The Common Ills

Saturday, June 25, 2016
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, June 25, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the persecution of journalists in Iraq, continue, the persecution of Sunnis continue, Barack Obama's VA continues to be inept, there is still no seamless, electronic record for US service members, and much more.

US President Barack Obama backed Haider al-Abadi to become the new prime minister of Iraq.

How's that working out?

Not to well.

In the latest setback, Iraqi journalist Abdul Aziz has been arrested

. . . for reporting

. . . the truth.

Muhanad Seloom Retweeted ابو محمد
After reporting Shia militias looting and burning houses in Fallujah, Iraqi journalist is arrested by gov.
Muhanad Seloom added,

Iraqi journalist arrested by ISF after reporting militias' crimes in Fallujah.

Abdul Aziz is only the latest journalist to be attacked in Iraq for reporting the truth.

Adnan Abu Zeed (AL-MONITOR) notes some previous attacks:

Alhadath daily newspaper reported April 5 that Baghdad-based journalist Diyaa Hussein was beaten by an unknown armed group after he exposed corruption involving the Iraqi Police Sports Club.
On Feb. 4, journalist Hadi al-Anbak accused businessman Salem Abdel Ayman Zaher of threatening to kill him because the reporter exposed alleged corruption in agricultural land investment projects in which Zaher is involved.
On May 20, 2015, Egypt Today reported that Kirkuk-based journalist Mohammad Mowaffaq told authorities he had received death threats, and unknown armed men had stopped him in his car and threatened to cut out his tongue if he didn't quit journalism. The threats followed his investigative report on illegal arms trade.
On April 15, 2015, the Iraq Journalists Syndicate (IJS) reported TV journalist Ahmad al-Jassem was threatened, assaulted and detained for hours by some members of security forces in Babil province, south of Baghdad. He had recently reported on the lack of services in the country.
On April 11, 2015, Reuters reported its bureau chief in Baghdad was threatened on Facebook and was also criticized by an Iraqi TV channel because of his April 4 report on unlawful executions and looting in Tikrit by the Popular Mobilization Units fighting alongside the Iraqi army against the Islamic State. The reporter left the country because of the threats.

The REUTERS bureau chief in Baghdad was Ned Parker.

Not only did Haider not protect Ned, he thought the whole thing was a joke and tried to turn it into a laughing matter when he visited the US last year.  From the April 16, 2015 snapshot:

Barbara Slavin: And also, one of our colleagues, Ned Parker, recently has left because of threats against Reuters for reporting what happened in Tikrit.  Will you issue a statement in Arabic protecting journalists for reporting what goes on in Iraq.  Thank you.

Haider al-Abadi: As with Mr. Parker, Ned Parker, I've known him for many years.  I heard this story while he was still in Baghdad.  My natural fact, a spokesman for my office has given me a message and he told me Ned Parker feels threatened and asked what sort of threats he had received? We want more information so that I can take action about these people who have threatened him.  I haven't received anything on that, to be honest with you. I asked for protection of his office -- to increase protection of his office -- and we did.  But all of the sudden, I'd heard he left. I know he sent a message he wants to meet me in Washington but unfortunately my program is, uh -- I didn't even have time to talk to my wife yesterday. [Begins chuckling.]  So I don't think I would talk to Ned instead of my wife.

As for that statement in Arabic?

"I-I think my office issued a statement. In English?  Okay, we translate."

As we noted then:

What followed was an embarrassing and shameful round of laughter.

This isn't a laughing matter.

When the guffaws finally died down, the next question returned to the topic but with less 'jolly' and 'funnin'.'

Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory: [. . .] But piggy backing on the last question about Ned Parker, I was just wondering if you could briefly comment as to your take on the current state of press freedom within Iraq?  And also, in terms of going and taking action in response to Parker's being chased out of the country, what steps are you planning -- or are there any steps planned to institute protections for international press covering your country?  During your address, you said, and I quote, "A free society needs a free press."  And so I was just wondering if that would extend to foreign press as well?

Haider al-Abadi: Well I think if you look at the Iraqi press first, I think they're free to criticize.  I think that number one   institution which is being criticized in Iraq is the government.  We don't even reply to them.  We don't do anything. I drop charges against all-all media.  But I ask the media to have their own self-discipline.  That's important.  The media shouldn't be free to accuse others falsely.  They should respect freedom of others.  Freedom of speech is there but -- We need facts. But I refuse so far -- and I hope I continue on that -- you never know what office does.  Office usually corrupts people, right?  But I hope it doesn't corrupt me.  We keep on respecting the freedom of the press, we keep on protecting it.  As to the foreign press, as far as I know, there's no limitation on them, no restrictions.  They're free even to go to our --within our military unit.  I think we went to that extent to allow free reporting from the fronts.  I remember when the US army was there in 2003 [that's when Haider returned to Iraq after decades of exile in England], they had embedded journalists and they were restricted to what they were reporting.  I very much respect that.  I hope I can have that power to do that but unfortunately I cannot do it now.  It's so free, the situation in Iraq.  Now I'm not sure if Mr. Parker, why he has left.  To be honest with you, I didn't have the story from him.  He wrote something to me.  I cannot see why he left.  Was he really threatened?  Or he felt he was threatened?  I know some -- some Facebook thing and social media has mentioned him in a bad way but the-the thing I've seen -- in actual fact, they were condemning the government in the first place, not him.  They were condemning me as the prime minister to do something about it -- rather than him.  I know some of these, they want to use these things to just criticize the government in the same way when they accuse the coalition of dropping help to Da'ash or accuse the coalition of killing Iraqis falsely.  In actual fact, what they're trying to do -- trying to criticize the government for its policies. They don't want the government to seek the help of the coalition -- international coalition or to work with the US.  But to -- I think me, as prime minister, the safety of the Iraqi people, the interests of the Iraqi people is number one [. . .]

And now another journalist is targeted in Iraq for reporting the truth.

Will the White House ignore this again?

At what point do they demand that the puppet regimes they back up recognize basic human rights?


Obviously, the answer is never.

But the White House can bomb Iraq daily -- can and does.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber, fighter, remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 20 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Huwayjah, a strike destroyed three ISIL vehicle bomb factories, an ISIL vehicle bomb, an ISIL weapons cache and an ISIL bunker and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Beiji, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL rocket rail and an ISIL front-end loader.

-- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL boat and two ISIL light machine guns.

-- Near Kisik, a strike destroyed an ISIL weapons cache and an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Mosul, six strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and an ISIL vehicle bomb factory and destroyed four ISIL vehicles and an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Qayyarah, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit; destroyed an ISIL boat and four ISIL assembly areas; suppressed two separate ISIL tactical units and three separate ISIL mortar positions; and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 10 ISIL boats, an ISIL staging area and an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Sinjar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL mortar system.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

The White House can also support War Crimes -- can and does.


The US has been leaning heavily on militias in its fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and while these forces have proved very effective on the ground, some have been accused of committing atrocities akin to their enemies.

A new Human Rights Watch report details allegations of torture and abuse at the hands of Shia militias in Iraq, which have been instrumental in aiding Iraqi Security Forces in seizing territory back from ISIS [. . .]

"We continue to ask what happened to the money and where are the results?"

That's Senator Mazie Hirono offering a to the point observation.

She could have been speaking about Iraq but was instead speaking of another disaster -- VA management.

Thursday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing.  It was not good news.

This despite the fact that VA witnesses David Shulkin, LaVerne Council, Laura Eskenazi and Ron Burke tried to spin happy and even enlist the GAO's Valerie Melvin in their spin (Melvin refused to play along).

The Committee Chair is Johnny Isakson and the Ranking Member is Richard Blumenthal.

We'll note this exchange:

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  I'd like to ask about the impact of lack of cooperation between Department of Defense and VA.  As I mentioned in my opening statement, we've been reassured repeatedly that both agencies are cooperating with each other -- which somehow defies credibility because, if that's so, there would have been interoperability or the issues would have been solved long ago. So let me ask you, Ms. Melvin, who bears the responsibility here?  And what's happening?

Valerie Melvin: Actually, I place the responsibility on both departments and primarily on the leadership of those departments in terms of being able to really, uh, establish upfront what it is that the departments want to achieve in the way of interoperability.  A long standing concern that we've had with interoperability is in terms with is interoperability supposed to be.  Uh, we have not  been able, really, over the years, to get from either agency what they mean in terms of full interoperability, what that end state is supposed to be in the way of the technology that exists and how that technology is used.  So, uh, as we -- as we've looked at this over the years, we've had a lot of discussions with both VA and with the DoD, we've had a lot of assurances along the way that that was being taken care of but what we consistently see is a lack of -- really a lack of the clear planning and the definition of what it is and then how they plan to implement measures and goals to get there.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  What can -- what would you recommend that we do on this Committee and the United States Senate generally to make sure that there is interoperability?

Valerie Melvin:  I think in the immediate -- right now, I would say that there are a lot of -- we've made a lot of recommendations to both VA and DoD.  We're still following up to see where they are in the process of addressing those. But we also know that they're in the midst of a number of changes to the approach that they are taking.  We've had a lot of concerns and questions relative to the fact that both departments are essentially going down separate tracks with their modernization efforts on this step for the Dept of Veteran Affairs and the alter system within DoD.  We know that the intent to have interoperability.  I think from the standpoint of-of your role in this process is continued oversight, continued pressing for answers and explicit discussions and details relative to what the plans are, how interoperability is to be defined at its fullest and how the agencies intend to progress and measure their progress towards getting there.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Ms. Council, my information is -- well actually, it is the VA's monthly information, Security Report for April 2016, about 2556 veterans were effected by incidents of data breach.  That number is about six times the number reported by the VA a year before that in March 2015.  What accounts for the increase?

LaVerne Council: I'd have to look at the data you have.  What I do know is that about 24% of any of the mishandlings that we have mismailings -- which is letters, data that has gone out in the wrong envelope to a-a person who shouldn't have received those and 41% of those are mishandling or mismailing.  The other part of the situation is things that we look at like privacy violations, policy violations, unencrypted devices, those are where we really, really take a very diligent look and ensure that we are tidying up any kind of access to the veterans information.  So, to date, for FY16, that's what we're basically seeing which is actually about 20% lower than it was the year before.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  What is 20% lower?

LaVerne Council:  The-the number mismailings and misappropriation, mishandling of veterans --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Well, we're not really talking about mismailings, we're talking about data breaches --

LaVerne Council:  The actually --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  And I understand that a mismailing can cause a data breach --

LaVerne Council: It's considered a data breach, yes, sir.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal (Con't): If something is sent to the wrong address.  How can that happen?  Don't you -- how can you send a letter to the wrong address.

LaVerne Council: That is actually a process within the business.  It's not an IT process.  But because I am the CIO I'm responsible for all data and any data that is misused or mismanaged or moved to the wrong place -- and also have a responsibility for privacy.  It falls with us but I am not --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  I understand that.  Here is my question: You've got records --

LaVerne Council:  Mm-hmm.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  You do mailings, communications to veterans over a period of years.  It's not like somebody sits down for that letter and [acts out physically hand writing] scribbles out something.  It comes from a system that has been mailing consistently.  How does it all of the sudden get the address wrong?

LaVerne Council:  Generally the system is not doing the mailing, there is a manual interface with human error --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  So you are saying that somebody is sitting there and actually typing out an address on an envelope?

LaVerne Council: I am saying that envelopes come together and the paper is put into an envelope by a human being.  And sent away.   Yes.  It is not mechanized --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  This sounds like a very low tech --

LaVerne Council: Very low tech.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Eminently addressable and correctable.

LaVerne Council:  Yes, sir.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  What's being done?

LaVerne Council: One of the things we're looking at with the VBS team -- and working with them, and I'll refer to Mr. [VBA Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations Ron] Burke on this change in their process because right now when it occurs it's not something that IT itself created it but we feel we're responsible to correct it.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Well these kind of data breaches -- and if they're rising six-fold over a fiscal year -- have to be addressed right away.  And we're not talking here about some sophisticated hacking operation.

LaVerne Council:  Mmm-uhh.  No.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  But it's equally dangerous and damaging to privacy.

There has been no significant progress at the VA under Barack Obama's two terms as US President thus far.

Doubt it?

The above should have reminded you of one thing.

And, thankfully, there was one senator on the Committee not afraid to speak of the elephant in the room.

Senator Jon Tester:  So let me ask, and I hesitate to ask this question, you probably know the answer and I don't, is the DoD and the VA -- is their medical records streamlined?  And can they go back and forth without any problems?
Dr. David Shulkin:  I wouldn't go that far.

He then spoke of a joint-viewer.

The seamless transition.

That record that was going to be electronic and move right over to VA from DoD when a service member transitioned to veteran.

Remember it?

The issue was highlighted before Barack became president in January of 2009.

It was something he was going to take care of -- in his first term.

It still hasn't been taken care of.

April 11, 2013, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the budget and took testimony from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, among others.  For coverage, see that day's snapshotAva 's "Shinseki tries to present 134% increase as a gift for women,"  Wally's "How the VA and DoD waste your tax dollars (Wally)"  and Kat's "DAV calls for Congress to reject 'chained CPI'."

US House Rep Phil Roe:  Another question I have is the integration between DoD and VA on the eletronic health records and the benefits. Should we have a joint meeting between VA and DoD -- and I realize that Senator -- that Defense Secretary Hagel has a lot on his plate with North Korea and the Middle East right now. 

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Yep.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  But this is one of my concerns when we changed was the fact that this would get a backburner again.  And are we going to be sitting here -- and you and I have spoken about this and that was a private conversation and it will remain that way but are we going to be sitting here a year from now or two years or three years because it's not a resources -- putting of money -- to be able to integrate these systems.  I mean, it's really become very frustrating to me to sit here year after year and, unless the voters have a different idea, I plan to be here in 2015 and see if we complete these things we say we're going to do.  Is it there.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Again, Congressman, Secretary Hagel and I have discussed this on at least two and maybe three occassions.  He is, again, putting into place, his system to assure the way ahead for him to make this decision and be the partner that we need here.  Uhm, he is committed to a, uh, integrated electronic health record between the two departments.  We are -- VA has made its decision on what the core  and we're prepared to move forward.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  Somebody has to blink. Obviously, we can't integrate them, so it's going to have to be one system or the other.  And I think what I heard you say was you've decided the VA is going to stay with the system it has.  That means that he's going to have to blink.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Uh, I would say the VA system is government owned, government operated.  We have put VISTA into the  open architecture trade space so that anyone who wants to use it can use it. It's used in other countries.  I believe it is, uh, a powerful system and, uh, I'm just awaiting, uh, a discussion with Secretary Hagel. 

The VA keeps coming before Congress and offering excuses for not doing their job.


The seamless electronic record was supposed to have been place years ago.

Despite all the money thrown at the problem, it is not in place.

A functioning president would be demanding that VA and DoD get this problem working out in a matter of weeks.

Instead, it has been allowed to drag on.



Posted at 06:17 pm by thecommonills



ERGO notes:

ERGO/Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization
24829 Norris Lane • Junction City, OR

 Contact: Ellen Barfield, (410) 243-5876


Lawrence D. Egbert, MD, MPH, the Baltimore anesthesiologist whose leadership in the right-to-die movement cost him his Maryland license to practice medicine, died of a heart attack June 9. He was 88.

Dr. Egbert, a retired professor of anesthesiology and public health, championed the right of individuals to choose to die rather than suffer intolerable circumstances or unremitting pain—and the right of physicians, family and friends to be present with those making that choice. He helped found and served as medical director of Final Exit Network, which provides education and compassionate presence to those facing end-of-life choices; he also acted as a FEN exit guide accompanying those who hastened their own deaths. He willingly paid a high price for his activism; newspapers dubbed him “the new Dr. Death,” the State of Maryland revoked his license to practice medicine there in 2014, and at various times he was under indictment in three states for supposedly assisting suicides (although he was never convicted of any charges).

Dr. Egbert's activism also included the peace/anti-war and anti-nuclear movements, opposition to the death penalty and racism, advocacy for civil liberties, single-payer health care and simple living. He served on the boards of Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Maryland Civil Liberties Union, volunteered overseas with Doctors Without Borders, lived without a cell phone, air-conditioning, or a car, and traveled by bicycle around Baltimore until less than a year before his death. He was an active Unitarian Universalist for much of his life but attended a Quaker Meeting his last few years.

Dr Egbert's wife Ellen Barfield said, "Larry was scheduled for an aortic heart valve procedure on June 21. I grieve the cruel twist of fate that got our hopes up, but I am so proud of the many ways he stood up for suffering and abused people and against war, racism, poverty, and coercion."

Lawrence Deems Egbert Jr. was born in Champaign, IL, in 1927 and grew up in Washington, DC.  After serving in the U.S. Army in Japan after World War II, he finished a bachelor's degree at Johns Hopkins University, earned a medical degree from the University of Maryland, served in the Navy as a doctor, and returned to Hopkins later to get a Masters in Public Health. He worked at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He also served for several years as visiting faculty at Pahlavi University Medical School in Shiraz, Iran, and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

He became a nationally recognized anesth and published significant articles about patient care and racism in various medical journals. His (and two colleagues') 1963 article on the “Therapeutic Benefit of the Anesthesiologist–Patient Relationship” in the Journal of the American Medical Association is still cited today and is deemed a “classic” by the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

He is survived by Ellen, his wife and activist partner of more than 25 years, five children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. A Baltimore memorial service will be August 27. Donations in his memory can be made to Physicians for Social Responsibility, Final Exit Network, or Veterans For Peace.

Posted at 06:16 pm by thecommonills

Senate VA Committee: Senate Must Act on Veterans First Act

Senate VA Committee: Senate Must Act on Veterans First Act



Senator Johnny Isakson (above) is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following Thursday:

Thursday, June 23, 2016
Contact: Amanda Maddox (Isakson) 202-224-7777
Maria McElwain (Blumenthal) 202-224-6452

Senate VA Committee: Senate Must Act on Veterans First Act  
Bipartisan legislation passed committee by unanimous vote, would bring accountability reform to VA
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively, along with other members of the committee, joined together on the Senate floor to urge fellow senators to allow a vote on the Veterans First Act, bipartisan legislation that will strengthen accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Last week, the VA announced that it would no longer use its expedited removal authority to hold VA executives accountable after the Justice Department decided not to defend a provision in current accountability law against a constitutional challenge from a VA executive who was fired in the Phoenix wait-time scandal.
The Veterans First Act, which has 44 Senate co-sponsors, is the only piece of accountability legislation that would withstand this constitutional challenge. The bill, which passed the Senate VA Committee unanimously, is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
“Our veterans served and fought for us, risked their lives for us and in some cases some died for us. They deserve the respect, the treatment and benefits they were promised when they signed up for duty,” said Isakson. “I want to thank all members of the committee, and I want to thank the 44 members of the Senate who already cosponsored the Veterans First Act and ask the remaining 56 to be a part of it. We owe our veterans no less than our absolute commitment to match the commitment they made to us. It is time that veterans got the accountability for the benefits they’ve earned, the health care they deserve and the VA that means what it says when it says it will take care of the veterans of the United States.”
“We must seize this opportunity no matter which side of the aisle we may sit on to move this bill forward,” said Blumenthal. “We must keep faith with our veterans, leave no veteran behind, and make sure that we honor their service by fulfilling our obligation to do our job. Our job now is to make sure that we pass the Veterans First Act. I challenge my colleagues to pass this bill before the Fourth of July and to address the challenge of providing veterans what they have earned. This measure is bipartisan. No reason that merits it being stopped or blocked. And so I challenge my colleagues to move forward with this measure.”
“Secretary McDonald set a dangerous precedent by ignoring the law passed by Congress to hold VA employees accountable,” said U.S. Senator John Boozman, R-Ark. “This is why it’s even more imperative that the Senate pass the Veterans First Act. We need to ensure the VA has the tools—and the will—to ensure the small number of employees who abuse their positions do not undermine the great work being done by the vast majority of VA employees around the country.”
“Veterans in South Dakota – and across the entire country – continue to experience problems with health care delivery at the VA, including backlogs, long wait times and frequent billing errors,” said U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, R-S.D. “As we seek to address these issues within the entire VA system, accountability is as important as it has ever been. The Veterans First Act takes meaningful steps to hold the VA accountable and – in turn – improve care for our nation’s veterans, which is the most important priority of all.”
“We have to increase accountability at the VA,” said U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, R-N.C. “Yet, we are now hearing Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in consultation with the President, has decided not to defend The Veterans Choice Act against a constitutional challenge, and the VA has decided to no longer use its expedited removal authority to hold senior executives accountable. We need to get back to what we tried to accomplish in The Veterans Choice Act, fire people who are not doing their job, fire people who are being unethical, and fire people who are not putting veterans at the top of their list.”
“It is imperative that we restore the bond of trust between the VA and the veterans the VA serves because we all know that bond of trust has eroded,” said U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. “A dangerous precedent has been set by the head of the VA and the Attorney General of the United States, in substituting the judgment of the Congress, and gutting the accountability provisions already signed into law by the President in 2014. It is a precedent that I don't think anyone in the U.S. Senate would agree with.  They must remember that the leadership of the VA works for our veterans, and when our veterans see people getting away with malfeasance and incorrect behavior, that trust is further eroded.  Passing legislation like the Veterans First Act is a step towards restoring that trust.”
“The VA’s problems are not budgetary or a matter of supply and demand, they are based on poor resource management and a lack of leadership to use the authorities that are in the best interest of veterans and the VA workforce,” said U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan. “It is critical that the Veterans First Act becomes law to increase accountability for wrongdoers in the VA system. Veterans deserve a VA worthy of their service and sacrifice.”
Click here to watch the senators’ remarks.
Sharon Helman, the former director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, was fired in 2014 in the wake of the VA wait-time scandal. Helman sued for her job back, saying the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 is unconstitutional, partly because it does not allow executives to appeal to the full Merit Systems Protection Board, only to an administrative judge at the board.
The Justice Department announced that it is refusing to mount a defense against this claim by Helman, saying current law violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution because the administrative judges are not presidentially appointed whereas members of the board are.
In the wake of that decision by the Justice Department, the VA last week informed the committee that the department would not use any of the accountability reforms established in the Veterans Choice Act to remove executives.
The Veterans First Act removes the Merit Systems Protection Board from the appeal process for senior executives altogether, avoiding this constitutionality challenge. The Veterans First Act passed the Senate VA Committee by unanimous vote and awaits action by the full Senate.
In addition to Isakson and Blumenthal, the Veterans First Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., John Boozman, R-Ark., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Robert Casey, D-Pa., Dan Coats, R-Ind., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Al Franken, D-Minn., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, John Hoeven, R-N.D., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Rob Portman, R-Ohio., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Jon Tester, D-Mont., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
The Veterans First Act is also supported by The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, Office of Special Counsel, Government Accountability Project, National Association of State Approving Agencies, National Guard Association of the U.S., Veterans Education Success, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), American Veterans (AMVETS), Project on Government Oversight, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs and Military Officers Association of America.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.
Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.


Posted at 06:15 pm by thecommonills

Iraq and silence

Iraq and silence

The (still ongoing) 'liberation' of Falluja has created thousands of more refugees in Iraq.

We badly need resources to expand number of camps for civilians fleeing Iraq's

Emma Graham-Harrison (GUARDIAN) notes, "The United Nations has warned that fighting against Islamic State in Iraq could force up to 2.3 million people from their homes this year, as the battle for Falluja grinds on days after Baghdad officially declared victory."

Changing topics . . .

Where was a to oppose the Iraq War? To overturn Citizens United? To halt mass deportations? Stop drone bombings?

The Green Party could be a winner in the 2016 elections.  The right presidential candidate could help voter turnout and help with offices lower on the ticket.

I've endorsed Jill Stein.

That's what several e-mails say.

That's news to me.

My public comments have been that I wasn't going to vote for her after the disaster of 2012 (her campaign).

That's still my basic feeling.

I've noted that if she addresses Iraq, we'll try to note her.

She's not addressing it often enough to win my vote thus far.

I also will have no need to vote for her if she chooses the same running mate from 2012.

2012 was a losing ticket.

She needs to demonstrate that she's learned from 2012 to get my vote.

That means addressing Iraq.

That also means showing that she's not going to be the stooge she was in 2012.

In September of 2012, Tim Arango (NEW YORK TIMES) broke the news that Barack had sent a unit of US troops back into Iraq.  This was established via a sourced quote by the top US commander in Iraq at that time (he's now at West Point).  Mitt Romney and the Republicans were slamming Barack for ending the war in Iraq (that has never ended) and couldn't let go of their talking points.

When they should have.

Let's stop for a moment.  I don't want people working the public e-mail account to get stuck with a ton of e-mails "That was never reported!," etc.

From November 7, 2012's "Let the fun begin (Ava and C.I.):"

Lies about Iraq drove the 2008 election and they drove the 2012 election as well.

The country was transformed to the elephant in the room for 2012 that no one could be honest about.  President Barack Obama  lied that he'd 'ended' the Iraq War, he misled people into believing that all US troops had left Iraq, and he failed to inform Americans that he was negotiating to send even more US troops into Iraq.

While the uninspiring victory speech last night blended The Hollies "He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother" ("The road is long") with Jerry McGuire ("You've made me a better president"), it also made clear that the administration was on fumes even before the second term officially begins in January.

The administration is as empty as the media.  If you doubt that, September 26th, the New York Times' Tim Arango reported:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

September 26th it was in print.

Days later, October 3rd, Barack 'debated' Mitt RomneyAgain October 16thAgain October 22nd.

Not once did the moderators ever raise the issue.

If Barack's sitting before them and he's flat out lying to the American people, it's their job to ask.  They didn't do their job.  Nor did social menace Candy Crowley who was apparently dreaming of an all-you-can-eat buffet when Barack was babbling away before her about how he wouldn't allow more "troops in Iraq that would tie us down."  But that's exactly what he's currently negotiating.

Maybe Candy Crowley missed the New York Times article?  Maybe she spends all her time pleasuring herself to her version of porn: Cooking With Paula Deen Magazine?

That is possible.

But she was only one of the three moderators.  Bob Schieffer and Jim Lehrer also moderated.  Of course, they didn't foolishly self-present as a fact checker in the midst of the debate  nor did they hit the publicity circuit before the debate to talk about how they were going to show how it was done.

Poor Crowley, a heavy weight strutting into a non-competition will always look woefully misdressed.

Barack lied and Americans will face that or not.

You can find Ava and my criticism of Jill Stein in that.

The Republicans in Congress were furious with Romney (and Ava and I note that as well) for refusing to raise that issue in the campaign.

His campaign's position is that they had already attacked him for 'withdrawing' troops and it was a winning argument with the base.

Senate Republicans argued that this would chip into Barack's support -- publicizing his sending troops back in.

Especially since Barack said in the debates that he'd ended the war.

So that's why Romney didn't bring it up.

Want to explain why Jill didn't?

I don't know why.

I do know she criticized Barack lightly up until he lost a debate.

Then she dropped any and all criticism of him.

So that was a failed campaign.

She needs to demonstrate she's learned from it to get my vote.

And/or she needs to talk Iraq.

If she'd do major things on Iraq, I wouldn't just highlight her here, I'd endorse her here.

Even if she chose the same weak running mate.

Because Iraq is a very important issue.

The illegal war is now 13 years old.

It has consumed vast resources.

It has resulted in thousands of Americans being killed (many more injured) and well over a million Iraqis being killed (many more injured).

It is foreign policy, it is peace, it is human rights, it is War Crimes and the Iraq War is even more than that.

If she'd treat it as a serious topic, she could have my vote.

Topics not covered here.

Every day, there are a multitude of Iraq related topics that do not get covered here.  I'm hoping to note at least one Congressional hearing I attended this week in the next snapshot.

But there are also topics we're not going to touch.

A fake ass that we've called out repeatedly has been suspended by an aid agency as they conduct an investigation into whether or not he's aided ISIS.

I don't like the man, haven't since he lied in a hearing overseas (about the number of Jews in Baghdad -- he said in his testimony that it was zero, that was a lie) so we're going back to the mid 00s.

There is no news on him other than what I've put above in one sentence.

He's under investigation, he's not been charged with anything.

He may well be innocent.

Including him in a snapshot at this time for being under investigation would seem to me to be just cruel on my part and I'd only be doing so because I don't like him.  If he's charged with anything (he maintains he's innocent of any wrong doing), then we will note it.

The European Union.

If they're talking about Iraq, we note them.

The UK & the European Union?

 Liked 4,097 times
Brits continue their stupid spiral downward. Iraq War collaborator, privatized crappy trains, adopts US system of student debt, now Brexit.

What's sadder?

That Moore Tweeted that?

Or that 4,097 people (or 'people') liked it?

Michael Moore is an American citizen -- as am I.

In my view, it's not productive for me to insult a whole country of people.  I'll call out a government, no question.

But to insult the British and call them "stupid"?

Other than letting Moore feel good about himself, I don't see who that helps.

And Moore needs to feel good about himself -- clearly all the modern technology could still not make him a thin man and has only created saggy skin all over.

But maybe a daily affirmation recited before the mirror would be more helpful than his insulting an entire country of people?

Here's the other thing, what is it our business?

As Americans, what is it our business?

Is the United States in the European Union?

No, it's not.

So maybe we don't need to be pushy, loud mouth Americans -- our unfortunate stereotype -- on Twitter by presuming to comment on every event around the world?

Believe it or not, the world can -- and will -- go on without Americans standing in judgment on every national step a foreign country decides to take.

If someone's expertise of commentary is foreign relations or international relations, they might want to weigh in on the EU action -- from any country.

But Moore's not really a global expert.

It appears he hadn't fed his outrage quota for the day and was madly searching the internet for some topic -- any topic -- to spew on.

While it won't let him drop any pounds, hurling rage is healthier (for him) than hurling up food.  So good for Moore there; however, to the world spewed upon, it's not a pleasant experience.

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    Posted at 06:11 pm by thecommonills

    Friday, June 24, 2016
    Iraq snapshot

    Iraq snapshot

    Thursday, June 23, 2016. Chaos and violence continue, the persecution of the Sunnis continues, silence on the part of US House Reps Barbara Lee and Nancy Pelosi continue, US House Rep Seth Moulton continues to demand an actual plan, and much more.

    Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 22 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

    -- Near Baghdadi, a strike destroyed an ISIL tunnel system.

    -- Near Huwayjah, a strike destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun position.

    -- Near Bashir, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL command-and control-nodes.

    -- Near Beiji, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL mortar system, an ISIL tunnel entrance and an ISIL vehicle bomb.

    -- Near Fallujah, four strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units; destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle, five ISIL light machine guns, an ISIL rocket-propelled grenade system and an ISIL boat; damaged two separate ISIL fighting positions; and denied ISIL access to terrain.

    -- Near Mosul, eight strikes struck six separate ISIL tactical units, an ISIL oil ministry headquarters and an ISIL vehicle bomb factory and destroyed three ISIL vehicles, two ISIL weapons caches, 10 ISIL assembly areas, two ISIL command-and-control nodes and an ISIL tunnel entrance.

    -- Near Qayyarah, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL assembly area and eight ISIL boats and denied ISIL access to terrain.

    -- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 14 ISIL boats and two ISIL weapons caches.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

    And as more US bombings continue, more US troops may be headed to Iraq.

    AFP reports:

    US military leaders are weighing whether to request additional coalition troops to help local forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq, but no decisions have been made, a military official said Thursday.
    "We're constantly looking to see if we're right-sized," said British Army Major General Doug Chalmers, adding that troop levels and additional capabilities formed part of an "ongoing dialogue."

    This follows Josh Rogin's WASHINGTON POST report earlier this week where he explained:

    [US] Military leaders directing operations against the terrorists in Iraq are readying requests for more troops and equipment they feel are needed to solidify and quicken progress toward defeating the Islamic State. These proposals have not yet been formally submitted to the White House for approval, and would first be vetted by the Pentagon leadership, but key generals have already told many in Washington they need hundreds more U.S. personnel to do the job right. 

    CNN adds:

    The Obama administration is “not ruling out the possibility” of sending hundreds of additional troops to Iraq this fall to help train, advise and assist Iraqi forces as they get ready for a potential assault on Mosul, according to a senior U.S. official.
    And while officials won’t publicly confirm it, there have been several meetings to begin to determine if more troops are needed for the upcoming battle for Iraq’s second-largest city and what those troops might do to affect the battle. 

    Though he originally insisted in August of 2014, the number sent in would be small and in the hundreds, US troops in Iraq are now in the thousands -- and that's not counting Special Ops.  The number has repeatedly increased.

    Back in August of 2014.  Carla Marinucci (SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE) reported:

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that congressional Democrats were united in support of President Obama's decision to order air strikes in Iraq as "humanitarian assistance" for refugees trapped by Islamic militant fighters, but added that "we don't consider boots on the ground an option."
    Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said 100 House Democrats held a conference call Monday after Obama notified Congress that 275 U.S. troops were being deployed to Iraq as security for American diplomatic personnel in Baghdad. His notification, made under the War Powers Act, came two days after U.S. warplanes fired on Islamic State militants who have bottled up refugees near the Syrian border.
    [. . .]
    Although House Democrats have made it "very clear" that sending combat forces back to the country is unacceptable, Pelosi said, she left open the possibility that U.S. actions in Iraq could reach "a place where we need congressional action." 

    This week, the 76-year-old, elderly Pelosi Tweeted:

     Pinned Tweet
    Sit or stand but we cannot be silent for victims of gun violence - we need to take action.

    But apparently she can be silent about Iraq.

    "We don't consider boots on the ground an option" she said in August of 2014.

    Two years later, she's silent.

    Off to carry out yet another political stunt to make the American people think she'll do something.

    Just like, in the 2006 mid-terms, she repeatedly told the American people 'deliver us one House of Congress and we'll end the war.'

    But the voters gave the Democrats both houses of Congress and Pelosi & company did nothing.

    The silence, hypocrisy and cowardice from Nancy on the Iraq War are surprising only if you don't know her record.  The website GARLIC & GRASS: A GRASSROOTS JOURNAL OF AMERICA'S POLITICAL SOUL has highlighted some of Nancy's many failures:

  • January 12, 2005 - Two months after the November referendum, Bay Area Congressional Representatives Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, and Sam Farr joined Democratic colleagues from across the country in signing a letter to President Bush calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Pelosi conspicuously refused to sign on.
  • November 17, 2005 - Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) made a brave, groundbreaking call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Pelosi stood up and said, "Representative Murtha speaks for himself." And just one day later, on Nov. 18, 2006, she voted against immediate withdrawal from Iraq. She used her leadership position as House Democratic Leader to encourage others to oppose Murtha. Doing so helped to kill the momentum building at that time to force a timetable for troop withdrawals.

  • November 30, 2005 - Two weeks later (interestingly, just after local San Francisco Green Medea Benjamin spoke about possibly running against Pelosi), Pelosi reversed course and said she supported Murtha's call for immediate withdrawal. Still, she took no action and refused to use her leadership position to call for a 'party caucus position,' which would have put the majority of the Democratic Party on record against the war and shifted the national debate about the war. Indeed, at a point when two thirds of Americans had acknowledged that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and when a majority of Americans began saying that the time had come to start rectifying that mistake by bringing the troops home, Pelosi's actions stalled the national debate and weakened the Democratic Party's stance. 

  • Last week, US House Rep Barbara Lee Tweeted:

    Our service members deserve a Congress willing to debate the war that they are fighting. Silence is cowardice.
    Rep. Lee Call On Congress To Debate An ISIL-Specific War Authorization


    So when's the sit-in for that, Barbara?

    Oh, right, never.

    Because you're nothing but empty words.

    And empty words don't end the Iraq War.

    Not everyone's silent.

    US House Rep Seth Moulton, for example, has not been silent.

    Yesterday I lost my closest friend in the Iraqi Army to ISIS and our failed policy in Iraq.


    From the May 13th snapshot:

    Yesterday on CNN's THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER, Jake spoke with US House Rep
    Seth Moulton (and just as soon as CNN posts a video or a transcript, we'll note a link -- instead, we'll just link to Jake's Twitter):

    Jake Tapper:  So you blame the Obama administration's failed ISIS policy of the death of your Iraqi comrade who you describe as "your closest friend."  Why?

    US House Rep Seth Moulton: He was my closest friend in the Iraqi army and the bottom line is that we have a military strategy to defeat ISIS but we don't have any longterm political strategy to ensure the peace.  And that's why we find ourselves back in Iraq again today refighting the same battles that I, myself, my fellow Marines and soldiers fought just eight or ten years ago

    Jake Tapper: And what needs to change, sir?

    US House Rep Seth Moulton:  We need to have a clear mission for the troops, a clear end game, a clear goal that they can achieve and than a strategy to maintain the peace once we defeat this terrorist group because, look, we already fought these same battles against al Qaeda but then when we pulled out of Iraq so quickly and not just pulling out the troops, I'm talking about pulling out the diplomats.  I'm talking about the people that were working in the prime minister's office, in the ministries.  The Iraqi government just went off the rails and as a result created this political vacuum that ISIS came in to occupy.  We cannot keep repeating this mistake in Iraq, going back again and again.

    Jake Tapper:  Now there are more than 4,000 US personnel, US military personnel, in Iraq right now but the White House argues this is not a combat mission.  Do you think that the Obama administration is misleading the American public.

    US House Rep Seth Moulton:  That's just simply not true, this absolutely is a combat mission.  In 2004, I had an advisory mission as a Marine with my platoon in Iraq.  We were advisors to an Iraqi unit and when that unit started to get overrun, we went to their assistance and started the battle of Najaf which was some of the fiercest fighting of the war until that time.  So there's a very fine line between an advisory mission and full fledged combat. It's very clear from the death of the Navy Seal just last week that this is absolutely a combat mission.

    Jake Tapper:  Why do you think the White House is-is pursuing the strategy that they're pursuing -- calling it an advisory mission, not a combat mission? Not pursuing the line of attack that you're suggesting they need to -- in terms of the clear strategy with an end game?  Why?

    US House Rep Seth Moulton:  I don't know.  I mean, some would say that this is trying to do war on the cheap just like the Bush administration when they got us involved in in the first place.  Let's not forget that we wouldn't be involved in this mess at all if George Bush hadn't invaded Iraq with faulty intelligence back in 2003.  But this a president who promised to get us out of Iraq and promised to use the tools of diplomacy to prevent wars from happening -- and that just hasn't happened.  You know if you think about what happened when ISIS swept into Iraq from Syria, they didn't just defeat the Iraqi army.  The Iraqi army put their weapons down and went home because they had lost faith in their government.  And yet our solution, our strategy, is to train Iraqi troops.  Well you don't fix Iraqi politics by training Iraqi troops. And Iraqi politics are broken.  That's the fundamental problem in Iraq that we need to fix.

    And, thing is, Barack agrees with Seth Moulton -- or did on June 19, 2014 when he (Barack) declares that the only answer to Iraq's crises was a political solution.

    Yet the last two years has the seen the US government drop more bombs on Iraq and send more US troops in while doing nothing to help broker a political solution.

    Tonight, THE WASHINGTON POST website published a column by Moulton which includes:

    In April, I visited some of the almost 5,000 troops that President Obama has put back in Iraq, and I witnessed a recurring theme: We have a military plan to defeat the Islamic State — and, as initial gains in Fallujah this week demonstrate, it’s going well in many respects — but we have yet to articulate a political plan to ensure Iraq’s long-term stability.

    Sometimes it’s impossible to tell whether it’s 2007 or 2016. The battle plans I hear from our commanders in Iraq today are the same ones I heard at the beginning of the surge, down to the same cities and tribal alliances. My question is: How will this time be different? The silence is deafening.

    And in that silence, War Crimes continue as the Iraqi forces -- supposedly there to protect the civilians -- target the Sunnis.

    Nazli Tarzi (MIDDLE EAST EYE) observes:

    For a brief moment last week, the world learned about the disappearance of at least 643 Iraqi civilians from Saqlawiya, and the torture and humiliation that awaited hundreds more captured by marauding, Iranian-backed militias.
    Outrage was at best tame, and coverage has remained thin. Although government forces have recaptured Fallujah from Islamic State (IS), the fate of the “lost” men of Saqlawiya, Al-Garma and Al-Azraqiya remains unknown. Some were freed but only to have returned with bodies riddled with dark raised welts, inflicted by sectarian militias. It appears that no soundtrack other than a skulking silence accompanies these shameful developments, leaving many important questions unanswered.
    Government officials have repeatedly said that investigations into alleged wrongdoing by its security forces are underway. Last Monday, government spokesman Sa'ad al-Hadithi affirmed that Haider al-Abadi's government is serious about pursuing violations against the people of Fallujah. Defence Minister Khaled al-Obaidi added that four military personnel had been arrested after video evidence of their abuses surfaced.
    So why are the details of federal investigations yet to be made public? Why have those arrested not been quizzed on national TV, as is done with alleged IS members who are paraded before the cameras? 

    The targeting never ends.

    Shia Militias crimes دعاء مزلزل من طفله عراقية سنيه على الحشد الشيعي وتقول ديننا قولوا امين


    Iraqi Sunni Child Crying and screaming from Shia Militias crimes against Sunni Civilians

    Those weak, weak Congressional Dems

    Those weak, weak Congressional Dems

    Senator Harry Reid Retweeted Leader McConnell
    I don't know what the Republican Leader wants. Does he want another invasion of Iraq?
    Senator Harry Reid added,

    And I don't know the name of the trick that worked over Harry but that incident and the whispers about it are why he's finally leaving the Senate.

    So good job, trick.

    The rumors over the years -- all the rumors -- would more than suggest that Harry had it coming for the way he treated sex workers.

    Good job, trick, whomever you are.

    Of course, Harry has no standing with regard to opposing the Iraq War.

    Remember when then-US House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi was speaking to THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE and she was asked why, despite having control of both houses of Congress, the Iraq War continued?

    She said she had her ducks in a line.  She said the House had the votes.

    She explained that it was then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Senate that was the problem.

    That was what Nancy Pelosi said.

    Go look it up.  For the longest, the paper had the full discussion posted in audio form at the website.

    We covered it in the May 28, 2008 snapshot -- so let me spoonfeed: Here's the link to the audio of the discussion.

    Equally true, when Democratic Senators wanted to explore the waste and corruption in Iraq, Reid didn't want it in 'his' Senate so they had to use the DPC to stage the hearings.

    And while we applaud the trick that worked Harry over, let's not leave the impression that Nancy Pelosi is some sort of honest broker herself.

    US troops are on the ground in Iraq.  US troops are in combat.

    By any definition, the US has "boots on the ground" in Iraq.

    And Nancy's said what about that?

    Not one damn word.

    But she had many words in August of 2014.  Carla Marinucci (SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE) reported:

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that congressional Democrats were united in support of President Obama's decision to order air strikes in Iraq as "humanitarian assistance" for refugees trapped by Islamic militant fighters, but added that "we don't consider boots on the ground an option."
    Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said 100 House Democrats held a conference call Monday after Obama notified Congress that 275 U.S. troops were being deployed to Iraq as security for American diplomatic personnel in Baghdad. His notification, made under the War Powers Act, came two days after U.S. warplanes fired on Islamic State militants who have bottled up refugees near the Syrian border.
    [. . .]
    Although House Democrats have made it "very clear" that sending combat forces back to the country is unacceptable, Pelosi said, she left open the possibility that U.S. actions in Iraq could reach "a place where we need congressional action." 

    With Democrats like Harry and Nancy, no wonder the Iraq War continues.

    But remember, in 2006, campaigning during mid-term elections, with a majority in neither house of Congress, the promise they made was give them control of one house and they'd end the war.

    The American people gave them control of both houses in 2006.

    And they didn't end the war in 2007.

    Or 2008.

    Or 2009.

    Or 2010.

    We'll stop there, not just because the Iraq War continues but also because they lost control of both houses in the 2010 mid-terms.

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    Posted at 12:34 am by thecommonills

    Wednesday, June 22, 2016
    Iraq snapshot

    Iraq snapshot

    Wednesday, June 22, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri al-Maliki insults  Sunni politicians and Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the US government hopes tossing some money will let them off for assisting with War Crimes in Iraq and much more.

    Since August of 2014, the US government has bombed Iraq daily.

    Recall: our current bombing campaign in Iraq was pitched as "limited". It's now almost 2 yrs old.


    Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Rocket artillery and bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 17 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:

    -- Near Beiji, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions, three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL improvised explosive device, an ISIL vehicle-borne IED, four ISIL rocket rails, two ISIL mortar systems, an ISIL supply cache and an ISIL anti-air artillery piece and damaged five ISIL berms.
    -- Near Fallujah, three strikes struck two separate large ISIL tactical units and destroyed 11 ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle, two ISIL heavy machine guns, five ISIL light machine guns, five ISIL rocket propelled grenade systems and two ISIL mortar systems and denied ISIL access to terrain.
    -- Near Kisik, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL assembly areas, an ISIL tunnel and three ISIL rocket rails.
    -- Near Mosul, four strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL vehicles, six ISIL assembly areas and an ISIL rocket system.
    -- Near Qayyarah, three strikes destroyed three ISIL rocket rails and denied ISIL access to terrain.
    -- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed nine ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL light machine gun, an ISIL rocket-propelled-grenade system, an ISIL boat and three ISIL weapons caches.
    -- Near Tal Afar, a strike suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun position.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

    That they'll release.

    Other things?

    Not really.

    At yesterday's Pentagon press conference moderated by press secretary Peter Cook, the following exchange took place

    Q:  Peter, during last week's briefing, the issue of injured American service members came up, and you said you would take the question and look into it.

          Can you confirm that four American service members were injured in Northern Syria on June 9th?

          MR. COOK:  (Inaudible) -- this is -- I'm glad you raised the question, because this does raise a question, a policy question for us about identifying injured service members.

          And as I stated last week, and probably should have stated more clearly, our policy is not to identify wounded service members, for a variety of reasons -- including operational security, including privacy reasons.

          And so, I'm not going to be able to elaborate more fully on that situation.  Just as I wouldn't with other wounded service members, because of that -- because of our policy in place.

          Q:  I believe on May 31, the Pentagon did come out and say there were two service members, one in Iraq and one in Syria, who were injured and I think you even gave a specific location -- (inaudible), north of Raqqah.  And I'm not asking for a specific location or name.  You know, were there American service members injured?  Because in the past, you have acknowledged when they have been injured.

          MR. COOK:  And what -- and of course one of the things that we're concerned about here is not just operational security -- (inaudible), but also, we do not want to provide additional information to the enemy that might enhance their own assessment of the battlefield situation and their own impact.

          Q:  (inaudible) -- because on May 31, you did give out two numbers of Americans injured.

          MR. COOK:  I'm just spelling out right now our policy consistent with what it's been in the past with regard to wounded service members.  We provide information with regard, of course, to casualties.  But for a variety of reasons, we do not provide information on wounded service members and we're going to continue to stick to that, again, because we don't want to provide information to the enemy that might be helpful, we have privacy concerns that we want to address.

          And again, we don't routinely release that information.  There have been some exceptions in the past, but that is our -- our basic policy and I'm going to stick to that policy.

    Cook insisted this was not a change.  Idrees Ali and Leslie Adler (REUTERS) point out, "However, the Pentagon has released such information in the past and responded to queries, and it was unclear how Cook's comments were consistent with previous disclosures."  At the conservative website HOT AIR, Jazz Shaw maintains:

    It’s hard not to read something overtly political into this policy change, no matter how the Pentagon describes it. We’ve already seen the President standing by his policy of not mentioning Islamic terrorism and our own Attorney General has tried to keep mentions of ISIS out of transcripts of conversations with terrorists attacking at home. Any news about battlefield injuries in the war against this enemy clearly plays against the Democrats in general and Hillary Clinton’s election hopes in particular, so suppressing public discussion of such unpleasant realities has a clear political side to it.

    ALSUMARIA reports that independent politician Izzat al-Shahbandar states that while Iraq has made gains in the battle against the Islamic State but none on the political front.  Though described in the article -- and by the press usually -- as "independent," he is a member of Nouri al-Maliki's political slate State of Law.

    Shi'ite Nouri al-Maliki is the former prime minister of Iraq and the forever thug.

    RUDAW reports today that he's slammed Sunni politicians as "terrorists" (he did that while he was prime minister too) and denounced Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and compared the rallies carried out by Moqtada's followers to "robbery."

    Nouri's persecution of the Sunni population provided the Islamic State the foundation they needed in Iraq.

    Also on the political front, the office of the current prime minister, Haider al-Abadi,  issued the following today:

    استقبل السيد رئيس مجلس الوزراء الدكتور حيدر العبادي في مكتبه اليوم الاربعاء رئيس ائتلاف الوطنية الدكتور اياد علاوي.

    وجرى خلال اللقاء مناقشة الاوضاع السياسية والامنية والاقتصادية التي يشهدها البلد واهمية توحيد الجهود لمواجهة 
    التحديات التي يمر بها العراق.

    كما جرى التأكيد على ضرورة ادامة زخم الانتصارات بعد تحرير الفلوجة والدعم والاسناد لقواتنا البطلة وتوفير المستلزمات 
    الضرورية والعيش الكريم للنازحين.

    ودعا الدكتور العبادي جميع الكتل السياسية الى دعم قواتنا البطلة في حربها ضد العصابات الارهابية والابتعاد عن كل ما من 
    شأنه ان يؤثر سلبا على عزيمة مقاتلينا مؤكدا في الوقت ذاته على اهمية نبذ الخلافات واللجوء للحوار لحل القضايا العالقة 
    للسير بالبلد الى بر الامان.

    المكتب الاعلامي لرئيس الوزراء
    22 حزيران 2016

    The press release notes that Ayad Allawi traveled to Haider al-Abadi's office today and the two met to discuss economic, security and political developments within Iraq and the need to unite to face the challenges and to carry on the momentum of victory beyond the liberation of Falluja.

    Allawi now leads the National Coalition.  In 2010, he led Iraqiya which offered a way forward for Iraq, a political party built not on sect but on commonalities.

    Despite election irregularities and Nouri al-Maliki's stunts, Iraqiya won the 2010 elections and Allawi should have been named prime minister-designate and given the opportunity to attempt to form a government.

    However, Nouri al-Maliki refused to step down bringing the country to a standstill.  That political stalemate lasted over 8 months and Nouri was able to carry out that paralysis of the Iraqi government with the help of US President Barack Obama who had US officials negotiate The Erbil Agreement -- a legal contract that did away with the votes of the Iraqi people and gave Nouri a second term as prime minister.

    On 'liberated' Falluja, AFP notes the large number of Iraqis it has created:

    "We have to admit that the humanitarian community has also failed the Iraqi people," said Nasr Muflahi, Iraq head of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

    "There are serious funding shortfalls, but there is no justification why there aren't more aid agencies helping the people of Fallujah," he said.

    As already existing camps filled way beyond capacity, other camps were being set up but the newly displaced families arriving there often found nothing to sleep on or under, nothing to eat or drink.

    Salam Khoder (ALJAZEERA) speaks with the refugees:

    When Um Anwar, a resident of Fallujah, was asked to describe her life in the refugee camps at Amiriyat al-Fallujah, she summed it up in a sharp, clear voice: "We are staying inside the camp but living outside the tents." 
    Um Anwar left Fallujah on Friday June 17, with her four daughters. "We have been sleeping out in the open for days now," she told Al Jazeera. "My four daughters and I take turns in sleeping during the night. Two of us have to stay up watching while the rest of us fall into sleep. This is the only way to ensure no one is coming our way during the night. They told us that they had no tents to spare us one as a family."

    Her son, Anwar, fled the city 15 months ago and has been trying to make a living in Baghdad ever since, while her husband was killed in a bombing in Fallujah city shortly after her son left.

    And the refugees also have to deal with the Shi'ite militias.

    Iraqi Sunni civilians displaced from Fallujah tortured by Shia Militias


    War Crimes took place throughout the 'liberation' of Falluja and continue to take place.

    Awash in blood and guilt, the US government attempts to buy it's way out.

    >1/2 of Iraq's 3.4m displaced are children. Today we announced July 20 pledging conference to raise support for Iraqi people in dire need

    What's she talking about?

    US State Dept spokesperson John Kirby explained at today's State Dept press briefing:

    On Iraq, we are pleased to announce that the United States will co-host a pledging conference with Canada, Germany, and Japan in Washington, D.C. on the 20th of July to raise support for urgent humanitarian and stabilization needs in Iraq. This will be an effort to help the people of Iraq weather the humanitarian crisis and destruction wrought by [the Islamic State] in the country, and as – to remind, as you know, I mentioned yesterday, we announced yesterday $20 million of assistance for Iraq specifically for humanitarian purposes. And I fully would expect that the pledging conference will see, as I said yesterday, additional contributions by the United States.
    Now, while [the Islamic State] has suffered continued defeats on the battlefield, we now believe we’re at a critical juncture in the fight. Iraq needs the international community’s support to provide desperately needed items such as food, water, shelter, medicine for those in need, and to assist in the return of displaced families back to liberated areas as quickly as possible. It’s critical that we focus not only on defeating [the Islamic State], of course, but also what comes after that. Reconciliation and long-term peace are simply not possible until Iraq’s acute humanitarian crisis is alleviated and people can return to their homes with access to basic services, to health care, education, and with at least a modest hope for prosperity.

    We believe that this pledging conference will provide a unique and important opportunity for the international community to assist in doing just that, and to helping Iraq’s citizens move past some of these challenges and in remedying the harm caused by [the Islamic State] and to show solidarity with the people of Iraq as they rebuild their nation.

    Turning to politics in the US where Democrats in the House of Representatives are staging a useless move that's supposed to lead people to vote for them.

    Glenn Greenwald Retweeted The Intercept
    Of all things Dems could've but didn't do a sit-in for (end Iraq War, punish Wall St & torturers), they choose this:
    Glenn Greenwald added,

    Not everyone's falling for the nonsense and a hashtag has been created #DemsNeverSat:

    Anoa J. Changa, Esq. Retweeted AC Uhuru
    against systemic disinvestment, poverty, school closures, health care access, etc
    Anoa J. Changa, Esq. added,

    Posted at 07:26 pm by thecommonills

    Pausing a moment to note it is Barack's war

    Pausing a moment to note it is Barack's war

    Falluja is not just a mess, it's a human rights disaster.

    It is a blot on Barack Obama and his administration and throwing $20 million in aid at the problem will not fix it or remove responsibility.

    The political solution Barack rightly noted that Iraq needed (noted on June 19, 2014) has not come about.

    Haider's so-called proposal for reform with his desired new Cabinet will not provide a political solution (nor will it address corruption).  It will actually make marginalized communities in Iraq feel even more so since Haider's point is to destroy the quota system that was supposed to allow everyone a seat at the table.

    (Haider's past corruption effort was to put a member of his own party in charge of 'rooting out' corruption.  That didn't address corruption either.  Though the man is said to have received many large gifts since assuming office.)

    It didn't have to be this way.

    Repeatedly, here I said early on that Barack needed to end the Iraq War and do so quickly.

    Ava and I wrote pieces here, I wrote pieces here, I advocated for it to friends among the then-incoming administration.

    And repeatedly we both said that ending the Iraq War would be messy.

    But you do it in your first year as president and you say "I was voted into the White House to end the Iraq War, it's what the American people wanted."

    You do that and then if it goes badly afterwards?

    It was a decision by the American people.

    But Barack, like so many others, couldn't leave well enough alone.

    Inflated and puffed out by a fawning press, he thought he was the genius they said and thought he could play with a few things and then a few things more.

    All that did was make Iraq his.

    His refusal to end the war immediately and his refusal to stop tinkering (including overruling the Iraqi people who voted Nouri al-Maliki out in 2010 as prime minister but Barack kept Nouri in power until summer of 2014) made Iraq his.

    As did the negotiations with the League of Righteous -- a terrorist group that continues to terrorize Iraq.

    A terrorist group that killed American soldiers and whose leadership was in US custody.

    But to get four corpses (British corpses) and one live Brit released by the League, Barack released their leaders.

    And non-veterans still often look at you blankly on that.

    Even though it was front page news on THE NEW YORK TIMES.

    But it wasn't talked about widely (we talked about it repeatedly here) because let's not hold Barack accountable was the mood of the press (and remains it).

    There is also the SOFA.

    Barbra Streisand needs to find some Laura Nyro song to rip off again.  (Oh, for the days when Michael Douglas used to put Babs in her place on that rip off -- the only way she could revive her career, ripping Laura off note-for-note.)

    Last week Babs wanted to Tweet (see Betty's "That political idiot Barbra Streisand").

    Yes, Bully Boy Bush negotiated the SOFA.

    And Barack and Joe Biden both said they wouldn't abide by anything the Senate didn't approve.

    They put it up at their website and ran on that.

    It was their first broken promise (and the first thing disappeared from the website).

    But the SOFA was a contract.

    It had a kill clause for each year.

    At the end of the three years, it could be redone (like the UN mandate it replaced had been done yearly) or it could be replaced.

    And what Babs hopes you don't know is that Barack tried to get a new one.

    And failed.

    So 'blaming' the so-called end of the Iraq War (it didn't end) on Bully Boy Bush because of the SOFA is lying.

    And considering how little Barbra did to stop the Iraq War, she really has no point in speaking.

    Scared witless in the early seventies, she still did more on Vietnam than she did on Iraq.

    That includes, singing over the phone -- in an auction -- to raise money for Daniel Ellsberg's defense.

    Barack's hands were all over Iraq long before he began sending troops back in during 2014.

    It's his war as sure as it's Bully Boy Bush's war.

    And it didn't have to be that way.

    And a number of people (not just Ava and myself) raised that point repeatedly before he was ever sworn in.

    The e-mail address for this site is

    Posted at 07:22 pm by thecommonills

    Sunday, June 19, 2016


    Iraq's LGBT community remains under fire -- from both the government of Iraq and from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.  Chris Godfrey (ATTITUDE) reports on the work of Iraqi activist Amir Ashour:

    Amir Ashour is not someone who’s happy to hide in the shadows. As Iraq’s only openly LGBT activist, he was always going to court attention. Since embarking on his mission to visibly champion LGBT rights, he’s been arrested and detained twice, lost friends and extended family, can no longer return to Iraq, and been forced to relocate permanently to Sweden.
    But in the face of such resistance, and at great risk to his personal safety, he’s managed to set up the country’s first LGBT rights organisation, IraQueer, which is forced to operate underground. One year on, its 40 members have never met face-to-face, instead communicating exclusively through social media and apps such as Grindr.
    Considering the severe human rights violations LGBT people in Iraq face, as well as the country’s absolute lack of legislative protection, their anonymity is their only protection. From the killing campaigns that are practised by armed militias in Baghdad, to the rise of Islamic State and its brutal executions of gay men, anonymity is literally a matter of life and death.
    “We will be meeting in person soon, somewhere outside Iraq,” says Ashour. “We use safe ways to communicate with each other to exchange information. I make sure that all the publications that we post on the website or social media are being done from Sweden, so if someone does track it, they are led only to Sweden.”

    “The security concerns are our biggest,” he continues. “The people who look more as if they might be LGBT+ people face a lot of difficulty in the streets: they could be attacked by people, by religious militias, or they could be violated by police forces.”

    From the start of the wave of persecution that began under then-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, the UK press has been better than any western country in reporting on the attacks on the LGBT community in Iraq.

    In other news, BBC's Ahmed Maher reports that Islamic State members remain in Falluja. DEUTSCHE WELLE reports that the 'liberation' of Falluja  has created 84,000 refugees according to UNHCR and:

    An Iraqi aid worker employed at a nearby refugee camp said their resources were woefully inadequate.
    "We secured tents for some of them, but the rest, including women and children, are sleeping on the ground under the sun," he said. "Their situation is a tragedy."

    The 'liberation' didn't end the War Crimes, obviously:

    Graphic pic Iraqi Sunni civilian arrested ,Burned & killed by Shia militias without guilt in

    Iraqi Sunni civilians displaced from Fallujah tortured, Burned & killed by Shia Militias

    And the 'liberation' didn't end the ongoing US bombings of Iraq.  Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Rocket artillery and bomber, ground-attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 18 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
    -- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck an ISIL beddown facility and an ISIL staging area and destroyed an ISIL bunker.
    -- Near Beiji, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL recoilless rifle and an ISIL mortar system.
    -- Near Fallujah, four strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed 22 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL vehicles, 10 ISIL heavy machine guns, seven ISIL light machine guns, an ISIL recoilless rifle, three ISIL rocket-propelled-grenade systems and an ISIL vehicle-borne bomb and denied ISIL access to terrain.
    -- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL assembly area.
    -- Near Mosul, a strike struck an ISIL oil headquarters.
    -- Near Qayyarah, five strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL mortar systems, an ISIL assembly area, an ISIL weapons cache and an ISIL command-and-control node and denied ISIL access to terrain.
    -- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL vehicle-borne bomb, an ISIL boat and an ISIL light machine gun and damaged a separate ISIL boat.
    -- Near Tal Afar, a strike struck two separate ISIL foreign fighter command posts.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

    June 19, 2014, US President Barack Obama stated the only answer to Iraq's crises was a political solution.  At what point does he plan to put US resources into pursuing that?

    I'm traveling in some vehicle
    I'm sitting in some cafe
    A defector from the petty wars
    That shell shock love away
    -- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

    The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4517 (including 20 in Operation Inherent Resolve which includes at least 3 Iraq War fatalities).

    Isaiah's "It's The Great Bumpkin, Barry O" and the following community sites  -- plus Jody Watley -- updated:

  • The e-mail address for this site is

    Posted at 09:56 pm by thecommonills

    Tulsi Gabbard: Many people simply have not learned from the past

    Tulsi Gabbard: Many people simply have not learned from the past

    US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard is an Iraq War veteran.

    1.  Pinned Tweet
      Tulsi Gabbard Retweeted E McMorris-Santoro
      We cannot afford to be silent about the reforms our party needs. Sign now:
      Tulsi Gabbard added,
    Glad to see stand up to at yesterday’s convention. We must abolish superdelegates.
    " needs to hear from us and show the same courage again we need to send a strong message, END THE WAR" -
    "Let leaders in DC know that we must stop wasting our resources on this and instead, strengthening our communities here" -
    “Stand with me to demand an end to the war to overthrow the Syrian government... demand an end to interventionist wars.”
    "President showed tremendous courage in 2013 when he chose not to carry out airstrikes against the Assad government”
    "I have introduced a bill, HR 4108 to end this regime change war in Syria and urge you to call on Congress to support this bill.”
    "The only way to prevent this is for the American people to come out strongly… and say this regime change war policy must end.”
    "Many people simply have not learned from the past. They’ve learned nothing from Iraq & our overthrow of Saddam Hussein.”
    "United States activity in Syria based on "same argument" used for Iraq and Libya intervention" -

    Posted at 09:55 pm by thecommonills

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