Thursday, January 31, 2019


Kate Randall (WSWS) reports:

Washington Department of Health officials have declared a state of emergency as they scramble to contain a measles outbreak in two counties in the state. There were 36 confirmed cases and 11 suspected cases of the potentially deadly virus as the number continues to rise in a region of the United States with a lower-than-normal vaccination rate.
In Clark County, Washington, which borders Portland, Oregon, Monday’s 36 confirmed measles cases were up significantly from the 26 on Friday, when Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency. Most of the measles cases involved children between 1 and 10 years old who had not been vaccinated. Health officials anticipate that the outbreak will rapidly expand.
In a statement Friday, Inslee said: “The measles virus is a highly contagious infectious disease that can be fatal in small children” and that the number of confirmed cases “creates an extreme public health risk that may quickly spread to other counties.”
The outbreak of measles in Washington state is taking place nearly two decades after the virus was eliminated in 2000. By that time, enough people were immunized that outbreaks were uncommon and deaths from measles were virtually unheard of. A rise in the percentage of unvaccinated children has directly led to a rise in the number of cases of the potentially fatal disease.

The Center for Disease Control notes:

In 2018, 349** individual cases of measles were confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia. This is the second-greatest number of annual cases reported since measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. (The greatest was 667 cases reported in 2014).
The states that reported cases to CDC are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

Ashley May (USA Today) reports:

In 2017, about 110,000 died from measles, mostly among children younger than five, around the world, according to the World Health Organization. Young children and adults older than 20 are more likely to suffer measles complications that can be deadly.
As many as one out of every 20 children infected with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children, according to health officials. One in every 1,000 children with measles develops swelling of the brain that can cause deafness or an intellectual disability. Pregnant women with measles might give birth early or have a low-weight baby.

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

Thursday, January 31, 2019.  John Bolton speaks some truth (shocker), Senator Angus King spanks little Marco Rubio, and more.

Starting with this Tweet:

In other words... The US’s real motive for intervention in Venezuela is all about the country’s oil and not actually “liberating the Venezuelan people from tyranny and oppression” — just like Iraq, Libya and Syria before it? Wow. What a surprise. 🙄



reserves, 2017. (billion barrels)

: 301
: 266
: 170
: 158
: 143
: 102
: 98
: 80
: 48
: 37

( EIA)

Remember Bolton's comments.  After the start of the Iraq War, Alan Greenspan made the mistake of saying the Iraq War was about oil, remember?  And then had to walk it back.  He walked it back even though it was in the book he'd written that he was promoting.  Truth slips out and often gets quickly buried.

Even with the lies in place, opinions on the never-ending Iraq War remain divided.  Leo Shane III (MILITARY TIMES) notes an IAVA survery:

Veterans who fought in recent wars hold conflicting views over the value of that fight, according to the latest membership survey from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

About 47 percent said U.S. involvement in the Iraq War was “worth it,” against 43 percent who said it was not. Opinions of the Afghanistan War were slightly higher, with 62 percent in favor and 28 percent opposed.

The Iraq War is a failure.  There are many times when someone -- if they had a brain -- could have declared victory.  Bully Boy Bush could have pulled all US troops after the fall of Baghdad, for example.  Or, after he set the benchmarks (that were never met), he could have pulled US troops citing the Iraqi government's refusal to address the issues they had promised to resolve.  That would include national reconciliation which, by the way, was never implemented.  That's actually true of all the benchmarks.  How sweet of the press to play along with Bully Boy Bush when the benchmarks actually got attention -- they'd offer 'partial' progress.  There's no such thing.  It was a lie in real time and, obviously, it's a lie today because they never got implemented. Barack Obama could have pulled the troops out immediately or within the first ten months of his first term.  We argued that, Ava and I, to several members of the administration.

Iraq will be a mess when US troops finally leave.  That's a given.  Pull the troops based on the promise made (the one Samantha Power said really wasn't a promise, remember/) and give a speech saying that you've done what America wanted.  That's the end of the story.  If things go badly after, well you kept your campaign promise as the American people wanted.

Instead Barack, believing his own false press about what a great thinker he was, decided to 'tinker' because he just knew he could improve on things.  That's how he failed to keep his campaign promise. And the longer he waited and the long he played with it, the more it became his war.  After the drawdown at the end of 2011 (passed off as a withdrawal), he began sending US troops back in during the fall of 2012.  US troops remain in Iraq to this day.  Another broken promise from Barack.

Each year, US troops have remained in Iraq to prop up the puppet government.  And the US government has just known that this will be the year the puppet government gives them what they want.  That's the oil and gas laws.  That was the only benchmark the press ever obsessed over, remember?

Tuesday, at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Marco Rubio was pushing for war on Venezuela while insisting that "we care a lot about democracy, we care a lot about freedom, we care a lot about human rights" and isn't it "in the national interest of the United States" for the government in Venezuela to fall (be overthrown) and be "replaced by a democratic and more responsive government?"

War to create a democratic and more responsive government?

Well then the US government better declare war on the Iraqi government!

The Iraqi government remains corrupt, remains unresponsive to the needs of the people, continues to arrest protesters and reporters covering protests (as events in Basra have demonstrated).  And every year, they train and retrain and then train again the Iraqi military in an effort to get it up to speed.  Of course, the Iraqi military repeatedly fails.

The western press repeatedly works overtime to lie about that.  The Iraqi military would not have 'won' Mosul without US war planes blindly bombing Mosul -- a city full of civilians.

Some nervous nelly leaders in Iraq repeatedly insist that US troops must remain in Iraq to 'help' with the battle against ISIS.  ISIS is not going away until the Iraqi government stops persecuting Sunnis.  It won't stop doing that.  So US troops should be pulled immediately.  But this insisting?  It goes to the reality that Iraqi troops still -- all this time later -- can't defend their own country.

The Iraq War hits the 16 year mark in March.  Are we going to have to wait until March 2021 for US troops to leave?  Do we need to wait for the 18 year mark -- when the Iraq War is a legal adult -- to finally say, "Okay, you're on your own"?

Before we go further, let's note Senator Angus King rejected Marco's tantrum for war on Venezuela in Tuesday's hearing, stating, "In light of Senator Rubio's comments, I'd just like a note of caution.  He listed refugee flows, human rights abuses and corruption.  There are lots of countries in the world that meet that description and our right or responsibility to generate regime change in a situation like that, I think, is a slippery slope.  And I have some real caution about what our vital interests are and whether it's our right or responsibility to take action to try to change the government of another sovereign country."

Abbas Kadhim (The Atlantic Council) pretends he's looking at Iraq after 100 days of a new government and offers:

The Political Front: Meeting with Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi and President Salih
I met with top Iraqi leaders, President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Despite the difficult process to complete his ministerial cabinet and the tough challenges he inherited from previous governments, Abdul-Mahdi seemed to be focused on a clear governance agenda that includes several immediate priorities. He was mindful of the need to address corruption but stated the pressing matters are the economy, governance, and service delivery.
The visit to the seat of the presidency at al-Salam Palace took me to another branch of government where noticeable changes are underway. Iraqis had previously seen the presidency as a weak and trivial institution without any real political power. The fact of the matter is that previous presidents have not made use of the status of their office. With Dr. Barham Salih in the office, the Iraqi Presidency is taking on a new shape and acquiring a healthy level of energy, particularly in foreign relations. His state visits to several capitals in the region and beyond restored the good image of Iraq’s government. On US-Iraq relations, both sides have emphasized the importance of the alliance and the need to make it as strong as possible. The Iraqi public is already taking note of this positive change.

The Economy

Iraq’s budget, passed by Parliament on January 24, 2019, proposes one of the largest post-2003 government spending plans ($112 billion), which is mostly to cover government operation costs and salaries. Meanwhile, pressing infrastructure and reconstruction spending is far less adequate than expected. In fact, the electricity sector, where performance will be the most important referendum on the popularity of Abdul-Mahdi’s government, saw its budget slashed by a billion dollars, leaving the ministry with hardly enough money to operate at last year’s level, which is 50 percent of Iraq’s capacity to provide service during the peak summer period. Moreover, one important thing to remember about this budget is that it is based on two unknown and unpredictable variables: oil production and prices. If Iraq, for whatever reason, fails to produce 3.88 mbd or oil prices sink significantly below $56 per barrel, the government will face a dire financial problem.

Fact, ISIS is still active in Iraq.  Fact, Mahdi has been unable to find a Minister of Defense or Minister of Interior.  Fact, the last time these offices were left empty is when ISIS took hold in Iraq.  Fact, to overlook those realities goes beyond shortsighted.

Also not addressed by Abbas would be the militias which are now part of the government and seen to be under no one's control.

The Popular Mobilization militias have launched a military operation in "Samarra " in the province of Salahuddin #, despite that the government of Baghdad announced the end of military operations more than a year ago.

Let's wind down with this from Black Alliance for Peace:

JANUARY 25, 2019—We, the members of the Black Alliance for Peace, uphold our political stance in the face of aggressions waged by the United States. Two of BAP’s core principles are an unwavering commitment to self-determination for peoples and nations alike and opposition to imperialism in all its varied and brutal forms. Therefore, unlike so many who are confused about Venezuela, we say without equivocation that we oppose the illegal and immoral attempts by the United States and their Organization of American States (OAS) allies to interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

No objective right has been bestowed upon the United States to impose its will on any sovereign people or nation. We categorically reject the arrogant and white supremacist assumption that the United States—itself a capitalist dictatorship—should arbitrarily take the liberty to presume leadership and rationalize its intervention into any nation by evoking a flimsy, laughable and ostensible argument that it is supporting democracy and/or human rights.

Were it not for the abject hypocrisy exercised by the United States, the irony in the case of Venezuela would be more laughable than tragic. On the one hand, a nation that annually pretends to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., skirts over the many people’s understanding that he was murdered because of his opposition to U.S. state violence. That the United States would unleash a plan to subvert Venezuela—which would cost thousands of innocent lives—reminds us as Black people of the same methodology applied during the murderous and draconian tenure of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who unleashed the COINTELPRO program in U.S. Black communities.Militarized U.S. police forces, many of whom have received training from the Israeli state, enjoy impunity for the state-sanctioned execution of our people.

Like the war party that it was during the Vietnam War period, the majority of Democrats have dropped their supposed fundamental opposition to Trump to line up in support of this criminal intervention. As always, the “party of the people” demonstrates its brand of subjective righteousness and justice.

We pose the question to progressive forces in the United States: How much more war, how much more death and destruction will you endure before you break with the capitalist duopoly of your government and say no more war, no more subversion, no more killings in my name by a state that by every definition has become a rogue state and threat to global humanity?

There can be no equivocation in the face of injustice and the psychopathology of white supremacist ideology that is unable to respect the rights and humanity of people of the Global Majority—Black and Brown people who are the ones who suffer from these imperialist adventures mobilized by the U.S./EU/NATO axis of domination.

The idea of a benevolent hegemon might be a comforting myth that assuages the conscience of left and progressive forces who engage in open class/race collaboration with the white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy that is the Western European project. But for those of us relegated to what Frantz Fanon called the “zones of non-being,” we cannot afford any illusions about the nature of what we are up against.

We call on those principled individuals and organizations located at the center of empire to put aside your divisions, stop your collaboration with the rulers and live up to your responsibility to the people of the world who suffer at the hands of this mad, criminal state.

Now is the time to say no, now is the time to build our movement, now is the time for all of us who say we believe in peace to be ready to fight for justice!





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  • And Kat did two posts yesterday, she also did "She wants to be America's prison guard."

    Wednesday, January 30, 2019


    The US keeps starting wars, it just never ends them.  Right now, the push is for war on Venezuela.  We don't need it.  We don't want it.  Our government needs to understand that.

    This is Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report):

    History will mark the year 2011 as the point at which U.S. imperialism effectively declared war against civilization and the very concept of a lawful global order. THAT is Obama’s awesome and awful legacy. Donald Trump is simply exercising an imperial mandate handed down to him by the First Black President, who put “humanitarian” lipstick on the white supremacist pig of Manifest Destiny and American exceptionalism. Which is why most of the Democratic Party’s congressional piglets are oinking in favor of some form of aggression against Venezuela -- with the exception of Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard , the only anti-war presidential candidate. “The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela,” Gabbard tweeted. “Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don't want other countries to choose our leaders—so we have to stop trying to choose theirs."
    As Ajamu Baraka, of the Black Alliance for Peace, points out, it is no coincidence that all the nations siding with the U.S. at the UN Security Council and the Organization of American States are white former colonial European countries or white-led Latin American regimes in the so-called Lima Group. The darker peoples of the world understand clearly that what is at stake is the sovereignty of nations and people’s right to self-determination – principles that are anathema to U.S. imperialism.
    “Militarized U.S. police forces enjoy impunity for the state-sanctioned execution of our people.”
    “We categorically reject the arrogant and white supremacist assumption that the United States — itself a capitalist dictatorship — should arbitrarily take the liberty to presume leadership and rationalize its intervention into any nation by evoking a flimsy, laughable and ostensible argument that it is supporting democracy and/or human rights,” said the Black Alliance for Peace. BAP’s statement continues:

    “Were it not for the abject hypocrisy exercised by the United States, the irony in the case of Venezuela would be more laughable than tragic. On the one hand, a nation that annually pretends to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., skirts over the many people’s understanding that he was murdered because of his opposition to U.S. state violence. That the United States would unleash a plan to subvert Venezuela — which would cost thousands of innocent lives — reminds us as Black people of the same methodology applied during the murderous and draconian tenure of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who unleashed the COINTELPRO program in U.S. Black communities. Militarized U.S. police forces, many of whom have received training from the Israeli state, enjoy impunity for the state-sanctioned execution of our people.”

    Stop calling it just Trump’s coup. is an enthusiastic accomplice. , both oligarchy parties serve it. by

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

    Wednesday, January 30, 2019.  The media and the lack of progress in Iraq is our focus this morning.

    Zachary Cohen (CNN) reports:

    Despite repeated claims by the Trump administration that ISIS has been defeated, US intelligence assesses that the terror group "very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States."
    The Worldwide Threat Assessment, released by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats Tuesday, also states that with the recent loss of territory, "ISIS will seek to exploit Sunni grievances, societal instability, and stretched security forces to regain territory in Iraq and Syria in the long term."

    "US intelligence chief contradicts Trump on ISIS defeat" is the headline.  See any problems?  There are multiples.  First off, the headline (which has already been changed twice since CNN first posted the story) should read "US intelligence chief contradicts Trump, CNN and other media on ISIS defeat."

    Long before US President Donald Trump began wrongly insisting that ISIS was defeated, the media had already been doing so for months.  It happened at the end of December 2017 when then-prime minister of Iraq Hayder al-Abadi was insisting he had defeated ISIS.

    Instead of reporting the truth, the western media went with his lies.  Were they being kind?  A fat, roly poly who had achieved nothing was boasting and they didn't want to contradict him?  If that was the case, the kindest read on the media spin, it didn't help anyone.

    A more cold eyed appraisal of the lie that the media repeated for months and months?  The US government wanted Hayder al-Abadi to be re-elected as prime minister.  He had nothing to show for a four year term.  The US media isn't objective or impartial and exists to serve the US government so it repeatedly lied that ISIS was defeated to aid Hayder al-Abadi in his re-election efforts.

    Please note, unlike CNN or Zachary Cohen or Dan Coats, we didn't need to wait until today to note that ISIS wasn't defeated.  We were calling out the lie when it first took place in December of 2017 and calling it out repeatedly ever since.

    What's the media's excuse?  They have none.

    But in their effort to whore constantly, they do miss a lot.

    For example, the Iraqi people have grown increasingly hostile to US puppets.  

    How has that not been noticed?

    Me, I just realized it while groaning over CNN's 'report.'

    In May of 2006, Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri al-Maliki as the prime minister of Iraq.  Nouri was hideous in his first term.  But remember, the US media largely insisted otherwise.  They also insisted he was a sure thing for re-election.  They didn't do this just during the lead up.  For example, we called out Quil Lawrence and NPR for their 'report' announcing Nouri had won the election -- announcing it before the votes were counted.

    Turns out, how embarrassing for Quil!, Nouri didn't win.  He lost to Iraqiya.  But the US government wanted Nouri so then-President Barack Obama had US officials negotiate The Erbil Agreement which gave Nouri a second term and nullified the results of the election.  

    Nouri wanted a third term.  Remember when he was promising that he wouldn't seek a third term?  Protesters were out in Baghdad, the Egyptian Spring or 'Egyptian Spring' was happening and Nouri was worried.

    But by the time the elections rolled around in 2014, he wanted a third term.  Problem was?  First off, ISIS had risen in Iraq due to Nouri's persecution of the Sunnis.  Secondly, they had seized Mosul.  Third, that Erbil Agreement?  To get everyone to agree to it, Barack had promised the contract had the full backing of the US government.  But then Nouri refused to go along with it (the contract had concessions on Nouri's part to get a second term).  Barack had egg on his face.  Ayad Allawi was publicly criticizing Barack on Arab media -- Allawi was the leader of Iraqiya and, per the Iraqi Constitution should have been prime minister.  The Erbil Agreement gave him a post over National Security as a consolation; however, Nouri used the contract to get his second term and then refused to honor any promise he made in the contract.

    So Nouri had to go.  Barack then installed Hayder al-Abadi.  Hayder was a disaster.  No surprise there.  He was friends with Nouri.  They were both members of the Dawa Party and he was part of Nouri's State of Law coalition.  He was little Nouri -- dangerous only when it was being inept.

    2018 was the time to elect again.  And the media -- western -- whored for Hayder like they did for Nouri.  But Hayder became the second sitting prime minister (since the 2003-led US invasion) who couldn't win re-election.  And not only that, he lost even more than Nouri did in 2010.

    That's a major development and no one's even pointed it out.

    The US government can install a puppet, they just can't get it re-elected.

    That's not good news for the current puppet: Adil Adel Mahdi.

    For years, Mahdi has been the choice of the CIA.  They have been repeatedly overruled.  It now looks like they misjudged Mahdi's abilities and skill.

    However, you won't hear that from CNN, will you?

    In violation of the Iraqi Constitution, Mahdi was moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister at the end of October.  For that move to take place, the candidate is supposed to create a Cabinet.  Mahdi created a partial Cabinet.

    The western media told the world he would quickly finish it.

    As with so much the western media tells us, that was a lie.  January ends shortly (February 1st is Friday) and Mahdi still doesn't have a full Cabinet.

    Most importantly, at a time when Iraq continues to fight ISIS -- in fact, uses this fight to argue that US troops must remain in Iraq -- there is still no Minister of the Interior (over the security forces) or Minister of Defense (over the military).

    Mahdi wants US forces to remain in Iraq.  But he won't even work to fill those two security posts?  US troops are to risk their lives and he won't even put forward a candidate that Parliament can get behind for Minister of Defense?

    That's asking a lot.

    To be clear, Mahdi wants US troops for the same reason Nouri did.  They are puppets.  They fear being toppled.

    We walked away from Scott Horton and his radio show because it was so filled with lies regarding Nouri.  In fairness to Scott, his frequent guest Patrick Cockburn was a big source of those lies.  Nouri was a hero!  He got rid of US troops in Iraq!

    No, he wasn't and no, he didn't.

    The January 18th snapshot covers the long suppressed US military report.  A lot of people who were not at the Congressional hearings got Nouri's wants and desires wrong.  That includes Patrick Cockburn.

    Will we ever note Scott Horton again?  One of his broadcasts?  Probably.

    But I am still angry.  He and Cockburn repeatedly built Nouri al-Maliki up as a hero and a savior.  He was a thug.  He ran torture centers and secret prisons.  And they were treating him like he was Ghandi.  When they were doing this, even Barack had lost patience with him.

    How bad was it between Nouri and Barack?  The day after the 2012 elections, Nouri phoned the White House to congratulate Barack.  Barack refused to take the call and fobbed it off on Joe Biden.

    Our media has failed us repeatedly on the issue of Iraq -- and that's All Things Media Big and Small.

    When a report comes along that actually matters, everyone looks the other way.

    Dropping back to November 7, 2012 for Ava and my "Let the fun begin:"

    Lies about Iraq drove the 2008 election and they drove the 2012 election as well.

    The country was transformed to the elephant in the room for 2012 that no one could be honest about.  President Barack Obama  lied that he'd 'ended' the Iraq War, he misled people into believing that all US troops had left Iraq, and he failed to inform Americans that he was negotiating to send even more US troops into Iraq.

    While the uninspiring victory speech last night blended The Hollies "He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother" ("The road is long") with Jerry McGuire ("You've made me a better president"), it also made clear that the administration was on fumes even before the second term officially begins in January.

    The administration is as empty as the media.  If you doubt that, September 26th, the New York Times' Tim Arango reported:

    Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

    September 26th it was in print.

    Days later, October 3rd, Barack 'debated' Mitt RomneyAgain October 16thAgain October 22nd.

    Not once did the moderators ever raise the issue.

    If Barack's sitting before them and he's flat out lying to the American people, it's their job to ask.  They didn't do their job.  Nor did social menace Candy Crowley who was apparently dreaming of an all-you-can-eat buffet when Barack was babbling away before her about how he wouldn't allow more "troops in Iraq that would tie us down."  But that's exactly what he's currently negotiating.

    Maybe Candy Crowley missed the New York Times article?  Maybe she spends all her time pleasuring herself to her version of porn: Cooking With Paula Deen Magazine?

    That is possible.

    But she was only one of the three moderators.  Bob Schieffer and Jim Lehrer also moderated.  Of course, they didn't foolishly self-present as a fact checker in the midst of the debate  nor did they hit the publicity circuit before the debate to talk about how they were going to show how it was done.

    Grasp that immediately after Tim Arango's September 28, 2012 report, three presidential debates took place, Barack repeatedly claimed he had ended the Iraq War and brought the troops home.  Not one moderator challenged him or brought up what Tim Arango reported.

    Talk about failure of the media.  All that grandstanding and they couldn't offer anything of consequence.

    Bits of truth emerge about Iraq in the media even now.  When they do, they're rarely amplified.  Natasha Turak (CNBC) reports:

    Baghdad signed into law one of its largest-ever spending packages last week after months of gridlock. At $111.8 billion, the 2019 budget is a nearly 45 percent increase on the previous year's, featuring the highest deficit and second-highest spending volume in Iraq's history since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
    But despite desperate need for reconstruction funding after its devastating three-year war with the Islamic State, and with a crippled business sector beset by government corruption, Iraqi experts say the spending plan still fails to address the country's most urgent problems.
    "The amount of waste and wrongly allocated money is outrageous," Abbas Kadhim, director of the Atlantic Council's Iraq Initiative, told CNBC on Tuesday. "Despite being a very large spending plan, Iraq's new budget still suffers from the same problems. Too much of the budget goes to salaries… In the meantime, necessary spending on new infrastructure and reconstruction is not adequate."

    Nearly half of the budget — $52 billion — will go to public sector salaries, pensions, and social security for government employees, a 15 percent spike from 2018. $27.8 billion will go to investments, with the deficit set to more than double to $23.1 billion, as reported by AFP. 

    Repeating from yesterday's snapshot: IRAQI NEWS notes, "Iraq is the 13th among the world’s most corrupt countries, a report has found as the country struggles to recover on both the security, political and economic levels after a strenuous war against  Islamic State terrorism. The corruption index released by Transparency International, today, ranked Iraq 168th, a position shared with Venezuela, among 180 countries covered by the report. It is the Arab World’s 6th most corrupt country, according to the report."

    And as the government of Iraq continues to borrow to fund corruption, grasp that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned against this borrowing.  He was very clear on this issue.  Borrowing this money from the foreign organization (including the IMF) would leave Iraq vulnerable.  As it continues to borrow, you'd think others would rush to echo al-Sistani's message.  They don't.  At this rate of borrowing, austerity measures are likely to be imposed upon Iraq soon.

    In other news, Omar Sattar (AL-MONITOR) reports:

    There's a discrepancy over how many US troops are still in Iraq, and whether they are welcome.
    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently estimated there are 5,000 American troops in Iraq and said there are no plans to remove them. However, that number is under scrutiny, in part because the United States has said it won't publicize such figures, and the Pentagon has removed from the internet official statistics on troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, other groups have different estimates.
    Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi estimates there are 6,000 American troops in Iraq, compared with 7,700 a year ago — just after Iraq declared the Islamic State (IS) was defeated there. His Jan. 14 announcement, however, failed to satisfy some parliamentary blocs seeking "real," definitive statistics on the numbers of foreign forces, their missions and their deployment areas.
    The Iraqi government favors keeping some US troops in the country for training and support. But some opposition blocs want the troops gone; others want to monitor their number and roles, in part to prevent the United States from establishing permanent military bases there to counter Iran's influence and maintain access to Syria.
    Also speaking up on the matter is Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali. The Associated Press reported on Jan. 28 that Khazali implied US troops could be forced out of the country if they don't leave. Asaib Ahl al-Haq is the Shiite paramilitary wing of al-Sadiquon political bloc, and it has ties with Iran.

    Asib Ahl al-Haq is, of course, the League of Righteous.  They killed US troops in Iraq -- most infamously when they wore disguises and invaded a US base.  For this, their leaders were arrested and taken into US custody.  Barack decided to make a deal with terrorists and let the leaders go in exchange for four British corpses and one living British computer guy.  What a way to honor the fallen.  By the way, that was front page news on THE NEW YORK TIMES (Alissa J. Rubin co-wrote the report) and yet it never came up in a debate or a post-Superbowl 60 MINUTES interview or, really, ever.  Barack was never asked about that.

    For those who missed it, we'll drop back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot:

    This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

    Remember Dan Coats quoted at the top of the snapshot.  His remarks were to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  Here he is, before the Committee, on the topic of Iraq:

    Iraq is facing an increasingly disenchanted public. The underlying political and economic factors that facilitated the rise of ISIS persist, and Iraqi Shia militias' attempts to further entrench their role in the state increase the threat to US personnel. The Iraqi Government will confront a high level of societal discontent, institutional weakness, and deep-seated divisions, as well as protests over a lack of services, high unemployment, and political corruption. Baghdad lacks the resources or institutional capacity to address longstanding economic development and basic services challenges, and it faces reconstruction costs in the aftermath of the counter-ISIS campaign, estimated by the World Bank at $88 billion. Iraq’s Kurdistan region is still dealing with political discontent over economic and territorial losses to Baghdad last year. ISIS remains a terrorist and insurgent threat and will seek to exploit Sunni grievances with Baghdad and societal instability to eventually regain Iraqi territory against Iraqi security forces that are stretched thin.
    Iraqi Shia militants conducted several attacks against US diplomatic facilities in Iraq in September and December 2018 . Militias -- some of which are also part of the Iraqi Government Popular Mobilization Committee -- plan to use newfound political power gained through positions in the new government to reduce or remove the US military presence while competing with the Iraqi security forces for state resources.

    Nothing has changed for the better.  The only real change is that the Popular Mobilization Committee went from Shi'ite mobs to government forces -- a desperate move Hayder al-Abadi made when he was prime minister.

    No progress to this day on national reconciliation.  To this day.

    The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS, NPR MUSIC and BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated: