Thursday, July 23, 2020

Joe Biden's true colors

At JACOBIN, David Sirota reports:

Two weeks ago, Joe Biden rightly received praise for creating policy task forces that released a package of progressive legislative initiatives. The proposals augmented Biden’s previous legislative initiatives to change corporate behavior. The task forces were meant to unify the Democratic Party after the primary, and their recommendations were blared all over the world in glowing headlines promising an era of progressive change under a Biden administration.

Then, this past Monday, Biden told his Wall Street donors that actually, he is not proposing any new legislation to rein in corporate power or change corporate behavior — and this was reported exactly nowhere, even as his campaign blasted it out to the national press corps.

You don’t have to believe me — you can click here to read the full pool report that the Biden campaign distributed to the press after his teleconference fundraiser. That event was headlined by Jon Gray, a top executive at the Blackstone Group, which is a private equity behemoth at the center of the climate, health care, housing, and pension crises. Blackstone executives had already donated $130,000 to the Biden campaign and $350,000 to a super PAC supporting him.

Joe Biden is a snake.  He is not to be trusted.  There were alternatives to Mr. Biden.  But the DNC wanted him, they wanted a weak candidate who would do what the corporations wanted.  No one else would have been as craven as Mr. Biden.

He is a War Hawk, he is a War Criminal.  He is disgusting and he is not anyone I plan to vote for.

I think you can even make an argument that Donald Trump is a better person than Mr. Biden.  

Joe Biden has pretended he was decency and about equality but he is just another whore selling the American people out.  

I will be voting for either Howie Hawkins or Joseph Kishore come November.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, July 23, 2020.  A briefing on Iraq lets the press show their real colors, a high profile kidnapping takes place in Iraq, Turkey continues to terrorize Iraq and, remember, it's safe to talk about Joe Biden and Iraq if you only focus on when he was a US senator.

Yesterday, US Maj Gen Kenneth P. Ekman ("deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve") gave a briefing via satellite from Baghdad.  He's been deputy commander in Iraq since April 2020.  Prior to that, he was stationed for two years at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

At the end of his opening remarks, Ekman noted that a US service member had died in Syria the previous day.  Here's the DoD release on that death.


A service member with Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve died in Syria, July 21.


Initial reports indicate the incident was not due to enemy contact.


The incident is under investigation. 


It is CJTF-OIR policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities after the next of kin have been notified.

Attending the press conference was NPR's Tom Bowman.  As usual, Tom ignored Iraq.  He asked about Syria and he asked about Turkey.  Ekman reminded him that Turkey wasn't OIR's focus ("As you know, we're focused on Iraq and Syria.").  It's a pity NPR never reminds Tom Bowman that US service members are stationed in Iraq and a press briefing from Baghdad should include questions about Iraq.  

But Tom Bowman's been allowed to blow off Iraq for a decade now.  

Courtney Kube is with NBC.  So let's guess what her focus was.  Iraq?  No.  No. And no.  Russia.  She's part of the crazy Russian madness -- obsessed with it.  But if that wasn't the case, she wouldn't work at NBC, now would she?  And you can't be a cable crazy without asking about Russia which explains CNN's Ryan Browne's wasting everyone's time with his Russia conspiracy theories

Who asked about US forces?  I'd love to tell you it was ABC . . .

After Tom ignored Iraq, after AP's Lolita Baldor focused on Iraq and Iran (valid) and after Courtney obsessed over Russia, we finally got this: "This is Lucas Tomlinson with Fox News. General, how many U.S. troops are in Syria and Iraq right now? And are there any plans to remove some of those forces?"

Maj Gen Kenneth P. Ekman: Yeah, so on numbers, first I'll just tell you that our coalition and U.S. troop presence varies somewhat as we go through the various phases of the operation in both Syria and Iraq.

With regards to U.S. force presence in Iraq, that is something that we continually coordinate with the government of Iraq, and right now the number is 5,200. That is the enduring number that we've coordinated with our hosts, as they invited us here. I will tell you that those numbers are subject to some discussion as we progress our way through the campaign and as we work our way through the strategic dialogue that will negotiate and sort through our relationship with Iraq in the future.

With regards to Syria, those numbers are managed very carefully to make sure that we have sufficient forces to achieve our objectives in Syria, and those have been fairly stable for a while.

Lucas Tomlinson:  So you said 5,200 in Iraq, and I didn't hear the number for Syria, General.

MAJ. GEN. EKMAN: Yeah, and we try to keep those pretty constant just because the numbers in Syria tend to point to specific capabilities. We're careful about how specifically we cite them, just given kind of our limited footprint there.

Thanks, though.

I believe the next section is AFP's Sylvie Lanteaume.

STAFF: Moving back to the phone line, Sylvie of AFP.

Q: Hello. Hello. Thank you.

You say that you are getting smaller, but answering Lucas' questions, you seem to say that the number is stable. So how are you getting smaller?

MAJ. GEN. EKMAN: Yes ma'am. Hey, thanks for your question. I didn't catch your name in the introduction.

And so we're at that point in our campaign -- and I covered this some in my opening remarks -- where we've been quite successful. We're continuing to transfer bases back to our Iraqi hosts. The most recent will be Basmaya, where the transfer ceremony occurs on the 25th of July. All of that is a sign of progress. What that has allowed us to do is to reduce our footprint here in Iraq. We're going to do that slowly, and we're going to do that in close coordination with the government of Iraq. But both for U.S. forces and coalition forces, we continue to work with our hosts so that our footprint here supports our mutual objectives.

Q: So excuse me, sir. I can follow up. So you are saying that it's not done yet. You are going to get smaller.

MAJ. GEN. EKMAN: Yes, ma'am. I think over time what you will see is a slow reduction of U.S. forces here in Iraq in coordination with our Iraqi hosts.

Russia fear mongering was also provided by TASK & PURPOSE's Jeff Schogol who attempted to cite his false god Brett Blue Balls McGurk.  Jeffy loves Brett's balls -- blue and all.  But he's too busy fantasizing about being in Brett's arms to keep up to date.  Brett has a title.  Consultant to the United Nations investigative team on ISIS.  This was announced July 20th:

is delighted to welcome
to #UNITAD as a senior consultant. Brett’s vast diplomatic experience and expertise as the former head of the Global
to Defeat #ISIL will add immense value to our efforts

Could there be a more stupid move?

For those who've forgotten, Sunnis and Kurds were not fond of Brett and were the loudest objecting when Barack Obama tried (and failed) to make Brett US Ambassador to Iraq.  He's not seen as fair.  He's not seen as impartial.

We'll return to the press conference tomorrow.  For now, let's note a kidnapping in Iraq. Murtada Tweets:

Hella Mewis a #German artist and curator based in Baghdad. Was kidnaped today at 20:00 in the center of #Baghdad #freedom_for_hella
3:32 PM · Jul 20, 2020


"I love Iraqi food, I love the Iraqi people," the art curator told Sary Hussam, an Iraqi journalist, in an interview in January 2020 posted on YouTube. "Of course I have difficulties with the social customs here, but as a foreigner I can enjoy my freedom and am not involved."

There can be no doubt that Hella Mewis, who has lived in Iraq for years, was aware of the omnipresent danger for foreigners. Many live barricaded behind thick concrete walls and barbed wire, protected and escorted by armed security personnel. Not so Hella Mewis. "I can't live without Baghdad," Mewis said in the interview. "If I leave Baghdad just for an hour, I already feel homesick!"

Born in then-East Berlin and educated as a theater manager, Mewis discovered her love for Iraq in 2013, when she went to Baghdad for a project sponsored by the Goethe Institut. "I got off the plane, set foot on Baghdad's soil and knew: This is home," Mewis was quoted two years ago in the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau (FR), which continues, "She came to Baghdad with the aim of giving the city of car bombs, suicide bombers and militias a different look."

Hella was featured in an April 20, 2019 NEWSHOUR (PBS) report:

  • Hella Mewis:

    When we did the first installation, exhibition, people we were shocked and said This is not art. This is a question: what is art?

  • Simona Foltyn:

    Bait Tarkib is run by Hella Mewis.

  • Hella Mewis:

    The Iraqi society, some of them of course are conservative, but some of them are simply afraid to make a change. So this is why what we are trying to do — not to be afraid to make a change and other people will follow, I'm sure, they started to follow us.

  • Simona Foltyn:

    Bait Tarkib organizes exhibitions and workshops to help emerging artists develop their portfolios and get exposure through events like the art walk. It receives funding from French and German cultural institutes, but not the Iraqi government.

  • Hella Mewis:

    The government doesn't care at all about the young generation and art especially. Culture, no, nothing. Grants like we have in Europe so we have grants for the young generation, grants for cultural institutions, here is nothing.

  • On Monday evening, as-yet unidentified perpetrators carried out the kidnapping of Hella Mewis, a German national and curator who was working as the head of the Tarkib art center in Baghdad. According to reports, Mewis was apparently in the process of leaving the Tarkib offices last night at approximately 8 p.m. when a white pickup truck and another car approached and she was taken away. Additionally, according to the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, police officers in Baghdad witnessed Mewis’s kidnapping but did not intervene. The newspaper also stated that instances of kidnapping of foreign nationals living in Iraq have increased significantly in 2020.

    Meanwhile, the government of Turkey continues to assault the country of Iraq, international law and Iraq's national sovereignty in what should be called acts of terrorism because that's what they are.  Orhan Coskun, Daren Butler and John Davison (REUTERS) reports:
    Turkey is taking its decades-old conflict with Kurdish militants deep into northern Iraq, establishing military bases and deploying armed military drones against the fighters in their mountain strongholds.
    [. . .]
    Baghdad summoned Turkey’s ambassador last month to formally complain, but the central government has limited authority in the autonomous region, while the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq is wary of antagonising Turkey, which has NATO’s second largest standing army. 

     Earlier this week, George Mikhail (AL-MONITOR) noted:

    Egypt has been facing off against Turkey not only in Libya, but also in Iraq, where the Turkish army has launched attacks in the north targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party, according to a June 15 Turkish Ministry of Defense statement. Meanwhile, Iraq has been accusing Turkey of violating Iraqi sovereignty and disrespecting the principles of good neighborly relations.

    The Iraqi Parliament called on the UN Security Council July 6 to step in to stop the Turkish military incursions.

    Egypt took advantage of the Iraqi-Turkish dispute to step up its efforts to cement ties with Iraq. Cairo offered diplomatic and political support to Baghdad against Turkey and the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the Turkish military intervention June 19.

    In an earlier statement on July 3, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned ongoing Turkish violations of Iraqi sovereignty under what it called unfounded national security allegations and asserted that its actions are unacceptable and undermine regional peace and security.

    Joe Biden gets softballs in interview after interview.  No one asks him about the Kurds, about what Turkey's doing, about anything to do with Iraq.  But, as he endlessly boasts, when he was Vice President, Barack put him in charge of Iraq.  Reality, that didn't work out very well.  Does the press plan to ever examine that?

    At FOREIGN POLICY, Robert Draper looks at Joe Biden's relationship with the Iraq War as a senator (yes, it's ground that's been traveled over and over -- playing it safe gets you published in FOREIGN POLICY):

    Not by design, my book arrives at a time of national crisis, when polls suggest that Americans are fed up with the Trump administration’s pervasive amateurism. But Biden is not yet a shoo-in in the November election. Though the pandemic has revealed a nationwide yearning for straight talk and scientifically validated guidance, recoiling from the White House’s antics has not translated into a reacquired appreciation of old hands on the Hill like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example—or, for that matter, of the media. Respect for such institutions remains abysmal.

    Biden therefore remains afflicted with an indelible weakness—an inability to convince voters that 45 years’ worth of government experience represents a surefire cure for what now afflicts the United States. After all, what did all that expertise get Americans two decades ago? George W. Bush brought with him to the White House a highly skilled staff, featuring a star-studded foreign-policy team that had worked in government going back to the Ford administration. The new president managed to pass major bipartisan legislation with a Congress that was enjoying a relatively even-tempered interval between Newt Gingrich and the Tea Party. Meanwhile, newsrooms were well resourced and not yet convulsed by the internet. All of which is to say that Bush’s first year in office came at a time when Washington was at a peak of functionality.

    [. . .]

    During the campaign, Biden has passed on opportunities to elaborate his lessons learned from the Iraq experience. That’s not to say he hasn’t learned any. A nuclear physicist on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s payroll, Peter Zimmerman, had warned the committee’s chairman, Biden, of flaws in the prewar intelligence. Biden later apologized to Zimmerman for not listening. The question is, who would a President Biden listen to now?

    The following sites updated: