Friday, February 06, 2015

Robert Parry is nuts

Robert Parry's the elderly man whose lost his mind and mumbles over and over about the 80s

His latest nonsense is at ICH.

He again goes in search of (tired) monsters to slay so he doesn't have to call out his lover Barack.

Robert Parry is nuts.

He acts like a giddy girl groupie desperate to spread for Barack.

Instead of being a grown up, he's a groupie.

He just needs to retire.

Each article makes him more of a joke.

And more of an embarrassment.

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

Thursday, February 5, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue,  Haider sends food -- Brett McGurk wants you to know -- to Falluja but only after a child dies from the lack of it -- which Brett doesn't want you to know, the Yazidis' revenge attacks get some attention, vengeance gets called out by Amnesty, Senator Richard Blumenthal has some questions regarding veterans, and much more.

Wednesday's snapshot covered some of that day's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the nomination of Ashton Carter to be Secretary of Defense.  Senator John McCain is the Chair of the Committee, Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member.

We're going to return to the hearing to note Senator Richard Blumenthal addressing veterans issues and Senator Ted Cruz on ISIS.  First veterans.

Senator Richard Blumenthal: Let me move to another area that is very close to my heart and I, again, want to thank our Chairman, Senator [John] McCain, who joined with me in co-sponsoring a measure, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, Suicide remains a difficult and daunting, horrific problem not only among our veterans -- 22 every day commit suicide -- but also in our active military.  And you and I have talked about this problem.  I believe you're very much attune to it and I'm hopeful that you will continue the military's commitment and the Department of Defense's commitment to providing the mental health care that's necessary to help our warriors deal with these invisible wounds and demons that come back from the battlefield with them.

Ashton Carter: I-I-I am attune to it and they're our -- they're our people and we need to care about them and care for them.  And those who are having these kind of-of thoughts need help.

We did note Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's press release on this legislation in a snapshot earlier this week.  From outside Congress, IAVA led the push for this bill to introduced and to be put to a vote.

From inside Congress, there were many leaders including Senator Patty Murray, the former Chair of the Senate Budget Committee who serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (which she also chaired).  Her office issued the following Tuesday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, February 3, 2015                                                            (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: Murray Votes to Pass Clay Hunt Veterans Suicide Prevention Bill
Suicide prevention bill now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature
Murray: “We simply must do more to ensure the men and women who have served our country get the physical, mental, and emotional support they need when they come home”
Washington state is home to over 600,000 veterans

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray voted to pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.  Senator Murray is an original co-sponsor of the bill, which would require the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish an annual third-party evaluation of VA’s mental health care and suicide prevention programs, promote greater collaboration with community mental health resources, and create a pilot program to attract and retain Department psychiatrists.  The bill is also designed to combat veteran suicide by improving the quality of care at VA facilities and creating a strong base for future mental health initiatives. This bill passes at a critical time when suicide rates continue to rise among female veterans who use VA care, and the rate of suicide has skyrocketed to 79 per 100,000 among male veterans ages 18-24 who use VA services.

“Every day, twenty-two American veterans die from suicide, so as a country, we simply must do more to ensure the men and women who have served our country get the physical, mental, and emotional support they need when they come home,” said Senator Murray.  “This legislation will help the VA continue taking steps to make sure it is doing everything it can, from prevention programs to improved recruitment of mental health providers, to giving our nation’s heroes the care they deserve.”

Throughout her career, Senator Murray has been an advocate for service members, veterans, and their families. In 2012 Senator Murray passed the Mental Health ACCESS Act which improved access to the VA’s mental health support services and care. According to a VA report published in 2013, over 25 percent of all suicides in Washington state were identified as veterans, among the highest group of states reporting suicides by veteran status.

The Clay Hunt bill passed the House on January 12th, 2015. Now after Senate passage, it heads to the President’s desk for his signature.

Leah Kennebeck
Deputy Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

In the years we've been attending and reporting on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, we've seen strong leadership from many including Senator Murray, Senator Daniel Akaka and Senator Richard Burr.  Today, the new Chair is Johnny Isakson and Richard Blumenthal is the Ranking Member.  Hopefully, they will offer strong leadership and also continue the Committee's near-unbroken efforts at working together as one functioning committee and not as two different wings of a committee at war with one another.

For that to happen, they'll have to regain the past footing that was lost under the previous Chair Bernie Sanders who frequently mistook grandstanding and finger pointing for leadership.  It was not helpful and goes a long way towards explaining useless hearings and very little work done on behalf of veterans when Sanders Chaired the Committee.

For example, the Clay Hunt bill didn't get past in the last months of the previous Congress though it easily could have if Sanders had focused on veterans and not on his petty wars with senators on the other side of the aisle.

Senator Blumenthal is someone I expect to carry on the tradition of Akaka and Murray in putting veterans first -- I expect that based upon the work he's already been doing as a member of the Committee since being elected to the Senate.  I hope the same will be true of Isakson but I'm less familiar with his efforts.

Back to Wednesday's hearing and Blumenthal.

Senator Richard Blumenthal: On the issue of our veterans who have suffered from post-traumatic stress as again you and I have discussed, your predecessor Secretary Hagel worked with me, responded to my urging him to establish a new policy guidance on September 3, 2014 that finally directed proper consideration of Post Traumatic Stress by the Boards for Correction of Military Records when considering upgrade requests.  Post-Traumatic Stress was unknown in the Vietnam and Korean eras -- not unknown because it didn't exist but unknown because it wasn't diagnosed and so this new policy gives proper recognition to a medical condition that simply was never diagnosed at the time but may cause less than honorable discharges.  And I hope that, if confirmed, you'll ensure full and forceful implementation of this policy and continue outreach because it's so vitally necessary outreach to anyone who might be able to apply under the new guidelines.

Ashton Carter: I-I-I will.  We've learned a lot about that, sadly, in recent years and understand now, uh, a lot better that it truly is a-a-a malady that, uh, we can and need to address.  And thank you for taking an interest in it as you've done about the welfare of the troops in so many ways that you've -- in the course of the wars, I was always very grateful 

Senator Richard Blumenthal:  Thank you.

Ahston Carter:  -- for your attention to the troops.

Senator Richard Blumenthal:  Thank you very much.  I should probably stop there but I do have a couple of more questions.  But I do appreciate your kind words. On the inter-operability of the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration -- and I'm the Ranking Member on the Veterans Administration's Veterans Affairs Committee of the Senate and I think there's been an ongoing concern -- you're aware of it -- of the issues relating to the integrated, electronic health records integrated disability system treating military sexual trauma and other shared efforts that really involve a gap between these two great departments each with a vital mission and I'm hoping that you will continue the effort that your predecessor, I believe, found very important to close that gap and make sure that there really is the kind of connection -- the vital, vibrant connection that is important to our troops and then to our veterans.

Ashton Carter: I-I-I recognize that gap and uh, uhm, there's only one soldier -- there are two cabinet departments.  One soldier shouldn't have to worry about two cabinet departments.

This is an important issue that was touched on and not really explored.  Blumenthal's time was up.  I don't know that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will lead on this issue. I hope they will. But, historically, the leadership here has come from the House Veterans Affairs Committee -- first from then-US House Rep Bob Filner and since from US House Rep Jeff Miller who is the Chair of Committee and does not let someone putting up a wall stop him.

Miller is tenacious and determined and that's necessary on this issue.

We're talking about a record that is created when a person joins the service -- a medical record.  It needs to be electronic and able to follow the service member through their service time but also when they leave the service and become veterans.

Why one record?

There are many reasons but let's offer one.  Post-Traumatic Stress.  Getting the rating required for that means documentation.  An electronic record that follows the service member as they transition to veteran status can ensure that P-TS or other issues are fully documented and the veteran isn't left trying to assemble documentation after the fact -- documentation the veteran's medical file should include but, when it's paper, may have been lost in transition.

This seamless, electronic record has had a ton of money already spent on it.

It's still not 'arrived' yet.

It was supposed to be in place, at one point, before Bully Boy Bush left the White House.  That didn't happen.  But US President Barack Obama was going to ensure it was implemented.


Didn't happen.

He's got two more years.

In fairness to Barack, the stumbling block was Eric Shinseki.

While VA Secretary, Shinseki had no real interest in anything but the pretense of going through the motions.

With Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Shinseki agreed to and outlined the type of system needed.  Then Leon Panetta replaced Gates.  Despite Panetta telling Shinseki he was fine with whatever had been agreed to (by Gates), Shinseki used the new Secretary of Defense as a means to stall progress.  Then Chuck Hagel replaced Panetta.  And Shinseki thought he'd used Hagel as well.

He did that once.

In an opening hearing.

Once was all Hagel was going to take.

He requested (demanded) a sit-down with Barack on this.

Barack met with Hagel and Shinseki and all the basics were supposedly agreed to.

But the seamless, electronic record is still not a reality.

At what point is going to become a reality?

Both the House and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committees need to be actively following this and holding public hearings on this.  Not only has so much money been wasted in the last six years alone, but the record is needed, those who serve would benefit from it tremendously and it would be so important to accurate ratings on disabilities among other issues.

Let's move over to Iraq.  You might think that with a billion dollars spent 'fighting' the Islamic State just since August -- over a billion US taxpayer dollars -- that Iraq would be a major part of the hearing but you would be wrong.  It was largely ignored.  Chair McCain addressed it and Ranking Member Jack Reed did.  Another raising the issue was Senator Ted Cruz.

Senator Ted Cruz:  How would you characterize our objective right now with regards to ISIS?

Ashton Carter:  To inflict a lasting defeat on ISIS.  I only add the word "lasting" to re-enforce the idea that once they're beaten, they need to stay beaten. Which means you need to create the conditions in Iraq and Syria so that they stay defeated.

Senator Ted Cruz: And final question, in your professional judgment, what would be required militarily for you to destroy or, as you put it, inflict a lasting defeat on ISIS?

Ashton Carter: Uh-uh, militarily it would be the, uh-uh-uh, dismantlement of their forces and their networks.  And, uh-uh, to get to the point about lastingly to -- there's a political ingredient of this uh-uh which I uh need to add which is to have them replaced in Iraq and Syria with, uhm-uh, a government that the people, uh, want to be part of, uh, and so they don't have to be governed by maniacs and terrorists.

Violence continues in Iraq.  All Iraq News notes 4 Baghdad bombings left 1 person dead and fourteen more injured and security forces state that the Islamic State burned 3 people to death in Heet.

The State Dept's Brett McGurk re-Tweeted  this today:

Under the instructions of PM Al-Abadi, 221.5 tons of food items have arrived in Anbar province this morning.
0 replies25 retweets25 favorites

Do you wonder why?

Because he wants that message out, not this one:

وفاة الطفل عبدالله طه العيساوي نتيجة الحصار على الفلوجة وقلة الغذاء والدواء وعدم تواجد الفريق الطبي المتخصص بالأطفال.
0 replies51 retweets22 favorites

Iraqi Spring MC is raising attention to the death of Abdullah Taha al-Isawi in Falluja.  Why did the child die?  A lack of food, a lack of medicine.

Brett McGurk, after the death of Abudllah, wants to reTweet Haider's late food shipment.

Wants to rob the action of the context in which it took place.

Wants to pretend Haider did something wonderful.

The reality is Abudllah suffered because of Haider and so many civilians in Falluja continue to suffer because Haider's failed to be a leader.

There has been no real effort at political solutions in Iraq.  The US has pushed for retaliation and has set an example by doing that -- not a good example, true, but an example none the less.

Clearly, the Yazidis now believe violence is the answer.  Dropping back to the January 27th snapshot:

While Barack worried about diplomacy in Saudi Arabia, a natural event took place in Iraq.
The persecuted decided to persecute.  EFE reports:

A militant group including Yazidi and Syrian Kurdish fighters has killed at least 25 Arab civilians on the perimeters of the northwestern Iraqi town of Rabia, on the Syrian border, an official source announced on Tuesday.
Hosam al-Abar, a member of Niniveh's Provincial Council, told Efe that a series of barbaric revenge attacks targeted four Arab villages located 120 kilometers (74 miles) west of Mosul.
The attacks were carried out by Yazidi fighters supported by militias affiliated to Syrian Kurdish parties.

'Pity us!  Feel sorry for us!  Now look the other way as we kill and kidnap!'

This is only a manifestation of the hateful remarks some Yazidis were making publicly in 2013 and 2014.  Their being trapped on the mountain was a crisis and did require humanitarian aid being dropped to them.  That's really all the US should have committed.  (And that's all we advocated for here.)  In Iraq, the Yazidis are basically the short man at the party -- chip on their shoulder and easily outraged.
Years of being called "Satan worshipers" took their toll long before the Islamic State showed up.
Now they've mistaken global pity for permission to destroy and kill.

Last Thursday, Khales Joumah (Niqash) reported on the Yazidis attacking of Arab communities and concluded with this:

The fallout from the massacre saw Yazidi leaders, who have become responsible for parts of Sinjar newly liberated from the IS group, organized a meeting. They condemned the massacre and promised that such an act would never be repeated. They also said that the fighters who had carried out these acts were not able to be identified as they don’t belong to any of the known fighting factions. 

The provincial council says that there are now around a thousand families who have left their homes and who are in need of shelter and aid. On the ground in the area are hundreds of armed men from the villages which were attacked, vowing to protect what is theirs should they be attacked again. In the middle are a handful of Iraqi Kurdish military. Right now things are relatively calm but if tribal justice – which calls for reparations and an eye for an eye - continues to be meted out, it is hard to say how long it will stay that way.

As for Zahra, she found shelter in the home of a nearby relative. But she couldn’t stand not knowing what had happened to her family whom she had left at the mercy of very angry fighters. So, still wearing the same black clothing she had on the night of the attack, she returned to her village to search for her husband and two young sons. She eventually found their burnt corpses in one of the houses in the village that had been set on fire. 

Vengeance doesn't usually end violence.  It's a mirror to reflects and reproduces violence.  Which is why we've noted the response from the Jordanian kingdom this week has been risky and damaging.  Amnesty International released the following statement on the rush to vengeance:

The vicious summary killing of a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive by the armed group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS) is an atrocious attack against humanity, said Amnesty International, but responding with executions is not the answer.
The video showing Muath al-Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage has sent shockwaves across the world. This morning at dawn the Jordanian authorities executed Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouli, two Iraqis linked to al-Qa’ida, in apparent revenge for his killing.
“The abhorrent killing of Muath al-Kasasbeh is a war crime and an all-out attack on the most basic principles of humanity,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“The Jordanian authorities are rightly horrified by this utterly reprehensible killing but the response should never be to resort to the death penalty, which itself is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The death penalty should also not be used as a tool for revenge. The IS’s gruesome tactics must not be allowed to fuel a bloody cycle of reprisal executions.”
Under international humanitarian law holding hostages is a war crime and all detainees should be treated humanely by their captors.
“The killing of Muath al-Kasasbeh while he was trapped in a cage in such a brutal and orchestrated manner shows the savagery that a group like the IS is capable of,” said Philip Luther.
One of those executed by the Jordanian authorities today was Sajida al-Rishawi, who was on death row for her role in the 2005 bombing in Amman that killed 60 people. Her lawyer’s request for her to undergo psychiatric assessment to assess her mental fitness to stand trial was refused by the court.
According to a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, following his visit to Jordan in 2006, she was tortured during interrogation over a month-long period in the custody of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID).
Ziad Karbouli, the second person executed this morning, was convicted on charges of belonging to an illegal organization, possessing explosives leading to death of a person and murder. His lawyer told Amnesty International that he had been forced to confess under duress.
After an eight-year halt in executions, Jordan resumed its use of the death penalty in December 2014 when it carried out the executions of 11 men. Amnesty International is calling on Jordan to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
Muath al-Kasasbeh, a fighter pilot in the Jordanian air force, was captured when his plane came down near al-Raqqa, Syria, during a mission against the IS in December 2014.
The IS has killed dozens of its captives in the past year including in the past month the Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and a second Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa.
Amnesty International calls on the IS to cease summary killings, abductions and hostage taking. 

Brian Williams?

E-mails ask about when Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, will be noted here for getting caught lying about Iraq?

It's a TV issue.  Ava and I plan to cover it Sunday.  We toyed with doing it here and risking the wrath of Jim who would (rightly) point out it was a TV issue so it belonged to our beat at The Third Estate Sunday Review.

If between now and Sunday someone grabbed our point and ran with it?  Well, we'd find something else to cover.

But we were pretty sure that the the issue we saw would be missed or overlooked by others -- we think its the main point.  And it has been missed or overlooked.  So many silly people commenting but not really grasping.  It's part of a problem Ava and I've documented with NBC News -- documented in the past at Third.  Justin Raimondo has an interesting take at -- read it, it's worth reading.  But that's not the way we're approaching it.

Does Brian Williams need to go?  His lies may mean he has to but the issue is larger than his lies.  So unless someone grasps the point between now and Sunday, Ava and I will cover it at Third.

In addition to noting Justin Raimondo's take, we'll also link to Jim Naureckas' piece at FAIR.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The CIA and the press

Ralph Lopez has a blockbuster report at Information Clearing House:

Becoming the first credentialed, well-known media insider to step forward and state publicly that he was secretly a "propagandist," an editor of a major German daily has said that he personally planted stories for the CIA.
Saying he believes a medical condition gives him only a few years to live, and that he is filled with remorse, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, the editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany's largest newspapers, said in an interview that he accepted news stories written and given to him by the CIA and published them under his own name. Ulfkotte said the aim of much of the deception was to drive nations toward war.  
Dr. Ulfkotte says the corruption of journalists and major news outlets by the CIA is routine, accepted, and widespread in the western media, and that journalists who do not comply either cannot get jobs at any news organization, or find their careers cut short.

You really need to read the article.

And you need to grasp just how much manipulation takes place.

We could address it if we could stop the hatred on our side.

Larry Candy Ass Bitch Everest, I mean you.

That f**kwad wrote a piece attacking Chris Kyle.

Just wrote.

Because he needed to work his hate.

Candy Ass Larry is a Communist, a 'revolutionary' one.

So why doesn't bitch act like one?

You don't spew hate at the masses or at the people.

You go into a factory, you don't attack the workers.

You try to reach them.

You try to speak to them.

Larry The F**kwad is the best reason for the demise of the Communist Party in the United States.

They're unable to connect with real people.

If they think what Kyle did was horrific (he's the basis for the new film American Sniper), he needs to not attack Kyle but express solidarity with him as a victim of a system.

And that approach might allow him to reach others.

Instead, he's standing alone in his church falling apart at load bearing walls as he waits for the tiny number of people who already agree with him to show up.

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Shi'ite militias -- insists the minister of Iraq's Human Rights Ministry -- have killed only a 'tiny' number of Sunnis, the nominee for US Secretary of Defense is concerned about Iran's influence in Iraq and wanting to arm the CIA-backed 'rebels' in Ukraine, and much more.

Remember when the media used to mock the way Sarah Palin spoke when answering questions?

"And to -- uh I-I-I think the uh-uh-uh the-the strategy connects, ends and means -- and our ends with respect to uh  ISIL needs to be it's lasting defeat.  Uh,  I say lasting because it's important when they get defeated and they stay defeated.  Uh, and, uh, that is why it's important that, uh, we have, uh, those on the ground there who will ensure they stay defeated once  defeated."

And to really underscore that statement by Ashton Carter, let's note that it was in response to this question from Senator John McCain, "What do you understand the strategy to be?"

Again, the answer was:

And to -- uh I-I-I think the uh-uh-uh the-the strategy connects, ends and means -- and our ends with respect to uh  ISIL needs to be it's lasting defeat.  Uh,  I say lasting because it's important when they get defeated and they stay defeated.  Uh, and, uh, that is why it's important that, uh, we have, uh, those on the ground there who will ensure they stay defeated once  defeated.

This morning the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing.  Senator John McCain is the Committee Chair and Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member.  They heard from only one witness:  Ashton Carter,  the nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense.

Yes, it's time for a new Secretary of Defense.

It's the start of year seven of Barack's eight years as president and that means a new Secretary of Defense, apparently.

Already, his tenure has seen Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel serve as Secretary of Defense.

So, if confirmed, Ashton Carter will be the fourth Secretary of Defense in the administration.

For context, let's turn to Bill Clinton's terms.

Bill was elected president twice (1992 and 1996).

In his eight years, he had three Defense Secretaries: Les Aspin, William Perry and William Cohen.

Aspin was a mistake.  He had health issues which got worse in his brief tenure and he also had a highly embarrassing public moment (the Mogadishu attack which left eighteen US service members dead and over seventy injured) which led Bill to ask for Aspin's resignation.

Barack's asked for no resignations (as far as we know) from Gates, Panetta or Hagel.  He just can't seem to keep them.  Maybe he should be singing "Shake It Off"?

I go on too many dates
But I can't make them stay
That's what people say
-- "Shake It Off," written by Taylor Swift, first appears on her 1989.

Carter's biography at DoD is as follows:

Ashton B. Carter served as the Deputy Secretary of Defense from October 2011 to December 2013.
Previously, Dr. Carter served as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics from April 2009 until October 2011.  As Under Secretary, Dr. Carter led the Department’s efforts to accelerate the fulfillment of urgent operational needs; increase the Department’s buying power; and strengthen the nation¹s defenses against emerging threats.
Over the course of his career in public service, Dr. Carter has four times been awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal.  For his contributions to intelligence, Dr. Carter was awarded the Defense Intelligence Medal.
Dr. Carter earned bachelor's degrees in physics and in medieval history from Yale University, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and received his doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. 
Prior to his most recent government service, Dr. Carter was chair of the International and Global Affairs faculty at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Co-Director of the Preventive Defense Project.   Dr. Carter was also Senior Partner at Global Technology Partners, a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, a member of the Board of Trustees of the MITRE Corporation and the Advisory Boards of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratories and the Draper Laboratory, and an advisor to Goldman Sachs.
During the Clinton Administration, Dr. Carter was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.  From 1990 until 1993, Dr. Carter was Director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Chairman of the Editorial Board of International Security.  Previously, he held positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and Rockefeller University.
Dr. Carter is a member of the President’s Management Council and the National Council on Federal-Labor-Management Relations. He has previously served on the White House Government Accountability and Transparency Board, the Defense Science Board, the Defense Policy Board, the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board, and the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States.  
Dr. Carter is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Diplomacy and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Physical Society.
In addition to authoring articles, scientific publications, government studies, and Congressional testimonies, Dr. Carter has co-edited and co-authored eleven books.

Dr. Carter is married to Stephanie Carter and has two grown children.

His wife Stephanie sat behind him this morning and fidgeted throughout the (very long) hearing.

Various issues came up throughout the hearing.  We'll note this exchange on Iraq.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: So, the Middle East, do you believe the most immediate threat there to US interests in the region is ISIL?

Ashton Carter: Uh, uh-uh-uh-uh, I hesitate to, uh-uh-uh, ISIL only because in the back of my mind is Iran as well.  Uh-uh-uh, so I think that we have two immediate, substantial dangers, uh, in the Middle East.  Uh, one is ISIL and one is Iran.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: In terms of our current military operations, they are clearly directed at ISIL is that --

Ashton Carter:  That's true.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: -- the appropriate response at this moment to the threats in the region.

Ashton Carter:  It is. 

Ranking Member Jack Reed: And as you point out, there are two theaters.  One is Iraq where we have more traction and the other is Syria.  So you would think in terms of responding to the threat that our actions or our vigorous support of the current Iraqi government is appropriate in responding to this ISIL threat?

Ashton Carter:  It is appropriate if I -- as I said -- if I -- if, uh, -- whether and how to improve it will be my first job if I'm confirmed as Secretary of Defense.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: One of the issues  -- particular with respect to Iraq --  is that not only  improvement as you suggest in your comments, the longterm defeat, uh, of ISIL rests not just on military operations but on political arrangements.  And what we've witnessed in Iraq particularly was a political arrangement that consciously and deliberately degraded the Sunni population.  At least, that's there perception.  And it gave rise.  So would you acknowledge that part of a strategy has to be constituting an Iraqi government that is perceived by its own people as being a bit fairer and inclusive?

Ashton Carter: Absolutely.  That's what the previous government of Iraq did not do and that was instrumental in their military collapse.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: And one of the issues that complicates, you've pointed out, in terms of Iran being a strategic issue for the United States in the region is their relative influence in Iraq and throughout the region was enhanced over the last several years by the government in Iraq, by the [Nouri al-] Maliki government.  Is that accurate?

Ashton Carter:  That is accurate, yes.

Ranking Member Jack Reed:  So we are now in a position of.trying to essentially contain the regional ambitions of the Iranians and kinetically defeat the Sunni radical Islamists.  Is that the strategy?

Ashton Carter: Yes, that sounds right.

Ranking Member Jack Reed:  And you understand that?  And that to you is a coherent strategy?

Ashton Carter: It is, uh, yes.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: Uh, now that means that your prioritizing -- or the administration is prioritizing these actions you've talked about in building, uh, over time, capability in Syria. Uh, in terms of using US resources in addressing the most serious threats, is that a coherent response in your mind?

Ashton Carter: Uh, I think it is the beginning of a, uh, strategic response.  Uh, I think that, uh, as I noted on the, uh, Syrian side of the border, the, uh, assembling of the force that is going to keep ISIL defeated. Uh, there is, uh -- We're in the early stage of trying to build that force.  We're participating in the uh-uh building of that force, I think it's fair to say that we're at an earlier stage there.  On the Iraqi side, we have the existing Iraqi force.

Senator Jack Reed:  Let me --

Ashton Carter:  Uh, uh, mister, uh, Senator Reed -- 

Senator Jack Reed:  Please.

Ashton Carter:  Let me add one other thing.  Maybe it's something I missed in your, uh, line of uh-uh questioning.  There is, uh, an issue, uh-uh, looming over this which is Iraq in the region.  I mean Iran in the whole region.  That is why I pointed it out at the beginning.  That is a serious complication. 

There are other moments I'd like to note about the hearing.

I'm not really concerned with his position on the Ukraine -- but then I'm not selling war on the Ukraine.

The US press corps is which is why they ran like crazy with that aspect of the hearing.

They can't stop beating off and fingering themselves to the thought of a full blown US invasion of Ukraine.  They're that sick and that nutty.

Carter insisted that he did support sending arms to the so-called 'rebels' in Ukraine and, in one exchange, he added "lethal arms" at that.

If they were less hot and bothered over war on Ukraine, they might have wondered about his wording and if that reflected on his competency?

I have no idea if it does or not.

People can get flustered speaking off the top of their heads and clearly Ashton Carter was flustered throughout the hearing.

But if someone's going to be over the Defense Dept, I kind of expect that they would grasp that any arms sent to be used in battle would be "lethal arms."

Or is Carter proposing water guns and super soaker water blasters be sent to the CIA-backed 'rebels' in the Ukraine?

Equally true, it doesn't matter what Carter thinks.

US policy in terms of whether to go to war will continue to be decided by the president and the national security advisor and others -- the others and the national security advisor were, of course, neither elected nor confirmed by an elected body.

The American people had no say in them.

That's not how it's supposed to be in a democracy.

And careful readers of Robert Gates and Leon Panetta's recent autobiographies caught what the press refused to explore: how little the Secretary of Defense can impact foreign policy.

What the person holding the post can impact is regulations and rules for those serving.

With that in mind, we'll note this exchange.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: [. . .] but specifically, let's focus on the military sexual assault issue, which you know, I'm very passionate about trying to solve this scourge.  One of the concerns I have is that last year, we had 20,000 cases of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact within the military.  And I would like your view as to whether you believe that level of sexual assault today is still the good order and discipline we would want from our services?

Ashton Carter:  No, Senator, it's not. And I-I use the word "passion."  I have the same passion you do.  This-this problem of sexual assault is something that is -- It persists in our military.  It's widespread in our society but it's particularly offensive in the military community because uh-uh-uhm the military community ethos is one of -- one of honor.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:  Mm-hmm.

Ashton Carter: And uh-uh trust.  You have to trust the person who is, so to speak, in the foxhole next to you.  These are violations of honor and trust.  It-it-it -- Also in military life, we put people in positions -- we put them in positions of austere deployment -- of a situation where the hierarchy of military life is a necessity in-in battle.  And these also provide opportunities -- these -- this-this military context for predators.  So it is more offensive in military, uh, life even than civilian life.  And we've-we've got to root it out.  And I-I know that many members of this Committee, but you especially, Senator, have-have led in that regard.  And I'm-I'm grateful for the, uhm -- for the thoughts and, uhm, frankly for-for keeping the heat on. I-I-I-I -- If I'm confirmed, I'll feel that heat and I'll-I'll understand it and-and be with it. 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:  The one statistic I was particularly concerned about in the most recent report is that in all those who were willing to report the assaults openly were retaliated against.  62% of those who reported these crimes were retaliated against -- experienced some form of retaliation.  So I am highly concerned that the military is still failing in living up to their zero tolerance policy.  Do you agree?

Ashton Carter: I-I-I-I  do agree that retaliation is a dimension of the problem that be-  we-- uh, to me at least is-is-is, uh, uh.uh,uh, be-be-becoming increasingly apparent.  Uh, this is a problem, if I may -- if I may say -- and you know this because you've worked so-so hard on it.-- but that the more we dig into it, the more dimensions of it we come to understand.  And I think the idea that victims are retaliated against not only by the hierarchy above them but by their peers is something that is unacceptable that we have to combat also.  And the survey that you referred to indicated that that is widespread and we need to get at that. 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:  I understand from your testimony that you place a premium on chain of command and I fully understand that for combat situations the chain of command is not only essential but necessary in every respect.  Uhm, I would like you though to consider all options for how you can reform the military justice system to actually professionalize it, make it more effective.  And when our allies have reformed their military justice system to guarantee more civil liberties and to professionalize it and to take out biases, they've not seen diminution in the ability to train troops, to instill good order and discipline within the troops and to do their jobs.  I would ask you that you would keep an open mind to look at all possible solutions for improving our criminal justice system within the military

Ashton Carter:  I-I will.  

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:  Thank you.  Another concern I have is in terms of the issue of how we can create opportunities for women in combat. One of the issues that I have looked at is how each of the services being able to open those positions -- opening all positions to women in combat because, as you know, in order to become promoted within the military, often times combat missions are required and having certain roles that require combat is required for promotion.  Are you committed to allowing women to serve in all positions and to gender-neutral standards for each of the services. 

Ashton Carter:  I-I'm certainly committed to gender-neutral, uh, standards.  Uh, the forces -- What I do know is this: That the, uh, services are examining whether there are any positions, uh-uh-uh, in the military that should not be open to women. I strongly incline towards opening them all to women but I'm also respectful of the circumstances and of-of-of-of professional military judgment in this regard, I've not been involved in those studies.  If I am confirmed, I'd want to confirm with our own leaders in the Dept of Defense, with you and others who've thought carefully about that-that problem and try to come to a view.

The issues Senator Gillibrand raised are serious ones.

And as for the military justice issue, the outgoing Secretary of Defense (Hagel) refused to consider military justice being reformed so that criminals were punished like criminals.

He wanted to keep it a 'good old boy' system where a convicted rapist, found guilty in a military trial, could be set free by a high ranking general.

And this did happen.

It's outrageous and Senator Gillibrand has led the charge against it.

At it's most basic in a democracy, justice should be uniform.  There should not be a standard for rapists in the civilian world and a different one for them in the military world.  The notion that a convicted rapist was set free under 'military justice' is repugnant and undemocratic.

This is an issue that a Secretary of Defense can lead on and reform or can block any changes to.  The next Defense Secretary will have tremendous power over this outcome.  It's a shame the press was so uninterested in the exchange.

There are many other exchanges from the hearing I'd like to note if we have time tomorrow and/or Friday.

Turning to Iraq, AFP reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government is stating that, from June 10th through February 3rd, that close to 1,000 Peshmerga were killed in battle with the Islamic State and another 4,569 were left injured.  The loss of any life is tragic but what makes this news even more important is that this is the body that is seen as having its act together in Iraq.

Yes, there are reports of abuses by the Peshmerga and that's nothing new to this year or last.  But in terms of fighting and winning battles, it's the Peshmerga that's accomplished things.

In today's hearing, nominee Ashton Carter offered his take on the failure of the Iraqi military controlled by Baghdad:

Ranking Member Jack Reed: One of the issues  -- particular with respect to Iraq --  is that not only  improvement as you suggest in your comments, the longterm defeat, uh, of ISIL rests not just on military operations but on political arrangements.  And what we've witnessed in Iraq particularly was a political arrangement that consciously and deliberately degraded the Sunni population.  At least, that's there perception.  And it gave rise.  So would you acknowledge that part of a strategy has to be constituting an Iraqi government that is perceived by its own people as being a bit fairer and inclusive?

Ashton Carter: Absolutely.  That's what the previous government of Iraq did not do and that was instrumental in their military collapse.

Nouri al-Maliki, former prime minister and forever thug, has offered one lunatic conspiracy theory after another for why the Iraqi military deserted when the Islamic State attempted to seize Mosul (and did seize Mosul -- which they continue to hold).  But most observers and commentators take the position that Carter expressed -- Nouri's own divisive actions led to the military being weakened (including his firing generals and replacing them with flunkies loyal to him because he was always convinced the military was going to overthrow him so he didn't want them to be too powerful).

The Iraqi military has been 'beefed up' in the eyes of some -- due to bringing in Shi'ite militias -- armed thugs.  The Badr Brigade is but one example. And of course it means that it was all a lie.  Nouri used the Accountability and Justice Commission to toss out political rivals, to keep them from running in elections.  And insisted that this or that rival (usually Sunni, but not always) was connected to a militia and you couldn't run for office if your organization continued to operate a militia.

Nouri began bringing them in a few years back.  They remain under new prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

Last week, Ahmed Rasheed, Stephen Kalin and Robin Pomeroy (Reuters) reported, "Sunni politicians and tribal chiefs from Iraq's eastern Diyala province accused Shi'ite militias on Monday of killing more than 70 unarmed civilians who had fled clashes with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants."  And then Ahmed Rasheed, Ned Parker and Stephen Kalin (Reuters) reported on the testimony of the survivors.  The testimony makes clear militias were involved.

The US government needs to insist this stops.

Unless, of course, the point is to keep Iraq unstable.  If that's the real point, then by all means continue to look the other way.

Zaid Sabah and Jack Fairweather (Bloomberg News) report on the Shi'ite militias:

“There is gross and widespread sectarian cleansing,” said one of Iraq’s vice presidents, Ayad Allawi, by e-mail while traveling in Amman, referring to the areas controlled by Shiite militias that the government has turned to for its defense from Islamic State. Allawi said he had been approached by victims and taken their concerns to the government.
The risk is growing that Iraq -- the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ second-biggest producer -- will fragment along sectarian lines, undermining the authority of U.S.-backed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and reigniting the country’s recent civil war, according to Wathiq al-Hashimi, a political analyst in Baghdad.

“The government turned to militias to defend Baghdad, but now they’ve lost control of them,” said Hashimi. “The use of ethnic cleansing by militias is destroying what belief Sunnis had in piecing the country back together.”

As this takes place, the Iraqi government makes an 'interesting' move with regards to militias and the UAE.  Fahd al-Zayabi (Asharq Al-Aswat) reports:

 Iraq has asked the Emirati government to remove an influential Shi’ite political party and its militia from its list of terrorist organizations.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday, Iraq’s minister for human rights, Mohammed Mahdi Al-Bayati, said that the Iraqi government had asked Abu Dhabi to reconsider its decision to blacklist the Badr Organization led by Iraq’s former transport minister Hadi Al-Ameri.

We've warned before about Mohammed Mahdi al-Bayati and the laughable Ministry of Human Rights.  But for those who still don't get it, let's note this from last December, Roula Khalaf (Financial Times of London) reporting on her face-to-face with al-Bayati, "The discussion takes an even more worrying turn, however, when we talk about why his country is facing this predicament. He absolves the former government of abuses against Iraq's Sunni minority, which is widely acknowledged to be one of the factors that allowed Isis to thrive, and also dismisses the number of human rights violations committed by Shia militias as 'tiny'."

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The big distraction

Patrick Martin (WSWS) offers a lengthy essay on Barack's latest con job presented in the State of the Union speech:

Following his demagogic State of the Union speech, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget document released Monday is a further attempt by President Obama to posture as a populist advocate of taxing the wealthy and helping the “middle class,” while pursuing policies whose substance is the exact opposite: tax cuts for big business, further cuts in domestic social programs, an escalation of imperialist military interventions in the Middle East and around the world.
By now, the cynical modus operandi of the White House is a familiar one. Obama declares himself to be dedicated to the interests of ordinary working people and offers various benefits—free community college, tax breaks for child care, expanded pre-kindergarten, more spending on infrastructure to create jobs. He proposes to pay for these measures through taxes on Wall Street interests, including levies on financial transactions and inherited wealth.
Obama proposes measures to a Republican-controlled Congress that he never attempted to enact when the Democrats had large majorities in both the House and the Senate. This underscores the cynicism of the whole exercise.
He knows very well that his minimal proposals for increased social spending will be flatly rejected by the Republicans, leaving the joint program of war and austerity on which the White House and Congress will eventually reach agreement, most likely after a series of stage-managed confrontations and mock showdowns.

It truly amazes me how many 'left' writers rushed to pretend any of the nonsense Barack proposed was possible.

It's not.

Not from him.

Not from the Congress.

But it was a lengthy distraction, wasn't it?

And it did keep us from talking about serious issues -- like Iraq.

Barack's still not got a plan.

He started bombing Iraq in August.

And nothing to show for it.

But let's all pretend like his worthless speech matters.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, February 3, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Islamic State is in the news for another execution, the spring Mosul operation is pushed back on the observations of a US general, a US general tells Congress Iraq needs that political solution -- you know, the one the White House has forgotten about, and much more.

AFP-JIJI and Reuters note, "Islamic State militants released a video Tuesday appearing to show a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive, the jihadis’ most brutal execution yet of a foreign hostage."  The pilot thought to be dead is Jordanian military Lt Muath al-Kasaebeh whose plane was either shot down or crashed on its own December 24th.  All Iraq News notes the burning took place while Muath al-Kasebeh was locked in a cage.

Michelle Shepard (Toronto Star) points out, "The Islamic State had reportedly set a deadline of Jan. 28 saying he would be killed if Jordan did not surrender Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman incarcerated for her role in a 2005 bombing attack in Jordan"

The Oman Tribune notes, "In Amman, State television said Kassasbeh was already killed a month ago."  Reuters quotes Jordanian military spokesperson Colonel Mamdouh al-Ameri stating, "The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan."

The Islamic State was said to be seeking a swap, the Lieutenant for failed suicide bomber.  On tonight's The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, video and audio), Gwen Ifill spoke with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace' Marwan Muasher and the New York Times' Rod Nordland.  Excerpt:

GWEN IFILL:  Rod Nordland, we are now learning that, in fact, we’re hearing that this Jordanian pilot was killed a month ago, even though negotiations were under way just until, we’re told, this week. Is there some sense now that this was nothing that was ever going to be fixed or that this was futile?

ROD NORDLAND, The New York Times: Well, I think it’s clear that Jordan’s position they had to show proof of life was informed by their belief that he was already dead, and they weren’t going to release this terrorist, Sajida Rishawi, from prison if they thought that he really was dead. And that now appears to have been the case.

GWEN IFILL: Were the — was his family still hopeful that he was alive?

ROD NORDLAND: They were really hopeful. They were hopeful up until a few seconds before word came that this video was out showing his death in this really horrible manner, burned to death in a cage.
As it happens, my colleague Ranya Kadri was sitting with the mother and the wife of the pilot when the word came, and it was kind of an unfortunate insight into just how devastating this kind of news is to families and the loved ones of somebody this happens to.
They were just completely hysterical, pulling their hair out, screaming. And it just really brought it home, because I was actually on the phone with Ranya when this all happened. And then, when we saw the video, it was really — it was just about as despicable a thing as you can imagine.

GWEN IFILL: Marwan Muasher, does this tit-for-tat diplomacy, now we’re hearing the woman prison will also be executed, is that — has that replaced diplomacy?

MARWAN MUASHER, Former Foreign Minister, Jordan: Well, first of all, these are unconfirmed reports, but there is no question in my mind that there is a state of anger and shock today among all Jordanians and that there will probably be a public demand to execute this woman and three others also that are in Jordanian prisons.
But let me point out that these are people who have already been condemned and sentenced to death, so they were awaiting execution for many, many years. And whether the government is going to retaliate in this way remains to be seen, but I think it will fall under public pressure to do so.

GWEN IFILL: Does this put Jordan between kind of a rock and a hard place? It’s part of the coalition. At the same time, it’s taking in so many refugees, and at the same time so many recruits for ISIL are coming from Jordan.

MARWAN MUASHER: Well, Jordan has been in a tough position.
The king has made it clear that he regards this war not just as a military war against ISIS, but also a cultural war, a war of values, if you want, to determine who speaks on behalf of Islam. And I think that, whereas some people in Jordan didn’t take that message, and really, you know, it is estimated that maybe between 2,000 to 5,000 people are ideologically attached to ISIS, I think this message will resonate more, particularly after the horrible, horrible way in which the pilot was killed.

Byron York (Washington Examiner) reports that Jordan's King Abdullah  met in DC today with House Armed Service Committee members and US House Rep Duncan Hunter quotes the king stating, "He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn't seen [. . .] They're starting more sorties tomorrow than they've ever had."

That would be a change because the bombings had slacked off.  The World Tribune notes that the government in Jordan was already facing protests over their part in the US-led bombings of Iraq and, as a result:

Jordan, under heavy domestic pressure, has sharply reduced air operations against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.
Diplomatic sources said the Hashemite kingdom has ordered a virtual suspension of air operations in the U.S.-led war against ISIL. They said the Royal Jordanian Air Force stopped all air strikes on ISIL in Iraq and Syria while approving limited reconnaissance operations along the kingdom’s border.

This is the second Islamic State assassination to receive media attention in the last few days.  Peter Symonds (WSWS)  reports:

The execution of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, as conveyed in a video released late Saturday night, is the latest atrocity to be carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It follows the beheading of another Japanese citizen, Haruna Yukawa, last week after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refused to pay a $200 million ransom for the two hostages.
The callous slaying of Goto and Yukawa, despite the appeals of their families and friends, once again exposes the reactionary character of Islamist organisations like ISIS and Al Qaeda. Far from being engaged in an anti-imperialist struggle, they represent dissident sections of the Arab bourgeoisie that are seeking to refashion relations with the major powers. Their methods of terrorist attack and execution of innocent civilians play directly into the hands of imperialism.

The killing of Goto immediately provoked a chorus of condemnation from the US and its allies, which have cynically seized on the executions as another justification for the renewed war in the Middle East. Washington, above all, is responsible for the creation of ISIS, which was spawned by the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and then financed and armed by America’s Middle Eastern proxies as part of the Syrian civil war to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Yesterday, Holly Williams (CBS News -- link is text and video) reported on the Bard Brigade -- Shi'ite thugs fighting in Iraq -- fighting the Islamic State and fighting any Sunni civilians they can get near.  Williams characterized them as possibly "effective" and then went on to note last week's massacre of Sunnis (over 70) carried out by Shi'ite militia members (according to survivors).

That renders them ineffective.

There is no chance that they "may be effective."

They could kill X number of IS members a day, they would still not be effective.

That's because their targeting of Sunnis is exactly why the Islamic State got a foothold in Iraq and continues to thrive there.

As long as the Iraqi government continues to use these thugs, the Islamic State continues.

This is basic but Jen Psaki prefers to to play the public fool at the US State Dept such as today in the press briefing when she thought she was 'cute' during this exchange with Al Quds' Said Arikat.

QUESTION: Now, I know this is probably a question better addressed to the Pentagon, but there’s a great deal of talk about postponing the much-anticipated spring offensive, but there’s a political dimension to it. It seems that a great deal of differences between Sunni and Shiite --

MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to – in Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes, yeah. In the fight against ISIL, in the fight or in the effort to reclaim or retake, liberate Mosul. So there seems to be a lot of bickering and infighting among Sunni and Shiites and so on. My question to you – that General Austin was there, of course, Mr. McGurk was there the week before, I think, or maybe a couple weeks before. What are you doing in terms of bringing all these different points of views together, having the Kurds, the Peshmerga, and the central forces working together?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say on the first part I have no confirmation of that or validation of that, and my suspicion is your information is inaccurate.
On the second piece, there are a range of steps that we’re taking. Obviously, we work closely with the Government of Iraq. As you know, one of the efforts that the anti-ISIL coalition is very focused on is not only boosting their capacity but taking steps to go after ISIL in Iraq. We have – and you are right; most of this in terms of technicalities is best posed to the Pentagon, and they can get into specifics – let me finish – as they often do. And so I would certainly encourage you to pose this question to them.
But I would also add that, in addition to the efforts of the coalition countries, that Prime Minister Abadi has been taking steps to – greater – create greater unity to better incorporate different forces underneath the Iraqi Security Forces. That is something that has been ongoing. It’s not new now, but they’re continuing to take steps on.

QUESTION: I guess my point, or the thrust of my question, is the following: That while there was a great deal of enthusiasm, let’s say, a month ago among the Sunni tribes who was working with Prime Minister Abadi, there is less of that enthusiasm because they feel that much of what they have been promised has not been delivered. They are a bit skeptical about the national guard that is being formed and so on.
I wonder if you could – if you have any information, to begin with, that you can share with us on this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I have nothing to validate your view or your opinion, and I haven’t --

QUESTION: It is not opinion. I mean, that’s --

MS. PSAKI: -- seen those reports that you’ve mentioned. So I don’t think anyone should take that as fact. The national guard is part of the Iraqi Government’s long-term restructuring plan of the Iraqi Security Forces into a federalized security force. This is something that they’ve asked for United States – the United States for assistance to help further define and develop the program. We’re working with the government and providing advice based on our previous experiences. The national guard would not replace, but rather augment a restructured multi-sect and multiethnic federal security force as well as address a key demand that many leaders from across Iraq have called for over the last 10 years. It’s been in the process of being implemented for a couple of months now, but obviously, it’s not at full completion.

Poor Jen.  She didn't come off cute, she came off like an ass -- and an uninformed one at that.

For example, this morning Alice Fordham (NPR's Morning Edition) reported today on this reality and notes, "[Sheikh Ahmed] Dabash's views are typical of a broad spectrum of Sunnis in Iraq Islamists, tribes, one-time supporters of Saddam Hussein.  They feel victimized by Iraq's Shi'ite-led government and many fight against the Shi'ite-dominant army either joining ISIS or aligning with them -- even if they find the group extreme."

Fordham notes how the US feels the (still not formed) Iraqi national guard is the solution but Sunni leaders feel differently.

Jen Psaki missed that report -- how uninformed and ignorant is she?

Al Quds reports the long planned spring offensive to retake Mosul just got kicked back and the decision was made after US Gen Lloyd Austin shared his observations about the current state of Iraq following his visit to the country last week.

There is no plan, there is no forward movement.

And the window for new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to show change has been closing for some time.

We've noted that here, we've noted the lack of a political solution in Iraq and we've noted the White House's inability to aid Haider in pursing a political solution.  Instead, US President Barack Obama has not just used the Pentagon to plan military strikes on Iraq and to build the so-called 'coalition,' he's diverted the State Dept from its mission of diplomacy to make it a mouth piece for a militant theocracy that worships exploding bombs.

And how's that working out?

David Alexander and Lisa Shumaker (Reuters) report:

"Quite frankly, we need to see in Iraq political outreach that addresses the fact that some 20 million Sunnis are disenfranchised with their government," Lieutenant General William Mayville told a hearing on global threats facing the United States.
Mayville, director of operations for the Pentagon's Joint Staff, told lawmakers he endorsed the current steady, deliberate pace of efforts to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria because it gave the Iraqi government time to act politically, a step he said was necessary to resolve the crisis.
"I think it is very, very important that the pace of operations be such that ... the military lines of effort don't get out in front of the political lines of effort that must be achieved in order to get an enduring solution here," he told a panel in the House of Representatives.

It's February.

Nothing's been accomplished but talk.

Empty words from Haider.

Like on September 13th when he got a swarm of positive press for announcing he was stopping the Iraqi military bombing of the Sunni residential neighborhoods in Falluja (War Crimes)/  But the bombings continued September 14th and they continue to this day.

And, no, Sunnis in Iraq have no real reason to believe Haider al-Abadi represents change.

Ned Parker and Angus MacSwan (Reuters) report, "Iraq's cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft law creating a national guard, which Sunni political figures have described as a necessary step to achieving national reconciliation."  "Draft law" is a bill.  Parliament passes laws.  So what happened is the Cabinet voted to pass a bill onto Parliament -- two in fact.

One is the national guard measure.  The other is to put an end to the US-imposed de-Ba'athification.  Sunnis don't feel the measure passed by the Cabinet was enough.

And they're probably right for many reasons, not the least of which is that the Justice and Accountability Commission which was supposed to have been disbanded following the 2006 elections has been morphing into a Parliamentary committee and doing so publicly and with little attention from the western press.  (They held a press conference last week.  Which US outlet reported on it or even noted it?  None.)

This commission was supposed to dismantle in 2006.

In 2007, Nouri signed off on the White House benchmarks that would end the de-Ba'athification (kicking Ba'ath Party members out of government and military posts).  This de-de-Ba'athification was not supposed to come about in a decade but while Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.

He left in January of 2009, after Barack Obama was sworn in as president.

And de-Ba'athifcation was never ended.

And continues to this day.

Then there is the rape and assault of Sunni girls and women in Iraq's jails and prisons.  There's all the Sunnis in prison because they were related to someone the forces had an arrest warrant for -- not for the daughters, sons, brothers, mothers, fathers, sisters who they hauled off.  Tossing people in prison because you couldn't find the person you had the arrest warrant for.

That's 'justice' in Iraq.  Still.

And Haider hasn't done a damn thing to indicate that there's any change coming.

Human Rights Watch issued a press release Monday which included:

Unlawful deaths in Iraq skyrocketed in 2014 as emboldened militias and security forces carried out unfettered abuses against civilians and the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) brutally took thousands of civilian lives, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2015.
Government-backed Shia militias headed security forces in leading the fight against ISIS. In their enhanced role, they carried out kidnappings, summary executions, torture, and mass displacements of thousands of families with impunity. In turn, ISIS grew in strength and carried out atrocities from beheadings to mass executions to sexual slavery of women. The government has not held anyone accountable for the abuses by these groups or its own forces.
“Between state-sponsored militant groups and ISIS, the risk of falling victim to serious abuses has become all too common for many Iraqis,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “The Iraqi government urgently needs to move beyond window-dressing reforms so that it can win back public trust, confront the growing disaster that ISIS is unfolding in Iraq, and save Iraqis from an endless cycle of horrors.”
In the 656-page world report, its 25th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth urges governments to recognize that human rights offer an effective moral guide in turbulent times, and that violating rights can spark or aggravate serious security challenges. The short-term gains of undermining core values of freedom and non-discrimination are rarely worth the long-term price.

Government forces attacked largely peaceful demonstrations on December 20, 2013, sparking an armed conflict in Anbar province between local residents, Iraqi security forces, and multiple armed groups, including ISIS. The fighting, which included indiscriminate government firing and the use of barrel bombs on civilian areas, displaced close to 500,000 people and killed an unknown number of civilians. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as of December 2014, more than 1.9 million Iraqis were internally displaced due to conflict.

The White House either doesn't want a political solution in Iraq or they're too stupid to figure out to work on one.  One thing is certain though: The Islamic State doesn't want a political solution in Iraq.

If that happens, their support dries up, their presence in Iraq no longer has footing, no longer has backing.

Moving over to the US for one more thing, today Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following:

Gretchen Andersen
Press Secretary
Tel: 212-982-9699

Washington D.C. (February 3, 2015) – Today, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, critical legislation that increases access to quality mental health care and combats veteran suicide. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), who spearheaded the bill, applauds members of the 114th Congress for the legislation’s swift, bipartisan passage and calls on President Obama to honor our nation’s commitment to our veterans with an urgent signing ceremony at the White House. The historic legislation is named after Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Clay Hunt, a Marine sniper who died by suicide in 2011. More than 20 veteran service organizations and partners such as the American Psychiatric Association support the legislation.

Introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the bipartisan bill has a total of 53 cosponsors – 30 Democrats, 21 Republicans and two Independents. A full list of co-sponsors can be found here.

“We are extremely grateful for the Senate passing this bill and all those who have worked so hard on it. While we are a little bittersweet, because it is too late for our son Clay, we are thankful knowing that this bill will save many lives,” said Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt. “No veteran should have to wait or go through bureaucratic red tape to get the mental health care they earned during their selfless service to our country. While this legislation is not a 100 percent solution, it is a huge step in the right direction.”

“This is a tremendous day for our community,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “For too long the crisis of veteran suicide has been hidden in the shadows. This bill gives many veterans the new hope they so desperately need and demonstrates that our leaders are willing to give veterans the care they deserve. We call on President Obama to demonstrate his commitment to our veterans with a public signing ceremony. After being blocked by a lone Senator last session, our veteran members are relieved that we are now a huge step closer to reversing the trend that has taken far too many sons, daughters, friends and loved ones from us. We thank Senator McCain and Senator Blumenthal for their leadership in combating suicide and for reintroducing this vital bill. While we are thrilled about today’s vote, all of us must remember the sobering reality that necessitated this action: the invisible wounds of war and our nation’s initial failure to treat them.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. House unanimously passed the House version of the measure, H.R. 203, sponsored by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Reps. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

Developed by IAVA and its allies on Capitol Hill, and driven by qualitative and qualitative data from IAVA’s annual member survey, the Clay Hunt SAV Act will:

Increase Access to Mental Health Care and Capacity at VA to Meet Demand
● Requires the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all VA mental health services for veterans.
● Addresses the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing the VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists.
● Extends Combat-Eligibility for mental health care services at VA for one-year, providing for increased access for veterans that may be suffering from conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Improve the Quality of Care and Boosting Accountability at VA
● Requires evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what’s working and what’s not working and make recommendations to improve care.

Develop a Community Support System for Veterans
● Establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers with accessing VA mental health care services.
Over the past 10 years, IAVA has grown to become the leading advocate for veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organization has put top issues for veterans on the map and jump-started historic changes, including passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, funding for health care at the VA, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, efforts to combat veteran suicide, and, in 2014, a national focus on the high VA disability claims backlog.

Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.