Friday, March 05, 2021

The costs of war are never monitored

Jonathan Turley tackles waste below:

If you want to know why waste and conflicts of interests are so prevalent in the United States, you need to look no further than the recent report of he Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) on the so-called G222 program. I wrote about this program in 2013 but we now have the result of the criminal investigation. Under the program, the United States Air Force spent $549 million to buy 20 Italian-made cargo planes for the Afghan government. They were found to be unreliable and turned into scrap metal for $40,257. No action was taken against the company, Alenia North America, or the Air Force General responsible for the outrageous contract (despite a finding of a conflict of interest).  The Justice Department refused to take action because such cases are “unheard of.” Perhaps, but government officials and contractor heard the message loud and clear: there is virtually no contractual waste that you can commit in the United States military that will result in sanctions. This picture from SIGAR is what remains of over half a billion dollars of U.S. taxpayer money.

According to SIGAR, the Pentagon was repeatedly warned that the planes were unreliable and that there were both failures of maintenance and spare parts. Yet, the General continued to approve the spending and then sent the planes directly to the scrap yard. The officer later retired without any action taken against him. There was a push for prosecution by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, along with officials from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI, but the Justice Department killed the prosecution.

SIGAR concluded “Unfortunately, no one involved in the program was held accountable for the failure of the G222 program.”  So this company was enriched for planes that did not fly. Military officials were able to retire without prosecution. Yet, over half a billion dollars just evaporated. Poof.

War is big business.  War is for profit.  People get rich off wars.  There is so much waste and the bulk of it we never hear of.  There needs to be accountability but there is none which is why the Iraq War, for example, hits the 19 year mark in a few more days.

"TV: Clark Kent reported the truth but then he was fictional" (Ava and C.I., THE THIRD ESTATE SUNDAY REVIEW):

Is Tyler Hoechlin a weapon of the government being set loose on the domestic population? 

We wondered that while watching SUPERMAN AND LOIS because Tyler Hoechlin could be turned loose anywhere to pacify a population.  In fact, if TIGER BEAT published a dictionary, we're sure an illustration of Tyler would be found under "dreamy."

He plays Superman and he is a first rate Clark Kent.  When Superman appears in film or on TV, he tends to work if the actor can project humanity.  If the actor comes across arrogant or mocking, he tends to fail with people (see Brandon Routh).

Tyler Hoechlin fairly drips -- sweats? -- humanity.  You just want to reach out and give him a hug.  You root for him and that is especially important in SUPERMAN AND LOIS because Clark and Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) are the parents of a set of twin teenage boys.  To care about Clark's struggles as a dad, you really need an actor in the role who makes you want to root for him.

There's not a great deal to root for these days.  US President Joe Biden was only a month into his presidency when he bombed Syria at the end of last week.  It's not that the western press ignored it, it is that they ignored reality.

They spent the start of last week fretting over the lack of a 'response' to bombings in Iraq said to be targeting the ongoing US presence in the country.  Lack of response?  The US government immediately blamed the attacks on Iran.  Allow us to explain to the glorified general studies majors who try to pass themselves off as journalists, blaming Iran is a response.

That's the opening of Ava and C.I.'s latest.  I love the whole thing, they get into Syria, Justin Timberlake's using women to shore up his masculnity and much more.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

 Thursday, March 4, 2021.  The day before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq.

Tomorrow, Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq.  This would be the first time that a pope has visited Iraq.   The three day visit is expected to find the Pope traveling approximately 900 miles within Iraq.  The US corporate media has been alarmist and deliberately obtuse.  An Iraqi community member asked that her thoughts be shared.  She sees the coverage as an insult as though the Iraqi people are not, in the minds of the US press, worthy of such a visit and as if they're not capable of welcoming the Pope because they are not 'advanced' like those in the US.  She sees the press coverage as continued xenophobia.  I think her points are well taken.

This Tweet is from Pope Francis' official account:

Tomorrow I will go to #Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. I have long wanted to meet those people who have suffered so much. I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers, so it may unfold in the best possible way and bear hoped-for fruits.

Linda Bordoni (VATICAN NEWS) reports:

Pope Francis addressed the faithful on Wednesday morning asking them to accompany him with prayers as he sets off for an Apostolic Journey to Iraq.

“The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet those people who have suffered so much; to meet that martyred Church in the land of Abraham,” he said, speaking during the weekly General Audience.

Together with other religious leaders in the country, the Pope continued, he hopes another step forward will be taken “in fraternity amongst believers.”

“I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers, so that it may unfold in the best possible way and bear the hoped-for fruits," he said.

At the US Institute for Peace, Dr. Elie Abouaoun writes:

The visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Iraq this week happens in a context of despair felt across Iraq’s ethnic, provincial and sectarian spectrum. Christians in Iraq, victims of decades of oppression, look at this visit as a symbol of hope. They also hope it will help address some of their lingering fears. The pope’s priorities for Iraq’s Christians should be formulated in specific terms. While Christians in Iraq remain hemmed in on how to deal with the past, but optimistic about their future, most feel overwhelmed by the upcoming visit of Pope Francis. As in many other cases, some of the expectations from the visit are indeed too high to meet.

Iraq, known for its diverse population, has failed to protect the human rights and freedoms of its indigenous communities of which the Assyrians—ancestors of today’s Christians—are the oldest and largest. After centuries of Ottoman oppression, they paid the high price of the post-colonial failed state and dictatorship. Estimated at around 1.5 million in the 1980s, today’s numbers range between 250,000 and 400,000 at best. Most are located either in the Kurdistan Region or in Hamdaniya district in the northern province of Nineveh. While Hamdaniya was traditionally populated by Christians, most of those currently living in the Kurdistan Region landed there after fleeing from other parts of Iraq. In Nineveh specifically, the Christian population has plummeted by 80 percent since the Islamic State group’s (ISIS) invasion. Other Christian population centers in Iraq (Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, Tikrit) host only a few families.

Since 2003, religiously motivated bloodshed and the devastation caused by ISIS left many Christians dead or displaced. While some dared to return to their areas of origin, the majority is still weary of returning. Both returnees and displaced families look at their future with extreme anxiety. The massive emigration of Christian families in the last three decades does not help build the confidence of those remaining and who feel outnumbered and vulnerable. Many studies show that the primary concern of Christians—and other constituents in northern Iraq—is safety and dignity. They are afraid from both physical elimination as much as other “identitycidal” measures through induced demographic change, dilution, or exclusion. As these communities fear at least as much—if not more—for their identity than livelihood, the supreme pontiff’s visit is an opportunity to advance some tangible ideas with the hope that decision makers in Iraq and the international community can adopt some of them and put them on track to implementation.

Beyond blessing and boosting the morale of Christians, there is a thirst to see some concrete ideas championed by Pope Francis. Many want to believe that this trip has the potential to change some paradigms and affect the pull and push factors of Christian emigration. As in other post-conflict settings where some communities feel under the threat of physical elimination, internationally tested mitigation measures could be relevant. In the specific case of Iraq, it is worth exploring how to strengthen the existing constitutional guarantees in order to reassure Christians—and other constituents—about their fate and dignity.


Christians in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains have rebuilt a nursery school and other facilities destroyed by the Islamic State thanks to a custom Lamborghini auctioned off by Pope Francis. #PopeFrancisInIraq


Archbishop of Erbil: Papal visit is a gift for all Iraqi peopleBy Thaddeus Jones & Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp  Pope Francis will be visiting the Christian communities throughout Iraq, and especially the large #CatholicNews #Vatican #VaticanNews


Pope Francis says will ask God for peace in Iraq #PopeFrancisInIraq

Last week, US President Joe Biden bombed Syria because . . . he believes bombings in Iraq were carried out by . . . Iran.   Yesterday, Anbar Province's Ain al-Asad airbase  was bombed.  Bill Van Auken (WSWS) reports:

The 10 rockets that fell on the base, which houses US and other NATO troops, claimed no casualties, but one US civilian contractor died of a heart attack while sheltering during the assault. Iraqi security officials said little damage was inflicted on the base, while witnesses told local media they had seen flames and a long plume of black smoke.

Raising the prospect of another round of US military action, President Joe Biden told reporters, “We are following that through right now... we’re identifying who’s responsible and we’ll make judgments.”

The rocket attack follows last week’s US air strikes against facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militias in Syria. Those strikes, the first military action ordered by the new Democratic president, were initially reported to have killed 17 people, while later reports said that just one person died.

While there was widespread speculation that the rockets fired on Ain al-Asad were in retaliation for the US strike in Syria, as of Wednesday evening no group had claimed responsibility. The area surrounding the base is overwhelmingly Sunni and not under the control of the predominantly Shia Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an official arm of Iraq’s military, which the US military attacked last week in Syria.

Alice Fordham (NPR) adds, "The White House says officials are assessing whether further response is warranted after a U.S. civilian contractor died after suffering a "cardiac episode" during a rocket attack on an airbase in Iraq early Wednesday local time, the latest such attack since U.S. airstrikes hit Iran-backed militants last week."  At IN THESE TIMES, Danny Sjursen notes:

The campaign will do little to further the United States’ objectives in the Middle East (in as much as they can even be articulated at this point), but it heralds something more dispiriting still: That nearly two decades into a regional war, Washington (perhaps willfully) does not understand the Syria-Iraq-Iran nexus, and that the Biden administration is following a failed blueprint in the Middle East — a reality that was thrown into even sharper relief when the U.S. elected not to punish Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) after the release of a declassified intelligence report that found he was directly responsible for the murder of the Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi.

Few mainstream outlets have even bothered to ask what these pesky paramilitaries are up to. The U.S. military first intervened in Syria in 2014 following the Islamic State’s takeover of the country’s Eastern territories, along with the Northern and Western areas of Iraq. So did Iraqi Shias, who did a good amount of fighting in the bloody recapture of ISIS-occupied territories after the U.S.-trained Iraqi army all but collapsed. These militias, following the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s call to defend Baghdad, formed under an umbrella organization known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) with the support of the U.S. military. Over the last seven years, American troops have seen their mission in Syria change and change again, from defeating ISIS, to preserving Kurdish autonomy, to containing” Iran and Russia (both of which have fought the Islamic State, albeit in alliance with Syrian strongman Bashar Al-Assad), to securing” the country’s sparse oil wells. But during this time, the mission of Iraq’s militias has evolved as well — from defending the country against ISIS onslaughts to resisting America’s ongoing occupation. And so long as U.S. troops remain in place, significant segments of Iraq’s population will see these paramilitaries — and their rocket attacks — as legitimate.

The United States’ intervention in Syria has looked a lot like its disastrous invasion of Baghdad in 2003, which shattered the Iraqi state, unleashed a brutal civil war and gave rise to a deadly phoenix that would become ISIS. Both have led to the deaths of more than 1,000 militia members, along with countless civilians. And neither is likely to see a full withdrawal of U.S. troops in the immediate future. 

Joe Biden, who believes his own son’s fatal cancer was caused by exposure to toxic burn pits during his tour in Iraq, has repeatedly asked that God bless our troops. But keeping those same soldiers in a war zone like the Baghdad, Balad, and Erbil, Iraq, bases struck by rockets over the last two weeks, with no discernible aim, might be considered a sacrilege. Exacerbating matters, we are inundated with stories about Tehran and Moscow’s nefarious objectives in Syria, even as the story remains more complicated than that. (Tehran, for example, is much less powerful than Washington’s courtiers in the media would have you believe.) 

This passes for leadership.  This is the person who was ready on day one . . . until day one arrived.  At BLACK AGENDA REPORT, Danny Haiphong observes:

Last November, tens of millions voted for Joe Biden to simply replace Donald Trump. The U.S. ruling class gave Biden and his administration free reign to normalize an “expect nothing” approach to politics among the masses of people. However, the first month of Biden’s administration demonstrates the continued relevance of the materialist conception of history and its emphasis on the struggle between opposing forces that shape political and economic realities. The absence of any expectation for Biden to alter the status quo has been coupled with a proven commitment from the Biden administration to strengthen the status quo’s violent imperialist regime. Only when this is understood can a mass debate about the development of politically Left alternatives to Joe Biden and the Democratic Party truly begin to take shape amid a period of intense crisis in all realms of U.S. imperial rule.

At THE GRAYZONE, Danny also has a piece explaining how DEMOCRACY NOW! is fostering animosity against Chine:

The U.S. has claimed a humanitarian “Responsibility to Protect” to justify military operations in the name of saving civilian lives from evil dictators. Most notable have been the brutal U.S.-led wars in Libya and Syria which destabilized entire regions in the name of “civilian protection” and “promoting democracy.” These operations relied heavily on self-described human rights NGO’s and media outlets to cultivate support among liberal sectors of the US intelligentsia. Sadly, Democracy Now has been among the most influential and insidious outlets carrying water for the humanitarian interventionist agenda.  

The flagship program of the left-wing Pacifica radio network, Democracy Now (DN) and its founding host, Amy Goodman, are regarded as standard bearers of grassroots progressivism. However in recent years the show has become a reliable platform for uncritical regime change propaganda, demonizing targets of US empire from Syria to Nicaragua while sending a correspondent to embed with US-backed “rebels” in Libya. Now that China is in the crosshairs of the US, DN is playing host to virtually any piece of humanitarian agitprop that Washington can conjure up, while publishing a regular serving of sharply negative stories about Chinese government and society.

A review by The Grayzone of every China-related report and interview Democracy Now aired in the past year found that 3 out of every 4 painted China in a decidedly negative light, often echoing narratives emanating from the US State Department. Perhaps its most inflammatory and factually questionable report appeared this February amid an escalating wave of anti-China propaganda.

Amy Goodman's resorting to xenophobia and endorsements of war (see Libya) have long been noted here.  It's sad but what's sadder are the people who still don't grasp that Amy long ago walked away from any real "war and peace report."  

On Joe's bombings, Abby Martin offers this analysis.

[Dona with THIRD ESTATE SUNDAY REVIEW adding a note to C.I.'s snapshot -- Martha and Shirley called me about e-mails regarding "TV: Clark Kent reported the truth but then he was fictional" below.  C.I. and Ava made the call to publish their piece this morning.  They wrote it Sunday and it was supposed to have been up with a whole edition.  It's "Sunday" review, not Thursday.  For what should have been posted already, I reviewed a book about Anais Nin.  That will go up Sunday.  As will the interview Ava and C.I. did with Elaine and I about our books we reviewed.  But they were bothered that their TV piece was not up and I don't blame them.  They made the decision to publish it and that's all for 'this week' at THIRD.  There are no hard feelings and I completely understand what they did and why they did it.  I can speak for Ty, Jess and myself but if Jim has any difference of opinion, he can note it in the next edition.]

The following sites updated:

  • Thursday, March 04, 2021


    This is the latest video from THE CONVO COUCH.

    C.I. and Ann love THE CONVO COUCH and I'm seeing why.  I don't stream a lot of shows/podcasts but this is one I do enjoy when I'm able to stream it.  

    I like that they don't have situational ethics.  I like that they stand up for real issues.  I like that they try to listen and not just make up their minds based on the conventional chatter.

    They are iconoclasts.  I did not know that term until college.  I learned it when a professor wrote on one of C.I.'s exams, "You are a true iconoclast."  The professor was as well.  He was only there for one semester before he was dropped because he was a Socialist which was still enough to scare a university when we were in college.  I like people who think outside the box, they help us visualize and move towards change and that's how I see THE CONVO COUCH.

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

    Wednesday, March 3, 2021.  Another rocket attack in Iraq while, in the US, Neera is out and not-so-proud.

    Starting in the US with Neera down.  Yesterday, CNN reported that the White House would be withdrawing the nomination of Neera Tanden to head the OMB.

    As noted above, the White House had claimed that they were going to "fight their guts out" for Neera.  So that's how Joe fights.  Strong words and then folds.

    As for Neera, love Dana Bash's nonsense, "You have a lot of members of the United States Senate who are saying, 'C'mon, now you're going to get all upset and, you know, clutch our pearls about Tweets after we've had four years of a president who has been, you know, sending ad homenium Tweets and attacks against people?'"

    Please, Dana, tell us the names of those US senators and then explain why, if it was necessary for you to repeat that nonsense, it's not necessary for you to note that Donald Trump's Tweets were treated as a big deal every day, day after day.  By the media, by Congress.  You couldn't get through a day without learning what Donald Trump had Tweeted. 

    It's really past time that the American press grew the hell up and stopped trying to engage in food fights.  It is also past time that the US Congress, which tried to impeach Donald Trump twice -- succeeded the first time but couldn't remove him from office -- stops trying to act as if the decency standard is what Donald did.  A person needs to have a much higher level of decency than Donald Trump.

    Neera had no decency.  She got what she had coming.  She outed, to the entire workplace, a woman who came forward about on the job harassment.  That alone, as we said months ago, meant she shouldn't be overseeing any agency.  Add in that Neera fostered that toxic work environment.

    Neera was never qualified.  She had no experience for OMB and she had no experience for leadership.  Her record was unsavory.  And that's before you get into the Tweets.  And let's not ignore the fact that she was also praising people who Tweeted even more awful things than she did.  Mr. Weeks, for example, who repeatedly Tweeted anti-Semitic Tweets and was embraced by Neera before and after.  

    Neera never should have been nominated.  She wasn't qualified and her image was of someone repugnant.  The notion that this person was qualified was always laughable.  

    Time and energy were wasted on her and her nonsense.  Maybe now she can read the writing on the wall and grasp that she better work hard to rehab her image if she ever wants to try again for a federal government job?

    Otherwise, she can just remain the ugly troll of US politics, crawl back under her bridge and stay there.

    Brett Wilkins (COMMON DREAMS) notes, "Tanden's left-wing critics pointed to her history of pushing cuts to Social Security, disparaging Medicare for All and other popular ideas, and proudly raising money from massive corporations—as well as what Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called her "vicious attacks" on progressives—as they welcomed news of her torpedoed nomination."

    Last week, Joe Biden bombed Syria  because . . . he claims Iran targeted US interests in . . . Iraq.  Monday, Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Joe Responds" noted Senator Tim Kaine's questions regarding that action.

    Dave DeCamp (ANTIWAR.COM) reports:

    Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) is planning a new push to repeal or revise congressional authorizations for the use of military force, an initiative sparked by President Biden’s Syria airstrikes.

    Kaine said that this week he will likely introduce a bipartisan resolution to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that the Bush administration used to invade Iraq and the AUMF used for the Gulf War in 1991.

    “Congress doesn’t repeal these things. We pass them and they’re just floating out there to be used — they can be used in mischievous ways to justify actions long after the original crisis has passed,” Kaine said on Tuesday.

    How effective was that airstrike?  Dom Calicchio (FOX NEWS) reports, "An airbase in Iraq that hosts U.S., Iraqi and coalition troops was targeted Wednesday as multiple rockets struck the facility, a military spokesman in Iraq told Fox News."  Justine Coleman (THE HILL) adds, "The Iraqi military said in a statement that no significant losses were reported in the attack on the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq's Anbar province, but did not detail any potential casualties, according to news reports. Authorities tracked down the launch pad used to fire the rockets in the al-Baghdadi area of Anbar, an Iraqi military official told The Associated Press. "

    The attack follows the publication Monday of Ghassan Charbel's interview with Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa  al-Kadhimi entitled "Iraq PM to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Are Destined to Rid Ourselves of Foreign Hegemony"  (ASHARQ AL-AWSAT).  The inept British citizen has been hideous as a prime minister; however, his working for several Middle East outlets in the past has allowed his former co-workers to praise him in print and pretend that he's accomplished something while never disclosing their outlets' ties to Mustafa.  

    As the interview demonstrates, Mustafa remains incapable of answering a direct question.

    Are you seeking a second term as prime minister? Why haven’t you stepped down as head of intelligence? Have the agencies discovered attempts against your life?

    I was chosen to lead Iraq through a very specific transitional phase. I hope that I would succeed in this national mission during this critical time. I will in no way allow the results of the elections to impact this mission. My position allows me to oversee the armed forces. This does not contradict with my continued responsibility towards an important apparatus in its security agencies. What I am concerned about is motivating our agencies to be constantly vigilant in uncovering terrorist cells and forces that want to target the security of Iraq and its people.

    Today, I am focused on leading the country towards safety and preventing it from sliding towards a dangerous position that would impact the security, unity and future of our people. My duty before our people and history is focused on protecting the state - today and in the future - against attempts to again put it at risk.

    For those who are late to the party, protesters forced the resignation of the previous prime minister.  May 7th, Mustafa became prime minister.  The understanding was that he would hold office briefly and just to oversee early elections.  They are no longer so early.  When he finally announced them, they were set for this coming June.  Now they have been pushed back to October.  In the meantime, he has accomplished nothing.  Instead, he's wasted time attempting to set himself up for a second term.  

    Friday in Nassaririya, at least 8 protesters were killed by Iraqi security forces with another 175 left injured.  Monday, security forces attacked protesters in Baghdad.    As Amnesty's Iraq chapter recently noted:

    THIS MUST END NOW! The has failed time and time again to address the impunity with which protesters are being killed. When will the bloodshed end? #Nasiriyah #iraqprotests

    Mustafa has offered protesters hollow words while his forces continue to attack them.

    On violence, Margaret Griffis (ANTIWAR.COM) offers the following statistics for last month:

    During February, at least 190 people were killed, and 552 were wounded. Also, 33 victims were found in mass graves. Last month, 168 people were killed, and 295 were wounded; another 248 known victims were unearthed from mass graves or war rubble. Compared to January, the higher numbers appear to be the result of increased fatalities in the P.K.K. conflict in the north, and increased wounded in protests in the south.

    Violence related to the Islamic State militancy left 13 civilians, 31 security personnel, and 55 militants dead. Another 16 civilians were wounded, along with 46 security personnel and one militant. Also, six convicts were hanged on terrorism charges.

    The following sites updated: