Saturday, December 9, 2017

2014 Self-Exposure


From Janaury 1, 2015, that's "2014 Self-Exposure."  C.I. wrote:

Barack's move to Break The Government or at least the other two branches.  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

[Note: "2014: The Year of Self-Exposure" is now up and immediately below.  I'm leaving Isaiah's comic as the top entry for today.]

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, December 8, 2017.  In the last year of Barack Obama's presidency veterans homelessness increased (despite his pledge to end it), PBS misleads regarding Iraqi militias and much more

Starting with a report from last night's THE NEWHOUR (PBS -- link is video and transcript):

  • Reza Sayah:
    At a training camp just outside of the city of Kirkuk, a rare glimpse of America’s newest problem in Iraq, the Popular Mobilization Forces, PMF, for short, Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic, an armed militia more than 100,000 fighters strong who helped crush ISIS in Iraq, many armed, funded, and trained by America’s longtime foe the Islamic Republic of Iran, with no plans to disband.
  • Abu Ali Beyk (through Interpreter):
    The PMF has reached a place where no one can stop it, and this is a blow to U.S. interests in the Middle East.
  • Reza Sayah:
    Abu Ali Beyk is the face of America’s newest problem, a battle-scarred PMF commander committed to God and driven by duty, and in no small measure, revenge.
    When Beyk was a child, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, executed his Shia father. Beyk and his family fled to neighboring Iran, the leading Shia power in the region, where they lived for more than a decade. Twenty years later, he was back in Iraq fighting ISIS, a terrorist organization many here believe was made up of Sunni remnants of Saddam Hussein’s forces, and supported, Beyk says, by Washington’s Sunni Arab allies.
  • Abu Ali Beyk (through Interpreter):
    Everyone knows ISIS was manufactured by America’s allies in the region. The PMF, backed by Iran, defeated ISIS, so those American allies are not happy.
  • Reza Sayah:
    It was the threat of ISIS in Iraq that spawned the PMF in 2014. With most U.S. forces gone and Iraqi forces too weak to take on ISIS, the Iraqi government called on Iran for help, and Iraq’s highest religious authority, Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani, called for volunteer fighters.
    Within weeks, armed militias mobilized, backed by Iran.
  • Abu Ali Beyk (through Interpreter):
    While the whole world watched as Iraq was collapsing, in fact, it was only Iran that stood with us by providing us moral and material support.
  • Reza Sayah:
    The PMF acknowledged support from Iran. Many fighters say they have traveled there. We heard several speak the Iranian language of Farsi.
  • Haji Jawdat Assaf:
    We love Iranians.
  • Reza Sayah:
    But PMF spokesman Haji Jawdat Assaf insists they’re not beholden to Iran, and never use Iranian soldiers.

But armed militias didn't mobilize within weeks.

Why can't PBS demand accuracy?

The militias existed.  They were barred from participating by Iraqi law.

But they existed -- and they usually terrorized local communities.

The remarks by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani didn't mean new groups sprung up.

It just meant these thugs went in and became part of the Iraqi armed forces -- something that Hayder al-Abadi and the Parliament then illegally enforced.

In fact, why can't PBS point that out?

Without context, it's not news, it's just blather.

I also missed, in last night propaganda, the fact that the militias have threatened US forces.

US ally against ISIS War in Iraq, Shiite paramilitary Harakat Hezbollah Al-Nujaba threatened to attack the U.S. military in Iraq following President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s.

20 hours ago?

Thursday morning.  More than enough time to make Thursday night of a 'news' broadcast by PBS.

And that wasn't the first threat to attack US troops made by Shi'ite militias.

We've discussed this topic repeatedly -- most recently in the November 30th snapshot, following militia leader Hadi al-Ameri's threat to US troops who did not leave Iraq.

In 2015, Maria Fantappie and Peter Harling (International Crisis Group) observed:

Here is a new Iraqi paradox: whatever progress the Shi’ite Muslim-dominated Baghdad government makes against jihadi insurgents occupying large swathes of north-western Iraq, it is simultaneously undermining what is left of the Iraqi state, whose frailty and malfunctions created the environment in which jihadism was able to surge in the first place.
The dereliction of the Iraqi state was already powerfully illustrated by the takeover of one-third of Iraq, including the city of Mosul, by Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS) in June 2014. Security forces proved rotten to the core despite a decade of training and expansion. Local Sunni Arab elites were revealed to have turned their backs on their constituencies in favor of a corrupt, corrosive relationship with authorities in Baghdad. Power struggles in the capital often deteriorated into sectarian fear-mongering.
Since June, matters have got worse, particularly in the current battle for the Sunni-populated town of Tikrit, where much of the fighting is by Shi’ite militias under the guidance of Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders. Though Iraqi elites and foreign officials alike have signaled they understand the gravity of such shortcomings, they have done little beyond professing intent to shore up the military, re-empower Sunni Arabs through local governance and provision of security and launch an inclusive political process in the capital.
At the same time, the new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has been all but sidelined by the massive expansion, multiplication and professionalization of so-called “popular mobilization” groups (Hashid al-Shaabi) – in effect Shi’ite militias – that enjoy considerable support in some segments of society and have taken the lead in the single-minded pursuit of defeating Islamic State by military means.
This decentralized fight has reduced the army to playing a bit role at best, which in turn has reduced the role of the prime minister, its commander in chief. In the vacuum, these militias operate beyond the control of the state, erode its credibility and cannibalize its resources. Their victories — in Tikrit and elsewhere — most likely will further entrench and normalize their role at the state’s expense, which would mark a decisive turn away from the state-building process meant to be ushered in by the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Abadi professes a reform agenda, but he has not been empowered to deliver on it. On one side, he derives little power from control over national security institutions that have been thoroughly discredited; the interior and national security ministries, in particular, are in the hands of political rivals and essentially serve as the militias’ logistical backbone. On the other, he faces open resistance in parliament, especially from Iran-backed hardline Shi’ite factions, to efforts to reach out to Sunni Arabs and return them to politics.
The risk is that, as the balance of forces tilts further to the militias’ advantage, they will have the power to decide what happens during and after military operations. There have been troubling signs that, calls for restraint notwithstanding, they have engaged in the same brutal, sectarian-based practices as their Islamic State adversaries, including summary executions and population displacement in mixed Sunni-Shi’ite areas.
Moreover, there is danger the aftermath of battle might include reprisals against local elements under the banner of transitional justice, targeting anyone thought to be associated with Islamic State, reminiscent of de-Baathification after 2003. Without local institutions or acknowledged leaders to govern Sunni Arab areas, militias could end up having to promote local proxies lacking legitimacy. This would be especially damaging for the process of appointing and recruiting local police.

2015 is the same year that Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent (FOREIGN POLICY) observed:

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey told Congress on March 3: “What we are watching carefully is whether the militias — they call themselves the popular mobilization forces — whether when they recapture lost territory, whether they engage in acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing.” He needn’t watch any longer. They are engaging in exactly that.
The crimes of war
On March 10, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a comprehensive study of human rights violations committed by both IS and pro-Iraqi forces. The Islamic State, OHCHR concluded, has likely committed genocide against the Yazidis, a ethno-religious minority in Iraq, in a catalogue of war crimes and crimes against humanity that include gang-rape and sexual slavery. But OHCHR’s language is equally unambiguous in condemning the other side on the battlefield: “Throughout the summer of 2014,” the report noted, “[PMUs], other volunteers and [Shiite] militia moved from their southern heartlands towards [Islamic State]-controlled areas in central and northern Iraq. While their military campaign against the group gained ground, the militias seem to operate with total impunity, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake.” [Italics added.]
Sunni villages in Amerli and Suleiman Bek, in the Salah ad-Din province, have been looted or destroyed by militiamen operating on the specious assumption that all inhabitants once ruled by IS must be IS sympathizers or collaborators. Human Rights Watch has also lately discovered that the “liberation” of Amerli last October — another PMU/Iranian-led endeavor, only this one abetted by U.S. airstrikes in the early stages — was characterized by wide-scale abuses including the looting and burning of homes and business of Sunni residents of villages surrounding Amerli. The apparent aim was ethnic cleansing.

And a year earlier, Tirana Hassan (FOREIGN POLICY) was documenting the ethnic cleansing taking place in the name of 'liberation':

There is mounting evidence that Iraq’s Shiite militias are using the fight against the Islamic State as cover for a campaign of sectarian violence targeting Sunni Arab communities. The Baghdad authorities have turned a blind eye to these militias’ crimes, while foreign governments have ignored the militias’ use of their military aid to pursue their campaign against Sunni Arabs. If the central Iraqi government doesn’t rein in Shiite militias and hold them and their commanders to account for their crimes — including war crimes — Iraq may enter even more terrible times. 

Changing topics . . .

Trump's announcement will be used by terrorist recruiters, Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi tells . Summit info:

The announcement?

I am unable to find the words to adequately describe the reckless stupidity of this decision. Jerusalem

The so-called 'resistance' ignored the issue to instead focus on whether Donald Trump was drunk or had bad dentures.

Expect them to continue to avoid the issue, Hillary's on record supporting this move going back to 1999.  In addition, her supporters support her on this as CNN noted in June 2016:

Sanders' backers want to exclude references to Jerusalem as belonging wholly to Israel, which Palestinians contest, and consider language that labels Israeli settlements in the West Bank "an occupation," a notion adamantly opposed by Clinton supporters who warn it would undermine the peace process.

: Iraqi demonstrators angered by U.S. President for recognising as the Israeli capital.

Iraqi Cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr calls on ‘Saudi led coalition’ to end wars in Yemen, Bahrain & Syria and head towards to liberate it
Top Iraqi Shia cleric condemns Trump’s al-Quds decision

Let's wind down with this from IAVA:

New York, NY (December 7, 2017) — This week, The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released an assessment of national homelessness that showed veteran homelessness increased by 1.5% between January 2016 and January 2017. According to the report, more than 40,000 veterans were experiencing homelessness. IAVA, the leading voice of the Post-9/11 generation of veterans, calls the increase in veterans homelessness a national shame. This is the first time since 2010 that veterans homelessness has increased, and IAVA calls on leaders in Washington to react quickly to reverse this unconscionable trend. 
Especially shocking is that this crisis disproportionately affects women veterans. In the past year, women veterans homelessness increased by 7%, while male veteran homelessness rose by 1%, adding to the evidence that women veterans are not getting the services and support they need. In 2017 IAVA launched the groundbreaking She Who Borne The Battle Campaign to recognize and support women vets. 
“IAVA is dedicated to ending veteran homelessness,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA. “And our government must be dedicated as well. The White House, Congress and VA must continue to push for innovative solutions addressing veteran homelessness impacting changing populations. This is especially true for women veterans, who are more likely to experience homelessness. It is critical that the Department of Veterans Affairs and the housing community provide safe facilities for women that will address their specific needs. We were glad to see Secretary Shulkin withdraw a proposal that would have ended specific funding toward this critical program, which was strongly criticized by IAVA, allies and HUD. But there’s much more to be done, especially to support women veterans.” 
In IAVA’s most recent Member Survey:
-23% of IAVA members did not have housing secured when they transitioned out of service. 
-About 1% of IAVA members reported that they did not have a place to live and could not afford one at the time of taking the survey.
IAVA’s She Who Borne the Battle Campaign aims ensure that the service and support women veterans need is readily available to them — so that they never have to face homelessness or housing insecurity. The IAVA-backed Deborah Sampson Act will expand the services available to women veterans that may be at risk for homelessness or housing insecurity due to legal issues or financial insecurity.  
Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.

And the following community sites -- plus THE GUARDIAN --  updated:

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Diana Ross on tonight's American Music Awards (ABC)

Diana Ross on longevity and life off the stage

  1. I couldn't miss the honoring my mom this Sunday... so I'm hosting the show! Don't miss it this Sunday at 8/7c on ABC!

Don't miss Diana on tonight's AMAs.

We're working on THIRD and I'm trying to do a comic for THE COMMON ILLS to go up tonight.

But I love Diana Ross and want to be sure everyone else who does knows she's performing on THE AMAS tonight (ABC) and she's receiving the lifetime achievement award.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, November 17, 2017.

"Love Hangover" is one of the 19 number one pop songs (BILLBOARD US singles chart) that Diana Ross has sang on (and it's the theme to her hist film MAHOGANY).   November 19th, she'll be on the live broadcast (ABC) of The American Music Awards to perform and to receive the American Music Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Motown Classic is issuing DIAMOND DIANA: THE LEGACY COLLECTION November 17th (today!)  to note this monumental achievement.  That's this Sunday and her daughter Tracee Ellis Ross (BLACKISH, GIRLFRIENDS) will be hosting the broadcast.

Turning to Iraq . . .

THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE this coming Sunday will feature a cover story by Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal "The Uncounted:"

   Around midnight, Basim heard a thump from the second floor. He peeked out of his office and saw a sliver of light under the door to the bedroom of his daughter, Tuqa. He called out for her to go to bed. At 21, Tuqa would often stay up late, and though Basim knew that he wasn’t a good example himself and that the current conditions afforded little reason to be up early, he believed in the calming power of an early-to-bed, early-to-rise routine. He waited at the foot of the stairs, called out again, and the sliver went dark.
It was 1 a.m. when Basim finally shut down the computer and headed upstairs to bed. He settled in next to Mayada, who was fast asleep.
Some time later, he snapped awake. His shirt was drenched, and there was a strange taste — blood? — on his tongue. The air was thick and acrid. He looked up. He was in the bedroom, but the roof was nearly gone. He could see the night sky, the stars over Mosul. Basim reached out and found his legs pressed just inches from his face by what remained of his bed. He began to panic. He turned to his left, and there was a heap of rubble. “Mayada!” he screamed. “Mayada!” It was then that he noticed the silence. “Mayada!” he shouted. “Tuqa!” The bedroom walls were missing, leaving only the bare supports. He could see the dark outlines of treetops. He began to hear the faraway, unmistakable sound of a woman’s voice. He cried out, and the voice shouted back, “Where are you?” It was Azza, his sister-in-law, somewhere outside.
“Mayada’s gone!” he shouted.
“No, no, I’ll find her!”

“No, no, no, she’s gone,” he cried back. “They’re all gone!” 

Not only did the strike target his house and his brother's house, the US military posted a video of the strike insisting it was targeting an ISIS facility.

There are no precision strikes.  It's as big a lie as smart bombs.

But where has the left been since the fall of 2014 when Barack Obama began ordering daily strikes?  Strikes that have continued under Donald Trump?

Is the only true sign of a 'woke' person really just bad morning breath?

We certainly haven't seen one damn effort to stop the Iraq War and our 'Social Justice Warriors' can't be bothered with Iraq.

Nor can THE NATION or THE PROGRESSIVE or any of our so-called 'independent' outlets.

They've had nothing to say or do for over three years now as Iraq has endured daily bombings -- not by terrorists but by a US-led coalition.

Kahn and Gopal note:

Our own reporting, conducted over 18 months, shows that the air war has been significantly less precise than the coalition claims. Between April 2016 and June 2017, we visited the sites of nearly 150 airstrikes across northern Iraq, not long after ISIS was evicted from them. We toured the wreckage; we interviewed hundreds of witnesses, survivors, family members, intelligence informants and local officials; we photographed bomb fragments, scoured local news sources, identified ISIS targets in the vicinity and mapped the destruction through satellite imagery. We also visited the American air base in Qatar where the coalition directs the air campaign. There, we were given access to the main operations floor and interviewed senior commanders, intelligence officials, legal advisers and civilian-casualty assessment experts. We provided their analysts with the coordinates and date ranges of every airstrike — 103 in all — in three ISIS-controlled areas and examined their responses. The result is the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes in Iraq since this latest military action began in 2014.

We found that one in five of the coalition strikes we identified resulted in civilian death, a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition. It is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history. Our reporting, moreover, revealed a consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate the claims at all. While some of the civilian deaths we documented were a result of proximity to a legitimate ISIS target, many others appear to be the result simply of flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants. In this system, Iraqis are considered guilty until proved innocent. Those who survive the strikes, people like Basim Razzo, remain marked as possible ISIS sympathizers, with no discernible path to clear their names. 

This is Rawa, the lone survivor of an airstrike that killed her parents and siblings in Qaiyara, Iraq last year. The U.S. told us the coalition carried out an airstrike "10 meters away against a known ISIS weapons cache."

Murray Brewster (CBC) reports on one aspect of the US-led coalition:

Canada is sending 20 combat engineers to train Iraqi troops to dismantle roadside bombs and booby traps left behind by retreating ISIS fighters, the Canadian military announced Friday.

The undertaking unfolded this week even as the overall advise and assist mission involving 200 elite Canadian special forces troops, remains on hold because of tensions between the central government in Baghdad and the independence-minded Kurdish region.

The tensions are long standing.  ISIS provided a common enemy that briefly set various problems aside.  These problems include the lack of funding from the Baghdad-based government to the KRG.
They also include issues of oil and issues of territory.

September 25th a non-binding referendum was held in the KRG and over 92% of those voting expressed the wish for the semi-independent Kurdistan to become fully independent.

Today's Nervous Nancies and Terrified Terrances of the press trembled at the thought and did not report what was taking place but instead presented spin from the Baghdad-based government.

The notion of splitting Iraq into three areas under a system of federalism is not a new one.

And when Senator Joe Biden proposed it, it was treated as normal and rational.

In fact, we were among the few to oppose that.

Our reason for opposing it?

If the Iraqi people want to do it, let them do it.  But it should not be imposed upon them by a foreign government.

We got a lot of flack for that position.

And yet a few years later, when a section of the Iraqi people want to explore it, the press treats it as how-dare-they! and acts as if the notion is something that has never been raised before and certainly not by any right-thinking-person.

It was a non-binding referendum.

The press and various foreign leaders treated it as though the KRG had announced they were building nukes.

This allowed Iraq's latest prime minister and thug Hayder al-Abadi to start persecuting the Kurds.

The latest move?

RUDAW reports:

Kurdish members of the Iraqi parliament left Thursday’s session, causing the legislature to postpone a vote on punishing Kurdish MPs for participating in the independence referendum.

Parliament has sought to have Kurdish MPs stripped of their parliamentary immunity and put on trial in retaliation for voting for Kurdistan independence in the September 25 referendum.

The Iraqi parliament was to discuss the matter on Thursday, but most of the Kurdish MP’s left the legislature when the subject came up. Their absence meant quorum for the session was not met and the meeting had to be delayed.

An MP with the State of Law Coalition condemned the Kurdish lawmakers’ action.

“The parliament brought yet another failure on the people of Iraq. It was meant to punish wrongdoers. Voting on a parliamentary committee formed to punish separatist MPs was on the parliament agenda. These MPs were part of a big plot to undermine the security and stability of Iraq,” said Kazim Sayadi.

Again, this is awful for the Kurds at present but it will ensure that they are resolved in leaving Baghdad behind.   Hayder doesn't know how to foster unity.

The following community sites -- plus THE GUARDIAN, DISSIDENT VOICE, LATINO USA, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS and GORILLA RADIO -- updated:

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