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Author: TriSec    Date: 12/06/2016 11:17:12

And life goes on. We're back on schedule today. Except I have been rather lax of late in prowling for interesting stories to hold.

We'll start today as we so often have, in Iraq. While we're not involved as much as we used to be, there's still death and despair occurring every day there. We rely on a number of agencies to report on what's happening there, so it's with some dismay that I report that the UN is going to stop reporting on casualties. I guess the prevailing theory is if nobody knows about it, it didn't happen? (Actually, it's more complex than that.)

BAGHDAD, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- The United Nations mission in Iraq said it will stop reporting military casualty figures after Iraq's military complained the numbers were exaggerated.

In a press release published Sunday, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, or UNAMI, said it "acknowledges that the military figures were largely unverified." The agency said it will discontinue the reporting "unless a sound methodology of verification can be found to better substantiate the figures being reported."

UNAMI said it will continue to publish civilian casualty figures because they are "subjected to a rigorous methodology based on a range of sources, triangulation of sources and assessment of credibility, among other things." It noted its figures are "conservative" because they "do not include many of the reports received by the Mission that do not meet verification criteria, and hence should be considered as minimums."

On Thursday, UNAMI reported 1,959 Iraqi security forces, including army, police and Kurdish Peshmerga troops, were killed in November. The agency said 926 civilians died, including 733 in Baghdad.

The 2,885 total killed are up from October, when a total of 1,792 Iraqis were killed, including 672 security forces. But November's civilian deaths declined from October's about 1,200.

Iraqi security forces, aided by the Kurdish Peshmerga, Shiite militias and a U.S.-led international coalition, began a ground offensive on Oct. 17 to capture Mosul away from the control of the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, ISIS and Daesh.

"The casualty figures are staggering, with civilians accounting for a significant number of the victims," Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq Ján Kubiš said last week. "In its desperate attempt to cling on to territory it controls in Mosul and Ninewa areas Daesh has been employing the most vicious tactics, using civilian homes as firing positions as well as abducting and forcibly moving civilians, effectively using them as human shields."

Earlier Saturday morning, the War Media Cell of Iraq's Joint Operations Command published a statement saying the United Nation's information was "much exaggerated." They added that such a false report "comes in the favor of Daesh who is working on exaggerations intended to influence the course of Ninawa operations."

Staying in Iraq, we'll cast a brief glance at the potential incoming Secretary of Defence. General Mattis perhaps sucks the least out of all of Mr. Trump's appointments so far. But he needs a congressional waiver in order to serve, due to previous rules about time out of the military. I know much has been made about civilian control in recent days, but ponder this - it's the civilians that have been in control previously that got is into this cluster-fuck. Perhaps a veteran, and somebody that ordered men into combat to fight and die, might be a voice of restraint. Only time will tell.

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of defense called the 2003 invasion of Iraq a “strategic mistake.” Retired USMC General James Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division during the invasion, and later headed US Central Command.
Mattis made the comments in September 2015 at the ASIS conference in Anaheim, California. An audio recording of the hour-long speech was provided to The Intercept by one of the attendees, and made public on Monday.

After asking the organizers if his remarks at the event would be provided to the media or remain private – suggesting that his “big mouth” might cost him a job at Stanford University – Mattis shared his opinion of the war.

“We will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake — as a strategic mistake,” he said.

Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division and distinguished himself in both the initial invasion and the subsequent battle to take the city of Fallujah from Iraqi insurgents. Fallujah is where got the nickname “Mad Dog,” which he reportedly dislikes, either from his troops or the media. He headed the US Central Command (CENTCOM) between 2010 and 2013, when he retired.

Because Mattis has not been out of the military for seven years, he will need a congressional waiver in order to serve as secretary of defense in the Trump administration. Although the president-elect has yet to make the nomination official, he praised Mattis, calling him “a true General’s General.”

At the time of the keynote speech at the ASIS conference, Mattis was a fellow at the Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was also employed at FWA Consultants and sat on the boards of weapons manufacturer General Dynamics and controversial medical startup Theranos.

Comments about Iraq came during a question-and-answer session after his keynote speech, where Mathis explained how the generals who questioned the wisdom of the war shared their thoughts with the civilian leadership, then fell in line as their oath demanded.

“I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn’t think it was a very wise idea,” Mattis said. “But we give a cheery ‘aye aye, sir.’ Because when you elect someone commander in chief – we give our advice. We generally give it in private.”

“Nobody elected me,” Mattis continued. “But I did feel I had to be heard. And I was very blunt. And I gave my advice. But when it’s all over and done with, ladies and gentlemen, your military is obedient to the constitution that says we obey the president. We swear an oath to protect that constitution, and we live up to it. Loyalty only counts, we say, when there’s one hundred reasons not to be.”

We'll finish up today by looking 75 years in the rear-view mirror to the USS Arizona on this Pearl Harbor Eve.

HONOLULU -- Lauren Bruner was getting ready for church in 1941 on his battleship, the USS Arizona, when the alarm sounded.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had begun, and Bruner, then 21, scampered up five stories by ladder to the enormous anti-aircraft guns he was responsible for manning.

But bullets hit his left leg and explosions set off by the Sunday morning bombardment rocked his ship before he could get to the weapons. The ship sank just nine minutes later. Bruner escaped, but suffered severe burns.

This week Bruner, now 96, plans to visit a memorial over the Arizona's sunken wreckage and attend a remembrance ceremony at Pearl Harbor on the 75th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

Bruner has traveled from his Southern California home for the events many times, but doesn't know how long the Arizona's few remaining survivors will able to keep up the tradition.

"It's getting close to being the end pretty soon. There's only five of us left now," Bruner said.

More than 2,300 servicemen died in the Japanese attack that plunged the United States into World War II. Nearly half of those killed were on the Arizona, most still entombed in the wreckage.

The Navy and National Park Service expect several dozen attack survivors to attend the remembrance ceremony Wednesday on a pier overlooking the harbor. They, along with thousands of others, will observe a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. -- the same minute the Japanese planes hit their first target in the harbor.

Back then, in 1941, Bruner didn't know who was attacking until the planes got close enough for him to see the red Rising Sun Japanese insignia on their sides. The aircraft shot at "everything in sight," he said. Then an explosion tore through his battle station.

"That's where the flames blew right through and cooked me right there," Bruner said in a telephone interview from his home in La Mirada, California.

With "everything burning," Bruner tried to get off the ship as fast as he could. But the water in the harbor 80 feet below -- infused with leaked oil -- was on fire, too, so jumping wasn't an option.

Bruner and a few fellow shipmates shouted to a sailor on the ship moored next to the Arizona to toss over some rope. The six of them tied the rope and carried themselves hand-over-hand across the 100-foot expanse to the USS Vestal.

"You're like a chicken getting barbecued," he said. All of them made it, becoming six of the 335 sailors and Marines on the Arizona to survive. Another 1,177 shipmates died.

So indeed - Remember Pearl Harbor. And all those other places where men and women fought and died under the Stars and Stripes.

39 comments (Latest Comment: 12/07/2016 04:41:40 by BobR)
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