Saturday, October 27, 2018


Matt Dobkin's book should have received a lot of attention recently with the passing of Aretha Franklin.  He wrote I NEVER LOVED A MAN THE WAY I LOVE YOU: ARETHA FRANKLIN, RESPECT, AND THE MAKING OF A SOUL MUSIC MASTERPIECE.

This is a tight book that covers the recording breakthrough of Aretha.  She had charted on Columbia but it was moving to Atlantic and recording her first album there that made her the legend, Lady Ree, the Queen of Soul.

"Dr. Feel Good" is only one of the tracks from the album that continues to live on.  There's the title track, "Respect," "Save Me" and "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man."

You'll learn about influences on Aretha like Clara Ward and Reverend James Cleveland.

You'll read about how she transformed "Respect" and "A Change Is Going To Come" -- blowing up one with additions while going minimal on the other.''

It's a smart and strong book.  I'd love to see others like it.  I've been meaning to look for a book about the Afghan Whigs' GENTLEMAN for years.  I just went to look for it on AMAZON.  I only found one book so I ordered that and I hope it's what I was looking for.

Music is art and Aretha's I NEVER LOVED A MAN is a classic.  We study art to appreciate it, to better understand it, to learn from it.  I would love to see books on Aretha's LADY SOUL and YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK and WHO'S ZOOMIN' WHO. 

Other artists?  I'd love to see books on the recording of Stevie Nicks' WILD HEART, Stevie Wonder's SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE, Prince's SIGN OF THE TIMES, Laura Nyro's ELI AND THE THIRTEENTH CONFESSION, Tori Amos' UNDER THE PINK, Ben Harper's BOTH SIDES OF THE GUN and Fiona Apple's TIDAL -- to name a few.  I would also recommend you read Michelle Mercer's WILL YOU TAKE ME AS I AM: JONI MITCHELL'S BLUE PERIOD.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Friday, October 26, 2018.   Look who's Tweeting!

I can't be the only one that wishes Ben Rhodes would stay hidden under his rock.  I imagine anyone in the White House during Barack Obama's two terms as president has to wish Ben would go off the grid.  Until he does, we have . . . Tweets like this.

Iraq has enormous challenges but worth noting that it has come a long way from the Maliki-Abadi transition.

Was the Maliki-Abadi transition difficult, Ben?

How strange because, for example, some of us noted it here -- noted how difficult it was in real time only to have you thunder to the contrary. But maybe your dramatic rage was fueled by the fact that we weren't just noting how difficult that transition was (while you were insisting it was smooth sailing) but we were noting why that transition was difficult.

Because of Barack.

In **2014**, Nouri wanted a third term as prime minister.  Yes, he'd said he wouldn't seek a third term back in 2011 and 2012 but that was back when measures were being taken to vote him out of office via a no confidence vote in Parliament.  The US government, Barack's administration, spent a lot of money -- a lot of US taxpayers' money -- ensuring that vote didn't take place.

{** Corrected year, originally and wrongly stated 2016.]

Some argued -- including here at this site -- that  undermining the Constitutional effort was undermining democracy in Iraq but, by that time, Barack Obama had made it clear he didn't care if Iraq had a democracy.

Yes, Ben, the 2010 elections.

The ones Nouri lost.  Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya came in first place.  That meant he should have been given first crack at being prime minister-designate and forming a new government.  But Nouri al-Maliki refused to step down.  And that paralyzed Barack and you.  Completely surprised you both.  You never could have seen that coming.

A complete surprise . . . despite the fact that the top ranking US general in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, warned you of the possibility months before the election, warned you and said a plan needed to be in place for how to respond should that happen.

Caught by surprise because the administration never learned how to listen or how to anticipate any outcome other than their desired response -- yes, that was the key failing throughout Barack's two terms as president.

So elections took place in March 2010.  March 7, 2010, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August 2010, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality."   Everything that had happened since?  The elections were in March.  By August, Nouri was still refusing to step down, despite losing.  The Iraqi people spoke, the US president just didn't believe their voices mattered.  So instead of the US insisting Nouri step down, they backed Nouri during his eight month refusal.  All of Iraq came to a standstill because of Nouri's tantrum.  And, in the end, US officials negotiated a contract that declared Nouri the prime minister -- The Erbil Agreement.  November 10, 2010, The Erbil Agreement is signed.  November 11, 2010, the Iraqi Parliament has their first real session in over eight months and finally declares a president, a Speaker of Parliament and Nouri as prime minister-designate -- all the things that were supposed to happen in April of 2010 but didn't.

And not only did Barack's White House negotiate that contract, they lied to everyone to get it pushed through.  This is a contract we back 100%.  Remember that lie, Ben?

To get the other political blocs to agree to allow Nouri that second term he did not win, the contract included things Nouri would do for them -- implement this part of the Constitution, create a national security post for Allawi, etc.

From the November 11, 2010 snapshot:

Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports one hiccup in the process today involved Ayad Allawi who US President Barack Obama phoned asking/pleading that he accept the deal because "his rejection of post would be a vote of no confidence". Ben Lando, Sam Dagher and Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) confirm the phone call via two sources and state Allawi will take the post -- newly created -- of chair of the National Council On Higher Policy: "Mr. Obama, in his phone call to Mr. Allawi on Thursday, promised to throw U.S. weight behind the process and guarantee that the council would retain meaningful and legal power, according to the two officials with knowledge of the phone call."  

Promised to throw U.S. weight behind the process and guarantee that the council would retain meaningful and legal power -- hmm.

Well everyone saw what Barack's word meant: Nothing.

Nouri used the contract to get his second term and then refused to honor it.  Barack responded?

By refusing to speak to Nouri.  He made Joe Biden take all the calls from Nouri and place all the calls to Nouri.  He even refused Nouri's call two years later congratulating him on his re-election.  That's showing him, Barack!

Well come back to this but let's note something one of Ben's former colleagues has been insisting to me for three years now.  Yes, Barack only made one trip to Iraq in his eight years as president.  But that's because there were serious threats on Barack in Iraq.  When I was laughing about Ben this morning with his former colleague, he again brought that up.  I replied, 'Hmm, so since ISIS has supposedly" based on press reports "threatened to kill Donald Trump, you're argument might suggest that there's a reason why Trump has thus far not gone into Iraq or Afghanistan?"  He allowed that was possible.

Back to what is known.

Here's Kenneth Pollack, Brookings Institute,  from August 2013's (PDF format warning) "The Fall and Rise and Fall of Iraq:"

The problems reemerged after Iraq’s 2010 national elections. Ayad Allawi’s mostly - Sunni Iraqiyya garnered slightly more votes than Maliki’s overwhelmingly Shi’a State of Law coalition. But Maliki refused to believe that he had lost, and refused to allow Allawi to take the first shot at forming a government. He pressured Iraq’s high court to rule that he could get the first chance to form a government.
Rather than insist that Allawi be given the first chance, as is customary in most democracies and was clearly what was best for Iraqi democracy, the United States (and the United Nations) did nothing. Ten months of bickering, backstabbing and political deadlock followed. In the end, the Iranians forced Muqtada as - Sadr to back Maliki, uniting the Shi’a behind him. At that point, the Kurds fell into place, believing that the prime minister had to be a Shi’a, and Iraqiyya’s goose was cooked. But so too was Iraqi democracy.
The message that it sent to Iraq’s people and politicians alike was that the United States under the new Obama Administration was no longer going to enforce the rules of the democratic road. We were not going to insist that the will of the people win out. We were willing to step aside and allow Iraq’s bad, old political culture of pay - offs, log - rolling, threats and violence to re - emerge to determine who would rule the country -- the same political culture that the U.S. had worked so hard to bury.
It undermined the reform of Iraqi politics and resurrected the specter of the failed state and the civil war. Having backed Maliki for prime minister if only to end the embarrassing political stalemate, the Administration compounded its mistake by lashing itself uncritically to his government. Whether out of fear of being criticized for allowing him to remain in office in the first place, or sheer lack of interest and a desire to do what required the least effort on the part of the United States, the Administration backed Maliki no matter what he did -- good, bad or indifferent.

For years, we repeatedly noted John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

We charted the rise of ISIS in Iraq.  It wasn't the Ben Rhodes fantasy of "they were locked away by American forces and they rose!"  What a load of s**t.

ISIS, created in Jordan at the end of the nineties (history's so hard for some), rose in Iraq in Nouri's second term.  Nouri al-Maliki, in his first term, was already known for torture chambers and secret prisons.  Sunnis were being disappeared.  (They were not the only ones being disappeared but the Sunnis matter in the case of ISIS.)  Barack Obama had promised a power sharing government in Nouri's second term.  There was none.  The people were suffering.  Sunnis were suffering the same issues -- lack of electricity, lack of potable water, lack of jobs -- as well as issues more specific to them -- the secret prisons and torture chambers, the disappeared, the kidnappings by police officials (if you have no warrant to arrest something, pulling someone from their home is kidnapping), the rape of Iraqi women in detention centers and prisons, etc.

The Sunnis appealed to their leaders.  Their leaders attempted to change things.  Because of Nouri's thuggish ways, the Sunni leaders were able to work with Kurds (Massoud Barani) and Shi'ites (Moqtada al-Sadr, Ammar al-Hakim, Ayad Allawi, etc) and go through the Iraqi Constitution to remove Nouri.  But the US used Jalal Talabani to railroad the process.

The Iraqi people were denied their voice in the election.  The Iraqi people saw their leaders denied a role in the political process.  Sunnis then took to the streets.

And Nouri's response was to attack them.  To kill them, to kidnap them, to call them "terrorists," to attack reporters who covered the protests, etc.

This is when ISIS, clad in black, starts appearing publicly.  They will defend the protesters from Nouri.

That's the rise of ISIS in Iraq.

And the ahistorical reading that others promote is hogwash intended to erase Barack's very real role in the promotion of ISIS in Iraq.

Did he intend to promote it?  I don't think so.  Not in Iraq.  (Syria?  There's strong arguments there.)  He was inept and he was poorly advised (yes, Ben, the finger is pointing at you).

But that's how ISIS rose in Iraq.

For Ben, of all people, to Tweet about how a transition today is not as difficult as it was in 2014?  Well maybe if you hadn't crowned the loser (Nouri) with a second term in 2010, it wouldn't have been so difficult in 2014 to get him to step down?

Adel Abdul al-Mahdi is now prime minister of Iraq.  Yesterday, his partial Cabinet met for the first time.


Link to headline article

Which is his call and he can't be faulted on.  Iran shares a border with Iraq, they do have to get along.  But it's interesting what's being highlighted.

... وتم تقديم عرض عن اهمية قانون الوزارات الموجود في البرنامج الحكومي. كما ناقش مجلس الوزراء عمل الوزارات المقبل وفق الرؤية الجديدة لتقديم افضل الخدمات للمواطنين.

  • مجلس الوزراء يناقش، في جلسته الاعتيادية الاولى، منهجية اجتماعات المجلس وتنظيم العمل المستقبلي. واكد المجلس على اهمية التعاون بين السلطتين التنفيذية والتشريعية من اجل تقديم كل ما يخدم المواطن....

  • مجلس الوزراء يناقش، في جلسته الاعتيادية الاولى، منهجية اجتماعات المجلس وتنظيم العمل المستقبلي. واكد المجلس على اهمية التعاون بين السلطتين التنفيذية والتشريعية من اجل تقديم كل ما يخدم المواطن....

    For example, in the Tweets from the prime minister's office, they met (the partial Cabinet) and they discussed the rule of law, the workings of the Cabinet, how there needs to be cooperation between the executive branch (them) and the legislative branch (Parliament), etc.

    Again, nothing necessarily wrong with that.

    But there's the issue of corruption, the issue that, over the weekend, al-Mahdi was insisting would be the number one priority of the new government, the issue that, at the start of this week, topped the supposed printed plan he had for his administration.  So where's the Tweet that they discussed that?  That they brainstormed on ways to address corruption?  Or that they even mentioned it?

    No where to be found.  Maybe it's just poor messaging?  Or maybe the vow to address corruption -- a vow made by every one who has become prime minister since 2006 -- has already been forgotten?

    Certainly, they appear to have ignored Basra.

    Activists on criticized that did not receive any ministerial portfolio within the government of Adil Abdul Mahdi, threatening of launching new .

    I can understand now the level of frustration and anger in Basra and why they had all those protests. All their waterways are disgustingly polluted! It should be the government’s priority to clean them up and thus you would have jobs for people to clean up their own city.

    They ignore Basra at their own peril.  The protests have halted due to the formation of the government and the current religious pilgrimage.  Protests are highly likely to return.

    Basra protests may resume after Arbaeen: “Stay united until you win your constitutional rights. Keep your protests peaceful and disciplined.”

    Phillip Issa (AP) reports that al-Mahdi's moving his offices out of the fortified Green Zone -- not very far, but enough to try to garner a photo op:

     "We want to consider all of Iraq a Green Zone," said Abdul-Mahdi.
    The U.S. established the Green Zone in 2003 to secure its embassy and Iraqi government institutions. But the zone has become a symbol of the country's aggressive inequality and fueled the perception among Iraqis that their government is out of touch.

    The new location, approximately 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the Green Zone, used to contain the offices of Parliament under the late dictator Saddam Hussein. Access is tightly controlled by security forces, who guard the main gate with armored vehicles.

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