Friday, June 15, 2018

Uncle Joe's Looking Better and Better



From March 30, 2015, that's  "Uncle Joe's Looking Better and Better."  C.I. noted:

John Kerry does his Frankenstein and chants, "More war.  More war."  Hillary Clinton holds a shotgun and insists, "Vote for me and nobody gets hurt."  In front of both of them, a grinning Joe Biden says, "Bet Uncle Joe's looking better and better to you."  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

Imagine how much better we'd be today if Joe Biden had run for president in 2016.

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

Friday, June 15, 2018.  The western press obsesses over foreign countries interfering in Iraq -- foreign countries that are not the United States.

The big news out of Iraq continues to be Moqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Ameri teaming up.

Iraq: The leader of the Sadrist movement Moqtada al-Sadr had announced the formation of an alliance between the people & the opening to form the largest bloc in parliament, came during a joint press conference with President of the Al-Fathahidi alliance held in Najaf.14-06-2018


WHAT would politicians the world over like to do when they lose an election? Annul the results and burn the ballots, of course. In Iraq such dreams come true. On June 6th outgoing MPs voted to hold a recount of Iraq’s election and sack the head of the electoral commission. They were furious that a populist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, won the poll, held in May. Then, on June 10th, a warehouse in Baghdad containing a million ballots went up in flames. Firefighters claim to have saved most of them, but the equipment for counting the votes was destroyed.
Weary of the democratic process, Mr Sadr and his rivals are again readying their militias. An arms cache that exploded under a mosque in Mr Sadr’s Baghdad stronghold killed about 20 residents and brought his militia, Saraya Salam, onto the streets. “Certain parties are trying to drag Iraq into civil war,” he warned.
The fiercest rancour is between the Shia factions vying for the post of prime minister. Mr Sadr’s electoral bloc, Sairoun, seeks to wrest power from Dawa, a Shia Islamist party that has led the government since 2005. Dawa held the most seats in the outgoing parliament, but the electoral bloc of its leader, Nuri al-Maliki, a former prime minister, tied for fourth in the poll. Mr Maliki and his allies cried foul and said a new electronic-voting system made the poll easier to rig.

Some are fretting over the alliance between Moqtada and Hadi but this is an alliance that resulted from US interference.  The US government egged on the losers encouraging them to demand a recount or a revote.  They thought that would happen.

All it did was lead to Moqtada teaming up with Hadi to block the US interference.

Moqtada teaming up with others was limited.  And, as Mustafa Habib (NIQASH) observed in his analysis last week, "Al-Sadr is satisfied because the state of law alliance – another Iran-allied group but one that is less popular than the militias’ – is not part of this agreement."  State of Law is Nouri al-Maliki's coalition.


Sadr and Amiri are strange bedfellows.
Sadr, who once led violent campaigns against the US occupation that ended in 2011, has emerged as a nationalist opponent of powerful Shia parties allied with neighbouring Iran and as a champion of the poor.
"Our meeting was a very positive one, we met to end the suffering of this nation and of the people. Our new alliance is a nationalist one," Sadr said.
Al-Sadr's alliance comprising of communists and secular Iraqis has announced it is fiercely opposed to any foreign interference in Iraq - whether Tehran's or Washington's.
Amiri, a fluent Persian speaker, is Iran's closest ally in Iraq, having spent two years in exile there during the era of former President Saddam Hussein.

The Fatah alliance he led in the election was composed of political groups tied to Iran-backed Shia armed groups who helped government forces defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters.

Hadi heads the militias bloc.  Mustafa Habib (NIQASH) offers a look at the group:

The Fatah, or Conquest, alliance is led by Hadi al-Ameri, a former government minister-turned soldier, leader of the Badr brigades and well known for his closeness to Iran and his friendship with senior Iranian soldier, Qasim Soleimani.  It is made up of 18 different political parties, most of which are backed by armed militias. The Badr group is probably the most prominent in the group but the alliance also includes political wings of parties like Hezbollah in Iraq and the League of the Righteous. And they managed to do better in the elections, held May 12, than the two other alliances – that led by Haider al-Abadi and another led by cleric Ammar al-Hakim - who formerly got many of the Shiite Muslim votes in Iraq.
When the extremist Islamic State, or IS, group sparked the security crisis in 2014, that would impact the country so critically over the next three years, a Shiite Muslim-led government was in charge. The IS group exploited opportunities – political unrest, sectarian divisions, a lack of security, a mismanaged military – to take control of certain cities and towns in Iraq. Locals believed that many of these things were the fault of the current government.
Many Shiites came to believe that the Shiite Muslim political parties that had ruled for over a decade bore a large part of the responsibility for the IS group’s development.
Meanwhile the Shiite Muslim militias formed in response to the security crisis and were seen as a new hope. They were defended their own homes and also went to fight the IS group on its territory. Locals came to see them as a group with potential – not just in security terms but also with the potential to resolve other longstanding problems in Iraq, such as the wobbling economy and the lack of state services.
In 2015, Shiite Muslim militia leaders began to exploit that vision of them and started making political statements. The leader of the League of the Righteous held a press conference commenting on the nature of Iraqi politics and how a change was needed. In a year marked by extremely high summer temperatures and the deterioration of power supplies, a statement from Hezbollah in Iraq said it would hold the minister of power to account and called on police not to use violence against demonstrators who were protesting the power cuts. Such calls were unusual, coming from a militia. A few weeks before the Iraqi election, the militias also added the fight against corruption to their list of priorities.

“The fight against corruption is the first step we will take when we get into parliament,” Abdul Amir Fattah Hassan, a member of the Conquest alliance, told NIQASH. “For too long, personal interests have disrupted state services.”

The US government made a huge mistake when they thought they could force Moqtada to step aside after his bloc won the elections.  Their efforts to circumvent him led to his alliance with Hadi.  As usual, the western press finds outside interference shocking -- when it's not the US.  So they spend all their time focusing on the manipulations of non-US governments.  THE ARAB WEEKLY features an AFP piece focusing on Iran's role in the teaming:

Insiders said the unlikely tie-up to try to form a new government came after Iran decided that if it couldn't beat Sadr, then it might be better to seek to join him.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Tehran had launched a political offensive to try to unite its allies and block Sadr's path to power.
But Iran changed tack on realising pushing the popular cleric aside was too problematic, and instead sought to include Sadr in a Shia alliance broad enough to neutralise his influence.
At a meeting Sunday with Ameri and former premier Nuri al-Maliki at Iran's embassy in Baghdad, top emissaries from Tehran apparently endorsed a link-up with Sadr as the lesser of two evils.
"Dismissing Moqtada Sadr could allow him to assemble other groups and increase the criticism levelled at Iran's role in Iraq," said a source close to participants of the meeting.

What might the landscape in Iraq look like if the governments of Iran and the US stopped trying to control things from behind the scenes?  The world will probably never know.  Just like PBS' FRONTLINE will repeatedly ignore the US role in Iraq while always focusing on Saudi Arabia and Iran's attempts to control Iraq.

XINHUA notes, "A security personnel was killed and six others wounded on Friday in a militant attack on a security checkpoint in central Iraq on the first day of Eid al-Fitr festival, a police source said."  In addition, Leith Aboufadel (ALMASDAR NEWS) explains, "The Turkish military killed at least 26 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Qandil Mountains region of northern Iraq today, Turkish state-owned Anadolu Agency reported."

The Turkish conflict continues and it has no end in sight.   Fazel Hawramy (AL-MONITOR) points out:

"If the occupying enemy sleeps even one night comfortably … we won’t accept that," Adasa Janwelat, a young female sniper from Afrin said May 20 as she prepared to go into battle alongside other fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) against units of the Turkish army, which has occupied a large swath of territory in the Sidakan area in northern Iraq.
"After kicking out the Turkish army from south Kurdistan [Iraq], I will go to Afrin and fight against the occupying forces there." Two weeks later, on June 3, a website close to the PKK released a video, which showed the group's snipers observing Turkish soldiers on peaks in the Sidakan area through their binoculars and shooting five of them dead.
The Sidakan area is an inaccessible triangle with spectacular high peaks, rocky and precipitous gorges and rivers flowing between Iraq, Iran and Turkey. It has served as the perfect corridor for PKK fighters to cross into Turkey and attack the security forces. Since July 2015, when a 2½-year cease-fire collapsed between the government and the PKK, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has undertaken a crusade against the group in Iraq and Turkey and its affiliated groups in Syria.
Erdogan feels emboldened — especially after wresting control of Afrin from the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) in March, which was followed by PKK fighters' withdrawal from Sinjar and more recently the YPG's withdrawal from Manbij. But the tenacity of the PKK and its ferocity in fighting its enemies — be they the Turkish army or other Kurdish groups — show that if Erdogan indeed attacks Qandil, which is very unlikely, he should expect a bloody and long war with serious consequences for the stability of the region and Iraqi Kurdistan. While Turkish firepower appears to have been fairly effective in the flatlands and hills of northern Syria, the highlands of northern Iraq are a different story and could become a death trap for any ground invasion by the Turkish army.


The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS and THE DIANE REHM SHOW -- updated:

  • Read on ...

    Sunday, June 10, 2018

    Trustful Hillary


    From March 17, 2015, that's  "Trustful Hillary."  C.I. noted:

    Hillary waves and smiles to a crowd, declaring, "Trust me."  Behind her back, she has her fingers crossed.   Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.
    That's the Hillary we know and distrust.  She earned that reputation long, long ago.

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

    Friday, June 8, 2018.  Congress needs to ask the Defense Dept how they rate US tax dollars when they can't even show up for a hearing on burn pits?

    Where is the US Defense Dept?  Or rather, where was it?

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: I'm just really disappointed -- the Chairman of the Subcommittee already said this, but I join him in saying just how disappointed I am that Department of Defense ducked this meeting.  They have every reason in the world to be here -- deeply disappointing that they're not.

    He was speaking at Thursday afternoon's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing -- a hearing the Defense Dept decided wasn't important enough for them to be present.

    The view was a common one.  US House Rep Clay Higgins, for example, stated, "I'd like to state for all present that it is quite disturbing that DoD is not present."  In what world is DoD allowed to sit out the hearing?  And we thought the VA's former Alison Hickey was the worst veterans would have to suffer through?

    Higgins continued, "I'm quite disturbed that DoD isn't here because I'd like to ask who the genius was that came up with this idea?  We've essentially --  we've essentially deployed chemical and biological weapons on our own troops."

    How so?  The topic was burn pits.    

    "I will say that I'm disappointed that the representatives of DoD chose not to participate today.  This is currently the only planned panel on this subject," observed US House Rep Neal Dunn.  "Their statement is available for the record; however, as a potential key contributor in what needs to be ongoing research into this problem, their presence would have been valuable."

    But they weren't there.  The American people pay DoD's salaries.  What's the justification for the Dept of Defense failing to send a single representative to the hearing?

    As many members of the Committee noted in the hearing, it had taken years for the government to address Agent Orange and its victims from the Vietnam War.

    In fact, as Beto O'Rourke noted, "it took this country more than 40 years to acknowledge our responsibility and our accountability and to pony up and begin to take care of people that we should have decades earlier been there for."

    When DoD doesn't even feel the need to show up at a hearing on burn pits, it makes it appear highly unlikely that they feel any real pressure to address this serious issue that is not only causing the suffering of many veterans but is also claiming the lives of many veterans.

    Do they not even care?

    And do they not even care about offering the pretense that they care?

    DoD looks very bad.

    And that's before you factor in the US Government Accountability Office issuing a report yesterday entitled "DOD Needs to Fully Assess the Health Risks of Burn Pits."  Here's the summary of the report:

    What GAO Found

    GAO reported in September 2016 that the effects from exposing individuals to burn pit emissions were not well understood, and the Department of Defense (DOD) had not fully assessed the health risks associated with the use of burn pits. Burn pits—shallow excavations or surface features with berms used to conduct open-air burning—were often chosen as a method of waste disposal during recent contingency operations in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility, which extends from the Middle East to Central Asia and includes Iraq and Afghanistan. According to DOD Instruction 6055.01, DOD Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) Program , DOD should apply risk-management strategies to eliminate occupational injury or illness and loss of mission capability or resources. The instruction also requires all DOD components to establish procedures to ensure that risk-acceptance decisions were documented, archived, and reevaluated on a recurring basis. Furthermore, DOD Instruction 6055.05, Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH), requires that hazards be identified and risk evaluated as early as possible, including the consideration of exposure patterns, duration, and rates.
    While DOD has guidance that applies to burn pit emissions among other health hazards, DOD had not fully assessed the health risks of use of burn pits, according to DOD officials.
    According to DOD officials, DOD's ability to assess these risks was limited by a lack of adequate information on (1) the levels of exposure to burn pit emissions and (2) the health impacts these exposures had on individuals. With respect to information on exposure levels, DOD had not collected data from emissions or monitored exposures from burn pits as required by its own guidance. Given the potential use of burn pits near installations and during future contingency operations, establishing processes to monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures would better position DOD and combatant commanders to collect data that could help assess exposure to risks.
    GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense (1) take steps to ensure CENTCOM and other geographic combatant commands, as appropriate, establish processes to consistently monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures; and (2) in coordination with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, specifically examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health-related issues. DOD concurred with the first recommendation and partially concurred with the second. In a May 2018 status update regarding these recommendations, DOD outlined a series of steps it had implemented as well as steps that it intends to implement. The department believes these efforts will further enhance its ability to better monitor burn-pit emissions and examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health related issues. GAO believes the steps DOD is taking are appropriate.

    Why GAO Did This Study

    Burn pits help base commanders manage waste generated by U.S. forces overseas, but they also produce harmful emissions that military and other health professionals believe may result in chronic health effects for those exposed.
    This statement provides information on the extent to which DOD has assessed any health risks of burn pit use.
    This statement is based on a GAO report issued in September 2016 (GAO-16-781). The report was conducted in response to section 313 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. Specifically, GAO assessed the methodology DOD used in conducting a review of the compliance of the military departments and combatant commands with DOD instructions governing the use of burn pits in contingency operations and the adequacy of a DOD report for the defense committees. GAO also obtained updates from DOD on actions taken to assess health risks from burn pits since September 2016.

    What GAO Recommends

    GAO made two recommendations focused on improving monitoring of burn pit emissions and examining any associated health effects related to burn pit exposure. DOD concurred with one recommendation and partially concurred with the other. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are valid.
    For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or

    US House Rep Julia Brownley was another member of the Committee expressing dismay over the decision by the Defense Dept not to participate in the hearing.  She noted the DoD would need to work with the VA on this issue and "that is why it is both unfortunate and disappointing, as the Chairman said, that the agency who will need to be a true partner is unwilling to participate."

    They're unwilling to participate, the Defense Dept, even as the GAO finds the Department lacking in basically every duty that has to do with the issue of burn pits.

    Time permitting, we'll note Brownley and US House Rep Mark Takano next week on an aspect that includes burn pits but also goes beyond it.

    For now, we'll note this exchange from the hearing.

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: What I want to know from you is how have they [DoD] been as a partner? Your title is Chief Consultant Post Deployment, Health Office of Patient Care Services Veterans Health Administration US Dept of Veterans Affairs.  So you're post deployment.  How are you doing with working with the deployment side of the equation?  
    as to the point as you can be.

    Ralph Erickson: Again, we have a deployment health work group which we on a regular basis work to discuss these issues --

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: So let me get to this.  You have 144,000 on the voluntary registry out of 3.5 eligible.  Is DoD doing everything within their power to identify those 3.5 million and connect you with them?

    Ralph Erickson: Representative O'Rourke, I-I cannot speak for DoD in that regard --

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke:  I'm asking you.

    Ralph Erickson: My-my sense is they have taken very strong steps to that end -- especially as it relates to point of transition --

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: Is there something more that they could do?

    Ralph Erickson: You know -- you know, I think all of us could partner better to do more.  My sense is that, uh, with having, uh, a much greater enrollment in the registry we'll be able to take this much further than we have to date.

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: Let me ask you this question, so the Chairman -- Chairman Roe -- referred to his desire to study medical cannibas and while I support that effort I also support allowing doctors at the VA to prescribe it today just because there are doctors who would like to prescribe it today, there are veterans who would like to receive it and, if those two agree, then let's move forward.  I don't need to study it anymore.  Are we at a point now where doctors can begin treating this without more studies?  And where we can -- We have enough information even if it's not, you know, studied to the tenth degree.  But there are veterans who are saying "I am experiencing this and need this help" and enough doctors who are saying, "I can do the following to help those veterans and here are the kind of unique conditions  that we can respond to.''

    Ralph Erickson: To the degree that a service member or a veteran has a defined condition -- bronchitis, a type of cancer, etc. -- we certainly will aggressively pursue the normal methods of treatment to the state of the art. As it relates to answering all of the questions that are surrounding this from exposure, there's a lot we still need to learn.  And we're in that phase right now where we know there's an issue but we don't have all the answers.

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: Could we get to -- could we get to the presumptive status akin to Agent Orange where you just say, "Look, I was here in Iraq -- or Afghanistan -- at this time and I can't tell you how many kilometers away from the burn pit I was or the date or exactly what was burned, but I was experiencing this.  Help me." and the VA's going to help you?

    Ralph Erickson: With Agent Orange, presumptions came into effect both with legistlation which specified which diseases and which presumptions --

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: Are you waiting on us to do that?

    Ralph Erickson: No.

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: Do you need that statutorily or can you --

    Ralph Erickson: Or that --

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: -- deliver that care?

    Ralph Erickson: -- VA would -- the Secretary would have the authority through the authority that the Congress has provided the Secretary to say that the-the level of evidence is sufficient for us to make a presumption.  At the present time, we don't have sufficient evidence.

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: Even if the veteran says "I was here, I experienced this and there were at least 150,000 other people who had taken the time to register that same complaint," we just don't have enough?

    Ralph Erickson: We-we-we need those answers.  We need those studies I mentioned, we need those to go to completion, we need to be able to work on a population.

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: Last question because I'm out of time, what's the time line to have those studies done?

    Ralph Erickson: Uh, again, I'll-I'll provide that to you, that'll be one of my takeaways.

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: Give me the ballpark.

    Ralph Erickson: These-these can take several years.

    US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: So at the earliest, three years from today?

    Ralph Erickson: That is a possibility but it will vary study to study.

    Ballots are being studied in Iraq.  That's after the May 12th election results didn't please those already in power.  So the results are now cancelled.  Some reactions on Twitter.

    The current post-election political environment is unparalleled when compared to the aftermath of the 2010 and 2014 elections. There are now serious challenges about the legitimacy of the elections and the entire political system. This is a new landscape for Iraqi politics.
    So Iraq has exposed elections ordered for manual vote counting. They had introduced EVM's to avoid rigging however opposite happened is proving us all is well.
    Iraqi parliament cancels ALL results of recent parliamentary elections. There will be manual recount. Iran wins in Iraq for a while.
    Our Representatives in the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq have submitted a draft amendment to the current law of quota seat elections in order to limit the quota votes to the constituents represented.
  • : The parliament decided to recount all the votes manually. 172 MPs agreed on dissolving the . This is for the fist time in history that elections are rigged in such ways. Thanks for this good news from . We will see how it goes.

    Staying with Twitter, last September, the KRG held a non-binding referendum.  They were condemned by outsiders for doing it.  And then 'experts' (Joel Wing types) insisted Massoud Barzani had destroyed his own reputation for allowing it to take place.

    They were wrong as gas bags so often are.

    Barzani is already seen as heroic for what he did and the sooner he steps out of politics completely, the more that opinion will be the overwhelming opinion among Kurds.

    For now, this is much more accurate than any gas baggery:

    Kurdistan’s referendum was the right move at the right time, especially for places like Kirkuk, Shingal or Khanaqin. Iraq would’ve taken over those regions with or without the vote. But before that happened, the people could make their desire clear to the world. In black & white.

    The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley -- updated:

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