Sunday, May 31, 2015

A loss

Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau Biden passed away Saturday:

A message from

Vice President Joe Biden

Keep the family in your thoughts and/or prayers during this difficult time.  (I believe in prayer but I know some people do not.  For those who do not, just please keep the family in your thoughts.)

This is   C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Saturday, May 30, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi goes after a major Sunni politician, Baghdad's off-limits to refugees and the State Dept has "no comment," Justin Raimondo plays the Truth Game on Bernie Sanders, and much more.

CBS and AP note Iraqi officials declared yesterday that car bombings targeted two Baghdad hotels leaving 15 people dead. The bombings were late Thursday and, in addition to those, Margaret Griffis ( counts 22 dead from violence on Friday across Iraq.  But back to the 15 dead from Thursday's hotel bombings, where were they?


Dropping back to Thursday's snapshot:

In other signs that there is no political solution in Iraq today, Margaret Griffis ( notes, "Baghdad has asked the Kurdish government to allow 20,000 refugees from Anbar province to relocate there because they will not be allowed into the capital. The fear is that terrorists will be hidden among the displaced."
First, you have citizens of Iraq being denied the right to enter their own capitol.
Second, if Haider al-Abadi really believes there's a threat of terrorists being in with the refugees, why would he insist the KRG take them in?
In what world does that make sense?
'We can't let them into Baghdad because they might be bombers but how about you take these possible bombers into the KRG because it doesn't matter if Erbil gets attacked or Kurds get killed."
That's what it sounds like.
And it sounds like Haider's placing a premium on one group of lives (Shi'ite) while arguing that Sunni lives (the refugees) do not matter nor do the Kurds.
There is no unity in Iraq under Haider al-Abadi -- not even a pretense of unity.

Sad news for Haider, attacks will take place inside Baghdad whether or not he lets the refugees in.  Already in Baghdad, the seeds of his own destruction are present.

You people can watch while I'm scrubbing these floors
And I'm scrubbing the floors while you're gawking
Maybe one you tip me and it makes you feel swell
In this crummy southern town in this crummy old hotel
But you'll never guess to who you're talking
No, you couldn't ever guess to who you're talking
Then one night there's a scream in the night
And you wonder who could that have been?
And you see me kind of grinning while I'm scrubbing
And you say, "What's she got to grin?"

"Pirate Jenny" is from Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera which debuted in 1928. The song has been covered by many including Nina Simone and Judy Collins.

The thing about corrupt and unresponsive governments is that they crater from the inside all on their own.  External factors may distract from what's taking place, but they're rotten at the root and beg for their own fall.

Following in the footsteps of Noam Chomsky (2006's Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy), Loren Thompson (Forbes) declares Iraq a failed state and notes:

Iraq’s political culture is one of the most corrupt in the world.  Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption, ranks Iraq 170th out of 175 countries in terms of the rapacity of its leaders and the extent of official corruption.  Virtually every transaction of the government from construction contracts to military commissions to prisoner releases is tainted by corruption.  A commission to investigate the extent of wrongdoing has calculated that up to $330 billion in public funds is missing as a result of malfeasance by officials.  This continues a long tradition in which political leaders disbursed funds to strengthen ties with families, tribes and religious communities at the expense of the larger good.  And as Patrick Cockburn observed in the British newspaper The Independent, “The system cannot be reformed by the government because it would be striking at the very mechanism by which it rules.”

Ramadi fell to the Islamic State this month despite the fact that the Iraqi forces present far outnumbered the Islamic State fighters on the scene.  Michelle Tan (Army Times) quotes Gen Ray Odierno stating, "As you look at this, you could say there probably is a problem with leadership.  They have to have the will to fight. It always goes back to the government of Iraq.  Unless you get everyone to believe the government of Iraq is there for all Iraqis, you're always going to have this problem."

Whether working in Bully Boy Bush's administration or Barack Obama's, Odierno has always been one of the smarter officials.

And for a diplomat, proving how stupid he truly is, Barack hires a retired general to be an envoy -- a retired general who doesn't want to be seen as a diplomat and who insists on being called a general.  As everyone knows, Barack went for John Allen to try to shut Allen up (Allen was criticizing Barack's foreign policy).  But, as everyone knows, Allen is unqualified to work towards a diplomatic solution.

The White House notes:

Special Presidential Envoy Allen Travel to Iraq and France

Media Note
Washington, DC
May 30, 2015

Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL General John Allen is in Baghdad to meet with Prime Minister Abadi and other senior Iraqi political and security leaders. They will discuss U.S. support for Iraqi-led efforts to counter ISIL, including operations in Anbar and how the U.S. and the Coalition can continue to support the Government of Iraq’s plan for re-taking Ramadi from ISIL and restoring Iraq’s territorial integrity.
General Allen and Deputy Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk will then travel to Paris to join Secretary Kerry at the Small Group Ministerial of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL on June 2.

The retired general who now likes to play toy soldier spoke to France 24:

FRANCE 24: Can a group like the Islamic State organisation be entirely defeated? Is that even possible?

General Allen: "Well, we need to be careful about applying...solely a military term to an outcome. When you hear us talk about the defeat of Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group), inherent in the outcome is an expectation that specifically, and more broadly, we can deal with some of the underlying causes that ultimately bring an organisation like Daesh into being.”

“So at the same time we talk about the defeat of Daesh, we’re also talking about dealing with the origins of violent extremism, and I think we would say that we have to deal with the political issues. We have to deal with inherent social, economic, religious issues, because in the end, the aggregation of those creates an environment where an organisation like Daesh can find cohesion and purpose.”

Well when does the envoy plan on addressing those "underlying causes"?

It's almost a year since Barack declared the only solution for Iraq was a "political solution."

All this talk about military aspects.  Would it be any different -- would the administration be working on a political solution -- if they'd picked someone more appropriate for the envoy job -- say Jimmy Carter?

If Carter wasn't available, he could have gone with Cher.

  1. Ash Carter Says"IRAQI ARMY LACKS WILL 2FIGHT"YA THINK SpendREALLY Arming The Kurds.We BLEW Off Sunni Tribesman,4 Shiite Gov &Now We'll Pay

Iraq is in ruins and all Barack can think to do is drop more bombs from overhead.

Which will produce?

More ruins.

Diplomacy in the US is supposed to be led by the State Dept and, goodness, have they failed.  This was obvious yet again on Friday during the press briefing moderated by Jeff Rathke.

QUESTION: Staying on ISIL?

MR RATHKE: Yes, we can and then – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Regarding the ongoing efforts to retake Anbar from ISIL, Sunni fighters have told our channel that they’ve been asking Baghdad for weapons, for training, and that they’re not getting it and they suspect that it’s because they’re Sunni. And those comments come on the heels of the Defense Secretary saying that it may be time for the U.S. to actually directly train Sunni tribes and provide them weapons. Does this Administration believe that Prime Minister al-Abadi is acting in good faith when he says that he’s trying to have a unified front against ISIL, or does this Administration believe he’s favoring --

MR RATHKE: Can I stop you there so I can give you a one-word answer?


MR RATHKE: The answer is yes. Do we believe he has – is committed to a – his policy – implementing his policy of a unified Iraq and to representing the interests of all – of all of Iraq’s people? Yes.

QUESTION: But the Defense Secretary also told reporters on his way to Singapore that as far as the Pentagon can tell the ongoing training that’s been happening, the ongoing arming that’s been happening coming out of Baghdad has been primarily to Shiites and not to Sunnis. So it kind of begs the question: Is Abadi doing enough to actually make this a unified fight? And if he is, why would then the defense secretary say on the record that it may be time for the U.S. to essentially step in, even under the rubric of acting on the invitation of Baghdad but do the training and the arming itself?

MR RATHKE: So let me – so you’ve packed a lot of questions into that one. So first, the Government of Iraq is determined to eject ISIL from Ramadi, and the international coalition shares the same – the same determination. And we are supporting the efforts led by the Government of Iraq to liberate its territory from ISIL in Anbar and in other parts of Iraq. So we’re going to continue to support our Iraqi partners.
We will do everything that we can to support Iraqi forces, including the tribes of Anbar, as they try to secure the province from ISIL. This includes our ongoing training and equipping program, our airstrikes, our expedited provision of equipment to address the threat posed by ISIL’s use of truck bombs because we recognize that our strategy requires a well-equipped and trained partner on the ground.
Now with regard to the question of Sunni tribes, we are encouraged by the announcement of hundreds of additional tribal fighters in Anbar province, and they were inducted into the Popular Mobilization Forces two days ago. The Iraqis have to be empowered to take this on themselves, and so that’s why we’ve been engaging with Iraqis across the political spectrum locally, nationally. And we believe Iraqis are determined to rise to this challenge, and Prime Minister Abadi and his cabinet and his council of ministers are as well.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. made it very clear, though, to Abadi that he has to be as vigorous as possible to make certain that there is parity between Sunnis who are fighting and Shiites who are fighting?

MR RATHKE: Well, we have – this is central to Prime Minister Abadi’s plan, and we support him and we are in regular contact with him and his government about it. I would also point out that it was the Iraqi council of ministers just about 10 days ago that announced the accelerated training and equipping of local tribes in coordination with Anbar authorities. This includes recruiting into the Iraqi Army but also the Popular Mobilization Forces. There are Sunni tribal units currently being trained by the Iraqi Security Forces and equipped by the Government of Iraq.
And this is part of their budget. A lot of these resources are now coming on stream. And in the same way, the U.S. and a lot of the assistance from – that was approved by Congress, the 1.6 billion that was approved at the end of 2014, is also coming online. So we’re seeing these increased efforts from the Iraqi Government but also a lot of our stuff coming online, too.

QUESTION: And this might be a better question for the Pentagon, but do you anticipate that as the U.S. continues its train and equip mission that U.S. troops will be actively engaged in working with the Sunni tribes to make certain that they have the capability and the equipment to engage in this fight against ISIL?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, our train – our train and equip program and the locations where it’s being carried out, those are better questions for the Department of Defense. I don’t have any announcements to make on their behalf. But certainly, we have been – as our assistance approved by Congress comes online, this also involves providing assistance to the Sunni tribes with the approval and in coordination with the central government in Baghdad.

QUESTION: Okay, and the one question on the human rights situation.

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: People in Ramadi and the surrounding areas are complaining that Baghdad is still making it very difficult for them to basically escape the fighting, especially if they want to go to Baghdad; they need to have a relative sponsor them. Baghdad’s argument is that they want to make certain that members of ISIL aren’t sneaking in among those who are trying to escape the fighting. Is Baghdad being a little too careful by half in the U.S.’s estimation?

MR RATHKE: We’re concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and there have been a lot of people displaced from Ramadi and around. This is, of course, a complicated humanitarian crisis. There’re about 2.8 million people – 2.8 million Iraqis internally displaced since the start of ISIL’s campaign in January 2014. So we are certainly aware of that, and we remain in contact with Iraqi authorities about it. We recognize their efforts as well to provide the displaced people with financial support and food rations, and we continue to urge Iraqi authorities to take all measures to assure safety and free passage to people who are fleeing the violence.
You made reference and there has been reference made in recent days to situation at the bridge leading into Baghdad. We understand that that bridge was opened and approximately 3,000 families with sponsorship in Baghdad have been allowed to cross, and that very few families remain around the bridge. But that doesn’t change the fact that the overall situation for many people who’ve fled the violence remains dire, and that’s why we remain engaged on it.

QUESTION: Is the sponsorship, though, perhaps an impediment to providing physical safety to others who are trying to escape the fighting in Ramadi?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have a particular comment on that aspect.

A human rights event is taking place and the State Dept has no "particular comment"?


In December 2011, as the US military was implementing the Pentagon's drawdown from Iraq, then-prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki began using the military to target his political rivals.  Various Sunni leaders in Baghdad were targeted as he had military tanks circling their homes.  Most infamously, he had Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq removed from a plane headed to northern Iraq.  They were held for a few hours before being released and allowed to board the plane.  The next day, Nouri issued an arrest warrant for Tareq al-Hashemi.  The targeting of Sunni politicians never ended under Nouri.

Enter new prime minister Haider al-Abadi representing change or 'change.'

And nothing has changed.

Sunnis remain targeted, Sunnis continue to be arrested without warrants, they continue to be threatened and bullied and now it's time for Haider to go after Sunni politicians.

Atheel al-Nujaifi is the Governor of Nineveh Province.  He is also someone Nouri repeatedly attempted to force out of office.  He is also the brother of Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi (one of Iraq's three vice presidents).

And now he's supposedly out of office.

Al Manar reports that 169 MPs voted to remove Atheel as governor and State of Law MP Hatham al-Jubouri insists this took place following "a formal request from the prime minister" to remove al-Nujaifi.

BAS News adds that Shi'ite MP Muwaffaq al-Rubaie is alleging the KRG has set up a "number of illegal military bases in the Kurdistan Region. ‘Derbodan’ base, where civilians are being trained for operations to free Mosul, is operating under the control of Mosul governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, and should be closed down. The forces that are being trained in those military bases are all under the influence of al- Nujaifi; this is illegal and he should be held accountable for it."

Hamza Mustaffa quotes an unnamed politician speaking to Aswat al-Iraq about the effort against al-Nujaifi:

There are two reasons for what happened. Firstly, he is hated by many government figures and parties who want to hold him responsible for the fall of Mosul despite the fact that it was the military leadership who must bear full responsibility for this. The second reason is related to a previous request submitted by 23 members of the [Nineveh] Provincial Council calling for his dismissal.
Iraqi Minister of Provincial Affairs Ahmed Abdullah Al-Jubouri, for reasons we don’t know, submitted the request to Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi who referred it to parliament, despite the fact that this is illegal as it [the legal request] lacked the required legal pretexts.

All Iraq News reports Atheel al-Nujaifi stated that he is still the governor and that he has received no notification that this has changed.  He is quoted stating, "The members of the State of Law Coalition voted for dismissing me because I rejected involving the Popular Mobilzation Forces (PMF) in liberating Nineveh.  I have been dismissed for different reasons that include my last visit to the US [. . .]"

State of Law is the political coalition headed by Nouri al-Maliki. The so-called Popular Mobilization Forces are the Shi'ite militias -- many of which are the thugs accused of crimes against civilians.

MP Hadi al-Amiri is a thug.  He heads the Badr militia.  Alsumaria reports that he was crowing that Atheel is "a lesson" for those who betray. He is most infamous internationally for threatening to mutilate Americans a few weeks back when he was unhappy with a bill being considered in the US Congress.

This process began Thursday, yet Friday at the US State Dept, Jeff Rathke was all grins.

QUESTION: I have an Iraq follow-up.


QUESTION: You said you believe that Iraqis are determined to rise to this challenge. What makes you believe that?

MR RATHKE: Well, as I said, this is a – we’ve been in contact over the last days and weeks with people across Iraq, with people across the political spectrum, local officials, national officials. And that’s the feedback that we get and that’s why we’re committed to helping Iraq.

QUESTION: Did you believe when the United States removed all of its combat forces from Iraq at the end of 2011 that the Iraqi forces were then capable of and determined to defend their country’s territory?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have a retrospective analysis at my fingertips here to offer on that.

QUESTION: But why would you have pulled out if you didn’t think they were capable of it? And public statements by multiple officials suggested that the United States believed that they were capable of defending their territory, so – the reason I’m asking is it’s not clear to me why your judgment, which was that they could fight back then, is necessarily – and appears to have been wrong – is necessarily correct now, that they can and will fight.

MR RATHKE: Well, again, I’m just passing on to you what we hear now from the people we are in contact with across the country. We realize and we’ve said many times that this is a very difficult fight. It’s not – it’s by no means easy, so it requires commitment and it requires the leadership which, again, we believe Prime Minister Abadi has been demonstrating through his efforts to reach out across sectarian and ethnic lines.

Apparently attempting to illegal oust Sunni politician Atheel al-Nujaifi is, to the State Dept, evidence that "Prime Minister Abadi has been demonstrating through his efforts to reach out across sectarian and ethnic lines."

In the US, Justin Raimondo ( drops a few truth bombs on fake-ass Bernie Sanders -- US Senator and vying for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination:

The evolution of Bernie Sanders – from his days as a Liberty Unionist radical and Trotskyist fellow-traveler, to his first political success as Mayor of Burlington, his election to Congress and then on to the Senate – limns the course of the post-Sixties American left. Although birthed in the turmoil of the Vietnam war, the vaunted anti-interventionism of this crowd soon fell by the wayside as domestic political tradeoffs trumped ideology. Nothing exemplifies this process of incremental betrayal better than Sanders’ support for the troubled F-35 fighter jet, the classic case of a military program that exists only to enrich the military-industrial complex. Although the plane has been plagued with technical difficulties, and has toted up hundreds of billions of dollars in cost overruns, Sanders has stubbornly defended and voted for it because Lockheed-Martin manufactures it in Vermont.
Never mind all that highfalutin’ anti-militarist rhetoric – a politician’s job is to bring home the bacon. And that is what Sanders, and his fellow progressives (for the most part), have done. In Bernie’s case, the F-35 issue dramatizes the political dynamics of how the “anti-imperialist” radicals of yesteryear became the Establishment’s house progressives in 2015.
While the Democrats – whom the “independent” Sanders caucuses with, and votes with 99% of the time – vote to expand the Welfare State, the Republicans vote to expand the Warfare State. Aside from a few symbolic skirmishes, done mainly for public consumption, neither really stands in the way of the other. In this manner, both sectors of the federal budget have expanded exponentially to the point where we face a real crisis of fiscal insolvency at home, as well as deadly “blowback” emanating from abroad. Sanders plays his part in this legislative tradeoff, just like all the rest of them.

The Ron Paul of the left? Listen, I know Ron Paul. Ron Paul is a friend of mine – and, Senator, you’re no Ron Paul!

Lastly,, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press).  This is from his photo essay "STREETS OF NEW YORK -- Mexican moms of Brooklyn:"

A friend once told me once that when she was growing up back east, if you wanted tortillas you had to buy them in a can from Old El Paso.  It was a big joke since she was from Las Cruces, which is right next to El Paso.  I can't imagine what they tasted like.  When my family left New York City in the 1950s there were hardly any Mexicans there, at least that we knew of.  Even when I went back to live for a while in the early 70s there weren't many.

That's certainly not true anymore.  A few years ago I went to the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Flushing Meadows.  You can still see that huge strange earth globe there, leftover from the 1964 World's Fair, with hollow spaces crisscrossed by metal struts where all the oceans should be.  That year, under the globe lounged all these young cholos and cholas, styling like they were in East Oakland or East LA, their lowrider bikes with the front forks sticking out and chrome all over.

That year they said there were 750,000 people from Mexico living in New York City - enough so their nickname for it was PueblaYork, the way California's become OaxaCalifornia.

One of the big centers of Mexican life today is Sunset Park in Brooklyn.  There Fourth and Fifth Avenues are lined with taquerias, although their idea of a quesadilla, with orange sauce and lettuce on it, is a little different from what I'm used to, being an Oakland boy.  But the stores have as many signs in Spanish as you see in Huntington Park in southeast LA.  I'm waiting to see if we'll start seeing signs in Mixteco or Nahuatl, the way you can in some places in the San Joaquin Valley.  And if you walk just a block over to Sixth Avenue, the language you hear is Chinese and the restaurants sell smoked duck.  And then a block or two over from that the voices speak Arabic.  New York was never really a melting pot -- just a lot of people from all over, living next to each other, but most fighting to keep ahold of their culture.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Designing Women

We are noting our favorite 90s TV shows and, for me, it is Designing Women.

With a qualifier.

Only the first five seasons.

When Delta Burke's Suzanne Sugarbaker is off (Ms. Burke was fired), the show loses it.

But the first five seasons were hilarious and Suzanne was usually the best part.  Whether she was toting around her pot-bellied pig, explaining her problem with bi-sexuals (everyone else, she insists has to make a decision) or how she responds to dating gay men (she believes it is her responsibility to inform the parents), she was over the top and hilarious.

Dixie Carter's Julia Sugarbaker was funny as well but without Suzanne (her sister) to counter her (as serious as Julia is, Suzanne is that light headed), not so much.

Jean Smart was something as Charlene and her departure (same as when Ms. Burke left) hurt the show too.

Annie Potts.

Not that great and she is so much worse when Ms. Smart and Ms. Burke were not on and too much of the focus went to Annie Pott's drab character.

You cannot note the show and not note Meshach Taylor who was wonderful as Anthony.

Especially at the start of the show, it could have been nothing more than a stereotype or token, but Mr. Taylor made Anthony fascinating and as important as any of the three women (and much more important than Annie Potts' dreadful Mary Jo).

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, May 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi fears refugees wanting to enter Baghdad might include suicide bombers and worse so he wants to route them to the KRG instead, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest makes a significant TV appearance where he speaks of Iraq, there is still no political solution in Iraq nor any work towards one on the part of the US, and much more.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest made a rather significant appearance on America's Newsroom with Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum (Fox News) today.

Bill Hemmer: You said this week you're confident in the strategy and you just heard Senator McCain and other critics say you don't have a strategy.  In a sentence, what is it?

Josh Earnest:  Our strategy is to support the Iraqi security forces in doing what we will not do for them.  The United States is prepared to train them, to equip them and to back them on the battlefield with coalition military air power as they take the fight to ISIL in their own country.  The United States is not going to be responsible for securing the security situation inside of Iraq.  But we will stand with the Iraqi central government, the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people as they do. We can also supplement that effort by trying to shut down every avenue of financing that ISIL has.  We can try to stem the flow of foreign fighters to that region of the world to try to shut down the pipeline of people who are traveling all across the world to take up arms alongside of ISIL.  We can work to try to counter the violent, [sic] inciteful  messaging that they're to incite people to carry out acts of violence -- we can try to counter that.  This is a comprehensive strategy and what we're going to see is we're going to see areas of progress -- areas like the success we had in driving ISIL out of Tikrit --

Bill Hemmer:  Okay, okay, okay --

Josh Earnest (Con't): -- we took an ISIL leader off the battle in Syria but there's no doubt that we've sustained some setbacks in Ramadi as well.

Those are stunning remarks on the part of the White House spokesperson when you grasp what happened Monday:  Joe Biden rushing to kneel before Haider al-Abadi and kiss the Iraqi prime minister's boo-boos and wounded pride over the remarks of US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter who,   on State of the Union (CNN) Sunday, spoke with Barbara Starr about the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State.

Secretary Ash Carter:  What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. Uh, they were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. And yet they failed to fight they withdrew from the sight and uh that says to me and i think to most of us that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and  defend themselves now we can give them training, we can give them equipment, we obviously can't give them the will to fight.

Instead of backing the Secretary of Defense, the White House chose to dispatch Joe Biden on a You've Got A Really Fine Penis, Sir, An Impressive One Even mission to reassure the pathetic Haider al-Abadi.

Readout of Vice President Biden's Call with Prime Minister Al-Abadi of Iraq

Vice President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi today to reaffirm U.S. support for the Iraqi government’s fight against ISIL. The Vice President recognized the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces over the past eighteen months in Ramadi and elsewhere. The Vice President welcomed the Council of Minister’s unanimous decision on May 19th to mobilize additional troops, honor those who have fallen, and prepare for counter-attack operations. The Vice President pledged full U.S. support in these and other Iraqi efforts to liberate territory from ISIL, including the expedited provision of U.S. training and equipment to address the threat posed by ISIL’s use of truck bombs.


Josh Earnest remarks today sort of negate all the groveling and ass kissing Joe Biden did on Monday.

And  that could be a good thing -- provided this is the new road the White House is taking.  It could be a very bad thing if they intend to stab Earnest in the back a few days on down the line.

They need to be consistent -- one of the traits this administration has struggled to exhibit. 

If the remarks stand, you can be sure pouty Haider al-Abadi will be stomping his feet, his lower lip trembling and jutting out as he sobs and sobs.

He's been indulged more than enough as it is.  

Earnest's remarks are also of interest because they were made on Fox News.

The White House really needs to get over their petty grudges.

Fox News has a huge audience, Barack used to blather on about no red states, no blue states . . . and claim he could work with others.  He wants to be seen as mature then he and his administration needs to stop the attacks.  Fox News is a platform to reach millions of Americans and the White House is a fool to pass up the chance to utilize that platform.

The always ridiculous Nancy Pelosi (I can say it, she allegedly represent my Congressional district) was on Taking The Hill (MSNBC)  days ago speaking with host, Iraq War veteran and former US House Rep Patrick Murphy and insisting that the US was winning the propaganda war on social media and the Islamic State was losing.

There's something surreal about Nancy Pelosi going on MSNBC to insist that the propaganda war was being won -- then again, where else to make such a claim?

If they want to win the spin war, the White House is going to have to engage with the media and that does include Fox News.  

Bonus points to Earnest and the White House for selecting the frame and angle for the appearance (realizing that facing the sun -- outside -- would give Earnest a gravity that he sometimes lacks).  Yes, Josh has lovely eyes.  But forcing him to squint throughout the appearance gave his remarks an appearance of conviction that they might have otherwise struggled to convey visually.

In terms of getting a message out and how they presented the message, Josh Earnest and the White House were a success.

Most probably either nodded along or sighed and shook their head while Earnest spoke.  I doubt many picked up the problem -- the ongoing problem -- with his remarks. 

Let's review them one more time and see if you can figure out what's missing as he explains the White House's strategy or 'strategy' to combat the Islamic State.

Josh Earnest:  Our strategy is to support the Iraqi security forces in doing what we will not do for them.  The United States is prepared to train them, to equip them and to back them on the battlefield with coalition military air power as they take the fight to ISIL in their own country.  The United States is not going to be responsible for securing the security situation inside of Iraq.  But we will stand with the Iraqi central government, the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people as they do. We can also supplement that effort by trying to shut down every avenue of financing that ISIL has.  We can try to stem the flow of foreign fighters to that region of the world to try to shut down the pipeline of people who are traveling all across the world to take up arms alongside of ISIL.  We can work to try to counter the violent, [sic] inciteful  messaging that they're to incite people to carry out acts of violence -- we can try to counter that.  This is a comprehensive strategy and what we're going to see is we're going to see areas of progress -- areas like the success we had in driving ISIL out of Tikrit --

Bill Hemmer:  Okay, okay, okay --

Josh Earnest (Con't): -- we took an ISIL leader off the battle in Syria but there's no doubt that we've sustained some setbacks in Ramadi as well.

Did you catch it?


I think a number of people did catch it but we'll toss out a hint real quick: Next week, the month of June begins.

Did that help?

Josh Earnest is outlining what the White House will do and won't do in the fight against the Islamic State.  They will help Iraq as it attempts to stand up to the Islamic State, they will do that via war planes dropping bombs -- among other things.  They will also target financing of terrorism and the influx of foreign fighters into the region.


But it was June of last year that US President Barack Obama told the American people that there was no military answer for Iraq's problems, that the only way forward for Iraq was a political solution.

From Barack's June 19th press briefing:

THE PRESIDENT:  Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.  At my direction, Secretary Kerry will depart this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe, where he’ll be able to consult with our allies and partners.  And just as all Iraq’s neighbors must respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, all of Iraq’s neighbors have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists.
Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future.  Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- all Iraqis -- must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence.  National unity meetings have to go forward to build consensus across Iraq’s different communities.  Now that the results of Iraq’s recent election has been certified, a new parliament should convene as soon as possible.  The formation of a new government will be an opportunity to begin a genuine dialogue and forge a government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis.

Now, it’s not the place for the United States to choose Iraq’s leaders.  It is clear, though, that only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis.  Meanwhile, the United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another.  There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States.  But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process, a more capable Iraqi security force, and counterterrorism efforts that deny groups like ISIL a safe haven.

[. . .]


Q    Thank you, sir.  Going back to where you see Prime Minister al-Maliki playing a role at this point, you said that it’s a time to rise above differences, that there’s a need for more inclusive government.  Is he a unifier?  And how much clout does the United States ultimately have with any of the leadership in Iraq at this point really?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we still provide them significant assistance.  I think they recognize that, unlike some other players in the region, we don’t have territorial ambitions in their country.  We’re not looking to control their assets or their energy.  We want to make sure that we’re vindicating the enormous effort and sacrifice that was made by our troops in giving them an opportunity to build a stable, inclusive society that can prosper and deliver for the basic needs and aspirations of the Iraqi people.
And at the same time, they are a sovereign country.  They have their own politics.  And what we have tried to do is to give them our best advice about how they can solve their political problems.  Now that they are in crisis, we are indicating to them that there is not going to be a simple military solution to this issue.  If you start seeing the various groups inside of Iraq simply go to their respective corners, then it is almost certain that Baghdad and the central government will not be able to control huge chunks of their own country.  The only way they can do that is if there are credible Sunni leaders, both at the national level and at the local level, who have confidence that a Shia majority, that the Kurds, that all those folks are committed to a fair and just governance of the country.
Right now, that doesn’t exist.  There’s too much suspicion, there’s too much mistrust.  And the good news is that an election took place in which despite all this mistrust, despite all this frustration, despite all this anger, you still had millions of Iraqis turn out -- in some cases, in very dangerous circumstances.  You now have a court that has certified those elections, and you have a constitutional process to advance government formation.
So far, at least, the one bit of encouraging news that we’ve seen inside of Iraq is that all the parties have said they continue to be committed to choosing a leadership and a government through the existing constitutional order.
So what you’re seeing I think is, as the prospects of civil war heighten, many Iraq leaders stepping back and saying, let’s not plunge back into the abyss; let’s see if we can resolve this politically.  But they don’t have a lot of time.  And you have a group like ISIL that is doing everything that it can to descend the country back into chaos. 
And so one of the messages that we had for Prime Minister Maliki but also for the Speaker of the House and the other leadership inside of Iraq is, get going on this government formation.  It’ll make it a lot easier for them to shape a military strategy.  It’ll also make it possible for us to partner much more effectively than we can currently.

Q    Given the Prime Minister’s track record, is he a unifier?  Can he play that role after what we’ve seen play out over the last couple of weeks is brought into play?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think the test is before him and other Iraqi leaders as we speak.  Right now, they can make a series of decisions.  Regardless of what’s happened in the past, right now is a moment where the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance, and the test for all of them is going to be whether they can overcome the mistrust, the deep sectarian divisions, in some cases just political opportunism, and say this is bigger than any one of us and we’ve got to make sure that we do what’s right for the Iraqi people.  And that’s a challenge.

That’s not something that the United States can do for them.  That’s not something, by the way, that the United States Armed Forces can do for them.  We can provide them the space, we can provide them the tools.  But ultimately, they’re going to have to make those decisions.

Nouri al-Maliki's gone.

And that's really it.

Nouri was hideous.  He tortured.  He used the Ministry of Interior to foster hatred and violence towards gay people.  (He sent the Ministry of Interior into Iraq's schools to spread fear.)  He ran secret prisons.  He had people arrested without warrants, he had them held in prisons without due process or court appearances.  Women and girls in Iraqi prisons were beaten and often raped.  He used security forces to intimidate, brutalize and kill peaceful protesters.  He used the military to target his political rivals.  His rap sheet is endless.

Today,  David Romano (Rudaw) revisits Nouri's second term to note:

Regular readers of this newspaper will be quite familiar with the story of how the Jihadis of the Islamic State (ISIS) made a comeback in Iraq. It is a story of broken promises and complete alienation of the Sunni Arab community in the country, combined with the chaos in neighbouring Syria (which is also related to the disenfranchisement of the Sunni Arab community there). The recent fall of Ramadi and the destruction of the important Baiji refinery, despite all the military assistance to the Iraqi government, highlight the need for a political strategy to complement the military effort in Iraq. To understand the outlines of the needed political strategy, we need only remember key factors that led Iraqis to their current crisis with ISIS. 
[. . .]
The Sunni Awakening Councils went unpaid after being transferred to Baghdad’s responsibility. Despite winning a plurality of the votes in the March 2010 general election, the majority Sunni party of Iyad Alawi was denied their right to try and form the next government. Instead, an increasingly authoritarian and power-centralizing Prime Minister Maliki remained in office. Promises to share power with Alawi’s party, the Kurds and others were never fulfilled. When leading Sunni Arab politician and Vice-President Tarek al-Hashimi reacted to Mr. Maliki’s policies and supported Sunni efforts in Diyala and other governorates to form their own region (and thereby carve out some autonomous space vis-à-vis Baghdad), the Maliki-controlled judiciary put out an arrest warrant for him on “terrorism” charges. This was only two days after the withdrawal of the last American troops in December 2011. Arrest warrants for other leading Sunni politicians, such as Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi, soon followed.  Sunni Arab popular protests were met with brutal repression. In short, the trust that moderate Sunni Arab Iraqis had shown by trying to cooperate with the new regime and play by the rules was betrayed.

Nouri's being gone is a good thing.

But he was leaving, for those who have forgotten, in order to give Iraqis a sense that there was change.

When the man who replaced Nouri -- Haider al-Abadi -- continues the policies?

There's no change.

And there's no effort, no diplomatic effort, on the part of the United States.

It's almost a year since Barack made those remarks.

But there's been no real work on a political solution.

And they have taken sides, the White House has taken sides.  By refusing to arm all three major groups in Iraq -- Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurd -- the White House has taken sides.

They also took sides when they refused to meet with Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi and former Minister of Finance Rafe al-Issawi earlier this month when the two Sunni politicians were in DC.

One of the highest ranking Sunni in the Iraqi government will be in DC shortly and, as noted in today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jeff Rathke, at least he will be invited to the White House.

QUESTION: On Iraq --


QUESTION: -- do you have any information about the visit of the Iraq parliament speaker next week to Washington?

MR RATHKE: Salim al-Jabouri --


MR RATHKE: -- the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, will visit the White House and will meet with Vice President Biden on Friday, June 12th. The speaker will also have a meeting with Secretary Kerry at the State Department during his stay. Vice President Biden and the Secretary also will welcome Speaker al-Jabouri to discuss a range of issues, including the U.S. strong and continued support to Iraq under our Strategic Framework Agreement, the collective campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL, and the status of ongoing political initiatives to address the needs of the Iraqi people. 

The Speaker of Parliament is Salim al-Jabouri and you can argue whether he or Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi has more power (al-Nujaifi is the former Speaker of Parliament) but the two are the most powerful Sunnis in Iraq's national government.

(Saleh al-Mutlaq is one of Iraq's many deputy prime ministers.  It's a lady-in-waiting post, not one with real power or leadership.  Salim presides over the Parliament which grants him many powers while Osama's granted powers include the ability to halt any bill that passes Parliament.)

The White House has not focused on aiding a political solution.

That's only surprising if you fail to grasp how they indulged Nouri and looked the other way throughout his crimes and abuses.

As Ryan Crocker, former US Ambassador to Iraq, told Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy), "Our inaction since 2011 -- and I mean political inaction more than military -- leads us to today."

BRussells Tribunal notes The Stockholm Appeal from the I.A.O.N. which is calling for real solutions:

The Stockholm Appeal from the I.A.O.N.:

Stop military intervention in Iraq under any pretext!

After decades of sanctions, war and occupation, attempts to dominate and control Iraq continue. The destruction of the country´s infrastructure, its army and its middle class has left a failed state that leaves its people in social misery and chaos. This has resulted in the collapse of the health and education systems, the weakening of the social fabric and the collective memory and national identity of the Iraqi people. Foreign plans to divide Iraq threaten its very existence as a state.

1. The failure of the US-led occupation to achieve their goals has been followed by another war with massive bombings of civilians and the infusion of enormous amounts of military weapons.

2. The regime in Baghdad which resulted from the imposed sectarian Bremer constitution is incapable by its very nature of achieving the inclusiveness of the different ethnic, religious and political groups that is required to guarantee Iraq´s continued existence.

3. Outside interference and support to sectarian militia and terrorist groups has further worsened internal conflicts, giving birth to criminal ruling groups. It has led to serious violations of human rights and has caused widespread suffering for civilians.

4. The government policies of massive imprisonment, torture, forced displacement and the exclusion of many from the political process have together provided fertile ground for all forms of extremism and terrorism.

5. Millions of refugees have been caught between the US-led bombing and the attacks from the government and its militia allies as well as from the terrorist attacks by ISIS. A humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions continues to worsen with widespread sectarian ethnic cleansing .

We re-iterate our stand that peace cannot be restored until the underlying causes of the conflict have been dealt with. The Iraqi people continue to resist foreign domination. Only their unity can guarantee the sovereignty of Iraq and defeat of terrorism and separatism. Only their efforts can guarantee good relations with all their neighbours based on strict non-interference in each other´s internal affairs. Iraq is not a pawn to be offered in regional or religious conflict. Its sovereignty and independence must be respected.

In the present situation, our efforts should be intensified and co-ordinated to:

- spread information about the underlying political nature of the conflict and demand an end to all foreign intervention.

- support the efforts of the patriotic forces for unity against sectarianism and terrorism where all Iraqis are treated as citizens of one country rather than members of specific communities.

- mobilize international efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people.

- demand an end to the bombing and military intervention in Iraq under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

- demand  justice for the victims and accountability by those responsible for the crimes committed and their responsibility for reparations and the reconstruction of the country. The UN must uphold international law.

We call upon all anti-occupation, anti-war and peace loving people to maintain and continue solidarity with the people of Iraq and their struggle for an independent, unified and non-sectarian Iraq.
Stockholm May 24, 2015

In other signs that there is no political solution in Iraq today, Margaret Griffis ( notes, "Baghdad has asked the Kurdish government to allow 20,000 refugees from Anbar province to relocate there because they will not be allowed into the capital. The fear is that terrorists will be hidden among the displaced."

First, you have citizens of Iraq being denied the right to enter their own capitol.

Second, if Haider al-Abadi really believes there's a threat of terrorists being in with the refugees, why would he insist the KRG take them in?

In what world does that make sense?

'We can't let them into Baghdad because they might be bombers but how about you take these possible bombers into the KRG because it doesn't matter if Erbil gets attacked or Kurds get killed."

That's what it sounds like.

And it sounds like Haider's placing a premium on one group of lives (Shi'ite) while arguing that Sunni lives (the refugees) do not matter nor do the Kurds.

There is no unity in Iraq under Haider al-Abadi -- not even a pretense of unity.

There is continued violence.  Margaret Griffis ( counts 227 violent deaths across Iraq today.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tatum's news

So what is she?

I am not making fun of Tatum O'Neal but if you missed the latest news, she is now dating women.

Ms. O'Neal came to fame in the film Paper Moon (also starring her father Ryan O'Neal and Madeline Kahn).  For that film, she would win the Oscar and become the youngest person to do so up to that time (she was ten-years-old). 

She went on to have other hits such as International Velvet and especially The Bad News Bears and Little Darlings.

Then her career cooled -- maybe in part because she was focused on marriage and children.

Also in part due to some serious substance abuse issues.

So now she says she is dating women.

And when asked if she is a lesbian, she begs off that question.

I honestly respect her for that.

Too many people think they know everything when they do not.

She is being public with something new in her life and she is smart enough to note that she is on a road which may lead here or there.

And she may end up bi-sexual which is an honorable position in the same way that being gay or straight is.

In a world where we are all expected to know everything and to know it immediately, I respect her for coming forward with what she has and noting that her journey is just beginning.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, War Hawk Tony Blair is bloodied in the public square, the Ramadi effort's already becoming a joke, the State Dept tries to spin for failure, and much more.

War Hawk Down!

He helped start an illegal war and he destroyed New Labour's reputation sending the party into a downward spiral in one election cycle after another including one just weeks ago.  But Tony Blair refused to read the writing on the wall until now.  AAP reports War Criminal Blair handed his letter of resignation over to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and he will no longer be the Middle East envoy for the Quartet group.  Lindsey German, with the UK's Stop The War Coalition, tells AAP, "Tony Blair's legacy remains: a devastated and war-torn Iraq, a Middle East in turmoil, and a much more dangerous world.  We will continue to campaign against the aggressive foreign policy he championed and for him to answer charges of war crimes."

Journalist Robert Fiske (Dawn) offers an analysis of Blair's failure in his post:

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – Blair’s appointment was an insult.
The man who never said he was sorry for his political disaster in Iraq simply turned up in Jerusalem four years later and, with a team which spent millions in accommodation and air fares, managed to accomplish absolutely nothing in the near-decade that followed.
Blair appeared indifferent to the massive suffering of the Palestinians – he was clearly impotent in preventing it – and spent much of his time away from the tragedy of the Middle East, advising the great and the good and a clutch of Muslim dictators, and telling the world – to Israel’s satisfaction – of the dangers represented by Iran

At today's US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Jeff Rathke attempted to spin Tony's failures by insisting that "we certainly value Tony Blair's contributions."  Pressed to cite contributions, even spin machine Rathke faltered.

QUESTION: So you assess his tenure over the past eight years as a successful tenure by the Quartet? Have the goals of the Quartet been achieved under the sort of the auspices of Envoy Blair?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think the Quartet’s goals haven’t been achieved, of course, because we’re working towards a two-state solution in which Israel lives side-by-side at peace with a Palestinian state. So until that’s achieved, I don’t think any of us can say that we’ve succeeded.

Last week, US President Barack Obama made a fool of himself publicly by attempting to minimize the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State with Barack insisting this was not a loss.  In those footsteps follow Rathke who praises Blair's so-called "contributions" while being unable to cite any and insisting that the state of not succeeding is something other than "failure."

Jeff Rathke  also noted, "Secretary Kerry will then travel to Paris, France on June 2nd to lead the U.S. delegation to the Counter-ISIL Coalition Small-Group Ministerial. Coalition partners will review progress on the full range of our shared efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL, while affirming our support for Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi campaign against ISIL."

Oh, John's got strut around like he's Secretary of Defense again, is he?

John Kerry has done a pathetic job as Secretary of State.

Hillary was bad in every way except morale.  Bad for the department.  But she did use the post as non-stop self-advertising with photo-ops here and photo-ops there.   She never really accomplished anything in any of those non-stop, heavily covered global stops around the world but she certainly gave visuals that suggested she must be doing something.

John can't even promote himself.

As for the disaster that is Haider al-Abadi, France 24's Leela Jacinto observes:

When he replaced the disastrous Nuri al-Maliki as prime minister last year, Haider al-Abadi represented the hope that his predecessor’s sectarian way of doing business would end and that the new chief would be able to draw his disgruntled Sunni citizenry into the national fold.
But poor Abadi is looking more like the Viceroy of Baghdad than the prime minister of Iraq these days.  Of course he would have preferred to rely solely on the Iraqi security forces. But let’s not waste time on that so called, once-great Arab army. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter was dead right in his assessment of the Iraqi security forces showing no will to battle ISIS, White House damage control notwithstanding. I haven’t seen a great Arab army winning any wars in my lifetime. But I hear, from history books, that they once roamed this earth.
These days, we have great Arab militias, which become even more powerful and even more destabilizing with time and battlefield victories. 
And that, for Abadi -- a suave civilian politician raised in Baghdad’s affluent Karada district by his mother of Lebanese origin before moving to Britain to start an engineering business -- is a ticking bomb. The militias could present a threat to Abadi’s authority and if they do, all bets are off on how he will manage or weather that storm.  


Some elements of the current storm may be human-made.  This exchange took place during today's State Dept press briefing.

QUESTION: All right. I have two questions. One is about Ramadi. There are reports about Iraqi special forces retreating from the city because they received instructions from someone close to former Prime Minister Maliki or Maliki himself. Are you aware of those reports?

MR RATHKE: I’m not familiar with those reports. I don’t have any comment on that.

Nouri's long been said to be plotting -- and he always will until he's in his grave.  He wants to come back.  He has leaders loyal to him still in the ranks of the Iraqi military.  Is that why the militia is so much more effective than the Iraqi military?

It's a question worth pondering -- unless you're the US State Dept.

On the fall of Ramadi, Araw Damon and Hamdi Alkhshali (CNN -- link is text and video) offer an insider's account -- one Iraqi solider -- of what happened on the ground.

The administration continues their attempt to spin failure as success with regard to the Iraqi forces.  Today, it was the US State Dept's turn.

QUESTION: Iraq. Can we go to Iraq?


QUESTION: Okay. Very quickly, can you just sort out all this confusing statements coming from every which way on the role of the Iraqi army, how they conducted themselves during the fall of Ramadi, and so on? Today another person from the Pentagon saying that basically they cut and run. There are statements that are really contrary to that. Just walk us through what is the U.S. position. Is the Iraqi army or the Iraqi Security Forces worthy of all the support, and both material and training and all these things, that they are getting if they – every time there is a confrontation with ISIS, they just fall back?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think we talked about this a bit yesterday as well. Let me just start --

QUESTION: The story just will not go away.

MR RATHKE: Let me just start, though, with the situation on the ground. We are encouraged by reports that Iraqi forces have begun to consolidate and reorganize and counterattack on ISIL around Ramadi. We also welcome the news from Prime Minister al-Abadi on the counteroffensive, and we’ll continue to offer support to our Iraqi partners as they work to push ISIL out of their country.
Now, as for a battlefield assessment, you can talk with the Iraqi Government. We, of course, from our part in the coalition, are supporting the Iraqi Government with airstrikes in conjunction with them on targets, ISIL targets in Anbar and in other parts of Iraq. Now, the question that you’ve asked about the – we’ve always said that our strategy in Iraq, which is a – on the one hand it has a military component, also has non-military components. But the strategy, the military strategy relies on a well-equipped and well-trained partner on the ground. So we are, of course, helping to provide them with the capabilities they need and the support so that they can win this fight, and we’re supporting them to that end.

That would have been the perfect opportunity to ask Rathke to illuminate the world on what exactly the administration has been doing to help with regards to the "non-military components" of the so-called Iraq 'strategy'?

It was June of 2014, after all, when Barack publicly declared that only a "political solution" could solve Iraq's crises.

And yet the US has done nothing with regards to that.

They've offered no leadership, they've offered no encouragement.

They've refused to open the diplomatic toolbox and use the carrot and stick method where you say to Haider al-Abadi, "You want more weapons?  Okay, bring the Sunnis into the government as full partners."

You may or may not remember but the benchmarks that Bully Boy Bush's White House set in 2007 included an end to de-Ba'athification.  Nouri al-Maliki promised to do that but never did.  Not in his first term and not in his second term.

Sometimes he gave lip service on the issue but he never did a damn thing.

Haider's really good a lip service.

But he's also failed to follow up.

Though they avoided that issue, at least the press didn't rush to swallow Rathke's spin.

QUESTION: But the United States has been training an Iraqi armed forces for the past 12 years at least – 12 years, not at least – for the past 12 years, spending a lot of money and a lot of training and so on. But looking back, even when there was the Awakening and so on, it was really the American forces that did whatever fighting there was. So there is no record of this army that you have trained and spent so much time and effort at, standing up and doing what it’s supposed to do. Why do you think that is?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think if you look at quite a few places in Iraq, you see where Iraqi forces have been successful in pushing back and in pushing ISIL out of territory that they previously controlled. There are certainly areas where ISIL has made gains in recent days. Ramadi is, of course, one we’ve talked about, as well as Palmyra, in Syria. But if you compare this to nine months ago, when ISIL was on the offensive in many places in Iraq, we also see places where they’ve been forced to retreat; they’ve lost areas that they used to dominate from Babil to Diyala, also Nineveh and Kirkuk province. So ISIL has been defeated at Mosul Dam, at Mount Sinjar, also in Tikrit. So there are – I think there have been a lot of areas – populated areas where ISIL had been in control and has been pushed back.

QUESTION: Sorry to belabor the point, but even the examples that you cited – Tikrit, Babil, and the north and so on – it was either the Peshmerga or the popular committees, the Shia militias and so on in Tikrit and other places. There is no – I mean there’s no stark example that says this national Iraqi army has stood its ground, is there?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, we take a view of that, Said. We – if you look at those areas and others where the Iraqi forces have pushed ISIL back, we see a much different picture, and we see the Iraqi forces committed to defending the country.

QUESTION: You haven’t seen that the counteroffensive has actually begun yet, have you? You said something to that effect earlier, but they’re still regrouping. They haven’t actually started going back into Ramadi, have they?

MR RATHKE: Well, for a battlefield analysis, I’d refer you to my colleagues at the Pentagon or to the Iraqi authorities --

And we'll stop him there to note all he does is give battlefield analysis.

He's not talking diplomacy, he's not talking State Dept efforts.

Like so many other idiots currently serving in the State Dept, he has confused his department with the DoD.

We'll note this Tweet:

. on Iraq: "We need to adapt our strategy"

Jen Psaki was a State Dept spokesperson until recently.

We've called her out and we've also noted that she didn't rely on spin the way so many others did.  Victoria Nuland was a non-stop lying machine.  Until her Urkaine phone call exposed what trash she was, we stood pretty much alone here on the left in condemning her.  All the faux left had to know what she 'worked for Barack' (she was supposed to be working for the American people) and they didn't want to know anything else -- didn't want to know that Icky Vicky had been Dick Cheney's advisor and a cheerleader for the Iraq War and married to a neocon -- in fact married into the most prominent neocon family.

We called her out repeatedly.

We didn't have to call out Psaki as much.

But if Rathke's looking for a role model in his efforts as spokesperson, he should aspire to Psaki's efforts.

As for the Ramadi effort?  Jason Ditz ( points out, "One day into their much-hyped offensive against the ISIS-held city of Ramadi, Iraqi troops and their allies have stalled almost immediately, with reports that the troops entered the grounds of the university, but were unable to retake it."

In other news, AFP notes, "State TV said the paramilitaries had renamed the campaign 'Labeyk Ya Iraq' (At Your Service Iraq) Wednesday. A spokesman for the paramilitary groups, known as Hashid Shaabi, said both names had 'the same meaning'."  The issue came up today and Rathke demonstrated how ineffectual the State Dept truly is.

QUESTION: -- Roz asked you about the name of the operation, which is --


QUESTION: -- “Labaik Ya Hussein,” which is really a call on the prophet’s grandson, who was also saintly among the Sunnis but it has – in this particular case, it has sectarian connotation. Do you have any reaction to that? The Pentagon stood against it.

MR RATHKE: Well, I think I was asked about this yesterday, and I gave a response. So I don’t have anything beyond what I said yesterday.

QUESTION: They changed the name today.

MR RATHKE: Well, yes, I’m aware of those reports. But Said’s question was our point of view about the name.

QUESTION: Do you have reaction to them changing the name?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m aware of the report. We’ve said that anything that heightens tension is something we would be concerned about. But that was – yes, Roz.

QUESTION: So you don’t --

QUESTION: Let’s --

QUESTION: You don’t have any reaction?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think, again, this announcement yesterday if – it was my understanding it wasn’t an official announcement about this name.


MR RATHKE: So I think there’s been a clarification of that.

QUESTION: The new one, or whatever --


QUESTION: I mean, does it matter to you guys?

MR RATHKE: Well, what we’ve always said in our support for Prime Minister Abadi is the central element of our strategy and his strategy is to govern Iraq in a way that is nonsectarian and that brings Iraq together. And so it’s consistent with that, that we would want to see – avoid anything that would raise sectarian tensions.

Moqtada al-Sadr, Shi'ite cleric and movement leader, slammed the original name as divisive and destructive but the US State Dept can't figure out where it stands?

Let's not forget that they and others in the administration were quick to slam a YouTube clip -- that they lied and called a "film" -- and to declare it destructive.  But when they need to speak up about the actions -- life and death -- of a group of militias (thugs), they fall silent?

As Leela Jacinto noted, "Naming an operation by saber-rattling Shiite militias into the disgruntled Iraqi Sunni heartlands 'Labalik ya Hussein' is like waving a red rag at a bull.  And this bull, I fear, could charge straight into ISIS's arms."

QUESTION: Well, let’s set aside whatever it is the Shia militia are calling this counteroffensive. Let’s talk about their behavior. Both the Secretary and General Allen have in recent months condemned their behavior once they liberated certain parts of Iraq, basically engaging in sectarian violence and alleged human rights violations. Sine you stressed from the podium yesterday that these militia are acting on orders from Baghdad, has this Administration made it very clear to Abadi’s government that human rights violations by these militia will not be tolerated and should be actively discouraged from the very beginning?

MR RATHKE: Well, our point of view on this hasn’t changed. We believe that Iraqi forces have to make concerted efforts to protect local populations and property and to secure the human rights of all Iraqi citizens, indeed, as guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution and as the Prime Minister himself and other Iraqi leaders have pledged. So our point of view on that remains the same, and we talk regularly with our Iraqi counterparts about those issues.

QUESTION: But I’m asking whether there’s a particular emphasis given that there are so many people who are trying to get out of Ramadi and who basically are being told that unless they have family in Baghdad that they’re not going to be allowed to leave Anbar province and cross over Bzebiz Bridge – I knew I was going to get that wrong – to try to get to Baghdad and to try to get to safety, in part because they’re afraid of potential repercussions by these militia.

MR RATHKE: Well, again, our point of view on this is as I just stated it. We believe that Iraqi forces have to make every effort to protect local populations and to protect the human rights of Iraqi citizens.

QUESTION: So what happens if they – if such violations do happen? What can the U.S. do to make certain that those responsible are held accountable?

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to speculate about things that haven’t – you’re talking about things that could happen in the future. I’m not going to speculate about that. But the – this is an important, important issue and one in which we remain in contact with our Iraqi counterparts.
Go ahead. 


The White House can do nothing.

And it has done nothing.

When Tikrit was over run with militias and War Crimes took place, where was the US State Dept?

Making excuses.

Always making excuses.

Never pressing for reform.

Never calling out abuse.

Never calling out crimes.

Even the DoD was calling out the abuses.  Even Barack's special envoy John Allen was calling them 'unhelpful.'

But the State Dept stands for nothing.

They have a mission statement, they just don't follow it:

Department Mission Statement
The Department's mission is to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere. This mission is shared with the USAID, ensuring we have a common path forward in partnership as we invest in the shared security and prosperity that will ultimately better prepare us for the challenges of tomorrow.
          --From the FY 2014 Agency Financial Report,
         released November 2014

Hillary Clinton spent four years as Secretary of State trotting around the globe and smiling for cheesy photos of easy and meaningless photo ops.

John Kerry can't even accomplish that.

A functioning administration would be using the State Dept for diplomacy.

A functioning Congress would be demanding the State Dept testify as to what exactly their role is in Iraq.

And every member of Congress would cut off Brett McGurk or whomever when they began talking about military actions.

They would say, "You are not in the Defense Dept.  We're asking you to testify about your department's efforts."

Instead, they let McGurk babble on about what DoD is doing.

Yet when they ask him a question about DoD, he begs off, insisting he's not with the Defense Dept so he can't answer.

This after building his testimony solely around the actions of the DoD.

John Kerry should be called before the Congress to defend his Dept and justify their non-action.

As for Ramadi and refugees, Tim Arango (New York Times) reports

With new waves of civilians fleeing violence in Anbar there are now more internally displaced Iraqis, nearly three million, than there were at the height of the bloody sectarian fighting that followed the American invasion, when millions of Iraqis were able to flee to Syria. That door is closed because of that country’s own civil war. And now doors in Iraq are closing, too, worsening sectarian tensions as the Shiite authorities restrict where fleeing Sunnis can seek safety.
[. . .]
Rather than seizing on the crisis as an opportunity to win Sunnis, a minority in Iraq, to the government side, the Shiite authorities in Baghdad have acted in a manner, critics say, that has worsened the country’s sectarian divide, risking the alienation of young Sunni men in particular by restricting their movements within the country.

These are the issues that Jeff Rathke and the State Dept pretend don't exist or can't be seen.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 174 killed in violence across Iraq today.


jason ditz