Iraqi leaders are demanding U.S. troops leave the country after President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to Iraq, which lawmakers characterized as an arrogant affront to the nation’s sovereignty.
Trump made a three-hour sojourn in Iraq, traveling to Al-Asad Air Base, some 115 miles northwest of Baghdad, but he did not meet with any Iraqi officials. And in Iraq’s parliament, that perceived slight left both Washington’s allies and its foes fuming.
The visit confirmed U.S. disregard for other nations’ sovereignty, said Hamdillah Kaabi, spokesman for nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon party. Al-Sadr, the Shiite Muslim cleric whose loyalists battled U.S. forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, now heads parliament’s largest bloc. He campaigned to limit the influence of both Washington and Tehran in Iraq’s affairs. Kaabi said Thursday the party had long sought to end Washington’s “arrogance and disrespect” in its dealings with Iraq.
Former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the leader who worked most closely with the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, said in a statement Thursday that he rejected the “method of Trump’s visit,” and that “it was not appropriate to diplomatic mores and to relations with sovereign states.”
Trump was initially set to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi at the military base. However, Abdul Mahdi’s invitation to join Trump there came with only two hours’ notice for “security reasons,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, according to a pool report. Abdul Mahdi was in a different part of the country and unable to attend, she said.
Abdul Mahdi’s office issued a delicate statement insisting that due to “differences in the points of view on arranging the meeting,” the two leaders instead held a phone call in which they discussed “developments after the U.S. president’s decision to withdraw from Syria.”
Qais Khazali, an Iran-supported politician and head of the Asaib Ahl Haq militia, advocated a more forceful line with the U.S., vowing in a tweet Wednesday that “Iraq’s response will be with a parliamentary decision to expel (Trump’s) military forces.” He lauded Abdul Mahdi for refusing to meet Trump on such short notice.
Though Khazali’s militia is backed by Iran, it recently fought in concert with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State.
“And if they (U.S forces) do not go out,” he threatened, “we have the experience and ability to get them out in another way that is well known to your forces, which were forced to withdraw in humiliation in 2011.”
More than 5,000 U.S. troops have been stationed in Iraq since 2014 as part of the coalition to defeat the Islamic State. That year, the jihadis blitzed through wide swaths of the country’s northern region and swatted away government troops, many of whom threw down their weapons and ran away. Islamic State then established a so-called caliphate that straddled Syria and Iraq.
Since then, successive government assaults assisted by the coalition have clawed back all ground lost to the militants. U.S. troops continue to work with local Iraqi forces in an advise-and-assist capacity to chase remnants of the group.
Last week, Trump rocked the U.S. foreign policy establishment with an abrupt announcement withdrawing the approximately 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, a decision that surprised many of his regional and international allies, not to mention members of his own administration.
He defended the decision to troops. “We’ve knocked out about 99 percent of the caliphate,” Trump said.
“It’s time to bring (U.S. troops) back.”
Trump said he had “no plans at all” to issue a similar order for troops in Iraq. “In fact, we could use this as a base if we wanted to do something in Syria,” Trump said.
“If, I will say this, if you take ISIS and if we see something happening with ISIS that we don’t like, we can hit them so fast and so hard, they won’t, they really won’t know what the hell happened,” he told the U.S. troops, using an acronym for Islamic State.
Although U.S. troops are in Iraq ostensibly at Baghdad’s invitation and Islamic State remains a threat, many Iraqis blame the U.S. for the jihadis’ rise. The Iraqi news media often features stories claiming falsely that U.S. warplanes are dropping supplies to the jihadis, stoking anger toward the United States.
Many commentators view the U.S. military presence as a threat to Iraq’s stability and a symbol of the weakness of its political class before foreign officials.
“Trump visited Iraq without your knowledge, without giving you attention, and without asking you to give him permission. What sovereignty are you taking after this?” tweeted Muntadhar Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist turned politician who once hurled his shoes at then-President George W. Bush when he was visiting Iraq in 2008.
“Do you have any respect from the world or your people?” Zaidi tweeted Wednesday. “If we had known he was visiting, then Iraq would have prepared for him 30 million shoes.”
A Janesville woman is accused of stabbing a man in the face with a steak knife that still was embedded up to the handle when police arrived early Thursday morning.
Maria Rowena L. Johnson, 46, of 1530 Mole Ave., was charged in Rock County Court later Thursday with second-degree reckless injury.
She is accused of plunging a steak knife into the face of Thomas L. Beckett, 50, of the same address, Janesville police Lt. Tim Hiers said.
Johnson and Beckett both told police the stabbing was accidental, Hiers said.
The blade of the knife was buried in Beckett’s head up to the knife handle, and he was standing over the sink, bleeding profusely when police arrived, Hiers said.
Beckett was taken to Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville, where he was listed in fair condition Thursday morning. A Janesville police news release described his injuries as non-life threatening.
The knife entered Beckett’s face near his left nostril, and officers saw no exit wound, Hiers said.
Beckett and Johnson had dated off and on and lived together but were not currently seeing each other, Johnson told police, according to the complaint.
They had gone out drinking, returned home and were having dinner when they argued about Johnson’s desire to end the relationship and have Beckett move out, she told police, according to the complaint.
Johnson said that during the argument, she shoved her plate of rice into Beckett’s face, and that’s when the knife went in, according to the complaint.
Beckett was conscious and able to speak when officers arrived, Hiers said.
Beckett was prepped for surgery at 4:37 a.m., and a member of the surgical team emerged with the knife at 5:50 a.m., according to the complaint.
Capt. John McManus of the Janesville Fire Department said he could not comment about Beckett’s case, but in general the first order of business for an ambulance crew treating somebody with an object protruding from the body is to stabilize the object but not remove it.
“If there’s a patient with something stuck in them, the plan is to stabilize that something because it may be occluding bleeding or moving it may cause further injury,” McManus said.
Dr. Jennifer Gibson-Chambers, emergency medicine/MD1 physician for Mercyhealth, agreed.
Paramedics sometimes have to improvise to stabilize an object in a patient, McManus said.
Stabilization can be done with towels or T-shirts while trying to make the patient as comfortable as possible, Gibson-Chambers said.
Gibson-Chambers, who did not treat Beckett, spoke in general about such cases.
“The biggest thing is to leave the object in place,” Gibson-Chambers said, because pulling the object out could damage major blood vessels, causing more bleeding.
“Anything near the face or the eyes, both patients and bystanders tend to get excited because it’s scary,” Gibson-Chambers said, but keeping the patient calm is important to avoid further damage.
X-rays or CT scans can be done at the emergency room, allowing doctors to plan how to remove the object and control the bleeding immediately afterward, Gibson-Chambers said.
Sometimes the object can come out the way it went in, and sometimes an incision is needed, she said. Removal could be done in the emergency room or in an operating room, where anesthesia is available.
“If it’s removed in a careful fashion and in a controlled environment, then we can try to minimize any extra damage,” the doctor continued. “So even though it looks bad, it might be to the injured person’s benefit to really leave it alone.”
In the case of head impalements, it’s hard to tell from the outside whether the brain is affected, Gibson-Chambers said.
“A surprising number of objects that impale people’s heads don’t contact the brain, so it’s not necessarily apparent from the outside where the end of that object is,” she added.
Injury to the brain or nerves can lead to long-term problems, Gibson-Chambers noted.
Officers initially responded to the address for a report of an armed subject. It appears an adult roommate is the person who called 911, Hiers said.
The roommate did not witness the stabbing, and no one else was in the house, Hiers said.
The case was turned over to detectives for further investigation.
Johnson was held on a $500 cash bond after her court appearance Thursday afternoon. Assistant District Attorney Jodi Dabson Bollendorf said Johnson has a minimal criminal record.
Johnson’s next court appearance was set for Jan. 9. She was ordered to have no contact with Beckett, to possess no weapon and to maintain absolute sobriety while her case is pending.
Johnson’s attorney told the court she would stay at another Janesville address to keep from coming into contact with Beckett.
In the age of half-truths, anger and false-news accusations, have we lost the ability to enjoy a good lie?
The Burlington Liars Club continues to uphold the tradition of telling lies for fun with its annual contest, which this year was won by a Janesville man.
The club rarely finds humor in politics, to judge by the list of past winners on its website. The judges stuck to that tradition for the 2018 contest, choosing this whopper by Chuck Goldstein of Janesville:
“I got my DNA tested by Ancestry and found out that I’m one-sixteenth German shepherd.”
Goldstein, a retired bank worker, said Wednesday night he has been submitting lies to the contest for 10 years. He never thought this one would win.
Goldstein said he enjoys the opportunity to tell a good lie, and he took advantage of his Gazette interview by adding to his latest fib, saying he’s not sure whether the canine ancestry is on his mother’s or father’s side.
Goldstein later admitted he has never actually had his DNA analyzed.
The ability to craft an outrageous lie comes from a lifetime of telling jokes and having fun with people, Goldstein said.
“Nothing could be more important for a person with a good sense of humor,” he said of the honor. “This is truly as good as it gets.”
The third-place finisher also was from The Gazette’s readership area, and some readers may recognize this guy: Dale Wheelock, a farmer involved in 4-H who sits on the Darien Town Board.
Wheelock said he has submitted to the contest twice. The first time was two years ago, when a fib about potholes took second place.
Wheelock’s lie this year: “I don’t want to say my mother-in-law is bossy, but when she takes her teeth out at bedtime they nag my father-in-law for 10 more minutes.”
Wheelock said he didn’t have to worry that the joke might offend his in-laws, who have passed away.
“When I was younger, we used to tell lots of jokes, and I thought this was kind of fun,” Wheelock said of his motivation for competing in the contest.
This year’s second-place winner, by the way, was by Eve Dutkiewicz of Kenosha: “I cleaned my two-car garage so well that it turned into a three-car garage.”
Goldstein is the second Janesvillian ever to win the contest, which goes back many decades. The first Janesvillian to win was Greg Peck, the former Gazette opinion page editor, in 2007.
The Burlington Liars Club truly has not found a lot of humor in politics over the years. It lists winners going back to 1929, and only one has the word “politician” in it.
That lie was the 1979 winner: “It was so cold in Missouri last winter that I saw a politician standing on a street corner with his hands in his own pockets.”
Franklyn A. Condon III
Doris B. Fischer
Gertrude “Gert” Martin
Barbara A. Saladino
Monte E. Unger
Audrey S. Weiss