HE'S A FAILURE AS A WAR PRESIDENT AND, THE ECONOMIST REMINDS, HE'S A FAILURE ON THE ECONOMY.
REACHED FOR COMMENT BY THESE REPORTERS, FADED CELEBRITY IN CHIEF, BARRY O INSISTED, "IT'S GOOD TO MAKE AN IMPRESSION AND I HAVE MADE AN IMPRESSION. I'VE LEFT MY IMPRINT. ALL OVER THIS COUNTRY. KIND OF LIKE URINE STAINS. I'M THE OLD CAT TOO BLIND TO GO IN THE URINE BOX THAT YOU PUT UP WITH FOR A YEAR OR SO BECAUSE YOU KNOW HE'LL BE GONE SOON."
If you want to know how poorly the US efforts at diplomacy are, you need look no further than press briefings.
The State Dept's "daily press briefing"? They haven't done one since September 19th.
Q: Since the -- since the strikes began a few days ago in Syria, have you seen any evidence of Assad forces taking any ground that was previously held by ISIS? And the corollary to that, in Iraq, have -- to what extent has the Peshmerga or the Iraqi forces been able to retake territory because of American airstrikes? If you could just update us on that situation, as well.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I haven't seen any movement by Assad regime forces to move into facilities or infrastructure that we've hit. We've also seen -- not seen a lot of -- to be quite honest, haven't seen much in terms of reaction by ISIL inside Syria as a result of these attacks. In other words, were not seeing a lot of movement or major muscle movement changes by them in just the last couple of days.
In Iraq, the -- I could point to the preservation of Haditha Dam. I could point to their ability to work with Kurds, to retake the Mosul Dam facility. I can point to the town of Amerli, which we prevented with them a humanitarian disaster. We could go on and on and on.
I would also note -- and this gets forgotten a little bit -- that Baghdad is still relatively secure. I mean, there's been a couple of minor IED attacks inside Baghdad, but the ISF, the Iraqi Security Forces, in and around the capital are still defending the capital. And it's not like ISIL hasn't posed a threat there. You may have noticed that some of the strikes that we've taken lately in the last week or so have been south and southwest of Baghdad, because we know they continue to threaten the capital.
That is from a press briefing today. But it's the Pentagon's press briefing. Even though the State Dept can't or won't do press briefings so far this week, the Pentagon can.
I guess when you do nothing, you have nothing to talk about?
Does it bother anyone?
And does anyone have a memory or have we all erased our brains?
The US government was supposed to go heavy on diplomacy before.
It was 2007.
Bully Boy Bush called for a 'surge' in the number of US troops.
Anyone remember why?
This was, the White House insisted, to give the Iraqi officials time to work on political solutions. And the US was going to help.
But all the US government has ever done is supply weapons and utilize the weapons and stir up the violence.
And, just as back then, no one wanted to point out that while the military was doing their part of the surge, the US' diplomatic effort was half-hearted and a non-starter.
As it was then, so it is now.
It's not as if Iraq is dealing with only one political crisis, it's multiple crises. On today's Fresh Air (NPR -- link is audio and text), Dexter Filkins discussed Iraq with Terry Gross:
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR and if you're just joining us, my guest is Dexter Filkins. He's a writer for The New Yorker. He covered the Iraq war for The New York Times, won several awards for doing that. He's covered the whole region for many years. He just went to Kurdistan in the north of Iraq from a period of June through August. He made two trips during that period for a total of about a month's time. And now he has a piece in The New Yorker called "The Fight Of Their Lives: The White House Wants The Kurds To Help Save Iraq From ISIS, The Kurds May Be More Interested In Breaking Away." That's the title and subtitle of the piece.
So why did you want to go to Kurdistan for this piece that you just wrote?
FILKINS: Well the - you know, the Kurds are - I mean, when everybody looks at Iraq including me and you just say Iraq, what do you think of? I mean, you think of chaos, and car bombs, and bloodshed, and political strife and stalemate and everything else. And when you go to Kurdistan, this small corner of Iraq, there's nothing - it's nothing like that. And it really struck me when I was there writing the piece earlier this year when I was there doing a piece on Maliki in Baghdad and I was in Baghdad and I wanted to go to Kurdistan. And I had been in Baghdad for about three weeks - and Baghdad in 2014 looks pretty much the way it did in 2004. It's - despite the fact that the Iraqi government is pumping enormous amounts of oil and making tons of money, they're the second-largest producer in OPEC. We're talking tens of billions of dollars, $85 billion a year. There's just not much evidence of that oil money being spent and I think frankly, it's because a lot of it's being stolen. But, it's not a happy story - but, Baghdad's a wreck. I mean, it looks pretty much the way it did during the war.
And then I got on a plane and I flew to Erbil, which is the capital of Kurdistan. And it's like - you know, you feel like Dorothy (laughter) and it's amazing. You know, there's a Jaguar dealership in Erbil and there's sushi restaurant and there's dance clubs. And I remember one night I'd been out of town and I drove back in at 3 a.m. and I found a liquor store open and bought a six-pack of beer at 3 o'clock in the morning in the Middle East. I mean, that's impossible anywhere for a thousand miles. So it's such a shock when you see it. You think, oh, my God, I can't believe I'm still in Iraq. And in a way - and really that's what the story's about - in a way, it's not part of Iraq, not anymore.
GROSS: And they don't want to be part of Iraq anymore.
FILKINS: No, I mean, sort of technically - technically they're part of Iraq, but, you know, they don't want to be and, you know, a de facto way, in a very real way, they're not, they're not part of Iraq. I mean, they're pulling away. And I think they want to make it official and I think probably - I mean, you can never foretell the future in that part of the world - but probably it will be independent, I think, sooner rather than later, although it's hard to tell exactly when.
There are so many problems in Iraq, so many crises, destroying unity and what's the new prime minister doing?
While he's unable to build political unity at this time, Haider al-Abadi, is willing to make waves internationally. Kristina Fernandez (China Topix) reports he declared today that Iraq had "credible intelligence" that the Islamic State was plotting an attack on the subway systems in Paris and NYC.
He insisted the information was reliable because it had come from suspects in Iraqi custody.
The Iraq interrogations are known as torture sessions -- they even killed a bodyguard of then-Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi during one of them.
So, at best, whatever al-Abadi thinks or thought he has was most likely the product of torture.
Terry Atlas and Angela Greiling Keane (Bloomberg News) quote White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden declaring, "We have not confirmed such a plot, and would have to review any information from our Iraqi partners before making further determinations. We take any threat seriously and always work to corroborate information we receive from our partners. We're obviously very focused on the issue of foreign fighters." The State Dept's Marie Harf went on CNN and suggested maybe it was true.
RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"