Saturday, August 09, 2014

CounterPunch's rank sexism

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

Some Velvet Evening: “No Law Against Talking
A while back an expatriate friend of mine who knows a hell of a lot about country music hipped me to this duo from Michigan who are somewhere to the left (or is it the right?) of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings in that they play old-time Nashville country duets that are a hell of a lot close to 1950 than now.
Some Velvet Evening is Carrie Shepard and John Holk, and they’ve studied the country duets from the Louvin Brothers up through Porter and Dolly and Conway and Loretta.  There are times on songs like “One Night of Sin” where you almost expect Mama Maybelle Carter to come wandering into the room with an autoharp.  Occasionally their lyrics bring them up to the present, but most of the time they take you to another time or place.
Peter Stone Brown is a musician and writer in Philly.

I remain astounded by what I see as the rank sexism at CounterPunch week after week.

We were in such a rush last Sunday that we didn't do a playlist at Third.

But when we do, either half or close to half are women.

At CounterPunch, they appear to list 30 albums each week with only four or so featuring a woman -- in a band or duo or solo.

CounterPunch is exactly why rock died.

It was sexist, elitist and patronizing.

It's amazing how few women are mentioned or noted.

Since they returned the feature this year (as did Third), CounterPunch has never noted Carly Simon, Melanie, Laura Nyro, Cass Elliot, Stevie Nicks, Diana Ross, Anita Baker, Roberta Flack, Janis Ian, Sandie Shaw, Kate Nash, Judy Collins, Tina Turner, Rickie Lee Jones, Yuna, Sade, Bonnie Raitt, Tracy Chapman, Heart, Maria McKee and so many more.  They've only noted Joni once this year -- Ron Jacobs noted For The Roses -- and Tori once -- Jeffrey St. Clair noted Unrepentant Geraldines.

Aimee Mann?

The boys and girls of CounterPunch never heard of her.

It's so very telling.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, August 8, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack bombs Iraq, he comes to the decision after Riding In Cars With Boys, no strategy is apparent to his so-called plan so he dusts off Vietnam justications, and much more.

Speaking at the US State Dept today, spokesperson Marie Harf declared, "As you saw this morning, the Defense Department put out a statement that at approximately 6:45 a.m. the U.S. military conducted a targeted airstrike against ISIL terrorists with two F/A-18 aircraft dropping 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil that ISIL was using to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil, where, of course, U.S. personnel are located. As the President has made clear, the U.S. military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel or facilities."

Last night, US President Barack Obama announced he would be authorizing air strikes on Iraq. Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "Less than 12 hours after he finished speaking, the United States had already struck twice and a third bombing run was just a few hours away. The quick series of airstrikes raised fears among some of mission creep _ a term coined during the Vietnam War to describe a growing commitment of men and materiel after initial steps failed to produce the desired result."

US House Rep Barbara Lee is one who has noted mission creep.  Her office released this statement today:

Washington, DC - Congresswoman Lee issued this statement upon receiving news of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq:
“I support strictly humanitarian efforts to prevent genocide in Iraq.
While the President has existing authority to protect American diplomatic personnel,  I remain concerned about U.S. mission creep in Iraq and escalation into a larger conflict, which I oppose.
There is no military solution in Iraq. Any lasting solution must be political and respect the rights of all Iraqis.
I am pleased President Obama recognized this in his statement last night, when he said: ‘there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.  The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.’
I will continue to call for the President to seek congressional authorization before any combat operations. For too long, Congress has abdicated its Constitutional role in matters of war and peace. The President should come to Congress for authorization of any further military action in Iraq.”

When's he going to come before Congress?

Next week?

Are they holding Congressional sessions on Martha's Vineyard because Barack's embarking on a two week vacation.

Last night he declared:

Today I authorized two operations in Iraq -- targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.  Let me explain the actions we’re taking and why.    
First, I said in June -- as the terrorist group ISIL began an advance across Iraq -- that the United States would be prepared to take targeted military action in Iraq if and when we determined that the situation required it.  In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces. 
To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.  We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad.  We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.
Second, at the request of the Iraqi government -- we’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain.  As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis.  And these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yezidis, a small and ancient religious sect.  Countless Iraqis have been displaced.  And chilling reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting mass executions, and enslaving Yezidi women. 
In recent days, Yezidi women, men and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives.  And thousands -- perhaps tens of thousands -- are now hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their backs.  They’re without food, they’re without water.  People are starving.  And children are dying of thirst.  Meanwhile, ISIL forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide.  So these innocent families are faced with a horrible choice:  descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.
I’ve said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world.  So let me be clear about why we must act, and act now.  When we face a situation like we do on that mountain -- with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help -- in this case, a request from the Iraqi government -- and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.  We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide.  That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.

I’ve, therefore, authorized targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there.  Already, American aircraft have begun conducting humanitarian airdrops of food and water to help these desperate men, women and children survive.  Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, “There is no one coming to help.”  Well today, America is coming to help.  We’re also consulting with other countries -- and the United Nations -- who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis. 

Late last night, he declared that and more.  Kicking it off with the statement that he made his decision "today."  But he didn't inform Congress of it until Friday (today).

When did he make his decision?  Margaret Talev (Bloomberg News) reports he made his decision "[d]uring a five-minute limo ride back to the White House from the State Department with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey" in which "Obama's fears were confirmed."  AP also notes Barack's Riding In Cars With Boys moment which they say took place Wednesday.  BBC News' Jonathan Marcus offers, "Analysts say the relentless advance of IS fighters, together with the continuing failure of Iraqi politicians to agree on a new government, after an inconclusive election in April, may have swayed Mr Obama into deciding to act now."

Another hypothesis is offered by BBC News' Paul Danahar.  Friday morning on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane asked him about the strikes.

REHM: Paul Danahar, President Obama authorized the airstrikes against Iraq to begin this morning. What was his rationale? 

DANAHAR: Well, I think we can guess that finally, he's found a conflict that he thinks is fairly localized, has a clear objective, and will stop him getting so much flack for not doing any of the things he's always talked about, which is having a high moral value in America that will stop bad things happening around the world. When there is an American interest, and there is an American interest in this, because there are American personnel in Erbil. 

REHM: How many? 

DANAHAR: Around about 40 we think. So, that's a good reason to intervene. And we do have what may literally be a genocide of these people, these Yezidis, because they are a very small group of people, between 70,000, maybe a couple hundred thousand. And they're all pretty much located in one place in Iraq, so if they were taken over by ISIS. And ISIS considers them to be devil worshippers. They would wipe them out, so this is an intervention that I think Obama is probably comfortable with, because he can see a beginning and an end. 

40?  Did he mispeak?

The number issue was raised at the Friday press briefing.

QUESTION: I’ll go back to the humanitarian situation --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- in a second. But first, just a couple of quick questions. How many American citizens are at the consulate in Erbil, absent the military presence right now?

MS. HARF: So we don’t give exact numbers. Let me just give a quick update. I know there are a lot of questions about the status of our consulate there. It is operating normally. There’s been no change to the current status of our consulate. We continue to monitor the security situation and will take appropriate steps to mitigate the risk to our colleagues. Obviously, we do this on a continuing basis. We don’t comment on specific numbers, are always reviewing staffing levels in light of the security posture. But I would note that the – one of the reasons, obviously, not just to protect Erbil but that we want to keep our people there is so they can keep working in this joint operation center to help the Iraqis fight this threat. We don’t want to have to pull them out. We’re constantly reevaluating the security.

QUESTION: I understand the reluctance to talk about specific numbers. I don’t need a specific number.

MS. HARF: It’s not a reluctance. We just never do it, as you know.

QUESTION: Well, we know there are about 5,000 people in the U.S. mission in Iraq right now. The vast majority of them are in Baghdad. So can you give some kind of – for example, I’ve been told somewhere between two to three hundred are in --

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to give any number ranges for security reasons. I understand the desire to have them. We do have a large presence still in Baghdad as well. You are correct on that.

Really, Marie?

When did it become classified?

This week?

I was at a Congressional hearing this summer where the State Dept official addressed the topic Marie claims must be kept secret.

Norwalk's The Hour has an online poll currently asking: "Do you support the latest airstrikes in Iraq?" The answers to choose from are yes, no and unsure.

The people don't support it.  And where is the Congress?

Does Barbara Lee have anything to offer other than words?  It's a question to ask.  But I won't slam her without offering this context:  She issued a statement that contained objections.

Where's our Socialist in the Senate Bernie Sanders?

Brave Bernie had nothing to say.

Not a statement, not even a Tweet.

Sami Ramadan (Stop the War UK and the Guardian) offers thoughts such as these, "It is sickening to see Obama and the Western media shedding crocodile tears for the Iraqi people, after the US-led occupation pulverised Iraq as a society and killed a million of its people. It is obscene to now suggest that the US will fight terrorism and protect the Iraqi people, when the rise of terrorism was the direct result of the US-led invasion of the country."

That's a bit of common sense in an otherwise mindless media.

Another bit of common sense popped up in today's State Dept briefing:

QUESTION: You said – first off, just to follow up on something you just said, you said that this strike comes as it would have whenever U.S. personnel are threatened. And I would just note that there have been attacks in Baghdad that are within hearing and feeling range of the U.S. Embassy there, and I wonder why this is happening now to protect personnel in Erbil, when U.S. personnel in Baghdad have been under threat for years.

MS. HARF: Well, first, what we’ve seen over the past several days really, but also several weeks, but really in the past several days is that there has been an ISIL fairly rapid advance towards Erbil. They’ve had access to heavy weapons. So basically, at this point, what we are trying to do is stop this advance, to give expedited support to the Iraqis as they fight this – obviously there’s a political process ongoing as well – also to provide humanitarian assistance.
And look, we’re focused on Erbil today because that’s where ISIL has been advancing. If – look, we have a very significant diplomatic presence in Baghdad, so, of course, the same principle would apply if we saw ISIL advances on Baghdad that would threaten our personnel as well. So obviously, it’s something we constantly monitor, but we’re focused on Erbil operationally right now.

QUESTION: But as you know, there have been ISIL bombings in Baghdad for years.

MS. HARF: There have been. But obviously, we look at the threat and look at the picture, and we saw here both a humanitarian situation where the U.S. military had unique capabilities to bring to bear that could be brought very quickly to bear in a very urgent crisis, and also a situation where you had ISIL advancing on Erbil, where, again, we have some military capabilities that we can use. I would also note that the Iraqis have been taking strikes of their own. We’ve been working in very close coordination with them out of our joint operation center at Erbil and the one in Baghdad as well.

Is there a plan here?  Is there a means to measure with?

Not really.

Japan Times quotes former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker stating,  "Two FA-18s dropping some 500-pound bombs on (militant) artillery is not going to turn the tide of this conflict. I don’t know what their strategy is."

The lack of strategy makes it all the more likely that US military involvement grows.

No, that it continues to grow.   The troops sent in the last few weeks have grown, the bombings are just another part of that growth.

Robert Burns and Lara Jakes (AP) insist it's a "strategy" and that it's containment.


So it's back to the 'domino theory.'

That's reassuring, right?  That was used to justify so many misadventures -- including Vietnam.

While the State Dept doesn't think Baghdad's at risk, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr disagrees.  AFP reports:

One of Iraq's most influential Shiite clerics, Moqtada Sadr, claimed Friday that jihadists were poised to attack Baghdad and he vowed to send his men to defend the capital.
"There are terrorist groups that have completed their preparations for a breakthrough into Baghdad," the cleric said in a statement.
"We are ready to defend the city, we are ready to supply forces and coordinate with the authorities to face any scenario," said Sadr, who announced the creation of the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades) group in the aftermath of the jihadist offensive that began in June.

 Turning to today's violence, Margaret Griffis ( reports, "It is impossible to know how many militants were killed in the U.S. airstrikes today; however, the Iraqi military claimed that over 800 militants were killed in a number of operations. Some of them may have involved U.S. forces. Only five people, civilians or security forces, were killed in other violence."  In addition, AFP reports Kurdish reporter Deniz Firat was killed by shrapnel in an attack in Makmur.

Last word goes to Senator Richard Blumenthal:

(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today released the following statement on military and humanitarian operations in Iraq:

“I oppose open-ended military commitments, which the President’s actions in Iraq could become. Humanitarian relief is necessary to prevent genocide and provide food and water to meet an urgent emergency, but the President owes the American people a better, fuller explanation of the scope and strategy of military actions. I am deeply concerned that these actions could lead to prolonged direct military involvement, which I would strongly oppose. As a condition for any military aid in Iraq, I have said that there must be a new government that is inclusive and unifying. I continue to believe that the current situation in Iraq is a failure of Iraq’s leaders, who have used the security forces – with training and equipment we provided – for their own sectarian ends, rather than uniting their country. It is also a consequence of the failure of the international community to contain the ongoing civil war in Syria. I support the President’s diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.”

Senator Blumenthal is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

mcclatchy newspapers
bloomberg news
margaret talev

Thursday, August 07, 2014


I was forwarded Libby Liberal's latest by a reader.


For the record, Libby Liberal is supposed to be a very committed activist.

I can sense her passion in her writing.  I just wish I could sense some logic and thought.

In her latest, she's ga-ga for men all over again.

I don't like writers who make it all about men -- as if women don't write essays or record albums or star in films or whatever.

But in her latest, she's going on about collective punishment and struggling with the notions of it or at least the basic concepts.

Possibly more irritating, she's yacking on about Gaza.

Has she once called out Nouri's crimes?

Nouri al-Maliki has been bombing residential neighborhoods in Falluja every day since the start of the year.

That is collective punishment which is a legally defined War Crime.

At what point does Libby Liberal notice that?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, August 6, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the targeting of Yazidis and other religious minorities continues, the White House silence continues, rumors fly about Nouri, and much more.

The Yazidis remain targeted in Iraq.  In fact, 40,000 are said to be trapped on a mountain  Laura Smith-Spark (CNN) explains:

 When radical Islamist fighters stormed the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar over the weekend, the Yazidi minority who call it home fled into the surrounding mountains in fear of their lives.
Now, trapped without food, water or medical care in the summer heat, thousands of families are in desperate need of help.

It's already too late to save dozens of children who've died of thirst.

Martin Chulov (Guardian) notes that 40,000 are thought to be at the top of Mount Sinjar and quotes UNICEF's Juliette Touma stating, "It's not like this is a one-off incident.  We are almost back to square zero in terms of the preparedness and the supplies.  Enormous numbers of people have been crossing the border since June.  The stresses are enormous, dehydration, fatique, people sometimes having to walk for days.  The impact on kids is very physical, let alone the psychological impact."

We should note that Nouri reportedly attempted to drop supplies -- including water -- on the mountain top over the weekend.  The drops failed.  They missed the targets.

This does not instill confidence in Iraq's pilots.  (Why helicopters were not used in the attempt is not known.  Nouri used planes.  Today, Al Jazeera reports helicopters were used by Nouri on Tuesday.)

Meanwhile the Financial Times' Borzou Daragahi Tweets:

  • Glen Carey (Bloomberg News) speaks with Housam Salim ("head of the Solidarity and Brotherhood Yezidi Organization") who states, "It is a humanitarian tragedy.  Men were executed in the streets, women were kidnapped and raped. When we are captured, they kill us immediately, and they take our women."  Time magazine's Bobby Ghosh (Quartz) points out, "Leaders of all these minority groups have sent increasingly desperate pleas—to the Maliki government, to the US, to the UN—for help. But while some appeals have gone viral online, and the UN has engaged in its usual pro-forma hand-wringing, the SOS has gone largely unanswered as the world focused on Gaza. Now that the ceasefire there appears (fingers crossed) to be holding, there’s no excuse not to respond."

    The US government could help but US President Barack Obama chooses not to.  This isn't about sending US forces into Iraq.  This is about dropping supplies onto a mountain.

    Mick Krever and Ken Olshansky (Amanpour, CNN) report:

    The foreign minister of Iraqi Kurdistan on Wednesday issued a desperate plea for American and Western intervention to halt the advance of ISIS extremists.
    “We are left alone in the front to fight the terrorists of ISIS,” Falah Mustafa Bakir told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen, in for Christiane Amanpour.

    “I believe the United States has a moral responsibility to support us, because this is a fight against terrorism, and we have proven to be pro-democracy, pro-West, and pro-secularism.”

    Tuesday, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power issued the following statement:

    I condemn in the strongest possible terms the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) recent attacks on Sinjar and Tal Afar in Ninewa province that have reportedly led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people, many from vulnerable minority communities, deepening Iraq’s already acute humanitarian crisis. ISIL’s reported abuse, kidnapping, torture and executions of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities and its systematic destruction of religious and cultural sites are appalling.
    The United States supports the Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga Forces working to defend these areas against ISIL. We urge all parties to the conflict to allow safe access to the United Nations and its partners so they can deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance, including to those Iraqi families reportedly encircled by ISIL on Mount Sinjar. The United States is committed to helping the people of Iraq as they confront the security and humanitarian challenges in their fight against ISIL. Iraq’s leaders must move swiftly to form a new, fully inclusive government that takes into account the rights, aspirations and legitimate concerns of all of Iraq’s communities. All Iraqis must come together to ensure that Iraq gets back on the path to a peaceful future and to prevent ISIL from obliterating Iraq’s vibrant diversity.

    That I don't like Samantha Power should be a known -- I've called her out here and in pieces at Third.  I don't care for her.

    But I'm not going to pick apart her statement (a) at least she said something and (b) I don't really expect to be as one mentally with Samantha.

    But if the US 'stands' with Iraqis, why can't they organize an air drop for those suffering on top of the mountains?

    It makes no sense, the refusal.  Yes, US planes (commercial) are flying at higher altitudes over Iraq due to safety concerns, but the military could easily do a drop.

    Not only would it be a humanitarian mission, it could also be used to do some spying on various groups as it passed over a portion of Iraq.

    I don't care for Samantha Power, I think she argues for death and murder at the drop of a hat, I think she grossly misunderstood Rawanda as well as the after-effects.  But a drop of supplies, is not a call for war.  And if the administration cares, why is it Catholic Samantha speaking and only her?

    What's happening to the Yazidis echoes what is happening to the Christians who were forced out of Mosul.  Mike Stechschulte (Catholic News Service) reports the attack on the Mosul Christians led to a march this month in Detroit where participants shouted, "Obama, Obama, where are you?  Iraqi Christians need you!"  Another CNS report notes Chaldean Bishop Francis Kalabat in Southfield, Michigan:

    Bishop Kalabat had especially pointed words for President Barack Obama, whom he said has not done much to address the problem.
    "I don't understand President Obama's words, 'The situation is an Iraqi problem.' Since when? How many thousands of American soldiers were sacrificed? Bloodied, lost limbs, lost their souls, lost their lives. How is this not an American problem?" Bishop Kalabat said.
    He said the inaction by the White House has prompted the Chaldean community to pursue direct humanitarian aid instead, including via bills currently before Congress.
    "This community, you have responded in the most beautiful way," he said, referring to a $60,000 collection taken up by local Chaldean parishioners about a month ago. "It was a drop in the bucket (compared to what's needed), but it did help."
    He thanked the senators and representatives who traveled to Iraq to visit with refugees, especially from Michigan and San Diego, where the two largest concentrations of Chaldeans exist in the United States.

    Unlike Barack, some members of Congress have been willing to speak out.  Catholic San Francisco notes a rally in San Francisco earlier this month:

    Assyrian Catholics came via bus from the Central Valley and San Jose. Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of Fresno, whose district has 25,000 Assyrian Catholics, also spoke, criticizing leaders “for allowing a genocide to go on against the Christians of Iraq and Syria at the hands of ISIS without any action,” DeKelaita said.

    But Barack won't address it and, as we saw in a State Dept press briefing this week, even when the targeting of religious minorities is raised to the State Dept, the spokesperson prefers to ignore the issue.

    Who will help the persecuted?

    James Reinl (Rudaw) offers:

    Three dozen charities and faith groups have called on the US Government to cooperate more with Iraq’s Kurdish region in an effort to address a growing refugee crisis from Islamist-linked violence.
    A letter from the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, the National Council of Churches USA and other influential groups urges Washington to lay out a “clear, long-term strategy” on Iraq’s worsening humanitarian situation.

    Barack's cratering in one poll after another on the issue of foreign policy and he's also taking a hit on likability -- maybe it's time Hillary Clinton repeated his infamous 2008 sentence back to him?  "You're likable enough." -- and how much Iraq plays into it is a question only we're raising.  Where's everyone else on this topic?

    He was supposed to be right on Iraq, that's what he ran on in 2008.  He was supposed to be so smart.  But Iraq is in flames.

    Iraq War veteran JR Salzman Tweets:

    That sentiment is only going to multiply if Barack's public response is silence -- Barack's and so many of the people under him.  I don't care for Samantha Power but I do give her credit for issuing a statement and one that actually sounds like her own words.

    The White House and the State Dept are failing at their jobs when it comes to Iraq.

    That failure produces this sort of Tweet:

    That is the perception out there.

    A smart administration addresses perception.

    This is not a smart administration.

    Last night, Ruth noted (and quoted) the reporter raising the rumor/allegation that the US created ISIS (IS) and how spokesperson Jen Psaki refused to address the question.

    Why did Psaki do that?

    I have no idea.

    Maybe the White House created ISIS and she didn't want to lie?

    I have no idea.

    I do know her job requires her to respond.

    She didn't do her job.  Naharnet reports that the US Embassy in Libya tackled the allegations in a Tweet -- denying them.  Real shame they couldn't have quoted the State Dept spokesperson but Psaki was clearly too tired to do her job.

  • How sad that people believe they have to sign a petition to get the White House to okay emergency provisions being dropped to the Yazidis.

    How weak is the White House that it will take pleading from Americans to get it to act?

    Nouri's still backed by the White House despite all the above conflict, despite Sameer N. Yacoub and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reporting Baghdad bombings today left at least 51 people dead.

    Nouri al-Maliki, the despot that will destroy Iraq if he gets a third term as prime minister.

    Note this Tweet:

  • Hearing from Iraq that Maliki had 28 conditions to be met before he steps down. Shia bloc accepted them all but Maliki then changed his mind

  • If true, this would be yet another example of Nouri breaking his word.

    Nouri al-Maliki gave his weekly televised address today.  As usual, it was the sound of a fanatic raving, a rabid dog frothing at the mouth.

    Alsumaria notes that he declared the biggest bloc should be allowed to nominate the candidate for prime minister-designate.  He insisted that the post isn't elected by Parliament, it's merely the one with the largest bloc.  (Yes, that's in complete conflict with both his position in 2010 and the court ruling in 2010.)

    In his speech, Alsumaria notes, Nouri also insisted that the will of the people must be respected.  No word on whether or not that line was drowned out due to all the laughter.

    In the speech's most provocative remarks, Nouri lays down a threat.  Alsumaria quotes him declaring that any violations of the (don't laugh) "Constitutional process" will open the gates of hell.

    No, Nouri's never cared about the Constitution before.  This is most obvious in his attack on Iraq's two term Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi whom Nouri forced out of the country with false charges of terrorism and then staged a kangaroo court trial -- despite the fact that Tareq retained his office (he still does until vice presidents are named).  As such, Tareq can't be charged with anything, per the Constitution, unless the Parliament strips him of his office.  Parliament refused to.  Nouri's actions were illegal.  He repeated them with other rivals.

    But today, in a speech filled with lies, he attempts to make the case that the Constitution guarantees him a second term and then he closes by insisting any efforts to prevent him from a third term will open the gates of hell.

    Here's a Tweet on the topic of Nouri and his hell remarks.

    1. as if the country is n't hell already, # Maliki warns that new government could open "gates of hell"

    And Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports members of Parliament are saying that if Nouri pushes for a third term -- or his supporters push him for it -- that there will be walk outs in Thursday Parliament session, that Nouri is widely rejected because of his policies.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2014


    "Promise" is a song written by Tori Amos which appears on Amos' latest album Unrepentant Geraldines.  Along with Tori, the track features Natashya Hawley on vocals -- Natashya being Tori's daughter.

    [Tash:] Be there

    [Tori:] Where the sun shines

    [Tash:] I will be there

    [Tori:] you are the light

    [Tash:] that follows you everywhere

    [Tash and Tori:] look for my love

    [Tash:] where the sun shines
    I will be there

    [Tori:] will you

    [Tash:] Promise not to judge

    [Tori:] to judge who you love
    I don't know if I...

    [Tash:] Yes, make that Promise

    [Tori:] whatever it is

    [Tash:] can you hear the truth
    if they accuse me

    [Tori:] you think I'll doubt you?
    what I need to know, will you

    [Tash:] be there
    when I am all alone

    I really love that song, the way the piano bass line is it's own percussion, and I love the way the vocals both tremble and soar.

    That's the video which was released July 13th.

    If you haven't checked out the album yet . . .


    Check out Kat's review of Unrepentant Geraldines and see if that doesn't make you download it.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Tuesday, August 5, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the Yazidis remain vulnerable, how much does a chaotic Iraq hurt Barack's image, and much more.

    The UK Catholic Herald notes:

    The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has urged Catholics to answer a call from Church leaders in Iraq to take part in a universal day of prayer on Wednesday, the same day as the Feast of the Transfiguration.
    Rt Rev Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton and chairman of International Affairs at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, asked the faithful to pray “for an end to the violent persecution that threatens to extinguish the ancient Iraqi Christian community”. 

    What is the Bishop speaking of?

    One more time, let's note Aid to the Church in Need's announcement on the Global Day of Prayer for Peace:

    Aug. 6, 2014--Feast of the Transfiguration
    “Please stop, I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop. Stop, please.” Inspired by these words of Pope Francis (June 27, 2014), the international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, united with His Beatitude Louis Rafael Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Iraq, appeals to all persons of good will to join in a Global Day of Prayer for Peace to be held on August 6, 2014—the Feast of the Transfiguration.Chaldean Cross

    The feast of Transfiguration marks the moment when Jesus, on Mount Tabor, appears to three of his disciples in a state of glory, shortly before His ultimate trial on Calvary. This feast holds out a sign of hope for humanity: it is a source of courage when obstacles appear impossible to surmount; a sign that light is stronger than darkness; and testimony that death can turn into life.

    Meant to be observed in churches and homes across the country, this Global Day of Prayer in the midst of so much suffering in Iraq—particularly for the ancient Christian community of Mosul—tells the world at large that US Christians have not forgotten and abandoned their suffering brothers and sisters.

    Patriarch Sako has personally composed the Prayer for Peace:

    The plight of our country
    is deep and the suffering of Christians
    is severe and frightening.
    Therefore, we ask you Lord
    to spare our lives, and to grant us patience,
    and courage to continue our witness of Christian values
    with trust and hope.
    Lord, peace is the foundation of life;
    Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us
    to live with each other without fear and anxiety,
    and with dignity and joy.

    Glory be to you forever.

    The Patriarch also said: “Let us unite our voices and hearts before the Lord of peace. May the light of Tabor fill the hearts of all suffering people with consolation and hope. May the message of Tabor, through our prayers, inspire the leaders of Iraq to sacrifice personal interests for the common good and welfare.”

    Please click here and join ACN's candle vigil for Iraq.

    Many will be joining around the world to take part in the prayer.  Meanwhile Yazidis, like the Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, are being targeted as well.  UNICEF notes:

    ERBIL, 5 August 2014 – The reported deaths of 40 children from minority groups who were displaced from Sinjar city and district by armed violence are of extreme concern.

    According to official reports received by UNICEF, these children from the Yazidi minority died as a direct consequence of violence, displacement and dehydration over the past two days.

    Families who fled the area are in immediate need of urgent assistance, including up to 25,000 children who are now stranded in mountains surrounding Sinjar and are in dire need of humanitarian aid including drinking water and sanitation services. 

    Sinjar, a district of Ninewa in northwest Iraq with a population of at least 150,000 children - including many who are internally displaced - was taken over by the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) on Sunday.

    Children are particularly vulnerable, and are most affected by the continuing violence, displacement and fighting in Iraq. UNICEF repeats its urgent call for all children in need to be protected and immediately provided with life-saving assistance to prevent further loss of life.

    UNICEF calls all those who have influence to immediately grant children and women free and safe access to areas of refuge and respect the special protection afforded to children under international humanitarian and human rights law.”

    About UNICEF

    UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit:
    Follow us on Twitter and Facebook
    For more information, please contact:
    Juliette Touma, on mission to UNICEF Iraq, Tel: +962 79-867-4628,

    On the Yazdis, Loveday Morris (Washington Post) adds:

    Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar since being driven out of surrounding villages and the town of Sinjar two days earlier. But the mountain that had looked like a refuge is becoming a graveyard for their children.
    Unable to dig deep into the rocky mountainside, displaced families said they have buried young and elderly victims of the harsh conditions in shallow graves, their bodies covered with stones. Iraqi government planes attempted to airdrop bottled water to the mountain on Monday night but reached few of those marooned.

    Each day, things get worse in Iraq.  In an essay for The London Review of Books entitled "Isis consolidates," Patrick Cockburn offers:

    In Baghdad there was shock and terror on 10 June at the fall of Mosul and as people realised that trucks packed with Isis gunmen were only an hour’s drive away. But instead of assaulting Baghdad, Isis took most of Anbar, the vast Sunni province that sprawls across western Iraq on either side of the Euphrates. In Baghdad, with its mostly Shia population of seven million, people know what to expect if the murderously anti-Shia Isis forces capture the city, but they take heart from the fact that the calamity has not happened yet. ‘We were frightened by the military disaster at first but we Baghdadis have got used to crises over the last 35 years,’ one woman said. Even with Isis at the gates, Iraqi politicians have gone on playing political games as they move ponderously towards replacing the discredited prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
    ‘It is truly surreal,’ a former Iraqi minister said. ‘When you speak to any political leader in Baghdad they talk as if they had not just lost half the country.’ Volunteers had gone to the front after a fatwa from the grand ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shia cleric. But these militiamen are now streaming back to their homes, complaining that they were half-starved and forced to use their own weapons and buy their own ammunition. The only large-scale counter-attack launched by the regular army and the newly raised Shia militia was a disastrous foray into Tikrit on 15 July that was ambushed and defeated with heavy losses. There is no sign that the dysfunctional nature of the Iraqi army has changed. ‘They were using just one helicopter in support of the troops in Tikrit,’ the former minister said, ‘so I wonder what on earth happened to the 140 helicopters the Iraqi state has bought in recent years?’
    Probably the money for the missing 139 helicopters was simply stolen. There are other wholly corrupt states in the world but few of them have oil revenues of $100 billion a year to steal from.

    That's a look at Iraq today.

    The prime minister is the chief thug Nouri al-Maliki.  In 2006, Bully Boy Bush refused to allow Ibrahim al-Jafaari to have a second (non-consecutive) term as prime minister, arguing the 'new' Iraq (post 2003-invasion) was too young to survive a two-term prime minister, that it would be too easy to slip in a new Saddam that way.  So the Bully Boy Bush administration began demanding the prime minister be Nouri -- who had passed several tests with administration officials (including Zalmay Khalilzad) and with the CIA (who felt his paranoia would make him very easy to control).  And that's how nobody Nouri ended up becoming prime minister the first time.

    Barack Obama was elected president in November of 2008.  We're doing a very simplistic time line here.  In 2010, Iraq holds elections.  Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law loses to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.

    Last week, Frontline (PBS) served up "Losing Iraq."  One of the people they spoke with was Zalmay Khalizad.  He's generally considered to be a neocon and he was a supporter of the Iraq War as well as the US Ambassador to Iraq from 2005 to 2007.

    Zalmay Khalizad: Then at the same time, the Iraqi election was front and center. And once the Iraqi election had occurred, Mr. [Ayad] Allawi’s party, called Iraqiya, won more seats than Maliki’s party.
    I felt the success of those two parties also showed political progress in Iraq, the waning of sectarianism and the rise of cross-sectarianism, because Iraqiya was a secular party that had a lot of Sunni support but had some Shia support as well. For it to go from 25 seats in the previous election to 92 seats in the 2009 election showed increased support for secular or cross-sectarian and less support for sectarian parties.
    And Maliki, who had been the leader of a religious party, a Shia religious party by one of its leaders, adapted by establishing a new party called the State of Law, which had nothing to do with a sect as such, and he was the second largest party. He too moved away from being sectarian.
    These two were the two biggest political forces, the State of Law and the Iraqiya, afterward. So government formation became a preoccupation of the administration as well.

    [. . .]

    Frontline:  So the 2010 election takes place. The United States basically backs Maliki, is the one to sort of name the new government, despite the fact that he had less seats. Is that important? Some people say that’s a turning point, that if Allawi had been allowed to set up the government, if Maliki had been pushed out of the prime minister role, it might have allowed more of a chance for power sharing, more of a secure Iraq moving forward, alleviating some of what happens afterward that we’re seeing today.

    Zalmay Kahlilzad: It would have been very important, in my view, to follow the constitution of Iraq in order to maintain support for the process and to show that being cross-sectarian pays off. It has political consequence.
    And to ask Allawi to form the government, he may have or he may not have succeeded in forming a government. Although he was the largest bloc, he wasn’t the majority, and therefore he would have had to convince some Shia, Kurds and some of the Sunnis who had separate parties of their own to vote for him.
    But that did not happen. Instead Maliki maneuvered, used the judiciary in a politicized way by getting a judgment from the court that said the bloc that even forms after the election, if it’s larger than the bloc that won the election, as they were before the election, can lead in forming the government. And we kind of bandwagoned with that, rather than pushing back and saying the constitution had to be followed.
    And an even bigger mistake, in my view, was in retrospect, that once the government had been formed with Maliki leading, … the package that was part of the agreement on the staffing of the government — establishment of this new position of a senior group of a strategic council that Ayad Allawi was to chair — was never formed.
    Some of the other agreements that were in place on policy issues did not occur, and we became much more disengaged after intense engagement in the formation of the government with a vice president and the president being hands-on, calling. Then we didn’t push, pursue, cajole to have these other elements also be implemented.
    Then add to that the absence of a SOFA and total withdrawal and the deterioration of the region, all of this then impacted Iraq.

    There are things I disagree with in the above (State of Law nonsectarian?) but in terms of a sweeping summary, it's better than most. The agreement he's speaking of is The Erbil Agreement -- the one giving Allawi a position over national security.  For over eight months, Nouri refused to step down.  In doing so, he brought the government to a standstill.  The political stalemate set a world record at the time for the longest period of time between elections and the formation of a government.

    Nouri would not have been able to pull that off without backing from the White House.  Some point to Iran as well.  And they did support Nouri.  They did not, however, ensure his second term as prime minister.  The White House did.  The Parliament finally met (and named a president, a speaker and a prime minister-designate all in one day) the day after the US-brokered Erbil Agreement was signed.

    The agreement was a contract -- a binding contract, US officials told the leaders of each political bloc.  In writing, the leaders agreed to give Nouri a second term as prime minister in exchange for concessions from him -- such as Allawi's national security appointment, the Kurds wanted Article 140 of the Constitution implemented, etc.

    Nouri didn't win.

    There was no reason for him to be prime minister.

    The legal contract was how the US government got people on board with a second term.

    And then Nouri refused to implement it and the White House played dumb.

    In 2011, he's not implemented it.  By that summer, the Kurds, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya are among those publicly calling for Nouri to implement the agreement.

    We need to wrap this section up -- it's all prelude to another portion of the snapshot -- so let's big picture it.

    Nouri does not keep his word.  Not on The Erbil Agreement.  Not on the White House benchmarks.  Not on this, not on that.

    I have called out Barack repeatedly here for refusing to stand up to Nouri.  A friend who left the administration in 2013 tells me I'm wrong.  Barack gave many firm words to Nouri over the years especially November 1, 2013.

    Okay, I'm fine with being wrong on that.

    The man who's all talk scolded the man who can't keep his word.  And nothing ever followed because Nouri can't keep his promise and Barack thinks empty words solve everything.

    Barack should have long ago made clear that if X isn't met then the US pulls support.

    By not doing so?

    Peter Sullivan (The Hill) notes the results of the latest NBC News - Wall St. Journal poll including, "Respondents rated Obama's handling of foreign policy even lower, with 36 percent approving, also an all-time low for the president."  This a day after Connie Cass and Jennifer Agiesta (AP) reported on the latest AP-GfK poll which finds "38 percent find the situation in Iraq of pressing importance; 57 percent disapprove of Obama's handling of it."

    Barack ran for the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination on the lie that he was 'right' about Iraq.  (Barack protested it before the war started.  Once it started, he was supporting it.  That's public record.  I also knew this for a fact long before Boston in the summer of 2004 -- when Barack spoke to the New York Times.  He had already told Elaine and I at a fundraiser that 'we're there now' so opposition to the war no longer mattered.)

    He deserved your vote, he insisted, because he was right about Iraq.

    Does he look right now?

    He took over in 2009 as violence was dropping and all he's done is throw gas on a fire to keep it going and to make it grow larger.

    Does he look right now?

    Andy Piascik (Connecticut Post) observes, "True to his preference for violence over diplomacy, Obama has sent a strike force to Iraq which grows larger by the day."

    Barack's 'superior judgment' never was all that and events on the ground in Iraq threaten Barack's very image and power base.

    The ongoing failure that is the failed state of Iraq is a reflection on Barack and, as usual, the dim bulbs of the administration have somehow managed to repeatedly overlook that fact.

    The public doesn't appear to be.  The low marks Barack's getting have to do with his false advertising being revealed to be false.

    Meanwhile, the editorial board of the Khaleej Times notes:

    NOURI AL Maliki has been late in his strategic response to the Kurdish region. The Iraqi prime minister’s move to extend air cover to the insurgency-hit areas in the north is too little, too late.
    In fact, the relatively calm areas inhabited by the Kurd minority would not have fallen to the intruding Levant militia had Baghdad discharged its duties in a prudent manner. The point that Iraq is Balkanised and deeply divided on sectarian and ethnic lines is an outcome of mismanagement and nepotism at the helm of affairs. Maliki who tried to extend his power base by playing the sectarian card is squarely responsible for the dismal state of affairs.

    This as AP misses the point.  In a 'report,' they note that Nouri has offered to use Iraqi planes to bomb areas of and near the KRG to kill terrorists.

    The AP wrongly says the news value here is the cooperation angle.


    From yesterday's snapshot:

    Tim Arango (New York Times) reports Iraqi state TV carried a statement from Iraq's military spokesperson Qassim Atta "The general commander of the armed forces, Nuri al-Maliki, has issued an order to the Iraqi air forces to provide air support for the pesh merga against ISIS."  Arango notes that the statement did not seem so much hopeful (Baghdad and the KRG coming together) as it "seemed only to reflect the dire situation on the ground."

    I'd argue Tim Arango's take is stronger.  But that's not even why I'm calling AP wrong.

    I'm calling it wrong because here's the news angle they -- and everyone else avoids:  Nouri is helping terrorists!

    What am I talking about?

    The Kurdish cabinet members walked out of Nouri's Cabinet only weeks ago, or have we forgotten that?

    Those of us who remember will recall that Nouri accused the Kurds of being in league with the terrorists.  The Kurds, he insisted, were harboring the terrorists.

    And yet now he's offering the Kurds air strikes?

    The Kurds aren't terrorists (few people Nouri calls "terrorists" ever actually are).

    But just weeks ago, Queen Drama Nouri was insisting publicly that the Kurds were harboring terrorists, in league with the terrorists, blah, blah, blah.