers to help Iraqi forces retake the city of Ramadi and repel the Islamic State."

  • While no announcement has yet to be made,  Keith Koffler (White House Dossier) offers:

    Mission creep continues.
    Fighting war the way liberals love to fight them, President Obama is adding bits and pieces of brigades at a time, adding an additional 500 troops after ISIS swamped Ramadi.
    Because even though everything, according to he White House, is going fine, and ya win some ya lose some when it comes to battles in a war, the reality is that the situation is deteriorating.

    David Lerman and Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg News) add, "Sending more Americans wouldn't solve the political problems that plague the Iraqi government's efforts to rebuild its army after a series of defeats, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration's options. Many Sunnis continue to distrust Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shiite, as an ally of Iran, they said."

    David Martin (CBS News) reports that sending additional US troops into Iraq is only one of three options the White House is considering:

    The next option is to train Sunni tribesmen directly, Colonel Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. This option could be seen as a reprisal of the "Sunni Awakening" of 2006 and 2007. As of now, the job of training Sunnis has been left to the Iraqi government with underwhelming results.
    However, pursuing this option amounts to a vote of no-confidence in the willingness or ability of the Iraqi government to reconcile with the Sunnis. There's also some question as to whether the Sunnis would take up arms against ISIS the way they did against al Qaeda in 2006 and 2007.
    The third option for the U.S. is to close off the main border cross from Turkey into Iraq. Again, Warren on Tuesday mentioned "putting pressure" on border crossing to cut off or reduce the flow of foreign fighters.

    The issue of the US training Iraqi forces was raised at today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jeff Rathke.

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MR RATHKE: Iraq, yes.

    QUESTION: It’s one year since Mosul was taken by ISIS and they still maintain the grip on that city. Do you have any comment?

    MR RATHKE: Well, we’ve always been very clear that this is an Iraqi-led operation and that the timetable for an offensive, first of all, with respect to Mosul is one that will be set by the Iraqis. We are focused on getting Iraqi forces ready, adequately trained and equipped, and our efforts to train and advise Iraqi forces are ongoing at multiple sites across Iraq. And we’re doing that in cooperation not only with the Iraqi Government, but also with our coalition partners. And so that’s a central part of our response and of our broad international coalition, which is working on multiple fronts and multiple lines of effort to degrade and defeat ISIL.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MR RATHKE: Yes, Mary Alice.

    QUESTION: Following up on that question, yesterday President Obama made a comment that there was more training capacity than recruits. Could you perhaps tell us where – what the blockage is within the Iraqi Government to not actually supply more recruits?

    MR RATHKE: Well, it is – as the President said yesterday, one of the things that we have to improve is the speed with which we’re training Iraqi forces, and I think the President also spoke to that. We’re reviewing a range of plans for how that could be done. And I would highlight, though, that there is – we have already – we have trained 9,000 Iraqi troops. There are about 3,100 Iraqi troops currently in training across Iraq through our train, advise, and assist program. It is also true, though, that we have greater capacity to train troops than there are troops currently in the pipeline. And that’s why we’re working with the Government of Iraq to improve that aspect of the program. This is something that Prime Minister Abadi and his council of ministers recognize as well. When they put forward a plan on May 19th, one of the things that acknowledges is they need to expand recruitment into the Iraqi army as one of the key points of that plan.

    QUESTION: But do you know what the obstacle is? Why are they having so much trouble getting recruits? Where is the obstacle? Is it within the government structure itself, or is it that people just don’t want to join?

    MR RATHKE: Well, again, if you look at the response across Iraq, there is a lot of interest in joining. If we switch from the Iraqi army to the Popular Mobilization Forces, there are Sunni volunteers currently being trained by the Iraqis. About 1,000 Sunni fighters were inducted into the Popular Mobilization Forces at the end of May – May 27th – and they joined thousands of other Sunni volunteers who have already joined this program and are fighting side by side with Iraqi Security Forces. For more details about the particular difficulties in recruitment, I’d refer you back, I think, to Iraqi authorities.

    QUESTION: But, Jeff, the Pentagon’s spokesperson, Colonel Steve Warren, just told reporters an hour ago that of the 9,000 or so that have already been trained, a portion of them are Kurdish Peshmerga. So that actually knocks down the number of non-Kurdish Iraqi forces who have actually been trained, which doesn’t exactly put a good light on the efforts to build up the capacity and to try to confront ISIL fighters. And again, to echo Mary Alice’s point, are Iraqis really not willing to take up arms against ISIL, or is this just bureaucratic bottlenecks that are keeping people from actually getting into the training and then getting outfitted and getting deployed?

    MR RATHKE: Well, to go back to your first point, though, yes, some of those forces which we have trained are Kurdish forces, and that’s been part of the plan all along because, as we’ve seen, there are also – I mean, the Kurdish forces are also fighting back against ISIL in northern Iraq in the Kurdish region. So that is necessarily a part of our training and assisting mission with Iraq. So I don’t see any reason to discount those from the overall numbers that we’ve trained. We’re helping Iraqis push back against ISIL in all of those places of Iraq where they have tried to expand – not only in Anbar, although Anbar, of course, is a key region.

    QUESTION: But it does beg the question that in a country of some 25-odd million people that the most that have been trained is still under 10,000 in total to date.

    MR RATHKE: Well, those – that’s through the U.S. train, advise, and assist program. So those are the ones we have trained. We have a footprint of about 3,000 trainers on the ground, and that – again, we’re looking at ways to increase the throughput and the recruitment, because we have some additional capacity and we want to make use of it.

    QUESTION: Jeff?

    MR RATHKE: Yes.

    QUESTION: Can I just say something here to correct the record --

    MR RATHKE: Sure.

    QUESTION: -- and to do it because she’s too polite to herself. But the person to whom you’re referring as Mary Alice is named – her name is Sharon.

    MR RATHKE: Oh my goodness. Well then, I apologize most heartfeltly. Sorry about that.
    Yes, go ahead.

    QUESTION: Are you convinced that the 9,000 that you have trained through the American train, advise, and assist program have the will to fight?

    MR RATHKE: That’s certainly been our experience, and I think we’ve spoken to this since the fall of Ramadi. The President also has spoken about it. And our experience has been that for those forces who have gone through our train, advise, and assist program and are properly equipped and are part of an Iraqi command and control structure, that they have fought well. That’s – I think there’s been a lot of discussion of the situation in Ramadi and how that differed. I don’t have anything to add to those discussions, but I think that’s certainly been our view of things and I think that’s shared by others in the U.S. Government.

    The White House has bigger problems than the State Dept's spin being refuted as it's being spun.  There's also the issue of the Sunnis in Iraq.  Yerevan Saeed (Rudaw) explains:

    US diplomats have been talking to Sunni leaders, trying to convince them to join the fight against ISIS. But they have failed to talk to the real influential Sunni leaders who enjoy greater trust in their communities. Instead, the Americans have depended on elected officials, or tribal leaders who are seen as pawns of the Baghdad government. This has amounted to a major blunder in the US strategy to bring the Sunni tribes on board against ISIS. When Anbar’s capital Ramadi fell last month, the Iraqi army abandoned large numbers of weapons of all types, including tanks, Humvees and munitions, which were seized by ISIS. Meanwhile, the Sunnis had been begging Baghdad for months for enough weapons to push back ISIS from Anbar.  To the Sunnis, it appears as if the government prefers the weapons to fall into ISIS hands than to be given to their own fighters. This has angered many Sunni tribal sheikhs, who have accused Baghdad of backstabbing.  

    At last, US diplomatic efforts in Iraq!

    . . . to build the military.

    The State Dept's Brett McGurk gets all giddy and wet over the actions of the military.

    1. 87 airstrikes against terrorists in & over last 72 hours including , , , , & across .

    At what point does Barack intend to turn the focus on the needed political solution which he swore was the only answer this time last year?  (June 19, 2014 is when he made those statements.)

    Lara Jakes (Foreign Policy) reports that Salim al-Jabouri, Speaker of Parliament, is in DC and arguing for the White House to directly arm the Sunnis in Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State.  In addition, Lara Jakes outlines how the big face-to-face Iraq's prime minister had with Barack on Monday didn't go that well:

    Perhaps it is little wonder that Iraq feels its fight against the Islamic State does not have the West’s full support. For all the tough talk this week at the G-7 summit in Germany about defeating the extremists, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi left with little more than securing new help from 125 British troops and a lecture from U.S. President Barack Obama about how Baghdad has hindered a strategy for the war.
    And then, of course, there was this: A video of Obama seemingly oblivious to Abadi patiently waiting to talk to him before giving up and walking away as the American president happily chats with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and IMF chief Christine Lagarde.
    “I have to look at this as the Iraqi people would see it,” Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri said Tuesday, watching a clip of the video during an interview in Washington with Foreign Policy. He smiled ruefully and shook his head. “Ignoring us and our problem — it is very clear,” he said, as translated by a State Department contractor. “It’s really as if the United States is not really looking at our problems or not paying attention to us.”

    Lara Jakes is being rather kind by only noting the video which has Barack upright with his back to Haider as Haider and his translator are trying to get a word in.

    That's not the only time Barack was caught ignoring Haider.

    There's also this now infamous photo.

  • The picture captures something more than accidentally not seeing Haider.  This is an active decision to ignore as evidenced by the position of the spine (Barack's) and the use of the hand.

    Meanwhile,  Margaret Griffis ( counts 141 violent deaths across Iraq and notes, "In Mosul, 20 civilians were killed, including children, and 13 more were wounded in a coalition airstrike. An airstrike left 18 militants dead."