Thursday, August 27, 2015

Water

A hell of a hot day.  And a busy one.  We spoke to so many groups.

And when we were finally done -- around 10:30 tonight -- we were at the DC house and I was so thirsty.

All I wanted was cold water.

A glass of cold water.

And drinking it, I felt so much better.

It's amazing how important and valuable water is.

And, of course, that's why there's been the rush to privatize it and to hoard it and the coming water wars will not be pretty.



Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"



Wednesday, August 27, 2015. Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi tries to deflect from his failures in Anbar Province, Antiwar.com sells the false belief that there are smart bombs and bombs only fall on 'bad guys,' John Chilcot finally makes a (lengthy) statement about why years later there's still no published report from the Iraq Inquiry, and much more.


It is 2015.  In November 2009, the Iraq Inquiry began hearing testimony from witnesses.  The British government set up the inquiry to determine the United Kingdom's action and role in the Iraq War.  Testimony ended in February 2011 and it was thought that by the end of the year a report would be issued.  It is now four years later and still no report.

John Chilcot was the chair of the Committee.  He continues to receive a salary for that post.

And the report has still not been issued.

British politicians have long criticized the delay -- often around election time since the Labour Party backed the illegal war and both the Liberal Democratic and Conservative Parties can, presumably, use a report slamming Labour to their advantage.

British politicians -- including some Labour members -- have also criticized the delay if they were publicly against the war.

In addition, antiwar groups in the UK, such as Stop the War, have demanded the report be released.

As the delays have mounted, pretty much everyone has criticized the long wait.

And they all have a right to.

That's what free speech is.

But today, John Chilcot did something that might seem 'good guy of him' but was actually both insulting and wrong.

BBC News reports:

Sir John Chilcot has tried to explain to families of UK soldiers killed in Iraq why his inquiry is taking so long following threats of legal action.
In a statement, he said he understood their "anguish", but responses from those criticised in the report had opened up new lines of inquiry.


Here's his statement in full:

In the light of recent comment and speculation I am making the following statement on behalf of the Iraq Inquiry.
I should like firstly to reiterate that my colleagues and I understand the anguish of the families of those who lost their lives in the conflict.
We take the responsibility we were given as an independent inquiry extremely seriously and understand the need for Government, Parliament and the public to see our report as soon as possible.
The inquiry was tasked by Mr Gordon Brown, as Prime Minister, with drawing lessons from the UK's involvement in the Iraq conflict between 2001 and 2009.
In its scope and length, this is an inquiry mandate for which there is no precedent.
We have been guided throughout by a number of key principles:
:: The inquiry is independent and impartial.
With the agreement of Parliament, we were asked to conduct our work within the established tradition of independent Inquiries and to determine our own procedure.
:: We wished the process to be as open as possible.
At our insistence, the large majority of the hearings were held in public, with witnesses speaking for themselves and not through lawyers.
:: In the interests of openness, we agreed that the Government should give us access to all relevant documents; and have made a large number of requests for declassification of documents, including prime ministerial notes and telephone calls with the US president.
This has taken a considerable time.
Some documents have been received only this year.
The declassification process continues.
We intend to publish a large number of documents with our report.
:: We intend the report to be rigorous, accurate, and firmly based on the evidence we have assembled.
:: It is critically important that the report should be fair to all who participated in the conflict and to those who bore the responsibility of taking decisions.
Since the autumn of 2009 the inquiry has held more than 130 sessions of witness evidence and received more than 150,000 documents.
Given the scale of the task of assembling a reliable account of a nine-year period and drawing conclusions on a wide range of issues, it became apparent as the work proceeded that the report would have to be very long and would take a considerable time to produce.
I reflected that in my published letters to the Prime Minister and in the evidence I gave to the Foreign Affairs Committee in February 2015.
We have for some time been engaged in the 'Maxwellisation' process, in which individuals are given the opportunity to respond to provisional criticism of themselves in the inquiry's draft report.
Some have questioned why Maxwellisation is happening at all.
We consider it an essential part of the inquiry's procedures, in order to ensure that conclusions drawn by the Inquiry are robust and that any criticism included in the final report is soundly based, fair and reasonable.
Maxwellisation is a confidential process - both the inquiry and the individuals involved have made a commitment to that effect, which we still consider to be an essential part of ensuring fairness to individuals and intend to maintain.
Importantly, when witnesses agreed to give evidence to the inquiry, they did so on the basis of the inquiry's witness protocol, which says that: "If the inquiry expects to criticise an individual in the final report, that individual will, in accordance with normal practice, be provided with relevant sections of the draft report in order to make any representations on the proposed criticism prior to publication of the final report."
Individuals have not been given an open-ended timescale and Maxwellisation is not a process of negotiation.
The inquiry has remained in control of its deadlines throughout the process.
In some cases, the response sent to us required detailed and complex analysis which has taken time.
The Maxwellisation process is essential not only to the fairness but also the accuracy and completeness of our report.
It has already led, for example, to the identification of government documents which had not been submitted to the inquiry and which have in some cases opened up new issues.
We expect to receive the last responses to our Maxwellisation letters shortly.
That will allow us to complete our consideration of the responses, to decide what further work will be needed, and to provide the Prime Minister and thus Parliament and the public with a timetable for the publication of our work.
Lastly, as has been reported, we have received a letter from lawyers acting for a group of families.
I can confirm that, after careful thought, we have responded to the points they raised.

I don't intend to comment on the substance of that response and such letters are not normally published.


The Iraq War is not a private matter.

War, by its horrific nature, is a public event.

While families who lost loved ones have every right to put their voices out there in the public square, the illegal war was declared by a government and that government has to be responsive to the people -- all the people.

But those families suffered.

I'm sorry, where's Chilcot's statement to the people of Iraq?

Because for every British family who lost someone in Iraq, I'm sure there are at least a hundred Iraqi families who lost someone in the illegal war.

A public inquiry into a war is not a private club for those who feel they have lost more than others.


It is a public inquiry.

Chilcot has failed repeatedly to address the delay but now, because he looks bad in the press as the parents of various slain British soldiers speak out, he chooses to speak.

He should have kept his mouth closed.

There is no excuse for the continued delay.

There is also no excuse for the chair of the Committee to ignore public complaint after public complaint and then finally choose to respond to one group because he fears bad publicity.

And it needs to never be forgotten that no one has lost more in the Iraq War than the Iraqi people.  So the next time Chilcot wants to pretend to be sympathetic, he might try issuing a statement to them instead.




The Iraq War has not ended, nor has the suffering of the Iraqi people.  This week saw the publication of  Iraq War veteran Ross Caputi's "The battle for your hearts and minds in Falluja" (Medium.com):


 On 13th August 2015, the Iraqi government bombed the Fallujah Maternity and Neonatal Hospital, killing 31 people, including 23 women and children.
This incident was widely reported in the Western media; though the coverage was perhaps cursory and even dismissive by labeling it an “IS-held” hospital. Nevertheless, information about this atrocity was available to the Western world, as is information about the many similar atrocities committed by the Iraqi government since the start of their war against the Sunni uprising and the Islamic State in December 2013.
This was in fact the 40th time that the Iraqi government has bombed a hospital in Fallujah, and in Fallujah alone over 4,000 civilians have been killed and 5,200 wounded in the last 20 months of government attack.
The United States has also been complicit in these killings; first by shipping weapons to the Iraqi government to facilitate their internal repression of Sunnis, and then by reinitiating a campaign of airstrikes in the Sunni majority provinces of Iraq in August 2014.



The bombing of the maternity hospital, as we noted in real time, should have immediately halted all US weapons to Iraq and all US military aid.

That's not based on outrage, that's based on the law -- including the Leahy Amendment -- which does not allow the US to supply weapons and military aid to a foreign government that then uses the supplied to attack their own civilian population.

Attacking a maternity hospital is even more outrageous than attacking a general hospital -- and attacking a general hospital is a War Crime.


Ross Caputi's article explores how public opinion was manipulated by the US government during the 2004 battles in Falluja.  It's an important aspect of the story.  But beyond exploring that past, he also notes the reality of life in Falluja today:


This is more than history, however. The bloodbath in Fallujah is ongoing.
At the time of writing, Iraqi and Iranian troops are massing around Fallujah for a much anticipated assault on the city, which they regard as being essential to their campaign to clear Anbar province of ISIS.
This assault will not take place on an empty battlefield, but in people’s neighborhoods, around their mosques and hospitals.
Fallujans are caught between a brutal sectarian government supported by the US and Iran on the one hand, and the Islamic State on the other: they will surely pay a heavy price.


Every day they suffer and far too many press outlets -- and, sadly, also Antiwar.com -- ignore that suffering and instead present falling bombs as killing 'terrorists.'

Anbar Province is not a depopulated field.

It is home to over 1.5 million civilians (conservative estimate).

And yet bombs are dropped constantly.

And the Iraqi government and the US government announce the death of X number of 'terrorists.'

The Iraqi military has been bombing Falluja since January 2014, bombing the civilian residential neighborhoods.  This started under then-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and continues under the new prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

More recently, May 26th saw the start of Haider's assault on Anbar in which he was going to retake specific areas (such as Ramadi -- the key focus) back from the Islamic State

The operation, now having completed its third month, has nothing to brag about.

It's a failure, an ongoing failure.

So what does Haider do?

Yesterday, Stephen King and Ruth Pitchford (Reuters) reported that Iraq's prime minister  had declared the battle for Baiji to be crucial.  (Haider doesn't note it but All Iraq News does: Baiji's been under the control of the Islamic State since June 2014.)


Time to announce a new mission when your current one is a failure.

And US President Barack Obama has only made it more of a failure.

Over one year ago, he declared the only answer to Iraq's crises was a political solution.

Instead of working on that, he began bombing Iraq in August of last year.

Bombing Iraq is not helping.

It's not defeating the Islamic State.

It's destroying property and people.

And it gives the pretense that something is being done.

And, again, people who should know better whore.  Here's Margaret Grffis (Antiwar.com) on today's air strikes:

In Bashir, militants wounded two Shi’ite militiamen during an attack.
Fifty militants were killed in strikes on Wailiya.
An airstrike on a convoy near the Syrian border in Anbar left 27 militants dead, including two of their leaders.
In Mosul¸ a missile strike killed 10 militant leaders. An internal power struggle left 13 militants dead. Three militant women were killed in an armed attack.
In Barwana, airstrikes left 10 militants dead and seven wounded.

Twelve militants were killed when warplanes bombed two houses in Khalidiya.


The US government doesn't need to send PSYOP operators back into CNN -- not when an alleged anti-war outlet is repeating government claims that can't be backed up, repeating them as facts.

There may (or may not) be, for example, the fact that 27 people were killed in an airstrike "near the Syrian border in Anbar," but there is no way to determine who those people killed were.

And yet Antiwar.com -- begging for money for the supposed quality work they do -- parrots the government that the dead were not civilians.


Dropping back to the August 3rd snapshot:


As we noted in the July 25th snapshot, bombing is not helping Iraq and Iraq is not an empty field but instead a populated country with over 30 million people.  Barack's bombing campaign means bombs are falling on people.

If that's confusing to you, Airwars maintains US-led strikes on Iraq and Syria have killed between 489 and 1,247 civilians. Cora Currier (The Intercept) reminds, "Next Saturday marks the first anniversary of the United States’ bombing campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq. Over the past year, a U.S.-led coalition including Canada, France, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and other European and Gulf states has carried out over 5,800 airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria."


In related news, Samuel Oakford (Vice News) reports, "The UN said Monday that it is looking into reports that as many as 40 civilians were killed in an airstrike near Ramadi last Friday, an incident that could be the latest deadly attack to hit innocent bystanders in the campaign by the Iraqi government and a US-led coalition against the self-styled Islamic State (IS)."




And that last bit?

About the airstrike in Ramadi?

The one that may have killed as many as 40 civilians on Friday, July 31, 2015?

Anyone remember how Margaret Griffis and Antiwar reported that?

No?

Like this:  "Security forces killed 33 militants in Ramadi."

I'm sorry.

I'm confused.

Help me out here.

Is it or is not Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo who can never stop scorning disgraced journalist Judith Miller?


But Judith Miller is publicly disgraced today.

Why isn't Antiwar.com?

They've never corrected "militants" killed.

They do that every damn day.

They do what Judith Miller did: They parrot officials claims as facts.

August 21st, Justin was back to shrieking about Judith Miller and insisting:

That’s what happened in the early part of this decade when our “news” media, in collaboration with the US government, poisoned the discourse with totally false stories about Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction” – which everyone was sure Saddam Hussein was readying for a strike. 


But who's doing the false stories today?

What  outlet is insisting bombs kills "militants" based on the claims of government officials?

That would by  Raimondo's Antiwar.com.

And there's no point in taking the outlet seriously when they call out the awful Judith Miller for being a propaganda outlet for the voices of government officials if Antiwar.com is going to do the same.


They have repeated every government official claim of dead "militants" or "terrorists" -- despite the fact that they can't confirm that and in spite of the growing awareness that civilians are being killed in these US-led bombings.

They proclaim themselves to be "antiwar" and yet in every violence summary on Iraq they endorse the lie that bombs dropped from planes only land on 'bad people.'  Day after day, they promote war and bombings specifically with this nonsense pretense that "militants" are being killed.

There's no such thing as a smart bomb.

And, apparently, at Antiwar.com, there's no such thing as a smart reporter.


Brains aren't in short supply in Iraq and one person's managed to stand out for her smarts.





    1. This is amazing & makes me so happy She's beautiful & a genius! RT & spread the word.

  • This is amazing & makes me so happy She's beautiful & a genius! RT & spread the word.












    Wednesday, August 26, 2015

    Tweet of the day











    1. I know u r there shining down on me.

  •  





  • Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


    Tuesday, August 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the United Nations Security Council recognizes Iraq's LGBT community, a paper ceases publication in Baghdad due to militia attacks, Emma Sky discusses how Iraq got to its current crises, and much more.




    We're going to open with these remarks by US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power from Monday:





    Today we are making UN history. The UN Security Council has never before had a meeting on LGBT issues.
    It is an honor to co-host this meeting with Chile, which continues to be a strong advocate for LGBT rights and more generally for empowering civil society around the world.
    Let me welcome our briefers. Deputy-Secretary General Jan Eliasson, who along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, has worked tirelessly to advance LGBT rights both within the UN, taking unprecedented steps on behalf of LGBT rights, and across the world. Jessica Stern is here representing the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, an NGO doing critically important work to protect LGBT persons, including in the places we will discuss today. And finally, we are beyond grateful to have a man we’ll call “Adnan” and Subhi Nahas speak to us today. You will have the opportunity to hear from them directly, but I’d like to just now say a few words about each.

    “Adnan” is not Adnan’s real name – it is a pseudonym he is using to hide his identity. Adnan fled northern Iraq after being marked for death by ISIL because he is gay. Adnan is a client of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, an extraordinary organization that has helped facilitate his participation today. He still fears that he could be attacked by ISIL if identified, which is the reason he is speaking to the Council today by phone rather than by video link. Out of concern for Adnan’s safety, I would like to request that no audio or video recordings be made during this historic event.
    Subhi Nahas – a gay man and LGBT advocate from Syria – was forced to flee his home after receiving death threats from Jabat al Nusra. Even after fleeing to neighboring Lebanon and then Turkey, he continued to receive threats, this time from ISIL. He now lives in the United States.
    Adnan and Subhi’s experiences are distinct, as you will hear, but they share key parallels. Both faced discrimination, threats and attacks before violent extremist groups seized power in their communities. Both were marked for death for being gay, and knew LGBT individuals who were killed. And both had to flee their homes because of who they are.
    Their cases are not outliers, but rather part of a pattern of systematic abuse. Yet until now, the targeting of LGBT persons like Adnan and Subhi by ISIL has received scant international attention. Today, we are taking a necessary step toward remedying that oversight.
    ISIL does not try to hide its crimes against LGBT persons – it broadcasts them for all the world to see. Many of us have seen the videos. ISIL parading a man through the streets and beating him – for being gay. ISIL marching men to the tops of buildings and throwing them to their deaths – for being gay. In one of these videos, allegedly from Syria, we are told that the victim was found to be having a gay affair. He is blindfolded, walked up stairs of a building, and then heaved off its roof. His suffering did not end there. The victim miraculously survived the fall, only to be stoned to death by a mob that waited for him below. Kids in the crowd were reportedly encouraged to grab stones and take part.
    The mob in this instance carries an important lesson: while the targeting of LGBT individuals in the region appears to have worsened as ISIL’s power has grown, such violence and hatred existed well before the group’s dramatic rise, and that violence and hatred extends far beyond ISIL’s membership. The victim in that grotesque video may have been thrown to his death by ISIL, but he was ultimately killed by stone-throwing individuals who did not belong to the group. Similarly, before Subhi Nahas was forced to flee his country because of death threats from Jabhat al Nusra, he was targeted for being gay by Syrian government soldiers. And before ISIL came to power, Adnan was repeatedly attacked by gangs of thugs for being gay, once being beaten so severely that he could hardly walk.
    Today, we are coming together as a Security Council to condemn these acts, to demand they stop, and to commit to one day bringing the perpetrators to justice. That unified condemnation matters. This is the first time in history that the Council has held a meeting on the victimization of LGBT persons. It is the first time we are saying, in a single voice, that it is wrong to target people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a historic step. And it is, as we all know, long overdue.
    But crucial and unprecedented as this step is, condemning ISIL’s violent and systematic targeting of LGBT individuals is the easiest step we can take today. Because while today’s session is focused on the crimes against LGBT persons committed by ISIL, we know the scope of this problem is much broader. Consider the report released in June by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – a report that found that thousands of people have been killed or brutally injured worldwide because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the report, “the overall picture remains one of continuing, pervasive, violent abuse, harassment and discrimination affecting LGBT and intersex persons in all regions…often perpetrated with impunity.”
    We are all horrified by ISIL’s videos of men being thrown to their death. But what is it about these crimes that so shocks our collective conscience? At its essence – it is the denial of a person’s most basic right because of who they are. It is ISIL deciding that, because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, they do not deserve to live.
    Yet if these crimes feel utterly unjust and wrong to us, we must also ask: Why is it acceptable to deny LGBT persons other human rights? Why should LGBT persons be imprisoned for who they are? Why should police be allowed to refuse to investigate attacks or threats against LGBT persons? Why should we accept LGBT persons being turned away from schools or jobs or social services because of who they love? The answer to all of these questions is the same: We should not accept it. But too often we do.
    No religious beliefs justify throwing individuals off of buildings or stoning them to death because of who they love. No cultural values excuse refusing to investigate a killing, assault or death threat because the victim is gay. These are not Western-imposed rights, or the North trying to force its values on the South.
    Yet in too many parts of the world, denying LGBT rights is still seen as moral and just. Laws are used to criminalize LGBT persons, rather than to prosecute the people who violate their rights. That must change.
    That change begins by working to stop attacks against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. And by taking steps to ensure that those who commit these heinous and brutal crimes are held accountable, whether the perpetrators belong to ISIL or police forces or are members of our own communities.

    But stopping violence is not enough. We must strive to defend the rights of LGBT persons wherever they are denied, including within the United Nations. To give just one example, as recently as five years ago the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission – the NGO led by Jessica Stern, one of our guest briefers – was denied UN accreditation in the UN NGO Committee because of the issues they work on. And you will hear today just how critical those issues are. As a result, Jessica and members of her NGO were not even allowed to attend meetings like this one, much less speak at one – they wouldn’t even be in the room. Today, because of a successful campaign led by some Member States with support from civil society, Jessica’s group has been accredited – and she is speaking up here on the stage where she belongs. Nonetheless, groups like Jessica’s are still being denied accreditation on similar grounds.

    The effort to defend the equal rights of LGBT persons must also be waged within every one of our countries, even those where important progress has been made – and that includes in the United States. For just as this year we have made tremendous strides in advancing LGBT rights in the United States, we are under no illusion that the work is finished. Every one of our countries can and must do more to advance these rights domestically.
    Let me conclude and hand the floor over to my esteemed co-host, Ambassador Barros-Melet. This year we mark seventy years since the creation of the United Nations. It is fair to say that in writing the charter, the drafters did not consider LGBT rights part of their conception of equal rights. But if we read the Charter today – and in particular its call to “reaffirm faith… in the dignity and worth of the human person” – it is impossible not to see a call for all of us to affirm LGBT rights. It is impossible not to see individuals like Adnan and Subhi as having the same inherent dignity and worth. And it is impossible not to take up the struggle for their rights as our own, as we have other great human rights struggles over the last seven decades. Today, we take a small but important step in assuming that work. It must not be our last step.
    Thank you.
    And with that, let me turn it over to Ambassador Barros-Melet of Chile, the United States’ co-chair for today’s event.
    ###




    We attended the event on Monday and, today, I was asked by a State Dept friend if we were going to note the event in any way?

    Some people there?


    Two-bit whores.

    They had nothing to say when the Iraqi government was persecuting the LGBT community in Iraq (specifically  actions in 2009 and 2012).

    That was under Nouri al-Maliki.  He used the Ministry of the Interior to go into the schools and attempt to stir up greater violence against the LGBT community.

    This was not news in the US.

    And certain US figures at the event yesterday really hope no one ever goes back and discovers how silent they were in real time.


    But a lot of whores  who will allow themselves to be used to sell war showed up with the intent to sell war.

    Power?

    I don't care for Samantha Power -- that's obvious, check the archives here and at Third.  I loathe her husband and have loathed him long before he hooked up with Power.

    I'm sure she's selling war in some form by participating in the event because she's a War Hawk.  That said she and Hillary Clinton are the only two who expressed grave concerns in the administration when Nouri al-Maliki was targeting the LGBT community in Iraq (and Hillary's the only one who offered a public comment in real time).

    So we'll not Samantha Power's opening remarks (in full).  Again, I'm sure she's selling war (what else does she ever do?) but she's also got a bit of a history on this issue that demonstrates -- selling war or not -- she does actually care about the issue.

    Still we'll  offer a basic truth that she didn't.


    Power opened with, "Today we are making UN history. The UN Security Council has never before had a meeting on LGBT issues."

    That's just not good enough and considering the lies that are in the official United Nations record, it needs to be corrected.

    If you go to the so-called 'transcripts' of the United Nations Security Council briefings on Iraq, you'll find a paragraph or so about Nouri's attack on the LGBT community in Iraq.

    Let's be really clear -- and I called this out in real time -- those sentences were never stated publicly.

    If you're late to the party, you can check out the   April 10, 2012 snapshot and the April 11, 2012 snapshot and particularly this section:

    We got a little talk about women in this presenation.  That is new.  Previous presentations to the Security Council by the Special Envoy to Iraq frequently left women out.  But apparently, something more "gross" and "disgusting" than women has been found by the office of Special Envoy: Iraq's LGBTs.
    It was really disgusting to hear Kobler prattle on about violence and minorities and never once note the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community.  It was disgusting.
    It was disgusting that Susan Rice never bothered to raise the issue. As evidenced by this White House announcement, the administration is aware that this is LGBT Pride Month.  Somehow the memo didn't reach Susie Rice. If the US LGBT community has any sense of community with those LGBTs living in other countries where their lives are threatened for who they are, US LGBTs would insist that the White House start proving they give a damn about LGBT rights. 
    These photo ops and press releases are bull f**king s**t if in hearing after hearing, the administration refuses to address threats to LGBTs.  Susan Rice presided over the Security Council hearing today.  She had it in her power to set the agenda.  She was happy to slam that hammer down repeatedly announcing "So ordered" after she'd issued an edict.  But she wasn't happy or willing to use that power to address the plight of Iraq's LGBT community.  Since the start of this year, many have been killed.  This isn't a secret, it's well reported, and we've certainly covered it here. 
    Martin Kobler and Susan Rice and the United Nations and the White House enable those killings by refusing to address the murders in what they call a hearing on the "the situation in Iraq."  There's no excuse for that.  Shame on them for their non-actions and their silence.




    Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq at the time (Martin Kobler) never mentioned the LGBT community.

    It looks like he did due to a 'transcript' of the event.

    Though the trained monkey read from his statement for approximately 17 minutes, he skipped the section on the LGBT community.

    So to say, "Today we are making UN history"?  That's correct.  But not just because there's never been a Security Council meeting on LGBT issues.  It's also because the Security Council has never before been told in a hearing about Iraq's LGBT community.


    The event was put together to sell war.

    Jessica Stern was on board (always!) and repeated, as fact, allegations she never witnessed.  This despite the fact that, not so long ago, she was cautioning against the reports of the Islamic State attacking LGBT community members in Iraq.

    What about the Iraqi witnesses!!!!

    A Syrian man, now living in San Francisco, appeared to offer testimony.

    Otherwise we heard from a male who said he was Iraqi and may or may not have been but was not present and phoned in his testimony.  It was like listening to Charlie on Charlie's Angels, "Good morning, angels!"  "Good morning, Charlie!"

    That's about as much time as we'll spend on the event because I'm really not interested in taking part in a fake they-were-tossing-babies-out-of-incubators psyops bit.  But, again, Power was genuinely concerned when Nouri and his goons were attacking the LGBT community so, although everything she does is about selling war, we will take her concern as genuine and note her remarks -- if no one else's remarks.


    A much more important gathering was recently covered by Al Jazeera.  This was an event that the Association of Muslim Scholars In Iraq held and out of it has come their "The 'Inclusive Iraq' Scheme: The Proper Solution for Saving Iraq and the Region."  We noted a section of it yesterday.  Who else is noting this, by the way?  It should be getting major attention.  Or does the western press believe attention on Iraq solutions is only warranted if its westerners offering solutions or 'solutions'?  At any rate, we'll note this section of the report:



      Finally, it is worth stressing that the aforementioned initiative details come within the framework of the following specifics and firm beliefs:
    1. Full adherence to the independence of Iraq and its territorial integrity and the preservation of its identity. Its policies on development shall be based on the common interests of its citizens. The building of the modern state shall be in accordance with the necessary foundations, constitutionally, legally, economically, militarily, socially and culturally.
    2. Commitment to the pluralistic approach and freedom of opinion, based on mechanisms that are consistent with and respect our values ​​and traditions.
    3. Exclusion of political revenge mechanisms and allowing for justice. This should be based on a consensual agreement between Iraqis in order for it to take its course in preserving the rights, the lives and dignities and to prevent the events that took place and currently taking place from happening again.
    4. Being aware that our tragedy in Iraq is not a tragedy of a certain group, race, region, governorate or any particular place. It is the tragedy of the homeland and the nation. Giving instant attention to partial problems that arise here or there should not affect seeing the whole picture of this tragedy.
    5. Rights are not given, but acquired by uninterrupted effective acts, arduous efforts and great sacrifices. Identity is the product of pride in position, mission and mandate. It is not a favour given by anyone nor the result of effect of an action event, effect and reaction, however this may be painful, harsh and long.

    6. Inspiring the spirit of resistance, uprisings, protests and popular revolts is crucial and necessary in determining our path towards change and deliverance.


    On the subject of protests, this morning I noted that a woman had been stabbed in Baghdad at Friday's protest and this was apparently news to several people judging by e-mails -- not that a woman was stabbed but that a woman participated.

    I'm looking at Arabic social media on the protests and often forget that many have to depend on reports in the English language from western media which apparently has yet to discover that women are taking part in these protests.


    For those who were not aware of that, we'll offer this Tweet from Friday (a rare one to note women in the protests but women are there at every protest).








  • Let's stay with truths and note Kevin Sylvester's This Sunday Edition (CBC) which featured Emma Sky discussing Iraq and her new book  The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq.  Excerpt of the discussion about the 2010 national election:


    Emma Sky: And that national election was a very closely contested election. Iraqis of all persuasions and stripes went out to participate in that election.  They'd become convinced that politics was the way forward, that they could achieve what they wanted through politics and not violence.  To people who had previously been insurgents, people who'd not voted before turned out in large numbers to vote in that election.  And during that election, the incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, lost by 2 seats.  And the bloc that won was a bloc called Iraqiya led by Ayad Allawi which campaigned on "NO" to sectarianism, really trying to move beyond this horrible sectarian fighting -- an Iraq for Iraqis and no sectarianism.  And that message had attracted most of the Sunnis, a lot of the secular Shia and minority groups as well.

    Kevin Sylvester:  People who felt they'd been shut out during Maliki's regime basically -- or his governance.

    Emma Sky:  Yes, people that felt, you know, that they wanted to be part of the country called Iraq not -- they wanted to be this, they wanted Iraq to be the focus and not sect or ethnicity to be the focus.  And Maliki refused to accept the results.  He just said, "It is not right."  He wanted a recount.  He tried to use de-Ba'athification to eliminate or disqualify some Iraqiya members and take away the votes that they had gained.  And he just sat in his seat and sat in his seat.  And it became a real sort of internal disagreement within the US system about what to do?  So my boss, Gen [Ray] Odierno, was adamant that the US should uphold the Constitutional process, protect the political process, allow the winning group to have first go at trying to form the government for thirty days.  And he didn't think Allawi would be able to do it with himself as prime minister but he thought if you start the process they could reach agreement between Allawi and Maliki or a third candidate might appear who could become the new prime minister. So that was his recommendation.

    Kevin Sylvester:   Well he even calls [US Vice President Joe] Biden -- Biden seems to suggest that that's what the administration will support and then they do a complete switch around.  What happened?

    Emma Sky:  Well the ambassador at the time was a guy who hadn't got experience of the region, he was new in Iraq and didn't really want to be there.  He didn't have the same feel for the country as the general who'd been there for year after year after year.

    Kevin Sylvester:  Chris Hill.

    Emma Sky:  And he had, for him, you know 'Iraq needs a Shia strongman. Maliki's our man.  Maliki's our friend.  Maliki will give us a follow on security agreement to keep troops in country.'  So it looks as if Biden's listening to these two recommendations and that at the end Biden went along with the Ambassador's recommendation.  And the problem -- well a number of problems -- but nobody wanted Maliki.  People were very fearful that he was becoming a dictator, that he was sectarian, that he was divisive. And the elites had tried to remove him through votes of no confidence in previous years and the US had stepped in each time and said, "Look, this is not the time, do it through a national election."  So they had a national election, Maliki lost and they were really convinced they'd be able to get rid of him.  So when Biden made clear that the US position was to keep Maliki as prime minister, this caused a huge upset with Iraqiya.  They began to fear that America was plotting with Iran in secret agreement.  So they moved further and further and further away from being able to reach a compromise with Maliki.  And no matter how much pressure the Americans put on Iraqiya, they weren't going to agree to Maliki as prime minister and provided this opening to Iran because Iran's influence was way low at this stage because America -- America was credited with ending the civil war through the 'surge.'  But Iran sensed an opportunity and the Iranians pressured Moqtada al-Sadr -- and they pressured him and pressured him.  And he hated Maliki but they put so much pressure on to agree to a second Maliki term and the price for that was all American troops out of the country by the end of 2011.  So during this period, Americans got outplayed by Iran and Maliki moved very much over to the Iranian camp because they'd guaranteed his second term.

    Kevin Sylvester:  Should-should the Obama administration been paying more attention?  Should they have -- You know, you talk about Chris Hill, the ambassador you mentioned, seemed more -- at one point, you describe him being more interested in putting green lawn turf down on the Embassy in order to play la crosse or something.  This is a guy you definitely paint as not having his head in Iraq.  How much of what has happened since then is at the fault of the Obama administration?  Hillary Clinton who put Chris Hill in place? [For the record, Barack Obama nominated Chris Hill for the post -- and the Senate confirmed it -- not Hillary.]  How much of what happens -- has happened since -- is at their feet?


    Emma Sky:  Well, you know, I think they have to take some responsibility for this because of this mistake made in 2010.  And Hillary Clinton wasn't very much involved in Iraq.  She did appoint the ambassador [no, she did not] but she wasn't involved in Iraq because President Obama had designated Biden to be his point-man on Iraq and Biden really didn't have the instinct for Iraq. He very much believed in ancient hatreds, it's in your blood, you just grow up hating each other and you think if there was anybody who would have actually understood Iraq it would have been Obama himself.  You know, he understands identity more than many people.  He understands multiple identities and how identities can change.  He understands the potential of people to change. So he's got quite a different world view from somebody like Joe Biden who's always, you know, "My grandfather was Irish and hated the British.  That's how things are."  So it is unfortunate that when the American public had enough of this war, they wanted to end the war.  For me, it wasn't so much about the troops leaving, it was the politics -- the poisonous politics.  And keeping Maliki in power when his poisonous politics were already evident was, for me, the huge mistake the Obama administration made. Because what Maliki did in his second term was to go after his rivals.  He was determined he was never going to lose an election again.  So he accused leading Sunni politicians of terrorism and pushed them out of the political process.  He reneged on his promises that he'd made to the tribal leaders who had fought against al Qaeda in Iraq during the surge. [She's referring to Sahwa, also known as Sons of Iraq and Daughters of Iraq and as Awakenings.]  He didn't pay them.  He subverted the judiciary.  And just ended up causing these mass Sunni protests that created the environment that the Islamic State could rear its ugly head and say, "Hey!"  And sadly -- and tragically, many Sunnis thought, "Maybe the Islamic State is better than Maliki."  And you've got to be pretty bad for people to think the Islamic State's better. 




    The 2010 decision set the events in motion for Iraq's current (and ongoing) crises.

    We objected in real time.  We called for the vote to be respected.

    The western press ignored the vote, ignored the will of the people and treated it as normal that, following an election, the outcome was decided by a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement).

    On the topic of the western press . . .


    My (increased) criticism of the western press over the last two weeks resulted in complaints from two friends today with news outlets covering Iraq.

    Don't I, they wondered, remember what happened to Ned Parker?

    Yeah, I do.

    He was threatened and had to flee Iraq for his own safety as well as the safety of his co-workers.

    I defended Ned.

    I'd defend Ned tomorrow.

    He was one of the finest journalists to ever cover Iraq.

    But I say that not just because of his final reports from Iraq (final for now) about the militias attacking civilians, I say that for his entire body of work on Iraq going back to his days at the Los Angeles Times -- long, long before he joined Reuters.

    Ned Parker mattered every day in his reporting from Iraq.

    I find it cowardly for some who never write anything of importance or value to claim that they can't cover -- or their outlets can't cover -- Iraq honestly because they might also get run out of Iraq like Ned Parker.


    So I'm not really impressed, for example, with an AP report which insists:


    Winning the battle for control of an oil refinery town north of Baghdad is a key step toward defeating the Islamic State group, Iraq's prime minister said in remarks aired Tuesday, hours before a suicide attack killed 13 soldiers and allied militiamen in the western Anbar province.


    Qassim Abdul-Zahra has the byline but this goes beyond one writer.

    I don't know how any outlet can publish that today without noting that his comments are a reply to a very public complaint.

    From Saturday's snapshot:


    Iraq Times reports the reaction to citizens in Basra which was to protest Haider's visit. The activists noted that he traveled all the way to Basra to reassure Big Oil but he did not meet with a single local protester to address the concerns that have had them pouring into the streets for the last weeks.  The report notes that the British and US Ambassadors to Iraq had lobbied Haider to visit Basra to reassure Big Oil.  As Iraq Times also notes, just north of Basra is where a protester -- protesting against Big Oil -- was shot dead by security forces working for yet another foreign oil company in Iraq. 




    Ned Parker is a brave and courageous journalist.

    I don't disagree with that.

    But I also don't see how you have to be Ned Parker to report on Haider's defensive remarks about how he has focused on saving Big Oil and include that this defensive stance results from Iraqi citizens stating Haider cares more about oil than the Iraqi people.

    On the topic of the press, Al Arabiya reports:

    London-based pan-Arabian newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat has announced the decision to stop publishing its edition in Iraq, after repeated violations by Ahl Al-Haq group militia, which they say is “close to Iran and to the former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.”
    The newspaper reported on Tuesday that the militia group had raided their buildings where the paper is printed in the capital Baghdad.

    It added that armed militia were breaching the law, and censoring content by ‘deleting or amending articles and the reports in the newspaper’ that criticized Iranian policy in the region.



    We'll note Ross Caputi's "The battle for your hearts and minds in Falluja" (Medium.com) in tomorrow's snapshot.

    Lastly, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 99 violent deaths across Iraq today.





     iraq
    al jazeera


    Tuesday, August 25, 2015

    USA Today editorial board spanks Hillary

    So Hillary Clinton's self-made nightmare is not going away.

    And even USA Today is weighing in, noting:

    Scandals surrounding Clinton and her husband have a habit of being stoked by both the Clintons' penchant for secrecy and their political enemies' overzealousness. Amid all the investigations and lawsuits, a resolution of the email affair will be long in coming. A couple of things, however, are already clear.
    One is that Clinton and her team should have turned the server over to the State Department's inspector general, or perhaps the National Archives, for an independent, confidential sorting of the 62,000 messages.

    Hillary needs to stop making jokes and stop hiding from the topic.


    She's acting like a moron and looking like a crook.


    Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"



    Monday, August 24, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, militias strangle the hope in Iraq, the League of Righteous lies (but what else would they do), the United Nations notes the ongoing refugee crisis in Iraq, and much more.


    One image may capture better than any other a feeling many Iraqis have regarding the leadership in the country.







    That's from the Kitabat website and 1/2 the face is current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi while the other half is former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

    The accompanying article argues that Iraq is witnessing the struggle between Haider and Nouri -- both Dawa Party members, following Haider's announcement that the Vice President posts were being ended (Nouri al-Maliki is one of the three -- or was).  The article notes that Nouri cannot win the battle by depending on popularity.

    And that's a good call to make.  In 2010, when he lost the election to Iraqiya, before Barack Obama and the Iranian government rescued him and insisted he get a second term, there was a long line of people opposed to him publicly -- this included the National Alliance (Shi'ite political bloc), Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and the leadership of the Dawa political party.

    The article argues that Nouri will try to seize control by utilizing the support he has from various Shi'ite militia groups including the Badr brigade and the League of Righteous.


    The League of Righteous should have been dismantled (others would argue their members should be in prison or executed for the reign of terror they carried out).  But they'r e not dismantled and, in fact,  Mohammed al-Zaidi (Niqash) just interviewed the leader of the League of the Righteous Qais al-Khazali last week:



    NIQASH: In the past few weeks you have made several statements about the need to change Iraq's political system from a parliamentary one to a presidential one. Could you explain what you're asking for and why?


    Al-Khazali: Today in Iraq we have big problems and everybody knows what they are – namely state services are problematic as are strategic projects and the level of unemployment as well as a raft of other things.
    The League of the Righteous believes that one of the main reasons for these problems is the sectarian quota system in Iraq. To resolve this we have suggested that a presidential system be introduced because at the moment, the Prime Minister cannot choose the members of his government. He must bend to the will of the different blocs represented in Parliament who impose candidates upon him. There's a bad atmosphere between the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and its had a negative impact on the government’s work. That is why we make such demands. But such sensitive issues must be left to the Iraqi people to decide.

    NIQASH: But in making these requests, some critics have said that what you are really doing is opening the door for the return of former Iraqi prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.




    Al-Khazali: We do not have any special relationship with Nouri al-Maliki. For example, we were not given any special positions within his government when he was in charge. Additionally we didn't join his electoral bloc during elections; in fact, we contested the elections as a completely separate list.





    That's an utter lie.

    First, let's drop back  to the June 9, 2009 snapshot:




    This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."


    Long before the Afghanistan-did-he-desert-was-he-captured melodrama, Barack had already negotiated with terrorists.  The League of Righteous are terrorists.  And Barack released their leadership from US military custody after he entered in a deal with them to release the 5 British citizens.

    The League was very public to the Iraqi press about the fact that they had a deal with the US government.  They also went back on the deal for a period of time -- releasing only 1 living British citizen and the corpses of three, holding onto a forth corpse while insisting Barack hadn't lived up to all of his part of the deal.

    It's a deal the American people should have known about.

    To this day, the White House has never publicly been pressed to be honest about that deal or even to acknowledge it.

    But several White House friends -- including ______________ -- have insisted to me over the years that the US just released the terrorists from military custody and that didn't prevent Nouri al-Maliki, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2014, from prosecuting them for their crimes in Iraqi courts and that, the argument (or lie) goes, was what was supposed to happen.

    So, by that logic, Nouri's done a great deal for the League, he's kept them out of prison and out of the Iraqi courts.

    He also, when no political organization was supposed to have an active militia, brought them into the political process -- despite his knowing (as did everyone) that the League was nothing but an armed militia.

    They participate in politics now as a result of Nouri.

    So Qais al-Khazali is both a thug and a liar.

    So that's the League.

    Badr?

    Kirk H. Sowell (Cairo Review) noted in his latest analysis:



    Badr—founded in the 1980s in Iran, its continued supporter—is not only the most important of the various armed groups composing the Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd). It also symbolizes how Iraqis’ hopes for a democratic country governed by the rule of law have given way to a political system that is expressly sectarian and increasingly resembles a garrison state. No other militia-political party was better prepared to capitalize on the collapse of Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq last June. Badr’s military commander, Ameri—who tried and failed to get an appointment as minister of defense or interior, in part due to U.S. opposition—has been transportation minister since Maliki’s second cabinet and is now a parliamentarian. Under the new government of Haider Al-Abadi, Ameri was able to get a member of his party, Mohammed Salem Al-Ghabban, confirmed as interior minister. Prior to leaving office, Maliki had made Ameri the military governor of Diyala—an informal appointment usually described euphemistically as al-masuul al-amani (the security official)—which he remains to this day.


    Today, the International Crisis Group issued "Iraq: Conflict Alert" which warned:



    If the current reforms prove little more than window-dressing, they will mean the end of the political life of the prime minister and large portions of the political class. In their place, militia commanders would ride popular anger and military supremacy to power. There are many precedents in Iraq’s history. It was, after all, only a year ago that IS used Sunni anger and a lightening military strike to impose repressive rule in large parts of the country.



    Where does Iraq go now?


    As the White House continues to insist bombing Iraq is liberating it, things don't look all that good.




    The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI) have brainstormed and come up with practical and realistic moves that can be taken.  For example:


    a. A call to hold extensive consultative meetings between the Iraqi powers that stand against the current political situation in Iraq, for the purpose of agreeing on and coordinating the principles and basics of the Inclusive Iraq Scheme and its activation.
    b. A call to convene a series of extensive seminars between the competent members and elites of the civil society, its active groups, its opinion leaders and social fronts, to bring closer the different points of views and reach perceptions that are as convergent as possible.
    c. A call on significant society groups, entities and titles to hold meetings, within their anticipated participation in any forthcoming collective Iraqi effort, and in support of and expansion of an Iraqi public opinion transforming into an active mass movement.
    d. A call to hold a public conference on the establishment of an inclusive Iraqi framework, under one title that regulates the ideas and thoughts of the aforementioned Iraqi powers. This is to be reached through a joint action charter based on the foundations of unity, independence of the Iraqi decision, rejection of near and distant foreign dependency and the enhancement of civil peace. This should stop any attempts to singly influence some powers dragging them towards individual concessions or into traps set here and there. This comes in preparation for a proper solution that can prevent Iraq from falling prey to deadly vacuum.


    We'll note more in tomorrow's snapshot.


    Meanwhile, Iraq has seen the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1947 -- and that was true by 2008.  It's only more true as the displaced continues to grow.  Today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced a national hotline had been created to address the humanitarian crisis:



    Baghdad, 24 August 2015 - A national hotline for Iraqi citizens affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis has been launched to provide timely information on humanitarian services such as food distribution points, medical services, and shelter options across Iraq.
    The renewed conflict in Iraq has resulted in a displacement crisis of an unprecedented scale. Over 3.2 million people have been forced into displacement since January 2014 alone. People are scattered in over 3000 locations across the country. This continues to present an enormous challenge for aid agencies trying to provide emergency and life-saving assistance to displaced populations. Many internally displaced persons (IDPs) are residing in hard to reach areas and are in desperate need of assistance and information about available services.
    “More than 3.2 million Iraqis have been internally displaced since the beginning of 2014 and we are simply not able to reach everyone due to the sheer size of the crisis. People continue to be on the move and many more are being displaced as we speak. While the call centre will help identify and respond to the most urgent needs of the displaced, it will also ensure that up-to-date information is available to them, so that they can access the assistance and services they require”, said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR Representative in Iraq. “This is particularly important for displaced people living outside formal camps and settlements, who may otherwise not be easy to reach to help them meet their needs and harness their resources”, Geddo concluded.
    The IDP Information Centre was established as a joint initiative of the Iraq Humanitarian Country Team in an effort to enhance two-way communication between displaced populations and aid agencies. IDPs and affected communities will be able to seek information about humanitarian aid, request assistance, and provide confidential feedback on the humanitarian agencies’ services and outreach activities.
    “First and foremost, the call centre serves as a quick and easy way for IDPs to find out about how the humanitarian community can help. But more importantly, it offers us a chance to connect to, and better understand, the people we serve,” said Jane Pearce, WFP Iraq Country Director. “Through the participation and feedback of IDPs in listening exercises and consultations, we are able to tailor the type of assistance we provide. The affected populations thus become stakeholders in the assistance process, and the humanitarian community more accountable to them”.
    Following a successful pilot in July 2015 in Erbil Governorate, the information centre is now operational across Iraq and can be reached via any Iraqi mobile phone by dialling 6999.
    “The IDP Information Centre represents a truly cooperative effort among humanitarian agencies”, said Kareem Elbayar, UNOPS Programme Manager. “UNOPS established and operates the information centre through the financial contributions of UNHCR, WFP, and OCHA; in-kind support has been provided by IOM. Most importantly, the information we give to callers is provided and regularly updated by dozens of NGOs and UN agencies working through the humanitarian cluster system in Iraq”.

    The IDP Information Centre is currently open from 8:30a – 5:30p Sunday through Thursday, but plans are in place to extend the working hours and add additional operators as needed.




    Iraq came up today at the State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson John Kirby.  We'll note the section regarding northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, where the issue of the presidency remains unresolved.






    QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?


    MR KIRBY: Sure.


    QUESTION: Any updates on that Kurdish political parties meeting and U.S. involvement?


    MR KIRBY: So yesterday, the five main political parties in the Iraqi Kurdistan region met and decided to continue their discussions. We remain engaged with all the key stakeholders, the United States does. And as I said last week, this is, of course, an internal matter. And we’re – I’d refer you to the Kurdistan Regional Government for further information.


    QUESTION: So one point on this issue, and specifically on U.S. involvement. I’ve been monitoring the social media reaction by the people and also the Kurdish media, that they’ve seen the U.S. involvement is a negative one, is not in favor of democracy, is not in favor of representation law. Because what we have heard from the delegations, that – Kurdish parties’ representation in the meetings – that Ambassador McGurk, he is pressuring everyone to accept extension – President Barzani’s presidential extension for two more years as justifying with the ISIS issue or crisis or threat. And also this is, as you have mentioned before, this is the end of his term, and by law he’s not allowed to stay. And also it’s not an election that he’s suggesting. It is something – extension – which is not democratic, not according to the law. So can you confirm that this is what he suggested in the meeting?


    MR KIRBY: What I can confirm is that Ambassador McGurk was invited back to those meetings in Erbil after he had already left and went to Baghdad. We talked about this last week. He was asked back. And as I said last week, our role was simply to attend and to say what we have said all along, which is that we urge a unified, inclusive approach by all the political parties there, but that these were or these will be decisions that they make for the good of the people they represent. And any assertion that Brett McGurk or any other American delegate or any other American there in Iraq was putting undue pressure on the parties to do one thing or another is absolutely false.


    QUESTION: That means you confirm that that’s not true, that he’s not – he didn’t suggested any – in any way to --


    MR KIRBY: Ambassador McGurk was invited back. He didn’t go to Erbil to put pressure on any one party or for any one purpose. He was invited back, and so he went. And his message was that – what it has always been, which is that we want a unified approach by all the political parties to reach a consensus and to go forward so that they can best represent the people of the region.


    QUESTION: Last one on this. Do you believe – like, is it United States position that it is important that the Kurdish political parties to reach an agreement whether to stay – to allow President Barzani to stay as the president of Kurdistan in any way because of – you think that they – everybody should focus on the ISIS threat at the moment?



    MR KIRBY: We’ve said now is the time for unity in the face of a common enemy, and our focus is on defeating and degrading ISIL. And we want everybody to share that, obviously, same goal and to come together to unite against what is in fact a common enemy to all people living in Iraq.
    As for the solution that they come up with, again, these are internal matters for them to speak to, for them to decide, and for them to explain – not for the American Government to dictate, and we aren’t.


    QUESTION: Sorry, one thing is not clear. What do you mean by “unity?” Because they are all part of a government, all five major political parties. What this unity means, which is – I mean, they are – if they are part of the government and they are all in the parliament, so does this unity means that the division of the region that we have seen in the past in ’90s, so what is the unity --


    MR KIRBY: I just meant a unified approach. Don’t read too much into it. I mean, we want them to take a unified approach forward to best represent the people of the region.




    QUESTION: Thank you.



    Sunday, Margret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counted 188 violent deaths across Iraq.


    Lastly, Diana Ross broke barriers -- for all women and for men of color and, yes, for the gay community.  She has been an inspiration to more people and in more ways than most   could even list.  Her concerts are communities where she welcomes and embraces all as part of the family of the world.


    As the leader of Motown's Supremes, she remade the cabaret circuit.  TV?  As Oprah Winfrey has often noted, when Diana, in all of her glamour, popped up on 60s television, it was an event since national television featured so few African-Americans.  Lena Horne and Eartha Kitt are among those who preceded Diana and paved the way for her and others but both women were appealing to a mature (adult) audience.  Diana Ross was a teen sensation.  Motown was, as the slogan went, the sound of Young America.  As someone with huge appeal to teenagers and pre-teens, she was presenting images of joy, strength and empowerment before many of the damaging racial stereotypes  could take hold in the generation coming of age.

    At the height of the British Invasion, Diana and the Supremes held their own with dozens of hits that have remained a soundtrack of an era (12 of which went to number one on the pop charts).


    Diana went solo following her last number one with the Supremes ("Someday Will Be Together" -- a song which actually doesn't feature the vocals of the two other Supremes).  She became a Vegas performer as important as Frank Sinatra or Cher.  She continued to release hit records (5 solo number ones and one duet with Lionel Richie which went to number one) and also branched out into film and tele-films (Double Platinum, The Wiz, Mahogany, her Academy Award nominated performance in Lady Sings The Blues and her Golden Globe nominated performance in Out of Darkness).  Her concerts are legendary and so is she.


    Sunday, community sites did theme posts about Diana: Mike offered "Mirror Mirror,"  Marcia went with "I'm Coming Out," Ruth chose "'Chain Reaction'," Stan shined a light "Workin' Overtime," Elaine again explored"Swept Away," Ann went with the more recent "Diana Ross' 'Not Over You Yet'," Kat noted Diana's first solo dance hit "'Love Hangover'," Rebecca went with "surrender" which is one of the many classics Ashford & Simpson (Valerie Simpson and the late Nick Ashford) wrote for Diana, Betty squeezed in as much as she could into an overview of "Diana Ross" and  Trina kicked it back to the sixties with "Where Did Our Love Go."



    I try to note theme posts when the community does them.  I wrote a bit more than I normally would.
    If that bothers someone who feels some other topic should have been covered, I'm waiving to you right now -- with the middle finger.
    Women matter.
    And there are few western popular music artists -- male or female -- who have done as much as Diana has.
    There's also the background behind the posts.
    The immediate background is that Sunday Jim suggested we do a look at Diana's music at Third.
    Betty and I immediately said no.
    The posts were in response to that "no."
    Diana is a friend and my biggest regret online is the piece at Third that I believe savaged her music.  Betty was in tears over the final article and I was steaming mad.  That was years ago.  Betty can speak for herself at her site (and probably will tonight) but I am still furious.  And doing a piece that might or might not right that earlier piece from years ago?  It could actually see me walking offline because I am still that furious all these years later.
    So  never accuse me of playing favorites.  I hated that article.  There was no time to rewrite it, hours had been spent on it already.  I was opposed to it.  I noted I was but I didn't kill it.  I didn't censor it. So never accuse me of playing favorites.


    But those posts were an attempt to rectify an earlier wrong (I believe it was a wrong) and I will write a wrap around that notes the amazing accomplishments of a dear friend.