Saturday, November 29, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, November 29, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, more civilians are killed in the US-led air campaign, despite announcements no budget bill is read in Parliament, corruption remains rampant, and much more.

In a letter to the editors of the Houston Chronicle, Carl Schiro asks a question no one seems able to answer:

Regarding "Corruption hobbles Iraq's military efforts" (Page A1, Monday), why is our government still sending our troops and money to such a corrupt country?

Can anyone answer that question?  The article Schiro's referring to is David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times via Hamilton Spectator) report on Iraqi forces:

The Iraqi military and police forces had been so thoroughly pillaged by their own corrupt leadership that they all but collapsed this spring in the face of the advancing militants of the Islamic State — despite roughly $25 billion worth of U.S. training and equipment over the past 10 years and far more from the Iraqi treasury.                         

Now maybe if there had been work on the political solution -- the one US President Barack Obama has spent months giving lip service to -- corruption could have been dealt with.

Instead, Barack's planning a work-around.  Francesca Chambers (Daily Mail) notes:

The U.S. military has decided against rebuilding the entire Iraqi army and will instead focus on training a handful of brigades to take on Islamic radicals, initiating a shift in the Pentagon's decade-long approach to the handling the country.
'The idea is, at least in the first instance, to try and build a kind of leaner, meaner Iraqi army,' a senior U.S. official told the Washington Post.
Officials who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity said the military plans to create nine new Iraqi army brigades of up to 45,000 light-infantry soldiers over the course of the next two months and team them with other Kurdish and Shiite fighters. 

So the problem is being labeled as "corruption" and the US government thinks the way to handle/address that is to just make smaller units?

That 'solution' -- laughable as it is -- certainly makes more sense than the Iraqi government's response.

Michael Gregory (Reuters) reports that Minister of Finance Hoshyar Zebari has stated that the military will take up about 23% of the proposed budget for 2015 and he's also calling "for deep-rooted reforms to stamp out corruption in a military that collapsed in the face of an Islamic State advance."

Yes, by all means, put nearly a quarter of your annual budget into a military machine known for its corruption.

Don't root out the corruption, just toss more money at it.

A quarter of your budget, for example.

Since the US isn't planning on any major actions until at least February, there's nore than enough time to address graft in the Iraqi military.

In fact, doing so would expose a mountain of corruption because as members of this political party or slate go down, you can rest assured they will take others down with them.  Meaning?  A State of Law military official goes down for corruption, they'll rat out someone in the Ministry of Transportation and so on and so on.

Corruption is rampant in Iraq.

That's why Transparency International ranks Iraq the 171st least transparent country or territory on a list of 177 for 2013.  This is not a new development.  In 2009, Barack was sworn in as president.  Transparency International's finds for 2009?  Iraq was ranked the 176th least transparent. (For those who want to trumpet the 'success' in Iraq moving from 176 to 171, please note that the 2009 list included 180 listings.They dropped three.  So Iraq really just moved one spot.)

In 2009, Patrick Cockburn (at CounterPunch) pointed out, "Iraq is the world’s premier kleptomaniac state. According to Transparency International the only countries deemed more crooked than Iraq are Somalia and Myanmar, while Haiti and Afghanistan rank just behind. In contrast to Iraq, which enjoys significant oil revenues, none of these countries have much money to steal."  Bill Van Auken (World Socialist Web Site) also noted the Transparency International 2009 report:

In relation to Iraq, the report found rampant corruption as well, with corrupt government officials operating with impunity. It cited a recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation stating that in Iraq “non-security institutions remain weak and debilitated. The Iraqi leadership faces many structural constraints on governance, such as a massive brain drain, a high level of political division, and extreme poverty.”

Across the political spectrum, the corruption has been noted repeatedly and consistently.  For example, early this year the right-wing Heritage Foundation noted of Iraq:

Corruption is pervasive at all levels of government. There are widespread reports of demands by officials for bribes, mismanagement of public funds, payments to “ghost” employees, salary skimming, and nepotism. Although judicial independence is guaranteed in the constitution, judges are subject to immense political and sectarian pressure and are viewed by the public as corrupt or ineffective. Property rights are not well protected.

And if you need a government source, here's the US Embassy in Baghdad:

Corruption remains a salient feature of the political and economic landscape of Iraq and poses and threatens its full economic and social development.  Mitigating corruption’s corrosive effects on Iraq’s reconstruction requires continued USG engagement – both in terms of programs and in terms of bringing political and diplomatic pressure to bear on Iraqi leaders. 

With all the above in mind, let's return to the question that opens Carl Schiro's letter to the editors of the Houston Chronicle:

Regarding "Corruption hobbles Iraq's military efforts" (Page A1, Monday), why is our government still sending our troops and money to such a corrupt country?

It's not a hidden factor.  In June, Richard Engel (NBC News -- link is text and video) interviewed Iraqi forces and they repeatedly cited corruption as the country's "biggest enemy."

And as Patrick Cockburn (at the Independent) pointed out last year, the corruption was predicted at the start of the Iraq War:

A few months before the invasion, an Iraqi civil servant secretly interviewed in Baghdad made a gloomy forecast. “The exiled Iraqis are the exact replica of those who currently govern us… with the sole difference that the latter are already satiated since they have been robbing us for the past 30 years,” he said. “Those who accompany the US troops will be ravenous.”
Many of the Iraqis who came back to Iraq after the US-led invasion were people of high principle who had sacrificed much as opponents of Saddam Hussein. But fast forward 10 years and the prediction of the unnamed civil servant about the rapacity of Iraq’s new governors turns out to have been all too true. As one former minister puts it, “the Iraqi government is an institutionalised kleptocracy”.

Cockburn spent the last years worshipping the Shi'ites and spitting on the Sunnis so it's really hard for him to name names when covering the continued disintegration of Iraq.

But there are names to be named.

Chief among them Nouri al-Maliki.

In 2006, the White House demanded Nouri al-Maliki be named prime minister (the Iraqi Parliament wanted Ibraham al-Jafaari).  In 2010, the White House demanded Nouri get a second term and, having lost the election, the White House offered a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term.

Which means from spring 2006 to summer 2014, Nouri al-Maliki ruled Iraq.

And corruption thrived.

This despite Nouri insisting he would take on corruption -- repeatedly insisting.  But it's kind of hard to do that when you're part of the corruption.  Pennies found in sofa cushions don't buy all the sports cars Nouri's son zips around London in nor did they buy the swank home.

Back in June, Zaid al-Ali (Foreign Policy) explained:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki established a new political alliance, the State of Law alliance, which campaigned on a platform of re-establishing strong state institutions, reducing corruption, and providing adequate services to the people. The Iraqiya alliance, another large and newly formed coalition, backed a similar platform. The tantalizing prospects of establishing a new political environment and creating a stable state seemed within reach.
It never happened. Rather than consolidating these gains, several factors began working against Iraq's national cohesion as early as 2010. Maliki's government used "de-Baathification" laws, introduced to keep members of Saddam Hussein's regime out of government, to target his opponents -- but not his many allies, who also had been senior members of the Baath Party. The 2010 government formation process turned out to be yet another opportunity for politicians of all stripes to grant themselves senior positions which they could use to plunder the state. When tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in February 2011 to protest corruption, they were branded terrorists and were attacked and beaten by security forces and hired thugs. Dozens were killed and thousands arrested and tortured until the protests fizzled. Meanwhile, though terrorist groups were not operating as openly as before, hundreds of civilians continued to be killed every month, particularly in Baghdad, denying Iraqis in many parts of the country even a brief period of normalcy.

At that time, Maliki began referring to himself publicly as Iraq's preeminent military leader. When the 2010 electoral results did not conform to his expectations, he demanded a recount in his "capacity as commander in chief." When he forced senior anti-corruption officials from their positions, he once again inappropriately invoked his military credentials. He called officers on their mobile phones to demand specific actions or that individuals be arrested, circumventing the chain of command. After the new government was formed in November 2010, he refused to appoint ministers of the interior and of defense, preferring to occupy both positions himself. He appointed senior military commanders directly, instead of seeking parliamentary approval as required by the constitution. 

Nouri should be in prison.

Instead, he's now a vice president of Iraq -- one of three.

And he's visiting Shi'ite enclaves and denouncing the current prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, denouncing him as an appeaser to the Kurds and Shi'ites, trying to sew unrest.

Some in the intelligence community are saying the answer is "bullet to the head."

Regardless, having destroyed Iraq, Nouri's not content.  He's attempting to start a revolt against the current government.

And his attempts grow only more desperate as he sees some of his cronies kicked to the curb.  From the November 12th snapshot:

The Iraq Embassy in DC issued the following today:

Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces visited Baghdad Operations Command on November 10, 2014 and held an extended meeting with commanders and officers from various units of the Armed Forces.
He hailed the efforts of Baghdad Operations Command, calling on its officers to firmly deal with organized crime and enforce severe measures against criminals who seek to undermine Baghdad’s security environment.
The Prime Minister also stressed the need to work hard to address serious challenges that threaten our society. He confirmed that the Ministry of Interior would resume responsibility for the management of security in Baghdad and noted the government’s determination to remove all concrete barriers in the city of Baghdad. The Prime Minister announced plans to remove road blocks that do not contribute to enhanced security and noted that the issue must be dealt with professionally and thoughtfully in order to ease traffic for the residents of Baghdad. In addition, the Prime Minister noted intentions to open access to parts of the Green Zone and stressed the need for vigilance against terrorists who seek to exploit these new measures.
Prime Minister Al-Abadi also discussed a number of issues related to living conditions and traffic accidents in the city of Baghdad, and issued several executive orders in this regard.
On November 12, 2014, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Dr. Haidar Al-Abadi issued executive orders to relieve 26 military commanders from their posts and retire an additional 10 commanders. He also appointed 18 military officers to senior posts within the Ministry of Defense as part of ongoing efforts to professionalize Iraq’s military institutions and root out corruption in its various forms.
Prime Minister Al-Abadi also met in his office today a number of military commanders from the Armed Forces. During the meeting, he stressed the need for Iraq’s military leadership to exhibit efficiency, integrity and courage so that soldiers can rally behind their commanders and fight effectively, adding that any assessment of the armed forces should be based on these merits.
Prime Minster Al-Abadi said that the Iraqi Army’s losses were the result of many complicated internal, external and political factors, stressing the need to restore confidence in the security forces through real action and by combating corruption at the individual and institutional levels. He emphasized his strong support for this approach, stressing the need to act swiftly, particularly given that the military enjoys considerable political and popular support, in addition to backing from the religious establishments.
The Prime Minister noted that the army is the defender of the homeland, and in the near future will seek to limit its task to defending Iraq's borders, while transferring security responsibilities to the Ministry of Interior and other security agencies.

The Prime Minster highlighted the great victories achieved by our armed forces on various fronts and their determination to liberate every inch of Iraqi territory in cooperation with the people of the provinces. 

Many outlets reported on the above -- AFP, the Associated Press, etc.  But no one pointed out the obvious re: firing the commander over Anbar.
Since January, the Iraqi military has been bombing residential neighborhoods in Falluja (and in other Anbar cities, but Falluja's been bombed daily since the start of the year).  September 13th, Haider al-Abadi announced that the bombings would cease.  (The bombings fit the legal definition of War Crimes.  They are collective punishment.)  Despite that announcement, the bombings have continued.
Anbar's military command has refused to follow the orders of al-Abadi who is supposed to be commander in chief of the Iraqi military.
That's kind of a key detail and one that everyone left out in their so-called reports.
David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times) reports on the firings and forgets the issue of the bombing of Falluja's residential areas.  But he gets credit for noting that al-Abadi appears to have ignored the role Parliament is supposed to play in this sort of action and that he mirrors Nouri al-Maliki in that.  He also gets credit for this:

Mr. Abadi was elected three months ago, with strong American backing, on a pledge to build a more inclusive and responsive government after the divisive eight-year rule of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
Mr. Maliki is a senior leader of a political faction based in the Shiite Muslim majority, and he is widely blamed by many Iraqis and the White House for cronyism, nepotism and police abuses that alienated the Sunni Muslim population, opening doors to the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State. As prime minister, he was a strongman who kept tight control of the security services, and he stacked the military’s top ranks with loyalists rather than the most competent officers, contributing to the erosion of the military’s fighting ability.

It's a detail that, for example, AP leaves out. 

Barack's small, mobile units choice (it's not a plan) is based in part on sidestepping Nouri's flunkies and sidelining Nouri.

What happens if you call out corruption?

Thursday may have provided an answer.

 All Iraq News reported:

The Representative of the Supreme Religious Authority, Ali al-Sistani,and the headmaster of the Jaafariya Religious School in the Pakistani Capital, Islam Abad, was killed by the criminals of the terrorist Jaish Sahaba organization.

The murder can be seen as retaliation.  Dropping back to the November 8th snapshot:

Friday, Raheem Salman (Reuters) reported major news:

Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric said on Friday that corruption in the armed forces had enabled Islamic State to seize much of northern Iraq, criticism that will pressure the government to enact reforms in the face of an insurgency.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has become increasingly critical of Iraqi leaders since Islamic State's lightning advance created Iraq's worst crisis since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

al-Sistani could determine elections, so great is his influence.  And he's a key figure the United States government seeks out whenever they attempt (half-assed or fully) an effort in Iraq.
While he remains politically neutral for the most part, he can remain pointedly politically neutral.
By 2011, it was clear al-Sistani was done with Nouri al-Maliki.  The protesters' demands were being ignored and that appeared to bother al-Sistani a great deal.  By the time the spring of 2012 rolled around and with Nouri facing real trouble, al-Sistani pointedly sat out on the issue of a no-vote in Parliament. 

Though he was asked to weigh in and call for the proposal to be set aside, he pointedly refused to comment one way or another allowing the measure to move forward.  (Then-Iraqi President Jalal Talabani would kill the effort at the end of May 2012.)
His remarks today are significant in the timing.  While many others say similar things privately (Ammar al-Hakim, to name but one), al-Sistani is going public and doing so very early in Haider al-Abadi's tenure as prime minister which can be seen as al-Sistani putting the new government on notice that it needs to get its act together and do so quickly.
The Grand Ayatollah wasn't the only one making statements today.  All Iraq News reports, "The Religious Authority represented by Sheikh Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalayi, called Authority called politicians to understand their huge responsibility at current critical stage."

The US-led air strike campaign continued in Iraq today.

It's just supposed to kill 'militants' or 'terrorists' but that's how it works in a video game, not in the real world.  Michael Gregory (Reuters) reports on the latest civilians killed by this 'plan' to bring 'freedom' to Iraq, the dead included 17 civilians from the Albu Hishma tribe -- a tribe which is fighting the Islamic State.

In news of other 'liberation' and 'freedom,' Iraqi Spring MC reports security forces shot dead an elderly woman in Bahgdad. On Friday, Iraqi Spring MC notes, 14 civilians were killed or injured by the Iraqi military continuing to bomb residential neighborhoods in Falluja.  Margaret Griffis ( counts 126 people killed throughout Iraq on Friday with another 38 left injured.

Turning to the political . . .

  • What a great picture -- all those men and one token woman.  That's the way Nouri's State of Law has always been.

    Dropping back to yesterday:

    All Iraq News reports Speaker of Parliament Saleem al-Jobouri states the budget should be received by Parliament on Saturday.  This is the fourth time he's announced that, for those keeping track.
    In addition, Parliament has still not received the 2014 budget.
    National Iraqi News Agency adds, "MP, of the Citizen bloc , Hashim al-Moussawi said the House will extend its legislative term in the session of the House of Representatives session will be held on Saturday." al-Moussawi believes that they will receive both the 2015 budget and the 2014 one.

    So what happened?

    All Iraq News notes 225 MPs showed up for today's session.


    No budget.

    All Iraq News notes al-Jobouri declared today that the budget will be read tomorrow.

    It could happen.

    It could also turn out that the bill for the proposed budget doesn't get read.

    But, if you're keeping track, this is the fifth time the Speaker of Parliament has announced the budget law would be read.

    bill van auken


    Friday, November 28, 2014

    Iraq: Continued violence, corruption and no budget still

    Al Jazeera reports fighting continues in Anbar Province and:

    The Iraqi army says it has held off a fierce assault by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the city of Ramadi.
    The claim comes amid an announcement by the Iraqi government that it will triple its defence budget in an effort to defeat the group. 

    Ramadi is one of the last major urban areas in the crucial Anbar province under Baghdad's control. ISIL holds thousands of kilometres of territory across Iraq, posing a threat to Kirkuk, Diyala and Salahuddin besides Anbar.

    About tripling the defense budget, Michael Gregory (Reuters) reports that Minister of Finance Hoshyar Zebari has stated that the military will take up about 23% of the proposed budget for 2015 and he's also calling "for deep-rooted reforms to stamp out corruption in a military that collapsed in the face of an Islamic State advance."

    Yes, by all means, put nearly a quarter of your annual budget into a military machine known for its corruption.

    All Iraq News reports Speaker of Parliament Saleem al-Jobouri states the budget should be received by Parliament on Saturday.  This is the fourth time he's announced that, for those keeping track.

    In addition, Parliament has still not received the 2014 budget.

    National Iraqi News Agency adds, "MP, of the Citizen bloc , Hashim al-Moussawi said the House will extend its legislative term in the session of the House of Representatives session will be held on Saturday." al-Moussawi believes that they will receive both the 2015 budget and the 2014 one.

    Violence continues in Iraq, not surprising.  However, one act of violence yesterday is rather shocking.  All Iraq News reports:

    The Representative of the Supreme Religious Authority, Ali al-Sistani,and the headmaster of the Jaafariya Religious School in the Pakistani Capital, Islam Abad, was killed by the criminals of the terrorist Jaish Sahaba organization.

    When Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's representatives are being killed, it's both shocking and usually a sign that violence is about to increase significantly.

    Mike and Marcia updated last night:

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    Thursday, November 27, 2014

    Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Corrine Brown"

    Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "Corrine Brown."  As US House Rep Corrine Brown struts past, US House Rep Loretta Sanchez declares, "Corrine looks a little different.  Has she lost some weight?"  US House Rep John Conyers explains, "Nah, she just can't stop preening since she stole the Ranking Member post."   Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

    Jim Webb, Chuck Hagel and Eric Shinseki

    Martha T. Moore (The Clarion Ledger) reports Jim Webb has "formed an exploratory committee Wednesday with a video announcement."  Webb's being pimped by a number of people including the ridiculous Molly Ball.

    Is he how the press transitions from their love affair with the Democratic Party back to their love affairs with the GOP?

    Webb isn't qualified for the office.

    The only reason to give him the Democratic Party's presidential nomination is for the Democrats to lose the White House.

    Webb has a paper trail of xenophobia via those bad 'novel's he wrote.  Not only are they xenophobic, but they're also highly sexist.

    More to the point, Webb is a former one-term US senator.

    One -term.

    He didn't seek re-election and he didn't seek it because he couldn't carry his own state as the polling repeatedly demonstrated.

    He attacked the offering of benefits to veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.

    More than anything else, that pissed veterans off.  You can argue it was the final straw.  But even before that, veterans were appalled by Jim Webb's actions.

    The Democratic Party has already burned veterans.  They did so by allowing Nancy Pelosi to force Tim Walz out of the race for Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee so that she could install the highly unqualified Corrine Brown.

    This was despite the fact that Walz, a veteran, had the support and endorsement of veterans groups.

    The next two years will be hard enough for the Democratic Party with Corrine Brown embarrassing them in one House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing after another.

    On top of that, they want to run Jim Webb whose hostility and 'frugality' was applied to veterans repeatedly?  There was a feeling that Webb was happy to spend any amount on wars but didn't want to pay for the damage the wars did to veterans.

    Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are also aware that he kept the burn pit registry buried in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  It's only after Webb is out of Congress that the measure finally sails through the Congress.

    A lot of idiots were caught by surprise when Webb didn't run for re-election.  They were shocked and puzzled.  But each year, as his own polling showed, he lost more and more support among the veterans community and he could no longer carry the state.

    Someone who couldn't even get re-elected to the Senate is now the person to be the next Democratic Party presidential nominee?

    Chuck Hagel is being pushed out as Secretary of Defense.  We'll again note  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America statement:

    Washington D.C. (November 24, 2014) – Today, President Obama announced Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Chuck Hagel has resigned. Hagel was sworn in as Secretary in early 2013. IAVA released the following statement:
    “IAVA members appreciate Secretary Hagel’s exceptional dedication to the veteran community,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “As the first Vietnam veteran and former enlisted soldier to lead the Department of Defense, Secretary Hagel was a tremendous advocate for us inside the Pentagon and the Administration. Secretary Hagel was a leader on issues of military mental health, suicide prevention and military sexual trauma, he was always open and receptive to our ideas for reform. He was someone we could always count on to have the backs of our veterans. IAVA members worldwide thank him for his leadership and wish him all the best in whatever he chooses to do next.”
    Rieckhoff continued: “The veterans community has had no stronger advocate in Washington than Secretary Hagel. On fighting suicide especially, he’s always had our back. But as Secretary Hagel exits, we look to the President to finally solve a problem that has eluded all previous secretaries: the establishment of a truly seamless health record system between the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. This is a critical need for servicemembers and veterans transitioning out of the military and seeking access to mental health care. We look forward to working with the White House and Congress to find a replacement to lead at the Pentagon and strongly support our community in the critical years to come.”

    Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.

    E-mails have come in about his possible replacement and about his legacy.

    On his replacement, I really don't care.  It's a two-year-post, it has very little power -- thanks to Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes (and thanks to Barack's own inherent weakness).  Some e-mailers are appalled at the thought that Michele Flournoy might be Secretary of Defense.

    1) I believe she's taken herself out of the running.  Granted, she could accept the post tomorrow and say, "The President asked me to serve and, as a patriotic American, how can I say no" -- or some such nonsense.  But, as of now, she's not in the running for the post.

    2) That's mainly because she realizes how minor the post is now.  It's the public face to decisions made by others.  And some may still have hope on the appointment.  I don't.  In the first term, I could still believe that there was a chance someone like Ann Wright could be nominated for either Secretary of State or Defense.  Someone like her.  Not her.  Five months into his first term, it was already obvious just how sexist Barack was.  So a man like Ann Wright was a possibility, I thought (probably wrongly), if the left would just apply pressure and stop worshipping him as a false god.  By now, there's no way in the world that Barack's nominating anyone an honest leftist could applaud.

    3) Anyone accepting the post now is either a fool or a liar if they don't know they'll be doing little more than supervising ongoing wars.

    I'm just not very interested in the post.  I don't see anyone worthy of applause from the left being nominated and the post is no longer important or significant.

    In terms of Hagel.

    I wasn't surprised by the increased warfare under him.  I didn't buy the supposed spine and strength his supporters just knew he'd bring to the job.

    As Secretary of Defense, he was exactly like he was as a senator.  He made speeches against certain proposals as senator and as SoD he made comments against certain proposals but when it was time to vote in the Senate he'd vote to go along -- just like he went along with every White House proposal after voicing his objections.

    That's how we saw him when he was nominated, that's why we opposed the nomination.

    That said, I do praise him for doing something that surprised me.

    For years and years, the DoD and the VA were supposed to be moving forward on the electronic, seamless records which would allow a record to be created for a service member and then easily follow them into civilian life.

    The idea pre-dates Barack being sworn in as president.  Years were already spent -- and millions of millions of tax payer dollars -- on this before Barack was sworn in back in January of 2009.

    Once sworn in, he said this was a priority.

    But nothing happened on it.

    When Robert Gates was Secretary of Defense, we noted VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was the problem.

    No one else wanted to get in on that, the press turned a blind eye.

    Then Leon Panetta became Secretary of Defense.  Shinseki was still the problem.

    Then Chuck Hagel became SoD.  And I asked several members of Congress why there was no progress and why they weren't asking Shinseki.

    To explain no progress, the first step for such a record to be created was for a computer system to be decided upon and then implemented.  None had been implemented.

    Finally, Congress asked Shinseki what the problem was.  As I told friends in Congress, he will blame Hagel.

    Because Shinseki was a little s**t.  He fooled a lot of people, but he never fooled us.

    Sure enough, Shinseki lied to Congress (again).  This time he lied that it was Hagel.  Hagel had just become SoD and so he wasn't ready to help select a system.

    This ignored the reality that a system had been agreed to by Gates and then by Panetta and Shinseki had never moved forward.  Both men told Shinseki they'd trust his judgment, they just wanted to get moving on it, so pick whatever system he thought was best and they'd back him.

    The block was always Shinseki.

    But after he lied to Congress, Hagel got mad.

    He didn't appreciate being blamed for something that wasn't his fault.  This was made clear to the Oval Office and finally Barack got in on the issue and a system was quickly decided upon.

    Hagel stood up to Shinseki and I'll give him credit for that.

    The following community sites updated:


  • And Isaiah's latest goes up in a few minutes.

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    Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    Iraq snapshot

    Wednesday, November 26, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the US gears up to provide more weapons to Iraq, this despite the fact that the Iraqi military continues to bomb civilians in Falluja, and more.

    Victoria A. Brownworth (SheWired) offers:

    We are still at war in Afghanistan. Last week  the Obama Administration quietly announced, to almost no media fanfare, that it was continuing that war, when it was supposed to be ending at the beginning of next year. President Obama is also sending  more troops back into Iraq. This too was met with a shrug by Americans.
    Revving up America’s two longest wars has not spurred a single protest march in this country, but the failure of a grand jury to indict Darren Wilson on even the charge of involuntary manslaughter has brought thousands into the streets, from Ferguson itself to New York, LA, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston and beyond. Record numbers of tweets have gone out over Twitter, which many consider responsible for drawing attention to the case of Michael Brown and subsequent events in Ferguson after his killing.

    The breadth of the protests versus the crickets over Afghanistan and Iraq makes cleat that the real war America is fighting, the one that many of us feel threatened by, is the fight between marginalized communities and law enforcement. 

    Interesting but inaccurate.

    Black Agenda Report has been calling for action the minute the grand jury released their findings.  The Center for Constitutional Rights has weighed in repeatedly.  Activists have been working overtime on this issue -- United For Peace and Justice, CodePink, on and on.

    There's been an enemy named -- the White police officer Darren Wilson -- a focal point to fuel anger.

    Whereas, with Iraq, these same people haven't done a damn thing.

    In fairness to Black Agenda Report, they've at least called Barack out.

    But they haven't led on Iraq.

    As Iraqis have been killed in Falluja for 11 months straight now, I've not seen Black Agenda Report object once to the bombings of the residential neighborhoods in Falluja -- despite the fact these bombings are War Crimes.

    Where has anyone in the US been when it comes to calling these out?

    It didn't start yesterday.

    It started in January.

    For eleven months now, residential neighborhoods -- that's where people's homes are -- in Falluja have been bombed by the Iraqi military.

    It is a legally defined War Crime to attack civilians for the actions of fighters in an area.  It's known as Collective Punishment -- the US, all of Europe, most of the world recognizes Collective Punishment as a War Crime.

    Where is the outrage?

    September 13th, Iraq's new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the bombings were over.  But let's drop back to September 14th:

    Third's "Editorial: The bombing of civilians continues in Iraq" notes Iraq's new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, ordered an end to the military bombing civilian targets on Saturday -- or that al-Abadi said he gave that order -- yet Falluja General Hospital was bombed today.
    Iraqi Spring MC notes the bombings of residential neighborhoods in Falluja also continued today with 6 civilians left dead  and 22 more injured.
    A very important question needs to be asked:  Did al-Abadi give the order he said he did?
    If he didn't, he lied.
    If he did, the military is not listening to the new prime minister.
    The media needs to be asking was it a lie or is the military refusing to obey orders?
    This is why the media exists in the first place.
    Either is a story but the military refusing orders would be a huge story.  (While a politician lying would be seen as typical behavior.)

    But there was no interest in that either.

    Iraqi forces are attacking civilians.  US President Barack Obama wants a waiver so he can violate the Leahy Amendment (which bars providing weapons and aid to governments who carry out attacks on civilians).

    He wants.

    He hasn't gotten it yet.

    But he wants it.

    Despite not getting the waiver, the US government's announcing more arms to Iraq.  Aaron Mehta (Military Times) notes, "The State Department has approved an $800 million sustainment deal for Iraq's fleet of C-130E and C-130J cargo aircraft, the government announced Tuesday."

    The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency issued the following notice:

    Media/Public Contact:
    Transmittal No: 
    WASHINGTON, Nov 26, 2014 – The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq for C-130E/J sustainment and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $800 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.
    The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale for a five-year sustainment package for the C-130E/J fleet that includes operational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance, spare and repair parts, support equipment, repair and return, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $800 million.
    This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner. This proposed sale directly supports the Government of Iraq and serves the interests of the people of Iraq and the United States.
    The proposed sale of a C-130E/J sustainment package would allow the Iraq Air Force (IAF) to continue operating its C-130E/J aircraft beyond 2015. The IAFs limited maintenance capability necessitates the need for continued contractor logistics support. The continued support will assist the IAF in continuing to use the aircraft to provide humanitarian relief operations in various locations.
    The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
    The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
    Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Iraq.
    There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.
    This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.
    All questions regarding this proposed Foreign Military Sale should be directed to the State Department's Bureau of Political Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs,

    Where's the outrage?

    Even Senator Patrick Leahy doesn't speak out.

    What happened to Michael Brown is very sad and, yes, an outrage.

    It doesn't need to be 'spruced up' with lies and misinformation to make it an issue of concern.

    When you lie to advance an argument, people stop supporting you.  Stop lying that he was shot in the back. There is more than enough reason to see the events as tragic and to debate whether or not the grand jury made the right determination.  When you tell lies or just repeat them to advance your side of an argument, people start to think you must have a weak case or you wouldn't result to lying.

    Equally important, grasp the lesson everyone should have already known.

    When someone has a loaded gun, you shouldn't try to grab it -- but if you do try to grab it you better pull it from the person holding it.

    Forget the two people involved, replace them with generic Smurfs.  If someone tries to grab a loaded gun, it is highly doubtful that the situation ends peacefully.

    For me, my  opinion only, feel free to disagree, the minute a gun was pulled (by the police officer), violence became a very real possibility.  Might have been one even if Michael Brown had, at that moment dropped to the ground and put his hands behind his back.

    People want to talk racism.

    One reason is because racism is real and it exists and it's a serious problem in the US and all around the world.

    Another reason?  These days it's easy to 'contribute' when you know nothing about an issue by just insisting 'racism.'

    Racism is an iffy thing to prove.

    If Michael Brown's family wants justice, they need to focus on the gun.

    Why was the gun pulled?

    Because of racism?

    Maybe but you most likely won't be able to prove it.

    What you can prove is a climate where citizens are no longer citizens but potential threats.

    I was shocked, doing research for a project, in 1990 and 1991, to observe police trainings in several different cities where officers were told that everyone was a threat and blah blah blah.

    We think the police are there to help.

    But that's not what they're always being trained for.

    A gun was pulled.

    An examination of the trainings the police officer participated in should reveal if this was the case for the officer.  It would also explain to the country that something's gone seriously wrong and police officer or peace officers are being trained not to resolve issues but to approach citizens as potential threats.

    This can be demonstrated in court.  You can subpoena the trainers, the training material and much more.

    The press always prefers the 'a few bad apples' storyline to a truer narrative that would indict the system itself.  But when people are being killed, like 12-year-old Tamir Rice for the 'crime' of having a toy gun, the problem is the system itself.

    But making that argument is too much for our so-called left leaders who'd rather abandon efforts at real change to instead try to get rage to boil over into violence.

    In fact, any real work is too much for our so-called left leaders.

    Instead of doing real work, they scan the horizon for any craze or event that they can latch onto and pretend to be a movement -- on they started and fostered.

    That's why they latched onto Barack, it's why they latch to everything.

    They're too lazy to do the work required

    So they rush here and there, where ever they think a media spotlight is and latch on like a leech.

    For six years now, Barack has carried one war after another and most of the so-called leaders can't even call him out.

    He spends the second half of this year sending more troops into Iraq and there's no leadership from so-called peace leaders in the US.

    They can't call him out.

    They can't call out the War Crimes against the civilians in Falluja.

    They can't do much of anything.

    You'll find more criticism of Barack's 'plan' coming out of Iraq than out of the US.  For example, Press TV reports:

    “The airstrikes cannot defeat ISIL and liberate the cities. We hear that in some places the warplanes drop weapons for ISIL... What we know is that the victories achieved on the ground are done by the Iraqi army and volunteers,” Iraqi State of Law Coalition MP Hanan Fatlawi told the Press TV correspondent in Baghdad.
    On October 22, the US admitted that one of the weapon airdrops intended for Kurds fighting in the Syrian town of Kobani was almost certainly intercepted by ISIL terrorists.

    I'm no fan of State of Law, as the archives establish, but they're right that the air bombings are not accomplishing much of anything -- except physically destroying Iraq and intimidating and terrorizing the people.

    Since this summer, Barack has repeatedly said Iraq requires a political solution but little has been done to facilitate anything political.  Instead, the US government has overseen two major meet-ups of defense ministers and has spent forever recruiting other countries to take part in the air bombings of Iraq and, less successfully, to send troops into Iraq.

    How's that creating a political solution?

    It's not.

    Today's Zaman reports:

    Foreign ministers from up to 60 countries forming the US-led coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants will hold their first meeting next week in Brussels, US officials said on Wednesday.
    The Dec. 3 meeting, chaired by US Secretary of State John Kerry, is expected to review progress in the fight against ISIL and to discuss how coalition members will coordinate politically in future.

    It's taken months for them to plan the above.  Hopefully, it's not too late for a meet-up like the above to make a difference.

    We were noting State of Law earlier.  It is the political slate of thug Nouri al-Maliki who was prime minister of Iraq until a few months ago and who is now one of Iraq's three vice presidents.  Of Nouri, Ya Libnan reports:

    In an unprecedented development the Iranian Foreign Ministry adviser, Mohammad Ali Sobhani, yesterday blamed the Iraqi regime of  Nouri al-Maliki, and the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad for the creation of the islamic State of Iraq  and Syria  ( ISIS)
    In an interview with a local Iranian website «telltale News» Sobhani said  the sectarian policies during the reign of former PM Maliki   led to the formation of an incubator for the«Daash» or ISIS  organization .

    Sobhani said that the economic and social problems that plagued Iraq, in addition to sectarian policies practiced  by the al-Maliki  regime led to the formation of a popular base for the emergence of ISIS  in the region.

    Mike Gravel Advises Mark Udall on How to Make Torture Report Public

    Mike Gravel is a former US Senator and he spent many of the previous years explaining how Congress could easily stop funding the illegal war on Iraq.

    David Swanson (War Is A Crime) now speaks with him about the issue of the torture report.

    Talk Nation Radio: Mike Gravel Advises Mark Udall on How to Make Torture Report Public

    Former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel explains how he put the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record and gave them to the media in 1971, and how outgoing Senator Mark Udall could answer the growing public demand and do the same with the long-censored torture report. A petition urging Udall to act is here.

    Total run time: 29:00

    Host: David Swanson.
    Producer: David Swanson.
    Music by Duke Ellington.

    Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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    David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

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    This email may be unlawfully collected, held, and read by the NSA which violates our freedoms using the justification of immoral, illegal wars absurdly described as being somehow for freedom.

    Michigan Greens Speak on Ferguson

    The Michigan Green Party issued the following:

    Ecological Wisdom      *  Social Justice
    Grassroots Democracy  *  Non-Violence

    Green Party of Michigan

    **  News Release  **
    **  ------------  **
      November 25, 2014

    For More Information, Contact:
    John Anthony La Pietra, GPMI Platform Committee Chair
        (269) 781-9478

    Fred Vitale, GPMI Chair
        (313) 580-4905

    Michigan Greens Speak on Ferguson
    Join Family of Slain Teen in Urging Non-Violent Action
    for Change in Missouri, Michigan, and Nationwide:
    Elected Citizen Review Boards and Closer Monitoring

        The Green Party of Michigan (GPMI) is responding to
    the non-indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson
    in the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown with
    proposals to promote social justice -- in Missouri and
    Michigan, and across the nation.

        GPMI joins the Brown family in calling for non-violent
    action for change.  Non-violence is one of GPMI's most
    important founding values, the Four Pillars.  The other
    three Pillars are Social Justice, Grassroots Democracy,
    and Ecological Wisdom.

        In particular, Michigan Greens add their voices to
    the Brown family's call for body cameras as well as car
    cameras to track the actions of all officers in the field.
    This would help achieve the goal, stated in GPMI's 2014
    platform, of "re-establishing democratic control of local
    police forces."

        The platform also calls for "*elected Citizen Review
    Boards* to oversee law enforcement, with the power to fire
    police officers and start prosecution of criminal acts" --
    and for putting proceeds of police seizures into governments'
    general funds, to make sure police budgets are properly
    controlled by the people's elected representatives.

        John Anthony La Pietra, GPMI Platform Committee chair
    and the party's 2014 nominee for Attorney General, wants
    to be sure independent cameras can "watch the watchmen".
    He would urge repeal of any laws banning or discouraging
    citizens from taking photos, audio, or video of police

        La Pietra notes that St. Louis County prosecutor Robert
    McCulloch gave Wilson an extraordinary advantage.  "Grand
    juries rarely hear evidence from a defendant's point of
    view, and almost never from the defendant in person.  In
    this case, Wilson apparently got to testify on his own
    behalf for hours."

        Michigan Greens know the problem of police shootings
    is hardly limited to Missouri.  Recent fatal incidents
    closer to home include the cases of 7-year-old Alyana Jones
    in Detroit and 43-year-old Aura Rosser in Ann Arbor.  And
    the 2003 death of Terrance Shurn, caused by a police chase,
    sparked unrest in Benton Harbor that is arguably linked to
    that community's subjection to Michigan's controversial
    emergency-manager law.

        Sherry Wells of Ferndale, Green candidate for the State
    Board of Education, comments:  "It's bad enough that we have
    a school-to-prison pipeline -- but for too many of our youth,
    it's school to grave.  And even one is too many, whether by
    police shootings or police car chases."

        GPMI Locals Liaison Lloyd Clarke of Bridgeport Township
    believes that a law-enforcement officer who shoots and kills
    an unarmed civilian, no matter what the excuse or reason,
    should have to leave the job and not work in law enforcement
    again.  "Killer cops should be purged from every police
    department in the United States."

        One possibly hopeful sign is the Department of Justice's
    ongoing investigation into whether Wilson violated Brown’s
    civil rights.  The review is reportedly examining the Ferguson
    Police Department's entire operations -- with a focus on how
    officers use force and how they search and arrest suspects.

        La Pietra hopes that the DOJ investigation is thorough,
    honest, and open -- "and above all, that it lives up to the
    department's name:  Justice."

        The Brown family's written statement issued after Monday's
    announcement that the grand jury did not indict Wilson can be
    found here, among other places:

        The "Democracy and Human Rights" section of GPMI's 2014
    platform is on line at

        For more information about the Green Party of Michigan,
    its full platform, its candidates, and its values, visit:

    You can also “like” the Green Party of Michigan US Facebook
    page and follow GPMI's Twitter feed @MIGreenParty.

    #    #    #

    created/distributed using donated labor

    Green Party of Michigan
    PO Box 504
    Warren, MI  48090-0504

        GPMI was formed in 1987 to address environmental
    issues in Michigan politics, and has been on the state
    ballot continuously since 2000.  Greens are organized
    in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Each
    state Green Party sets its own goals and creates its
    own structure, but US Greens agree on Ten Key Values:

        Ecological Wisdom
        Grassroots Democracy
        Social Justice
        Community Economics
        Respect for Diversity
        Personal/Global Responsibility
        Future Focus/Sustainability

    For the latest news,
    “like” the Green Party of Michigan US Facebook page --
    and follow us at Twitter:  @MIGreenParty.

    Stop donations to Save The Children to speak out against War Crimes

    tbWar Criminal Tony Blair is back in the news yet again.

    He's actually been in the news for the same topic since November 21st.

    He and an organization are being slammed.

    Save The Children stupidly decided to hand an award to the man whose crimes have inspired movements like Arrest Blair For Crimes Against Peace.

    Blair was one third of The Trinity of Terror.  Along with the United States' Bully Boy Bush and Australia's John Howard, Blair helped start and lead an illegal war on Iraq -- a war that has left millions dead, a war that has turned millions into refugees, a war that may have forced Christians out of the region for good, a war that has destroyed the rights of women, a war that continues to this day, over 11 years later.

    Blair's image is so awful that Labour can no longer merely ignore their former leader, the party has to publicly rebuke him -- repeatedly -- in order to stand a chance of regaining power in the next elections.

    ITV reports today:

    A petition calling for an anti-poverty award given to former prime minister Tony Blair to be revoked has gained more than 90,000 signatures.

    Blair was handed the Global Legacy Award by Save the Children at an event in New York last week. 

    The public criticism started from outside the organization and is now emerging from inside.  Harriet Sherwood (Guardian) reported yesterday:

    The charity Save the Children faces a backlash from staff after it presented Tony Blair with a “global legacy award” in New York last week – despite privately acknowledging that he is a controversial and divisive figure.
    Amid widespread criticism on social media, many of the charity’s staff have complained that the presentation of the award has discredited Save the Children (STC). An internal letter, which gathered almost 200 signatures – including senior regional staff – in the first six hours of dissemination, said the award was not only “morally reprehensible, but also endangers our credibility globally”, and called for it to be withdrawn.

    The Daily Mail notes that even David Cameron is publicly mocking the award.

    All of that is well and good, but if you want to make a difference, stop giving to Save The Children.

    I'm not joking.

    Barack Obama wrongly received the Nobel Peace Prize.

    These suck up awards take place because groups think they can get away with them.

    With the Nobels, they're not counting on donations.

    If Save The Children takes a hit this season -- when they need donations -- it will send a message -- to the charity and to others.

    B-b-b-ut it's Save The Children!

    So what?

    Look at who they chose to honor.

    Look at what he's caused.  At Global Research, Intervention Watch notes:

    In March 2013, the charity War Child released a report entitled ‘Mission Unaccomplished’. This report documented how:
    • ’51% of 12-17 year olds do not attend secondary school’
    • ‘One in four children has stunted physical and intellectual development due to under-nutrition’.
    • ‘In 2011 a survey found up to 1 million children have lost one or both parents in the conflict’.
    • ‘In 2010, 7 years after the conflict began, it was estimated that over a quarter of Iraqi children, or 3 million, suffered varying degrees of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’.
    • ‘Between December 2012 and April 2013, ‘An estimated 692 children and young people have been killed’ in conflict related violence, and more ‘than 1,976 children and young people have been injured’. These figures are almost certainly underestimates’.

    The report also points out that the numbers presented above  ‘come to life when you realise the pain, trauma and suffering behind them.  Every number in the statistics above has a story to tell and a life attached to it’.

    Send a message.

    Keep your money in your pocket or donate it to a worthy cause -- The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent  Societies could use some support, IAVA, Disabled American Veterans,  St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, UNICEF,  amfAR, and many more.

    If you want to send a message to Save The Children, that's how you do it.  If you don't want to, that's fine too.

    But there was distress and dismay over Barack's Nobel -- which has only grown in the years since -- and a feeling of 'If only I could do something . . .'

    With Blair's award, you can do something to send a message.

    The following community sites -- plus KPFK -- updated:

  • The e-mail address for this site is