Thursday, August 24, 2017

Agree with James Cameron

I think James Cameron's right.

WONDER WOMAN was overrated and disappointing.

I couldn't stand the glorification of violence or the need to take a comic book hero and immerse her in so much gore.

I couldn't stand the fact that she was basically Brooke Shields in BLUE LAGOON.

I think Cameron's right -- Linda Hamilton did play a more complex character and was a step forward.

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017.  Chaos and violence continue as the 'liberation' of Tal Afar continues, a safety warning for journalists in Iraq is issued, turns out more US troops are in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan than the US government told us (shocker!), and much more.

The current liberation or 'liberation' operation in Iraq targets Tal Afar.  In June 2014, the Islamic State seized control of Tal Afar and continue to hold it.  Saturday, August 19th, Prime Minister Hayder al-Abadi announced the operation had begun.  Like Mosul, it's in Nineveh Province.  Unlike Mosul, it's population isn't in the millions.  The city is estimated to have less than 100,000 or a little over 200,000 depending on the source.  The bulk of the population is said to be Turkmen.

And the number of Islamic State members said to be in Tal Afar?

Baghdad estimated the number of ISIS Fighters in TalAfar between 1200 and 2000, then why did they mobilize more than 50 thousand troops.. ?!

And as Iraq mobilized 50,000 fighters to go after 2,000, grasp that's not the entire number fighting ISIS.

Belgian Special Forces Group during the offensive.

And, of course, US Special Ops are participating on the ground and the US military is also flying war planes dropping bombs on the still highly populated Tal Afar.  And doing quite a bit more.  Tara Copp (NAVY TIMES) reports:

The Pentagon knows precisely how many troops are deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria on a daily basis and could provide that information to the public if needed, U.S. and military officials told Military Times.
Yet for the last year, the Pentagon, under the Trump administration, has publicly reported only the “force management level” — the official cap for troops authorized for each country — even as the real numbers far exceeded those caps.

Recent reports suggest that the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan may be about 20,000, far more than the official tally of about 14,000.

Do they ever tell the truth about numbers?  Copp's report is similar to Nancy A. Youssef's report for KNIGHT RIDDER (the last day before it was officially absorbed into MCCLATCHY) where she revealed that despite claims otherwise the US government was keeping the numbers for civilians killed in the Iraq War.

All these years later, what does 'liberation' look like?

OXFAM explains this morning:

Traumatized women and children fleeing Iraq's Tal Afar district have told Oxfam how people died walking for days through the desert in 50C heat to reach safety. One mother said the road they took to escape smelled of dead bodies while another said she feared her husband was dead as ISIS took him when they fled.

On Sunday, the Iraqi army launched a major offensive to retake Tal Afar, one of the last urban strongholds held by ISIS in Iraq. More than 30,000 people have already fled the city, according to the UN, and up to 40,000 remain in and around Tal Afar.

Oxfam’s Amy Christian met some of those fleeing Tal Afar in a screening site in Badush, around 60km east of the city, where Oxfam is supporting those that have fled: “The sound of children crying was deafening. Covered in dirt and incredibly thin, they have been through hell to get there. The families stayed very close to each other and the women held on tightly to young children and babies. Everyone looked extremely exhausted and clearly traumatized from their experience. After days walking in the blistering heat, they urgently need food, water and shelter.”

People also said they had run out of food in Tal Afar and had to escape during the night as ISIS was preventing them from fleeing.
Ahlam Ibrahim, who fled the village of Mzra’a near Tal Afar when bombing began, said: “We left because we were afraid of the airstrikes. We were so afraid for the children. The road was steep and rocky, and old people were dying. It was so hard to walk and the road smelled of dead bodies. I lost my voice because I was shouting at my children to stay with me. They were so scared.”

Nahida Ali*, also from Mzra’a, told how she walked for two days in the blistering heat with no water: “ISIS took my husband two days ago as we tried to escape. We wanted to leave a month ago but ISIS wouldn’t let us. If they saw a family leaving, they would take the men. We saw a lot of people killed; that’s why we were so afraid. We are worried they will kill my husband. My son won’t stop crying because ISIS took his father and we don’t know where he is.”

Oxfam is calling on the government of Iraq to ensure that civilians can reach safety and receive the help they urgently need. It is also calling on all parties to the conflict to avoid harming civilians who stay in the city, and to protect civilian areas and infrastructure – including avoiding the use of explosive weapons with wide area affect.

Notes to editors

Oxfam is supporting those fleeing the fighting in Iraq with life-saving food and water both in camps and in communities that have been recently retaken and where families are seeking shelter.
Oxfam is working at the Badush screening site distributing kits with soap, nappies, underwear and sanitary towels to new arrivals, who are then redirected to a camp. The international agency is also assessing whether the needs of those fleeing the conflict are being addressed.
*Name has been changed

Contact information

Oxfam has in country spokespeople available.
Harriet Hernando on / +447557 077 008

14 years of US-led war and counting and Iraq's no better off.

In fact, the Committee to Protect Journalists just issued the following alert yesterday afternoon:

Threats to journalists in Iraq have changed after government forces regained control over the city of Mosul and significantly reduced the territory controlled by the militant group Islamic State. CPJ's Emergencies Response Team (ERT) has issued the following advisory for journalists who plan to continue working in Iraq.
Despite the decline of the Islamic State group's presence in Iraq, the country is no more stable. The reemergence of Shia militias is blurring defined front lines and has elevated general risks for journalists in the region.

The Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), have played a key role in the fight against Islamic State and, in recognition of their work, the Iraqi parliament has designated them an official military force. In this new landscape, journalists will be required to get approval from these groups as well as the government, depending on where they plan to work.

Many of these newly approved armed groups have poor human rights records, according to a Human Rights Watch report published in July 2016. The New York-based group has documented summary killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and the destruction of homes by some of these factions, and has called on Iraqi authorities to stop operating alongside these militias.

There are concerns that these groups could turn to violence as a means to censor reporting on corruption, violence, abuse or human rights violations.

In December 2016, a group of gunman affiliated with a Shia militia kidnapped Afrah Shawqi al Qaisai from her home and held her for nine days after the Iraqi journalist wrote an article criticizing an interior ministry official and the culture of impunity surrounding militia groups.

While Islamic State has suffered territorial losses, the militant group still remains a threat to journalists working in Iraq. It still controls Tel Afar, a city 39 miles (63 kilometers) west of Mosul, and surrounding areas.

Currently, Iraqi troops, with support from Kurdish Peshmerga forces and PMUs, are waiting for official orders to start a ground offensive to retake Tel Afar. Iraqi troops are already carrying out airstrikes on Islamic State and have stationed military equipment in Badush, 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Mosul. Some of the area's villages have already been retaken.

Islamic State also maintains support among parts of the population in Iraq's western Anbar province. In recent weeks, there has been an uptick in attacks that use guerrilla tactics, a trend that security experts say is likely to continue. Islamic State is expected to continue targeting media as well.

Here are some tips for journalists working in Iraq. They are intended as guidance and may not fit all situations.

General advice:
  • Have a clear understanding of which militias or armed forces control the areas where you will be working and determine if media presence will be welcome.

  • Obtain necessary permissions that may vary with each militia group. Failure to have the proper credentials can lead to altercation or arrest.
  • Create a contingency plan with an emergency contact. Set up a communication schedule with your contact and agree on actions to be taken should you fail to check in at the appropriate time. In high-risk situations, journalists should consider tracking devices.
  • As part of your contingency plan, leave your passport or other identification details, insurance policy numbers, medical history, and blood type with your emergency contact.
  • If you will be at risk of kidnapping or arrest, agree on proof of life questions with your emergency contact. Also provide him or her with passwords for social media and personal wishes regarding media coverage and ransoms. In such situations, it is also advisable to leave instructions regarding power of attorney in the event that you go missing or become incapacitated.
  • Your emergency protocols in case of injury, arrest or kidnapping should include contact information of people in your network, i.e. your fixer or local journalists. Leave their contact information with your emergency point person. Also include contact information of your country's local embassy or consulate.
CPJ encourages local journalists, freelancers, and media organizations covering the Mosul offensive to closely follow the safety principles and practices of the ACOS alliance, which can be found here.

For more information on conditions for journalists working in Iraq, visit CPJ's Iraq page on our website. For additional safety information and details including security assessments, visit CPJ's Journalist Security Guide.

Things aren't getting better.

Fourteen years and so many dead and the Iraq War continues -- with little attention in the US despite this being a US-led war.

In fact, a press briefing yesterday at the US State Dept contained Matt Lee's usual fake theatrics (poor Matt, those e-mails to Vicky Nuland revealed just how staged his 'brave' interactions were) but not one mention of Iraq.

Tuseday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did a press briefing by phone.  Credit to ABC NEWS' Martha Raddatz for her focus which included the exchange below:

QUESTION: It’s all right. Secretary Tillerson, I know you don’t want to talk about the military, but you were just using some military terms, and battalion level and that. I know and understand why the administration does not want to talk about tactical moves, but strategy – don’t the American people deserve to know approximately how many more of their sons and daughters will be going back to Afghanistan in a war that’s lasted nearly 16 years?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think – and I don’t want to speak for Secretary Mattis – but I think the intent is there will be visibility to troop levels once the decision has been made. I think what the President has conveyed, and I agree wholeheartedly with him, is that we are not going to signal ahead what our plans are. We’re not going to signal ahead an increase, a decrease, the timing of any of that. It will be driven by conditions on the ground. The only way we can defeat an enemy that is as nimble and as cagey, tactically, as this enemy, is we have to be as cagey and tactical as they are. And we’ve not been fighting that way.

QUESTION: Could that include strikes in Pakistan?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: I’m not going to comment on what it could include, but the President has been clear that we are going to protect American troops and servicemen. We are going to attack terrorists wherever they live, and we have put people on notice that if you are harboring and providing safe haven to terrorists, be warned. Be forewarned. And we’re going to engage with those who are providing safe haven and ask them to change what they’re doing and help us help them. Because in my view, the best – the greatest benefactor, other than the Afghan people themselves, to achieving stability and peace in Afghanistan, are the people of Pakistan. They will benefit more than any other nation. 

So many in the press seem unaware of either the Afghanistan or Iraq War.

But, of course, not everyone suffered.

For example, corporations reaped massive profits.

We'll note these Tweets from US Special Envoy Brett McGurk that pertain to one group of Iraqi Christians.

Grateful for Father Salar & people of Telskuf for your warm welcome. Restoring life to your town defies and honors our fallen. 5/5
Our supports Telskuf & towns around Mosul w/stabilization projects. This substation will soon return power to plain. 4/5
lost. Churches are still standing, now being restored, & 4,000 people have returned to their homes in over last 6 months. 3/5
is a mostly Christian town de-populated by in 2014. terrorists tried to destroy churches that stood since 258 AD. 2/5
Visited today just north of . U.S. Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV sacrificed his life here fighting on May 3, 2016. 1/5

The following community sites -- plus GORILLA RADIO -- updated:

  • iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq Iraq

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