Saturday, November 29, 2014

Strong truth teller, strong woman

These days with Barack's approval ratings in the toilet and with him being a War Hawk and War Criminal, a lot of people are showing up to insist that they've always called him out, that they were never fooled, that they were never part of the con.

A lot of people tend to lie.

By the way, there is worse than those liars.  There's Ralph Nader, for example, who can't call Barack out even now -- talk about a chicken s**t.

This community always held Barack accountable.  C.I. certainly did more so than anyone online.  She did a great job and she didn't have to wait for the polling to tell her it was safe.

But I want to note another strong woman,

This is Sibel Edmonds in May of 2009:


During the campaign, amid their state of elation, many disregarded Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama’s past record and took any criticism of these past actions as partisan attacks deserving equally partisan counterattacks. Some continued their reluctant support after candidate Obama became grand finalist and prayed for the best. And a few still continue their rationalizing and defense, with illogical excuses such as ‘He’s been in office for only 20 days, give the man a break!’ and ‘He’s had only 50 days in office, give him a chance!’ and currently, ‘be reasonable - how much can a man do in 120 days?!’ I am going to give this logic, or lack of, a slight spicing of reason, then, turn it around, and present it as: If ‘the man’ can do this much astounding damage, whether to our civil liberties, or to our notion of democracy, or to government integrity, in ‘only’ 120 days, may God help us with the next [(4 X 365) - 120] days. I know there are those who have been tackling President Obama’s changes on change; they have been challenging his flipping, or rather flopping, on issues central to getting him elected. While some have been covering the changes comprehensively, others have been running right and left like headless chickens in the field - pick one hypocrisy, scream a bit, then move on to the next outrageous flop, the same, and then to the next, basically, looking and treating this entire mosaic one piece at a time.
Despite all the promises Mr. Obama made during his campaign, especially on those issues that were absolutely central to those whose support he garnered, so far the President of Change has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor. Not only that, his administration has made it clear that they intend to continue this trend. Some call it a major betrayal. Can we go so far as to call it a ‘swindling of the voters’? And that's just the opening.


And that's just the opening.

I believe Glenn Greenwald was still whoring for Barack when Sibel was telling those truths and more.

I'll add that when Sibel speaks or writes, she has an issue whereas Glenn spends a lot of time self-glorifying.

Sibel writes about concerns.

Glenn writes about his own celebrity.

The world needs our strong women.  I'm not so sure about other 'commentators.'


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


Saturday, November 29, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, more civilians are killed in the US-led air campaign, despite announcements no budget bill is read in Parliament, corruption remains rampant, and much more.



In a letter to the editors of the Houston Chronicle, Carl Schiro asks a question no one seems able to answer:

Regarding "Corruption hobbles Iraq's military efforts" (Page A1, Monday), why is our government still sending our troops and money to such a corrupt country?


Can anyone answer that question?  The article Schiro's referring to is David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times via Hamilton Spectator) report on Iraqi forces:

                             
The Iraqi military and police forces had been so thoroughly pillaged by their own corrupt leadership that they all but collapsed this spring in the face of the advancing militants of the Islamic State — despite roughly $25 billion worth of U.S. training and equipment over the past 10 years and far more from the Iraqi treasury.                         


Now maybe if there had been work on the political solution -- the one US President Barack Obama has spent months giving lip service to -- corruption could have been dealt with.

Instead, Barack's planning a work-around.  Francesca Chambers (Daily Mail) notes:


The U.S. military has decided against rebuilding the entire Iraqi army and will instead focus on training a handful of brigades to take on Islamic radicals, initiating a shift in the Pentagon's decade-long approach to the handling the country.
'The idea is, at least in the first instance, to try and build a kind of leaner, meaner Iraqi army,' a senior U.S. official told the Washington Post.
Officials who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity said the military plans to create nine new Iraqi army brigades of up to 45,000 light-infantry soldiers over the course of the next two months and team them with other Kurdish and Shiite fighters. 

So the problem is being labeled as "corruption" and the US government thinks the way to handle/address that is to just make smaller units?

That 'solution' -- laughable as it is -- certainly makes more sense than the Iraqi government's response.


Michael Gregory (Reuters) reports that Minister of Finance Hoshyar Zebari has stated that the military will take up about 23% of the proposed budget for 2015 and he's also calling "for deep-rooted reforms to stamp out corruption in a military that collapsed in the face of an Islamic State advance."

Yes, by all means, put nearly a quarter of your annual budget into a military machine known for its corruption.

Don't root out the corruption, just toss more money at it.

A quarter of your budget, for example.

Since the US isn't planning on any major actions until at least February, there's nore than enough time to address graft in the Iraqi military.

In fact, doing so would expose a mountain of corruption because as members of this political party or slate go down, you can rest assured they will take others down with them.  Meaning?  A State of Law military official goes down for corruption, they'll rat out someone in the Ministry of Transportation and so on and so on.

Corruption is rampant in Iraq.


That's why Transparency International ranks Iraq the 171st least transparent country or territory on a list of 177 for 2013.  This is not a new development.  In 2009, Barack was sworn in as president.  Transparency International's finds for 2009?  Iraq was ranked the 176th least transparent. (For those who want to trumpet the 'success' in Iraq moving from 176 to 171, please note that the 2009 list included 180 listings.They dropped three.  So Iraq really just moved one spot.)

In 2009, Patrick Cockburn (at CounterPunch) pointed out, "Iraq is the world’s premier kleptomaniac state. According to Transparency International the only countries deemed more crooked than Iraq are Somalia and Myanmar, while Haiti and Afghanistan rank just behind. In contrast to Iraq, which enjoys significant oil revenues, none of these countries have much money to steal."  Bill Van Auken (World Socialist Web Site) also noted the Transparency International 2009 report:

In relation to Iraq, the report found rampant corruption as well, with corrupt government officials operating with impunity. It cited a recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation stating that in Iraq “non-security institutions remain weak and debilitated. The Iraqi leadership faces many structural constraints on governance, such as a massive brain drain, a high level of political division, and extreme poverty.”

Across the political spectrum, the corruption has been noted repeatedly and consistently.  For example, early this year the right-wing Heritage Foundation noted of Iraq:

Corruption is pervasive at all levels of government. There are widespread reports of demands by officials for bribes, mismanagement of public funds, payments to “ghost” employees, salary skimming, and nepotism. Although judicial independence is guaranteed in the constitution, judges are subject to immense political and sectarian pressure and are viewed by the public as corrupt or ineffective. Property rights are not well protected.


And if you need a government source, here's the US Embassy in Baghdad:

Corruption remains a salient feature of the political and economic landscape of Iraq and poses and threatens its full economic and social development.  Mitigating corruption’s corrosive effects on Iraq’s reconstruction requires continued USG engagement – both in terms of programs and in terms of bringing political and diplomatic pressure to bear on Iraqi leaders. 


With all the above in mind, let's return to the question that opens Carl Schiro's letter to the editors of the Houston Chronicle:

Regarding "Corruption hobbles Iraq's military efforts" (Page A1, Monday), why is our government still sending our troops and money to such a corrupt country?


It's not a hidden factor.  In June, Richard Engel (NBC News -- link is text and video) interviewed Iraqi forces and they repeatedly cited corruption as the country's "biggest enemy."

And as Patrick Cockburn (at the Independent) pointed out last year, the corruption was predicted at the start of the Iraq War:

A few months before the invasion, an Iraqi civil servant secretly interviewed in Baghdad made a gloomy forecast. “The exiled Iraqis are the exact replica of those who currently govern us… with the sole difference that the latter are already satiated since they have been robbing us for the past 30 years,” he said. “Those who accompany the US troops will be ravenous.”
Many of the Iraqis who came back to Iraq after the US-led invasion were people of high principle who had sacrificed much as opponents of Saddam Hussein. But fast forward 10 years and the prediction of the unnamed civil servant about the rapacity of Iraq’s new governors turns out to have been all too true. As one former minister puts it, “the Iraqi government is an institutionalised kleptocracy”.

Cockburn spent the last years worshipping the Shi'ites and spitting on the Sunnis so it's really hard for him to name names when covering the continued disintegration of Iraq.

But there are names to be named.

Chief among them Nouri al-Maliki.

In 2006, the White House demanded Nouri al-Maliki be named prime minister (the Iraqi Parliament wanted Ibraham al-Jafaari).  In 2010, the White House demanded Nouri get a second term and, having lost the election, the White House offered a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term.

Which means from spring 2006 to summer 2014, Nouri al-Maliki ruled Iraq.

And corruption thrived.

This despite Nouri insisting he would take on corruption -- repeatedly insisting.  But it's kind of hard to do that when you're part of the corruption.  Pennies found in sofa cushions don't buy all the sports cars Nouri's son zips around London in nor did they buy the swank home.

Back in June, Zaid al-Ali (Foreign Policy) explained:


Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki established a new political alliance, the State of Law alliance, which campaigned on a platform of re-establishing strong state institutions, reducing corruption, and providing adequate services to the people. The Iraqiya alliance, another large and newly formed coalition, backed a similar platform. The tantalizing prospects of establishing a new political environment and creating a stable state seemed within reach.
It never happened. Rather than consolidating these gains, several factors began working against Iraq's national cohesion as early as 2010. Maliki's government used "de-Baathification" laws, introduced to keep members of Saddam Hussein's regime out of government, to target his opponents -- but not his many allies, who also had been senior members of the Baath Party. The 2010 government formation process turned out to be yet another opportunity for politicians of all stripes to grant themselves senior positions which they could use to plunder the state. When tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in February 2011 to protest corruption, they were branded terrorists and were attacked and beaten by security forces and hired thugs. Dozens were killed and thousands arrested and tortured until the protests fizzled. Meanwhile, though terrorist groups were not operating as openly as before, hundreds of civilians continued to be killed every month, particularly in Baghdad, denying Iraqis in many parts of the country even a brief period of normalcy.

At that time, Maliki began referring to himself publicly as Iraq's preeminent military leader. When the 2010 electoral results did not conform to his expectations, he demanded a recount in his "capacity as commander in chief." When he forced senior anti-corruption officials from their positions, he once again inappropriately invoked his military credentials. He called officers on their mobile phones to demand specific actions or that individuals be arrested, circumventing the chain of command. After the new government was formed in November 2010, he refused to appoint ministers of the interior and of defense, preferring to occupy both positions himself. He appointed senior military commanders directly, instead of seeking parliamentary approval as required by the constitution. 


Nouri should be in prison.

Instead, he's now a vice president of Iraq -- one of three.

And he's visiting Shi'ite enclaves and denouncing the current prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, denouncing him as an appeaser to the Kurds and Shi'ites, trying to sew unrest.

Some in the intelligence community are saying the answer is "bullet to the head."

Regardless, having destroyed Iraq, Nouri's not content.  He's attempting to start a revolt against the current government.

And his attempts grow only more desperate as he sees some of his cronies kicked to the curb.  From the November 12th snapshot:

The Iraq Embassy in DC issued the following today:


Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces visited Baghdad Operations Command on November 10, 2014 and held an extended meeting with commanders and officers from various units of the Armed Forces.
He hailed the efforts of Baghdad Operations Command, calling on its officers to firmly deal with organized crime and enforce severe measures against criminals who seek to undermine Baghdad’s security environment.
The Prime Minister also stressed the need to work hard to address serious challenges that threaten our society. He confirmed that the Ministry of Interior would resume responsibility for the management of security in Baghdad and noted the government’s determination to remove all concrete barriers in the city of Baghdad. The Prime Minister announced plans to remove road blocks that do not contribute to enhanced security and noted that the issue must be dealt with professionally and thoughtfully in order to ease traffic for the residents of Baghdad. In addition, the Prime Minister noted intentions to open access to parts of the Green Zone and stressed the need for vigilance against terrorists who seek to exploit these new measures.
Prime Minister Al-Abadi also discussed a number of issues related to living conditions and traffic accidents in the city of Baghdad, and issued several executive orders in this regard.
On November 12, 2014, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Dr. Haidar Al-Abadi issued executive orders to relieve 26 military commanders from their posts and retire an additional 10 commanders. He also appointed 18 military officers to senior posts within the Ministry of Defense as part of ongoing efforts to professionalize Iraq’s military institutions and root out corruption in its various forms.
Prime Minister Al-Abadi also met in his office today a number of military commanders from the Armed Forces. During the meeting, he stressed the need for Iraq’s military leadership to exhibit efficiency, integrity and courage so that soldiers can rally behind their commanders and fight effectively, adding that any assessment of the armed forces should be based on these merits.
Prime Minster Al-Abadi said that the Iraqi Army’s losses were the result of many complicated internal, external and political factors, stressing the need to restore confidence in the security forces through real action and by combating corruption at the individual and institutional levels. He emphasized his strong support for this approach, stressing the need to act swiftly, particularly given that the military enjoys considerable political and popular support, in addition to backing from the religious establishments.
The Prime Minister noted that the army is the defender of the homeland, and in the near future will seek to limit its task to defending Iraq's borders, while transferring security responsibilities to the Ministry of Interior and other security agencies.

The Prime Minster highlighted the great victories achieved by our armed forces on various fronts and their determination to liberate every inch of Iraqi territory in cooperation with the people of the provinces. 


Many outlets reported on the above -- AFP, the Associated Press, etc.  But no one pointed out the obvious re: firing the commander over Anbar.
Since January, the Iraqi military has been bombing residential neighborhoods in Falluja (and in other Anbar cities, but Falluja's been bombed daily since the start of the year).  September 13th, Haider al-Abadi announced that the bombings would cease.  (The bombings fit the legal definition of War Crimes.  They are collective punishment.)  Despite that announcement, the bombings have continued.
Anbar's military command has refused to follow the orders of al-Abadi who is supposed to be commander in chief of the Iraqi military.
That's kind of a key detail and one that everyone left out in their so-called reports.
David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times) reports on the firings and forgets the issue of the bombing of Falluja's residential areas.  But he gets credit for noting that al-Abadi appears to have ignored the role Parliament is supposed to play in this sort of action and that he mirrors Nouri al-Maliki in that.  He also gets credit for this:



Mr. Abadi was elected three months ago, with strong American backing, on a pledge to build a more inclusive and responsive government after the divisive eight-year rule of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
Mr. Maliki is a senior leader of a political faction based in the Shiite Muslim majority, and he is widely blamed by many Iraqis and the White House for cronyism, nepotism and police abuses that alienated the Sunni Muslim population, opening doors to the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State. As prime minister, he was a strongman who kept tight control of the security services, and he stacked the military’s top ranks with loyalists rather than the most competent officers, contributing to the erosion of the military’s fighting ability.

It's a detail that, for example, AP leaves out. 


Barack's small, mobile units choice (it's not a plan) is based in part on sidestepping Nouri's flunkies and sidelining Nouri.


What happens if you call out corruption?

Thursday may have provided an answer.

 All Iraq News reported:

The Representative of the Supreme Religious Authority, Ali al-Sistani,and the headmaster of the Jaafariya Religious School in the Pakistani Capital, Islam Abad, was killed by the criminals of the terrorist Jaish Sahaba organization.


The murder can be seen as retaliation.  Dropping back to the November 8th snapshot:

Friday, Raheem Salman (Reuters) reported major news:

Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric said on Friday that corruption in the armed forces had enabled Islamic State to seize much of northern Iraq, criticism that will pressure the government to enact reforms in the face of an insurgency.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has become increasingly critical of Iraqi leaders since Islamic State's lightning advance created Iraq's worst crisis since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

al-Sistani could determine elections, so great is his influence.  And he's a key figure the United States government seeks out whenever they attempt (half-assed or fully) an effort in Iraq.
While he remains politically neutral for the most part, he can remain pointedly politically neutral.
By 2011, it was clear al-Sistani was done with Nouri al-Maliki.  The protesters' demands were being ignored and that appeared to bother al-Sistani a great deal.  By the time the spring of 2012 rolled around and with Nouri facing real trouble, al-Sistani pointedly sat out on the issue of a no-vote in Parliament. 

Though he was asked to weigh in and call for the proposal to be set aside, he pointedly refused to comment one way or another allowing the measure to move forward.  (Then-Iraqi President Jalal Talabani would kill the effort at the end of May 2012.)
His remarks today are significant in the timing.  While many others say similar things privately (Ammar al-Hakim, to name but one), al-Sistani is going public and doing so very early in Haider al-Abadi's tenure as prime minister which can be seen as al-Sistani putting the new government on notice that it needs to get its act together and do so quickly.
The Grand Ayatollah wasn't the only one making statements today.  All Iraq News reports, "The Religious Authority represented by Sheikh Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalayi, called Authority called politicians to understand their huge responsibility at current critical stage."



The US-led air strike campaign continued in Iraq today.

It's just supposed to kill 'militants' or 'terrorists' but that's how it works in a video game, not in the real world.  Michael Gregory (Reuters) reports on the latest civilians killed by this 'plan' to bring 'freedom' to Iraq, the dead included 17 civilians from the Albu Hishma tribe -- a tribe which is fighting the Islamic State.

In news of other 'liberation' and 'freedom,' Iraqi Spring MC reports security forces shot dead an elderly woman in Bahgdad. On Friday, Iraqi Spring MC notes, 14 civilians were killed or injured by the Iraqi military continuing to bomb residential neighborhoods in Falluja.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 126 people killed throughout Iraq on Friday with another 38 left injured.




Turning to the political . . .







  • What a great picture -- all those men and one token woman.  That's the way Nouri's State of Law has always been.


    Dropping back to yesterday:



    All Iraq News reports Speaker of Parliament Saleem al-Jobouri states the budget should be received by Parliament on Saturday.  This is the fourth time he's announced that, for those keeping track.
    In addition, Parliament has still not received the 2014 budget.
    National Iraqi News Agency adds, "MP, of the Citizen bloc , Hashim al-Moussawi said the House will extend its legislative term in the session of the House of Representatives session will be held on Saturday." al-Moussawi believes that they will receive both the 2015 budget and the 2014 one.



    So what happened?

    All Iraq News notes 225 MPs showed up for today's session.

    And?

    No budget.


    All Iraq News notes al-Jobouri declared today that the budget will be read tomorrow.

    It could happen.

    It could also turn out that the bill for the proposed budget doesn't get read.

    But, if you're keeping track, this is the fifth time the Speaker of Parliament has announced the budget law would be read.












    bill van auken





    Thursday, November 27, 2014

    It really was unwatchable

    Michael O'Connell (Hollywood Reporter) announces the death of another show (he thinks it might get a second season, doubtful):

    The series, based on a Spanish series and developed for the U.S. by Margaret Nagle, struggled to capture much attention during fall's onslaught of new programming — despite its early debut. It also had critics quite divided, with some championing the children's hospital drama and others less than enthused. (THR's Tim Goodman wrote that it reached a "new and unhealthy level of schmaltz.")


    Back in August, Ava and C.I. also called the show out:


    They're like performers turned away for McDonald commercials for being too happy.  These performers were born and bred by Central Casting.

    As they attempt to sparkle in every scene, you may have trouble remembering that they have cancer.  It's a detail the actors apparently struggle with remembering as well apparently confused that they are not starring in a new version of Glee set in a hospital.

    We mentioned Spielberg's Hook earlier, this series is from Spielberg's production company and will only serve to remind you that the only child star Spielberg worked with whose career had legs was Drew Barrymore.  Worth noting there, she hails from an acting dynasty which includes Lionel, Ethel, John and Diana Barrymore as well as her late father John Drew Barrymore.  In addition, before she started filming Spielberg's ET, Drew had already received near universal praise for her film debut in Altered States.

    There's no Drew among this cast.

    If you move over to the adults who play adults, you have Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer as Nurse Jackson and Brothers & Sisters' Dave Annable as Dr. Jack.

    Not surprisingly, the two elevate every scene they're in.

    Sadly, Nurse Jackson never grabs Jack and whispers, "Let's you and me play doctor."

    That would make the show worth watching and not just because the two can act and then some.  In addition to that reality, there's also the fact that Spencer and Annable have the kind of chemistry casting directors go insane trying to discover.

    But instead of exploring that rich terrain, we're left with the ah-they're-so-sugary-sweet-they-rot-my-teeth kids.


    I caught the first half of three episodes.  The first two times, I was trying to give the show a chance.  The third time, I was dealing with a crying baby.

    The show was unwatchable.


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



    Wednesday, November 26, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the US gears up to provide more weapons to Iraq, this despite the fact that the Iraqi military continues to bomb civilians in Falluja, and more.

    Victoria A. Brownworth (SheWired) offers:

    We are still at war in Afghanistan. Last week  the Obama Administration quietly announced, to almost no media fanfare, that it was continuing that war, when it was supposed to be ending at the beginning of next year. President Obama is also sending  more troops back into Iraq. This too was met with a shrug by Americans.
    Revving up America’s two longest wars has not spurred a single protest march in this country, but the failure of a grand jury to indict Darren Wilson on even the charge of involuntary manslaughter has brought thousands into the streets, from Ferguson itself to New York, LA, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston and beyond. Record numbers of tweets have gone out over Twitter, which many consider responsible for drawing attention to the case of Michael Brown and subsequent events in Ferguson after his killing.

    The breadth of the protests versus the crickets over Afghanistan and Iraq makes cleat that the real war America is fighting, the one that many of us feel threatened by, is the fight between marginalized communities and law enforcement. 


    Interesting but inaccurate.

    Black Agenda Report has been calling for action the minute the grand jury released their findings.  The Center for Constitutional Rights has weighed in repeatedly.  Activists have been working overtime on this issue -- United For Peace and Justice, CodePink, on and on.

    There's been an enemy named -- the White police officer Darren Wilson -- a focal point to fuel anger.

    Whereas, with Iraq, these same people haven't done a damn thing.

    In fairness to Black Agenda Report, they've at least called Barack out.

    But they haven't led on Iraq.

    As Iraqis have been killed in Falluja for 11 months straight now, I've not seen Black Agenda Report object once to the bombings of the residential neighborhoods in Falluja -- despite the fact these bombings are War Crimes.

    Where has anyone in the US been when it comes to calling these out?

    It didn't start yesterday.

    It started in January.

    For eleven months now, residential neighborhoods -- that's where people's homes are -- in Falluja have been bombed by the Iraqi military.

    It is a legally defined War Crime to attack civilians for the actions of fighters in an area.  It's known as Collective Punishment -- the US, all of Europe, most of the world recognizes Collective Punishment as a War Crime.

    Where is the outrage?

    September 13th, Iraq's new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the bombings were over.  But let's drop back to September 14th:




    Third's "Editorial: The bombing of civilians continues in Iraq" notes Iraq's new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, ordered an end to the military bombing civilian targets on Saturday -- or that al-Abadi said he gave that order -- yet Falluja General Hospital was bombed today.
    Iraqi Spring MC notes the bombings of residential neighborhoods in Falluja also continued today with 6 civilians left dead  and 22 more injured.
    A very important question needs to be asked:  Did al-Abadi give the order he said he did?
    If he didn't, he lied.
    If he did, the military is not listening to the new prime minister.
    The media needs to be asking was it a lie or is the military refusing to obey orders?
    This is why the media exists in the first place.
    Either is a story but the military refusing orders would be a huge story.  (While a politician lying would be seen as typical behavior.)



    But there was no interest in that either.

    Iraqi forces are attacking civilians.  US President Barack Obama wants a waiver so he can violate the Leahy Amendment (which bars providing weapons and aid to governments who carry out attacks on civilians).

    He wants.

    He hasn't gotten it yet.

    But he wants it.

    Despite not getting the waiver, the US government's announcing more arms to Iraq.  Aaron Mehta (Military Times) notes, "The State Department has approved an $800 million sustainment deal for Iraq's fleet of C-130E and C-130J cargo aircraft, the government announced Tuesday."


    The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency issued the following notice:

    Media/Public Contact: 
    pm-cpa@state.gov
    Transmittal No: 
    14-46
    WASHINGTON, Nov 26, 2014 – The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq for C-130E/J sustainment and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $800 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.
    The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale for a five-year sustainment package for the C-130E/J fleet that includes operational, intermediate, and depot level maintenance, spare and repair parts, support equipment, repair and return, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $800 million.
    This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner. This proposed sale directly supports the Government of Iraq and serves the interests of the people of Iraq and the United States.
    The proposed sale of a C-130E/J sustainment package would allow the Iraq Air Force (IAF) to continue operating its C-130E/J aircraft beyond 2015. The IAFs limited maintenance capability necessitates the need for continued contractor logistics support. The continued support will assist the IAF in continuing to use the aircraft to provide humanitarian relief operations in various locations.
    The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
    The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
    Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Iraq.
    There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.
    This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.
    All questions regarding this proposed Foreign Military Sale should be directed to the State Department's Bureau of Political Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, pm-cpa@state.gov.
    -30-



    Where's the outrage?

    Even Senator Patrick Leahy doesn't speak out.

    What happened to Michael Brown is very sad and, yes, an outrage.

    It doesn't need to be 'spruced up' with lies and misinformation to make it an issue of concern.

    When you lie to advance an argument, people stop supporting you.  Stop lying that he was shot in the back. There is more than enough reason to see the events as tragic and to debate whether or not the grand jury made the right determination.  When you tell lies or just repeat them to advance your side of an argument, people start to think you must have a weak case or you wouldn't result to lying.

    Equally important, grasp the lesson everyone should have already known.

    When someone has a loaded gun, you shouldn't try to grab it -- but if you do try to grab it you better pull it from the person holding it.

    Forget the two people involved, replace them with generic Smurfs.  If someone tries to grab a loaded gun, it is highly doubtful that the situation ends peacefully.

    For me, my  opinion only, feel free to disagree, the minute a gun was pulled (by the police officer), violence became a very real possibility.  Might have been one even if Michael Brown had, at that moment dropped to the ground and put his hands behind his back.

    People want to talk racism.

    One reason is because racism is real and it exists and it's a serious problem in the US and all around the world.

    Another reason?  These days it's easy to 'contribute' when you know nothing about an issue by just insisting 'racism.'

    Racism is an iffy thing to prove.

    If Michael Brown's family wants justice, they need to focus on the gun.

    Why was the gun pulled?

    Because of racism?

    Maybe but you most likely won't be able to prove it.

    What you can prove is a climate where citizens are no longer citizens but potential threats.

    I was shocked, doing research for a project, in 1990 and 1991, to observe police trainings in several different cities where officers were told that everyone was a threat and blah blah blah.

    We think the police are there to help.

    But that's not what they're always being trained for.

    A gun was pulled.

    An examination of the trainings the police officer participated in should reveal if this was the case for the officer.  It would also explain to the country that something's gone seriously wrong and police officer or peace officers are being trained not to resolve issues but to approach citizens as potential threats.


    This can be demonstrated in court.  You can subpoena the trainers, the training material and much more.

    The press always prefers the 'a few bad apples' storyline to a truer narrative that would indict the system itself.  But when people are being killed, like 12-year-old Tamir Rice for the 'crime' of having a toy gun, the problem is the system itself.

    But making that argument is too much for our so-called left leaders who'd rather abandon efforts at real change to instead try to get rage to boil over into violence.

    In fact, any real work is too much for our so-called left leaders.

    Instead of doing real work, they scan the horizon for any craze or event that they can latch onto and pretend to be a movement -- on they started and fostered.

    That's why they latched onto Barack, it's why they latch to everything.

    They're too lazy to do the work required

    So they rush here and there, where ever they think a media spotlight is and latch on like a leech.

    For six years now, Barack has carried one war after another and most of the so-called leaders can't even call him out.

    He spends the second half of this year sending more troops into Iraq and there's no leadership from so-called peace leaders in the US.

    They can't call him out.

    They can't call out the War Crimes against the civilians in Falluja.

    They can't do much of anything.


    You'll find more criticism of Barack's 'plan' coming out of Iraq than out of the US.  For example, Press TV reports:

    “The airstrikes cannot defeat ISIL and liberate the cities. We hear that in some places the warplanes drop weapons for ISIL... What we know is that the victories achieved on the ground are done by the Iraqi army and volunteers,” Iraqi State of Law Coalition MP Hanan Fatlawi told the Press TV correspondent in Baghdad.
    On October 22, the US admitted that one of the weapon airdrops intended for Kurds fighting in the Syrian town of Kobani was almost certainly intercepted by ISIL terrorists.


    I'm no fan of State of Law, as the archives establish, but they're right that the air bombings are not accomplishing much of anything -- except physically destroying Iraq and intimidating and terrorizing the people.

    Since this summer, Barack has repeatedly said Iraq requires a political solution but little has been done to facilitate anything political.  Instead, the US government has overseen two major meet-ups of defense ministers and has spent forever recruiting other countries to take part in the air bombings of Iraq and, less successfully, to send troops into Iraq.

    How's that creating a political solution?

    It's not.

    Today's Zaman reports:

    Foreign ministers from up to 60 countries forming the US-led coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants will hold their first meeting next week in Brussels, US officials said on Wednesday.
     
    The Dec. 3 meeting, chaired by US Secretary of State John Kerry, is expected to review progress in the fight against ISIL and to discuss how coalition members will coordinate politically in future.


    It's taken months for them to plan the above.  Hopefully, it's not too late for a meet-up like the above to make a difference.


    We were noting State of Law earlier.  It is the political slate of thug Nouri al-Maliki who was prime minister of Iraq until a few months ago and who is now one of Iraq's three vice presidents.  Of Nouri, Ya Libnan reports:


    In an unprecedented development the Iranian Foreign Ministry adviser, Mohammad Ali Sobhani, yesterday blamed the Iraqi regime of  Nouri al-Maliki, and the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad for the creation of the islamic State of Iraq  and Syria  ( ISIS)
    In an interview with a local Iranian website «telltale News» Sobhani said  the sectarian policies during the reign of former PM Maliki   led to the formation of an incubator for the«Daash» or ISIS  organization .

    Sobhani said that the economic and social problems that plagued Iraq, in addition to sectarian policies practiced  by the al-Maliki  regime led to the formation of a popular base for the emergence of ISIS  in the region.













    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    The Mindy Project (Rhea needs to go)

    The episode was funny but I turned it off halfway through.

    The Mindy Project airs on Fox on Tuesday nights.

    I can't stand Rhea Perlman.

    She's now getting more to do than ever before.

    It's basically The Rhea Perlman Show.

    Bev only got one funny bit because there's no room for Bev on the show.

    Mindy sets Rhea up on a date so that she (Mindy) and Danny can be alone when V-Dy rolls around.

    Great.

    So Rhea can be off and we can focus on the real characters.

    Nope.

    Rhea gets all these scenes.

    I don't like her.

    And I'm not watching The Rhea Perlman Show.

    I've got better things to do.

    When the show wants to get back to something I care about, I'll watch.


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



    Tuesday, November 25, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, on the day to eliminate violence against women the Islamic State elects to execute two female politicians, the refugee crisis continues in Iraq, IAVA notes Chuck Hagel's impending departure, and much more.


    Let's start in the United States.  Senator Patty Murray serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.  Her office issued the following today:


    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Tuesday, November 25th, 2014                                                                   (202) 224-2834
    Murray Joins Group of 40 Senators in Backing DOD Plan to Better Protect Military Families from Abusive Financial Practices  
    WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined a group of 40 Senate colleagues in supporting the Department of Defense’s (DOD) plan to update the Military Lending Act (MLA) and close existing loopholes in order to better protect soldiers and their families from abusive financial practices.  The letter, sent to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, expresses strong support for the proposed new rule to help prevent lenders from charging excessive fees and taking advantage of military families.
    Following a 2006 Pentagon report that found that “predatory lending undermines military readiness, harms the morale of troops and their families, and adds to the cost of fielding an all-volunteer fighting force,” Congress passed the MLA.  This law capped the annual interest rates for consumer credit to service members and their dependents at 36% while giving DOD the authority to define what loans should be covered.  The DOD’s 2007 implementing regulations narrowly included only three types of loans: (1) payday loans: closed-end loans with terms of 91 days or fewer, for $2,000 or less; (2) auto title loans: closed-end loans with terms of 181 days or fewer; and (3) refund anticipation loans: closed-end credit.
    In the proposed changes to the rules implementing the MLA, first announced in September, DOD sought to close existing loopholes in the current MLA rule.  Today’s letter voices strong support for the proposed rule, arguing that the changes strike a better balance between protecting service members and their families while maintaining access to good credit. 
    As our service members are asked to take on even more tasks in defense of our nation, we should take every opportunity to protect them and their families here at home, especially from unscrupulous lenders,” the Senators wrote.  “We strongly support the proposed MLA rule and urge that the final MLA rule be similarly robust in enhancing protections for service members and their families, producing significant cost savings for DOD, and improving military readiness.”
    Murray was joined by Senators Reed and Durbin, Mark Udall (D-CO), Levin (D-MI), Brown (D-OH), Hirono (D-HI), Manchin (D-WV), Warner (D-VA), Franken (D-MN), Baldwin (D-WI), Nelson (D-FL), Murphy (D-CT), Blumenthal (D-CT), Merkley (D-OR), Heinrich (D-NM), Warren (D-MA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Whitehouse (D-RI), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kaine (D-VA), McCaskill (D-MO), Shaheen (D-NH), Schatz (D-HI), Markey (D-MA), Bennet (D-CO), Coons (D-DE), Donnelly (D-IN), Feinstein (D-CA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Wyden (D-OR), Heitkamp (D-ND), Tester (D-MT), Boxer (D-CA), Hagan (D-NC), Harkin (D-IA), and Schumer (D-NY) in signing onto the letter.  The signatories include every Democratic member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
    The comment period for the proposed rule, which was recently extended, ends on December 26, 2014.
    The full text of the letter follows:
    Dear Mr. Secretary:
    We are writing in response to the Department of Defense (DOD) proposal to update the implementing rules for the Military Lending Act (MLA).
    By enacting the MLA as part of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, Congress sent a clear bipartisan message that protecting service members and their families from predatory and high cost lending was of paramount importance to their financial security and military readiness.
    This concern was reiterated in the Conference Report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which stated that “the conferees are concerned that the Department must remain vigilant to eliminate continuing, evolving predatory lending practices targeting service members and their families, and believe the Department should review its regulations implementing section 987, to address changes in the industry and the evolution of lending products offered since 2007, continuing use of predatory marketing practices, and other abuses identified by consumer protection advocates, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs.”
    As a result of this required review of the current MLA rule, DOD in its proposal now recommends closing existing MLA loopholes.  We believe this strikes a significantly better balance than the current MLA rule between protecting service members and their families on the one hand and maintaining access to non-predatory credit on the other.  As such, this proposal also does a much better job of reflecting Congressional intent. 
    Specifically, we support the proposal to expand the MLA’s “definition of ‘consumer credit’ to cover a broader range of closed-end and open-end credit products.”  In so doing, the rule proposes that these products be treated in a manner generally consistent with the decades-old requirements of the Truth in Lending Act. 
    This comprehensive approach is essential to preventing future evasions.  As DOD notes in its proposed rule, “the extremely narrow definition of ‘consumer credit’ permits creditors to structure credit products in order to reduce or avoid altogether the obligations of the MLA.”  For example, MLA protections currently can be avoided by simply adding a day to the term of a payday loan or by lending just one additional cent so that the payday loan no longer qualifies as “consumer credit” subject to the MLA protections.   
    Contrary to Congressional intent, these evasions threaten military readiness.  According to DOD, “each separation of a service member is estimated to cost the Department $57,333, and the Department estimates that each year approximately 4,703 to 7,957 service members are involuntarily separated due to financial distress.”  In addition to the estimated cost savings DOD has identified, we give great weight and deference to DOD’s statement that the proposed MLA rule “would reduce non-quantifiable costs associated with financial strains on service members. High-cost debt can detract from mission focus, reduce productivity, and require the attention of supervisors and commanders.”  As a result, we strongly agree with DOD’s view that the proposed MLA rule not only has the potential to produce substantial cost savings, but also enhance military readiness.
    In August of last year, a number of us wrote, “service members and their families deserve the strongest possible protections and swift action to ensure that all forms of credit offered to members of our armed forces are safe and sound.”  Indeed, as our service members are asked to take on even more tasks in defense of our nation, we should take every opportunity to protect them and their families here at home, especially from unscrupulous lenders. 
    For all these reasons, we strongly support the proposed MLA rule and urge that the final MLA rule be similarly robust in enhancing protections for service members and their families, producing significant cost savings for DOD, and improving military readiness.
     
    ###
    Kathryn Robertson
    Deputy Press Secretary 
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    154 Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington D.C. 20510

    202-224-2834



    A friend at a VSO wanted to point out that Senator Murray never loses sight of veterans issues while, in the House, Corrine "Brown can't even find them."  That's a very good point and one that I have missed.

    At Third on Sunday, we wrote "Editorial: Corrine Brown must not be named Ranking Member" which noted how US House Rep Tim Walz was qualified to be the Ranking Member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and Brown is not. We noted the nonsense Nancy Pelosi and her cronies pulled as they insisted that Walz couldn't run for Ranking Member because he wasn't a member of the Committee and only took part via a waiver.  The editorial included this:



    If he had to obtain a waiver to serve on the Committee?

    That meant he served on the Committee.

    That's what the waiver did, it made him a Committee member.

    And Tim Walz asked questions in hearings, voted on the Comittee, etc.

    He was a member and he participated.


    Gov.track isn't confused:






    Committee Membership

    Timothy Walz sits on the following committees:


    And he didn't just serve on the Committee and show up for hearings, he sponsored bills dealing with veterans issues:



    H.R. 5680: Veterans’ Toxic Wounds Research Act of 2014

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Sep 19, 2014
    Referred to Committee: Sep 19, 2014
    H.R. 5059: Clay Hunt SAV Act

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Jul 10, 2014
    Referred to Committee: Jul 10, 2014
    H.R. 4191: Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Mar 11, 2014
    Referred to Committee: Mar 11, 2014
    H.R. 3569: Protecting the Freedoms and Benefits for All Veterans Act

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Nov 20, 2013
    Referred to Committee: Nov 20, 2013
    H.R. 2785: Military Reserve Jobs Act

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Jul 22, 2013
    Referred to Committee: Jul 22, 2013

    H.R. 1980: Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: May 14, 2013
    Referred to Committee: May 14, 2013
    H.R. 975: Servicemember Mental Health Review Act

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Mar 5, 2013
    Referred to Committee: Mar 5, 2013
    H.R. 679: Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Feb 13, 2013
    H.R. 6574 (112th): Servicemember Mental Health Review Act

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Oct 12, 2012
    Referred to Committee: Oct 12, 2012
    H.R. 1855 (112th): Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitative Services’ Improvements Act of 2011

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: May 11, 2011
    Referred to Committee: May 11, 2011
    H.R. 1566 (112th): Protecting Servicemembers from Mortgage Abuses Act of 2011

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Apr 14, 2011
    Referred to Committee: Apr 14, 2011
    H.R. 865 (112th): Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Mar 1, 2011
    Referred to Committee: Mar 1, 2011
    H.R. 6188 (111th): Veterans’ Homelessness Prevention and Early Warning Act of 2010

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Sep 22, 2010
    Referred to Committee: Sep 22, 2010
    H.R. 6123 (111th): Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitative Services’ Improvements Act of 2010

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Sep 14, 2010
    Referred to Committee: Sep 14, 2010
    H.R. 5928 (111th): Veterans’ Disability Claims Efficiency Act of 2010

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: Jul 29, 2010
    Referred to Committee: Jul 29, 2010
    H.R. 5400 (111th): Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2010

    Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D-MN1]
    Introduced: May 25, 2010
    Referred to Committee: May 25, 2010


    In fairness to Corrine Brown, we should note that during the same period above (2008 and to the present), she also sponsored some bills. 

    Well . . . 

    Bill.


    Because there was only one.

    From 2008 to the present -- six years -- she only sponsored one bill having to do with veterans.  

    But she thinks she's earned the right to serve as Ranking Member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee?

    In fairness to Corrine, we should note she had other things to focus on.  In the same period, she introduced two bills on Haiti.  Maybe that makes her an expert on veterans?  And she sponsored four bills on National Train Day.

    Of course, she also had to put in a lot of time going through those mail order catalogs to buy all her hideous wigs.
    Is Corrine Ranking Member?
    No.
    She's issued two statements already announcing she is but until January, when the new Congress starts, she's not.
    And if the Democrats in the House are stupid enough to go along with Nancy, to oppose veterans groups on this issue, they better be prepared for the voter fallout in 2016, they better be prepared for the ignorant statements out of Corrine's mouth that the Democratic presidential candidate will have to respond to.  This is insanity.  The woman is a moron and who cannot speak.  Every time she opens her mouth she either embarrasses herself or attacks veterans -- or both!  
    The whole party's going to suffer as a result of Nancy Pelosi's decision and that needs to be brought home to Nancy, loudly and clearly -- not the three person meet-up that took place this weekend where an attempt was made to reason with Nancy.
    This issue isn't over yet, the decision can be overturned.
    But if it's not, it needs to be remembered than Nancy Pelosi is responsible for Democratic losses in 2016 as Corrine Brown becomes the face of the party when it comes to veterans issues.

    I don't dislike Andrew J. Bacevich but his latest piece -- which In These Times idiotically reprinted -- goes a long way towards explaining why Bacevich stumbles anytime he tries to move forward instead of just reflecting on the past.

    See if you can see the problem right at the start of his piece:


    “Iraq no longer exists.” My young friend M, sipping a cappuccino, is deadly serious. We are sitting in a scruffy restaurant across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It’s been years since we’ve last seen each another. It may be years before our paths cross again. As if to drive his point home, M repeats himself: “Iraq just doesn’t exist.”

    His is an opinion grounded in experience. As an enlisted soldier, he completed two Iraq tours, serving as a member of a rifle company, before and during the famous Petraeus “surge.” After separating from the Army, he went on to graduate school where he is now writing a dissertation on insurgencies. Choosing the American war in Iraq as one of his cases, M has returned there to continue his research. Indeed, he was heading back again that very evening. As a researcher, his perch provides him with an excellent vantage point for taking stock of the ongoing crisis, now that the Islamic State, or I.S., has made it impossible for Americans to sustain the pretense that the Iraq War ever ended.

    Iraq is no more?

    And that revelation will come from an American who visited the country as a member of the Us military.

    That's who's going to decide?


    The ruling on Iraq will come from the Iraqi people but from a foreigner who enter the country armed?

    I don't think so.

    That is the height of xenophobia.

    The column reeks of it.

    It does nothing but offer, "This is how Iraq is and you can trust the opinion because it comes from an American."

    I don't understand why In These Times printed it.


    (Well actually I do.  The article's actually not about Iraq -- it's railing against the government of Israel and a checklist of other hatreds.)


    Rudaw reports two women, who had run in the parliamentary elections last April, were assassinated today in Mosul  by the Islamic State and quoted Mosul's highest ranking Kurdish Democratic Party official Saad Mamuzin stating, "ISIS gunmen executed two former female candidates in Mosul after the Sharia Court issued death sentence on them. One of the candidates was Ibtisam Ali Jarjis on the Watanya list, and the second one was Miran Ghazi a candidate for Arab List."


    The murder of the two women took place on the United Nation's International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  Alsumaria reports that women took to the streets in Kirkuk today to protest against the ongoing violence against women where, protesters state, there are 84 recorded cases of violence against women with little to no follow up from the government.


    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office released the following statement:


    25 November 2014 - Sexual and gender-based violence is the most extreme form of the global and systemic inequality experienced by women and girls.
    It knows no geographic, socio-economic or cultural boundaries. Worldwide, one in three women will suffer physical or sexual violence at some point in her life, from rape and domestic violence to harassment at work and bullying on the internet.
    This year alone, more than 200 girls have been kidnapped in Nigeria; we have seen graphic testimony from Iraqi women of rape and sexual slavery during conflict; two Indian schoolgirls were raped, killed and hung from a tree; and in the United States, there have been high-profile cases of sexual violence on sports teams and university campuses.
    Women and girls experience violence in all countries and neighbourhoods but these crimes often remain unreported and hidden. We must end the silence. That is why this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is centred on a grassroots effort to raise awareness called Orange Your Neighbourhood. Around the United Nations in New York, the Secretariat building and the Empire State Building will be lit orange, and many other events are planned across the world and on social media.
    Everyone has a responsibility to prevent and end violence against women and girls, starting by challenging the culture of discrimination that allows it to continue. We must shatter negative gender stereotypes and attitudes, introduce and implement laws to prevent and end discrimination and exploitation, and stand up to abusive behavior whenever we see it. We have to condemn all acts of violence, establish equality in our work and home lives, and change the everyday experience of women and girls.
    Women’s rights were once thought of as women’s business only, but more and more men and boys are becoming true partners in the battle for women’s empowerment. Two months ago, I launched the HeForShe campaign; a global solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other, for the benefit of all.
    We all have a role to play, and I urge you to play yours. If we stand together in homes, communities, countries and internationally, we can challenge discrimination and impunity and put a stop to the mindsets and customs that encourage, ignore or tolerate the global disgrace of violence against women and girls.


    Also issuing a statement was US Secretary of State John Kerry:


    Today, we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the start of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. Over the next two weeks, U.S. embassies and missions around the world will all be working to raise awareness of the irreparable harm caused by gender-based violence.
    This issue is seared into me. As a young prosecutor, I saw women and young girls whose lives and families were ripped apart by violence. I will never forget seeing women in dark glasses and long-sleeved shirts worn to cover up the black eyes and bruises of abuse. I couldn’t help but think about them as my two daughters went out into the world. As a Senator, working with Joe Biden and Cathy Russell, long before any of us were in the Administration, I helped pass the Violence Against Women Act.
    In recent years, I’ve seen firsthand how much work remains to be done all across the globe, not just here at home. I saw it as a Senator, and I’ve seen it even more as Secretary. On my latest visit to Africa, while in Kinshasa, I toured a fistula clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital. I spoke with doctors and activists alike who have devoted their life’s work to healing the scars left by sexual violence. And I listened to young women tell heartbreaking stories of their pain and ongoing recovery from the physical and emotional wounds left by their brutal assaults. These women were brave; they were extraordinarily strong. I came away inspired by their determination to make sure that no woman goes through the same ordeal as they did ever again.
    Simply put, we must all do more to end violence against women in all its forms, wherever and whenever it occurs, and it starts by acknowledging it. There can be no conspiracy of silence.
    The sad truth is that one in three women will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime. This violence knows no class, religious, or racial boundaries. And it comes at a terrible cost – not only for the woman or girl, but for families, communities, and entire countries. Preventing it is the only way to achieve a future of peace, stability, and prosperity.
    Over the past year, the United States has worked to up our game battling gender-based violence across the globe. Through our Gender-based Violence Emergency Response and Protection Initiative, we help meet the immediate security needs of survivors. The Safe from the Start initiative is sending experts into the field to prevent gender-based violence in conflict zones and regions devastated by natural disasters. We are also working to address the scourge of early and forced marriage, most recently launching a program in Benin. And this past summer, I was proud to launch our partnership with Together for Girls to collect data on the consequences of sexual violence against children and provide a foundation to mobilize responses to new outbreaks of violence.
    We will not turn away in the face of evil and brutality. We stand up, and we reaffirm that sexual violence will be not be tolerated. Not now, not ever.


    So what is the State Dept doing to help women's lives in Iraq?

    I know what they were planning to do under Hillary Clinton.  The start of 2012 was supposed to bring a focus on women -- it was supposed to include special training for security forces.  Iraq refused it, I know that.  I remember it very well.  And remember that Nouri was responsible for that refusal.

    Former prime minister of Iraq and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki was (illegally) over the Ministry of the Interior.  And he didn't care for the program.

    But Nouri's no longer prime minister.

    So what's the State Dept doing today?

    Outrage when a US citizen or British citizens is beheaded by the Islamic State; however, on  a day calling out violence against women, calling for an end to it, two female politicians are executed in Mosul and the State Dept has nothing to say?


    It sort of makes John Kerry's statement look like little more than bulls**t.


    The never-ending Iraq War has destroyed many lives but among the communities and people targeted most frequently are religious minorities and all women in Iraq -- regardless of religion or sect.
    Iraqi Christians have been repeatedly targeted throughout the Iraq War.  Dropping back to the November 18th snapshot:
    Some people have a hard time giving up control -- even those who consider themselves servants of a God or god.  John Bingham (Telegraph of London) presents the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby explaining that, "I think there is an answer that says we need to do more where there is really no choice but we also need to be deeply committed to enabling solutions to be found enabling communities that have been there for 2,000 years to remain there."
    If Welby's so worried that Christians may vanish, he can always pack a suitcase and go live there.
    The notion that Christian refugees should not be granted asylum outside the region?
    I'm sorry, would you also go back in time and argue that Jews in Germany and surrounding areas not be granted asylum to safety because Jews might vanish from the region?
    Because it sounds sort of like you would.
    Too much time by 'caring' people has already been wasted with faux concerns about how refugees are vanishing from the region when the reality is that refugees want to leave and find safety.  I don't know how this is confusing and I don't believe that this or that religious leader is honestly puzzled.
    I think people are actively looking to look the other way just as they did during the Holocaust.
    The Yazidis swooped in on the wave of outrage the targeting of Christians had created.  I am not accusing the Yazidis of anything.  I am saying that outrage was building and certain members of Congress were calling out the treatment of the Chaldeans which the US press was ignoring and then the religious minority (Yazidis) were trapped on Mount Sinjar and the press glommed on it.
    It was an important story.  (The fact that Yazidis remain trapped on Mount Sinjar is an important story -- even if the US press can't find it.)  But somewhere along the way, the press -- the US press -- completely missed what was happening to Iraq's Christian community in the last months.
    This week, some common sense enters the room.  Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) reports:
    Father Yako laboured among the Syriac Catholics, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, who had seen the number of Christians in Iraq decline from over one million at the time of the American invasion in 2003 to about 250,000 today. He sought to convince people in Qaraqosh, an overwhelmingly Syriac Catholic town, that they had a future in Iraq and should not emigrate to the US, Australia or anywhere else that would accept them. His task was not easy, because Iraqi Christians have been frequent victims of murder, kidnapping and robbery.
    But in the past six months Father Yako has changed his mind, and he now believes that, after 2,000 years of history, Christians must leave Iraq. Speaking at the entrance of a half-built mall in the Kurdish capital Irbil where 1,650 people from Qaraqosh have taken refuge, he said that “everything has changed since the coming of Daesh (the Arabic acronym for Islamic State). We should flee. There is nothing for us here.” When Islamic State (Isis) fighters captured Qaraqosh on 7 August, all the town’s 50,000 or so Syriac Catholics had to run for their lives and lost all their possessions.
    Many now huddle in dark little prefabricated rooms provided by the UN High Commission for Refugees amid the raw concrete of the mall, crammed together without heat or electricity. They sound as if what happened to them is a nightmare from which they might awaken at any moment and speak about how, only three-and-a-half months ago, they owned houses, farms and shops, had well-paying jobs, and drove their own cars and tractors. They hope against hope to go back, but they have heard reports that everything in Qaraqosh has been destroyed or stolen by Isis.



    Rudaw reports, "The Islamic State (IS) militants blew up the St. George's Church and a nunnery in the city of Mosul on Monday, local sources said."


    No one in Iraq dreams of being a refugee.  The decision to flee for safety is not made easily.  When it is made, it needs to be supported.

    UNICEF speaks with Bashir, a child of Iraq who, with his immediate family, has sought asylum in Australia and he states, "I worry because my family is in Iraq -- my uncle, my grandpa and my aunties. Iraq it's not safe for them, it's so dangerous. And I am worried for my future, what will happen for me in the future. I have many things to do and I feel scared."

    Bashir and his immediate family are labeled external refugees because they left Iraq.  Those who have been displaced within Iraq are called internal refugees.  Earlier this month, the United Nations noted:


    As the humanitarian situation in Iraq deteriorates, the health needs of the 1.8 million internally displaced persons in the country are rising, particularly in the Kurdistan Region and Anbar. Mass population movement within the country and from the neighboring Syria poses a risk of potential disease outbreaks such as polio and measles among the displaced people.

    “Although, we achieved high coverage in the mass vaccination campaigns conducted in September 2014, there is a need for sustained efforts in vaccinating all children 0-5 years and 6 months – 5 years against polio and measles respectively to halt transmission of these disease in the country,” said Dr Jaffar Hussain, WHO Representative in Iraq.  With the large numbers of people entering Iraq from the neighboring countries, coupled with overcrowding in the camps, this will create conditions ripe for disease outbreaks,” he added. 
    To prevent further outbreaks of polio and measles, WHO and UNICEF have supported the Federal Government of Iraq to convene a review meeting for the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) attended by national and province managers, national immunization advisory committee members, representatives from the central vaccine supply store, and health promotion officers. The meeting was convened to discuss ways of improving knowledge and technical skills of EPI managers to swiftly stop the current measles and polio outbreaks and effectively improve Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance as well as improve the quality and reach of Routine Immunization.


    The International Committee of the Red Cross released the following video.






    Patrick Youssef: Since the start of 2014, the situation has been going worse and worse.  In today's Iraq, over two million displaced were first to leave their homes to leave all their possessions and seek refuge in other governorates.  During my last field trip to Duhok, to the Domiz Refugee Camp  where there was more than 30,000 families there.  I managed to discuss with some family members who told me, for example, how it was so difficult them to reach the camp.  Some of them went up to Mount Sinjar, then had to travel for at least 72 hours to reach a camp in such a difficult situation and in need of everything basically.  That's what pushes the teams of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to respond to those needs.  So as the winter season started in Iraq and the rainy season as well, the displaced will be living in harsher conditions.  The ICRC in the field have already began measuring their distributions for families effected by this winter season by distributing stoves, blankets, winter clothing, other humanitarian activities that are equally important, that touch lives and dignities of many effected by previous wars or ongoing violence.  We continued our visits to places of detention.  We also considered our support and training for physical rehabilitation centers across Iraq but also other important projects such as the support to the medical legal directorate, its training and capacity building as well as our continuous engagement and serious commitment to continue our working on the missing file -- on the missing from the Iraq-Iran War but also from the Gulf War.  But also looked, for example, at the needs of farmers effected by this violence, by the armed conflict, by distributing simple things, seeds, for example, to sustain their livelihood and benefit their own families but also people who have been hosted by these farmers.  One of the main challenges that we face is basically being able to access all the places that are scenes of ongoing violence or conflict -- is that access has not been ideal for the teams of the Red Cross managed to get quite close to those effected by the violence and conflict.  International Red Cross has also sought to remind all parties -- all those carrying weapons and have a say or control over communities or civilian population -- to respect basic principles of humanitarian law, to protect civilians and to protect basically all those providing basic humanitarian assistance or providing health services -- ambulances but also health structures from the effects of this violence.


    Among today's violence?  All Iraq News reports 4 corpses were dumped in the "Tigris River of northeastern Tikrit."  Alsumaria notes a Gaza City home invasion left 3 women and 1 man dead, and a mortar attack on two Tikrit schools left many students injured. Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 229 people killed today in violence with fifty more left injured. 




    Yesterday, Chuck Hagel was forced out as Secretary of Defense (he's stated he'll remain in the post until the Senate can confirm his successor).  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued a statement on Hagel's impending departure:


    Washington D.C. (November 24, 2014) – Today, President Obama announced Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Chuck Hagel has resigned. Hagel was sworn in as Secretary in early 2013. IAVA released the following statement:
    “IAVA members appreciate Secretary Hagel’s exceptional dedication to the veteran community,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “As the first Vietnam veteran and former enlisted soldier to lead the Department of Defense, Secretary Hagel was a tremendous advocate for us inside the Pentagon and the Administration. Secretary Hagel was a leader on issues of military mental health, suicide prevention and military sexual trauma, he was always open and receptive to our ideas for reform. He was someone we could always count on to have the backs of our veterans. IAVA members worldwide thank him for his leadership and wish him all the best in whatever he chooses to do next.”
    Rieckhoff continued: “The veterans community has had no stronger advocate in Washington than Secretary Hagel. On fighting suicide especially, he’s always had our back. But as Secretary Hagel exits, we look to the President to finally solve a problem that has eluded all previous secretaries: the establishment of a truly seamless health record system between the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. This is a critical need for servicemembers and veterans transitioning out of the military and seeking access to mental health care. We look forward to working with the White House and Congress to find a replacement to lead at the Pentagon and strongly support our community in the critical years to come.”

    Note to media: Email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.





























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