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U.S. broke terrorist siege of 100,000, who turned out to be 4000, who were actually 1000

. . . the dead they were worried over disappeared from the mountains as well.

Yep, they announced today they rescued from 'genocide' 50,000 to 100,000 or so Kurds who made the 10 mile walk north over the border led by Syrian fighters, and it's now 'unlikely' they'll need to drop any more food for the remaining civilians on the mountain because it appears they live there, but 'thousands' more will still need help.

'Of those still there, as many as half appeared to be permanent residents or did not want to leave . . . Of those who still wanted to go, 90 per cent were leaving by truck, the assessment team found.'

But their airstrikes did break the siege by the Islamic militants with about half the targets connected to the humanitarian mission and it will require much more aggressive bombing from the U.S. to break the siege of Sinjar and end the humanitarian crisis the U.S. now says is unlikely.

'Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said late Wednesday that the situation was no longer as bad as anyone thought. There are now only about 5,000 civilians on the mountain, and they are in "better condition than previously believed," according to Hagel's statement.'

All of that progress, no doubt due to the 130 'advisers' they just sent to 'assess' the humanitarian crisis that the only 20 or so Special Forces they actually sent to the mountain to evaluate the rescue (floating several inches above the soil, per the president's order that they not put boots on the ground) declared a success. Now "the majority" of the 129 military advisers they deployed to Irbil to help plan aid operations for the rescue of the non-existent refugees on the mountain will soon depart Iraq.

'U.S. officials believe that reports of U.S. airstrikes (not necessarily actual airstrikes, but airstrikes in the south) and the food drops gave Yazidis who had fled to the mountains (to the north) confidence that they could safely leave.'

"We're going to be working with our international partners to provide humanitarian assistance to those who are suffering in northern Iraq wherever we have capabilities and we can carry out effective missions like the one we carried out on Mount Sinjar without committing combat troops on the ground," Obama said in a statement.

'Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to say whether and where any future U.S. air strikes in Iraq might take place, but said Obama had authorized the use of strikes to protect U.S. personnel anywhere in Iraq.'

'On Thursday, some of the most senior U.S. intelligence experts on terrorism briefed reporters in detail on the Islamic State group. They described a battle-hardened, well-funded terrorist organization that is bent on governing the territory it has seized in Syria and Iraq while also encouraging attacks in Europe and the United States.'

"The fighting is very heavy at times and the Americans have helped with some airstrikes, but there have not been many," said Hamid, a militia commander who was one of hundreds of Syrian Kurds who crossed into Iraq to help battle the Islamic State near Sinjar. He agreed to speak but asked that only his first name be used.

On a break back in Syria, where he was reached by phone, Hamid said U.S. bombing strikes had provided only limited assistance.

"They helped us clear a path for the refugees, but it will not be enough to remove Daash from the area," he said, using the disparaging Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. "With more bombings we could liberate Sinjar and they could all go home."

Mission accomplished.


*satire* (text in 'italics' from actual reports)

sources for this bigtree special report:

Obama says Sinjar siege broken, some personnel to leave Iraq

Obama says Yazidi mission in northern Iraq accomplished

Obama: No Iraq rescue; further airdrops unlikely

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/55865591

130 More U.S. Troops to Iraq...There's Always Going to be an Excuse - This is Classic

. . . escalation.

I don't know that the President is slowly ratcheting the military presence in Iraq deliberately, with full knowledge that was going to be the end result of his first handful of troops. Maybe he's sincere that the mission he first envisioned and sold to the American people just happened to change so dramatically from defense of the embassy; directing and training Iraqi troops; to ordering direct attacks from our own warplanes.

Thing is, he's either hopelessly naive about the course of deployments into the middle of the civil strife of nations divided within themselves; he may indeed be malleable and easily manipulated by the pack of Bush-era hawks and dinosaurs in the Pentagon and his intelligence agencies; or he's just a goddamn liar.

Why should anyone believe anything he says regarding military deployments and activity in Iraq? He either is too ignorant to understand what he's committed the U.S. to in that country; or he's just plain bullshitting us.

After all, it's not as if this is some new reality that was somehow unspoken by opponents of the original plan to re-insert American troops there . . . and he's still calling them 'advisers.' Special forces deployed in a war zone aren't 'boots on the ground?' What, does he think... that they're floating in mid-air?

We've been played for fools, and anyone who supports this incremental escalation will have no room to argue when this escalation implodes in our faces. Give the military and the CIA an inch and they'll take a mile.

The Kurdish civilians have had an incredibly tragic experience. No one looking at their plight should be sanguine or indifferent to their plight. But the U.S. has no business re-introducing military forces there. We've done more than enough damage to their country. I'm not just talking about the 'shock and awe' of Bush's scatterbombing; I'm not just talking about the mass detentions without charge or trial -or the torturing and renditions.

I'm talking about the blowback - the counterproductive effect of our troop's mere presence which has already been demonstrated beyond any doubt to fuel and foster more resistant violence than it's able to put down.

Is there any more convincing measure of the folly of supporting this than the very fact that nothing our forces have done so far there has caused the military to assert that we're making any progress at all in putting down what they first called a rag-tag handful of insurgents? Don't tell me that more troops are the answer. Did a full scale occupation under Bush protect and defend civilians there any better?

Did we miss the horror of civilian killings all around our occupying troops under Bush; all with orders to attack and kill opponents at will? Did we miss the Iraqi family members who lined the river every day to watch the steady flow of dead and bloated bodies in the sad and awful expectation that they could identify one as their own kin?

Is there any more proof of the utter ignorance of a unilateral, escalated U.S. deployment than the virtual silence from the vast majority of the former 'coalition of willing' partners in our opportunistic imperialism?

Damn this president for taking our country back into war in Iraq. Damn him.




President Obama, left, meets with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice on Tuesday Aug. 12 -Pete Souza


15 hours ago -John Kerry Says U.S. Doesn't Plan to Send More Troops to Iraq

Aug 12, 2014, 10:06 PM - US Sends 130 More Troops to Iraq

Amnesty Intl: "This is not the Bush administration, this is torture happening under Obama"

(I took this down last night in GD to make room for the Williams death reports - posting it here to keep it for reference)


Amnesty Intl: "This is not the Bush administration, this is torture happening under Obama"
Noah Shachtman ‏@NoahShachtman 1h

US concealed evidence of troops' war crimes as recently as last year, according to a brutal new Amnesty Intl report. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/11/amnesty-us-concealed-troops-war-crimes-in-afghanistan-as-recently-as-last-year.html

____ The U.S. military has systematically covered up or disregarded “abundant and compelling evidence” of war crimes, torture, and unlawful killings in Afghanistan as recently as last year, according to a report by Amnesty International published today in Kabul.

The human rights organization alleges that the U.S. military has routinely failed to properly investigate reports of criminal behavior and, in some instances, tampered with evidence to conceal wrongdoing. On the rare occasions when servicemen are held to account, the report found that the compromised military justice system seldom secured justice for the victims of enforced disappearances, killings, and abuse that included torture.

“President Obama has admitted that ‘we tortured’ people in the past—but this is not the Bush administration, this is torture happening under Obama,” said Joanne Mariner, the author of the report.

While torture and other abuses by the CIA and the military were sanctioned by the Bush administration, Obama entered office vowing to end such practices. There have been a number of prosecutions and punishments of military units that have committed crimes and atrocities in Afghanistan under Obama, but Amnesty says the White House has to do more to ensure his policy changes are respected in the field.

read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/11/amnesty-us-concealed-troops-war-crimes-in-afghanistan-as-recently-as-last-year.html

related:

AmnestyInternational ‏@AmnestyOnline 20m
#Afghanistan: No justice for thousands of civilians killed in #US /NATO operations http://bit.ly/1owxqyG #humanrights

The families of thousands of Afghan civilians killed by US/NATO forces in Afghanistan have been left without justice, Amnesty International said in a new report released today. Focusing primarily on air strikes and night raids carried out by US forces, including Special Operations Forces, Left in the Dark finds that even apparent war crimes have gone uninvestigated and unpunished.

“Thousands of Afghans have been killed or injured by US forces since the invasion, but the victims and their families have little chance of redress. The US military justice system almost always fails to hold its soldiers accountable for unlawful killings and other abuses,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

“None of the cases that we looked into – involving more than 140 civilian deaths – were prosecuted by the US military. Evidence of possible war crimes and unlawful killings has seemingly been ignored.”

The report documents in detail the failures of accountability for US military operations in Afghanistan. It calls on the Afghan government to ensure that accountability for unlawful civilian killings is guaranteed in any future bilateral security agreements signed with NATO and the United States.

Amnesty International conducted detailed investigations of 10 incidents that took place between 2009 and 2013, in which civilians were killed by US military operations. At least 140 civilians were killed in the incidents that Amnesty International investigated, including pregnant women and at least 50 children. The organization interviewed some 125 witnesses, victims and family members, including many who had never given testimony to anyone before . . .

read more: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/afghanistan-no-justice-thousands-civilians-killed-usnato-operations-2014-08-11

Pres. Obama Pledges Support for a New Iraqi Leader (my own view fwiw)

New York Times World ‏@nytimesworld 1m
Obama Pledges Support for a New Iraqi Leader http://nyti.ms/1oEBMnu

EDGARTOWN, Mass. — President Obama said Monday that Iraq had taken a “promising step forward” in forming a more inclusive government even as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki appeared to resist efforts to replace him as the country’s leader.

Speaking briefly to reporters from his vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Obama did not mention Mr. Maliki but pledged his support for Haider al-Abadi, the man chosen to succeed him. And Mr. Obama vowed to step up his support for a new government in its intensifying fight against Sunni militants.

“There will be difficult days ahead,” Mr. Obama said. “We stand ready to partner with Iraq in its fight against these terrorist forces.”

The president spoke as the president of Iraq, Fuad Masum, named Mr. Abadi to succeed Mr. Maliki as prime minister. It was less than a day after Mr. Maliki demanded in a television address that the nation’s army come to the defense of the constitution and his right to stay in the office he has held for eight years.

Mr. Obama has previously said that support for the Iraqi government is dependent on a new government that includes all of the country’s factions to unify against the militants. In his remarks Monday evening, Mr. Obama praised Iraq’s leadership for beginning the process of building that government.

“Today, Iraq took a promising step forward in this critical effort,” Mr. Obama said.

read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/12/world/middleeast/obama-pledges-support-for-a-new-iraqi-leader.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimesworld&_r=0


here's a sightly different account w/new info:

____ The Iraqi political system is in crisis, with the country's parliament electing a new prime minister to replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is so far refusing to leave office. It's not clear whether or how Maliki, who has taken an increasingly authoritarian turn during his eight years as Iraq's leader, might try to cling to power. The Obama administration has said very clearly that it's ready for the next Iraqi government. Here's what we know so far about the crisis and where it could lead Iraq next.

The crisis began late Sunday, at 12 am Baghdad time: the deadline for Maliki to form a new governing coalition in the country's parliament. When he missed the deadline, he announced that he would be staying on as prime minister anyway. On Monday, Maliki's own party voted for a new leader party leader: a member of parliament and former finance minister named Haider al-Abadi. He will legally become the next prime minister if he can form a government within the next 30 days. Iraq's president, whose position is otherwise largely ceremonial, gave Abadi the authority to do that. All of this bring Abadi very close to replacing Maliki as prime minister. But it's still unclear whether Abadi will be able to form a new government — or whether Maliki will let go of power peacefully.

This political crisis started because Iraqi parties couldn't agree on forming a government. Maliki's State of Law coalition won a plurality of Iraqi seats in the April elections, but he couldn't figure out how to put together a coalition large enough to get a governing majority by the Sunday midnight deadline. Part of the problem here is factionalism: Iraqi politics are divided along largely sectarian lines. Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds mainly vote for sectarian parties (Maliki is part of the Shia majority), and there's also competition even inside the sectarian blocs. Abadi, just appointed to replace Maliki as the leader of the State of Law coalition, is now trying to form his own governing majority, which would make him prime minister.

Maliki is now legally obligated to step down. After Maliki's Sunday night announcement that he planned to stay on as prime minister, his own party took that choice away from him. About 50 members of parliament from the State of Law coalition — over half of the party's total numbers — voted to nominate Abadi for Prime Minister rather than Maliki. That means Maliki no longer controls the largest bloc in parliament, and therefore no longer has any claim to be prime minister. Legally, he is required to abdicate in favor of Abadi once Abadi puts a government together. So far, Maliki hasn't.

Maliki wants to stay on. Maliki was very clear on this point in his speech on the Sunday midnight deadline: he's staying in office. Legally, he can stay on as caretaker prime minister, unless Abadi forms a new government, in which case Abadi will legally replace Maliki as prime minister. If that occurs, then one of three things happens: Maliki is persuaded to step down peacefully, he's ejected by force, or he manages some long-shot political compromise that allows him to stay.

Abadi was appointed to form a new government. Abadi, a reasonably popular Shia politician (who's open to overt Iranian intervention against ISIS), has been charged by Iraqi President Fuad Masum to form a new government. A rough count suggests Abadi has the support of about 128 members of parliament, which is still short of the 165 needed for a majority . . .

read more: http://www.vox.com/2014/8/10/5989367/maliki-iraq-coup?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=voxdotcom&utm_content=monday


my own view, fwiw:

. . . I personally didn't agree with the autocratic way Maliki lead the Iraqi government or military, but I don't feel comfortable at all as an American talking trash about what the Iraqis should do with their political system of government.

That said, let me talk a bit of trash . . . I think that now the Iraqi parliament has spoken, the onus is correctly on Maliki to respect that process; just as he expected them to as he challenged the Iraqi president and parliament to name a leader last night. They've acted according to their political process, as he demanded, and he should respect their choice and adhere to Iraqi law and their constitution.

That said, I don't believe it's the business of our government to dictate what happens in their political system and I'm not at all comfortable with the way our government and Pres. Obama appeared to be pressuring Maliki to step aside, even before their parliament had spoken.

It's further aggravated by the fact of our military forces and their direct action within Iraq, and our continued exercise of our 'counterterrorism mission within Iraq and the region which, in many instances, is at odds with sizable portions of the Iraqi population.

I DO think, so far, the President has been as careful as he can be with his rhetoric while exercising his very dangerous and destabilizing military deployment and strikes in Iraq. That's not to say that I don't view his military posture and activity as destabilizing and counterproductive to even his own stated goals. But I do see that he's walking a careful line with his rhetoric and that's appreciated by me, somewhat.

I'd like to see the U.S. disengage our military forces completely from Iraq, but I don't believe that's going to happen anytime soon. I fully believe Pres. Obama's military ambitions go far beyond rescuing Kurdish civilians off a mountain; or even are limited to preserving or defending the Kurdish state.

His stated intention in Iraq is to pursue his 'war on terror' from Iraq and I'm certain that we'll see much more military activity there which is removed from just focusing on ISIS/ISIL. That, I believe is unsustainable, counterproductive, and dangerously destabilizing, as history and even his own intelligence agencies are indicating today.

So, I hope for the best, and intend to continue to protest U.S. military action and ambitions in Iraq. I hope for the safety and welfare of the Iraqi people, above all other concerns. I think opposing, at least. unilateral, U.S. military action there is an integral part of that.

Scooter Libby/Plame Leak Figure, Robert Grenier Offers Questionable Pushback to Torture Report

____ Robert L. Grenier is a longtime CIA officer who served as the CIA's top counter-terrorism official (2004-2006) and was fired from that position by CIA director Porter Goss. (Wiki) Later, Grenier joined Kroll, Inc., as Managing Director. In 2009 he was appointed Chairman of ERG Partners, an independent financial and strategic advisory firm focusing on the security and intelligence sectors . . .

The London Sunday Times reported (way back when) that Grenier lost his job with the CIA "because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as 'water boarding'.

In early 2006, Grenier was identified in court documents in connection with the ongoing CIA leak grand jury investigation and charges against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Grenier told Libby on June 11, 2003, one month before the leak of Valerie Plame's CIA identity, that Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and was involved in arranging Wilson's 2002 trip to Niger. Libby claims to have forgotten about the conversation.

On January 24, 2006, Grenier testified in the trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, telling jurors Lewis Libby asked him for information about Joseph Wilson's investigatory trip to Niger on June 11, 2003, and that he reported back to Libby about Wilson's wife's involvement in the trip, as well as Wilson's wife's employment by the CIA, later on June 11. Grenier did not, however, mention Plame's name to Libby, which appeared in a column by Robert Novak a month later.more


Today, apparently, Grenier is taking on the task of pushback to the Senate torture report . . . Marcy Wheeler ( is her handle on her excellent blog), who closely followed the Scooter Libby trial and was a reliable set of eyes and ears for many locked out of the hearing, has offered her view of Grenier's efforts:

emptywheel ‏@emptywheel 54m
Folks, 1st 1,000 words of Grenier's piece are lies. But well worth reading the last 1,000 -- read my post for why: http://www.emptywheel.net/2014/08/11/cias-torture-pushback-gets-more-artful/

August 11, 2014 | By emptywheel

____ I well remember when Robert Grenier testified at Scooter Libby’s trial. His performance — and it, like most of the witness testimony — was a performance. But I was more intrigued by the response. Even the cynical old DC journalists were impressed by the smoothness of the performance. “You can tell he was a great briefer,” one journalist who had written a book on the CIA said.

Today, he takes up the role of bogus pushback to the Senate torture report, complete with all the false claims about the report, including:

--SSCI should not have relied exclusively on documents — which, if true, is an admission that millions of CIA’s cables are fraudulent and false
--The claim that members of the Gang of Four were briefed earlier and more accurately than even CIA’s own documents show them to have been
--SSCI — and not CIA — made the decision that CIA officers should not testify to the committee
--That a report supported by John McCain and Susan Collins is a Democratic report (Grenier also claims all involved with it know history from history books, not — as McCain did — from torture chambers)
--That the CIA cables exactly matched the torture depicted on the torture tapes (see bullet 1!), and that CIA’s IG reported that, both of which are false

But perhaps Grenier’s most cynical assertion is his claim — in a piece that falsely suggests (though does not claim outright) that Congress was adequately briefed that Congress’ job, their sole job, is to legislate, not oversee.

A second, related reason would be to build support for comprehensive legislation — that is what Congress is supposed to concern itself with, after all — to remove any of the interpretive legal ambiguity which permitted coercive interrogation to be considered in the first place, and ensure it never happens again.

It is a cynical move, but given the rest of his argument, the part that I find compelling, necessary.

Because Grenier warns Dianne Feinstein that her attack on the Presidentially authorized counterterrorism methods of the past will chill President Obama’s preferred presidentially authorized counterterrorism methods — drone strikes — going forward . . .

I told you CIA would invoke Obama’s drone strikes to limit the damage of the torture report . . .

Grenier then launches a more interesting implicit threat — that CIA will stop doing what the President demands under Article II (authority to fight ISIS covertly). . .


please read more (I'd post more of this here if I thought it was proper): http://www.emptywheel.net/2014/08/11/cias-torture-pushback-gets-more-artful/

. . . what Marcy Wheeler is describing contains so much nuance and knowledge that I'm not sure can be translated effectively into some pat defense or opposition to whatever we want to oppose about the administration's efforts in handling the Senate investigation and report.

It's a clear and good analysis of some of the mind-numbing details surrounding the torture report which will scatter advocates and opponents alike in all sorts of directions; likely that dissonance is someone's deliberate design. At any rate, this is a fascinating read by Marcy which I heartily recommend and am grateful to emptywheel for an interesting and compelling account of this one pushback on the Senate torture investigation findings for anyone interested in this report's release and process of eventual accountability.

Just who is in charge of the political process in Iraq - Iraqis or the Obama administration??

The Guardian ‏@guardian 33m
US slaps down Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki after he accuses president: http://gu.com/p/4vjf8

The United States has thrown its weight behind Iraqi president Fuad Masum after he was accused by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki of violating the constitution.

As security forces massed in the capital Baghdad, the under-pressure Maliki made the surprise announcement on state television on Sunday night that he would be filing a complaint against Masum.

“I will submit today an official complaint to the federal court against the president of the Republic for committing a clear constitutional violation for the sake of political calculations,” said Maliki.

But US state department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement: “The United States fully supports president Fuad Masum in his role as guarantor of the Iraqi constitution.

“We reaffirm our support for a process to select a prime minister who can represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people by building a national consensus and governing in an inclusive manner,” she said, echoing an earlier comment made on Twitter by deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs Brett McGurk.

“We reject any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process.”

read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/11/us-iraqi-maliki-accuses-president


____ How does the United States get to claim some high ground in their manipulation of the Iraqi political process; claiming they know better what the 'consensus' of Iraqis is than the Iraqis do themselves? They can dictate the process just by virtue of this deployment of our military and still accuse Iraqis themselves of 'manipulation?

What right does the U.S. have to dictate the political process of a sovereign government in Iraq? How is a lawsuit in the Iraqi courts 'manipulation?' How is the U.S. military action and insistence not 'coersion?' It's Orwellian, in the extreme.

What the U.S. really wants is capitulation by the Maliki regime to the wishes of the U.S. occupiers who have their warships and planes poised to strike wherever and whenever they please in Iraq. It's no wonder there's strong and active resistance among many Iraqis to U.S. involvement.

One moment we're enabling Maliki into power by way of a devastating military occupation - the next, we're demanding that autocrat's removal behind the renewed force of our re-occupying, threatening military. Where's the democratic process behind all of that? How is demanding that Maliki just step down respecting the Iraqi democratic process?

This is a outrageous display of U.S. imperialism.

The President's ability to wage limited war appears almost unlimited. . . and then some

My wife and I were shaking our heads (up until dawn) about the almost utter futility in stopping a president from waging the type of limited airstrikes that President Obama has authorized in Iraq, not only to defend Kurdish civilians besieged in the mountains, but also for the other defenses he outlined in his order.

Outside of the protection and humanitarian defense of the Yazidi sect, President Obama has also defined the defense of our military deployments in Baghdad and Irbil as areas where he intends to utilize airstrikes, if he deems necessary. The targets he's defined are the insurgent combatants known as ISIS, or ISIL.

I take the view that the U.S. has forfeited our moral authority to wage war in Iraq by our previous conduct there with the opportunistic and devastating military misadventure Bush perpetrated which ran roughshod over our own constitution and over the rights and safety of Iraqis, as well.

To many Iraqis subject to our bombs and airstrikes launched from planes, warships, or drones, they are scarcely less pernicious or dangerous than the violence from any insurgent group attacking them. I'll certainly allow that our nation's violence exercised there under President Obama is demonstratively or likely less devastating to the general population than Bush's violent attacks; or than the current combatant insurgents featured in his justifications for deploying troops. However, in their counterproductive nature - fostering and fueling even more resistant violence in response - I believe that's a matter of degree, but not effect.

I've been mulling over ways in which someone in America who shares my concerns would be able to, collectively, of course, in our legislative system, prevent the President from launching the types of limited airstrikes that he's outlined in Iraq. I've concluded that it's almost impossible.

The authority the President, as commander-in-chief has in his reach to wage limited war (which, by most definitions would cover airstrikes) is effectively unchecked. Even if Congress specifically prohibited a president from initiating such attacks, a president could advantage his actions with authorization gleaned from several different authorities.

First, observe that whatever authority President Obama is considering in his re-deployment of troops into Iraq; more importantly, his order for airstrikes to defend American positions and personnel in Baghdad, Irbil, and in defense of the besieged Kurdish civilians, is an amorphous and shifting affair.

The initial deployment of troops could be justified, as he did, as protection of embassy personnel. It gets trickier when defining the goal of military 'advisers' and their support troops, but that action could be authorized under a broad and certainly expansive reading of the original Iraq AUMF; or under the nebulous and autocratic declaration of our 'national security interest which can be either a short term concern or a long-term one which is speculative and subjective to whatever view there is of a future threat.

There isn't any argument that the President has the ability and need to protect and defend American military and civilian personnel he's inserted into Iraq. There's certainly room to argue that defense of troops deployed is a self-serving, self-perpetuating rationale, but there's no doubt that he has that authority.

It gets a bit more complicated when considering the actions of military advisers who he's ordered to help Iraqi forces direct attacks against whoever they deem a threat to Iraqi or U.S. interests in the country. The authority for that military deployment and activity could come from a number of Bush-era authorizations to war in Iraq, and elsewhere, which haven't expired or been voted out of existence by Congress; most notably, Bush's use of force authorization specific to Iraq which is still in effect.

Or, that authority could be drawn from the nebulous 'national security' concern I described above. At any rate, President Obama really hasn't spelled any of that authority out for Americans, or our legislature to measure or approve.

from June 12 Roll Call:

When asked about getting Congress’s permission to take action, (WH spokesman) Carney was noncommittal.

“We are in active consultation with members of Congress,” he said.

He demurred when asked directly about the 2002 authorization to use military force (AUMF). An administration spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, told Yahoo’s Olivier Knox in January “the administration supports the repeal of the Iraq AUMF.”

Hayden emailed CQ Roll Call late Thursday and to reiterate that what she said then remains in effect.

She declined to comment on what authority Obama would have to act if he decided to launch a strike.


Roll Call again, June 18:

Pres. Obama met for about an hour in the Oval Office with McConnell, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Pelosi told reporters that she agreed that the president has all of the authorities that he needs in the authorizations to use military force passed by Congress previously.

“All of the authorities are there. That doesn’t mean I want all of them to be used, especially boots on the ground,” she said. “But I definitely think the president has all of the authority he needs by dint of legislation that was passed in 2001 and 2003.”

She appeared to be referring to the authorizations to use military force passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq. Neither of those authorizations have expired, although the official White House position is that the Iraq authorization should be repealed.


It's a bit slippery for the president to give lip service to the idea of repealing an authorization to war that he may well be advantaging authority from in Iraq. Still, he actually has as much authority to wage war as Congress allows, so it's fair enough to take that position.

Still, even though a formal declaration hasn't been made, the administration does appear to be leaning to the CIC defense of their authority to launch strikes.

Bernadette Meehan, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, August 08, 2014:

"As to the domestic legal basis, we believe the President has the authority under the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief to direct these actions, which are consistent with this responsibility to protect U.S. citizens and to further U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. Specifically, the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities is among his highest responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief, and given the threats that we see on the periphery of Erbil, he has authorized the use of targeted military action."

"Similarly, we believe that there is an urgent humanitarian challenge that further poses a threat to U.S. interests. As I said this rises to the level of a potential act of genocide when you have an entire group of people being targeted for killing, and you have a population of the size that is on Mount Sinjar that is threatened with starvation as one option, or, as the President said, coming down that mountain and potentially being massacred by ISIL."

"If we do end up taking airstrikes, we would have to do a War Powers report consistent with how we respond when the United States is engaged in hostilities. So we have been consulting Congress for the last several weeks about Iraq, generally. And then throughout the day today we were able to reach a good number of members and leaders of Congress to advise them of our thinking and then of the President’s decision. And again, if there are airstrikes taken, we will comply with our responsibility to file a War Powers report."


In the case of limited war, or limited airstrikes as President Obama has ordered in Iraq, his authority, as commander-in-chief, appears unlimited.

If he relies on the Bush-era authorizations already in place - the one specific to Iraq, and others related to the broader 'war on terror' - in a legal sense, his actions never need be scrutinized by Congress for approval or disapproval.

If he relies on his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief - albeit under the War Powers Resolution enacted by Congress in 1973 and intended as a limiter on a president's ability to wage war without Congress' approval; passed in response to Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia - he has, at his disposal, demonstrated and historically upheld, broad powers to wage limited airstrikes without any weighing in from Congress at all.

Under the WPR, under Article Two of that act, "in the absence of a declaration of war, the president must report to Congress within 48 hours of introducing armed forces into such circumstances and must terminate the use of U.S. armed forces within 60 days unless Congress permits otherwise."

That provides more than enough opportunity for a president to launch the types of airstrikes President Obama has ordered in Iraq without relying on any of the Bush-era documents; with virtual impunity.

I'm obviously dismayed that there doesn't seem to be a lever for the public, or for our elected representatives and senators, to automatically or quickly restrain any president from warring on a limited basis. I'm certainly dismayed over our ability to legally or legislatively restrain President Obama from waging limited war, or otherwise, in Iraq.

That's the way it goes. Notwithstanding a major uprising by Americans in opposition, it's highly unlikely that there's anything that can or will be done to actually cause President Obama to limit or halt his military ambitions in Iraq.

I believe that, no matter what one's view of his actions are there, it should be a concern just how easily a president is able to wield the devastating force of our military abroad. So much for trying to figure a way out of this mess.

What are the limits on President Obama's ability to order direct military action in Iraq?

. . . there aren't really any, are there, beyond Congress stepping in and cancelling the original AUMF?

After all, President Obama, even the ranking Democrat in Congress, Rep. Pelosi, has claimed he has all the authority he needs in that 2002 authorization.

Why do we tolerate allowing the President of the United States to advantage his military ambitions off of a stale, open-ended AUMF? Bush's AUMF, at that . . . the one we opposed with marches and protests.

How would progressives feel with a republican president holding that open-ended authority? That could be our future.

Now that folks supported direct U.S. strikes for this humanitarian cause in Iraq... Are they all-in?

. . . will there ever come a point where our military action will be unjustified in the minds of supporters of these 'targeted strikes?' How effective will protests against wider, direct military action be, now that folks have signed on to airstrikes in support of this one humanitarian cause?

Will support for airstrikes for this 'humanitarian' reason transfer or continue beyond the defense of this one mass of civilians besieged on the mountain?

We know that our military's mission in Iraq, originally using this particular insurgency as justification for the reintroduction of troops into Iraq, isn't limited to this one humanitarian defense. Will supporters of this humanitarian/military action be willing now, to approve airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL in other areas of Iraq which aren't strictly defenses of Kurdish civilians?

The President also mentioned defense of Baghdad as an area where he's authorizing airstrikes. Are supporters of this humanitarian action all-in with any and all direct U.S. strikes against this insurgent group, anywhere in Iraq or elsewhere?

Are you effectively hooked? If not, do you think there can still be an effective protest against a wider air war in Iraq; direct military action wherever ISIS/ISIL threatens?


We Break the World. . . Help Repair It

We Break the World. . . Help Repair It

To thee old cause!
Thou peerless, passionate, good cause,
Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea,
Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands,
After a strange sad war, great war for thee,
(I think all war through time was really fought, and ever will be really fought, for thee,)
These chants for thee, the eternal march of thee.


- Walt Whitman, from 'Leaves of Grass' To Thee Old Cause (1871; 1881)


We used to understand, progressives here and elsewhere who are glossing this U.S. military response to the humanitarian crisis atop that mountain in northern Iraq. Glossing over the fact we should know well, that our military presence and action in Iraq is an irresistible lure for individuals looking to do battle with America; in this case, individuals who view America as an enemy of their religion.

What doesn't seem to be understood by progressives here who are rightly concerned about the safety of the Kurdish civilians is that the U.S. military attacks - our country's military presence and activities - are ultimately counterproductive to the goals of eliminating any threat that comes from the fundamentalist groups fomenting violence in Iraq - or anywhere else, for that matter.

Opposition to U.S. military action in Iraq goes deeper than just advocating non-violence, which is likely not the solution to protecting the Kurdish men, women, and children trapped and besieged where they fled by the self-identified Islamic insurgents. It's an opposition to exactly the same 'dumb-war' behavior that President Obama correctly described early in his presidency. It's the misguided notion that the U.S. is indispensable in these matters.

It's the twisted logic that 'we broke it,' therefore, we have to fix it. Except, fixing it means to this administration and military - as it meant to the Bush administration and military - fomenting even more violence in the vain and hopeless aim of ending it.

It's not a matter of just leaving these people to die, as many describe the position of opponents of U.S. military intervention - other nations are more suited to help them and we should use our energy and whatever influence we have to encourage them.

It's about the realization that our country, having already broken the country with our destabilizing, destructive, and opportunistic war waged for greed and petty political purposes, can scarcely hope to repair it using the same destabilizing and destructive violence.

As Bush's own spy agencies correctly cautioned in their 2006 intelligence estimate, our military activity in Iraq had the effect of fostering and fueling even more individuals bent on violent resistance to U.S., our allies, and our interests, than they were able to put down.

It should be no surprise at all to see the report today from this President's intelligence agencies that our military presence and activity in Iraq - however altruistic the mission - is having the exact same effect of drawing more individuals looking to do battle with our nation, from around the globe, to rally to this emerging insurgent group's deadly cause.

Our nation has, years ago in our invasion and occupation in Iraq, forfeited any moral authority we may believe we have which would distinguish in the minds of many Iraqis - and many individuals around the world who associate their religion with the twisted and contradictory fundamentalism promoted by groups like ISIS/ISIL or al-Qaeda - the killing and atrocities of this insurgent group from our own vigilantist, or charitable violence.

We may well feel this is our fight, or our responsibility to step in and rescue the Kurdish civilians, but we are unable to do so without fomenting even more reprisals against them and even more bloodshed among them after we've landed our warplanes and steered our combat carriers toward home.

There's nothing at all charitable or altruistic in any of that.

I'm watching a film with Edward Norton, 'Leaves of Grass' about a pot grower and his mostly innocent twin brother who killed a rival and others with the aim of putting past problems to rest and moving on to a drug and violence-free life with his expectant wife - setting off a chain of violence which ended in his own death and several others; along with the near-death of his innocent twin.

In one scene, the innocent twin went to the Rabbi of the man his brother had killed to tell her that it wasn't a hate crime, as his brother had made him promise to as he was laying on the ground dying from a gunshot wound.

The rabbi asked him if that was all he wanted to say and the innocent brother asked her, why, why do we . . . ?

"Because we're animals," the woman Rabbi answered, and our brains trick us into thinking we're not . . . We break the world." she said. "Help repair it."

I can't think of anything more concise or profound to say about our country's actions than that.

We break the world. . . help repair it.

We break the world. . . help repair it.


Whitman's poem continuing. . .

(A war O soldiers not for itself alone,
Far, far more stood silently waiting behind, now to advance in this book.)

Thou orb of many orbs!
Thou seething principle! thou well-kept, latent germ! thou centre!
Around the idea of thee the war revolving,
With all its angry and vehement play of causes,
(With vast results to come for thrice a thousand years,)
These recitatives for thee,--my book and the war are one,
Merged in its spirit I and mine, as the contest hinged on thee,
As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting to itself,
Around the idea of thee.

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