Thursday, August 16, 2018

Elijah Cummings needs to sit his tired ass down already

Oh, Elijah Cummings, just sit your tired ass down.  Seriously.  Have you seen this nonsense?

The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee is demanding an explanation of President Trump's decision this week to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan
In a letter to White House chief of staff John Kelly, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., asked for a detailed briefing on the decision and suggested Trump may have failed to follow proper procedures.
He is former CIA Director.  If this is really about secrets then he should not have access to them.  He is former.  Get it.  No longer.  There’s no reason for him to have access.  If he needs limited access for something new, he should have to reapply.  Doesn’t want to?  No surprise, he’s been leaking to the press and is under contract to CNN.  Guess what?  You don’t get to keep you clearance.
Guess what else, Elijah Cummings needs to get a damn life already and stop acting the fool.

“Members of the Congressional Black Caucus prove themselves to be happy tools of the neoliberal war party.”
“Outraged by President Trump’s 2 hr meeting w/Putin, the man who orchestrated attacks on our democracy. Where do his loyalties lie?”-- Barbara Lee
“Trump’s denial of the demonstrated fact that Russia attacked American democracy in 2016 is beyond disgraceful.”-- James E. Clyburn
“Instead, he legitimized Putin and disrespected the clear findings of our law enforcement and intelligence officials here at home.”-- Elijah Cummings
Black people should be first in line when it comes to casting doubt on the work of intelligence agencies and federal prosecutors. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) ought to uphold the proud tradition of defying corrupt law enforcement. Instead they prove themselves to be happy tools of the neoliberal war party, a bipartisan construct that includes the Democrats. They join with the rest of the democratic party in flogging the Russiagate story and hope that their constituents won’t ask them about anything else.
Robert Mueller is no different from his prosecutor colleagues across the country. They lie. They over charge and force innocent people to plead guilty. They “squeeze” defendants with threats of draconian sentences and get them to turn on other people or even to tell lies themselves.
He needs to start working on the things that matter.  But that would require for him to call an end to the ongoing wars or to work on jobs or healthcare and Elijah don’t want to do no work.  He’s a fake ass.  He’s a tired ass.  He needs to sit down – and stay seated.

Queen of soul Aretha Franklin has passed away. 

Rebecca and Marcia wrote some beautiful posts on that topic so please read:

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Thursday, August 16, 2018.

Starting in the US where an Iraqi refugee has been detained and will be returned to Iraq.

Suspected Islamic State member accused of killing police officer in Iraq arrested in Sacramento, where he settled as a refugee

This is the US Justice Dept's press release on the issue:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Iraqi National Wanted for Murder in Iraq Arrested In California

Had Previously Attempted To Gain Lawful Permanent Resident Status

Omar Ameen, 45, an Iraqi national, wanted on a murder charge in Iraq, appeared before a federal magistrate judge in Sacramento, California today in connection with proceedings to extradite him to face trial in Iraq.  Ameen settled in Sacramento as a purported refugee and attempted to gain legal status in the United States.
The arrest was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott for the Eastern District of California, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Criminal Division, Assistant Director Michael McGarrity of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, and Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI’s Sacramento Field Office.
An arrest warrant charging Ameen with the 2014 murder of an Iraqi police officer was issued on May 16, by a judge of the Baghdad Federal Al-Karkh Inquiry Court.  In accordance with its treaty obligations with Iraq, the United States filed a complaint in Sacramento seeking a warrant for Ameen’s arrest based on the extradition request.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan issued the warrant on Tuesday, and Ameen was arrested by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in Sacramento today.
The Iraqi arrest warrant and extradition request allege that after the town of Rawah, Iraq fell to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) on June 21, 2014, Ameen entered the town with a caravan of ISIS vehicles and drove to the house of the victim, who had served as an officer in the Rawah Police Department.  On the evening of June 22, 2014, after the caravan arrived at the victim’s house, Ameen and other members of the convoy allegedly opened fire on the victim.   Ameen then allegedly fired his weapon at the victim while the victim was on the ground, killing him.
Ameen, originally of Rawah, in the Anbar province of Iraq, fled Iraq following the alleged murder, and later settled in Sacramento as a purported refugee.  It is alleged that Ameen’s family supported and assisted the installation of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in Rawah, and that Ameen was a member of AQI and ISIS.  It is also alleged that he participated in various activities in support of those terrorist organizations, including helping to plant improvised explosive devices, and committing the murder that is the subject of the extradition request.  Ameen concealed his membership in those terrorist groups when he applied for refugee status, and later when he applied for a green card in the United States.
The details contained in the charging document are allegations and have not been proven in court.
Today’s arrest and the subsequent extradition are the product of a coordinated effort by the U.S. Department of Justice — in particular the Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs which played a significant role in the extradition process — the U.S. Department of State, the FBI — in particular the FBI Sacramento Field Office which provided considerable resources to further this investigation and ensure the safety of the American people throughout it — and ICE-Homeland Security Investigations.

So Omar Ameen came to the US as a refugee and settled in California.  Four years later, he has been arrested and will now be returned to Iraq.

Is he guilty?

He's charged.  He's accused.  And that's a really big problem.  The US government is fully aware of the lack of justice in Iraq.  Returning him is very likely the same as sentencing him to die.  Whether he is innocent or guilty, he is most likely going to be executed.  Trials last minutes in Iraq.  Rules and laws are not followed.

Grasp that THE NEW YORK TIMES used to do regular updates on the state of justice in Iraq and even they long ago stopped writing.  Mainly because nothing changed.  Progress did not arrive.

Omar Ameen may be guilty.  Right now he has the presumption of innocence.  And it's very sad that he is being handed over to a country where he will not get a fair trial and where the outcome from the charges is death.

In Iraq, tens of strikers begin open sit in in front of Basra Province government building after security forces kill a protester while dispersing a protest.

Margaret Griffis (ANTIWAR.COM) notes, "One protester has died after police fired on a demonstration in Ezzedine Salim, Basra province. Current demonstrators are calling for the release of previously detained protesters."

On KPFA's VOICE OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA, the issue of the protests was addressed yesterday.

They discussed how Tahrir Square in Baghdad has seen protests but smaller ones and how their is the history of closing streets in Baghdad to prevent masses from gathering in Tahrir Square.

Balsam Mustafa: All of the parties, the Iraqi government, is in the Green Zone.  So they were very careful to protect the Green Zone and they, as you said,  blocked all of the roads.  They prevented the protesters from moving forward and, a couple of week ago, they used water canons to prevent the protests for progressing. and this could be another reason why the protests in Baghdad was less than in the other provinces due to the security measures taken by the government.

As the protests continue, so does the violence aimed at them.

IOHR: Security Forces beat the protestor using batons while breaking up the protest.

This violence is a daily event that those brave enough to go into the streets and protest

Since Iraqi Security Forces fired live bullets on protesters in today, I would like to remind the world about the bullets fired during internet shutdown. Public response: “With our souls, with our blood, we shall defend you, O’Iraq.”

Yesterday on KPFA, Balsam Mustafa noted, "There were reports of activists and protesters who were chased and beaten.  Many were arrested.  Although some of them were soon released on bail, some are still missing."

The demands of the protesters are people needs, the basics.  This includes jobs.  Baslam noted that in Basra, when new jobs were announced there were "over half a million applicants to only ten thousand jobs."

May 12th, Iraq held elections.  Still no government formed.  Next month, the KRG holds elections.

legislative elections on 30 Sept: 773 candidates run for 111 (including 11 quotas) seats, 23 lists. Iraq May elections: 6690 candidates, 87 lists, 329 (9 quotas) seats. What explains such a crowded field? intra and inter identity politics could be one reason.

If a government is not formed in Iraq before September 30th, look for the KRG government to be formed before Iraq's national government is formed.

And the Iraq War continues.

Coalition strikes continue against ISIS targets in the Middle Euphrates River Valley and Iraq-Syria border region.

And US troops aren't leaving Iraq any time soon.

Pentagon: "We have assessed that, even after the liberation of ISIS controlled territory, ISIS probably is still more capable than al-Qaida in Iraq at its peak in 2006-2007...suggesting it is well positioned to rebuild and work on enabling its physical caliphate to reemerge"

The Iraq War drags on and on.  At CSIS, Anthony Cordrsman offers his evaluation of Iraq which includes the following:

The end result has been a success, at least in fighting ISIS to the point of destroying the its ability to occupy key Iraqi cities, and its "caliphate." At the same time, this success has come at the cost of a major expansion of Iran's military and security role in Iraq, and the rise of Shi'ite and Sunni militias.
The U.S. has not rebuilt Iraqi forces to a level where they have a credible capability to deter or defend against Iran, and tensions between the Arab forces under the control of the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Peshmerga in the North led to a major confrontation in 2018, where the government forces took back large areas the Pesh Merga had occupied, but the Arab and Kurdish forces remained as divided as ever.
Once again, "winning" at the military level has been largely a tactical success with no apparent strategy for winning even the military side of a stable peace. And here, it is useful to examine the overall U.S. approach to all three wars in the President's FY2019 budget request to Congress – requests which provide far more detail than the almost total lack of any specifics in the new National Defense Strategy.
The Administration asked for minimal civil aid of any kind but requested an increase in the cost of the Department of Defense’s request for such operations for all three wars from $60.1 billion in FY2018 to $64.2 billion in FY2019 – far lower than the peak of $187 billion in FY2008. It was also clear from the FY2019 budget request – and statements by the Secretary of Defense and senior U.S. officers – that it was seeking a significant increase in direct train and assist aid to Afghan, Iraqi, and Syria forces in the field.
The number of troops the U.S. actually sent forward to assist allied combat forces in each country was never made clear, and the current Department of Defense monthly reports on military and civilian personnel overseas does not include entries for Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. However, the budget request for FY2019 did state that the U.S. planned to keep the total number of average military personnel actually deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. at 12,000 (less some 3,000 to 6,000 more in “temporary” personnel.
This was a massive cut from 187,000 in FY2008, but much higher that the low of 8,000 troops in FY2017. There also was a major increase in other levels of support although the Department did not provide a break out of the number of contractors or civilians, and the budget justifications do not provide any clear way to tie the Department of Defense reporting to the full State Department civil OCO effort
Other reporting by AFCENT showed that the U.S. had again made massive earlier increases in its active air support for local ground forces. The U.S. increased air support from a low of 1,411 sorties per year that actually fired munitions in Iraq and Syria in 2014, to some 10,000-12,000 per year in 2015-2017. The U.S. sharply reduced the number of attack sorties per month in 2018, but only after making massive increases in such sorties in the fight to after liberate Mosul and inflict major defeats on ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.
Equally important, the FY2019 budget submission did not describe any form of plan or strategy for any of the three wars for the portion of U.S. wartime spending devoted to Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) beyond the coming fiscal year. It made no attempt to define a strategy or real-world budget estimate for the remaining period of FY2020 to FY2023 in the Future Year Defense Plan. The Administration also has not made any such attempt since submitting its budget request, or described any plan to build-up Iraq forces, reduced Iranian influence, reduced the growing flow of Russian arms sales, or help create some nation-wide systems for the rule of law and local security.

To repeat, we never bought the lie that ISIS was defeated in Iraq because we never confused their adapting to what, for them, were excellent conditions.  Meaning that the goal of terrorists cells and organizations is not to govern or rule.  Iraq's government was so inept at the time (headed then by Nouri al-Maliki) that ISIS was able to take areas and govern them.  They continue to do that in an area in Anbar Province but that is not their goal or aim and ending that in Mosul did not mean the defeat of ISIS. Suggesting otherwise, as the media did, is a misreading of the basic objectives and of international political theory.

Cordesman continues:

As for the civil side, the U.S. seems to have almost deliberately ignore the warning from the World Bank regarding the cost of rebuilding the areas damaged during the fighting with ISIS or the far higher costs of economic reform that can meet the needs of the Iraqi people and win their support for the central government. Just as the U.S. effectively abandoned serious efforts at nation building and stability operations in Afghanistan in 2014, and never tried to restore them when it renewed major military support; the U.S. ended such efforts in Iraq in 2011 and never renewed them as it effectively went nearly bankrupt under the combined pressures a massive need for structural reform, the cost of the fighting, and major reductions in petroleum export revenues.
Similarly, the U.S. seems to have done little to try to help Iraq raised one of the lowest ranked levels of governance in the world, or to shape an outcome of the 2018 election that would be any less divisive than the 2010 election the helped make Maliki a would-be authoritarian, renewed the divisions between Sunni and Shi'ite, and polarized and corrupted Iraq's military forces. In fact, it is a bit of a contest as to which of the three governments in the countries the U.S. currently is fighting in is ranked by the World Bank as have the lowest levels of governance. As for corruption, both Abadi and Ghani have made some progress in their respective countries, but Transparency International ranks Syria as the 3rd most corrupt country in the world, Afghanistan is still ranked 4th, and Iraq is ranked 11th..
The outcome of the Iraqi election remains unclear and may well remain so for some months, given the problems to both creating a coalition and making it actually operate. However, it is already clear that could easily empower Iran, re-divide Iraq between Shi'ite and Sunni, and/or leave a festering quarrel between the central government and the Kurds. Such an outcome might well turn the U.S. "victory" over the ISIS "caliphate" into a major victory for Iran and defeat for the United States, but it seems to be yet another aspect of the future than no one in the Administration is willing to publicly face or address.

He writes of the need for support to be measure-based and that will (and should) remind everyone that this is a road we've traveled before.  The benchmarks.  Democrats demanded them from the Bully Boy Bush White House.  If Iraq didn't meet certain benchmarks, military support would be cut off.  Thing is, it never happened.  The benchmarks were never met.  And the  military aid was never cut.  It was nonsense.  They should have followed it and stood by their words.  Instead, the Congressional Dems (with few exceptions -- Lloyd Doggett would be one exception) saw continuing the Iraq War as a way to win the White House in 2008.

What's going to change with new benchmarks?

Benchmarks are a way to continue the war, not a way to end it.  Benchmarks will not be pass/fail as they should be.  Instead, we will again see press outlets and the government weasling out of what the benchmarks actually demand to insist that progress is being made.

The following  sites updated: