Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cass Elliot made her own kind of music

"What We’re Listening to This Week" (CounterPunch):

John Prine—John Prine.
In summer 1974, I attended one day of the American Folklife Festival at Wolf Trap Park near Dulles, Virginia.  My friends and I showed up early that morning, packed our beer into a cooler and headed to the park grounds for a series of music workshops before the evening concert.  The first pavilion we entered John Prine was sitting at a picnic table tuning his guitar.  We offered him a beer and a sandwich.  A couple beers later, two of my friends were playing “The Tennessee Waltz” with Prine.  Later on, I wandered off with the two girls who had come with us while our friends continued to jam with Mr. Prine.
Prine released his first album in 1971.  A collection of wonderfully composed songs exploring the detritius of US culture and war, the album layers tragedy on top of anger tinged with humor.  Prine does not present a pretty picture of an American culture psychologically ravaged by pointless wars and the failed relationships of monopoly capitalism.  In addition, he describes the rape of the environment in his wonderfully wrought “Paradise,” decrying the ravages of progress fueled by the minerals in the ground.  Perhaps most telling, though, is his paean to smoking weed, the clever little tune called “Illegal Smile”—a salve for the wounds we receive in our daily existence.
Live at 800 East—Humblebrag.
It is not easy being a jazz artist these days.  Not because jazz is a different music than it used to be, but because not enough people seem to listen.  So, for those who do play jazz, a certain respect is due.  Those who actually try and make a living at it deserve an even greater acknowledgement.  Bassist and composer Michael Feinberg is one of those.   Like a writer or poet in today’s commercialized world, Feinberg has to wear a number of hats.  Teacher, composer, bassist in at least three combos and a studio musician, his most recent invention is the group Humblebrag.  Featuring Terreon Gully on drums, Billy Bass on trumpet, Godwin Louis on sax, Julian Shore on keyboards and Feinberg on bass, Humblebrag’s debut disc is virtually flawless.
Titled Humblebrag Live at 800 East, the CD is a lively exploration of the intersection between jazz and much of the rest of the music world.  Like a good chamber music arrangement, Feinberg’s musical constructions here involve just the right amount of ornamentation—nothing unnecessarily extravagant nor unduly sparse.   They borrow from hip-hop, Dixieland, rock and bebop, among other influences.  The drumming of Gully drives the band onward, occasionally nudging it, rarely pulling it and always present.  The horns reminded me of the song those birds sing outside your window, while the keyboards are just plain exquisite.  The result is a true sonic delight.
Feinberg is originally from Atlanta.  Indeed, this album was recorded there. He now makes his home in New York’s boroughs.  His primary inspiration is the late Elvin Jones.  His upcoming schedule includes shows with Humblebrag and at least one of his other groups, the Elvin Jones Project.  I hope to catch him soon.  It seems that, like most jazz artists, being present at a live performance (and leaving little to the translation from live to disc) would do him even greater justice than this recording.
Cheap Thrills—Big Brother and the Holding Company.
There are certain albums that define a particular place and time.  Others define even more than that, expanding beyond a place and sometimes even a time.  Cheap Thrills is one of those albums.  Representative of the raw and occasionally undisciplined energy arising from the San Francisco psychedelic scene, this album moved quickly beyond the geographic borders of that scene, rising to number one on the Billboard charts in summer 1968.  All of the sudden, there was a wild sexually open and aggressive white woman singing blues in adolescent bedrooms across Middle America.  Too top it off, the cover is a bawdy, ribald comic about African-Americans, sex and Hell’s Angels drawn by some weird acid freak looking guy named R. Crumb.  Along with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane, and even the Grateful Dead, the hippie freaks were moving into shopping centers in every suburb with a record store.
Musically, the sound of Big Brother is raw and occasionally erratic.  However, it is the perfect music for the voice that was Janis Joplin.  Unlike her later albums that had their own, albeit over-produced, sound, Cheap Thrills is nothing but the real thing.  Certain music should be played in the summer.  This is some of that music.  Put it on and listen to it all the way through.  From “Combination of the Two” to “Summertime” to the final cut “Ball and Chain,” if you aren’t exhausted by the end, you weren’t listening close enough.
Ron Jacobs’ book on the Seventies, Daydream Sunset, will published by CounterPunch this summer.

I went with Ron Jacobs because John Prine was a less than obvious choice and that might be as 'wild' as Ron ever gets.  His comments on Janis and her solo albums show no understanding and only repeat the crap of yesteryear.  The reality is that Janis had stronger albums.  "A Woman Left Lonely" is the Joplin masterpiece most people never know.  (Another is the pre-Cheap Thrills recording "Call On Me" -- uses very well in the film Coming Home.)

Janis was a one of a kind artist and Rolling Stone magazine slammed her in real time for that.  Ron spits back out their tired b.s.

"This edition's playlist" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
Cass Elliot

1) Cass Elliot's Cass Elliot/ The Road Is No Place For A Lady.

2) The Mamas and the Papas' The Papas and The Mamas.

3)  Carly Simon's Never Been Gone.

4) Radiohead's The King of Limbs.

5) Blondie's Parallel Lines.

6) Ben and Ellen Harper's Childhood Home.

7) Diana Ross' diana.

8) Tori Amos' Unrepentant Geraldines.

9)   Prince's Around The World In A Day.

10) Joni Mitchell's Blue.

That's what we listened to at Third.

I could write about any of the ten but I'm going with Cass because it's Cass.

Cass Elliot came to fame with the Mamas and the Papas and their legendary recordings include: "Creeque Alley," "12:30," "California' Dreamin," "Dedicated To The One I Love," "Monday, Monday," "I Saw Her Again," "Safe In My Garden," "Got A Feeling" and so much more.

"Dream A Little Dream" appears on the group's The Papas and The Mamas but was released as a single billed to "Mama Cass and the Mamas and the Papas."

Cass went on to a solo career.  "Make Your Own Kind Of Music" and "California Earthquake" are among her early hits.

In her later career, she went over to RCA and these are the two studio albums she recorded for them: Cass Elliot and The Road Is No Place For A Lady.

The two albums are on one CD and what a wealth of riches.

"Jesus Was A Crossmaker" is an amazing, one-of-a-kind cover that only Cass could do.  She was such an amazing singer who never seemed to err in the studio.  She always found a way to bring a song to life and to make it uniquely her own.

She also takes ownership of "I Think It's Going To Rain Today."

After you hear Cass' cover of the Randy Newman song, you won't want to hear any other version.

"Baby I'm Yours" is classic solo Cass in terms of material but with a wisdom that will surprise you.

Cass didn't have any big hits from these two albums but they make for rich material that let her really show what she can do.

If you're a Cass fan, you really need to add this to your collection.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, June 13, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack talks Iraq, Nouri kills social media in Iraq, Nouri arrests students in Baghdad, Angelina Jolie talks refugees, more people realize Nouri is the problem in Iraq, and much more.

Iraq continues to unravel.  Erin Cunningham Tweets about an important piece this week on Iraq:

"Iraq now seems to be inexorably if unintentionally breaking apart," by WaPo's &

On the White House;s South Lawn this afternoon, en route to boarding a helicopter, US President Barack Obama stopped to make a few comments on Iraq:

Yesterday, I convened a meeting with my National Security Council to discuss the situation there, and this morning I received an update from my team.  Over the last several days, we’ve seen significant gains made by ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria.  In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq’s territory.  And this poses a danger to Iraq and its people.  And given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.

Now, this threat is not brand new.  Over the last year, we’ve been steadily ramping up our security assistance to the Iraqi government with increased training, equipping and intelligence.  Now, Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.  We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.
I do want to be clear though, this is not solely or even primarily a military challenge.  Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future.  Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces.
So any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.  We can’t do it for them.  And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed. 
So this should be a wake-up call.  Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.  In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies. 
Now, Iraq’s neighbors also have some responsibilities to support this process.  Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq, and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos.  So the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.
Indeed, across the region we have redoubled our efforts to help build more capable counterterrorism forces so that groups like ISIL can’t establish a safe haven.  And we’ll continue that effort through our support of the moderate opposition in Syria, our support for Iraq and its security forces, and our partnership with other countries across the region. 
We’re also going to pursue intensive diplomacy throughout this period both inside of Iraq and across the region, because there’s never going to be stability in Iraq or the broader region unless there are political outcomes that allow people to resolve their differences peacefully without resorting to war or relying on the United States military. 

We’ll be monitoring the situation in Iraq very carefully over the next several days.  Our top priority will remain being vigilant against any threats to our personnel serving overseas.  We will consult closely with Congress as we make determinations about appropriate action, and we’ll continue to keep the American people fully informed as we make decisions about the way forward. 

He took a few questions and we'll note this response: "And obviously, our troops and the American people and the American taxpayers made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny.  But ultimately, they're going to have to seize it.  As I said before, we are not going to be able to do it for them.  And given the very difficult history that we’ve seen in Iraq, I think that any objective observer would recognize that in the absence of accommodation among the various factions inside of Iraq, various military actions by the United States, by any outside nation, are not going to solve those problems over the long term and not going to deliver the kind of stability that we need."

AFP's WG Dunlop offered this observation on Barack's comments.

Immediately after Barack's remarks were aired live, Andrea Mitchell Reports (MSNBC -- link is video) went to a pre-recorded interview with Senator John McCain.

Senator John McCain:  Well our Director of National Intelligence, General [James] Clapper, has already said what is happening in this area of Syria - Iraq has now been dramatically expanded and also has enriched does post a threat for attacks to be planned on the United States of America.  That is the opinion of our Director of National Intelligence.  And I share it.

Andrea Mitchell:  What should the president do?  He says he's only ruled out ground troops.  So he is considering military options.  We're expecting decisions. What would you advise him to do?

Senator John McCain: Andrea, I think that -- I think the national security team should be replaced. But that's not going to happen.  So then, he should bring in other individuals such as General [Jack] Keane, the architect of the surge which succeeded and we had it won, people like the Kagans at  the Institute for the Study of War  [Kimberly Kagan and Fred Kagan], other -- and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.  I think I would put [former top US commander in Iraq] David Petraeus on a plane to Baghdad right now and try to sort all this out.  And, also, Maliki has got to be more inclusive.  He's got to completely change, the way he's treated the Sunni and it may be too late, I don't know.  Maybe it needs to be somebody else?   But now we need to move forward. We've got to plan not only on the military side of it but on the political side of it as well because it's clear that the Sunnis have been alienated completely by Maliki and the way he's handled his leadership in Iraq. 

A few things on the above.

James Clapper?  Could Clapper be right?

Clapper lied to Congress.  The matter should have immediately been turned over to the Justice Dept and Barack should have asked for a resignation.

That didn't happen.

So Clapper has no standing now.  McCain can cite him all he wants but Clapper is a known liar who went before the Congress and lied.  When an official does that, they need to resign.

Clapper could be 100% right that this group of people -- whatever you term them -- are or will plan attacks on the US.  But he's a liar who's disgraced his name and few are going to rush to believe him.

McCain may have seen information -- I'm sure he has -- independently that makes him believe Clapper's assertion.

I don't believe the assertion.  There's no support being presented to the public for it.

There's also no common sense argument for it.

This group allegedly wants to take over not just Iraq but Syria as well.  They're also going to expand to attacks on the US?


Should they take over Iraq, if they also want to take over Syria, that would be their goal.

And if they achieved that?  They'd go for the region.

I don't see where they -- as Clapper believes -- would be making one advance after another in the region and suddenly decide to focus on the US.

It doesn't make sense.

Doing so would slow their attempted march to take over the region.

Doing so would also unleash a response (and hatred and anger) aimed at them from the US and it would mean a full out war.

So I don't see how they'd want to court that anger and the combat response that would follow.

They might.

But thus far, we have allegations only and we have common sense.  And common sense does not back up the allegations.

That McCain would suggest a group that includes the neocon Kagan family (which also includes Barack advisor Robert Kagan and his wife Victoria Nuland who's with the State Dept) isn't surprising (he is right-wing).  But due to other comments by McCain in the past, we should note that he made clear he was not calling for US troops back into Iraq. ("I do not envision a scenario where ground troops are on the ground [. . .] I would not commit to putting American boots on the ground in order to achieve that in deference to that weariness that you so accurately describe.")

The Lead with Jake Tapper (CNN -- link is text and video) notes today:

Hillary Clinton told the BBC Thursday that she is against air strikes in Iraq.
"I agree with the White House's rejection and reluctance to do the kind of military activities that the Maliki government is requesting, namely fighter aircraft to provide close support for the Army and also to go after targets. That is not a role for the United States," Clinton said.

All the hawks are avoiding calling for troops in Iraq because the American people have spoken.  And the Republicans saw that marching into an illegal war harmed their party while Democrats posing as against the war managed to put them back in power.  The peace movement can take a well deserved bow right now for their part in opposing the illegal war and for their part in helping influence popular opinion by speaking out.

We'll note this exchange from Andrea's interview with McCain:

Andrea Mitchell:  So far we have spent years trying to get Maliki to be more  democratic, not be oppressive and exclusionary to the Sunnis.  We've basically driven these Sunnis into the arms of the radicals.  So what make us think that with American help, American airstrikes, more military equipment from the US that he'll change at all.

Senator John McCain:  Well he has to or he has to be changed.  One of the two.  It is an unacceptable situation

I agree with McCain on that.  (I agree with another point he made so much that I'm carrying it over to Third and will nominate it for a 'truest statement of the week.')  Nouri is the problem.  Nouri has attacked Sunnis.  He's run off the vice president, he's attacked a Sunni member's home at dawn leading to the death of many including the Sunni politician's brother.  He's attacked Sunni protesters.  He's attacked the Sunni population at large.

Nouri has bred the violence in Iraq.  Brookings Institute Ken Pollack appeared this afternoon on MSNBC's The Cycle.  Excerpt.

Abby Huntsman:  You even warned the Obama administration years ago that this was coming.  Did they not listen or did they not take you seriously?

Kenneth Pollack: The administration had a different narrative about Iraq, they had a different view about what was going to happen there. And myself and numerous other people were basing our warnings on not just Iraq itself but lots of other civil wars like this over the course of history and what we've seen happen there.  And I think if you look at what was happening there, it was pretty obvious that this was the course that things wanted to go to but the administration wanted to think about Iraq in a as the narrative that they stuck to.  But I think you're right, Abby, that we've got to concentrate on moving forward, on dealing with the situation that we have.  You know, we'll leave it to the historians to sort out, you know, who shot John and under what circumstances. 

Luke Russert: Ken, Luke Russert here in Washington, and one thing I found fascinating from talking to my sources on the Hill, is the degree to which this is Sunni versus Shia and how Sunnis are so just fed up with al-Maliki.  You're not actually seeing remnants of Sadam's old army joining forces with the ISIS.  How much of a problem is that for the US moving forward because this is a very organized, militant group that had military training and knows the country inside and out.

Ken Pollack:  Luke, you put your finger on the critical thing that's going on here, alright.  We can't think of this as just being ISIS -- a group of Iraqis and Syrians out of Syria who've invaded Iraq and it has nothing to do with Iraqi politics.  It's all Iraqi politics. First, as I said, ISIS has a very heavy Iraqi component and, as you said, they are now joining  up with all of these Sunni militias inside of Iraq and that is the force that together is advancing on Baghdad.  And what it speaks to is the complete alienation of Iraq's Sunni community as a result of Maliki's treatment of them over the last two, three, four years.  And it's why  if we're going to deal with the problem, if we're actually solve the situation, pull Iraq out of this civil war, it can't be about military operations, it can't be just about bombing stuff because the fundamental problem is political and we're going to have to deal with that and that's even harder than the military one.  [. . .]  The bottom line here is somebody has got to convince Maliki to change his ways.  He's got to change his way of doing things or else has got to  help the Iraqis bring about a new political leadership that will bring the Sunnis back in [to the government, to the process],  that will deal with the problems in the Iraqi military, that will curb the powers of the prime minister so that all Iraqi ethnic groups aren't frightened of another prime minister like Maliki.  And at the end of the day, I think the military component -- the most useful piece of it is, the Iraqis, in particular, the Shia, are desperate for it so that becomes the leverage we have And I think that the President actually put it the right way.  That, if they want our military support, the price for it is that they're going to have to reform their politics.  Because if they don't reform their politics, there's no point in giving them that military system because the problems are not going to abate. 

Ned Parker has broken many important stories from Iraq -- most notably his work exposing the secret prisons.  He appeared Thursday on Democracy Now! (link is audio, video and text):

NED PARKER: Right. I think one of the great tragedies about the United States’ relationship with Iraq, both inside Iraq and here, is that the matter is so politicized that it’s hard to have a real conversation about what needs to happen now in Iraq so that it can be stabilized. The American involvement happened. And what I wrote two years ago, for instance, was talking about, in the time of the Obama administration, the neglect, if you will, of trying to build upon the chances for success after so much bloodshed and, you know, horror during the Bush years. And there was a chance for stability in Iraq in 2010. The decision to withdraw troops on the ground from Iraq, it’s debatable whether that was a right decision or a wrong decision, but I think the core issue is matters of soft power, that don’t necessarily have anything to do with U.S. military troops. That’s—so it’s about building consensus, trying to help strengthen the foundations of democracy.
Really, the Obama administration looked for many, you know, understandable, pragmatic reasons to want to end the troop presence, because of the cost of money, the cost to soldiers’ lives, but in doing that, in disengaging—and the U.S. military, you know, praised Obama for having a responsible withdrawal timeline; they said he did the right thing there. But what he didn’t do was try to fortify a workable coalition that could govern Iraq over these past four years or to preserve the—you know, these issues that Mohammed al Dulaimy was talking about, human rights abuses. Iraq actually had a decent human rights ministry, not perfect but one that exposed secret prisons by—that were run by Prime Minister Maliki’s military. And in the government formation process in 2011, that ministry was gutted and turned into a wing basically of Prime Minister Maliki’s party. And people who had been encouraged, Iraqis, to expose these abuses by the Americans had to flee the country.

So, I think when we talk about Iraq and the failures of the Obama administration in Iraq—and I think that Iraq for America is a bipartisan failure, and it’s not about troops staying or going. It’s about these core issues that are democratic values. The Obama administration looked at how does Iraq—how does the United States get out, and how does Iraq stay stable? And what they chose was Prime Minister Maliki as their guy. And at the time they made that decision, it wasn’t necessarily a wrong choice, but they focused on personalities, and not values and building the foundations of a government that could work. And that’s a large reason of why we are where we are today, both the United States and Iraq, in terms of the implosion we are seeing.

Are you beginning to grasp the problem?  At CNN, Derek Harvey and Michael Pregent ask, "Who's to blame for Iraq crisis"? Their answer includes:

For more than five years, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his ministers have presided over the packing of the Iraqi military and police with Shiite loyalists -- in both the general officer ranks and the rank and file -- while sidelining many effective commanders who led Iraqi troops in the battlefield gains of 2007-2010, a period during which al Qaeda in Iraq (the forerunner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) was brought to the brink of extinction.
Al-Maliki's "Shiafication" of the Iraqi security forces has been less about the security of Iraq than the security of Baghdad and his regime. Even before the end of the U.S.-led "surge" in 2008, al-Maliki began a concerted effort to replace effective Sunni and Kurdish commanders and intelligence officers in the key mixed-sect areas of Baghdad, Diyala and Salaheddin provinces to ensure that Iraqi units focused on fighting Sunni insurgents while leaving loyal Shiite militias alone -- and to alleviate al-Maliki's irrational fears of a military coup against his government.
In 2008, al-Maliki began replacing effective Kurdish commanders and soldiers in Mosul and Tal Afar with Shiite loyalists from Baghdad and the Prime Minister's Dawa Party, and even Shiite militia members from the south. A number of nonloyalist commanders were forced to resign in the face of trumped up charges or reassigned to desk jobs and replaced with al-Maliki loyalists. The moves were made to marginalize Sunnis and Kurds in the north and entrench al-Maliki's regime and the Dawa Party ahead of provincial and national elections in 2009, 2010 and 2013.

Rebecca Kaplan (CBS News -- link is text and video) covers several hypotheses as to how Iraq ended up in its current crisis and Jake Tapper (CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper) explores the current crisis with administration officials.

Iraq is finally getting serious attention from the MSM and I'm trying to be nice.  I was nice to Kenneth Pollack in yesterday's snapshot because I genuinely believed, from his writing, that he was sincere in his suggestions.  But that was with him.  With the media, I've tried to be nice.

I've tried to be so nice that I've ignored so much this week.  For example, if you're doing a discussion on Iraq and bringing up Nouri al-Maliki, I'm sorry but you're an idiot if you're calling him "president" of Iraq.  Especially if you do repeatedly.  I was kind.  I just ignored you.  I was kind to the TV network that couldn't find their own ass.  But I'm not a nice person and don't pretend to be.  And even in the "thank goodness they're noting Iraq," I can only take so much.

RT reports or 'reports:"

Even before the latest outbreak of violence and chaos in Iraq, the United States was flying secret drone missions in the country in an attempt to gather intelligence on the movements of Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the clandestine surveillance missions have been going on since last year with the consent of the Iraqi government. Senior White House officials said the program was expanded as concerns over the possibility of a rebellion grew, but they acknowledged the activity provided little useful information for both the US and Iraq. 

I ignored the Wall St. Journal article because I was trying to be nice and also because few people would see it (the paper has a high circulation but in the online world they've cut themselves off with their paywall).  But now RT is grabbing the article which means many on the left now know about it or soon will.

And what they know?


The Wall St. Journal may have broken a hip (Do they shoot newspapers?) but it didn't break news.  It did flash ignorance.

We've long covered the use of US drones in Iraq.

Let's offer just one example.  From the January 31, 2012 snapshot:

Meanwhile AFP reports on US President Barack Obama's YouTube fest yesterday and his assertion that there was nothing wrong with the drones flying over Iraq. He is quoted declaring, "The truth of the matter is we're not engaging in a bunch of drone attacks inside of Iraq. There's some surveillance to make sure that our embassy compound is protected." 

Do you get it?

Wall St. Journal reported that drones were being used by the US in Iraq! Wall St. Journal reported it this week!

But two years ago, Barack spoke publicly about drones being used in Iraq.

So the big 'scoop' was really nothing.

It does reveal, however, how little attention people pay to Iraq -- including reporters covering it.

Alsumaria reports that Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress, declared today that failures of leadership and wrong-headed policies are responsible for the desertion of military forces when rebels storm an area.  As if to proved Ahmed's point about leadership failures, the spokesperson for Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law declared today that the governments of Turkey and Saudi Arabia are paying people to attack Iraq. So lost in his lies, Nouri can't even focus on the problems at hand.

Which would include the bombing of Saad bin Maad Mosque in Muqdadiyah.  Iraq Spring MC reports 25 corpses (burned alive) were discovered in Diayla village (killed by Nouri's forces), Nouri's forces bombed a mosque in Baijia leaving 13 people dead and twenty injured, and rebels shot down 2 helicopters in Baiji, sectarian militias kidnapped 2 people in Baiji.  NINA adds that 6 Joint Operations Command announced they killed 6 rebels in Ramadi.

Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspaper) reports:

The likely breakup of Iraq into feuding ethnic and sectarian bastions accelerated Friday as Iraq’s senior Shiite Muslim cleric broke years of support for the central government and decreed that every able-bodied Shiite man had a religious obligation to defend the sect’s holy sites from rebellious Sunni Muslims led by fighters from the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Read more here:

Global Research's Tony Cartalucci argues the US is planning to break up Iraq into a federation with three regions.

Meanwhile, Jasper Hamill (Register) reports Nouri's government is blocking Twitter and Facebook:

A Kuwaiti news agency suggested that the Iraqi government's Ministry of Communications has closed off access to the sites to hamper the rebel's communications. Pornographic sites have also been closed down.
We logged on to several Iraqi proxy servers and were unable to access the social networks, while still getting normal access to other sites. However, we did not see the image below, which is being circulated on Twitter. It appears to show that one of Iraq's biggest ISPs has been told to block Twitter and Facebook.

AFP's WG Dunlop Tweeted:

Iraqi Spring MC reports that today Nouri's forces arrested all the student protesters who lived in Baghdad's Adhamiya.  Is this the 'leadership' Barack wants Nouri to demonstrate.

As the situation in Iraq worsens, some are called on to leave.  Alsumaria reports Lockheed Martin is evacuating 25 employees.  All Iraq News reports that the government of Germany is calling for its citizens "to leave Anbar, Nineveh and Salah il-Din provinces and temporarily Baghdad due to the security breaches." ABC News Radio reports, "Americans are being evacuated from an air base in Iraq on Thursday as militants storm toward the area. Several hundred contractors from the northern facility in Balad are being evacuated to Baghdad, a Defense official confirms."  All Iraq News notes:

The United States rushed Thursday to evacuate hundreds of Americans from Iraq and was desperately making plans to rescue thousands of others as advancing al Qaeda-inspired forces vowed to attack Baghdad and topple the government.
There are about 5,000 American contractors remaining in the increasingly dangerous country, including a team that was bailed out Thursday from a base in Balad, an hour north of the threatened capital.

The three plane loads of Americans were mostly civilians who were part of one of the largest training programs for the Iraqi military — which so far has been largely impotent in the fight against bloodthirsty rebels.

Iraq's refugee problem was most noted around 2007 but it's been huge throughout the war.  The violence started off relatively low when Nouri assumed his second term as prime minister.  It quickly began rising and refugees began to climb in numbers as well.  By June 2013Matthew Woodcraft (BBC World Service -- link is audio) was reporting on the issue:

Matthew Woodcraft: ____ explained how he was new to Amman having decided to make the move from his home city of Baghdad to seek refuge in Jordan just a few weeks ago. "Iraq, she is beautiful," ____ said before exhaling a plume of smoke as he rolled the dice across the board.  "Well, she was," he added, "but we cannot be there anymore.  The religions, it's dangerous. More men arrived sounding lively, with shouts of "Salam alaikum, habibi" -- "hello, my good man" -- and handshakes all around.  Amman is witnessing a new wave of Iraqi refugees as the almost daily bombings across Iraq become ever more bloody.  As the click-clack of dice on wood continued, I spoke with **** one of the organizers of the backgammon evening, in a room away from the other men.  I asked him about the new influx of Iraqis.  This initially jocular man grew serious as he explained, "There are many who are still coming and they cannot work.  They live hand to mouth," he said. going on to tell me how the new arrivals are fleeing with little and in desperate need of help.

Today on Ronan Farrow Daily (MSNBC -- link is video) actress and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees special envoy Angelina Jolie raised the issue of Iraqi refugees.

Angelina Jolie: It really is quite terrifying as a humanitarian to think of all these people and to see what's happening in Iraq now. All the displacement.  All of the displacement. I've met people from the first Iraq War in Syria -- who then were displaced again back to Iraq -- who will now be displaced again for the fourth time. For the fourth time.

Ronan Farrow:  And 500,000 people on the run, it's a terrifying situation.  Do you in general terms feel that the US should do more?

Angelina Jolie:  That's probably -- Do I -- Yes.  Yes.  But, you know, I'm not here to -- I think it's what we -- I think it's a bigger discussion.  I think it's a bigger discussion about leadership in the world.  And I think it's -- I think it's not to point a finger at a particular person or a particular administration, but to say we are lacking in leadership in the world in general.  I don't think there is a perfect example of extraordinary leadership that is going to break through the stalemate of what is happening in the world today when it comes to intervening, assisting innocent people.  It is a much bigger situation.

The refugee situation was already a problem.  This month it has only gotten worse.  UNHCR notes today:

The UN refugee agency on Friday reported that a shortage of shelter is emerging as a key challenge for many of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have fled this week's violence in the northern city of Mosul to seek shelter in Iraq's Kurdistan region.
Local authorities say 300,000 people have sought safety in the Erbil and Duhok governorates and UNHCR monitoring teams report that many arrived with little more than the clothes they were wearing. Many people have no money, and nowhere to go. While some stay with relatives, others are temporarily in hotels where they are exhausting what funds they have. Many families in Duhok are also sheltering in schools, mosques, churches and unfinished buildings.

The UN World Food Programme notes:

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is launching an initial emergency operation to provide food assistance to 42,000 of the most vulnerable people displaced by conflict this week in Iraq.
WFP has deployed emergency and logistics staff to Erbil in the Kurdistan region to determine further food needs on the ground following the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from Mosul to Erbil and neighbouring areas over the past two days.

In its initial response, WFP will deliver approximately 550 metric tons of food a month support the operation, at a cost of $1.5 million. An airlift of emergency food and other supplies is planned from the WFP-run UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Dubai and another flight with non-food assistance is planned from Brindisi, in Italy.

Nouri has failed in many things and broken many promises.  For example, he was supposed to implement Article 140 of the Constitution to resolve the issue of Kirkuk.  Oil-rich Kirkuk is claimed by the Kurdistan Regional Government and by the central government out of Baghdad.  Article 140 calls for a census and referendum to resolve who can claim Kirkuk.  That failed promise may not matter because, this week, the KRG took control of Kirkuk.  Fazel Hawramy (Guardian) reports:

Kirkuk was under new management on Friday. No one was quite sure how long it would last. For Kurds, it represented a historic moment: finally in charge of the city and its surrounding areas after the Iraqi army abandoned its positions in the face of the Isis Sunni onslaught. And even for some Arabs there was a sense that security under the Kurds was better than mayhem under someone else.
Mohammad, a Sunni Arab, was six years old when his father, a civil servant, was persuaded by the government to move to Kirkuk from Baghdad. "I am happy for the [Kurdish military] peshmerga forces to stay in Kirkuk if they can bring security to the residents," he said, blaming the government of the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, for the lack of security in the country. "Maliki has filled the prisons with Sunnis and intensified the sectarian tendencies in the society."
In the Iskan and Rahim Awa districts of the city, Kurdish security forces are visible everywhere and have erected new road blocks every few hundred metres.

Finally, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.  We'll close with this from Bacon's "Recycling Workers In Their Own Words" (San Francisco Bay Guardian):

  Today:  Recycling Workers in Their Own Words:  Two recycling workers speak out
Yesterday:  Invisible No More:  Threatened by immigration and paid illegally low wages, East Bay recycling workers did the unthinkable: They fought back.

I first applied for a job at the Select agency in 2000.  I'd just arrived from Mexico, and a friend explained to me about the agencies, that they'll quickly send you out to work.   They sent me to some other places before ACI.  Then I was out of work for awhile, and I went down to the agency to ask them for another job.  They said the only job they had for me was in the garbage.

A lot of people had told me that this job was really bad.  The woman at the agency told me, go try it for a day, and if you don't like it you can come back here.  So I went.  At first they put me on the cardboard line.  That didn't seem so bad because it's not so dirty.  It's just that the cardboard stacks up so fast.  But then they put me on the trash line, which was a lot dirtier.  But the thing is, I needed the job.  So I worked hard, and the years passed, and I was still there.

All day every day the trucks arrive, they unload and a machine starts pushing the trash onto the line.  Down below, we start sorting it.  The line brings all the trash past the place we're standing, and first we separate out the cardboard.  The next line takes out the plastic.  Then the metal and aluminum gets taken out on another line. 


the washington post
liz sly

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Turn the Clapper matter over to the Justice Department

Jonathan Turley has a piece on NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden at Z-Net which includes:

For many around the world, and a growing number of Americans, Snowden is a hero and whistleblower who put his own freedom at stake to reveal shocking abuses by the US intelligence agencies. Much of what Snowden has done certainly looks like a whistleblower. First, he does not appear to have sought money for his disclosures. Indeed, he appears to have thought more about what he was taking than where he was taking it.
Secondly, and most importantly, is the breathtaking disclosures that he made. Consider a few of the more important disclosures:
  • Secret orders under which the NSA was seizing phone and text records of virtually every citizen in the United States. The scope and lack of protection in the program was described by a federal judge as “almost Orwellian”.
  • Surveillance of world leaders, including some of our closest allies like German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At least 122 world leaders were intercepted by the United States.
  • The forced cooperation of US telecommunication companies to turn over data on every US citizen under programmes like PRISM.
  • Programmes like XKeyscore to search “nearly everything a user does on the Internet” through data it intercepts across the world.
  • The tapping of fiber optic cables by British spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in conjunction with the NSA.
  • The interception of millions of calls in foreign countries, including every single call in places like Afghanistan.
What is most striking is that in the wake of these disclosures, the Obama Administration first denied the allegations. National Intelligence Director James R Clapper Jr not only denied the existence of the programme before the Senate but he later explained that his testimony was “the least untrue” statement that he could make. Of course, that would still make it untrue, but he has never been investigated, let alone prosecuted.
While President Barack Obama would later insist that Snowden did not influence the various reforms implemented after his disclosure, few people believe that claim. There is no question that Snowden succeeded in forcing multiple task force investigations and a series of changes, including the claimed cessation of some aspects of these programmes.

Ed Snowden is a whistle-blower and a hero.

Clapper needs to be the subject of a federal investigation for lying to Congress.

But Ed's a hero.

Why "Ed"?

Because C.I. and Rebecca know messaging.

"Ed" and not "Snowden."

Because it personalizes him.  He's not the scary "Snowden" the White House keeps trying to create.

He is a person.


He has spoken twice that I've seen.  Both times, he gave his name as "Ed" Snowden.

Why wouldn't we call him "Ed"?

It makes him more approachable and more relatable.

When Ed emerged on the scene this time last year, we didn't debate the above.

Rebecca and C.I. had worked out the strategy years before to humanize war resisters -- a group that was also demonized by many elements of the press.

People need to realize that Ed's no different than they are, he's just a person trying to tell the truth the way we all hope we would rise to the occasion if we were in his shoes.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, June 11, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Tikrit falls to rebels, Nouri tries to shift the blame on the issue of security forces deserting their posts in Mosul, Kenneth Pollack has some (bad) suggestions, and much more.

Starting in the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, June 11, 2014                                                                         (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: Murray Remarks on Sanders-McCain Compromise
Murray: “We must keep working to address the management, resource, and personnel shortcomings we know exist at the VA.”
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor before voting on the Sanders-McCain legislation aimed at addressing transparency, wait times, and accountability issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The measure overwhelmingly passed the Senate and will now be reconciled with legislation passed by the House of Representatives, before heading to the President for his signature.
Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared:
“This compromise is an excellent example of what Congress can do when we work together to put veterans first and work toward substantive solutions to the challenges they face. Passing this legislation is a critical step toward addressing some of the immediate accountability and transparency concerns plaguing the VA and fixing its deep-seated structural and cultural challenges.
“Each new report seems to paint a more serious and more disturbing picture of the VA’s system-wide failure to provide timely access to care for our nation’s heroes. I am especially concerned by the number of facilities that serve Washington state veterans that have been flagged for further review and investigation. The VA has promised to get to the bottom of this and I expect them to do so immediately.
“However, these new reports are not only consistent with what I hear so often from veterans and VA employees, but also with what the Inspector General and GAO have been reporting on for more than a decade.
“These are not new problems and Congress must continue to take action on them, while addressing the inevitable issues that will be uncovered as ongoing investigations and reviews are completed.
“I expect this chamber to come together, as the House did yesterday – twice, in fact – to move this bill forward – so we can work out our difference with the House and send this legislation to the President’s desk as soon as possible.
“As we all know, there are serious problems at the VA that will not be solved through legislation alone or by simply replacing the Secretary. However, I am hopeful these steps will spark long-overdue change -- from the top down -- in order to ensure our veterans are getting the care and support they expect and deserve.
“I commend the Senator from Arizona and the Senator from Vermont for their commitment to bipartisanship and putting the needs of our veterans first. This is an important compromise and I urge my colleagues to continue the bipartisan collaboration that made this bill possible.
“Let’s pass this bill quickly so we can get these reforms in place. And we must keep working to address the management, resource, and personnel shortcomings we know exist at the VA.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

Turning to Iraq . . .

Yesterday, rebels seized control of Mosul.  Today, Asharq Al-Awsat reports, "Insurgents captured parts of the Iraqi city of Tikrit on Wednesday, only a day after members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized the city of Mosul amid scenes of chaos among Iraqi military units."  Tikrit, Encyclopedia Britannica explains, "lies on the west bank of the Tigris River about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Baghdad.  In the 10th century Tikrit had a noted fortress and was home to a large Christian monastery.  Its wealth at that time derived from its production of woolen fabrics.  Saladin, the Muslim founder of the Ayyubid dynasty was born at Tikrit about 1137."  It is the capital of Salaheddin Province.  AFP quotes a police colonel stating, "All of Tikrit is in the hands of the militants."

Asharq Al-Awsat also notes:

An eyewitness told the BBC that insurgents entered the town from four different directions, and that at midday intense fighting was taking place in the city center, around the headquarters of the Salaheddin provincial government.

Al Jazeera adds, "Sources told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that gunmen had set up checkpoints around Tikrit, which lies between the capital Baghdad and Mosul, which was caputured by ISIL on Tuesday."

Back to Mosul, the CIA estimates its population to be 1.447 million which puts it behind the most populous city of Baghdad with an estimated population of 5.751 million.  These are estimates.  Iraq has not had a census  BBC News reports, "As many as 500,000 people fled Mosul after the militants attacked the city. The head of the Turkish mission in Mosul and almost 50 consulate officials are being held by the militants, Turkish officials say."

Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports, "On Wednesday, several Mosul residents said the gunmen were knocking on their doors, trying to reassure locals they would not be harmed and urging civil servants to return to work. The situation appeared calm but tense, said the residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for their own safety."  The United Nations News Center notes:

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council today deplored the kidnapping of Turkish diplomats in the Iraqi city of Mosul, while the United Nations humanitarian arm reported that hundreds of thousands of people have fled the area amid rising violence.
Islamic insurgents seized Iraq’s second largest city on Tuesday following days of fighting against Iraqi Government forces. As many as 500,000 people have reportedly fled Mosul in the wake of the violence, and today, terrorists kidnapped the Consul General of Turkey and several consulate staff working in the city.
“This is totally unacceptable,” Mr. Ban said, as he addressed an event at UN Headquarters related to terrorism. “As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am condemning in the strongest possible terms such a terrorist attack against diplomatic officers.”
In a separate statement issued by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the upsurge in violence in Iraq at the hands of terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which have reportedly taken control of the cities of Mosul, Tuz Khourmatu, Beiji and Tikrit.
“Terrorism must not be allowed to succeed in undoing the path towards democracy in Iraq as determined by the will of the Iraqi people,” said the statement. “The Secretary-General urges the international community to unite in showing solidarity with Iraq as it confronts this serious security challenge.”
Members of the Security Council deplored the recent events in Mosul, and condemned the recent terrorist attacks that are being perpetrated against the people of Iraq “in an attempt to destabilize the country and region,” Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, which holds the Council’s presidency for June, said in a statement to the press.
“The members of the Security Council strongly denounced the taking of hostages at the Turkish Consulate and insist on the immediate and safe return of all personnel,” he added.

Let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot for this on the security forces flooding out of Mosul yesterday:

Mitchell Prothero and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) quote Mosul teacher Zaid Mohammed stating, "I asked one soldier I know why he was leaving.  He told me, 'We came here for salaries, not to die'."  Ziad al-Sinjary (Reuters) notes corpses of security forces were "littering the streets" and quoted an unnamed military officer stating, "We can't beat them.  We can't.  They are well trained in street fighting and we're not.  We need a whole army to drive them out of Mosul.  They're like ghosts:  they appear, strike and disappear in seconds."
Alsumaria reports Nouri has ordered military commanders to arrest all security forces who abandoned their posts.  NINA adds that the Ministry of Defense has announced "al-Taji Camp, north of Baghdad," is where the arrested security forces will be held.  After the 2003 invasion, the US military used that camp and called it Camp Cooke. notes it is located 30 kilometers from Baghdad.  While security forces ran, All Iraq News notes, "More than 70 female students are stuck inside the University of Mosul after the control of the ISIL elements on the city."
It should be noted that Al Mada's actually spoken with an officer with the federal police, an officer who deserted Mosul, and he tells the news outlet that leadership ordered the federal police to drop their weapons and evacuate.  Al Mada also reports that the first security forces to desert in Mosul were the Iraqi army forces.

Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) insists, "The scale of the catastrophe, as troops loyal to Mr. Maliki flood north and troops controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government rush west and south, can't be overstated." Which is probably why Nouri's rushing to insist that someone other than him gave the order for the security forces to fall back.  BBC News notes Nouri al-Maliki gave a live, televised address today:

Mr Maliki said he did not want to apportion blame for who had ordered the security personnel "to retreat and cause chaos".

He added: "Those who deserted and did not carry out their jobs properly should be punished but we will honour those who are resisting."

Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) offers, "The charges are flying back and forth between regional leaders and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki as to who’s responsible. The provincial governor, Atheel al Nujaifi, charged Maliki with full responsibility, and said the fall of Mosul spelled the fall of the Maliki regime. Maliki said the conquest of Mosul was 'a trick and conspiracy'."

Read more here:

Who's in charge in Mosul?

No one really knows.


Because reporters didn't do their job.

That's the real story of the never-ending Iraq War.

Early in the war then-New York Times correspondent Dexter Filkins was giddy over a planned interview with rebels.  But he shared that news with US military brass who gave Dexter a good glaring and suddenly he was no longer interested in interviewing or speaking to the resistance.

The whole media embed process ensured that reporting would be one-sided.  Lazy journalists seemed to think that they were breaking new ground by moving beyond US military sources to quote Iraqi government sources -- the Iraqi government that the US government used the US military to set up.

That passed for 'balance.'

Molly Bingham and Steve Connors were the only western journalists to demonstrate serious interest in documenting the realities of the war which, yes, does include the Iraqi rebels.  Meeting Resistance was the documentary film that Bingham and Connors made.  In 2007, Judith Egerton's "Iraqis air their views in 'Meeting Resistance'" (Louisville Courier-Journal) reported:

Who is behind the attacks that maim and kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq?
And why?

"Meeting Resistance," a documentary shot in 2003 and 2004 by photojournalists Molly Bingham and Steve Connors, goes into a Baghdad neighborhood near the protected green zone to answer those questions.
The 85-minute film captures the viewpoint of Iraqis who oppose U.S. troops in their country. The film reveals that ordinary people have joined with former Iraqi military officers, religious leaders and others to drive out what they consider to be an occupying force.
They call themselves resisters, nationalists and patriots. Many are self-proclaimed Jihadists willing to martyr themselves for Islam and Iraq; others are not religious zealots but teachers, engineers, wives and shopkeepers who say they are fighting Americans out of pride and love for their homeland.
A former Iraqi soldier called the U.S. presence in his country "subjugation," and an Iraqi woman told the reporters, "I yearn to be martyred -- my country is occupied."
The documentary will be screened at Baxter Avenue Theatres, 1250 Bardstown Road, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Both Bingham and Connors will be there after each screening to answer questions about their documentary and their experiences in Iraq.

They're really the only journalists to take the resistance seriously -- something all journalists should have been doing.  Coverage does not equate identification or embrace.  Journalists are supposed to nail down the story and that requires covering a story from all angles.   Without that approach, the full story isn't known and the media serves up cheesy, generic statements passed off as 'illuminating details.'

Leela Jacinto (FRANCE 24) states, "ISIS basically emerged from remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq following the 2011 US troop pullout. The group declared itself fairly recently – in April 2013, when the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, issued a statement announcing the merger of his group with a Syrian rebel group, the al-Nusra Front under the new ISIS banner."

What the hell does that mean?

If you want to bash US President Barack Obama on the issue of al Qaeda, it means you just got ammo.  We have long noted that the White House needed to clarify the situation in Iraq or start taking the criticism -- such as here:

Where the press stands is that al Qaeda in Iraq is a nightmare group which has increased its power in Iraq and gone on to Syria (and Libya -- for the few who bother to note the horror that is Libya today).
Guess what boys and girls, if you want to run with that allegation, then you have to blame Barack.
You can't have it both ways.  If al Qaeda is on the rise in Iraq after the (bulk) of US troops withdrew, then this is, in fact, on Barack.
He clearly made a huge error.
I'm not saying he did.  But I don't buy into the mythical al Qaeda in Iraq.
He can't have been brilliant on the Middle East if al Qaeda in Iraq is truly on the rise.
You're going to have to reconcile your two assertions are in conflict, they're at cross purposes.
If al Qaeda in Iraq is on the rise, Barack's to blame for that.

After advocating for that -- and decrying the "al Qaeda" catch all -- I was thrilled to see the White House and the State Dept reject the nonsense.  (See the January 2nd snapshot for State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf declaring, "I think it’s not as simple as saying al-Qaida. Each of these groups is a little bit different, and that’s important because when you’re trying to figure out how to combat them and fight them, it actually matters who they take guidance from and who’s giving them orders and who’s planning these attacks.")

Good for them.

Let's note some of today's State Dept press briefing moderated by Jen Psaki:

QUESTION: Well, don’t you think, though, that, like, you can apply this example also to Syria in terms of that the situation is much more grave now as you consider providing additional support to the rebels than had you had done it two years ago when these discussions first surmised. And in Iraq in particular, like, you’ve seen what was happening in Iraq for – the violence has been steadily increasing for some time, and now you’re kind of a little bit late to the game, don’t you think?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would argue with that. I think in Syria, it’s entirely different for a range of reasons, including the fact that we have not had troops on the ground and there’s never been a consideration to do that. So we’re not talking about a similar situation. They’re obviously linked because of the impact of Syria on the violence in Iraq, and that is a contributing factor that we think has been – has had a major impact on what we’re seeing.

QUESTION: I’m just saying, though, that isn’t there a kind of recognition that you need to be more proactive instead of crisis – responding to these various crises as they’re --

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly --

QUESTION: -- after it’s a little bit too little too late?

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that. The steps that we’ve taken over the last several months to expedite the support that we are providing was in advance of obviously the events that have occurred over the last couple of days. We have a strong diplomatic presence on the ground. We’re constantly evaluating what – how we can best assist, how we can best help prepare to – and partner with the Iraqis to combat these threats from terrorists, and that will continue.

QUESTION: Then why not deploy something that is likely to change the situation on the ground like drones? Since we know their address, we know the address of Daeesh, the ISIL in Iraq. We know where they are. We know where they are moving – their convoys, whatever, their movement is well known. And this is something that can really change things on the ground. Why not? I mean, this is something that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, as I mentioned --

QUESTION: -- you continue to do in Pakistan and in Afghanistan and in Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t discuss operational details along those lines, as you know. I will say, as I noted, you can expect we will increase our assistance. I have nothing I can outline further on that front at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. Because as it seems, the Iraqi army or the Iraqi security forces aren’t able to hold onto what they have. For instance, yesterday there was a helicopter that was overcome by Daeesh, by the ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: I know you asked me about that yesterday. I still don’t at this point have confirmation of those details you mentioned.

QUESTION: Okay. And also, we heard that the central government has requested the aid of the Peshmerga, the Kurdish army or the Kurdish militia, to going to after these bad guys. Will you assist the Peshmerga, which – they have very close relations with the U.S. military. Would you --

MS. PSAKI: I think I just noted a few minutes ago, Said, so I’d point you to this, that we support the steps taken by the Iraqi federal government and the KRG in their efforts to cooperate on a security plan. And that has, as you know, been difficult in the past, so that we see that as a positive step.

QUESTION: Are you also – I mean, the flipside of that – would that help solidify the sort of – the separation in Iraq along ethnic lines, like the KRG may become an independent country?

MS. PSAKI: Again, we – you know where we stand on that. We are encouraged by calls for national unity. The threat from ISIL and the terrorists in Iraq is a challenge for all of the people as well as the region.

QUESTION: And my final question on national unity: Do you have faith – I mean, this question was asked to you yesterday. Do you have faith that Mr. Maliki can lead a national unity effort that can be crowned with success?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted yesterday – and our position hasn’t changed – there’s more that Prime Minister Maliki can do. There’s more that many leaders can do. We’re encouraged by calls for national unity and we think that is the right step forward.

"al Qaeda in Iraq" is homegrown.  It was bred by the illegal war.  There was no "al Qaeda" in Iraq prior to the start of the war and it is not part of a global jihad.  It has outsiders who join -- a Canadian, for example, was revealed to have been a suicide bomber (successful -- meaning he's dead now) last month.  Depending on Nouri's mood, he's slamming Saudi Arabia or Jordan for the fighters.  But the bulk are Iraqis.  (And, in fact, the State Dept believes a number of the foreign fighters are coming from Lebanon.)

The increase in non-Iraqis is largely a result of Nouri's targeting Sunnis.  This has created regional sympathy which leads some to join Iraqis in fighting Nouri and the US-installed government.

There's a lot of nonsense about how Syria's recruiting or influencing.

That's the sort of stupid reporters offer.

In the United States, Nevada and Utah share a border.  If war or unrest breaks out in Utah while was is declining or just being 'accepted' in Nevada, there may be some overlap but what you will largely have is outside fighters pouring into Utah which is where the new war/struggle is.

In Iraq, the Sunni population is in the minority.  In Syria, Sunnis are in the majority.  In Iraq, Shi'ites control the government.  In Syria, Shi'ites control the government (specifically the Alawite sect).  If it's Sunni versus Shi'ite, you really think a significant number of Sunnis in Syria are saying, "Hey, let's forget about Syria where we outnumber the Shi'ites by around three-to-one and let's go fight in Iraq!"


Looking at two potential battlefields, Sunni fighters would flow into or remain in Syria.  That's far more likely than the idea that they're flooding into Iraq.  Common sense has always been in short supply among journalists -- hence the birth of tabloid journalism in the first place.  I agree with what Pensaki said with regards to Syria's alleged impact (said in today's press briefing quoted earlier).

AFP insists, "The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant posted pictures online of militants bulldozing a berm dividing Iraq and Syria, symbolising its goal of uniting its forces in the two countries."  It may or may not symbolize that.  But if the US military was stretched thin -- and it was -- with two major battlefields (Iraq and Afghanistan), then so is whatever groups AFP sees or thinks it sees in Syria and Iraq.

Do foreigners come into Iraq to fight with the Sunni resistance?  All the time.  And you can thank Nouri al-Maliki for that.  His persecution of Sunnis is a recruitment tool.

He's run off Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  He falsely charged Tareq, then he had his Baghdad court hold a press conference insisting Tareq was guilty -- before the trial ever started.

That's not justice.  That's not what the Iraqi Constitution defines as justice.  The Constitution defines all as innocent until proven guilty.  So it's outrageous that Baghdad judges announced Tareq's guilt before he was ever tried.

That is just the most extreme example of Nouri targeting Sunni politicians.

Then there's his targeting of Sunni protesters.  They are harassed, they are rounded up by the police and beaten, they are followed to their homes, they are killed while peacefully protesting -- on the latter, most infamously the April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

The protesters protested why?

FRANCE 24 won't tell you.  AFP struggled with reality.

Sunnis were being disappeared in the Iraqi legal system -- rounded up and disappeared.  Some without charges, some without trials.  This outraged many.  This prompted the 2011 protests.  There were many demands but in terms of getting bodies in the street, that was the ethical outrage which prompted action.

At the end of 2012, when protests re-emerged, the ethical outrage could be traced to the abuse and rape of girls and women in Iraqi prisons.  These reports began emerging two months prior to the protests resuming.  Parliament's investigation had found the charges to be valid.

Sunni girls and women being beaten and raped in government prisons?

Not only will that lead to protests, it will also pull in foreign fighters.  Sunnis in other countries will be outraged by it.

Nouri needs to take accountability for any foreign Sunni fighters in Iraq.  His actions have outraged the worldwide Sunni community.  These are among the reason Betty makes this call, "Nouri al-Maliki isn't just a failure, he's a threat to the safety of Iraq, to its very future."

While the White House loves to use 'terrorists,' we use the terms: rebels, fighters, etc.  As Mike noted last night:

I prefer "rebels" or "militants."  I do not go along with "terrorists."
Maybe they are terrorists but all I have on that is Nouri's words.
They fight Nouri.
That doesn't make them terrorists.
Nouri is a thug, a US installed thug.
If I were Iraqi, I'd be fighting to topple him.
So I'm not going to rush to call people fighting for their country "terrorists" just because the media says they are.
They have a government and leaders imposed on them by the US.
They have every right to resist and many noted that they would when the bulk of US troops left Iraq.
It's their country and they have every right to fight for it.

At The Huffington Post, Daniel Nisman offers an analysis which includes:

In a troubling development, Maliki has already threatened to "arm citizens" to fight ISIS, and claimed to have created a special crisis unit to implement a process of "volunteering and equipping." Such rhetoric is eerily in line with Maliki's past tendencies of mobilizing Shiite militias, many of them religious extremists, to combat Sunni jihadists. In the recent Fallujah and Ramadi counteroffensives, local residents complained of seeing Shiite militia insignias on Iraqi army tanks, alleging that these militias had been mobilized under the guise of the regular army, accusations that only fomented further mistrust among the Sunni population.

I agree with many of the points Nisman makes elsewhere in his analysis.  Read the whole thing. At the Wall St. Journal, Kenneth M. Pollack offers mini-analysis and suggestions.  I disagree with so much.  Pollack seems unaware that he's arguing the Iraq War was about oil (but when you write, that the events in Iraq right now are "a serious threat for the United States.  Americans seem to think that the vast increased in domestic oil production from shale deposits has immunized the U.S. economy from Middle East instaiblity" that's what you're suggesting).

We're going to look at these two suggestions Pollack makes in order to clarify why I disagree with him:

• A constitutional amendment imposing a two-term limit on the presidency and prime ministership. (A third term for Mr. Maliki may have to be grandfathered in to get him to agree, but simply advertising to all Iraqis that he will not rule for life would be an important reassurance that Iraq is not drifting back into dictatorship.)


Nouri is the cause of the violence.  Pollack doesn't state that, I do.  He does note Nouri abuses power.  So even though Moqtada al-Sadr, the Kurds, Osama al-Nujaifi, Ayad Allawi and various others opposed a third term for Nouri (that list includes Ammar al-Hakim provided al-Hakim is named prime minister), the Iraqi people have to endure Nouri?

That makes no sense.

Nor does the notion that Nouri accepts the imposing of two terms only.

Here's what will most likely happen.  Nouri might agree to get his third term.  He would then say the law passed after he started his third term so he can still be elected to two more terms.

I'm sorry Pollack didn't pay attention the what happened in the KRG recently.  KRG President Massoud Barzani was in office when the KRG's Parliament passed the two term rule for his post.  What happened?

He was allowed two terms plus two years because it was passed two years after his first term started.

And Nouri's State of Law had a reaction.  I get so damn tired of spoon feeding.  But they had a reaction and it was publicly stated to Iraqi media that if a two-term law ever passed for the Iraqi prime minister post (I believe it did pass and then Nouri's court ruled it unconstitutional, but whatever), that term limit would only kick in for elections after the law passed.

Which would mean Nouri could go five term.

Again, people need to pay attention.

I'm being more kind than I usually am on stuff like this because I believe Pollack genuinely thought his suggestions had value.  Let's examine another:

• A law defining the powers and prerogatives of the defense and interior ministers, thereby limiting the ability of the prime minister to exercise those powers.


Does Pollack not know that Nouri grabbed those powers?

He did so by refusing to nominate anyone for the security posts.

Back in July 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."

Nouri's second term is ending and those three Cabinent posts remain empty.

Nouri controls them.

Now, Pollack, help me out on how Nouri's going to be forced to nominate people for those posts this go round having made it through four years without them?

The easiest way to slow down the violence is to kick Nouri out of office.  The US government needs to pull all support.  If you don't grasp that, maybe you shouldn't be having this conversation.

Iraqis are scared of Nouri because he's a thug and he's destroyed the country and Pollack wants to suggest the answer is a third term?

Violence didn't disappear after the April 30th elections.  But it did kick up a notch after Nouri claimed (he was lying) that he had the seats in Parliament to get a third term.

That's when the already violent day-to-day got more violent.

You are stripping a people of hope and forcing them to live in fear.  Of course, they will resort to violence.

Pollack is correct when he notes that "the Obama administration seems to turn a blind eye toward Iraq no matter how bad things get."  And they continue to support Nouri.

Nouri breaks every promise.  He breaks with them with the Iraqi people.  He broke them with Bully Boy Bush.  He's broken them with Barack Obama.

You have to want to be fooled to take Nouri at his word today.

He promised to implement the White House's benchmarks.  Bully Boy Bush came up with those.  They never got implemented.  Barack's on his second term and Nouri never kept his word on the benchmarks.  To get his second term as prime minister, Barack had US officials negotiate The Erbil Agreement -- quid pro quo, Nouri promised leaders of political blocs certain things in writing in exchange for their agreeing to grant him a second term.  He briefly honored the contract -- long enough to start his second term.  Then he refused to honor it.  This led to the political crisis which led to the increased violence.

Nouri lies and you have to be an idiot at this late date to think that the man who twice took an oath to the Iraqi Constitution but has twice failed to implement Article 140 as the Constitution compels him to (it resolves the disputed Kirkuk) is going to honor any promise.

He's a liar. And only the extreme idiots would, at this late date, believe him when he promised he was going to do something.

Violence continues elsewhere in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 17 corpses were found dumped east of Mosul, a Sadr City suicide bomber killed 15 other people and left thirty-five injured,  1 person was shot dead in Almadain and another left injured, a Kadhimiyah suicide car bomber took his own life and the lives of 2 other people with eleven more injured,  a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, a Nu'maniya car bombing left five people injured, and a Karbala car bombing left 5 people dead and four more injured.  Iraq Body Count notes that the first ten days of the month have witnessed at least 584 violent deaths.