Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Again on DoD's space program

In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was almost impossible to find.
Which was how the Pentagon wanted it.
For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.
The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.

So what do you say to that?
Well NPR has spoken with  Luis Elizondo who was “head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program”  and here are some highlights from the interview:
On who was on the Pentagon team he led
We had PhDs, we had CI people, we had trained intelligence officers and human case officers — pretty much a full range of talent. Most of us tend to be, by nature, skeptical, because we are in the field of intelligence and national security. But I think once you get into the data itself and the specifics regarding what we're actually seeing, we begin to realize that there may be something here, a little bit more than just what people think are drones or whatever people may chalk it up to be.
On how the program examined information it was given
First of all, we looked at it and wanted to make sure if this was authentic. Is this video coming from a true [Department of Defense] platform? Then what we do is apply some analytics that allow us to look at range, altitude, what was the aircraft doing that we were flying, who's flying it, under what conditions, sea states. So there's a lot of things at play into what we're looking at.
And then at that point we try to look at what we're seeing at the video and cross reference it to anything that we may know that is currently in our inventory — so whether they be drones, commercial aircraft, military aircraft, missiles — whatever they may be. There is a great deal of effort by the department to make sure that we always can identify what is flying — whether it is in our airspace or any other airspace.
There's a lot of rigor and diligence that's placed in looking at these and there is some real talent in the department and in other agencies within the U.S. government that have just an incredible battery of tools to apply toward these things to make sure we know what we're looking at. Truth be told, sometimes we do. ... But unfortunately there are some other incidents that can't be explained, and what our job is to do is to figure out, really it's very simple: What is it, and how does it work?
Those are highlights.  Use the link to listen to full interview. NPR will post the full transcript so check tomorrow at the link for that if you prefer to read or if listening isn’t an option for you due to hearing concerns or operating systems.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, December 19, 2017.  Get ready because the US isn't leaving Iraq and this could have been discussed in 2012 were it not for the fondness of fake news (then and now).  In addition, protests continue for a second day in the KRG.

The (latest wave of the) Iraq War began in March of 2003 and it shows no sign of ending anytime soon.  Jim Michaels (USA TODAY) reports this morning:

The United States and Iraq have intensified talks to keep an ongoing American military presence in the country following the ouster of the Islamic State.
Both countries want to avoid a repeat of 2011, when American forces withdrew from Iraq after successfully weakening al-Qaeda and driving down violence in the country. Three years later, Iraq’s military collapsed in the face of an Islamic State invasion.

What collapsed?

Are we ever allowed to talk about that?

Or do we all duck our heads and play dumb?

Because ISIS is not why Barack Obama sent ever more troops back into Iraq.

It was the government.

US-installed prime ministers have proven to be, not surprisingly, unpopular in Iraq.

And it was 2012 when Barack started sending troops back into Iraq.

A detail that's forgotten as the media tries to pretend they don't practice fake news.

But fake news is all those whores offered.

It was 2012.  A presidential election.  Barack was running for re-election on the claim that he had ended the Iraq War.  And the media was letting him get away with it.

But the reality?

From the May 8, 2014 snapshot:

There's the fact that all US troops never left Iraq.  There's the fact that Barack sent a brigade of Special-Ops in during the fall of 2012. Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."  And let's include the news from the April 25th snapshot:

Mark Hosenball, Warren Strobel, Phil Stewart, Ned Parker, Jason Szep and Ross Colvin (Reuters) report, "The United States is quietly expanding the number of intelligence officers in Iraq and holding urgent meetings in Washington and Baghdad to find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants, U.S. government sources said."  It was 1961 when US President John F. Kennedy sent 1364 "advisors" into Vietnam.  The next year, the number was just short of 10,000.  In 1963, the number hit 15,500.  You remember how this ends, right?

Nouri's continued War Crimes.

When will the world demand he stop practicing collective punishment?

Who knows.  But in big news, the US media finally finds the story.  Janine di Giovanni and Newsweek become the first to cover the ongoing killing of civilians via collective punishment.  From di Giovanni's article:

“First it was hospitals, then densely populated civilian areas,” says Erin Evers from Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Baghdad. “Now it’s neighborhoods where people are just trying to live.”
The tragedy in Fallujah was barely noticed in the run-up to the Iraqi parliamentary elections, which took place on April 30, the first national elections since U.S. troops pulled out of the country in 2011. No one much paid attention because violence has become a trademark in this campaign.

Since January, when the Shia-backed government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began a campaign of retaliation against the Sunni-backed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām, it is estimated that 4,000 have been killed, or roughly 1,000 a month. Researchers on the ground say 20 to 30 percent of the dead are children. Meanwhile, government forces have killed 348, according to Iraq Body Count.

Let's go over the above slowly, there's a lot in it.

1) Tim Arango's report.  What we've quoted should have been an article of its own.  But Jill Abramson (who got fired in May 2014) saw her job not as journalism but as a flack for Barack.  So those two sentences -- those two very important sentences -- were all THE NEW YORK TIMES would allow in print -- and those two sentences had to be fought over.  There was a battle to include them in the report on Syria.

Fake news?

Tim reported it at the end of September.  Right before the debates between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.  And not once was Barack asked about it.  He was allowed repeatedly to take credit for ending the Iraq War (you know, that war that's still ongoing today) and no one asked once, "What about the fact that you've just sent in a brigade of special-ops into Iraq?"

Let's go back to November 7, 2012 when Ava and I wrote the following:

The administration is as empty as the media.  If you doubt that, September 26th, the New York Times' Tim Arango reported:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

September 26th it was in print.

Days later, October 3rd, Barack 'debated' Mitt RomneyAgain October 16thAgain October 22nd.
Not once did the moderators ever raise the issue.

If Barack's sitting before them and he's flat out lying to the American people, it's their job to ask.  They didn't do their job.  Nor did social menace Candy Crowley who was apparently dreaming of an all-you-can-eat buffet when Barack was babbling away before her about how he wouldn't allow more "troops in Iraq that would tie us down."  But that's exactly what he's currently negotiating.

Maybe Candy Crowley missed the New York Times article?  Maybe she spends all her time pleasuring herself to her version of porn: Cooking With Paula Deen Magazine?

That is possible.

But she was only one of the three moderators.  Bob Schieffer and Jim Lehrer also moderated.  Of course, they didn't foolishly self-present as a fact checker in the midst of the debate  nor did they hit the publicity circuit before the debate to talk about how they were going to show how it was done.

Poor Crowley, a heavy weight strutting into a non-competition will always look woefully misdressed.

Barack lied and Americans will face that or not.

They lied.  They pimped lies.  The misled the American people and did so intentionally.

What happened in the second half of 2014 would not have been so shocking for so many if the press had explored what was taking place in Iraq in 2012.

But fake news is all the American people got.

2) Nouri's actions.

Nouri was installed as prime minister in 2006 by Bully Boy Bush.  The Iraqi people rejected him four years later in the 2010 elections but Barack had US diplomats in Iraq broker The Erbil Agreement that gave Nouri the second term the voters didn't.

With his second term, he refused to follow The Erbil Agreement (a power sharing contract).  Instead of demanding he follow it, Barack acted as though it never existed.

This is what leads to the uprising against Nouri.

You have Shi'ites Moqtada al-Sadr and others joining with the Kurds and Sunnis to demand a vote of no confidence on Nouri -- which Barack prevents from happening.

The whole time Nouri's well documented abuse of Iraqi civilians is only getting worse.

And because Barack is silent, so is the US press.

Fake news.

The government was unpopular.  That's why US troops are still in Iraq.

It's not an Iraqi government.  It's a US-installed one.

The hope is that if the US stays on the ground in Iraq long enough, they can exhaust the Iraqi people and the government will take hold.

That's a lot of lives to risk for a fantasy.

Equally true, the US is not fostering democracy in Iraq.  When you overturn the 2010 election, as Barack did, with a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement), you are not encouraging or fostering democracy.

Back to Jim Michaels (USA TODAY):

Instead of a formal agreement that would need the approval of Iraq's parliament, the U.S. military said it could operate under an existing memorandum of understanding between the two countries, according to one of the U.S. officials. 
The memorandum has been in effect since 2014, when American advisers were deployed to Iraq to help local forces battle ISIS.

More fake news.

The MoU is from 2012.  We covered it in real time.

We covered it repeatedly.

As late as 2013, some version of the following appeared here repeatedly.

Dropping back to the April 30th Iraq snapshot:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

So last fall [the September 2012 Tim Arango report] saw another Special Ops unit go into Iraq and the end of the year saw a new military agreement allowing for joint US and Iraq patrols in Iraq. From the December 11th snapshot:


In yesterday's snapshot, we covered the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department of Defense of the United States of America.  Angry, dysfunctional e-mails from Barack-would-never-do-that-to-me criers indicate that we need to go over the Memo a little bit more.  It was signed on Thursday and announced that day by the Pentagon.   Section two (listed in full in yesterday's snapshot) outlines that the two sides have agreed on: the US providing instructors and training personnel and Iraq providing students, Iraqi forces and American forces will work together on counterterrorism and on joint exercises.   The tasks we just listed go to the US military being in Iraq in larger numbers.  Obviously the two cannot do joint exercises or work together on counterterrorism without US military present in Iraq.
This shouldn't be surprising.  In the November 2, 2007 snapshot -- five years ago -- we covered the transcript of the interview Michael R. Gordon and Jeff Zeleny did with then-Senator Barack Obama who was running in the Democratic Party's primary for the party's presidential nomination -- the transcript, not the bad article the paper published, the actual transcript.  We used the transcript to write "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq'" at Third.  Barack made it clear in the transcript that even after "troop withdrawal" he would "leave behind a residual force."  What did he say this residual force would do?  He said, "I think that we should have some strike capability.  But that is a very narrow mission, that we get in the business of counter terrorism as opposed to counter insurgency and even on the training and logistics front, what I have said is, if we have not seen progress politically, then our training approach should be greatly circumscribed or eliminated."
This is not withdrawal.  This is not what was sold to the American people.  Barack is very lucky that the media just happened to decide to take that rather explosive interview -- just by chance, certainly the New York Times wasn't attempting to shield a candidate to influence an election, right? -- could best be covered with a plate of lumpy, dull mashed potatoes passed off as a report.  In the transcript, Let-Me-Be-Clear Barack declares, "I want to be absolutely clear about this, because this has come up in a series of debates: I will remove all our combat troops, we will have troops there to protect our embassies and our civilian forces and we will engage in counter terrorism activities."
So when the memo announces counterterrorism activies, Barack got what he wanted, what he always wanted, what the media so helpfully and so frequently buried to allow War Hawk Barack to come off like a dove of peace.

For those who struggle with reality, you can refer to  the US Congressional Research Service published "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights."  The report was written by Kenneth Katzman.  We'll note the part on the MoU:

Reflecting an acceleration of the Iraqi move to reengage militarily with the United States, during December 5-6 2012, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller and acting Under Secretary of State for International Security Rose Gottemoeller visited Iraq and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with acting Defense Minister Sadoun Dulaymi.  The five year MOU provides for:

* high level U.S.-Iraq military exchanges
* professional military education cooperation
* counter-terrorism cooperation
* the development of defense intelligence capabilities
* joint exercises

The MOU appears to address many of the issues that have hampered OSC-I from performing its mission to its full potential.  The MOU also reflects some of the more recent ideas put forward, such as joint exercises.

Hopefully, that's clear to even the most delusional member of the Cult of St. Barack.  And all that was before  last week's news about General Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) declaring that the US needed to send more troops into Iraq.

Again, some version of that appeared here repeatedly for over a year from 2012 to 2013.

The fake news churned out then and now by the corporate press did not inform you what was taking place and where it was leading.  Take it up with them.

They lied then and they lie today.

Did someone say lie?

The thugs tried 2 force me to apologize 2 Barzani. I didnt, then all together went on beating me physically, using different tools they had

Sidad Barzani came 2 Parliament, they left me in the office of deputy speaker,10-15 thugs came & tortured me 4 1 hour. They filmed all of it

A group of activists arrested by security forces in Slemani while preparing For protesting against Masoud Barzani.

& delegation 2 Baghdad don't represent Kurdish people & their interest, they represent 26 years of failure, tyranny & injustice

, & institutions have begun threatening NO campaign to ! If NO is banned, then why a referendum?

What happened, if anything, to Rabun Maroof?

Who knows?

He could be telling the truth.

But why would we believe him about anything?

He's Goran -- the CIA-created political 'opposition' party in the KRG.  It's intent was to sew dissension and wreck Kurdish unity.

That's why US tax dollars have funded it.

So why would we believe Rabun about anything?

Goran was created under Bully Boy Bush around the same time that Bush got the US base in Turkey that's still been little talked about outside of this site.  That base wasn't to protect the Kurds.  It was to spy on them.  It and Goran go together, part of the plan to sew dissension and weaken unity in the Kurdistan so that the US government can manipulate and control them.

Protests did take place in the KRG yesterday (and we covered them in yesterday's snapshot, you can also see this MEM report).  Baghdad has still not provided the KRG with their share of the national budget.  That predates, by years, the September 25th referendum that the KRG held.

The protests took place yesterday and, RUDAW reports, they continue today:

Hundreds of people protesting against lack of services, demanding a fight against corruption and full payments of state salaries, have continued for a second day in a row in a number of Kurdish cities in the provinces of Sulaimani and Halabja, with the offices of several Kurdish parties and at least one government office set ablaze in Koya. 
 The protesters, coming from various backgrounds of the society also include state employees who have had their salaries reduced or delayed took to the streets in Sulaimani, Halabja, Kfri, Raniya, and Koya.

People protested against delay of salaries and lack of services in Kifri southwest of and shots were fired while they protested

Aziz goes on to Tweet some of the issues involved in the protests:

General poor governance. Nobody takes road laws seriously, the malls they keep building are aimed at foreigners more than actual people living there, health standards have slipped, oil companies have too much autonomy compared to the state.
  • Electricity cuts. This problem has plagued the region for decades now but there still isn't 24/7 electricity. The electric often cuts out and then you have to rely on government generators until the main grid electricity comes back on.
  • Protests in the PUK-controlled areas today have become increasingly violent; protesters, mostly under 30, have burnt many local party and government offices and at least 30 people have been injured in the ongoing protests.
    An economy based off of oil sales. Before the drop in oil prices & disputes with Baghdad, KRG had decent economic growth, but the economic growth was based solely off oil sales. Kurdistan has fertile lands & great agricultural potential that has been neglected for oil money.
  • Poor standards of education. Under Saddam's Iraq, somebody who had graduated from university was highly educated. However nowadays, the average graduate from a private university is less educated than somebody who didn't go to university 20 years ago. Public education is poor.
  • Disenfranchised youth. Average young adult in Kurdistan has to compete in the private sector which often requires fluency in at least 1 other language than Kurdish. Politics isn't for them. They don't think they have a future so they emigrate elsewhere which leads to brain drain.
  • Armed forces loyal to political affiliation & not state/gov. The Peshmerga receive their salary along political party lines & are generally not a nationalised institution. This causes disunity & internal weakness. If anything, Peshmerga are more militia like than army like.
  • Nepotism. Same 2 ruling clans & families are the ones who have been power for nearly 30 years. The current government is run by the previous president's nephew & the previous president of Iraq's son. This doesn't just apply to them, everybody in positions of power employ family.
  • Lack of transparency when it comes to finance. This is linked to corruption. People still have no idea how much oil is being sold, not to mention all the dodgy oil sales privately done.
  • Delayed and decreased salaries. The KRG & Iraqi central government had disputes a couple years ago & since then the civil servants in KRG have been getting their salary much later than usual, often months later. Since last year the KRG cut people's salaries by up to 70%.
  • Overinflated government size. The Kurdistan region has over one million civil servants when the population minus IDPs is 5-6 million. That is a huge amount of people having to rely on the government to get by. It wasn't wise to employ so many people as civil servants.
  • Ghost employees. People who are either dead or don't officially exist receiving a governmental salary. This is usually somebody else who is already receiving a salary, so now they have 2/3 salaries. Or it could be somebody living in America who is getting a salary for nothing.
  • Widespread corruption in every aspect of government. There are many civil servants who take money that doesn't belong to them (far more than their allotted salary). This isn't even done behind closed doors, there's plenty who were dirt poor in the 90s who own multiple villas now.

    Pretty much every political group is being protested in the KRG.

    torch Turkmen political offices in Kifir as anger rages over unpaid salaries

    The following community sites -- plus BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated:

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