Dog Brothers Public Forum


Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
February 19, 2017, 08:03:30 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
100339 Posts in 2360 Topics by 1084 Members
Latest Member: Andy55
* Home Help Search Login Register
+  Dog Brothers Public Forum
|-+  Recent Posts
Pages: 1 ... 8 9 [10]

 on: February 15, 2017, 01:01:01 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: February 15, 2017, 12:56:23 AM 
Started by captainccs - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Advocates: Kurds Keeping Christians and Yazidis From Going Home
by John Rossomando
IPT News
February 14, 2017

 Iraq's Assyrian Christians and Yazidis face an uncertain future, and advocates claim that the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) intends to prevent the minority groups from returning to the lands they fled in 2014 when ISIS took over. They also don't forget that the KRG and its Peshmerga militia fighters refused to defend them from the ISIS onslaught in 2014.

The Kurdish Peshmerga disarmed Christians and Yazidis prior to ISIS's June 2014 rampage across Iraq. Survivors of the ISIS onslaught told the Daily Beast in August 2014 that Kurdish authorities and the Peshmerga misled them and abandoned them when they came under attack.

Bitter feelings remain even after Kurdish and Yazidi forces and ended the terrorist group's presence in the Sinjar province in December 2015 where most Yazidis lived and freed several Christian towns from ISIS control last October.

Khalid Hayder, a Yazidi living in West Virginia after serving as a translator for the U.S. Army in Iraq, expressed bitterness about how the Kurds "betrayed" the Yazidis and the Christians by leaving them to be wiped out.

"My fellow Yazidis and my brothers and sisters the Christians are going to face the same horrific tragedy once again if the Kurds dominate the region unless there is international protection," Hayder said.

State Department officials formally designated both religious minorities as genocide victims last year. Prior to June 2014, Iraq's Christian community numbered around 350,000, a fraction of the estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million Christians from various sects who lived in the country prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion.

The history of the Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria offers little expectation that the Kurds will protect them, Hayder said. He claims that many crimes against the Christians and Yazidis were committed under the Kurdish flag.  Not everything is simple. Hudson Institute religious freedom expert Nina Shea notes that the Kurds feel overextended and that they are stretched very thin by their approximately 500-mile front line.

"They [claim they] cannot take more security responsibility for Nineveh unless they claim Nineveh," Shea said.

A law passed by the KRG since ISIS invaded allows Kurds to take ownership of abandoned Christian or Yazidi buildings, said Jeff Gardner, an American advocate who runs an organization called Picture Christians.

"The Kurds are keeping the Yazidis out of the Sinjar; they won't even let them bring food and spare parts in for things like cars and people. And they are moving into cities that the Islamic State has been driven out of and saying, 'See these are abandoned' and making legal claims," Gardner said. "Many of those making legal claims [for the abandoned properties] are Kurdish businessmen."

For example, in October a Kurdish court ruled in favor of a Kurdish man who occupied the home of an Assyrian Christian. U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., complained about "reports of land confiscation and statements you have made regarding Kurdish territorial claims to the Nineveh Plains region" in a letter last May to Kurdish President Masoud Barzani.

No one seems to want to help the Assyrians reclaim their properties, Kaldo Ramzi, foreign relations director of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) in an email. His people feel trapped between the "big sharks" – the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds – without much of a voice of their own, Ramzi said.

Kurdish officials need to explain their blockade and their allowing these businessmen to seize Yazidi and Christian homes, Gardner said.

Complaints made to the Kurdish government in Erbil have fallen on deaf ears, Ramzi said.

Ensuring that the Assyrian Christians and Yazidis can return to their homes is in the U.S. national interest and the State Department should take steps to ensure this happens, Shea said.

"If they feel that they don't have any hope there, if they don't have justice and rights to their land – the lands that they own – then they will disappear; they will leave," Shea said. "They will emigrate out of there, and that will be the end of diversity and pluralism in Iraq."

A KRG representative told the IPT that Christians and Yazidis are being kept away for their own good, claiming that ISIS littered their villages with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  That's not true, Gardner said.

"I have been through the liberated areas. I have sent reporters into the liberated areas, and they are not full of IEDs," Gardner said. "And even if they were, they have a force trained by the American military – trained by the forces of Delta Force – that can deal with the clearing of the IEDs and explosives."
Kurdish authorities also keep the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU), one of two ethnic based armed units legally recognized by Baghdad, bottled up in refugee camps rather than letting them into areas freed from ISIS control. Moreover, the Iraqi Kurds blocked an Assyrian request to recruit 1,000 extra troops for the NPU under the umbrella of their joint command. The NPU currently has somewhere between 400 and 500 men. Kurdish security forces also try to prevent NPU soldiers from returning to their units when they get back from leave, an NPU representative told the IPT.

The U.S. government has tremendous leverage over the Kurds, Shea said, and should review Kurdish treatment of Assyrian militia members.

"There is no other solution for security for Christians other than their own militia," Shea said. "Unless there is a big plan on how to make the Christian areas and the Yazidi areas of Nineveh safe, they have to have their own militia. Otherwise it stands to reason that they cannot live there."

Obama administration officials never bothered to develop a plan to protect the Christians, Yazidis and other minorities from the major powers in Iraq, Shea said.

Since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, Barzani has worked to permanently displace religious minorities and increase the Kurdish population the Nineveh province, Gardner said, as part of a long-term plan to build a greater Kurdistan. Sunni Kurds have settled into Assyrian Christian and Yazidi areas to help stake a claim to their land.  This plan aims to extend Kurdish authority beyond the firm boundaries found in Iraq's 2004 constitution by expanding its de facto control westward to the Syrian border and southward into the Sinjar region where most Yazidis live, Gardner said.

Two weeks after capturing areas around Khazir in Nineveh governorate last June, Peshmerga commander Hadi Halabjayi declared them "Kurdistan's now. We will not give them back to the Iraqi army or anybody else."

Human Rights Watch cited Halabjayi's statement in a report last November, noting that Assyrians, Yazidis and other minorities complained about heavy-handed tactics against those opposed to the Kurds expansionist plans. These tactics included arbitrary arrests, detentions and intimidation.

This is nothing new. Assyrian Christians complained about the illegal settlement of Kurdish families on Assyrian land in the early 1990s. The ultimate strategy aims to unify Iraq's Kurds with those in Syria and Turkey in a broader Kurdish state, Gardner said.

But Turkey considers Kurdish independence a nonstarter, so realizing the Kurdish dream is sure to incite the Turks and put ending Syria's civil war out of reach.

The Peshmerga have Assyrian and Yazidi units, the KRG office in Washington told the IPT, and it called Gardner's claim that the Kurds have been harsh to the religious minorities "completely false."

The best possible solution would be the creation of a separate province for Assyrians and other minorities, Ramzi said.

This also includes Catholic Assyrian Christians known as Chaldeans.

"... [A]ll the Cha[l]dean Syriac Assyrian political parties ... demand [an] International protected zone to monitored by international community," Ramzi wrote in an email. "The popular demand for Nineveh Plain is to become new province and for sure we should ask Iraqi government for that."

 on: February 14, 2017, 10:01:10 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: February 14, 2017, 09:40:47 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: February 14, 2017, 09:01:57 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
I like this one:

What We’re Fighting For

Our acts of moral courage defend America as surely as any act of violence.

FEB. 10, 2017

When his convoy was ambushed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, First Lt. Brian Chontosh ordered his Humvee driver to head straight into the oncoming machine gun fire. They punched through, landing in a trench full of heavily armed Iraqi soldiers. Lieutenant Chontosh and his Marines leapt out and he ran down the trench firing away, dropping one enemy soldier after another. First his rifle jammed, then he ran out of ammunition, so he switched to his pistol. He shot it dry, reloaded, and shot it dry again. So he picked up an AK-47 from a dead Iraqi, fired that dry, picked up another AK, fired that dry, picked up a rocket-propelled grenade, fired it, and led the group back to the Humvee, their attack having almost completely cleared the trench. Almost.

One Iraqi was playing dead, fiddling with the pin of a grenade. Lieutenant Chontosh had no ammo, but on the ground were a couple of M-16 rounds from when his rifle had jammed. He grabbed one, loaded, and before the Iraqi could pull the pin, Lieutenant Chontosh locked eyes with him and shot him dead. All told, according to the journalist Phil Zabriskie’s account of the ambush in “The Kill Switch,” Lieutenant Chontosh had killed about two dozen people that day.

When I was a new Marine, just entering the Corps, this story from the Iraq invasion defined heroism for me. It’s a perfect image of war for inspiring new officer candidates, right in line with youthful notions of what war is and what kind of courage it takes — physical courage, full stop. We thought it was a shame more Americans didn’t know the story.

But after spending 13 months in Iraq, after seeing violence go down not because we managed to increase our lethality but because we improved our ability to work with Iraqis, I became convinced that there were other stories of war equally important for Americans to understand. And as we look at a president who claims that he wants to “fight fire with fire” in the battle against jihadism, I think back to the stories that defined, for me, what it meant to be an American at war, and the reasons I was proud to wear the uniform.

I was sent to Iraq in January 2007 with a logistics unit, the sort unlikely to engage in Chontosh-style heroics. We managed the key parts of an army people often forget about: truck drivers, engineers, explosive disposal specialists, postal workers — and, crucially, doctors.

Midway through my deployment a Marine arrived on base with severe wounds. He’d been shot by an enemy sniper, and the medical staff swarmed around his body, working frantically, skillfully, but it wasn’t enough. He died on the table.

Normally, there’d be a moment of silence, of prayer, but the team got word that the man who killed this young Marine, the insurgent sniper, would be arriving a few minutes later. That dead Marine’s squadmates had engaged the sniper in a firefight, shot him a couple of times, patched him up, bandaged him and called for a casualty evacuation to save the life of the man who’d killed their friend.

So he arrived at our base. And the medical staff members, still absorbing the blow of losing a Marine, got to work. They stabilized their enemy and pumped him full of American blood, donated from the “walking blood bank” of nearby Marines. The sniper lived. And then they put him on a helicopter to go to a hospital for follow-up care, and one of the Navy nurses was assigned to be his flight nurse. He told me later of the strangeness of sitting in the back of a helicopter, watching over his enemy lying peacefully unconscious, doped up on painkillers, while he kept checking the sniper’s vitals, his blood pressure, his heartbeat, a heartbeat that was steady and strong thanks to the gift of blood from the Americans this insurgent would have liked to kill.

This wasn’t just a couple of Marines and sailors making the right decision. These weren’t acts of exceptional moral courage in the way Lieutenant Chontosh’s acts were acts of exceptional physical courage. This was standard policy, part of tradition stretching back to the Revolutionary War, when George Washington ordered every soldier in the Continental Army to sign a copy of rules intended to limit harm to civilians and ensure that their conduct respected what he called “the rights of humanity,” so that their restraint “justly secured to us the attachment of all good men.”

From our founding we have made these kinds of moral demands of our soldiers. It starts with the oath they swear to support and defend the Constitution, an oath made not to a flag, or to a piece of ground, or to an ethnically distinct people, but to a set of principles established in our founding documents. An oath that demands a commitment to democracy, to liberty, to the rule of law and to the self-evident equality of all men. The Marines I knew fought, and some of them died, for these principles.

That’s why those Marines were trained to care for their enemy. That’s why another Marine gave his own blood to an insurgent. Because America is an idea as much as a country, and so those acts defend America as surely as any act of violence, because they embody that idea. That nurse, in the quiet, alone with that insurgent, with no one looking as he cared for his patient. That was an act of war.

After I left the Marine Corps, I met a veteran named Eric Fair. He was quiet. He wrote strange and affecting stories about guilt and alienation, and at first he didn’t tell me much about his past. Only over time did I learn that he’d been an Army Arabic linguist before Sept. 11, and then had signed up as a contractor and gone to Abu Ghraib prison in January 2004, all things he would later write about in his memoir “Consequence.”

Back then Abu Ghraib was a mess, he told me. Thousands of Iraqis, some of them insurgents, plenty of them innocent civilians caught up in the post-invasion chaos, and far too few qualified interrogators to sort it out. And the information they were seeking — it was literally life or death.

So Eric began crossing lines. Not legal lines — he followed the rules. But moral lines, personal lines, lines where it was clear that he wasn’t treating the people in his interrogation booth like human beings.

One time, it was with a boy captured with car batteries and electronic devices. The boy said his father used the batteries for fishing, an explanation that Eric found absurd. So, he used the approved techniques. Light slaps, stress positions. The boy eventually broke and, weeping, told Eric about a shop where his father delivered the electronics.

When a unit was sent to raid the shop, it found half a dozen partly assembled car bombs. “It was an enormous adrenaline rush,” he told me. He’d used techniques he now considers torture and, he thought, saved lives.

So, naturally, he kept using them. There were a large number of detainees caught with car batteries, all of them with the same story about fishing. With them, Eric would go right to the techniques designed to humiliate, to degrade, to make people suffer until they tell you what you want to hear. But Eric didn’t get any more results. No more car bomb factories. Just a lot of broken, weeping detainees.

Eventually, he told a fellow contractor the ridiculous fishing story, and how he wasn’t falling for it, and the contractor told him: “Of course they fish with car batteries. I used to do it in Georgia.” The electric charge stuns the fish, a simple method for an easy meal.

Eric isn’t sure how many innocent Iraqis he hurt. All he knows is how easy it was for him to cross the line. Just as with that wounded insurgent there was a codified set of procedures set in place to help guide Marines and Navy medical personnel to make moral choices, choices they could tell their children and grandchildren about without shame, for Eric, there was a codified set of procedures beckoning him to take actions that he now feels condemn him.

He doesn’t even have the consolation of feeling that he saved lives. Sure, they found a car bomb factory, but Abu Ghraib was a turning point. In 2003, thousands of Iraqi soldiers had begun surrendering to the United States, confident they’d be treated well. That’s thousands of soldiers we didn’t have to fight to the death because of the moral reputation of our country.

Abu Ghraib changed things. Insurgent attacks increased, support for the sectarian leader Moktada al-Sadr surged, and 92 percent of Iraqis claimed they saw coalition forces as occupiers rather than liberators or peacekeepers. WikiLeaks later released a United States assessment that detainee mistreatment at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo was “the single most important motivating factor” convincing foreign jihadists to wage war, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal said, “In my experience, we found that nearly every first-time jihadist claimed Abu Ghraib had first jolted him to action.” Our moral reputation had started killing American soldiers.

So, yeah, they found a car bomb factory. Once.

Eric has a relationship to his war that’s much different from mine. Yet we were in the same war. And Eric did what our nation asked of him, used techniques that were vetted and approved and passed down to intelligence operatives and contractors like himself. Lawyers at the highest levels of government had been consulted, asked to bring us to the furthest edge of what the law might allow. To do what it takes, regardless of whether such actions will secure the “attachment of all good men,” or live up to that oath we swear to support and defend the Constitution.

What to make of that oath, anyway? The Constitution seems to mean different things at different times and places — whether in my unit’s dusty little combat hospital, or in Eric’s interrogation booth, or in a stadium where a crowd cheers a presidential candidate vowing to torture his nation’s enemies. We live in a democracy, so that document can be bent and twisted and re-formed to mean whatever we want it to.

If we choose to believe in a morally diminished America, an America that pursues its narrow selfish interests and no more, we can take that course and see how far it gets us. But if we choose to believe that America is not just a set of borders, but a set of principles, we need to act accordingly. That is the only way we ensure that our founding document, and the principles embedded within, are alive enough, and honorable enough, to be worth fighting for.

Which brings me back to Brian Chontosh, that man with such incredible skill at killing for his country. Years after I left the Corps I was surprised to learn that he didn’t really put much stock in his exceptional kill count. He told Mr. Zabriskie this about killing: “It’s ugly, it’s violent, it’s disgusting. I wish it wasn’t part of what we had to do.”

When people ask him if he’s proud of what he did, he answers: “I’m not proud of killing a whole lot of people. That doesn’t make sense to me. I’m proud of who I am today because I think I’ve done well. I think I’ve been honorable. I’ve been successful for my men, for the cause, for what’s right.”

Brian Chontosh doesn’t dwell on the dead, but he does wonder whether there were times when, perhaps, he need not have killed. One of these is that last soldier in the trench. He’ll remember him, trying to pretend he’s dead but wiggling a bit. “It’s not a haunting image,” he told Mr. Zabriskie. “It’s just — man. I wonder. I wonder if I would have just freaking grabbed the dude. Grabbed his hand, thrown the grenade away or something. I could have got him some medical treatment.”

If he had, then that enemy soldier would have ended up with a unit like mine, surrounded by doctors and nurses and Navy corpsmen who would have cared for him in accordance with the rules of law. They would have treated him well, because they’re American soldiers, because they swore an oath, because they have principles, because they have honor. And because without that, there’s nothing worth fighting for.

Phil Klay is the author of the short-story collection “Redeployment.”

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTOpinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

 on: February 14, 2017, 08:52:35 PM 
Started by Mad Scientist - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: February 14, 2017, 08:42:55 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: February 14, 2017, 08:22:48 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Note the role of natural gas routes, the importance of which is something I have underlined in this part of the world for several years now:

There are new signs that trade is beginning to tie Russia and Georgia closer together. On Feb. 13, Georgia's special representative for talks with Russia said both countries had agreed Feb. 7 to establish three trade routes, which would wind through the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and through the Larsi mountain pass (east of South Ossetia). Moscow also reportedly agreed to demands made by Georgia's government in Tbilisi to station international observers to monitor goods traversing the Russian-Abkhazian and Russian-South Ossetian borders. Additional observation posts will likewise be placed on demarcation lines between the breakaway territories and the rest of Georgia.

New trade along these routes would lead to better economic relations between Russia and Georgia. Currently, trade between the two stands at $800 million, making Russia Georgia's third-largest trade partner. And this is not the only development: Tbilisi and Moscow recently reached an agreement that allows Russian natural gas destined for Armenia to transit through Georgia. Many in Georgia, however, see the deal as a disadvantage for the government. In previous arrangements, Russia paid Georgia for the transit with 10 percent of the natural gas. Under the new deal, Russia pays the transit fee with cash and Georgia must buy the natural gas separately. With Georgia likely to increase its natural gas imports, Tbilisi will come to rely more on Russia to meet its future energy needs.

Moreover, Moscow's agreement to station trade observers on the borders between the breakaway territories and Russia is a notable nod to Tbilisi that at one time would have been impossible. After the short-lived Russia-Georgia War in 2008, Moscow cut diplomatic ties with Tbilisi, and they have not been restored. But now, the Kremlin seems to be sending signals to the Georgian government that it's willing to reconcile, at least economically.

There are also indications that pro-Russia sentiment is growing in the country. Recent polls show 53 percent of Georgians favor European integration — a near 10 percent drop from last year. Some 31 percent, meanwhile, support improving relations with Russia — an almost 10 percent increase over the previous year.

These changes are improving relations between Georgia and its breakaway territories as well. Abkhazian and Russian officials resumed talks with their Georgian counterparts to prevent conflict along Abkhazia's demarcation line in late 2016. At the same time, officials from South Ossetia have said the territory's leaders plan to open a new trade post on the demarcation line near Akhalgori. Overall trade with the breakaway region may even resume. Tbilisi floated the idea of changing the country's constitution, too, so that foreigners entering Abkhazia or South Ossetia without first notifying Tbilisi (most of whom are Russian) would face a fine rather than legal prosecution.

Russian-Georgian relations are clearly progressing at the time when geopolitical situation in the former Soviet periphery is in flux. Divisions in the European Union are growing. A new U.S. presidential administration appears more open to working with Russia. So for many former Soviet countries, including Georgia, rethinking the relationship with Moscow is now vital.

 on: February 14, 2017, 07:45:23 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
How about starting with super simple disclosure of the annualized rate?

 on: February 14, 2017, 07:43:54 PM 
Started by DougMacG - Last post by Crafty_Dog

Pages: 1 ... 8 9 [10]
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!