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Author: TriSec    Date: 05/19/2015 10:14:40

Good Morning.

Today is our 334th day back in Iraq.

There have be no recent US military casualties, although an American civilian was recently killed in Afghanistan.

We find this morning's Cost of War passing through:

$ 1, 627, 452, 750, 000 .00

We'll dive right in, but we'll start in Washington today. June 19th marks one year since we've been fighting our undeclared war against ISIS in Iraq. For a Congress that opposes the President breathing, they've been surprisingly quiet about this unauthorized excursion of executive authority. By now it's become a moot point, but every now and again somebody thinks about talking about it, and it just as quickly dies a quiet death.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A move to write new war powers to authorize the Obama administration's 9-month-old battle against Islamic State militants has stalled in Congress. It might even be dead.

President Barack Obama doesn't seem to mind. And while lawmakers say they don't want to give up their check on a commander-in-chief's authority to use military might, they have little interest in having what would be the first war vote in Congress in 13 years.

Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was recently asked whether Congress was still going to craft a new AUMF.

"What does that stand for?" Corker joked, knowing that it stands for Authorization for the Use of Military Force. But his five words said a lot.

After Obama ordered airstrikes in August over Iraq and in September over Syria against IS militants, lawmakers complained that he was justifying the action with dusty war powers written to authorize conflicts after 9/11. Today, there is hardly a word about it on Capitol Hill.

"I'm not optimistic. I wish I were," Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Associated Press. "The snag is there is no real political will or interest in doing it."

He said Congress has a lot to lose if it doesn't.

"As an institution, we're the ones who are going to suffer because future presidents are going to look back at this and say, 'We don't need Congress to make war.' It's a terrible precedent," Schiff said.

He believes that if a new military force authorization is not passed, the current Congress will have done more to weaken its own power as a check on the executive branch than any other Congress in memory.

In the U.S. battle against the Islamic State group, Obama has been relying on congressional authorizations given to President George W. Bush for the war on al-Qaida and the Iraq invasion. The White House said they gave Obama authority to act without new approval by Congress under the 1973 War Powers Act.

The act, passed during the Vietnam War, serves as a constitutional check on presidential power to declare war without congressional consent. It requires presidents to notify Congress within 48 hours of military action and limits the use of military forces to no more than 60 days unless Congress authorizes force or declares war.

Critics say the White House's use of post-9/11 congressional authorizations is a legal stretch at best.

Obama has insisted that he is on firm legal footing in sending more than 4,000 U.S. troops to train and assist Iraqi security forces and launching thousands of airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria. But he also has said that he would welcome a new authorization to cover the current military operations.

Staying on the Political Front, the ongoing troubles in Iraq are going to have a major impact on the next election cycle, I would think. Jeb is having some problems articulating his feelings on what his brother started. The other candidates have been generally beating around the bush (so to speak), but at some point there's going to have to be some recognition of the elephant in the room.

WASHINGTON — More than a decade after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the wisdom of that war still casts a shadow over the Republican candidates for president as they try to stake out a more muscular foreign policy than President Barack Obama.

Most of the GOP White House hopefuls argue that Obama overcorrected after ending the long and expensive war by pulling out American forces so completely, yet are mindful that many Americans remain skeptical of large-scale U.S. combat efforts abroad.

With the U.S. back in Iraq in a more limited way to help fight Islamic State militants, Obama's successor is all but sure to confront lingering fallout from the original invasion and its aftermath.

Tackling America's difficult history in Iraq is most challenging for Jeb Bush, whose brother, former President George W. Bush, pursued the Iraq war in 2003. Bush has sought to distance himself from his brother's foreign policy, even as he relies on many of the same advisers and cites his brother someone he relies on for advice.

Bush appeared to get tripped up by his tightrope walk this week. Asked if he would have approved of the invasion given what is now known about the faulty intelligence that influenced his brother's decision, he said he would have made the same decision under the same circumstances.

"Just for the news flash to the world, if they're trying to find places where there's big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those." Bush said in a Fox News interview that aired Monday.

A Bush spokeswoman would not say Tuesday how Bush would answer the original question. He was expected to address the matter on Fox anchor Sean Hannity's radio show Tuesday evening.

A September 2014 AP-GfK poll found that 71 percent of Americans said they think history will judge the war as a failure. Among Republicans, that assessment was even more prevalent, with 76 percent saying the war would be seen a failure.

Whether or not the politics of war are ever resolved, there's still people on the ground that are affected on a daily basis by our actions. We almost never talk about this here at AAV, but today we'll take a brief visit with some Iraqi civilians. Everything that's ever been said or written about US soldiers dealing with the trauma of war could apply to non-combatants...and remember, they generally don't have any kind of support mechanisms, either.

CHAMISHKO CAMP, Iraq (AP) -- The group of women, members of Iraq's Yazidi religious minority, first did deep breathing as a relaxation technique. Then, as their children played in the center of the room, they talked about the traumas they had lived through when Islamic State extremists rampaged through their town.

Muna Murad spoke of the sorrow that overwhelms her when she's reminded of her brother-in-law, who was killed by the militants before her eyes. "Whenever I see his two kids playing with mine, I have trouble breathing," she said.

With such group counselling sessions, international aid groups are trying to help at least some of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who fled from their homes to escape the Islamic State and now live crammed into multiple camps like Chamishko around the north. But the efforts are a drop in the ocean in a county where an overwhelming number of people are dealing with mental trauma and where there are almost no facilities to help them.

The IS rampage across northern and western Iraq the past 18 months only adds a new generation of traumatized Iraqis after decades of war and conflict. From the long Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, to the 1991 Gulf War, through the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the sectarian slaughter that followed, Iraqis have witnessed untold horrors and suffered the agonies of displacement.

Dr. Emad Abdul-Razzaq, the adviser on mental health issues to the Health Ministry, estimates that 40 to 50 percent of Iraq's 33 million people have been affected by the trauma of the last few decades, in some cases causing serious personality changes like increased anger, anxiety and aggressiveness.

This in a country where there are only 130 licensed psychiatrists. There are just 2,000 beds in mental hospitals nationwide - 80 in the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, the rest in the capital Baghdad. A mental health hospital planned in the southern city of Diwaniya will be the country's first new facility in 60 years.

Helped by organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Iraq has struggled to provide more mental health services, setting up centers in hospitals and training regular doctors to provide some counseling. But the effort is hamstrung by lack of funding. "We have accumulated problems, and the policymakers in the past have not made mental health support a priority," said Abdul-Razzaq.

At Baghdad's Ibn Rushd hospital mental health center, which sees about 150 patients a day, Dr. Mohammed Koreishi said the staff has tried to increase awareness in the public about the benefits of professional mental health care and overcome the strong social stigma against it. But he said there's a profound lack of trained professionals, including clinical psychologists and counselors.

"We have a problem in Iraq that doctors don't like to specialize in psychiatry because it has the poorest economic status - not like a surgeon," he said. At his center, patients are mainly treated with medication such as mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics and antidepressants, with limited recourse to counseling.

President Bush's legacy is looking more atrocious then ever...for most of the 20th century, the United States was doing more good than harm, and we were generally perceived around the world as a benign entity usually willing to help out those in need. It took just 8 years to destroy all that. It's still difficult to say if we'll ever get that old reputation back.

35 comments (Latest Comment: 05/19/2015 19:40:21 by wickedpam)
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