Saturday, September 19, 2015

Jackie Collins

Jackie Collins has passed away.

The novelist wrote many best sellers including: THE WORLD IS FULL OF MARRIED MEN, HOLLYWOOD WIVES, THE WORLD IS FULL OF DIVORCED MEN . . .

Her book THE STUD was made into a hugely successful British film starring her sister Joan Collins.

The sequel, THE BITCH, was a successful book but less successful as a movie.

CHANCES changed everything. (Title corrected from original post.)

It featured Mob Boss daughter Lucky and it led to one successful sequel after another.

I knew Jackie through C.I.

The thing about her, what made her so successful in her writing, is she believed.

She loved her characters (and her readers).

Others who came before her writing 'pot boilers' or 'page turners' or however you want to describe them?

They often looked down on their characters.

Jackie didn't.

She loved her characters and it was there in the reading.

She was a beloved author of many and a person who really loved life.

She will be sorely missed.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, September 18, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the League of Righteous blames Turkey (while an outlet refuses to call them the League or to acknowledge their past history), the Senate has serious concerns about the battle to defeat the Islamic State, and much more.

Senator Claire McCaskill: I'm worried like the rest of my colleagues and there have been a number of questions on this already -- about the train and equip mission. And there's good news and there's bad news about the American military.  The good news is that if you give them a job, they figure out a way to get it done.  The bad news is that sometimes you give them a job and they are not willing to say when it's not going to work.  At what point in time, General Austin, do you envision us admitting that while all good intentions and on paper all of the work was done but the job of finding willing fighters that can be screened appropriately when you have the vast majority who feel victimized by the current situation in Syria are running for the exits?  At what point and time and what is the discussion ongoing about the $600,000,000 you're requesting for next year?  That seems very unrealistic to me in terms of a request.  If at this juncture, we've successfully completed five to six [trainees]?  And if that last information you said you had, Ms.[Christine] Wormuth, was a hundred -- you said "more than a hundred" -- what is the number?

Under Secretary Christine Wormuth: Senator McCaskill, it's between a hundred and a hundred-and-twenty.

Senator Claire McCaskill:  Okay.

Under Secretary Christine Wormuth:  Basically.

Senator Claire McCaskill: So we're counting on our fingers and toes at this point when we had envisioned 5400 by the end of the year.  And I -- I'm just worried that this is one of those instances where the good news about our military is dominating -- 'we can do this, we can do this' -- and the practical realities of this strategy aren't being fully embraced. 

Gen Lloyd Austin: Uh, thank you, uh, Senator. Uhm, you know, I-I absolutely agree with you, we have the finest troops in the world and they will figure out a way to get the job done one way or another.  And-and again, what our Special Operations Forces have done in-in northern Syria is -- They didn't wait for the uh-uh-uh new Syrian force program -- our train and equip program -- to fully develop.  At the very outset, they began to engage uh elements like the YPG and-and-and-and enable those elements.  And they are making a difference on the battlefield.  So-so -- And there are tens of thousands of the - of the YPG out there that are right now fighting ISIL.  So because the -- uh, the new Syria train and equip program is slower getting started than we'd like for it to be, that doesn't mean that we're not creating effective fighters on the battlefield.

Senator Claire McCaskill:  I just want to make clear, Gen Austin, I mean, I know the Chairman [Senator John McCain] feels strongly about the [2007 Iraq] surge and there were a lot of tremendous American heroes that were part of that surge but the other part of the surge we don't talk about as frequently is that we paid a lot of people.  We paid a lot of people to help us during the surge.  Is this money that we're setting aside for train and equip, would it be better off in direct compensation to some of that YPG force? 

Under Secretary Christine Wormuth: Senator McCaskill, can I try to address this a little bit?  As-as Gen Austin said, we are -- we are reviewing the program and we are looking at a range of options.  Our train and equip program is part of a broader effort that we're prosecuting with the YPG, with the Syrian-Arab coalition and so on.  And-and we're looking at how to have our train and equip program, uh, effectively enable those other efforts.  And I think as we go forward and look at what our options are, we'll absolutely want to look at the resources we've requested for the next year and how that fits in. But the forces that we are training while right now are small in number and clearly are not going to reach the numbers that we had planned for are nevertheless getting terrific training and very good equipment and as such be able to be force multipliers of those other, uh, groups on the ground that have been very effective like the Syrian-Arab coalition --

Senator Claire McCaskill:  I just -- If we end up at the end of the year with us bragging about the difference between 100 and 120 [trainees], it's time for a new plan.

Under Secretary Christine Wormuth: And I certainly do not mean to be bragging.  We-we -- The program is very much smaller than we hoped.

Senator Claire McCaskill:  Yeah.

Under Secretary Christine Wormuth:  We're not bragging. 

As noted in Thursday's snapshot, Wednesday saw Gen Lloyd Austin and DoD's Under Secretary Christine Wormuth appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  The Committee Chair is Senator John McCain and the Ranking Member is Jack Reed.

Many observations were noted throughout the hearing -- such as this:

Senator Jeff Sessions:  We have to acknowledge this is a total failure. It's just a failure and I wish it weren't so  But that's the fact.  And so it is time to -- way past time to -- react to that failure.  I just would say the whole idea that we've got to wait for the locals to take ownership and to take the lead and do this kind of activity without any leadership, support sufficient from the United States or our allies is also a failure.  They're not able to organize well.  Mosul has fallen. There are divisions in Iraq that make it very difficult.  So I just wish it weren't so but I'm afraid that's the reality we are dealing with.  We now have, I believe the UN says, 4 million refugees, 7 million displaced persons. It's obvious to me that this is a humanitarian catastrophe.

Whether or not Iraqis can lead (I would suspect that they can), the splits are real and getting worse.

Reuters quotes the leader of the League of Righteous, Qais al-Khazali, stating "The biggest enemy of Iraq now is Turkey, and this enemy is the first and one of the biggest benefactors of Iraq's riches."

He insists that his group had no part in kidnapping the 18 people from Sadr City earlier this month.

And Reuters -- which idiotically doesn't even call the group the League of Righteous -- goes along with that.

Despite the fact that the League kidnapped how many people during earlier phases of the Iraq War.

Despite the fact that US President Barack Obama made a deal with the League to release their leaders who were in US custody in exchange for the release of 5 British hostages (only one was released alive -- Peter Moore -- the four other British citizens kidnapped by the League of Righteous were dead when they were turned over: Jason Crewswell, Jason Swindelhurst, Alec Maclachlan and eventually Alan McMenemy.).

I'm missing that in Reuters' report.

That kidnapping was mentioned in the State Dept's "2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:"

Five British men (a computer expert and four bodyguards) were kidnapped in 2007. Peter Moore, the computer expert, was released unharmed on December 30, while the bodies of three of the four bodyguards were returned on June 19 and September 3 to the United Kingdom. The whereabouts of the fifth man remained unknown at year's end. Fifteen Americans, four South Africans, four Russian diplomats, and one Japanese citizen who were abducted since 2003 remained missing. There was no further information on the 2007 kidnapping of the Ministry of Science and Technology acting undersecretary, Samir Salim al-Attar.

For more on the League, we'll drop back to the June 9th snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

Considering the above, I'm confused as to why an article on kidnapping and the League would include the League's denial of involvement with the kidnapping but not note their past use of kidnapping.

I'm also confused as to why they aren't labeled "terrorists" by Reuters when the Islamic State so frequently does garner that label.  Kidnapping, extortion and murder sounds like terrorist tactics and if the label "terrorism" is going to be applied to one group, it needs to be applied to all groups acting in the same manner.

I also don't remember an earlier skittishness on the part of Reuters when it came to covering the League.

Maybe this new found skittishness to call out Shi'ite thugs goes a long way towards explaining why the Iraqi government can still not be inclusive towards Sunnis, can still not establish a National Guard, can still not include Sunnis in the security forces despite sorely needing them?

This was touched on in a roundabout way in Wednesday's hearing as Gen Lloyd Austin lamented to Senator Mike Rounds, "You're right, sir, we would like to see a lot more forces available to be trained.  And we're encouraging the government of Iraq to recruit those forces, bring them on board, so we can get them in the training centers.  And what we've discovered -- not discovered, we knew this going in -- is that those forces that have been trained by us are doing, uh, are doing pretty well on the -- on the battlefield."

AP's Sinan Salaheddin Tweets:

  • Describing fighting in 's Beiji, leader of AAH Shiite militia: "Real guerrilla war; from house to house, but even from room to room."

  • That's liberation?

    Because it reads like intimidation.

    And that's before you factor in the looting the Shi'ite militias do when 'liberating' an area.

    State of Iraq for Sunnis today?

    : Shiite militias kill a Sunni from Anbar displaced people in Baghdad .

    : Shiite militias kill a Sunni from Anbar displaced people in Baghdad .

    These are the actions that make so many question what the real purpose of the Iraq government is when it comes to the Sunni population.

  • We'll close with this from John R. Schindler's New York Observer essay entitled "Obama's Messy Iraq Intelligence Scandal:"

    It’s happening again. A White House fumbling with the violent mess of Iraq finds itself surrounded by mounting accusations that it’s played dirty games with intelligence. A Pentagon facing charges that its analysts have skewed assessments on Iraq to tell top policymakers what they want to hear, rather than what is really happening in that troubled country.
    If this sounds terribly familiar, it should. Only a dozen years after the George W. Bush White House was buffeted by allegations that it had “cherry-picked” intelligence to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq, Barack Obama is facing similar accusations. Intelligence Community analysts alleged that, in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, they were pressured to exaggerate Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Now, analysts claim that they have been pushed to present Obama’s war against the Islamic State as more successful than it really is.

    Only the most optimistic Obama backers still portray that year-long air campaign (its proper name is Operation Inherent Resolve) as adequate, and most security experts agree that the Islamic State is winning the war on the ground, thanks in part to an American-led air war that is bombing too little and too cautiously. There is no indication that Western airpower is anywhere near inflicting decisive pain on the Islamic State, while our Iraqi partners, who serve as the ground anvil for the U.S. airborne hammer, increasingly feel left in the lurch by Obama.

    Schindler offers some observations regarding Wednesday's hearings.  (I agree with most including Gen Lloyd Austin.  We shared similar impressions the first time Austin testified to Congress after taking over from Gen Ray Odierno in Iraq.  Austin is a politician, not a general, and lying is his default setting.)

    Thursday, September 17, 2015

    An ass named Peter Rosenstein

    I hope you already read Wally and Cedric's joint-post:

  • What a creepy man that Peter is.

    He thinks he can attack women for not supporting Hillary Clinton.

    He wants to then MANSPLAIN to the women why they should be supporting Hillary and how they are wrong.

    He really just needs to shut the hell up.

    Because he's a man he thinks he can explain to women what they just can't grasp.

    Never once does Mr. Entitled stop for a moment to grasp that women know Hillary and some women just don't like her.

    Some do like her.

    But there is no requirement that if you are a woman you have to support Hillary Clinton.

    If there's something wrong with women -- as Peter insists -- for not supporting women can he please explain his dysfunction?

    If women should support Hillary due to their gender then shouldn't Peter be supporting a male candidate by his own 'logic.'

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Thursday, September 17, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, whatever happened to reconciliation in Iraq, the Senate hears of 'progress' on the battle with the Islamic State, and much more.

    Senator John McCain:  It's been one year.  It's been one year since President [Barack] Obama spoke to the nation about the threat posed by ISIL and increased US military operations against this.  Many of us believe that the goal the president laid out, "to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL"  is right. Many of us agree with a military strategy that seeks to empower local forces in Iraq and Syria to combat ISIL with US and coalition training, equipment, assistance and air power.  One year into this campaign, it seems impossible to assert that ISIL is losing and that we are winning.  And if you're not winning in this kind of warfare, you are losing.  Stalemate is not success.  It is accurate that we have conducted thousands of air strikes against ISIL trucks and fighters, bunkers and buildings.  This conjures the illusion of progress. But what effect has that had?  ISIL has lost some territory on the margin -- mainly to Shi'ite and Kurdish forces -- but ISIL has consolidated control of its core territories and expanded its control in Syria.  It continues to dominate Sunni Arab areas in both Iraq and Syria.  It maintains control of key cities like Mosul, Falluja and Ramadi -- and efforts to retake those territories appear to have stalled entirely. 

    That stark assessment came Wednesday morning at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.  The witnesses were the Defense Dept's Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth and CENTCOM commander Gen Lloyd Austin.  McCain is the Committee Chair and Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member.

    At one point, as barrel bombs and refugees were being discussed (McCain never acknowledged or mentioned the barrel bombs being used by the Iraqi government on the civilians in Anbar), McCain exclaimed, "I've never seen a hearing that is as divorced from the stark realities of every outside expert and what you're saying."

    That led to this exchange:

    Chair John McCain:  So everything is really going well?

    Gen Lloyd Austin:  No, sir, that's not --

    Chair John McCain: So if things aren't going well and we've had "setbacks," and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says it's tactically stalemated  and you think everything is going well pursuing the strategy and tactics on the ground that we are, Gen Austin, I respectfully disagree. I respectfully, fundamentally disagree. This is an abject failure.  The refugees are the result of it.  This is a result of leaving Iraq.  And you were there at the meeting when [former prime minister Nouri al-] Maliki told Senator [Lindsay] Graham and I that if the others agreed, he would agree to keep a residual force there and we never gave him the forces that we wanted to leave behind which then set [in train?] the US departure completely from Iraq and set  the table for the catastrophe that we are seeing.

    Others noted not just the failure in terms of battles but also the failure in terms of inclusion within Iraq's forces.

    Ranking Member Jack Reed: Now one of the things that has been suggested -- not only suggested bur recommend strongly to the Iraqi government -- is they create National Guard units -- Sunni units as well as others -- but formerly allied with the government.  And that legislation is bogged down in their Parliament, is that accurate?

    Gen Lloyd Austin: That's correct, sir.

    Ranking Member Jack Reed:  So we could do more essentially if the Iraqis were willing to make some changes in their policies.  For example, we could at least contemplate the use of avisors with these National Guard -- Iraqi National Guard units -- to be brokers in terms of distributing equipment as well as tactical advice.  Is that something that's possible as we get cooperation?

    Gen Lloyd Austin: It's clearly possible, sir.

    Ranking Member Jack Reed: Is it something you would consider if --

    Gen Lloyd Austin: Yes, sir, it is.

    Ranking Member Jack Reed:  And one of the factors too, and this is a constant source of inquiry, is that, in fact, recently the Iraqi Parliament, I think, rendered a scathing report about Prime Minister Maliki's leadership or lack of leadership effectively suggesting that whatever he said couldn't be trusted.  Is that, you know, your estimate of his role leading up to this crisis over many years?

    Gen Lloyd Austin:  Sir, what we saw from the former prime minister was increasingly sectarian behavior and a number of bad decisions that led to the atrophy of his security forces. 

    Ranking Member Jack Reed:  And, in fact, according to this report that I've seen in the media, they attributed most of the blame for the disintegration of Iraqi security forces at Maliki's door step and no one else.  Is that at least accurate for most of the feeling in Iraq?

    Gen Lloyd Austin:  I'd say that it was primarily his responsibility -- his responsibility and those he appointed in key leadership positions enabled that as well.

    The National Guard proposal was first publicly floated by Barack over a year ago.  The Parliament has repeatedly kicked the can on the issue.  Then, last week, came the formal opposition to the plan from the Shi'ite militias.  The proposal now appears dead.

    And equally dead any attempts at reconciliation and inclusion.  Alsumaria reports today that Ayad Allawi (Shi'ite politician who headed the non-sectarian Iraqiya) is calling on the Arab League and the United Nations to assist with national reconciliation in Iraq.  All these years later, this has still not taken place and Nouri al-Maliki's second term actually made things worse.

    Barack referred to the importance of national reconciliation early on but then that got shoved aside.  Possibly that's why Allawi doesn't call for help from the US government or, specifically, from Barack?

    Or maybe it's Barack's many lies to Ayad Allawi?

    Such as The Erbil Agreement -- the US-brokered contract in November 2010 which gave Nouri a second term as prime minister in exchange for Nouri making concessions to various political blocs.  Barack said that contract had his full backing.  When Nouri, at the first Parliament meeting after the contract was signed, insisted it would have to wait, Allawi and others walked out.  Barack personally called Allawi and swore the contract had the full backing of the US government and the White House in particular.

    And then?

    After that got Allawi to return to Iraq, Barack pretended like the contract never existed.

    You can only break your word so many times before people lose faith in you.

    Faith is being lost over the claims of 'progress' and 'success' in Iraq.

    This came up repeatedly during the hearing.

    Chair John McCain:  Published media reports suggest that the CIA's estimates of ISIL's manpower has remained constant despite US air strikes which suggests that either they were wrong to begin with or that ISIL is replacing its losses in real time.  Neither is good.  Indeed this Committee is disturbed by recent whistle-blower allegations that officials at Central Command skewed intelligence assessments to paint an overly positive picture of conditions on the ground.  We are currently investigations these allegations which we take with the upmost seriousness.  The Department of Defense should as well.  And if true, those responsible must be held accountable.

    Cooked intel -- a problem in the lead up to the war on Iraq, a problem in the continued selling of 'success' in the continued war on Iraq.

    We'll note this exchange from the hearing.

    Senator Claire McCaskill: I understand from your testimony, Gen Austin, that you can't comment on the IG investigation this accusation that people are putting pressure on intelligence analysts to change the tenor of their reports.  It's a serious allegation that strikes at the core of our government in terms of our ability to oversee and make decisions around the use of our military. I want to say, at the end of this investigation, when you can discuss it, I just want to put on the record that I, for one, am going to be watching very carefully about any potential retaliation against any of the men or women that may have come forward with allegations.  It is incredibly important that whistle-blowers be protected in this space and -- depending upon what the investigation finds -- I understand that maybe there are other factors that I am not aware of -- but I just want to put on the record that I will be paying very close attention to how these whistle-blowers are treated in the aftermath of this investigation.

    Gen Lloyd Austin: I absolutely share your concerns, Senator, and you have my uh-uh-uh -- I will assure you that we will do everything in our power to ensure that the whistle-blowers remain protected and that there is no retaliation.  

    We'll note some other moments from the hearing in the next snapshot.

    Turning to reports of violence . . .

    Wednesday's reported violence included . . .

    Alsumaria reports that the PKK is stating their female brigade has killed 16 Turkish soldiers at the border Iraq and Turkey share.  They also note that Turkish warplanes bombed northern Iraq and the bombs burned orchards and large areas of forest land.  Xinhua reports, "An Iraqi aircraft bombarded IS positions in the IS-held city of Rutba, some 370 km west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, leaving 10 people killed and 16 others wounded, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."

    Meanwhile, September 2nd saw 18 people kidnapped in the Sadr City section of Baghdad.  The 18 were 1 Iraqi interpreter and 17 Turkish workers.  Reuters reports two of the 18 have been released.  Alsumaria notes they were released near a hospital under construction in Basra.

    Still on Wednesday, NINA reports that local residents in Mosul state that the Islamic State "executed on Wednesday Imam and preacher of a mosque in central Mosul."  Alsumaria also notes that there were kidnapping and assassination attempts at the Ministry of Education yesterday and that this led to explosive temperatures and an altercation between MPs in the cafeteria of the Parliament.

    And today Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports that 2 Baghdad suicide bombings have left at least 21 people dead.


    Wednesday, September 16, 2015

    The Sunni genocide

    Photos of what the western press ignores.

  • A Sunni genocide is being carried out in Iraq.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Tuesday, September 15, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, rumors of US troops on the ground in Anbar for combat, the State Dept only supports Iraq's religious groups that take up arms, that ought to make for a fun meet-up when Pope Francis visits the White House next week, and much more.

    Let's start by playing That's Disturbing!  Today, at the alleged US State Dept, John Kirby moderated a press briefing.

    QUESTION: John, there was a delegation of Shabak religious community leaders to Washington and they met with State Department leaders. I was wondering whether you have a readout of that.

    MR KIRBY: Yeah, there are some meetings today, actually. So as part of an effort to strengthen our partnership with Iraq and to engage communities across Iraq, including those who have joined the fight against ISIL, the State Department welcomed the visit of a group of leaders from Iraq’s Shabak community Washington. The group is meeting today with Population, Refugees, and Migration Bureau Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Larry Bartlett and had a working-level meeting with representatives from the Department’s Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and Near East Asia Affairs Bureaus last week. So there were meetings last week; there are meetings today.
    In these meetings, State Department officials expressed our condolences for the suffering that minorities, including the Shabak community, have endured at the hands of ISIL; discussed how to enhance cooperation in the fight against ISIL; and described our contributions to meeting the desperate humanitarian needs of refugees and those displaced by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

    QUESTION: Yesterday I met with some of them, and they said they had one specific demand for the State Department, which was they want to have their own all-Shabak member security unit, force, to protect them, like the Kurds have, the Sunnis. They’re trying to have one. Is the United States supportive of this kind of force that is – that all of its members are, like, really belong to one community?

    MR KIRBY: I’ve not heard that request before. What we are supportive of, and have been very clear about this, is an inclusive, representative Iraq which includes an inclusive, representative Iraqi Security Force that is well-coordinated and integrated across all the sectors of Iraqi society. That’s what Prime Minister Abadi has committed himself to and has instituted policies to effect that, and that’s what we’d like to see continue.

    Religious minorities are under attack in Iraq but, please note, they're only of interest to the US State Dept if and when they can join in the fight against the Islamic State.

    Take that, Quakers! And any other pacifist religion or denomination.

    The United States is no longer interested in your plight, nor willing to meet a delegation representing you, unless you vow to take up arms.

    By this standard, turn the other cheek Jesus Christ would not be ushered in to visit the sleazy US State Dept.

    This refusal to meet with anyone unless they take up arms goes a long, long way towards explaining how nuns have repeatedly been ignored by the John Kerry State Dept.

    for persecuted Christians in .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

    Yes, pray for the Iraqi Christians -- especially as long as John Kerry heads that US State Dept because they will need those prayers.

    There's no effort to improve their lives or stop their suffering.

    Not while John's around.

    Alleged good Catholic John Kerry is far too busy with photo ops to attend the suffering of the Iraqi Christians.

    He'll gladly blather on about his religion but when it comes to walking the talk, he's no where to be found.

    The John Kerry State Dept was supposed to mean so much and it instead means so damn little.

    There's the shame and scandal of Hillary Clinton -- which John should have washed his hands of but instead has acted as a co-conspirator.

    There's the inability to accomplish anything diplomatically (the Iran deal came from the White House and its roots pre-date John joining the administration).  There's the increased militarization of the State Dept.  There's the dereliction of duty with regards to Iraq.

    And 'good Catholic' John can't even get his house in order enough to address the suffering of Iraq's religious minorities (unless they want to take up arms!).

    He's 71 and he's already had a bout with prostate cancer.  I'm not sure how many years he thinks he has left.

    But apparently John's under no pressure to come to terms with what his life will have actually meant or how little he will have accomplished.

    While John Kerry embarrasses himself and shames himself, Lara Logan (CBS News) reports on the realities for Iraqi Christians today:

    And nothing is sacred. ISIS blew up this mosque just over a month after taking here -- it's a site holy to both Christians and Muslims because the Old Testament prophet Jonah was said to be buried inside.
    Just like the Nazis marked the property of Jews, Christian homes in Mosul have been marked with this red symbol. It's the Arabic letter N - for Nasara - an early Islamic term for Christians. When ISIS puts it on your home, you either convert to Islam, pay an extortion tax or face the sword.
    Issah Al Qurain is one of tens of thousands who had to make that choice. He was at home with his family in the Christian village where he'd lived all his life, when ISIS fighters came looking for him. He told us the fighters first took all his money - then his wife and children.

    Lara Logan: They were telling you convert, convert, convert?

    Issah Al Qurain (translated): Yes, convert. In the beginning, I refused. I told them I was Christian and I had my religion and they had their religion. But they told me, if you don't convert, we will kill you and take your wife and children.

    He agreed and was taken to Mosul to convert where he was reunited with his family. Soon, ISIS fighters were asking about his young daughter, and he told us that frightened him more than anything.
    Issah Al Qurain (translated): They said to me that in Islam, the Sharia says, girls that are 10 years old should get married. As soon as they left, my wife and I shut the door. We looked at each other and she started to cry and pray. We were so scared they were going to take our daughter from us.
    They escaped in the back of a taxi. Issah says they talked their way through three ISIS checkpoints and traveled for over four hours on back roads to Erbil where, like Archbishop Sharaf, they now live as refugees.

    Next week, the Pope visits the United States.  Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama during the visit (September 22nd - September 27th).

    It should make for an interesting visit with many awkward silences.

    Pope: And what are you doing to aid Iraqi Christians?

    Barack:  Uh, would you like one of our lapel pins?  . . . .  Hey, have you ever seen our White House paper weights?

    Barbara Boland (Washington Examiner) reports:

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced a resolution Thursday to recognize the Christian genocide taking place in Iraq and Syria, in hopes that the resolution will force the Obama administration to act.

    "Christianity in the Middle East is shattered," Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said Thursday at an event introducing the measure. "The ancient faith tradition lies beaten, broken and dying. Yet Christians in Iraq and Syria are hanging on in the face of the Islamic State's barbarous onslaught. This is genocide."
    [. . .]
    "Christians are in trouble throughout the Middle East and northern Africa -- I hope this administration dials up concern for Christians ... I don't know what the administration thought, that things couldn't get worse or whatever," said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas. "There's a growing segment of our society that doesn't seem to have a lot of respect for the importance of the Christian community and the role it plays."
    "The United States should be aggressively protecting these Christians regardless of what the cause of the instability is," continued Poe. "But they should be protected even more because part of that instability was caused by decisions made by the United States."

    US House Rep Fortenberry's office issued the following last week:

    Sep 10, 2015
    Press Release
    Washington, D.C. – Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Jeff Denham (R-CA) today announced the introduction of a bipartisan resolution (H. Con. Res. 75) denouncing the genocide being perpetrated against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
    “Christianity in the Middle East is shattered,” said Fortenberry, co-chair of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus. “The ancient faith tradition lies beaten, broken, and dying. Yet Christians in Iraq and Syria are hanging on in the face of the Islamic State’s barbarous onslaught. This is genocide. The international community must confront the scandalous silence about their plight. Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities have every right to remain in their ancestral homelands.”
    Fortenberry and Eshoo serve as co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus. 

    And here's the press release US House Rep Anna Eshoo's office issued:

    September 10th, 2015
    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), and Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) today announced the introduction of a bipartisan resolution (H. Con. Res. 75) denouncing the genocide being perpetrated against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
    “Christianity in the Middle East is shattered,” said Fortenberry, Co-Chair of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus. “The ancient faith tradition lies beaten, broken, and dying. Yet Christians in Iraq and Syria are hanging on in the face of the Islamic State’s barbarous onslaught. This is genocide. The international community must confront the scandalous silence about their plight. Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities have every right to remain in their ancestral homelands.”
    “The dictionary defines genocide as the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation,” said Eshoo, Co-Chair of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus. “Today these words are a reality as we witness the systematic extermination of religious minorities in the Middle East. The barbaric acts by ISIS, including torture and murder, and the displacement of millions of Yezidis, Christians, Turkmen, Sabea-Mandeans, Kaka’e, Kurds and Shi’a, must be stopped. The United States should provide humanitarian aid, protection, and faster refugee processing for these most vulnerable communities, but an official statement of the Congress of the United States must be made to label these atrocities carried out against Christians and other religious minorities for what they are…genocide.”
    “We are witness to some of the most brutal attacks on the sacred and fundamental right of religious freedom in recent history,” said Franks, Co-Chair of the International Religious Freedom Caucus. “The Islamic State continues its campaign of terror against Yezidis, Christians, and other religious communities. Today, I stand with my colleagues to call on the United States Congress to condemn these attacks as genocide. This Administration can no longer remain conspicuously silent on the plight of religious minorities caught in the wake of the Islamic State. It is imperative that the Administration develops a comprehensive strategy to defeat the Islamic State and ensure these ancient faith communities have the protection needed to deter future acts of genocide and radicalization in the lands they have inhabited for millennia.”
    “Last year, the world watched in horror as ISIS initiated a political and religious insurrection in the name of establishing a caliphate across Iraq and Syria,” said Vargus, Co-Chair of the International Religious Freedom Caucus. “Since the fall of Mosul, thousands of religious minorities—including Christians, Yezidis and Turkmen— have packed their belongings and fled to neighboring communities. Many thousands have been murdered or abducted, and an unknown number of women and girls have been sexually assaulted and forced into marriage. We must not mince words, today a genocide is being committed against Christians and other religious minorities in their historic homelands throughout the greater Middle East. These crimes against humanity must be properly acknowledged in order for the global community to appropriately respond to these infringements on religious freedom.”
    09.10.15 Genocide Resolution
    # # #

    Let's hope John Kerry remembers, during the Pope's visit, that as a Catholic, he can ask for absolution and forgiveness.

    And that he needs to.

    He's far from the only one at fault.  While US lawmakers press for recognition of the ongoing War Crimes, a question might be: Why do they have to?

    You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
    All those pretty lies, pretty lies
    When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
    Only pretty lies, just pretty lies
    -- "The Last Time I Saw Richard," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Blue album.

    The Last Time I Saw Barack?

    Barack is president.  On his 2008 campaign site, it was clearly stated:

    Preventing Humanitarian Crisis

    Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that America has both a moral obligation and a responsibility for security that demands we confront Iraq’s humanitarian crisis -- more than five million Iraqis are refugees or are displaced inside their own country. Obama and Biden will form an international working group to address this crisis. They will provide at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, and ensure that Iraqis inside their own country can find sanctuary. Obama and Biden will also work with Iraqi authorities and the international community to hold accountable the perpetrators of potential war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. They will reserve the right to intervene militarily, with our international partners, to suppress potential genocidal violence within Iraq.

    Words have always come so easy for Barack.

    Action and follow up?

    Not so easy.

    Had he kept his word in 2008, US lawmakers wouldn't have to be attempting to pass a resolution today.

    Back to the press briefing.

    QUESTION: John, can you share with us any of the current status – some say imminence – of the battle for the liberation of Ramadi, where there are some 10,000 Iraqi forces assembled? They have American trainers with them and so on, and in fact, there has been increased reconnaissance flights over the area. Is there anything that you can share with us about this?

    MR KIRBY: No, Said. As you know, I really try to stick – stay away from talking about military matters from this podium. I’d really – I’d point you to my colleagues at the Pentagon to speak to something like that.

    QUESTION: Because this battle was apparently to take place some weeks back, but now it’s been put off time and time again because the Iraqis were not ready. Is there anything new that may change the situation where this could coincide with the leaders – the world leaders meetings at the UN?

    MR KIRBY: Again, I don’t want to talk about military matters, but I do want to walk you away from any notion that operational issues are being scheduled or determined by political meetings in New York or anywhere else. The coalition military leaders know how to schedule, plan, and implement, execute operations, and many of these are Iraqi-led and – Iraqi-planned and led operations. It’s their strategy, their operational plan that we are helping execute.
    It can be affected by weather. It can be affected certainly by enemy actions. And it can certainly be affected by issues of readiness, whether it’s materiel readiness or personnel readiness. Any one of those or all three can affect the timing of operations and an operational schedule. Again, I’d point you to my colleagues at the Pentagon for more information about what’s going on right now on the ground.

    QUESTION: My last question on this. But you can confirm that American military personnel and trainers are actually with the Iraqi units on the front line, training them?

    MR KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to speak to military matters, but I do think it’s important to point out that the focus of U.S. military members has been training and helping equip and improving the battlefield competence of Iraqi Security Forces. And they’re doing that on bases designated for that purpose, that American troops are not accompanying Iraqi forces into the field. That’s never been a part of the mission. That hasn’t changed. But I’m already straying more into lanes that I’m not supposed to.

    Kirby's non-denial comes as John Hall (Daily Mail) reports:

    An 160-soldier strong American fighting force has arrived in Iraq in preparation for a decisive battle against Islamic State militants in the centre of the country, it has been claimed.
    The battalion secretively arrived in the frontline province of Anbar, 70 miles west of the capital Baghdad, according to several local news outlets, who cited an unnamed Iraqi military official.
    Although the U.S. is yet to confirm the reports, it would be the first time American group troops were deployed for combat in Iraq since forces were withdrawn in 2011. That said, several hundred U.S. soldiers are already stationed in Anbar but their work has been limited to training local groups.

    A note.   David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  We've long noted David's work here -- both on labor and immigration and the merging of the two (as they so often do).  In addition to being a strong reporter, his photos are art.

    David had a photo exhibit September 12th.  I would've loved to have noted it (and feel bad that I didn't).  Reality, no matter what the western press pretends, Iraq is once again a domestic issue.  I've been speaking out against the war on Iraq since February 2003 (a month before it started).  We are seeing a demand on campus (thank you to Dona who continues to schedule all of our speaking events) that we haven't seen Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.

    Iraq is not minor on campuses these days.  The public speaking schedule is overwhelming right now. So some stuff I would've have had time for is going to go on hold and other things I would've liked to note -- David Bacon's September 12th exhibit -- I'm going to miss because there is just not time.

    The US media has no idea what's going on with the horse race for the presidency.  They have no idea where the youth vote stands.  No candidate has truly connected with young America.  As it pertains to Iraq, some of that will make it into snapshots (as it has during previous election cycles).

    But in terms of this space, I'm doing as best I can and, yes, I'm longing for the day when I can walk away.  This was never supposed to have lasted eleven years or been a daily aspect of my life.  As noted many times before, following Kerry's loss in 2004, this site began as part of brainstorming with other activists about what we could have done but didn't do that might have helped send Bully Boy Bush out of the White House and end the Iraq War.  (I no longer believe John Kerry would have ended it if he had been elected president.  I did believe that -- foolishly -- in 2004.)

    I'm still here -- for now -- but there is an increased demand for our speaking (Kat, Wally, Ava and myself).  On Third, we're considering changing it to Third Estate Monday Review (that's not a joke).  If it changes, we'll note it here.  But for Kat, Wally, Ava and myself, we are exhausted.  And we just aren't willing to spend all hours of Sunday morning, afternoon and night on Third.  Not when we have to get on a plane first thing Monday morning, land and spend the whole day (and night) speaking.  So again, it may become Monday Review.

    (What does that do?  Force everyone to be more focused because Monday's usually a busy day for everyone participating.)

    If you're e-mailing about an event, you need to have the date in your subject heading.  We have far too much coming in to the public account and those working it are overwhelmed.  I have no problem including your event -- even if it's not Iraq related (though it should be) -- except when I'm dictating these snapshots, I'm pulling from the folder of the public account I go to and I don't have time to open 50 event e-mails as I dictate.  If the date of your event isn't in your heading, I'm not opening the e-mail to find out when it is.

    My apologies to David Bacon because we do try to note him as much as possible.  He does important work and serious work.  He largely avoids partisan politics to cover labor and immigration and their intersection.  The world needs far less gas bags and far more David Bacons.

    We're closing with this:

    by David Bacon
    Contexts, a publication of the American Sociological Association
    September 7, 2015, Summer 2015 issue
    All photos and text (c) David Bacon, 2015.

    The Spaniards conquered the Zapotecs of the central valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico, almost 500 years ago, in an earth-shattering series of events. It changed everything in the lives of the conquered. So many died that many indigenous peoples came close to disappearing; some estimates hold that the indigenous population of the Americas was reduced by 90% in the two centuries following the conquest. The population drop was so great that the Spaniards later had to bring slaves to labor in their plantations on the Costa Chica (Oaxaca's Pacific coast).

    Such change and catastrophe, however, produced one of the world's most beautiful dances: The Dance of the Feather. Today, it is performed in a number of towns in central Oaxaca, among them the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle. In one of life's ironies, the forced migration of the Zapotecs, driven from their homes by poverty and conquest, helped this commemorative dance survive.