Friday, June 05, 2015

Nichelle Nichols

The actress Nichelle Nichols has had a stroke.

A singer and an actress, Nichelle became a star when she began playing the role of Lt. Uhura in 1966.

She played it first on the TV series "Star Trek" (1966 to 1969) and then on the 1973 cartoon series "Star Trek: The Animated Series."  In 1979, she began playing the role in the Star Trek movies.  Six films in all.

And Nichelle started playing Uhura when Black actors and actresses weren't very common on TV and often were stereotypes.

At one point, because she saw herself as a singer, she was going to leave the TV show.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to her and told her how important her role was, how for one hour of TV each week viewers saw a Black character who was an equal to those around her.  Realizing how important her role was, Nichelle stayed with the show.

She's a trailblazer and let's wish her a speedy and complete recovery.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, May 4, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the civilian killed by a US air strike in Iraq are revealed just as Foreign Policy in Focus argues for less restraint when bombing in Iraq, the State Dept gets asked about the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report on the Islamic State which found the Pentagon drooling over the prospect of the rise of ISIS, a dumb Tweeter (redundant?) tries to blame Bully Boy Bush for installing Nouri while ignoring that it was Barack who insisted Nouri remain prime minister of Iraq in 2010 despite Nouri losing the election, and much more.

Today as the US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Marie Harf was asked about the US intent regarding ISIS in 2012.

QUESTION: On Iraq, actually, could you give us a sense of the significance of the pledge of allegiance from various Sunni tribes in Anbar province to ISIL?

MS HARF: Well, I appreciate the question, certainly. I think that, quite frankly, I’m not sure exactly what sheikhs or leaders you’re referring to specifically. We’ve said since the beginning of this crisis that the situation in Anbar is complex. Many top Sunni leaders are supporting the government in their efforts against ISIL; some don’t. So it’s pretty complex, and I wouldn’t want to categorize everyone, certainly, in one way.
I think we’ve said the U.S. is supporting the plan that was announced by the Iraqi council of ministers to accelerate the training and equipping of local tribes in coordination with Anbar authorities. They announced that on May 19th. This also calls for expanding recruitment into the Iraqi army coming from Anbar. And we’re also encouraged by the announcement on May 27th by the Iraqis of the induction of 800 additional tribal fighters into the PMF, the Popular Mobilization Force.
So again, the prime minister has been clear that this plan has to be centered around leaders in Anbar, and Anbari fighters being part of the solution here. I don’t know exactly who you’re referring to, but the situation in Anbar is, of course, a complex one, and there may be some people who support ISIL, but there are many who don’t.

QUESTION: The al-Jumailis, I guess, is the main --

MS HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: The al-Jumailis, I think, are the main tribe in the --

MS HARF: Look, I’m happy to check on them specifically.

QUESTION: It is striking, though, how similar – how what’s happening currently does chime in with the prediction we now know that the Defense Intelligence Agency made in 2012 that a Salafist principality might grow up in eastern Syria and western Iraq, and that – in fact, that was the policy. That’s what – the goal of the GCC countries, your allies in the region. Would you accept that that’s what’s happened?

MS HARF: Well, I think you’re making a number of sort of sweeping generalizations.

QUESTION: That was the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012.

MS HARF: Well, I haven’t read the whole DIA report. I’m happy to go back and pull that and take a look at it. There was a lot of assessment done at the time about the possible futures – directions that Iraq could take, certainly. So I’m happy to go back and look at those, but --

QUESTION: You don’t think it’s the goal of the GCC to have some sort of Salafist area there to be a sort of bulwark against Iran?

MS HARF: I think the fact that GCC and regional countries are taking direct military action against ISIL in the region now, I think, should make it pretty clear how they feel about ISIL.

First, let's briefly note the pledge Marie was being asked about.  Jason Ditz ( explains, "Today, key Anbar sheikh Ahmed Jumaili read a joint statement from a number of key tribes in Fallujah, pledging loyalty to ISIS, and expressing their belief that the best way to return calm to the province was by backing ISIS against the 'infidels, apostates and Shias'."

Now for the other point being raised,  the recently revealed 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report.  Brad Hoff reported on it at the end of last month:

May 22, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - "Levant Report " -  On Monday, May 18, the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch published a selection of formerly classified documents obtained from the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department through a federal lawsuit.
While initial mainstream media reporting is focused on the White House’s handling of the Benghazi consulate attack, a much “bigger picture” admission and confirmation is contained in one of the Defense Intelligence Agency documents circulated in 2012: that an ‘Islamic State’ is desired in Eastern Syria to effect the West’s policies in the region.
The DIA report, formerly classified “SECRET//NOFORN” and dated August 12, 2012, was circulated widely among various government agencies, including CENTCOM, the CIA, FBI, DHS, NGA, State Dept., and many others.
The document shows that as early as 2012, U.S. intelligence predicted the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but instead of clearly delineating the group as an enemy, the report envisions the terror group as a U.S. strategic asset.
While a number of analysts and journalists have documented long ago the role of western intelligence agencies in the formation and training of the armed opposition in Syria, this is the highest level internal U.S. intelligence confirmation of the theory that western governments fundamentally see ISIS as their own tool for regime change in Syria. The document matter-of-factly states just that scenario.

Yesterday, Seaumas Milne (Guardian) also noted the DIA report:

A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.
Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”.
Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later. The report isn’t a policy document. It’s heavily redacted and there are ambiguities in the language. But the implications are clear enough. A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.

The report has received little attention despite the fact that it outlines a possible outcome (which appears to be coming true) which, judging by the White House inaction on Iraq in the year of the report and the two years that followed, Barack Obama did nothing to alter or combat.

David Mizner (ICH) reminds:

The report concerns a period in time when the escalating violence in Iraq had ceased to be a prominent topic in the US press and when its coverage of the war in Syria — mirroring the discussion in Washington — focused on the Assad government, not the forces aligned against it. This may be hard to imagine now that ISIS has become the US government’s favorite monster, but during these months President Obama and his team gave major speeches on Syria that didn’t even mention the group.
Even after ISIS took Fallujah in January 2014, discussion of the group in establishment outlets was scarce. It wasn’t until later in 2014 — after continued battlefield victories and heavily publicized beheadings of westerners — that Islamic State became Public Enemy Number 1.

American officials claimed the ascendancy of ISIS had caught American intelligence by surprise. Yet in the 2012 report — which was circulated widely through the US government — the DIA foresaw the creation of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria. It also said that Islamic State of Iraq could “return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi” and declare an “Islamic state” in western Iraq and eastern Syria.

Dahlia Wasfi (ICH) puts the 2012 DIA report into some context of earlier actions in the Iraq War observing:

Once Iraq’s secular government - known for its ruthlessness - was deposed via the “Shock and Awe” invasion, US administrators installed sectarian Shia leaders with strong ties to Iran into power.  Many of these new Iraqi officials had been forced into exile by Saddam Hussein decades earlier because of their theocratic political ambitions.  They found safe haven in Iran, where their parties were supported by the government.  Some of these men served in the Iranian Army during the Iran-Iraq War. These Shia conservatives have remained in power in Iraq through several rounds of controversial elections.  For example, current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, like his predecessors Nouri al-Maliki and Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is a member of the conservative Shia Dawah Party based in Iran.  Their rule in Iraq has been characterised by brutal repression of the population, including the use of death squads to eliminate opposition.
The “new” (since 2003) Iraqi Army has also been shaped by Iranian influence.  Former Badr Brigades commander, Bayan Jabr, organised the Army’s ranks when he served as Iraq’s Minister of the Interior.  Since its inception, the new Army has consisted of young Iraqi recruits desperate for paying jobs, as well as members of conservative Shia party militias from Iran. This fighting force - armed, trained, and funded by the US - is today led by General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The repressive theocratic Shia regime imposed on Iraq by US occupiers inevitably spawned a counter movement: a sectarian Sunni opposition faction which in the last several years has morphed into ISIS.  Like the Iraqi Army, ISIS is also comprised of foreign fighters and young Iraqis desperate for paying jobs and an end to their oppression.  According to journalist Nafeez Ahmed, Western powers predicted the rise of a dangerous extremist group such as ISIS in 2012.  But not only did Western powers predict ISIS, they supported its creation via funding and arms to extremist “rebel groups” in Syria to serve as a check on Shia power in the region - power that expanded as a result of US policy in Iraq in the first place.  Now in 2015, President Obama is not about to destroy the terror group that he and other Western governments and regional allies helped to create. 

Changing topics, this morning we were noting the sad and disgusting position of Foreign Policy in Focus which now apparently supports the bombing of civilians:

And it serves no one.
Nor does Russ Wellen's latest insta-expertise where he knows everything thanks to a Mitchell Prothero article.
Wellen repeats this:

“Requests for air support,” Prothero continues, “which already go through an overly cumbersome process before the U.S.-led coalition will act—went unnoticed or ignored, and most of the units in Ramadi were unable to coordinate with one another because of deep-seated distrust among units composed of soldiers from different sects.”

And you know he [Wellen] thinks it's awful because he adds "Even worse" immediately after.
Did you ever think you'd see the day where Foreign Policy in Focus would publish an article whining that bombs were not being dropped fast enough on a country?
First off, Iraq is not an empty field.
It's an occupied country.
The process should be "cumbersome."
These air strikes have killed civilians.
They could kill many more if they were less "cumbersome."
Second, they have to be "cumbersome" because otherwise -- as Congress and the administration have both noted -- the US bombings could be used by various Iraqis to take out their political rivals.
It really is appalling that Foreign Policy in Focus has published an article bemoaning a process for bombing that they find too rigorous.
But I guess when a Democrat's in the White House a number of supposed activists let their inner whores work the street corner.

Shameful and when whores do what Wellen did, events always slap them in their ugly faces.  See previous efforts at Operation Happy Talk and this is how it always ends, Iraq and karma get the last word.

Hours after Wellen's embarrassing war propaganda went up, AFP was reporting, "An airstrike by a U.S.-led coalition flattened an entire neighborhood of a northern Iraqi town controlled by ISIS, killing dozens of people including civilians, witnesses and security sources said."  An estimated 70 civilians were killed in the bombing of Hawija. AFP quotes Hassam Mahmoud al-Jubbouri stating, "I ran with my sons and wife and took cover under the staircase. Three to four powerful explosions followed the first blast and I felt the roof of my house was about to collapse over our heads."

But Russ Wellen wants more US air strikes on Iraq.  He wants more and he wants them to be "less cumbersome."

Again, this is a very sad day in the history of Foreign Policy in Focus.

You can't walk it back when you've come out as a War Hawk.  When you've come out in favor of bombings and of relaxing even the most tiny efforts of constraint on those bombings, you really have nothing to left to say, not on the left.

Now's a good time to note Margaret Kimberley's observations this week at Black Agenda Report:

Most people who call themselves progressives or who protested the war in Iraq didn’t really want fundamental change. They don’t have the stomach to challenge the assumptions upon which American aggressions are based. That is why they so quickly forgot their supposedly antiwar sentiments and clung so fiercely to Barack Obama. They want to wrap themselves in the flag or in being on a winning team but that means being a part of America’s horrendous tale of conquest, race based terrorism and numerous other oppressions.
The siren song of American superiority is strong. How often did antiwar activists or other progressives claim that a particular atrocity or outrageous act was “un-American.” Of course enslavement and genocide were very American so the claim always rang hollow, but the urge to want to be the good, patriotic American is still there and very, very strong.
Exceptionalism is a concept that is rarely questioned. Manifest Destiny and the violence that comes with it are still considered not just acceptable but noble and benevolent. That explains why Obama’s wars are accepted by the same people who protested against Bush.
It can be difficult to remain in opposition to the American state. It requires an ability to oppose not just war, or economic policy, but a desire for inclusion in a rotten system. The yearning for freedom expressed in the liberation movements was often little more than a yearning to be accepted or to have a seat at the table.

Yes, the whores are always among us.  Telling lies to curry favor and to support their lying heroes.

Take for example this one with the fat face and the shoulder length hair that only makes the face look fatter:

  • Do you think you have a point?

    I'm sure the other whores agree with you.

    But reality does not.

    Yes, Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri al-Maliki in 2006 as Iraq's Prime Minister.  Among the reasons he did so was the CIA profile of Nouri which noted the man's intense paranoia and argued it could be used to control and manipulate him.

    That was the primary reason Bully Boy Bush supported him.  It wasn't the sole reason.  And the second biggest reason was that the Iraqi Parliament wanted Ibrahim al-Jaafari for the post but Bully Boy Bush was concerned that giving al-Jaafari a second, consecutive term could turn it into a lifetime post -- as it was with Saddam Hussein.

    And if that's where it started and ended, a whore like Ali Gharib might have a reason to crow.

    However, there's also 2010.

    When the Iraqi people went to the polls and voted, over extreme obstacles.

    And they voted for change.  Nouri's State of Law lost to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.

    And what happened?

    Barack supported the loser.  And with Barack's support, loser Nouri refused to step down.  And Iraq entered an eight month political stalemate as a result where Parliament didn't meet, the government came to a standstill.

    Nouri could have only brought the entire Iraqi government to an eight month standstill with the support of Barack.

    And the standstill did not end with Nouri stepping aside so that the rightful winner could become prime minister.

    No, it ended with the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  The US officials went to the leaders of the other political blocs in Iraq and said, 'Look, Nouri's held out for 8 months.  He could keep the government blocked for another 8.  Do the right thing for Iraq, help it move forward.  We'll give Nouri the post of prime minister and, in exchange, we'll get you the things your people need.  We'll put it into the contract, it will be legally binding and Nouri will honor it because he wants a second term and because this contract will have the full backing of the United States.'

    So they signed off on it.

    November 10, 2010, The Erbil Agreement is signed.  November 11, 2010, the Iraqi Parliament has their first real session in over eight months and finally declares a president, a Speaker of Parliament and Nouri as prime minister-designate -- all the things that were supposed to happen in April of 2010 but didn't.

    And now that he had been named prime minister (the "designate" did not matter since he won the post by contract and not by the polls), Nouri insisted he'd have to wait to honor his promises in the contract.

    And the US government and the press treated that as acceptable.

    Only Ayad Allawi had the foresight to publicly note that, by delaying at that point,  Nouri was signaling that he would never honor his part of the contract.

    And that's what happened.

    We could go all over this again and go step by step on how the political process crumbled as a result but that's the reality.

    Nouri would not have had a second term if the will of the Iraqi voters had been honored.

    Instead, Barack Obama wanted a second term (because Nouri would be agreeable to Barack's aims regarding a drawdown) for Nouri.

    So it really doesn't matter, dirty whore Ali Gharib, that Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri in 2006 when, in fact, Barack overturned the votes of the Iraqi people, went around the Iraqi constitution and trampled on what might have been an emerging democracy to install Nouri for a second term.

    The Latin American Herald Tribune notes, "At least 29 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed in a series of attacks by Islamic State militants in the western Iraqi province of al-Anbar, security officials told Efe." Margaret Griffis ( counts 309 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    Lastly, we  noted Sunday that the United Nations is being hard in terms of needed money to continue important programs in Iraq. That has not changed.

  • 6.95m in in need of healthcare and nutrition services. 1.3m children at risk of disease

  • Thursday, June 04, 2015

    Bruce Dixon on fake-ass Bernie Sanders

    At Black Agenda Report, Bruce Dixon continues telling the truth about fake-ass Bernie Sanders:

    Last month I called Bernie Sanders' Democratic party primary run “sheepdogging” my term for a move the national Democratic party seems to execute every presidential primary season when there's no incumbent White House Democrat. The job of the sheepdog candidate is to herd leftish voters and activists back into the Democratic party one more time by giving perhaps sincere but limited and ineffectual voice to some of their issues.
    Of course every sheepdog candidate since Jesse Jackson in '84 and 88 always folds his tent at the end of primary season to support the main corporate stooge Democrat for the November election. The hopeful word is always that the defeated sheepdog remains firmly committed to pushing the Democratic nominee leftward, both on the campaign trail and even more hopefully in the White House. But this never happens either. Losing Democratic nominees Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry adopted none of the positions of their sheepdog primary opponents on peace or climate change or mass transit or housing or racial and economic justice, and Democratic winners Clinton and Obama ignored them in the White House as well.
    Even though the sheepdog candidates are never able push their opponents leftward, they appear to do the corporate-run Democratic party a priceless favor. Their doomed campaigns ending in endorsement of the party's nominees serve to firmly attach the leftish brands of the losing sheepdogs to the Democratic party, burnishing its populist, peace and leftish credentials for Democrats.

    Fake Ass DC Blogger (Corrente) is justifying Bernie's rape statements, by the way, while insisting she's not part of the rape culture.  That's all she is.

    And a woman who justifies rape isn't a woman I'll ever listen to.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills): 

    Wednesday, June 3, 2015. Chaos and violence continue, Antony Blinken provides a number and creates controversy, Marie Harf refuses to provide numbers and skirts an issue, David Petraeus notes the need for a political solution, the VA doesn't trust the FDA, and much more.

     This afternoon, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on proposed legislation.  The first panel was made up of the VHA's Dr. Thomas Lynch, Dr. Maureen McCarthy and Susan Blauert.  The second panel was made up of Disabled American Veterans' Adrian Atizado, Medicalodges, Inc's Fred Benjamin, Fleet Reserve Association's Thomas J. Snee and retired SFC Victor Medina.

    Senator Patty Murray: To this panel, Dr. Lynch, I wanted to ask you about the Women Veterans Access To Quality Care Act.  I was really pleased to work with Senator [Dean] Heller on this legislation.  As I'm sure you all know the population of women veterans is increasing dramatically.  It's actually doubled since 2001.  This bill will require all VA medical centers to have at least one full time OB-GYN.  And I want to ask you today, how long will it take to meet that standard?  And does the Department usually struggle to recruit OB-GYNs?

    Dr. Thomas Lynch: Right now, VA has GYN specialists in 78% of our VA facilities -- about 118.   There are plans to add additional GYN providers, uh, by directive to, I think around 20 more facilities, as part of our operative complexity model.  Uh, the VA has a model of operative complexity that looks at a certain infrastructure required to support surgical services at facilities.  Uh, the mandate would be that all of our complex and intermediate facilities would have a GYN provider.

    Senator Patty Murray:  Sure.

    Dr. Thomas Lynch:  Some of the smaller facilities -- and, unfortunately, Senator, I don't have the exact count for you --  would have difficult supporting a full time GYN provider and, in some of those case, care is provided through community contract. So I think --

    Senator Patty Murray:  So if you do not have an OB-GYN, you do contract out to a community OB-GYN?

    Dr. Thomas Lynch:  The expectation would be yes, that we would provide those services in the community if we could not provide them at the VA. 

    Senator Patty Murray:  So you can meet the needs of this bill?
    Dr. Thomas Lynch: Dr. McCarthy, would you like to?

    Dr. Maureen McCarthy:  I-I believe that we could meet the intent.  Uh, which is to do what Dr. Lynch said which is based on the surgical complexity, that there would be a plan to hire for all the facilities, that there would be a certain level of complexity and hire.  But for the facilities, the smaller facilities, there is the expectation that there would be access to care either in the community by contract or by having someone actually come into the facility.

    Senator Patty Murray:  Do you have a timeline on how long that would take? 

    Dr. Maureen McCarthy:  No, ma'am, I don't.  Some of our facilities are in areas where it may be a challenge to recruit and so I couldn't give you an absolute timeline, I'm sorry. 

    Senator Patty Murray:  Okay.  Well if you can give me an estimate, I'd really appreciate it.

    Dr. Maureen McCarthy:  Would you be okay if I took that for the record?

    Senator Patty Murray:  Yes, you may do it for the record.

    Dr. Maureen McCarthy:  Okay.

    The VA keeps saying it's aware of the explosion in the number of women veterans but every time they appear before Congress they're offering statements that say otherwise.

    At the very least, Lynch should be able to say, "We will have a full time OB-GYN at every VA medical facility who have a need for one or we will have a contract with a private practice provider."

    There's a lot of hedging and, honestly, I was bothered that Lynch can't refer to the doctors as OB-GYN and instead goes with GYN.

    It's obstetrics and gynaecology -- if you divide it up, you're dividing up what's being practiced.

    Just the use of GYN only made me wonder what Lynch sees the practice as.

    Murray's long been the leading advocate on women veterans issues as well as on the issue of family planning (highlighting the needs for the VA to cover in vitro fertilization, for example).  Senator Richard Blumenthal is the Ranking Member of the Committee and his addition has allowed one more voice who consistently raises issues that effect women veterans.  Murray is the former Chair of the Committee.  With Republicans in control of the Senate, the Chair is now Johnny Isakson.

    Senator Patty Murray: Dr. Lynch, one provision of the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act would allow the grant per diem program to provide payments for dependents who are accompanying homeless veterans.  This is an important change to consider as the number of veterans with dependents -- especially women -- is rising.  Now VA has stated that they support the intent of this part of the legislation but it raised concerns about the need for additional resources to meet the needs of the veterans that would be served.  If this unmet need is still there, why did the VA ask for cuts in the grant per diem program in the budget request?

    Dr. Thomas Lynch:  Senator, I'd have to get back to you with the specifics on that. I can't answer it.  I know that we certainly do support the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act.  Uh, we do support, uh, the increase in per diem for veterans participating in the grant per diem program and the transition in place.  Uh, I can't comment specifically on the budget issues that you're speaking to right now.

    Senator Patty Murray:  Okay, if you can get an answer back to me?  That's really an important question.

    Dr. Thomas Lynch:  We will do that.

    Senator Patty Murray:  And finally, Dr. Lynch, it's really essential that we make sure our veterans have seamless transition from DoD to VA's healthcare systems.  But there are still a lot of barriers out there for our service members and veterans.  And one frequent problem for new veterans is having to switch medications when they leave the military and come into the VA because the departments don't carry the same medications.  What are the differences in how the VA and DoD decide which medications to carry?

    [Lynch and McCarthy off mike speaking to each other]

    Dr. Maureen McCarthy: Senator Murray, the VA formulary is one that is based on published evidence of drug safety and effectiveness.  So there is a process of consideration once a drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration of whether or not it be included in the pharmacy.  The DoD formulary is one that's statutory -- that anything approved by the FDA is part of the DoD formulary. So the VA formulary is one that has a, uh, a second level review, uhm, for evidence based -- evidence base, efficacy, safety and so forth.  Our formulary process has been reviewed by Inspector General, oh, multiple-multiple Institute of Medicine, multiple people.  And what they say is our-our forumlary is actually a model for the federal government.

    Senator Patty Murray: So how come the DoD hasn't done that?  You're probably the wrong people to ask, but you're here.

    Dr. Maureen McCarthy: You're probably exactly right about that.  We, uh, we-we feel very strongly that we want to work with DoD and we want to ease those transitions very much but I don't know that the answer is to have exactly the same formulary given that theirs is this statutory formulary by regulation -- then it's everything that's approved.  Uh, for us, it, uhm, it makes sense.  I believe Senator Blumenthal proposed legislation talks about, uhm, the, uhm, medications related to pyschiatric conditions as well as pain.  And I think that's an important place to start.  And in particular his legislation talks about systemic drugs not topical meds which have-have caused some problems in the past.  So systemi- oral meds that we prescribe for psychiatric conditions and pain would be uh-uh a very, uh, important place to start for blending. 

    Dr. Thomas Lynch: If I could, Senator, I would just repeat from my opening statement: Right now 90% of mental health medications and 96% of pain medications dispensed by DoD are also on the VA formulary.  And we also mentioned that there was a specific, uh, directive sent to the field, uh, that veterans will be maintained on their discharge medications from the military, uh, when they transfer to the VA if that is clinically approriate.  I would add that qualification.  But we would not take veterans off of medications that they had been receiving from the military if it was felt to be appropriate to continue those medications. 

    Senator Patty Murray:  Okay.

    Dr. Thomas Lynch:  I realize there are still -- as you will probably hear in the second panel -- there are still areas where we have failed.  We can do better and we need to do better to make sure that that transition occurs. 

    Senator Patty Murray:  Okay, we want to make sure there are no barriers but we also want to make sure people are taking the right medications.  I understand the balance.  But we need -- some attention really needs to be focused on this. 

    Chair Johnny Isakson:  I thank Senator Murray for raising that question.  And I'll just make an observation.  I'm not a pharmicist or a physician but it doesn't make a lot of sense to me for the formularies to be different from DoD and the Veterans Administration.  And I know Senator [John] McCain is working on that same issue and we've expressed our desire to see if we can't get that worked out, so I appreciate your focus on that issue today.

     That exchange bothered me first and foremost because of the problem it's creating for veterans -- we'll go more into that in a moment.

    But I'm also bothered by the notion that the FDA isn't doing its job.

    That's what the VA is arguing.

    The FDA is tasked with a responsibility and DoD doesn't question it.

    But the VA thinks its their role to do so?

    The FDA is tasked with determining what is safe for the American public.

    But the VA doesn't accept the FDA's verdict.

    From the FDA's website:

    What does FDA regulate?

    The scope of FDA’s regulatory authority is very broad. FDA's responsibilities are closely related to those of several other government agencies. Often frustrating and confusing for consumers is determining the appropriate regulatory agency to contact. The following is a list of traditionally-recognized product categories that fall under FDA’s regulatory jurisdiction; however, this is not an exhaustive list.
    In general, FDA regulates:
    Foods, including:
    • dietary supplements
    • bottled water
    • food additives
    • infant formulas
    • other food products (although the U.S. Department of Agriculture plays a lead role in regulating aspects of some meat, poultry, and egg products)
    Drugs, including:
    • prescription drugs (both brand-name and generic)
    • non-prescription (over-the-counter) drugs
    Biologics, including:
    • vaccines
    • blood and blood products
    • cellular and gene therapy products
    • tissue and tissue products
    • allergenics
    Medical Devices, including:

    • simple items like tongue depressors and bedpans
    • complex technologies such as heart pacemakers
    • dental devices
    • surgical implants and prosthetics

    Those are only some of the duties they're tasked with.

    And in February, they made their budget request for 2016 which was $4.9 billion dollars.

    Why is the VA 'double dipping' the American tax payer?

    It's role is not to determine which drugs are available to Americans.

    That's the FDA's role.

    But after the FDA rules, the VA then starts its on process (DoD does not).

    This is pretty clear cut and I'm disappointed that the Committee didn't see it that way or didn't express it if they did.

    The FDA is doing its job.  When it rules, that's it.  That's the ruling the government has made.  The VA should not be wasting time or money testing drugs or trying to determine their safety -- the FDA has already done that.

    It is a waste of tax payer money and it is a waste of time -- and the VA has too much of a backlog to be wasting any time on a function that is unneeded.

    If they're allowed to continue with this process, it needs to be recognized that they are undermining the FDA.

    This is government waste and abuse.

    And, again, it does a huge disservice to those transitioning from DoD to VA.

    Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  I just want to ask you, Dr. Lynch, very quickly about the formulary issue.  I don't know whether you've had a chance to read Mr. Medina's written testimony telling of his struggle to obtain medication that his doctor previously found to work well for him, for him to manage injuries from his Traumatic Brain Injury?  It's a very powerful and compelling story.  And I understand that after learning of Mr. Medina's attempt to testify today the VA reached out to him, offering to cover the medication that was originally prescribed by DoD but, in effect, denied by the VA.  And I'm very pleased and thankful that VA seems to be taking action to remedy the problems of a prior policy.  And my feeling is that the VA -- or perhaps more directly -- veterans treatment options should not be determined by whether or not they have an opportunity to speak in front of Congress.  Earlier this year, the VA issued a directive meant to prevent transitioning soldiers like Mr. Medina from having to stop treatment that's proven effective simply because it isn't in the VA's formulary.  I welcome that directive or policy change. And can you discuss whether you've seen any other improvements -- obviously, Mr. Medina's situation has improved -- since the implementation of this policy?

    Dr. Thomas Lynch:  The only reference I would have, Senator, is that when we did look at a series of 2000 veterans, we saw a small percentage did have a problem as they related to the VA-DoD formulary issue.  We've been very aggressive in getting communications to the field  Uh, VA feels strongly that there needs to be an appropriate transfer of medications.  The single qualification would be that there is a certain clinical judgment that has to occur at the time of transfer and there may be some changes under those circumstances but otherwise  I think it's important as the veteran transitions that we do not change medications if clinically appropriate.

    Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  And that the approach be, in effect, evidence based and that it be consistent with patient safety?

    Dr. Thomas Lynch: That-that has been the VA's approach to our pharmacy as we have -- to our formulary as we have developed the forumlary.  It has been evidence based. It has been focused on patient safety. Uh, it has used the best available information to determine what drugs to place on that formulary -- absolutely

    We'll note SFC Victor Medina's opening remarks in full:

    I proudly served in the United States Army from 1994 to 2012. I have three combat tours: two in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and one in support Operation Enduring Freedom. On June 29th , 2009 I was wounded while on patrol in Iraq when an Explosive Formed Projectile struck my vehicle. I received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during this event. I sustained a moderate Traumatic Brain Injury, which affected me both, physically and cognitively. According to my healthcare providers, the effect s of my injuries are expected to worsen over time, and in fact they have. Since 2009, I received approximately 2 years of rehabilitation. Since the beginning of my injury, I was prescribed different medications to attempt to lessen the effects of the cognitive disorder and pain. After several attempts, doctors were able to find the correct medication to lessen the effects of the newly acquired cognitive disorder and pain . To address the cognitive disorders I was finally prescribed Vyvanse, which was a medication that caused no secondary effects, and helped me find a new normalcy. After 3 years with a medication that was working very well, I was forced to changed medications to a less effective formula. Why? Unfortunately, the original medication that was working tremendously with no secondary effects and included in the DoD formulary is not included in the VA limited formulary. This situation forced me to return to a medication that was already discontinued from my care due to the experienced adverse side effects. My healthcare services are provided by El Paso VA Health Center. Particular to my health care facility in El Paso, Texas is that both, the DoD pharmacy and the VA Pharmacy are co-located, they are in the same building. While Vyvanse physically exists in the building, I cannot receive it because the VA does not carry it in its formulary. That means that while I could be receiving the medication with no side effects, I have to settle for a medication that it has been no good to me, only because of a limitation in the VA formulary. In my case the medication, Vyvanse, is intended to help with attention and concentration. This medication was vital in my successful completion of graduate studies and in becoming a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. So, I am not the case of one a Veteran with a tantrum because of not being able to receive one random medication. I am the case of one Veteran that wants to succeed in life, by having the playing field leveled. My past medication leveled my playing field. Today, I do not come to you as one isolated Veteran . I come to you as the voice of many. I support this bill. It is a bill that is economically sound. This bill may result in the better utilization and allocation of resources, which in turn may reflect in an increased quality of services provided to Veterans. I have come across Veterans with situations similar to mine. These Veterans ask me to be their voice here today. The following Veterans had similar stories to mine; they authorized me to mention their name here today : Fernando Esquivel from Texas, Mike Barbour from Illinois, Zen Cypher from Texas, and, DeWayne Mayer from Ohio. This afternoon, I am saddened as I ask myself: how many Veteran suicides have been related to medications change for the lack of uniformed formularies? We may never know the answer. I only know one thing: I wish I could go back to the medication that worked well and not live for 2 years with daily adverse secondary effects of a medication given to me, solely because it is the only available option to me. Thank you.

    Again, the VA's policy is unneeded.  Either America tasks the FDA with the role it has or it doesn't.  VA needs to stick to its role and if a drug is approved by the FDA then that's the end of the discussion.

    It's harming veterans and it's wasting money.

    On the topic of wasted money, let's go to today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Marie Harf.

    QUESTION: So can you – on Iraq, can you read out how much the State Department has given Iraq since 2011 in foreign military sales and what kind of military equipment is slated to be delivered in the future?

    MS HARF: I’m happy to get you a full list after the briefing.

    QUESTION: And given all the weaponry and equipment squandered by the Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIL, do you think giving more will help?

    MS HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. First, I don’t agree with your assertion that the Iraqi military is not using what we’re giving them to push back on ISIL. In fact, they are. The Iraqi Armed Forces, including the Kurdish forces, are using the assistance we’re giving them, and we’re going to keep giving them more, because they need that assistance to take on ISIL. They need the kinds of weapons we can provide. They need the kinds of anti-tank weapon systems, as we talked about yesterday, that we can provide.
    So one of the major parts of our strategy here is building up the Iraqi forces so they can increasingly take the fight to ISIL. So that’s a key – really a key pillar of what we’re doing.

    QUESTION: And then one --

    QUESTION: But isn’t it also the case that ISIL/ISIS/Daesh is using the stuff that – the American stuff that they captured or took from --

    MS HARF: In some cases, yes.

    QUESTION: -- to really take it to the Iraqis and the Kurds, the forces that are fighting them?

    MS HARF: Well, they’re certainly using some things they have recovered during battle --

    QUESTION: Some? I mean, are we talking about thousands of Humvees, right? Is that --

    MS HARF: I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS HARF: But in general --

    QUESTION: But it’s a lot.

    MS HARF: It’s – I can get the exact numbers for you or see if DOD has them. They’re probably the better place to go. But in general, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to help the Iraqis get better, to help their forces improve, and to give them the kinds of assistance they need.

    QUESTION: You say that’s not a dilemma at all for the U.S.? There’s no --

    MS HARF: We believe that it’s important to continue assisting the Iraqis here.


    Marie Harf couldn't supply numbers.  The State Dept's Anthony Blinken did.  He announced that, in Iraq and Syria, 10,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed.  Jim Miklaszewski, Robert Windrem and Jon Schuppe (NBC News -- link is test and video) report:

     The 10,000 cited by Blinken was a classified estimate that the Department of Defense and the military did not intend to release. It was not clear why he decided to announce it on Wednesday.
    Defense officials told NBC News that the "estimated of the number killed is correct but was not intended for release."
    NBC News has been told the number is accurate only in the context of the much broader operations carried out by other ISIS opponents. That includes the Kurds, Shiite militias being armed and advised by Iran, Iraqi forces and Syrian forces.

    Laith Alkhouri, of security consulting firm and NBC News partner Flashpoint Intelligence, said he didn't believe Blinken's number. The U.S. government hasn't shared any underlying evidence, such as incremental reports of ISIS deaths, to back it up, he said. 

    On the topic of death, Margaret Griffis ( counts 70 violent deaths across Iraq.


    This is a moment, I think, when you sit back and say, 'What do we need to do in the military arena? What also do we need to do in the political arena?'

    That's David Petraeus, retired US military general and former CIA director, speaking to Charlie Rose in an interview that CBS News is using on various platforms (more of the interview will play Thursday morning on CBS This Morning.

    "What we need to do is focus not just on the military," Petraeus said. ["]You can't kill or capture your way out of an industrial strength insurgency like this, Charlie -- really, an industrial strength conventional force, because that's what ISIL has actually come to be. You need to have the political component, and without that, without that, you're not going to solve the problem."
    Asked if the U.S.-led coalition is winning or losing against ISIS right now, Petraeus responded, "These are fights where if you're not winning, you're probably losing, because time is not on your side."

    June 19th, US President Barack Obama told the world that the only solution to Iraq's crises was a political solution.  15 days away from the one year anniversary mark of that statement, he has nothing to point to that indicates a political solution.

    Wednesday, June 03, 2015

    President Fake Ass

    Chris Floyd (ICH) explains:

    Late last month, the Peace Prize Prez (PPPOTUS) “blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons,” the Washington Post reports. Obama’s peace-loving action means that “the entire blueprint for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation” has been killed dead in its tracks. It will now be five years until the next UN review of the landmark Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
    You might think this is odd behaviour from a president who has spent years tightening a stranglehold on Iran with an endless series of aggressive, bellicose acts just short of outright war, in order (ostensibly) to prevent that ‘rogue nation’ from developing nuclear weapons. Very late in the day, he has recently decided to try to craft a non-proliferation deal with Iran that is very similar to the deal that Iran offered the United States more than 12 years ago — the kind of deal that has been on the table from Iran for his entire presidency.  It’s likely that the main spur to his belated attempt at deal-making stems from his realization that he desperately needs Iran’s help to quell the ungodly maelstrom of murder, ruin and extremism he and his predecessor (and their Saudi allies) have unleashed in the Middle East.
    In any case, he has long insisted that the proliferation of nuclear weapons must be opposed and thwarted at all costs. Why then has he stepped in to stop the global framework for, er, thwarting nuclear proliferation? To protect a ‘rogue’ nuclear state which has illegally developed a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons — and which adamantly refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (Unlike Iran, which has for years accepted an international inspection regimen far more rigorous than the Treaty calls for.)

    One wonders what fake asses like Katrina vanden Heuvel will write and say?

    She always pretends to be about the end of all nukes.

    But she's also a consistent whore for Barack.

    So she'll either stay silent about President Fake Ass or do one of her stupid and airy Peggy Noonan-like takes which really says and means nothing.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

    Tuesday, June 2, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, a conference takes place in Paris, Antony Blinken sounds like he's on drugs, and much more.

    And now we have the answer.

    How could Secretary of State John Kerry fall off his bicycle last week in France?  And how could he be stupid enough to go riding at his age?


    Clearly, the State Dept needs to institute weekly drug testing for all employees.

    At today's US State Dept briefing, spokesperson Marie Harf stumbled around as if on acid and tripping hard as she was pressed on what the US is doing, why Blinken said the US would "redouble efforts," and why the US was not, in fact, going to "redouble efforts"?

    QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Paris conference?

    MS HARF: You can.

    QUESTION: I think you’ll be able to answer maybe more about that than this subject.

    MS HARF: Yes.

    QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Blinken said that everyone would redouble efforts. What did he mean? What are you going to double – advisors, equipment? What is the actual redoubling going to --

    MS HARF: Well, I’m not sure he was using “double” in a specific way. I think he was using it colloquially to mean that this group that met in Paris agreed on a couple of things. The first is that given the situation on the battlefield, we need to increase even more intelligence-sharing, getting them assistance as quickly as we can. We’ve been doing all of this for some time, but really underscoring the need to do as much as we can and more as quickly as possible.
    I think it was also important to note that they fully expressed their support for Prime Minister Abadi and the plan that he laid out recently to take on ISIL when it comes to Anbar. He was there at the meeting. So these were all, I think, important things that came out of it, but nothing specific to announce at this point.
    I would note – and the Secretary made mention of this as well – that there has been – and let me get the specifics on this – delivery that’s already gone through, I think, of 1,000 AT4 anti-tank weapon systems. They were delivered on May 30th to the Government of Iraq. These are one of the kinds of weapons that are effective at fighting back against ISIL, particularly in Anbar, so this was delivered on May 30th. We’ll see more deliveries like this happening.

    QUESTION: That delivery was – that decision to send those was actually made before Ramadi fell, is that correct?

    MS HARF: I believe that – I believe so, but it’s just an example of how we’re getting them things as quickly as we can, and will continue to do so.

    QUESTION: Now just on the redoubling – I mean, if he didn’t actually talk about anything specifically more you’re going to do, what does it mean, then?

    MS HARF: Right.

    QUESTION: I mean, you’re talking about redoubling, but you’re not actually going to do anything more?

    MS HARF: Well, no, that’s not what I’m saying. With our partners inside the room, I know they talked about ways we can share more intelligence, we can get assistance more quickly to the Iraqis, certainly how we can do more to support the Syrian opposition. These were all things discussed in the room, certainly. I don’t have anything to announce publicly about more today.

    QUESTION: But if I had asked a month ago if you’re doing everything you can to help defeat ISIL in Iraq, you would have said the coalition is doing everything it can.

    MS HARF: Yes. Well --

    QUESTION: And now you’re saying we’re going to do more because we need to do more. I mean, I don’t quite get it.

    Jason Ditz ( notes of Blinken's ridiculous claim, "That’s been the official US position all along, and it gets reiterated all the more often the more obvious it gets that ground is being lost to ISIS forces. The loss of Ramadi, a city of 500,000 people and capital of Iraq’s largest province, is the latest evidence the war is being lost."

    The right plan both politically and militarily?

    You can evaluate whether or not you think the 'military plan' is working.

    You really can't evaluate the 'political plan' because it consists solely of US President Barack Obama claiming, June 19th of last year, that the only answer to Iraq's crises is a political solution.

    He made that statement.

    It got echoed a bit.

    And then everyone marched off to play toy soldier -- State Dept included! -- and diplomacy and the need for Iraq to resolve its glaring mistreatment of Sunnis and Kurds was ignored.

    Not just for a day or two.

    Not just for a week.

    Not just for a month.

    But for 17 days short of a year.

    Where is the work towards a political solution?

    Not the US State Dept.

    Don't take my word for it, let's go to Brett McGurk who handled the June 1st State Dept background briefing (here in full) and wanted to explain what the US government was doing.

    SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The common objective is to defeat ISIL in all aspects of its organization, and really to asphyxiate it. That includes the military line of effort with a focus on activities in Iraq and Syria, and that’s important because Iraq and Syria is the heart of its perversely claimed caliphate, which is attracting foreign fighters from all around the world. The second line of effort is the foreign fighter networks, trying to cut down on the foreign fighter flows into the Syria and Iraq theater. The third line of effort is the financing, cutting down on ISIL’s attempts to finance itself and also to access global financial markets. The fourth line of effort is focusing on the humanitarian crisis, which has been generated by the fighting. And the fifth is countering ISIL in the messaging space. And the sixth is a new line of effort that we created a couple months ago focused on stabilization, and that is really (inaudible) cleared of ISIL, how do you flush resources into those areas, how do you take care of people, how do you bring services back. So that is the stabilization piece, which also brings an element of police with some coalition members really stepping up to help the Iraqis in policing.
    So that is how we’re organized. Let me just kind of go through some of the highlights of what we’re doing. And let me say that we’re learning more about ISIL every single day, and we’re learning more about it because of our activities, because of our intelligence activities, and because of this coalition – because of the information we share, because of the information that is shared within each working group and which is shared across each working group. General Allen and I just hosted here in Paris a meeting of the working group leads, the leads from many different countries. For example, stabilization is led by Germany and the UAE, and they’ve done really great work in helping the Iraqis to organize a stabilization fund through the United Nations, which is now finalized. And we will have – it’ll be a key part of the discussion tomorrow. So we brought those capitals in the room together to share information and really learn more about this network.
    I’ll give you an example: On the foreign fighters, this is a global network. As you know – we’ve discussed this before – more than 22,000 fighters from a hundred countries all around the world have poured (inaudible) Syria to join extremist organizations, mostly ISIL. And this is something that the world has really never seen before on this scale. Since September, when we formed this coalition and the United Nations Security Council passed the Chapter 7 Resolution 2178 to really encourage countries all around the world to crack down on foreign fighter terrorist networks, 34 countries since we formed this coalition in September have updated or enhanced their laws against foreign fighter networks. Twenty-six – in 26 instances, capitals have broken up cells. Interpol is now dramatically involved in this effort. Turkey has about 13,000 members on a no-entry list. And within the United States, the Department of Justice has brought charges to over more than 40 cases to date in individuals within our country trying to join ISIL.
    So this is a significant international network. I can just say we know a lot more about it now than we did in September, and we’re looking at ways to collapse the networks as they try to move foreign fighters, foreign terrorist fighters, into Syria.
    In the financing side, we’re working to deny any use of the financial system to any affiliates of ISIL or anyone associated with ISIL. We are targeting their oil processing capabilities, because one of their primary sources of financing, particularly when we started this effort, was in the oil trade and oil bartering. And of course, we just conducted – our special forces conducted a raid into Syria to target Abu Sayyaf, who was the number one financier. He kind of ran the whole financial network for ISIL. And I’ll just say from that raid we’re learning quite a bit that we did not know before we did that raid.
    So again, every single day the picture becomes clearer of what this organization is, how sophisticated it is, how global it is, and how networked it is. And through these meetings with the coalition we’re able to learn more, synthesize, compare notes, and really kind of accelerate efforts where we need to.
    On the military side, of course, that gets most of the focus but that’s only one of the lines of effort. We have 12 coalition partners now in Iraq training Iraqi forces. We’ve trained so far 7,000 Iraqi soldiers; 4,000 are in training now. Again, important to keep in mind that this effort is really just getting up and running. We always knew this would be a very long-term, very long haul, and it’s getting moving now. Important to note in Ramadi, which I’ll talk about, but the troops in Ramadi that retreated were not troops that we had trained. Some of the troops that will participate in the counter-attack we anticipate will be troops that we trained, so we’ll have to see how they do. We’re obviously very focused on supporting them.
    We also, of course, have nine coalition partners conducting airstrikes in Iraq, six coalition partners conducting airstrikes in Syria. Jordan is now conducting airstrikes in Iraq. Canada is now conducting airstrikes in Syria. And the military line of effort, of course, is very closely coordinated through CENTCOM and our Department of Defense.
    Getting to the meeting tomorrow, we’re, of course, going to go through all of the lines of effort, the working groups comparing notes as we usually do, learning more. What do we know now that we didn’t know when we first – when we got together in January with this group? But tomorrow also has a significant purpose. This is not a business-as-usual meeting. We’re coming in the wake of the events in Ramadi, and we’re coming to discuss with Prime Minister Abadi his plan – his plan – for liberating Ramadi and Anbar province. And this is important because in the immediate wake of Ramadi, Prime Minister Abadi called together his national security council, his cabinet – Sunni, Shia, and Kurds – and they unanimously adopted a national program for taking back Ramadi, and not just Ramadi but securing Anbar province and cutting off the access route that we know ISIL is using to funnel its – funnel resources all the way up north into Mosul, because as you may recall, we’ve been successful in cutting off its access routes into Mosul from the north with various operations we did with the Peshmerga and some of the Arab tribes in that area earlier this year.
    So the Iraqi plan has – which was endorsed by their entire cabinet in about 72 hours after the events of Ramadi – really has five key elements, all of which we’re going to discuss tomorrow. One, and very significantly, is mobilizing the tribes of Anbar (inaudible). Iraqis have been working to do this. They need help, and we’re ready to help. Since this plan was announced, 800 tribal fighters have been enrolled as volunteers to serve with a paycheck from the state, with a weapon to go out and join the fight alongside Iraqi Security Forces, again, in a coordinated, organized way, in a way that we can help. So that happened – those 800 fighters were formally enrolled at Habbaniyah just last week, and that is just a start. We have about 5,000 now enrolled in Anbar province. That number is going to keep going up.
    So we’ll be talking to Abadi tomorrow about his plan for mobilizing the tribes of Anbar province, and most significantly how we and other coalition members can help. That’s pillar one.
    Pillar two is recruiting new recruits into the Iraqi Army. And since this campaign started (inaudible) new recruits into the army. The soldiers that we have been training, for example, are already existing Iraqi army soldiers who we bring in (inaudible) our building partner capacity sites, and they go through substantial training with us and coalition partners.
    This plan for liberating Anbar brings in new recruits into the Iraqi army. That’s been a real challenge for the Iraqis due to fiscal constraints and a real budget crunch that they’re facing, but they’re finding a way to do this. And specifically in their plan that they announced, it mentions the divisions in Anbar province, and particularly the 7th Iraqi Army Division out at Al Asad Air Base, where we are present with the Australians, with the Danes, doing an awful lot of training. So we think that is actually quite significant.
    And our efforts out at Al Asad, up the Euphrates River about 30 kilometers from Ramadi, have actually been quite successful. We’ve been working there now – we didn’t get out there until about mid-November, where we’ve been working with three tribes in that area and with the Iraqi Security Forces. And if you look on a map of the Euphrates Valley, all the way from Jarabulus all the way down to Ramadi, the area where there’s a big green circle, where Daesh has been trying its hardest but without effect, is in that area between Haditha and Baghdadi, because the tribes are mobilized. We’re helping them and they’re working directly with the Iraqi Security Forces all through the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. And we think that’s been quite successful, and we’ll obviously be looking to see if we can replicate that elsewhere.
    The third part of the Iraqi plan is to recall and refit the police, and particularly the police in Anbar province. We think there’s about 24,000 policemen. And immediately after the events of Ramadi, Prime Minister Abadi fired the police chief of Anbar province. He appointed a new provincial police chief who has the full support of the Anbaris and the Anbari provincial council, and that effort is now underway. And we think mobilizing the police will be critical because as areas are cleared, it’s going to be crucial that local police are there to maintain order as the army and military forces go on to take on additional objectives.
    The fourth plank of this plan is an international stabilization fund, and this fund will be – it’s now finalized – and this will be a part of the discussion tomorrow. And we’ll have a little bit more to say about that tomorrow. But the idea of this – it was developed through the Stabilization Working Group through the coalition, but also with the United Nations and with the Iraqi Government in the lead, and it builds on best practices from around the world of where this has been done in the past. And I refer to the UN experts – we were just talking to some of them today – who are very eager to get this moving because they think it is based on very sound principles and very effective principles. But it’s focused on immediate, quick-hit projects. So if an area is cleared and after fighting and after a military campaign, it immediately needs to flush resources, to clean out the streets, to remove mines and IEDs, and basically to make areas livable again so people can come back. This has been a real problem, because the Iraqis are not able to access capital markets; they remain fairly cash poor and they’re not able to flood resources quickly to areas, which is really essential as areas are cleared.
    So again, a lesson we’ve learned over the last eight months. This has been something we had to correct. We think the International Stabilization Fund corrects that, and we hand it to our colleagues in the Stabilization Working Group led by Germany and the UAE; also the UN team in Baghdad and our team at the embassy who have worked with Iraqis to get this up and running. It is now up and we’ll be looking for coalition contributions.
    The fifth – finally, the fifth part of this Iraqi plan which is very important is that as they organize all forces in the country to be part of this effort – and as you may recall in the fall of Ramadi, the Anbari provincial council unanimously asked Popular Mobilization Forces to come into the province to help, primarily to help cut off roadways and logistical resupply routes into Ramadi. But it’s very important as this proceeds that all forces be brought under the command and control of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi prime minister, and its something that is a fundamental element of the plan for Anbar province. It’s something that leaders, including religious leaders like Grand Ayatollah Sistani, speaks to quite frequently.
    So those are the five core elements of this Iraqi plan. One, mobilizing the tribes; recruiting into the army; recalling of police; the stabilization fund to get resources to people quickly as areas are cleared after military conflict ceases and military operations cease; and the command and control over the forces.
    In addition, there’ll be discussion tomorrow and also two days from now in Brussels about the tremendous humanitarian toll of the fighting and of the refugees that’ve flown, particularly out of Anbar province, as ISIL has gone on the offensive there. And that is something that the UN will be speaking to the (inaudible) when they’ll be making an appeal in Brussels in two days for specifically what they need. It’s probably around a range of $4- to $500 million. And we, of course, when Prime Minister Abadi was in Washington a few weeks ago, contributed an additional $200 million to the UN humanitarian efforts in Iraq, which are truly heroic efforts.
    So again, tomorrow – it’s a time for the Small Group members of the coalition to get together to share information, to say what do we know now that we didn’t know in January – what is working, what is not working, what do we have to fix – and really kind of synthesizing all the different working groups to learn more about the network and then think ahead; as we look ahead to the next two months, to think about how we can really strangle and squeeze the network: the foreign fighters, the financing, and of course in the military sphere, particularly in the near term in this campaign in Anbar. And we’ll hear from Prime Minister Abadi about his campaign plan for Anbar province and where the coalition can help. And we’re already 

    Hey!  Wake up!

    That was long winded, wasn't it.

    Brett had all the words in the world and used each at least 12 times.

    But did you notice that it was military, military, military, military, Justice Dept on financing, military, military, military . . .

    Did you hear him talk about the political solution?


    All the words in the world to define what the US government was doing and not once did he offer that the government was actively involved in fostering a political solution.

    Toy soldiers.

    Little overgrown boys like Brett who like the uniform but were too scared of the thought of actually being in combat to serve in the military.

    Now, as the middle age years thin out and vanish, they pretend like they were warriors, they recreate the jobs they have to make it appear that they're warriors.

    Ashamed of their own past actions, they rush to play toy soldiers.

    I don't define manhood as being a soldier.

    Why would I in a world where so many women serve and sever outstanding well in the military?

    But a lot of overgrown boys who never reached manhood grasp on to the idea/fear that they could have become men if only they'd enlisted.

    And it's those and their sexual discomfort -- Brett McGurk, where's your Vanity Fair cover? -- that cause so much trouble and destruction around the world.

    Kate Parkinson (CCTV -- link is video) reported on the conference.

    Kate Parkinson:  The leaders of the Iraq, French and US delegations delivered an upbeat assessment of the Paris talks.  The US Deputy Secretary of State said Iraq and its allies are pursuing a winning strategy.

    Antony Blinken: I emerge from this meeting confident that we will defeat them through our unity, our determination and our commitment to create a future of opportunity and peace for people in Iraq.

    Kate Parkinson:  But despite the US-led coalition air strikes, Islamic State militants have recently made some significant gains in Iraq.  This video posted on social media shows ISIL flags flying in Ramadi after the city fell to militants last month.  It was the Iraqi government's biggest military setback in nearly a year.  At the meeting in Paris, Iraq's allies pledged support for an emergency plan adopted by Baghdad to try and quickly retake the city. Before the meeting, the Iraqi Prime Minister had accused the coalition of not doing enough to tackle ISIL -- also known as Da'ash -- or curbing the flow of foreign fighters crossing into his country.  But after the talks, Haider al-Abadi said he had received fresh commitments of help.

    Haider al-Abadi: ISIL was not born in Iraq, it was not developed in Iraq but in Syria because of events that have nothing to do with the situation in Iraq.  They are supported by means from outside of Iraq, by external combatants.  We can make sacrifices to fight ISIL but, as I said, the international community, the international coalition has to support us, has to support us to destroy ISIL

    Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angels Times) offers:

    Western governments have urged Abadi's Shiite-dominated administration to do more to bolster reconciliation with Iraq's disaffected Sunni minority. Some Iraqi Sunnis alienated from the central government have welcomed Islamic State, an ultra-fundamentalist Sunni movement that views Shiites as heretics.
    The generally upbeat assessments offered in Paris were somewhat at odds with grim battlefield reports in Iraq and Syria. 

    Lori Hinnant and James Keaten (AP) point out that the "conference offered no strategy beyond that which has yet to bear fruit, and none had been expected."

    Some idiots like to say Haider's made moves.

    He's not.

    All he's done is offer words -- empty promises.

    After the conference, Antony Blinken, Haider al-Abadi and France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius held a press conference.  Fabius declared, "Now another thing that struck me in this morning’s conversations is that the military strategy cannot be taken without the reconciliation policy and plans in Iraq. Everything is related. And this morning, we were able to reconfirm the necessary commitment on the part of the Iraqi Government in order to implement the reforms planned in order to meet the expectations of all Iraqis and to join them in the fight against Daesh."

    You're a fool if you fall for that or you think it represents change.

    Empty promises is all Nouri offered.

    Nouri al-Maliki, the thug who brought Iraq to the brink in his second term -- his second term that should never have been.

    Emma Sky is the author of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq.   Fred Hiatt (Washington Post) explains just how important her book is when he writes:

    Sky had come to believe that Shiite-Sunni combat was neither eternal nor inevitable. Before the war, rates of intermarriage had been high. She was heartened by the narrow victory of a nonsectarian electoral bloc — and dismayed when the Obama administration nonetheless backed, in the post-election scramble to form a government, the divisive, Iranian-backed prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. That decision, spurred in Sky’s view by the U.S. eagerness to disengage quickly, in turn guaranteed the subsequent failure to negotiate a treaty allowing some U.S. forces to remain.

    He explains how important her book is by lying -- by lying -- about what it says.

    It wasn't a post-election scramble.  The reality is Nouri lost the 2010 elections and refused to step down.

    This prevented the newly elected government from moving forward, the Parliament from holding sessions.  Nouri brought the country to a stand-still for 8 months (this is what is known as the "political stalemate").

    He was only able to do that because the White House backed him.

    The White House then brokered a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term.

    These are not minor events.

    They are key to how Iraq ended up where it is today.

    A lot of liars and lot of idiots -- especially in the United States -- refused to pay attention to Iraq after Barack was elected.  They don't know about how he released terrorists to get the terrorist group to release British citizens (four corpses one living) and they don't know about how Iraq came to be where it's at today.

    Unlike those pathetic liars (Mike called one out here), I haven't had the luxury of a vacation from Iraq.  Every day, I have to write about Iraq here.  Every day.  So I'm really not the mood for these whores who come along and lie repeatedly -- Vox, we mean you -- and manage to trick people because so few were paying attention.

    Today's crises are not a surprise and you can go back to 2012 where we repeatedly warned -- over and over, week after week -- what was coming.  And what was coming is what finally registered in 2014.  Welcome to the party.

    Jason Ditz ( explains Haider al-Abadi was on the defensive at the conference today, "Abadi promised inquiries into why so many troops left behind large amounts of military equipment, and never fought against ISIS, amid claims that Iraq had a dramatic numerical advantage in the city."

    He can -- and does -- blame every one else but in the end, as prime minister of Iraq, it's his job to defend the country.  He's making it very easy for Nouri al-Maliki to stage a coup and return as prime minister.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 456 violent deaths across Iraq today -- apparently they all missed Antony Blinken's announcement that the strategy was 'winning.'

    the los angeles times