Sunday, August 30, 2015

This is not America

Joseph Kishore (WSWS) brings the bad news:

In June 2013, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden began leaking a trove of files to the media that have documented systematic, illegal and unconstitutional spying on the population of the United States and the world. The crimes revealed make those that forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency four decades ago pale in comparison. Yet two years later, the revelations are treated by the American political establishment and media as an insignificant issue, and are not subject to any discussion or debate as part of the US presidential election campaign.
The determination of the ruling class to maintain and indeed expand its police-state apparatus was underscored by a ruling yesterday from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the country’s second highest judicial body. A three-judge panel vacated an earlier district court’s decision against the NSA’s bulk telephone metadata collection program.
The lower court ruling was the most significant judicial decision on the constitutional issues involved in one of the intelligence agency’s many spying operations. It came in December 2013, six months after Snowden revealed the extent of the bulk telephone data program. Judge Richard Leon, an appointee of George W. Bush, referred to the collection of the telephone records of nearly all Americans as “almost Orwellian.” Ruling that the program almost certainly violated the Fourth Amendment, he declared, “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without judicial approval.”

As David Bowie and the Pat Metheney Group noted on the soundtrack to THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN,   "This is not America."

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Saturday: 
Saturday, August 29, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Nineveh Province residents state US forces are engaged in on the ground combat there, the Minister of Electricity gets a pass, the press gets giddy over Haider's latest statement, Iraqi activists are being assassinated (don't look for to cover it), and much more.

Starting with the farce that is reform in Iraq,  August 25th, the Minister of Electricity was supposed to appear before Parliament.  After no-showing, he finally appeared today.  Saif Hameed (Reuters) reports Qassim al-Fahdawi, after answering questions, had the "confidence" of the Parliament and adds, "The exoneration of Fahdawi, who took office a year ago, could stir anger among protesters who complain they have yet to see tangible results from reforms announced this month by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi."

There are no results -- tangible or otherwise -- in any of Haider's announcement.

Friday saw the fools come out -- not just lunatic Reidar -- exclaiming that the Green Zone was being opened! the Green zone was being opened!

Here's what had the boys and girls jizzing and creaming in their briefs and panties:

Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi issues orders to the Special Operations forces and the Baghdad Operations Command to carry out the necessary arrangements to open the Green Zone to citizens.


Aug 28 2015  
Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi issues orders to the Special Operations forces and the Baghdad Operations Command to carry out the necessary arrangements to open the Green Zone to citizens.

PM Media Office

Haider ordered it, did he?

The same way, September 13, 2014, he ordered an ending to the bombing of the residential areas of Falluja?

Because, despite being a War Crime, the Iraqi military continued -- and continues -- to bomb the residential areas of Falluja.

Even the giddy BBC News had to express, deep in their report on the 'opening' of the Green Zone, this deflating reality, "It is not clear when the plan will be implemented."

It never is.

So maybe next time don't treat an announcement as an action?

Just saying.

Or don't treat someone who's exactly the same as his predecessor as though he's a completely different type of leader.

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Al Jazeera offers a ridiculous report on the suffering of the people of Anbar Province.

To be sure, they are suffering.

The ridiculous aspect is the "more than a month" timeline Al Jazeera offers for the Iraqi military operation to liberate or 'liberate' Iraq -- it began May 28th.

Yes, that is "more than a month."

In fact, it's more than two months.

And, today, it's more than three months.

For all the whiners in the press e-mailing how cruel and mean I am to them of late (of late? seriously, of late?), a musical interlude.

Oh, Oh, Oh, I
I learned to wave goodbye
How not to see my life
Through someone else's eyes
It's not an easy road
But now I'm not alone
So I, I won't be so hard on myself no more

Don't be so hard on yourself, no
Learn to forgive, learn to let go
Everyone trips, everyone falls
So don't be so hard on yourself, no
Because I'm just tired of marching on my own
Kind of frail, I feel it in my bones
Oh let my heart, my heart turn into stone
So don't be so hard on yourself, no
-- "Don't Be So Hard On Yourself," written by Jess Glynne, Wayne Hector and TMS, first appears on Jess' album I Cry When I Laugh

Back to Iraq, John Cassidy (New Yorker) surveys the landscape and offers:

Despite more than a year of air strikes by the United States and its allies, and despite some important battlefield successes by the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga forces during that time, ISIS appears to be as strong as ever. Or, at least, that is what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded, according to a report published a month ago by the Associated Press. And, this week, the Times revealed that the Pentagon is now investigating whether intelligence officials “skewed intelligence assessments about the United States-led campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State to provide a more optimistic account of progress.”

Obama Administration officials continue to claim that the policy of air strikes, combined with the deployment of several thousand U.S. soldiers to train Iraq’s army and the supplying of arms to the so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria, will eventually bear fruit. “I’m confident that we will succeed in defeating ISIL and that we have the right strategy,” Ashton Carter, the Defense Secretary, said last week. But Carter also conceded that “it’s going take some time.” Assuming so, that means the task of confronting ISIS, and deciding whether to escalate the level of U.S. involvement, will almost certainly fall on the next President.

Rudaw interviewed Jeannette Seppen who was in Baghdad for two years as the Netherlands Ambassador to Iraq and who is leaving to become the Netherlands Ambassador to Pakistan:

What are your best memories of the past years?
On the one hand it is sad to see what happens to the country, and on the other it’s promising to see how much resilience people show. It was surreal to visit [the Iraqi province of] Wassit and see the happiness of the governor and his people—that they had visitors again. Those are beautiful moments; that even using modest means you can still do something.

And the way IDPs and refugees try with all their might to regain their lives, the resilient people you meet. On the one hand it is sad normal people always are the victim, and on the other it is admirable how they are able to get through.

What I told my successor is that we should try to contribute to bring the lives of these people to a more normal level. Let’s realize how good things are for us, compared to so many others, and let’s get the energy and the means from this awareness to share with others that have so much less. 

The Iraqi people continue their heroic struggle for freedom -- from occupation, from puppet leaders, from corruption, from sectarianism and so much more.

But the struggle's never easy, especially when activists are assaulted -- as Iraqi Spring MC and Zaid Benjamin note as activist Khaled al-Akili is assassinated.

  1. واسط:
    ناشطون: الميليشيات الحكومية تغتال أحد ناشطي محافظة واسط الناشط المدني "خالد العگيلي" قرب منزله بمدينة الكوت

  • Iraq Times notes he was shot dead Saturday night in Kut by unknown gunmen (plural) and that he is one of several activists calling for demonstrations who has been assassinated.

    Protests took place Friday throughout Iraq:

    Incredible photos from by - protestors call for a secular  

    Turning to US politics, Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin.  Supposedly, he's seeking the Republican Party's 2016 presidential nomination.

    Supposedly, because I've never seen such a crap ass campaign and we covered Jill Stein's idiotic run in 2012.

    Walker's in the news because he gave a "major foreign policy speech."

    And you can find that out at NBC News, CBS News, etc.

    You just can't really find it at his campaign website.

    They're helpful enough to tell you how you can watch the now past speech "live" and they even offer five bulletin points from it.

    Here's a clue for Scott Walker's campaign, come into the 21st century.

    If you give a major speech, post it on your campaign website, you damn fool.

    If you don't, why did you give it?

    What a moron.

    And that "moron" is due to his idiotic campaign website.

    We long ago noted at Third, ten years ago?, that your website was your online office.  You need to run it effectively.

    Bill Barrow (AP) reports:

    Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker is calling for U.S. forces in Iraq to engage in direct combat to defeat "radical Islamic terrorists" in the Middle East.
    Yet even as the Wisconsin governor predicts a "generational struggle," he continues to avoid calling for additional ground troops beyond the roughly 3,200 military security personnel, trainers and advisers now deployed.

    Is that an accurate portrayal of Walker's view?

    I have no idea.

    He and his campaign were too stupid to post a transcript of the speech online.

    Some partisan outlets (Vox, to name one) are treating the above position sketched out by Barrow as outrageous.

    But this is US President Barack Obama's position -- though they never call him out.

    He's the one who's put over 3,200 US military personnel in Iraq.

    And this is close to the 3,500 to 4,000 he wanted to leave in Iraq after December 2011.

    And their being in combat?

    That's what he told the New York Times when he was first running for the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination -- that after starting a withdrawal, if things went bad in Iraq, he was fine with sending troops back into Iraq.

    Oh, is this news to you?

    It's because the New York Times failed to report it.

    They did a fluffy, frou-frou report based on an extensive interview with Barack.  We took the transcript of the interview and wrote the reality at Third in November 4, 2007's "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq':"

    Presidential candidate and US Senator Barack Obama who is perceived as an 'anti-war' candidate by some announced that he would not commit to a withdrawal, declared that he was comfortable sending US troops back into Iraq after a withdrawal started and lacked clarity on exactly what a withdrawal under a President Obama would mean.

    Declaring that "there are no good options in Iraq," Senator Obama went on to explain that even with his 16 month plan for withdrawal, he would continue to keep US troops in Iraq, agreeing that he would "leave behind residual force" even after what he is billing as a "troop withdrawal."

    "Even something as simple as protecting our embassy is going to be dependent on what is the security environment in Baghdad. If there is some sense of security, then that means one level of force. If you continue to have significant sectarian conflict, that means another, but this is an area where Senator Clinton and I do have a significant contrast," Senator Obama offered contrasting himself with his chief opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination. "I do think it is important for us not only to protect our embassy, but also to engage in counter-terrorism activities. We’ve seen progress against AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq], but they are a resilient group and there’s the possibility that they might try to set up new bases. I think that we should have some strike capability. But that is a very narrow mission, that we get in the business of counter terrorism as opposed to counter insurgency and even on the training and logistics front, what I have said is, if we have not seen progress politically, then our training approach should be greatly circumscribed or eliminated."

    The Senator insisted, "I want to be absolutely clear about this, because this has come up in a series of debates: I will remove all our combat troops, we will have troops there to protect our embassies and our civilian forces and we will engage in counter terrorism activities. How large that force is, whether it’s located inside Iraq or as an over the horizon force is going to depend on what our military situation is."

    The positon of the majority of Americans in poll after poll is that all US troops need to be brought home by 2008. Senator Obama's strategy calls for bringing some troops home, should he be elected president, in his first sixteen months; however, he is not, by his own words, an advocate of a "Out of Iraq" strategy.

    While maintaining that he would remove all combat troops in sixteen months he did agree that the forces left behind to fight "terrorists" would be performing "a combat function."

    He also spoke of deployment, and presumably bases, "in places like Kuwait" in order "to strike at terrorist targets successfully."

    Returning the topic of leaving US forces in Iraq even after what he's billed as a "withdrawal," the Senator delcared, "As commander in chief, I’m not going to leave trainers unprotected. In our counterterrorism efforts, I’m not going to have a situation where our efforts can’t be successful. We will structure those forces so they can be successful. We would still have human intelligence capabilities on the ground. Some of them would be civilian, as opposed to military, some would be operating out of our bases as well as our signal intelligence.

    The senator also admitted that he was comfortable with sending troops back into Iraq after what he's terming a "withdrawal" though he wanted to split hairs on what constituted "armed force."  

    Again, if that's news to you, take it up with the New York Times which had the above quotations and chose not to run with them.  As we said at the end of the above:

    That's the story they could have written based upon the interview conducted by Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny. As C.I. noted in Friday's "Iraq snapshot," the interview the reporters conducted hit harder than the sop they wrote up on it that ran on Friday's front page of the paper. 

    Walker's position is not significantly different from Barack's.  (And, for the record, I don't support either's position on Iraq.)

    And for those really harping on Walker's position that US forces should be in combat, they already are.  Those bombs dropped from US war planes?

    That's combat.

    In addition, Wael Grace (Al Mada) reported this week on what the people of Nineveh Province were seeing: US forces joining Iraqi forces in combat.

    The residents say this is not 'consulting' or 'advising' but that US forces are actually taking part in on the ground combat.

    Route 94 and Jess Glynne "My Love"

    That's Route 94 and Jess Glynne's "My Love."

    C.I. notes Glynne in Saturday's snapshot and Elaine I were both looking around on YouTube because we were completely unfamiliar with her.  She's huge in England (and just topped the album charts there).

    This is one of her early songs.

    I'm highlighting it both because it's a good song and because it's a neat video.

    Check out the video.

    This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:
    Friday, August 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, persecution of Sunnis continue, Barack cooks the intel or does he have it cooked for him?, and much more.

    To the land of Haider al-Abadi's Iraq.

    Remember him?

    The US government installed him this time last year as prime minister.

    Iraq was in flames.

    US President Barack Obama had already called the Islamic State "jv" (junior varsity -- meaning not good enough for varsity).

    And he really wasn't wrong.

    Some leap on him for that.

    But the Islamic State was -- and still is -- junior varsity for Iraq.

    Meaning when you go through the problems Iraq faces, the crises, the Islamic State really isn't the most pressing.

    That's why, June 19, 2014, Barack insisted that the only solution to the crises in Iraq was a political solution -- you know, the only thing they've refused to work on.

    A political solution is needed because the country is dividing, yes, along sectarian fault lines but also because if you are a Kurd in today's Iraq there is a good chance you are persecuted and if you are a Sunni in today's Iraq there is a great chance you are persecuted.

    Doubt it?

  • 's celeb militiaman Abu Azrael was filmed mutilating corpse of -er he allegedly burned to death. He's one of the good guys, right?

  • As noted, this thug is treated by the western media as something heroic -- a Rambo.

    It's that sort of whoring by the press that allows so many around the world to never grasp what's going on in Iraq or how things got to the point they are now.

    Or take this:

  • After executing 20 Sunni today.. Ministry of 'Justice' in is set to executes 21 Sunni female prisoners in soon..

  • How is that different from Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq?

    Right or wrong, the perception from Nouri's executions was that he was using the death penalty to get rid of Sunnis.

    Haider was supposed to provide a re-set.

    He was supposed to say to the Iraqi people, "We do not have dictators in today's Iraq.  Nouri's policies were Nouri's policies.  The Iraqi people tired of them and we can change.  I am change."

    Haider was a name change.

    Anything else though?

    Not really.

    He's supposedly addressing corruption.


    Seen any arrests yet?

    Any trials?

    Anything other than words?

    Well . . . there's the power-grab.

    That's what the reforms are.

    Remember in January 2011 when Nouri finally had his cabinet?

    But he had refused to nominate anyone for the national security posts?

    And the press insisted that, for example, Nouri would nominate someone to be the Minister of Defense in a matter of weeks -- the western press insisted that?

    Remember how one voice said that wasn't happening?

    Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, who had won the 2010 elections, defeated Nouri (who was kept on by the US-brokered Erbil Agreement -- a legal contract that gave him his second term).

    Allawi said it was a power grab.

    Allawi said Nouri was taking control of those ministries.

    And a few outlets -- western outlets -- quoted Allawi.

    None took him seriously.

    In August of 2014, Nouri finally was out as prime minister.

    During that time, who was Minister of Defense?

    Oh, right, Nouri never nominated anyone for that post or the other security ministries.

    It was a power grab.

    Ayad Allawi called it correctly.

    So maybe the press should show some interest when Allawi makes a call today?

    Doesn't mean he's right.  Just means he's worth listening to.  Worth considering.

    And what is he saying?

    National Iraqi News Agency reported:

    Head of the National Coalition (Watania List), Iyad Allawi said the government's action to cancel positions is austerity measures and not reforms.

    He said in a televised interview tonight, "the government austerity measures and not a reform, warning at the same time to circumvent the demands of the demonstrations or the political agreement document, stressing that the real reform is the agreement that produced the three presidencies (the Republic, the government and parliament)."

    He added that the Iraqi Constitution has been shredded by the lack of implementation of the agreed political agreement before the formation of the government, ".

    Yesterday, Alsumaria reported Allawi issued a statement declaring support for the Constitution and for the Iraqi citizens who have protested for the last five weeks demaning and end to currption and their rights.

    In addition, Middle East Online reported:

    Iraqi President Fuad Masum said Wednesday Iraq's constitution should be amended rather than bypassed, in an apparent criticism of the premier's plan to abolish the constitutionally mandated vice presidency.
    Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered Iraq's three vice presidential positions to be scrapped and their funding reallocated as part of a reform drive aimed at curbing rampant corruption and government waste in response to weeks of protests.
    Masum called on his website for "protecting the constitution... and not bypassing it and not stopping working with it."

    It's funny because John Kirby and other US State Dept spokespersons avoid the issue -- the issue of the law and the Constitution and the objections being raised.  They just offer support.

    Even the hideous Victoria Nuland -- spokesperson during Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State -- attempted to cloak her ruthless imperialism with the law.

    Not the latest spokespeople.

    Of course, Le Figaro and Iraq Times are convinced that the focus should be not on Haider but on his invisible man, his hidden man, Deputy Director Nofal Hassan Abu Barns who fled Iraq in the early 90s and went from a refugee at a refugee camp to, boom, CIA territory and the United States.   According to those two outlets, the White House insisted to Haider that his becoming prime minister hinged on whether or not he agreed to take Nofal on as deputy (or handler).

    Meanwhile Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef (Daily Beast) report:

    Senior military and intelligence officials have inappropriately pressured U.S. terrorism analysts to alter their assessments about the strength of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, three sources familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast. Analysts have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is, according to these sources, and to paint an overly rosy picture about how well the U.S.-led effort to defeat the group is going.
    Reports that have been deemed too pessimistic about the efficacy of the American-led campaign, or that have questioned whether a U.S.-trained Iraqi military can ultimately defeat ISIS, have been sent back down through the chain of command or haven’t been shared with senior policymakers, several analysts alleged.

    And that comes as Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo (New York Times) reported mid-week, "The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating allegations that military officials have skewed intelligence assessments about the United States-led campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State to provide a more optimistic account of progress, according to several officials familiar with the inquiry."

    Why would they cook the intelligence?

    Maybe because Barack's plan or 'plan' is a failure.

    Maybe because bombing Iraq hasn't helped Iraq.

    Maybe because training Iraqi forces hasn't helped one bit.  Not in the years and years and years of training.

    This week saw two major reports on military actions in Iraq.

    Thursday, a suicide bomber has struck in Ramadi.  BBC News reported that the bomber took his own life as well as the lives of Iraqi General Abdel Rahman Abu Ragheef and Brigadier Safeen Abdel Majeed as well as three other people.

    And to think, the three months and counting operation was getting so little attention but today, thanks to that awful news, Haider al-Abadi's failed mission is back in the news.

    Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes that the Islamic State has claimed credit for the bombing:

    The extremist group gave different account about the attack, saying that it was carried out by four of its suicide bombers driving explosive-laden vehicles and two supporting militants with heavy machine guns who targeted the main headquarters of the provincial operations command in north of Ramadi, the statement said.
    All of its six militants were killed along with killing dozens of officers and soldiers, including Staff Major General Abdul-Rahaman Abu Raghif, deputy commander of Anbar provincial Operations Command, and Staff Brig. Gen. Sefien Abdul-Majid, commander of the Army's Tenth Division, said the group which the authenticity of its statement could not be independently verified.

    The statement gave the names of the IS attackers, whom their names showed that they are from Tunisia, Gaza Strip, Tajikistan, Germany, Saudi Arab and Syria.

    Wednesday brought news of multiple villages allegedly being liberated from the control of the Islamic State.  Isabel Coles and Raissa Kasolowky (Reuters) reported that the Kurdish military -- with assist from US bombers -- had liberated ten villages in Kirkuk.

    But, again, that was the Kurdish forces.

    They're not under Haider al-Abadi's control.

    The forces under Haider's control are noted for repeat failures.  In fact, their only real 'success' tends to be in the pillaging aspect they try to down play.

    There's been no success with US training or US direct arming.  And the Kurds have been kept at arms' length with the White House and State Dept insisting the rule of law must be respected -- that is except when the rule of law is the Iraqi Constitution and Haider al-Abadi's trampling it.

    Or when the rule of law is international law and the Leahy Amendment which forbid the US to provide weapons to a government that uses those weapons on its own people -- and the civilians of Falluja have been bombed by the Iraqi military every day since January 2014.

    But we all look away from that, don't we?

    And if we can will ourselves to ignore that, we can certainly will ourselves to pretend Barack's bombings have been a success and that the Islamic State is on the run in Iraq, right?

    Matthew Continetti (Free Beacon) offers an assessment:

    The anniversary of the U.S. war against the Islamic State passed with little notice. It was August 7 of last year that President Obama authorized the first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, a campaign he expanded a month later to include targets in Syria. So far this month, the president has delivered remarks on the Voting Rights Act, his deal with Iran, the budget, clean energy, and Hurricane Katrina. ISIS? Not a peep.
    Obama’s quiet because the war is not going well. Despite the loss of Tikrit earlier this year, the Islamic State’s western boundary is stable, and its eastern boundary now encroaches on Damascus. The president’s air campaign is one of the most limited and desultory America has fought in decades—ranking last in daily averages of strike sorties and bombs dropped. In late July, when the Turks permitted America the use of their air bases to launch attacks on ISIS, a “senior administration official” told the New York Times that the decision was “a game changer.” In the ensuing days the number of airstrikes in Syria actually fell.

    The growing number of U.S. advisers—there are now more than 3,300 American military personnel in Iraq—has been unable to repair the damage wrought on the Iraqi Army by sectarian and political purges after our 2011 withdrawal. Even as the administration brags about killing more than 10,000 ISIS terrorists, a number that strains credulity, the Caliphate has become more deeply entrenched in its territory, and inspires attacks abroad.