Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why would anyone see The Martian?


colberniesanders


Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Col Bernie Sanders" takes on e Sanders' lack of diversity in message or support.

Another White man struggling with connecting to others?


Actor Matt Damon.

He already felt the need this month to explain racism to an African-American woman on Project Greenlight.

Now he's in hot water for saying gay actors should stay in the closet and that no one should discuss their personal life -- in an interview where he couldn't stop mentioning his wife.

(In Boston, the general assumption has always been that homegrown boy is gay.)

It's like he's trying to alienate the world and prevent anyone from seeing his bad Gravity rip off (The Martian).



This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday: 
Tuesday, September 29, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack gives another speech, the prostitution rings in Iraq finally get some press attention, and much more.




These are the words, the words are these,
death lingering, stunk,
Flies swarming everyone
Over the whole summit peak
Flesh quivering in the heat
This was something else again
I fear it cannot be explained
The words that make, the words that make
murder
What if I take my problem to the United Nations?
-- "The Words That Maketh Murder," written by PJ Harvey, first appears on her album LET ENGLAND SHAKE



Yesterday, US President Barack Obama insisted before the United Nations, "Even as our economy is growing and our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, we see in our debates about America’s role in the world a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is incompatible with peace."


The economy's growing (at a snail's pace) and "our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan"?

Not quite what he ran on in 2008, is it?


Back then, the Cult of St Barack gathered to hear him thunder, "We want to end the war!"


They might have puzzled over -- maybe even booed? -- a statement like, "We want to largely end the war!"


He further insisted:


In Iraq, the United States learned the hard lesson that even hundreds of thousands of brave, effective troops, trillions of dollars from our Treasury, cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land.  Unless we work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not succeed.  And unless we work together to defeat the ideas that drive different communities in a country like Iraq into conflict, any order that our militaries can impose will be temporary.   



What international norm or principle is Barack exhibiting when he drops bombs daily on Iraq?


What hard lesson taught him that would work?


Because it hasn't worked for over a year now.


Operation Inherent Failure.


Robert Burns (AP) sums it up, "A summer of stalemate in the effort to reclaim the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, despite U.S.-backed Iraqi troops vastly outnumbering Islamic State fighters, calls into question not only Iraq's ability to win a test of wills over key territory but also the future direction of Washington's approach to defeating the extremist group."


Not only is Barack's plan or 'plan' a failure but its exhausted patience within Iraq.  Al Mada reports that Shi'ite political parties are nervous about the US' military role in Iraq and plan to ask Haider about it (if and) when he finally appears before Parliament.  MP Mohammad al-Karbouli serves on Parliament's Defense Committee and states that the popular crowd (Shi'ite militias) insist that there should be no foreign troops on Iraqi soil.

Confronted with strong opposition, will Haider fold or dance like the puppet he is for the White House?

Zayd Alisa (Open Democracy) offers this:

One year after Haider Al Abadi took over the premiership and the US commenced airstrikes against ISIL or ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, previously known as Al Qaeda in Iraq - AIQ), Iraq is grappling with not only an increasingly menacing existential threat posed by ISIL, but also an intensifying wave of protests. Erupting in Basra—Iraq’s major port and above all where the overwhelming majority of Iraq’s oil exports stems from—the protests swiftly swept through southern provinces, eventually reaching the capital Baghdad.
The demonstrations were initially sparked by a brutal heat wave, which has been exacerbated by an indefensible chronic shortage in the electricity supply and by almost non-existent public services. They have dramatically expanded, however, forcefully calling for an all-out war on corruption and swift political reform.

These protests have sent shock waves across the Shia political blocs, largely because they are severely undermining their credibility and legitimacy with their Shia powerbase. The three biggest Shia political blocs, which have persistently been at the heart of all Shia-led governments since the US-led invasion in 2003, are the State of the Law (SoL), which is led by the Dawa party, and from which comes not only the incumbent prime minister, Abadi, but also his predecessors Nouri Al Maliki and Ibrahim Al Jaafari; Islamic Supreme Council (ISC) led by Ammar Al Hakim; and the Sadrist Al-Ahrar bloc.


Challenges to Haider go beyond the Parliament.  Zaid Sabah and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report:



A Shiite militia that refuses even to identify its leader is emerging as one of the greatest threats to the Iraqi administration it’s meant to be backing.
Kataib Hezbollah has thousands of fighters deployed against the jihadists of Islamic State. While the Iranian-backed group has played a key role in helping Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi stem the militants’ advance, it’s now joining forces with other Shiite militias to oppose the premier’s push to enact a measure that could limit its own power, and Tehran’s influence.
At the heart of the dispute is the National Guard Law, legislation meant to bring all pro-government armed groups under a unified command. The measure is backed by the U.S. as the only way to halt the breakup of OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer.


And yet All Iraq News quotes MP Jasim Mohammed Jaafar (Iraqi National Alliance) insisting that the National Guard bill "will be endorsed by the Iraqi Parliament after the vacation of Eid Adha."


Of course, one MP after another has insisted for over a year now that this bill was on the verge of passing.

Barack himself's been pushing it publicly since June of 2014.

Maybe he should have made his (military) support conditional?  No passage of the bill, no US war planes?




Haider's been busy in the US of late.


His Tweeter feed is little more than glorified selfies.






  • PM Al-Abadi met Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, special coordinator for the peace process in the Middle East





  • Mladenov?


    The failure as head of UNAMI is now over the peace process?

    Well I guess that's one way to rig the effort and ensure no progress.


    Mohammed Shafiq (Alsumaria) reports that Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari also addressed the United Nations Monday insisting that it needed to help Iraq with its crises.

     Which I guess is his way of insisting that the new deal with Russia was necessary.



    CBS and AP note:


    Iraq will begin sharing "security and intelligence" information with Russia, Syria and Iran to help combat the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS,) the Iraqi military announced Sunday.
    A statement issued by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said the countries will "help and cooperate in collecting information about the terrorist Daesh group," using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

    On CNN (see video on page), they argue the aspect of the goals of the US versus Russia with regards to Syria (the US government wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad replaced -- that has been the goal since the days of Bully Boy Bush).


    But another aspect is how can Iraq share intelligence with Russia?

    The US is sharing intel with Iraq which Iraq will then pass on to Russia?


    I have no problem with intel being shared but I'm not the person in the White House who has demonized Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Barack created the 'great enemy' Putin -- as we noted in real time.


    Putin was a minor player -- a fading one -- until the President of the United States repeatedly elevated him at the end of Barack's first term by verbally attacking him.


    That was Barack's decision and the world lives with the consequences.


    So it's worth noting now that the chain of intel will go something like this: US government shares with Iraq which then shares with Russia.


    Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) offers this take:

    Yesterday’s announcement that Iraq is going to engage in intelligence sharing with Russia and Syria has been met negatively by Pentagon officials, who say that it “complicates” the US war and dramatically weakens America’s own intelligence gathering abilities.
    This problem appears to be largely a function of US annoyance at the information sharing, which means the Pentagon intends to limit intelligence sharing with Iraq, seemingly out of spite, and will subsequently get less intelligence from Iraq in return.


    Ditz seems a little self-righteous and ignorant in the above.

    I have no problem with intel sharing.

    But I do grasp that the US might not want to share intel with someone they're picking a fight with.

    I'm confused as to why that's such a mystery to Jason Ditz.



    Violence continues in Iraq.  Monday?  Alsumaria reports a Baghdad car bombing left 3 people dead and seven more injured and Khalidiya mortar and rockets attack killed 1 sixteen-year-old girl and left two children and two adults injured. Iraq Times adds that a 45-year-old man was shot dead (three shots to the chest) in front of his Basra home by militia members and a Basra tribal clash left 3 people dead and a fourth injured.


    In other news, Alsumaria notes that the Ministry of Health states there are now 401 confirmed cholera cases in Iraq. All Iraq News adds that 14 confirmed cases are in Diwaniya Province.

    On cholera, we'll note this Tweet:











  • For years, we've noted the sex trade in Iraq.  Few have.  Off Our Backs did (the feminist publication ceased publication shortly after).  Today, CNN's Arwa Damon Tweets:
















  • The New Yorker report is by Rania Abouzeid and here's an excerpt:



    In 2012, Iraq passed its first law specifically against human trafficking, but the law is routinely ignored, and sexual crimes, including rape and forced prostitution, are common, women’s-rights groups say. Statistics are hard to come by, but in 2011, according to the latest Ministry of Planning report, a survey found that more than nine per cent of respondents between the ages of fifteen and fifty-four said they had been subjected to sexual violence. The real number is likely much higher, given the shame attached to reporting such crimes in a society where a family’s honor is often tied to the chastity of its women. The victims of these crimes are often considered outcasts and can be killed for “dishonoring” their family or their community.
    Since 2006, Layla, a rape victim and former prostitute, has been secretly mapping Iraq’s underworld of sex trafficking and prostitution. Through her network of contacts in the sex trade, she gathers information about who is selling whom and for how much, where the victims are from, and where they are prostituted and trafficked. She passes the information, through intermediaries, to Iraqi authorities, who usually fail to act on it. Still, her work has helped to convict several pimps, including some who kidnapped children. That Saturday night, I accompanied Layla and Mohammad on a tour of some of the places that she investigates, on the condition that I change her name, minimize details that might identify her, and not name her intermediaries.

    The work is extremely dangerous. The pimps whom Layla encounters are women, but behind them is a tangled hierarchy of armed men: corrupt police, militias that profit from the sex trade, and militias that brutally oppose it. On the morning of July 13, 2014, the bullet-ridden bodies of twenty-eight women and five men were retrieved from two apartments, said to be brothels, in a building complex in Zayouna, a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. I saw the bodies a few hours later, at the city morgue, laid out on the floor. Morgue workers blamed the religious militias, singling out the pro-Iranian Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, one of the many armed outfits proliferating in Iraq. Other groups of suspected prostitutes have been found shot dead, but the Zayouna incident was the largest killing in recent years, and it prompted at least fifteen neighborhood pimps whom Layla knew to flee with their girls to Iraqi Kurdistan. Layla often visits apartments like the ones in Zayouna, posing as a retired pimp. As a cover, she sells the madams abayas that are intricately embroidered with colored crystals and diamant├ęs; they serve to identify women as pimps, rather than prostitutes, at night clubs.



    I should probably do a correction.

    Off Our Backs did report on the issue.

    In fairness, AFP also frequently mentioned "prostitutes."

    Whenever a woman died and someone accused her of having been a prostitute -- excuse me, whenever a woman was murdered and someone accused her of having been a prostitute -- an anonymous neighbor or a vindictive police officer -- AFP was happy to report this allegation as fact -- despite having no proof and knowing what a slur the charge was in Iraq.

    Now AFP was never interested in reporting on prostitute rings or pimps or anything like that.

    But let a woman be murdered and AFP was happy to stamp her with "prostitute" -- in a "she had it coming" kind of way.





    Lastly, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Col Bernie Sanders" went up last night.








     


    Sunday, September 27, 2015

    Shocking

    NPR reports:

    Turned off by a slightly smelly fillet of halibut? Don't think that grilled salmon will be any good tomorrow?
    Such mealtime decisions may seem innocent enough, but when they're made by people all over the country, they add up to a staggering amount of waste. Nearly half the U.S. seafood supply winds up uneaten, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

    From 2009 to 2013, 2.3 billion pounds of seafood on average in the U.S. was wasted annually. That's 208 billion grams of protein a year that no one got to eat.

    That's a lot of wasted food.



    This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"



    Friday, September 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the grades are coming in and Barack's getting Fs, RAND has a new report, and much more.





    Starting with a Tweet.




    1. It's revealing that this Australian govt thinks the answer to 's problems is (more) planes and bombs. That's been tried before, people!



  • It's revealing that any US government can only think of  "(more) planes and bombs."

    US President Barack Obama is only the latest American fool to preach "(more) planes and bombs."

    And despite the lack of success for over a year now, he continues to advocate it.

    And others, like the Australian government, rush to join in on the deadly nonsense.

    The stupidity only increases collectively and apparently in unison.


    The rush to join the death club clouds reason and even the abilities of basic observation.


    As RT noted this week, "Over 53,000 flights, 6700 strikes, and nearly $4 billion dollars later, Operation Inherent Resolve has yet to achieve any of its objectives."


    But the desire to join the death club is too powerful to be let facts get in the way.



    Yesterday, the US Defense Dept boasted:


    Bomber, fighter, fighter-attack, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 16 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with the Iraqi government:
    -- Near Huwayjah, an airstrike destroyed 16 ISIL fighting positions.
    -- Near Habbaniyah, an airstrike destroyed two ISIL anti-air artillery pieces.
    -- Near Kirkuk, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
    -- Near Mosul, six airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL vehicle bomb-making facilities, an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL cache, an ISIL bunker, and suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL light machine gun, and two ISIL mortar positions.
    -- Near Ramadi, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroyed two ISIL buildings, an ISIL excavator, and three ISIL mobility obstacles.
    -- Near Sinjar, three airstrikes struck separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed and ISIL light machine gun and six ISIL fighting positions.
    -- Near Tal Afar, one airstrike suppressed ISIL mortar fire.

    Officials also announced a previously unreported Sept. 10 airstrike near Tal Afar, Iraq, which struck an ISIL tactical unit and resulted in a destroyed vehicle and the death of a senior ISIL leader.

    They boasted of that (and of bombings on Syria) and:

    The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.
    Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

    It was nice of them to provide a listing of all the delusional parties who shouldn't be allowed access to a water gun, let alone a bomb.

    But each day, they boast of their latest round of bombings when they should be embarrassed.


    Not only is it barbaric, but it's accomplished nothing.

    Operation Inherent Failure, led by Barack Obama.

    Is that redundant?

    It feels redundant.

    Bringing up the stupidity from the rear, Michael Knights (Al Jazeera) writes:


    Iraq's Kirkuk province has long been identified as a fulcrum for political and ethnic tensions, with the potential to make or break national reconciliation efforts between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. With each passing week, Kirkuk rises on the agenda of Iraqi politicians and the province is becoming a focal point for Arab-Kurdish and intra-Kurdish politicking.
    Kirkuk is currently central to five interlocking sets of conflicts. The first is the fight against the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, which is slowing down in central Iraq and which has been largely static along the Kurdish-ISIL front line for many months. The US-led coalition now needs to generate a new northern front against ISIL that fuses together Sunni Arab paramilitaries with Kurdish and international support. Kirkuk is the launchpad for operations against the adjacent ISIL redoubt in Hawija.


    It's a cute little scribble that never manages to grasp reality.


    Should we drop back to July 2011 for the RAND Corporation's report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops"?


    From the July 26, 2011 snapshot:
     

    Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's  report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."  The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer.  If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report.  CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.  (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.)  Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years.  And had outside actors.  The authors acknowledge:
     
    ["]Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.  While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.["]
     
    As you read over the report, you may be struck by its failure to state the obvious: If the US government really wanted the issue solved, it would have been solved in the early years of the illegal war.  They don't want it solved.  The Kurds have been the most loyal ally the US has had in the country and, due to that, they don't want to upset them.  However, they're not going to pay back the loyalty with actual support, not when there's so much oil at stake.  So the Kurds were and will continue to be told their interests matter but the US will continue to blow the Kurdish issues off over and over.  Greed trumps loyalty is the message.  (If you doubt it, the Constitution guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by December 31, 2007.  Not only did the US government install Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006, they continued to back him for a second term in 2010 despite his failure to follow the Constitution.)
     
    Along with avoiding that reality, the report seems rather small-minded or, at least, "niche driven."  Again, the authors acknowledge that as well noting that they're not presenting a solution to the problems or ways to reach a solution, just ways to kick the can further down the road and, hopefully, there won't be an explosion that forces the issue any time soon. ("Regional and local CBMs have the potential to keep a lid on inter-communal tensions that will, without question, boil beneath the surface for a long time.  They cannot, however, resolve what is, at its heart, a strategic political dispute that must be resolved at the national level.") Hopefully? Page nine of the report notes that the consensus of US military, officials, analysts, etc. who have worked on the issue is that -- "given enough time -- Arab and Kurdish participants will eventually have a dispute that leads to violence, which will cause the mechanism to degrade or collapse."
     
    The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq."  It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.
     
    The authors argue that the unresolved issues could still be solved (and "civil war is not imminent") but that "the window is quickly closing".  So what's the problem?  The authors explain:
     
    ["]The issues that divide Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and other minorities in northern Iraq mirror the nation's most complex and contentious political challenges: disputed internal boundaries (which must be settled in order to determine the territorial boundaires of the Kurdistan region), the lack of clarity regarding control over Iraq's hydrocarbons, and the need to professionalize and integrate Iraq's military and police.  More locally, Arab-Kurd disputes extend to the sharing of power on local governing bodies, the ethnic composition of local police, rights to previously seized or abandoned property, the jurisidiction and condut of Kurdish security and intelligence services, and protections for minority rights.["]
     
    If the US military leaves can the US State Dept fill the role?  While the authors note that the State Dept is interested in doing that and might be able to grab some roles, "U.S. diplomats would be ill-suited to join Kurdish and Iraqi security forces on armed patrols or at checkpoints, where disagreements on operations and tactics are more likely to lead to violence." The authors think the United Nations might be able to play a role in the CBMs but acknowledges that in June of 2009, UNAMI was uanble to please either side.
     
    The report really ends there though the authors continue on -- including offering some ridiculous 'soutions.'  Reality, if the US wanted to make an impact on the issue, the time to do so was long, long ago.  It's an Iraqi decision and they'll have to decide it.  And they'll most likely do so in a violent manner.  The report notes, "Kurdish leaders hope that favorable demographic trends will strengthen their position over time, as will revenues from whatever energy contracts they are able to conclude themselves.  For its part, Baghdad seems to believe that improvements to Iraqi Army capabilities will deter armed conflict and prevent the KRG from seceding."



    The unresolved issue of Kirkuk remains unresolved.

    It is still disputed land.

    The Constitution of Iraq is still not being followed.

    But Knights waives away all of that and insists Kirkuk is the way forward  (obsessed Brit TV watchers would insist Essex is the only way).

    And RAND?  They just issued a report by Brian Michael Jenkins entitled [PDF format warning] "How the Current Conflicts Are Shaping the Future of Syria and Iraq."



     Sectarian and ethnic divisions are now almost entirely driving the conflicts.  At the same time, internecine conflicts continue among the jihadists and other religiously motivated rebel formations.  
    National armies have failed.  Power has shifted to militias.  These are capable of defending ethnic and sectarian enclaves but are limited in their ability to conduct strategic operations beyond their home ground.  This shift will, in turn, weaken central government authority. 
    Syria and Iraq are now effectively partioned, and those partitions are likely to persist.  The Kurds are consolidating their territory, united their enclaves in Syria and Iraq, and laying the foundation for a future independent state, although they have not announced their intention.  Although the Kurds are proving to be effective fighters when supported by coalition bombing, they are unlikely to advance into traditional Sunni areas.  The Syrian government has largely abandoned the Sunni areas of the country and is increasingly devoted to defending its sectarian bastion in western Syria.  The Shia-dominated government in Baghdad has not been able to win over any of Iraq's Sunnis and that will impede its ability to recapture the cities and towns now held by ISIL.  Whether ISIL, despite the bombing campaign and some pressure from Iraqi forces, will be able to consolidate its Islamic State and become the primary political expression of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq or, instead, a Sunni badlands emerge where warfare between armed rivals continue indefinitely, remains to be seen.



    If the new release from RAND were a report card, I have a feeling little Barry would be hiding it from his mother because, if you missed it, Operation Inherent Failure is a failure.


    Even the grade from shop class is dismal.  Ali Khedery (Foreign Affairs) observes:


    In 2010, still flushed with the success of Bush’s “surge,” Vice President Joe Biden forecast that President Barack Obama’s Iraq policy was “going to be one of the great achievements of this administration,” lauding Iraqis for using “the political process, rather than guns, to settle their differences.” And in 2012, even as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was running an increasingly authoritarian and dysfunctional regime, the administration continued its happy talk. “Many predicted that the violence would return and Iraq would slide back toward sectarian war,” said Antony Blinken, then Biden’s national security adviser. “Those predictions proved wrong.”
    Today, of course, the Iraqi army has all but collapsed, despite some $25 billion in U.S. assistance. Shiite militants who have sworn allegiance to Iran’s supreme leader operate with impunity. And the Islamic State (or ISIS) dominates more than a third of Iraq and half of Syria. Obama’s successor will thus certainly earn the distinction of becoming the fifth consecutive president to bomb Iraq.


    Yes, Barack's even failing shop class.


    I heard it in the wind last night
    It sounded like applause
    Chilly now
    End of summer
    No more shiny hot nights
    It was just the arbutus rustling
    And the bumping of the logs
    And the moon swept down black water
    Like an empty spotlight 

    -- "For The Roses," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name




    Chilly now.













    Friday, September 25, 2015

    Patrick Martin has a point

    As noted many times, I'm Catholic.  So I'm going to make a point, in the non-stop gasping press surrounding Pope Francis' visit to the US to share something that expresses concern and dismay.

    Patrick Martin (WSWS) writes:

    The address by Pope Francis to a joint session of Congress Thursday morning was another milestone in the decay of democratic principles in the United States. Never has the separation of church and state, laid down in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, been so flagrantly trampled upon. (See “The Pope in America”)
    The event was carried out with all the pomp and circumstance of a presidential State of the Union address, complete with Supreme Court justices in their robes and Pentagon brass in their uniforms, as well as the Obama cabinet, with House Speaker John Boehner and Vice President Joseph Biden seated on the platform behind the Pope side by side.
    The speaker was not an elected public official, however, but the head of a religious institution, who was given an hour to expound on his policy preferences, justified quite openly on the basis of the particular religious doctrines he espouses. His audience of congressmen, senators and other high officials interrupted him repeatedly with applause and several standing ovations.
    What qualifies Pope Francis to pronounce on what makes a good political leader? He presides over the Roman Catholic Church, one of the most reactionary institutions on the planet, for centuries the foremost enemy of science, reason and social progress.
    Prior to his elevation to the papacy in 2013, he had a long career in Argentina, where the Catholic hierarchy embraced the bloodstained military junta that slaughtered tens of thousands between 1976 and 1983. During that period, Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was a leading clerical official in Buenos Aires.

    The shameless and ignorant American media has transformed yesterday’s collaborator with a regime of torture and mass murder into today’s “People’s Pope”—the branding logo used by CNN for its nonstop coverage of the papal visit.


    And Patrick Martin has a point.

    A little window dressing via statements sprinkled here and there and suddenly Pope Francis is as cuddly as a teddy bear.

    This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Wednesday:


    Wednesday, September 23, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi backs off his reforms or 'reforms,' just in time for the Pope's US visit President Barack Obama remembers Iraq, the cooked intel story is not going away, and much more.




    Today, the State Dept's Deputy Sex Addict Brett McGurk Tweeted:








  • Today with , confirmed $75M for acute needs of Iraqi IDPs & named a special coordinator for 's minorities.




  • And to think, all it took was a face-to-face with the Pope for US President Barack Obama to finally recognize the refugee crisis other countries have been noting for weeks.

    Brett's giddy Barack named a special coordinator for Iraq's minorities?

    Apparently, Brett'll use any excuse to whip it out (but didn't we already know that).

    Otherwise, why not grasp that this "special coordinator" will be about as effective as the ridiculous Daniel Fried who was John Kerry's "Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf" from November 2011 until January 2013 -- and accomplished nothing.


    Nothing.


    If you're in doubt, this week former US House Rep Patrick Kennedy penned a column which included:


    My uncle, President John F. Kennedy, managed to negotiate a nuclear deal with a hostile adversary (the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signed with the Soviet Union in August 1963) while actively supporting, in both rhetoric and to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in funding, the cause of democracy in Eastern bloc countries. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan took the same approach with the USSR by signing the INF Treaty while redoubling the U.S. commitment to democracy behind the Iron Curtain. This strategy kept faith with America's deepest-held values and most vital interests. Sadly, today our government has not pursued a similar course with respect to Iran.
    While my former colleagues in Congress have now given President Barack Obama the votes he needs for a nuclear deal, what's been equally worrisome has been the near total abdication of America's moral authority on promoting democracy and human rights in Iran, both of which were under assault even during the nuclear talks, when we had maximum leverage.
    [. . .]
    The U.S. can start by taking prompt action to protect thousands of Iranian dissidents who languish like sitting ducks in an Iraqi camp we swore to protect but didn't, for fear of alienating the regime from the negotiating table. With the deal done, one would think the Obama administration now has the leverage to save these souls who cast their lot with a secular, democratic, non-nuclear Iran. After years of ambushes and massacres at the hands of Iran-supported forces, these brave men and women should be protected from further attacks at the ironically named Camp Liberty. We must make clear to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that he is responsible for the protection of these Iranian dissidents, and they must be brought to the safety of third-party nations.

    The deal is done, but America's interests and values endure. We must now use the imminent passage of the nuclear pact to renew America's unique commitment to the ideal of democracy and human rights in Iran and stand with the Iranian people and not their oppressors.



    For approximately 14 months, Fried held a role that tasked him with relocating less than 4,000 people.


    And he failed.


    He failed and no one cared and the press didn't even muster a yawn.



    For those who've boarded the plane late, here's an overview on the Ashraf community.  As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  It was during that attack that the 7 hostages were taken.

    The seven remain missing -- though John Kerry and Brett McGurk have insisted to Congress that they know where the 7 are -- and the Ashraf community still needs homes outside of Iraq.


    So Pope Francis comes to the US and suddenly Barack finds another job to create where an advisor will do nothing and accomplish nothing?

    What a proud moment for us all.




    Barack delivered empty words June 19, 2014 when he insisted the only answer for Iraq was a political solution.

    There's no political solution all this time later.

    And the latest US-installed puppet, Haider al-Abadi, is a joke.

    Nour Malas (Wall St. Journal) reports on Haider's reforms or 'reforms' and how Haider's well covered press announcements have not resulted in action -- but Haider "has backtracked" from his promises.

    There is still no National Guard.

    The main thing with the Guard?  This was going to bring Sunnis into the process.


    Persecuted under Nouri al-Maliki, this was going to bring in Sahwa and other elements.

    But apparently, Shi'ites in control do not want Sunnis in the military.

    You may remember the refusal of the Baghdad government to arm the Sunni fighters in Anbar Province -- the months of refusal and foot dragging and only when the US Congress began talking of arming the Sunnis directly did Haider finally start providing the Sunni fighters with arms.

    Malas notes that Iraqi and US officials blame Haider for failing to get Parliament to pass legislation creating the National Guard.

    Malas details how, even operating in secret (and unconstitutionally), Haider was unable to wrest control of Dawa (Shi'ite political party) from former prime minister (and forever thug) Nouri al-Maliki.  And how this and other events have led Haider to back away from his claims and promises.

    Haider held a meeting with Shi'ite military officers and Iran's Qasem Soleimani (Quds Force commander and designated a terrorist by the US government) in which he announced he would propose no more reforms with regards to the military.




    Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing (covered in the Thursday and Friday snapshots) and one topic was raised frequently.  An example.



    Committee Chair John McCain: 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.



    And:



    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.



    The cooked intel story is not going away and in the latest development Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo (New York Times) report Gregory Hooker's role:



    As the senior Iraq analyst at Central Command, the military headquarters in Tampa that oversees American military operations across the Middle East and Central Asia, Mr. Hooker is the leader of a group of analysts that is accusing senior commanders of changing intelligence reports to paint an overly optimistic portrait of the American bombing campaign against the Islamic State. The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating. 

    Although the investigation became public weeks ago, the source of the allegations and Mr. Hooker’s role have not been previously known. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former intelligence officials place the dispute directly at the heart of Central Command, with Mr. Hooker and his team in a fight over what Americans should believe about the war.



    Earlier this week,, Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef (The Daily Beast) reported on what was being cooked:


    In some cases, analysts were also urged to state that killing particular ISIS leaders and key officials would diminish the group and lead to its collapse. Many analysts, however, didn’t believe that simply taking out top ISIS leaders would have an enduring effect on overall operations.





    Amnesty International has an online petition regarding Iraq:


    One year after the take-over of Mosul by the group calling itself Islamic State (IS), Iraq is experiencing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

    Sectarian violence has spiraled to a level not seen since 2006-2007, the worst period of civil strife in the country’s recent history. IS’s territorial gains have been accompanied by widespread war crimes, including mass killings, abductions, rape and destruction. Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly religious and ethnic minorities, have been forced from their homes. Some 2.8 million people have been displaced by the conflict. Many are living in dire conditions, as the Iraqi central government and Kurdish authorities, as well as the international community, have struggled to provide for even the most basic needs of the growing number.  Many of the displaced have also been denied access to safe areas by both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) acting out of security concerns but also on sectarian and discriminatory grounds.
    At the same time, Shi’a militias acting with impunity and outside any legal framework, but with the backing of Iraqi government and government forces have been carrying out reprisal attacks against Sunni communities, including mass killings, abductions and destruction of Sunni villages.

    Sign our petition to call on the Iraqi central government, the Kurdistan Regional government and the international community to protect civilians and put an end to human rights abuses

    Call on the Iraqi government  and the Kurdistan Regional government to:
    • Ensure that all allegations of abductions, hostage-taking, enforced disappearance, unlawful killings, including extrajudicial executions and other summary killings, torture and other ill-treatment by members of pro-government militias and members of the security services or armed forces are investigated promptly, thoroughly, transparently and independently;
    Call on the Iraqi central government, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the International community to:
    • Make concerted efforts to ensure that adequate protection and humanitarian assistance including shelter, food, water, sanitation and essential medical assistance is provided to those displaced by the conflict, and that they are allowed a safe passage to safe shelter.
    • When transferring or receiving weapons, adopt a preventive approach and strict safeguards in order to mitigate and remove the substantial risk of the arms being used directly by the intended recipients, or through diversion, to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law



    If you'd like to sign the petition, click here.