Thursday, December 11, 2014

Trevor Timm provides the context

As you try to make sense of the torture revelations, you may be needing a piece that provides an overview and context.

I would strongly suggest Trevor Timm's report at Information Clearing House:


December 10, 2014 "ICH" - "The Guardian" -  It wasn’t that bad, we’ve been told, over and over again, for more than a decade. “We only waterboarded three people” goes the line American officials have been force-feeding the world for years. “We tortured some folks,” Barack Obama admitted recently, still downplaying war crimes committed in America’s name. But we now know those statements do not even begin to do justice to the horrific activities carried out by the CIA for years – atrocities that now have been exposed by the US Senate’s historic report on the CIA’s torture program, finally released on Tuesday after years of delay.
There are stories in the CIA torture report of “rectal rehydration as a means of behavior control”, threats to murder and “threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee” – or cut a mother’s throat. There are details about detainees with broken bones forced to stand for days on end, detainees blindfolded, dragged down hallways while they were beaten. There were even torture sessions that ended in death. The list goes on and on, and on and on.
But beyond all the the depravity, perhaps the most shocking part of this exposed history is the action of US officials who knew these horrors were unfolding – and covered them up.
For years, as the 480-page executive summary of the report documents in meticulous detail, these officials lied to the Senate, the Justice Department, the White House, to the American public and to the world. They prevented CIA officers involved from being disciplined. They investigated and marginalized those who were investigating them. They happily leaked classified information to journalists – much of it false – without worry of consequence.

This is a piece which really pulls everything together and does so in an understanding manner, you can follow it very easily.

So share it with friends -- friends that were misled by liars like Whoopi Goldberg or are we all going to pretend she didn't go on The View and denounce the release of this report?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 10, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the House Foreign Affairs Committee explores the Islamic State, Barbara Boxer teams with Rand Paul to screech and preach for war, to pimp war on Syria you have to pretend time started in 2014, and much more.

US House Rep Ed Royce: After four months of the U.S.-led air campaign in Iraq and Syria, ISIS still controls essentially the same amount of territory as it did in the summer. One reason for this is the limited nature of the effort. We have conducted only about 1,000 airstrikes to date – or 250 per month - the vast majority being inside Iraq, leaving ISIS’ vast haven in Syria relatively unchallenged. This is a very slow pace. Consider that Desert Storm averaged 1,000 combat sorties per day. Moreover, the Committee is concerned by reports that targeting has been micromanaged from the White House. But even with this flawed air campaign, Kurdish and Iraqi Security Forces have pushed ISIS out of specific, key infrastructure areas such as the Mosul and Haditha dams. More coalition air attacks would mean more ISIS defeats.

Royce was speaking this morning at the House Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Islamic State today.

It was an interesting hearing.

First off, yesterday's snapshot covered the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing John Kerry testified at.  Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Ground Hog Day (Ava)," Wally at Rebecca's site with "Barack wants war all over the world (Wally)" and Kat with "John Kerry, damn liar."

They were all solid reports but Kat offered:

As I sat there listening to smug John Kerry lie and lie again, I wish I could make like Senator John McCain and storm out of the hearing.  (McCain stormed out because he does not believe the White House is providing enough support to the rebels in Syria.  I don't see them as rebels but that's another post.)
My storm out moment probably would have been when Kerry insisted, "This is the same group!  These are the same people, with the stamp and imprimatur of Osama bin Laden!"

The House Committee?

Very conservative.  Democrats and Republicans.  That's Ranking Member Eliot Engel and Brad Sherman, among others on the Democratic side.

Engel and Sherman had question (or comments) over and over on Iran.

Let's note this exchange between US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the State Dept's Brett McGurk.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:   [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Haider al-] Abadi has claimed no knowledge of the recent airstrikes but Iran has confirmed that they did carry them out.  So who currently controls the air space in Iraq given that the Iraqis don't have sufficient capabilities to maintain their own air sovereignty?  And if no coordination had taken place and the Iranians did indeed take this action with their own hands without coordinating, didn't Iran violate Iraqi airspace, will there be any repercussions for that?  As we continue our nuclear talks with Iran we ignore more as we continue our nuclear talks with Iran -- we ignore multiple violations that Iran continues to make as the talks take place.  Will this be yet another violation of Iran that we turn a blind eye to? Secretary [of State John Kerry] has called, uh, possible Iranian action in Iraq against ISIL as positive despite the fact that Tehran's incessant meddling in Baghdad and it's stoking of sectarian tension in Iraq and in Syria has played a large part in the rise of ISIL.  Is it the administration's view that having a Shi'ite Iran -- the world's foremost supporter of terrorism -- in spite of our nuclear talks -- invade Iraqi airspace to attack Sunni ISIL -- does the administration view this as a positive development? [. . .  Syria issues, we're concerned with Iraq]

Brett McGurk: Let me address your questions briefly.  First my testimony I did -- I did focus on the concern about the militias and Prime Minister Abadi's commitment in Brussels to begin to reign those in -- all armed groups within the structures of the state.  I also focused on the-the desire of this new government to have strategic independence in the region. And that's to his outreach to his Arab neighbors and also the  important outreach to Ankara which is happening now but was not happening over the past few years.

[. . .]

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Excuse me sir, would you say that Iran violated Iraqi air space?

Brett McGurk: I would have to defer to some of my DoD colleagues.

We'll note this from Brett's lengthy opening statement -- and we'll try to note the opening statement in full in its own entry by Saturday (hopefully before).

Brett McGurk:  Iraq's new government reflects the full diversity of Iraq, with Sunni, Shi'a, and Kurdish leaders sharing power through an equitable distribution of cabinet posts and portfolios. The government is also committed to an inclusive national program, as enacted unanimously by the 328-member Iraqi parliament. The national program encompasses key elements of  "functioning federalism," which is a driving principle for our policy. A functioning federalism envisions an Iraq with important powers delegated to provinces, empowering local leaders to protect their communities as an integral part of Iraq's constitutional structure. The national program encompasses this principle, outlining plans for the Government of Iraq to distribute greater governing authority to regions and provinces. Two central pillars of this concept include: (1) security reform -- with a smaller national army and more security responsibilities delegated to the provinces; and (2) equitable revenue sharing -- with local institutions resourced to provide for their communities, and deny space to extremists. The new Iraqi government has committed to building a smaller national army, consisting of eight divisions --  and focused primarily on national sovereign functions. Army units will be based outside cities, with a mission to protect borders, preserve the sovereignty of the state and be prepared to respond as over-watch units when local forces need support. Primary day-to-day security responsibility will be handled by local police and provincial-based national guards. In the Kurdish region, primary security will be handled by Kurdish forces, but with funding derived from national resources, and as a part of the constitutional structure. We believe that this security architecture -- based squarely on the model outlined in the Iraqi constitution and endorsed by the new Iraqi government -- is sustainable because it responds to realities on the ground, carries broad support within Iraq and is designed over time to deny space for any armed group to operate outside a legal framework, including ISIL. It will take time, however, to bring this program to fruition and a number of intermediate steps must take place along the way. That is why the new government, with our support, is working to train and equip thousands of tribal fighters in Anbar province, even before there is formal legislation to introduce the National Guard concept. These fighters will join Iraqi forces to clear their areas from ISIL, and may, ultimately,  become the backbone of local police and National Guard forces in the province. We have also been encouraged by Prime Minister Abadi's reform of the overly centralized security structures that had existed under the previous government. He has abolished the Office of the Commander in Chief which centralized security control inside the Prime Minister's office.  In addition, he has named a new Minister of Defense -- a Sunni Arab from Mosul --  and replaced nearly five dozen senior officers with new leaders who are now working to build trust with communities they serve.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee but the Republicans in the House impose term limits so now she continues to serve on it but Ed Royce is the Chair.

Ileana is someone I see as quick to see the worst (or vigilant, if you prefer) and she would probably argue I don't take threats seriously enough.

And that's fine and that's an honest disagreement.

I never struggle to figure out where she's coming from.  I disagree frequently with her viewpoint (no surprise there, I'm on the left, she's on the right) but I can figure out where she's coming from with no struggle because she's consistent.

I enjoyed attending the Committee hearings when she was the Chair.

For me, the walk out moment?  It's always when an idiot or a liar has the floor.

Yes, we're talking about Senator Barbara Boxer yet again.  We're also going to be talking about Senator Rand Paul.  Both are pretty much useless.

If you're looking for good news in last month's mid-terms (or for more good news) it's that Barbara Boxer will not Chair another hearing again for at least two years.

Boxer has never been smart but many were willing to look the other way when they thought she was on 'our side.'  Her stupidity should never have been ignored.  August 5, 2009, we called her out for her appearance on that day's The Diane Rehm Show where she plugged her latest co-written pulp fiction and snapped at caller including one who wanted her reaction to Nouri al-Maliki floating US 'trainers' staying in Iraq.

Barbara attacked the caller, treating him as stupid when she was the doofus.

Approximately two weeks prior, Margaret Talev's "Iraq's Maliki raises possibility of asking U.S. to stay on" (McClatchy Newspapers) had been published -- there was also  Anne Gearan coverage al-Maliki's remarks for AP.

Though she was already sitting on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and though she grandstanded on Iraq on that episode of The Diane Rehm Show, Barbara Boxer was such a dumb idiot that she was unaware what the prime minister of Iraq had said and such a dumb idiot that she 'corrected' a caller who had the facts right.

Her stupidity was on full display in yesterday's Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing.

At least she didn't claim, as she did in yesterday afternoon's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, that she was acting on the wishes of her constituents (of which I am one).  No, she admitted in the earlier hearing that she was confronted with debate on her desire to embrace war, war and more war.

There would be no debate allowed by Barbara at the hearing and she slammed and 'corrected' a Democrat on the Committee who dared to suggest that possibly some over-reaching or over-reacting might be taking place.

She announced she was not going to allow the hearing to turn into a debate.

Seriously, the ditz thinks that's her role as Subcommittee Chair?

She said they were going to move on.  But, instead of moving on, she proceeded to deliver a three minute lecture on why her opinion was right and how wrong everyone else was.

She then turned to USAID's Nancy Lindborg and insisted, "Would you focus us on this issue of human rights abuses?"

Nancy Lindborg:  Virtually all the Christians have left Mosul, Turkman and Shabat fled Mosul and Tikrit , 1/2 million Yazidis were driven from their ancestral homes. And Sunnis throughout the region have fled ISIL attacks.  Senator Boxer, as you noted, there have been terrible, terrible attacks and human rights abuses on men, women, boys and girls.  And I think under ISIL, for girls and women, they special -- they suffer a special hell where they've been raped, they've been sold into slavery and their rights have been secretly curtailed in areas controlled by ISIL.  I want to make three overarching points.  The first is that the US government is fully focused on humanitarian assistance throughout the region.  We are a global leader and although it's one regional crisis, women -- uh, uh -- people in the two countries have been effected in very different ways.  First in Iraq, most of the people fleeing ISIL are internally displaced.  They are living in informal settlements, scattered across 2,000 locations.  So this makes provision of humanitarian assistance that much more challenging.  You noted that the Mount Sinjar operation -- We had one of our seasoned humanitarian experts coordinating on the ground with the military during the seven nightly air drops. Without question, we saved thousands of lives through that operation.  Since August, we've sent $200 million of relief supplies, water, sanitation, support for shelter.  We are fully focused now on winter to ensure that people have the kind of assistance they need as cold weather returns.  When, and even with, the pace of deterioration in-in Iraq, it is absolutely critical that we maintain our focus on the protracted and extraordinary needs in Syria as well. 

The sheer stupidity is amazing.

Assad, we were told was brutal, Babs repeated that, and human rights violations took place while, in Iraq, we were told by Babsie, Rand Paul and various witnesses, had a population (Sunnis) that felt they were not included in the government.

What a load of nonsense.

Let's go to Rand Paul first or I'll unload on Babsie with a lot of curse words.

I have no problem with Chrisitians or any religion.  I'm even fine with seeing Scientologists as a religion.

It doesn't bother me.

What does bother me?

The pet issue crowd, whether their pet issues is Christians or what have you.

Senator Rand Paul apparently has a personal hotline to God and the two talk constantly.  One wonders why he doesn't leave the Senate and attempt to become the US envoy to the Vatican?

Paul's an idiot.

I've avoided forming an opinion on him until yesterday's hearing.

Listening to him cite, as factual, claims by a certain Brit was appalling.  Apparently Rand Paul never heard that the same Brit lied in a hearing and threw a tantrum when he learned a few reporters were present and that they were going to print his lie that all Jews had left Iraq.  (Even now, there's approximately 5 in Baghdad.  There were more than when the Brit lied in 2006.  We called him out in real time.)

I don't have to spoon feed an overgrown infant like Rand Paul.

It was amazing to here him whine over and over about Christians in Syria.

The ones in Iraq?

They didn't exist.

I have never been more offended by someone gabbing on and using Jesus Christ and God to justify their hunger.  Onward Christian Soldiers -- Onward Armed Christian Soldiers -- that was the hymn Rand couldn't stop singing.

I've not attacked him here.  I've never had a reason to.

But the face he showed at the hearing on Wednesday was disgusting, was a War Mask and was appalling fact-free.

Like Barbara Boxer (and the government witnesses), Rand had a concern for Syrian Christians but not for Iraqi ones.

Listening to their accounts, it was as though we were hearing all about how that evil Cinderella ran off with Prince Charming while her ugly step-sisters suffered.

Gone from the narrative was the beginning.  Unacknowledged was what happened in Iraq for years and years.  Once upon a time, for Barbara and Rand, began in 2014.

Let's review the answer Nancy gave:

Nancy:  Virtually all the Christians have left Mosul, Turkman and Shabat fled Mosul and Tikrit , 1/2 million Yazidis were driven from their ancestral homes. And Sunnis throughout the region have fled ISIL attacks.

Excuse me, Nance, when the heck did they go to Mosul?

And why?

Iraqi Christians fled Baghdad.  They did so because they were targeted and threatened by Nouri's Shi'ite militias that he allowed to roam freely and never held accountable.

Our Lady of Salvation Church was not just the scene of violence.  It was the scene of an attack in the midst of a worship service.

Apparently, the Lord Jesus Christ forgot to mention that to Rand in one of their many conversations.

Iraqi Sunnis don't have complaints, they have legitimate grievances.

But if you're starting point -- your false starting point -- is 2014, I guess you can lie about anything.

You can, as Nance did, pretend outrage over these refugees, this huge number of refugees.

Excuse me?

4.5 million was a huge number.  This was at the height of the ethnic cleansing Nouri over saw in 2006 and 2007.

Babsie's a hypocrite because she decried that in real time but now wants to pretend it never happened.

Sunnis and others in Iraq have been persecuted and targeted.

This was all ignored -- and this is key, pay attention -- because whether you're Rand Paul or Barbara Boxer, you want war on Syria.  You're very upset that ground troops aren't there.

If you want war on Syria, join the liars and preach the ahistorical b.s.

But if you want to be smart, you'll acknowledge what happened in Iraq.

You might even show the guts to acknowledge that the US government is responsible for a great deal of what happened since they installed Nouri as prime minister in 2006 and since they demanded he get a second term in 2010 (even after he lost the 2010 elections).

But this was nonsense.

Boxer didn't want truth and she attacked anyone who offered it.

She's a lunatic at this point.  She needs to leave the Senate.  Preferably in a straight jacket.

She wants war on Iraq too.  She made it clear in both hearings that she wants to give Barack everything he's asking for.

Here's what she told Diane Rehm about Iraq in August of 2009:

Senator Barbara Boxer: I regret that even after voting "no" on the War on Iraq, I should have been down there every day making my voice louder and stronger.
Diane Rehm: Why didn't you?
Senator Barbara Boxer: [Sighs] I thought that I said enough when I voted "no" and I continued to speak but not loudly enough and not clearly enough and you know that's why I like this novel because Ellen's my hero, she does everything right  I don't.
Diane Rehm: That's quite an admission.
Senator Barbara Boxer: Well it's true.
Diane Rehm: Alright.  Speaking of Iraq, there is some talk that the US may, before it's planned deadline, pull its troops out and declare victory.  What's your thought?
Senator Barbara Boxer: Well that is definitely some of the advice we're getting from some of our military people.  I think it's time to leave, I thought it was time to leave before, so much blood and sweat and tears and guts have been left there and I just have a view of this that-that the people of Iraq have an opportunity now to-to build their own country --
Diane Rehm: They're still killing each other.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well, you know what?  The people of Iraq have to decide if they want a country or they don't want a country and we can't decide it for them.

But now Barbara believes the US can decide it for the Iraqi people.

She has no consistency.  She has no scruples.  She has no ethics.

You cannot figure out what she's going to say except to bet it will be factually wrong.

At today's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Republicans and Democrats on the Committee were more honest that Barbara Boxer could ever be.  Unlike Rand Paul, they also didn't believe that history began in 2014.

They put the Senate Subcommittee hearing to shame.

And Rand Paul, before you next cite 4 beheadings 'recently' with the Brit as your witness, try grasping that (a) he's already lied in a public hearing and (b) he wasn't present.  He's not in Iraq.  Where is he?  Darting back and forth between the US and Canada to bang the war drum, insisting that ground troops must be sent into Iraq.

That's not to defend the Islamic State.

That's to note that you make an ass of yourself when you repeat 'pleasing tales' told by a known liar who tells of the beheading as though he were present when he wasn't even in Iraq "the other day" when he claims it took place.

Let's turn to some violence reported by those in Iraq.  IANS reports, "In the early hours of the day, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden tanker truck into a checkpoint of an army base and blew it up in the town of Dijla, also called Mkeshifah, some 40 km south of provincial capital Tikrit, leaving nine soldiers dead and 10 others wounded, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."  Sammer N. Yacoub (AP) notes the bombing injured twenty-two people and reports another "bomb struck near an outdoor market in the town of Madain, just south of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding five. And a bomb explosion in a commercial street in southern Baghdad killed two people and wounded seven."  Margaret Griffis ( counts 196 people killed in violence across Iraq today with 86 more left injured.

We're going to close with this is from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

Gretchen Andersen
Press Secretary
Tel: 212-982-9699

Washington, D.C. (December 10, 2014) – After passing the House yesterday by a unanimous voice vote, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act (H.R. 5059), critical legislation that will improve access to mental health care, moves to the Senate for consideration. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) urges the Senate to stand with our veterans and move quickly in passing the bill. The legislation was spearheaded by IAVA and named after Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Clay Hunt, a Marine who died by suicide in 2011.

“In the time since Clay’s passing, Richard and I have found many other veterans who share the struggles our son experienced,” said Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt. “While this legislation is too late for Clay, it is not too late for the veterans currently facing difficulty in accessing needed mental health resources. We are counting on the Senate to do the right thing tomorrow and get this bill passed.”

“No lawmaker should take issue with this vital legislation for our community,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “With 22 veterans dying by suicide each day, the minimal fiscal cost of this bill can’t compare to the human cost of continued inaction. Our veterans need the Senate to pass this bill today so it can be on the President’s desk by the end of the year. We need leadership from both sides of the aisle to get this done. All of America is watching closely to see who is supporting us, and who is against us. Any victory is a testament to the courage and tenacity of Susan and our motivated local IAVA leaders nationwide.”

Since the beginning of 2014 IAVA has been the leading voice for the post-9/11 veteran community, calling on members of Congress, the White House, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense to address veteran suicide.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act will:
  • Increase access to mental health care by, among other things, creating a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers as well as a one-stop, interactive website of available resources.
  • Better meet the demand for mental health care by starting a pilot program to repay the loan debt of students in psychiatry so it is easier to recruit them to work at the VA.
  • Boost the accountability of mental health care by requiring an annual evaluation of DoD and VA suicide-prevention practices and programs.
Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner met with Clay Hunt’s parents, Susan and Richard Selke, thanking them for their hard work to get the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act passed. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Speaker of the House,
Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner met with Clay Hunt’s parents, Susan and
 Richard Selke, thanking them for their hard work to get the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention
for American Veterans Act passed. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Speaker of the House,

Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder 
Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

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.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Today, Morning Edition featured an interview with the one and only singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell (link is audio and transcript):

MONTAGNE: One of your classic songs - and filled with a certain melancholy - is a song that does take place at Christmas time - "River."


MITCHELL: (Singing) It's coming on Christmas. They're cutting down trees. They're putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace. Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.

MITCHELL: We needed a sad Christmas song, didn't we?


MITCHELL: In the bah humbug of it all.

MONTAGNE: (Laughter) Yeah.


MITCHELL: (Singing) I'm so hard to handle. I'm selfish, and I'm sad. Now I've gone and lost the best baby that I ever had. Oh, I wish I had a river.

MONTAGNE: May I quote you to yourself?


MONTAGNE: You told a newspaper in Toronto, I sing my sorrow and paint my joy.

MITCHELL: Well, generally speaking, that's true. You know, because I'm going to hang in my house the paintings of my grandson. My last lover, you know, is over the fireplace. He was a good subject. Landscapes that I love - people that I love or loved. But I don't really want to paint sorrowful stuff, you know. Like, I get that out of my system - I guess what I was trying to say - in the writing.

Make a point to check it out, it's really a great interview.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, December 9, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, a recording surfaces of Iraq's former prime minister allegedly conspiring with its current prime minister, Barack wants (at the least the option of) US troops in combat on the ground in Iraq, we cover the Senate hearing on the Islamic State (the afternoon one, anyway) and much more.

This afternoon, Senator Robert Menendez declared, "I know some may see this as limiting but at the end of the day, Americans will not be supportive of an authorization of an endless war."

He was speaking at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee  hearing on the Islamic State and the administration's lack of authorization of force, from Congress, to conduct the current bombings taking place in Iraq.  Secretary of State John Kerry was appearing before the Committee "to provide the administration's views," as Committee Chair Robert Mendendez explained.

But he appeared to believe he was elsewhere -- possibly on a parade float?

Kerry was looking around, grinning and waving.

As Menendez declared Americans would not "be supportive of an authorization of an endless war."

As Menendez declared, "They do not want us to occupy Iraq for decades."

Has John Kerry morphed into Johnny Kardashian?

"I think the American people expect their Congressional leaders to engage fully on this issue," Chair Menendez  said as Kerry all but pulled out a compact and mirror

AUMF is the "Authorization of the Use of Military Force."  ISIL is one of the names tossed around for the Islamic State.  With that in mind, we'll note these remarks from the hearing.

Chair Robert Menendez:  Well thank you, Mr. Secretary, let me just say there is I think undoubtedly and I'll let members express themselves, there is a bold bipartisan view that we need to defeat ISIL and I think there is no debate about that.  And virtually every political element from the spectrum those who might be considered dovish to those who might be considered hawkish -- and everybody in between -- I think, has a common collective goal of defeating ISIL.  Now I must say that the administration has not sent us -- five, six months into this engagement -- an AUMF.  And had the administration sent us an AUMF maybe we would be better versed as to what the administration seeks or does not seek and that would be the subject of Congressional debate.  But that has not happened. And with reference to my distinguished Ranking Member's comments?  You know, if we wait for that and it's not forthcoming by this or any other administration then the absence of getting an AUMF from the executive branch and Congress not acting because it's waiting for an AUMF from the executive branch would in essence create a de facto veto of the Constitutional prerogatives and responsibilities that the Congress has.  And so, there are many of us on the Committee who, in the absence of receiving a AUMF for the purposes of understanding the administration's views felt that it is Congress' responsibility to move forward and define it.  Now no one has worked harder in the last two years as a chairman of this Committee to make this a bipartisan effort not just on the AUMF but across the spectrum.  And I'm proud to say that we have -- working with the Ranking Member, we have virually passed out every major legislation on some of the critical issues of our time from the AUMF on Syria and the use of chemical weapons to OES reform to Kor -- to North Korea to Iran -- On a whole host of issues, we have been bipartisan.  Virtually ever nomination except for three -- of hundreds -- have largely been on a bipartisan basis.  So there's no one who has striven harder in this process.  But there are some principled views here that may not be reconcilable.  And it starts with when the administration itself -- and I think you've reiterated what you've said -- earlier in your previous visit here that the president has been clear that his policy that the United States military forces will not be deployed to conduct ground combat operations ISIL.  That it will be the responsibility of local forces because that's what our local partners and allies want.  What is best for preserving our coalition and most importantly what is in the best interests of the United States.  Now there are those members of the Committee and the Congress who have a much different view than that.  They would have a very robust and open ended -- uhhhhh-- use of combat forces in this regard.  And if the administration wants that then it should come forth and ask for that.

Menendez was speaking after Kerry finished reading his opening statement.

Combat forces?

The Chair must have been mistaken, right?

Surely the White House doesn't want US forces in combat on the ground in Iraq, right?

Kerry, reading from his opening statement:

On the issue of combat operations, I know that this is hotly debated, with passionate and persuasive arguments on both sides. The President has been clear that his policy is that U.S. military forces will not be deployed to conduct ground combat operations against ISIL. That will be the responsibility of local forces because that is what our local partners and allies want, what is best for preserving our Coalition and, most importantly, what is in the best interest of the United States . However, while we certainly believe this is the soundest policy, and while the president has been clear he's open to clarifications on the use of U.S. combat troops to be outlined in an AUMF, that does not mean we should pre-emptively bind the hands of the commander in chief oo  or our commanders in the field -- in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee. 

If you found Kerry confusing, you weren't the only one.

Secretary John Kerry:  Let me try to help you a little bit on this.

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  Well help me this way:  Are you going to ever explicitly seek an authorization from Congress?

Secretary John Kerry:  We're seeking authorization now.  With respect to  --

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  So you are.  And if you didn't receive the authoirzation, will you continue the operation?  That's a --

Secretary John Kerry:  The authorization for what we're doing nowin both Iraq and Syria?

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  That's correct.

Secretary John Kerry:  Absolutely we will continue it because we believe we have full authority under the 2001 AUMF and parts of the 2002 AUMF but here's where I want to help you.

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  Good.

Secretary John Kerry:  If Congress passes a new Dash specific AUMF we will support the inclusion of language in the AUMF that will clarify that the Dash specific AUMF rather than the 2001 AUMF is the basis for military force.  And I think that will give comfort to a lot of people.  Second, we will also support the repeal of the 2002 AUMF as part of an effort to clarify the ISIL specific AUMF would be the only source of legitimacy for the use of military force against Dash and therefore we would live under the confines of what we pass here.

John wants to play like Congress is confused.

No, the senators knew what they were talking about.

US President Barack Obama told the American people no US troops would be on the ground in combat.

He made that promise.

And now they want to change it.

Throughout the hearing, Kerry repeatedly insisted that the use of ground troops needed to be put into the AUMF.  Such as when he insisted, "It does not mean we should pre-emptively bind the hands of the commander-in-chief or our commanders in the field in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee."

If refusing to send US troops into combat on the ground in Iraq would "bind the hands" of anyone then maybe that needs to be taken up with Barack Obama who is the one who made the promise.

In fact, when he did, there was criticism from some member of Congress -- mainly Republicans -- that he had tipped his hand, let the enemy know how far he'd go.

If Barack wants to take back his promise, the coward needs to stand before the American people and make that announcement.

Congress should not provide him cover to break his promises, cover to lie.

John Kerry was full of lies throughout the hearing.

In the exchange we quoted above, Kerry offered that if they got the AUMF they wanted, the administration would support doing away with the 2001 AUMF.

If anyone's forgotten, in 2013 the White House was insisting they wanted it done away with.

This has been one of those pet projects of the increasingly ridiculous US House Rep Barbara Lee.

She wants it repealed -- or says she does.

She's too ridiculous to stand up and fight.

So to appease her for being such a good whore for the administration (she's the June Cleaver of war with her constant since 2009, "I'm telling you Barack and Joe, if US forces aren't out of Afghanistan within 12 months, I'm coming upstairs and your rooms better be clean!"), the White House stated they supported the repeal as well.

But nothing ever happened and nothing most likely will.

If the White House really wanted to act in good faith, they'd push for repeal immediately, not promise that they might do something -- might -- after they get what they want.

John tried real hard to be respectful in front of the Committee.

But he can't help lecturing and hectoring.

It's why the 2004 invented quote ("Who among us doesn't like NASCAR?") stuck to him, it was pompous and stuffy and sounded completely like him.

He tried to pretend he was 'helping' Corker but he just came off smug and condescending.

There was a lot of pretending.

"No more war!" screamed/whined Medea Benjamin before the hearing started.  "US intervention is counterproductive!"

"This Committee will come to order," Chair Menendez announced.

Immediately, the 2-person contingent of CODEPINK -- Medea and Ann Wright -- took their seats.

Medea then spent a good portion of the hearing a few seats behind Kerry holding up an 8 x 10 piece of pink construction paper with "Secretary of War?" written across from it.

Apparently, Medea was too tired to attempt two fingers behind John's head to give him bunny ears.

She had no sign for Senator Barbara Boxer which goes to how inept CodePink is.

CodePink's taken John Kerry many times before.  Not only did we see that tired repeat when he was a senator, they even took on his sister Peggy.

When will they take on our 'friend' Barbara Boxer?

Since 2006, I have sat through one hearing after another where our great left hope Boxer made one xenophobic or pro-war statement after another.

Yes, she became an embarrassing whore for war after Barack was sworn in.  But even prior to that, Ms. Anti-War was not anti-war and she also made very disgusting remarks about, for examples, Asians.

Boxer was an embarrassment from the moment she walked in looking like Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon.  Pay attention, America, this is what too much plastic surgery does to you, pulls your eyebrows up and gives your face a ridiculous stretched look.

There's something very sad about a woman or a man over 70 attempting to rewrite history.

But there was Boxer wanting to impart 'wisdom' while decrying 'evil' as she explained, "I come from an inner city -- when I was a kid growing up -- and if you got the biggest bully on the block, that helped a lot with the other bullies."

If you got him?

What does she mean?  Slept with him?

Does she mean beat him up?

Is she trying to tell us that Ira and Sophie Silvershien Levy's little girl was busting chops in Brooklyn back in the 40s?

Who knows what the damn fool's saying or trying to say?

She kept insisting that this had to be said -- that she grew up in the inner city? -- because her constituents were demanding it.

I've not seen that and she's my senator.

Boxer wanted to offer one freak out story after another about vaginas and torture and, honestly, she seemed like one of those elderly people who spend too much time watching the Law & Order franchise and confuse TV with life.

She wanted the world to know she was bothered by the treatment of women by the Islamic State.

Now to do that she has to vocalize because all those face lifts have rendered her face immobile and she's left with that shocked expression from everything being pulled one time to many.

But it was all the more appalling when you consider Saja al-Dulaimi.

We covered this last week.  Saja is an Iraqi woman.  That is agreed upon.  She was leaving Syria and was seized (kidnapped) by the Lebanese military with assistance (at least 'intel' but there are rumors of more) from the CIA.  With her was at least one of her children (some reports say three children).

She was thought, by the American government, to be one of the wives of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

This was her 'crime.'  She herself was suspected of nothing.  Her child (or children) were suspected of nothing.  But for 10 days before the press learned of her existence, she and her child or children were held by a foreign military and DNA samples were forcibly taken from them.

After the Lebanese military went public, the Iraqi government said she was not the wife of al-Baghdadi.

Even now, the details remain confusing.

What is not confusing is that the US government is not supposed to kidnap people -- even the relatives of suspect -- and they are not supposed to use people as "bargaining chips" -- which the press repeatedly explained was the point of kidnapping Saja.

None of that bothered Barbara Boxer.

Yet her role in Congress demands that she police the actions of the US government.

Let's stay with Saja because there's news there.

The White House and the Lebanese government grasped over the weekend that they'd gone way too far.

While Saja's kidnapping didn't even register offense in the United States,  it exploded on Arabic media.

Outrage, scorn and mockery were all over Arabic media -- aimed at Barack, aimed at a lawless US government, and so much more -- and this caused everyone involved in the kidnapping to rethink what they were doing.

First up, the Lebanese government began lying.  Al Arabiya wrote, "The officials said the woman had entered Lebanon illegally, and authorities were studying whether to deport her to Syria or give her refugees status in Lebanon."  Really?  Is that what they said this week?

After last week's non-stop bragging, on the record, that they would use Saja as a "bargaining chip"?

World Bulletin reported today:

A Lebanese military court on Tuesday ordered the release of an ex-wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIL militant group's top leader, a judicial source has said.
"The court decided to free al-Baghdadi's ex-wife Saja al-Dulaimi and Alaa Oqaily, the wife of a senior ISIL leader," the source told The Anadolu Agency.

Barbara Boxer needs to retire.  Until she does, she needs to understand she can't condemn violence against women or the kidnapping of women unless she's willing to condemn the executive branch she's supposed to provide oversight on.

If you're not getting how stupid she is, this is what she felt was worth sharing in this afternoon's hearing:

You know I believe President Obama has the authority because I voted to give any president the authority to go after the outgrowth of al-al Qaeda.  So I feel he's got it.  But, having said that, this is a threat to humanity that I don't think humankind has ever seen.

Uh, Nazi Germany?  Seizing Warsaw, bombing London, killing millions of Jews as well as gypsies and lesbians and gay men.

The US, the USSR, England and countless others had to band together to confront and destroy the Nazis.  But Boxer thinks the ragtag Islamic State is the worst thing humanity has ever seen?

And her "any president" remark should mean CodePink at least puts her name on a piece of a construction paper in what now passes for 'activism' on the part of that group.

There's a lot more to say about the hearing and we'll cover it in at least one more snapshot this week.  I'd love to more than that but I'm also hoping to cover another hearing that took place this morning.

As the senators acted as if they were saving Iraq, a new wrinkle might beg the question: Why?

Nouri al-Maliki is the former prime minister of Iraq and forever a thug.  In his second term, he led Iraq to the brink of destruction.  He did.  It's on him.  We've gone over this repeatedly -- and we did so in real time as Iraq was suffering.  Barack Obama finally dropped his backing of Nouri last spring.  This was the levee break, the moment when those who had covered for Nouri -- US pundits and reporters, for example -- could suddenly tell the truth.

But not all the truth.

Paint him as a mini-tyrant but don't notice his most severe crimes or you might get asked why you were silent as this all went down.

Barack was out, in August Haider al-Abadi became the new prime minister -- in part to put Nouri's reign of terror behind the country, to give it a fresh start.

Why is one dime being spent on this 'new Iraq'?

Kitabat reports on the story the gabbing senators missed but so did all the US outlets.

A video recording has surfaced of a conspiring Nouri with an equally conspiring Haider al-Abadi.  The video recording is said to show the two men agreeing no real change will come to Iraq.

This really needs to be addressed.

The recording is out there.  It needs to be addressed.

But the western press won't even cover it.

Apparently, they feel they're 'protecting' their readers, listeners and viewers by refusing to tell them truths out of Iraq.

Let's go back to the hearing.  John Kerry wanted to insist progress was being made in Iraq.

He could and did offer numbers on the bombings the US and others are carrying out.

He just really didn't have any political solution progress to speak of it.

This despite Barack insisting the only answer in Iraq is a political solution.

Maybe the lack of movement there is why Barack wants to send US troops into ground combat in Iraq?

Secretary John Kerry:  In Iraq, progress also continues in the political arena. Last week, after years of intensive efforts, the government in Baghdad reached an interim accord with the Kurdistan Regional Government on hydrocarbon exports and revenue sharing. That is good for the country’s economy but even more for its unity and stability. 



I actually don't disagree.

But me, someone who loathes Nouri al-Maliki, knows Nouri wasn't the real problem there.

The accord Kerry's gah-gah over?

It could have happened under Nouri.

But it was the State Dept and the White House that ensured it wouldn't.

Victoria Nuland repeatedly condemned the Kurdish government.

The State Dept stuck their nose in ExxonMobile's business in an attempt to stop the Kurds from selling their oil.

They lied -- the State Dept and the White House -- to Nouri leading him to announce that the President of the United States would stop ExxonMobile.

Nouri's an idiot.

But he also lived in a country where the government controlled the oil sector.

So he honestly believed that Barack could interfere in business dealings of ExxonMobile.

When Nouri made his ridiculous announcement, Victoria Nuland had to clarify publicly that the President of the United States was not in charge of ExxonMobile.

Secretary John Kerry:  In addition, the new Defense minister is a Sunni whose appointment was an important step towards a more inclusive government. With his leadership and that of the new Interior minister, the process of reforming the nation’s security forces has a genuine chance for success. 

But the man nominated at the same time, nominated to head the Ministry of the Interior, is part of a Shi'ite militia.

So it's kind of a wash there, isn't it?

There's the September 13th announcement by Haider that the Iraqi military would (finally) stop bombing Falluja's residential neighborhoods.  He did promise that.

Of course, the bombing never stopped.

And today Kitabat reports Falluja General Hospital received the corpses of 9 civilians and treated 32 more people -- all victims of the Iraqi military's larest bombings of Falluja.

In some of today's other violence, Alsumaria reports a sniper outside of Kirkuk shot dead 1 student and wounded two more, a Kazimiyah mortar attack left eight people injured, the Ministry of Defense announced 51 militants were killed in Salahuddin Province and Anbar Province,

Outgoing US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Iraq today.  We'll close with some photos from DoD's Twitter feed.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Hillary comic and TV

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Aging"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Aging"

I love that comic.  I love the whole 'pact with the devil' part.

I also love how he captured how Hillary has fallen apart in the last 6 years.

She does look ill.

She shouldn't be floating a run for the presidency.

I also hope people won't rush to support her.

She's a War Hawk and she just needs to find a retirement community.

"TV: The New Password" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
Between rounds, Craig Ferguson often creates some nice moments with the guests.

Ferguson's the host and the answer there is because he's relaxed and funny.

But the real question is why he insists upon introducing himself, at the start of each episode, by declaring, "I'm your host, TV's Craig Ferguson."

"I'm your host, TV's Craig Ferguson"?

Does anyone really speak like that?

Maybe the character Troy McClure on The Simpsons but does any actual, living person speak that way?

It really bothered us, that introduction, until the sixth episode we watched.

In this episode a woman was getting clues from her husband.

One of the answers?

"Craig Ferguson."

As the woman stumbled around on the clues provided to her, Craig pointed to himself and said, "This guy right here."

To which the woman exclaimed, "Oh, no! Are you kidding me!"

She never got the answer.

Which is probably why Craig has to declare, "I'm your host, TV's Craig Ferguson," at the start of each episode. 

They hadn't planned to write about a game show.  But an e-mail came in saying they'd ignored game shows since 2005.

So when they were told about the e-mail Sunday, they said, fine, we can write about a game show -- and they did.

I'm always surprised by how they can adapt.

But it goes to the fact that they do so much work every week without knowing what they'll be covering.  Writing is actually the easiest part of their job.  Much more difficult is staying abreast of everything.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, December 8, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's prime minister says there's no agreement to provide US troops with immunity, Barack's non-stop bombing gets called out, we grade outgoing Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, and much more.

The Democrats lost control of the Senate in the November mid-term elections.  Mary Landrieu was forced into a run-off which she lost to her Republican opponent over the weekend.

When the new Congress is sworn in next month, Republicans will control the Senate (and they remain in control of the House of Representatives).  Community member Brandon wanted to know if I could score the outgoing Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee?


It's Bernie Sanders.  He is not a Democrat.  He votes with Democrats (way too often for someone supposedly opposed to corporate control of the Congress) and is often referred to as an "independent" but as Laura Flanders noted the night he was elected to the Senate (in 2006), she doesn't want to hear anyone calling him an independent because he is a Socialist.

He will not be Chair in the next session, a Republican will be.

Sanders as Chair was a disappointment.

If you're a third party, you need to be better than good because there are so few of you.

But Sanders wasn't even good.

His pet issue was non-traditional medicine.

And no one ever forgot it.

That's not what you do as Chair.

That he would advance, for example, acupuncture was not a surprise.

That he would be unable to set aside his pet issues when a scandal emerged?

That's appalling.

But that's exactly what happened and exactly why he lost the support of veterans.

He refused to allow a hearing that was scheduled as the scandal of the VA keeping 'official' lists and secret lists emerged to acknowledge that scandal and insisted that if this was indeed a real scandal he would be the one to lead on this and the Committee would lead on it and blah, blah, blah.

Reality: It was a real scandal.

Reality: The Committee never dealt with it in a hearing.

Over in the House, they did.

Not in the Senate.

Then there's VA Secretary Eric Shinseki whose tenure was one scandal after another -- usually one of his own making.

And when he had lost the confidence of veterans, there was Sanders prattling on about how it was too soon . . .

I think President Barack Obama realized he had to ask Shinseki to resign before Sanders ever grasped their might be a serious problem here.

I spoke with veterans last week as I attended two Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearings -- two.

What was Sanders' sudden interest, everyone wanted to know?  He held very few hearings which became even more noticeable when the scandals kept breaking.

Last Thursday may have been his final hearing as Chair (until the next election cycle).

If so, he went out looking like a huge disappointment.

The hearing was on the nomination of Leigh A. Bradley to be the General Counsel for the VA. In 1998, when she was nominated to the same post by then-President Bill Clinton, the post was described this way, "The General Counsel serves as the chief legal officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs and is responsible for the interpretation of all laws affecting the department and for the review of all regulations implementing such laws. The General Counsel directs the legal, litigative and legislative activities of the department, provides legal advice and assistance to the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs and represents the Secretary in Congressional committee and other hearings and in interdepartmental conferences on legislative matters."

Chair Bernie Sanders showed up late for the hearing and noted there were impending votes.

Chair Sanders had Bradley stand and swore her in -- something we support doing for all witnesses who come before Congress.

She then began reading from her prepared statement.

Leigh Bradley:  We'll Chairman Sanders, Ranking Member [Richard Burr is the Ranking Member and was listed as such in her written statement, in the hearing Johnny Isakson acted as Ranking Member and she acknowledged him verbally], Distinguished Members of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. I am humbled and honored to have been nominated by President Obama to be VA General Counsel, and grateful to Secretary McDonald, and Deputy Secretary Gibson for their confidence in me. Mr. Chairman, from the start of my legal career in 1987 as an active-duty Air Force Judge Advocate to my present position as Director of the Department of Defense  Standards of Conduct Office, I have been guided by a deep and personal commitment to our nation’s Armed Forces and its Veterans. I come from a long, proud line of military Veterans. My father is a Vietnam Veteran who served as a career officer in the Army Corps of Engineers. Both of my grandfathers served in the U.S. Army--one in World War I and the other in World War II. My husband served for 20 years as an Air Force Judge Advocate, and my brother-in-law currently serves as an Air Force B-1 Weapons Systems Operator. Finally, and I say this with great joy and pride, my daughter has decided to follow in the family’s footsteps. She is a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force, studying to be a doctor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at Walter Reed. I am immensely proud of her decision to continue our family’s tradition of service in uniform. I have spent the majority of my legal career supporting the mission of the Armed Forces and the needs of our nation’s Veterans. After five years on active duty, I was selected for a civilian position in the DoD Office of the General Counsel. Later, I served as the Principal Deputy General Counsel of the Navy, the second highest ranking civilian attorney in an office of over 600. In 1998, I was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate to be General Counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs. And in my current position, I advise the senior DoD leadership on ethical compliance and creating and sustaining ethical cultures across the Department.

[. . .]
Of late, however, VA has not fully met its responsibilities and obligations to Veterans, and we must make restoring their trust our top priority. To quote Secretary McDonald, “the seriousness of this moment demands urgent action.” I am deeply inspired by the dedication, vision, and leadership of Secretary McDonald and Deputy Secretary Gibson. While this is a challenging time at VA, it is also an exciting and transformative time in which the leaders of the Department, in cooperation with Congress, Veterans Service Organizations, and other Veterans’ stakeholders can collaborate to reform and improve services to Veterans. Yes, there is hard work to be done. But for me, there can be no higher calling than to be part of this historic moment which will have lasting, positive impacts on the care and benefits we deliver to Veterans and the way VA operates going forward. Accordingly, if confirmed, I will work closely with the VA leadership team to strengthen the Department’s ability to serve our nation’s Veterans and restore trust with them, with Congress, and with the American public. I will do all in my power to provide thoughtful, expert advice and counsel on all legal matters including those associated with the implementation of both the Veterans Choice Act and MyVA (the Secretary’s ground-breaking initiative to bring a singular focus on customer service to Veterans), improving access to medical care, better delivery of other VA services and benefits, protecting the rights of whistleblowers, and helping to ensure that the processes to hold employees accountable for wrong-doing are expedient, fair, and defensible. I will do this by exemplifying VA’s core ethical values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence.

Half-way into the year, Leigh Bradley was named special counsel to (then acting) VA Secretary Sloan D. Gibson.  "On loan from DOD's Standards of Conduct Office" as Leo Shane III noted July 2nd.

That position was supposed to be a temporary assignment for her and the understanding was she would return to the Defense Dept.  So one question for her at the hearing might be about that.

I'm sorry.

Questions for a witness?

Not in Bernie's world.

This is a transcript of what followed when Leigh Bradley stopped stop reading her statement.

Chair Bernie Sanders: We thank you very much for your statement.  You and I chatted yesterday and I am strongly supportive of the nomination and you answered my questions yesterday.  Mr. Isackson?

Senator Johnny Isakson:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I too met yesterday with Ms. Bradley and we had a wonderful meeting and I want the record to reflect this is one Georgia Bull Dog that's going to pull for an Alabama Roll Tide, Crimson Tide lady in the fall game coming up pretty soon.  Good luck this weekend.  Mr. Chairman, I told Leigh this is probably the most important appointment in the VA other than the Secretary themselves.  And the implementation of the Veterans Choice Act is going to require an awful lot of work from legal counsel to support the Secretary in whatever disciplinary action he takes as well as expedite the review process in cases that are appealed because we're getting more and more disability determinations coming out faster and faster which means we're going to have a higher and higher volume of appeals which means legal counsel is going to be under the gun.  We want to be supportive of you.  We want to streamline that process as much as possible.  We have a two-year window of opportunity to make the VA the best VA in the world and we want to make that happen.  And you're a key part of that. I'm very supportive of your nomination.  Appreciate your willingness to accept the job.  And I really have no questions for [her], Mr. Chair.

Chair Bernie Sanders:  Thank you very much, Mr. Isakson.  Ms. Bradley, thank you very much for your willingness to serve.  As Senator Isakson indicated, the position is enormously important.  We're seeing transition in the VA right now but I'm confident you're going to do a great job for us.  Okay.  And with that, if there are no other comments -- Okay?  Okay.

Leigh Bradley:  Thank you both.

Chair Bernie Sanders: This hearing is adjourned.

That was the entire hearing.

And it goes to how awful a Chair Bernie Sanders has been.

The position is important, the one Leigh Bradley is up for.

It's a shame the hearing couldn't have treated it as such.

And I'm sorry but I thought Socialists in the US led the call for transparency?

Where was the transparency in that hearing?

Bernie and Johnny going on about how they had spoken with the witness the day before?

Well good for them but did those conversations mean that there was no reason to have a conversation the record?  No reason to question a witness publicly?

What was the point -- besides wasting time -- in having the witness sworn in if no one was going to ask her one damn question?

And with all the scandals in the VA, let's grasp that a lot of them happened because of people in positions of power.  No one thought this person or that would be inept or worse.

Hopefully, Leigh Bradley will be a huge success.

But with the problem in the VA, the Committee was required to ask questions.

They failed.

Veterans around the country have interest in this appointment and were looking to how the nominee would respond under questions.

But a candy ass, poorly led Committee refused to do its job.

This is the typical nonsense that has taken place over and over under Bernie Sanders' leadership.

There was never time, while he was Chair, to address serious issues or problems.

There was always time to explore acupuncture and other holistic medicines.

That's really all he ever made time for.

We're all so very sorry for Chair Sanders and the Committee that they were put out, that they're valuable time was shortened with the expectation that they'd do their damn job and hold a real hearing on a top post at the VA.

Going through the motions, that's all Bernie Sanders offered during his time as Chair of the Committee.

All the US government offers in Iraq is more of the same.  The Defense Dept noted the following today:

In Iraq, six airstrikes near Kirkuk destroyed two excavators, a bulldozer, an ISIL bunker and an ISIL ammunition dump and struck another excavator and an overpass servicing the ammunition dump. These airstrikes also suppressed an ISIL fighting position and struck a tactical ISIL unit near Kirkuk, officials said.
Near Biaj, four airstrikes destroyed four armored vehicles, an ISIL checkpoint and two ISIL storage containers. Near Sinjar, four airstrikes destroyed six ISIL-occupied buildings, seven ISIL storage containers, two ISIL fighting positions and an excavator and struck an ISIL bunker. Near Mosul, four airstrikes destroyed an excavator, an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL heavy weapon and struck two ISIL tactical units.

Also in Iraq, three airstrikes near Qaim destroyed two ISIL armored vehicles and struck an ISIL observation point. Near Tal Afar, three airstrikes destroyed seven ISIL armored vehicles, a bulldozer and an excavator. Near Ramadi, three airstrikes destroyed an ISIL-occupied building and a front-loader and struck two ISIL units.
Near Bayji, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL-occupied building and struck two tactical ISIL units. Near Rawah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL tank. Near Hit, an airstrike was conducted, but there was no damage.

 All aircraft returned to base safely, officials said, noting that airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

The US government has been bombing Iraq from the air since August and brought other countries into the campaign.  President Barack Obama has no plan for the moment and just keeps bombing.

It's accomplished nothing in terms of improving lives.

And people are beginning to go public with that reality.  Ines San Martin (Curx Now) reports:

The top Catholic official in Iraq says the current US-led bombing campaign will not dislodge the radical Islamic State, and he is pleading for a stronger response from the international community to ensure Christians can remain in the region.
“Bombing is also killing people, destroying the infrastructure, houses, schools, churches,” said Patriarch Louis Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

I would say, "Long after Barack again loses interest in Iraq, the damage from these bombings will still be present."

I would say that . . .

but the fact is Barack and the administration, they've already lost interest in Iraq.

Bombing is not a 'plan' but it's used to stall and distract as US officials keep trying to rope other countries into agreeing to send soldiers into Iraq.  Phil Stewart (Reuters) reports US Lt Gen James Terry ("commander of Operation Inherent Resolve") declared that, in addition "to 3,100 troops U.S. President Barack Obama," unnamed "allies have committed to send about 1,500 forces to Iraq."  BBC News underscores the unnamed part of the talk, "He did not say which coalition nations would provide the extra troops or what role they would play."

The lack of specifics might lead some to believe that Terry's remarks were little more than propaganda, the hope that declaring X number would encourage some countries to sign on.

Whether these are a real 1500 troops or only 'visible' to Terry, would they qualify for immunity?

We ask that because last week the Associated Press was reporting:

The US has reached an agreement with Iraq on privileges and immunities for the growing number of troops based in the country, helping in the fight against the Islamic State (Isis) militant group, the new US ambassador said on Thursday.
Stuart Jones said prime minister Haider al-Abadi has given assurances that US troops will receive immunity from prosecution.

Yet now, NINA reports:

Prime Minister Dr. Haidar al-Abadi media office of Dr. Haider Abadi denied news which recently claimed that the Iraqi government would be granted immunity to US troops describing such a news as fabricated .
The office said in a statement today that the statements attributed to the US ambassador are baseless and exciting surprise .

All Iraq News also covers the story, "The Prime Minister, Hayder Al-Ebadi said Monday 'There is no immunity for any foreign fighter and I did not sign any immunity for any US soldier deployed in Iraq'."

It's amazing the AP filed multiple reports today but never got around to mentioning that their big news last week was now being called into question by statements the prime minister of Iraq is making.

But Lt Gen James Terry did a lot of talking today.  Robert Burns (AP) reports, "Islamic State fighters have lost the initiative in Iraq and are now 'on defense' with far less ability to generate the kind of ground maneuvers that enabled the extremists to capture large chunks of Iraq earlier this year, a senior U.S. general said Monday."  David Lerman (Bloomberg News) also notes Terry's remarks:

Iraq’s security forces probably won’t be able to start retaking territory from Islamic State for months, the top U.S. commander for Iraq and Syria operations said.
While the Sunni extremists are “probably on the defensive” after more than 1,200 airstrikes by the U.S. and allies, Iraq’s army needs more time to rebuild, Army Lieutenant General James Terry, commander of Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today in Kuwait.
“It’s hard for me to say when exactly it’s going to be,” Terry said of an eventual Iraqi offensive against Islamic State fighters, who seized much of western Iraq and took Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June. “The current plan has it, I think reasonably, in months,” he said. 

Wow.  Months and months of bombing and Terry doesn't think the Iraqi military is ready.

Eric Schmitt (New York Times) points out that Iraqi officials disagree and feel the time is now to fight for Mosul (the Islamic State currently controls Mosul).  Schmitt also notes:

Any military campaign to retake Mosul in early 2015 would also push closer a decision by President Obama on whether scores of United States military advisers should leave the relative safety of the command posts in Iraq, where they work now, to join Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the front lines of a challenging urban fight.

We'll close with this from Justin Raimondo's "Pearl Harbor and the Engineers of War" (

What gets me are the lies. Iraq’s "weapons of mass destruction" – Iran’s (nonexistent) nuclear weapons program – the Vietnamese "attack" in the Gulf of Tonkin – Germans bayoneting Belgium babies – the sinking of the USS Maine: over the long and bloody history of US imperialism, these are just a few of the fabrications US policymakers have seized on to justify Washington’s aggression. It’s quite a record, isn’t it? Not only that, but there’s been little if any acknowledgment by the American political elites that they’ve ever lied about anything: it’s all been thrown down the Memory Hole, along with whatever sense of shame these people ever had.
Indeed, if there is an award for sheer shamelessness then surely it must go to the court historians who preserve the myth of Pearl Harbor, insisting that the Japanese launched a "sneak attack" on the US fleet. The official version of the narrative is that the Americans, dewy-eyed innocents all, were simply minding their own business, not bothering anybody and certainly not aggressing against the predatory Japanese, who were fighting harmless "agrarian reformers" led by Mao Tse-Tung in China. Suddenly, totally without provocation, and out of the clear blue the Japs – to use the term routinely employed by the Roosevelt administration and its media minions at the time – crossed thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean to commit murder and mayhem for no good reason other than their own inherent evil.

What’s amazing is that even though this nonsense has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked over the years by historians concerned with discovering the truth – as opposed to getting tenure at some Ivy League university – the Big Lie is still not only believed by the hoi polloi but also stubbornly upheld by the "intellectuals."