Thursday, October 02, 2014

Blameless Barack

"Clapper Under The Bus" (Andrew P. Napolitano,

When President Obama attributed the rise in Iraq of the Islamic State, or ISIS, to the failures of the U.S. intelligence community earlier this week, naming and blaming directly National Intelligence Director Gen. James Clapper, he was attempting to deflect criticism of his own incompetence. He was discussing the fact that ISIS, right under his own and the general’s noses, gained control of nearly half of the landmass of Iraq. This is the same Iraq that the United States supposedly liberated from the clutches of a dictator, strengthened as a regional military power and fortified as the Middle East’s newest democracy as a result of our invasion in 2003 and our subsequent 10-year occupation.
Many who supported the war then realize now that we were duped into it by a deceptive and shortsighted Bush administration that was looking to deflect blame for its intelligence failures of 9/11, for which, unlike the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor, not a single human being in the federal government has been charged with anything. But that is a topic for another day.
ISIS captured Fallujah and Ramadi, two major cities in Iraq, eight months ago. Surely the president knew about that when it happened. He receives an intelligence briefing every day; more often than not, he prefers a written briefing rather than one where he and his briefers can zero in on problem areas in a face-to-face conversation. Yet since the February takeover of the Iraqi equivalent of Chicago and Los Angeles, the president has told the American people that ISIS is junior varsity and he had no plans to address it, and he seemed not to care about it until ISIS went over his head, so to speak, and beheaded two innocent young Americans and posted grisly videos of their horrific murders on the Internet.

I'm glad to see so many zooming in on what C.I. did on Sunday.

However, it's worth noting that C.I. didn't just call out Barack for throwing Clapper under the bus.

She also called Barack out, for the same remarks, for distorting and lying about Iraq.

It would be nice if others could point out, for example, that Barack lied about the 'surge.'

But I guess that's too much to ask for.

Finian Cunningham (ICH) at least called out Barack's lies to the UN.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, October 1, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Barack's 'plan' continues to falter, Barack steps away from fears of civilian casualties from US bombings, monthly totals for Septembers dead and wounded are released, does a better job of counting the dead than does the United Nations, England joins in bombing Iraq, Senator Patty Murray works to address the issue of homeless veterans, TRICARE is failing some military families in the US, and much more.

We're going to start with veterans by noting this press release from Senator Patty Murray's office:

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Housing Appropriations Subcommittee and senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, announced new resources to help homeless veterans secure stable housing. Washington state will receive 335 housing vouchers that will be allocated to eleven different housing authorities across the state- this includes both tenant-based vouchers, which are used to cover rent in private housing, as well as project-based vouchers, which are attached to specific units of housing. 
The vouchers are part of the joint Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH program), a program Murray helped restart in 2008 and which she has continued to fund every year since.  Through the program, homeless veterans receive vouchers through HUD and case management and services through the VA. 
“These vouchers are a huge boost in the effort to end homelessness among veterans in our state,” said Senator Murray. “Each one of these vouchers represents a step toward finding a permanent home for someone who sacrificed for our nation, but is struggling to find stable housing. The HUD-VASH program provides critical support to these veterans and is a key reason why we are making real progress toward the goal of finally ending veteran homelessness.”
With the assistance of HUD-VASH, veteran homelessness in the United States has declined 33 percent since 2010.

See a breakdown of voucher allocation below (totals include both tenant-based and project-based vouchers):

Public Housing Authority
VA Medical Center
Seattle Housing Authority
VA Puget Sound Health Care System (HCS)/Seattle Campus
King County Housing Authority
VA Puget Sound Health Care System (HCS)/Seattle Campus
Housing Authority of the City of Tacoma
VA Puget Sound  Health Care System (HCS)/American Lake Campus
Housing Authority of the City of Longview
Portland VA Medical Center (VAMC)Vancouver Campus
Housing Authority City of Bellingham
VA Puget Sound Health Care System (HCS)/Seattle Campus
Housing Authority of Snohomish County
VA Puget Sound Health Care System (HCS)/Everett Community-Based Outreach Clinic (CBOC)
Housing Authority of Thurston County
VA Puget Sound  Health Care System (HCS)/American Lake Campus
Housing Authority of the City of Spokane
Mann-Grandstaff (Spokane) Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC)
Housing Authority of the City of Walla Walla (WA)
Walla Walla VA Medical Center (VAMC)/Richland Community-Based Outreach Clinic (CBOC)
Housing Authority of Chelan County and City of Wenatchee
Mann-Grandstaff (Spokane) Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC)/Wenatchee Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC)
Vancouver Housing Authority
Portland VAMC


Eli Zupnick
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
(202) 224-2834


Senator Murray works tirelessly for veterans and deserves much praise for that.

However, if there were 19 clones of her and the original serving in the Senate, it still wouldn't be enough.


I am hearing the same story over and over from veterans and their spouses with children.

TRICARE is supposed to be coverage for service members and for veterans -- there's TRICARE for retired, etc.  Think of it as Blue Cross Blue Shield if you need to simplify it.

John and Joan are married and have a daughter named Jill.

John is not oversees, he's a service member but he gets stationed here and there.  They do a seven month stint in Colorado.  Five months in, Jill is vomiting and can't stop.  She's taken to the emergency room of the local hospital where they stabilize her.  Jill is taken to a doctor's office or clinic the next day and Dr. Michelle Wong says Jill needs to see a specialist, Dr. Andre Kumar.

I hope everyone's following example, it's pretty straight forward.

En route to Dr. Kumar's office, or after being seen, John and Joan are informed that the visit isn't 'authorized' so TRICARE won't be covering it.

I've heard this basic story over and over in the last four weeks when speaking to veterans groups.

TRICARE wants a PCP -- a primary care physician.  That would be your family doctor, the doctor you or your children see when you're sick.

John and Joan are not living in X and never moving.  The military wants them at this base for a limited time and then at that base.  And if there's no reason to change the PCP -- if the child isn't sick or can be treated in a clinic, for example -- the parents don't change the PCP.  Sometimes TRICARE does.

So when their child does get sick and they seek care, they're suddenly faced with costs and expenses they shouldn't have to deal with.  But TRICARE says their sick child can't see that specialist -- even if a doctor has made the referral -- because they didn't see their PCP.

I've tried to keep the above simple (there's also an issue of TRICARE assigning PCP's to relocated families).

TRICARE could keep things real simple by allowing service members and their families to see a specialist if they are referred by another doctor -- it should not have to be a PCP.

It is ridiculous.

Joan and John and Jill are not moving because they made the decision, they're moving because the US government is changing where they are stationed.  TRICARE needs to recognize that.

No service member should have to worry about the costs of caring for their children -- that's especially true when your child is in dire need of a specialist.

I've tried to keep the above simple.  I've used PCP because that's what most people are familiar with -- most with insurance -- but, for example, in TRICARE, the PCP is called the PCM.

Calling.  The other big issue.

As someone who has sat in one hearing after another where members of Congress like Patty Murray, Senator Richard Burr, Senator Bernie Sanders, US House Rep Jeff Miller and US House Rep Mike Michaud have repeatedly asked the VA if they need more money for employees or training or this or that and heard the VA say no?

Will someone ask the VA, someone in Congress, how they feel about their call center because veterans with health issues -- such as the example above -- are getting real tired of the weight.

Moving to another topic . . .

Ned Parker's made his mark and then some reporting from Iraq.  His time at the Los Angeles Times, for example, is noted for his breaking the news on the secret prisons tyrant Nouri al-Maliki ran.  He nows heads Reuters' Iraq bureau.  And he Tweeted the following:

And this followed:

To give credit where it's due, the byline for the Reuters report is Raheem Salman, Yara Bayoumy, Ned Parker and Philippa Fletcher.

And to point out that the 'correction' isn't one, let's note that BBC added Reuters to the story, it did not issue a correction ("In a previous version of this report, we wrongly . . .") or an apology.

Accidents do happen, mistakes as well.  If you can't acknowledge them, that says something about you -- something much worse than an inadvertent failure to give credit.

In other image problems . . .

If you were looking at approximately two more years in office, you might try to use them to improve your image -- especially if you had six bad years so far and your second term was marked only by how increasingly unpopular you were.

You might look to improve your image.

US President Barack Obama apparently doesn't.  Igor Bobic (Huffington Post) reports:

The Obama administration has exempted its current military campaign in Syria and Iraq from strict standards imposed last year aimed at preventing civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes, Yahoo News reported Tuesday.
The White House intended the standard of "near certainty" that civilians wouldn't be killed to apply "only when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities,' as we noted at the time," Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, told Yahoo. "That description -- outside areas of active hostilities -- simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now." 

Huffington Post reported, AP rushes to excuse.  Associated Press' Ken Dilanian offers:

According to the White House, the reason the near-certainty standard is not applicable turns on a fine point of international law — the theory that the U.S. is not involved in “active hostilities” in Yemen and Somalia, but is in Syria and Iraq. Such distinctions are controversial, given the frequency with which American bombs and bullets have flown in both countries.
A more practical reason is that the self-imposed rules on drone strikes against al-Qaida are simply too restrictive for a conventional military air campaign against the Islamic State group, which the U.S. says is both a terrorist group and an occupying army, and has ordered the Pentagon to destroy.

Nothing says neutral and impartial news organization like excusing civilian deaths, justifying them, right?

Last Friday,  NINA reported a  Mosul bombing by US war planes killed 4 civilians.  In another article, Dilanian offers, "In Iraq, the U.S. is relying for ground reports on the Iraqi military and intelligence services, whose insights into Islamic State-controlled territory are limited."

Then maybe they shouldn't be bombing?

And did Barack miss this reality before he started bombing because so many people were discussing this publicly before the first air strikes started -- Time magazine's Bobby Ghosh, for example, was on MSNBC talking about just this possibility.

Did he miss that reality or does he just not care?

Jason Ditz ( notes the dropping of the previously announced standard and offers:

The more fast-and-loose definition of care may mirror the US occupation of Afghanistan, where airstrikes have routinely killed large numbers of civilians, and incidents of scores and even hundreds of civilians slain in botched strikes are not unheard of.
It also makes the weekend admonition by the Red Cross for the US to take care that it abides by international bans against targeting civilians and medical personnel all the more important, as their checkered track record of doing that in past wars seems to be the template they’re applying to the new conflict.

Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) observed earlier this week, "When the president talks about his new offensive against the extremist group that calls itself Islamic State, he sounds as warlike as George W. Bush ever did."

The war never ended in Iraq and UNAMI has issued their monthly death toll for September:

Baghdad, 1 October 2014 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of at least 1,119 Iraqis were killed and another 1,946 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence in September*. 

The number of civilians killed was 854 (including 79 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 1,604 (including 84 civilian police).  A further 265 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed, and 342 were injured (including Peshmerga, SWAT and militias fighting alongside Iraqi Army/not including casualties from Anbar operation). 
*CAVEATS: Data do not take into account casualties of the current IA operation in Anbar, for which UNAMI was unable to obtain figures for the reporting period. In general, UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas. In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents. UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care. For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum. 
Civilian Casualties (killed and injured) per governorate 
Anbar excluded, Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,335 civilian casualties (352 killed, 983 injured), followed by Salahadin (298 killed, 383 injured), Kirkuk (59 killed, 51 injured), Diyala (36 killed, 71 injured), Nineveh (75 killed, 16 injured). 
Operations in Anbar 
Up to now, UNAMI has not been able to obtain the total civilian casualty figures from the Health Directorate in Anbar. Overall casualty figures for Anbar will be added if and when they become available.

Anbar is a province where a lot of violence takes place so you don't have a real count if you're leaving out Anbar.  There's also the nonsens of 'civilian' casualties -- dead is dead.

The UN News Centre notes, "At least 1,119 Iraqis – most of them civilians – were killed in [September], the United Nations in the country today reported, but cautioned that the figure does not include people killed in the ongoing operation in Anbar, or those who died from the heat or hunger after being forced to flee violence in their cities."

So they do keep a tally of security forces killed.

Who's is missing?

How about the dead accused of being 'terrorists'?

Why is the UN going along with that?

I seem to remember when a group of US forces broke into an Iraqi home, murdered the parents and a five-year-old girl while gang-raping an Iraqi teenager in the other room before killing her too.  And who did the press blame?


In terms of the dead last month, there's no need to determine who is or isn't a terrorist, you just count the dead.  Dead is dead.  The press has no idea whether some person the Iraqi forces killed is a terrorist or not but they do know the person is dead.

Margaret Griffis ( reports, " has determined that at least 3,790 people were killed across Iraq during September. These numbers include militants, even foreign ones, killed in Iraq. Another 1,949 were wounded. The violence also left 126 dead and 184 wounded across Iraq on Tuesday."  That's the standard the United Nations should be pursuing.

And let's further note that the UN's refusal to count Anbar's deaths really harms the United Nation's credibility.

In other news, Chelsea J. Carter, Gul Tuysuz and Ben Wedeman (CNN) add "that the United Kingdom said it conducted its first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, striking targets four days after Parliament voted to approve the country's involvement."  Those bombings were late last night.  For those scratching their heads and thinking, "Wait, didn't . . ."  Yes.  Yes, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was telling/scolding the press yesterday that the RAF would not be "panicked" into bombing but would instead gather intel and then move cautiously and safely and blah, blah, blah. 

Judith Orr (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports:

British warplanes joined the third attack on Iraq in less than 25 years after a vote in Westminster on Friday of last week.

MPs backed prime minister David Cameron’s proposal to launch air strikes by a majority of 524 votes to 43 after parliament was recalled.

Britain joins the US, France and a number of Arab states in their assault on the country in the name of stopping the sectarian Islamist group Islamic State, also known as Isis.
Within 24 hours RAF tornado jets flew from Cyprus to Iraq searching for targets.
Cameron said, “This is going to be a mission that will take not just months but years.”
To their shame most Labour MPs lined up to back the Tories’ new war.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said bombing Iraq was about “protecting our national interest, security and the values for which we stand.”

After the vote Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, resigned as shadow education minister over Labour’s support for the air strikes. 
Labour MP and chair of the Stop the War Coalition (StW) Jeremy Corbyn refused to vote for the motion.
He spoke to Socialist Worker on the eve of the vote as StW protesters gathered outside Downing Street in London.
Corbyn said, “This is the third time I’ve been asked to bomb Iraq and the third time I’ll say no.”
He pointed to the West’s hypocrisy. “They are joining with Saudi Arabia which frequently beheads opponents of its regime to stop Isis which beheads the opponents of its regime,” he said.
Like Saudi Arabia the West’s other allies in the bombing—Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and UAE—are dictatorships that suppressed democracy movements during the Arab Spring.
MPs congratulated themselves on what many declared was a serious debate. They acknowledged the shadow cast by the last war on Iraq. But in speech after speech MPs claimed that somehow this war would be different.
The vote was on a motion to bomb Iraq, but many MPs were already pushing to extend air strikes to Syria. Cameron asserted that he could legally extend action without a new vote.
Even Miliband did not rule out spreading the attack to Syria, only saying it would be “better” if there was a United Nations resolution to justify such action.
Several MPs also refused to rule out putting troops on the ground.
Iraqi socialist Sami Ramadani told Socialist Worker, “They failed to win a vote to bomb Syria last year because of opposition to war.
“Now they want to justify this new war with all the talk of tackling savagery of Isis.”
“But this is a chance for the US and the West to reassert itself in the region,” said Sami.

Activists across Britain need to get out on to the streets and challenge the warmongers’ lies and the threat of increased Islamophobia they whip up.

Demonstrate Saturday 4 October. Assemble 1pm Temple Place London WC2R 3BD. More details at

[Socialist Worker article © Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.]

jason ditz
 the socialist worker
judith orr

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Selling war

Nonsense like this seeks to reassure us that the latest wave of the Iraq War really isn't war.

Yet if bombs were dropped on us, we would consider it war.

Would and did -- back when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

The nonsense appears at Huffington Post where Arianna Huffington supposedly stands against war.

Arianna's taken a lot of supposed stands over the years.

Huffington Post allows her to take multiple stands at once and everyone's apparently so bored with her, no one bothers to document her contradictions.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, September 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack redefines civilian casualties, Australia has concern about the legality of the war, and more.

The violence never ends in Iraq.  Yesterday, Margaret Griffis ( counted at least 256 violent deaths for Monday.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) report that a "wave" of violence has left "at least 47 people" dead today.

Violence hasn't stopped in Iraq.  Many are starting to register that.

At the Pentagon today, spokesperson Rear Adm Jack Kirby declared:

We've been pretty honest about the fact that military action alone will not win this effort, but that shouldn't be taken as an admission of ineffectiveness, and one of the ways we know we're having an effect is precisely because the terrorists have had to change their tactics and their communications and their command and control.  Yes, they're blending in more. Yes, they're dispersing, and yes they aren't communicating quite as openly or as boldly as they once were. That's a good thing, because if they aren't operating as freely, then they aren't as free to achieve their goals.
That doesn't mean ISIL doesn't still pose a threat. It doesn't mean they aren't still trying and in some cases succeeding at taking and holding ground. No one said this would be easy or quick, and no one should be lulled into a false sense of security by accurate airstrikes. We will not, we cannot bomb them into obscurity.

Kirby was speaking at a press briefing and, during it, he was asked about yesterday's reports that the Islamic State was close to Baghdad.

Q: Can we go back to Baghdad for a minute? Because Iraqi officials are saying now there has been ISIS fighting as close as five miles south of Baghdad. So, understanding everything you said, what does that tell you about ISIS's capabilities and intentions towards Baghdad? What concerns do you have about it? And particularly, what looks to be their moves to get in and around Baghdad Airport?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we've been watching this for awhile, Barb. It's not -- I understand, I've seen the coverage today that you know, they're within five to eight miles or whatever it is, how it's being reported. We have consistently seen them pose a threat to the capital city.

This is not a new thing. And they'll make an advance and they'll back off. They'll try another way. One of the -- you've seen several of the strikes that we've been doing and the last ten days to two weeks have been to the south and southwest of Baghdad because that's where they've kinda maneuvered to. So, they continuously pose a threat to the capital city, and we continuously, in concert with the Iraqi security forces, are trying to put them back.
But this should come as no surprise to anybody that they have designs on -- on Baghdad, as they have had designs on other cities and other places of infrastructure throughout the country.

Q: How convinced are you that Baghdad can be -- remain safe, that Iraqi forces can hold Baghdad, and that Iraqi forces can hold the airport?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: What I can tell you is -- with certainty is that we're going to do what we can to help Iraqi security forces maintain control of the capital city. As I've said before, they have -- Iraqi security forces in and around Baghdad have been performing well. They've stiffened their defenses. They have -- they have not allowed Baghdad to come under a major assault. They've -- they've done pretty well in and around the city.

And as I said, we've been helping from the air put pressure on ISIL.

Q: One last – to press the point one last time, can the Iraqis hold Baghdad and hold the airport on their own without you?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I am -- I am -- there's a lot of things I'm not good at. One of them is predicting the future. What I'll tell you is that we're -- we're watching it very closely. We have been watching it very closely. The Iraqi security forces have been continuing to stiffen their defense around the city. We believe that they've done a good job with that. They'll continue to focus on it.

Obviously, it's a -- it's a city of immense importance to them and to their government. It's clear they share the same sense of urgency about protecting the city, and so I think, you know, we're -- I can't predict anything one way or the other, other than to tell you what I can predict is we're going to continue to work with them and their defense -- their defenses of it.

By the way, while reporters covering the Pentagon could and did ask questions about Iraq in the press briefing, for the second day in a row at the US State Dept briefing, no reporter could be bothered to make time for the topic.

While the useless reporters covering State can't even pretend to be interested in Iraq, it's not that way at the Defense Dept or, for that matter, at the White House.

Yesterday, the first questions Josh Earnest, White House spokesperson, faced were about Iraq.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  The President in his “60 Minutes” interview last night, acknowledged that the United States underestimated what was happening with the Islamic State and also the Iraqi military’s ability to deal with it.  And I know that the President is reliant on the intelligence community and his advisors for those kinds of assessments, but I’m wondering if he sees himself as having any responsibility for that failure to connect the dots there or if he has a role in what happened there.

MR. EARNEST:  Josh, the President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief, and he often talks about how he is the one that is ultimately responsible for protecting the national security interests of the United States of America all around the globe.  There is no question that he relies on important advice from the leaders in our military, from leaders in our diplomatic corps, and from leaders in our intelligence community.  He values the relationship and advice that he gets from leaders among all of those important segments of our government, and in fact, it’s only because of the strong, sound advice that he has received from members of the intelligence community that we have had some success early on in our efforts to combat the threat from ISIL.
One of the things that we talked about earlier this summer is the efforts underway at the Pentagon to develop military options for the President, either in Iraq or in Syria.  And at that time, I talked about how it was important  -- or at that time, I talked about how military planners were relying on intelligence that was being collected and cultivated by our intelligence community to develop a set of targets on which the President could order military action. 
The early reviews, the early assessments of those military operations indicate that the strikes were impactful and effective.  That’s a testament, first and foremost, to the skill and courage of our men and women in uniform, but it would not have been possible without the tremendous ability of members of our intelligence community.

Q    And the President also discussed last night how the Islamic State group has become the more immediate threat even as the United States continues to wish to see Assad go.  I’m wondering if there is anything that the U.S. is actively doing at the moment to work to get Assad to go.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, certainly our efforts to build up the moderate elements of the Syrian opposition will have a very negative effect on the Assad regime’s ability to hold on to power; that as the opposition in Syria is built up, it will succeed in providing a legitimate counterweight to the Assad government, with the ultimate goal of a diplomatic resolution of that situation.  That’s also something the President discussed in the “60 Minutes” interview over the weekend.

There is not a military solution to the very grave problems that are plaguing Syria right now; that ultimately at the core is a political resolution as it relates to governing that country. And building up, fortifying and strengthening the capacity of moderate elements of the Syrian opposition will move us further in pursuit of that goal.

The 60 Minutes exchange where Barack blamed the intelligence community is certainly garnering a great deal of attention.  Tod Robberson (Dallas Morning News) offers:

Obama shifted responsibility to his director of national intelligence, James Clapper: “Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”
I would have enjoyed a time reference to help us understand when this little lapse occurred, because I’ve been going back through some old headlines, blog items, love letters and other correspondence, and by golly, it’s pretty obvious that Obama knew about this an entire year ago. So what was he waiting for?
Take, for example, the letter that Democratic and Republican senators sent to Obama on Oct. 29, 2013 — 11 months ago — warning him that ISIS was taking over Syria and moving into Iraq. This wasn’t speculative on their part. It was a statement of facts that were known at that time and warnings that were already being sounded by Iraq’s then-prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

“The deteriorating conflict in Syria has enabled al-Qaeda in Iraq to transform into the larger and more lethal Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which now has a major base for operations spanning both Iraq and Syria. As the situation in both countries grows worse, and as ISIS gathers strength, we are deeply concerned that Al-Qaeda could use its new safe haven in Iraq and Syria to launch attacks against U.S. interests and those of our friends and allies,” said the letter, signed by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Carl Levin (D-Mich), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

David Rutz (Washington Free Beacon) adds:

Obama pawned responsibility off to CIA Director James Clapper and others for underestimating the threat in a recent 60 Minutes interview, but intelligence officials have warned Obama about ISIL for months.
The Daily Beast quoted one former Pentagon official saying, “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullsh**ting.”

And for more on the topic, you can refer to the video Bill Roggio's urging people to stream.

  • The bombing's aren't working.

    And the Islamic State is adapting.

    And US strikes keep killing civilians.

    On War crimes, Michael Isikoff Tweeted:

  • Let's stay with War Crimes.  On last week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed included  the legality of Barack's current war actions. We noted some of this in the September 22nd snapshot.  We'll note some more of the discussion now.

    Michael Ratner: So if you look at the attack on ISIS or on the Islamic State we're not using supposedly -- Let's accept for a second we don't have "combat troops" in there -- but the War Powers limitations that you can't go to war without the UN or the Congress still apply.  They apply to bombings.  It doesn't say anything about troops on the ground, it applies to the use of force, to the creation of hostilities or really the use of force. So that is not a distinction.  But Obama is clearly violating this -- as probably every president before him has violated ot.  If we look at what Obama's justifications are he has two justifications that they've sort of articulated -- they haven't articulated well but have sort of said.  One is that the original grant of authority to bomb and go and use force and US troops in Afghanistan -- called The Authorization To Use Military Force -- passed shortly after 9/11  in 2001 which basically said the president could use force to go after the perpetrators of 9/11, those who harbored them or those who aided and abetted them.  That's the authority that the US went info Afghanistan on  and that's the authority which is the equivalent of the Gulf of Tonkin, in my view, Gulf of Tonkin Resolution -- that's the authority that the president has used now  to go into war everywhere.

    Heidi Boghosian: Right.

    Michael Ratner: Not just continue in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has been pushed out, but go into Yemen, to go into Somalia

    Heid Boghosian:  It's like a blank check book that he can use wherever he wants.

    Michael Ratner: Because he claims everybody's affiliated with al Qaeda in some way or everybody's affiliated with 9/11.  And where that really breaks down now is the claim that somehow we can go after the Islamic State based on that.  Because in this case, in the case of the Islamic State, they're actually at war with and have been denounced by al Qaeda.  So they're not part of, certainly not part of any 9/11 conspiracy at all.  They may be in some future time, according to somebody some king of threat to the United States -- although there are a lot of people who think they are not.  But if they are then President should go to Congress and actually get an explicit statue authorizing  the war.  And then he should go to the UN and try and get the Security Council to go and authorize that war. 

    These are not academic discussions.  In Australia, some effort appears to going into determining the legality of Barack's latest phase of war.  Brenda Nichols (The Australian) reports:

    TONY Abbott will not be rushed into ordering airstrikes against jihadist targets in Iraq before a proper legal framework is in place, government sources have told The Australian.
    The sources said the Prime Minister insisted on the most prudent possible approach to such a major step.
    That decision could still be days away.

    The topic led to the following Tweets.

    1. PM Abbott announces RAAF aircraft have started operating over Iraq in support capacity only, refuelling etc. No airstrikes, pending approval
    2. PM Abbott says the Govt has not yet made the final decision to engage in combat but Aust refueller will start flying over Iraq from today

    law and disorder radio
    michael s. smith
    heidi boghosian
    michael ratner

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014

    Madam Secretary take down

    Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Now We Bomb Oklahoma"

    I really enjoyed that.  I also greatly enjoyed Kat's "Kat's Korner: Rhino does Carly on the cheap" about Rhino Records' re-release of Carly Simon's first five albums.

    Kat held Rhino accountable for a lousy package while also offering an overview of Carly's art which put it into context.

    "TV: The Boring Madam" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
    Tea is an amazing actress, probably one of the ten most underutilized in the US today.

    But the writers appear so enamored with Tea's skill that they've written showy (and meaningless) scenes that offer no character unless Tea's supposed to be the kid in the class who never put her or his hand down.

    It's not just that she never shuts up (will she ever not get the last word?), her character's also in competition with everyone.  In big scenes and minor scenes, she's forever in a pissing match.

    And forever winning.

    On big matters, she's right.  This includes when two young Americans are arrested in Syria.  The Chief of Staff wants to send the Navy Seals in.  She wants to use back channels.  He railroads her (mainly because she doubts herself briefly -- only she can defeat herself!) and it turns out she was right.  To get face time with the president, she goes around the Chief of Staff and convinces the president to do her back channels. Negotiating with Syria, she tells the man assisting her no to the $2 million request, it will be $1.5 million and it will be food and medical supplies and you tell Syria the world can be a lonely place and . . .

    She just knows everything, doesn't she?

    You don't the half of it unless you watched.

    Two of her staff, one of which is her speech writer, barge in about an innocuous statement she needs to issue.  Though this is their job, she's the one who knows how it should be worded and, not only that, she gets a little dig in about how they are paid to do what she just did.

    Dining with a head of state from a foreign country, she knows it's the time, in front of his many wives, to bring up AIDS and his failure to move on AIDS education.  It's a tense moment but she was right.

    She's always right.

    Meeting, on the street, two tourists from Minnesota, it's not enough for her to let that 'land of a thousand lakes' slide by, she has to correct it by noting it's more like 15,000.

    Is Ms. Know It All an actual character or the winning contestant on this week's Jeopardy?

    That review took me completely by surprise.

    Ava and C.I. really like Tea and I know they were excited by the show.

    But when they saw it, they called it like it is and that's why they are TV critics worth reading.  (That and the fact that they're also great writers with wit and style.)

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Monday, September 29, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack's 'plan' loses its shock value, the Islamic State is said to be closer to Baghdad, Barack pleads intel failure, and much more.

    Who was it that claimed Barack Obama played three dimensional chess?

    Whomever started that lie should step forward and take accountability for that outlandish claim.

    Iraq?  His 'plan' is falling apart for anyone who wants to pay attention.

    Lizzie Dearden (Irish Indpendent) reports:

    According to the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, Isil was approaching the Iraqi capital yesterday morning.
    "The Islamic State are now less than 2km away from entering Baghdad," a spokesperson said.
    "They said it could never happen and now it almost has. President Obama says he overestimated what the Iraqi Army could do. Well you only need to be here a very short while to know they can do very very little."

    B-b-b-ut the plan!  The plan to bomb from the air!  That plan was foolproof, right?

    Wrong.  We noted it would become normalized and it has.

    The effectiveness would never last for weeks.  It only had an element of surprise for so long.

    Kristina Wong (The Hill) reports:

    Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants are adjusting to U.S. airstrikes, making it more difficult to target them, an Air Force general said Monday.
    ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria had previously traveled in columns of vehicles with flags, Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, told reporters at a briefing Monday.
    "They are now dispersing themselves to allow themselves situations to be more survivable, if you will, which requires us to work harder to locate them, and then develop the situation to appropriately target them," Harrigian said.

    If only that could have been anticipated, if . . .

    Wait.  We did anticipate it and we noted it here.

    Is the US intelligence community really that stupid or is the person receiving the intel in daily briefings that struggles with comprehension?

    Dearden noted that Barack admitted to faulty intel.

    Wow.  So Barack might have overestimated the Iraqi military?

    The Shi'ite militia is part of the Iraqi forces -- remains part.  Nouri brought them in -- Tim Arango broke that story in the fall of 2013.

    There's been no effort by the new prime minister to address that even though these militias are seen as death squads -- by Sunnis, yes, but also by other Shi'ites.

    Did Barack miss that fact in an briefing as well?

    Realities like this matter.

    They matter in terms of what any campaign or plan can accomplish, yes.

    Ir matters for safety reasons, it also matters for financial reasons.  Kate Brannen (Foreign Policy) was noting last week that "$7 million to $10 million a day" was being spent by the Pentagon on Barack's 'plan' and that the figure was likely to rise and increase the Defense Dept's 2015 fiscal budget.  And, as Paul D. Shinkman (US News and World Reports) explains, Operation No Name still has no name and the Pentagon gets a bit testy when asked about that fact.

    When asked about facts, Barack Obama just gets confused.

    On Sunday's 60 Minutes, US President Barack Obama repeatedly demonstrated how little he understood of Iraq.  We focused on this section of the interview:

    President Barack Obama: Well, I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria. Essentially, what happened with ISIL was that you had al Qaeda in Iraq, which was a vicious group, but our Marines were able to quash with the help of Sunni tribes. They went back underground. But over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swathes of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos, and attract foreign fighters who believed in their jihadist nonsense, and traveled everywhere from Europe to the United States to Australia to other parts of the Muslim world, converging on Syria. And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world. And they have been very savvy in terms of their social media. In some cases, you have old remnants of Saddam Hussein's military that had been expunged from the Iraqi military, which gave them some traditional military capacity, and not just terrorist capacity. And this is one of the challenges that we are going to have generally, is where you have got states that are failing or in the midst of civil war, these kinds of organizations thrive. That is why it's so important for us to recognize part of our solution here is going to be military. We just have to push them back and shrink their space and go after their command-and-control and their capacity and their weapons and their fueling, and cut off their financing, and work to eliminate the flow of foreign fighters. But what we also have to do is, we have to come up with political solutions in Iraq and Syria in particular, but in the Middle East generally, that arrives at an accommodation between Sunni and Shia populations that right now are the biggest cause of conflict, not just in the Middle East, but in the world.

    In terms of facts, that's incorrect for a number of reasons including the Marines did not quash 'al Qaeda in Iraq.'
    Sahwa/Awakenings/Sons Of Iraq and Daughters Of Iraq turned the tide and did so because they were paid to.  
    Let's drop back to the April 8, 2008 snapshot.  And let's remember Barack had only been serving for three years as a US Senator at the time and had spent the previous year and 2008 campaigning so he missed a lot of hearings and the ones he showed up for in April of 2008?  He was late to them.  People like John Kerry and Joe Biden babied him, babied his little candy ass, let him show up late and immediately, even though it wasn't his turn and rules on seniority required he wait his term, would let him jump ahead of everyone so he could stumble through his questions -- with more unnatural pauses than Sandy Dennis managed in her entire acting career -- and then Barack would rush out of the hearing.  So he missed a lot, a whole lot.
    From the April 8, 2008 snapshot:

    Today The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour took their act on the road.  First stop, the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker are supposed to be providing a status report on the Iraq War.  They didn't.  In fact, Petraeus made clear that the status report would come . . . next September.  When the results are this bad, you stall -- which is exactly what Petraeus did. 
    The most dramatic moment came as committee chair Carl Levin was questioning Petraeus and a man in the gallery began exclaiming "Bring them home!" repeatedly.  (He did so at least 16 times before he was escored out).  The most hilarious moment was hearing Petraeus explain that it's tough in the school yard and America needs to fork over their lunch money in Iraq to avoid getting beat up.  In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.  These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts."  Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up. 
    How much lunch money is the US forking over?  Members of the "Awakening" Council are paid, by the US, a minimum of $300 a month (US dollars).  By Petraeus' figures that mean the US is paying $27,300,000 a month.  $27 million a month is going to the "Awakening" Councils who, Petraeus brags, have led to "savings in vehicles not lost".  Again, in this morning's hearings, the top commander in Iraq explained that the US strategy is forking over the lunch money to school yard bullies.  What a proud moment for the country.
     I'm being kind right now and leaving it at that but we can quote people from Barack's administration and reveal not only how stupid and incorrect Barack's remarks were but how lunatic his supposed 'plan' is.  We'll probably save that for later this week.
    The White House had to announce that Barack's remarks about Clapper were not meant to imply that he no longer had faith in James I Lied To Congress Clapper.

    Let's stay with Clapper and intel because they've received attention today.
    On The NewsHour (PBS -- link is video, audio only option and transcript) , anchor Judy Woodrfuff spoke with Frederick Kagan, brother-in-law of the State Dept's Victoria Nuland, about Barack's remarks.  Excerpt.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that is the other part of this I want to ask you about, because the president also said that the — he said the intelligence community overestimated the ability and the will of the Iraqi army to fight. What is your take on that?

    FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, I think that there were a lot of warning signs about weaknesses in the Iraqi security forces that good analysts at the Institute for the Study of War had been tracking in 2013 and laying out.
    And there was a lot of desertions. There was a large amnesty that Prime Minister Maliki granted in 2013 which were indicative of morale problems. I’m sure the intelligence community was aware of those. I’m sure that it was aware of the risks.
    I think what Director Clapper was saying was that, from the standpoint of putting a really fine point on it and saying, well, at this moment, ISIS has the capability to do this and the Iraqi security forces will fold, that, they didn’t estimate. But I suspect that in terms of generally understanding the state of play, again, I would be very surprised if the intelligence community had really missed that fundamentally.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So when the president went on — and I looked — I was just looking at his interview with Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes.”  He said the U.S. left a democracy in Iraq that was intact. He said a well-equipped military with the ability to chart their own course. But he said it was squandered.
    And we have heard this argument before from the administration, their belief, their view and the view of many that all this was squandered by the former Prime Minister Maliki.

    FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, I think the situation that we left behind in 2011 was squandered. I think it was squandered by Maliki and I think it was squandered by President Obama.
    I think that the failure to maintain any kind of U.S. military support for the Iraqis was critical. Among other things, it’s misleading to say that the Iraqi army was actually properly equipped. It wasn’t. It hadn’t been designed to stand on its own. It hadn’t — it had no air support of its own. It had no ability to police its own airspace.
    It had a variety of lax in intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance that everyone had expected that the U.S. would continue to provide. So when we pulled out in 2011, it wasn’t just about pulling out our ground forces. It was about withdrawing from the Iraqi security forces enablers that they had thought they would continue to have and leaving them in a bad condition to deal with the fight that they faced.

    Prime Minister Maliki is Nouri al-Maliki.  In 2006, the Bully Boy Bush White House insisted Nouri be made prime minister.  In 2010, Barack's White House insisted Nouri get a second term.  Tyrant Nouri had US backing until roughly late May of this year.

    Kagan is also the husband of Kim Kagan, historian and head of the War Hawk foundation The Institute for the Study of War.  Jonah Goldberg is also on the right-wing.  In his Los Angeles Times column, he notes:

    "That's true. That's absolutely true," Obama replied. "Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria."

    Eli Lake of the Daily Beast contacted a "former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq," who was, in Lake's words, "flabbergasted" by the president's remarks. "Either the president doesn't read the intelligence he's getting or he's bulls—ing," the official said.

    How does Barack repeatedly skirt accountability?

    Blame it on lazy and useless press.

    State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki gave a press briefing this afternoon, the first one the State Dept's done since September 19th.  Yes, we're referring to the 'daily' press breifing.  Despite it having been 10 days since the last press briefing, Iraq did not weigh heavy in the briefing.

    Oh, so it was only the subject of three or four questions but surely --


    It wasn't a minor issue in the press briefing, it was not an issue.  There were no questions specifically about Iraq.

    Barack's 'plan' is falling apart but the useless and cowardly and cowed press had nothing to say.  They all asked their usual crap ass questions that mean nothing and that go nowhere and pretended they did their job.  They didn't do a damn thing.  I've called Jen and spokesperson Marie Harf for these briefings before.  Let's be really clear that the blame for today rests solely with the US press.

    There is so much to ask about.  Or there should be.

    Patrick Cockburn (Independent) notes today:

     The selection of a new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, to replace Nouri al-Maliki last month was supposed to introduce a more conciliatory government that would appeal to Iraq’s Sunni minority from which Isis draws its support.
    Mr Abadi promised to end the random bombardment of Sunni civilians, but Fallujah has been shelled for six out of seven days, with 28 killed and 117 injured. Despite the military crisis, the government has still not been able to gets its choice for the two top security jobs, the Defence Minister and Interior Minister, through parliament.

    Yeah, it takes him awhile to get there.  We've been there for weeks now but at least he noted it, right? (We'll come back to that.)

    National Iraqi News Agency reports Sunday's continued bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja left 4 civilians dead and fifteen more injured.

    Yes, new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered an end to these bombings three weeks ago.

    No, these bombings have not ceased.

    Yes, this is part of the reason his image has fallen so quickly.

    Tomorrow, if Arabic social media efforts pan out, will see a protest in Baghdad against the new prime minister.

    At Al Arabiya, Dr. Naser al-Tamimi notes the various political failures taking place:

    It seems that the United States has limited the political reform to the issue of replacing the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, with some small concessions to the Sunni politicians whose political influence is confined within the Green Zone only. To make matters worse, with the floundering Iraqi army and its weak performance, the influence of these militias has begun to grow and affect all vital organs of the Iraqi state. Even more worrying, the rule of the militias will be further enhanced as it will take time for the Iraqi government to organize the army, consequently exacerbate the fears of the Sunni Arabs more than ever.

    Where are the accomplishments on the diplomatic side?

    They don't exist.

    Despite Barack insisting Iraq needs a political solution, the White House has poured their time and energy into military actions and military campaigns and they have nothing to show to demonstrate that a new prime minister meant a new Iraq, one for all Iraqis.

    We've been noting that repeatedly.  I'll be nice and even say "applause for Patrick Cockburn for noting it today."

    Patrick's trying to join the grown ups table and lest anyone make the mistake that I offered him an empty seat next to me, I didn't.  Patrick's Sunni bias is well documented and established.  I don't care for Patrick.  Tariq Ali is an old friend.  He's attempting a rescue on Patrick's image.  Tariq's fought many battles over the years, I can't recall one as futile.  But for laughs, click here, read Tariq attempting to lead Patrick down the road of rehabilitation.

    He never can get it right, can he?

    Not even with Tariq spoon feeding him throughout the interview.

    The underpinning for the protests that kicked off in December 2012 which lasted over a year?  That was what was happening to women and girls in Iraqi prisons.

    You'll note Cockburn avoids that topic.

    While Patrick Cockburn stumbles blindly down the hall Norman Pollack (CounterPunch) captures the world we live in today:

    America has become unrecognizable, World Conquest in the air we breathe, a POTUS Caligula-like who feigns the persona of Mother Theresa, utterly corrupt in his professions of peace as he rolls out what has become shock-and-awe demonstrations to which the world, under duress, is becoming accustomed. Nothing out of bounds: Tomahawk missiles from offshore, waves of airstrikes, business as usual. Not a drop of hesitation, as lawyers dust off 9/11-era authorization for what is proving a never-ending onslaught, today, terrorists, tomorrow, Russia, the next day, China, then perhaps day after, dissidents, such that remain, in America itself, a rapacious, devouring, demiurge of insatiable conquest-at-any-cost.
    Would ISIS even exist, had not the US sought to control the Middle East ever since the deposition of Mossadegh in Iran, the military build-up and defense of Israel, the American military bases throughout the region, the invasion of Iraq (fill in the in-between blanks, and carry forward to today)? America has not learned that repression breeds resistance, that counterrevolution establishes interconnections among the oppressed, that occupations and spheres-of-influence cannot (thank goodness) be made permanent. In every sense of the word, the US has CREATED what it now calls terrorism, the fruit of unwanted intervention, power politics, installing regimes which do our bidding.

    More truth tellers are needed but that's true in any time period.

    We're a left site.  For those bothered that Pollack is the only left voice quoted -- while right wing Goldberg and Kagan also got quoted -- take it up with someone else.

    I can't put words in the mouths of those who choose to be silent.

    My side, the left, includes a lot of pathetic cowards who can't find their voice because there's a Democrat in the White House.

    If you want to make a difference, look at the left outlets and notice who is staying silent (or the hacks like David Corn who are whoring for this ongoing war now that Barack's in charge of it).  Take notice and remember.  At some point, a Republican will be in the White House again.

    When that happens, these cowards will suddenly find spines and they'll want to beg for money -- because none of them can get real jobs.  When they beg, don't give them a cent.

    Remember how they were cowards or whores.

    Don't support that.

    Let them starve or find real jobs.

    While our brave 'left' leaders can't speak a new poll shares what the US military is thinking.   Andrew Tilghman, Gina Harkins, David Larter, Stephen Losey, Hope Hodge Seck, Michelle Tan and Jeff Schogol (Military Times) report on their poll of service members:

    On the surface, troops appear to support President Obama’s repeated vows not to let the U.S. military get “dragged into another ground war” in Iraq. Yet at the same time, the views of many service members are shaped by a deep ambivalence about this commander in chief and questions about his ability to lead the nation through a major war, according to the survey and interviews.
    The reader survey asked more than 2,200 active-duty troops this question: “In your opinion, do you think the U.S. military should send a substantial number of combat troops to Iraq to support the Iraqi security forces?” Slightly more than 70 percent responded: “No.”