Saturday, December 27, 2014

What's up with Jodie Foster?

Cedric and I were watching Inside Man this week.  It's one of our favorite films.  Spike Lee directed it and it stars Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen among others.

Jodie's really good in it -- as she so often is in films she stars in.

The next day, we pulled Flight Plan down from our DVD shelves. That's another film she stars in that we enjoy.

We enjoy a lot of them.

And I got curious about what she was doing next.

Directing.

I won't be seeing it.

I had no problem with "The Beaver."  I can take Mel Gibson crazy -- I'm referring to his real life.

His life offscreen is a mess.

I can draw a line between the actor and the performances because Mel can deliver.  He did under Jodie's direction and he's done it in other films.  I also appreciated Jodie standing by a friend when everyone else in the industry was walking away.

But I can't stand George Clooney.

It's not because I think he's closeted.  Although I do think he's gay and do think his marriage is a ridiculous attempt by an elderly man to pretend he's straight.  As far as I'm concerned, this is now entering Liberace denial level of embarrassment.

His neoliberal politics bother me.  He's a War Hawk.  He's one of the sell-out Democrats that make his party worse and worse each year.  (I'm a Green.)  I'm sure he thinks he looks 'manly' by being a centrist sell out but he actually looks anything but the sort.

I also can't take his hectoring.

Alec Baldwin should explode less.  But Alec is much more bright politically than George Clooney.

(I also have no problem seeing Alec in any movie.)

But mainly with George Clooney, it's that everything he does, he did on Facts of Life.  When he went to Roseanne, it was the same performance.  It was the same on Sisters and on ER.  It's been the same in one film after another.

The only performance that 'worked' was in One Fine Day and that's because Michelle Pfeiffer looked at him like he mattered, she gave him chemistry that he really didn't have.

In his better days -- say the 90s -- he was a glossy pin up but he projected no sexuality.  Pfieffer gave him the appearance of that.

He's boring and he's dull and his movies don't deliver an audience.  (He was part of an ensemble in the Oceans films and he was 'the girl' in Gravity -- Sandra Bullock carried the film.)

But along with realizing I wasn't going to see the film -- the first Jodie's directed that I've ignored -- I also wondered why she doesn't have any acting films lined up?

Is she retiring from acting?

If so, is it because she came out?

I'm glad she did.

I think it'll make her a better actress.

So I was really looking forward to what she was going to do next because she was already an amazing actress, she's a two-time Oscar winner.

But I'm starting to think that her coming out means she's wiping her hands of acting.

That Jodie was gay was the worst kept 'secret' in the world.

Everyone talked about it, everyone knew.

In the first season of Will & Grace, they were joking about it (the kiss in Somersby).

No one had a I-can't-see-the-film-she's-gay as far as I can tell.

So now that she's out, she really shouldn't feel that anyone cares.

I think more people cared when she was closeted.

But she's been accepted as a troubled mother (Flight Plan, Panic Room) and as pretty much everything she's done.  The sole exception really is Somersby.  And that's got a lot to do with the fact that there was no chemistry between her and Richard Gere and she did a really bad southern accent that was laughable (most notable when she says, "You are not my husband" -- with a diphthong like she picked it up in Mayberry).

I'm not, by the way, making the argument, "She owes it to the LGBT community to keep acting now that she's come out."

She may, she may not.

I'll leave that to the LGBT community to argue.

What I am saying is that she's an artist and now that she no longer has to spend any of her time pretending to be straight or pretending not to care if anyone knows or whatever, she owes it to herself as an artist to use this freedom to go richer into her acting and add more layers in her performances.


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


Saturday, December 27, 2014. Chaos and violence continue, US Senator John McCain travels to Iraq, the Speaker of Parliament asks the US to arm Sunni tribes to fight the Islamic State, we look at Sahwa, and much more.



The Washington Post's David Ignatius looks back on 2014 in terms of Iraq in a column which notes, "The problem, the tribal leader argued, was that because the United States was working so closely with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, Sunnis in Anbar doubted there was any U.S. commitment to giving them more power. Without this political commitment, weapons and even Apache gunships would be of little use."

He's referring to Sahwa.

Also known as "Awakening," "Sons of Iraq" (and it's female counterpart "Daughters of Iraq").

Sahwa's a complex issue that many want to turn simplistic.  I'm not referring to David Ignatius, I'm referring to cheerleaders on various sides.

Sahwa was a US government plan to get Sunnis fighters -- resistance -- to big-tent it in Iraq.

By 2007, the Awakening movement was finally getting traction.

However, for over a year prior the US government repeatedly claimed success there when there was no success and many in the press ran with articles about this great new movement that did not exist.

On great.  Some tribal leaders were like any other people on the face of the earth -- the mixture of positive attributes and faults.  But equally true, some leaders of Sahwa -- at least two noted ones -- were mafia.  Iraqi mafia.  One, in fact, making big money in the cement industry.

That's part of it too and you can't talk about the history and be dishonest.

That's the leadership.

David Petraeus was a US general who was the top commander in Iraq. By 2008, a number of things were going on in Iraq resulting in a reduction of violence.

Sahwa was one component.  Another was the 'surge.'

The 'surge' is something I have a real problem with.  As late as 2010, I could hear someone on my side (the left) talk about the surge and dismiss it completely and think we could disagree and that was that.  But the reality is, as the years have shown since, this is not an area where people are honest or thoughtful.  This is a knee-jerk area with a lot of uninformed stupid people.  If that seems simplistic, so does, in 2014, saying "The surge didn't work!"

I opposed the surge, check the archives.  I called it out when it was proposed.  I called it out when it was started.  I said it would be a failure.


I was half-wrong and I was half-right.

The surge was two parts.

(1) Bully Boy Bush was greatly increasing the number of US troops in Iraq and (2) this was being done so that a 'diplomatic surge' would take place -- violence would be reduced and the US troops would be leading on that to allow the Iraqi politicians to focus on the always spoken of but never achieved "political solutions."

The US military did what they were tasked with.

They succeeded.

I don't know why some on my side have a problem admitting that.

Check the archives, I said it wouldn't happen.  I was wrong.  I have no problem admitting that.

But part one, the success, was supposed to create the space for part two and that never happened.

This is a really important point because it's not just history from a few years back, it applies to today when Barack Obama is doing the same thing that Bully Boy Bush did, focusing on the military aspect and just assuming the political will fall into place all by itself.

At any rate, the reduction in violence came about for three reasons.  The surge and Sahwa were two of those reasons.  The third reason was ethnic cleansing.

Many still want to call it a civil war.

It wasn't and we didn't play like it was in real time.

Baghdad was 'cleansed' and went from an integrated city to one that is predominately Shi'ite.

The bulk of the external refugees of this period were Sunnis.  The bulk of the dead were Sunnis.

You can play it off as 'civil war' for however many decades before you're comfortable admitting the US government's role in it.

But that's why violence began to decrease: Sahwa, the surge (the military aspect, the only success) and ethnic cleansing.

The reduction in violence was such a success that it distracted from the political failures which included Nouri al-Maliki -- then prime minister of Iraq and forever thug -- being unable to meet the White House defined benchmarks for success (which Nouri agreed to and signed off on).

To sell the continuation of the illegal war, April 2008 offered a week of  The Petraeus and Crocker Show, where the then top-US commander in Iraq Petraeus and then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified to Congress repeatedly.  By focusing on violence, they tricked the bulk of Congress (or maybe the bulk of Congress was in on the con? -- certainly some were) into talking about that and ignoring the lack of progress on the political front.  (US House Rep Lloyd Doggett was the only one who, that entire week, used his questioning time to bring up the issue of the failed political benchmarks).  We were at all the hearings that week and we'll drop back to April 8, 2008 for  that day's snapshot:




Today The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour took their act on the road.  First stop, the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker are supposed to be providing a status report on the Iraq War.  They didn't.  In fact, Petraeus made clear that the status report would come . . . next September.  When the results are this bad, you stall -- which is exactly what Petraeus did. 
 The most dramatic moment came as committee chair Carl Levin was questioning Petraeus and a man in the gallery began exclaiming "Bring them home!" repeatedly.  (He did so at least 16 times before he was escored out).  The most hilarious moment was hearing Petraeus explain that it's tough in the school yard and America needs to fork over their lunch money in Iraq to avoid getting beat up.  In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.  These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts."  Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up. 
How much lunch money is the US forking over?  Members of the "Awakening" Council are paid, by the US, a minimum of $300 a month (US dollars).  By Petraeus' figures that mean the US is paying $27,300,000 a month.  $27 million a month is going to the "Awakening" Councils who, Petraeus brags, have led to "savings in vehicles not lost".  Again, in this morning's hearings, the top commander in Iraq explained that the US strategy is forking over the lunch money to school yard bullies.  What a [proud] moment for the country.

Crocker's entire testimony can be boiled down to a statement he made in his opening statements, "What has been achieved is substantial, but it is also reversible."  Which would translate in the real world as nothing has really changed.  During questioning from Senator Jack Reed, Crocker would rush to shore up the "Awakening" Council members as well.  He would say there were about 90,000 of them and, pay attention, the transitioning of them is delayed due to "illliteracy and physical disabilities."  


Sahwa was paid to stop attacking US equipment and US troops -- that was the order Petraeus repeatedly gave that week and where he placed the emphasis.

Could the movement exist without buy-offs?

If the payments stopped would the movement stop?

In 2008, I believed it wouldn't.

I was hugely wrong.

During that week, Senator Barbara Boxer noted the millions being spent on this program and wondered why the US government was footing the bill and not the oil-rich government of Iraq?

This took both Petraeus and Crocker by surprise and, realizing they a potential nightmare on their hands, they basically rewrote policy while testifying by insisting they could and would raise that with the Iraqi government.

Which was Nouri.

Nouri loved Iraqi money.  Loved it so much, he took it home and played with it.  Also known as embezzlement and theft.

But while he'd grab it for himself (and for his crooked son), he wasn't keen on using it to better Iraq.  Which is why there was no improvement to Iraq's crumbling public infrastructure under Nouri -- despite his serving 8 years as prime minister.

He also didn't want to pay Sahwa.

But, more than money, his problem was that they were Sunnis.

When the US insisted on coward Nouri in 2006 -- insisted he become prime minister because the CIA analysis on Nouri argued his paranoia would make him an easily controlled puppet -- they pretty much doomed the country.  (Barack sealed the doom by insisting, in 2010, that Nouri get a second term as prime minister even after he lost the election to Ayad Allawi.)

Nouri was back in Iraq not out of love for the country.  Love didn't cause the coward to flee either.  He hated Sunnis and he wanted revenge.

And though he was being told by the US government that he'd have to pay Sahwa and that he'd have to incorporate them into the Iraqi forces and into the Iraqi government, he had no intention of doing so.

And, in the end, he didn't.

The press kept trumpeting that he'd put them on the payroll and then, a few months later, the press would begrudgingly admit that, oops, the US was still paying them.

Then they just weren't getting paid at all.

But still the Sahwa continued to fight and defend areas.

I was completely wrong that it was just for money.

Sahwa gave many rank and file a sense of purpose and a belief in a new Iraq.

And not only did they continue even when not paid, they continued when they were targeted by Nouri.

They were arrested, they were killed, they were harassed -- not by the rebels they were fighting but by Nouri and his thugs.

Nouri termed them "Ba'athists" and "terrorists" and much more publicly.

In August, when Haider al-Abadi replaced Nouri as prime minister, there was supposed to be a sea of change. For Sahwa, it's largely been a desert of stillness.

As we noted Friday morning, US Senator John McCain was in Iraq and scheduled to meet with Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jubouri.  Anadolu Agency reports they did meet and that Jubouri asked for the US to arm :100,000 Sunni tribesmen living in four regions that are controlled by the ISIL."

From McCain's Twitter feed:





McCain supported the surge, supported Sahwa and supports the current phase of the never-ending war (while having some qualms over its execution), so he was most likely receptive to the request and will convey it to other members of Congress and the administration while also supporting it.

But this can't be seen as an "Iraqi government request."

Yes, the Speaker is Iraqi.

So is Haider al-Abadi.

Haider's made no such request.

Haider is Shi'ite.

Salim al-Jubouri is Sunni.

He is one of the two highest ranking Sunnis in the government.

The Joel Wing crowd is deeply stupid so, since we're doing a remedial here, let's explain that statement.

Currently, the two highest ranking Sunni officials are Salem and Osama al-Nujaifi.  Osama is the former Speaker of Parliament and currently one of Iraq's three vice presidents.

Saleh al-Mutlaq is a Sunni.  He is Deputy Prime Minister.  He was that in Nouri's second term as well.  From time to time, the Wingers tried to portray Saleh as the highest ranking.

No.

He's the lady in waiting.

He's the runner up at Miss America.

The post of the Speaker is part of the "three presidencies" (check the Iraqi Constitution) -- the Prime Minister, the President and the Speaker.  That alone gives the post tremendous powers.  There's also the power of being in charge of the Parliament -- a power that scared and frightened paranoid Nouri so much that he repeatedly attempted to turn the Parliament into two houses.

(He failed.)

So that's the power of the Speaker.

On the vice presidents, someone will immediately insist, "The presidential post is only ceremonial."

That's really not true.

Jalal Talabani was a lazy fat ass who refused to do any real work.

For the sake of this discussion, we're zooming in on just one issue.

Jalal is opposed to the death penalty.

He spent his two terms as President of Iraq speaking about how he opposed it.  Never explaining it or advocating for it or working to win people over to his side.  He'd just declare he opposed the death penalty and take the easy applause which globally greeted his bare minimum statement.


As president, he had to sign off on the executions for them to take place or allow one of the vice presidents too.

Jalal never stopped an execution.

He had the power too.

He could say no to one or to all of the executions.

He failed to do so despite being so against the death penalty.

In March 2010, Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections.

Why?

The vote was supposed to have taken place sooner.

In the fall of 2009, however, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi looked at the proposed election law and argued it did not properly factor in Sunni refugees.  So he blocked the bill, which had passed Parliament.  And he blocked it from going forward until he got concessions he wanted.  Which is why the parliamentary elections didn't take place at the end of 2009 but took place in March of 2010.

This infuriated the White House and upset their planned roll out -- elections in 2009, 'combat forces' out in 2010, the bulk of US forces out of Iraq at the end of 2011 as part of the 'drawdown,' etc.

But Tareq had the power as Vice President.

Saleh has none of these powers as Deputy Prime Minister.

Yet the Winger set and a large part of the American press felt the need to lie and portray Saleh as the most important Sunni official.

A solid argument could be made that Saleh also ranks below any Sunni who has been confirmed by the Parliament to head a ministry (provided the ministry has actual funding -- the Ministry of Women continues to have funding issues which appears to indicate Haider al-Abadi has as little respect for women as did Nouri).

So while current Speaker of Parliament al-Jubouri has tremendous power, unless Haider joins the call, this really isn't a request from the Iraqi government but from one part of it.

Haider's refusal to join this call goes to how he's not really different from Nouri.

He's not as stupid as Nouri -- but few people are as stupid as Nouri and no one is probably ever going to be more stupid than Nouri al-Maliki.

So he's avoiding openly antagonizing the Sunnis or the Kurds or Iraq's neighbors.

But he's also not doing much at all to help within Iraq.

Sahwa will fight in Anbar.

If Sahwa's armed and the order is given to go into Falluja, they will.

That's really not in doubt.

By contrast, the thugs in the Iraqi military currently over Falluja?

They're cowards and they're criminals.

They're Shi'ites who are too chicken into Falluja and think they look 'strong' by bombing the cities residential areas.  They're bombing civilians.  This is Collective Punishment.  It's a legally defined War Crime, the United States recognizes it as such and, as long as it continues, the US government is breaking the law -- that's Barack -- and can be put on trial for War Crimes because Barack is collaborating with  a government that is knowingly bombing civilians.

In the past, Barack wouldn't have to worry.

Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, LBJ, et al (leave out Jimmy Carter) all acted with impunity and didn't think too much about War Crimes -- either their own or those of regimes that they collaborated with.

There was an arrogance that the military and the economy of the United States afforded its leaders.

The world has changed and is changing.

For a US president, Barack is a young man.  (Hillary, if elected, would be a very old president by contrast.)  Provided his health holds out, he could live for many decades more.

And if he succeeds with his 'trade' treaty and ships even more US jobs out of the United States, that means the country will be even weaker economically.  Who knows where it will stand in 20 or 30 years.  But if it continues to slide, the arrogance so many US presidents have had just might get stripped away and they might find that -- like leaders of tiny countries -- they too can be paraded in front of the Hague for War Crimes.

Arming Sahwa is pretty much a necessary step. Even the White House knows it's needed.  But they're trying to walk Haider up to the point where he can see the need for it as well.

Thing is, they've been walking him on that treadmill for months and, if he hasn't seen it already, he's not going to.  Which is why you tie it to something that he wants.  X for agreeing to arm the Sunnis.

Diplomacy is longterm work, no question.

But Iraq has a very short period of time right now.  Haider was supposed to represent change and he's largely failed to do that.  The window to show he's not Nouri is closing.  He needs to have what one State Dept official calls a "come to Jesus moment" -- and he needs to have it really soon.  Especially if Barack intends to continue with the plan to move on Anbar in February.


As everyone waits for February (or later), the violence continues in Iraq.

Fridays' violence?


The Latin American Herald Tribune notes a Sinjar mortar attack left 6 Peshmerga dead and eleven more injured.

Alsumaria reports a Muqdadiyah mortar attack left 1 police member dead and one civilian critically injured, another Muqdadiyah mortart attack (on a market) left three people injured, and 2 corpses -- a man and a woman -- were found dumped on the streets of Kirkuk Province.


The refugee crisis in Iraq just continues to grow and that, too, reflects poorly on Haider.  Loveday Morris (Washington Post) examines the crisis from various points and we'll note the issue of the Kurdistan Region:

Ismail Mohammed, the assistant governor of Dahuk province, said that the Kurdish province, once one of the smallest in Iraq by population, is now the fourth-largest because of the influx of displaced people. He conceded that the Kurdish regional government has been able to provide little help as it wrangles with the central government in Baghdad over its budget. He hopes that will change as the country’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, improves relations with the Kurdish authorities. He complained that the United Nations has been slow to act.


The Washington Post offers a graph here on displacement. Deborah Amos has long covered the refugee crisis in Iraq. and she has a report for Saturday's Weekend Edition (NPR -- link is audio and text).  She is the author of Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East which, see "2010 in books (Martha & Shirley)," was this community's choice for book of 2010.   In addition, Dalshad Abdullah (Asharq Al-Awsat) reports:

Approximately two million Iraqi citizens, mainly from the country’s central and western governorates, sought refuge from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in 2014, an official from the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration told Asharq Al-Awsat.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, director of Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration office in Erbil Alia Al-Bazzaz said: “The number of [Iraqis] displaced to the Kurdistan region, from the provinces of Anbar, Diyala and Salah Al-Din, has reached approximately two million. The majority of them are in Dahuk, while others are located in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.”
[. . .]
Zarkar said that Baghdad is not providing sufficient aid for the displaced Iraqi citizens, calling on the central government and UN to help refugees in the city.














the washington post
david ignatius

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Margaret Kimberley nails it

Cuba?

The US is ready to invade Cuba.

Not with guns and soldiers.

With economists.


Very few people are paying attention.

Marcia and Elaine addressed it.


  • Cuba
    22 hours ago
  •  



  • At Black Agenda Report, Margaret Kimberley addresses it today:

    On December 17, 2014, the Obama administration announced changes in relations with Cuba which broke with over fifty years of foreign policy decisions. The United States will open an embassy in Havana for the first time since 1961. All of the Cuban Five political prisoners are now free. While Congress must approve a complete end of the trade embargo, some trade restrictions have already been loosened.
    Of course, Yankee imperialism gave with one hand, and took with the other. The day after the Cuba announcement, president Obama signed legislation imposing sanctions against the Venezuelan government. Instead of asking why the United States would help Cuba but punish its biggest benefactor, Americans are celebrating what they hope is a return to Cuba’s status as a de facto American colony.

    Anyone who depended on the inane exultations from the corporate media and so-called leftists would think that Cuba ceased to exist from January 1, 1959 until now. They speak as if it has remained in a state of suspended animation, not waking up until the United States woke it with a kiss, as if in a fairy tale. While Americans think that Cubans exist as relics like cars from the 1950s, that nation has succeeded in achieving a number of accomplishments which Americans refuse to acknowledge. Of course that is easy to do if revolutionary Cuba isn’t thought of as a real nation, which is as much as the average American mind can fathom.
    [. . .]
    Even supposedly serious thinkers succumbed and revealed more about their own fantasies than any insight about Cuba. Liberal pundit David Corn could only think of his stereotypes in a startling missive posted on twitter. “Cuba's a swell place to visit. Beaches, rum, baseball, music. It'll be great for more USers to visit-& that could counter repression there.” If there were a prize awarded for truly stupid twitter posts, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin should win with these words, “Obama spoke with Raul Castro yesterday. The ice is melting. Mojitos for all!”
    It is difficult to know where to begin in analyzing such nonsense. It isn’t clear what Corn means by repression, but surely the presence of Americans having fun has never made people safe anywhere in the world. As for Benjamin, anyone whose response to a foreign policy decision includes references to a cocktail should be ignored now and forever. 


    Thank you to Margaret Kimberley for being on the very small list of people who see what's really going on.

    I'll be nominating her for a "truest statement of the week" at Third for this column.


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



    Wednesday, Decemeber 24, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri al-Maliki spreads rumors about the other two Iraqi vice presidents, Nouri spreads rumors about the Kurds, Alsumaria publishes a photo of the Jordanian plane going down in Syria (looks like it may have been hit despite US claims otherwise), the Pope the Palestinian President and the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and the KRG President offer warm wishes to Iraqi Christians as Christmas approaches, and much more.

    Let's start with the crazy.

    Alsumaria reports State of Law is accusing Osama al-Nujaifi and Ayad Allawi -- two of Iraq's three vice presidents -- of wasting money on decorating their offices.  However, State of Law MP insists that his precious Nouri al-Maliki asked for nothing.

    No one believes State of Law.  (Nouri created and heads State of Law.)

    They're professional liars, first off.

    Secondly, when Nouri wants to 'return' the jet plane that he doesn't own (the government owns) or when he wants to finally move his dirty ass out of the Prime Minister's residence (Haider al-Abadi became the new prime minister in August -- when does Nouri plan to vacate?) maybe someone will take 'office decoration abuse' seriously.

    Maybe not -- because, third, State of Law's policies and actions took an Iraq moving closer to stability and unleashed non-stop violence.

    Nouri alienated everyone, spread lies about everyone -- including leaders of foreign countries.

    Has thug Nouri changed?

    No.









  • Maliki: Kurdish officers in Iraq Army fled and were ordered to abandon positions by 'Kurdish leadership' during fall of Mosul


  • That's an interesting assertion.  Every other report has noted that the Iraqi military -- that Nouri ran -- not the Peshmerga (Kurdish fighting force) deserted.

    The White House has even noted that reality.

    But Nouri has to lie because that's all he has and that's how hideous he is.

    He has damaged Iraq so badly.  If he had any decency at all, he'd hang his head in shame and slink off, mortified by the violence he bread in Iraq.

    But Nouri has no ethics, Nouri has no decency.


    Before we get to Iraq's violence, let's get to the disputed event in Syria.



    Today, though the US government denies it, there are reports that the Islamic State shot down a war plane flying over Syria.

    The denial came despite an admission from another government. Press Latina reports, "The Jordan Ministry of Defense today confirmed that one of its warplanes was brought down in Syria and its pilot was captured by the Islamic State (IS) fighters."   Mohammad Tayseer and Nafeesa Syeed (Bloomberg News) report, "Islamic State militants are holding a Jordanian fighter pilot captive in Syria after his warplane went down during a mission against the al-Qaeda breakaway group. "

    Hugh Naylor and Erin Cunningham (Washington Post) offer this from the US government:

    “We are aware of the capture of a Jordanian pilot by ISIL,” Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said in Washington. “We are working closely with the government of Jordan to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident.”


    AP -- always one to do as they're told and cower before a government -- offers, "Images of the pilot being pulled out of a lake and hustled away by masked jihadists underscored the risks for the U.S. and its Arab and European allies in the air campaign."

    Is that the image that matters?

    Strange, AP ignores another image.

    Alsumaria runs it.





    It's their final photo in the essay on the event.


    Now it may not have been shot down.


    But that picture goes to more than 'mechanical error.'



    Equally true, the US government has repeatedly lied throughout the Iraq War about helicopters having 'hard landings' and 'mechanical errors' only, after the press interest died, to turn around and admit they were shot down.

    Press TV notes that US CENTCOM,  "which oversees the US-led coalition airstrikes against the ISIL militants in Iraq and Syria, did not give a cause for the crash."


    While the US government continues to deny the events, CBC offers:

    Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters have been assumed to have "limited air defence capability," the BBC has reported — but they're well short of having the kind of Russian equipment thought to have shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17.
    In that case, U.S. officials have said a Russian-made Buk missile launcher operated by rebels in Ukraine may have fired a radar-guided SA-11 missile that took down the airliner, killing 298 people. Firing such missiles requires training. Lack of it may have contributed to the Malaysian airlines disaster.
    So far, ISIS is believed to be using only portable, shoulder-mounted launchers that fire heat-seeking missiles — potentially effective, but far less sophisticated than SA-11s.


    Regardless of what has taken place, the US government has put in an extraordinary amount of energy into denying all reports.  What a shame that same zeal couldn't be used in devising a plan to address the Islamic State.


    In Iraq today, AP reports that the military base in Madain (close to Baghdad) was bombed and "at least 24 people" are dead.


    The State Dept issued a statement:

    Press Statement
    Jen Psaki
    Washington, DC
    December 24, 2014
    The United States strongly condemns the suicide attack today in Madaen, Iraq, which took the lives of a number of anti-ISIL fighters as they gathered to receive government salaries. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and hope for a rapid recovery for those who were injured.
    As Iraqis unite against ISIL and turn the tide on the battlefield, ISIL will continue to resort to such vicious and desperate acts as cowardly suicide attacks and other atrocities to try to maintain its reign of fear.

    The United States will continue to stand with the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi people against violent extremists, and to support their continued progress towards building a unified Iraq.


    The State Dept issued no statement noting the two civilians wounded in the latest round of military bombings of Falluja's residential neighborhoods. These are War Crimes, they've been taking place daily since January but the State Dept says nothing about the civilians killed and wounded.

    Alsumaria notes the death toll rose to 43 with sixty-one more people left injured.


    In other violence, Alsumaria reports a Latifiya roadside bombing left three police members injured, Salahuddin Governor Raed al-Jubouri proclaimed 15 members of the Islamic State were killed in Baiji, a Muqdadiyah mortar attack left one woman and four children injured, a mortar attack in Salhuddin Province left three people injured, a Zafaraniyah roadside bombing left 1 person dead and four more injured,  3 Mansour bombings targeted the home of an intelligence analyst with the Ministry of the Interior and left two people injured, a Tarmiyah roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi solider and left another injured,  and a grave containing the remains of 10 slaughtered Peshmergas was discovered in Jalula (Diyala Province). All Iraq News notes the Ministry of Defense states that 11 militants were killed in southern Falluja.


    Among the targeted in Iraq are the religious minorities which includes Iraqi Christians.  Tomorrow is one of the two major holidays in the Christian religion -- Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

    Many children around the world, of various religions -- not just Christianity,  also celebrate the day for the yearly visit Santa Claus makes delivering toys to boys and girls.  







    "I don't have a tree this year, all I can do is draw one" Modian, 10, from



















  • Xinhau reports:


    The streets of Bethlehem, the holy city of Jesus Christ, was fully ornamented on Wednesday night with lightened trees and little colorful models for Christmas celebrations and Midnight Mass at the Church of Nativity.
    Fu'ad Tawal, the Great Patriarch of the Latin Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Lands arrived at the Church of Nativity earlier at night for the Midnight Christmas Mass and to announce the beginning of Christmas celebrations.


    Xinhua also notes that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Bethlehem "expressed deep sorrow for what happened to the Christians in Iraq, and said that the political situation was very difficult during 2014 and expressed his hope that next year will be better."

    In Baghdad, Tim Arango, Omar al-Jawoshy and Falih Hassan  (New York Times) report:

    For months now, since militants of the Islamic State stormed her hometown, Qaraqosh, in northern Iraq, near Mosul, and began killing and driving out Christians, home for Miriam and dozens of her old neighbors has been the run-down Al Makasid Primary School in Baghdad. To get by, they have relied on the kindnesses of the nearby church, and of local Muslims, too.
    In the school’s dingy courtyard there is a tree, trimmed in balls and bells, and a nativity scene. A few gifts have been donated — toys, clothes, dolls and candies. It is not much, and nothing like being at home, but Christmas has not been the same in Iraq for a long time now.


    Ali Jassim (Alsumaria) has a photo essay on some of the Iraqi Christians who have left Mosul to relocate to Baghdad as they are visited by Santa Claus ("Baba Noel" -- Tim Arango, Omar al-Jawoshy and Falih Hassan noted in their New York Times report).  AFP reports Pope Francis telephoned refugees in Erbil:

    The refugees were among those driven from their homes around Mosul last northern summer in an offensive by the jihadist Islamic State group, and on Wednesday, the pontiff used a satellite phone connection provided by Catholic channel TV 2000 to offer them his support.
    'Dear brothers, I am close to you, very close to you in my heart,' the pope was quoted as telling the refugees by Italian press agency AGI.


    Erbil is in northern Iraq, it's the capitol of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  Alsumaria reports KRG President Massoud Barzani issued a message of congratulations to Iraqi Christians, noted the displaced and declared that Iraqi Christians are and remain a historic part of Iraq and that, while terrorism has no place in Iraq, Iraqi Christians will always have a place in the country.


    Elsewhere in Iraq?  Nina Shea (National Review Online -- right wing periodical) writes, "For the first time in 1,400 years, there will be no Christmas celebrations in Nineveh province, home to Iraq's largest remaining Christian community and largest non-Muslim minority, and a site of great biblical significance. This northern province, whose area is over three times larger than that of Lebanon, is now part of the Islamic State's caliphate, and its Christians and churches are no longer tolerated."


    Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) offers this context, "In the north, Islamic State fighters have forced thousands to flee. In Baghdad, where the security situation is still so tenuous that priests worried that celebrations could provoke an attack. Last Christmas, three bombings targeted Christians, including a Roman Catholic church, and killed 38 people."

    Alsumaria notes Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jubouri offered greetings and congratulations to Iraqi Christians and called on Iraqi Christians to stay in Iraq and preserve their history.  But an Iraqi Christian woman tells Reuters, "I wish to leave this country as soon as possible because we, Christians, have been hunted down by extremists and reduced into a very small minority.  Life is not very kind to us these days."

    Patriarch Louis Sacco, head of Iraq's Chaldean Church, was interviewed by Alsumaria and he noted that the Iraqi government has done little for Iraqi Christians and that, while other internal refugees have received funds from a government grant, the displaced Christians have received none of that money.








     





     










    Wednesday, December 24, 2014

    A New Year's Resolution


    To be clear, I'm not speaking about any friends and certainly no one at my church.

    I do, however, work with a lot of free loaders.

    For example, X who approaches me for money for the vending machine.

    X is hungry.  Do I have any cash?

    I guess I can let her borrow a dollar.

    I open my purse and dig out my pocketbook and I have 3 dollars.  She 'needs' all of them and will pay me back the next day.

    That was Thanksgiving week.

    If you didn't know, it's not been repaid.

    She's one of 15 workers at my job who borrow and never pay back.

    Co-worker in bad marriage stops me on the way out at the start of the month.

    Do I have time to talk?  Could we get something to eat?

    I call my aunt (who watches my child) and she says (as she always does), "It's not a problem, take your time."  (Thank you to my Aunt Angelina who is the best aunt in the whole wide world.)

    So co-worker wants to go to a cheesy Mexican place.  Cheesy?  Even the tortilla chips don't taste right.

    And it's overpriced and I hate the food there.

    You know what's coming, don't you?

    After I listen to her problems for an hour or so -- and after she's eaten a $19.99 dinner and drank two "monster" margaritas (I didn't drink, I was driving) while all I ordered was some guacamole and chips -- she announces she has no money.

    So I'm stuck with the tab.

    Now Cedric and I are not hurting for money.

    But I'm tired of being used.

    And if I'm going to give money, I'd rather give to some children's medical thing (like St. Jude's which I do donate to) or to my church where it will go to help the needy in the community.

    I am tired of all the nonsense at work.

    And that includes passing sheets around for your children.

    That is actually cause for a write-up at my work.  Yet people still do it.

    I don't want to buy a 30 dollar (fabric) tortilla warmer to help your child's band trip.

    So my New Year's resolution is to be okay with saying "no."

    (And I should add we do have co-workers in need at my job.  And funds are started for them.  I am not talking about those people.  I am talking about moochers and there's a big difference.)


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



    Tuesday, December 23, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, WikiLeaks' recent release notes the targeting of Moqtada al-Sadr's movement, the Iraqi military refuses to follow even the most basic orders of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the Pope expresses concern for religious minorities, and much more.



    Starting with WikiLeak's latest exposure.  Last week, they released a report the CIA prepared for US President Barack Obama.  The report, dated July 7, 2009, is entitled [PDF format warning]  "Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool" and is the CIA's flash-card style explanation to Barack of counterinsurgency and the value of killing.


    The term they use is "High-Value Targeting" which they explain:


    We define high-value targeting as focused operations against specific individuals or networks whose removal or marginalization should disproportionately degrade an insurgent group's effectiveness.  The criteria for designating high-value targets will vary according to factors such as the insurgent group's capabilities, structure, and leadership dynamics and the government's desired outcome. 



    The biggest shock of the brief paper is how much they dumb it down -- apparently not expecting much of their intended audiences.


    A few things emerge.


    On Iraq, we learn that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr was smart to spend those long periods of time outside of Iraq -- the Sadr movement was targeted and, the report makes clear, not just by the United States, "The Iraqi Government has been using HVT efforts to eliminate irreconcilable Sadrist militant leaders and moderate the Sadrist movement. "


    An outstanding arrest warrant was out on Moqtada al-Sadr and it was often noted, while he was in Iran, that one of the reasons he remained out of the country was that he suspected/feared Nouri al-Maliki would issue it to have him arrested.


    Clearly concerns of being targeted by the government were valid ones.


    Also clear, the CIA is a huge embarrassment when it comes to referencing,  "In Iraq, Jaysh Muhammad (JM) suffered a significant setback in late 2004 after British replacements in short succession, according to the Jordian General Intelligence Directorate."  You're the CIA and you're shoring up a point with "according to the Jordian General Intelligence Directorate"?


    Then again, maybe that was another part of dumbing it down for the intended reader?


    Also writing?  Joshua J. McElwee (National Catholic Reporter) notes:


    Pope Francis has written a Christmas letter to the dwindling Christian community in the Middle East, offering his solidarity in what he calls their "enormous suffering" amid the horrific and sustained violence of the Islamic State militant group.
    Issuing the almost 2,000-word letter in eight languages Tuesday, the pope also says that he wishes to visit the region and condemns continued arms trafficking there "in the strongest possible terms."



    Arms trafficking sales are big business -- legal sales and illegal sales.  The leading legal arms trafficker to Iraq would appear to be the United States.  Doug Cameron (Nasdaq) reports:



    U.S. government approvals for U.S. weapon sales to Iraq have nearly tripled this year to almost $15 billion, promising much-needed work for U.S. weapons factories if the proposed deals can overcome congressional concerns.
    The slew of deals includes $3 billion in possible sales announced last week that still need to be approved by Congress and would boost sluggish U.S. demand for General Dynamics Corp.'s M1A1 Abrams tanks as well as Humvee armored cars produced by closely held AM General LLC.


     
    And the US just keeps pouring weapons into Iraq.  Joe Pappalardo (Popular Mechanic) informs,  "The State Department just approved the sale of $3 billion in Humvees and M1A1 Abrams tanks to the Iraqi government, which is trying desperately to hang on to power in the fight against the well-equipped army of the Islamic State. (Congress still must approve the sale.) "


    But apparently not every weapon will fit under the Christmas tree.  Middle East Monitor explains, "The United States officially informed the Iraqi government on Sunday night that it will not deliver the first batch of F-16 fighter jets to Baghdad, a senior official in the Iraqi defence ministry revealed yesterday."



    This isn't the first postponement for the delivery.  In the past, when it wasn't delivered, the concern was the Iraqi government run by Nouri al-Maliki.  Currently, the reason being given is that the airports in Iraq are not secure enough and that the planes could therefore fall into the hands of the Islamic State or other groups in Iraq.  But it's very likekly that part of the concern remains -- even with a new prime minister -- the government itself.



    Remember that possibility as Jeremy Bender (Business Insider) notes:


    In August, Iraq's current Prime Minister, Haidar al-Abadi, took over leadership of the country. Seen as a potential reformer and an inclusive figure by the standards of the country's politics, the US believed that Abadi could have helped restore Iraq's national unity in fact of the ISIS assault. 
    That has not happened so far and Abadi's attempts to unite Iraq have largely been ignored. According to Tim Arango of The New York Times, Abadi ordered Iraq's military and its allied Shiite militias to fly the Iraqi national flag instead of Shiite religious banners. Military commanders and soldiers have not heeded the order. 
     
    This is a good place to remember Haidar's September 13th announcement that the bombings of civilians and residential neighborhoods in Falluja would cease.  He made the announcement and less than 24 hours, it was obvious the military would continue to bomb the neighborhoods.  So was Haidar telling the truth and, if so, is he just unable to control the military he's supposed to be commander in chief of?
    It's a question we've been asking since September.  Sadly, no US news outlet has shown the slightest interest in the continued bombings.
    While the US government has some (small) reservations about arming the Iraqi government with weapons, they have no concerns about sending US troops into Iraq.
    Well, there's one concern.
    That pesky American public.
    They won't support it.
    So Barack lies and promises that Americans won't be in combat.
    But dropping bombs on Iraq?  Those are combat missions.
    So then Barack and the White House insist no on the ground troops in combat.
    And, of course, that's a lie as well.

    Sunday, at Third, we wrote "Editorial: US troops fighting in Iraq" which noted that Bloomberg News became the first outlet to report on US forces on the ground in Iraq engaging in combat:



    Bloomberg News' Zainab Fattah and Aziz Alwan report:



    U.S. soldiers clashed with Islamic State militants, helping the Iraqi army repel attacks against the town of al-Baghdadi in the western Anbar province, Al Jazeera TV reported, as Kurdish forces advanced in the north.
    The U.S. troops were from al-Assad military base, the biggest in Anbar, First Lieutenant Muneer al-Qoud from the Iraqi police said by phone.


    When's Barack planning to get honest with the American people?





    We could have well asked (and probably should have) when the rest of the US press planned to get honest with the American people?



    The only one that's explored the topic since that editorial?



    WSWS.



    Bill Van Auken provided a substantial report on the issue which included:



    All the claims that US forces are merely “trainers” and “advisers”—not combat troops—and only act in self defense amount to carefully crafted semantics designed to conceal the political fact that, three years after proclaiming an end to all US military operations in Iraq, the Obama administration has launched a new war in which US troops are once again carrying out combat operations.
    The reports of US soldiers engaging in combat came as it was announced that the main element of the 1,500 more US troops that President Barack Obama ordered to Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the midterm elections will be drawn from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. One thousand paratroopers from the brigade are supposed to be deployed in January. They are in addition to a 250-member unit from the same brigade, whose deployment was announced in early December and is expected to begin by the end of the month. Each of these deployments is supposed to last for nine months.
    In a statement released after the first deployment was announced, the brigade’s commander, Col. Curtis Buzzard, said those being sent were from a “well-led and highly trained unit with extremely talented and adaptable paratroopers. I know they are ready for any contingency and am confident they will accomplish the mission.”
    The 82nd Airborne, which specializes in parachute assault operations, was among the main combat units used in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Its actions in Anbar province in the early days of the occupation included the April 2003 killing of 20 unarmed residents of Fallujah who had attempted to protest against the American troops occupying a local school. The massacre provoked popular resistance, which led to subsequent US sieges that demolished most of the city, killed thousands and reduced Fallujah’s population by at least 60 percent.




    A lot of worthless bloggers still lie that McClatchy Newspapers told the truth during the lead up to the Iraq War and during its early years.


    No, it did not.


    That is a lie.


    I'm sorry that so many are so damn stupid.


    McClatchy Newspapers


    The company dates its history to 1857.


    And, yes, it was around in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 and 2005 and . . .


    It did no ground breaking reporting.


    It did nothing.



    Just like today, it does nothing.


    It's not reporting on US forces fighting in Iraq.



    It's not reporting on anything to do with Iraq that the US government want you to know.


    That's what the media -- including McClatchy -- did in 2002 and 2003 and . . .


    Knight-Ridder was the newpaper chain that told the truth.


    It is no more.


    McClatchy bought it out in 2006.


    Why give McClatchy credit when they did nothing.


    And lying and pretending that they did allows McClatchy not just to have some undeserved credit but it leads people to believe if there was anything to know, McClatchy would cover it 'because they did before!'


    No.


    McClatchy works overtime to offend no one in the government which is why it's prospered forever and a day as a dull paper for dull readers who never want to be challenged or jarred.


    Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) reports:



    A former aide to General David Petraeus warns that as the Pentagon prepares to send another 1,500 US troops to Iraq to help “destroy” the Islamic State fighters, there may be an even greater danger that forces face: Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
    The power of these militias has been growing throughout the country this year after Iraqi security forces were unable to prevail – and in some cases shed their uniforms and ran – while battling Islamic State fighters.
    The Shiite militias are well-trained, in many cases by Iranian military commanders, and battle-tested. During the height of the Iraq war, these militias were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US troops.



    And they were supported by Nouri al-Maliki and if the new prime minister (al-Abadi) wants to reel them, he clearly lacks the ability to do so.


    There's the pretense of 'change' in Iraq but nothing's really changing.  Some officials still have hope or at least pretend to for the public. The Deputy Prime Minister speaks to Manaf al-Obaidi (Asharq Al-Awsat):



    Iraq’s National Guard project will go ahead, despite opposition from some domestic political parties, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Al-Mutlaq said.
    In a broad-ranging interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Mutlaq criticized the time it is taking for Baghdad to establish a National Guard, part of a wider project to take the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) across Iraq’s various governorates.
    “This [National Guard forces] must be established based on laws. The law establishing a National Guard must be issued by parliament, but until this time parliament has yet to put forward the draft bill for this to vote on. There are some parties that do not want this project to see the light of day,” Mutlaq said.

    “These parties are well-known and want to ensure that these areas [of Iraq] remain under their control. They fear any new power emerging in the western areas of the country,” he added. 



    Those words might carry more weight if Saleh didn't have his own problems (most pressing currently, charges of corruption being made against him by Members of Parliament).


    Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 228 violent deaths in Iraq today.


    Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  This is from Bacon's "Hard Winter For California Farm Workers" (New America Media):



    In October in California's farm worker towns, the unemployment rate starts to rise as the harvests end.  In Coachella, not far from the wealth of Palm Springs, one of every eight workers has no job.  In Delano, where the United Farm Workers was born in the grape strike 50 years ago, it's one of every four, as it is in other small towns of the southern San Joaquin Valley.  On the coast in Santa Maria and Lompoc the rate is 13.8 and 15.5% respectively.  In the Imperial Valley, next to the Mexican border, the unemployment rate is over 26% in Brawley and Calexico.

    This is a reality invisible to the state's urban dwellers.  Los Angeles has a high unemployment rate for a city, but it is still less than rural towns at 8.7%, or one of every twelve workers.  And in San Francisco and Berkeley the percent unemployed is 4.3 and 5.9 -- less than a quarter of the rate in Delano.

    Then the winter really hits.  By February one of every three workers in Delano and Arvin is unemployed.  In Salinas it goes from October's one in ten to February's one in five.  Coachella is one in every six.  And in Brawley, Calexico, Lompoc and Santa Maria unemployment just never goes down.

    Winter is the hard time, when the money made in the summer and fall has to keep the rent paid and kids fed while nothing is coming in.  With immigration papers workers can get a little unemployment insurance benefit, but with no papers workers can't collect it -- in fact, any benefit that requires a Social Security number is out of reach.  Everyone in this season can use a little work, but for undocumented people especially, even a few days of work make a lot of difference. 









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