Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Barack's biggest disappointment

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Study in Hypocrisy" went up Sunday night.


Barack's biggest disappointment?  (Theme post.)

How about being as big a War Hawk as Bully Boy Bush -- if not bigger?

He is nothing but War War and more War.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, July 27, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq objects to Turkey bombing it, the State Dept's John Kirby can't stop defending Turkey, Patrick Cockburn argues that Turkey's US government encouraged efforts may be the "biggest mistake in the Middle East since it invaded Iraq," and much more.

We devoted Saturday's snapshot to the Turkish government's efforts to use war against the Islamic State as a pretext to bomb northern Iraq in the supposed effort to defeat the PKK -- a group that they had entered into an armistice with.

The United States government appears to have given a nod of approval on the attacks in exchange for the right to use Turkish air bases.  Tian Shaohui (Xinhua) observes, "Critics, including opposition politicians, have accused President Tayyip Erdogan of trying to use the campaign against the Islamic State as an excuse to crack down on Kurds."

Patrick Cockburn (the Independent) observes:

The result is that the US may find it has helped to destabilise Turkey by involving it in the war in both Iraq and Syria, yet without coming much closer to defeating Isis in either country. If so, America will have committed its biggest mistake in the Middle East since it invaded Iraq in 2003, believing it could overthrow Saddam Hussein and replace him with a pro-American government. 

At today's State Dept press briefing, spokesperson John Kirby attempted to spin what is taking place.

QUESTION: Can we start with – not the trip, although – you have any questions – about the – what’s going on right now with the Turks? And it seems like a really bizarre situation has unfolded over the course of the past week with them joining the air strikes against ISIS, but at the same time also bombing PKK positions. And there’s been some pushback on the suggestion – I noticed that Brett McGurk tweeted about it – that these are related, and that the United States – he saying that there was no deal done with the Turks, in other words. A lot of people find that really hard to believe. So what exactly is going on here, and doesn’t this just make an even bigger mess out of the situation then you had originally?

MR KIRBY: I think – so let’s unpack. There’s an awful lot there, so let’s just unpack that. I don’t think that I could say it any better than Ambassador McGurk did. We are grateful for Turkey’s cooperation against ISIL to include now use of some of their bases for coalition aircraft to go against targets – ISIL targets, particularly in Syria. So we’re grateful for that support. The – so separate and distinct from that, Turkey has continued to come under attack by PKK terrorists, and we recognize their right to defend themselves against those attacks. And it was in retaliation for recent attacks by the PKK that Turkey conducted these most recent strikes.
As for ISIL in Syria, we continue to discuss with Turkey ways at which we can go after this particular threat. Again, we value their cooperation thus far. They have a vested interest, obviously, because of its – it’s their border. And while there’s nothing new to announce with respect to what kind of cooperation may come in the future, we’re going to continue to talk to them about that.
I understand the coincidence of all of this, but it is just that. The attacks against the PKK were in retaliations for attacks they, the Turks, endured, and what they’re doing against ISIL in Syria I’ll let them speak to. But obviously, we welcome all coalition members’ efforts against ISIL, particularly in Syria.

QUESTION: All right, well, one: Are you suggesting then that the Turks – the attacks on the PKK are going to – are over now and that the Turks have retaliated enough for the attacks on them? And secondly, are you not concerned that these attacks, while they are directed against a group that you have designated a terrorist organization – the Turks certainly believe are a terrorist organization – and I’m talking about the PKK – are you not concerned that that is going to hinder or hurt the fight against ISIS/ISIL?

MR KIRBY: I understand the second one. Am I concerned that their attacks against the PKK will detract from the fight against ISIL? Is that --

QUESTION: Yeah. They’re killing people that are killing ISIL.

MR KIRBY: The attacks against the PKK.



QUESTION: Right? I mean, am I wrong?

QUESTION: I mean, the PKK has been very effective against ISIL. They helped rescue Yezidis on Mount Sinjar. They’ve been fighting ISIS in Syria --

MR KIRBY: Yeah. No. I think I got it.

QUESTION: So there’s two in there.

MR KIRBY: Is it over now?

QUESTION: Have you been assured – or have you been told by the Turks that they’re – that this against the – the strikes against the PKK are limited duration and solely in retaliation for the attacks on them, and are going to stop?

MR KIRBY: Right.

QUESTION: And secondly, I mean, how does this not make it a big – it’s – how does this not hurt the fight against ISIS/ISIL?

MR KIRBY: Okay, so two questions. First of all, is it over now? I don’t know. That’s a question that you have to ask Turkish officials. They retaliated against the PKK for strikes that they received from PKK terrorists. We have long recognized the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization, and we recognize Turkey’s ability – or, I’m sorry, Turkey’s right – to defend itself against this group. So is it over now? I don’t know. And that’s really not a question that we can answer from this podium.
Two, does it hinder the fight against ISIL? What we’re trying to focus on here is a coalition to go after ISIL, counter ISIL. I recognize that, in some cases, the PKK have fought against ISIL. But they are a foreign terrorist organization. We designated them that, as an FTO. And our fight against ISIL is not in cooperation with, coordination with, or communication with the PKK. Our fight against ISIL is with 62 other nations in this coalition who are helping us go after these guys, and in Syria specifically. And again, DOD is working a train and equip program to get a moderate opposition capable enough to go after ISIL inside Syria.
So the fight against ISIL will continue. We are grateful for the contributions of Turkey and other coalition members. And the pressure that we are going to put on them, regardless of what Turkey is doing against the PKK or will do in the future, that’s not going to diminish.

Turkey's right to defend itself?

Kirby's just another flapping gum US official who has no interest in helping Iraq or what happens to Iraq.

Turkey is bombing northern Iraq.

John Kirby can dress that up in all the endless words he wants but that's what's happening.

And we remember what happened last time -- it outraged the Iraqi people.

That was then.


Not so different.

National Iraqi News Agency reports:

The Vice President of the House of Representatives, Aram Sheikh Mohammed condemned the Turkish indiscriminate shelling on border areas in the Kurdistan region, stressing that the security of Turkey does not take place through the bypassing and breach Iraqi sovereignty and killing innocent civilians and burning and damaging farms without any justification.

He called on Ankara, in a statement today, not to fail the peace process in Turkey, saying unfortunately the Turkish government again deliberately violated Iraqi sovereignty and bombed Iraqi territory under the pretext of keeping its security and began random and intensified aerial bombardment on the border areas in the Kurdistan region, and as a result of this bombing, a number of innocent citizens were killed and this heinous and provocative act is unacceptable and we condemn that strongly

And NINA reports:

MP, of the Iraqi Forces Coalition, Dhafer al-Ani called on Turkey to open a dialogue with the federal government and coordinate with the Ministry of Defence on the subject of bombing PKK's positions.

Al-Ani said in a statement that there is no doubt that the security of Turkish and its friendly people and its stability concerns us and we are keen on its security and stability as we concern about ours and peace in all countries around us, and it is essential that there should be a regional security effort to hunt down terrorist organizations that infiltrate between the border, but this effort has to be conditional within the official coordination.

He added that the justifications provided by Turkish officials about their understandings with the Kurdistan Regional Government on the entry of their jets into Iraqi airspace and carry out military strikes to armed groups inside Iraqi territory are not sufficient justifications, as we were waiting for understandings with Baghdad government and coordination with the Ministry of Defense in accordance with the known official formats in order to preserve national sovereignty

Please note that Kirby could talk endlessly of Turkey's right to do whatever the hell it wanted but he seemed to think Iraq had no right to object to another country bombing it.

QUESTION: Are you telling the Turks --

QUESTION: Well, wait, wait. I’ve got just one.

QUESTION: Are you telling the Turks not to go after PKK in Syria?

QUESTION: I have – hold on Ros, Ros. Ros, I have one more here. So you’re saying that it doesn’t trouble you at all that the Turks are going after people who have been very – perhaps the most effective on the ground against ISIS/ISIL? You don’t have a problem with that --

MR KIRBY: First of all, I think I would –

QUESTION: -- and there’s no coordination, but there – so you’re more comfortable with working alongside Iran in Iraq than you are with the Kurds. And don’t – is that correct?

MR KIRBY: Matt, we’re not working alongside Iran in Iraq against ISIL. We’ve made it clear there is no coordination on the ground in Iraq with Iran. I would take issue with your characterization that the PKK has been the most effective force against ISIL in Iraq.

No coordination on the ground in Iraq with Iran?

That's not true.

Andrew Tilghman (Military Times) explained today, "The steady growth of Shiite militias in Iraq is making it increasingly difficult for American forces deployed there to determine exactly which Iraqi forces they are supporting, experts say."

In addition, Iraqi Spring MC notes that the Bard militia grabbed/kidnapped/arrested civilian Hamid al-Samarri in Baquba yesterday and his corpse was discovered today.

It would benefit Iraq tremendously if the US government could stop supporting the militias terrorizing the Iraqi people.

Meanwhile John Kirby can take issue all he wants and he can intentionally confuse the issue but the Kurds have been the most effective fighters against the Islamic State.

It's a point of reality AP's Vivian Salama notes today:

With the help of U.S. airstrikes, the Kurds have proven to be among the most effective ground forces against the IS group. But their advance across northeastern Syria in recent months has alarmed Ankara, which fears they could revive a decades-long insurgency in pursuit of statehood.

Again, Kirby can play word games all he wants, reality is reality.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on the effectiveness of the Turkish participation in the fight against ISIL and so on. It seems that it has been scaled back tremendously today, because they are going after PKK positions and villages and so on inside Turkey. They are devoting a great deal of resources and assets to do that, and consequently they scaled back. Do you have any comment on that?

MR KIRBY: Well, first of all, this is – we’ve said that Turkey has a right to defend itself against terrorists and we recognize that – as do we, as does any country. And I’ll let the Turks speak to how they’re going to go after terrorists inside their borders. I’m loath to give battlefield assessments even of U.S. military. I’m certainly not going to do that for the Turks.

QUESTION: So you deny the allegation that Turkey basically used its part in fighting ISIS as a ploy just to go after the Kurds?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to characterize Turkish motives. We don’t observe a connection between what they did about going after PKK and what we’re trying to do as a coalition against ISIL.

QUESTION: Then you remain the only one.

QUESTION: And finally, today there is --

MR KIRBY: Okay. I’m comfortable with that.

[. . .]

QUESTION: John, you said that Turkey’s response to the – Turkey’s bombardment of the PKK hideouts in northern Iraq --


QUESTION: -- are retaliatory, are in retaliation to what PKK had done. But now there are two questions. First, ISIS – the PKK attack killed only two Turkish officers, but you’ve seen two major ISIS attacks inside Syria. Why haven’t we seen such a retaliation against ISIS from the Turks? Secondly, and the Turkey had --

MR KIRBY: Before you get to the second one let me just kill the first one.


MR KIRBY: You’ve got to talk to the Turks. I cannot speak for another nation --

QUESTION: Well, but because I’m saying --

MR KIRBY: -- or the decisions that they’re making.

QUESTION: Do you agree with the Turkish position that it’s in retaliation? One could ask why would you agree with that, with the Turkish assessment that it’s in retaliation to PKK, while ISIS has been killing many more Turkish citizens and that Turkey has done pretty much nothing to --

MR KIRBY: I think I would – so I’m not going to characterize Turkish motives. They suffered an attack by the PKK; they retaliated. What comes next? That’s for them to talk to. As for ISIL, one of the reasons why we continue to have discussions with the Turks is to explore ways that we can work together with them through the coalition to go after ISIL. This is a country that has a border they’re concerned about, they’ve got 2 million refugees, they’ve allowed – they’ve agreed to host a train and equip site inside Turkey, and now they’ve allowed us to have access to some of their bases to conduct airstrikes and missions against ISIL inside Syria. It’s not like they’re not doing anything, and your question almost implies that they’re just sitting on the sidelines, and that is not at all our assessment.

QUESTION: They have certainly poured more bombs over the past 24 hours on the PKK hideouts than on ISIS.

MR KIRBY: Well, look, every day is different in a war like this. I mean, there are some days where our pilots don’t drop all their bombs either. I mean, every day is different and every member of the coalition contributes what they can, when they can, where they can. It’s a coalition of the willing, we’re not mandating it, and the Turks are cooperating and they’re coordinating and they have agreed to do more. And we’re just going to have to see where this goes in the future. As I said at the outset, we’re going to continue to talk with them. We’re going to continue to try to explore areas where that cooperation can improve. And we’ll get there.

Kirby cannot speak for another nation -- except when he does.

He conveys the Turkish government's position of events and then, when pressed with an obvious example of the attacks against the Islamic State versus the attacks against the PKK, suddenly Kirby can't speak for another nation.

Deutsche Welle speaks with European Parliament member Kati Piri about Turkey's attacks:

So you believe that Turkey's response has been disproportionate?

It's not just an attack on an organization [the PKK] with, in this case, camps in another country, northern Iraq. We're also talking here about millions of Kurdish people living in Turkey, with whom there was a peace process, although very fragile, during the last two years. There was a truce, a ceasefire agreement between both the PKK and the government. In my view, if [the Turkish government] wants to keep the peace process with the Kurds alive, this full-size attack on the PKK looks a bit, to be honest, disproportionate. What's been happening over the last three days has once again put the peace process very much into question. Is it dead? I hope not, but it doesn't look very alive either. It's very damaging.

Did last week's attack in Suruc simply give Turkey an excuse to relaunch its campaign against the PKK?

Let's not forget: Turkey does have the right to self defense. When its officers are killed by an organization which is also included on the European terrorist list, this is totally unacceptable. No one is saying that Turkey should just leave this alone and pretend that nothing has happened. On the other hand, knowing that there is such a delicate peace process going on, then you need to have a proportionate response as well.

What is much more dangerous to me now is that some politicians from the [ruling Justice and Development party] AKP, along with some politicians from the more right-wing party, MHP, are framing this pro-Kurdish party HDP [People's Democratic Party] now as being directly linked to the PKK, which it is not. [The HDP] has also decried the violence, and [the government] is actually framing the 6 million people who voted for this party as potential terrorists, or terrorist supporters. And this rhetoric is very dangerous for a country which has gone through such a circle of violence.

Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 122 violent deaths across Iraq today.

Finally, today, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande issued a press release which includes:

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ms. Lise Grande, confirmed today that 184 front line health services have been suspended because of the paralysing funding shortfall for humanitarian activities in Iraq. More than 80 per cent of general health programmes supported by humanitarian partners are now shut, directly impacting one million people. “At a time when the people of Iraq need us the most, we are letting them down,” Ms. Grande said.
The impact is immediate and enormous. Partners estimate that one million sick people, who would have sought primary medical care, will not receive help. Over half a million children will not be immunized, spreading the risk of a measles outbreak and the resumption of polio and contributing to morbidity amongst some of the most vulnerable children in the entire region.
The most recent cut-backs come on top of cascading closures. In May, food rations for over one million people were sharply reduced. Nearly 30 per cent of water, sanitation and hygiene programmes have closed due to lack of funding and more are set to close by the end of July leaving 1.78 million people without access to safe and sufficient water, sanitation and hygiene services. Other critical activities are at risk: specialized assistance programmes for one million women and more than 1.2 million girls, many of whom the survivors of brutality and sexual and gender-based violence, are closing. Half of the programmes providing shelter and household support that were providing life-saving help at the start of June will scale back unless additional funding is received.

“Less than two months ago, on 4 June, we urgently appealed for funding. Humanitarian partners presented the most highly prioritized, pared-to-the bone appeal ever launched in the region. Although some support is coming in, it’s devastating, inexplicable really, that we are being forced to shut-down programmes in a country where so much is at stake and where the international community is so involved,” said Ms. Grande.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Welcome to the room, Swanson

So David Swanson is shocked to discover George Clooney is a stooge and whore for war profiteers?

Late to the party as always.

He writes:

It turns out Clooney opposes, not war profiteering in general, but war profiteering while African. In fact, Clooney’s concern is limited, at least thus far, to five African nations: Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, though these are not the only nations in Africa or the world with serious wars underway.

That is only some of the money he rakes in from his 'politics.'

Mia Farrow is the same.

David might try pursuing that.

It happens to be why we call both of them out in this community.

I'm really surprised that Swanson is unaware that both Clooney and Farrow also receive money from foreign governments for speeches and actions.

Regardless, neither is left.

Clooney has always been a trained monkey for the Democratic Party.

Mia Farrow's always been a joke.

She's 'left' but managed to miss all the big protests and actions.

Though 'left' and a 'hippie' in the 60s, she never protested the war on Vietnam.

We again missed her at the Iraq War protests.

She did rouse herself to demand US military action (demand repeatedly) in Sudan.

She and George are many things, they are not left and they are not about peace.

George's politics worry me far less than they used to.

That's due to his sham marriage which he's using to try to keep his faltering film career alive.

He's pouring so much time and energy into that, he's unable to do the damage he used to.

(That damage has been well charted by C.I. at The Common Ills for over ten years now.)

So David Swanson, welcome to the room.

(Stevie Nicks wrote the song 'Welcome to the Room . . . Sara" for Fleetwood Mac, it's on Tango In The Night.  It was that or noting Cher's "Follow this you bitches" again.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Saturday, July 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Turkey renews bombing Iraq and the PKK,  the US government looks the other way having gotten what it wanted from Turkey, and much more.

Holy war
Hate and cruelty...
How can this be holy?
If I had a heart I'd cry.

These ancient tales...
The good go to heaven
And the wicked ones burn in hell...
Ring the funeral bells!
If I had a heart I'd cry.
-- "If I Had A Heart," written by Joni Mitchell first appears on her Shine

DEBAKA reports:

The Middle East woke up Friday, July 24, to two new full-fledged wars launched by Jordan and Turkey for cutting down the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as is forces advanced on their borders. The United States and Israel are involved in both campaigns. Jordanian armored, commando and air forces are already operating deep inside Iraq, while Friday morning, Turkey conducted its first cross-border air strike against ISIS targets in Syria. Clashes between Turkish troops and Islamic fighters erupted at several points along the border. Both governments also conducted mass arrests of suspected Islamists. The Jordanian police picked up ISIS adherents, while 5,000 Turkish police detained 250 Islamist and outlawed Kurdish PKK suspects in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Saniurta. Jordan Friday shut down its only border crossing with Iraq.

But Turkey's not trying to cut down the Islamic State with these attacks.

It's using the threat or 'threat' of the Islamic State to advance their own interests which is to yet again re-start the war between Turkey and the PKK -- Kurdish fighters who have fought for an independent Kurdish homeland (fought via armed violence) for decades now, since 1984.

Contanze Letsch (Guardian) points out:

Turkey launched overnight airstrikes against several positions of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s party (PKK) in northern Iraq for the first time in four years, the country’s government has said.
The air raids put an end to a two-year ceasefire between the Turkish government and the PKK, severely endangering the already fragile peace process started in 2012 in an attempt to end a bloody conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people over 30 years.

ITV adds, "The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has said its 2013 truce with Turkey 'has no meaning anymore'."  AP explains, "The strikes in Iraq targeted the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, whose affiliates have been effective in battling the Islamic State group. The strikes further complicate the U.S.-led war against the extremists, which has relied on Kurdish ground forces making gains in Iraq and Syria."  Zia Weise and Chris Stevenson (Independent) note the shift in their report which includes:

“With the bombardment, Turkey has ended the ceasefire,” said Zagros Hiwa, a spokesman for the PKK and the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) based in the Qandil mountains, told The Independent on Sunday. “It ended the ceasefire and it ended the peace process unilaterally. From now on, we will continue our struggle against all odds.”

The action of the Turkish government should be immediately and universally called out.

This is not helping anything.

The Turkish government -- probably like many others -- is using the pretext of the Islamic State to attack Iraq.

In doing so, it is violating Iraq's sovereignty yet again.

This didn't work out well before, for any who paid attention.

The Turkish warplanes, announcements swore, killed 'terrorists.'  Reality, they bombed farming communities and killed civilians.

This didn't endear them to the Iraqi people.

There was outrage, naturally.

Now the Turkish government uses the threat or 'threat' of the Islamic State to overturn a peace initiative that they clearly never supported and were only waiting for the first chance to void.

In terms of Turkey, this means the PKK is now engaged in war with them which will mean on the outskirts of Turkey as well as inside.

This was a stupid decision by the Turkish government.

The question right now is whether or not the White House approved this assault.

Did the White House know about it and is that why there's been no major public condemnation of the assaults on northern Iraq from the White House?

The best they can offer, as the BBC notes, is a minor player with minor words:

US White House spokesman Alistair Baskey said Turkey had the right to defend itself against terrorist attacks by Kurdish rebels and urged the PKK to renounce terrorism.
But he said that Ankara should also avoid violence towards the PKK and seek to de-escalate the conflict.

Jacques Brinon (AP) notes that meek and weak wasn't the response in France where at least a thousand "Kurds and leftist Turks" took the streets of Paris to register their objections to Turkish warplanes bombing northern Iraq with banners decrying the action and some accusing the Turkish government of assisting the Islamic State.

The bombing raises many questions -- such as did the White House agree to look the other way as part of a deal with Turkey to use a Turkish base?

Friday on NPR's Morning Edition (link is audio and text), Steve Inskeep discussed the White House's latest arrangement with Deborah Amos:

INSKEEP: So why is it a big deal the U.S. can use Turkey as a base?

AMOS: Steve, this is a real estate question. It's all about location. This airbase, Incirlik, is about 200 miles from Syria and ISIS targets. Now coalition jets are taking off from bases in the Gulf. They're flying more than a thousand miles. So what this means is less refueling, more time in the air. And that's a big change. Turkey signing on is also a game changer. Turkey's been frustrated with Washington policy on fighting ISIS. They say that you have to fight Bashar al-Assad in Syria at the same time, but Turkey has been increasingly threatened by ISIS.

Xinhua offers "Ankara is concerned that Kurds, emboldened by gains in Iraq and Syria, may have an incentive now to ask for a greater autonomy and even independence that risks the unitary structure of Turkish state."

AFP notes:

The leadership of Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has condemned Turkish air strikes against positions of Kurdish fighters in its autonomous region, echoing the remarks of the leadership earlier.
Masoud Barzani, president of KRG, spoke to Ahmed Dayutoglu, Turkey's prime minister, over telephone on Saturday and "expressed his displeasure with the dangersou level the situation has reached", according to a KRG statement.
"He requested that the issue not be escataled to that level because peace is the only way to solve problems and years of negotiations are beter than one hour of war," the statement said.

Liz Sly (Washington Post) explains, "The targeting of Kurdish militants will also complicate the United States’ air war against the Islamic State, which has relied heavily on a PKK-allied group of Syrian Kurds to make advances in northern Syria."

And it will complicate things within Turkey.  WSWS offers:

Originally, Ankara, Washington and its Arab allies worked closely together in undermining the Syrian regime and arming Islamist groups opposed to Damascus. But when ISIS expanded into Iraq and endangered the regime in Baghdad, Washington made a political turn. It bombed ISIS and, much to the dismay of Ankara, aligned itself with Iraqi Kurdish groups. The recent agreement between Iran and the US further undermines the rapidly declining influence of Ankara.
By joining the war against ISIS and simultaneously escalating the confrontation with the Kurdish nationalist groups, Ankara is trying to win back some influence over the course of events. By doing so, it is escalating the ethnic and sectarian tensions in Syria, Turkey and the entire region, posing a deadly danger for the working class.

A second, no less important, reason for Ankara’s warmongering is escalating social and political tensions at home. The massacre in Suruç has triggered a wave of terrorist attacks for revenge, in which the PKK killed three police officers and a soldier and two alleged ISIS members. A member of the HDP was killed by an “unidentified murderer.” The Turkish Prime Minister’s Office stated that the government would take “any necessary measures to protect public order and national security.”

In the US, Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following on Friday:

Friday, July 24, 2015
Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777

Isakson: We Owe Our Veterans 'Nothing Less' than to Hold VA Accountable
Joins colleagues in highlighting committee action on sweeping VA accountability legislation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, spoke on the floor of the Senate regarding the recent committee passage of legislation aimed at increasing accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was joined on the floor by fellow committee members Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., as well as Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
At a markup held Wednesday, the committee approved both the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act of 2015 (S.1082), which gives the VA Secretary greater firing authority over bad actors in the department, and S.627, a bill that prohibits the VA from granting bonuses to underperforming employees. 
            Isakson delivered the following remarks on the floor of the Senate:
“As chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the United States Senate, I'm proud to be joined by other members of the committee for a colloquy and a report to the American people on the progress we're making to hold the VA accountable for our veterans and for the taxpayers.
“As all will remember, Phoenix, Ariz., had a terrible tragedy at the VA Hospital in Phoenix last year. Because of missed appointments, erased records and consults that were removed, veterans waiting for services never got them and, in three cases, they died. That was malfeasance in office and brought a great scandal to the VA.
“In January when our committee took hold, we decided to go to the Justice Department and the VA’s Inspector General and say, ‘Go into the VA. Investigate these incidents taking place and if we find criminal wrongdoing or civil wrongdoing we should prosecute these people to make sure it doesn't happen again.’
“Now I'm never happy when anybody is indicted, but I was satisfied that last Friday the first indictment came down from the Justice Department against a VA employee. Unfortunately in my state of Georgia at the VA hospital in Augusta for 50 counts of falsifying medical records, the results of which ended up benefiting the employee and hurting veterans.
“And I promise the American people and the members of the Senate that’s not going to be the last indictment. We're going to see to it that people are held accountable for their actions. We owe nothing less to our veterans than that type of treatment.
“Wednesday, the VA committee met in the Senate and we approved two great bills on our effort to bring about greater accountability. One of those bills was the Rubio-Johnson bill which allows the firing and the holding accountable of VA employees for malfeasance, misconduct in office, or for cause.
“As many people know the VA oftentimes in disciplining people just moves them to another job at the same pay but they can't move them out of the system, so the accountability system never takes place. There is no sense of accountability and veterans are not well served. Thanks to the Rubio-Johnson bill, people who are terminated for cause will have a brief hearing and a chance to justify their case. And if their case is not justified they will be removed from the veterans’ administration health services agency and they will be fired. That's the type of accountability every American who is employed in their job at home has. We think it's the same accountability every Department of Veterans Affairs employee ought to have.
“After that we passed the Ayotte-Cassidy bill, a bill that I was really proud of because Senator Cassidy and Senator Ayotte said the following: ‘You know, it's just not right for somebody who's not doing their job to get a bonus.’ As many people know, bonuses were paid in the VA last year to employees that were in fact being reprimanded for misconduct and bad behavior. You cannot take away a benefit retroactively and this bill does not do that but it says to the VA prospectively, rewards cannot be earned and bonuses cannot be earned for those not conducting their job in the way they should.
“These are the type of accountability measures the people of the United States expect. As chairman of the committee, I always want to brag about the good things our VA employees do and they do a lot of good things. For every one scandal you hear about, there are hundreds of thousands of benefits veterans are receiving because of good, loyal employees. But the best employees in the world are brought down a notch when those who are not good are allowed to continue to stay on the job even if they’re not performing or get bonuses when they're not performing.
“I'm so proud of the Ayotte-Cassidy bill and the Rubio-Johnson bill which say to the American people we're going to have accountability. We're going to pay bonuses for good behavior, not for bad behavior. And if somebody doesn't do their job, they'll be held accountable and they'll lose their job if they're fired for cause and that cause is justified. That's what the American people expect of the Senate. That's what they expect of our committee and I'm proud to report to the Senate today that started.”
            You can watch Senator Isakson’s remarks here.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.

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

the washington post
liz sly

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rickie Lee Jones talks to the CBC

"Been sad a long time. Been a little lost a long time. Decided to focus." Refreshing candour from :

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, July 23, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, War Criminal Tony Blair throws a public tantrum, former US House Rep Barney Frank argues against democracy in the United States, the press continues to treat Hillary's Iraq 'position' as though it's a matter of 2002 when the Iraq War continues to this day, the UN envoy to Iraq is literate enough to read a paper to the UN Security Council -- if not intellectually able to also answer questions, and much more.

War Criminal Tony Blair is having a Barney Frank of a fit.

The neoliberal who destroyed the Labour Party by transforming it into the Thatcher-lite New Labour is having a fit over the possibility that Labour might return to its leftist roots and support Jeremy Corbyn as the next Labour leader.

Matt Dathan (Independent) reports on Tony's latest turn as drama queen:

John Prescott has told Tony Blair it was his decision to invade Iraq that stops people voting for Labour and not Jeremy Corbyn.
Lord Prescott served as Mr Blair's deputy prime minister for the entirety of his 10 years in Downing Street but this morning he lashed out at his former boss's attack on Mr Corbyn.

The BBC adds of Prescott's reaction to Tony Blair's public tantrum:

Lord Prescott said: "I found that absolutely staggering. I have a lot of respect for Tony Blair, I worked with him for a lot of years, but to use that kind of language is just abuse.
"The Labour Party is about the heart as well as the head and to suggest somebody should have a transplant if they are making decisions by the heart is totally unacceptable."
He said Labour had lost a lot of support because of the 2003 Iraq War and said the former prime minister should reflect on that.

Roy Greenslade (Guardian) notes the coverage of Tony's tantrum:

If your heart is with Corbyn get a transplant, says Blair” (The Times, across two full pages); “Blair: if Labour votes with its heart, it needs a transplant” (Daily Telegraph); “Blair tells Corbyn backers: if your heart is with him get a transplant” (Daily Express); “If your heart’s into Jez... get transplant” (Daily Star); and “Blair: it’s just plain daft to back Corbyn” (Metro).

As for Corbyn himself, he appears willing to let Tony stomp his feet in public all by himself.

He told reporters:

Well I think it's very unfortunate that people use these kind of remarks.  Why can't we instead focus on the policy issues that are facing the Labour Party, facing the country, the levels of inequality, the levels of poverty, the levels of under-investment and the need to forward rather than dealing with these personal issues?  It's not -- not a good way to do things.

At his online office, Blair's full tantrum has been posted including this:

So let me make my position clear: I wouldn't want to win on an old fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn't take it.  
We should forever stand for social justice, for power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many not the few, as our Constitution puts it.

But that is not the challenge. That challenge is: how to do it in the modern world.

For Tony, the way to "social justice" "in the modern world" has been lying and illegal war.

Standing on this 'higher ground,' he stomps his feet, screams and cries as he throws his public tantrum.

In his never-ending whine, War Criminal Tony 'forgets' to note Corbyn's blistering criticism of Tony's actions and the illegal Iraq War which include his remarks at the start of the year about "the failure of Parliament in 2003 and since then to hold in account those that took crucial decisions on our behalf, the consequence of which all of us will live with for the rest of our lives and the population of this country and, indeed, of western Europe and the USA are going to live with for many, many, many decades and generations to come.  It was a seminal disaster that happened in 2003."

While Tony's actions have led to the Arrest Blair For Crimes Against Peace campaign, Corbyn's actions have led to his endorsement by the United Kingdom's Stop the War Coalition:

LEFT LABOUR MP Jeremy Corbyn, who has been nominated to stand in the Labour leadership campaign, is also the chair of the Stop the War Coalition.
He has been a supporter since we began back in 2001, has spoken on virtually all of our demonstrations big and small, and has been a consistent anti-war voice in parliament.
He was part of the major Labour rebellion against the Iraq war in 2003, and was opposed to the intervention in Syria in 2013.
All of this is great news for Stop the War supporters who can now back him as a principled anti-war and anti-austerity candidate in a contest which was set, until the last minute, to be between three candidates who all espoused a similar message – none of it anti-war.
As well as central role in Stop the War, Jeremy is also involved in a wide range of other campaigns for peace and social justice, such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, of which he is vice-chair, and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
But Jeremy’s candidacy takes on a much wider significance, because it can be part of rebuilding a left committed to social movements which can provide the antidote to a government committed to pro-war policies and to cutting welfare, including the benefits of some of the poorest in society.
A mass campaign in support of Jeremy should involve meetings in every town and city which echo the policies which he has always followed: peace and justice for all, an end to widening inequality, and opposition to cuts in welfare, rather than warfare.
Such a campaign would galvanise large numbers of people who have previously been involved in anti-war and other campaigns, as well as many young people who have protested against austerity in recent weeks.
The Corbyn candidacy can have the effect of unifying many of the campaigns, and of inserting a clear left voice into the debate about how best to oppose government policies on these questions.
There is a new movement growing against austerity, determined to oppose the new government’s policies. Stop the War is part of the People's Assembly, which called the huge march against austerity on Saturday 20 June that brought 250,000 protesters on to London's streets.
We can all help to build Jeremy's campaign, to make sure that a strong alternative voice to war and austerity gets the hearing it deserves. His candidacy for the Labour leadership can only make the movements for peace and social justice stronger.

How to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Anyone can vote in the Labour Party leadership election, which is now run on the basis of one-person-one vote. The election is not restricted to Labour Party members but open to the new category of Labour supporter. Registration as a supporter costs just £3. Register here » 

While Tony Blair has his tantrum in the UK, Barney Frank has his in the United States.

The former member of the US House of Representatives is attempting to be a columnist at POLITICO -- and anyone's who suffered through one of his charm-free TV appearances would strongly encourage him to pursue a career far, far away from any video cameras.

Barney Frank insisted at POLITICO earlier this week that no one should support Senator Bernie Sanders in his run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.


Because it hurts Hillary.

Barney apparently sees Hillary as the new Judy Garland or at least the latest Britney Spears and insists that the (male) gay community and others should support Hillary -- apparently, support her blindly and support her over the concept of democracy.

Democracy, Barney forgets, is about public debate, public exchange.

Democracy is not a coronation.

He argues against democracy in one statement after another such as this paragraph:

I know that there is a counter-argument made by some on the Democratic left that a closely contested nomination process will help our ultimate nominee — that Clinton will somehow benefit from having to spend most of her time and campaign funds between now and next summer proving her ideological purity in an intraparty fight, like Mitt Romney in 2012 — rather than focusing on her differences with the conservative she will face in the election. But neither an analysis of the current political situation nor the history of presidential races supports this.

Democracy is the issue, not what benefits Hillary Clinton.
And someone needs to remind POLITICO that if Americans want to know how to turn their residence into a whore house or the best way to remove pubic lice from fine linens, Barney's the one to go to.  Certainly, he allowed his lover/sex employee to turn his home into a bordello in the 80s and that scandal is what finally forced Barney out of the closet.
But if America needs lessons in democracy or just advice on it, Barney's among the last people the country would turn to.
We get it.
He's very old.
Hes very ugly.
His middle-section is, at best, 'thickish.'
As a member of Congress, he could (mis)use his power and ignore all of that.
Now he's in the real world, in a youth obsessed country and he's struggling for relevancy.
So he attempts to turn Hillary into Judy Garland and make a (late)life out of worshiping her.
In order to do that, he tsk-tsks "the flood of post-Citizen United right-wing money" while failing to note that Hillary's had her own flood of corporate cash for years.  (She has, in fact, probably been the best corporate fundraiser for the Democratic party -- better than Nancy Pelosi, to be sure, but also better than Barack who's reign of raking in corporate dollars only begins in 2007 while Hillary's started in the 90s and has never stopped.)
He's at his most insane when he attempts to justify Hillary's support for the Iraq War:

True, not on Iraq. Having myself voted against that terrible mistake, I agree that her position on the war is a legitimate concern for those of us on the left. The question then becomes whether this was a manifestation of a general tendency to support unwise military intervention, or the case of her joining every other Democratic senator who had serious presidential ambitions in voting for a war that the Bush-Cheney administration had successfully hyped as a necessary defense against terrorism. While I wish that she, Joe Biden and John Kerry had not been spooked into believing that no one who voted no would have the national security merit badge required to win the presidency, I regard liberal senators’ support for the Iraq War as a response to a given fraught political situation rather than an indication of their basic policy stance — like Obama’s off-again, on-again support for same-sex marriage. (Yes, I am saying that in deciding whether or not to support a candidate with whom I have disagreed on a fundamental issue, I am more at ease if it was a one-time political accommodation rather than a genuine conviction.) Most relevantly for this discussion, she will clearly be for less military spending and intervention than the Republican nominee.

There's is so much there.

1) Hillary's support for the Iraq War did not end with her 2002 vote for it.

And as former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revealed in his book (Duty), Hillary told him that she only opposed Bully Boy Bush's 'surge' (sending thousands of additional US troops into Iraq in 2007) because she thought it would win her political points with voters -- and that she really had no problem with the actual surge.

2) This is the same lack of courage and ethics that Frank feels led her to support the illegal war with her 2002 vote.

Such cowardly behavior, voting for something just to protect your own seat in Congress, is not the stuff of leadership.

3) She will not "clearly be for less military spending and intervention" than any other nominee -- Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, what have you.

Barney needs to stop fondling his crystal ball and stick to reality.

And the Iraq War wasn't "a terrible mistake."

It was illegal, it is a travesty (an ongoing one) and many other things.

But calling it "a terrible mistake" is putting it so mildly that it doesn't even quality as an objection.

Hillary supported the Iraq War repeatedly.

She needs to answer for it.

And I don't mean in some ghost-written book.

She supported the illegal war.

It continues.

What, if elected president, would she do to address the ongoing war in Iraq?

The press is too cowardly to ask her that when they do manage to get some limited time with her.

And grasp what Barney doesn't, if she won't interact with the press while she's trying to woo voters, a President Hillary would even less responsive to both the press and the voters.

Granted, we've grown silent as a country as Barack has avoided the press.

But when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House, we cared (as we did in earlier times) when Oval Office occupants refused to go before the press and answer questions.

And, a reminder, I'm won't vote for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.  (Or Jill Stein or Donald Trump.)  But that doesn't lead me to argue that anyone should refuse to run.

Democracy is about multiple voices, from multiple points on the political spectrum, competing in the public square, making their arguments and cases and allowing the people to decide what speaks to them and what direction or candidate they support.

Jan Kubis is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy in Iraq.

On Wednesday, he appeared before the United Nations Security Council to read out loud the report Ban Ki-moon had released a week ago.

As usual, Kubis took no questions from the Security Council.

As usual, the appearance was pointless and wasted fossil fuel flying him from Baghdad to the US just so he could read, word for word, a report the Security Council -- in fact, the whole world -- already had access to.

Early on, he read some of the most laughable statements anyone UN envoy to Iraq has ever read to the Security Council:

Iraq’s political process is moving forward, but without the needed vigour. The Government has achieved many successes, and deserves our acknowledgement and support. Prime Minister Haider al‐Abadi is seeking actively to fulfil the promises of the Government’s programme, but not always with success. Political forces that have backed the Government and its programme often cooperate reluctantly, as if the existential threat of ISIL and economic and social difficulties were already matters of the past. The unity behind the creation of the current Government has not yet fully translated into unity of purpose or action. UNAMI has been actively working with all relevant interlocutors, using its good offices to bring views closer.

There are signs of a growing understanding that the time has come for comprehensive political agreements, particularly for, as some leaders have described it, an “historic national reconciliation”. Several plans and blueprints have emerged recently, promoted by key leaders and political forces. Also, the National Reconciliation Commission has developed an action plan, an initiative owned and led by the Government. The so‐called Baghdad Document is currently being widely consulted and will benefit from inputs from all Iraqi components, allowing for further ownership of and inclusion in the process. This could provide a starting point for further consultations, including with different opposition groups. UNAMI supports these processes.

This development is most welcome, although political compromises are urgently needed to accelerate the implementation of the National Political Agreement and Ministerial Programme. In this regard, institutional and legislative reforms remain key to preserving Iraq’s unity, encouraging political reconciliation and defeating ISIL. Regrettably, the absence of consensus has halted the reform process. The national reconciliation legislative package, which includes key bills such as the National Guard, the General Amnesty, and the Justice and Accountability laws, has seen limited progress since my last briefing to the Council. All three bills are currently before the Council of Representatives, but progress has been stalled due to lack of trust between Iraqi communities, and absence of the necessary political will. I have informed my interlocutors in Parliament and in Government that “painful compromises” are needed to ensure these bills are passed, instead of being returned to the Council of Ministers. Iraq and her people do not have the luxury of time. UNAMI continues to stand ready to assist politically and technically to ensure these reforms succeed.

With or without "vigor," where has Iraq's political process moved forward?

There is nothing to point to.

Nothing has been resolved.
But he wants to pretend it is fair and/or accurate to pretend otherwise?
Hillary Clinton needs to be asked about the following -- Hillary and every other politician trying to seek the presidency:

The human cost of the conflict remains far too high. Since I last briefed the Council, UNAMI has recorded a minimum of 1,200 civilians killed and more than 2,000 wounded as a result of armed conflict or terror attacks. UNAMI continues to receive widespread reports of attacks targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, extrajudicial killings, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, forced recruitment of children, wanton destruction and looting of civilian property, and denial of fundamental rights and freedoms. Minorities, women and children continue to be particularly vulnerable to the horrors and indignities inflicted by ISIL. The recent terrorist outrage during the Eid holidays near a Shi’ite mosque in Khan Bani Saad in which over 120 civilians were reported killed and some 170 injured is another tragic witness to this.

Reports are also received of occasional violations committed by elements of the Popular Mobilization Forces and allied groups. The Government and their leaders have reaffirmed that such violations will not be tolerated, and I urge them to continue taking all possible measures to prevent such transgressions and to bring perpetrators to justice.

If Hillary wants to move beyond her 2002 vote, she can start that process by addressing the realities of Iraq today and explaining to the American people what her 'plan' for Iraq is?

Kubis also read this paragraph to the UN Security Council:

With regard to the protection of children, I would like to commend the Prime Minister’s efforts to tackle the issue of child recruitment by ISIL. On 15 June 2015, he held a conference in Baghdad and proposed a series of recommendations, including increased regional cooperation, academic research, the promotion of co‐existence at school, and social media campaigns. He also called upon the Security Council to take a firmer stance on this issue. The UN participated and will be working closely with the Office of the Prime Minister to develop a plan of action.
Would he like to commend him for that?
And what would Kubis like to do with regards to the use of children soldiers by the "Popularization Mobilization Foces" (Shi'ite militias)?
Because they are using children.
And you can find it all over Arabic media and social media.
And Haider al-Abadi's remarks about the Islamic State and children soldiers were slammed the minute they were made -- slammed in Arabic media and Arabic social media -- by critics who pointed out the Shi'ite militias use of children soldiers (while on the payroll of the Iraqi government).

Meanwhile, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 106 violent deaths across Iraq.

We've already noted Ash Carter's visit to Iraq -- we may note it in the next snapshot.

We will note the community theme posts of picks for movies to watch in summer:   Stan's "Gone in 60 Seconds," Ruth's "Harper," Elaine's "Salt," Ann's "Sparkle," Kat's "Dr Goldfoot," Marcia's "Star Wars," Rebecca's "the wizard of oz," Trina's "Grease" and Mike's "Short Circuit."

As Wally's "THIS JUST IN! CRANKY'S CRASHING!" and Cedric's "Once it was alright (Farmer Joe)" note, the polling is not going well for Cranky Clinton (as they've dubbed Hillary) and perhaps that explains Barney Frank's hysteric attack on democracy in that bad POLITICO column?


Thursday, July 23, 2015


For a summer film, I like action and my pick to watch would be Salt starring Angelina Jolie.

She's working for the CIA.  A Russian defector comes in.

He names her as a Russian spy.

She denies it and a series of twists and turns ensues.

My favorite sequence is when she's running from the CIA from her apartment and ends up jumping on top of a diesel truck.

But there are great action scenes throughout.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills): bvb v
Wednesday, July 22, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, CFR releases a timeline of the Iraq War that struggles with basic facts and events, Haditha is announced as the next target for the Islamic State, some Republicans on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee play politics at the expense of veterans, and much more.

The Council on Foreign Relations has done a very poor timeline on the Iraq War with multiple errors.

For example, slide 16 declares, "December 2005 elections bring the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance into power, and in April 2006, the party names Nouri al-Maliki prime minister."


That tiny sentence has so many lies.

Forget that Nouri is only named after the White House rejects a second term for Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Do we also forget that the Iraqi Constitution defines who names a 'prime minister'?

Do we also forget that Nouri was not named prime minister in April of 2006?

He was named "prime minister-designate."

Check the Constitution if this is too confusing to you.

 Article 73:
First: The President of the Republic shall name the nominee of the Council of Representatives bloc with the largest number to form the Cabinet within fifteen days from the date of the election of the president of the republic.
Second: The Prime Minister-designate shall undertake the naming of the members of his Cabinet within a period not to exceed thirty days from the date of his designation.
Third: In case the Prime Minister-designate fails to form the cabinet during the period specified in clause "Second," the President of the Republic shall name a new nominee for the post of Prime Minister within fifteen days.
Fourth: The Prime Minister-designate shall present the names of his Cabinet members and the ministerial program to the Council of Representatives. He is deemed to have gained its confidence upon the approval, by an absolute majority of the Council of Representatives, of the individual Ministers and the ministerial program.

Fifth: The President of the Republic shall name another nominee to form the cabinet within fifteen days in case the Cabinet did not gain the confidence. 

And then there's nonsense like slide 39:

Parliamentary elections are held on March 7 under stringent security by Iraqi forces. Dozens of explosions rock Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, but voter turnout is over 62 percent. Voter participation is down from 75 percent in the 2005 general elections, as some voters are deterred by fear of violence and doubts about democracy. U.S. officials call the elections a success and an important step toward withdrawing U.S. troops in the summer of 2010. 
More than 6,200 candidates from eighty-six lists participate in the elections, which showcase a power struggle between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite coalition and former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi's cross-sectarian secular list. Some opposition parties make allegations of fraud, but diplomats and UN officials helping to organize the elections maintain there weren't widespread violations.

If you're going to comment on the elections, shouldn't you note that Ayad Allawi's slate (Iraqiya) came in first?

It's not a minor point.

And in what world does any outlet or organization note an election but not note who won?

There are other problems with that but let's' move on to slide 41:

After more than nine months of political wrangling, the Iraqi parliament approves a coalition government forged by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law party and several other factions. The agreement keeps Maliki as prime minister and Jalal Talabani--a Kurd--as president. But a power-sharing arrangement with former prime minister Ayad Allawi--whose Iraqiya party won a majority of seats--never takes shape. Maliki names thirty-four ministers to his cabinet, including rival Sunni politicians, which U.S. officials say reduces the chances that "disaffected Sunnis will split off and resume sectarian warfare" (NYT). But Maliki refrains from naming heads of the defense and interior ministry, appointing himself the interim head and causing concern about a growing centralization of power. U.S. officials cite the acrimonious relationship between Allawi and Maliki as an obstacle to U.S. troop withdrawal and combating terrorism in the country (NYT).

I'm sorry, do we not know how to count?

Apparently, we don't.  So let's go real slow.

The elections were March 7, 2010.

April 7th was one month.

May 7th was two months.

June 7th was three months.

July 7th was four months.

August 7th was five months.

September 7th was six months.

October 7th was seven months.

November 7th was eight months.

November 10th is when the 'power-sharing agreement' (The Erbil Agreement) is signed.  November 11th is when the Parliament holds their first session and follows the Constitution.

If you count the above, it is eight months and four days after the elections.

Not "after more than nine months."

If you can't even get the dates right, the basic math correct, why the hell should anyone believe a thing in your idiotic slide show?

The Parliament names someone to that post and the person then has 30 days to form a Cabinet which is how they move from "prime minister-designate" to prime minister.

Today, Iraq was finally remembered at the US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson John Kirby.

QUESTION: Yes, please, regarding Iraq.


QUESTION: I mean, I don’t know if you say anything about the F-16. They received a set, a new set of F-16 --

MR KIRBY: Four of them, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, do you have anything to say about that?

MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, I can acknowledge. I think they had arrival – they had an arrival ceremony for these four F-16s.

QUESTION: And the ambassador was there, I think.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. We talked about this before, that they were on the way to Iraq, that they’re – it’s Iraqi property. And I’ll leave it to the Iraqi Government to speak to when and if these aircraft might be flying combat sorties, but they’re there for the defense of sovereign Iraqi territory. Our role was, of course, meeting the procurement need but also doing some of the training in Arizona.

QUESTION: So the other question regarding the news report today in Washington Post front page that Haditha than any other city can be one of the having the highest dam, and hydroelectric project may fall to the ISIL. Do you have anything? Do you have any assessment of --

MR KIRBY: Well, I’m reticent to get into battlefield assessments here from this particular podium. I would refer you to DOD to speak to conditions on the ground and threats and challenges in that regard. That wouldn’t be appropriate for me to speak to here.
Okay. Well, this will be the shortest briefing in history. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Just one quick question following on his question in terms of the F-16s in Iraq. Is there any agreement that stipulates that – or limits their use in different parts of Iraq, i.e. the Kurdish region or other regions that are – people concerned about their use?

MR KIRBY: I mean, there’s restrictions that are placed on these kinds of sales in terms of how it could be used, but I’m not aware of any restrictions in terms of geographically where it can be used. They are – they belong to the Iraqi Government right now and they’re designed to help the Iraqi Government defend itself and its sovereignty. And what exactly mission parameters that are put on that would be up to the Iraqi Government to pursue. They’re not to be used for sectarian purposes. They’re to be used for the defense of Iraqi territory. And Prime Minister Abadi certainly knows that and will observe that. We’re not worried about that. As for geographic limitations, I’m not aware of any.

The Washington Post report mentioned above is Loveday Morris' "This town has resisted Islamic State for 18 months. But food is running low."  From the article:

The people of Haditha, though, are struggling to survive in a town largely cut off from the outside world. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has singled it out as its next target.
"It’s like we’re not living in Iraq," said one resident, Israa Mohammed, 38, as she waited to receive a rare delivery of food aid last week. "There’s no way in or out. It’s like we are an island in the desert."
The first group of reporters to gain access to Haditha in more than a year found the besieged city in desperate straits. With gasoline more than quadruple the national price, bicycles are a more common sight than cars on its winding streets.

Doctors have fled, and medicines are hard to come by. Electricity flickers on for just three hours a day.

The dire situation in Hadita was noted this month in a Congressional Committee hearing.  From the Wednesday, July 8th snapshot:

Senator Joe Donnelly: I just got back from Iraq with Senator [Tim] Kaine who led our trip and one of the meetings we had was with a number of the Sunni tribal leaders and some of them were from the Haditha area and in talking to them they have said, "We have stood with you. We have faith with you.  But we have people who are now eating grass in our town.  We have no food.  We have no supplies.  And we have been told that the only airlifts that can come in would be on military transport.  Is there anything you can do to help feed our people?"  And so, I wanted to put that before you to see if there's something we can do to be of aid to these individuals.

Donnelly was speaking Tuesday at the Senate Armed Services Committee.  The Committee Chair is Senator John McCain and the Ranking Member is Senator Jack Reed.  Appearing before the Committee were Gen Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint Chiefs) and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Donnelly states that he was told, in Haditha, food resources were so low that civilians were eating grass.

Though only in his second year in the US Senate, Donnelly has not racked up  a reputation for lying or misleading.

So it's fairly safe to assume this is what he was told.

Where's the outcry?

We drive our Bitch Moan and Whine vehicles all over the globe over this or that artifact destroyed in Iraq but you have civilians forced to eat grass and no one cares enough to make this a lead story?

Secretary Ash Carter: Well, uh, I'll say something about that and ask the Chairman if he wants to add.  First of all, I want to thank you, Senator Donnelly, also Senator Kaine for traveling there.  We appreciate it.  And on behalf of the 3,550 members of our armed forces that are in Iraq conducting this fight, thank you for taking the time to go visit them this Fourth of July weekend.  The humanitarian situation is yet another tragic consequence of what is going on with ISIL.  It remains one of the coalition's, uhm, uh, uh, efforts as I indicated in my opening statement.  To relieve the humanitarian, that's very difficult to do when there is not order and control on the ground.  And so, uh, this is why we need to get a security situation that's stable, ground forces that are capable of hol- seizing territory, holding territory and governing.  That's the only way to get the humanitarian situation turned around -- either in Iraq or in Syria.  It's very sad.  It's tragic.  And, uh, in the case of Iraq -- as has been noted --  uh, something brought about by the re-emergence of sectarianism in a really tragic way.  Chairman, you want to add anything?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  One of the reasons we went to [al-] Taqaddum Air Base [in Anbar Province] -- also locally called Habbaniyah -- is to advise and assist in the Anbar operations center which is where these kind of issues should actually migrate through.  And it's -- You should be interested to know the Iraqis have the capabilities to address that.  They have C-130J [Lockheed Martin transport aircraft], you know state of the art, uhm-uhm -- 

Senator Joe Donnelly:  I know they do, but they're not.

Gen Martin Dempsey:  Yeah, well we'll pass it to the guy who's embedded with -- 

Senator Joe Donnelly:  And you know, when you're hungry?  You're stomach doesn't tell you you want Iraqi food or US food, you just want help.  And one of the bonds created with these tribal leaders is they said, "We've always felt that we could count on you."  

Meanwhile, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 81 violent deaths across Iraq.

In the US, today could have been a very important day for veterans.  Instead, some members of Congress -- on the Republican side -- elected to play games and mess with veterans.

Senator Patty Murray has worked years to highlight a very serious problem for many veterans.  You are injured while serving.  Your injury may mean you and your spouse are unable to become pregnant.

Now if you're still active duty, if you're DoD and not under the VA, the government will cover efforts at in vitro fertilization.

But if you're VA?  No.

This isn't fair.

And Murray has led the fight for equality and the fight to see that veterans have the same rights and opportunities as anyone else.

Today, she pulled her bill because some members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (on the Republican side) attempted to turn a veterans issue into something else, a vote on Planned Parenthood, abortion and other issues that had nothing to do with helping wounded veterans start families.

Patricia Kim (Military Times) reports:

Murray called the amendments a "partisan attack on women's health," and said her bill, which passed the Senate in 2012 but failed in the House over funding concerns, would have ensured that the nation is doing "everything we can to support veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country."
"I am so disappointed — and truly angry that Republicans on the Veterans Affairs Committee decided yesterday to leap at the opportunity to pander to their base, to poison the well with the political cable news battle of the day, and turn their backs on wounded veterans," she said.
Tillis said the amendments were not intended "to kill in vitro fertilization." Rather, he said he has concerns about veterans who are waiting to receive medical care or are being denied care, including some of his constituents who have diseases related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"At some point, it may make sense to add another half a billion dollars for this medical treatment that's been proposed by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but not until we're absolutely certain that the promises we've already made going to be fulfilled," said Tillis, a freshman congressman.

Oh, it's not worth money to help an injured veteran start a family?

The Camp Lejeune issue?

You want to block a nominee over that?

I'll support you, I'll defend you.  I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican, I will support you.

And I have.

I've supported Senator Richard Burr on this issue.  I've defended him here for blocking a nominee or a bill because of this issue.

But I can't support using Camp Lejeune as an excuse for denying other veterans and their families in need.

I can't support.

I can't defend it.

I think it's outrageous and I'm deeply, deeply disappointed in Tillis who I have had favorable impressions of as a result of recent Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearings.

He and others chose to play politics instead of standing up for veterans.

If he can't stand up for veterans, he really doesn't need to be on the Committee.

That's something only he can decide.

And I'm not calling for him to be ejected.

But this move wasn't about what was best for veterans.