Wednesday, November 29, 2017

TODAY? (Is Matt Lauer a Demi Moore fan?)

The big TV news today is TODAY.

In case you pull the late shift and  slept most of the day, Matt Lauer was fired.  For assault of one female and there's a chance that he also assaulted a woman during the 2014 Olympics (no, that's not an actual event but Matt Lauer is so sick he may have thought it was).

Savannah (Guthrie?) had to announce the news at the start of TODAY this morning.  Shortly before the broadcast started she was informed of what was happening.

Hoda and Kathy.

That's my focus.

They sent Hoda on early.  Hoda held Savannah's hand as they talked about the firing.

My guess?

NBC knew Hoda never lost her cool with Kathy Leigh (Lee?) Gifford so Hoda could handle this as well.

And she did.

Meanwhile, when the actual Kathy and Hoda hour came on, Kathy all but wept over Matt Lauer telling the audience that she had texted him and she loved him and blah blah blah.

You really waited for her to talk about the victim(s) but she never did.

Some people may be outraged by that.

I won't tell them that they are wrong to be outraged, but it's Kathy.

Come on, it's Kathy.

When has she ever come off as sane?

She mainly seems drunk on air.

So I'm not going to get too riled about what some elderly drunk woman said.

Matt Lauer was making something like $25 million a year.

Now he's fired.

And because of why, it's going to be hard for him to get work.

He can't go to MSNBC -- where  a lot of losers like Brian Williams go.  NBC fired him.

So he really only has Mark Cuban's pathetic HD or whatever it's called.

It was home to the loon Dan Rather for awhile.  Maybe Marc will hire Matt.

To go from $25 million a year to nothing . . .

Short of writing a tell all that sold big, there's nothing left for him.

Oh, he's Jules!

Demi Moore's character in ST. ELMO'S FIRE!

Remember when she's laughing about her boss and says he'll get fired and she'll take his job "do a black mink ad, retire in utter disgrace, then write a best seller and be a fabulous host on my own talk show."

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


According to a Pentagon report, the US has deployed thousands more troops in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan than it has previously admitted.

BBC NEWS picks up on the issue of more US troops being stationed in Iraq than previously revealed:

The number of US troops in Syria and Iraq is significantly higher than acknowledged by Pentagon officials, a US defence department report shows.
Officially there are 503 US troops in Syria and 5,262 in Iraq.
However, the Pentagon's quarterly report puts number of troops as 1,720 in Syria and 8,892 in Iraq.


The report did not include number of special operations forces or temporary personnel rotating into or out of the country in the official figures, so, military experts and analysts believe the actual number could be even higher.

And they note that this trickery with regards to numbers did not begin under Donald Trump:

Around the end of Obama's presidency, DOD announced that the number of US troops in Iraq is 2,662, however, Defense Manpower Data Center announced in December 2016 that there are 6,812 troops in Iraq.

RT speaks with analyst Ali Rizk about the numbers:

Ali Rizk: It is quite possible the real numbers are higher than the official numbers which are given by the US officials. You have to bear in mind – before the killing of four US troops in Niger, many people didn’t know that the US actually had forces in that country. Bearing that in mind, one wouldn’t be surprised to know that the real numbers of US troops in Iraq, in Syria, or elsewhere in the Middle East would be higher given the fact that this US troop presence in Africa, Niger and elsewhere in the African continent, wasn’t known. What also could make it quite possible that the real numbers are higher than what is being announced – is the fact that you have generals, many of Trump’s closest associates, members of his cabinet, they are military men, General McMaster, General James Mattis, John Kelly, they would be prone to send higher number of military personnel abroad. At the same time, the US public probably wouldn’t receive that kind of deployment very well and would probably raise its objections which would require from Trump administration to maybe hide these facts and to increase the true presence without actually announcing it. So, [given] all these factors, it could be quite possible that we indeed do have larger numbers than what is being heard about.

RT: This wouldn’t be the first time the US has been unclear about its troop numbers in Iraq and Syria. Why does the Pentagon apparently want to give the impression it has fewer troops than it really does in the region?

AR: It is related to what I would call the post-Iraqi and Afghani war syndrome. It is similar to the situation we had in the aftermath of the American war in Vietnam. The same thing, the American public is exhausted, it is against any increase in troop presence. And I think the Pentagon is very intent on keeping this message that it has a low level of troop presence in order not to lead to an outburst or an outcry from an American public which as I said would be very war-weary and would be very much objected to increased American presence… At the same time, we do have a lot of generals who want to increase, who would be more prone to pursuing military solutions or having military build-up in the foreign countries.     

In other news . . .

Drought and neglect have decimated Iraq’s breadbasket

You may remember the stories of how the date industry was going to revolutionize Iraq's economy under Bully Boy Bush.

No, we didn't believe it here.

And we got some angry e-mails on that including from one US military captain who had worked on the program.

That was over a decade ago that the e-mail came in.

It would appear that we were right to have been skeptical of the laughable claims.

So many programs get started and then dropped.

And the point here: The dam in Mosul.

If ISIS is cleared of Mosul, maybe it's time to get serious about the dam.

Every few years, we're told that the dam could fall apart and spew enough water across Iraq to kill thousands.

So if ISIS is gone, what's the hold up?

Why wait until you fear the battered dam will be bombed or exploded by ISIS or someone else to fix it?

Fix it now.

But that would require the Iraqi government using money for something other than corruption and, goodness knows, corruption remains the big money industry in Iraq.


Over the weekend came news that members of Nouri al-Maliki's administration (2006 - 2014) had been charged with corruption.  It was supposed to be a big deal and a feather in the cap for Iraq's current prime minister Hayder al-Abadi.

Though many continue to spin it that way, is it?

We've already noted that Nouri himself wasn't part of the group charged.  And that the efforts seemed mild, at best.

Judging by ASHARQ AL-ASWAT's report today, it's even worse than we thought:

At a time when Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi warned that he will escalate his war against corrupt officials, the judiciary handed down on Tuesday prison sentences against a number of officials who were convicted in corruption-related cases.

Abadi announced last week that the corrupt had to either hand out the stolen money – and perhaps be pardoned – or lose their money and spend the rest of their lives in prison.

The Integrity Commission revealed on Tuesday that several judicial verdicts were handed down in cases it has investigated against officials charged with abusing public funds.

Criminals who betrayed the public trust were given, by Hayder, the opportunity "to either hand out the stolen money [. . .] or lose their money and spend the rest of their lives in prison"?

That's rather strange in a country where a whisper campaign can get you executed.

But then Hayder's not serious about fighting corruption and the way he's treated those guilty of corruption makes that perfectly clear.

What, if anything, has Hayder improved in Iraq?

: Honour crimes remain a grave problem & Article 409 of the Penal Code – which reduces punishment for men who kill women for “honourable motives” – should be amended to end impunity for such acts

Apparently, he's not done much of anything but, no doubt, like Nouri before him, he'll eventually leave office with his pockets full of the country's riches while the Iraqi people struggle.

For now, he shakes hands with visiting dignitaries.  Today?

: British Prime Minister has arrived in Baghdad and will be holding talks with Iraq’s Prime Minister .

While she shakes hands with Hayder, George Galloway notes the lies that pulled the UK into the Iraq War.

“Gordon Brown reveals in his autobiography that after Chilcot Inquiry had closed he was leaked a document from US government proving beyond any contradiction that US govt never believed Iraq had WMD, therefore allowing Tony Blair to lie to the Queen, Armed Forces, to parliament”

The following community sites updated:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Hope you read Mike's "Franken needs to go."

The first part was about THE PUNISHER.

I only made it through five episodes of the new NETFLIX show.

I wanted to stop after the first one.

But I told myself, "This has got to pick up."

It never did.

It is the worst Marvel comics show NETFLIX has made, yes.

But I would also argue it is the worst NETFLIX series ever.

This is hideous.

The lead actor doesn't connect with anything (other than his own ego).

Calling the storyline "trite" makes it sound deeper than it is.

I've never been more bored with a show.

I have applauded the other Marvel shows and enjoyed them.

But THE PUNISHER sucks -- it is a punishment to watch.

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017.  More US troops are stationed in Iraq than was previously admitted, another US soldier dies serving in Iraq, tensions continue to increase, and much more.

Ellen Mitchell (THE HILL) reports another US soldier has died in Iraq, "Cpl. Todd McGurn of Riverside, Calif., died Nov. 25 in Baghdad 'as a result of a non-combat related incident,' the Pentagon statement read. McGurn was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas."

This is the fourth death of a US service member in Iraq since October 1st.  Alex, Missildine, Houghton Brown, Lee Smith and now Todd McGurn have all died serving in iraq.

And the deaths have received very little attention from the media.

On the topic of US troops in Iraq, Luiz Martinez (ABC NEWS) reports:

Thousands more American troops are serving in Iraq and Syria than has been previously acknowledged by the Pentagon, a new report finds.
According to the Defense Manpower Data Center's quarterly report from September, there were 1,720 American troops in Syria -- three times as many as the 503 troops in Syria that U.S. military spokesmen have told reporters. The Pentagon's personnel agency issues quarterly reports about how many American troops are serving in individual states and overseas countries.
The same report showed there were 8,992 American troops in Iraq, almost 3,500 more than the official Department of Defense tally of 5,262. 

And tensions continue to increase in Iraq.  Jane Arraf (NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED) looks at Kirkuk:

ARRAF: Hawre is a barber in one of Kirkuk's Kurdish neighborhoods. I don't use his full name because I met him when he was working at a polling station in September as Kurds voted for independence. He was so happy then.

HAWRE: Then my happiness go away because something happened and military of Iraq, they attack us.

ARRAF: And he's angry at the U.S. for allowing Iraqi forces to attack Kurdish fighters using American tanks.

HAWRE: Now I swear to God if I be president of Kurdistan, I go to Russia and make deal with them and buy United States because they don't do anything.

ARRAF: Hawre says now Kurds close their shop early at night and they stay in their neighborhoods. Like other Kurds here, though, he says holding the independence referendum was the right thing to do. He believes someday Kurds will have Kirkuk back again.

The grabbing of Kirkuk took place after the bulk of the Islamic State had been run out of Iraq.  Hayder al-Abadi, prime minister of Iraq, had been planning it for some time.

ALJAZEERA speaks with Kurdish political analyst Kifah Mahmoud about what has taken place since September 25th when over 92% of Kurds turned out at the polls to vote for Kurdish independence.  Excerpt:

Al Jazeera: Given the recent backlash - both locally and internationally - do you think that it was too soon to hold a referendum on Kurdish secession?

Mahmoud: Quite the contrary. In fact, I think we were very much delayed in our decision to carry out a referendum on secession. Personally, I had been advocating and fighting for this step since the United States toppled [late Iraqi] President Saddam Hussein's regime back in 2003.
This step should have been taken directly after April 2003, instead of having gone to Baghdad to negotiate. We're still paying the price for opting to negotiate.

Al Jazeera: What are the main challenges facing the Kurdish region now that the oil-rich city of Kirkuk has been retaken by the central government?

Mahmoud: Kirkuk will not be gone forever. For more than four decades, Saddam Hussein's government and his predecessors tried to change the city's demographics, but it was reclaimed by the Kurds in a matter of four hours.
Among our biggest challenges at the moment is Baghdad's lack of faith in the power of dialogue, and its inclination to deal with the Kurdish question through military force. This has been the case with previous governments as well, but they fell, and we remained.

Kirkuk is an issue that was supposed to have been settled long ago.

Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution (approved in 2005) argues for a census and referendum.  More to the point, it states that this must take place by the end of 2007.

Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in the spring of 2006.

2007 came to a close with Nouri refusing to implement Article 140 as the Constitution dictated.  After he lost the 2010 election, Nouri agreed to implement Article 140 in exchange for a second term (these and other agreements were made in the US brokered Erbil Agreement).

Of course, after being named to a second term, he then refused to implement it.

Hayder al-Abadi, installed by Barack in the summer of 2014, played dumb about Article 140 until June of this year when he suddenly announced he would be looking into it -- thereby signaling that he was planning to move on Kirkuk.

Kirkuk is oil rich and both the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Baghdad-based central government claim it.  The RAND Corporation was noting that this was an explosive issue and one that needed to be decided -- noting this while Bully Boy Bush still occupied the White House.  It was kick the can for every US administration.

Long time Middle East observer Peter W. Galbraith contributed "Why the Kurds are paying for Trump's gift to Iran" for THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS earlier this month:

The Trump administration, which had been careful to keep the PMF out of ISIS-held Mosul, did nothing to stop these two Iranian-backed terrorists from using American weapons to attack an American ally. But for the action of US soldiers in the area, they would almost certainly have killed another American citizen. After the PMF takeover of Kirkuk, the Pentagon attempted ineffectually to hide its embarrassment by calling the Kurdish-Iraqi fighting a “misunderstanding.” The administration’s complaisant attitude to the Iranian-led action was even more puzzling since it followed Donald Trump’s decision three days earlier to decertify the Iran nuclear deal—justified as a response to Iran’s malign activities in the region, including in Iraq.
Pique toward the Kurds partially explains the administration’s indifference. In February, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s president, Masoud Barzani, wrote a letter to President Trump announcing his intention to hold an independence referendum and explaining the reasons for it. On June 7, the KRG set the date for vote as September 25. The only US reaction came from a State Department spokesman who said the timing was inopportune and mischaracterized the vote as non-binding. (The referendum was binding on the KRG but, as Barzani explained, the Kurds would allow up to two years for negotiations with Baghdad on the divorce before actually declaring independence.) 
The Kurds were then caught by surprise when, just two weeks before the vote, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the special presidential envoy to Iraq, Brett McGurk, launched a full-scale diplomatic effort to get the Kurds to postpone it. Even that initiative was bungled: a US-sponsored UN Security Council statement directly contradicted private promises made to the Kurds. It was also too late.
Along with former foreign ministers from France and Croatia, I traveled to polling places in various parts of Kurdistan on referendum day. The enthusiasm was palpable. Women came to vote dressed as if they were going to a wedding and many brought their children—usually dressed in traditional Kurdish clothes and carrying Kurdistan flags—so that the children could later say that they were there when their country was born. More than one voter told me that their people had waited for this moment for a century, recalling Sykes-Picot, the Anglo-French secret agreement of 1916 that carved up the region and ultimately led to the Kurds’ involuntary inclusion in the new state of Iraq . There is no doubt that the referendum, which took place without a single violent incident, reflected the long-held desire of almost every Iraqi Kurd for independence. In an election with a strong 72 percent turnout, the people of Kurdistan voted by 93 percent for independence.
Even had he wanted to, it would have been impossible for Masoud Barzani to cancel the referendum days before it took place. But Barzani had no desire to cancel the vote. Already, after ISIS had conquered Mosul and most Iraq’s Sunni areas in June 2014, he was on the verge of declaring independence. As he told me at the time, “Iraq no longer exists. We have a thousand-kilometer border with Daesh [the Islamic State] and thirty kilometers with Iraq.”
When US Secretary of State John Kerry visited in Erbil in July 2014, he asked Barzani to postpone the referendum until the defeat of ISIS. Barzani agreed. Having done as they were asked in 2014, the Kurdish leaders felt that the Americans should respect their decision to go ahead now that ISIS was largely defeated. But Tillerson and McGurk had a new request—to postpone until after the Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled for the spring of 2018.
The American motives were transparent. The US strategy in Iraq is built around Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. US diplomats see Abadi as a moderate who reversed the sectarian policies of his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki. Today, Maliki is blamed for so alienating the Sunnis that he had made possible the rise of ISIS in western Iraq. What is forgotten is that Maliki, too, was once our man in Baghdad, in effect handpicked to be prime minister by Bush’s ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

In order for Abadi to prevail against his more extreme Shiite rivals, US diplomats calculated he needed the votes of the Kurdish parliamentarians who hold about a fifth of the seats in the Iraqi parliament. The Kurds, however, were never persuaded that Abadi was much different from his predecessor; indeed, he is a member of the same Shiite religious party that is headed by Maliki. Moreover, Abadi failed to restore Kurdistan’s constitutionally-mandated share of the Iraqi budget, which Maliki had cut. He also successfully blocked the US from supplying the peshmerga with sophisticated weapons like the Abrams tank, even when the Kurds were the only ground force stopping ISIS from taking the entire north of Iraq. To explain why he could not accept the American request to postpone, Barzani told me: “Iraq is not what was on offer in 2003. Iraq is a theocratic, autocratic state. The intention is clear. The faces are different [from Saddam’s time] but the goal is the same. As long as we wait, they get stronger and we get weaker.”

At least 11 are dead and twenty-six injured from a Monday night Baghdad bombing in a shopping areaYesterday, there was a drive-by shooting (on motorcycles) in broad daylight in Baghdad.  How long before the reports start noting bodies dumped in the streets again?

That's where things stood before the battle with ISIS took up all the attention.

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, Cindy Sheehan, BLACK AGENDA REPORT, Tavis Smiley, DISSIDENT VOICE and THE PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How much damage has JUSTICE LEAGUE done?

A month ago, Wonder Woman was unstoppable.  Her film was probably the biggest of 2017.  Real interest was building for the follow up.


Less so.

She's one of the characters in the bomb film JUSTICE LEAGUE.

How badly does that effect her?

Depends on the number of die hards.

Die hards made WONDER WOMAN a hit but those who came to see what the fuss was about or due to the good buzz made it a blockbuster.

After JUSTICE LEAGUE, it'll probably be harder to get the fuss/buzz crowd back immediately.  If it's a great film, the second Wonder Woman film, it will probably lure the fuss/buzz crowd back eventually.  But if it's just good or okay, it probably won't.

It's time to fire Ben Affleck as Batman.

I like him as Batman but a lot of fans of the Batman franchise do not like him.  That's impacted ticket buys as has his groping incident.

It's time to fire him.

Aquaman really suffers because excitement on this film could have helped.

And Aquaman is a s**tty comic book character.

Let's be honest.

There are tons of bits on FAMILY GUY mocking him and they're right.

Out of the water, he's really powerless.

I don't know that it impacts Flash one way or another -- I think most people's opinions of FLASH or more impacted by the years of comic book reading or by the TV series.

But Cyborg and Aquaman suffer because of this film. (Not from bad acting performances but from a lousy script and a depressing film.)

LBJ is the biggest flop of the season.

While JUSTICE LEAGUE might still (due to foreign box office) make back its budget, it's worse in that it dampens enthusiasm for a number of other films.

It should have been an entertaining film but it's not.

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017.  As many go on holiday in the US, school is still in session for the US State Dept (child soldiers) and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (reality) while the biggest story for Iraq is that the IMF now controls the country.

Currently, Iraq is planning to hold elections in May.  One factor that might influence voting?

Iraq's further loss of sovereignty.

The International Money Fund released the following yesterday:

 IMF Mission on Iraq

November 21, 2017
End-of-Mission press releases include statements of IMF staff teams that convey preliminary findings after a visit to a country. The views expressed in this statement are those of the IMF staff and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF’s Executive Board. Based on the preliminary findings of this mission, staff will prepare a report that, subject to management approval, will be presented to the IMF's Executive Board for discussion and decision.
  • The Iraqi authorities and IMF staff continued discussions on the third review of the Standby Arrangement.
  • Good progress towards reaching agreement on a draft 2018 budget in line with the program.
The Iraqi authorities and the staff of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) continued discussions in Amman from November 17 to 21, 2017 on the third review of Iraq’s 36-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). The IMF Executive Board approved the SBA on July 7, 2016 (See Press Release No. 16/321), and completed the second review on August 1, 2017 (See Press Release No. 17/311).
At the end of the mission, Mr. Christian Josz, Mission Chief for Iraq, issued the following statement:
“The Iraqi authorities and IMF staff continued discussions on the third review of the SBA and made good progress towards reaching agreement on a draft 2018 budget in line with the SBA.
“During the discussions, the team met with Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), Dr. Ali Mohsen Ismail Al-Allaq, Acting Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr. Maher Johan, Deputy Minister of Planning, Dr. Qasim Enaya, Financial Adviser to the Prime Minister, Dr. Mudher Saleh, Chairman of the Board of Supreme Audit, and officials from the ministry of finance, CBI and the ministry of oil. The team would like to thank the Iraqi authorities for their cooperation and the open and productive discussions.”

IMF Communications Department
PRESS OFFICER: Randa Elnagar
Phone: +1 202 623-7100Email:

"In line with the program."

Iraq now has to discuss their budget -- get permission from the IMF -- and it has to be "in line with the program."

This is exactly what Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned about.

But Hayder al-Abadi knew better, or thought he did.

He's prime minister.

For now.

He's never been popular.

He's considered a lazy Nouri al-Maliki.

He hasn't ended corruption.

He persecutes the Sunnis.  He persecutes the Kurds.

He's riding a light wave of popularity because the US-led coalition has bombed and bussed -- yes, and bussed -- many of the Islamic State fighters out of Iraq.

Replying to 
We finished [ISIS] militarily in Iraq and liberated our towns and cities. This is an Iraqi victory, made by the Iraqi people. We thank all those who supported Iraq and stood by us during our battles of liberation

And already the wave of popularity is fading.

Now this.

Now the Iraqi people have to see that Hayder al-Abadi sold out the country's future.  And they know the Grand Ayatollah publicly warned about a deal with the IMF.  They know that he warned about it repeatedly, over and over.

But Hayder went through with it.

And now Iraq has to bow before the IMF, Hayder has turned the country into debt slaves.

That's going to be hard to run on.

Nouri still wants to be prime minister.  That's just the sort of thing Nouri can exploit to thin out Hayder's Shi'ite support (at present, Hayder has no support except for Shi'ites and Turkmen).  Even Nouri didn't do that, even he didn't sell out Iraq's rights and future.

This is big news that will become bigger news.

It attacks the reality of Iraq and the image of the Iraqis.  It's a major blow to belief, to pride, to nationality.

Let's go to yesterday's US State Dept press briefing with spokesperson Heather Naurert:

QUESTION: Thank you. The head of Kurdish foreign relations has asked the U.S. to appoint a special envoy to mediate between Baghdad and Erbil. What’s your response to that request?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. So we certainly heard about that idea to appoint a special envoy. We believe at this point that this is an issue that can be worked out internally, that it can be worked out between Baghdad and Erbil and don’t feel that it’s necessary to appoint some sort of United States envoy in some sort of new position to handle this. We have close relationships with the Kurds and with the central Iraqis. We will continue to try to facilitate conversations but we just don’t feel that an envoy is necessary to have – to appoint.

QUESTION: Well, I’m sure the Kurds do, otherwise they wouldn’t have asked, and a point in fact for example --

MS NAUERT: I’m – Laurie, I’m not aware of a formal request to appoint an envoy. I’ve heard of this report. I’m not aware of a formal request. But look, I mean, every nation, every dispute around the world could ask us to appoint an envoy. We think that countries can work out some issues on their own. There’s a very long history here. These folks have lived together, have fought together, have raised families together; we think that they can probably work it out on their own as well.

QUESTION: And one party has committed genocide against the other not so long ago. But yesterday, the Kurdistan government called on the international community to press Baghdad to lift the punitive measures that it has imposed on the Kurds, like the closure, for example, of the Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports. So what have you done in that regard to facilitate the opening of those airports, which is a necessity?

MS NAUERT: Sure. We have lots of conversations to try to facilitate some sort of an agreement on the part of Baghdad and Erbil. Brett McGurk was just there; I believe it was late last week. He met with both Barzani and also with the prime minister, Abadi, both in Baghdad and in Erbil last week. He made calls over the weekend. Secretary Tillerson was on the phone over the weekend. He spoke with both Mr. Barzani and Abadi over the weekend. So, I mean, that’s a very high level of support that we have trying to help facilitate things – for things to improve in Iraq. I don’t know that there’s that much more that we can do. But we call on the governments to sit down and have a conversation together and work this out.

QUESTION: As a result of all that talking, has Baghdad made any commitment on when those airports will be reopened?

MS NAUERT: The last thing that I have on that is just we’re going to work to continue to press for the opening of any remaining airports that are closed.


Great -- and when will they address the blockade Baghad's imposed that prevents medicine from going into the KRG?  Or the attempts to arrest those who supported a peaceful referendum?

Staying with the State Dept, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in the news.  At issue?  Iraq, Burma and Afghanistan getting a pass on using children as soldiers.

The State Department is defending Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's decision to leave three countries -- Afghanistan, Iraq, and BurmA -- off a list of those using child soldiers


The issue was raised at yesterday's State Dept press briefing.

QUESTION: When the Secretary made a decision on whether to designate Iraq, Burma, and Afghanistan as not employing child soldiers, did he do so on a technical basis or on a political one?

MS NAUERT: Yeah, yeah. No, on a technical basis really. He made the decision after considering – let me back up for a second. When these designations are made there’s a lot information that comes in. It’s information that comes in from NGOs, sometimes from post, sometimes from the Intelligence Community, a lot of different – sometimes open source material. A lot of information flows in and we take a look at it all and try to make sure it’s all accurate and credible.
I want to be clear about the importance of using the Child Soldier Prevention Act. And we announced our list earlier this year, in the summer. We all know why it’s in the news. It’s in the news because there was a dissent memo. That’s why it’s in the news today. But essentially this is an incentive – the act is itself – for governments to prevent the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. No one in the United States Government likes the idea of the use of child soldiers. It is abhorrent, okay? We will not designate to – we will not hesitate to designate any country as ineligible for assistance if a statutory standard for listing would be met in the future. Okay.
In June, the Secretary determined that there were eight countries that met the statutory requirement to be identified under the Child Soldier Prevention Act, and let me list those countries, if I may: Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen. That’s both South Sudan and Sudan. So those countries all were put on that list because we know that they use child soldiers. When it came to looking at Burma and also Iraq and also Afghanistan, the Secretary made the decision to not have those countries on the list because he considered the credibility of all the information that was available to him from all of those multiple sources. He reviewed all the facts and he felt that he made the decision to not have those countries on the list as justified pursuant to law.

QUESTION: Now, as you know – well, maybe I shouldn’t ask this one since it was yours. Did you want to ask this one?

MS NAUERT: Go ahead and follow up before --

QUESTION: Well, just a quick question on the credibility thing.


QUESTION: Both the human rights report issued by the State Department and the trafficking report, I believe, argued that they do use and recruit child soldiers. So why did the Secretary not find his own institution’s reports lacking credibility in this regard?

MS NAUERT: I think part of it has to do with the numbers in the reports, and I’m not going to be able to say much beyond that. There are countries that use lots and lots of children. There are countries where, just as a general matter, where you may have heard from one source, among the many sources that I mentioned, where maybe one source might say that they heard a child had been a border guard. I’m just making that up, but something of that sort. And if we can’t corroborate that information and it is a child who’s listed under a certain government, that government wouldn't necessarily make the list. If we can’t back up that information, if it is a report that only lists one or two, the belief was on the Secretary’s part to not put those types of countries on this list.

QUESTION: Isn’t one too many?

MS NAUERT: It’s a good question. That’s a fair question. Look, I can tell you that he took a technical look at that and that’s the decision he made.

QUESTION: The reason that I asked --

QUESTION: He’s recently visited the three capitals concerned.

MS NAUERT: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: He’s recently visited three capitals concerned, Kabul, Baghdad, and Naypyidaw.


QUESTION: Did he bring up this issue with the leaders of those countries?

MS NAUERT: I think – I’m not sure what – I don’t have the entire readout of the meetings in Afghanistan and also in Iraq. As you well know, I was not there. In the meetings in Burma, there are huge issues to be discussed. Not that this is not important, okay, but some of the things that they have to do is talk about the biggest issues at hand, and that is the more than 600,000 Rohingya who have been forced to flee that country because they’ve been pushed out, because women have been raped, because children have been killed, and all of that. You know the story. Perhaps he did bring it up in some of the conversations; I can’t get into the details of all the diplomatic conversations. But these are the types of things that come up regularly in our diplomatic conversations with various countries around the world.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up, if I may. I asked a question about isn’t one too many not just rhetorically, but according to the memo which we have, which my colleagues obtained and published --

MS NAUERT: Which memo?

QUESTION: The memo unanimously from the State Department staff, including all the clearances on it, said that the statutory standard was that – was met by even one child soldier, and therefore I don’t – if you doubt your own reports, I can’t argue with that, but if you have sufficient credibility in your reports to publish them and to find that there are, in these cases, at least one, and if the statutory requirement, according to your own internal memo, says one is too many and triggers the requirement, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t go ahead and do it, partly because you also have the ability to issue waivers afterwards to spare countries the consequences of it.

MS NAUERT: That’s the President’s decision, waivers are.


MS NAUERT: I don’t have the statutory language in front of me, so I don’t want to quote from that or read that back to you, because I just don’t have it.

QUESTION: But you said that it was a technical decision. So --

MS NAUERT: Yeah, and that was the decision that the Secretary made. Okay.

QUESTION: The question of --

MS NAUERT: Look, I’m not an expert on this matter. Admittedly, I am not an expert on child soldiers, and nor am I a lawyer. I can do the best to give you the information that I have.

QUESTION: The question on this also is that he disregarded the recommendation, I mean, as Arshad said, by essentially all of the bureaus that would have sort of equity in this; they all recommended that these countries be on the list, and he disregarded their recommendations. So what was it that he felt made it worthwhile for him to disregard the recommendations of all the bureaus?

MS NAUERT: Well, I think getting more to the point is that when people disagree here in this building, there is a channel for that, and that is the dissent cable memo. Four or five of them, to my understanding, are issued every year when – and that is where people in the building who have a different point of view than the Secretary can write up, and that information goes into his office, and he can review that and decide to take that into consideration, he can go along with it and agree with it, or he can decide to go his own – or he can decide to make his own decision. The Secretary did that. He made his own decision on this, but it was not without reviewing the information that came from all the various bureaus and individuals. Okay.

QUESTION: Heather, can I just clarify? Are you saying that they were left off the list because they have a smaller number or --

MS NAUERT: I’m not – I’m not saying that. I’m just saying --

QUESTION: -- or is it because they’re making improvements, which was noted --

MS NAUERT: Well, and that’s another thing where improvements can be made. For example, we have a close working relationship with Prime Minister Abadi in Iraq. We were just talking about that. Prime Minister Abadi has taken great strides in not only making the military more and more professional, holding people to account, and trying to ensure or ensuring that there aren’t child soldiers serving in their various militias and militaries. So we look to those governments as taking – as they take better steps in the right direction.

QUESTION: But in the law, it doesn’t say if they’re taking those steps that they can left off the list.

MS NAUERT: Again, I don’t – I’m sorry, I don’t have the law in front of me. I should have it in front of me, and unfortunately I don’t. So -- 

Jason Szep and Matt Spetalneck (REUTERS) report:

 A confidential State Department “dissent” memo, which Reuters was first to report on, said Tillerson breached the Child Soldiers Prevention Act when he decided in June to exclude Iraq, Myanmar, and Afghanistan from a U.S. list of offenders in the use of child soldiers. This was despite the department publicly acknowledging that children were being conscripted in those countries. []
Keeping the countries off the annual list makes it easier to provide them with U.S. military assistance. Iraq and Afghanistan are close allies in the fight against Islamist militants, while Myanmar is an emerging ally to offset China’s influence in Southeast Asia.

One is too many.

But the State Dept is not the only one getting schooled.  US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, also learns that school is still in session.

No, Nikki. The Christian exodus from Iraq had nothing to do with ISIS. By the time ISIS came into being, your neocon allies and their 2003 invasion of Iraq had decimated Christianity in Iraq. You are responsible. Don't pretend to be a savior!

Exactly.  The targeting of Christians in Iraq began long ago and the same militias now roaming Iraq are the same ones who attacked the Christians.

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, BLACK AGENDA REPORT, the ACLU, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE GUARDIAN,  LATINO USA and NPR -- updated: