Friday, February 27, 2015

Tracee Ellis Ross

I'm still not a fan of "Blackish."

I want to like it.

It could be so much better.

About the only thing that works outright and non-stop is Tracee Ellis Ross' performance.

She was already a strong actress on UPN's "Girlfriends."

But she's even better on "Blackish" and deserves to win the Emmy for Best Actress.

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

Thursday, February 26, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, IS seizes an important bridge in Anbar, does US President Barack Obama need a SOFA to put US troops on the ground in Iraq, we continue to look at Wednesday's Senate hearing on the AUMF, and much more.

Seems like just yesterday that a puffed chest former general and current envoy John Allen was boasting to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "In addition we're also discussing the coalition's next steps now that we've largely achieved the objectives of the campaign's first phase  which was to blunt ISIL's strategic operation and tactical momentum in Iraq."

Oh, wait, that was yesterday.

Yet Al Jazeera reports today at least 20 Iraqi troops were killed when the Islamic States "seized a strategic bridge" in Anbar Province which "connects the cities of Baghdadi and Haditha" and Iraqi forces attempted (but failed) to take it back.  In addition, the bridge is near the US-occupied Ayn al-Asad airbase (where the US trains -- among other things) and there was a suicide truck bombing outside the entrance to the base.

So the Islamic State is on the run?

Various US officials keep insisting that but reality rejects it.

That's how it is under Barack, that's how it was under Bully Boy Bush.

They appear to see the Iraq War as a 12-step program and that, if they spin the talk hard enough, reality will eventually bend to their will.

They pulled this in 2003 and it didn't happen.

They pulled this in 2004 and it didn't happen.

They pulled this in 2005 and it didn't happen.

They pulled this in 2006 and it didn't happen.

They pulled this in 2007 and it didn't happen.

. . .

As Vanessa Williams says at the end of "Running Back To You," "Get the message?  'Nuff said."

The Senate's concerned with what Barack's Authorization for the Use of Military Force (in Iraq, Syria, Disneyland and pretty much the entire world) says.

We covered some of Wednesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in yesterday's snapshot.  Senator Bob Corker is the Chair, Senator Bob Menendez is the Ranking Member. Appearing before the Committee was retired Gen John Allen whom US President Barack Obama has named the Special Presidential Envoy for The Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Under Article I, Section 8, Congress has the power to declare war.  I know that you agree with that, yes?

Ambassador John Allen Yes, ma'am.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Alright.  So I hope you could then understand why we would want to be very precise when we do that because we're sent here by a lot of people who have a lot of kids who serve in the military and they're the fabric of our communities so we want to be careful. I just want to say I'm not even going to ask you to expand on this enduring word because you've said it very clearly. Your definition is no enduring presence could mean a 2-week presence of combat boots on the ground -- American combat boots on the ground -- or a two-year presence of American combat boots on the ground.  And that answers a question the Democrats on this Committee have been searching for this-this definition and I think what you are proving with your honesty is there is none because its in the eye of the beholder.  When you say to me if I vote for this, no enduring combat presence and I'm sending my kids there in my state for two years I would argue to you you've misinterpreted it.  Yet the Congressional Research Service says there's really no definition.  And if I wanted to take the administration to court as I would say, as a member of Congress, "I said no enduring presence," CRS says I wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on 'cause there's no definition.  So I just think it's very important the administration hear this once again.  I know poor Senator -- Secretary [of State John] Kerry had to hear it over and over from our side yesterday.  But we're very uncomfortable with this language.  And when Senator Menendez was Chairman, he cobbled together a really good AUMF that united all of us on our side because he essentially said no combat troops with these exceptions -- and he put in the kind of exceptions that I think you would agree with -- special forces operations, search and rescue, protecting personnel.  And we would urge you, please, to go back and take a look at it. I just feel very strongly.

In yesterday's snapshot, we noted some exchanges on this issue.  We'll note another from the hearing:

Senator Ed Markey: In the Authorization for the Use of Military Force text that the administration provided to this Committee.  It said that it would prohibit "enduring" ground forces. And this was meant to convey that large numbers of [US] troops wouldn't be on the ground for a long time -- whatever that means.  I voted for the 2001 resolution and I'm reminded that the US combat operations in Afghanistan were dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom.  We are now past 13 years in that enduring fight and that resolution, of course, was also the basis for the justification of our actions in Somalia, in Yemen and the administration is saying quite clearly that they oppose the repeal of that and that the operations that are going on right now, in fact, are consistent with that 2001 authorization.  Now causes great problems to me and I think many members of the Committee because even in the absence of the passage of a new AUMF, the administration is maintaining that they have the authority to continue -- as they have for thirteen years -- under Operation Enduring Freedom.  And so that obviously is a problem for us because that sits there as an underlying authority for the next president -- Democrat or Republican who is sworn in on January 20, 2017 and most of us are will be sitting here then as you'll successor will be sitting here then and perhaps not with the same interpretation of the word "enduring." So my questions then go to is this going to open up a potential for an open-ended war in the Middle East?  Will it allow for unfettered deployment of ground troops?  And ultimately, whether or not we are opening up Pandora's Box -- especially in Syria?

The "enduring" aspect has attracted some media attention.

It's not resulted in any real media analysis.

Yes, tired whores like Rosa Brooks stepped up to justify and minimize it.

That's not an analysis -- though dim wits like Rosa probably think it is.

As Barbara Boxer noted in the hearing, there was an AUMF proposal before the White House (finally) submitted their wish list in February.

Until the new Senate was sworn in last January, the Democrats controlled the Senate.  And Bob Menendez was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as Boxer noted, and crafted an AUMF that Democrats in the Senate could live with.

I thought it went too far but whatever.

It would have given Barack much of what he wants in the new AUMF.

What it wouldn't give him was "enduring."

Supposedly, this AUMF is needed.

That's confusing all by itself since the White House continues to insist that they will continue -- with or without an AUMF authorizing Barack's ongoing war actions -- to do what they're doing.

But, supposedly, this AUMF is needed.

In a playground, children may bicker in the sandbox over a toy that, for example, they want to use in a sand castle -- say a figure or plastic soldier or whatever.

At some point, they either resolve the issue (by themselves or via an adult intervening) or they stop playing together.

Is Barack a tiny child?

At his age, shouldn't he be the intervening adult?

The point is, if you can get most of what you want, adults in DC know to take it.

You never get everything you want from this or any Congress.

Compromise is the overwhelming acting principle.

So serious analysis of the requested AUMF would address how this is not a minor issue to the White House unless Barack is deeply stupid.

If this were a minor issue, it would have been ditched already, tossed overboard so everyone could move forward.

What exactly is Barack discussing and planning that's not being presented to the American people?

The Iraqi forces aren't up for much of anything.

Corruption and crime have reduced the force to a joke.

And that's why, despite the White House planning an operation to retake Mosul in February, the month is now ending with no such attempt.

Mosul was taken over by the Islamic State in June.  Retaking it might have symbolic value.

But now the White House has aired the option that Mosul might be invaded soon . . . or in April . . . or in May.

These 'deadlines' are vaporous.

The reason for that, clearly, is that the Iraqi military is not thought to be up to the challenge of retaking Mosul.

For Mosul to be of any value, there has to be immediate operations.

By that I mean, think of the Islamic State as a tube of toothpaste and let's consider Mosul the middle.

Squeeze the middle of the tube and the toothpaste does not vanish.

Instead, it spreads out to both ends of the tube.

Should Mosul be retaken, the most obvious move for the Islamic State was to grab new areas or fortify existing ones.

Should an operation to retake Mosul be carried out and be successfully carried out, the immediate time after that effort would have to see a military force stepping up to ensure that the Islamic State fleeing Mosul did not spread elsewhere.

New Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter likes to play out variables with the press on what would lead him to recommend US ground forces in Iraq.

If you pay attention, the aftermath of taking Mosul fits Carter's definition.

So is this what's going on?

Is this what has the White House refusing to say, "Okay, take that whole 'enduring' clause out and let's move forward and let you pass an AUMF"?

It seems very likely.

A Tweet today raises an issue:

  1. Do we have a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq? Anyone know? How are our soldiers to be protected from prosecutions under Iraqi law?

For those who don't know, a Status Of Forces Agreement is what gives legal protection to US forces in Iraq.

When the Iraq War started, the United Nations provided cover for the occupation (not the invasion) and it was a yearly authorization.

In 2008, due to the problems then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was having each year when he's push through the renewal (bypassing Parliament), Bully Boy Bush decided that the SOFA would be for more than a single year.

They got a three year deal (with one year clauses) in November of 2008.

Prior to getting that deal, Joe Biden -- then in the Senate -- had declared if the administration failed to get a SOFA by December 31, 2008, all US troops would . . .

come home?


They're remain locked down on US bases in Iraq until some deal was worked out.

The SOFA expired at the end of 2011.

We could go into why and all of that but we're not focused on that for this discussion.

Barack wants US troops in combat in Iraq.

You can't avoid that.

It's there in the AUMF.

So if there's no agreement -- such as a SOFA -- then it doesn't matter because US forces can't be put into combat on the ground in Iraq without an agreement which protects US troops from legal challenges for their operations in Iraq.

So why isn't the White House working on a SOFA?

These are issues people should be asking.

The US forces are in Iraq.

Has Barack betrayed them by putting them on the ground in Iraq without a legal protection?

If so, that would be an issue that could even rise to the level of grounds for impeachment.

That's not going to happen because the desire to keep US troops in Iraq is long rooted.  Let's fall back to the April 30, 2013 Iraq snapshot:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Now let's go to the Decmeber 11, 2012 snapshot:
In yesterday's snapshot, we covered the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department of Defense of the United States of America.  Angry, dysfunctional e-mails from Barack-would-never-do-that-to-me criers indicate that we need to go over the Memo a little bit more.  It was signed on Thursday and announced that day by the Pentagon.   Section two (listed in full in yesterday's snapshot) outlines that the two sides have agreed on: the US providing instructors and training personnel and Iraq providing students, Iraqi forces and American forces will work together on counterterrorism and on joint exercises.   The tasks we just listed go to the US military being in Iraq in larger numbers.  Obviously the two cannot do joint exercises or work together on counterterrorism without US military present in Iraq.
This shouldn't be surprising.  In the November 2, 2007 snapshot -- five years ago -- we covered the transcript of the interview Michael R. Gordon and Jeff Zeleny did with then-Senator Barack Obama who was running in the Democratic Party's primary for the party's presidential nomination -- the transcript, not the bad article the paper published, the actual transcript.  We used the transcript to write "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq'" at Third.  Barack made it clear in the transcript that even after "troop withdrawal" he would "leave behind a residual force."  What did he say this residual force would do?  He said, "I think that we should have some strike capability.  But that is a very narrow mission, that we get in the business of counter terrorism as opposed to counter insurgency and even on the training and logistics front, what I have said is, if we have not seen progress politically, then our training approach should be greatly circumscribed or eliminated."
This is not withdrawal.  This is not what was sold to the American people.  Barack is very lucky that the media just happened to decide to take that rather explosive interview -- just by chance, certainly the New York Times wasn't attempting to shield a candidate to influence an election, right? -- could best be covered with a plate of lumpy, dull mashed potatoes passed off as a report.  In the transcript, Let-Me-Be-Clear Barack declares, "I want to be absolutely clear about this, because this has come up in a series of debates: I will remove all our combat troops, we will have troops there to protect our embassies and our civilian forces and we will engage in counter terrorism activities."
So when the memo announces counterterrorism activities, Barack got what he wanted, what he always wanted, what the media so helpfully and so frequently buried to allow War Hawk Barack to come off like a dove of peace.
In Section Four of the Memo, both parties acknowledge that to achieve these things they may need further documentation and that such documentation will be done as attachments "to this MOU."  Thse would include things like "medical reports" for "dispatched personnel."  Oh, some idiot says, they mean State Dept personnel.  No, they don't.  The US is represented in this Memo by the Defense Dept.  This refers to DoD personnel.  They may also need an attachment to go over "procedures for recalling dispatched personnel," and possibly for covering "the death of dispatched personnel with the territory of the host country."  The Memo can run for five years from last Thursday (when it was signed) and, after five years, it can renewed every year afterwards.  US troops could be in Iraq forever.  The kill clause in this differs from the SOFA.  The 2008 SOFA had a kill clause that meant, one year after notification of wanting out of the SOFA, the SOFA would be no more.  The Memo doesn't require lead time notice.  Instead, "Either Participant may discontinue this MOU at any time, though the Participant should endeavor to provide advance notice of its intent to discontinue the MOU to the other Participant."

Again, Barack got what he wanted.  He'd stated what he wanted in 2007.  He got it.  If your life's goal is to cheer Barack -- that is the goal of the Cult of St. Barack -- start cheering and stop whining that Barack's been misrepresented.  The Memo gives him everything he wanted so, for Barack, it's a victory.  For those who believe in peace, for those who believe the US military should be out of Iraq, it's a tragedy.

Everything needed -- including US military going on combat patrols with Iraqi forces -- was granted in the MOU of 2012.

Nouri's frequently referenced it -- usually to whine and complain -- and the press either acts confused or doesn't grasp that there's an MOU out there.

This has not been a 'rush' on the part of the White House.  It's been a carefully unfolding plan.

And any real analysis of the AUMF that Barack's requesting would acknowledge that.

Let's note another Tweet:

  1. Irani muhalls will kill all sunnis civilains in Iraq now world dont speak but after we die the world will cry for us

And that is correct.  Throughout Nouri's second term, Sunnis were targeted, harassed and killed, displaced and branded "terrorists" (by Nouri) for the 'crime' of carrying out sit-ins.

And the world didn't talk about it.

And in the US there was such a desire to look the other way in order to protect Barack and the lie that he was antiwar and that he'd done something value with Iraq (when he insisted Nouri get a second term despite Nouri losing the 2010 elections).

And, sadly, it's true even now that what's being done to the Sunnis is ignored and excused by the administration, by Barack Obama.

Falluja, to cite only one example, continues to be bombed daily by the Iraqi military.


In its residential neighborhoods.

Even if 'terrorists' were in those neighborhoods, it is a War Crime to bomb them when civilians are present.  It is known as "collective punishment" and it is a legally defined and legally recognized War Crime.  That's by the international community, that's by the United States government.

But these bombings aren't called out by the US government.  There's no threat to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of, "Stop these bombings or we will not send you . . . ."

So, yes, the Sunnis continue to be targeted and the world looks away.

Margaret Griffis ( reports:

Kurdish authorities are reportedly blocking the return of Arab Iraqis to their homes in Kurdish controlled areas. They are using the claim that the Arabs collaborated with the Islamic State militants, but it is just as likely that they are attempting to solidify their hold on expanded Kurdish territories.
At least 224 people were killed and 63 more were wounded. Airstrikes killed civilians in multiple cities in Anbar province.

Coalition airstrikes in al-Baghdadi killed nine civilians and 15 militants. Another 29 militants were reported wounded, and some were sent to Syria for treatment. Militants burned 26 people to death.

Griffis notes a reported attack on a museum in Mosul.

That reported attack has resulted in a public comment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:

 Statement by Thomas P. Campbell, 

Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
On The Destruction at The Mosul Museum

Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East. The Mosul Museum’s collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq. This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.

# # #

February 26, 2015


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Jesse Jackson's screaming 'race!' and getting embraced all over again

I'm luke warm on Jesse Jackson.

Not a big fan.

Think he's an opportunist.

But I find it interesting how he's all over the left net now because he's called out Rudy G (I have no idea how to spell the man's last name).  Rudy G is a racist.

That's what Jesse says.

And it gets him in good.

But I remember when he was not welcome on the left.

Do you?

Do you remember where he stood on the Terry Shiavo issue?

And how he was right wing then?

I guess with his namesake son in prison (isn't daughter-in-law in as well), Jesse has to do something to get attention.

This is not a defense of Rudy G.

I don't know enough to defend him.

But if he said that Barack doesn't see America like the rest of us?

I agree.

And I'm African-American.

Let me be clear, I'm Black.

Not mixed like Barack.

Not half-and-half.

No White mommy.

My parents are Black.

But Barack wasn't raised in the US and that's why he has so many holes in his basic education (like not knowing how many states are in the US).

He was raised in another country during his formative years.

He's not like most Americans.

If that was Rudy G's point, fine.

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee discusses Iraq and Barack's AUMF request, the American people learn -- if any outlet bothers to cover it -- that the plan is for US forces in Iraq for over 3 years (many years to come), the State Dept can't do diplomacy but they excel in bitchy, and much more.

Decently well?

Does that modifier or "well" really belong?

Because they flew out of  Senator Bob Corker's mouth today.  He declared, "I think many people feel decently well about what's happening in Iraq."

No, it didn't make sense.

Nor did Corker.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress -- forget about the American people -- do not feel "well about what's happening in Iraq" -- decently well or otherwise.

Corker was speaking at the start of this afternoon's Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Corker is the Chair, Senator Bob Menendez is the Ranking Member. Appearing before the Committee was retired Gen John Allen whom US President Barack Obama has named the Special Presidential Envoy for The Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Let's get to the really big news about Barack's war.

It is endless.

It's US troops committed far beyond three years to Iraq.

This was established in Senator Ben Cardin's line of questioning.

Senator Ben Cardin:  Of course the President's request to Congress is pretty specific on ISIL and expires in three years.  It's clear that there may well be a need for a continued military US presence beyond that three years. 

Envoy John Allen: Uh, I would say probably a need for military activity, US military activity, of some form or another, yes sir.

Get it?

First off, this is John McCain.

If you've forgotten, John McCain, while campaigning for the GOP presidential nomination, declared he as fine with US troops in Iraq forever -- or that's how it was portrayed.

He meant US troops in Iraq in the manner in which they remain in South Korea all the years after the Korean War.

Barack Obama was the candidate who was supposed to be 'different.'

And he was going to get all US troops out of Iraq within 16 months of being sworn in as president.

Samantha Power -- as we noted in real time while whores like John Nichols lied -- was forced out of Barack's campaign not because of what she said about Hillary Clinton but because the BBC was about to air an interview with her where she revealed Barack's campaign promise wasn't a promise and that he'd decide what to do after he was sworn in.  This interview was going to be big and Samantha had to 'save' Barack by leaving the campaign so that Barack wasn't forced to answer questions about what she'd said.


The little whores of the press ignored it.

And months later, when Tom Hayden was outraged about Barack (the July 4, 2008 holiday), he stumbled upon this and wanted to know why no one made a big deal out of it?  And he answered his own question with Hillary's campaign ignored the issue.


They raised it repeatedly.

In conference calls with the press and in repeated press releases.

It was the press that didn't give a damn.

They were too busy -- remembering the infamous video of Barack wearing jeans and walking past them on the plane -- oohing and awing over Barack to actually cover what he said and what his aids said.

So now, to steal from Jeremiah Wright, the chickens have come home to roost.

The liar who pretended he was always against the Iraq War lied as well about getting US troops out.

The end of 2011 was a drawdown, not a withdrawal.

By fall of 2012, as Tim Arango reported in the New York Times, Barack had sent another special ops brigade into Iraq.

By June 2014, he was sending troops in openly.

And now his envoy tells Congress that the plan is for a continued US military presence -- that Barack pictures it not just for the next three years, but for well beyond that.

How did that chump change work out for The Cult of St. Barack?

Because it didn't improve anything in Iraq and never took all US troops out of the country.

But, hey, we got to see his nipples, right?

He went jogging without shirts and didn't that make up for everything else?

Didn't his man boobs -- moobs -- sliding all around while he jogged make up for everything else?

Let's hope he was a wealth of masturbation fantasies because all he offered was fantasy and, again, to steal from his mentor Jeremiah Wrights, the chickens are coming home to roost.

This was also made clear during an exchange in this afternoon's hearing regarding the issue of "enduring" US forces in Iraq.

Ranking Member Bob Menendez: What does "enduring" -- no "enduring combat forces" mean?

Envoy John Allen: I think obviously, the-the nature of the  contingency or the emergency or the potential conflict will give us the indications of what kinds of measures would need to be taken in the aggregate to deal with that emergency to give the President the kind of options that he needs in order to protect the lives of American citizens and American interests and the homeland. Each one of these emergencies will be different.  Each one will require a different aggregation of American hard and soft  power ultimately to solve them.  And so I think it would be difficult to put necessarily a level of precision against the word "enduring."  I think  what we'll seek --  what we'll seek to do -- and I believe this administration -- and future administrations would be obviously very interested in consulting with the Congress about each -- .

Ranking Member Bob Menendez: I-I appreciate a consultation.  The problem is you reference your answer in context of emergencies but no "enduring offensive combat troops" doesn't necessarily only apply to emergencies.  If you send 20,000 troops and they're there for 4 months, is that enduring?

Envoy John Allen:  Uh-uh again, Senator, I think that trying to put a specific amount of time on the word "enduring' uh, uh --

Ranking Member Bob Menendez: So it's neither time nor size?

Envoy John Allen:  I think we take a full appreciation of what we're facing.  And I -- And I believe that we give the president the options necessary in order to deal with the emergency and "enduring" might only be two weeks.  But "enduring might be two years"  I think we need to ensure that we put the right resources against the contingency and give us the amount of time necessary -- "us" being all of the American people -- the time necessary to solve the problem.

Ranking Member Bob Menendez:  And I think you've stated the challenge that we have.  Two weeks is one thing.  Two years is another thing.  And this is the problem with the language as it exists. There is no clear, defining element of the authorization given to the president in which hundreds -- but maybe tens of thousands -- of troops could be sent.  They could be sent for long periods of time.   That's -- That's a challenge.  And so how we get our arms around that?  You know, I know -- I think I can fairly speak for Democrats -- we want to fight ISIL, we want to give the president the wherewith all to degrade and deter them but we can't provide a blank check to this and a future president because everything that's envisioned goes beyond this president.  So I want to use your expertise to try to put my arms around it and I see the challenge that we have.  Let me ask you this, following up on the Chairman's questions, isn't it basically true that unless we buy into something about  getting rid of Assad, Turkey isn't really going to engage with us in the way we want them to?

Envoy John Allen:  Uh, the Turks have not indicated that to me in our conversations.  I think we share the same goal with respect to Syria and that is that the solution to Syria is not going to be determined by military force. That ultimately, we -- we desire a political outcome in Syria that is the will of the Syrian people and that that outcome is one that does not include Bashar al-Assad.  I think we share that goal with Turkey.  But I  have not had, in my conversations with the Turks the requirement that we take concerted action against Bashar al-Assad as the precondition necessarily for the Turks to have any greater role in the coalition to deal with ISIL. 

Ranking Member Bob Menendez:  Isn't it true that at this point Turkey is still allowing foreign fighters to cross its borders into Syria?

Envoy John Allen: If foreign fighters get across the border in Turkey it's not because the Turks are allowing them.  Again I've  had a conversation with them yesterday. I've watched them grip this problem    It  is a greater problem than many of us had imagined at the  beginning.  They have attempted to strengthen their border crossing protocols.  We're seeking greater information sharing and intelligence sharing   with them in that regard.  We are restructuring some elements of the coalition specifically to focus the capabilities of nations on the issue of the movement and the dealing of foreign fighters through transit states of which the Turks are going to play an important role in that process within that coalition.  So do foreign fighters cross Turkey and get into Syria?  Yes, they do.  Are the Turks permitting them to do that? I don't believe so. I think that the Turks are working hard, ultimately, to do -- to take the measures necessary to staunch that flow the best they can.

Ranking Member Bob Menendez:  And one final question: Iran.  Iran is in the midst of  Iraq. It's in the midst of Syria.  Uh, do we share mutual goals with Iran?

Envoy John Allen:  Well I would say our goals with respect to Iraq is that we return Iraq to the sovereign control of the Iraqi people and to the central government in Baghdad.  My --

Ranking Member Bob Menendez:  You think the Iranians share that?

Envoy John Allen:  Oh, I believe so. I-I-I believe that the Iranians - their interests -- they would consider that their interests are best served by an Iraq -- 

Ranking Member Bob Menendez:  They have a very significant influence in Iraq.

Envoy John Allen: Well they have regional interests.  And those interests are, in fact, in Iraq.  That's not something that should surprise us or necessarily alarm us.

Ranking Member Bob Menendez:   I'm looking beyond.  So if we think an accommodation with Iran to fight ISIL is good, the aftermath of that in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen and elsewhere -- in my view -- is not so good.  And so sometimes we look at the short game as opposed to the long one and I'm concerned about what the long one is.

Envoy John Allen:  Uh, Senator, I would not propose that we are accommodating Iran in Iraq at this particular moment. We're undertaking the measures that we're taking in Iraq with the Iraqis.  We're not cooperating with the Iranians.  As-As you have pointed out and as your argument presupposes Iranians have an interest in a stable Iraq just as we in the region have an interest in a stable Iraq.  But that doesn't mean we are accommodating the Iranians by virtue of the actions that we are taking in Iraq.

On this week's Law and Disorder Radio, first airing Monday on  WBAI  and around the country throughout the week. the hosts discussed the AUMF Barack's requesting.   The program is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights)  and we'll note this section of their discussion on the "enduring" issue.

Michael Ratner:  A second one -- and a big struggle is going on --  or, I don't know if it's big, a struggle of some sort -- at least in the press around these guys -- is the use of ground forces.  How are we going to limit the use of ground forces?  Initially, I think we were told there won't be any ground forces used against ISIS or they believe they have to use ground forces. So what does this Authorization to Use Military Force say -- the new proposed one?  This does not authorize the use of the United States armed forces in -- and here's the key word -- "enduring" offensive ground combat operations.  The word is "enduring offensive ground combat operations."

Heidi Boghosian: Right.  And what does that mean? That means a long term -- 

Michael Ratner: How long is enduring?

Heidi Boghosian:  -- something short of -- Exactly.

Michael Ratner: One year? Two year?  Five years?  Ten years?

Heidi Boghosian:  Right. 

Michael Ratner:  What's "enduring"? Forever?

Heidi Boghosian:  It's over broad and vaguely drafted. 

Michael Ratner: It's meaningless.

Heidi Boghosian: Right.

Let me make a comment about today's hearing.  What's with 'general'?

He's an ambassador now.  His title is "envoy."  Is he ashamed of it?

Is Congress embarrassed by it?

Yes, he's a retired general.

He's also an active ambassador.

That's his title.

Clearly, this administration has no respect for diplomacy, they've made that clear.  And we'll get to that topic in a moment.  But does the Congress have no respect also?

Being an Ambassador is a pretty big deal.

Check the archives, we praised Michael Hayden for dropping "general" and asking to be called "director" when he appeared before Congress because that's what he was.  He was a retired general who came back into government service to become the Director of the CIA.

I don't approve of militarizing civilian posts and I don't approve of treating an ambassador as if that's an overnight job at Denny's.  If "ambassador" is beneath John Allen, he needs to resign the post immediately.

He is not in the military anymore.  He is attached to the State Dept.  If he won't show respect for his current position, he doesn't need to hold it.

If he's embarrassed to be called ambassador or envoy, that's really going to interfere with any accomplishments he might have.

Let's note an exchange regarding Sunnis and regarding Mosul.  The Islamic State took Mosul last June and continue to hold it.  The US administration last week announced that March or April or May was the time or 'time' to attack Mosul and liberate or 'liberate' it.

Senator Rand Paul: What percentage would you say is an estimate of how many of the official Iraqi army are Sunni versus Shia?

Envoy John Allen:  I'll have to take the question, sir, and get back to you

Senator Rand Paul:  Well -- 

Envoy John Allen: Right now, the standing army, the preponderance is, uh, -- the majority is Shia.  But I can't give you the numbers.  I'll take the question.

Senator Rand Paul:  The reason I ask is sort of on the heels of what Senator Carden is asking global  security reports basically somewhere between 80 and 90% of the official Iraqi army being Shia. I think to have an enduring victory, there's some question from some of us whether you can have an enduring victory and occupy Mosul and be seen as a legitimate government if you've got an 80 to 90% Shia force?  So I think that still is a significant political problem and a significant military problem as well.  Of the chieftens that fought in the surge -- just an estimate -- what percentage is engaged on our side now fighting against ISIS, what percentage are on the sidelines and what percentage indifferent?

Envoy John Allen:  Again, those are numbers that are difficult to give you with any precision.  The ones that I fought alongside in '07 and '08, the ones that I have spoken to without exception have indicated their desire to fight Da'ash, have recovered their lands to ultimately return, in this case, to Al-Anbar Province, to the tribes and ultimately to Iraq.  And so they've been very forthcoming in their desire to do that.  Every one that I have spoken to.

Senator Rand Paul:  And the chieftens are no longer in the area?  Have been driven out of the area?  The ones that you've spoken to?

Envoy John Allen:  Well many of them are.  Some at great risk traveled out of the area ultimately to speak with us.  But, uh, they are.  And many of them are in Amman [Jordan] and other places.

Senator Rand Paul:  With regard to arming the Kurds, there were reports a month or two ago that Germany wanted to send arms directly to them but there were objections by our government saying everything had to go through Baghdad.  Are arms for our allies forced to go through Baghdad to get to the Kurds? 

Envoy John Allen: Uhm, I'll take the question but let me offer this.  Uh, Baghdad has not disproved any requests, uh, that the Kurds have made for weapons.  We have attempted to work with Baghdad to streamline to the maximum extent possible to reduce any delays that may inhibit or impair, uh, the expeditious delivery of arms and equipment to the Kurds.

Senator Rand Paul:  You think this includes sufficient technology and long range weaponry to meet their needs and their requests?

Envoy John Allen:  Well all that is coming.  As you know sir, and through the support of the Congress, we're training and equipping 12 Iraqi brigades -- 3 of which are Peshmerga brigades [Peshmerga are an elite Kurdish fighting force] and with Peshmerga brigades we'll be armed and equipped with exactly the same  that the other 9 Iraqi brigades will receive. 

Senator Rand Paul:  We're destroying or abandoning equipment in Afghanistan.  Is there any possibility that any of that could be transported to the Kurds?

Envoy John Allen:  That's a question that we should pose to the Dept of Defense but I'll take the question.

As Senator Paul's time wound down, suddenly Allen wanted to address the earlier question about the Shi'ite majority in the military.

Well . . .

not address . . .

more distract.

There will be a clearing force.

For Mosul and other areas.

But he's really hopeful that they can get the Sunni police to take part.

Paul suggested that the invading force should be Sunni (Mosul is a Sunni dominant city) and that there should be leafleting of the city announcing that fact to increase support for the action.

I'm attending a hearing tomorrow and I was at another one today -- I'd love for both of them to make into the snapshots -- that may or may not happen.  But we will note today's hearing in Thursday's snapshot to cover a few more aspects.

For now, we'll note that, while pressing for the new AUMF, the administration continues to insist it doesn't really need it.

Chair Bob Corker:  Yesterday, Senator Kerry testified that he felt like today the administration already has because of the '01 AUMF  and the '02 AUMF the authority to conduct the operations that are being conducted in Iraq and Syria.  Do you -- do you agree with that assessment?

Envoy John Allen: I do, Chairman.

Chair Bob Corker: Okay.  So it's an interesting place where we find ourselves, where six months after conflicts have begun, a new AUMF is being offered.  And I know that in order to pursue one properly through Congress, that's the standard process which I appreciate.

Of course, that's Secretary Kerry -- John Kerry left the Senate to become Secretary of State (though he appears to believe he's Secretary of Defense).  And Kerry's in the news cycle today -- weighing in on Iraq.

Elad Benari (Israel Nation News) reports US Secretary of State John Kerry has gotten bitchy -- they really need to think of a new name for the State Dept since bitchy has replaced diplomacy -- about Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu:

The comments, according to The Huffington Post, came as Kerry was testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Committee member Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) pointed to Netanyahu’s upcoming address to the Congress as evidence of the weakness of the deal being negotiated between Iran and the six world powers.

“The Prime Minister was also profoundly forward-leaning and very outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq and George W. Bush,” Kerry shot back, referring to Netanyahu.

David Francis (Foreign Policy) refers to Kerry as "the nation's top diplomat" but that should probably be "the nation's top bitch."  At any rate, Francis notes:

It was an odd critique from Kerry, who had voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. It was also the latest in a string of increasingly harsh and personal attacks on Netanyahu by senior administration officials.
On Tuesday night, National Security Advisor Susan Rice told Charlie Rose in an interview that Netanyahu’s visit “injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate. I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”

Kerry did a little bit more than vote "to authorize the invasion of Iraq."  Focusing just on Iraq, here's how David Paul Kuhn (CBS News) covered Kerry's flip-flops back in 2004:

Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in January 1991, Kerry broke with the majority of senators and voted against authorizing the first Gulf War. He said on the Senate floor, "It is a vote about war because whether or not the president exercises his power, we will have no further say after this vote."
Kerry thus voted against war after Iraq took aggressive military action. He said a vote in favor of military action was tantamount to giving Congress "no further say" on the war.
In October 2002, he supported the current war in Iraq, despite the fact that Iraq took no aggressive action against its neighbors.
In announcing his candidacy for president, in September 2003, he said his October 2002 vote was simply "to threaten" the use of force, apparently backtracking from his belief in 1991 that such a vote would grant the president an open-ended ticket to wage war.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now…
"We should not have gone to war knowing the information that we know today," Kerry said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "Knowing there was no imminent threat to America, knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction, knowing there was no connection of Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda, I would not have gone to war. That's plain and simple."
But on Aug. 9, 2004, when asked if he would still have gone to war knowing Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction, Kerry said: "Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for a president to have." Speaking to reporters at the edge of the Grand Canyon, he added: "[Although] I would have done this very differently from the way President Bush has."
The Kerry campaign says voting to authorize the war in Iraq is different from deciding diplomacy has failed and waging war. But Kerry's nuanced position has contradicted itself on whether it was right or wrong to wage the war.
In May 2003, at the first Democratic primary debate, John Kerry said his vote authorizing the president to use force was the "right decision" though he would have "preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity."
But then in January 2004, Kerry began to run as anti-war candidate, saying, "I don't believe the president took us to war as he should have."

The $87 Billion Vote
In September 2003, Kerry implied that voting against wartime funding bills was equivalent to abandoning the troops.
"I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running," he said.
Then, in October 2003, a year after voting to support the use of force in Iraq, Kerry voted against an $87 billion supplemental funding bill for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He did support an alternative bill that funded the $87 billion by cutting some of President Bush's tax cuts.
But when it was apparent the alternative bill would not pass, he decided to go on record as not supporting the legislation to fund soldiers.
Kerry complicated matters with his now infamous words, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

Who is John Kerry to criticize anyone for how they acted re: Iraq or what they supported?

Maybe since he -- at one time or another -- pretty much supported everything, he feels he's an 'expert'?

The only expertise he's showing these days is bitchy.

And it's all over the State Dept.  For example, in Monday's State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Jen Psaki took part:

QUESTION: Iraqi Kurdish officials have accused Baghdad – I’m not sure if you’ve seen the reports – of having failed to abide by the most recent agreement over oil and budget. Prime Minister Abadi says, because partly of the oil price drop, Iraq has no money to send to the KRG. KRG says why does Iraq – why is Iraq able to pay the salaries of all of the Iraqis, including the residents of Mosul, except for Kurdistan.
Is that your assessment that the agreement between Baghdad and Kurdistan is unraveling?

MS. PSAKI: It is not. We understand that both Baghdad and Erbil remain committed to seeking implementation of the deal that is enshrined in the budget law. We recognize that Iraq writ large is facing financial difficulties due to low oil prices, the large refugee and IDP population, and the need to focus on defense spending because of the fight against ISIL. I would refer you to the Government of Iraq, but I do also recall news reports that Baghdad transferred two payments totaling $1 billion late last year as part of the agreement that was reached. So certainly, it’s not accurate to suggest that --

QUESTION: But this year, they haven’t done it according to the top Kurdish officials. They were just in Baghdad last week. Baghdad said --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Iraqi parliament also just recently passed its $103 billion 2015 budget, which includes payments to the KRG. So I would point you to the Government of Iraq to ask that question.

QUESTION: So would you be concerned as the United States – if that is true, which is really true, that Iraq has not paid or is not going to pay KRG --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t see what you’re presenting as evidence that it’s true.

QUESTION: Why is --

MS. PSAKI: Or do you have more information you want to provide us?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. The prime minister of Kurdistan, he just talked to the media, and he’s --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m just referring to the fact that last year there were two payments reportedly made. I would certainly have you confirm that with the relevant authorities. The budget just passed. It includes payment to the KRG – payments to the KRG. Both sides have said they’re committed to the plan. So I’d suggest you pose your questions to the Iraqi Government on this issue.

How bad was the bitchy?

So bad that the State Dept hasn't held a press briefing since.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 187 violent deaths today in Iraq and 100 people kidnapped.

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