Thursday, February 27, 2014

Presidential Dress Up

Presidential Dress Up

From October 30, 2010, that's "Presidential Dress Up." C.I. wrote:

 Barack dresses up as a construction worker and declares, "Look at me! Dressed up like a worker! Halloween's fun because you get to pretend." Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

I love that comic.  I'd forgotten it.  And when I typed "I love that comic," I just noticed he was carrying a plastic pumpkin for treats.  I love it.

An e-mail wanted to know about "C.I. writes."  I thought I'd gone over this already.

My handwriting is bad.  I do my best handwriting on the comics and it's still bad.

So one thing I was concerned about was my writing and C.I. said, before I did my first comic with text, that she'd describe it and quote it when it went up.

That's why it started.

Why it will stay?

We are a big community and we have some members with special needs.

Did you know that if you are blind, there is a program for the computer that will read the text for you?

We have members who use that.

But it can't read a jpg or jpeg.

So C.I.'s description allows the 'reader' to explain the comic to those who can't see it.

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

Thursday, February 27, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar continues, Nouri doesn't have the forces to enter Falluja but continues to pretend otherwise, Osama al-Nujaifi visits Erbil, Senator Patty Murray fights for veterans and their families, and more.

Starting in the US with Senator Patty Murray.

That's Senator Patty Murray speaking on the floor of the Senate today about a very important issue.  For those who need or prefer text, here are her remarks:

“On Tuesday I came here to the floor to discuss one issue we are rarely divided on in this building. And that is our duty to keep the promise we’ve made to provide not only care - but opportunity - to all those who’ve honorably served in our nation’s Armed Forces. The comprehensive veterans legislation before us today is really the test for many members of Congress. Can we put politics aside for the good of our nation’s veterans to keep that promise? Can we show these heroes that - despite our differences - we will work as diligently toward getting them the benefits and care they’ve earned as they have worked for our nation?
“Unfortunately our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are indicating they’d prefer to put politics over promises under the guise of an alternative to this bill. Given what we have seen recently on other bills supported by a majority of Americans, I shouldn’t be surprised. But I truly did think this bill would be a different story. Because it contains ideas from both Democrats AND Republicans. Because this is an issue that has historically united this body. And because we have ALL pledged to do whatever it takes on behalf of our veterans. But once again, our colleagues have decided to use unrelated issues to sour this entire effort for the veterans and their families who stand to benefit the most from this comprehensive legislation.
“Additionally, with their alternative bill, they’ve stripped away life changing programs for veterans who are looking to take the skills they’ve learned from the battlefield to the boardroom. They’ve decided to halt the expansion of opportunities for caregivers – who are integral to the health and well-being of some of our most vulnerable heroes. But among these – and many other – examples of the Republican effort to derail this landmark legislation, there is one issue I find most egregious: And that is their shameful opposition to providing our catastrophically wounded heroes with access to the reproductive services they so desperately need to start a family.   
“This shouldn’t be a political issue – Because this is about giving veterans who have sacrificed everything -- every option we have to help them fulfill the simple dream of starting a family. As we all know, our men and women in uniform have become increasingly susceptible to reproductive, spinal and traumatic brain injuries due to the changing weapons of war. But thanks to modern medicine, many of these servicemembers are being kept alive and are returning home. In fact, as of the New Year, there are 2,348 servicemembers who are living with reproductive, urinary or pelvic injuries. And like so many of our veterans, these men and women come home looking to return to their lives, to find employment, and so often to start a family. Yet what they find when they go to the VA is that the fertility services available don’t meet their complex needs. 
“In fact, veterans suffering from these injuries find that the VA is specifically barred from providing more advanced assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF. They are told that despite the fact they have made such an extreme sacrifice for our nation we cannot provide them with the medical services they need to start a family. Veterans like Staff Sergeant Matt Keil  – and his wife Tracy.
“Despite returning home from Iraq a quadriplegic, Staff Sergeant Keil and Tracy started exploring the possibilities of starting a family together. But because his injuries prevented him from having children naturally, Tracy turned to the VA and began to explore her options for fertility treatments.  But because of the VA ban, they were turned away. Out of options, the Keil’s decided this was important enough to them that they were willing to pay out-of-pocket for IVF treatment in the private sector – to the tune of almost $32,000 per round of treatment. Thankfully, Staff Sergeant Keil and Tracy welcomed their twins Matthew and Faith into the world after just one round of treatments.
“Tracy told me, ‘The day we had our children something changed in both of us. This is exactly what we had always wanted, our dreams had arrived. The VA, Congress and the American People have said countless times that they want to do everything they can to support my husband or make him feel whole again and this is your chance. Having a family is exactly what we needed to feel whole again. Please help us make these changes so that other families can share in this experience.’
“Tracy and Matt are not alone. There are many men and women out there who share this common thread of a desperate desire to fulfill their dream of starting a family only to find the catastrophic wounds they sustained while defending our country are now preventing them from seeing that dream through.
“It should not be this way. Unfortunately, Republicans are indicating they will not join us in overturning this absurd and antiquated ban. Apparently they’d rather our nation’s heroes spend tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector to get the advanced reproductive treatments they need to start a family. They don’t see the problem in letting our veterans’ marriages dissolve because the stress of infertility, in combination with the stresses of readjusting to life after severe injury, driving their relationship to a breaking point.
“Any servicemember who sustains this type of serious injury deserves so much more. Because we came VERY close to making this bill a reality last Congress. In fact, with Tracy Keil watching from the gallery here, we unanimously passed this legislation. Unanimously. 
“But here I am today, once again imploring Republicans to stand up and explain to our men and women in uniform – who I know are paying very close attention to this debate – And explain to them why they want to turn their back on the catastrophic reproductive wounds that have become a signature of these wars. On Tuesday, I spoke to a crowded room of heroes from Disabled American Veterans – and told them the heartbreaking story of the Keil Family and why we need this critical legislation. And if their cheers and applause are any indication, I’d say they wholeheartedly agree that our women veterans deserve this, our male veterans deserve this, and our military families deserve this.
“So I’ve come to the floor today to ask my colleagues a simple question: Are you willing to tell all those brave men and women -- that didn’t ask questions when they were put in harm’s way -- that you are going to let politics get in the way of our commitment to them? The catastrophic wounds we have seen from injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan have meant that our veterans’ dreams to start a family have been put on hold because of the tremendous cost of IVF services. But we believe that’s a cost of war that VA absolutely should cover and it’s unacceptable to let unrelated issues stand in the way.
“Even the major Veterans Service Organizations and their leaders have said issues like Iran sanctions have no place in this comprehensive veterans legislation. People like American Legion Commander Daniel Dellinger who said, ‘Iran is a serious issue that Congress needs to address, but it cannot be tied to S. 1982, which is extremely important as our nation prepares to welcome millions of U.S. military servicemen and women home from war.’
“Or IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, who called this comprehensive legislation, ‘a game changer that will change the trajectory for millions of veterans for decades to come.’
“As serious and timely as they may be, unrelated issues like Iran sanctions are calculated attempts to intentionally dismantle our bipartisan effort to expand health care, education opportunities, employment and other benefits for our nation’s heroes. We can’t allow our commitment to them to lapse or to get caught up in separate issues or political grandstanding.
“I’d like to once again thank the Senator from Vermont and his staff for their tireless work to work to bring this legislation here to the floor.

“I hope our colleagues will reconsider opposing this common-sense step that will give those who have sacrificed everything the reproductive treatments they need to start a family.”

Good for Senator Murray.

But I'm really confused here because we've been attending House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearings for years and what Senator Murray's calling for and backing has never been seen as controversial in hearings.  It's been seen as needed and no member of either Committee over the years has ever uttered an objection in a hearing.  So these objections that are coming now?  No one offered to the faces of veterans and their families.

Senator Murray notes the Keil's in her statement today.  And no one had an objection when Tracy Keil appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and declared,  "I'd like to emphasize this statement: War time changes a family, it shouldn't take away the ability to have one."

Tracy's husband is Iraq War veteran Matt Keil.  She appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee June 12. Senator Murray was the Chair of the Committee then (she now chairs the Senate Budget Committee and Senator Bernie Sanders now chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee).  Murray had  S. 3313, The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012.  to address these issue.  We covered that hearing in the June 27th and June 28th snapshots and let's drop back so we can let Tracy Keil discuss why legislation is needed:

My husband Matt was shot in the neck while on patrol in Ramadi, Iraq on February 24, 2007 just 6 weeks after we were married.  The bullet went through the right side of his neck, hit his vertebral artery, went through his spinal cord and exited through his left shoulder blade.  Matt instantly because a quadriplegic.  When I first saw him 3 days after he was injured I was in shock, they explained to me that he had a "Christopher Reeve type injury."  He would be on a ventilator for the rest of his life and would never move his arms or legs.
Matt and I looked at each other in his hospital room at Walter Reed and he asked me if I still loved him? I said "baby you're stuck with me!" at that moment we knew that we would be okay if we stayed in this together.  I knew that we just needed to work really hard to get Matt off his ventilator to increase his life expectancy.  Ultimately we moved to Craigh Hospital in Denver to be closer to family support.
Four weeks to the day of arriving at Craig Hospital in Denver, Matt was officially off of his ventilator and we could truly concentrate on him doing physical rehabilitation.  Matt has regained about 10% function of his left arm but not his hand.  He was feeling good and getting used to his new normal of being in a wheelchair and asking for help for everything.
It was while we were at Craig Hospital that we started talking about having a family.  Craig doctors talked to us about in vitro fertilzation and recommended some doctors for us to speak to when we were ready to start a family.  We started to get really excited that even though so much had been taken away from Matt physically that we could still have the future we always dreamed of. 
My husband is the most amazing man I have ever met, he is strong, honest and loyal and he wanted us to both have everything we always wanted before his injury and we agreed that this injury wasn't the end, it was the beginning of a new life, and we were in this together.
We had our whole lives ahead of us.  Matt was just 24 when he was injured and I was 28.  We are very fortunate that he survived his injuries that day and we made a promise to each other on our wedding day "For better or worse, in sickness and in health" I meant every word and still do today.  It is a challenge for my husband and I everyday but we knew we still wanted to start a family.  I remember back when he was in rehabilitation at Craig  Hospital it's all we could talk about was when we were going to be adjusted to our new normal and when we would we be ready to have children. We always knew we had wanted children.
In 2008 we moved into a fully handicap accessible home built for us by Homes For Our Troops.  We were starting to feel like things were falling into place in our lives.  We felt like we were starting to get back on track to where we were before Matt was injured.
His injury unfortunately prevents him from having children naturally.  In mid 2008 I started asking the VA what services they could offer my husband and I to assist us with fertility.  I can remember hitting road blocks at every turn.  I decided to take things into my own hands and write letters and make phone calls to try and get anyone to listen to us that we needed help.  Fertility treatments are very expensive and since I had left my full time job we were still adjusting to living on one income.
I felt helpless and hopeless and thought that our dreams of having a family may never come true.  The VA finally said that they would cover the sperm withdrawal from my husband . . . that costs $1,000 and that they would store the sperm for us at no charge.

It was very difficult when I found out there was no help available for us from the VA or Tricare. I felt very defeated, sad, disappointed and in some ways I felt helpless.  I researched everything I could about how to get Tricare to cover some of the costs but they couldn't because it was a direct result of my husband's injury and that fell under the VA.  The VA said that they had no programs in place for this sort of thing.  I even started asking non profits to assist with the cost and they couldn't help due to the other immediate needs of injured service members.

Why did Tracy and Matt suffer?

Because there was nothing in place to take their situation into account.  There are many other veterans families in the same situation.  They're not asking for a high rise or a shiny car, they just want to be able to have a family.  And they can.  It is medically possible.

Matt Keil didn't say, "Hey, I want a vacation.  I think I'll go to Ramadi and work on my tan."  The US government sent him to Iraq and that is where he was injured.  How dare anyone in Congress think they can ignore his needs now.

And there was no objection in the Senate in 2012.  The following year, US House Rep Rick Larsen noted, "The Senate unanimously approved a version of this bill authored by Sen. Patty Murray last year, but the House did not act on the companion legislation that Larsen had introduced before the end of the 112th Congress. Murray reintroduced the Senate version of the bill earlier this year."  So in 2012, universal support and, two years later, someone's 'rethought' it?  Maybe they need to explain to the veterans?  Rick Larsen is a Democrat.  He made his observation when he and Republican House member Steve Stivers joined together to introduce similar legislation in the House.

It also needs to be pointed out that DoD  provides this service  for service members.  It's just VA that's not providing it for veterans.  It is thought that the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War have produced approximately 2,000 veterans who could utilize this service.  Why are they being denied it?  How does this not fall under needed health care.

The costs would not 'break the bank' and it really is the right thing to do.  To quote Tracy Keil one more time, "I'd like to emphasize this statement: War time changes a family, it shouldn't take away the ability to have one."  Shame on anyone in the US Congress who can't grasp -- or refuses to grasp -- that.

Violence has slammed Iraq this month. Just through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 853 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  And the violence didn't stop yesterday.  The Buenos Aires Herald counts 52 deaths today.

National Iraqi News Agency reports an al-Shaab bus bombing claimed 1 life and left three more people injured, Commander Rashid Falih announced 4 suspects were shot dead in Anbar, a Tarmiyah bombing left three Iraqi soldiers injured, Commander Mohamed Khalaf al-Dulaimi of the 10th Army Division announced 10 suspects were killed in Krahh Village near Kirkuk, 1 person was shot dead in Muqdadiyah, Baghdad Operations Command's Saad Maan announced 7 snipers were shot dead outside Qarma, an armed battle in Albu Jabir left 3 rebels dead (and two more injured), the Ministry of the Interior announced they killed 4 Da'ash "near al-Mowdhafeen bridge in Anbar," a Mosul attack left one police officer injured, the Ministy of Interior says they killed 4 Da'ash in the desert of Ishtar, and a Sadr City motorcycle bombing left 11 dead and 35 injured.

Kareem Raheem, Suadad al-Salhy, Ned Parker and Mark Heinrich (Reuters) report  the death toll of the Sadr City bombing increased to 31 with the number injured increasing to 51.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhau) notes the death toll then rose to 32 with the injured rising to 56.  The Irish Times adds, "The motorcycle was in a market in the Shia Muslim neighbourhood that sells used bikes and was filled with people, mostly young men."

It should also be noted that many outlets are running with usual claims of Sunnis and blah blah.  Why would Sadr City be attacked by Sunnis?  And the attack also comes after yesterday's report that Moqtada al-Sadr had left and returned to Iran for more religious studies.

Who knows who attacked Sadr City?

But the best guess anyone could make right now would be that a Shi'ite group attacked and that possibly the increased danger in Sadr City is why Moqtada left for Iran.

Moving to another topic,  Anadolu Agency reports Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi went to Erbil (in the Kurdistan Region) today to meet with  KRG President Massoud Barazni and discuss the "tension between the sides [Baghdad and Erbil] over oil exports and budget distribution."  NINA reports Sadr bloc MP Bahaa al-Araji has talked about the visit, "Al-Araji told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that Nujaifi’s visit to the Kurdistan region came upon the authorization of the heads of political blocs , who met with him in order to finally resolve the standoff between the federal government and the Regional government. " Hiwa Barznjy (Niqash) explains the issues behind the conflict:

Conflict between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan over oil exports has resulted in something of a financial crisis in the northern region. State employees haven’t been paid, MPs are threatening to resign and there are rumours that Turkey was asked for a loan. Negotiations are continuing but some senior politicians are saying that Iraqi Kurdistan is ready for financial independence if a compromise is not reached soon.

Negotiators from the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan have visited Baghdad three times already this year. They went there to discuss many of the seemingly-intractable conflicts that the partially-independent region populated mainly by Iraqis of Kurdish ethnicity is having with the rest of the country, as governed from Baghdad.

The list of these conflicts is similar to those of past years: The disputed areas of Iraq which the Iraqi Kurdish say should belong to their region but which Baghdad says belong to Iraq proper. The oil and gas law - Iraqi Kurdistan has one and Baghdad does not. Who pays for the services of the Iraqi Kurdish military, the Peshmerga. Iraqi Kurdistan’s share of national income, based on oil earnings.

Nouri al-Maliki has been unable to stop the KRG's various oil and gas deals because there's no national oil and gas law.  Along with stomping and screaming like an angry child, Nouri's also attempted to use the country's budget to blackmail the Kurds.   Press TV (link is text and video) notes:

The president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region says Baghdad’s decision to withhold the budget is a declaration of war against Kurdistan. President Massoud Barzani’s comments come as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continues to withhold Kurdistan’s share of the national budget. That includes monthly wages of more than $700m for hundreds of thousands of government employees. 

Rudaw adds, "The Iraqi government has suspended the flights of two small airlines that operate between Europe and the Kurdistan Region, an airport official in Erbil said, the latest in an oil feud between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurds."  NINA reports:

The President of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani said: "The source of the problems is (breach the constitution and the monopoly of power and the failure to provide security)."
Barzani added, during a meeting with the Director General of the Department of Middle East and North Africa in the French Foreign Ministry, Francois Giroux, according to a statement to the presidency of the Kurdistan region, " getting Iraq away from all the meanings of the state and non- delivery of services and the failure to provide security is the result of breaching the Constitution and the monopoly of power."
Barzani expressed his hope that "the political parties' commitment by the constitution and hold elections for the House of Representatives opens avenues towards resolving the problems in Iraq."

Nouri has been a huge failure.  The Economist notes of his assault on Anbar:

Since sending the Iraqi army to dismantle a protest camp in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, in December, Iraqi security forces have been embroiled in a standoff with tribal fighters, some backed by al-Qaeda types who are also fighting in neighbouring Syria. From a former American base, the Iraqi army has mortared the outskirts of the city of Fallujah, sending over 300,000 civilians fleeing in the biggest displacement since the civil war of 2006-2007.
Iraq’s government bills the battle as a fight against al-Qaeda rather than a struggle against Sunni Iraqis who say the government arrests and executes its young men and has shut it out of power. Unable to speed up delivery of American attack helicopters, the Iraqi government has persuaded the American government to lease it some. Both Iraqi and foreign journalists are banned from the area.

All Iraq News notes that Sabah Karhot, Chair of the Anbar Provincial Council, is declaring that Nouri's extended a 'cease-fire,' "'The duration granted by the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki to suspend the military operations in Fallujah city, was extended for a week.''

What a load of nonsense.

Nouri did a 72-hour move he called a 'cease-fire' (one he called '72 hours' as well) and it wasn't (see Monday's snapshot).  Civilians in Anbar were injured and killed by the military's bombings.

Get honest, it's insulting at this point to lie so.

Nouri doesn't have to forces to enter Falluja.

He's been threatening to count to three and turn this car around, he means it, for about five weeks now.


Because it's past time to enter Falluja.

But he can't.  The military keeps deserting on him.  They don't want to go in.  I doubt they're 'scared,' it's like Nouri 2008 attack on Basra.

That resulted in mass exodus from the ranks.  They self-checked out because they didn't want to go hand-to-hand with other Iraqis, they didn't see signing up for the Iraqi military meaning they had to kill Iraqis.  It's happened again.  It's the least reported development in the assault on Anbar, the defections. There was a very high profile one over the weekend but AP, Reuters, AFP all ignored it.  All Iraq News reported, "The chairman of the military council of Anbar, Ali Hatim al-Sulaiman, fled of Anbar to unknown destination."

Nouri's a War Criminal.  He's not being nice or doing a 'cease-fire.'  He's had an excuse one week after another.  And the reason for these excuses?   He doesn't have the forces to enter Falluja successfully.

Despite Nouri's attacks on the Iraqi people, the White House keeps insisting he must armed and armed again.   Erin Evers (Human Rights Watch) observes:

The US has long supported the Iraqi government with arms, though the Iraqi government has committed serious, widespread abuses against its own people in the name of counterterrorism. That has proven ineffective in combating terrorism but has stoked resentment. Psaki acknowledged that the US has “providedthe Iraqi military and security forces with more than $15 billion in equipment, services, and training,” and recently delivered to Iraq “Hellfire missiles and hundreds of small arms along with large quantities of small arms and tank ammunition,” but did not address the copious evidence giving cause for concern that Iraq will use these weapons to continue abuses.
The State Department’s own 2012 Human Rights report noted that “Human rights violations committed by [Iraqi Security Forces] personnel were rarely investigated, and perpetrators were seldom punished,” and that the government “did not take widespread action to reform security forces to improve human rights.”
The new Human Rights Watch research about the treatment of women in Iraq’s criminal justice system, for example, shows that security forces frequently subject detained women to torture and ill-treatment, including the threat of sexual abuse. In early January, Anbar residents told us that the army’s mortar fire on residential neighborhoods had killed at least 25 residents in the first few days of fighting in Fallujah.

In November, we documented how Iraqi security forces, including agents from Special Weapons and Tactics [SWAT] in the Counterterrorism Service [CTS]—precisely the security forces who, along with the army, are at the forefront of the fighting in Anbar—abused residents by surrounding and closing off majority Sunni neighborhoods, illegally raiding homes and carrying out mass arrests. Since 2010 we have repeatedly reported that security forces including SWAT, Federal Police, and the army use unlawful force against peaceful protesters; carry out illegal arrests, interrogations, and detentions, and systematically use torture during interrogations.

It's just one critical pan after another for thug Nouri al-Maliki.  Justin Marozzi (The National Newspaper) reviews constitutional attorney Zaid al-Ali's new book The Struggle for Iraq's Future: How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism Have Undermined Democracy:

Much of this book, in fact, can be read as a passionate polemic against Al Maliki who, with the Americans, must surely take a great share of the responsibility for the unholy mess in which Iraq is now stewing.
Instead of seeking to build an Iraq that eschewed sectarianism, al-Ali writes, “his sole concern became to capture the state and to divide and conquer opponents, to remain in power for as long as possible”. By those limited, cynical criteria, so typical of Iraqi politics in living memory, and perhaps far beyond, Al Maliki’s efforts have been an unqualified success: parliament emasculated; armed forces shunted under his direct control; the judiciary nobbled; critics intimidated and silenced.


Read on ...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Barack Wins The Terrible

Barack Wins The Terrible

From October 24, 2010, that's "Barack Wins The Terrible." 

C.I. noted:

In his gala best, Barack holds The Terrible and delivers his acceptance speech, "I want to thank the Federalist Society for this Terrible. Competition was fierce and I wan to thank John Yoo. John, baby, I love you! Turning all of those Iraqi detainees over to Iraqi security forces who I knew tortured and executed violated a lot of laws. Thank you. Thank you to Team Obama for always making me runway ready. I know I'm forgetting someone! Ivan! Thank you to Ivan the Terrible himself. Thank you to everyone. John Yoo, baby, tonight I'm celebrating this win with you!" Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

I have no idea what happened there.

I don't even remember the comic.

That's what happens when you do about one comic a week for The Common Ills and four more a week for the newsletters.  You start to forget them.

But, as far as I'm concerned, Barack deserves a Terrible every day of the week.

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

Thursday, February 20, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar Province continues, Moqtada al-Sadr's retirement continues to gather attention, we drop back to a US Congressional hearing this month where it became clear how little human rights and women's rights matter, and much more.

Before the month ends, I'm going to try to work in a few of the hearings we attended this month there hasn't been room for.  That includes the February 11th House Armed Services Committee.  The witnesses were the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin and Vice Admiral Frank Pandolfe, the Director for Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5), Joint Staff.

This hearing was appalling.  Reflecting on it in the weeks since, the strong words I wrote in the margins of my notes -- all 'four' letter type words, regardless of the actual letter count -- still seem appropriate.

We got the message from the US government, for example, that women don't matter in the Middle East, don't matter to the US government.  We got the lying on everything.  As usual the US government says, for example, "the Iraqis" when they don't mean the people, they just mean the (US-installed) leader.

We got just how hypocritical they are and, as I wrote at one point, "And that's why I won't be supporting Joe Biden if he runs in 2016."  And I won't.  I'm sorry, I love Joe, but the US government loathes the Iraqi people so Joe's not getting my support.  Well get to it.

First, let's not the laughable opening remarks of Anne Patterson and wonder if she believes her own lies?

Anne Patterson: Iraq has, regrettably, been experiencing escalating levels of violence. The two-way flow of Sunni extremists between Syria and Iraq has had a direct bearing on high-profile attacks in Iraq. In 2011 and 2012, about 4,400 Iraqis civilians and members of the security forces were killed each year -- many in attacks led by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq . Last year, ISIL began shifting resources from Syria to Iraq in search of new opportunities consistent with their broader ambitions. By the summer of 2013, the number of suicide attacks in Iraq had climbed from an average of 5 to 10 per month to approximately 30 to 40 per month. These attacks were calculated, coordinated and unfortunately, increasingly effective and were directed not only at Shia civilian targets but also Sunni and Kurdish targets. On January 1st, ISIL launched its most brazen attack yet, and occupied portions of the Anbar cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. The Iraqi government, working together with local leaders in Anbar and with important U.S. support has pushed back; Ramadi now faces isolated pockets of resistance from anti-government fighters , and the government hopes to clear 4 terrorists from Fallujah predominately by using local tribal forces . But this violence has had a devastating effect on the people of Iraq. The United Nations reports at least 8,800 civilians and members of the security forces were killed in violent attacks across Iraq in 2013. The need for political leaders to overcome mistrust and reach compromises on essential political reforms is urgent. We continue to press upon Iraq’s government the importance of working with local Sunni leaders to draw the nation together in the fight against ISIL. The United States will continue to support the people of Iraq and their government to secure the city of Fallujah. We also continue to work closely with Iraq's leaders to help them build a longterm political, economic and security strategy and to support the national election scheduled for April 30, 2014. I would like to thank the Congress for its support for the much needed military equipment we have been able to provide to Iraq. To combat the very real extremist threats, Iraq needs a professional and well equipped army that can provide the capability for the government to engage extremist groups proactively long before they enter the cities.

As any honest observer of Iraq well knows, not all the violence -- not even half the violence -- of last year was done by 'al Qaeda'; however, all the violence is attributable to the thug Nouri al-Maliki who took a process that was supposed to bring all the blocs together in a power-sharing government but instead found Nouri practicing one power grab after another while using the tools his office possesses or that he's assumed to destroy rivals.

He has lied and he has attacked.  In that regard, he was well trained by his US masters.

But this is why Iraq is where it is right now.

In 2010, the White House demanded a second term for Nouri despite Nouri losing those elections.  The White House used the Kurds to front this agreement, the legal contract known as The Erbil Agreeement.  Both Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani stood behind the agreement because they believed the White House that this contract was not only going to be legal but it would be enforced because it had the full backing of the US President.

So the Kurds went about selling it to the other political blocs and convincing them this was a genuine agreement and one the US government would ensure was enforced.

The contract gave Nouri a second term in exchange for various demands (such as his implementing Article 140 of the Constitution, putting Ayad Allawi in charge of an independent national security body, etc.) and Nouri used The Erbil Agreement to get that second term and then he wiped his ass with it and refused to honor it.

And the Kurds and others waited for the White House.  In November of 2010, Allawi walked out of the Parliament in its first session and only returned that day after Barack Obama asked him to do so over the phone and swore to him -- swore to him -- that The Erbil Agreement would be honored.  (Nouri was already, in that first session of Parliament, declaring that he would have to wait to implement The Erbil Agreement, that's why Allawi walked out.)

The Kurds and the others waited and waited.

And neither Nouri nor the US government honored the agreement.  By the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Allawi's Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr joined in public calls for Nouri to implement The Erbil Agreement.

The deceit and backstabbing of the White House didn't end there.

As Nouri refused to honor the contract, Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, joined Moqtada, the Kurds and Allawi in exploring a no-confidence vote on Nouri.  They did what the Iraqi Constitution told them to.  And they got the signatures needed to call for the vote in Parliament.

What did the White House do?

Pressured Jalal Talabani (it never takes much pressure, he's always had a collapsible spine) and Jalal folded like a cheap suit.  He refused allow the vote to take place.  He made up excuses and lies and then insisted he had to leave the country because chicken ass could do what the US government told him to do but couldn't hang around for the fall out.

The betrayal has been intense.

Grasp what took place in 2010, the voters unseated Nouri.  But Barack wouldn't allow that to happen. And that's why Barack's hands are just as bloody as Nouri al-Maliki's are.  He ensured the tyrant stayed in power and he refused to demand that the power-sharing contract (one he ordered negotiated) be honored.

When a people have voted out a violent dictator but he stays in office?  When their other political leaders go through legal procedures to remove him from office but the Constitutional measure are not honored?  When the people take to the streets to protest and they're ignored?

What the hell is left but violence?

If you need something more than my take, in August the International Crisis Group issued "Make or Break: Iraq’s Sunnis and the State" and this was their take on Hawija:

As events in Syria nurtured their hopes for a political comeback, Sunni Arabs launched an unprecedented, peaceful protest movement in late 2012 in response to the arrest of bodyguards of Rafea al-Issawi, a prominent Iraqiya member. It too failed to provide answers to accumulated grievances. Instead, the demonstrations and the repression to which they gave rise further exacerbated the sense of exclusion and persecution among Sunnis.
The government initially chose a lacklustre, technical response, forming committees to unilaterally address protesters’ demands, shunning direct negotiations and tightening security measures in Sunni-populated areas. Half-hearted, belated concessions exacerbated distrust and empowered more radical factions. After a four-month stalemate, the crisis escalated. On 23 April, government forces raided a protest camp in the city of Hawija, in Kirkuk province, killing over 50 and injuring 110. This sparked a wave of violence exceeding anything witnessed for five years. Attacks against security forces and, more ominously, civilians have revived fears of a return to all-out civil strife. The Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda’s local expression, is resurgent. Shiite militias have responded against Sunnis. The government’s seeming intent to address a chiefly political issue – Sunni Arab representation in Baghdad – through tougher security measures has every chance of worsening the situation.
Belittled, demonised and increasingly subject to a central government crackdown, the popular movement is slowly mutating into an armed struggle. In this respect, the absence of a unified Sunni leadership – to which Baghdad’s policies contributed and which Maliki might have perceived as an asset – has turned out to be a serious liability. In a showdown that is acquiring increasing sectarian undertones, the movement’s proponents look westward to Syria as the arena in which the fight against the Iraqi government and its Shiite allies will play out and eastward toward Iran as the source of all their ills.
Under intensifying pressure from government forces and with dwindling faith in a political solution, many Sunni Arabs have concluded their only realistic option is a violent conflict increasingly framed in confessional terms. In turn, the government conveniently dismisses all opposition as a sectarian insurgency that warrants ever more stringent security measures. In the absence of a dramatic shift in approach, Iraq’s fragile polity risks breaking down, a victim of the combustible mix of its long­standing flaws and growing regional tensions.

Why is it that US officials never want to talk reality?  Because doing so would mean taking accountability.

Need another source?  Here's Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazi (CSIS) from two days ago:

Iraq’s main threats, however, are self-inflicted wounds caused by its political leaders. The 2010 Iraqi elections and the ensuing political crisis divided the nation. Rather than create any form of stable democracy, the fallout pushed Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to consolidate power and become steadily more authoritarian. Other Shi’ite leaders contributed to Iraq’s increasing sectarian and ethnic polarization – as did key Sunni and Kurdish leaders.
Since that time, a brutal power struggle has taken place between Maliki and senior Sunni leaders, and ethnic tensions have grown between the Arab dominated central government and senior Kurdish leaders in the Kurdish Regional government (KRG). The actions of Iraq’s top political leaders have led to a steady rise in Sunni and Shi’ite violence accelerated by the spillover of the extremism caused by the Syrian civil war. This has led to a level of Shi’ite and Sunni violence that now threatens to explode into a level of civil conflict equal to – or higher than – the one that existed during the worst period of the U.S. occupation.

This struggle has been fueled by actions of the Iraqi government that many reliable sources indicate have included broad national abuses of human rights and the misuse of Iraqi forces and the Iraqi security services in ways where the resulting repression and discrimination has empowered al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. As a result, the very forces that should help bring security and stability have become part of the threat further destabilized Iraq.

Their votes were rendered meaningless by US President Barack Obama, their Constitution was rendered meaningless by US President Barack Obama.  And their protests?

In March of last year, activists in Samarra put their message on display.

From Samarra من سامراء

"Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?"

That's a pretty clear message.

Barack is not an inspirational world figure.  He has betrayed freedom and democracy in Iraq and continues that even to this day.

"It's important for people to remember that this didn't happen in a vacuum," the always ridiculous  the ridiculous US House Rep Joe Courtney declared.  Ridiculous because real history -- like what we just went over -- doesn't matter to him.

He made that comment wasting everyone's time on a fantasy recap of the failed 2011 SOFA -- fantasy events that he couched with maybe he had it wrong and that Slotkin tried so hard to help him be right but he ignored the many life preservers she tossed him because he preferred to drown in a sea of ignorance.

The SOFA, the obsession never dies.

Committee Chair Buck McKeon:  Last week, we received testimony that al Qaeda is a growing threat particularly in Iraq and Syria. And you've referred to that.  Given the failure to achieve a Status Of Forces Agreement with Iraq which could have provided for residual US presence in the region, the rise of al Qaeda and the associated instability in that region, what lessons can we learn from the experience and how we should transition in Afghanistan

Elissa Slotkin:  Okay.  Uhm.  Well.  Obviously, we watched the, uhm, events going on in Iraq right now very closely.  Anyone like myself who served there feels -- The only reaction is to feel emotionally when you see what's going on in Anbar.  Uhm, I do think that, uhm, the idea that if we negotiated a follow on settlement with the Iraqis and had a SOFA and  a remaining force, the idea that that force would be able to prevent what is going on is, uh -- I'm not sure that that would be possible.  You know, at the height of the American presence in Iraq, at the height of the surge, 170,000 troops, we had levels of violence that we are seeing right now in Anbar.  So I'm not sure that uh-uh a remaining force of 10,000 would be able to prevent this.  More importantly, I do think that our overall goals in the region are to support partners and allies as they manage their own threats -- manage threats within their own borders.  That is our goal in many states in the regions and Iraq being one of them.  That's why some of the accelerated weapons transfers that you have been seeing have been going on.  We've been pushing very hard to get the Iraqis what they need to take on those threats, learn the lessons they need to learn to manage those issues within their own territory.  Uhm, uh, in terms of what it teaches us for Afghanistan, uhm, I'm not sure the situation is analogous.

If it's not analogous, we don't have room for it.

The hearing made clear that trash and lying rule in the United States.

Right now, there's a lot of pompous remarks from US President Barack Obama, decrying human rights abuses in this or that area.  But he doesn't call out Iraq.  He never does.

Human rights abuses are legendary now in Iraq.

But it's a US client-state ruled over by a US installed puppet (first installed by Bully Boy Bush who demanded Nouri be named prime minister in 2006 and then by Barack who demanded that, despite Nouri losing the 2010 parliamentary election, Nouri get a second term).

Human rights don't mean a damn thing to this presidency.  They rarely do matter to any US presidency.  The occupant of the White House will bellow and finger point as enemy countries while looking the other way when it comes to allies and client states.

And women should especially pay attention because women's rights don't mean a damn thing to the US government.  Doubt it?  Note this exchange, note it real good.

US House Rep Thornberry:  Ambassador, I want to get back to this subject of credibility that the Chairman raised earlier.  And part of what really bothers me is Ms. Slotkin's answer to the Chairman's first question, she said essentially, 'Well there was a lot of violence in Anbar before the surge, so there's really no lesson to be -- to be learned there because our troops wouldn't have made any difference any way.'  But what -- Well, first, of course, there was a tremendous amount of sacrifice for our folks as well as Iraqis required to change the situation in Anbar.  Secondly, the hope was that some sort of a continued engagement and advisory would increase their capability and keep them focused on the real enemy, the terrorists, not devolve into sectarian struggles.  And so I want to get  -- And the fact that we're not there?  I kind of wonder does that not effect the way other countries see us?  As whether we're a reliable partner or not? [. . .]

Anne Patterson:  Uh, I -- I do think -- Let me say, I do think we're a reliable partner and I think our presence is-is very extensive.  Let me take the example of Iraq and what we've done recently.  Uh, we have made an extraordinary effort with the help of this Committee and other, uh, Committees in the Congress to give them the  weaponry and the, frankly, the intelligence support that they need to meet this, uh, this-this renewed threat, uh, from ISIL.  And it was critically important that we supply Hellfire Missiles, uh, because they had attempted to go after these camps in the dessert with thin-skinned helicopters and, uh, by ground and had been unable to do so.  So our arming them came at a critical point to enable them to go after the terrorists.  We also have, uh, tried to step up training.  We're planning to step up training.  We have an enormous foreign military sales and foreign military financing program with Iraq.  So I think it's very difficult to say that we've abandoned the Iraqis because I think we're very, uh, intensely engaged there.  And as to your broader question, sir, yes, I think we're going to need to be involved in these countries -- whether it's Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or Egypt for decades to come -- and not just in the military sense.  The key element in all these countries is going to be job creation for the enormous number of young men that are coming into the labor force and basically have no prospects or are in a built-in element of instability.

Job creation for men.

Clearly, the Middle East needs more female suicide bombers.  They already exist.  But they clearly need to increase their numbers or they're not get the focus of the US government.

Anne Patterson, a woman in the Anne Slaughter sense of the word -- meaning she remembers her gender when she has a book to sale or is in trouble -- is happy to pimp the need for jobs for men.  Only for men.  If that was the policy in the United States, Anne Patterson wouldn't have a job, let alone "my forty year career."

There is something truly sick about Anne Patterson and the glee with which she spoke of weapons and a weapons financial aid program.

Anne Patterson keeps saying "they."

It's not "they," it's Nouri.  The Iraqi people aren't being helped by the US government.

The always impotent Richard Becker of A.N.S.W.E.R. recently sent out a group  e-mail:

March 19, 2014, marks the 11th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. During the next six weeks the [A.N.S.W.E.R.] newsletter will feature key articles from the ANSWER Coalition archives that ANSWER and associated groups published before and during the invasion, and throughout the U.S. occupation of Iraq. This is a critical period of U.S. history and the voices of those who led the mass anti-war and anti-occupation movement during this period are largely erased from the U.S. mainstream media. Please read and share this important article originally published in April 2006 about a key moment in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Share it with young people who were not yet teenagers when the Bush administration invaded Iraq in one of the greatest war crimes in modern history.

The War Crimes didn't stop.  They don't stop just because an impotent coward by the name of Richard Becker can't call them out.

It's the ultimate in political masturbation to whine about Iraq in 2006 when the Iraqi people are suffering right now and suffering despite the fact that they voted out Nouri al-Maliki in 2010 only to have the US government demand that Nouri get a second term.

The people suffer and A.N.S.W.E.R. doesn't do a damn thing except whine about how the peace movement isn't getting credit for past work.

Want to know why that is?

Because it's in the past and the rest of us are desperately dealing with today.

We don't have the time or the inclination to masturbate over 2006 the way Richard Becker does.

And if A.N.S.W.E.R. really wants recognition, they might try standing up for the Iraqi people who are suffering in Iraq.

Nouri's being armed.

Despite the fact that Nouri is the one killing people and destroying Iraq.

There is, for example, the April 23rd massacre of the sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

A.N.S.W.E.R. had no outrage over that.  Maybe that's why it and other so-called peace organizations are seen as ridiculous today?  Because they refuse to speak up.  If Bully Boy Bush were still occupying the White House, they'd be all over it. But Barack?  They're too busy nuzzling at his crotch to call him out.

And that's why no one takes them seriously.

No one smart takes Hank Johnson seriously.  Any intelligent person is aware that Cynthia McKinney held that seat and argued for peace and justice from it.

Johnson felt the need to (briefly) speak in that stoned manner of his about Iraq at the Feb. 11th hearing, "The extraction of our forces from the unfortunate war in Iraq, uh, and unfortunately for them and for us they did not, uh, enable us to sign a Status Of Forces Agreement over there, uh, so we had to come on out and the same thing will happen to Afghanistan if we don't, uh, agree to the, uh, very reasonable terms of the Status Of Forces Agreement."

Cynthia would never have argued for US troops to stay in Afghanistan or lamented the departure of the bulk of them from Iraq.

Hank Johnson, like Richard Becker, wastes everyone's time.  Neither man will address the reality of Iraq today.

Iraqis don't have that luxury of pretense.  Take a survivor of the Hawija massacre.  The BRussells Tribunal carried a translation of one activist who was an eye-witness to what went down:


I am Thamer Hussein Mousa from the village of Mansuriya in the district of Hawija. I am disabled. My left arm was amputated from the shoulder and my left leg amputated from the hip, my right leg is paralyzed due to a sciatic nerve injury, and I have lost sight in my left eye.
I have five daughters and one son. My son’s name is Mohammed Thamer. I am no different to any other Iraqi citizen. I love what is good for my people and would like to see an end to the injustice in my country.

When we heard about the peaceful protests in Al-Hawija, taking place at ‘dignity and honor square’, I began attending with my son to reclaim our usurped rights. We attended the protests every day, but last Friday the area of protest was besieged before my son and I could leave; just like all the other protestors there.

Food and drink were forbidden to be brought into the area….

On the day of the massacre (Tuesday 23 April 2013) we were caught by surprise when Al-Maliki forces started to raid the area. They began by spraying boiling water on the protestors, followed by heavy helicopter shelling. My little son stood beside me. We were both injured due to the shelling.

My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.

Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn’t understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.

After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.

I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?

I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.
I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.

He does what Richard Becker cowardly ass can't, he holds Barack responsible.

It's 2014.  If the American peace movement wants to be taken seriously, it should be active today, not planning a p.r. blitz for next month about what they did eight years ago.

And let's move back to Joe.  I like Joe Biden.  He is a nice person, he is a caring person.  He's a bad Vice President, a very bad one.  But note, my expectations are probably too high.  With the US government electing to arm Nouri with more weapons, I think Joe should resign in protest over that. 
His failure to do so, for me, means he shouldn't be president.  Because he knows better but chooses to go along, I don't think he has the strength to be president.
Back on April 10, 2008, we attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing and reported on it here including this:

"Just understand my frustration," Biden explained.  "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."  Senator Russ Feingold wanted to know if there were "any conditions that the Iraq government must meet?"  No, that thought never occurred to the White House.  "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true coalition," Feingold asked, "won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?"

The only thing that's changed since then is that Biden is not Senator Biden, he's Vice President Joe Biden.
Nouri's government still doesn't represent a true coalition.  In fact, that's more true in his second term than it was in his first term.
The US government is now taking sides in a civil war -- Nouri's war on the Iraqi people.
Joe might have a shot at the presidency is he had the strength to resign in protest.  He doesn't have that strength which means it's very likely he would lose the election if he were the Democratic nominee.  Democratic Party Vice Presidents, over the last decades, have lost because they either looked weak or were weak.  (Include Al Gore in that, he won the election but was too weak to fight for it.)
The only way Democratic Vice Presidents have been sworn in as president in the last 70 or so years is because the sitting president died (FDR died allowing Truman to become president and then run for re-election as a sitting president; the same with JFK's assassination elevating LBJ to president).  In my opinion, when you're too weak to stand up for your publicly voiced beliefs, you're too weak to be president.
Nouri is terrorizing the Iraqi people.  He is committing War Crimes which include collective punishment and attacking Falluja hospitals with bombs and mortars.
Maliki’s use of the army against the civilian population of Anbar constitutes the defeat of the policies Iraq has been following since 2003 and cements the divorce between the people of Iraq and the current sectarian government.
This new round of bombing has already produced 300,000 displaced, adding to the tragedy of the millions of Iraqi citizens already displaced by the failed and brutal US occupation.
While states are legally obliged to refrain from assisting other states to undertake internationally criminal acts, the United States is upping its supply of arms and military advisors to Iraq, along with intelligence cooperation. A new US “Surge” is in the making and will only bring more death and destruction.
Maliki’s government cannot wantonly kill civilians and claim a “State of Law”:
— Collective punishment is illegal under international law.
— Shelling water and electricity facilities, religious buildings, and hospitals are war crimes and crimes against humanity.
— The scale and target of the Maliki military strikes and shelling is utterly disproportionate and illegal and criminal in the face of the legitimate demands of the Anbar tribes.
— The lack of proportionality itself constitutes a war crime and crime against humanity.
— It is paramount for people everywhere to mobilise now to save Fallujah’s and Anbar’s civilians, understanding that their suffering mirrors the impact of the fascist sectarian regime that the US occupation created.

We appeal to all individuals of conscience, to all those who support human rights, to all progressives who believe in democracy and the right to self-determination, to the UN Security Council, to the president of the UN General Assembly, to members of the UN General Assembly, to the European Commission and member states, to the European Parliament and peoples, to Islamic and Arab states and people and their organisations, and to all human rights, anti-war and civil society organisations to:
1. Order the Iraqi government to stop its use of wanton shelling, air force attacks, and heavy artillery against the civilian population in keeping with the responsibility of states to protect civilians under the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and its additional protocols.
2. Constitute an independent investigative committee to document the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Anbar and submit its findings to the International Criminal Court.

Abdul Ilah Albayaty
Hana Al Bayaty
Ian Douglas
Eman Ahmed Khamas

We call on all to join us, sign and spread this appeal. To endorse, email to:
Abdul Ilah Albayaty is an Iraqi political analyst. Hana Al Bayaty is an author and political activist. Ian Douglas is an independent political writer who has taught politics at universities in the US, UK, Egypt and Palestine.

Nouri's assault on Anbar has not ended violence in Iraq.
Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 629 violent deaths so far this month.

National Iraqi News Agency reports a mortar attack on an al-Musaiyiab (Babylon Province) market has left 17 people dead and sixty-five more injured, and an al-Dujail roadside bombing left 4 Sahwa dead and three more injured.  This afternoon, KPFA's Mark Mericle noted on the newsbreak before Doug Henwood's Behind The News that the death toll in the al-Musaiyiab mortar attack had risen to 22  (click here to stream that newsbreak).



Cleric and movement Moqtada al-Sadr announced his political retirement Saturday.  Tuesday, he delivered a speech which  CounterPunch has posted in full. Of the speech, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) explains:

In order to clarify his decision, al-Sadr then made a televised speech on Tuesday in which he said his decision was irreversible.
Besides criticizing the current government and judiciary in that 11-minute speech, al-Sadr also stressed the importance of participating in the upcoming elections, in order to bring about the change that Iraq needed.
Al-Sadr’s decision was unexpected – most political observers were waiting for a showdown at Iraq’s general elections in April, between the Shiite Muslim Prime Minister, al-Maliki, and other Shiite Muslim leaders like al-Sadr.
And almost immediately various parties gave different reasons as to why al-Sadr might be retiring.
At first some thought it was a tactical move, designed to show how bad things had become. After all, al-Sadr has said he would retire from politics before but then changed his mind.
Some said that al-Sadr was disappointed with those close to him, including politicians in his own party who had recently voted for a law giving local MPs various financial privileges – al-Sadr has always been an advocate of social welfare and has had many supporters from lower income areas like Sadr city, and he was opposed to this law. As was the leading Shiite Muslim authority in the land, the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who told Iraqis not to vote for those MPs that supported the law.
However this hardly seems enough to make al-Sadr retire: he is powerful enough within his movement that he could dismiss anyone in his party he chose, if they behaved inappropriately.
Others felt it was a good move by al-Sadr, in that he was moving toward a separation of church and state and allowing new political leaders to come forward.

 Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) notes:

Arabs are not used to early retirement. Moqtada’s decision was shocking — to say the least — and has opened a Pandora’s Box for war-torn Iraq. The announcement took the Iraqi political scene by storm. Moqtada is king of the patron-client system in Iraq. Thousands rely on his protection in the complex world of Iraqi politics. Hundreds of his supporters dot the landscape as civil servants, soldiers, officers, teachers, MPs and cabinet ministers. They feel orphaned and vulnerable without him. They are now an easy target for the wide assortment of enemies that Moqtada has made since 2003, ranging from Al Qaida and the Baathists onto current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who is glad to see the end of Moqtada. Although originally marketed as a prime opponent of Iraqi Sunnis, back in 2005-2006, Moqtada has since evolved rapidly, positioning himself as champion of moderation, coexistence and Sunni rights, in addition to being an ally of secular figures like the former Iraqi premiere, Ayad Allawi.

In the piece, Moubayed wonders what if this resignation is a bluff?  He offers Moqtada might be wanting people to beg him to return.  Moubayed seems unaware that there have been many requests from politicians -- including Ayad Allawi -- for Moqtada to rethink retiring.  In addition, Tuesday,  NINA reported:

The officer of public relations and ceremonies at the office of the leader of the Sadrist movement, Amer al-Husseini stressed that the decision of Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr is irreversible and his followers have to obey this matter without discussion or demonstration .
Al-Husseini statement came after he received dozens of protesters who came from Sadr City to ask their leader to reverse his decision, showing their support.
Husseini told the demonstrators outside the home of cleric Muqtada al- Sadr, "Muqtada al-Sadr appreciates you for coming and values your position and confirms that the decisions made must obey and he insists on it, for the benefit of the people and the nation, and you should not discuss or protest ."

If he was looking to be wooed to return, I don't think it makes a lot of sense for him to order the disperstion of his followers who are beseeching him to return.  Joel Wing (Musings On Iraq) weighs in on Moqtada today and seems to feel similar to Moubayed:
Rather than being an act of disgust at Iraq’s political system, this latest move by Moqtada al-Sadr appears to be a calculated move to prepare his party of this year’s election. Various members of his list have showed their devotion by symbolically retiring with Sadr. Hundreds of his followers have gone out into the streets to display their loyalty. Sadr has told them that they should all vote this year. If he doesn’t reconstitute his list before the April balloting he will most likely tell his movement who to vote for as he did in 2009 when the Sadrists did not run as an official party. He has also made it clear that this year’s election is all about the prime minister. In his speech he made it clear that Maliki is to blame for all of Iraq’s problems. While in 2010 Sadr threw his weight behind the prime minister, which assured him of a second term, this year Moqtada believes that he can make a real challenge to his rule. This was shown after the 2013 provincial vote when Ahrar worked with other parties to shut out Maliki’s State of Law from several of the new local governments. Finally, Sadr’s announcement and subsequent speech has gained all the headlines not only in Iraq, but in the region and internationally. This has given him far more attention than a regular campaign could have. Two months from now observers can see whether this decision paid off or not. 

Read on ...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

No Lift Off

No lift off

From October 17, 2010, that's "No Lift Off."  

C.I. noted:

 Barack speechifies, "Everybody said 'No you can't' and in 2008 you showed them, 'Yes, we can.' . . . And the country's scared . . . fear and frustration." Little Dicky returns to moan "I can't find lift off anymore!" while his dog explains, "Maybe that's because yes we could but no he can't." Little Dicky hasn't appeared in awhile so let's note he previously appeared here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

With this one, I was going for frazzled and had watched the film The Firm the day I drew it.  I was trying to have an 'angle' on this one.  In The Firm, the shots are from above.

That's what I tried.

I think I got frazzled well but I also think it's the worst Barack drawing I ever did.

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

Thursday, February 13, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar continues, the UN expresses concern over the assault, Nouri's military again attacks a hospital in Anbar, we look at the Kurds and the way the US government repeatedly mistreats them, the US Ambassador to Iraq prepares to field questions, and much more.

Iraq is, at best, in a state of flux.. Do you have a question on that?  Or maybe on one of the many current crises in Iraq?  If so, an opportunity comes calling your name:

Are you curious about the political/economic relations between the U.S. and Iraq? Do you want to know more about cultural and educational programs?
Well, here’s your chance! Post your questions to Ambassador Stephen Beecroft on our Facebook page or send them to The deadline for submitting your questions is March 1, 2014. We will post the Ambassador’s answers to the most popular questions on the Embassy’s Facebook page and Youtube channel.  

March 1st is the deadline.

World Bulletin News reports on the forming of the new government in the Kurdish Regional Government, "In the new government, there will be two deputy prime minister's, with one of them being from the Goran Movement. The positions of finance minister and parliament speaker will also go to the Goran Movement. However, the position of interior minister will not go to the Goran Movement after the YNK opposed it."

Chair Ed Royce:  There is just one more issue that I meant to raise with you and that's just turning for a moment to discuss inclusion of  the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the PATRIOT Act's Tier III designation -- terrorist designation.  My understanding is that this has become a sort of catch-all designation that has inadvertently mislabeled the KDP and the PUK as terrorists even though they have been a stabilizing force in the region and consistently loyal to the United States for decades.  As al Qaeda and other groups expand across the Middle East and beyond, it seems like a good time to take count of our remaining friends in the region and maybe take a look at this inappropriate designation and recognize that that's harming our very important relationship with the Kurdish people.  So would the administration be supportive of a legislative solution to this issue that would exclude these Kurdish groups from the Tier III designation

Brett McGurk:  Uh, Mr. Chairman, thank you for asking that question and for allowing me to put our response on the record. Uhm, as you said, the Kurdish people -- the PUK, the KDP -- have been among our closest friends in the region going back decades.  We think they should be removed from this list as soon as possible.  We think it is an imperative.  Uh, we understand that it requires a legislative fix.  There is nothing we can do by executive action alone.  And therefore we are 100% supportive of an immediate legislative fix to this problem and we look forward to working with you and the relevant Committees in Congress to get that done. 

That exchange is from last week when the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on Iraq. Appearing before the Committee was  the US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.  We've covered the hearing in the February 5th Iraq snapshot, February 6th Iraq snapshot and February 7th Iraq snapshot. as well as "Prashant Rao's naive and Hannah Allem's got a grudge to f**k" which details the main themes of the hearing (and how Rao was terribly naive to believe Hannah Allem's hideous Tweets which were nothing more than her working her grudge against the Ashraf community).  We'll return to the hearing two more times in this snapshot.

Right now, we're focusing on the Kurds.

From From Monday, February 3rd's snapshot:

Friday's snapshot noted US Vice President Joe Biden's phone call to KRG President Massoud Barzani, carried the White House statement and I pointed out, "It's a shame that they [the White House] have more concern over pleasing Nouri than they do over the safety of the Iraqi citizens."  Today Rudaw reports:

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani has postponed a planned visit to Washington this week because of other commitments, said his chief of staff, Fuad Hussein.
“President Barzani told Joe Biden (the US vice president) that because of some other commitments he couldn’t visit Washington at this time,” Hussein told Rudaw. “That is why the visit was postponed.”

That's only surprising if you weren't paying attention.  In 2012, Barazni made clear his opposition to the US giving Nouri F-16s.  And today?  Not only are those going to be handed over, helicopters and Hellfire missiles are being provided to Nouri.  And on top of all of that, Joe Biden wants to hold Nouri's hand and reassure him while telling Barzani that concessions (to Nouri) need to be made.

President Massoud Barzani is a much admired figure in the KRG and he's a leader on the world stage but Biden wants to treat like an errand boy and hand him a grocery list?

Of course, Barazni's insulted.  And that's before you get to the White House's historic betrayal of Baraniz on the 2010 US-brokered Erbil Agreement that they used Barazni's name and reputation to sell and then refused, after everyone signed the contract, to stand by it.  Yeah, it's about time Barzani put some distance between himself and the US government.

Maybe even a brief spell will force the White House to take Barzani a little more seriously?

February 6th, Ayub Nuri and Rudaw became the first to address the topic everyone else tried so hard to ignore:

Many people were baffled this week by the sudden news that Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani was not going to Washington. Barzani’s supporters said it was the Kurdish president who had cancelled the visit. Others laughed and said, “Who could cancel on the president of the most powerful country in the world?” From the US there was no explanation, and out of Kurdistan only came conflicting reports.
But who snubbed who isn’t really the issue. The real question is: How do the Kurds see America today.
Ten years ago the Kurds saw America as an ally, and America regarded them as friends. The Kurds joined America’s war and contributed to Saddam Hussein’s downfall. Kurdish Peshmarga and security forces offered the Americans intelligence, advice and guidance. Kurdish politicians and ministers went to Baghdad and put into service their two decades of experience to rebuild the Iraqi government.
What did they expect in return? A democratic Iraq that America had promised everyone. But ten years on, not only have the Kurds not seen a democratic country that respects their rights, they in fact feel it is often America -- not Baghdad -- that is acting against them.

The White House and the State Dept have seriously injured the relationship between themselves and the Kurds.  They've yet to demonstrate that they care about that damage or that they're interested in repairing what they've damaged.

In that regard, the current administration is a great like Tricky Dick's administration oh, so many decades ago.  Then-President Richard Nixon and War Criminal Henry Kissinger pretended to be the Kurds friends, pretended to care what happened to them, but they were just using them as pawns.

That is not my opinion.  That is what the US Congress found in the Pike Report.  February 16, 1976, The Village Voice published Aaron Latham's "Introduction to the Pike Papers."  Latham explained:

In 1972, Dr. Henry Kissinger met with the Shah of Iran, who asked the U.S. to aid the Kurds in their rebellion against Iraq, an enemy of the Shah.  Kissinger later presented the proposal to President Nixon who approved what would become a $16 million program.  Then John B. Connally, the former Nixon Treasury Secretary, was dispatched to Iran to inform the Shah, one oil man to another.
The committee report charges that: "The President, Dr. Kissinger and the foreign head of state [the Shah] hoped our clients would not prevail.  They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources of our ally's neighboring country [Iraq].  The policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting.  Even in the context of covert action, ours was a cynical enterprise."
During the Arab-Israeli war, when the Kurds might have been able to strike at a distracted Iraqi government, Kissinger, according to the report, "personally restrained the insurgents from an all-out offensive on the one occasion when such an attack might have been successful."
Then, when Iran resolved its border dispute with Iraq, the U.S. summarily dropped the Kurds.  And Iraq, knowing aid would be cut off, launched a search-and-destroy campaign the day after the border agreement was signed.
A high U.S. official later explained to the Pike committee staff: "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."

That is the history.  That is the root.  Deception on the part of the US.  And as the Kurds disrespected and lied to today, the dishonest root of the original relationship becomes all the more telling.

When Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was the highest ranking Kurd, it really didn't matter.  The disrespect, the labeling two political parties as 'terrorists' (Talabani heads the PUK and Barzani heads the KDP).  But Jalal's not running anything these days.  December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

In 2012, KRG President Massoud Barzani was already outshining Jalal on the international stage -- long before Jalal's stroke.  And Barzani has never been as weak as Jalal.

Jalal was happy to dismiss thoughts of an independent Kurdistan ever happening.  He was willing to dismiss that despite the fact that Kurds fought for years to get to where they are now, in the KRG, three semi-autonomous provinces.  Jalal destroyed his own reputation over and over and was happy to dance for the US government.

Barazni wanted -- maybe still does -- a relationship -- a solid one -- with the US government.  But in 2010, after Nouri's State of Law lost the parliamentary elections to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, the US government used the Kurds -- lied to them and used them.  US President Barack Obama wanted Nouri to have a second term.  To go around the votes and the Constitution and the will of the Iraqi people, the White House came up with the idea of a legal contract among the political blocs which would circumvent the Constitution.  In order to get the others to sign on, they knew Nouri would have to offer them concessions in writing.  The US-brokered Erbil Agreement couldn't be sold on the US alone.  It needed the backing of a group and the White House used the Kurds and their relationship with the Kurds.  They had Barzani sell the agreement.  He never would have done that without promises from the White House that it was a legal and binding contract that had the full support of the White House.

Nouri used the contract to get his second term but refused to honor any of the promises he made in the contract (such as implementing Article 140 of the Constitution).  And when the Kurds took their issues public and joined with cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya in the summer of 2011 to demand The Erbil Agreement be implemented, the White House played dumb, pretended they knew nothing, pretended they had never promised that the contract had their full backing.

This was harmful for everyone but especially upsetting to Kurdish leadership because not only was the contract not implemented but they were used -- and lied to -- by the White House.  The White House used the Kurds' standing and image to sell a contract that was worthless.

In 2012, Massoud Barzani made a public plea, even took it to US soil, that the White House not supply Nouri with F-16s.  That's been blown off as well.

And then there's the issue of the oil.  Under existing laws, the Kurds can do whatever they want with the oil in the KRG.  That's because there is no national oil & gas law.  Nouri al-Maliki promised the US government in 2007 that he would propose a national oil and gas law and get it passed shortly.  Seven years later and he never did.

So it ticks off the Kurds when the White House and the State Dept attack the KRG for attempting to sell its own oil even as the White House and the State Dept lie that they won't take sides and they're only interested in the law.

There is no national law.  The Kurds actions are completely legal but, over and over, the White House rushes to satisfy Nouri al-Maliki.

This has seriously harmed the relationship between the US government and the Kurdish government.  And Vice President Joe Biden who once had such a great relationship with Barzani (and Talabani) is no longer believed.  They're generous.  The KRG government leadership doesn't call Joe a "liar," they just argue that he does not have any power in the White House and can't keep the promises he makes.

And now Barazni won't even visit the US.

Is there anything in Iraq that the White House hasn't made worse?

UPI reports:

The growing number of dead men found in the streets and canals of Baghdad, mostly shot in the head, some bearing the marks of torture, is stirring fears Shiite death squads who slaughtered hundreds, possibly thousands, of Sunnis during the dark days of Iraq's sectarian bloodbath are back in business.

And Nouri's arming them.  The Shi'ite militias were reported on by Tim Arango (New York Times) back in September.  Arango noted:

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

And despite that, the White House is arming him.  Despite that, despite his assault on Anbar Province.  The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq issued the following:

         UN Envoy Concerned about Deteriorating Situation in Fallujah, Calls for Unity and Political Engagement

Baghdad, 13th February 2014 - Since the beginning of the fighting in Anbar Province over 63,000 families have been registered as internally displaced. Although many have fled to other parts of the country, including Karbala, Baghdad and Erbil provinces, others have sought safety in outlying communities in Anbar Province or are unable to flee the fighting. Their condition remains precarious with food stocks and potable water running low, poor sanitation and limited access to health care.

In a joint relief operation to assist the Government’s response to the crisis, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has so far distributed approximately 2,453 kits of core relief items; and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) approximately 11,500 hygiene kits and various water/sanitation supplies. The World Food Programme has handed out 4,650 Food Parcels, and the International Organization for Migration 1,415 non-food items . The World Health Organisation distributed 2 surgical kits covering 1,000 beneficiaries and medical supplies for 10,000 beneficiaries. 

"Since the first days of January the UN continues to work with the government, local authorities to provide aid to those affected by the fighting in Anbar. Although the conditions remain extremely difficult, with access roads often blocked by fighting, we will continue to cooperate with people on the ground to deliver assistance tot hose in need” Mr. Mladenov added.

“I am particularly concerned about the rapidly deteriorating conditions in Fallujah where many residents are caught up in the fighting. The UN continues to urge for humanitarian access to the city. Recent reports that the Fallujah General Hospital may have been used as headquarters for armed groups and also targeted by shelling  are very worrying. Hospitals and medical facilities should be protected by all” Mr. Mladenov said. 

Mr. Mladenov further reiterated his call for a political solution to the crisis that would allow all Iraqis to "unite against terrorism, which is affecting all segments of society”. 

"I call on all sides to address the causes of violence through dialogue and the political process and to help rebuild Anbar" he concluded.

Back to last week's Congressional hearing on Iraq.

US House Rep Ted Yoho: What are our military assets in Iraq and are they purely advisory?  And if so, how many?  Can you divulge that or --?

Brett McGurk:  We have, under our embassy, under the Chief of Mission and Ambassdor [Stephen] Beecroft, uhm, the Office of Security Cooperation which works very closely with the Iraqi military.  The numbers ebb and flow but it's about 100 personnel.  Uhm, and they do everything from advising to running the FMS programs, making sure that that's running efficiently.  And a very small contingent of half-a-dozen or so of our Special Operators who train some of the higher end Special Operators as the training component.  But that's all done under the Embassy Chief of Mission and the Office of --

Yoho interrupted McGurk at that point.  We bring it up now because All Iraq News reported today that the US Embassy in Iraq's Assistant Director of the Joint Security Cooperation William Bell Binder issued a statement today noting that "the first batch" of F-16 war planes "was delivered to Iraq" and that "[d]uring the past two weeks Iraq was delivered large amount of weapons and ammunitions." And All Iraq News also reported:

The US Embassy denied the existence of any military trainer in Iraq.The Assistant Directorate of the Joint Security Cooperation of the US Embassy, William Bell Binder, stated in a statement received by AIN ''Iraq subjected a request to train the security forces in the field of combating terrorism and we are waiting to concluded an agreement between Iraq and Jordan where the training will be on Jordanian territories since there is not nay convention that grants the US troops the legal immunity in Baghdad.'' 

So Congress was told trainers were already in Iraq -- because they are and have been even after the drawdown billed as a 'withdrawal' -- but the US Embassy is telling Iraqis there are no US military trainers in Iraq?

It's this sort of nonsense lie that makes the US government look so ridiculous.

Well this and backing Nouri al-Maliki.

Washington Post correspondent Liz Sly Tweets:

  • Indeed.  And thank goodness Sly has a memory -- no other reporters currently covering Iraq appear to have memories or be able to offer context.  They just repeat Nouri's claims that he will absorb the Sahwa into the security forces and fail to note that this promise didn't pan out before.

    So many failures, you really have to pick and choose you review Nouri's failures as prime minister.  The editorial board of Arab News notes Nouri's failures:

    Far from seeking a national consensus that could build a united front against the terrorists, Al-Maliki continues to alienate the Sunni community. Without the restraining influence of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, who has suffered a severely debilitating stroke, Al-Maliki’s relations with the increasingly independent-minded Kurds in the north of the country, continue to decline.
    The National Unity government he is supposed to be leading is a farce. Virtually all Sunni politicians have been driven from Parliament. Kurdish legislators hardly bother to involve themselves in the political process in Baghdad. The government neither seeks nor welcomes dialogue. There is however a permanent welcome mat for Iranian diplomats and politicians. The visits are rarely high profile. More often it is Al-Maliki or his people who travel to Tehran. But it is hard to fathom the sort of advice the Iraqi premier is being given, let alone taking. Is he really being encouraged to let his country fall apart and into the hands of extremists? Are the Iranians setting up this most inept of politicians, so that Iraq will once again become an urgent regional security issue?

    Yesterday, Nouri  had his Bully Boy Bush moment as he declared victory in his assault on Anbar Province.  It's a a shame he didn't have the banner BBB stood under in 2003, the one proclaimed "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED."

    Victory claims were a bit premature.

    ABC News Radio observes, "There were more signs of Iraq's security deterioration Wednesday as the United Nations reported that upwards of 300,000 people have been dislodged from their homes in the volatile western province of Anbar." And that's not the only thing preventing Nouri al-Maliki's victory march.

    Al Bawaba reports rebels "seized part of Sulaiman Bek town and nearby villages in northern Iraq on Thursday, Agence France Presse reported local officials as saying.  This is considered to be the latest instance of authorities losing ground to militants, who have held all of the city of Fallujah and parts of provincial capital Ramadi for weeks."  Anadolu Agency adds, "Clashes are still going on and ISIL militants have not been repelled yet according to reports which claim that the militants gained control of Kirkuk-Baghdad route. A curfew has been established in Sulayman Beg. Eye-witnesses say that they cannot go out and they can hear the sounds of bullets and bombs."  IANS offers, "The security forces could not stand long in front of a large number of gunmen who spread out on the streets of the town, Mustafa said, adding that in the morning the gunmen took control of several suburbs and villages around the town."

    Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 348 violent deaths for the month thus far.

    Today's violence?


     National Iraqi News Agency reports a Qarma air strike left 2 people dead, 2 Shorja bombings set a building on fire leaving 1 person dead and nine more injured (an update notes sixteen were injured),  2 Abbarah bombings left 2 people dead and eight more injured,  and a Kirkuk roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi military officer dead and six more military personnel injured.  Reuters adds, "Twin bombs went off inside a building comprising perfume stores in Baghdad's largest shopping district of al-Shourja on Thursday, killing at least six civilians and wounding 16 others, police sources said."  Xinhua notes, "Furthermore, two people were wounded when a roadside bomb detonated in Doura district in southern Baghdad, the source added."

    And let's really emphasize this:

    A security source told the reporter of the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that"a number of artillery shells of army forces stationed outside the city fell on the building of Fallujah hospital, wounding / 9 / workers, including / 3 / Indian doctors and two nurses from Bangladesh as well as four Iraqi employees. "

    These are War Crimes.  You are not allowed to target hospitals.


    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Hawija home invasion left 1 soldier and 1 Sahwa dead and two more people injured, an armed confrontation in Riyadh left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured, security forces shot dead 1 person in Qaim, an armed battle in Ramadi left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead and four more injured, 1 police officer was shot dead on Baghdad Street in Mosul, 1 civilian was shot dead outside his Mosul home,  and an armed confrontation in Mosul left 3 rebels dead,  Joint Operations Command shot dead 1 suspect in Mosul, 2 brothers were shot dead near their Aziziya home.


    National Iraqi News Agency reports  the corpse of a woman in her thirties (strangled, bruised from beatings) was discovered dumped "in Husseiniya area northeast of Baghdad."

    On the issue of violence, remember how on Monday you had an assassination attempt on the Speaker of Parliament and a bombing that, the Iraqi government insisted, was terrorists training other terrorists?  And remember how outlets like The NewsHour (PBS) rushed for the 'giggle' over the claims of the Iraqi government but ignored the attempt on Osama al-Nujaifi's life?  Well Press TV notes:

    Iran’s Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani has slammed the recent assassination attempt on his Iraqi counterpart Osama al-Nujaifi, saying combating terrorism requires regional cooperation.
    The condemnation of Monday’s terrorist move against al-Nujaifi and his brother came in a Wednesday message from Larijani, in which he also expressed relief that the terror act had failed.

    That's right.  Even the Speaker of Iran's legislative body showed more maturity than PBS and other news or 'news' outlets.

    Dropping back one more time to the US Congressional hearing on Iraq.

    US House Rep Doug Collins:  I want to turn back, it was asked a little bit earlier about the elections and really, from serving in Iraq back in '08 as my colleague has as well,  I understand the relationship between the Sunni and the Shia is something -- is, I think there's a huge mistrust, it goes back generations.  It's a multitude of issues there.  And it looks like the current government has done very little to really relate with that -- or work on that issue.  Experts in Iraq have talked about al Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State of Iraq, and increasingly building alliances with Sunni tribal leaders and suggest to this mess, in 2013, to try to win more Sunni support. How would that translate into the next round of Iraq elections?  Can we -- can we really see a move from Shia to Sunni?  And what does that mean for the region?  And answer that and then I want to talk about Iran's possible influence as well.  Just speak to the elections at this point.

    Brett McGurk:  Uh, thank you.  First, Congressman, thank you for your service.  And it's a very important question and an insightful question.  This election coming up is going to be pivotal and also extremely interesting.  The first national election, December 2005, there were really three main lists, people to vote for. There was a Shia bloc, a Sunni bloc and a Kurdish bloc.  Uhm, the 2010 elections, there was a little bit more choice: really two Shia blocs, the Sunni parties were under one main list also with some Shias -- a kind of  cross-sectarian list -- and then the Kurds.  This election, everything is really fractured so you have about four Shia lists, three Sunni lists and even the Kurds are running on four different lists.  So what's going to happen out of those results is going to be  a number of different permutations in terms of forming governments uh-uh coalitions.  So the hope is that this election will give rise to the possibility of more cross-sectarian, more issue-based politics emerging.  As difficult as that is going to be, if you look at the candidate lists and the coalitions, there is that possibility there.  But as I mentioned earlier, what al Qaeda does very effectively is targets the fault line which has existed for 1400 years -- targeting symbolic areas and trying to increase fear in particularly the Shia population which just rises the sectarian debate and discourse in the country. So on the positive side, you have an election that's shaping up with a number of different choices, a number of different lists which will allow for cross-sectarian coalitions.  On a negative side, you have extremists who are trying to incite and inflame the sectarian dimensions in the country.

    We'll pick up on that tomorrow.  We're going to squeeze in one last thing.  Yesterday, Senator Tom Udall's office issued the following:

    WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall spoke on the Senate floor about a bipartisan bill he introduced with Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to address some of the biggest barriers to health care for veterans in rural communities. To illustrate the need for the bill, Udall told the stories of many rural New Mexico veterans who have struggled to access health care - traveling long distances and enduring high turnover among doctors and staff at rural VA clinics, among other problems - and discussed how his Rural Veterans Improvement Act would help improve care.

    While traveling throughout New Mexico, Udall has spoken with veterans about their frustrations with accessing care. In his speech, Udall told the story of one veteran who traveled over three hours each way, multiple times per week for two years, to receive essential mental health care that likely saved his life. He also discussed a veteran in Carlsbad who spends the entire day traveling to appointments in Albuquerque, and another in Chama who must travel 80 miles through the mountains to reach a clinic - a trip that can be impassable during the winter.

    In response to their frustrations and concerns, Udall took a four-pronged approach to improving rural veterans' health care. His bill would:
    -Expand mental health services by providing better access to treatment and including alternative therapies, as well as traditional Native American healing methods.
    -Expand transportation grants to include rural communities to help ensure rural veterans can get a ride to far-away doctors' appointments.
    -Help retain and recruit staff to work at rural clinics through increased financial incentives, medical training programs geared toward preparing doctors and nurses for work in rural communities, and streamlined hiring of military medical professionals into the VA system.
    - Create tools for the VA and Congress to more effectively prioritize expansions and improvements of VA clinics in rural and highly rural areas by requiring a comprehensive review of those clinics.

    "Rural veterans should not be left behind. They should get the care they need and deserve," Udall said in his speech. "Our bill is a step forward for the health and well-being of our veterans. This is about essential care, about access, and about honoring our commitment to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country."
    The following are Udall's remarks as prepared for delivery on the Senate floor. Click here for video and here for audio.

    Madam President, I rise today to talk about health care for rural veterans. This is a critical issue. Too many veterans are left behind. Too many are not getting the care they need.
    But first, Madam President, I want to say how important it is that we have reached an agreement to restore the cut to pensions for working-age military retirees. The cut in cost-of-living adjustments for this group of veterans never should have been made.
    The bipartisan budget agreement was critical for New Mexico and our nation, because it rolled back damaging sequestration cuts-cuts that hurt our military and military families. But working-age military retirees should not have to bear the burden. Many of these men and women have given decades of service to our nation. They were willing to give everything for us. They should get the benefits they earned.
    I have been working from the beginning to restore this cut to their COLA benefits. I'm very happy that we have a bipartisan agreement to move forward, and ensure we keep our promise to them.
    Now, Madam President, I have come to the floor today to talk about the Rural Veterans Improvement Act. I was proud to introduce this bill with Senator Heller earlier this week, because when it comes to veterans' health care, we know there are challenges. We know we can do better, and we know we have to.
    Over 6 million veterans live in rural areas, including about one third of those who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Three million of those rural veterans receive care through the VA. Our veterans have fought half way around the world for our freedom. We should go the extra mile for them. Senator Heller and I both come from rural states. We know the difficulties veterans face when distances are too far, and choices are too few.
    Our bill will do four things: Improve access to mental health services, expand transportation grants, hire and retain more medical professionals in rural areas, and give Congress and the VA improved tools to improve the quality of rural facilities.
    First, mental health care is crucial. Veterans are struggling when the help they need is not available, or is very far away. One of my constituents lives in a rural area in northern New Mexico. He fought in Vietnam, and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress. He required therapy two full days a week for two years-vital care that probably saved his life. The VA was there for him, and he is grateful. But he had to drive to Albuquerque-over three hours away-to get that essential care.
    The veterans in my state are clear. They need better access to treatment and more mental health options. One size does not fit all. Conventional therapy does not work for everyone. Veterans groups like the Wounded Warrior Project have long supported alternative treatments and more holistic methods. Tribal governments are also working with the VA to use traditional Native American healing techniques, helping their veterans with PTSD or other diagnoses.
    These veterans are in pain. They are at increased risk of suicide. Help has to be there when they need it. Our bill will enable the VA to work with non-VA fee-for-service providers-for veterans with service-connected mental health issues when conventional treatment is not available, or where alternative treatment is not an option.
    Second, even the best health care is useless if you can't get to it. I have talked with many veterans in my state about this and it is a big problem across the state. Veterans in Carlsbad face a six hour drive to the VA Hospital in Albuquerque-300 miles one way. One such veteran fought bravely in World War II. He is in his 80s now. He has to get up at 5 a.m., make the trip to Albuquerque to see medical specialists. Sometimes he doesn't get home until midnight. Thanks to great volunteer drivers-at the Southeast New Mexico Veterans Transportation Network-he is able to get there, but it is an exhausting day.
    One of my constituents recently retired to Chama, a rural community in northern New Mexico. He and his wife built a home there, looking forward to retirement. The VA outreach clinic was nearby, but its contract was not renewed and it closed. His only option now is the VA clinic in Espanola-80 miles each way through the Southern Rockies. And when winter storms come-as they do in northern New Mexico-he may not be able to get there at all.
    The VA offers transportation grants to help, but only for veterans in highly rural areas with fewer than four people per square mile-not for those in rural areas. In small towns like Chama in New Mexico, and in Nevada, and so many other states, they need help too. The miles are just as long. The journey is just as hard. Our bill will help by expanding VA transportation grants to include rural communities. And it will not require matching funds for grants up to $100,000, making it easier for these communities to apply for assistance.
    Third, rural VA clinics, like their private counterparts, have trouble getting staff and keeping staff. This is not news to veterans who see constant turnover of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. Or who have to travel long distances just to see anyone at all. Our bill will establish a VA training program, working with university medical centers to train health care professionals serving rural veterans at outpatient clinics. Those who complete the program-and a three-year assignment-will receive a hiring preference for jobs with the Veterans Health Administration.
    We also propose a pilot program for housing incentives for healthcare professionals to work in rural VA facilities. And we are proposing that the VA streamline the hiring of military medical professionals transitioning to the civilian world into the VA system. Rural VA health centers have a big job. They do their best. We have to do all we can to help them to get staff and to keep staff-with incentives, with training, with innovation. It isn't easy, but it is essential.
    Fourth, we call for a full review of VA community based outpatient clinics in rural and highly rural areas, so we can prioritize expansions and improvements, making sure dollars are well spent, and resources go as far as possible.
    We also call for a report to Congress on whether to add polytrauma centers in rural areas to help veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan recover from multiple major injuries like serious burns and traumatic brain injuries.
    Every day, America's service members wake up far from home. And every day, they stand the watch. They do the job they promised to do, and not only if it's easy, or only if it's convenient. We owe them the same promise. Rural veterans should not be left behind. They should get the care they need and deserve.
    I want to again thank Senator Heller for working with me on this bill. He understands the problem and he is committed to finding solutions. Our bill is a step forward for the health and well-being of our veterans. This is about essential care, about access, and about honoring our commitment to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

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