Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sarah Vaughn and Roberta Flack

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

Sarah Vaughn, How Long Has This Been Going On (Pablo, 1987)
I’ve got the original red Pablo LP, but the CD will also deliver you these riches, if in less a exciting package but with the full spectrum of its uplifting, optimistic musicality intact.  The ring of Louis Bellson’s cymbal; the bounce of NHOP’s bass; the tasteful imagination of Joe Pass on guitar; and the panache of Oscar Peterson, that supremely flashy soloist, who ranks even more highly in my esteem as one of the greatest accompanists ever to play the piano: all this lofts Vaughan’s earthiness into the stratosphere of swing and soul.  The opening track, “I’ve Got the World on a String should itself be a UNESCO site.
DAVID YEARSLEY is a long-time contributor to CounterPunch and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. His latest book is Bach’s Feet. He can be reached at

I had a vague notion of Sarah Vaughn in high school.  Didn't know her music, couldn't tell you what she looked like, but knew she was considered to be a great singer.

In college, Rebecca, C.I. and I lived together.

That's when I found out about Sarah Vaughn.

We had a big stereo in the living room.  The rule was, we all took turns.  Meaning if we were playing music, it was one lp side pick of C.I., one of Rebecca and one of mine.

We might just stack up 3 lps and then flip them over for side 2 after they'd all played or we might stack up 6.

Now if we weren't all in the living room or the kitchen, it was pretty much the person who was doing all the choosing.

So when C.I. was writing a research paper, for example, she'd be spread out in there and, if she was the only one in there, she'd generally put on one lp and leave the arm up so that it would repeat at the end of the album.

(If you have never listened to vinyl, you are probably lost.  But with vinyl, you could stack records and, after one was played, the next would drop down or if you turned the arm that held unplayed records -- pulled and turned it -- it would repeat the same lp side over and over.)

I was in the bathroom, drying my hair, when I heard "The Man That Got Away."  It's a classic Judy Garland brought to life and it is much covered but the only cover I've ever heard worth listening to was the one coming from our living room.

I find out it's Sarah Vaughn and that album, It's A Man's World, became the first Sarah Vaughn album I ever purchased.  I got it for less than a buck.  Were albums even $3.00 then?  I do not remember.  But this was on sale because it was an old album when I bought it, several years old.

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

roberta flack

1) Roberta Flack's Let It Be Roberta: Roberta Flack Sings The Beatles.

2) The Beatles' White Album.

3) Prince's LOtUSFLOW3R.

4) Phoebe Snow's Live.

5) Amy Winehouse's Back To Black.

6) The New York Dolls' Too Much Too Soon.

7) White Stripes' Get Behind Me, Satan.

8) 10,000 Maniacs' Our Time In Eden.

9) Carly Simon's Into White.

10) Lenny Kravitz's It Is Time For A Love Revolution.

Roberta.  One of the great voices to sing the American songbook.  A true singer who came along at a time when singing was of less value -- and today it really doesn't seem needed at all.

Roberta's covers of the Beatles' songs are wonderful and inspired filled with touches and moments that only a true artist can provide.

Don't forget to catch all the meat theme posts from Thursday:

  • "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Saturday, September 20, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada al-Sadr's followers protest in Baghdad, former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta voices disagreement with some of the administration's actions, Media Matters rushes in to whore and minimize Panetta's statements, NYT finds it hilarious that some Iraqis believe the Islamic State is a CIA creation, and much more.

    Calling someone a "stupid ____" really isn't why this site exists.  IAVA had an important announcement and we ran it Friday evening  and I pushed back the snapshot to let that get attention (we'll also include it at the end of the snapshot) and in the hopes that I could do something other than call someone a "stupid ____."

    Too bad.  It's been nearly 24 hours and I'm still with the reaction.

    Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has joined former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in criticizing US President Barack Obama's actions on Iraq.

    Professional whore David Brock created Media Matters insisting it would be a media watchdog.  It's a media watchdog in the same sense that David Brock was a reporter in the 90s -- when he was making crap up and hiding the truth about Clarence Thomas.  For many on the center and on the left, there's been an awakening as to what an embarrassment Media Matters is and the reality there is there will be no employment for many after money stops propping the propaganda outlet up.

    But to the stupid ___, Sophia Tesfaye writes for Media Matters about Panetta's remarks and right wing coverage of it:

    But Baier failed to mention that the Iraqi government refused a deal to allow U.S. military forces to stay in Iraq. As the New York Times reported in 2011, "Iraqis were unwilling to accept" the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement to leave thousands of troops as a residual force. Fox News has repeatedly failed to mention this important detail.

    You stupid ___.

    We don't have time for your ignorance or your whoring or whatever it is.

    We don't have time.

    We can't afford you.

    We don't have that luxury.

    You're a stupid little ____ who's never done a moment's work in your life, get your lazy ass over to the Senate Armed Services Committee website.  Go the hearings archive.  Go to the hearing for November 15, 2011.

    I've never streamed it.  I've never had to.  We were there.

    Doing the damn work required.

    This community covered that hearing in depth -- see the November 15th "Iraq snapshot," the November 16th "Iraq snapshot" -- excerpt below from the November 16th snapshot -- and the November 17th "Iraq snapshot" and Ava's "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," Wally's "The costs (Wally)" and Kat's "Who wanted what?" for real time coverage.

    For those late to the party, this hearing was after Nouri's "no" to US troops.

    Leon Panetta was one of the witnesses.  (As disclosed before I've known Leon for many years, decades.  I like Leon and consider him a friend.)

    Do the work.

    From that hearing and other coverage of that time period, Nouri al-Maliki -- then US-installed prime minister in Iraq -- said "no."

    (This angered and surprised the White House which had installed him to a second term the year prior.)

    Was it a hard "no."


    Leon states in the hearing his confidence that they will come to an agreement, possibly in the next few months (January 2012 is what Leon thought) and this is agreed to/signed off by his co-witness Gen Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff).

    Why could they be so confident?

    Because the problem, as Senator John McCain, Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Lindsey Graham note in the hearing, is a numbers problem.

    It's not about any troops, it's about the number of troops.

    This is backed up in reports and interviews over the years since which document and detail that keeping US troops in Iraq would require Iraqi officials taking a hit with the Iraqi people so they weren't willing to do it for a few thousand.  3,000 wasn't worth it to them.  They wanted 20,000 to 25,000.

    Nouri and other officials would back that.  This was told to the White House, it was told to the State Dept, it was told to visiting members of Congress.

    It wasn't told to the spin whores of Media Matters or, if it was, they were too busy lying about some other event in an attempt to spin it pretty for Barack.

    Media Matters is an embarrassment for those of us on the left.

    It repeatedly lies and misinforms.

    In the early 90s, David Brock shot to fame as the piece of filth and human trash who attacked Anita Hill in print and told one lie after another about her.  He then proceeded to do the same with 'trooper gate' and other fake Clinton scandals.

    He supposedly had an 'awakening' and changed as the 90s were drawing to an end.

    No, he didn't.

    All that happened was his hags -- ____ hags -- on the right made clear that they didn't consider him a real person because he was gay.  They considered him a freak and a mutation and they would tolerate him because he could 'dish' but that was it.

    Realizing that no matter how many takedowns he did for the right, he'd always be trotting through the servants' entrance while the GOP's media blond brigade  entered through the front door, David started looking for a way to switch to the left where being gay is not seen (by most of us) as a big deal or strange or anything to hide.  He needed a hag, this is David Brock after all, and pill popping Naomi Wolf filled that role (as she has so very often in her sad little life).  She brought him over to the left, gave him a coming out party.

     But he hadn't changed.

    He didn't think what he did was wrong.

    Read the crap he wrote at the time -- first for Esquire and then in dull and plodding book.

    He yammers away about how nice Hillary Clinton is or this person or that person.

    I'm not disputing Hillary's nice.  She can be quite charming when she wants to be.

    But what David Brock pre-'conversion' did was wrong.

    Not wrong because sweet little Hillary didn't deserve mean things said about her.

    When he was ready to convert, he turned it into personalities.

    Which is probably so many on my side (the left) bought into it.  We're not really encouraged to think and explore on the left.  The easiest way to switch sides in a game of Red Rover is to cozy up to personalities.

    He doesn't atone or apologize or acknowledge that what he did wasn't journalism.  That should be the heart of his book and his Esquire article.  (Let's be really honest about that Esquire article because there's a myth that it let that issue of Esquire sell.  No, it did not.

    And it shouldn't matter whether Hillary's sweet or mean.

    Lying and spinning to help the GOP was wrong not because Hillary got hurt but because it was lying and spinning.

    By failing to address that reality, by failing to address the real victims (which would be journalism, democracy and the American people, not Hillary who can and has handled bad press), David Brock was able to move over to the left and do the same thing he had done before but from the left.

    And it has sullied us and it has dumbed us down.

    We thought it was a way to win.  It's a losing strategy like so much that the Democratic Party pursues in the name of 'realism' -- don't you love how 'realism' is so 'real' that it requires lies and spin to support it.

    It never should have happened.

    The left should have told David Brock what Barbra Streisand's character declares in Up The Sandbox, "No, we do not have to become more like you, sir.  We only have to become more like ourselves."

    Maybe then we'd fight for things that matter?

    Maybe we'd be fighting to expand Social Security and Medicare and not forever attempting to keep it off the chopping blocks, not having to waste all our time lobbying 'our' senators and House representatives not to destroy the safety net.

    We can't do that.

    We can't fight for We The People when we're constantly using all of energies to prop up, lie for and excuse a corporatist War Hark like Barack Obama.

    But that is what Media Matters does and that is what we've done on the left for the last six years.

    And I largely ignore them.

    They can whore for elections and I don't give a damn, they're useless to me (and actually useless to elections but we can discuss that another time).  But now they're bring the whoring to Iraq.

    They need to scurry back to the sewer they stepped out of.

    Sophia Tesfaye hypocritically slams some right-winger:

    But Baier failed to mention that the Iraqi government refused a deal to allow U.S. military forces to stay in Iraq. As the New York Times reported in 2011, "Iraqis were unwilling to accept" the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement to leave thousands of troops as a residual force. Fox News has repeatedly failed to mention this important detail.

    I don't give a damn what the New York Times reported in October 2011.

    Not when Leon Panetta, the person in question, testified to Congress, after the 'no,' on November 15th:

    Senator Joe Lieberman:  Let me, Secretary Panetta, pick up from that point. I've heard from friends in Iraq -- Iraqis -- that Prime Minister Maliki said at one point that he needed to stop the negotiations -- leave aside for one moment the reasons -- but he was prepared to begin negotiations again between two sovereign nations -- the US and Iraq -- about some troops being in Iraq after January 1st.  So that's what I've heard from there. But I want to ask you from the administration point of view. I know that Prime Minister Maliki is coming here in a few weeks to Washington. Is the administration planning to pursue further discussions with the Iraqi government about deploying at least some US forces in Iraq after the end of this year?

    Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: Senator, as I pointed out in my testimony, what we seek with Iraq is a normal relationship now and that does involve continuing negotiations with them as to what their needs are.  Uh, and I believe there will be continuing negotations.  We're in negotiations now with regards to the size of the security office that will be there and so there will be -- There aren't zero troops that are going to be there. We'll have, you know, hundreds that will be present by virtue of that office assuming we can work out an agreement there.  But I think that once we've completed the implementation of the security agreement that there will begin a series of negotiations about what exactly are additional areas where we can be of assistance? What level of trainers do they need? What can we do with regards to CT [Counter-Terrorism] operations? What will we do on exercises -- joint-exercises -- that work together?

    No doubt like her wardrobe and mental faculties, Sophia's sources are limited and dated.

    She slams some right-winger for leaving out something from October 2011 while she leaves out Leon's own pertinent statements made to Congress in November 2011.

    I attended multiple Congressional hearings this week.  We only covered one here.  I might pick up one or two next week, might not.  The plan was to cover one in what was supposed to be Friday's snapshot.  But we can't do that when Media Matters -- and all it's crap ass 'ditto heads' online -- are spreading lies and falsehoods.

    Now they do that every day and we usually look the other way.  But this is about Iraq.  And on Sunday, Leon Panetta's interview with 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley airs on CBS:

    ISIS seized a third of Iraq that the U.S. secured with ten years of sacrifice. In an interview for 60 Minutes, Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said ISIS flourished because the U.S. got involved in Syria too late and left Iraq too soon. On the 47th season premiere Sunday, "60 Minutes" will report from Iraq and Syria on ISIS -- what it is, what it wants, and how to defeat it.

    Now people can disagree with Leon's take (I sometimes do, I consider him a friend, not a guru or a shaman), but they need to have the facts right going in.

    Media Matters isn't about facts.  David Brock learned (on the right) that he could influence the narrative and rally the mob by lying and spinning.  That's what Brock does now -- from the left.

    To evaluate whether or not you agree with Leon's take on things, you need to know the basic facts.

    Panetta's remarks to CBS News' 60 Minutes follow Robert Gates' remarks to CBS This Morning earlier this week (link is text and video) where Gates noted his belief that Barack's plan would require "boots on the ground if there's to be any hope of success in the strategy."  Gates also noted :

    I'm also concerned that, the goal has been stated as degrade and destroy, or degrade and defeat ISIS," he said. "We've been at war with al Qaeda for 13 years. We have dealt them some terrible blows including the killing of Osama bin Laden. But I don't think anybody would say that after 13 years we've destroyed or defeated al Qaeda.

    On the issue of US forces in Iraq, Jason Ditz ( reports:

    We are going to increase a little bit,” Odierno said, though he declined to offer any details on the date or size of the new deployments. The Army chief also said he wouldn’t rule out having US special forces fighters embedded in Iraqi ground forces during combat.

    While US Gen Ray Odierno thinks more US troops on the ground in Iraq is an answer, others disagree.  In Iraq earlier this week, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr decried the notion.  He then left the country, reportedly for Lebanon. But his bloc in Parliament continues to back his call.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    MP for the Ahrar bloc, Ali al-Shuayli said that " What we see in Iraq is the result of the remnants of the former American intervention in Iraq and its negative effects on society."
    He told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that any defect affects the security of Iraq and its security and military system was a result of US negative intervention and if it enters again to Iraq that means return back and this cannot be accepted. "
    He added that "the Sadrist movement, as a national representative of Iraqis, cannot accept the entry of any foreign troops to Iraq or depend on the occupied states in the fight against terrorism," stressing that "the army and volunteers are able to end the Islamic State organization without the use of any foreign troops."  

    And it's not just the members of Parliament.  Sadr followers turned out in full force today to protest US forces.

    Alsumaria reports the followers see the US using the Islamic State (actually, they go with the pejorative of Da'ash) as a pretext to put more US troops on the ground in Iraq.

    (Unlike many idiots on my side in the US, Sadr's followers were never stupid enough to believe the lie that all US troops left Iraq at the end of 2011.)

    David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times) wants to use the term 'conspiracy' so he 'reports' on the protests:

    “We know about who made Daesh,” said Bahaa al-Araji, a deputy prime minister, using an Arabic shorthand for the Islamic State on Saturday at a demonstration called by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr to warn against the possible deployment of American ground troops. Mr. Sadr publicly blamed the C.I.A. for creating the Islamic State in a speech last week, and interviews suggested that most of the few thousand people at the demonstration, including dozens of members of Parliament, subscribed to the same theory. (Mr. Sadr is considered close to Iran, and the theory is popular there as well.)

    It's not an Arabic shorthand, it's considered a slur.

    And Kirkpatrick, like so many before him at the paper, is writing to refute the notion that the CIA was involved in the creation of the disturbance -- which Gore Vidal always pointed out should be read as a confirmation of CIA involvement.

    Is Kirkpatrick with the CIA?

    If he's not, why is he ridiculing the notion?

    Because if he's not with the CIA, he really can't confirm anything, can he?

    Despite its record of subversion and destruction throughout the world, the CIA has 'earned' the benefit of doubt?

    I have no idea what the CIA did or did not do in Iraq.  But I'm not stupid enough to pretend they're an innocent body.  A lot of the left is because the basic stereotype has always been, FBI rightwing, CIA socialist-leaning.  And a lot of the left -- Gloria Steinem's only one example -- have worked with and taken money from the CIA.  That's why, for example, when Jean Seberg's noted, the FBI is ripped apart by the left.  When, in fact, Jean was destroyed by the CIA.  It was the CIA working with Newsweek (as it always did) in France that lied about Jean.

    But a co-opted by the CIA left in this country has repeatedly lied that Jean lost her baby (and her grip) because of a Hollywood gossip columnist.  They have repeatedly removed Newsweek from the story, repeatedly failed to point out that the smear operation took place off US soil, they've done everything they can to cover and whore for the CIA.

    We've covered Jean repeatedly here because she was a victim of the US government.  We'll drop back to the August 13, 2013 snapshot:

    But the reality no one wants to talk about -- the reason Joyce Haber, a gossip columnist, is trashed and falsely made into the bad guy -- is because Jean's pregnancy resulted in the full weight of the US government being brought down on her, an American citizen.
    The FBI passed a tip to Haber's editor who passed it to Haber without telling her where it came from but while vouching for the source.  (The editor, Bill Thomas, may not like that reality being know but the tip is in Joyce's files and it includes his handwritten note vouching for the source.)  Haber ran a blind item.  In May of 1970.  Not a big thing, Haber ran blind items all the time.  The only one really 'harmed' by the item was possibly Jane Fonda since the item could have described her in the minds of most Americans who knew she had lived in France and married a French man.  Jean Seberg was in many big films and a celebrity but her personal life was not as widely known (and followed) to the degree that Jane's was.  Even now, the events of Jane's day to day life are more widely known than that of most other actresses.  Jane's personal life has always resulted in the public's interest and the press' coverage.  Those who followed coverage of actresses in 1970 might also have concluded the item was about Barbara Hershey, Mia Farrow or some other actress identified with social causes.  But, again, for most Americans who read the blind item, the obvious choice would have been Jane Fonda because she was the biggest name and the most widely covered (and publicly active in the Native American Movement as well as in the Black Panther Movement).
    Jean tries to take her life in August.  That's a result of Edward Behr and Newsweek.  Behr is the one who writes a 'report' for Newsweek in August that states Jean Seberg is pregnant by a Black Panther.  It's not a blind item: "She and French author Romain Gary, 56, are reportedly about to remarry even though the baby Jean expects in October is by another man -- a black activist she met in California."
    And unlike Joyce Haber's blind item, Newsweek is all over the country and in public and school libraries including Jean's home state of Iowa where her parents live and where she's now branded an "adulteress."  And the Des Moines Register reports on the Newsweek item (they didn't on the Haber item).   Jean was not embarrassed that the world would think she was having a child by an African-American male -- a point that is often missed.  (And the man was actually Latino -- and not a Black Panther or an American -- or in America.)  She was not even thinking, "This will destroy my career!"  She was appalled that her personal life was being exposed to the world and specifically to members of her hometown and to her parents.  Adulteress.  I've been called far worse but I don't give a s**t and never have.  Jean didn't splash her personal life in the papers.  And being called (the judgmental) term of "adulteress" in 1970 could bring shame to someone's family.
    There was no reason for Edward Behr to print that.  First off, it wasn't true.  (The father was an activist in Mexico.) Second, true or not, Romain was publicly the child's father and Newsweek and Behr had no business stepping into that issue -- there is such a thing as right to privacy and there was no 'right to know' or 'need to know' with regards to who the father of her baby was.
    And Romain Gary sued Newsweek and wrote "The Big Knife" for France-Soir blaming Newsweek for the death of the child.
    How does this get missed?
    Because Jean wasn't just targeted by the FBI.  That's the little secret that leads to the lies of "It's Joyce Harber!"  Behr and Newsweek were doing the bidding of the CIA.  Newsweek frequently did the bidding of the CIA -- a reason so many of us don't give a damn if that piece of trash publication goes down the toilet.  Behr was in France.  The CIA ran the smear operation against Jean overseas, not the FBI.

    I'm not going to whore like the rest of the US left or pretend today that the CIA was 'working for the same side' (as I believe Gloria Steinem once idiotically stated to justify her early employment with the CIA).

    The CIA has a long history of backing 'rebels' and they did back, train and supply the 'rebels' in Syria that the Islamic State hails from.

    Sadrist -- and others -- have every reason to wonder if the CIA is involved in the creation of the Islamic State based on the CIA's own history which is instigating trouble in one region after another -- by intent, not by accident.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports "thousands" turned out to demonstrate in Baghdad's Tahrir Square and that "demonstrators raised slogans demanding the US and foreign States not to intervene in the country under the pretext of fighting the terrorists of the Islamic State organization, and do not return American troops to the country, and reject all forms of foreign interference."

    Kirkpatrick, for all his problems, at least notes the demonstration.  So much US press doesn't.

    What we get is violence.

    We'll note Margaret Griffis ( counts 71 dead and eighty-six injured in violence on Friday.

    Margaret's made the violence her beat for some time and I'm not insulting her for that.

    I am, however, insulting the press which can only stop reporting violence briefly to note, as Faith Karimi and Talia Kayali (CNN) do, that approximately 49 Turkish hostages were released by the Islamic State.  The Saturday edition of NBC's Today broke from incestuous self-coverage (covering the illness of your own family members really is an abuse of a news outlet) to note the release.

    But was it Barack who said that the solution would be political and not military?

    I believe it was.

    I believe we even agreed with him here on that and applauded him for it.

    I believe he's gone on to repeat that.  I believe Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel quoted Barack to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on just that statement -- just this week.

    So why doesn't the press make the political issues in Iraq the focus of coverage?

    If it matters that much -- and I happen to agree that it does -- why doesn't the press cover it like it matters?

    The Parliament met again today.

    They still didn't vote in a Minister of Defense or Minister of Interior.

    For David Kirkpatrick, that's a detail to bury in paragraph six of his report or 'report;'

    The Parliament has not yet confirmed nominees for the crucial posts of interior or defense minister, in part because of discord between Sunni and Shiite factions, and the Iraqi news media has reported that it may be more than a month before the posts are filled.

    This is bull____.  Whether you support increased war on Iraq (I don't) or not, the bulk of Americans (and people in other countries sending forces, weapons or taking part in bombings) should be able to agree that a Parliament that cannot vote in people to head the security ministries is not demonstrating they deserve assistance.

    This nominee has b.o. or this one has buck teeth or whatever.

    It doesn't really matter.  You need to fill those posts.

    You should have filled them before declaring someone prime minister.

    That's what the Iraqi Constitution says.

    So once again the Parliament is ignoring the Constitution.

    When they did in 2010, Nouri nominated people to fill the security posts when?


    He never did.

    He went his whole term with those posts empty.

    He should have been impeached for that.

    At least the new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has nominated two people for the posts.  The Parliament just refuses to confirm them.

    This is a story, this is a major news story by the definitions for success that Barack Obama has provided.  So why won't the American press treat it as a serious news topic and not an aside?

    I've slammed Jamie Taraby many times here.  Applause and praise to her for treating this and political issues in Iraq as real news topics in her report at Al Jazeera America.  Credit to her for taking the issue seriously -- especially when she's pretty much the only one doing so.

    Today, Susan notes "Obituary: Polly Bergen" (On the Edge).  Thursday, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following:

    IAVA Responds to VA Whistleblower’s Testimony
    Posted by Kaitlin Ramlogan on September 18

    IAVA Responds to VA Whistleblower’s Testimony 

    New York, NY (September 18, 2014) – Yesterday, whistleblower Dr. Sam Foote blasted the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) Aug. 26 report on scheduling manipulation and patient deaths at the Phoenix VA during a hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC). VA Secretary Robert McDonald and Acting Inspector General Richard J. Griffin also testified before the committee.

    The hearing was held one day after the House of Representatives unanimously passed several key pieces of legislation to improve the lives of veterans and their families. The bills passed Tuesday included reforms to VA construction projects, the extension of numerous critical veterans programs, and a cost-of-living adjustment for disabled veterans and their dependents.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff, in San Francisco meeting with post-9/11 veterans, released the following statement:

    “We thank Chairman Miller and HVAC for scrutinizing the latest OIG report on the Phoenix VA’s wait times and scheduling practices. Yesterday's hearing yet again shows how little we know about the scope of corruption and wrongdoing within the VA nationwide. Our community continues to be extremely discouraged with the report’s findings. There must be real accountability established and enforced within the VA, starting with those guilty of misconduct being identified and promptly removed from VA service.

    Additionally, practical policy guidelines need to be established, disseminated and enforced, and 21st century technological updates need to be implemented. Secretary McDonald is in a position to change the course of veteran health care, we are looking to him to continue the strong leadership he has already established during his short time in office and lead this needed reform effort.”

    Note to media: To schedule an interview with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff email or call 212-982-9699.

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

    Friday, September 19, 2014


    I'm not big on meat but my favorite is turkey.

    I associate it with Thanksgiving as do many people.

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it's a time to gather and share.

    Turkey has a nice taste to it.  It's not too heavy and it's not too light.

    It can fill you up.

    I love left overs for sandwiches.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Thursday, September 18, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, John Kerry fails to give Barack his due credit, the Senate votes to arm thugs, Senator Rand Paul speaks out, and much more.

    Yesterday in the US, the House of Representatives voted to approve funding for the training and arming of so-called 'rebels' in Syria.  Today it was the Senate's turn.

    And they also passed funding more war and destruction and a 'plan' that just isn't there.

    22 members of the Senate voted against it:

    Senators Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders,  Mark Begich, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Barrasso, Sherrod Brown, Tom Coburn, Joe Manchin, Mike Lee, Patrick Leahy, Dean Heller, Ron Paul, Jeff Sessions, James E. Risch, Pat Roberts, Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz, Mike Crapo, Ed Markey, Jerry Moran, Chris Murphy and Mike Enzi.

    The other 78 US senators voted for it -- no one abstained.

    Senator Sanders' office issued the following statement:

    Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday voted against the United States training and arming Syrian rebels. Sanders said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “is a brutal and dangerous extremist organization which must be defeated, but this war cannot be won by the United States alone. There needs to be a real international coalition led by the countries most threatened – Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey and Iran. The worst thing that we can do now is allow ISIS to portray this struggle as East vs. West, as Muslim vs. Christian, as the Middle East vs. America. That is exactly what they want and that is exactly what we should not be giving them.”
    The senator faulted wealthy Middle East nations for doing too little to protect their own interests, especially when Saudi Arabia has the fourth largest military budget in the world. He also questioned why American taxpayers are footing the bill when royal families that rule those Mideast nations are worth hundreds of billions of dollars. 
    “This is not just a question of whether young men and women in Vermont and across America should be putting their lives on the line in another Mideast war.  It is not just about whether the taxpayers of our country should once again pay for a war in the Middle East. It is about the reality that, long term, this struggle will never be won by the United States alone.  It must be won with the active participation of the Muslim countries in the region,” Sanders said.
    Sanders said he supports President Barack Obama’s judicious use of airstrikes which already have shown some success, but in opposing the resolution Sanders said, “I fear very much that supporting questionable groups in Syria who will be outnumbered and outgunned by both ISIS and the Assad regime could open the door to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement.”
    The provision to fund forces battling the ISIS terrorist group was included in a stopgap spending bill to fund the government through Dec. 11. The measure, approved by the Senate, had passed the House on Wednesday.

    US President Barack Obama insisted the vote demonstrated that Americans were united, Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney (Reuters) report..

    Uh, no, it didn't.  America didn't get to vote.  Members of Congress voted.

    And AFP reports:

    For the first time since President Barack Obama took office, more Americans disapprove than approve his handling of terror threats, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing a new poll.
    The slide in the president’s approval ratings on terrorism comes as the White House ramps up its fight against the Islamic State group that recently beheaded three Westerners, including two US journalists.  The New York Times-CBS poll found that 50 percent hold a negative view of how Obama is generally dealing with terrorism, while only 41 percent approve.

    US Senator Rand Paul got to vote and he voted against the measure while declaring "make no mistake arming Islamic rebels in Syria will only make it harder to destroy ISIS."  We'll close the snapshot with Rand Paul's remarks in full but it's much too long to drop in at the start of the snapshot.

    Sharif Nashashibi (Information Clearing House) notes:

    Like Bush, Obama is accused of abusing executive authority by saying he does not need the approval of Congress. The White House cites the 2001 Authorisation for Military Force against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, which was passed by Congress after the 9/11 attacks.
    However, this applies to nations and organisations that "planned, authorised, committed or aided" the attacks. The IS did not exist at that time, and was disavowed by its parent organisation, al-Qaeda in February this year.
    "It's preposterous to suggest that a congressional vote 13 years ago can be used to legalise new bombings in Syria and additional (non-combat) forces in Iraq," Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and political science at Yale University, wrote in the New York Times. Obama's "refusal even to ask the Justice Department to provide a formal legal pretext for the war on ISIS is astonishing."

    Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) points out that Secretary of State John Kerry also cited the 9/11 authorization and went further by insisting Article II of the Constitution provides Barack with all the authorization he needs:

    Kerry’s invocation of Article Two is eerily reminiscent of the rationales offered by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their Justice Department lawyers, who claimed that the President in time of war could do anything he wanted abroad and even at home. (John Yoo, the White House is on the line…)
    For liberals, it was an embarrassing day. Senator Barbara Boxer of California was there to defend the President and his misuse of the AUMF. And the most ardent defender of the Constitution and Congress’s power to declare war was not a Democrat but Senator Rand Paul.

    John Kerry appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today and he declared:

    Early this summer, the ISIL threat accelerated when it effectively obliterated the Iraq-Syria border and the Mosul Dam fell. And there are complicated reasons for why that happened. It’s not just a straightforward they-ran-over-them deal. It has to do with the kind of army that Prime Minister Maliki began to create. It has to do with Shia and Sunni. It has to do with a lot of other ingredients. But as a result of that, we further surged our ISR missions immediately over Iraq. We immediately set up joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil. And our Special Forces conducted immediately a very detailed assessment of the Iraqi Security Forces, because we needed to know in order to be able to answer your questions and the questions of the American people what might we be getting into here. Do we have an Iraqi army that’s capable of fighting? To what degree? What will it take to reconstitute it? So whatever judgments are coming to you now are coming to you as a consequence of that assessment. And in addition to that, I’m proud to say that thanks to American engagement, ISIL’s movement, which was rapid at that point in time and perilous, was stopped. Together with the Peshmerga and the brave, courageous souls, the Kurds who stood up, we were able to not only stop them there but to liberate Amirli, which had been under siege, liberate Sinjar Mountain, to begin to bring our efforts to bear on Haditha Dam and make a difference. And by the time ISIL had launched its offensive in the north, President Obama began airstrikes to begin with on a humanitarian basis to protect American personnel and prevent major catastrophes such as the fall of Haditha Dam or the maintenance of the Mosul Dam and also to bolster the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish forces.  To date, we’ve launched more than 150 airstrikes. And I know that sounds like – it doesn’t sound like – that’s very few compared to the 16,000 that was mentioned earlier. But it’s a different deal right now, because I believe we rightfully, absolutely needed to get in place a structured, clear, Iraqi-chosen Iraqi effort that provided a government with which we can work going forward. If you didn’t have a government with which you could work going forward, nothing that we tried to do would have had the impact necessary. So the platforms we put in place last June have enabled us to be able to do what we’ve done now, and there’s absolute clarity to the fact that we blunted ISIL’s momentum, created the time and space to be able to put together a comprehensive strategy, get the inclusive government, and build a broad coalition. And that’s the way we ought to go at this.

    It's amazing how far they'll go to spin.

    Reality, Barack's actions have led the Islamic State to more than double its membership -- and that's according to CIA figures.

    All his attacks have done is act as a recruiting tool.

    Tom Perry and Larry King (Reuters) report::

    Islamic State has won new recruits in Syria since President Barack Obama signaled last week that air strikes against the group will be expanded from Iraq to its strongholds in northern and eastern Syria, a group monitoring the war said on Wednesday.
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 162 people had joined Islamic State training camps in Aleppo province since Sept 10, when Obama said he would not hesitate to strike Islamic State in Syria.

    Barack's very good at turning out new members for the Islamic State.  He's yet to prove himself to be good at 'decimating' the Islamic State

    Violence continues today in Iraq with multiple examples including the 6 corpses discovered dumped in the streets of Tuz Khurmato. IANS notes 100 violent deaths in Iraq today with seventy-nine more people left injured.

    This as the residential neighborhoods of Falluja continue to be bombed daily.  NINA notes that today's bombings left 4 civilians dead and twenty more (including two children) injured.

    Those are the bombings that new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered stopped on Saturday.  They didn't stop.  Not even for a day.

    The point we've been making is that the press (and the US Congress) needs to determine did al-Abadi lie about giving an order (which would reflect poorly on him as the new leader, lying out of the gate) or was his order ignored?

    If his order was ignored, this is very serious because the Iraqi military has refused a direct order from the prime minister meaning it is no longer under civilian control -- meaning the US doesn't need to be training it, arming it or assisting it.

    While everyone in the US has worked hard to avoid the issue, it's being raised in Iraq today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    MP Hamid al-Mutlaq, for the coalition of Alwataniya demanded the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Haider Abadi to proceed to accountability of military leadership, who violated his orders by carrying out indiscriminate bombing on residential areas in Fallujah of Anbar and Yusufiyah of Baghdad. 

    Maybe at some point, the US press will ask the needed questions.

    As noted earlier, Senator Rand Paul was one of 22 voting against Barack's desire to provide 'rebels' in Syria with weapons and backing.  Paul's office issued the following:

    Sep 18, 2014
    Sen. Rand Paul today took to the Senate floor to offer a unanimous consent request to separate the Syria rebel funding language from the Continuing Resolution. Senate Democrats objected to this request. Sen. Paul then delivered a foreign policy address outlining his opposition to arming the Syrian rebels. A video and copy of Sen. Paul's remarks as prepared for delivery can be found HERE or below.


    If there is one theme that connects the dots in the Middle East, it is that chaos breeds terrorism. 

    What much of the foreign policy elite fails to grasp is that intervention to topple secular dictators has been the prime source of that chaos.

    From Hussein to Assad to Ghaddafi we have the same history.

    Intervention topples the secular dictator. Chaos ensues and radical jihadists emerge.
    The pattern has been repeated time after time and yet what we have here is a failure to understand, a failure to reflect on the outcome our involvement in Arab civil wars.

    They say nature abhors a vacuum. Radical jihadists have again and again filled the chaotic vacuum of the Middle East.

    Secular dictators, despots who terrorized their own people, are replaced by radical jihadists who seek terror at home and abroad.

    Intervention when both choices are bad is a mistake.

    Intervention when both sides are evil is a mistake.

    Intervention that destabilizes the region is a mistake.

    And yet here we are again, wading into another civil war in Syria. I warned a year ago that involving us in Syria's civil war was a mistake.

    That the inescapable irony is that someday the arms we supply would be used against us, or Israel.

    That day is now. ISIS has grabbed up U.S., Saudi, Qatari weapons by the truckload and we are now forced to fight against our own weapons.

    Now, even those of us who have been reluctant to become involved in the wars of the Middle East feel that American vital interests are at stake, that our consulate, our embassy are threatened and that left to their own devices ISIS will fulfill what they have boasted-an attack on us at home.

    So, yes we must now defend ourselves from these barbarous jihadists, but let's not compound the problem by arming feckless rebels in Syria who seem to be merely a pit stop for the arms that are inevitably scarfed up by ISIS.

    Remember clearly the President and his Republican allies that clamored for air strikes against Assad.

    Had those airstrikes occurred, in all likelihood ISIS would now be in Damascus and the threat to America even greater.

    Remember that all the hawks who now clamor for boots on the ground also wanted to take out Assad last year. 
    Had the hawks been successful last year, we could very well now be facing an ISIS in charge of all of Syria and parts of Iraq.

    Intervention is not always the answer and often leads to unintended consequences

    Some will argue: No, no it's not intervention that led to this chaos, but not enough intervention.

    They say: If only we'd given the rebels more arms, ISIS wouldn't be as strong now.

    The only problem is-the facts argue otherwise.

    One reason is, we did give arms and assistance to these rebels, through secret CIA operations, and through our allies and not so allied countries in the region.

    Reports show that the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have supplied roughly 600 tons of weapons to the militants in Syria in 2013 alone.

    According to U.N. records, Turkey has sent 47 tons of weaponry to the Syrian Rebels-sending 29 tons in just this month.

    Videos appear online of Free Syrian Army rebels with downed M8 helicopters and MANDPAD air defense systems.

    An American made TOW anti-tank system was shown in the hands of Harakat Hazm, a group of so-called moderate rebels.

    A Wall Street Journal report detailed Saudi Arabia providing weapons like this to the rebels. It also detailed millions of dollars in direct US aid to rebels - all from nearly 8 months ago or more.

    The NY Times reports that Qatar used "a shadowy arms network to move shoulder fired missiles" into the hands of Syrian rebels.

    According to Gulfnews, Saudi Arabia also partnered with Pakistan to provide a Pakistani made version of Chinese shoulder launched missiles to the rebels.

    Iraqi officials publicly accused Saudi Arabia and Quatar of also funding and arming ISIS at the same time.

    Kuwaitis, a Sunni majority country bordering Iraq, have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to a wide range of opposition forces both in Iraq and Syria, according to reports by the Brooking Institute.

    According to a New York Times report, over a year ago, the CIA began training Syrian rebels in nearby Jordan, thousands of them, along with delivering arms and ammunition.

    New York Times reports also detailed the huge arms and financial transfers from Quatar to the Syrian rebels, beginning as early as 2011.

    No one really knows where that all ended up: Jane's Terrorism Center noted, the transfer of Quatari arms to targeted groups has the same practical effect as shipping them to Al Nusra, a violent jihadist force.

    The New York Times further detailed that Sudan has provided anti-tank missiles and other arms.

    So the idea that these rebels haven't been armed before is ludicrous on it's face.

    It is also ludicrous to believe that we know where all of the money, arms and ammunition will end up, or who will end up benefitting from these shipments.


    Because we don't know for sure who the groups all are.

    Even when we think we do, loyalties shift and groups become amorphous, with alleged moderates lining up with jihadists.

    And finally, moderate groups have often sold their weapons or had them seized by the jihadist elements led by ISIS.

    According to the Carnegie Endowment, There are no neat, clean, secular rebels groups. They don't exist. They reiterate that this is a "very dirty war" with no clear good guys for us to ally with.

    The German Ambassador to the U.S. has fully admitted what our State Department tries to hide - that we can't fully control the final destination of these arms.

    Former officials are more forthright with their criticism.

    According to a former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Syria, "We need to do everything we can to figure out who the non-ISIS opposition, is...Frankly, we don't have a clue."

    The rebels have been all over the map. There are said to be 1500 different rebel groups. The largest coalition other than ISIS, Al Quada and Al Nusra, all jihadist extremists, is the FSA-- which has three people who claim to be the leader.

    There are estimates that half of the FSA has defected.

    And we prove time and time again we don't know how to vet their leaders.

    Two groups that were initially provided US and ally help last year provide good examples.

    A top official of Ahrar al Sham, one of the largest rebel groups at the time, announced publicly that he now considers himself allied with Al Qaeda.

    Robert Ford, our most recent Ambassador to Syria, said, "We must understand two vital points going in, the moderate armed opposition's biggest enemy is not ISIS, it is the Assad regime...moderate forces have and will tactically coordinate with the Al Qaeda linked Nusra front on the ground."

    According to the Washington Free Beacon, one of the militants provided access to advance U.S. weapons said that it is seeking "the return of all Syrian land occupied by Israel."

    These are among the many problems we have in arming the Syrian opposition.

    Who are we really arming? What will be the result? Where will the arms end up?

    There are too many here who believe they have the answers to these questions, when they do not, indeed when all indicators are that it may well be unknowable.

    I am a skeptic of this administration's policies, though I share their new-found belief that the jihadists in the region are the biggest threat.

    Where I differ is whether to arm the same side as the jihadists.

    Regarding whether we go to war at all, or under what circumstance, remember that the President last year wanted to intervene on the OTHER side of this war.

    Let me reiterate that: This administration and its allies on both sides of the aisle in seeking perpetual war, last year wanted the United States to join this war on the side of ISIS, against the Assad regime.

    I opposed them, for reasons that have now suddenly become clear to everyone else.

    It's not that I am against all intervention. I favor striking ISIS.

    I supported the decision to go to war with Afghanistan after our nation was attacked on 9/11.

    There are valid reasons for war. And importantly, there are ways to do it and ways not to do it.

    Colin Powell wrote in his autobiography: "War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support."

    I believe that he had it right.

    America should only go to war to win.

    War should occur only when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened.

    I don't think the situation in Syria passes that test.

    Even the State Department argues that:
    "There's no military solution here that's good for the Syrian people, and that the best path forward is a political solution."

    The U.S. should not fight a war to save face.

    I will not vote to send young men and women to sacrifice life and limb for stalemate.

    I will not vote to send our nation's best and brightest to fight for anything less than victory.

    When American interests are at stake, then it is incumbent upon those advocating for military action to convince Congress and the American people of that threat.

    Too often, the debate begins and ends with an assertion that our national interest is at stake without any evidence of that assertion.

    The burden of proof lies with those who wish to engage in war, and they must convince the people and their representatives in Congress.

    Bashar Assad is clearly not an American ally. But does his ouster encourage stability in the Middle East, or would his ouster actually encourage instability?

    Are any of the Islamic rebels our allies?

    Will they defend American interests?

    Will they acknowledge Israel's right to exist? Will they impose Shari'ah law?

    Will they tolerate Christians, or will they pillage and destroy ancient Christian churches and people?

    The President and his Administration have not provided good answers to any of these questions.

    Shooting first and aiming later has not worked for us in the past, and it should not be our game plan now.

    In 2007, then Senator Obama stated that no President should unilaterally go to war without congressional authority unless there is an actual or imminent threat to our nation.

    I would like for President Obama to re-read some of the speeches of candidate Obama.

    Our Founding Fathers understood that the Executive Branch was the most prone to war and so with due deliberation they gave the power to declare war to legislative branch.

    President Obama's new position, though, is that while he requests congressional input, he doesn't necessarily need Congress's approval.

    Secretary Kerry stated explicitly yesterday his understanding of the constitution when he argued that NO congressional authorization was necessary.

    The President and his Administration view this vote as a courtesy vote.

    Even if Congress votes against it, the President still believes that he reserves the right to involve our soldiers in a war unilaterally.

    But Mr. President, that is not how our Constitution works.

    Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 gives Congress - and Congress alone - the power to declare war. If Congress does not approve this military action, the President must abide by that decision.

    Our founders understood this.

    Thomas Jefferson said the Constitution gave "one effectual check to the Dog of war by transferring the power [to declare war] from the Executive [branch] to the Legislative body."

    Madison wrote even more clearly:
    "The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature."

    There is no debate more significant for a legislator than the decision to engage in war.
    We must hold our leaders accountable.

    If we do not, there will be no end to war. The ridiculous and the absurd must be laid to rest. You've all heard it before.

    Toppling Ghaddafi led to a jihadist wonderland in Libya,

    Toppling Hussein led to the chaos that is Iraq,
    Toppling Assad will lead to a new chaos and greater danger from the jihadists.

    The moss covered too-long-in-Washington crowd cannot help themselves.  War, war, what we need is more, more war . . .

    Their policies and the combination of feckless disinterest, fraudulent red lines, and selective combativeness of this administration have led us to this point.

    Yes, we must now confront ISIS, in part for penance for the President's role in their rise.

    But while we do so to protect our interests here, what we need is someone to shout:
    War, war, what are we fighting for...

    Amidst the interventionist's disjointed and frankly incoherent rhetoric,
    Amidst the gathering gloom that sees enemies behind every friend,
    And friends behind every enemy,
    The only consistent theme is war.

    These barnacled enablers have never met a war they didn't like.

    They beat their chests in rhythmic ode to failed policies.

    Their drums beat to policies that display their outrage but fail to find a cure.

    Unintended consequences drown and smother the possibility of good intentions.

    Must we act to check and destroy ISIS? Yes, and again yes, because of the foolishness of the interventionists.

    But let's not mistake what we must do.

    We shouldn't give a pass to forever intervene in the civil wars of the Middle East.

    Intervention created the chaos.

    Intervention aided and abetted the rise of radical Islam and intervention made us less safe in Libya and Syria and Iraq.

    To those who wish unlimited intervention and boots on the ground everywhere:
    Remember the smiling poses of politicians pontificating about so-called freedom fighters and "heroes" in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq...unaware that so-called freedom fighters may well have been allied with kidnappers, killers or both.
    Are the so-called moderate Islamic rebels in Syria friends or foes? Do we know who they really are? All debatable questions at best.

    As the interventionists clamor for boots on the ground, we should remember that they were wrong about Iraq.
    They were wrong about Libya.

    They were trying to intervene last year on the wrong side of the Syrian war.

    When will we quit listening to the advocates of perpetual war?

    When does a track record of being consistently wrong stop you from being a so-called expert when the next crisis arises?

    We should remember that they were wrong, that there were no WMD's, that Hussein, Khaddifi, and Assad were no threat to us.

    We should remember that radical Islam now roams about in Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

    We should remember that those who believe that war is the answer for every problem, were wrong.

    We should remember that war against Hussein, that war against Khaddafi, that war against Assad led to chaos.

    That intervention enhanced the rise of radical Islam, and ultimately led to more danger for Americans.

    Before we arm the so-called moderate Muslims of Syria, remember what I said a year ago:
    "The irony you will not be able to overcome is that these arms will someday be used against America."

    That prediction is now true.

    We will fight ISIS, a war I accept as necessary, largely because our own arms and the arms of our allies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar have enabled our new enemy ISIS.

    Will we ever learn?

    President Obama now wishes to bomb ISIS and arm their Islamic allies in Syria.

    The Emperor has no clothes.  Admit it.

    The truth is sometimes painful.

    We must protect ourselves from radical Islam, but we should never, ever have armed radical Islam, and we could make it worse by arming it more today!

    We have enabled the enemy we must now confront.

    Sending arms to so-called moderate Islamic rebels in Syria is a fool's errand and will only make ISIS stronger.

    ISIS grew as the U.S. and our allies armed the Islamic rebels in Syria.

    The barnacled purveyors of war should admit their mistakes and not compound them.

    ISIS is now a threat.  Let's get on with destroying them.

    But make no mistake arming Islamic rebels in Syria will only make it harder to destroy ISIS.


    Thursday, September 18, 2014


    Barack tried to spin today, repeating his claim that there would be no ground troops in Iraq.

    Even though there already are.

    It's really about spin and his pushback against General Dempsey's remarks yesterday.

    So who do we believe?

    I'd say the smart money would argue Dempsey is telling the truth.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, September 17, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Barack insists no combat troops in Iraq, but dropping bombings requires combat pilots, and much more.

    This afternoon in Florida, US President Barack Obama declared,  "The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.  They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as they fight for their own country against these terrorists."

    Barack was attempting to push back against remarks Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff, made yesterday when he and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Dempsey made comments such at this:

    Gen Martin Dempsey:  At this juncture, our advisors are intended to help the Iraqis develop a mindset for the offensive and the actions to match it. Our military advisors will help the Iraqis conduct campaign planning, arrange for enabler and logistics support, and coordinate Coalition contributions. To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisors should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the President. 

    In response to that and other remarks yesterday, Barack declared today,  "The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.  They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as  they fight for their own country against these terrorists."

    I don't understand how he can say that.

    US troops are in Iraq.  Iraq War veteran J.R. Salzman Tweeted:

  • Why does POTUS keep saying we won't have combat troops in Iraq when we already do, and why won't the media call him out on it? Come on.

  • Why indeed?  They're there and they have a combat mission in Iraq.

    Dempsey acknowledged that in the hearing yesterday.

    Gen Martin Dempsey: First of all, I think everyone should be aware when we talk about "combat forces," that's all we grow.  When we bring a young man or woman in the military, they come in to be a combat soldier or a combat Marine or a combat -- We don't bring them in to be anything else other than combat capable.  But that's different than how we use them.  And in the case of our contributions in Iraq right now, the airmen, as the Chair -- as the Ranking Member mentioned, are very much in a combat role. 

    That is a combat role.

    And it sounded like one in Barack's speech today when Barack stated, "So, last month, I gave the order for our military to begin taking targeted action against ISIL.  And since then, our brave pilot and crews -- with your help -- have conducted more than 160 airstrikes against these terrorists.  Because of your efforts, we’ve been able to protect our personnel and our facilities, and kill ISIL fighters, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory.  They’ve helped our partners on the ground break ISIL sieges, helped rescue civilians cornered on a mountain, helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children."

    It sounds like combat because it is combat.

    US Senator Kelly Ayotte Tweeted:

  • POTUS said today our troops in Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission. What do you call dropping bombs from planes?

  • Trevor Timm Tweeted:

  • And The Atlantic's David W. Brown offers:

    Dempsey's remarks appears to have stripped the pretense off what's taking place in Iraq.

    Mark Landler and Jeremy W. Peters (New York Times) note:

    The general’s statement lays bare the challenge the president will face in selling an expanded military campaign to a war-weary American public. Mr. Obama, seeking to allay fears of another Iraq war, has promised that American ground troops will not be involved in fighting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In a sign of the administration’s mixed message, the president pointedly did not call it a war, while his advisers later did.
    But the realities of a prolonged campaign, General Dempsey said, could make such a hands-off approach untenable, particularly if the battle against the militants moves into densely populated cities where airstrikes are less effective and the chances of civilian casualties are much higher. His candid testimony, hours before a divided House of Representatives began debating whether to approve Mr. Obama’s request for authority to arm the Syrian rebels, drew expressions of concern from antiwar groups and could further complicate the political dynamic for the president.

    All Iraq News adds:

    The U.S. already has hundreds of advisors on the ground in Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Senate panel he cannot rule out combat troops returning to Iraq, albeit in a limited role.
    "If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific (militant) targets, I will recommend that to the president," Dempsey said.
    Such actions, he added, would be considered "close combat advising."
    President Barack Obama has maintained U.S. combat troops would not be returning to the country. U.S. ground troops left the country in 2011 after nine years.
    "At this point, (the president's) stated policy is we will not have US ground forces in direct combat," Dempsey said. "But he has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis."

    As David Jackson (USA Today) notes, "President Obama doubled down Wednesday on an increasingly questioned pledge."

    Barack's push back today was especially surprising since he was aware of what Dempsey was going to say and knew of the opening remarks.  Jim Acosta and Kevin Liptak (CNN) note the White House was briefed on Dempsey's opening claim:

    Gen Martin Dempsey:  At this juncture, our advisors are intended to help the Iraqis develop a mindset for the offensive and the actions to match it. Our military advisors will help the Iraqis conduct campaign planning, arrange for enabler and logistics support, and coordinate Coalition contributions. To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisors should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the President. 

    Briefed ahead of time.  Elaine noted it at her site, we noted it in the snapshot, these were prepared remarks, submitted in writing before the hearing began.  Dempsey read from the written statement word for word.  These prepared remarks went around the administration -- including to the White House -- before they were allowed to be submitted to Congress.

    For CNN, it's a messaging mis-step.  That may or may not be the issue. It may also be the White House testing the waters.  Iraq War veteran Austin Bay (Creators Syndicate) offers:
    Dempsey's testimony addressed a genuine military and diplomatic contingency. His honest answer, however, also serves as a political hedge. "Ineffective" is an iffy term and gives the Obama administration rhetorical space to deploy Army and Marine ground forces to Iraq and Syria after the November elections. At that point, ticking off Democratic peaceniks won’t distract from his golf game.
    Barack's 'plan' still isn't a plan. 

    Christi Parsons (LA Times) reports:

    Defeating the extremists requires a strategy that emphasizes diplomacy, intelligence and economics, said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
    Those tools aren’t as easy to see in the short term, said Alterman, but “they present the only path to victory: crippling the organization’s networks, denying the group safe haven and undermining the conditions that make it attractive to potential recruits.”
    “While the Obama strategy is more than merely a military strategy, it appears militarily focused,” Alterman wrote in an email Wednesday. “The president’s speech on Iraq and Syria focused on military instruments, and used the language of the military, twice promising to 'degrade and destroy' the Islamic State. Perhaps the president was seeking to capitalize on the urgency of this month’s murders, and only military instruments seemed urgent enough.”

    Meanwhile the leader of Iraq had a few comments to make and did so in an exclusive interview he granted to the Associated Press.  Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared "out of the question" foreign troops being sent into Iraq.  He also insisted that the world leaders needed to address the Islamic State in Syria.

    In Iraq, the violence continued.  National Iraqi News Agency notes air strikes killed 26 suspects in Dhuluiya, an attack and a clash in Mansuriyya left 3 rebels dead and three civilians injured, Baghdad Operations Command stated they killed 5 snipers, aerial bombings in Qaim and Akashat left 11 suspects dead and five more injured, an aerial bombing outside Muqdadiyah killed 5 suspects, an Al-Siger battle left 11 rebels and 4 Iraqi soldiers dead (four more Iraqi soldiers were injured), a military strike near Dhuluiya left 4 people dead and ten more injured, the corpses of 7 police members were discovered in Tikrit, 1 corpse was discovered dumped "northwest of Baghdad," a Muqdadiyah mortar attack left 3 civilians dead and seven more injured, and a Ramadi suicide truck bomber took his own life and the lives of 9 other people with eleven more left injured.

    Monday, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr objected to the outside 'interest' in Iraq's affairs.  National Iraqi News Agency reported:

    Sadr said in a statement carried his signature and stamp today, " The / Black House / decided to launch attacks on Iraqi territory and this American decision perhaps came after its remorse to its fake withdraw."
    He added: " if you came back again we will back."
    Sadr added, "the government should not get help from the occupier whatever, even under the pretext of (the Islamic State), which is not exist except in the imagination, but is a creature of Americans."

    Sadr's statement came as All Iraq News reported John Kerry was boasting in Paris that many countries are offering "to send troops into Iraq."  While Sadr is now said to have left Iraq (for Lebanon), Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.

    I'm really not in the mood to go into it.

    I wouldn't be noting it at all but John Kerry's being attacked.  Undeservedly.

    The Secretary of State declared at the hearing:

    As I came in here, obviously, we had some folks who spoke out, and I would start by saying that I understand dissent; I’ve lived it. That’s how I first testified in front of this country in 1971. And I spent two years protesting a policy, so I respect the right of Code Pink to protest and to use that right.
    But you know what? I also know something about Code Pink. Code Pink was started by a woman and women who were opposed to war but who also thought that the government’s job was to take care of people and to give them healthcare and education and good jobs. And if that’s what you believe in – and I believe it is – then you ought to care about fighting ISIL, because ISIL is killing and raping and mutilating women, and they believe women shouldn’t have an education. They sell off girls to be sex slaves to jihadists. There is no negotiation with ISIL; there is nothing to negotiate. And they’re not offering anyone health care of any kind. They’re not offering education of any kind, for a whole philosophy or idea or cult, whatever you want to call it, that frankly comes out of the Stone Age. They’re cold-blooded killers marauding across the Middle East making a mockery of a peaceful religion.

    And that’s precisely why we are building a coalition to try to stop them from denying the women and the girls and the people of Iraq the very future that they yearn for. And frankly, Code Pink and a lot of other people need to stop to think about how you stop them and deal with that.

    Now you can disagree -- and I certainly do -- with his assembly of facts, factoids and fictions in the above.

    And if that's what was focused on, fine and dandy.

    But so many little worthless worms want to whine about 'poor' CodeStink.

    Kerry's remarks towards CodeStink are fine.

    There's nothing wrong with them.

    He's noting their right to speak out in a democracy.

    I see that as a good thing.

    I'm not offended by his remarks towards CodeStink.

    Those trying to gin up outrage are pretty much worthless when it comes to thought or analysis.

    Senator Robert Menendez is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    Rather than focus more on the hearing today, let's close with this from Senator Menendez's office:

    Menendez Commends Senate Passage of Autism Bill

    July 31, 2014

    WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today hailed the Senate's passage of the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (Autism CARES) Act, which is the identical companion to Menendez’s Senate bill, S. 2449. The unanimous Senate passage was the final Congressional step needed to get the bill to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

    “The Senate’s action today ensures these vital autism programs are reauthorized and continue providing research, services and supports individuals with autism and their families have come to rely on,” said Sen. Menendez. “The Autism CARES Act is a model of bipartisan, bicameral cooperation – and I am proud I was able to work on it and look forward to seeing the President sign this critical legislation into law.”

    According to a recent report by the CDC, autism rates climbed nearly 30% between 2008 and 2010, to 1 in 68 children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, from 1 in 88 children. In New Jersey, that prevalence is 1 in 45 children. 

    Senator Menendez is the leading advocate in Congress for individuals with autism and their families, having secured the passage of the 2011 reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act. Additionally, he authored the Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation (AGE-IN) Act to address the needs of youth and young adults as they transition out of school-based support to independent adulthood. Several key policies from this legislation are incorporated in the Autism CARES Act.