Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jackie DeShannon's Laurel Canyon

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

Southern Comfort–Regina Carter.
Imagine Hank Williams’ voice as a jazz violin and you come near to what this recording is about.  Jazz violin virtuoso takes that instrument to the hollers, hills and cotton fields of the US South, twists the melodies just enough to make the listener’s ear bend.  There are covers-the aforementioned Hank Williams’ tune “Honky-Tonkin’” for one, Gram Parsons’ “Hickory Wind” is another. Work songs, New Orleans dancing tunes, and songs somebody’s mama sang and Alan Lomax found– and originals, all of them coaxing and exhorting the spirits of that region out of the musical magic box of Carter’s violin-led combo.  The heat, the racism, the whiskey and the joy that anybody who has lived in the Deep South knows–it’s all over this disc.
For the Roses—Joni Mitchell.
This 1972 album was Mitchell’s fifth.  Another master piece and a prime example of her folk rock period, it has hints of the jazz-oriented discs that would follow (beginning with Court and Spark).  In fact, saxophonist Tom Scott, who would front her backing band on Court and Spark, is also on this album. Besides lyrics drawn mostly from her personal life, For the Roses includes songs about heroin addiction (“Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire”), income inequality (“Banquet”), and Beethoven (“Judgement of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig’s Tune).”  In addition, the tune “You Turn Me On (I’m a Radio)” is one of rock’s best efforts at maintaining a metaphor through an entire song.
Ron Jacobs’ book on the Seventies, Daydream Sunset, will published by CounterPunch this summer.

Ron Jacobs gets highlighted solely for his Joni pick.

For The Roses is an amazing Joni album.

That said, he picks the weakest of the songs.

"Woman Of Heart And Mind," for example is amazing as is "Blonde In The Bleachers," "Electricity," "Let The Wind Carry Me" and especially "Lesson In Survival" which includes:

Maybe it's paranoia
Maybe it's sensitivity
Your friends protect you
Scrutinize me
I get so damn timid
Not at all the spirit
That's inside of me
Oh baby I can't seem to make it
With you socially
There's this reef around me
I'm looking way out at the ocean
Love to see that green water in motion
I'm going to get a boat
And we can row it
If you ever get the notion
To be needed by me
Fresh salmon frying
And the tide rolling in

Okay, Third.

"This edition's playlist" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

1) Chrissie Hynde's Stockholm.

2) Pretenders' Packed!

3) Jon Butcher Axis' Wishes.

4) Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Orange.

5) Afghan Whigs' Do The Beast.

6) Tori Amos' Unrepentant Geraldines.

7) Joni Mitchell's Night Ride Home.

8) Jackie DeShannon's Laurel Canyon.

9) Prince's Graffiti Bridge.

10) Carly Simon's Spy.

First, I'm breaking news -- number ten was "Spy."  We left that off.  I'll text Jim and let him know.

I love every album in the ten.

But the one I'm writing about?

I remember

That to Holly

Every one was good

No one has ever looked

The way Holly could

She never cared

About herself

Lord, the way she should

No one will ever treat you

Like Holly would

Those are lyrics from "Holly Would" a song Jackie DeShannon wrote for her 1968 album Laurel Canyon.

I think a strong argument can be made for this album being part of the kick off of the singer-songwriter genre along with albums by Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Van Morrison.  Carole King was off with the group The City, David Crosby wouldn't do a solo album until 1970.

Jackie also records "Come And Stay With Me" -- a song she wrote that Marianne Faithful had recorded.

I love "LA" and "Laurel Canyon" (original tunes she wrote) and I love her cover of "The Weight."

Her cover of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" has to be heard -- it's amazing.  Especially the way her voice plays off Barry White's.

Jackie had huge hits throughout her career like "When You Walk In The Room," "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" and Bacharach and David classic "What The World Needs Now."

For me, Laurel Canyon is her sixties classic album and a sixties classic album period.  I would rank it among the one hundred best of the decade and probably in the top 50.

Jackie played guitar very well and could write an amazing song, no question.

But her voice is what really made her stand out.

She had a range, yes, but she also had this quality that was something like honey.  No one has emerged with a similar voice.  Laurel Canyon accomplishes many things but among those things is presenting Jackie in a framework that really lets you marvel over her singing.

You can download this hard to find album -- download it at Amazon -- for less than ten bucks and you get bonus tracks including "Put A Little Love In Your Heart."

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, June 20, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, skepticism over the US plan, whispers Nouri's going, and so much more.

First up, 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
Friday, June 20, 2014                                                                                  (202) 224-2834
LGBT/VETERANS: Murray Statement on LGBT Benefits Expansion
Despite expansion, gaps still remain for those seeking Social Security benefits
Murray’s SAME Act named by administration as legislative fix
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), author of the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act, released the following statement after the Obama administration announced the expansion of several federal benefits and obligations to married, same-sex couples. The announcement comes after the Department of Justice completed their year-long review of potential legal barriers to these benefits after the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
However, the report indicates that obstacles still remain for certain couples seeking benefits from the Veterans or Social Security Administration.  In a memo to President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder noted the need for Congress to pass Senator Murray’s SAME Act in order to extend full Social Security benefits to married, same-sex couples.
“As we near the one-year anniversary of the historic Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA, today’s news is one of relief and celebration for many of the committed, same-sex couples across America whose lives have been put on hold waiting for this report. These couples, many of them our nation’s heroes, will no longer have to face uncertainty while caring for or mourning the loss of a loved one.
“However, I am disappointed there are still many couples seeking Social Security benefits who will continue to be viewed as second-class citizens in the eyes of the law. Your zip code should not determine whether or not your family will have the means to survive after the death of a spouse, and it shouldn’t prevent your family from getting the benefits you have earned.
“While I believe the administration had the ability to include these benefits in today’s announcement, my SAME Act now provides a legislative roadmap to finally provide these benefits to all couples, regardless of where they live. This seemingly subjective denial spousal benefit claims places an economic and emotional burden on the families of legally married same-sex couples, and it is inconsistent with the practice of other federal departments and agencies.
“In the coming days I will be working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to get this job done. I also urge the administration to continue holding the applications of those who have applied for Social Security benefits until Congress or the courts act to fix this unfortunate gap in benefits.”
In May, Senators Murray and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced the SAME Act to amend the Social Security Act in order to provide full benefits to married, same-sex couples regardless of where they live. Eligibility for spousal benefits provided under the Social Security Act are determined by a place of residence standard. This standard has resulted in applications for Social Security benefits for legally married same-sex spouses living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage being placed on hold. Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 
In March of last year, Senator Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, led a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki calling for an expedited waiver process granting same-sex veterans and their spouses burial rights in national cemeteries. Today’s announcement also included directive that the VA Acting Secretary will “exercise his broad statutory discretion in the area of burial benefits to designate any individual in a committed relationship for burial in a national cemetery, which will allow for the inclusion of same-sex spouses where the domicile provision would otherwise govern.”
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

On veterans, yesterday Matthew Daly (AP) reported the latest VA audit had found "tens of thousands" of veterans are waiting 30 days or more for medical appointments.  The same day the news broke, the VA issued a press release quoting Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson stating:

In many communities across the country, Veterans wait too long for the high quality care they’ve earned and deserve.  As of today, we’ve reached out to 70,000 Veterans to get them off wait lists and into clinics, but there is still much more work to be done. As we continue to address systemic challenges in accessing care, these regular data updates will enhance transparency and provide the most immediate information to Veterans and the public on Veterans’ access to quality health care. Trust is the foundation for everything we do. VA must be an organization built on transparency and accountability, and we will do everything we can to earn that trust one Veteran at a time.

Now let's move to Gwen Ifill who insists in her latest column that Montana's former governor Brian Schweitzer has gone too far.  He said his gaydar went off when he saw Eric Cantor, that Dianne Feinstein was a hooker (he did not use the term "hooker," "streetwalker" or "whore") under a streetlight and that southern men "are a little effeminate."

Gwen's in a tizzy.  There's no problem with criticizing Cantor (who should fire back with a comical response about Schweitzer study him so closely).  Being gay is not a crime in the US and it's not anything to be ashamed of.  Cantor isn't gay.  He shouldn't take offense to it and should instead try to make light of the remark.  Dianne?  She's too close to the intelligence community, to put it mildly.  That's what his critique was about -- which Gwen doesn't want to note.

Southern men?  If that's how he feels, he can say it.  That was stupid though because he is testing a run for the presidency and southern men are all over the country -- not just in the south.  The US is a mobile population and that comment could hurt him.

But I bring up Gwen's column for a reason beyond the remarks Brian Schweitzer made.

Gwen's going to write about civility and taste?

The woman who turned the Blackwater massacre of Iraqi citizens into a joke?  A televised joke?  She's going to determine taste and civility?

Moving to Iraq where things are heating up for prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki, National Iraqi News Agency notes:

Head of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani stressed on Friday, during a telephone conversation with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that the acts of some people in power in Baghdad, is the cause of the events and problems between the components of the Iraqi people, and eventually became the biggest crises of those problems. 
A statement by the presidency of the Region said that Biden telephoned Barzani and discussed with him security and political developments in Iraq and the failure of the army and the control of the armed groups on the city of Mosul.

This comes following other calls for Nouri to step aside.  AFP notes, "US Vice President Joe Biden, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey and David Petraeus, the former top US commander in Iraq, have all either called for Maliki to be more inclusive, or outright criticised him.."  Last night, Ann pointed out internal objections to Nouri:

Here are facts, Ayad Allawi doesn't want Nouri to have a third term.  Moqtada al-Sadr does not want Nouri to have a third term.  Ammar al-Hakim does not want Nouri to have a third term.  All three men, like Nouri, are Shi'ite political leaders.
Here are facts, Osama al-Nujaifi (outgoing Speaker of Parliament) does not want Nouri to have a third term. Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq does not want Nouri to have a third term.  Both men are Sunni political leaders.
Here are facts, the Kurds have declared that if Nouri gets a third term the Kurdish region will break off, go from semi-autonomy to full autonomy.

Today brought an even bigger objection to a third term for Nouri from within Iraq.  The Associated Press reports today that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani had issued a call for a new and "effective" government -- a "thinly veiled criticism that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in office since 2006, was to blame for the nation’s crisis over the blitz by the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant."  This may (or may not) mean the US audience with al-Sistani was a success.  What is obvious is that the requests of Moqtada al-Sadr and Ayad Allawi did not fall on deaf ears.  The two lobbied Al-Sistani last month.

National Iraqi News Agency notes that Italy's Foreign Minister Federica Mogerena declared today, "What Iraq needs at this moment is to seek a path [which] guarantees the unity of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds." This may be the start of international prodding.  Yesterday, the calls for Nouri to step aside were noted on Morning Edition (NPR -- link is text and audio) when host Rneee Montagne spoke with reporter Leila Fadel:

MONTAGNE: Now, there has been, as I've just mentioned, a drumbeat of calls for Prime Minister Maliki to step down. What about where you are in the Kurdish region? What are people saying there? And what have you heard in your reporting?

FADEL: We spoke to the former minister of interior of Iraq, from 2004, Falah al-Naqib. And he said, you know, what I'm doing here is trying to reach out to former officers in the Iraq Army, under Suddam Hussein, and see what type of solution we can provide that will stop the fighting. And he's saying that first step has to be that Maliki goes. He's seen as a really corrupt and sectarian figure, that has marginalized so much of the Sunni population. And they're frustrated.

How bad is it?  Longtime Nouri enabler and minimizer Patrick Cockburn (Indpendent) writes today, "Isolated and discredited by humiliating military defeat, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is likely to go soon, battered as he is by only slightly veiled demands for his immediate departure from powerful figures who once supported him."  Dave Zweifel (Madison Cap Times) offers, "If al-Maliki can't reach -- or more likely, refuses to reach -- an agreement with other factions to share in Iraq's government, then we need to walk away."

Why is he right?  Dave Zweifel is right.  You can argue he's right because Nouri has committed War Crimes, had journalists arrested and beaten, beaten and killed protesters and bred violence and division in the country.

I would certainly agree with all those reasons.

But there's another reason and it's one the press hasn't paid attention to.

Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:

Wednesday night on The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, audio and video), Judy Woodruff moderated a discussion between Senator Tim Kaine and Senator John McCain.  We'll note this:
JUDY WOODRUFF: Should the U.S. be providing military — more military assistance to Iraq right now?

SEN. TIM KAINE: Judy, the question is a little bit premature, because what we really need — and there is a process — the way this is supposed to work is the president will come to us and lay out what he thinks is the preferred option.
And then, after consulting with Congress, we will go forward. I expect that he will do that soon. He’s already been in significant consultation, not only with leadership, but with others like me, but when he does come, there’s going to be some hard questions.
Maliki — we had the opportunity. The U.S. wanted the stay in Iraq and Maliki basically kicked us out. He didn’t want us to stay. Then he ignored all the advice that we and others gave him about how to govern Iraq, to try to do it in a way that brought Kurds and Sunnis and Shias together. Instead, he’s run Iraq for Shias and marginalized, even oppressing Sunni and Kurds.
And so this extremism, the Sunni extremism, has been a predictable consequence of that, in my view. They’re horrible people doing horrible things, but he’s given them an opening by governing in such an autocratic way.
So, if it’s just a matter of, do we come in now to back up Maliki with military force after he kicked us out and after he’s governed the wrong way, that would be foolish. What we should be first talking about is, are there reforms that the Iraqis are willing to make to try to demonstrate to all in the country that they are all going to be treated equally?
Those kind of reforms really are the things that have to happen before we decide what kind of assistance we should provide.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you have had raised a couple of things. And let me just pick them one by one.
In terms of the reforms, Prime Minister Maliki says he has reached out, for example, to Sunnis. He’s brought them — he’s given them a role in his government. He says, in essence, that it’s just wrong to say that he has not reached out.

SEN. TIM KAINE: Virtually every objective account that we have heard from Iraq experts here, not only folks connected with the administration, State Department, DOD, but NGOs and others, suggest just the contrary, that he has ignored that advice and that he has run this government for Shias with the strong support of the Shia-based government in Iran, and he has done it in a way that has marginalized Sunnis and marginalized Kurds.
And that’s why they’re not coming to his aid right now.

We'll note McCain now publicly favors "boots on the ground" but we're not interested in his comments.  Not because he's a Republican but because Kaine came close to something, circled around it -- like Cher with a note she never quite hits -- but never got to it.  We'll cover it in Friday's snapshot.  We are by no means done with this topic.

We keep hearing various voices saying 'Maliki kicked us out.'

There's actually much worse than no SOFA, there's wasted billions.  Yes, some of it was supposedly brought back in, some of the US taxpayer millions were not wasted, supposedly.

I mean "supposedly" because it's the State Dept which operated without any oversight during Barack's first term -- something that reporters should be hitting Hillary Clinton on hard.  John Kerry wasn't Secretary of State for more than nine months when he made good on his promise to have an IG for the State Dept -- a position that was empty for Hillary's entire four years as Secretary of State.

It matters and reporters should be asking her why she felt she was above oversight.

Because she felt that way, the country still doesn't know what was done with all the money, there are several ongoing investigations trying to determine whether the State Dept lost money, had it stolen or what.

But, at it's most basic, Barack's plan for Iraq is to provide assistance and training.

Let's speak very slowly because some people don't get other governments.

In the United States, Barack Obama is president.  He nominates people to be in the Cabinet.  For example, he nominated Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.  The Senate confirmed that nomination, voted for Hagel.  Hagel is now Secretary of State.  If Barack is unhappy with Hagel's performance, he will ask for Hagel's resignation.  By custom -- though not by law -- Hagel would then resign.

It's different in Iraq.  The president is not the head of their country and not elected in a general election.  The head of their country is the prime minister -- also not elected in a general election.  Parliament elects a prime minister-designate.  The prime minister -- if he or she abides by the Constitution -- has 30 days to name a Cabinet -- that's a full Cabinet.  It's the only rule for moving from prime minister-designate to prime minister.  In 2010, Nouri got a second term via the extra-constitutional and US-brokered Erbil Agreement so he didn't have to abide by the Constitution.

He refused to nominate people to head the three security ministries.  That includes the Ministry of the Interior which is over the federal police.  Let's say Nouri had wanted Chuck Hagel for that spot and Hagel had wanted that spot and taken Iraqi citizenship.  If Nouri had nominated him and Parliament had approved him, Chuck Hagel would be Minister of the Interior.  If Nouri decided he didn't want Chuck after the vote, Nouri had no say.

Hagel could stay on.  Hagel is not required to step down.  The only one who can remove Hagel from office is the Parliament.  So if Nouri nominates someone and the Parliament votes them into that office, they basically own that office for the full term.

Nouri staged a power grab -- unconstitutional and no one wanted to call it out and very few even wanted to mention it.  One exception would be CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq.  Another would be Nussaibah Younis whose October 2012 "Time to Get Tough on Iraq" (New York Times) offered a number of important observations including:

Even apart from the Syrian crisis, the United States should be getting tough on the Maliki regime to prevent Iraq's descent into authoritarianism. Although Prime Minister Maliki's first term had its successes, including the "Charge of the Knights" attack against Shiite militias in Basra in 2008, Prime Minister Maliki has become increasingly consumed by his own dictatorial ambitions. And a number of his actions have heightened sectarian tensions in Iraq. He cut a deal with the extremist Shiite party led by Moktada al-Sadr. He reneged on a promise to meaningfully include the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya list in government. He presided over what's being seen as a witch hunt against leading Sunni politicians, culminating in the sentencing to death in absentia of Iraq's vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi.
In addition, Mr. Maliki's government is plagued by incompetence, corruption and a contempt for human rights; ordinary citizens are fast losing confidence in the power of the democratic system. Mr. Maliki has further undermined Iraq's independent institutions, such as the electoral commission and the Iraqi central bank, by bringing them under his direct custodianship. And, most dangerously of all, he is concentrating power over Iraq's entire security apparatus in his hands by refusing to appoint permanent ministers to lead the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the Interior and National Security Council. 

Nouri put puppets in as 'acting' ministers.  They're not ministers.  They do what he tells them or he pulls them out of the post.  They've never been voted on by Parliament so they can't act independently.  They have no real power.

They are the voice of Nouri.

Hopefully, we're all on the same page now and we can get to why that matters in terms of Barack's plan.

He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program? Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue." 
The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete? 
 Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it." She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government. 
But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name. That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States." He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
8 years. 8 years of training last November. And for Fiscal Year 2013, the State Dept wants $149.6 million dollars to train yet another year?
From that hearing:
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
[long pause]
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye." Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.

The State Dept still can't answer Ackerman's question: "When will they be willing to stand up without us?" They can't even answer his second question: "Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?"

The above coves two issues.  Let's grab the first one.  Didn't the US government already spend millions and spend years trying to train the forces?

What's different now?

I think an argument can be made that the mass desertions from the security forces -- nearly 400,000 deserted this month by some reports -- results from Iraqis in the security forces being conflicted about attacking their fellow citizens.  That happened in 2008 when Nouri sent security forces to attack Basra.  Some people are surely thinking "I don't want to get killed" and who could blame them for that?  But there's also the issue of Iraqis being asked to kill one another.

How do you deal with that?

I don't know that you do. Again, asking soldiers to attack their fellow citizens is always risking desertion -- that's been true in century after century, country after country.

It's worse in Iraq because you've had Nouri attacking Sunnis for everything in the last four years.  He ran off the Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and tortured Tareq's staff and bodyguards to try to get them to provide forced confessions -- at least one bodyguard died of kidney damage as a result of this torture. Further harming Nouri on just this one example,  Tareq was not only found guilty in absentia by a Baghdad court that had publicly declared his guilt months before the trial started but he was also repeatedly -- four or five times -- sentenced to death by this court.  That surpasses "excessive" and borders on "obsessive." Other Sunni politicians have been targeted, Sunni activists have been targeted, Sunnis have been disappeared into the prison systems leaving their families not even knowing if their loved ones are still alive, Sunni girls and women have been tortured and raped in Nouri's detention centers, jails and prisons . . .  It doesn't matter if you're Sunni or Shi'ite, that has to bother you.  So when Nouri orders an assault on Sunnis, all of that is factored in and weighs on those being ordered to carry out the asault.

For Barack's proposals to succeed at the most limited definition of success requires Nouri al-Maliki to step aside.  Training will be wasted -- US training -- and advising unless Nouri goes.

That's one issue from the above.  The above contains another issue as well.
Now let's talk about the 'acting' Minister of the Interior. That's Deputy Minister Adnan al-Asadi. He is one of the Iraqis Ranking Member Ackerman referred to in the November 30th hearing, "Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector Generals how utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue."
Adnan al-Asadi was not Minister of the Interior.  He was 'acting' (for four years) and doing Nouri's bidding.
Adnan al-Asadi is who stated, to SIGIR, in 2012, that the US government should spend the money set aside for training Iraqi forces instead on programs in the US. Two years ago, Nouri didn't want training and assistance.  If this is news to you, you should refer to  the Office of the Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction's [PDF format warning] "Iraq Police Development Program: Lack Of Iraqi Support And Security Problems Raise Questions About The Continued Viability Of The Program."
That report found that the US State Dept had wasted ("de facto waste") approximately $206 million in training the Iraqi police since they took over October 1, 2011. How so? They spent $98 million on a Basra training facility and $108 million on a Baghdad training facility.
And what happened to those facilities?
The US taxpayers footed the bill and the State Dept, after Nouri made clear that there would be no training from the US, ended up abandoning the buildings and handing them over to the Iraqi government -- and Nouri didn't pay a penny for those facilities.
In real time, when this nonsense was taking place, there were some members of Congress asking why these fortified and new buildings weren't being turned over to NGOs or civic organizations in Iraq but instead were being gifted to the man who had killed the training program?
No answer was ever provided to that question.

 The US taxpayer spent millions on the construction of training facilities, on the presence of trainers, on scheduling training and Nouri's forces -- apparently on Nouri's orders -- didn't show up for training.
Now the US taxpayer is going to foot the bill again?
The Congress needs to find out the price tag on Barack's new Iraq mission.
The Congress needs to find out who's paying it.
Nouri asked for it.  He sits on billions, he can pay for it.
Why isn't he being asked to pay for it?
He's the one who rejected training after millions were spent constructing buildings, developing a training program and bringing over trainers.
Two years later, he's changed his mind?
Congress needs to find out the price tag.
Barack, as I recall, railed against the piece meal funding process, argued this hid the true financial cost of war.  He was right. But that's when he was a US senator.  Now that's he's president?  He gave a 946 word speech on his 'mission' yesterday that failed to note who would be footing the bill for this misadventure or how much it would cost?
The reality is, he doesn't know how much it's going to cost.
He failed to define how success would be measured or any other facet of the mission.
What's he's proposed is an open-ended mission.  It's very difficult to put a price tag on those.  It's even more difficult to control the costs on those 'missions.'
Back to Hillary, she needs to explain why the State Dept, under her leadership failed to get US land use agreements.  Hillary didn't run Iraq.  We noted that in real time.  Barack removed the direct oversight of the mission in Iraq from her.  But the land use agreements should have still fallen under her supervision.  
The failure to get land use agreements before the construction of US facilities in Iraq resulted in the loss of millions of dollars.  Hillary needs to answer how that happened.  It may very well turn out that she wasn't over that facet as well.  If so, she just needs to state that.  However, Patrick Kennedy was supposed to be over that and he served under Hillary and reported to Hillary so I do believe the failure to secure land use agreements before constructing US facilities falls on Hillary.  

As things fall apart in Iraq, Nicola Nasser (Dissident Voice) argues humanitarian interests or concerns wasn't the straw that broke US government support for Nouri, it was the lack of an oil and gas law:

Anti-American armed resistance to the U.S. proxy ruling regime in Baghdad, especially the Baath-led backbone, is on record as seeking to return to the status quo ante with regard to the country’s strategic hydrocarbon assets; i.e., nationalization.
De-nationalization and privatization of the Iraqi oil and gas industry began with the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003. Al-Maliki, for eight years, could not pass a hydrocarbons law through the parliament. Popular opposition and a political system based on sectarian distribution of power and “federal” distribution of oil revenues blocked its adoption. Ruling by political majority instead by sectarian consensus was al-Maliki’s declared hope to enact the law.
Al-Maliki’s plans towards this end, together with his political ambitions for a third term, were cut short by the fall to armed opposition on June 10 of Mosul, the capital of the northern Ninawa governorate and second only to Baghdad as Iraq’s largest metropolitan area.

If that is the case, the planned US actions would be about little more than grabbing the oil.

Yesterday, US President Barack Obama announced his intent to send several hundred US troops to Iraq. William Deane (Our Missing News) explains, "Step-by-step: 300 combat advisors in route to Iraq, announced by President Obama at a news briefing this Thursday afternoon.   This on top of Monday's 275 troops, announced Monday to protect American Embassy personnel in Baghdad."  In addition to those numbers, there are also members of the Air Force that Barack has doing operations.  Brian Everstine (Air Force Times) points out, "The military is increasing surveillance flights over Iraq to identify possible targets for air strikes, President Obama said Thursday, while a team of airmen waits outside the country to set up and secure air operations if needed."

Amy Davidson (New Yorker) offers her critique here.  The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus offers this judgment, "The administration’s instinct to retreat and ignore festering problems has helped contribute to the cataclysmic result now playing out in Iraq. Yes, the original, far graver sin was the decision to invade. The responsibility of the incumbent president is to deal with the mistakes he inherits."

Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe (PBS' The NewsHour) note, "But Americans aren’t convinced either of President Obama’s approach to these foreign hotspots. The conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine have taken a severe toll on the president’s standing. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this week found him with the lowest foreign policy approval of his presidency -- just 37 percent, down from 52 percent in Dec. 2012 right after he was re-elected."  Barack's speech Thursday has no poll results yet.  It's doubtful, however, just due to its low-key nature, to result in any positive bump to his numbers.  Often, there is a rally around the leader effect when US military actions are announced by a president, however, Barack failed to convey the mission and, most importantly, failed to convincingly express a rationale as to why US troops needed to be sent to Iraq.  More troubling, he failed to note the risks from his plan.  Aryn Baker (Time magazine) observes that attacking ISIS in Iraq could lead to realiation attacks within the US.

Lara Jakes (AP) offers an analysis of recent events.  Barak Mendelsohn (CNN) argues that Barack Obama's plan "is likely doomed."

More caution on Barack's plan came from a world leader.  Speaking to The Asia Society in New York today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared:

Developments in the past few days make it all too easy to imagine a spiral of attack and reprisal not seen in Iraq since 2006 and 2007.
The Sunni extremists of ISIS are trying to show that the Government in Baghdad, Iran and the United States are working together to support atrocities against Sunnis. This perception would help them mobilize support from the Sunni majority that does not share the extremists’ agenda. It is essential that the Government of Iraq and its supporters do everything possible to avoid falling into this trap. Military strikes against ISIS might have little lasting effect or even be counter-productive if there is no movement towards inclusive government in Iraq.
It is imperative for the Government and its backers to ensure that no reprisals are carried out against Sunni communities in revenge for the barbaric acts by ISIS. The ISIS is a threat to all communities in Iraq; all should now work together. Moderate Sunnis should make it clear that they are against terrorism. Kurds should not be seen as disengaging or benefitting from the ongoing chaos. And Shias - they should agree that the army is a national institution.
Sectarian warfare is a disaster for all. It generates a vicious circle of polarization and terrorism. It is crucial for the region’s leaders -- political and religious -- to call for restraint and avoid further contagion. I hope other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as other regional governments, can find ways to build bridges that promote calm and reconciliation.

The United Nations and I personally stand ready to take any initiative that those leaders would find helpful. The region is already wrestling with dramatic transition and the fallout of unrealized aspirations. The risk of massive sectarian violence beyond national borders compels us all to go the extra mile for peace.

Monday, Nickolay Mladenov (Ban Ki-Moon's Special Representative to Iraq) will meet with European Union to discuss events in Iraq. Also weighing in on Barack's plan is the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Center for Constitutional Rights Statement on Iraqi Crisis

June 19, 2014, New York – In response to the current crisis in Iraq and calls for a U.S. military response, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:

The two catastrophic decades of U.S. military action in Iraq should put to rest any delusion that further U.S. military involvement of any kind can foster a lasting resolution to the current crisis. Any plan for security and reconciliation in Iraq must begin by bolstering the voices of the millions of Iraqi civilians who have been caught between brutal abuses by ISIS and other fundamentalist forces and the U.S.-backed government alike.
A strong civil society exists in Iraq despite enormous odds, and there is sustained opposition to the sectarian political system at the heart of this crisis and formally entrenched under the U.S. occupation. With the support of the U.S. government, Prime Minister Maliki further institutionalized violent discrimination and escalated sectarianism. Heeding calls for U.S. military action does not address the underlying political problem, but it could bring further disaster for civilians already reeling from the devastating effects of his policies and the decade-long U.S. military intervention and occupation.
The U.S. should be making reparations to rebuild the country and address the health and environmental crisis and decimation of Iraq’s infrastructure brought on by the previous administration’s illegal war. The U.S. government, which has been bombing Iraq since 1991, is in no small part responsible for what is happening today.  Further violence against the Iraqi people would be just as illegal and just as devastating, whether it involved airstrikes, the deployment of troops, or the expansion of an unlawful drone killing program.

Also today, CCR joined Iraqi and U.S. partners in the Right to Heal Initiative to send a letter to the State Department, which can be read here.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Barack's speech yesterday contained a lot of words -- 946 of them  -- but it failed to answer the most basic question, one the editorial board of the Salem Statesman Journal noted earlier this week:

But Americans also have a question, one that has lingered since Vietnam: "What are we fighting for?"
With each passing day in Afghanistan, and now again in Iraq, the answer seems murkier.

There has been no clarification on that -- none at all.  Worse, at a time when Nouri desperately wants US help, note that he's not changed a damn thing.  Barack's only real demand was that Nouri work on an inclusive government.  Not only has he note done that but he's getting complaints from Osama al-Nujaifi's Mottahidoon coalition (it's a Sunni coaltion led by Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi).  National Iraqi News Agency reports that the state-controlled channel Iraqiya is labeling various Sunni political leaders to be "terrorists and Dawish."  On the ground in Iraq today, Martha Raddatz (ABC News) reports:

Iraqi troops battling for control of the vital Baiji oil refinery are outnumbered, surrounded and trapped inside the facility, U.S. source told ABC News.
The battle for the refinery was in its fourth day today, although fighters for the radical Islamic militia ISIS have apparently taken control of much of the facility and are willing to keep the government forces isolated until they run out of food and ammunition, sources said.
"There is very little the Iraqi government can do to save or liberate those guys," a U.S. official told ABC News. 

Iraq Body Count counts 2,792 violent deaths through Thursday for the month of June so far.  I'd hoped we'd have time to get to the questions Barack was asked Thursday, but we didn't.  Maybe Monday.




Thursday, June 19, 2014

Barack wants his renewed war on Iraq

Barbara Starr, Deidre Walsh and Tom Cohen (CNN) report:

I'll let you know what's going on, but I don't need new congressional authority to act, President Barack Obama told congressional leaders Wednesday about his upcoming decision on possible military intervention in Iraq.
The White House meeting sounded more like a listening session for the top Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate about options for helping Iraq's embattled Shiite government halt the lightning advance of Sunni Islamist fighters toward Baghdad that Obama is considering.

He is Nixon.

Barack is Nixon.

Actually, he's worse than Nixon.

John Dean can't tell you that but, hey, John Dean's a convicted felon.

How does that happen?

How does a crook who deceived the country become 'respectable'?

I remember when the Goody Whore had John Dean on Democracy Now! at the same time as Daniel Ellsberg.

She basically wanted to have a Phyllis George moment.  (Phyllis notoriously asked a woman to hug a man -- the woman had lied and said the man raped her, after he'd been in prison for years, the woman admitted she lied and the man was released.)

No hugs, Goody Whore.

Daniel Ellsberg's rights were trashed by John Dean.

John Dean is scum who only ratted out Nixon to lessen his own criminal sentence.

John Dean found another penis to rub his face against.  He once lusted for Tricky Dick and now he lusts for Barack.

Some people, sadly, want to be victimized.

Barack is a crook.  He is worse than Nixon.

There are scandals that should be emerging in the coming months that will make this more clear.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's War Crimes continue, the refugee crisis increases, more criticism of Nouri including calls for him to step aside, and much more.

Michael S. Smith: Michael, the Sunni Muslims in Iraq were defeated during the course of the American war against Iraq and now there's been a tremendous development in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq.  Tell us about it.

Michael Ratner:  You know, as we've covered on this show many times, I mean probably the most upsetting event of the last was the United States going to war in Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein.  Without discussing Saddam Hussein -- good guy, bad guy, mixed guy -- it was a completely illegal war, a war of aggression killed perhaps a million people.  And while the US has supposedly pulled out, they've left complete chaos.  And the war's created, you know, complete and utter chaos in Iraq.  The place is clearly falling apart at this point. And the latest news is remarkable.  The latest news is on the back of the Sunnis taking over over Falluja -- and remember Falluja, that was taken over about six months ago by the Sunnis, but particularly the group is called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -- an organization that supposedly was once part of al Qaeda.  And Falluja is now under their control -- under Sunnis control.  But it wasn't a major city.  And it also, you have to recall, Americans -- many Americans were killed in Falluja.  US put in a huge amount of money and forces to take it back years ago, they did and now it's gone again.  But the big news today which I think is actually shocking and just tells us we have a real problem in the Middle East right now is now the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has taken over the city of Mosul.  They came in from Syria -- and remember, these are people who want to put together caliphate [an Islamic state]  -- made up at this point of Syria and Iraq -- or at least parts of those two countries. They came over and they've taken over the city of Mosul which is the second biggest city in Iraq, 1.4 million people.  And the Iraqi forces, mostly Shi'ite, who were, you know, supporting the government, have fled the city. And so now you're seeing a situation where Iraq not only has the Kurdish part in the north -- which is practically a separate state or is a separate state.  Now you have the Sunnis taking over Mosul and Falluja.  And the question is what's going to happen now.  But I can tell you now, you got chaos.  And so when all of you out there think about getting a woman president and Hillary Clinton?  Just think this: This is the person who voted for the Iraq War and for what we're seeing in front of us.  And this is the person who did it not because she believed in it but because of political expediency.  Her expediency has cost a million lives and caused the situation today -- along with many others who voted for this, the media who went for it -- from the New York Times to the Washington Post, etc.  This is what the United States has wrought in Iraq.

That discussion is from this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week and is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights).  For any offended by Michael's remarks regarding Hillary, two things.

A) The comments are more accurate than what Stephanie Cutter offered last week on CNN's Crossfire.  As Ava and I noted Sunday, it was disgraceful for her to pretend all Congressional Democrats opposed the Iraq War.  She had been Ted Kennedy's assistant.  The late senator took a brave stand and a public stand against war on Iraq.  When Cutter lies and deceives, she cheapens what one of Ted Kennedy's great moments.

B) He could have held her more responsible.  Here, we noted repeatedly Hillary wasn't over Iraq when she headed the State Dept.  Others didn't make that distinction -- others include Hillary.  But I bet, if pressed on it now, as she gears up for a presidential run, she'll make clear she wasn't over Iraq.  Until she does, anyone who wants to blame her for the current crises in Iraq can do so.  Again, I'm surprised the media hasn't been running with that already.

Actually, there's a third item.  She sought the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008 and may seek it out in 2016.  With Iraq being such a tragedy and such a crime, anyone who's run for president or might run for president needs to be asked in depth questions about Iraq.  The way Terry Gross probed Hillary on marriage equality is the way Hillary should be probed on Iraq -- the way anyone floating a run for the presidency should be probed.

There are a lot of different takes about the current crises in Iraq so let's move over to noting a few.  Mark Thompson (Time magazine) notes:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may be so brutal it gets kicked out of al-Qaeda, but Maliki is no prize. He has repressed the Sunnis and Kurds, promoted Shi’ite officers in the Iraq military who didn’t warrant higher rank, and refused to share power. He used Iraqi security forces to attack peaceful Sunni protests and sidelined the Sunni Sons of Iraq that played an important role in bringing peace to Anbar province.
“Maliki was primarily concerned not with the military situation, but with his own political power,” says Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “He was deeply concerned that if we had stayed he wouldn’t be able to hold together what he thought he had done during 2010 and 2011, which was put virtually all of the instruments of state power under the authority of the prime minister’s office.”

Also weighing in this week,  Iraq War veteran Ross Caputi (ZNet) whose analysis opens:

This week Iraq emerged from the recesses of American memory and became a hot topic of conversation. Alarming headlines about ISIS’s “takeover” of Mosul and their march towards Baghdad have elicited a number of reactions: The most conservative call for direct US military action against ISIS to ensure that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki remains stable in Baghdad. The most liberal lament the ongoing violence and divisions in Iraqi society caused by the US occupation; though they make no attempt distinguish between the violence of ISIS and the violence of the Maliki government.
This range of ideas and perspectives is fascinating, and it says much about American war culture, but mostly for the ideas and perspectives that are omitted from this debate. Entirely absent is the perspective of Iraqis and the issues that are important to them: accountability, independence, and resistance. Moreover, the real complexities of this issue have been lost in a number of the Western media’s favorite binaries: terrorism vs. counterterrorism, good vs. evil, and insurgency vs. stability.
If we dare to take Iraqi voices seriously and think outside of the dominant framework presented to us by the mainstream media, a very different picture of the violence in Iraq emerges and a whole new range of options open up for achieving peace and justice.

On The Reid Report today (MSNBC -- link is video), Joy Reid spoke with NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin and with the Center for a New American Security's Michele Flournoy.  Flournoy served in the Defense Dept during Barack's first term.

Michele Flournoy:  I actually think the administration is focused on the most important thing which is to engage with all the political parties in Iraq: Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurd -- trying to get to a more inclusive government situation.  Remember why this is happening.  This is -- this crisis on the ground -- because Prime Minister Maliki has taken a very sectarian approach to government, marginalizing the Sunni population and basically creating a situation where they are turning to and welcoming in Sunni terrorist groups like ISIS.  So the core driver of this is political and that's where the first area of focus needs to be and I think the administration is rightly focused there.

Joy Reid: And to your point, this is a problem that has a solution that needs to be noted in Prime Minister Maliki's governance.  The Washington Post reports today that the hope for a political solution, essentially what you've just described, are actually dimming.  And the Post reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is actually "tightening his hold on power in response to the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq. Negotiations on a new government have been suspended, and instead, Shiite factions who had sought to prevent Maliki from securing a third term in office by aligning with Sunni and Kurdish politicians have thrown their support behind him."  That sounds like a devolving situation, not an improving one.

Michele Flournoy:  I don't think it's moving in the right direction but I think it's important for the United States and, frankly, all of the neighboring states and the broader international community to say either you come up with a more inclusive approach to government or you're not going to last.  I mean, this is something that has to be fundamentally changed at the political level.  I think the other thing that we need to be doing is engaging the countries on the periphery, particularly Iran, to exercise restraint, not to pour fuel on the fire by sending in their proxies and sort of simply inflaming what could become a civil war. 

The Washington Post report Joy referred to is Liz Sly's "Iraqi premier Maliki gaining strength as Shiites rally behind him."  Sly's covered Iraq for many years and for many outlets.  She knows the civil war (ethnic cleansing) that gripped Iraq.  So there's something we need to note from Sly's article that didn't get mentioned on air:

Sunnis shuddered Tuesday at the news that the body of a Sunni imam and two of his assistants had been discovered in Baghdad’s morgue, four days after they were detained by men wearing government uniforms. The episode echoed the sectarian bloodletting that raged in the middle of the last decade, and it reinforced fears that a new round of killings could be imminent.

In light of that, we'll note Flournoy's closing remarks, "And, again, the message to Maliki has to be either you govern in an inclusive way that's truly representative of the population of Iraq or you need to step aside and let someone else step in who can do that because you're risking renewed civil war if you don't."

Another view?  Harlan Ullman (Pakistan's Daily Times) argues things are not at the breaking point in Iraq yet:

 First, Iraqi parliamentary elections, held on April 30, have not yet led to the formation of a new government. Maliki’s Dawa Party took a real pasting. Hence, a new government could easily have a more moderate and secular prime minister who could actively reconcile with Sunni and Kurdish moderates.
Second, Iraq’s most powerful politician, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, has called upon all Iraqis to rise to the defence of their country. Even if the ISIS insurgents collect a number of Sunni insurgents and past supporters of Saddam Hussein, they are not a well-equipped fighting force. The balance will shift to government forces now that the initial shock of the onslaught has been digested. Third, if the US is smart, bold and courageous, the threat of ISIS/ISIL, which is real, offers new opportunities in the region. More will shortly follow on that.

She's worked for the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor and much more.  Today, Robin Wright (New Yorker) offers:

Iraqis must become invested in their own political order and risk putting their lives on the line to secure it. Unfortunately, Maliki may not be willing to either cede the powers required for a just resolution or to step aside. His intransigence has sabotaged Iraqi nationalism -- though others share in the blame -- and simply propping him up could eventually be costly. On Tuesday, Maliki defied international appeals for political outreach. Instead, he declared a boycott of a Sunni political bloc and put the blame for Iraq’s disintegration on Saudi Arabia. “We hold them responsible for supporting these groups financially and morally, and for the outcome of that -- which includes crimes that may qualify as genocide: the spilling of Iraqi blood, the destruction of Iraqi state institutions and historic and religious sites,” his government said in a statement. So Washington will have to be bold and blunt with him -- and even consider withdrawing support. 

Can Nouri pull together Iraq?  Can he reach out to the Sunnis and/or the Kurds?  Reuters notes, "Washington and other Western capitals are trying to save Iraq as a united country by leaning hard on Prime Minister to reach out to Sunnis. Maliki met Sunni and Kurdish political opponents overnight, concluding with a frosty, carefully staged joint appearance at which an appeal for national unity was read out."

And that minor moment came about only after days of pressure from the White House.

Things remain fluid in Iraq, Rod Nordland (New York Times) reports that rebels have seized the oil refinery in Baiji. Jessica Michele Herring (Latin Post) explains, "Keeping control of the oil refinery is of paramount importance to the Iraqi government, as Iraq gains most of its revenue from the refinery's production of oil. Iraq has the world's fourth-largest crude oil reserves, and produces 3.3 million barrels of oil each day." Martin Chulov and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) add, "Losing control of Baiji would be a critical blow to Iraqi forces still reeling from the capitulation of close to 50,000 troops last week, many of whom have since been replaced by militias raised from the country's majority Shia population."  Laura Smith-Spark, Ashley Fantz and Nic Robertson (CNN) note, "That apparently included 50 Siemens employees, including eight Germans, who were holed up in a power station in Baiji but have been freed, according to German officials. The employees are safe and well, CNN was told.  According to German diplomats, around 8,000 German nationals are currently in Iraq."  While Germans were freed, National Iraqi News Agency reports "three Turks engineers" were kidnapped to the south of Kirkuk along "with their Iraqi driver."  Bill Chappell (The Two-Way, NPR) adds, "As we've reported, ISIS has , less than an hour's drive from Baghdad. It has already taken the large city of Mosul, along with Tikrit. Other cities are being fiercely contested."

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) weighs in with:

There is already a sizable Marine contingent at the embassy, not to mention large numbers of heavily armed military contractors, making it highly likely that the troops are being deployed for other purposes. This includes organizing a defense of the Iraqi capital under conditions in which Iraqi government security forces have repeatedly collapsed in the face of an onslaught by Islamist fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Sunni insurgents.
Washington has insisted that the forces it is sending in are not combat troops, while acknowledging that they are nonetheless “equipped for combat.”
Meanwhile, the White House has organized a meeting with the top Democratic and Republican leaders of both the House and Senate today for consultations on Iraq. The private meeting between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (Republican-Ohio), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky) is likely in preparation for a more aggressive US intervention.
Despite ruling out any US “boots on the ground,” there is increasing discussion of dispatching Special Forces units to Iraq—who again would be equipped for combat but would not be “combat troops” by Washington’s definition.

Where does Congress stand?  On Andrea Mitchell Reports (MSNBC -- link is video), Andrea noted the sharp division of lawmakers on Iraq and she spoke with Senator Joe Manchin.

Andrea Mitchell:  Our reporting is that the President has decided against air strikes other than what Predator Drones could do with Hellfire Missiles perhaps because the intelligence just isn't good enough.  You've heard what Lindsey Graham said and John McCain.  I gather that you are against taking strong military action today in what is evolving into a civil war.

Senator Joe Manchin:  Definitely the President recieves more information than I do or than anyone in Congress does.  But the bottom line is, if you don't have good intel, if you don't have good ground support, you can't be as effective as you want to be without collateral damage.  So I understand that from that standpoint.  I understand also that we're protecting our embassy and I think that's a responsibility that we all have and that the president definitely has.  I am not, I am not under any way, shape or form supportive -- and, Andrea, I think you know that -- of putting troops in there.  I think that basically this is a sectarian war.  We're not going to prevent that from happening.  This is something that's been going on for centuries and all of the sudden we want to basically come in there and say "Kumbaya" and "peace to all" and I don't know if that's going to happen.  I don't think we can.  If money or military might   would change that part of the world, Andrea, we'd  have done it by now.  We have given an awful  lot in sacrifices of our young men and women and basically in resources that are needed back home.  I think enough is enough.

Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Last week, his office issued this statement on the situation in Iraq:
WASHINGTON – Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement today after a classified committee briefing on the security situation in Iraq:

“We got into Iraq without adequate consideration for the consequences. What is required now is thoughtful consideration of our options, none of which, typically for the Middle East, is obvious or easy. It’s important to keep in mind that a major source of Iraq’s problems has been the refusal of the Maliki government, despite persistent U.S. encouragement, to reach out to its Sunni citizens to forge a unified and inclusive Iraq. No action on our part can resolve that disunity. It’s unclear how air strikes on our part can succeed unless the Iraqi army is willing to fight, and that’s uncertain given the fact that several Iraqi army divisions have melted away. While all options should be considered, the problem in Iraq has not been so much a lack of direct U.S. military involvement, but a lack of reconciliation on the part of Iraqi leaders.”


While Carl spoke clearly, Senator Barbara Boxer issued a statement that read like a rant:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement today on the crisis in Iraq: “The current crisis in Iraq has its roots in an ill-conceived war that helped to fuel sectarian violence and an Iraqi government that has excluded minority populations from governing.  
“Much American blood was spilled during the Iraq War and while I believe we should go after ISIS—which poses a threat to the entire world—any U.S. action must be well-considered and well-executed in coordination with our allies and the Iraqi government and military, which we helped train and arm. Iraq should know that it needs a unity government now or its future will be bleak.  
“Some of the biggest GOP cheerleaders for the disastrous war in Iraq are now joining the blame-America-first crowd rather than working with our Commander-in-Chief to confront this crisis.”  

Where does Barbara stand?  As usual, her constituents (I am one) have no idea.  She favors something.  She's not sure what.  But she's going to take swipes at the Republicans instead of take the time to figure out what she thinks needs to happen.  The 'blame-American-first crowd'?  Yes, she actually issued a statement with that phrase in it.  No one's more of a jingoist than Boxer when a Democrat's in the White House.

Senator Bill Nelson's office issued the following:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has been asked to comment on the situation in Iraq – specifically, on the decision to send 275 additional troops to the region.  Here’s what he had to say:
“We’re sending an additional 275 troops to Baghdad to protect our embassy.  That’s a good thing.  We’re going to send a carrier and an amphibious transport ship into the Persian Gulf in case we have to evacuate those Americans.  And in the meantime, we’re going to try to work with our allies to stop the sectarian violence that’s about to blow Iraq apart.”

I like Bill Nelson and can even respect his opinion above but I'm not glad that 275 troops -- who the White House noted would be combat ready -- are being sent to Iraq.  I agree with Bill Auken that there are areas of concern.  I also wonder how any troops -- those 275 or more -- can do any operations in Iraq.

Isn't a SOFA required for that?  Oh, wait, there's something better.  Let's drop back to the April 30, 2013 Iraq snapshot:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

What does the Memorandum of Understanding cover?

Section two outlines that the two sides have agreed on: the US providing instructors and training personnel and Iraq providing students, Iraqi forces and American forces will work together on counterterrorism and on joint exercises.   The tasks we just listed go to the US military being in Iraq in larger numbers.  Obviously the two cannot do joint exercises or work together on counterterrorism without US military present in Iraq.

On The Lead with Jake Tapper (CNN -- link is video), they played a clip of Senator Dianne Feinstein stating, "It seems to me that Maliki has to be convinced that it's in the greater interest of his country for him to retire and for this newly elected government to put together a new government."  Jake asked Dartmouth's Daniel Benjamin, "Is that what needs to happen?"

Daniel Benjamin: Well there needs to be a change at the top in Iraq but we've have had changes at the top before and we've also got sectarian.  So I'm not sure that we're going to get much better. Maliki has strong support in his Shia constituency, has strong support in Iran and frankly I fear that we don't have the  leverage to get the kind of government we'd like to see in Iraq. 

Robin Wright also appeared in the segment and she echoed the opinions we've already quoted earlier in the snapshot from her New Yorker piece.

Also weighing in this week, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America issued the following:

Washington, DC – The Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV) demands that no troops be put on the ground in Iraq to combat its widening civil war. We are not Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s private army to be turned on and off when Iraqi troops desert the defense of their own nation.
Militant forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an offshoot of al-Qaeda which has been exerting influence and have been victorious in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, by driving Iraq into sectarian chaos and war based on religious differences. This week, they took over Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, with minimal opposition and have now set their sights on the capital of Baghdad.
JWV fully supports the Obama Administration’s decision to provide assistance to Iraq’s government as they work to stop the insurgency, but that support must not include sending our servicemembers back on the ground into Iraq. We must also evaluate and possibly enhance the Kurds or other possible potential allies in stabilizing the Middle East.
Of equal and sometimes even more prominent concern must be Pakistan with its nuclear capability. At this point, the entire Middle East is in a state of flux, not just Iraq, and our reaction must be reevaluated to encompass that concern.
When the U.S. left the region in 2011, it was clear that the Iraqis had no political interest in maintaining an American presence in the region. Now is definitely not the time to reenter the fray. If the Iraqi people won’t defend themselves, then we must consider the needs and the results of any intervention and the how and where of it. We must act with responsibility to America’s global security interests.
Further, given the problems currently facing the Department of Veterans Affairs it is clear that our government is and has not been prepared to properly aid the men and women who risk their lives in service to our nation, and instead lets them return to a nation which unintentionally or otherwise is unwilling to heal their wounds.
As Secretary of State John Kerry said back in January, “this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis.” The United States should fully support any military aid that can help the Iraqis fight off ISIS, but ultimately and actually it is their fight to maintain control over their country.

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
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Those favoring US military support for Nouri should be asked where they stand on Nouri's War Crimes. NINA notes the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods have left 4 people dead (1 was a child) and fifteen more injured. Yesterday, it was 2 children. The bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods claimed the lives of 6 civilians -- two of whom were children -- with sixteen more civilians injured.

These are War Crimes, legally defined as such.

Nouri has been doing this since the start of the year.

This is a crime that is known as "collective punishment."  The State of Palestine, Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations notes:

“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidations or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.” Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention.
Forms of collective punishment against all or parts of the population have included, inter alia, the imposition of curfews and sieges on entire villages or urban centers, often for prolonged periods of time, raids, home demolitions, blanket closures of schools and universities, and the destruction and confiscation of property, including agricultural and private lands and the uprooting of trees and crops.

Last week, Senator Robert Menendez (see yesterday's snapshot) raised the issue of barrel bombs with Ambassador Stuart Jones.  (Jones is US Ambassador to Jordan, he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee because US President Barack Obama has nominated him to be the next Ambassador to Iraq).

Chair Robert Menendez:  Ambassador Jones, you know, we had Prime Minister Maliki here last year.  It was a difficult meeting.  I don't know whether or not he will actually, uh, be the prime minister again.  I guess by many accounts, he may very well ultimately build the coalition necessary to do that. But, as I said to Ambassador Beecroft as it relates to our relationship with the Egyptian government, in this case, the Iraqis must understand that the use of barrel bombs, that the overflights and the transiting of airspace by Iran sending troops and military equipment into Syria with impunity, and the lives of the people at Camp Liberty until they are resettled is going to be part of what this Committee judges as it relates to future arm sales, as it relates to our relationship.  So I would like to hear from you.  We understand the importance, we honor the lives of those who were lost in pursuit of a more democratic Iraq from the United States and an enormous national treasure.  But there has to be some change in the course of events here including having a government that is more inclusive, in which every Sunnis isn't an 'enemy' of the state.  There are many Sunnis who want to be part of Iraq as a nation but they have to be included as well.  Can you tell me about what you'll be messaging there as it relates to these issues?

Ambassador Stuart Jones: [. . .]  In regards to the use of barrel bombs, the use of barrel bombs is completely unacceptable.  It's an indiscriminate weapon against civilians and it cannot be tolerated.  This is something that my colleague, Steve Beecroft has raised with the senior levels of the Iraqi government.  There has been an instruction handed down through the military that barrel bombs will not be used.  And we've also heard from military contacts that they recognize that instruction. 

Human Rights Watch noted barrel bombs in their May 27th report:

Iraqi government forces battling armed groups in the western province of Anbar since January 2014 have repeatedly struck Fallujah General Hospital with mortar shells and other munitions, Human Rights Watch said today. The recurring strikes on the main hospital, including with direct fire weapons, strongly suggest that Iraqi forces have targeted it, which would constitute a serious violation of the laws of war.
Since early May, government forces have also dropped barrel bombs on residential neighborhoods of Fallujah and surrounding areas, part of an intensified campaign against armed opposition groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS). These indiscriminate attacks have caused civilian casualties and forced thousands of residents to flee.

“The government has been firing wildly into Fallujah’s residential neighborhoods for more than four months, and ramped up its attacks in May,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch. “This reckless disregard for civilians is deadly for people caught between government forces and opposition groups.”

Ask yourself why the US government should even consider helping Nouri?  He's a War Criminal using collective punishment.  In addition, he's also broken the law by using barrel bombs.

Exactly why does the US government need to prop Nouri up?

Let's move over to today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki:

QUESTION: Okay. Did you get an answer to the question that was posed yesterday about whose authority or under whose authority the additional security troops that went to Iraq are under, under chief of mission or under some other agreement with the Iraqis?
MS. PSAKI: I – as I said yesterday, certainly understand your interest. I’m still working through the final details of that and we’ll venture to get you all an answer by the end of the day.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Department’s – and I don’t know if I did, so maybe this is new information. The RSO, of course, in the Embassy Baghdad is charged with the security and protection of mission personnel and facilities, and the DOD security teams have been integrated with the State security team. But we will get you a final answer on that by the end of the day, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. And then just back to the broader picture for a second. Are you familiar or have you seen the comments that Mr. Jarba made today in Jeddah?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those comments, but I’m sure you can inform me of them.
QUESTION: Well, I can tell you a little bit what I’ve seen. That he basically accused everyone in the room – this was at an Organization of the Islamic Conference. It used to be conference. It is still conference?
QUESTION: Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
QUESTION: Basically accused everyone in the room of being responsible for – everyone else in the room of being responsible for the situation not just in Syria but in Iraq. Would you have any reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, without knowing the details of who else was in the room, we --
QUESTION: Well, it’s 57 countries that are all predominantly Islamic nations.
MS. PSAKI: Well, you are familiar with our view, which is that all of the countries in the region and their leaders need to focus on supporting Iraq and the Iraqi Government and the broad range of Iraqi officials at this difficult time, and it’s not a time for a blame game. We are certainly concerned about the events in Syria and the overflow of violence that has – we feel is a predominant factor that’s led us to where we are in Iraq.
QUESTION: At the same conference, Foreign Minister Zebari said that they have submitted a official request to the United States to actually commence strikes, airstrikes against ISIL. Are you aware of that?
MS. PSAKI: I believe that Chairman Dempsey also spoke about this during his testimony today, and I would point you to his comments.
QUESTION: But as far as you know, are we about to take a decision in that direction?
MS. PSAKI: There --
QUESTION: Is that something that the Secretary supports?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Said, I know you’re aware – as you’re aware, there are a range of options the President is considering, not all military options. At this stage, the only thing that the President has ruled out is sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq. But as we’ve noted many times, the solution is not – needed is not an Iraqi one – is an Iraqi one – I’m sorry – and any U.S. action, including any possible military action, would be in support of a comprehensive strategy to build the capacity of the Iraqis. So I have no new update to provide to you at this point in terms of the President’s decision making.
QUESTION: Any more discussions planned with the Iranians about Iraq? Because they are – I know you said no yesterday, but I was wondering whether things have changed because they are today making noises about the fact that they’re willing to discuss Iraq with you and help if they get to a nuclear deal. So it sounds like they have quite a bit of leverage at the moment. Who wants the nuclear deal more?
MS. PSAKI: I would dispute that. There are still no more discussions planned in Vienna, as I mentioned yesterday. Further discussions would likely take place at a lower level, but I don’t have any update on that front. Our view is that any discussion with Iran regarding Iraq would be entirely separate from the P5+1 negotiations, and any effort to connect the two is a nonstarter for the United States.
QUESTION: But it sounds as though they’re going to play even more hardball in the nuclear negotiations to get you to talk to them about Iraq.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no plans to have further conversations about Iraq at the P5+1 negotiations.
QUESTION: And that’s what I want to follow-up. You say there’s no more discussions in Vienna, but what about elsewhere?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned yesterday, we are open to engagement or discussions on these issues. I don't have anything to predict for you, but it would happen at a lower level.
QUESTION: But – and not in Vienna, but could be in --
MS. PSAKI: Correct. That hasn’t changed since yesterday.
QUESTION: And then I have a follow-up. Do you still have confidence in Maliki as the head of state in Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lesley, as you know, he’s the democratically elected leader of Iraq. Obviously, they’re working through their elections process now. It’s up to the people of Iraq to determine who their leadership is. We have expressed and continue to have concerns about the lack of inclusivity and the way of governing in a sectarian manner. There have been some steps taken over the last couple of days that have been encouraging, but clearly there’s more that needs to be done, and we certainly don’t expect that a couple of steps will solve months, if not years, of concern.
QUESTION: And then today they called for – they’ve asked the U.S. for airstrikes to occur, to – kind of formally. Was that done to the White House? Was Secretary Kerry involved in that? When was it done? How was it done?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details to share. Again, Chairman Dempsey spoke to this today during his testimony, so I would point – certainly point you to that. Obviously, military requests typically go through the military channels.
QUESTION: Did you see the prime minister was on the major televised appeal with Sunni and Kurdish leaders for unity?
MS. PSAKI: I did. There were actually a range of steps, so let me go through a couple of them. Yesterday, there was a national unity meeting in Baghdad at the initiative of former Prime Minister Jafari. We were encouraged to see that Iraqi leaders from all across the political and ethno-sectarian spectrum were a part of that. They met and issued a statement, including a joint call to defend the state of Iraq and protect its sovereignty and dignity. We also welcome, as I have before, but worth noting again, the Iraqi federal supreme court’s ratification of the April 30th election results, and we support Iraqi political and religious leaders’ call for national unity to confront the ISIL terrorist threat. I would also note that Iraqi national security advisor has announced the formation of a public mobilization effort to regulate the thousands of volunteers who have stepped forward to assist Iraq’s security forces. And Prime Minister Maliki also announced that he had dismissed four senior military commanders as they continue to address issues that led to a security breakdown. So these are a couple of steps. Obviously, there needs to be a continuity of this effort.
QUESTION: I just wonder if in this this building the thinking might be that these are steps that should’ve been taken perhaps months ago. As you said repeatedly, we’re calling for unity for the last few months. Is it a question that this is too late now to stop the march of ISIL as they try and capture more parts of Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our view is that Iraq needs to be unified, including all of its political leaders across the spectrum in order to take on that fight. Whether that is efforts to take it on with – through the security forces and in coordination and cooperation that’s happening on that front, or the need to be more politically united over the long term. And as I mentioned a little bit earlier, even if there is assistance from the United States or other countries, this is up to the Iraqi leaders to take steps to make this sustainable over the long term.
QUESTION: But I guess the question is: Why would the Sunni Iraqis, who feel they’ve been so badly marginalized over the last few years, now trust a televised appeal and some of these steps that you’ve outlined to be reflective of what will happen going forward in the future? Why should they believe the message now coming from the Iraqi leadership?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly any leaders have to earn the trust of their people, but these are a range of steps that have been taken to show unity and the need to take on the threat of ISIL with a united front. And they have a common enemy, and that is these terrorists – this terrorist group that is killing and terrorizing people across the country. And that should be incentive.
QUESTION: And did you have anything to say about the reports of fighting around the oil refinery near Baghdad?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Any concerns about what would happen if that were to fall into ISIL’s hands?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the refinery produces for domestic consumption, and production had already stopped for several days due to a combination of technical and security reasons. Iraqi authorities may need to import domestic fuel from neighboring countries. There’s no impact on Iraq’s crude oil exports, and we haven’t seen any major disruptions in oil supplies in Iraq. But we’re certainly constantly monitoring the global oil supply and demand situation.
QUESTION: Have you – and I understand there seems to be maybe at even the White House that any intervention, any American intervention should be conditioned or predicated on Maliki having a more inclusive government. Does the Secretary also subscribe to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve heard the Secretary speak about the steps that we feel Prime Minister Maliki and other leaders in Iraq need to take. But this is not a quid pro quo. We’re talking about what is – what will – what – regardless of the decision made by the President, Prime Minister Maliki and other leaders in Iraq must take additional steps to unite the country and govern in a non-sectarian manner in order to be successful over the long term.
QUESTION: So you would discourage Maliki from taking the election results and feel free to form a government of his own coalition here?
MS. PSAKI: Well again, I think the process of forming a government will work itself through the natural process in Iraq.

That was a lengthy chunk but we've not noted the State Dept press briefings in a snapshot this week (we did note a Jay Carney White House briefing) and several State Dept friends have reminded me that Iraq is being covered and "you always complain it's not but you're not noting it."  So it's noted.


As Psaki mentioned, there's a request by Iraq for air bombings.  Matt Brown (Australia's ABC) reports that Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari states a formal request for airstrikes has been made by the Iraqi government to the US government and that Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirms the request has been received.

One of the big stories right now -- one receiving little attention -- is the refugee crisis.  Today on Andrea Mitchell Reports (MSNBC -- link is video), Andrea spoke with the International Rescue Committee's Nora Love about the refugee crisis in Iraq.  Andrea noted that the last week alone has seen half a million Iraqis flee their homes and that many were fleeing to the northern Kurdistan region which was already dealing with a huge influx of Syrian refugees.  Love was speaking to Andrea from Erbil.

Andrea Mitchell: What are the numbers that you are seeing now and how are you managing the influx of people. 

Nora Love: I mean, I believe that the situation is unfolding each day.  The numbers that were reported coming across were 200,000 in Dohuk and another 100,000 in Erbil.  We're not seeing those numbers in the camps yet because most of those population has kind of been absorbed into the community.  But we feel that in a week or two, this will be unfolding and we'll see a greater need coming out.  We are concerned with what we'll happen not just with the IDPs on the resources but also what's happening in the ISIS's controlled territory. 

Andrea Mitchell:  What kind of resources do you have in terms of food and water and medical facilities for these people who have been internally displaced?

Nora Love:  Yeah, so we're starting up our programming working in seven communities in the Dohuk Province.  We'll be focusing on protection, health, women protection activities as well as cash assistance and water. [. . .]  So we're looking to work with both camp and non-camp beneficiaries of the IDPs and looking to target the most vulnerable of the vulnerables.

Andrea Mitchell:  Are many of these women and children?

Nora Love: Yes, there are many women and children. They seem to be the most at risk.  With the stories that we're hearing, some of the people left the Mosul area because they wanted to protect their daughters from -- [. . .] kidnapping, forced marriages or other things.

We need to close so we'll close with this from John Halle's "The 'Progressive' (aka, Liberal) Antiwar Movement" (CounterPunch):

That leaves the Democrats without any anti-Empire voice. Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) will not do the job of challenging Hillary.  From Norman Solomon to Medea Benjamin they are notorious by now for putting Party over principle.  Other progressives operating outside the Dem Party, and few in number, are well defended, claiming that elections are for naught.  But history argues against this.  Truman, the architect of the unpopular Korean War was defeated in the New Hampshire primary, paving the way for an Eisenhower victory due in part to a pledge to end the war, a pledge he kept promptly.  Lyndon Baynes Johnson, the inheritor of a very unpopular war from JFK was also undone in New Hampshire, by the principled Eugene McCarthy, not the most “liberal” Democrat and a bit of a libertarian.  From that point on despite the best efforts of both Humphrey and Nixon to prolong it, the Vietnam War was over.  Primary challenges have an effect.  Ron Paul built a very powerful movement, especially among the young, with his 2008 and 2012 runs.

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