Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Something to consider

 This is from Margaret Kimberley's latest at BLACK AGENDA REPORT:

The sad fact is that very few white Americans stray far from this country’s racist origins. The same New York Times readers who were rightly offended by the Nazi apologia were also supportive of their black neighbors being stopped and frisked by the NYPD. The people who are still aghast at the Trump victory should not necessarily be given a get out of jail free card.
They may get the vapors because a New York Times reporter didn’t give sufficient pushback to a man who owns Nazi memorabilia. But they aren’t so supportive of black people that they will cease gentrifying in Harlem or Brooklyn or Washington D.C. They thrive through a variety of arrangements which benefit them because they are white.
They are well aware of and happily make use of all the advantages that come with whiteness yet don’t cross the line into open and overt racism. Doing so would offend their highbrow sensibilities. But beneath the outrage about Trump’s election lies an affinity which could not be kept hidden for very long.

Sometimes when people speak about an experience or how they observe something, the most appropriate thing to do is just listen and take a self-examination.  I think she's written an important column and would hope everyone would use the link.

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

According to a Pentagon report, the US has deployed thousands more troops in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan than it has previously admitted.

BBC NEWS picks up on the issue of more US troops being stationed in Iraq than previously revealed:

The number of US troops in Syria and Iraq is significantly higher than acknowledged by Pentagon officials, a US defence department report shows.
Officially there are 503 US troops in Syria and 5,262 in Iraq.
However, the Pentagon's quarterly report puts number of troops as 1,720 in Syria and 8,892 in Iraq.


The report did not include number of special operations forces or temporary personnel rotating into or out of the country in the official figures, so, military experts and analysts believe the actual number could be even higher.

And they note that this trickery with regards to numbers did not begin under Donald Trump:

Around the end of Obama's presidency, DOD announced that the number of US troops in Iraq is 2,662, however, Defense Manpower Data Center announced in December 2016 that there are 6,812 troops in Iraq.

RT speaks with analyst Ali Rizk about the numbers:

Ali Rizk: It is quite possible the real numbers are higher than the official numbers which are given by the US officials. You have to bear in mind – before the killing of four US troops in Niger, many people didn’t know that the US actually had forces in that country. Bearing that in mind, one wouldn’t be surprised to know that the real numbers of US troops in Iraq, in Syria, or elsewhere in the Middle East would be higher given the fact that this US troop presence in Africa, Niger and elsewhere in the African continent, wasn’t known. What also could make it quite possible that the real numbers are higher than what is being announced – is the fact that you have generals, many of Trump’s closest associates, members of his cabinet, they are military men, General McMaster, General James Mattis, John Kelly, they would be prone to send higher number of military personnel abroad. At the same time, the US public probably wouldn’t receive that kind of deployment very well and would probably raise its objections which would require from Trump administration to maybe hide these facts and to increase the true presence without actually announcing it. So, [given] all these factors, it could be quite possible that we indeed do have larger numbers than what is being heard about.

RT: This wouldn’t be the first time the US has been unclear about its troop numbers in Iraq and Syria. Why does the Pentagon apparently want to give the impression it has fewer troops than it really does in the region?

AR: It is related to what I would call the post-Iraqi and Afghani war syndrome. It is similar to the situation we had in the aftermath of the American war in Vietnam. The same thing, the American public is exhausted, it is against any increase in troop presence. And I think the Pentagon is very intent on keeping this message that it has a low level of troop presence in order not to lead to an outburst or an outcry from an American public which as I said would be very war-weary and would be very much objected to increased American presence… At the same time, we do have a lot of generals who want to increase, who would be more prone to pursuing military solutions or having military build-up in the foreign countries.     

In other news . . .

Drought and neglect have decimated Iraq’s breadbasket

You may remember the stories of how the date industry was going to revolutionize Iraq's economy under Bully Boy Bush.

No, we didn't believe it here.

And we got some angry e-mails on that including from one US military captain who had worked on the program.

That was over a decade ago that the e-mail came in.

It would appear that we were right to have been skeptical of the laughable claims.

So many programs get started and then dropped.

And the point here: The dam in Mosul.

If ISIS is cleared of Mosul, maybe it's time to get serious about the dam.

Every few years, we're told that the dam could fall apart and spew enough water across Iraq to kill thousands.

So if ISIS is gone, what's the hold up?

Why wait until you fear the battered dam will be bombed or exploded by ISIS or someone else to fix it?

Fix it now.

But that would require the Iraqi government using money for something other than corruption and, goodness knows, corruption remains the big money industry in Iraq.


Over the weekend came news that members of Nouri al-Maliki's administration (2006 - 2014) had been charged with corruption.  It was supposed to be a big deal and a feather in the cap for Iraq's current prime minister Hayder al-Abadi.

Though many continue to spin it that way, is it?

We've already noted that Nouri himself wasn't part of the group charged.  And that the efforts seemed mild, at best.

Judging by ASHARQ AL-ASWAT's report today, it's even worse than we thought:

At a time when Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi warned that he will escalate his war against corrupt officials, the judiciary handed down on Tuesday prison sentences against a number of officials who were convicted in corruption-related cases.

Abadi announced last week that the corrupt had to either hand out the stolen money – and perhaps be pardoned – or lose their money and spend the rest of their lives in prison.

The Integrity Commission revealed on Tuesday that several judicial verdicts were handed down in cases it has investigated against officials charged with abusing public funds.

Criminals who betrayed the public trust were given, by Hayder, the opportunity "to either hand out the stolen money [. . .] or lose their money and spend the rest of their lives in prison"?

That's rather strange in a country where a whisper campaign can get you executed.

But then Hayder's not serious about fighting corruption and the way he's treated those guilty of corruption makes that perfectly clear.

What, if anything, has Hayder improved in Iraq?

: Honour crimes remain a grave problem & Article 409 of the Penal Code – which reduces punishment for men who kill women for “honourable motives” – should be amended to end impunity for such acts

Apparently, he's not done much of anything but, no doubt, like Nouri before him, he'll eventually leave office with his pockets full of the country's riches while the Iraqi people struggle.

For now, he shakes hands with visiting dignitaries.  Today?

: British Prime Minister has arrived in Baghdad and will be holding talks with Iraq’s Prime Minister .

While she shakes hands with Hayder, George Galloway notes the lies that pulled the UK into the Iraq War.

“Gordon Brown reveals in his autobiography that after Chilcot Inquiry had closed he was leaked a document from US government proving beyond any contradiction that US govt never believed Iraq had WMD, therefore allowing Tony Blair to lie to the Queen, Armed Forces, to parliament”

The following community sites updated:

The Grammys really go crazy

Not a Grammy fan but if they want people to take them seriously, stop nominating Bob Dylan for singing.

He's written some memorable songs.

But he's never been a good singer, let alone great.  But there he is, nominated for best traditional pop vocal.

That's just nonsense.  He sings worse now than he did when he started.

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017.  More US troops are stationed in Iraq than was previously admitted, another US soldier dies serving in Iraq, tensions continue to increase, and much more.

Ellen Mitchell (THE HILL) reports another US soldier has died in Iraq, "Cpl. Todd McGurn of Riverside, Calif., died Nov. 25 in Baghdad 'as a result of a non-combat related incident,' the Pentagon statement read. McGurn was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas."

This is the fourth death of a US service member in Iraq since October 1st.  Alex, Missildine, Houghton Brown, Lee Smith and now Todd McGurn have all died serving in iraq.

And the deaths have received very little attention from the media.

On the topic of US troops in Iraq, Luiz Martinez (ABC NEWS) reports:

Thousands more American troops are serving in Iraq and Syria than has been previously acknowledged by the Pentagon, a new report finds.
According to the Defense Manpower Data Center's quarterly report from September, there were 1,720 American troops in Syria -- three times as many as the 503 troops in Syria that U.S. military spokesmen have told reporters. The Pentagon's personnel agency issues quarterly reports about how many American troops are serving in individual states and overseas countries.
The same report showed there were 8,992 American troops in Iraq, almost 3,500 more than the official Department of Defense tally of 5,262. 

And tensions continue to increase in Iraq.  Jane Arraf (NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED) looks at Kirkuk:

ARRAF: Hawre is a barber in one of Kirkuk's Kurdish neighborhoods. I don't use his full name because I met him when he was working at a polling station in September as Kurds voted for independence. He was so happy then.

HAWRE: Then my happiness go away because something happened and military of Iraq, they attack us.

ARRAF: And he's angry at the U.S. for allowing Iraqi forces to attack Kurdish fighters using American tanks.

HAWRE: Now I swear to God if I be president of Kurdistan, I go to Russia and make deal with them and buy United States because they don't do anything.

ARRAF: Hawre says now Kurds close their shop early at night and they stay in their neighborhoods. Like other Kurds here, though, he says holding the independence referendum was the right thing to do. He believes someday Kurds will have Kirkuk back again.

The grabbing of Kirkuk took place after the bulk of the Islamic State had been run out of Iraq.  Hayder al-Abadi, prime minister of Iraq, had been planning it for some time.

ALJAZEERA speaks with Kurdish political analyst Kifah Mahmoud about what has taken place since September 25th when over 92% of Kurds turned out at the polls to vote for Kurdish independence.  Excerpt:

Al Jazeera: Given the recent backlash - both locally and internationally - do you think that it was too soon to hold a referendum on Kurdish secession?

Mahmoud: Quite the contrary. In fact, I think we were very much delayed in our decision to carry out a referendum on secession. Personally, I had been advocating and fighting for this step since the United States toppled [late Iraqi] President Saddam Hussein's regime back in 2003.
This step should have been taken directly after April 2003, instead of having gone to Baghdad to negotiate. We're still paying the price for opting to negotiate.

Al Jazeera: What are the main challenges facing the Kurdish region now that the oil-rich city of Kirkuk has been retaken by the central government?

Mahmoud: Kirkuk will not be gone forever. For more than four decades, Saddam Hussein's government and his predecessors tried to change the city's demographics, but it was reclaimed by the Kurds in a matter of four hours.
Among our biggest challenges at the moment is Baghdad's lack of faith in the power of dialogue, and its inclination to deal with the Kurdish question through military force. This has been the case with previous governments as well, but they fell, and we remained.

Kirkuk is an issue that was supposed to have been settled long ago.

Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution (approved in 2005) argues for a census and referendum.  More to the point, it states that this must take place by the end of 2007.

Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in the spring of 2006.

2007 came to a close with Nouri refusing to implement Article 140 as the Constitution dictated.  After he lost the 2010 election, Nouri agreed to implement Article 140 in exchange for a second term (these and other agreements were made in the US brokered Erbil Agreement).

Of course, after being named to a second term, he then refused to implement it.

Hayder al-Abadi, installed by Barack in the summer of 2014, played dumb about Article 140 until June of this year when he suddenly announced he would be looking into it -- thereby signaling that he was planning to move on Kirkuk.

Kirkuk is oil rich and both the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Baghdad-based central government claim it.  The RAND Corporation was noting that this was an explosive issue and one that needed to be decided -- noting this while Bully Boy Bush still occupied the White House.  It was kick the can for every US administration.

Long time Middle East observer Peter W. Galbraith contributed "Why the Kurds are paying for Trump's gift to Iran" for THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS earlier this month:

The Trump administration, which had been careful to keep the PMF out of ISIS-held Mosul, did nothing to stop these two Iranian-backed terrorists from using American weapons to attack an American ally. But for the action of US soldiers in the area, they would almost certainly have killed another American citizen. After the PMF takeover of Kirkuk, the Pentagon attempted ineffectually to hide its embarrassment by calling the Kurdish-Iraqi fighting a “misunderstanding.” The administration’s complaisant attitude to the Iranian-led action was even more puzzling since it followed Donald Trump’s decision three days earlier to decertify the Iran nuclear deal—justified as a response to Iran’s malign activities in the region, including in Iraq.
Pique toward the Kurds partially explains the administration’s indifference. In February, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s president, Masoud Barzani, wrote a letter to President Trump announcing his intention to hold an independence referendum and explaining the reasons for it. On June 7, the KRG set the date for vote as September 25. The only US reaction came from a State Department spokesman who said the timing was inopportune and mischaracterized the vote as non-binding. (The referendum was binding on the KRG but, as Barzani explained, the Kurds would allow up to two years for negotiations with Baghdad on the divorce before actually declaring independence.) 
The Kurds were then caught by surprise when, just two weeks before the vote, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the special presidential envoy to Iraq, Brett McGurk, launched a full-scale diplomatic effort to get the Kurds to postpone it. Even that initiative was bungled: a US-sponsored UN Security Council statement directly contradicted private promises made to the Kurds. It was also too late.
Along with former foreign ministers from France and Croatia, I traveled to polling places in various parts of Kurdistan on referendum day. The enthusiasm was palpable. Women came to vote dressed as if they were going to a wedding and many brought their children—usually dressed in traditional Kurdish clothes and carrying Kurdistan flags—so that the children could later say that they were there when their country was born. More than one voter told me that their people had waited for this moment for a century, recalling Sykes-Picot, the Anglo-French secret agreement of 1916 that carved up the region and ultimately led to the Kurds’ involuntary inclusion in the new state of Iraq . There is no doubt that the referendum, which took place without a single violent incident, reflected the long-held desire of almost every Iraqi Kurd for independence. In an election with a strong 72 percent turnout, the people of Kurdistan voted by 93 percent for independence.
Even had he wanted to, it would have been impossible for Masoud Barzani to cancel the referendum days before it took place. But Barzani had no desire to cancel the vote. Already, after ISIS had conquered Mosul and most Iraq’s Sunni areas in June 2014, he was on the verge of declaring independence. As he told me at the time, “Iraq no longer exists. We have a thousand-kilometer border with Daesh [the Islamic State] and thirty kilometers with Iraq.”
When US Secretary of State John Kerry visited in Erbil in July 2014, he asked Barzani to postpone the referendum until the defeat of ISIS. Barzani agreed. Having done as they were asked in 2014, the Kurdish leaders felt that the Americans should respect their decision to go ahead now that ISIS was largely defeated. But Tillerson and McGurk had a new request—to postpone until after the Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled for the spring of 2018.
The American motives were transparent. The US strategy in Iraq is built around Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. US diplomats see Abadi as a moderate who reversed the sectarian policies of his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki. Today, Maliki is blamed for so alienating the Sunnis that he had made possible the rise of ISIS in western Iraq. What is forgotten is that Maliki, too, was once our man in Baghdad, in effect handpicked to be prime minister by Bush’s ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

In order for Abadi to prevail against his more extreme Shiite rivals, US diplomats calculated he needed the votes of the Kurdish parliamentarians who hold about a fifth of the seats in the Iraqi parliament. The Kurds, however, were never persuaded that Abadi was much different from his predecessor; indeed, he is a member of the same Shiite religious party that is headed by Maliki. Moreover, Abadi failed to restore Kurdistan’s constitutionally-mandated share of the Iraqi budget, which Maliki had cut. He also successfully blocked the US from supplying the peshmerga with sophisticated weapons like the Abrams tank, even when the Kurds were the only ground force stopping ISIS from taking the entire north of Iraq. To explain why he could not accept the American request to postpone, Barzani told me: “Iraq is not what was on offer in 2003. Iraq is a theocratic, autocratic state. The intention is clear. The faces are different [from Saddam’s time] but the goal is the same. As long as we wait, they get stronger and we get weaker.”

At least 11 are dead and twenty-six injured from a Monday night Baghdad bombing in a shopping areaYesterday, there was a drive-by shooting (on motorcycles) in broad daylight in Baghdad.  How long before the reports start noting bodies dumped in the streets again?

That's where things stood before the battle with ISIS took up all the attention.

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, Cindy Sheehan, BLACK AGENDA REPORT, Tavis Smiley, DISSIDENT VOICE and THE PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Medicare for All

  1. This should not be happening in the richest country in the history of the world. We need to stand up to the greed of Big Pharma, rein in the cost of prescription drugs and implement Medicare for All.

The Democrats in Congress could have so much support if they'd only get behind Medicare For All as a party.

Instead, it is still just a few brave souls like Keith Ellison and Bernie Sanders.

The story about Alec Raeshawn Smith is what happens in a for-profit medical system.

Healthcare is a right and we need Medicare for All.

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

Monday, November 27, 2017.  Corruption, crime and abuse grips Iraq.

ALSUMARIA reports that the Iraqi Parliament voted today to abolish the office of public inspectors.  Those would be the ones over corruption investigations..

THE BAGHDAD POST reported yesterday:

Up to 45 officials of the former Iraqi government, headed by Nouri al-Maliki, have been arrested in corruption probes, a well-informed source said on Thursday. 
He added that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi exposed suspicious deals that these officials had made.


Once upon a time, the US Congress was interested in corruption in Iraq.  It was right after the Democrats won control of both houses in the 2006 mid-term elections.  Grasping that the US taxpayers were footing the bill for everything -- not just the war -- in Iraq, Congress was concerned about corruption and held hearings on the subject.

Now the money gets shipped over but there's not even the pretense of oversight.

Just like weapons get supplied by the US that Baghdad uses to attack the Kurds and the Sunnis.

They kill and create even more refugees.

: We did not expect Iraqi forces to be the reason why 180,000 people from were displaced, says.

Various laws and treaties demand that the US halt all supplies to Iraq but the US government looks the other way.

Replying to 

PMF militants and the Iraqi army are involved in acts of persecution, forced displacement and Arabization of the occupied territories of Kurdistan, including Kirkuk. Those responsible MUST be brought to justice

As the civilians are attacked, the US looks the other way.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reported for THE GUARDIAN on how the Iraqi forces have attacked the Iraqi civilians in Mosul.  Over the weekend, Amnesty International's UK director wrote to the editorial board of THE GUARDIAN:

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s extremely disturbing report on Iraqi government soldiers torturing and cold-bloodedly killing captives after this year’s battle for Mosul should be urgently acted on (After the liberation of Mosul, an orgy of killing, 22 November). The authorities in Baghdad should establish an independent, impartial inquiry into all aspects of the conduct of its troops and allied forces – including United States and United Kingdom ones – during this cataclysmically bloody assault.
Deliberately killing fighters who have surrendered or who have been captured is absolutely prohibited under international law. Needless to say, killing civilians in these circumstances is also utterly unlawful – a war crime.
Kate Allen
Director, Amnesty International UK

It gets worse.  RT reports:

The Americans have finished with the Kurds, now they can pack up and go. This is what happened in Iraqi Kurdistan, and in Syrian Kurdistan the same situation will be repeated, says award-winning Iraqi Kurdish journalist Hiwa Osman.
US President Donald Trump has apparently promised he will “not provide weapons to the YPG [People’s Protection Units],” according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who was present during the phone call between the US president and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The US government has a long history of betraying the Kurds.

They also have a history of looking the other way as tyrants they install abuse the people.

Hayder al-Abadi's abuse includes abuse of journalists.  Saturday CPJ issued the following:

CPJ calls on Iraqi authorities to release journalist Samir Obeid

October 22nd, the Iraqi military descended upon Samir's home and dragged him off.  His crime?  Hayder al-Abadi didn't like Samir's reporting.

In other news, Captain Ahmad Jarah was killed in Baghdad today in a motorcycle drive by.  In Baghdad.  In broad daylight.  Grasp what that says and foretells.

New content at THIRD:

And we'll close with this from the ACLU:

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Pai is pushing to reverse net neutrality protections – important rules for protecting the free flow of information on the internet. Pai’s proposal allows the companies that provide our internet connection new measures of control over what we do online. This would be a devastating blow to the free and open internet we rely on for streaming videos, communicating with our networks – and yes, reading critical news stories about the state of our democracy.
A world without net neutrality means a world where internet companies like Verizon and Comcast would have the power to interfere with our decisions about which news outlets – and therefore, what news – we should consume.
In 2015 we fought for net neutrality protections and against enormous odds, we won. Now we’re up against great odds again and need to fight back just as hard. Chairman Pai is planning to announce a vote to slash critical net neutrality rules on Wednesday, November 22. Once he announces a vote, it will be difficult to reverse course. But if he hears from enough members of Congress who oppose his plan, we may be able to persuade him to stall his plan.
The ACLU is partnering with Fight for the Future and The Harry Potter Alliance to save net neutrality.