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الخميس، 25 يونيو، 2015

Iraq snapshot Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

Iraq snapshot Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

The Common Ills
Wednesday, June 24, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue. threats appear before Congress to offer that the US government just needs to drop bombs willy nilly and stop worrying about civilian deaths, as they call for killing they turn around and paint refugees as potential 'radicals' and threats, and much more.

This afternoon, a House Armed Services Committee held a hearing.

The Subcommittee Committee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities managed to do something every group holding a hearing longs to do -- establish clearly where the problem lies.

And the hearing did exactly that, the Subcommittee documented the Emerging Threats.

I'm not really sure though that they grasp that they did.

Appearing before the Subcommittee were the New American Foundation's Brian Fishman, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Michael Eisenstadt, RAND Corporation's Linda Robinson and the American Enterprise Institute's Frederick Kagan.

All four offered testimony and -- to one degree or another -- waived the Fifth Amendment.

It was a long hearing but, more importantly, it was a soul draining hearing.

While madmen sit up building bombs
And making laws and bars
They're gonna slam free choice behind us

Last night I dreamed I saw the planet flicker
Great forests fell like buffalo
Everything got sicker
And to the bitter end 
Big business bickered 
And they call for the three great stimulants
Of the exhausted ones
Artifice, brutality and innocence
Artifice and innocence
-- "Three Great Stimulants," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Dog Eat Dog album

And when Robinson and Kagan especially competed to be 'smartest in the room,' you longed for them to stop cooperating with the Subcommittee and instead reply, "I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me."

We often mock Fred Kagan here as being the "arm candy" of Kimberly Kagan.

We do that for two reasons.  One, when we started the joke, it was the rare press piece on Kimberly that couldn't work in 'she married to Frederick Kagan!' while the pieces on him could sail right by without ever noting her.  (That's sexism, for those of you on autopilot.)  Second, he's seen -- by some -- as so intelligent.  But he's not.  Kimberly Kagan is not someone I agree with very often -- we're on opposite sides of the political fence -- but she generally speaks -- I'm not talking soundbytes, I'm talking testimony, speeches, papers -- in a manner that acknowledges humanity.  For that reason alone, she's the smarter of the pair.

When Fred Kagan speaks, we're all just ants in his ant farm that he seems ready to toss in the trash, so bored has he become with humanity and living.

After nearly two hours, the hearing was finally drawing to a close when Kagan, baited by , had to show just how ugly he can be.

Yes, Kagan insisted, the US government did have a problem with the current plan or 'plan' for combating the Islamic State in Iraq.

The problem?

Too much effort was being made to not kill civilians.


Think I misheard?

Here's the exchange with US House Rep Doug Lamborn.  Let's listen in with horror.

US House Rep: Doug Lamborn:  Thank you all for being here and I'd like to ask you about our targeting of ISIS' assets.  The New York Times reported on May 26th that "American officials say they are not striking significant and obvious Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians.  But many Iraqi commanders and some American officers say that exercising such prudence with airstrikes is a major reason ISIS has been able to seize vast territory in recent months in Iraq and Syria."  Dr. Kagan, would you agree with that assessment? And-and is it possible to step up aistrikes while still, uh, to the degree possible, uh, preserving civilians lives?

Frederick Kagan: Uh, I think that there is a trade off between deciding that you're going to have a more effective air campaign and accepting a higher risk of civilian casualties. I think if your standard for civilian casualties is low, you're probably going to have a very hard time increasing, uh, the intensity of the air campaign -- especially as long as you're not prepared to put forward air controllers on the ground, uh, which would be something that would mitigate that.  But I think that we have too high of a standard, uh, for -- from the standard of collateral damage for civilian casualties.  I think that, uh, the truth is this is a war and, uhm, we always try to minimize, uh, collateral damage and civilian casualty but, uhm,  a standard of effectively zero has done enormous harm to our ability to prosecute this war with the tools that we have at our disposal.

To make a few things clear . . .

When Kagan made his puzzling remarks to US House Rep Trent Franks that the US government had poor relations with the Sunnis in Iraq because of the US government's support for the Kurds in Iraq, I disagreed.  (Like Franks, who quickly changed the subject, I couldn't grasp what Kagan was attempting to say or the basis for that bizarre call.)  But as strongly as I disagreed, I could write it off as just disagreeing.

Second, Kagan is not just right wing, he's a neocon.  Part of one of the biggest neocon families (his brother Robert Kagan, his sister-in-law the dreadful Victoria Nuland, his father is Donald Kagan, etc.).  But his remarks are not a neocon attitude -- or not solely a neocon attitude.

The allegedly left Foreign Policy In Focus was arguing the same points Kagan was -- we called them out in the June 4th snapshot as well as in "Iraq: Failed follow ups and whining that bombs aren't being dropped quick enough" -- a point worth remembering for those of us on the left who might want to write Kagan's remarks off as something 'only the right could say.'

Third, the New York Times article was written by the Washington-based Eric Schmitt so we never took it or Schmitty to seriously.

"Many Iraqi commanders"?

Did you phone 'em, Schmitty?

Or did you maybe just put a finger on each temple and 'psychically' connect with them?

(I'm sure many Shi'ite commanders in the Iraqi military feel there's too much restraint when it comes to bombing Sunni areas.  We've seen, in Tikrit most recently, what Shi'ite forces can do in the name of 'liberation' to Sunnis and Sunni homes.  I'm just as sure that Schmitty himself did not speak to "many Iraqi commanders" -- though he did feel the need to 'give voice to them' -- or maybe just put words in their mouths?)


And for those who might want to insist that Schmitt got the byline but others could have spoken to Iraqi commanders?  Ben Hubbard was in Urfa, Turkey, Anne Barnard and Maher Samaan were in Beirut.  Only Omar al-Jawoshy was in Iraq (Baghdad).  No, I'm not picturing him rushing to and from commander for comments.

Returning to the horrific exchange:

US House Rep: Doug Lamborn:  Thank you all for being here and I'd like to ask you about our targeting of ISIS' assets.  The New York Times reported on May 26th that "American officials say they are not striking significant and obvious Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians.  But many Iraqi commanders and some American officers say that exercising such prudence with airstrikes is a major reason ISIS has been able to seize vast territory in recent months in Iraq and Syria."  Dr. Kagan, would you agree with that assessment? And-and is it possible to step up aistrikes while still, uh, to the degree possible, uh, preserving civilians lives?

Frederick Kagan: Uh, I think that there is a trade off between deciding that you're going to have a more effective air campaign and accepting a higher risk of civilian casualties. I think if your standard for civilian casualties is low, you're probably going to have a very hard time increasing, uh, the intensity of the air campaign -- especially as long as you're not prepared to put forward air controllers on the ground, uh, which would be something that would mitigate that.  But I think that we have too high of a standard, uh, for -- from the standard of collateral damage for civilian casualties.  I think that, uh, the truth is this is a war and, uhm, we always try to minimize, uh, collateral damage and civilian casualty but, uhm,  a standard of effectively zero has done enormous harm to our ability to prosecute this war with the tools that we have at our disposal.

Does Fred Kagan get that reducing civilian casualties is not a nicety but a legal requirement of war?

It doesn't appear that he does.

The people of Mosul have been occupied by the Islamic State for over a year and, by Kagan's argument, it might be time to just drop bombs on all of Mosul to stamp IS out.

It would kill thousands of Iraqi civilians in the process but Fred wants "a more effective air campaign and [is] accepting [of] a higher risk of civilian casualties."


Fred feels the US government has "too high of a standard, uh, for -- from the standard of collateral damage and civilian casualty."

Now the reality is that many civilians have been killed by the ongoing US airstrikes in Iraq.

Apparently not enough kills for Fred Kagan who needed to take something home to mount on the wall, but there have been many and a few even have been well documented in the press.


So this notion that the US is leading the way when it comes to protecting human life is a fantasy that exists only in the deranged mind of Frederick Kagan.

But how deranged do you have to be to hold that fantasy as truth while also feeling it's a bad thing?

The US is not a leader in things to do or emulate (it is as flawed as any other country) but if it were why would that be a bad thing?

If the US government was actually setting a standard for protecting human life, as Kagan seems to think, why would that be a bad thing?

The Subcommittee on Emerging Threats found a serious one today -- if they're paying attention.  His name is Frederick Kagan and he has little-to-no respect for human life.

Strong and wrong
You lose everything
Without the heart
You need
To hear a robin sing
Where have all the songbirds gone?
Gone!
All I hear are crows in flight
Singing might is right
Might is right!

Oh the dawn of man comes slow
Thousands of years
And here we are...
Still worshiping
Our own ego

Strong and wrong

-- "Strong and Wrong," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Shine album.

From there it was time to move on to Jordan.

Linda Robinson wanted to talk about refugees fleeing violence.

She wanted to see them as varmint.

People who invoke sympathy from many due to their hardships are, too Linda Robinson, a "long term threat, not just a humanitarian issue,"

As she yammered on, I was left to wonder what the hell she knew about Jordan?

Jordan has done a great deal for refugees.

But, sorry, they have not done nearly enough.

She wants "possibly international organizations" to "get more involved" with the refugees to avoid them becoming radicalized and "I doubt these people are going to eventually go home so this poses a very critical, long term threat."

Fishman tried to smooth it over by noting "many of them are going to become citizens of Jordan."

Which only again begged the question, do they know what the hell they're talking about.

Jordan's not made Iraqi refugees citizens.

More to the point, Jordan doesn't even allow them to work legally in the country.

They can be kicked out for working and the government refuses to issue them work permits.

If Linda Robinson is so damn worried about the refugees fleeing to Jordan becoming radicalized, she should just stop talking, she just sit her ass down and keep her mouth closed because she clearly doesn't know a damn thing and should let someone else speak.

Aid?

Charity?

That's not the answer.

Yes, it can get refugees through a harsh winter, for example.  It can provide immunizations.

But refugee camps are supposed to be temporary lodging.

You're not supposed to be a lifelong refugee.

Hosting refugees is not the same as granting them asylum.

You want to help them?

Grant them asylum.

Make them citizens.

Which may have been the point Fishman was dancing around and trying to word it delicately so that Linda Robinson did not come off like the raving idiot that she so clearly is.

Iraqis fleeing violence do not need to be kept in refugee camps which are the equivalent of cages.

Allow them to work, grant them work permits.

Allow them a path to citizenship if that's what they're choosing.

But if you want to radicalize the youth -- Linda Robinson's big fear -- then the easiest way in the world is to prevent refugees from working, have children grow in refugee camps (or slums) in families dependent upon tiny morsels of charity and, in that, you will have all the ingredients to create suicide bombers and more.

Lebanon and Syria have not been heaven on earth for Iraqi refugees (even before the Syrian conflict broke out).  I'm not trying to scapegoat Jordan.

And friends in Jordan have been personally helpful to me on several occasions on the Iraqi refugee issue.

But what was thought to be temporary early in the Iraq War is now long lasting.

Jordan needs to rethink its policies.

It needs to be providing a path to citizenship.

There are some Iraqi refugees in Jordan today who are on their tenth year -- their tenth year -- of asylum (or 'asylum' because I think you do more than host refugees if you're providing asylum).

These people want a life.

And the rules preventing them from having a life in Jordan are real and need to be addressed.

And possibly that can't happen in Jordan.

That may be true.

I've heard arguments from friends in Jordan that various other issues at play mean this is all that can be offered.

If that's the case, then Jordan is not providing asylum and should not be expected to.

It's a way station and nothing more.

So recognize it as such and get seriously to work on relocating these refugees to a host country where they can have a path to citizenship and they can work legally without fear of fines or deportation.

Linda Robinson wants to throw money at the problem.

She's tossing a few dimes at the homeless and declaring the problem solved.

(The ongoing wars have been a great distraction for America allowing it to avoid the ever increasing homeless population in the United States.)

From his statements to the Subcommittee, I get the idea Fred Kagan would be thrilled if a drone destroyed his home because someone thought a terrorist was present -- he'd be gloating about how at last the US government was not fretting over civilian casualties.

But I have to wonder if Linda Robinson would be happy in a refugee camp?

If she wasn't allowed to work in a field she was trained and educated in but was instead one of many refugees struggling to make it, maybe working the black market, would she be so very happy?

Or if, because she was a foreigner, she was seen as a "critical, long-term threat," would she wake with a smile on her face every day?

It's really amazing how when people like Linda Robinson and Fred Kagan speak of other people, they so quickly strip those people of their humanity and reduce them to faceless non-humans who don't have the right to expect safety or employment or to even pursue happiness.

As the two made clear in their testimonies today, they themselves are the biggest emerging threats currently.

Kimberly Kagan participates in a roundtable discussion on Iraq at POLITICO that is worth reading.

Middle East Eye reports:

Anbar’s provincial council has called on the Iraqi army to refrain from shelling civilian areas of the Islamic State (IS) controlled city of Fallujah, according to a Tuesday statement released by the council.
"Many innocent civilians – especially children, women and elderly people – lost their lives in recent months after security forces shelled [residential areas of] Fallujah," the council asserted.
According to the statement, local residents have been prevented from leaving the city by IS militants.
A medical source told Anadolu Agency that Fallujah General Hospital had received the bodies of seven civilians on Tuesday, along with eight injured, "including women and children".

These are the bombings then-prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki began in January of 2014.

These are the bombings that have left thousands of civilians dead and wounded.

These are the bombings targeting residential neighborhoods.

And, yes, these are the bombings that new prime minister Haider al-Abadi announced he ended on September 13, 2014.


But these are the same bombings that then continued on September 14, 2014.

They've never stopped.

They meet the legal definition of War Crimes.

These are killing and wounding Sunnis.

And these bombings are being carried out by the Iraqi military.

For almost a year-and-a-half, these bombings have taken place and they have received very little press attention.

When Haider made his announcement, however, that received massive press attention -- it even got praise from a United Nations representative.

They'd all been silent as this had taken place but once Haider declared it over, they suddenly rush to note it . . .

only to fall silent when the bombings continued the next day.

I don't know if they get this or not, but this does meet the legal definition of a War Crime and their silence offers them no immunity, they're just as culpable as anyone else -- especially a UN official who's the special envoy to Iraq.

I think his silence could actually qualify for prison time.

Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reports 109 violent deaths across Iraq today.

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