Sunday, March 29, 2015

The So-Called Presidential Debate

the so-called debates3


From October 3, 2012, that's  "The So-Called Presidential Debate."  C.I. wrote:

With Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson looking on, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama crawl away.  Mitt insists, "I'm not scared. I'm just busy."  Barack agrees, "Me too! Crawl faster!" For more on the non-debates, Isaiah recommends Bruce Dixion's piece at Black Agenda Report.  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

That was either the first time I used a filter or the first time I planned to use a filter I was drawing the comic.

Sometimes the comic will need something so I'll put it through a filter.  I think the effect is something to do with fire.  But I'll up the level and add some pink to it.  

I wanted it on this one to give it a feeling of alarm or at least 'out of the ordinary.'

My own person feelings are everyone running should be up on the stage.  

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, John Allen spins fantasies for Congress, how firing Allen could buy Barack some time, "excesses" and much more.

Egypt announced its support for UN efforts to seek a political solution to the conflict in Libya, yet warned of the possible ‘lengthy’ time period needed for peaceful negotiations to conclude.

The Libyan people shouldn't have to, no.  But haven't the Iraqi people been forced to?

And not just for a few months or even for a year but for years -- plural.

The US government (under Bully Boy Bush) demanded in 2006 that Nouri al-Maliki be made prime minister.  From 2006 through 2010, he accomplished nothing and his failures were somewhat hidden by the fact that US boots were on the ground.  They were misused, to be sure.  They were used to provide stability for a government that was non-inclusive and that was accomplishing nothing.  The 'surge,' you may remember, was supposed to be the US troops providing stability and security which would free up the Iraqi government to focus on the political process.  While the US military carried out their task, Nouri failed at his.

By 2010, Nouri was a divisive figure whose failures were welol known -- as were his secret prisons where he torured people.  In March 2010, the Iraqi people voted for Iraqiya ahead of Nouri's State of Law.  This was the Iraqi voters choosing a national unity and a national identity and rising above thug Nouri's sectarian policies.  Iraqiya was welcoming to all Iraqis, representing men and women, Shi'ites, Sunnis, Kurds and various religious and ethnic minorities.

Even the Bully Boy Bush administration -- one not known for keen insights or even basic smarts -- would have realized this was a move to be backed up and endorsed.

But they didn't promise to pull out all troops from Iraq.  Barack had.

And Samantha Power and others insisted that the deal they wanted (which was already a plan to keep a few thousand troops in Iraq) could only be pulled off with the support of Nouri.

The CIA profile on Nouri in February of 2006 had noted Nouri's intense paranoia and this was seen as an asset, a way that the US government could control him.

In 2010, Samantha Power made a similar argument: Barack should back Nouri because Nouri was so divisive and unpopular and he would need American support to remain in office so they could leverage that support to get what they wanted from Nouri.  

So instead of supporting the Iraqi people, Barack backed Nouri.  And he had US officials in Iraq negotiate a contract -- The Erbil Agreement -- to give Nouri a second term.

The contract was nicely known as a power-sharing agreement.  And while that was one aspect of it, there was also the fact that that it was a bribe list.

Political leaders agreed to give Nouri a second term as prime minister and, in exchange, Nouri agreed to give them various things.  Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, would be put in charge of a national security commission, the Kurds would finally see Article 150 of the Iraqi Constitution implemented, etc.

And Nouri embraced the contract and was all for it.  To get his second term.

But he got named prime minister (designate) and said the contract would have to wait a bit -- the rest of it -- to be implemented.

That was November 2010.

He never implemented it.

He never honored the promises he made in that contract.

And as political parties demanded the contract be honored, the tensions grew and grew.

From 2010 through 2014, there was little concern about the terrorism the Iraqi people were living under.  The world turned a blind eye with few exceptions.  

When it became undeniable, the world paid attention long enough to see Barack finally pull the rug out from under despot Nouri al-Maliki and begin (publicly) sending US troops back into Iraq. 

Stepping onto the global stage last June, addressing the world, Barack declared that the only answer to Iraq's various crises was a political solution.

Where's that political solution?

Nearly a year later, where's that political solution?

Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing.  We covered some of it in that day's snapshot.  Today, we're focusing on the key concern of how the operation against the Islamic State is failing.  

Appearing before the Committee were the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL John Allen as well as Brig Gen Michael Fantini and Brig Gen Gregg Olson.

John Allen is a retired general who, despite having taken a job of envoy which is under the State Dept, insists upon being called "General."  As a general rule, we go by what people call themselves here.

General rule.

There was a Rolling Stone employee who created a title for himself. 

The title didn't exist.

The New York Times ran with that title.

We did not.

When we gave his title, we gave the title that he actually had.  (And I told Jann Wenner what was going on and the employee was told to stick to the title he had which finally led the Times to use the correct title.  I also ratted out the stooge who went along with the RS employee -- NYT stooge who was the employee's friend -- to the paper and got the stooge packing.  Facts are facts, I don't tolerate lies and I don't tolerate them when press outlets try to claim "it's just entertainment coverage."  If it matters enough for you to cover it, it matters enough for you to cover it correctly.)

Allen is an envoy.  He is under the State Dept.  He is supposed to be heading Barack's diplomatic effort.

That makes him an envoy.

If that title is beneath him, and he acts as though it is, too bad.

John Allen has done an awful job as an envoy and possibly Barack, years from now, will be able to point to Allen's disaster moves to mitigate the blame he (Barack) faces for Iraq.

A diplomat was needed to work towards a political solution.

Instead of a diplomat, Barack appointed a retired general and one who has no sense of history or perspective on Iraq beyond bombs and guns.

John Allen started out an embarrassment, he's become an impediment.

Barack should find someone quickly to replace Allen and use it to create a "restart."  The latter would be especially helpful to him politically since June is approaching and his remarks from last year will be revisited then.

From Thursday's hearing, we'll note this exchange.

US House Rep Ted Deutch  I want to actually start with the news about our strikes in Tikrit.  The coverage in the New York Times today  included a paragraph which  said, "If the Americans did not engage they feared becoming marginalized by Tehran  in a country where they had spilled much blood in the last decade, the official said speaking on the condition of anonymity."  Is -- If you could speak to the strikes in Tikrit, the air support that the United States is providing, is it different than the support we've had in the past? And is it being offered in part because  there were concerns about being marginalized by the Iranians?  And in answering that question, it gets to the broader point of, again the same article "the preponderance of 30,000 fighters on the Iraqi side had been members of the militias fighting alongside the Iraqi military and police men.  Of those 30,000, how do we -- Gen Allen, following your last response -- how do we view it in a nuanced way to distinguish between the Iranian-backed militias and Sistani's popular mobilization forces?

Brig Gen Fat : Congressman, so I think the answer to your question is "no." We work by, with and through the Iraqi government.  And so through the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces, the-the, uh, the Iraqis came back and asked for support and we adjudicated that decision to the highest levels and decided to engage there.  It's within the Iraqi interest and the coalition's interest to be successful in Tikrit cause we don't want to have another success for Da'ash or ISIL. And, uh, we anticipate that the, uh, support that we're providing the Iraqi security forces with the Ministry of Defense, uh, in -- with the Ministry of Defense in in charge of the command and control of, uh, that operation that we're in a position where we can provide that support to be successful. 

US House Rep Ted Deutch: General Allen?

Envoy John Allen:  With regard to the command and control the, uh -- There's a difference between, uh, the role of the, uh, the traditional Shia elements that are aligned directly with Iraq and support directly with Iraq and those elements of the PMF that have provided, uh, uh, a larger force posture and a larger force generation capability, uh, they are not -- They don't intend to be or -- are not intended to be a permanent part of the Iraqi security force entity.  They are -- They are viewed as a temporary organization that have played the role ultimately of blunting and halting, uh, the forward progress of Da'ash.  And as we continue to build out the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces across the board and, uhm, we can provide you, I think, significant detail about the forces that are engaged right now in Tikrit.  It's-it's-it's actually quite encouraging.  Uhhhhh, to give you a sense of when the PMF elements are going to be in play and when they won't be in play -- and as we continue to force generate the regular forces they will play an increasing role ultimately in the counter-offensive to liberate the populations.

US House Rep Ted Deutch: General Allen, are you -- are you confident that the Iraqi people view this action in Tikrit as one taking place against ISIS by the United States through air strikes and Iraqi security forces or is it viewed as one that is a combination of US air strikes and Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias?

Envoy John Allen: Uh, that's a good question.  Uh, we've -- again from my time on the ground just last week there, uh, I made a point to meet with the provincial leadership in Salahuddin Province in which Tikrit is the largest population center.  Uh, at the time, the leadership in Salahuddin and-and even recently have talked about focusing on the liberation of Tikrit, uh, and have applauded the role of American forces in supporting the central government and the Iraqi security forces in liberating Tikrit from Da'ash.  So my sense is that on the ground in Salahuddin, their view is that the United States as we have done in other places, multiple other places in Iraq, are providing the kinds of both enabling to the use of information to command and control -- support to command and control -- and ultimately fire power that will facilitate the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces in accomplishing the mission of defeating Da'ash and liberating this population center.  So my sense is that at least the Sunni leadership -- key Sunni leadership -- the Speaker, the Vice President and others but also the Sunni leadership of Salahhudin have been clear that they support the role of the United States in this particular fight, sir.

Mr. Chairman, I just hope then that that translates down to the Iraqi people as well and I yield back.

We'll note another exchange from the hearing in a moment.

But first off, that's Speaker of Parliament who would be Salim al-Jabouri and Vice President Osama al-Nujafi.

As the chief US diplomat, Allen should know those names and titles.

Allen doesn't have a clue.

(That's the generous view.  The harsher view is that he's a natural born liar whose every word is a fabrication and falsehood.)

While a few Sunni political leaders did support the thousands of Sunnis who took part in a protest that lasted over a year (December 2012 through January 2014), the bulk did not.  (Most did not oppose the protests, they just didn't go out of there way to support them.)

The most infamous incident would be when Sunni politician -- and professional caver -- Saleh al-Mutlaq  attempted to use the protests as a photo op and was pelted with garbage and rocks by the protesters.  Mutlaq, at the time, was the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq (he still holds that position today).

In addition, there's Salahuddin Province itself.

Is it in their longterm interests to sit at the table right now and agree with anything with regards to Baghdad and US officials?

Yes, it is.

Because in 2011, the province declared it was semi-autonomous.  The Kurdish Regional Government is semi-autonomous.  This is the model Salahuddin is going for and declared itself to be in 2011.  Yes, the government will gladly take a seat at any table and weigh in.  It has little to do with the wants and needs with regards to ISIS and everything to do with shoring up proof that they are independent.  And should they oppose the US or Baghdad plan?  

They would be dismissed which would prove that they were not semi-autonomous.

And it is this group -- this powerless group -- of officials that Allen uses to back up his claims.

He should have been asked why, if Salahuddin Province supported the assault on Tikrit (which is in the province), they were not sending Sunni brigades in to assist with the operation?

The answer to that question would have been awkward (for Allen) but illuminating.

Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent (Foreign Policy) have an important article published today entitled "The U.S. Is Providing Air Cover for Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq: Iran's Shi'ite militias aren't a whole lot better than the Islamic State."  From the article:

On March 10, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a comprehensive study of human rights violations committed by both IS and pro-Iraqi forces. The Islamic State, OHCHR concluded, has likely committed genocide against the Yazidis, a ethno-religious minority in Iraq, in a catalogue of war crimes and crimes against humanity that include gang-rape and sexual slavery. But OHCHR’s language is equally unambiguous in condemning the other side on the battlefield: “Throughout the summer of 2014,” the report noted, “[PMUs], other volunteers and [Shiite] militia moved from their southern heartlands towards [Islamic State]-controlled areas in central and northern Iraq. While their military campaign against the group gained ground, the militias seem to operate with total impunity, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake.” [Italics added.]
Sunni villages in Amerli and Suleiman Bek, in the Salah ad-Din province, have been looted or destroyed by militiamen operating on the specious assumption that all inhabitants once ruled by IS must be IS sympathizers or collaborators. Human Rights Watch has also lately discovered that the “liberation” of Amerli last October — another PMU/Iranian-led endeavor, only this one abetted by U.S. airstrikes in the early stages — was characterized by wide-scale abuses including the looting and burning of homes and business of Sunni residents of villages surrounding Amerli.  The apparent aim was ethnic cleansing. Human Rights Watch concluded, from witness accounts, that “building destruction in at least 47 predominantly Sunni villages was methodical and driven by revenge and intended to alter the demographic composition of Iraq’s traditionally diverse provinces of Salah al-Din and Kirkuk.”
Sunnis weren’t the only demographic subjected to collective punishment. A 21-year-old Shiite Turkmen from the Yengija village was “burned with cigarettes and tied to a ceiling fan” by militants of Saraya Tala’a al-Khorasani, another Iran-backed militia. He told Human Rights Watch: “They kept saying, ‘You are ISIS,’ and I kept denying it. They were beating me randomly on my face, head, shoulders using water pipes and the butts of their weapons…. They went to have lunch and then came back and beat us for an hour and half. Later that night they asked me if I was Shia or Sunni. I told them I was Shia Turkoman and they ordered me to prove it by praying the Shia way…. They kept me for nine days.”

AFP today quotes an unnamed Iraqi military officer stating, "The task of liberating Tikrit requires major sacrifices and street fighting, and our forces are ready for these sacrifices."   


Because the biggest sacrifice required is for everyone to let go of petty grudges and the past and work together.  That means a Shi'ite dominant government needs to be making real efforts to work with Sunnis and with Kurds.

When will that 'sacrifice' take place?

After two days of U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi forces are resuming their stalled offensive to rout Islamic State fighters from Tikrit without the help of Iran-backed fighters once at the forefront of the battle.
As Iran-backed Shiite militiamen sat on the sidelines, thousands of Iraqi government forces sought to capitalize on the new American airstrikes to dislodge hundreds of Islamic State fighters hunkered down in the heart of the city.

As has been noted here and elsewhere, Tikrit could be liberated or 'liberated' tomorrow and it wouldn't mean a damn thing if nothing else changed in Iraq.

There is no movement on the political front.  Nearly a year after Barack called for a political solution, there is none.

Holly Williams (CBS News -- link is text and video) reports on the claim that the US government insisted that Shi'ite militias depart before any strikes took place:

A condition of the U.S. strikes is that the militias go home. Just outside Tikrit two weeks ago an Iraqi general -- Bahaa al-Azawi -- confidently told us that victory was days away.
"We got the ability, we got the capability to defeat terrorism, and push them away from Iraq," al-Azawi said at the time.
But the Tikrit offensive stalled -- even though one senior Iraqi politician told us ISIS may have only 20 fighters left in the city.
"There are very few. They're using snipers, and booby trapped buildings," said Saad al-Muttalibi.
Al-Muttalibi admits that Iraq's army is feeble - despite the $20 billion spent by America to train and equip it.

At The Atlantic, Noah Gordon speaks to Stephen Biddle about ISIS, Tkrit and US and Iran jockeying efforts:

Gordon: Bigger picture: American airstrikes against ISIS started in the summer. Has ISIS lost territory? Are the Kurds and the Iraqi government making gains?

Biddle: They’ve lost some territory. I think, to a first approximation, the best characterization of the war is a stalemate: ISIS has gained a bit of ground in some places; they’ve lost some ground in other places. Most of the areas in which they’ve lost ground have been areas of mixed sectarian demography. ISIS has shown very little ability to take and hold Shiite-populated areas.
Their expansion in June was very, very rapid—and then it ground to a halt at more or less the geographic limits of Sunni Iraq. Since mid-summer, certainly, the battle lines have not changed radically. Places like Baiji [an Iraqi city taken back from ISIS in June] have changed hands several times, but in spite of some degree of dynamic change in particular locations the larger context of the war hasn’t changed very much. You’ve got, to a first approximation, deadlock.

Biddle goes on to offer his take that if the airstrikes do not lead to a major advance in the assault on Tikrit, the Iraqi government will have less reason and inclination to side with the US over Iran.

Back to Thursday's hearing.

US House Rep David Cicilline: General according to a recent Human Rights Watch report, a Shia militia destroyed a Sunni village they had retaken from ISIS. which was methodical and driven by revenge according to the report.  It indicated that dozens of other villages were similarly targeted and considering the increasing efforts to combat ISIS by Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias, sort of building on Congressman Deutch's question,  how can we -- how can we monitor Iranian retaliatory actions?  And will the Shia militias punitive actions cause Iraq's disenfranchised Sunnis to view ISIS as really their only protectors?  And what are we doing to mitigate that?  And also what are the implications for fostering reconciliation between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities in Iraq because of Iran's involvement?

Envoy John Allen:  It's an extraordinarily important question -- both yours and Congressman Deutch's.  Uh, there have been excesses, they've been horrible.  Uh, I think we saw very quickly that the Iraqi government contemed -- condemned those excesses.  And the Iraqi government has initiated investigations into those excesses -- ultimately to hold those who perpetrated them to be accountable.  That's an important first point. Those excesses have been condemned by the Iraqi government, those excesses have actually been condemned by the Grand Ayatollah [Ali al-] Sistani.  And it was part of  -- because of that,  it was part of the reason for his issuance of the 20-point code of ethics -- the code of conduct which would be recognizable to all of us in uniform.

I can't take that idiot for very long.

Thursday was not a good morning for choice.  We could attend a hearing with known liar Lloyd Austin -- a liar I avoid at all costs -- or we could try our luck with John Allen.

John Allen is not "in uniform."

He's retired from the military and looks like an old fart trying to relive tired glory days of the past at the expense of the realities of the present.


Human rights abuses is what some call them.  I call them War Crimes.  Because they meet the legal definition of War Crimes.

But John Allen is such a liar or so stupid he's calls them excesses.

And they're over, he insists!  These were last fall and they're over because al-Sistani issued a code of conduct.!

From the March 4th snapshot:

Al Arabiya News reports, "A video posted on the internet on Wednesday showed Iraqi soldiers shooting to death at close range a captured child suspected to have fought with militants in the Diyala Province. The director of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, Mustafa Saadoun, in an interview with Al Hadath News Channel, condemned 'the barbaric treatment' of the child, believed to be 11-years old."

Allen's in bed and putting out for these groups.

Which was always going to be a problem when the State Dept's Brett McGurk was allowed a say in picking an envoy.  Brett, you may remember, failed to become the US Ambassador to Iraq because he couldn't keep in his pants and also because the Sunni community lodged an official and public complaint about how one-sided Brett was, how he bent over backward for Nouri and the Shi'ite community.

The Sunnis no more trust John Allen than they trusted Nouri al-Maliki.

The Iraqi government has not condemned the March 4th atrocity caught on camera.

Nor has John Allen.

In fact, John Allen has condemned nothing.

He has lied.

Repeatedly he has lied.

He was lying about the government of Iraq.

The government of Iraq has not condemned the human rights abuses.

There's a supposed investigation -- we'll get to that -- but there's been no condemnation.

They did condemn one thing -- Human Rights Watch.

They condemned them and the report HRW issued.

In the last two weeks, everyone's stepped forward -- including the Minister of Defense -- to insist that Iraqi forces are being smeared with lies.

So maybe John Allen could address that?

Or why these 'excesses' have led the Pentagon to refuse to train certain segments of the Iraqi forces?

Maybe he could get honest about that.

Or maybe he could explain why he trusts any government investigation taking place in Iraq to begin with?

Aren't we all still waiting on the investigation of another public incident?

That would be the April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulting 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 eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

And when's that investigation going to issue its findings?

Oh, that's right.

In Iraq, you just say you'll do an investigation while knowing the world press and world government will never, ever hold you accountable.

May John Allen be haunted by the "excesses" in Iraq and never have another night's restful sleep.

Allen insisted to US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher, "It is not an intention, sir, that these groups remain permanently established and it is the intention ultimately of the Iraqi government that elements would be subsumed under the national guard concept or they would be disbanded and go home."

John Allen thinks he can flap his gums and we all have to believe the gas that comes flying out.

No, we don't.

He needs to start backing up his claims.

Actually, he needs to step down.

June looms.

It will not be pretty for Barack.

The smartest thing to do is immediately replace John Allen and then use Allen as the fall guy for why, a year after Barack insisted the only answer was a political solution, there is still no political solution.

At one point in the hearing, the ridiculous John Allen was talking up the national guard in Iraq.

Yes, the US has been stressing that since last summer.

The need for one.

But there's not one.

There's not even a law passed by the Parliament authorizing one.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 142 violent deaths in Iraq on Friday.

By June, some publications may be preparing to pair Barack's remarks from last year (about a "political solution") with the number of deaths reported in Iraq since that speech and how there is still no political solution.

Read on ...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The 2,000 Mark

2000 mark

From September 30, 2012, that's "The 2,000 Mark."  Hardworking Barack made time for his mani-pedi. 

C.I. wrote:

 In December 2008, the number of US service members killed in the Afghanistan War was 500.  Barack Obama was sworn in as president in January 2009.  Today the US military death toll in the Afghanistan War reached 2,000.  Barack declares in the small panel, "People say, 'Barry, the 2000 mark. That's bad'."  Reveal him to be getting a manicure as he explains, "I say 2,000 deaths is a small price to pay to make an effecte, vain priss like me look manly!  Where's my arugula salad?  I need another mango smoothie!"  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

Barack's forever your girl.

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

Saturday, March 14, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Tikrit attack proves to be humiliating for Baghdad and Tehran, lies and more lies from the US government on Iraq get exposed, we note the shooting death of an Iraqi in Dallas, Texas, and much more.

Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that Badr militia leader Hadi al-Amiri has praised Iran for it's "unconditional" aid and support as contrasted with the US -- Iraqi leaders "kiss the hands of the Americans and get nothing in return."

Oh, Hadi, you're such an embarrassment, such an idiot.

Do you really think we've forgotten you or your weakling son?

Or the 2014 incident where your little baby (grown adult son) threw a tantrum because an airline refused to delay a flight for him.

Or that you, as Transportation Minister, then refused to allow the flight to land in Iraq?

Oh, Hadi, you stupid ass.

The world has not forgotten.

Nor has the world forgotten that, in your denials (lies) about the incident, you promised a full investigation.

There was never an investigation.

Which was good for your little boy, right?

Because you'd publicly insisted that if he was responsible, you'd turn him over to the authorities.

Poor little Hadi.  Such a joke on the world stage.

And part of the reason the US government did not back, last summer, Ammar al-Hakim for the post of prime minister.  Hadi's part of the al-Hakim led Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.  All Iraq News reports Ammar met with Brett McGurk of the US State Dept to tell McGurk that Iraq doesn't need the US.

Good enough, let's pull all US troops out of Iraq (at last).

Wednesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held an important hearing on Iraq and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that US President Barack Obama has requested.  We've covered the hearing in the Wednesday and Thursday snapshots and will cover it later in this one.  But for now, let's note what Ranking Member Robert Menendez stated as the hearing was coming to a close.

Ranking Member Robert Menendez:  Finally, I do hope that we can get to a point to find the right balance and that's not easy in this proposition to give you an AUMF that gives you the wherewithall to degrade and defeat ISIL but by the same token doesn't provide an open-ended check.  And I think that the real concern here  is for some of us who lived under shock and awe and were told that Iraqi oil was going to pay for everything and saw a lot of lives and national treasure spent, that even well intentioned efforts can move in a totally different direction.  And this is the most critical vote that any member of the Congress  will take which is basically a vote on war and peace and life and death.

As if to underscore the points he was making Wednesday, CBS News reported Friday:

A U.S. soldier at an Iraqi training base was injured by gunfire directed at the base, marking the first time an American soldier has been wounded by fire from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.
A Pentagon spokesman told Martin that the soldier received superficial wounds to his face after the incident, which occurred Wednesday at 3:00 a.m. Iraqi time.

National Iraqi News Agency adds, "The Spokesman of the Pentagon said that this is the first time that a US soldier wounded are carried out on the ground, since the United States began training Iraqi forces as part of coalition efforts to defeat the IS organization."  All Iraq News quotes the Pentagon spokesperson, Steve Warren, stating that "US soldiers returned fire."

Oh, what a beautiful city
Oh, what a beautiful city
Oh, what a beautiful city
Twelve gates to the city
There are three gates in the east
And three to the west
There's three to the north
And three to the south
There's twelve gates to the city
-- "Twelve Gates To The City," traditional song recorded by Carly Simon on her Christmas Is Almost Here

Twelve Gates To The City, and 12 days to reach Tikrit.

That's how long it's taken the Baghdad-Tehran alliance.  On Thursday, the 12th day of the operation, they finally reached Tikrit.  Apparently, there was no direct path so they had to take stop overs, possibly they traveled Jet Blue via Miami.

Thursday, All Iraq News reported that Khalid al-Khazrji (Deputy Chair of the Local Security Committee) was insisting, "The Iraqi forces have completely controlled over Tikrit."

Oh, the lies and the liars.

Like Khaled al-Obeidi.  Thursday, National Iraqi News Agency reported that Defense Minister al-Obeidi declared that the battle for Tikrit "will be today and will be a decisive battle."

Didn't happen.

But Iran and Baghdad's Shi'ite forces had finally made it to Tikrit.


Jean Marc Mojon (AFP) didn't seem to grasp what he reported on Friday morning:

Iraqi forces on Friday battled jihadists making what looked increasingly like a last stand in Tikrit but the Islamic State group responded by vowing to expand its "caliphate".
Thousands of fighters surrounded a few hundred holdout IS militants, pounding their positions from the air but treading carefully to avoid the thousands of bombs littering the city centre.

The bulk of Islamic State fighters had left, only a "few hundred" remained and that was still too much for the combined might of Baghdad and Tehran.

Offering a more clear-eyed assessment on Friday was Saif Hameed (Reuters) who reported:

The offensive to retake Tikrit appeared to stall on Friday, two days after Iraqi security forces and mainly Shi’ite militia pushed into Saddam Hussein’s home city in their biggest offensive yet against the militants.
A source in the Salah Al-Din Operations Command said Iraqi forces would not move forward until reinforcements reached Tikrit, of which the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) still holds around half.

Using guerrilla warfare tactics, the militants have turned the city into a labyrinth of home-made bombs and booby-trapped buildings, and are using snipers to halt their progress.

Adam Rawnsley (War Is Boring) notes that, "in a sign of Tehran’s growing military presence in the Iraq, Iranian weapons were a nearly ubiquitous sight in images and videos coming out of the offensive to take the mostly Sunni city."  Yamei Wang (Xinhua) adds that Friday saw at least seventy-two security forces injured and another 26 killed.

And today?  Xinhua reports:

Iraqi security forces fighting to free the besiege city of Tikrit planned to clear the city from the Islamic State (IS) militants within 72 hours, a militia spokesman said on Saturday.
The city "will be liberated within 72 hours," Karim al-Nouri, a leading figure of the Shiite party Badr Organization and the spokesman of the government-backed militia of al-Hashed al-Shaabi, said in the town of Awja, south of Tikrit.

But reality is not what's above.  Reuters reports reality which is that the Islamic State still controls at least half of Tirkit and the security forces who entered the city?

They have "paused their offensive for a second day on Saturday as they awaited reinforcements, a military source said."

This is also echoed by the Oman Tribune, "Earlier, Iraqi forces and Shia militia battling to wrest full control of the city of Tikrit from Baghdadi militiamen paused their offensive for a second day on Saturday as they awaited reinforcements.  A source in the local military command centre said military commanders had reached a decision to halt the operation until a suitable, carefully set plan is in place to break into central Tikrit."

So the operation starts with claims that are never met (they were supposed to have entered and seized Tikrit two Fridays ago -- that is what the officials promised) and after they finally arrive in Tikrit and face significantly fewer Islamic State forces than they expected, they're still so inept that they have to pause their fighting and wait for reinforcements.

Hundreds of Islamic State fighters.

Thousands of security forces.

And the security forces have to wait for reinforcements before continuing the battle.

This was supposed to be a confidence builder.

It has been anything but.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is again demonstrating he's no different than Nouri al-Maliki.

In 2008, you may remember, Nouri decided to attack Basra (and Sadr City in Baghdad).

It was an operation that the US was planning with Iraqi forces.

But Nouri jumped the gun.

And Iraqi forces, once fighting began, began deserting.

And Nouri hadto count on the US forces to rescue his plan.

But because the US government needed to promote Nouri as a leader, it was considered unkind to point out that it was only US forces that diverted the disaster.

And now there's Haider.

Who didn't want US help on this.

And the forces -- with all of Tehran's help -- couldn't even make it into Tirkit on time.

And when they did?

They can't even fight a much smaller than expected group of Islamic State fighters.

This was supposed to be the morale booster.

It should be the wake up call.

Yes, the US military assessment was correct:  Iraqi forces (with or without help from Tehran) are still not ready or maybe just still not committed to the actual fight.

Sending Shi'ites into Saddam Hussein's home town?

It was supposed to be a morale builder because Shi'ites hated (and continue to hate) the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

This was the area they would shoot up and destroy, feeding on their own hatred.

But even with all that, they still can't pull it off.

They're an embarrassment.

So is stupidity.

We're not even going to go into Nancy A. Youssef's idiotic efforts to claim a slice of Tikrit for the US -- she (and brass) feared the operation would be a success -- because they're unable to use their eyes and ears -- so she did a piece of whoring -- like what she used to do for McClatchy all the time.  We're not linking to her nonsense.

But we will go to greater stupidity.

Foreign Policy, we mean you.

Why did you ever hire idiots like David Frances and Sabine Muscat who wrote on Friday:

Congress sits by as Christians are besieged by the Islamic State. Last August, President Barack Obama signed a bill creating a special envoy charged with helping Iraq’s Christian communities and other minority religious groups targeted by the Islamic State. Seven months later, the post is still vacant, and Congress seems in no rush to fill it. FP’s Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Yochi Dreazen report on a “small but concrete example of Washington’s passivity in the face of an ongoing wave of atrocities against the Assyrian, Chaldean, and other Christian communities of Iraq and Syria.”

Leave out Yochi and Bethany because they don't argue what Frances and Muscat stupidly do.

Have you finished the third grade?

If so and you're an American citizen going to school in America you should be rolling your eyes at what Frances and Muscat wrote.

Congress isn't sitting by.

They're not the ones "in no rush to fill it."

Because, even though Frances and Muscat are too stupid to know it, Congress merely votes to confirm (or deny) someone the president nominates.

What kind of whores are Frances and Muscat to blame Congress for Barack's inaction?

Stupid whores if they think they can get away with it.

Again, the linked to article by Yochi and Bethany does not make the claim Frances and Muscat do.

Frances and Muscat are wrong, they're wrong about the Constitution and they really shouldn't be allowed to cover these topics anymore because either they're too stupid or they're too biased to be trusted.

Here's reality, Barack waited 10 days to sign the bill in question (passed by Congress) and did so quietly, as Yochi and Bethany note, "the White House quietly announced the signing in a late-afternoon press release that lumped it in with an array of other low-profile legislation. Neither Obama nor any prominent lawmakers made any explicit public reference to the bill."

When Barack's failure to nominate someone for the post results in two 'reporters' rushing to slam Congress, then Foreign Policy needs to do a house cleaning.  Frances and Muscat are not qualified to even write up synopsis so they shouldn't be working for Foreign Policy.

Yochi and Bethany write an even-handed report which includes:

Administration officials say they are paying close attention to the plight of Iraq’s religious minorities and doing all they can to help. In an interview, Rabbi David Saperstein, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said that he has devoted the majority of his time since assuming his post last December to the plight of the Christians and other groups that find themselves in the crosshairs of the Islamic State.
Saperstein noted that when the Islamic State encircled thousands of members of the country’s Yazidi community and threatened to exterminate them last year, it was American warplanes that beat back the militants and allowed the civilians to escape their clutches. “There are scores of thousands of people who are alive because of what we did,” he said.

The issue is Iraqi Christians.

If Saperstein is too ignorant to know that Yazidis are not Christians may be he's not up for his job.

The Yazidis should have been (and were) provided with supplies dropped from planes.

In addition, they were used to put US forces (publicly) back into Iraq.

The Yazidis are now aligned with the neocons -- via their sole MP in Parliament who spends so much of her time in England, Canada and the United States.  They really don't need an advocate.

But Iraqi Christians have been very public about the fact that the Yazidis have gotten the world's attention while the slaughter of Iraqi Christians in Iraq goes largely unnoticed.

The so called objective press might want to explain to their news consumers why that is, why they ignore the Iraqi Christians while they provide tons of coverage to the group advocating for US combat troops in Iraq -- because that's what the Yazidi leadership signed off on when they agreed to take neocon money in an effort to publicize themselves.

On the battles in Iraq, Kareem Shaheen (Guardian) reports:

On Friday a prominent Iraqi Sunni preacher urged authorities to prevent Shia militias from carrying out revenge attacks. Sheikh Abdel Sattar Abdul Jabbar said that if the government failed to stop revenge attacks by Shia militias, the country would face reignited sectarian tensions such as the ones it witnessed at the height of the war in 2006 and 2007.
“We ask that actions follow words to punish those who are attacking houses in Tikrit,” Abdul Jabbar said during his Friday sermon in Baghdad. “We are sorry about those acting in revenge that might ignite tribal anger and add to our sectarian problems.

Analysts say the campaign to liberate Sunni areas must be led by members of the community, fearing retributions and revenge attacks that could upend the campaign to drive out Isis. 

Back to Wednesday's hearing.  Isakson questioned the need for a time limit on Barack's proposed AUMF -- which currently has a 3-year-provision calling for a review three years after it is passed.  Isakson wondered, "Wouldn't we be better off sending a clear signal that there is no end to this conflict as far as we are concerned until we win the victory?"  Click here for the press release from Senator Isakson's office.

For any wondering about the answer, Ash Carter repeatedly stated this was a "political consideration" and that the Good and Powerful Barack didn't want to tie anyone's hands.

Strange because Bully Boy Bush signed a three year agreement with Iraq after -- after -- the 2008 elections which saw Barack win the presidency.  Before Barack won the presidency, he (and Joe Biden) insisted they would oppose Bully Boy Bush doing any such agreement without the Senate signing off.  Immediately after the election -- Deletion You Can Believe In -- that promise disappeared from the campaign site and neither Barack nor Joe ever brought it up again.

Ash Carter is the Secretary of Defense.  He appeared at the hearing to offer testimony as did Secretary of State John Kerry and General Martin Dempsey who is the Chair of the Joint Chiefs.

Let's jump in on this exchange.

Senator Cory Gardner:  . .  . what weight of effort would you say that the Peshmerga or other fighting in the region are pursuing against ISIL?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  The early successes against ISIL were largely through the Peshmerga.  And that will evolve over time but they've been carrying the majority of the effort thus far.

Senator Cory Gardner:  And by majority of effort, is there a weight?  Like they're carrying out a third?   Three-quarters?  Ninety percent?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  No, Senator, I can't actually put

Senator Cory Gardner:  -- the weight of effort on it?

Gen Martin Depmsey:  -- but the early, uh, the early effort to blunt ISIL's momentum were north and therefore with the Peshmerga

Senator Cory Gardner:  And reports in the news and other places have stated the Peshmerga are only getting about 10% of the arms that have routed through -- that have been routed through Baghdad.  Is that correct?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  Uh, again, I don't have the percentage but I can certainly take it for the record.  But there were some friction early on with the willingness of the government of Iraq to provide weapons to the Peshmerga but we think we've-we've managed our way through that.

Senator Cory Gardner:  And so right now you feel confident that the process by which arms will reach Erbil have now been settled or resolved?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  I am confident that we've broke through the initial friction but it doesn't mean it won't return.

He was confident on Wednesday.

Is he still confident?

Or is he just a liar?

Massoud Barazani is the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Hours after the hearing, The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, audio and video) aired an interview with Barzani which included Barzani declaring:

We are satisfied with the [US] air support. We are getting good support, but, in reality, to this present moment, we have the same view as in the past on arming and equipping the Peshmerga forces with the right weapons.  It’s not to the standard we want.

If that's confusing for anyone -- possibly confusing for Dempsey, the title of the segment is "Kurdish leader says more U.S. weapons needed in fight against Islamic State."

Peshmerga forces include women and Cale Salih has written about that for CNN here.

But to the point of Dempsey's dishonesty?

That's all the hearing offered: dishonesty from the witnesses.

Hour after the hearing,  James Gordon Meek, Brian Ross, Rym Momtaz and Alex Hosenball (ABC News) broke the news that Shi'ites were committing War Crimes (they called it "human rights violations") in Iraq.

At the hearing, John Kerry lied non-stop including, "So as long as we continue to work on the integration, the  internal inclusivity of Iraq and its government -- to help the Iraqis to be able to do this themselves, help the region feel empowered by it, that is a long term recipe for the United States not to have as much risk and not to have to put ourselves on the line the way we have historically."

There is no 'inclusivity' in Iraq.  Shi'ites forces are targeting, terrorizing and killing Sunni civilians.

A fact Kerry didn't raise before the Committee.

Let's again note, the Thursday broadcast of ABC World News with David Muir:

David Muir: Now to new fall out after our ABC investigation last night. It involves the fight against ISIS known for those awful videos, lining up their victims on the beach.  And now a new concern.  Are some of the Iraqi forces -- trained and paid for by US taxpayers -- using techniques that are just as brutal?  Well the State Dept tonight responding to our report and ABC's chief investigative reporter Brian Ross back on the job tonight.

Brian Ross:  The State Dept called these scenes today serious and disturbing.  Brutal images of what appear to be Iraqi forces and militias carrying out, celebrating, torture and beheadings.  In this torture scene, two US weapons against the wall. This video shows two civilians, pleading for their lives, about to be shot dead.  A man with an American supplied weapon walks by, a gunman with what appears to be the insignia of Iraqi Special Forces caught on tape.

US State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki: Their behavior must be above reproach or they risk being painted with the same brush as ISIL fighters.

Brian Ross:  The Pentagon says it has already cut off money to some Iraqi units because of gross human rights violations.  But Senator Patrick Leahy says the ABC News report shows the government should cut off money to more Iraqi units.

Senator Patrick Leahy: When you look at at the videos and look at the uniforms being worn, do we really want to say the US condones that?

Brian Ross: US officials tonight tell ABC News that America's top military leader Gen Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has repeatedly warned Iraqi leaders about the conduct of the Iraqi military and the militias that fight with them -- especially because the US is sending $1.5 billion to the Iraqi army and almost 3,000 American troops to help train them.

The hearing on Iraq?  John Kerry should have informed the Committee.

Especially since this was Senator Bob Menendez's concern.

Not his concern today.

His concern back in November of 2013.

He was very concerned -- and very public about it -- that the US government would be arming thugs who would use the weapons to terrorize the people.

The White House not only assured him that would not happen, they promised that if it did, they would -- as the law requires -- cut off all arm shipments to Iraq.

Starting to understand why John Kerry lied and failed to disclose the abuses to Congress?

It was one lie after another.

And Kerry was also caught this week in yet another lie.

Last month, he was grandstanding in Munich -- yet again acting as though he were the Secretary of Defense -- and he created a figure -- how very Brian Williams of him -- that really didn't exist as he claimed that 50% of the Islamic State's leadership had been decimated in Syria and in Iraq.

Eli Lake and Josh Rogin (Daily Beast) reported Friday:

When asked about Kerry's 50 percent claim, Army Captain John J. Moore, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told us: "We currently don't have a percentage attached to that statistic."
Experts told us Kerry’s estimate is tough to understand, because defining the Islamic State’s “leadership” is subjective. Cole Bunzel, a Princeton University scholar of Near Eastern Studies who closely follows Islamic State, said its leadership structure is opaque, and not much is known about the true membership of its Shura and Sharia councils, which play an important role in the organization. When the Islamic State has announced major decisions, such as its decision to expand into Syria or declare itself a caliphate, said Bunzel, it has made clear that one or both of those councils were consulted by Baghdadi.
"I am very skeptical of the claim that the coalition has killed 50 percent of the leadership of the Islamic State, whatever that means,” said Bunzel.
He later added, "The Islamic State has publicly announced when senior members of the group have been killed. But they have never talked about anyone in the core leadership being killed since 2010."

It's just been one lie after another.

And that's why Congress should be very alarmed at the wording in Barack's requested AUMF.

In the hearing, Senator Chris Murphy noted:

I remain as frustrated as many of my colleagues with this question over these definitions
I think the problem is in part every different member of the administration  we talk to does seem to have a slightly different interpretation of what these words mean and I can't blame them because, I think, as Secretary Carter said there's no historical operational definition of these words.  But I think the lack of consistency has hampered our efforts to get on the same page together.

Senator Rand Paul noted in the hearing, "It's disdainful to say, 'We want you to pass something but it really doesn't matter, we'll just use 2001' -- which is really absurd.  It just means that Congress is inconsequential and so are the people and the country,"

And it was disdainful for the witnesses to lie to Congress.

And Kerry's entire presentation was disdainful and, yes, shameful.

He needs to learn to shut his mouth.

Yeah, he chaired the Committee -- back when people traveled in wagons.  He's Secretary of State now and he needs to learn to shut his mouth.

At one point, the Chair told him he was done.

Kerry insisted he wasn't.

Chair Bob Corker said he was done with his "speech" and that he had taken five minutes and 20 seconds to 'answer' a question.  The time was up.  The Senator asking questions had already pushed the time limit before finally giving Kerry a chance to speechify. It was time for the next Senator to ask questions.

When the Chair tells you that, you don't keep talking, you don't argue.

You just shut your damn mouth.

When he chaired the Committee, Kerry certainly understood that.

His preening ego, however, prevents from understanding it today.

Moving from Kerry's never ending jaw boning and lying to violence in the US, All Iraq News notes the fatal shooting of Iraqi Ahmed al-Jumaili in Dallas, Texas.  Al-Jumaili was an Iraqi refugee who had only recently arrived in the US.  CBS News reports:

The victim's wife, Zahraa Altaie, told the station they noticed the men that night but paid no attention to them nor did anything to provoke them. She said the shooting appeared to be random.
"I put my hand on his heart. I still feel his heart beating. I tried to stop his bleeding, but I couldn't," said Zahraa.

Iraqi community members are e-mailing asking where the left is on this?

They note that the American left was calling out the movie American Sniper.  (Some were calling it out.  I didn't call it out.)  They note the protests in Ferguson over the killing of an African-American (Michael Brown) by police.

So why isn't this faction of the left also objecting to the murder of Ahmed, the e-mails ask?

That's a question they'll have to answer.  I don't think it will be a pretty answer so I'm guessing those that called out a film -- Debra Useless Sweet, Cindy Sheehan and all the others -- will not call out the killer who, for the record, is African-American.  Nykerion Nealon is the killer's name.

Rachelle Blinder (New York Daily News) reports:

Nealon, who went by the nickname Kaca, did not know al-Jumaili and shot him while seeking revenge, Cotner said. Someone reportedly shot at his girlfriend's apartment in a neighboring complex, making Nealon round up three buddies to look for the suspect, a witness told police. They went to Nealon's apartment to get his assault rifle and then headed to Al-Jumaili's apartment complex.
The thug saw al-Jumaili taking pictures of the snow and raised his rifle, one of his friends told police. The friend took cover under bushes and heard shots ring out, he said. 

Al-Jumaili ran back to his apartment as Nealon followed him with his eyes, continually aiming his rifle and firing at him, Cotner said. Al-Jumaili was shot in the chest.

15 shell casings were found at the crime scene.

Let's also note that the claim of Kaca's girlfriend's apartment being shot at was made -- in a phone call to the police -- after Kaca shot dead Ahmed.  After.  Whether the claim is true or not, no one knows.

Whether it's true or not, it does not justify Kaca grabbing a gun and killing anyone.

But it's important to remember the claim came after the fact.

It's important to remember Kaca shot dead Ahmed.  Kaca and friends then ran to girlfriend's apartment. Then the police were called and the alleged shooting at girlfriend's apartment was reported to the police but they didn't report the murder of Ahmed.  They didn't report that Kaca had shot Ahmed.

As Telemundo reports, the police only discovered Kaca shot Ahmed because Kaca was caught on security cameras (with his rifle).

I wouldn't believe, were I on the jury, the claim of a shooting at an apartment without physical evidence.  That said, were I the defense attorney, I would be sure to put Walnut Bend Apartments on trial and note that the ownership (BH Management) is notorious for its shoddy practices -- including falsely telling renters that  eviction processes had been started, including failure to salt frozen stairs and walk ways, etc.  They have one of the worst images of any in the region.  They do not have security, they often arrange drive throughs with local police.  Were I the defense attorney, I'd be asking what the security was like and how responsive the management was to security concerns.

Regardless of whether or not the shooting at his girlfriend's apartment can be proven, if BH Management did their usual poor job of security and of responding to safety concerns, a case for Kaca could be built around that.  And it's winter -- almost over -- so BH Management probably distributed in January or February a flier to the residents of Walnut Bend Apartments that would basically make clear how little responsibility BH Management takes for their properties.  I'd get a copy of that, were I the defense attorney, to explain why Kaca might have felt it was necessary to defend his girlfriend himself.

If he is convicted?  A few e-mails from Iraqi community members ask about the death penalty? Texas is a death penalty state.  If tried as an adult (Kaca is 17), the killer could face the death penalty.

(We are not calling the victim, Ahmed, by his last name because we humanize people by calling them by their first names here.  Due to the accused's age, we're also going with something other than the last name.  And we would have gone with his first name but when people have a preferred name that is on the record -- such as Ed Snowden always introducing himself as "Ed" -- we call them by the name they prefer.)

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Hollow Man

the hollow man 1


From September 23, 2012, that's  "The Hollow Man."  C.I. noted:

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper notes, "People say, 'Stephen Harper, how could you be so heartless to deport Kim Rivera?'" And then, opening the door to his hollow chest, he explains, "Got your answer right here.  I'm the hollow man."  Indeed he is and the shame of North America.      Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

If you missed it, when Kim was forced out of Canada, she was thrown behind bars in America and delivered her child behind bars.

Unlike during Vietnam, the Canadian government hasn't been receptive to War Resisters.

But that didn't stop a stupid ass Canadian from getting his high horse last November and lecturing and hectoring the United States about how they voted.

Seems like Canada has a lot of work to do and needs to get their nose out of US elections.

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

Saturday, March 7, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Canada suffers a loss in Iraq, Stephen Harper is a Chicken Hawk in hiding, Gen Martin Dempsey apparently previously worked for Dionne Warwick's Psychic Network, the VA shows up at a budget hearing unprepared and leaning on the work of others, and much more.

February 26th, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee heard from the VA led by Secretary Robert McDonald, we covered part of the hearing in Thursday's snapshot.  McDonald is in his seventh month on the job.  He replaced Eric Shinseki who resigned in disgrace.  As Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal told McDonald in the hearing, "That has been one of the downfalls of the VA to this point, the lack of reliable truthful information.  It was the downfall of your predecessor."

It was noted throughout the hearing and it sort of left a question mark hanging over whatever limited information the VA was able to provide in the hearing.  Blumenthal is the Ranking Member and Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair.  The hearing was about the VA's budget request and the first panel was composed of VA employees led by McDonald.  The others were Dr. Carolyn Clancy, well known fabulist Allison Hickey, Ronald Walters, Stephen Warren and Helen Tierney.

Senator Patty Murray is a long serving member of the Committee and is a former Chair of the Committee.  She and Senator Dean Heller sponsored the Women Veterans Access to Quality Care Act of 2015.

Senator Patty Murray:  Secretary McDonald, as you know and as you said in your opening statement, the population of women veterans is increasing dramatically, it's doubled since 2001. I was really pleased to work with Senator Heller to introduce the Women's Veterans Access to Quality Care Act to make sure that the VA does have the services and the facilities to meet the needs of women veterans.  One of the key positions of that bill is requiring obstetrics and gynecology to be available at every medical center.  I wanted to ask you what resources and staff -- including support staff -- will you need to meet that requirement?

Secretary Robert McDonald: Thank you, Senator Murray.  We've very much in favor of that -- of that approach.  We're in the process of putting, uh, women's clinics all over the country.  We have a new one here in Washington, D.C. and I'd like to invite the members of the Committee to visit it.  Uhm, it's in our Washington, D.C. facility, it's a women's clinic.  Uh, as you know, I've been out to about 12 medical schools, talked to deans.  I'm -- We're hiring.  And we need to hire more gynecologists --

Senator Patty Murray:  Do you -- Do you know how many you would need to --

Secretary Robert McDonald:  Exact number --

Senator Patty Murray (Con't):  -- to do this?

Secretary Robert McDonald:  I don't have an exact number.  I can tell you that in the past -- the past nine months or so, we've hired about 8,000 people.  Of that, about 1,000 are doctors.  But I don't have how many of that are, uh, gynecologists --

Senator Patty Murray:  Okay, if you can get --

Senator Robert McDonald (Con't):  -- with that --

Senator Patty Murray (Con't): -- that for me and get back with me on that.  

And this is what frustrates me regarding the hearings.

McDonald doesn't have basic information?

He's got a team siting with him at the table and they don't have the information.

Forget not know -- they should know it -- but they're not able to flip through their paperwork in front of them and pull out the figure?

And the team McDonald has sitting behind him at the hearing can't whisper the information to him?

Because, throughout the hearing, the people behind him were feeding him figures and statistics.

When they don't feed on that, when no one at the table volunteers, it doesn't look like people just do not know, it plays like they don't want to share the information.

As Ranking Member Blumenthal and others noted throughout the hearing, Shinseki himself complained, when resigning, that he was not given accurate information from those in the VA reporting to him.

So you'd assume McDonald would be focusing on nailing down information.

If you're aware that approximately 8,000 people have been hired and 1,000 are doctors, knowing how many are OB-GYNs should not be a mystery.

Though he didn't supply a number, with 1,000 being doctors.

There are 152 VA medical centers and if we add in VA outpatient clinics, we're left with nearly 1,000 facilities.  (We could also add in the nursing home care units and domiciliaries.)

So there is an issue of a serious lack of gynecologists at VA medical facilities and if only 1,000 doctors were hired, you probably didn't fulfill the needs.

The hearing was February 26th.  The Women Veterans Access to Quality Care Act of 2015 was read and referred to Committee on February 12th.

14 days later, you're not prepared to discuss it?  You don't anticipate discussing it?

Let's go back:

Senator Patty Murray:  One of the key positions of that bill is requiring obstetrics and gynecology to be available at every medical center.  I wanted to ask you what resources and staff -- including support staff -- will you need to meet that requirement?

Secretary Robert McDonald: Thank you, Senator Murray.  We've very much in favor of that -- of that approach.  We're in the process of putting, uh, women's clinics all over the country.  We have a new one here in Washington, D.C. and I'd like to invite the members of the Committee to visit it.  Uhm, it's in our Washington, D.C. facility, it's a women's clinic.  Uh, as you know, I've been out to about 12 medical schools, talked to deans.  I'm -- We're hiring.  And we need to hire more gynecologists --

Senator Patty Murray:  Do you -- Do you know how many you would need to --

Secretary Robert McDonald:  Exact number --

Senator Patty Murray (Con't):  -- to do this?

Secretary Robert McDonald:  I don't have an exact number. 

The VA was present to argue for the budget and what the budget needs are.

The failure to be prepared to address this issue goes to the continued lack of respect for the needs of women veterans.

Senator Patty Murray:  And I also just wanted to bring up the VA's policy, up-to-date -- It is way past time to VA's policies up-to-date with modern medicine and allow the VA to provide better fertility treatment -- including in vitro fertilization for seriously injured veterans who want to start a family.  This is a high priority for me.  I think it is a high priority for our veterans and I want to work with you to get that done so I'll be talking to you more on that.

Senator Robert McDonald:  Working on it.

Senator Patty Murray:  Okay, I want to hear from you.  What are you doing to work on this?

Dr Carolyn Clancy: So my staff briefed me recently on how many women might be eligible and what would be the specific --

Senator Patty Murray:  Well it's women and men. 

Dr. Carolyn Clancy:  -- medical requirements.  Yes.  Uh, also compared what the Dept of Defense covers versus what we cover.  Or, actually, don't.  At the moment.  So, uhm, I sent them back with some more questions.  So we'll be happy to follow up with you.  

Senator Patty Murray:  I'll submit some questions on this but I think this is absolutely critical for our men and women who serve overseas, lose their capability and we have to make sure they can start a family so I will be focused on this.  

Again, the lack of respect for women veterans.

An issue the VA has failed on is referred to, by a medical doctor -- no less, as an issue for women.

Murray corrected her because Murray's worked on this issue repeatedly. She has spoken to many couple's effected by the issue.  She has Chaired hearings on this issue.

She is informed.

And she's done the work to be.

Why hasn't Clancy?

Check her official bio and ask yourself why she is so ignorant of this basic medical issue.

And, please note, this ignorance is after, she maintains, "my staff briefed me on this issue."

And let's note again, as Senator Murray has highlighted for several years now, the Defense Dept provides coverage for this to service members.  It's the VA that's failing to do so.

Senator Patty Murray:  I also wanted to talk to you about the legislation that I introduced last year to expand the caregivers support systems to VA, to all eras of veterans.  I'm going to be introducing that again this year and I want to be sure we're all working together to strengthen that program so that it will be ready to take on the additional workload.  VA's budget request says that in Fiscal Year 2015 you cannot hire any new caregiver support coordinators to help with overwhelming demand and I hear already at some facilities that providers refuse to help with doing initial evaluations or home visits.  And to me that is just unacceptable. I wanted to ask what you were doing to bring in more caregvier support coordinators?

Secretary Robert McDonald: Let me start and then I'll ask Carolyn to comment. We're very much in favor of improving our care-caregiver operation.  In fact, in the last week, I met with, uh, Senator Dole of The Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

Senator Patty Murray:  We're working very closely.

Secretary Robert McDonald:  We're working closely with her.  Uh, what we've agreed to do, I want to set up a special advisory committee for the Secretary on caregivers.  We don't have that and I think we would benefit from having that.  Number two -- working with her, incidentally, working with her foundation.  Secondly, is, uhm, we're talking about having a caregiver summit. Uh, something where we could get everybody together and, uh --

Senator Patty Murray:  For all eras? Or just --

Secretary Robert McDonald:  All eras.  Because-because, again, post 9/11 is not enough.

Senator Patty Muray:  Yeah.

Secretary Robert McDonald:  So we want to work together with you on this.

Senator Patty Murray:  Okay.  Well I want to stay in touch with you on that and keep me up-to-date on what they are doing. 

A basic question was asked:  What are you doing to bring in more caregiver support coordinators?

And the answer?

We're talking to Elizabeth Dole's foundation and we plan to have a summit at some point.

That's what you're doing?

After all the hearings on caregivers, that's what you point to as 'action'?  Farming out your work to Elizabeth Dole's foundation and talk of a summit?

Senator Patty Murray: And, finally, I want to talk to you about a home state issue -- the Spokane Emergency Room.  They have seen a dramatic cutback in operations simply because of staffing problems.  I have to tell you as the daughter of a WWII veteran this is unacceptable to me.  It is a very serious problem for veterans in that area and we've got to get it back to a full time operation.  I wanted to ask you today, when will the emergency room at the Spokane VA start operating 24 hours again?

Dr. Carolyn Clancy: So, Senator, we have had significant recruiting problems.  We had originally hoped to open it to 24/7 in April and it's now looking like that's going to get pushed back a few months until I met with some colleagues from the American Legion just a couple of days ago at their meeting this week and they have actually been out speaking to some of the other hospitals in town who may be able to help us out.  The other area where I think we need help recruiting emergency physicians is, uh, a legislative, uh, change that would allow us to accomodate what many people who go into emergency medicine want which is greater flexibility for hours than the current federal HR policies allow.

Senator Patty Murray:  So are you looking at every option because -- 

Dr. Carolyn Clancy:  Yes.

Senator Patty Murray (Con't):  -- we've heard recruiting forever. Temporary providers, bringing in doctors from other facilities, absolutely everything because this is a critical need in that community. 

Dr. Carolyn Clancy:  No, I would agree with you.  And we are looking at all options, yes.

Senator Patty Murray:  Okay and I want to follow up on you with that.  Let me know when and how and when we're going to see that open again.  Thank you. 

Robert McDonald has had many mis-steps since becoming VA Secretary.  And maybe that distracts from the above nonsense.

As Murray noted "we've heard recruiting forever."

The excuse has gotten more than a little old.

In addition, it's shameful that the E.R. would not be open full time but I find it more shameful that the needed work on the issue is done by the American Legion and not by the VA who is paid to do that work.

Good for the American Legion, They are a strong advocate and defender of veterans.

But why is the Legion able to do the work and the VA isn't?

The VA comes into a budget hearing, doesn't know the basics and repeatedly points to the foundations and VSOs as the answer -- in a budget hearing requesting funding.

'Fund us because of all the work that the VSOs and foundations do!'

McDonald's chief selling point was that he knew how to run things.  Seven months into his tenure, that has yet to be demonstrated.

In Iraq, Mahmud Saleh (AFP) reports, "Iraqi forces faced tough resistance from jihadist fighters around Tikrit Saturday, but the top US military officer said ahead of a Baghdad visit that victory was only a matter of time."  The officer is Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.   You'd think US military brass, having so often gotten predictions on Iraq wrong, would hesitate before consulting their crystal balls yet again.

Even more so since the US military is shut out of this Tehran-Baghdad assault on Tikrit.  Hassan Hassan (The Observer) feels things may be less clear cut than Dempsey's predicting:

But there are ominous signs that the campaign faces many perils and there are fears that its impact may unleash fresh waves of sectarian conflict, as well as long-term rebalancing of political forces in the region.
The campaign, which entered it’s second week on Sunday, is the first serious attempt to dislodge Isis from a Sunni area it has governed since the group’s military blitz in Iraq last June. Despite the American-led air strikes since the summer, the militant group has faced little pressure inside what can be described as its heartlands, such as Mosul, Falluja, Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. The offensive in Tikrit is therefore a critical development that will be monitored closely and nervously by almost everyone involved in the conflict. It is also the first major effort led by pro-government forces without consulting the United States and members of the international coalition. That latter fact leaves many question marks about the campaign. The Iraqi government portrays it as a national effort, led by the security forces and including thousands of Sunni tribal fighters. It also claims that Tikrit is all but empty of civilians.

But these claims are not entirely accurate. Hashd al-Shaabi, the umbrella organisation for Iranian-backed Shia militias, put together in the wake of Isis’s takeover of Mosul in June to serve as a de facto replacement for the army in the fight against the terror group, is leading the offensive. Any Sunni forces participating, notwithstanding their numbers, take a back seat at best.

You'd also think predictions would be put on hold considering the claim Press TV reported earlier this week, "According to provincial officials, Iraqi forces are expected to reach Tikrit late on Friday."

They're supposedly still outside.

Dempsey did offer other things.  Missy Ryan (Washington Post) notes:

“The important thing about this operation in Tikrit in my view is less about how the military aspect of it goes and more about what follows,” he told reporters ahead of a visit to Iraq, where he will meet with the Shiite-led government. “Because if the Sunni population is then allowed to continue to live its life the way it wants to, and can come back to their homes . . . then I think we’re in a really good place.”  
"But if what follows the Tikrit operation is not that, if there’s no reconstruction that follows it, if there’s no inclusivity that follows it, if there’s the movement of populations out of their homeland that follows it, then I think we’ve got a challenge in the campaign.”

It's already a condemned operation.  Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militia were captured on camera this week executing an 11-year-old Sunni boy.  An unarmed child.

Dempsey's full of crap -- probably had his mouth pressed Barack's anus too long.

The US is backing the slaughter of children.

There is no high ground to scramble to.

As for what follows a 'liberation' of Tikrit, Abdulrahman al-Rashed (Al Arabiya) offers a Sunni perspective

The Americans should realize that they have become part of the region’s repugnant sectarianism, fighting alongside Alawites in Syria and Shiites in Iraq, while negotiating with Shiite Iran on the nuclear issue. All three scenarios are against Sunnis, or at least this is how it seems. The Americans have put themselves in an unprecedented, terrible trap.
We hoped, and are still hoping, that the United States will participate in isolating Assad, the Syrian regime and its sectarianism, and support the moderate opposition that includes all religions and ethnic groups. We hoped that Washington would refrain from supporting the government in Baghdad unless it agreed to become representative of all Iraqis.

Widening the sectarian wars in the region will not serve the West. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Nusra, Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and others are nothing but the outcome of such blind fighting. The West should help promote moderate civilian institutions against religious hardliners, not support the latter to achieve victories in wars against temporary opponents.

While the US government -- including Dempsey -- lie, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani at least expresses concern.  Human Rights Watch's Kenneth Roth Tweets:

  • Across Iraq, Margaret Griffis ( counts 143 dead and 47 injured on Friday.

    And the violence includes a death.

    The State Dept's Brett McGurk Tweets:

    We mourn with & send our deepest condolences to our Canadian partners after the loss of SGT Doiron in northern Iraq.
    24 retweets 9 favorites

    Do you mourn, Brett?

    Because (a) you enabled Nouri al-Maliki.  You saw him as your ticket to power.  You almost succeeded in becoming Ambassador to Iraq.  Now you do the work but don't get the title.

    Fitting for someone who saw Baghdad as a whore house and couldn't keep it in his pants.

    Maybe Brett is mourning . . . if death turns turns him on.

    Otherwise, it's just hollow empty words.

    Stephen Harper is the prime minister of Canada.  He promised it would just be training -- that's all Canadian forces would be engaged in.

    Barack's made similar promises.

    Will Brett "mourn" if or when a US service member is killed in the latest wave of the never-ending Iraq War?

    Sgt Andrew Joseph Doiron.  Brett "mourns" so hard he can't even include the first name of the fallen.

    If there's anything more shameful than Brett, maybe it's Stephen Harper.  While Defence Minister Jason Kenney did make an on camera statement, Harper still hasn't released a statement.

    Grasp that Harper can grand stand and preen about sending Canadian forces into Iraq, he just goes AWOL, runs like a coward and hides when it's time to face citizens and explain his 'peaceful' operation resulted in death.

    That's how a War Hawk becomes a Chicken Hawk.

    Support war, demand it.  I'll disagree with you on that.  But I'll lose any remaining respect for you when you don't have the maturity to step forward when it's time to own consequences of your actions.

    Stephen Harper is a Chicken Hawk.

    Somebody should tell him that but they'd have to figure out what closet he was cowering in first.

    missy ryan

    Read on ...
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