Friday, April 17, 2015

All the wasted money

Americans just got done paying their taxes (most of us, anyhow).

And maybe the question there is why?

Press TV reports:

The cost of military operations by the United States against the ISIL Takfiri terrorists in Iraq and Syria has surpassed the $2 billion mark, the Pentagon reports.
"As of Mar. 26, 2015, the total cost of operations related to ISIL since kinetic operations started on Aug. 8, 2014, is $1.96 billion and the average daily cost is $8.5 million,” Defense Department spokesman Bill Urban told The Hill on Thursday.

Money for war is money wasted.

We can't improve our lives at home but we can pour billions into endless war.

That's what 'democracy' has morphed into in the United States.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 16, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Marie Harf remembers Iraq exists (briefly remembers), Haider al-Abadi spins in DC, he gets guffaws as he jokes about the threats against journalist Ned Parker, and much more.

We'll start with the State Dept press briefing today where Marie Harf finally decided to talk about Iraq this week.  This is her exchange with Al Quds Daily's Said Arikat.

QUESTION: Can we go to the visit of the Iraqi --

MS HARF: We can.

QUESTION: -- prime minister (inaudible) to Washington. He spoke today and he refuted the claims that – the press claims that there was a difference or a point of difference between the United States and Iraq on the delivery of weapons, that that was not an issue of contention between the two.

MS HARF: (Inaudible) delivery weapons to Iraq?

QUESTION: Right. So --

MS HARF: Correct. Yes. Which I’ve been saying for weeks from this podium, yet I’m glad he was on the same page.

QUESTION: So should we expect – I mean, there are all kinds of reports suggesting that the F-16s will be delivered perhaps this summer. Is that – would you confirm that?

MS HARF: I’m happy to check on the latest there, Said. I don’t have that in front of me.

QUESTION: Okay. He also talked about offensive – I mean, heavy weapons you called it – for two divisions that he’s awaiting. Is it safe to assume that these weapons will be delivered --

MS HARF: Let me check.

QUESTION: -- as they gear up to sort of liberate Ramadi?

MS HARF: Let me check on that. I know there’s a lot of moving pieces with our weapons deliveries here, so let me check.

QUESTION: Okay. Also he talked about a lot of issues, but one of the issues he addressed was the bombardment of Yemen.

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: He disagreed with it completely yesterday. Today he was less --

MS HARF: Yeah. I think it’s – yeah.

QUESTION: -- less abrasive today. But yesterday he was quite clear, in fact, prompted the Saudi ambassador to hold his own press to say that you do support the bombing that is going on. Do you or do you not support the Saudi bombing, the Saudi-led bombing that is going on in Yemen?

MS HARF: Well, the U.S. is clearly supporting the Saudi-led coalition that’s responding to the Houthi aggression in Yemen. But on Prime Minister Abadi’s comments, I think the message he was conveying – and I won’t try to speak for him, but I think the message he was conveying – and this is certainly the message --

QUESTION: But you will.

MS HARF: I said I’m going to see what I think he was conveying. What the message President Obama was conveying was that this shouldn’t escalate into a broader conflict, that ultimately the conflict can only be settled through a political negotiation involving all parties. I think that’s the crux of what Prime Minister Abadi was saying, particularly because he’s seen his country go through such violence and strife, and he really knows firsthand how damaging that can be to a country. So I think those sort of topline messages were the same. And I know the prime minister spoke about this today as well. We are firmly supportive of the current GCC-led operations to defend Saudi Arabia’s southern border, to push back on the Houthi aggression. And when it comes to the joint fight against ISIL, that’s really a separate issue. I think some people were trying to conflate the two. It’s really just a separate issue from the discussions about what’s happening in Yemen.

We'll touch on a little bit of that throughout the snapshot.

But let's stay on questions and answers.  Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was at an event this morning.  The forum was hosted by The Center For Strategic and International Studies.  Haider opened by reading a speech (which we'll note sections of) that lasted approximately 15 minutes and was most noted for the fact that he delivered it in English.  Unlike Iraq's former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki, he did not speak through an interpreter or utilize one.  (Nouri can speak English.)

He and an Al Jazeera commentator would engage in Arabic when they wanted to trash the White House.  Such brave little cowards.  (I'm all for trashing anyone but do it openly, don't hide behind a foreign language.)  When the Al Jazeera commentator was asked to translate the question to English (as he was told he'd have to before he asked it), he insisted he'd ask his next question in English.

When told that wasn't good enough, the commentator then grew petulant and reduced his lengthy question to a simplistic sentence or two.

Haider responded to it in Arabic.

He was also unwilling to translate it and tried to avoid doing so.

At one point, he insisted he was not being paid to translate.

Well, I guess it's true, a whore expects to be paid for everything, right?

Huffy, Haider finally offered a very loose (and brief) translation of his remarks.

Haider also left the prepared text of his speech from time to time, such as near the end when he raised the issue of Saudi Arabia (and walked back some of his statements from the previous day -- "more concilitory" is how the New York Times' Michael R. Gordon termed the new remarks during his question to Haider at today's event).

His speech was filled with distortions.

Things got worse when the speech was set aside.

Responding to the first question asked by CSIS' Jon Alterman, Haider stated, "What we are facing in Iraq is a polarization of society caused by this terrorism and, of course, failure of governance, not only in Iraq but in the entire region."

That was problematic for a number of reasons.

First of all, the reply is ahistoric.  It attempts to set a mid-point as an instigating or creation point.  The Islamic State is the terrorism that Haider's referring to.

The Islamic State did not cause "polarization of society" in Iraq.

The Islamic State took root in Iraq, gained support and a foothold in the country, due to the government (led by Nouri) targeting Sunnis.

If Haider can't be honest about that, he's never going to accomplish anything.

The second biggest problem with the response is that Jon Alterman's actual question was: "I want to give you an opportunity to be critical about what Iran's doing in the Middle East.  What are they doing that they shouldn't be doing?"

And Haider took a pass -- instead noted that Iran shared in the battle against the Islamic State.

He sidestepped the issue with generic and bland statements such as, "It's not my role to criticize Gulf States, Saudi Arabia . . ."

Alterman attempted to follow up on the Iranian issue and Haider offered generic platitudes such as, "We welcome the Iranian help and support for us."

Haider relationship to the truth can best be described as "elusive."

At one point, he did not that "there must be a political solution.  In all honesty, I haven't seen any movement on that."

And, yes, it is true that US President Barack Obama has been declaring -- since last June -- that the only answer to Iraq's crises is a political solution.

But when Haider declared today that "there must be a political solution.  In all honesty, I haven't seen any movement on that"?

He was talking about Syria.

He was as full of it as the institution hosting him.  They included one Twitter question -- and that from a 'personality' -- in the proceedings -- this after spending over 24 hours begging for questions.

  • What's the future of Iraq? Tweet your questions NOW for Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi's address tomorrow, using 

  • The Center For Strategic & International Studies gave the impression that they wanted questions for Haider al-Abadi and yet they really just wanted to waste people's time.

    Prime Minister @HaiderAlAbadi will answer audience questions, including yours sent via  to @CSIS 

    The questions that insisted CSIS and Haider ignore them?

    The bulk were about the violence including that carried out by militias and Iraqi forces, this was followed by the lack of work being done on a political solution (with many noting US President Barack Obama declared this the only answer for Iraq back in June), many were about the threats against journalism and journalists in Iraq (with an emphasis on Ned Parker), many were also about the status of Iraqi women (with a number asking who the highest ranking woman was in Haider's office and how many women served in his Cabinet), etc.  I was told that CSIS was hoping for questions more along the lines of, "What do you miss most about Baghdad?" and impressions on DC.

    In other words, meaningless questions with inoffensive answers from Haider.

    FYI, I agreed not to slam Jon Alterman -- and I could, I could really do so -- in exchange for finding out what the Twitter users were asking about -- the questions CSIS compiled from Twitter but never used.

    While ignoring hard hitting questions from Twitter, they couldn't ignore the journalists present and, after Iran, the most asked of topic was Ned Parker.

    Barbara Slavin: And also, one of our colleagues, Ned Parker, recently has left because of threats against Reuters for reporting what happened in Tikrit.  Will you issue a statement in Arabic protecting journalists for reporting what goes on in Iraq.  Thank you.

    Haider al-Abadi: As with Mr. Parker, Ned Parker, I've known him for many years.  I heard this story while he was still in Baghdad.  My natural fact, a spokesman for my office has given me a message and he told me Ned Parker feels threatened and asked what sort of threats he had received? We want more information so that I can take action about these people who have threatened him.  I haven't received anything on that, to be honest with you. I asked for protection of his office -- to increase protection of his office -- and we did.  But all of the sudden, I'd heard he left. I know he sent a message he wants to meet me in Washington but unfortunately my program is, uh -- I didn't even have time to talk to my wife yesterday. [Begins chuckling.]  So I don't think I would talk to Ned instead of my wife.

    And a statement in Arabic?

    I-I think my office issued a statement. In English?  Okay, we translate.

    What followed was an embarrassing and shameful round of laughter.

    This isn't a laughing matter.

    When the guffaws finally died down, the next question returned to the topic but with less 'jolly' and 'funnin'.'

    Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory: [. . .] But piggy backing on the last question about Ned Parker, I was just wondering if you could briefly comment as to your take on the current state of press freedom within Iraq?  And also, in terms of going and taking action in response to Parker's being chased out of the country, what steps are you planning -- or are there any steps planned to institute protections for international press covering your country?  During your address, you said, and I quote, "A free society needs a free press."  And so I was just wondering if that would extend to foreign press as well?

    Haider al-Abadi: Well I think if you look at the Iraqi press first, I think they're free to criticize.  I think that number one   institution which is being criticized in Iraq is the government.  We don't even reply to them.  We don't do anything. I drop charges against all-all media.  But I ask the media to have their own self-discipline.  That's important.  The media shouldn't be free to accuse others falsely.  They should respect freedom of others.  Freedom of speech is there but -- We need facts. But I refuse so far -- and I hope I continue on that -- you never know what office does.  Office usually corrupts people, right?  But I hope it doesn't corrupt me.  We keep on respecting the freedom of the press, we keep on protecting it.  As to the foreign press, as far as I know, there's no limitation on them, no restrictions.  They're free even to go to our --within our military unit.  I think we went to that extent to allow free reporting from the fronts.  I remember when the US army was there in 2003 [that's when Haider returned to Iraq after decades of exile in England], they had embedded journalists and they were restricted to what they were reporting.  I very much respect that.  I hope I can have that power to do that but unfortunately I cannot do it now.  It's so free, the situation in Iraq.  Now I'm not sure if Mr. Parker, why he has left.  To be honest with you, I didn't have the story from him.  He wrote something to me.  I cannot see why he left.  Was he really threatened?  Or he felt he was threatened?  I know some -- some Facebook thing and social media has mentioned him in a bad way but the-the thing I've seen -- in actual fact, they were condemning the government in the first place, not him.  They were condemning me as the prime minister to do something about it -- rather than him.  I know some of these, they want to use these things to just criticize the government in the same way when they accuse the coalition of dropping help to Da'ash or accuse the coalition of killing Iraqis falsely.  In actual fact, what they're trying to do -- trying to criticize the government for its policies. They don't want the government to seek the help of the coalition -- international coalition or to work with the US.  But to -- I think me, as prime minister, the safety of the Iraqi people, the interests of the Iraqi people is number one [. . .]

    He continued to babble on and avoid the question.

    Ned Parker appeared on today's Morning Edition (NPR -- link is audio, text and transcript) and here he's discussing, with host Steve Inskeep,  the Reuters report and what followed.

    NED PARKER: Well, our team on the day that Tikrit was liberated, they called me during the day and said we've witnessed an execution by federal police of a detainee in the street, and it was a mob mentality. And they could only stay a few minutes because it was such a crazed scene. I think our people feared for their own safety.
    So when they came home that evening, we had a huge debate about, do we report this? Is this too sensationalist? It's one incident. But when we looked at the whole picture, we also saw a body being dragged by a group of Shiite paramilitaries. We had photos of this, which we published, and there had been looting and arson of areas that surround Tikrit. So we felt that we had to report what happened there, that if we didn't, we wouldn't be meeting our obligation to report fairly and impartially about the critical issue right now, what happens when security forces enter an area that has been under Islamic State control, that is Sunni and then has predominantly Shia security and paramilitary forces enter?

    INSKEEP: This is the most basic job of a war correspondent; go look at a war and report exactly what you see.

    PARKER: Right. And this was a test case for the government. The Iraqi government and the U.S. government have spoken about the importance of post-conflict stabilization operations in Iraq.

    INSKEEP: What happened after you published this story?

    PARKER: It was picked up everywhere. I think it was seen because of what our correspondents witnessed - this execution, which was horrific - where they watched two federal policemen basically trying to saw off the head of a suspected Islamic State fighter to cheers from federal police. Our story became really the example of what went wrong in Tikrit, and it was published on April 3. The night of April 5, on Facebook on a site associated with Shiite paramilitary groups and political forces, a picture of myself went up calling for Iraqis to expel me. It quickly received over 100 shares and comments, including better to kill him than expel him.

    INSKEEP: Did it blow over?

    PARKER: No, it only got worse. I did go out and try to have meetings with some people, different prominent Iraqis, about it. And then on Wednesday night on the channel of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, which is a prominent Shiite political party and paramilitary group, my face is the backdrop as the anchor talks, and he actually waves also a printout of my face and talks about how I should be expelled from the country and then proceeds to read a letter from an Iraqi living in the United States who also again calls for me to expel and describes Reuters as trampling upon the dignity of Iraq and Shiite paramilitary groups. And after that, there's no way I could've stayed in the country both for myself and for my staff. My presence was polarizing the situation, so I left the next day.

    [. . .]

    PARKER: Prime Minister Abadi last Thursday, the day after the broadcast against Reuters and myself, he gave a speech in public where he spoke in very broad strokes against a journalist who had been in Tikrit and had reported on the execution and the lootings and arson and implied perhaps some of the journalists who had been there had even been there deliberately to smear the government and the Shiite paramilitary forces on...

    INSKEEP: This is the same prime minister who was installed with the support of the United States recently and who's visiting Washington?

    PARKER: Right, and on the eve of his visit, a statement was issued by the prime minister's office in English talking about the need to protect and respect journalism in Iraq, including Reuters, and the statement referred to the incident involving myself and Reuters. But that statement was only put out in English and until now, it has not come out in Arabic.

    INSKEEP: So he's sympathetic to you in English and something else in Arabic entirely.

    PARKER: We're still waiting for the statement to come out in Arabic. It hasn't yet.

    Ned got the date wrong on Haider's remarks -- more than understandable, he had a large number of other issues on his mind.

    He believes the speech was made April 9th.

    No, it was made on the 8th.

    From Sunday:

    Thursday's snapshot noted Haider al-Abadi's attack on the press -- in a speech the press covered, one he gave in Falluja, but somehow all the outlets covering the speech failed to cover Haider's attack on the press.
    His office published the attack April 8th -- in Arabic.  It never made it up to the English side of the site.  It's still not up there now.
    Realizing thugs lie, we've posted the press release here.

    We noted part of the speech on April 8th.  We waited on the attack on the press until the next day because I wanted to have that -- the English version -- because too many people e-mail insisting, "This doesn't say that."  When I link to Arabic articles, people who can't read Arabic flood the public e-mail account with claims that the linked to article doesn't say this or that.

    So I thought we'd wait a day (this is all noted here on Thursday) to see if the press release was translated to English and posted on the prime minister's site -- as almost every other one is.

    They've not published it.

    Even now.

    They don't want English readers to know just how disgusting and vile Haider is.

    Haider fanned the flames.

    What's going on is a deception and outright lie.

    Haider's office publishes some weak ass statement on Ned Parker April 11th -- but in English only.  So Haider can look -- to the English speaking world -- like a defender.

    Haider's office publishes an attack on the press on April 8th -- but only in Arabic -- to fan flames in Iraq and to ensure that the English speaking world remains unaware of his attack.

    His remarks insisting his wife was more important than speaking to Ned Parker?

    He's allowed to play the  fool in part because the White House has refused to speak on the topic as has the State Dept.  Neither will defend freedom of the press on camera, in public.

    They're craven and shameful.

    So Haider thinks he can make jokes.

    But this isn't funny and it's actually becoming an international incident.

    The silence from the White House and the State Dept should be remembered when various members of the media who went to work for the administration try to go back to the media and act like they have ethical ground to stand on.  They have none.

    And let's deal with the nonsense of "I dropped all lawsuits against the press" -- there shouldn't have been any.  These were lawsuits Nouri brought.

    And that was months and months ago.

    In the words of Janet Jackson, "What have you done for me lately?"

    Not a thing to help.

    He has announced -- this month -- that there will be a huge reduction in the number of Iraqi outlets because he's pulling funding from many of them.

    That's the sort of thing the western press has refused to report on.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 313 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    Lastly,  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following today:

    YC Vets Unite at City Hall to Demand Action from Mayor de Blasio
    81% of NYC post-9/11 vets surveyed say the mayor is failing veterans

    NEW YORK (April 16, 2015) – At 3:00 P.M. today, members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will stand with fellow veterans and the city’s top veteran leaders from across multiple organizations and generations to urge Mayor de Blasio to show real support for New York City veterans. With 22 veterans dying from suicide every day nationally and the VA still reeling after an epic crisis, the city’s veteran leaders will call on the mayor to stand up and show his dedication to our returning heroes.

    At a unity event on the steps of City Hall, the veterans groups will note that during the mayor’s 15 months in office, the administration has shown no real results, failed to meet with them a single time, failed to increase the budget for veterans, and failed to even put forward a clear plan to meet the needs of the city’s 230,000 veterans.

    Combat veteran leaders scheduled to attend are made up of current and former members of the mayor’s own Veterans Advisory Board and include Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA CEO and Founder, Kristen Rouse, leader of the NYC Veterans Alliance, Lee Covino, the Borough Hall veterans and military affairs adviser, Terry Holliday, NYC Veterans Commissioner for the first year of the de Blasio Administration, Joe Bello, NY Metro Vets, Tireak Tulluck, IAVA Leadership Fellow, and members from Wounded Warrior Project, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Legion and others.

    “The veterans of New York are strong civic and community leaders. They served at Normandy, in Vietnam, at Ground Zero and in Baghdad. They are true heroes and our city’s very best. Many of them are joining us on the steps of City Hall today. Yet, these voices have been entirely ignored by our mayor,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “We’ve been patient. But enough is enough. It’s been 15 months since the mayor took office and our veterans have seen absolutely nothing to show that he cares about our community and our families. He addressed horse-carriages on ‘day one,’ but veterans have yet to get so much as a single meeting. He seems to have time for everyone in the city except us. The mayor must respond today and show us that he cares with an actionable plan and real resources. Talk is cheap and we need results. It’s time for the greatest city in the world to get serious about supporting the greatest warriors in the world. IAVA presented clear recommendations to the mayor’s representatives more than six months ago on urgent issues ranging from suicide to unemployment. And we are still awaiting a response or even a meeting. One of those recommendations is to create a new Department of Veterans Affairs in the city, which would be a huge step forward in ensuring that our veterans are properly supported. In a city budget of over $60 billion, only a pathetic $600,000 is dedicated to veterans. But the mayor has failed to address this urgent call for resources. Instead, he’s opposed increases to our pensions and ignored requests to meet from his own Veterans Advisory Board. As a community, we want to work together with the mayor and city council to make New York the best city in the country for veterans. But we’ve waited long enough. The time is now. With Memorial Day just over a month away, the mayor must meet with us and deliver real help.”

    IAVA, which represents more than 10,000 members from the New York City-area, provided the administration recommendations in October 2014. Those recommendations can be found here. IAVA has also testified three times before the city council. The October 2014 testimony by IAVA’s Jason Hansman can be found here.

    The veterans leaders also urged the city council and Speaker Mark-Viverito to immediately pass critical legislation introduced by Councilman Eric Ulrich, Chair of the Committee on Veterans, and created in consultation with IAVA, which would create a Department of Veterans Affairs for New York City. This legislation has so far been opposed by the de Blasio Administration.

    From taking nearly nine months to appoint a Veterans Affairs commissioner to advocating for a veto of a veteran pension bill at the state level, the mayor has shown a consistent lack of commitment on veterans issues. In the case of the pension bill, the mayor directly advocated against veterans interests. He also fought against the expansion of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs (MOVA), despite city council efforts to expand its budget and create a new department. With an absurdly small budget and no real power, MOVA is ridiculously ill equipped to handle the current and rapidly growing needs of the veterans community.

    IAVA also released the results of its recent poll of NYC members on the mayor’s handling of veterans issues:

    - Only four percent of veterans surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that the mayor was improving the lives of veterans and servicemembers.
    - Only five percent agreed or strongly agreed that the mayor is listening to veterans and servicemembers.

    Leading veterans and veterans organizations stood with IAVA in calling for action from the major. A sample of their statements is below:

    “The service of our NYC veterans embraces major conflicts in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places that don’t flash on the everyday radar of most Americans. While the satisfaction of service to the United States is reward alone, many veterans need assistance with housing, education, medical benefits and availability of treatment beyond those provided by the Veterans’ Administration. There must be a clear and consistent veterans policy developed in dialogue and partnership with veteran organizations that have been in the service mode for decades. As a concerned veteran, I don’t see that effort coming from city hall,” said Terrance Holliday, former Commissioner of Veterans Affairs for NYC.

    “The city council has stepped up to hold hearings and take initial steps toward making city government more responsive toward veterans. Mayor de Blasio needs to follow suit by showing that he cares enough to understand the needs of those of us who have served our country, especially those who are still struggling to find their way home and contribute as citizens of this great city. His record thus far shows only tone-deaf disregard. There is much to be done at the city government level to serve veterans. For all the federal and state programs for veterans, the rubber meets the road here at the city level where veterans live, work, and interact on a daily basis with city agencies and services. Veterans issues shouldn’t be partisan or unfavorable to any mayoral administration, and we realize that the administration of a city as large, complex, and amazing as NYC is a formidable task. Yet the delays, inaction, under-resourcing, and blatant exclusion of veterans under Mayor de Blasio’s administration has been exceedingly disappointing. We simply must show up and speak out on this to show NYC government that veterans matter,” said Kristen Rouse, Director, NYC Veterans Alliance.

    “If national security remains a top priority, then so must our troops whom willingly serve beneath the flag. And if our elected officials are willing to send young men and women into harm’s ways, then they must be able to take care of them when they come home,” said Ryan Graham, Queens VFW Commander.

    “The NYC Officers Club stands united with our fellow veterans organizations in NYC in encouraging the mayor and the rest of the city to continue to make veterans issues and initiatives a major priority and support those who have served and those who continue to serve,” said Joel Knippel, President, NYC Military Officers Club.

    “During his 2013 campaign, Mayor de Blasio stated: ‘Veterans issues are personal to me – and they will be an important part of my administration.’ However, 16 months in, his message towards veterans and family members has been long on thanks but short on substance. Besides not engaging with or reaching out to the community, veterans have witnessed a number of policies and decisions from his administration that are both perplexing and frustrating. Mayor de Blasio has often talked about his father serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, losing a leg in Okinawa and the struggles he faced when he returned home. This gives the Mayor a unique insight into the difficulties veterans face on an everyday basis. So it’s extremely disappointing that with the United States still at war, with veterans still returning home, as well as those already here, and with many coming to New York City for economic opportunities, that in the ‘tale of two cities’ Mayor de Blasio appears to be leaving us behind. We believe he must and can do better,” said Joe Bello Founder, NY MetroVets.

    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 leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA has repeatedly received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.


    Thursday, April 16, 2015

    The Flash (Felicity visits)

    "I really don't want to put anyone else in danger," Barry Allen told Felicity on this week's episode of "The Flash" (The CW, Tuesdays).

    Felicity and Ray visited Barry.  Ray wanted some help with his Atom suit.

    Barry was upset because he's worried about the Reverse Flash and not that guy has Ray's secret.

    It was the best episode in forever of this series.

    And that's because of Felicity.

    Emily Bett Rickards classes up any episode she appears in -- that's true on "Arrow" and true on "The Flash."  And Brandon Routh has real chemistry with Rickards.

    Which is why I'm shocked by the rumors going around that they're going to kill Felicity.

    At any rate, if every episode of "The Flash" was like this week's -- even a good evil doer -- a woman who controlled bees -- it would be the best show on TV.

    "It's kind of like I'm dating Barry in Oliver's body," was the best line.  And the best moment was after Felicity said that and realized what she'd just said.

    Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015.   Chaos and violence, 3 villages fall to the Islamic State as a US official insists momentum is on the US government and coalition's side, Valerie Plame wants to run with the Kool Kids and tosses aside her brain to do so, Buzzfeed doesn't grasp why Haider al-Abadi is insisting there are no "militias," and much more.

    Yesterday, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met first with US Vice President Joe Biden and then with US President Barack Obama.  Today, he continued meeting with US officials.

    Senator John McCain is the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  His office issued the following statement today:

    Apr 15 2015

    Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement on his meeting today with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi:
    “Today, I had a productive meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. I am grateful for his steady leadership at a perilous time for his country. We discussed a range of issues related to our common fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), including the role and conduct of Iranian-backed militias inside Iraq, political inclusion of Iraq's Sunni population, and the progress and development of Iraqi Security Forces into an integrated multi-sectarian organization. As I discussed with Prime Minister Abadi, in order to defeat ISIL, I believe the United States should provide further military assistance to Iraq and deploy additional U.S. personnel, including forward air controllers to strengthen our air campaign.”

    McCain's answer is usually, "Send in the troops."  That's never worked with Iraq so far.

    I don't care for McCain and he's being kind of stupid.  I like Valerie Plame but sometimes she's kind of stupid as well.

  • Yeah, Wolfowitz did promise that.

    What's your point?

    That he was wrong?

    Well he's a liar.

    What does that have to do with more millions of US taxpayer dollars being gifted to Iraq right now, the millions Barack announced yesterday?

    Iraq is not Ethiopia.

    Nor is Iraq   one of the world's neediest countries.

    Oh, did oil prices drop?

    So what does that mean for Iraq?  Only 20 billion brought in over the next months instead of $40 billion.  With a population of approximately 30 million people Iraq really doesn't need to be begging.

    Or wouldn't need to be begging were it not for all the government corruption.

    And that's where Valerie's a disappointment.

    Unlike Valerie, I turned down the CIA.

    She went to work for them.  And this is best she can offer?

    An obvious faux fact check of a statement over a decade ago?

    Like I said, I like Valerie but she can be real stupid sometime.

    In future Tweets, she might try using her considerable brain and actually offering something of value.

    Earlier this month, Susanne Koelbl interviewed Haider for Der Spiegel.  The corruption was noted:

    SPIEGEL: Iraq is at war, but it is not the only crisis affecting the country. Many residents of Baghdad use the word "thieves" when they talk about your politicians. How corrupt is your government?

    Al-Abadi: We have problems and the way I am dealing with them is to start by admitting them. Corruption is a huge issue. It has to do with the society, which has changed -- both during the times of Saddam Hussein's regime and after. Also, the sanctions had an adverse effect on society in nurturing this culture of corruption. During the 1960s or 1970s, bribery was very rare in Iraq. The number of government employees was very small and usually they were the elite. But then they incorporated millions of people into the government -- not to better run the state, but to control the people. We are in the process of implementing a number of processes and procedures that aim to curb the extent of corruption.

    SPIEGEL: One of your first actions after you took office was to close the office of your predecessor's son, who is said to have provided huge government contracts to people who were ready to pay the most for them. Young college graduates claim they had to pay officials $10,000 to $20,000 in order to obtain government jobs. Why should Iraqis have any faith in this government?

    Al-Abadi: We need to flip the system. Four years ago, the government tried to stop the corruption at the Passport Office, where people pay $400 to $500 just to get their passport issued. Every day they were arresting so many people and it did not have much of an effect. But if you ease the procedure, for instance making the document available online, it puts an end to it altogether. I don't want to fill our prisons with people who ask for petty cash while we are facing this major terrorist threat to the country. I want to keep these prisons for the actual criminals who are killing people or for people who are stealing vast amounts of money from the people. I want to change how we run the government in Iraq.

    For those who don't follow Iraq closely, the predecessor is Nouri al-Maliki.  His son is Ahmed al-Maliki who was likened to Uday Hussein.  Ahmed was most recently in the news last December when he was reportedly detained in Lebanon -- a country he was visiting after he'd had billions of dollars transferred from Iraq's banks to a Lebanese bank and, when detained, was carrying the US equivalent of $1.5 billion dollars.

    Newsweek (re)posts a problematic column penned by Hardin Lang and Peter Juul.  (Problematic?  Even a cursory read of McClatchy Newspapers reporting from Iraq over the last four weeks would have prevented many of the factual errors in the column.)  We'll avoid their shaky factual ground and instead zoom in on their conclusion:

    One option might be a more formal recognition of the de facto decentralization resulting from the conflict with ISIS. Such an outcome will be hard to engineer in the post-Saddam Iraqi political system. But it is incumbent on Iraq’s allies to help find a solution that gives Sunni Arabs a home in Iraq’s body politic and a solution that gives the state its best chance of hanging together. Abadi’s visit allows the Obama administration to raise these concerns at the highest level.
    Last summer, the Obama administration used the promise of military assistance to remove then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from power. Today, the United States and its coalition partners can use the same leverage to help Abadi rebuild the authority of the Iraqi government and fend off challenges from Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

    The only successful path to an enduring victory over ISIS requires the Iraqi government to survive the forces tearing at it from all sides. Abadi’s visit represents an opportunity for the United States to give his government the leverage it needs to withstand the storm.

    That would be one way of describing a political solution.  In June of last year, Barack said that was the only thing that could solve Iraq's crises.  Yet it's the only thing the White House avoids working on.

    The State Dept issued the following today:

    Today Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to the State Department to brief senior diplomatic representatives from among the 62 members of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. This plenary session was an opportunity for Coalition partners to reaffirm our support for Iraqi-led efforts to reclaim territory from ISIL, and our support for the Iraqi people as they are rescued from ISIL control and forge a more inclusive and durable political order.
    Deputy Secretary Blinken thanked Coalition partners for their extensive contributions toward the Coalition’s goal of degrading and defeating ISIL, echoing President Obama’s assertion that while the fight against ISIL is far from over, the momentum is heading in the right direction. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL General John Allen briefed on progress across multiple Coalition lines of effort, and provided a readout of last week’s Coalition Small Group meeting in Jordan. Building on those conversations, Coalition partners discussed how to further strengthen, accelerate, and integrate contributions to Coalition efforts.
    This was the third Washington plenary session of Coalition ambassadors.

    Oh, goody.  Another meet-up for war, war, war.

    But no meet-up for diplomacy.

    "The momentum is heading in the right direction"?

    Really because Judy Woodruff declared on this evening's NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, video and audio), "Fighters with the Islamic State group gained new ground today in Western Iraq."

    He made those comments after today's big news was already in the news cycle.

    This morning, Arwa Damon (CNN -- link is video and text) reported on the situation in Anbar Province's Ramadi noting that deputy provincial council head Falih Essawi is issuing "a dire, dire warning" as the Islamic State advances.

    Arwa Damon:  ISIS forces, it seems, early this morning managing to enter the outskirts of the city of Ramadi from the east.  This now means that ISIS is fighting on the east.  ISIS advanced from the north -- taking over three towns from the outskirts there over the weekend.  The routes to the south already blocked off.  The city basically under siege except for the western portion that is still controlled by forces, by government forces, but that is wavering as well.

    Sky News notes the three areas taken, "The militant group took the villages of Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya, in Anbar province, which had been under government control, residents said." Nancy A. Youssef (Daily Beast) observed:

    Pentagon officials stopped short of saying the city was on the brink of falling. But they didn’t sound confident it would hold, either.
    “The situation in Ramadi remains fluid and, as with earlier assessments, the security situation in the city is contested. The ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] continue to conduct clearing operations against ISIL-held areas in the city and in the surrounding areas of Al Anbar province,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Army Maj. Curt Kellogg, a said in a statement, using the government’s preferred acronym for ISIS. The Coalition continues to coordinate with ISF forces and provide operational support as requested.”

    AFP's Jean Marc Mojon and Karim Abou Merhil sound out various Middle East experts about the prospects for victory in Anbar.  We'll note this section:

    “Anbar, and especially Fallujah, is like Asterix’s village,” said Victoria Fontan, a professor at American University Duhok Kurdistan, referring to an unconquerable town in the French comic book series.
    The province is packed with experienced fighters and while some Sunni tribes have allied with the government, others are fighting alongside ISIS or sitting on the fence.
    Local knowledge is seen as key to retaking territory along the fertile strip lining the Euphrates, where ISIS has inflicted severe military setbacks to the police and army since June.

    Iraqi Spring MC notes this takes place as calls for reinforcements of government troops to be sent to . . . Baiji.

    That's in northern Iraq, Salahuddin Province.  These reinforcements are being sent in to protect . . .  Well, not people.  There are people in Ramadi who need protection.  But the government forces going to Baiji are going to protect an oil refinery.

    Saif Hameed, Isabel Coles and Giles Elgood (Reuters) explain:

    The new Anbar campaign was intended to build on a victory in the city of Tikrit, which Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite paramilitaries retook this month.
    But the Sunni jihadists have struck back in Anbar as well as Baiji, where they blasted through the security perimeter around Iraq's largest refinery several days ago.

    Meanwhile, Iraqi Spring MC reports, just to the east of Ramadi, 3 Sahwa have been killed by the Islamic State today.  Also today in Anbar Province, Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports, "In Soufiya, the militants bombed a police station and took over a power plant. The residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for their own safety, said airstrikes were trying to back up Iraqi troops. Iraqi security officials could not immediately be reached for comment."

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 290 violent deaths throughout Iraq today.

    From the factual to the whatever, Hayes Brown (Buzzfeed) is probably a typical American journalist -- over inflated ego and underfed brain.  He makes that clear with the following:

    There are currently dozens of groups fighting against ISIS in Iraq, some of which are committing human rights abuses, but please don’t call them “militias,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Wednesday.
    “Militias, according to the [Iraqi] Constitution, according to us, are the enemy of the state,” he said in a small roundtable with reporters. “Militias are an organization who are outside the state who carry arms, not under the control of the state,” he said. “They are not allowed.”
    (A quick Google search shows that a common definition of a militia is “a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.”)

    Hayes is such a dupe and such a stupe.

    Let's drop back to the March 24th snapshot:

    The assault is a failure.  And with MP Shakhawan Abdullah telling Rudaw reports, "At least 30,000 soldiers and military experts from the Islamic Republic of Iran are fighting ISIS militants in Iraq"?
    It really doesn't make Iran look very powerful or able to carry out a ground war.
    And what does it say about thug Hadi al-Ameri?
    He commands the Badr militia.
    But the Shi'ites also an MP and Minister of Transportation.
    Which is confusing because to run for office, political entities in Iraq were supposed to give up their militias.
    But the Badr brigade is run by al-Ameri who somehow (illegally) serves in the Iraqi government.

    Hayes has missed a great deal. To run for office, politicians were told that their political parties had to give up the militias.  (Badr is the militia for the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq led by Ammar al-Hakim.)

    Not to do so would mean they couldn't hold office.

    Haider al-Abadi grasps that -- he's a member of Dawa (not the leader, somehow Nouri remains leader of the party).  He's run in these elections.

    He knows that, as prime minister, if he calls these militias, a lot of people are going to be out of office.  So he rushes to insist that these militias are something other than militias.

    Like Hillary Clinton is something other than Hillary:

  • Betty teamed up with Cedric and Wally for a joint-post today about an idiotic column at CNN that insisted Hillary Clinton should not be called Hillary -- not even by Hillary's campaign or by Hillary herself.

    The idiot guest posting at CNN feels its sexism.  (Is it sexism when we refer to Bill Clinton here as "Bill" or Barack Obama as "Barack"?)

    The columnist has her panties in a wad over this "Hillary" usage.  It would not, she insists, happen to a man.


    Did she think General Dwight Eisenhower's last name was "Ike"?

    Ike was the nickname used in the drafting him to run for president campaign as well as in his successful presidential campaign.  "I like Ike."

    Didn't harm him any.

    I'm far more bothered by pieces that refer to Hillary as "Mrs. Clinton."

    Hillary has name recognition that puts her ahead of every other candidate or potential candidate so far.

    "Hillary" is her brand.

    CNN shouldn't run such idiotic columns.

    Lastly, yesterday the US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following statement:

    Anfal Campaign

    April 14, 2015
    U.S. Embassy Baghdad
    Office of the Spokesperson
    For Immediate Release                  

    Today marks the anniversary of the Anfal -- Saddam Hussein’s brutal campaign against the Kurdish people in Iraq in which thousands of innocent Iraqis were slaughtered, and thousands more were wounded, maimed, or expelled from their homes.  We honor those who were killed or injured as a result of the Anfal, and pledge to stand with all Iraqis and the Kurdish people as they strive to build a brighter future for themselves and their descendants.

    arwa damon
    nancy a. youssef

    Tuesday, April 14, 2015

    They have to rip every penny from my mouth

    On the 15th, make sure you've done your taxes if you haven't already.

    I can remember a few years ago some lefties were bragging about how they loved to pay taxes.

    And I thought, "How damn crazy are these fools?"

    I think I'm pretty left -- I'm to the left of 'progressive' and way to the left of 'liberal' -- but I have never been happy to pay my taxes.

    It's like pulling teeth.

    Now I don't support war so I could hide behind, "I don't like paying taxes because I don't like war."

    But I just don't like paying taxes.

    I think corporations get away without paying their share so it is pushed off on us.

    If you love paying taxes, congratulations.

    Your life must be wonderful.

    Either in reality or in the fantasy you're living in.

    Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

    Tuesday, April 14, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi comes begging to DC, a media whore thinks Judith Miller's current embarrassments means he can slink back in, and much more.

    On a day of fakery, it's only fitting that one of the all time biggest US fakes attempted to return to prominence.

    Who are we talking about?

    In April of 2000, Norman Solomon noted this gas bag in a "Media Jeopardy" column:

    Although he represented "the left" for six years on CNN's "Crossfire" program, this pundit identifies himself as "a wishy-washy moderate."

    Who is Michael Kinsley? 

    Yes, we're talking about Michael Kinsley -- Michael "I'm not really a liberal but I played one on TV."

    And he did.  On CNN's Crossfire.

    He faked his way through a lot of things.  At the end of 1999, Norman Solomon awarded Kinsley an 'honor:'

    Take It on Faith Award: Michael Kinsley. In a Time magazine essay, Kinsley -- who works for two of the planet's most powerful communications firms, Microsoft and Time Warner -- sought to persuade readers that the World Trade Organization is a fine institution, despite protests. Kinsley's Dec. 13 piece ended with these words: "But really, the WTO is OK. Do the math. Or take it on faith."

    Norman Solomon, in his book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, it was pretty much a requirement that a useless gas bag like Michael be included:

    "The president's ability to decide when and where to use America's military power is now absolute," Michael Kinsey observed as the invasion of Iraq ended in (temporary) triumph.  "Congress cannot stop him.  That's not what the Constitution says, and it's not what the War Powers Act says, but that's how it works in practice."

    Staying with the Iraq War, the Times of London broke the news on The Downing Street Memo.

    And in the US, the response from most news outlets was silence.

    Or in MK's case, ridicule.

    Bob Somerby (Daily Howler) observed in June 2005:

    Maybe now you’ll start to believe the things we’ve said about Michael Kinsley and, by extension, about the fops who are runing our mainstream press corps. In Sunday’s Post (and Los Angeles Times), Kinsley writes an astonishing column about the Downing Street memo. Do a gang of millionaire fops drive our discourse? In case you didn’t know that already, Kinsley sets out to prove it—in spades.
    As noted, Kinsley discusses the famous Downing Street memo; in it, a top adviser to Tony Blair seems to say that President Bush had decided on war with Iraq as early as July 2002 (and was “fixing” the facts and the intel accordingly). The memo appeared on May 1 in the Times of London; concerned citizens have been dissecting it from that day to this, even as the Washington press corps struggled to avoid all discussion. (Panel discussions about Kerry’s grades at Yale were far more germane.) But good news! The great Kinsley has finally read the whole memo! Drink in the sheer condescension as he explains why he did:
    KINSLEY (6/12/05; pgh 1): After about the 200th e-mail from a stranger demanding that I cease my personal coverup of something called the Downing Street Memo, I decided to read it. It's all over the blogosphere and Air America, the left-wing talk radio network: This is the smoking gun of the Iraq war. It is proof positive that President Bush was determined to invade Iraq the year before he did so. The whole "weapons of mass destruction" concern was phony from the start, and the drama about inspections was just kabuki: going through the motions.
    At the Times, Daniel Okrent always seemed to think it was beneath his dignity to receive e-mails from the herd, and Kinsley betrays the same condescension, grumping about the effort required to get him to do his job. Only after receiving demands from hundreds of “strangers” did he do what any citizen would; only then did he bother to read “something called the Downing Street Memo,” the locution he uses to show his disdain for the people who asked him to function. And if you don’t find yourself struck by Kinsley’s bald condescension, we hope you’ll find yourself insulted when you read his account of the memo’s contents. “I don’t buy the fuss,” Kinsley writes. Then he starts to explain why that is:
    KINSLEY (2): Although it is flattering to be thought personally responsible for allowing a proven war criminal to remain in office, in the end I don't buy the fuss. Nevertheless, I am enjoying it, as an encouraging sign of the revival of the left. Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes a certain amount of ideological self-confidence. It takes a critical mass of citizens with extreme views and the time and energy to obsess about them. It takes a promotional infrastructure and the widely shared self-discipline to settle on a story line, disseminate it and stick to it.
    There you start to have it, readers! If you think the Downing Street memo may show or suggest that Bush was determined to invade Iraq early on, you have “a paranoid theory” and “extreme views”—and “the time and energy to obsess about them.” (This distinguishes you from Kinsley, who didn’t have the time or energy to read the memo until forced.) Indeed, throughout his piece, Kinsley keeps saying that you’re an “extremist” with “extreme views” if you’re bothered by this memo’s contents. Maybe now you’ll believe what we’ve told you about this bizarre, fallen man.

    In her book Watchdogs of Democracy: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public, the late Helen Thomas made room for Kinsley:

    Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Michael Kinsley decided that the classified minutes of the Blair meeting were not a "smoking gun."  He felt it was nor proof that Bush was determined to invade Iraq a year before he gave the green light.  "I don't buy the fuss," Kinsley said. 

    FAIR issued an action alert on the topic and noted:

    Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Michael Kinsley opted for sarcasm over serious discussion, deriding activists in a June 12 column for sending him emails “demanding that I cease my personal cover-up of something called the Downing Street Memo.” Kinsley kidded that the fuss was a good sign for the Left: “Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes ideological self-confidence.”
    What does Kinsley mean by paranoid? Criticizing the Times for not giving the story much attention would be accurate: Prior to the Bush-Blair press conference, a Nexis search shows one story about the Downing Street minutes appeared in the paper nearly two weeks after the story broke (5/12/05), and that columnist Robert Scheer mentioned it a few days later (5/17/05).
    In fact, Kinsley’s mocking seemed to serve no purpose, since his fallback position is a familiar media defense: We all knew the Bush administration wanted war, so this simply isn’t news. As Kinsley put it, “Of course, you don’t need a secret memo to know this.” As for “intelligence and facts…being fixed around the policy,” Kinsley eventually acknowledged that “we know now that this was true.”

    So, to follow Kinsley’s logic: People who demand more Downing Street coverage have developed a “paranoid theory” that accurately portrays White House decision-making on Iraq. His only quarrel with what he calls a “vast conspiracy” pushing the mainstream media to take the memo more seriously is that the activists think such information is important, and should be brought to the attention of the public, whereas Kinsley–and apparently many others in the mainstream media–doesn’t “buy the fuss.”

    We need to note the realities of the hideous Michael Kinsley but we don't have time to include everyone.  He was widely called out.  One person we'll note is David Swanson who probably did more to raise awareness of the Downing Street Memo than anyone else in America.

    As part of the continued failure of Vanity Fair, they've added Kinsley to their staff.

    Worse, they let him weigh in on Iraq today,

    In many ways, "How the Bush Wars Opened the Door for ISIS" is the sort of crap that any idiot who ignored Iraq for the last 12 years could have churned out in their sleep.

    Any idiot.

    But Michael Kinsley is a special kind of idiot.

    Which is how he manages to write:

    And yes, the number of Americans in Iraq is relatively trivial, but President Obama has already agreed under pressure to increase troop levels, just long enough, you understand, to help wipe out the latest—and, seemingly, the worst—malefactor, the terrorist group known as ISIS.

    Is it trivial to you?

    Was it hard to tear away from your porn and type that sentence?

    In the November 10, 2014 Iraq snapshot, we dealt with Richard Brunt's lies about US troops being out of Iraq:

    Well just because you're letting the precum pool in your pants doesn't mean you need to share your erotic fantasies with the rest of us.

    Brunt's so busy jizzing while moaning Barack, he actually writes, "Obama brought soldiers home from Iraq."


    For example, he brought these two home last month -- in body bags.

    That's Lance Cpl. Sean P. Neal (photo from Facebook).   We noted his death in October 25th snapshot.

    That's Cpl Jordan Spears (photo from Marine Corps).  Last month, he was reclassified as the first death in 'Operation Inherent Resolve.'

    [. . .]

    But this week, DoD issued the following:


    Release No: NR-599-14
    December 02, 2014

    DoD Identifies Air Force Casualty

      The Department of Defense announced today the death of an Airman who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.
    Capt. William H. DuBois, 30, of New Castle, Colorado, died Dec. 1 when his F-16 aircraft crashed near a coalition air base in the Middle East. He was assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

    For more information media may contact the 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office at 803-895-2019.  

    Those three deaths?

    They aren't trivial to the service members' family and friends.

    They shouldn't be trivial to the country but Micheal Kinsley's a very busy stooge and he clearly has other concerns.

    A non-trivial press would have noted these three American deaths in Barack's war on the Islamic State.

    And would have noted them today as Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with US Vice President Joe Biden . . .

    Prime Minister Al-Abadi met with Vice President Biden this morning to discuss strengthening of bilateral relations
    36 retweets45 favorites

    and with US President Barack Obama.

    Prime Minister Al-Abadi meets President Obama to discuss efforts to enhance Iraq's capabilities to defeat Daesh
    53 retweets48 favorites

    The whole world knew what Haider wanted out of the meet-up.  From yesterday's snapshot:

    Saturday, Arshad Mohammed and Phil Stewart (Reuters) broke the news that on his visit to DC, Haider al-Abadi intends to ask for more weapons and needs them on credit.  Dar Addustour adds that Haider intends to ask the US government for money to rebuild areas 'liberated' from the Islamic State.  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports Haider's wish list includes the White House accelerating the delivery of the Apache helicopters and the F-16 warplanes. AFP notes Haider also intends to ask for more US air strikes.

    And what did Barack want?

    He apparently never defined his wants.  Maybe that's why he so frequently comes out the loser in any negotiation?

    AP reports Haider's getting $200 million in reconstruction funds.

    If there were any strings on that donation/grant, the press hasn't reported on it.

    The only glimmer of hope came at the end of the brief remarks Barack and Haider made to the press:

    Q    But would you give them additional weapons, Mr. President, like Apache helicopters and drones and F-16 that the Prime Minister has been asking?  At least it’s been reported as asking.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think this is why we are having this meeting to make sure that we are continually improving our coordination to make sure that Iraqi security forces are in a position to succeed in our common mission.

    So at least Barack didn't hop directly into the backseat with Haider.

    There may be hope yet.

    Jason Ditz ( observes, "The US has struggled to justify its repeated influxes of military aid to Iraq, both because of the Iraqi military’s tendency to lose billions of dollars worth of advanced US weapons to ISIS control, and because of Iraq’s increasingly checkered human rights record."

    During their brief press conference, Barack spoke far more than Haider.  We'll note this section:

    PRESIDENT OBAMA:  This is something that we discussed extensively.  I think that, as I’ve said before and I will repeat, we expect Iran to have an important relationship with Iraq as a close neighbor.  And obviously the fact that Iraq is a Shia-majority country means that it will be influenced and have relations with Iran as well.  And at the point in which Daesh or ISIL was surging and the Iraqi government was still getting organized at that point, I think the mobilization of Shia militias was something that was understood to protect Baghdad or other critical areas. 
    Once Prime Minister Abadi took power, once he reorganized the government and the security forces, once the coalition came in at the invitation of and in an agreement with a sovereign Iraqi government, then our expectation is from that point on, any foreign assistance that is helping to defeat ISIL has to go through the Iraqi government.  That’s how you respect Iraqi sovereignty. That’s how you recognize the democratic government that was hard-earned and is being upheld in the work that Prime Minister Abadi is doing in reaching out to all the various factions inside of Iraq.

    And so I think Prime Minister Abadi’s position has been that he welcomes help, as you just heard, but it needs to be help that is not simply coordinated with the Iraqi government but ultimately is answerable to the Iraqi government and is funneled through the chain of command within the Iraqi government. 

    This did not sit well with everyone.

    Al Mada reports Ammar al-Hakim reacted to those comments by declaring they would gladly take money from DC but they didn't need any advice on the militias.

    Ammar is the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq -- one of the larger Shi'ite groupings.  ISCI has always had close ties to Iran.  Not only did Ammar and his father Abdul Aziz al-Hakim seek asylum in Iran while Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq but Abdul elected to spend the last year and a half of his life (while dying of lung cancer) in Iran where he died on August 26, 2009.

    Ammar's gotten increasingly hostile towards the US government in the last six months or so leading to speculation that he feels wrongly looked over for the post of prime minister. He's been the choice of many in the US intelligence community for some time but he's never managed to pull support from other areas -- Big Oil, the 'diplomatic community,' etc.

    It could also be that Ammar's simply tired of the US government and its overstayed welcome.  It could be that simple.

    But regardless of why, Ammar has clearly soured on the US government.

    Today, Barack declared, "We discussed how we can be supportive of the progress that's being made in shaping an inclusive governance agenda.  I emphasized that the United States’ prime interest is to defeat ISIL and to respect Iraqi sovereignty, and that will continue to be our policy."

    How inclusive is that government going to be without the support of Ammar al-Hakim?

    He's a key Shi'ite figures and represents a large number of Shi'ites.

    So how did the US government ever think it was okay to be estranged from Ammar?

    It appears that all these months of focusing on bombings and getting other countries to send troops to Iraq at the expense of working on actual diplomacy is finally starting to bite the administration in its collective ass.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 160 violent deaths in Iraq today.

    The White House issued the following today:

    Joint Statement by the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq

    President Obama welcomed Haider Al-Abadi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, and the accompanying delegation to Washington from April 13-16, 2015.  The President and the Prime Minister met today at the White House to reaffirm the long-term U.S.-Iraq strategic partnership based on mutual respect and common interests and their shared commitment to the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement.  The President expressed his strong support for the progress that the Prime Minister and the Iraqi government have accomplished since the two leaders last met seven months ago. 
    Working Together to Destroy ISIL
    President Obama and Prime Minister Al-Abadi reviewed progress in the campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  The two leaders honored the sacrifices of Iraqis from all communities in the fight against ISIL and expressed appreciation for the significant contributions of more than 60 partners in the global coalition to counter ISIL.  Over 1,900 U.S. and coalition strikes in Iraq have played a critical role in halting ISIL’s advance and supporting the Iraqi Security Forces in liberating significant Iraqi territory once held by ISIL.  The Prime Minister praised the performance of the Iraqi Security Forces, including the volunteer fighters in the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Peshmerga forces, and local tribal fighters.  Prime Minister Al-Abadi thanked the President and the American people for the critical support provided to Iraq, including the important work of U.S. service men and women currently stationed in Iraq and the region, and both leaders reaffirmed the core security partnership between their two countries. 
    The President and Prime Minister discussed next steps in the campaign to counter ISIL.  The Prime Minister stressed the importance of stabilizing areas liberated from ISIL control, and ensuring the full transfer of authority to local officials and local police; the maintenance of civil order; the protection of civilians; the peaceful return of displaced residents; and the restoration of government services and the economy.  The Prime Minister emphasized that the Government of Iraq has zero tolerance for human rights abuses and requested assistance from the United States and the coalition to enable immediate and long-term stabilization in areas liberated from ISIL.  The Prime Minister underscored the integral role that local populations are playing in liberating their own areas and, accordingly, stressed the importance of enrolling additional tribal fighters in the fight against ISIL as part of the Popular Mobilization Forces.  President Obama pledged to continue to support Iraqi Security Forces and tribal engagement initiatives with U.S. training and equipment.  He specifically welcomed the recent decision by the Iraqi government to supply thousands of rifles and other equipment to tribal fighters in eastern Anbar province, building on the successful model at Al Asad airbase in western Anbar, where U.S. advisors are enabling tribal operations against ISIL in coordination with Iraqi Security Forces.
    The two leaders underscored the threat that terrorism poses to Iraq, the region, and the global community.  Both leaders emphasized the importance of implementing of UNSC resolutions 2178 and 2199.  They also discussed the critical importance of addressing the sources of extremism and violence, including additional combined efforts in these areas over the coming weeks, and the President noted that the Prime Minister would continue discussions on the military campaign against ISIL in his meetings with the Secretary of Defense on April 15, in addition to the coalition plenary meeting on the same day. 
    Strengthening a Unified and Democratic Iraq
    Prime Minister Al-Abadi updated the President on political developments in Iraq, including his cabinet’s efforts to implement the ambitious national program set forth upon the formation of the government.  He noted parliament’s passage of a national budget, Iraq’s first in years with cross-sectarian support, with key provisions on oil exports and revenue sharing with the Kurdistan Regional Government.  Prime Minister Al-Abadi affirmed his priority remains the passage of legislation that was outlined in the national program.  The President welcomed the progress that has been made to date, and called on all political blocs to make the compromises necessary for full implementation of the national program.
    More broadly, the Prime Minister outlined his vision of a more decentralized model of governance, as called for under the Constitution of Iraq, a model that he asserted was an essential element of the broader strategy for progress in Iraq.  He detailed the government’s program to devolve security and service delivery to the provincial and local levels.  In this light, he noted efforts to empower local government in the stabilization of liberated areas.  He also highlighted the importance of the National Guard in providing more authority over security to the residents of Iraq’s provinces and to ensuring that Iraq’s security forces are broadly representative and close to the communities they are sworn to protect and defend.  The President expressed support for the strategy outlined by the Prime Minister and committed to provide all appropriate assistance and support, as called for in the Strategic Framework Agreement, to strengthen Iraq’s constitutional democracy.
    Enhancing Opportunities for the Iraqi People
    The President and the Prime Minister both noted that our two nations must continue to enhance broad bilateral cooperation under the Strategic Framework Agreement.  The Prime Minister outlined the range of Iraq’s challenges resulting from the global decline in the price of oil, the humanitarian crisis, and Iraq’s fight against ISIL.  Prime Minister Al-Abadi outlined his government’s strategy to shore up the Iraqi economy, including revitalization of Iraq’s energy infrastructure and reforms to mitigate corruption and reduce wasteful spending.  The two leaders agreed that international support for Iraq’s fight against ISIL could be leveraged toward enhancing Iraq’s integration with the global economy. 
    President Obama noted that economic cooperation is central to the long-term U.S.-Iraq partnership.  The President congratulated the Prime Minister on Iraq’s recent record high oil exports, the highest in more than thirty years, and they affirmed that they will work together to expand Iraqi oil production and exports in the future.  The President said he had directed Vice President Biden to convene, on April 16, a Higher Coordinating Committee meeting of the Strategic Framework Agreement to focus specifically on economic issues, including bilateral trade, energy cooperation, private sector reform, and Iraq's fiscal stability.
    President Obama and Prime Minister Al-Abadi both reaffirmed the need to address the humanitarian situation in Iraq, where more than 2.6 million Iraqis have been internally displaced since January 2014.  President Obama noted his recent decision to provide nearly $205 million dollars in additional humanitarian assistance to Iraqis in the region and to support Iraq’s response to the Syrian crisis, bringing the U.S. contribution to help displaced Iraqis to more than $407 million since the start of fiscal year 2014. 
    Reinforcing Regional Cooperation
    President Obama expressed his strong support for increased cooperation between Iraq and regional partners on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs.  The Prime Minister updated the President on his consultations with regional capitals and his efforts to enhance regional diplomatic representation in Baghdad.  The President confirmed the importance of establishing a strong diplomatic presence in Baghdad by all regional Arab states.
    The two leaders agreed that there are no military solutions to the region’s conflicts.  To this end, Prime Minister Al-Abadi welcomed the framework for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between the P5+1 and Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program as a means towards greater peace and stability in the region.  Both leaders affirmed that a strong U.S.-Iraq relationship was critical for regional security and in the long-term interests of both countries. 

    This visit provides an opportunity to review the important progress that Iraq and the United States have made together and to discuss ways to further enhance cooperation across the full spectrum of the strategic partnership.  The rapid and extensive response by the United States to the current challenges facing Iraq has highlighted the robust and steadfast relationship between our two countries, and the President and the Prime Minister agreed on the importance of continuing to strengthen this enduring relationship.

    jason ditz