Your Ad Here


The Common Ills


Monday, July 28, 2014
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Monday, July 28, 2014,  Chaos and violence continue, rumors swirl that Nouri might have realized how toxic he is, how many US troops have been sent back into Iraq, and much more.


Counting is apparently hard for journalism majors.  Kristina Wong (The Hill) reported Sunday:

The Obama administration has quietly moved an additional 62 advisers to Iraq over the past three weeks, according to defense officials.
The additions bring the total number of advisers in the country to 242, still short of the 300 advisers that President Obama authorized for Iraq last month.





The Pentagon said 20 additional military advisers recently arrived in Iraq, bringing total U.S. military personnel there to 825. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said there are now 90 advisers working with Iraqi military forces, assessing their capabilities, and 160 Americans are assigned to joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil.
So who's right?  Wong or Schwartz?

Better question, when US officials testify before Congress and give a concrete number, why doesn't the press use that number -- if only to question it.  Last Wednesday morning, the State Dept's Brett McGurk and the Defense Dept's Elissa Slotkin appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to talk about Iraq.  Let's note this exchange.


Elissa Slotkin:  First, I just want to clarify that we have sent in an additional -- I think it's up to 775 troops.  

US House Rep Tom Marino: Right.

Elissa Slotkin: 475 of that total are for the security of our people --

US House Rep Tom Marino: The Embassy, the airport, etc.

Elissa Slotkin: Exactly.  The other 300 are there to assess and answer those very questions.


Does Elissa Slotkin not know her numbers?  Does the press think she doesn't?

Wong insist that there are 242 advisors there but days before Wong insisted that, Slotkin testified to Congress that there were 300 advisors (with 475 there providing security).


This isn't a minor issue and vague generalities really don't cover it.

Maybe US House Rep Tom Marino grasps it better than many in the press do?  He noted, "I'm ambivalent on this as well because I don't want to see another American come home in a bodybag.  I've been on the ramp and saw the ceremonies where two people were sent back to my state and it's something I do not want to experience again."

Also, when possible, we do try to note it if an article, essay or book is noted in a hearing.  Marino noted Dexter Filkens' New Yorker article on Iraq from last April -- noted it positively.


The attacks on Iraqi Christians continue.  This month, Christians in Mosul were given the option of staying in Mosul and being killed, paying a tax for being Christian or converting to Islam.  Most fled -- most, not all.  Some could not afford to leave and remain in Mosul, keeping a very low profile. Suleiman Gouda (Asharq Al-Awsat) declares:

It is hard to find the words to describe the recent events in Mosul, in northern Iraq, and I can only turn to the words of Nabil Elaraby, the secretary-general of the Arab League, who said that what happened was a disgrace that must never be tolerated and a crime against Iraq and its history, against Arab and Islamic countries, and against all Muslims.
The statement of the Arab League chief came in response to reports last week that Mosul had been totally emptied of Christians for the first time in its entire history after they were expelled at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).


The attacks appear to be an attempt not just to wipe Christians out of Iraq but to also erase any evidence that they ever were a presence.  Dropping back to Friday's snapshot (really early Saturday morning):



Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on the apparent bombing of a Sunni mosque which apparently destroyed Jonah's tomb:




The holy site is thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale or fish in both the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions.
Militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, planted explosives around the tomb and detonated the explosion remotely Thursday, civil defense officials there told CNN.

NINA notes:


In a statement issued today Mottahidoon said : " With hearts rupturing of pain, and eyes full of blood of the terrible scene of blowing up the shrine and mosque of the Prophet Yunus peace be upon him, the Mosalion the whole world with them farewell a memorial combining history, civilization and sacred values, that is what it means the sublime edifice of Prophet Yunus peace be upon him which is located on Talit-Tawbah / hill of repentance/ in the left side of the city of Mosul.

Mottahidoon is the political party of Osama al-Nujaifi who was the Speaker of Parliament from 2010 until this month. 



Joel S. Baden and Candida Moss (CNN) explain:


In Christian tradition, the story of Jonah is an important one. Jonah’s descent into the depths in the belly of the great fish and subsequent triumphant prophetic mission to Nineveh is seen as a reference to and prototype of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The destruction of his tomb in Mosul is therefore a direct assault on Christian faith, and on one of the few physical traces of that faith remaining in Iraq.

The destruction is getting wide attention because the shrine was a go-to spot for several religions -- not just Christianity.   Fox News offers:

The Wall Street Journal reported that the group had destroyed a mosque in the northern Iraq city of Mosul that contained a shrine believed to be the tomb of Jonah -- who is revered as a prophet by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The paper reported that the militants had wired the periphery of the mosque with explosives and then detonated them.
"They turned it to sand, along with all other tombs and shrines," Omar Ibrahim, a Mosul dentist, told The Journal. "But Prophet Younes [the Muslim name for Jonah] is something different. It was a symbol of Mosul ... We cried for it with our blood."

This is becoming an issue around the world.  The Pope has spoken out against the violence repeatedly. Oscar Lopez (Latin Times) quotes Pope Francis stating, "No more wars.  It's time to stop. Stop, please, I beg you with all my heart, stop."  France's Foreign Ministry issued the following statement:



Middle East Christians - Joint communiqué issued by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior (Paris, 28/07/2014)
The situation of the Middle East Christians is unfortunately dramatic. The ultimatum issued to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat facing these people - who have historically been an integral part of the region - by jihadist groups in Iraq as well as Syria and elsewhere.
France is outraged by these brutalities, which it condemns in the strongest possible terms. We have succeeded in getting the UN Security Council to condemn the Islamic State's persecution of minorities in Iraq. We are assisting displaced persons who are fleeing the Islamic State's threats and seeking refuge in Kurdistan. Should they so wish, we are prepared to offer them asylum on our soil. We have released exceptional humanitarian assistance to help them. France will continue to mobilize the international community in the coming days to ensure that these populations are protected - a prerequisite for stability in the region. We are in constant touch with local and national authorities to make sure that everything is done to guarantee their protection.

Laurent Fabius and Bernard Cazeneuve will soon be welcoming representatives of Iraq's Christian communities to France./.


And the issue is getting some attention in  the US. Cheryl K. Chumley (Washington Times) reports that a protest took place outside the White House over the week, "Demonstrators in general vented frustration at the Obama administration’s seeming lackadaisical response to the assaults on Christianity and on Christians in the Muslim-dominated Middle East and, more specifically, on the White House failure to respond to ISIL’s crackdown on Christians."  Barack hasn't really addressed the issue so it is natural that he would be the target of protests.

Lucy Westcott (Newsweek) offers this take on the targeting in Iraq, "One week ago, Christians living in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul were forced to leave, convert to Islam, or face execution by ISIS militants — but on the plus side, a report that the group had ordered women and girls in the city to undergo female genital mutilation appears to have been incorrect. Still, the violence continues. Figures from the UN indicate that nearly 900 Iraqis have been killed this month alone, and 5,500 were killed between between January and June of this year."

Sunday, Loveday Morris (Washington Post) reported on rumors/signs that Nouri al-Maliki will not see a third term as prime minister and that his time on top is dwindling.  Earlier this month, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani made statements which indicated Nouri al-Maliki should step down.  Friday's sermon made that even more clear.  Morris reports:

On Saturday, Sheik Abdul Halim al-Zuhairi, a senior figure in Dawa, was dispatched to Najaf to deliver a message to Ayatollah Sistani that the coalition was willing to replace Mr. Maliki if necessary, said Jumaa al-Atwani, a politician with Mr. Maliki’s coalition. Mr. Zuhairi passed the letter to Sistani’s son, he said.

MP, of Ahrar bloc, Bahaa al-Araji called on the Iraqi National Alliance, as the biggest bloc, to resolve the issue of nominating its candidate for Premier post before August 8. 
He said in a press statement received by All Iraq News Agency "The matter of choosing PM must move away from partisan and personal affiliations and the most importantly is to maintain the unity of INA to form a strong government can save Iraq from this crisis."

Having brought Iraq to the precipice, you'd think even Nouri would feel compelled to step down.  Knowing Nouri that seems unlikely.  

But it's so potentially good, rumors of his departure, you almost need for it to be true.  James Kitfield (Yahoo News) shares:

Reports over the weekend that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party is considering abandoning him as its candidate represent the one bit of hopeful news out of Iraq in recent weeks. When Iraq’s most revered Shiite religious figure, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called earlier this month for a new government in Baghdad that has “broad national acceptance,” Iraqis understood that he was signaling to the divisive al-Maliki to finally step aside for the good of the country. In his eight years as leader, al-Maliki has consistently pursued a sectarian agenda that alienated Iraqs Sunni minority and drove Sunni tribes once allied with the United States into the arms of the extremists of ISIL (also called ISIS). That uneasy alliance is behind ISILs lightning offensive last month that overran the border between Syria and Iraq and captured the Sunni-majority regions of the country, including major northern cities such as Mosul and Tikrit. 
On Saturday the Dawa Party reportedly sent a senior official to Najaf with a message to Sistani that it was finally willing to replace al-Maliki if necessary.


Nouri's the disease that never stops infecting.

 Tim Arango (New York Times) reports, "Just before midnight on Friday, Shiite militiamen in eight black S.U.V.’s rolled up to the Baghdad home of an important Sunni politician and abducted him and four of his bodyguards, a brazen move that threatened to further convulse a country already in the grip of a political crisis."


It was the fall of last year when Tim Arango broke the story that Nouri was arming, garbing and backing Shi'ite militias (death squads):

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.


So a Shi'ite militia in Baghdad kidnaps a Sunni politician and his bodyguards in Baghdad?  Nouri's the one who made it possible. 


Although when that happened is confusing to Roy Gutman.  We already linked to Tim Arango's exclusive scoop from September of 2013 about Nouri bringing in the Shi'ite militias.

So try not to be confused by Gutman's second paragraph below:

The men who abducted Riyadh Adhadh, the head of the Baghdad Provincial Council, from his home wore military uniforms and arrived in government vehicles, he said after his release Saturday, according to Iraq’s Al Mada press. He said the apparent aim of the kidnapping was to implicate his political party in last month’s capture of much of northern and central Iraq by the radical Islamic State when the Iraqi military collapsed.
Maliki, who revived the Shiite militias as a response to the army’s disappearance, personally intervened to free Adhadh. He did it not by ordering in federal security forces, which he commands, but asking for help from a powerful Shiite militia _ which reports directly to his office.

Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2014/07/28/3171468/sunni-politicians-abduction-rescue.html?#storylink=cpy

The army's 'disappearance' was only weeks ago.  But Nouri brought the militias back in over a year ago.  Why can't Gutman report that?  Is he ignorant of events or shading the truth?


So many in the press miss so much.

They miss Nouri's War Crimes.  He continues to target civilians in Iraq.  He bombs cities because he claims 'terrorists' are present.  Regardless of whether or not they are, it is illegal to bomb civilians.  The term for that is collective punishment.

For civilians in Falluja, they've been terrorized by Nouri since the first of the year.

Omar al-Mansuri (Rudaw) reports:

In the evenings, the residents of Fallujah wait for the terror of the Iraqi helicopters that have been raining primitive but deadly barrel bombs that Baghdad has resorted to in its bid to recapture the city from militants of the Islamic State (IS).
Although residents know there are few measures they can take against the destruction, for the sake of comforting themselves they go through a routine of trying to protect themselves.
“We start by turning off the lights at home and assembling all family members in one room,” recounted Iyad Mahmud Halbusi, a 33-year-old family head caught in the war between the Shiite government in Baghdad and Sunni jihadis who have captured about a third of the country.
“We stay away from windows, usually on the ground floor,” Halbusi said. “But despite these measures we are fully convinced that we would not survive if we were hit by a barrel bomb.” 


Other violence today includes corpses.  AP notes 17 corpses -- 3 females, 14 males -- were discovered dumped in the streets throughout Baghdad today.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 274 dead in Iraq today from violence. 


Moving over to the US State Dept's press briefing today moderated by spokesperson Jen Psakit, we'll note this exchange:


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Scott.


QUESTION: From the podium, you pretty consistently objected to the Kurds exporting their own oil through Turkey. It would appear that, however, that that first shipment of oil has now been unloaded in Houston. So --


MS. PSAKI: My understanding of where things stand, Scott, is that it’s – there’s a tanker that’s anchored 60 miles outside of Galveston, Texas and that the cargo remains on board the ship at this time. I will see if there’s been any update to that information, but I spoke with our team about it right before I came down here.
Our policy, which you outlined, certainly hasn’t changed. We believe that Iraq’s energy resources belong to the Iraqi people and certainly have long stated that it needs to go through the central government. And as you know, there’s an ongoing legal dispute in this case, which is – which obviously is something that we’re aware of and we’re closely following.


QUESTION: Local Coast Guard say they asked you guys about it and everything was fine and it’s already being lightened.


MS. PSAKI: That – I would have to check. That was not the information that I had from our team, Scott. Obviously that contradicts it, which is concerning, but let me go back to them and see what the exact situation is on the ground.


Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Dan Murtaugh (Bloomberg News) report, "The Iraqi Oil Ministry is seeking a court order to seize more than $100 million of oil waiting to offload in Galveston, Texas, that it claims was illegally pumped from wells in Kurdistan."  Jonathan Stempel, David Ingram, Rebecca Elliott, Terry Wade, Anna Driver, Erwin Seba and Lisa Shumaker (Reuters) add, "The United Kalavrvta tanker, carrying some 1 million barrels of crude worth about $100 million, arrived off the coast of Texas on Saturday but has yet to unload its disputed cargo."














cnn



kristina wong

Posted at 10:20 pm by thecommonills
 

Nouri wants a third term and a nation of clones and drones

Nouri wants a third term and a nation of clones and drones

As so many lose faith in Nouri al-Maliki, he turns to televised propaganda.  The prime minister and chief thug of Iraq has thus far resisted calls from Kurds, Sunnis and even some Shi'ite politicians (most notably cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr) to step aside and let someone else govern Iraq.  Nouri's desire for a third term as prime minister has led him to ignore the religious authorities as well (most notably Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani).  He's also rumored to have lost the support of the Iranian government (after they met with key Shi'ite politicians from Iraq).

None of it has had any effect on Nouri who appears to be more determined to grab that third term and run the country further into the ground.

Now, like his predecessor Saddam Hussein, Nouri's using state television in an attempt to enlist the people in his vanity campaign.  Maggie Fick (Reuters) reports:

 Since the humiliating loss of much of Iraq's north to Islamic State insurgents, the official Iraqiya channel has been churning out patriotic videos of marching soldiers, heavily-armed commandos and even singers and actors to rally the public behind the government.
The theatrics are reminiscent of life under Saddam Hussein, whose propaganda machine put a positive spin on disasters like his 1990 invasion of Kuwait or 1980-88 war with Iran.
Instead of increasing confidence in Maliki, the campaign has highlighted what critics say is the Shi'ite Muslim premier's failure to unite Iraq against Islamist insurgents who have put the country's survival as a unified state in jeopardy.

Meanwhile Fars News Agency reports 31 corpses of rebels were found in Baquba.  And National Iraqi News Agency reports the Iraqi military says they killed 150 'terrorists' in a Mosul bombing (from a plane).

As you start to really think about that -- just two bits of reported violence today -- and how there are so many people Nouri's government claims to kill each day in this 'campaign,' it's worth pondering what the cut off is?  What is the magic number for Nouri to claim is against him and Iraq before you start to wonder if that many people constitutes the reality of Iraq today?  If the minority isn't really Nouri.  (It is and that's been obvious long before the latest wave of violence got the world's attention.


 On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include?  Gaza.  It's a little comedy show from three attorneys who ignore Nouri al-Maliki's use of collective punishment -- a legally defined War Crime.  Instead of linking the two and increasing awareness of both topics (Iraq and Gaza), they go off into the rabid yet again.  And don't miss their embrace of insane Naomi Wolf who deserves applause -- they argue -- for walking out.  Oh, the bravery!  She walked out of a synagogue.

Such skill, such power.

You know, come to think of it, you walk into a synagogue, you do so knowing you'll be walking out.  But clear heads are in short supply when Gaza crazy strikes the radical left every few months.

(My ridicule and scorn is aimed at the American 'Red Cross' of the left which repeatedly drops every story every few months to focus on Gaza and does little with their rabid froth but make people want to step away from these US spokespersons.  They do so much -- unintentionally, but still -- to ensure the Palestinians continue to suffer.)



The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.






wbai
law and disorder radio
michael s. smith
heidi boghosian
michael ratner
 

Posted at 04:58 am by thecommonills
 

Sunday, July 27, 2014
Hejira

Hejira

Loveday Morris (Washington Post) reports on rumors/signs that Nouri al-Maliki will not see a third term as prime minister and that his time on top is dwindling.  Earlier this month, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani made statements which indicated Nouri al-Maliki should step down.  Friday's sermon made that even more clear.  Morris reports:

On Saturday, Sheik Abdul Halim al-Zuhairi, a senior figure in Dawa, was dispatched to Najaf to deliver a message to Ayatollah Sistani that the coalition was willing to replace Mr. Maliki if necessary, said Jumaa al-Atwani, a politician with Mr. Maliki’s coalition. Mr. Zuhairi passed the letter to Sistani’s son, he said.



MP, of Ahrar bloc, Bahaa al-Araji called on the Iraqi National Alliance, as the biggest bloc, to resolve the issue of nominating its candidate for Premier post before August 8. 
He said in a press statement received by All Iraq News Agency "The matter of choosing PM must move away from partisan and personal affiliations and the most importantly is to maintain the unity of INA to form a strong government can save Iraq from this crisis."


Having brought Iraq to the precipice, you'd think even Nouri would feel compelled to step down.  Knowing Nouri that seems unlikely.  

For example,  Tim Arango (New York Times) reports, "Just before midnight on Friday, Shiite militiamen in eight black S.U.V.’s rolled up to the Baghdad home of an important Sunni politician and abducted him and four of his bodyguards, a brazen move that threatened to further convulse a country already in the grip of a political crisis."


It was the fall of last year when Tim Arango broke the story that Nouri was arming, garbing and backing Shi'ite militias (death squads):

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.


So a Shi'ite militia in Baghdad kidnapes a Sunni politician and his bodyguards in Baghdad?  Nouri's the one who made it possible. 

His actions have bred violence in Iraq.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 374 people dead with another seventy-eight injured.

You'd think anyone facing so many failures would hang their head in shame, not seek a third term in office.

You'd think.

 




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] 4489.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan --  updated:




  • New content at Third:





    The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.






     


    Posted at 10:17 pm by thecommonills
     

    Senator Blunt’s Bill To Promote Religious Freedom In Middle East Heads To President’s Desk

    Senator Blunt’s Bill To Promote Religious Freedom In Middle East Heads To President’s Desk

    Senator Roy Blunt's office issued the following:


    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) today applauded the U.S. House of Representative’s unanimous consent of the “Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act,” which he introduced and U.S. Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (Mich.) co-sponsored to encourage President Barack Obama to appoint a special envoy to promote religious freedom among religious minorities in the Middle East. The bill overwhelmingly passed the U.S. Senate on July 10, 2014, and will now head to the President’s desk. To read the bill, click here.


    “As we continue to witness disturbing violence against religious minorities in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, I’m pleased both chambers of Congress have passed this bipartisan bill to demonstrate that the U.S. takes religious freedom very seriously,” said Blunt. “I urge the President to sign this bill into law quickly and appoint a special envoy to promote religious freedom among all persecuted religious communities in these critical regions.”


    Blunt recently spoke on the U.S. Senate floor to urge U.S. officials to aggressively protect the rights of religious minorities throughout the world, specifically calling for the release of Meriam Ibrahim and her family in Sudan, as well as Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran. Please click here to watch his remarks.


    “It is a tragic fact that in much of this region, the freedom to worship in keeping with one’s conscience is in doubt,” Levin said. “Passage of this legislation strengthens America’s role in protecting religious minorities from violence, persecution and fear.”

    Additional Background Information:
    As the New York Times recently reported, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has forced remaining Christians to flee Mosul, subjecting what’s left of these centuries-old faith communities in Iraq to unprecedented violence and displacement.

    Blunt and Levin originally introduced legislation to protect religious minorities in the Middle East in June 2011. Blunt also introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in November 2013 to appoint a special envoy in the Near East and South Central Asia. In December 2013, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee overwhelmingly passed Blunt’s bipartisan legislation. U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (Va.) introduced a companion bill in the House.

    In addition to Blunt and Levin, the bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), John Boozman (Ark.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

    In October 2013, Blunt joined U.S. Senators Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry noting recent reports of more frequent, targeted attacks against Coptic churches and individuals in Egypt “warrants a clear U.S. response.” In August 2013, Blunt reiterated his calls for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation aimed at promoting and protecting religious freedoms throughout the region.



    Blunt serves on both the defense authorizing and appropriations committees, and he is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.










    Posted at 06:44 am by thecommonills
     

    I Hate The War

    I Hate The War

    And I do.

    And I hate the fake ass.

    Which would include the US House of Representatives.

    I had avoided the topic, I had other things to do, real things to focus on.

    But it's the weekend which means I'm the only one working the public e-mail account for this site.

    And one person after another e-mails to inform me about the important measure the House passed on Congress and how it really is something and needs to be noted.

    It is nothing.

    It is less than nothing.

    When you see Barbara Lee's name, that's your first clue that someone let the fake ass into the room.

    Barack is conducting war under a 9-11 authorization.  He's destroying civil liberties and much more with that.

    If you missed it, fake ass Barbara Lee has wanted it repealed for some time. She's done nothing.

    Just like her yearly "If we're still in Afghanistan next year I am going to do something."

    She never does.  She's a fake ass.

    She's a useless liar who preens and poses but doesn't give a damn about peace because she's so far up Barack's ass.

    Barbara Lee is only convincing when Republicans hold the White House and control the Congress -- it lets her play the victim -- a role she excels at.

    The House voted on a measure last week saying that Barack could not conduct military operations (with US troops) in Iraq without Congressional approval.

    They passed a measure that basically says what the Constitution already did.

    There was nothing brave about their actions.

    It's not a law.

    Harry Reid will never allow it to pass in the Senate.

    It's a fake ass action.

    The House controls the purse.

    The measure did not say, "We believe in this and we will not fund any such action."

    They could have refused to fund under Bully Boy Bush and ended the Iraq War there and then.

    As former US Senator Mike Gravel repeatedly pointed out, they could have filibustered -- just one of them -- and brought it all to an end.

    They didn't.

    They're fake asses.

    Last week, a number of them -- including Barbara Lee -- stroked and finger banged themselves.

    They got off.

    Good for them.

    But I don't have to watch it.

    I'm not a voyeur.  And have you seen Lee and her cohorts?  None of them have bodies that would make it on the big screen.

    It was not about Iraq, it was about grand standing over doing nothing.

    Barbara Lee is a whorish politician.

    I don't have time for it.

    While she and others play the victim, the reality is the presidency is not above Congress.  It is a co-equal branch (as is the Supreme Court) and I've had it with b.s. actions from chicken s**t politicians.

    Nouri al-Maliki is being supplied with Hellfire missiles which he uses on the Iraqi people.

    That's blood on trashy Barbara Lee's hands.  She can fool a lot of the people with her empty remarks and meaningless gestures but at the end of the day she's just another whore in Congress dancing for the war machine.




    It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
    There's a war going on
    So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
    And I'm writing a song about war
    And it goes
    Na na na na na na na
    I hate the war
    Na na na na na na na
    I hate the war
    Na na na na na na na
    I hate the war
    Oh oh oh oh
    -- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)


    The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4489.



    The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.










    Posted at 04:30 am by thecommonills
     

    Friday, July 25, 2014
    Like a bad odor, Nouri refuses to go away

    Like a bad odor, Nouri refuses to go away

    Prime Minister and chief thug of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki killed 4 civilians  and left eight more injured in his latest bombing of Mosul, NINA reports.  Nouri's latest slaughter of civilians -- in his supposed attempt to stomp out terrorism -- comes as Michael Gregory and Larry King (Reuters) report Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistanti's Friday message was that politicians must stop "clinging to their posts, in an apparent reference" to Nouri who refuses to step aside.

    Like the violence, Nouri refuses to budge.  Nouri and his State of Law coalition also continue to struggle with the truth.  Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) reports:

    Despite filling two key positions in recent weeks, Iraqi politicians appeared no closer to naming a new prime minister or government on Thursday, after Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court denied claims by current Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition that it had been formally tasked with forming a new government.
    Federal Supreme Court spokesman Abdul Sattar Al-Biraqdar told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The Federal Supreme Court has not issued any decision in this regard. The State of Law coalition’s claims are not true.”
    “The Supreme Court has not met for two weeks and if the Court was going to issue any decision, it would be via an official spokesperson. These claims are part of conflicts between politicians, and have nothing to do with the Supreme Court,” he added.
    Earlier this week, State of Law coalition MP Hussein Al-Maliki issued a statement claiming that the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court had formally tasked Prime Minister Maliki with forming a new government.


    Thug Nouri and his supporters can't stop lying.  And for those who will insist, "Nouri didn't lie!," yes, he did.  He's prime minister of Iraq and a member of his coalition is publicly spewing lies and Nouri doesn't reject them?  Nouri who appears on Iraqi television every Wednesday to attack his political rivals can't make the time to reject the lies?

    He's always been a thug, never an honest broker.

    In other news, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on the apparent bombing of a Sunni mosque which apparently destroyed Jonah's tomb:

    The holy site is thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale or fish in both the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions.
    Militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, planted explosives around the tomb and detonated the explosion remotely Thursday, civil defense officials there told CNN.

    NINA notes:


    In a statement issued today Mottahidoon said : " With hearts rupturing of pain, and eyes full of blood of the terrible scene of blowing up the shrine and mosque of the Prophet Yunus peace be upon him, the Mosalion the whole world with them farewell a memorial combining history, civilization and sacred values, that is what it means the sublime edifice of Prophet Yunus peace be upon him which is located on Talit-Tawbah / hill of repentance/ in the left side of the city of Mosul.

    Mottahidoon is the political party of Osama al-Nujaifi who was the Speaker of Parliament from 2010 until this month.  Mosul, of course, is where Iraqi Christians have most recently been targeted.  Alex McClintock and Scott Spark (Religion and Ethics Report, Australia's ABC Radio -- link is text and audio) report:


    ‘It's a very difficult time, Mosul is empty of Christians,’ says Father Andrzej Halemba, Middle East coordinator for Aid to the Church in Need. ‘Two thousand years of beautiful history, where the Christians and Muslims for centuries had helped each other, but now it’s the end of Christianity in Mosul. It's dreadful news.’
    Christians were reportedly given a choice by ISIS militants: convert to Islam, pay an undisclosed tribute to their new rulers or be ‘put to the sword’. Up to 30,000 elected to flee to safer Kurdish-controlled areas, mainly on foot and often without access to fresh water. According to Father Halemba, even more radical Sunni clerics are arriving from the Gulf states, and they are urging militants to cut off water to Christian villages. Appalling  photos of decapitated Muslims and actual crucifixions of Christians in ISIS controlled areas are emerging on social media today.
    ‘They lost everything,’ he says. ‘They lost houses, they lost cars, they lost property, they lost money, they lost mobiles: whatever they had.’


    Vatican Radio notes that Islamic leaders outside of Iraq have not remained silent either:


    The most explicit condemnation came from Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the group representing 57 countries, and 1.4 billion Muslims.
    In a statement, he officially denounced the "forced deportation under the threat of execution” of Christians, calling it a "crime that cannot be tolerated.” The Secretary General also distanced Islam from the actions of the militant group known as ISIS, saying they "have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.”


    Silence was elsewhere for many months.  Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

    Like the rest of the world, the U.S. government appeared to have been taken aback last month when Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fell to an offensive by jihadis of the Islamic State that triggered the collapse of five Iraqi army divisions and carried the extremists to the threshold of Baghdad.
    A review of the record shows, however, that the Obama administration wasn’t surprised at all.


    We'll probably touch on that in the snapshot today -- it pertains to Brett McGurk and his two Congressional appearances.

    The following community sites updated:


















  • The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.







    cnn






     mcclatchy newspapers

    Posted at 05:06 am by thecommonills
     

    Thursday, July 24, 2014
    Iraq snapshot

    Iraq snapshot

    Thursday, July 24, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq gets a 'new' president, Brett McGurk appears before Congress again and is grilled by Senator Robert Menendez, US House Rep Frank Wolf notes the plight of Iraqi Christians, and much more.



    Yesterday morning, the State Dept's Brett McGurk and the Defense Dept's Elissa Slotkin appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Today, they appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  They were the first panel.  The second panel was former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey, retired Lt Gen Michael D. Barbero and Brookings Institute's Kenneth Pollack.

    Americans remain in Iraq, including many working out of the US Embassy in Baghdad.  After Iranians repelled the US-installed Shah of Iran in 1979, they then seized the US Embassy in Tehran. A similar event in Iraq is one of the big fears in Congress and in the White House.

    Senator Barbara Boxer raised the issue in the hearing.

    Senator Barbara Boxer: Last question is: Are you confident we have adequate personnel on the ground to truly protect our embassy and the Americans in Baghdad?

    Brett McGurk: Uh, Senator, yes.  We have moved in substantial assets both into the airport and also into the embassy.  Uhm, I was just there as late as [last] Thursday and we're confident that our defensive parameters and everything -- that our people will be safe.  Our Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security just visited Baghdad last week to do his own assessment.  We've also had teams on the ground from Centcom and this is an ongoing assessment.  And our intelligence assets have the entire everything all around the parameter of Baghdad, the airport and our embassy, very well covered so we're 

    Senator Barbara Boxer: Okay.  Can you tell us how many people we have at the embassy or is that something that you don't want to discuss in open --

    Brett McGurk:  We have total in Baghdad about-about 2500 now.

    As with yesterday's hearing, the administration's view/spin was noted because no one knows how safe it is or isn't for diplomatic staff in Iraq.

    Senator Marco Rubio also raised the issue in the hearing.  And pointed out that Shi'ite militias could be as dangerous to the US embassy staff as IS.  McGurk rushed to disagree, insisting that "since 2011," there have been no attacks on the US Embassy or its staff by Shi'ite militias.


    A State Dept friend lamented today that I never say anything "nice" about Brett.

    So let's note, he managed to keep it in his pants.  Of course, the hearing was in DC, so maybe that had something to do with it?

    I'll also give him credit for grasping how the process of forming a government in Iraq is supposed to work.  He knows how it is supposed to work and he can outline it very clearly.  That's not sarcasm on my part, the western press struggles to grasp these basic facts.  Brett had them down pat.

    He also played with his watch far less while speaking than he did the day before when appearing in front of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

    So that's the "nice."

    It's also worth noting that Brett was still spinning like crazy.  His catch phrase appeared to be:  "We have been embraced."  He said it repeatedly when asked how the Iraqis were responding to the beefed up American presence.

    He delivered his catch phrase with such gusto, a few probably almost forgot that it was the book end to Donald Rumsfeld's (false) claim that US troops would "be greeted as liberators" (then-President of Vice Dick Cheney)  -- with roses strewn in their path.


    Senator Robert Menendez is the Chair of the Committee and he wasn't in the mood for spin.  Nor was he in the mood for prettying up tyrant Nouri al-Maliki.  What happens, he wanted to know, if Nouri doesn't go but gets a third term as prime minister.


    Chair Robert Menendez:  Now if it ends up being Prime Minister Maliki, how do you think that you keep this government together, this nation together?

    Brett McGurk: Uhm, as I mentioned in my statement,  as the president has said, it is not our job to pick the leaders but our leaders do have to have a very inclusive agenda and pull the country together. 

    Chair Robert Menendez:  I'm not asking you to pick.  Nor do I suggest we should.  The question is that if that is the result, by their own choice, it seems to me that it was very difficult -- based upon what has happened so far, based upon Sunni responses to ISIS at least in response to their grievances with the current national government -- that isn't the likely outcome of that to be more possible to see a divided Iraq?

    Brett McGurk:  Uh, the prime minister will be chosen from the Shia political blocs.  And Grand Ayatollah [Ali al-] Sistani, interestingly, over the last  month, he has been very active and he has laid down some guideposts for how to form the next government.  First, it has to correct the mistakes of the past meaning it can't look anything like the current government.  Second, you need new leaders that reflect a national consensus.  We've had that now with the Speaker and the President, and so the prime minister will also have to reflect that emerging national consensus.  It remains to be seen whether the existing prime minister could build such a consensus but that remains very much in question.

    Chair Robert Menendez:  You commented in the House hearing yesterday that options being developed for the President are more concrete and specific as a result of the US military advisors on the ground in Iraq and increased intelligence collection.  What guidance have you received in terms of timing for these decisions and how will the political insecurity conditions on the ground influence the president's decisions?


    Elissa Slotkin: Well, as I said, the assessments came in last week. Uhm, they're dense, they're significant and so we're still working through those.  After we've done that, the President -- I'm sorry, the Secretary and the Chairman will make informed recommendations to the President.  Uhm --

    Chair Robert Menendez:  Are you going to be able to tell us anything more than I read in the New York Times

    Elissa Slotkin:  I would --

    Chair Robert Menendez:  Which was more than I knew before you came here.

    Elissa Slotkin:  I would -- I understand.  I would caution against using a leaked, half-report in the New York Times as your basis  for that --

    Chair Robert Menendez:  Well the absence of having information leads me to only publicly reported resources.  So when do you intend to come to us in whatever setting to advise the Congress?  You know, this Committee has the jurisdiction over arm sales.  And my reticence to arms sales to Iraq has in some respects been proven true when in fact we've had much of our equipment abandoned and now in the hands of ISIS.  So unless you're going to give us a sense of where the security forces are at, moving forward, this Chair is not going to be willing to approve more arm sales so that they can be abandoned to go to the hands of those who we are seriously concerned about in terms of our own national security interests. 

    Elissa Slotkin:  Sir, I understand and our intent is to come and brief Congress at the time when we've piled through it ourselves.  We've kept the Congress very informed.  I know I've been up at least twice a week for our Committees.  We are committed to remaining in close contact with you and there is no attempt to hide it from you.

    Brett McGurk: And I would just add, Mr. Chairman, I think we're in a race against time there's no question -- 

    Chair Robert Menendez: Well that's my point.

    Brett McGurk: And  one thing that we have found, by surging special forces, by surging intelligence assets, as you mentioned, we do know an awful lot more than we knew, uh, uh, even six weeks ago.  Security forces in Baghdad, particularly north of Baghdad -- I describe  some of this in my written testimony -- are trying to do some things to fight back.  They have taken nearly a thousand casualties in the last month.  These units, particularly units that we have relationships with, they  are fighting, they are capable.  And those are the type of units that we're looking at to assist. But, again, this is all being discussed by the national security team as we --


    That's enough of that exchange.

    There were practical moments as well -- or possibly just 'practical.'

    Why should the US spend almost half-a-million dollars on the military request DoD has for Iraq operations?

    McGurk was given the chance to explain that.

    Who had "ninety minutes in"?  In the pool for how long before an administration official mentioned oil, who had 90 minutes?

    Let's note an exchange that came up almost 90 minutes into the hearing.

    Senator Marco Rubio:  But here's the question that we get from people -- and that is that people are outraged about what is happening and that is especially the different reports that are coming out about what ILIS is doing.  And by no means is this a group that's popular and Americans understand that this is a terrible, radical group of individuals.  That being said, public opinion polls and just from the phone calls we get in our offices, the attitude of much of the American public is: "It's a mess but it's their problem, let them figure it out."  And I have personally said this isn't even about Iraq at this point, it's about the longterm security of the United States and the threat that ISIL poses to the United States, especially if they're able to establish a safe haven of operations -- similar to what al Qaeda did.  In fact, it was even worse than what al Qaeda was able to do in Afghanistan.  But I was hoping from the administration's point of view and from the State Dept and the Defense Dept's point of view, you could perhaps use this as an opportunity to explain to my constituents in Florida why this matters to America?  Why something happening half-way round the world in a country that people quite frankly think increasingly perhaps we shouldn't have gotten involved in, why does this matter?  Why should people care about what's happening in Iraq given the problems that are happening here at home?

    Brett McGurk:  Thank you, Senator.  I'll say a couple of things.  You know, of course, I address the ISIL threat in my opening statement and that is a very serious counterterrorism threat and that is, number one.  But these are vital-vital US interests in Iraq. Number one, the counterterrorism, the al Qaeda threat.  Number two, just the supply of energy resources to the global markets.  Iraq through 2035 will-will account for 45% in all of the growth in energy exports.  If Iraq were to collapse and a major civil war -- sectarian war, the-the effects to our economy here at home would be -- would be quite serious.  


    Oil -- a national security issue?  But, of course, it had nothing to do with the reasons why the US government declared war on Iraq.

    Crazy.


    You shouldn't call the Iraqi people 'crazy,' but you can certainly apply that term to the Kurdish officials who picked the nominee for President of Iraq.  Fouad Massoum.  76-year-old Fouad Massoum.  The president is limited to two terms.  Prior to today, the post has been held by only one person since the US invasion: Jalal Talabani.

    When he began his second term, Jalal was 76-years-old.  Fouad Massoum?

    76-years-old.

    He should be in a retirement home, not presiding over Iraq.

    How stupid are Kurdish officials?  Fouad Massoum isn't as overweight as Jalal but few people are.

    The world remembers what happened the last time an unhealthy, elderly and obese man was installed as President of Iraq, right?

    December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remained in Germany until July 19, 2014.  That's one day shy of 19 months -- 19 months, Jalal spent out of the country.  19 months, his family refused to allow the Speaker of Parliament to see him, refused to allow PUK officials to see him, refused to allow anyone to see him.

    19 months Iraq suffered without a president.

    The PUK is Fouad Massoum's party as well.  The PUK should have had the decency to step aside on this round having deprived the country of a president for 19 months and refused to call for the Constitution to be followed and Jalal to be replaced for failure to perform his duties due to being incapacitated.

    The illegal war (and the US-imposed sanctions prior) helped ensure that Iraq is a young country -- the median age, per the CIA, is 21.3 years-old.

    But they're stuck with a 76-year-old as president?

    Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) notes:

    While many politicians had warm words for Massoum, a respected Kurdistan analyst cautioned that the longtime opponent of ousted leader Saddam Hussein is widely viewed as weak. "He’s a compromise candidate in Irbil," said Hiwa Osman, referring to the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government. "If people want a compromise, they use him."


    The new president was a topic in today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Marie Harf:

    QUESTION: Iraq. Yeah. Today, the parliament elected –

    MS. HARF: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- Fuad Masum, a man of solid political credentials. But he’s also a communist. So do you have any comment on that?

    MS. HARF: That he’s a communist?

    QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

    MS. HARF: We congratulate the Iraqi people on the election of a new president. This is a crucial step in the formation of a new government. Obviously, we’ve said this needs to happen as soon as possible. The next slip is a prime minister designate must be named within 15 days. They will then have 30 days to form a government with parliamentary approval.

    QUESTION: Okay. And the general feeling in Iraq that Maliki’s fortunes are receding, is that your assessment? Do you have anyone in mind that you might like to support, like (inaudible)?

    MS. HARF: As we’ve always said, we do not support any one person or any one party. We have been very clear about that from the beginning of this process.

    QUESTION: But you would like to see Maliki or the Maliki era end?

    MS. HARF: I don’t think I said that, Said.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS. HARF: I said we don’t support any one person. And we’ve also said – and you’ve heard Brett McGurk speak about this a little bit yesterday – that we have had concerns with some of the ways the Maliki government has governed and how they have not always governed inclusively. But we are not endorsing any party or any person, period, to be the next prime minister of Iraq.

    QUESTION: And lastly, the Maliki government announced that they are receiving Russian equipment or Russian military equipment. Do you have any comment on that?

    MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen this specific announcement, but – the last few times I’ve been asked about this. If it’s done through the proper channels –

    QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


    MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that, but the last few times I’ve talked about this, look, there’s a way that Iraq can get weapons from other countries. There’s a proper channel to do this. And if it’s through that channel, then I don’t think we have a big problem with it. We know there’s a big threat there that they need a lot of help to fight.

    Iraq may have a new president but it shows little success at shaking the prime minister who won't fade away.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Vivian Salama (AP) report, "Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected an attempt by Iran to persuade him to step down, senior Iraqi politicians said Wednesday, underlining his determination to defy even his top ally to push for a third term in office and further exacerbating the country's political crisis."

    In other news, Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) report an attack on a Taji prison convoy has left at least 60 people dead.  On the topic of violence in Iraq, US House Rep Frank Wolf addressed it today.  His office issued the following:



         Jul 24, 2014
    Washington, D.C. – For the second time this week, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) took to the House floor to alert his colleagues – and the world – of the genocide he believes is taking place in Iraq.
    “Christianity as we know it in Iraq is being wiped out,” Wolf said. 
    Wolf began today’s speech by reading the first two paragraphs of a Wall Street Journal editorial from earlier in the week:  “Mr. Speaker: Imagine if a fundamentalist Christian sect captured the French city of Lyon and began a systematic purge of Muslims.  Their mosques were destroyed, their crescents defaced, the Koran burned and then all Muslims forced to flee or face execution.  Such an event would be unthinkable today, and if it did occur Pope Francis and all other Christian leaders would denounce it and support efforts by governments to stop it.
    “Yet that is essentially what is happening in reverse now in Mosul, as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham drives all signs of Christianity from the ancient city.  Christians have lived in Mosul for nearly 2,000 years, but today they are reliving the Muslim religious wars of the Middle Ages.”
    Wolf then read parts of an e-mail he received form someone on the ground in Iraq who painted a very dire situation:  “All Mosul churches and monasteries are seized by ISIS.  There are around 30.  The cross has been removed from all of them.  Many of them are burned, destroyed and looted.   Many others are being used as ISIS centers.  The religious Sunni, Shiite and Christian tombs are destroyed in Mosul.  This destruction is endangering very ancient sites, such as prophet Jonah’s tomb, which was broken last week, according to many reporters.” 
    Wolf then asked: “Where is the West?  Where is the Obama Administration?  Where is the Congress? The silence is deafening.”
    Wolf ended his remarks by quoting William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian who, in making the case against slavery in 1789, told his colleagues, “Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”
    Below is the complete text of Wolf’s remarks: 
    “‘Imagine if a fundamentalist Christian sect captured the French city of Lyon and began a systematic purge of Muslims.  Their mosques were destroyed, their crescents defaced, the Koran burned and then all Muslims forced to flee or face execution.  Such an event would be unthinkable today, and if it did occur Pope Francis and all other Christian leaders would denounce it and support efforts by governments to stop it.
    “Yet that is essentially what is happening in reverse now in Mosul, as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham drives all signs of Christianity from the ancient city.  Christians have lived in Mosul for nearly 2,000 years, but today they are reliving the Muslim religious wars of the Middle Ages.’
    “These are not my words.  They are the first two paragraphs of a Wall Street Journal editorial published earlier this week.
    “Now I want to read parts of an e-mail I received yesterday from someone in the ground in Iraq: ‘All Mosul churches and monasteries are seized by ISIS.  There are around 30.  The cross has been removed from all of them.  Many of them are burned, destroyed and looted.   Many others are being  used as ISIS centers.  The religious Sunni, Shiite and Christian tombs are destroyed in Mosul.  This destruction is endangering very ancient sites, such as prophet Jonah’s tomb, which was broken last week, according to many reporters.’ 
    “It has been widely reported that ISIS soldiers have painted ‘N’ on the doors of Christians to signify that they are ‘Nasara,’ the word for Christian.  Shiite homes were painted with the letter ‘R’ for “Rawafidh,’ meaning rejectors or protestants.
    “Christianity as we know it in Iraq is being wiped out. 
    “With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country. 
    “I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide.  I also believe it is a crime against humanity.
    “Where is the West?  Where is the Obama Administration?  Where is the Congress? The silence is deafening.
    “The West, particularly the church, needs to speak out.
    “The Obama Administration needs to make protecting this ancient community a priority.  President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry need to have the same courage as President Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell when they said genocide was taking place in Darfur.
    “The Congress needs to hold this administration accountable for its  failure to act.
    “The United Nations has a role, too.  It should immediately initiate proceedings in the International Criminal Court against ISIS for crimes against humanity.
    “I will close today by reading the final two paragraphs of The Wall Street Journal editorial I began my statement with:  ‘Today's religious extremism is almost entirely Islamic. While ISIS's purge may be the most brutal, Islamists in Egypt have driven thousands of Coptic Christians from homes they've occupied for centuries. The same is true across the Muslim parts of Africa. This does not mean that all Muslims are extremists, but it does mean that all Muslims have an obligation to denounce and resist the extremists who murder or subjugate in the name of Allah. Too few imams living in the tolerant West will speak up against it.
    “As for the post-Christian West, most elites may now be nonbelievers. But a culture that fails to protect believers may eventually find that it lacks the self-belief to protect itself.’
    “As William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian and abolitionist, famously told his colleagues, ‘Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.’”














    Posted at 10:23 pm by thecommonills
     

    47% of Post-9/11 Veterans Know a Fellow Vet Who Has Attempted Suicide

    47% of Post-9/11 Veterans Know a Fellow Vet Who Has Attempted Suicide

    This is from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

    CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org


    47% of Post-9/11 Veterans Know a Fellow Vet Who Has Attempted Suicide 
    IAVA’s Annual Member Survey Reveals Key Findings on Mental Health, VA Mental Health Care Utilization, Employment and More


    Washington DC (July 24, 2014) – According to a new survey completed by IAVA members, 47 percent of respondents know at least one Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide, while 40 percent of respondents know someone who has died by suicide, up three points from 2013. 


    That is one of many critical findings from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s (IAVA) groundbreaking 2014 Annual Member Survey, released today at a press conference and panel event in Washington DC. The largest and deepest recent survey of post-9/11 veterans provided insight into a number of critical issues, including suicide, mental health, VA wait times, mental health care utilization, the disability claims backlog, employment, burn pit exposure, reintegration challenges and more. 


    Fifty-three percent of respondents said they have a mental health injury. A staggering 31 percent of respondents have thought about taking their own life since joining the military, a one percent increase from 2013. These findings underscore the need for Congress to pass the Clay Hunt SAV Act, comprehensive legislation named after an Iraq War Marine veteran and IAVA member who died by suicide in 2011. 


    The survey also highlights barriers veterans face when seeking mental health care at the VA, an issue that has taken center stage since the VA scandal erupted in late April. A shocking 68 percent of VA mental health users indicate challenges scheduling appointments. Forty-six percent of respondents think that the VA is doing a bad job of reaching out to veterans regarding mental health. 


    One area where respondents had a positive reaction is education. Seventy-eight percent of respondents who have used the Post-9/11 GI Bill rate the experience as good or excellent. However, 36 percent of those respondents received late GI Bill payments from VA.


    The full 2014 Annual Member Survey is available for download here: http://iava.org/survey/
    Additional highlights from the survey include: 


    Suicide and Mental Health
    73% do not think that troops are getting the care they need for mental health injuries
    38% think the VA is doing a good job on mental health
    26% think the Department of Defense is doing a good job


    VA Disability Backlog:
    70% of respondents who filed a disability compensation claim waited over 120 days for the VA to notify them of a decision on their claim
    65% of respondents reported a financial impact while they waited on their claim


    Education:
    62% of respondents have used the Post-9/11 GI Bill (either personally or their dependents have used it)


    Employment: 
    10% of respondents were unemployed
    77% of respondents have experienced a period of unemployment since leaving the military


    Burn Pit Exposure: 
    76% of respondents were exposed to burn pits while deployed and over half report symptoms as a result


    Women in Combat: 
    70% of females and 43% of males think women’s advancement in the military has been limited by restrictions on women in combat


    Perceptions:
    54% of respondents think the President is doing a poor job improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
    69% of respondents think Congress is doing a poor job improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
    88% of respondents are concerned that the end of the war in Afghanistan will negatively affect public attention to issues concerning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans 


    “This groundbreaking survey shows the true voice of our generation on the most pressing issues in America. It’s the deepest and most extensive recent survey done of this population. If you really want to know what post-9/11 vets think, read this survey. We hope it will serve as a resource for all Americans who want to understand how our community really feels—and what we are facing. We hope it will serve as a resource to Congress, non-profits, philanthropists, DoD, VA and the President,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “These veterans are America’s new greatest generation and our nation’s future leaders. For over a decade they’ve continuously had America’s back. But too often, they are being ignored. This survey is instrumental in showing all Americans how they can help vets in almost every key area.”


    This is the largest and deepest poll conducted of verified post-9/11 veterans in recent history. Unlike any other study in America, respondents have had their military service verified by IAVA. The overall number of respondents is also extremely noteworthy. The total is more than twice the number recently surveyed by the Washington Post. 


    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation's leading organization representing and supporting veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Founded in 2004 by veterans, for veterans, IAVA continues to grow rapidly and has more than a quarter of a million members nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year of dedicated service, IAVA has regularly received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.

    ###






    Posted at 05:24 pm by thecommonills
     

    Levin statement at Senate Finance Committee hearing on “The U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It or Reform It!”

    Levin statement at Senate Finance Committee hearing on “The U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It or Reform It!”



    Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  His office issued the following yesterday:





    Levin statement at Senate Finance Committee hearing on “The U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It or Reform It!”

    Tuesday, July 22, 2014

    Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member Hatch, and colleagues, thank you for allowing me to submit this statement for the record of today’s hearing on international taxation.

    As you know, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, has conducted a series of investigations, spanning more than a decade, into offshore tax avoidance and tax evasion.  In recent years, the IRS has cracked down on some individual offshore tax cheats who use tax shelters and secret foreign bank accounts to evade paying their U.S. taxes in violation of U.S. law.  And, this month, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act took effect, which will further strengthen U.S. tax enforcement.
    But, today, many of the biggest tax giveaways aren’t to taxpayers who are breaking the law.  Instead, many taxpayers – especially large, often highly profitable multinational corporations,  are using a number of tax loopholes that may or may not be legal, but are unjustified because of lack of economic purpose and whose purpose is pure and simple tax avoidance.  The Cut Unjustified Tax (CUT) Loopholes Act (S.268), which I and Senator Whitehouse introduced last year, would shut down a number of the most longstanding and egregious loopholes, and I urge you to consider including its provisions in any tax reform legislation you advance.

    While the CUT Loopholes Act targets a number of loopholes, I’d like to discuss one particular tax loophole that has recently gained traction among large multinational corporations seeking to avoid U.S. taxes.  Tax inversions, where a U.S. company moves its tax address to a low-tax jurisdiction through a merger with a smaller foreign competitor, have become the latest tool for CEOs seeking to dodge Uncle Sam.  These transactions have allowed U.S. corporations to reduce their tax rates by up to 12 percentage points by claiming, for tax purposes, that they have moved away from the United States.

    Yet, a company’s executives, officers, and management all remain in the United States, benefiting from our country’s marketplace, laws, resources, infrastructure, and workforce, while declining to provide their share of financial support for the very qualities that help them succeed.

    Unlike many tax loopholes our Subcommittee has investigated, the tax inversion loophole is being exploited in plain sight.  Daily, there are front page media reports describing one new inversion transaction after another.  Sadly, iconic American companies like Walgreens, Medtronic, and Pfizer have already taken steps to give up their American corporate citizenship in order to lower their tax bills.  And the problem is growing.  Just last week, two more American companies, both closely tied to Abbott Laboratories -- an American company since 1888 -- sought to move their tax addresses overseas in two separate transactions.

    These companies aren’t moving because there are better business opportunities in foreign countries.  Their move is a pure and simple tax dodge.  Executives don’t move, and the company headquarters isn’t moved.  What’s more, inverted corporations continue to claim U.S. research and development tax credits, receive intellectual property protections in U.S. courts, and benefit from the safety and security provided by our nation’s military.

    Tax inversions aren’t a driver of job creation in the United States.  In fact, one need only look to California, where an American drug maker has been forced to lay off 1,500 employees in a bid to fight off a hostile takeover from an inverted corporation that has been swallowing up U.S. companies due to the advantages of the inverted corporation’s tax structure.

    In other cases, inverted companies may claim to be creating jobs because they gain access to more capital.  Although many small businesses have struggled to access capital as our economy recovers, for most profitable multinationals, capital is available from other sources that don’t use a tax inversion.  Interest rates are at all-time lows, and banks are more ready to lend than any time in recent years.  The equity markets are booming, with a growing market for public offerings.  And multinationals have $2 trillion offshore that they could tap into if they wanted to invest and create new jobs.
    Both Democrats and Republicans recognize that tax inversions are a major problem that must be addressed.  I urge you to take action to put a stop to tax inversions, and I urge you to do so now.  While most recognize that tax reform should take place, we can’t afford to wait for a comprehensive tax reform effort to fix the problem of tax inversions.  If we wait, billions of dollars in badly needed revenue will disappear, growing the deficit, hurting our security, leaving our roads in disrepair, shortchanging education, and other priorities.  Worse yet, while those billions of dollars in tax revenue disappear, the corporate freeloaders multiply – taking advantage of America’s greatness while refusing to pay their fair share.


    Two months ago, I, along with 22 of my colleagues, introduced the Stop Corporate Inversions Act (S.2360).  This bill would establish a two year moratorium on tax inversions.  That two year moratorium would stop what nearly all agree is an abuse of our tax system, and provide Senators with two years to debate a permanent solution as part of a comprehensive tax reform effort.  All ideas to bring the archaic U.S. tax system into the 21st Century can be debated during that two year period.  The issue is whether in the meantime we should let the inversions flow.  I believe we shouldn’t.


    If we don’t act, we are forcing the corporations that don’t use the inversion tax gimmick to compete against the corporations that do.  We will create economic pressures on our patriotic corporations to change their tax addresses.  As one after another U.S. corporation moves overseas through a tax inversion, more U.S. competitors will face financial pressure to do the same, in order to stay on a level playing field.  It isn’t fair to the U.S. taxpayers who foot the bill, and it isn’t fair to the U.S. corporations who want to do the right thing.


    In 2002, the Finance Committee showed that it could work on a bipartisan basis to stop a similar tax inversion loophole.  At that time, the then-Chairman and Ranking Member, Senators Baucus and Grassley, told companies that they would put a stop to corporate inversions, and drew a line in the sand, warning that tax inversions taking place after a specific date would be retroactively subjected to tax as a domestic U.S. corporation.


    It took time, but Senators Baucus and Grassley achieved their goal.  And, more importantly, they stopped a wave of corporate inversions that threatened to decimate our country’s tax base.


    Now a loophole has emerged which jeopardizes the effectiveness of our anti-inversion law.  We must act speedily to close that loophole.  Chairman Wyden has made clear that he intends to make any closure of the loophole in the tax inversion law retroactive to May 8, 2014.  I support making any legislation retroactive to that date, and 22 other Senators supporting my bill, S.2360, do also.  U.S. corporations should understand that if they pursue a tax inversion after May 8, 2014, they do so at their own risk.


    We cannot afford to wait for tax reform to address the issue of tax inversions.  Urgent action is needed now, and I urge you to take action as soon as possible to end this abusive tax loophole.
    I look forward to working with you to both stop tax inversions and to improve our international tax system.







    Posted at 05:22 pm by thecommonills
     

    Wolf: Genocide Taking Place In Iraq

    Wolf: Genocide Taking Place In Iraq

    US House Rep Frank Wolf's office issued the following earlier this week:



         Jul 22, 2014


    Washington, D.C. (July 22, 2014) – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), long regarded as one of the leading human rights champions in Congress, today said genocide is taking place in Iraq.


    Speaking on the House floor, Wolf said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.


    For months, Wolf has been trying shine a bright light on what has been taking place in Iraq, as thousands of religious minorities have been forced to flee the lands they have inhabited for more than 2,000 years.  Not until ISIS last Thursday told the few remaining Christians in Mosul to leave or be killed did the world focus on what has been unfolding.


    Below is the complete text of Wolf’s remarks:


    "Mr. Speaker, the international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
    “It says ‘genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’
    “I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide.  I also believe it is a crime against humanity.
    “Last Thursday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria  – more commonly referred to as ISIS – gave the few remaining Christians in Mosul until Saturday to leave or be killed.
    “This from yesterday New York Times: ‘Some went on foot, their car having been confiscated; others rode bicycles or motor scooters; few were able to take anything of value, as militants seized their money and jewelry.  Some – just a few, and because they were not healthy enough to flee – submitted to the demands that they convert to Islam to avoid being killed.’
    “ISIS is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.
    “I want to submit for the Record the complete article from The New York Times and an editorial from today’s Wall Street Journal for history to see what is happening.
    “With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country.   The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur.  Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, came from northwest Iraq.  Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons (the 12 tribes of Israel) were born in northwest Iraq.  A remarkable spiritual revival as told in the book of Jonah occurred in Nineveh.  The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq, as did the account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den
    “Monday’s New York Times piece also quotes a Muslim woman at a prayer service at St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad on Sunday whispering to a Christian woman sitting in the pew next to her:  ‘You are the true original people here, we are so sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam.’
    “On June 16, for the first time in 1,600 years, there was no Mass in Mosul.
    “Pope Francis on Sunday expressed concern about what has unfolded in Mosul and other parts of the Middle East, noting that these communities, since the beginning of Christianity, have ‘co-existed there alongside their fellow citizens, making a significant contribution to the good of society.   Today they are persecuted.  Our brothers are persecuted, they are cast out, they are forced to leave their homes without having the chance to take anything with them.’
    “The United Nations released a statement attributed to Ban Ki-moon that, in part, said:  ‘The Secretary-General reiterates that any systematic attack on the civilian population or segments of the civilian population, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable.’
    “Where is the Obama Administration?
    “In June, 55 Members of Congress – Republican and Democrats – urged the Obama Administration to actively engage with the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to prioritize additional security support for especially vulnerable populations, notably Iraq’s ancient Christian community and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those affected communities.
    “I want to read the last line from our letter:
    ‘Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.’
    “It is happening.  They are almost all gone – just as we predicted. 
    “The Obama Administration has to make protecting this ancient community a priority.
    “It needs to encourage the Kurds to do what they can protect those fleeing ISIS and provide safe refuge.
    “It needs to ensure that of the resources going to the region, a portion be guaranteed to help the Christian community.  
    “It needs to have the same courage as President Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell when they said genocide was taking place in Darfur.
    “The United Nations has a role, too.  It should immediately initiate proceedings in the International Criminal Court against ISIS for crimes against humanity.
    “The time to act is now.“ 









    Posted at 04:34 pm by thecommonills
     


    Next Page




    << July 2014 >>
    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
     01 02 03 04 05
    06 07 08 09 10 11 12
    13 14 15 16 17 18 19
    20 21 22 23 24 25 26
    27 28 29 30 31


    If you want to be updated on this weblog Enter your email here:




    rss feed