Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Knowing history, knowing who not to trust

 Sarah Lazer (JACOBIN) writes:

There was no rea­son to think that a Biden admin­is­tra­tion would be to the left of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion when it comes to for­eign pol­i­cy. Biden comes with a long polit­i­cal career of sup­port­ing the wars of the Unit­ed States and its allies, from the 2003 inva­sion of Iraq to Israel’s aggres­sion against Pales­tini­ans to the pro­tract­ed occu­pa­tion of Afghanistan.

And what­ev­er lim­it­ed over­tures he made to the Left dur­ing his cam­paign for the gen­er­al election in 2020 (while he simul­ta­ne­ous­ly ran on dis­tanc­ing him­self from the Left), for­eign pol­i­cy was almost entire­ly omit­ted, as evi­denced by the issue’s exclu­sion from the uni­ty task force with Bernie Sanders.

Per­haps the most dis­tin­guish­ing for­eign pol­i­cy posi­tion Biden took on the cam­paign trail was his saber rat­tling toward Chi­na, which was not quite as racist as Trump’s, but nonethe­less got so bad a Biden ad was rebuked by pro­gres­sive Asian-Amer­i­can groups for its racist con­tent (Biden even­tu­al­ly walked back some of the ad’s rhetoric).

Biden did say dur­ing his cam­paign that he wants to end “for­ev­er wars” (many of which he helped start) and that he’s against the war in Yemen (a posi­tion he only took after he served in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion that sup­port­ed the war), but he nei­ther cen­tered these plat­forms nor accom­pa­nied them with con­crete pol­i­cy pro­pos­als that would actu­al­ly bring an end to end­less war.


I am trying to be nice to Sarah Lazer.  For years, I would not link to her.  C.I. has pointed out that my problem with Ms. Lazer is a problem with Norman Solomon.  If you are late to the story, Lt. Ehren Watada refused to deploy to Iraq because he refused to command soldiers under him to take illegal actions and he argued that the Iraq War was illegal.  The US government tried to court-martial him.  Judge Toilet ensured that Lt. Watada walked because Judge Toilet wanted to prosecute him and to persecute him.  So Judge Toilet overplayed his hand and Lt. Watada walked.  ("Judge Toilet" is what C.I. dubbed the judge during the trial -- John Head was Toilet's real name.)


Lt. Watada took a stand, a brave stand.  As he was fighting, Ms. Lazare became an issue to the military prosecution.  The ridiculous Norman Solomon took a moment away from breaking up Sean Penn's marriage to Robin Wright so that he could demand that Lt. Watada supply the US military prosecuting him with whatever they wanted so that Ms. Lazare would not have to testify.  


That was beyond stupid and it ignored all that Lt. Watada was fighting and all that he was potentially facing.  When the focus should have been on Lt. Watada, Norman Solomon was making it about Ms. Lazare and taking the spotlight off Lt. Watada.


C.I. points out that Ms. Lazare was not leading that effort, Mr. Solomon was.  So I am giving her a chance again.  I will never give Mr. Solomon a chance.  He failed Lt. Watada then and he has done one awful thing after another since.  He is not anyone I support or forgive.  He has no ethics.  

For example, in 2008, he went on KPFA radio repeatedly to comment on the Democratic Party's primary and never revealed that he was a pledged delegate for Barack Obama.  He lied.  He acted as though he were an impartial observer.  Now he did not lie in his syndicated column that few papers carried.  He did not lie there because it would have meant he could not be published after in any newspaper.  What he did was unethical and had he done it in his columns, his (tiny) writing career would be over.  But he thought he could get away with it on KPFA radio.  And he did.  For months and months, he got away with it.  Until listeners of KPFA had enough and he got outed.  

That is only one example.  Billy Joel once sang, "She's always a woman to me."  Norman Solomon?  He is always a liar to me.


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

 Tuesday, November 24, 2020.  Joe Biden wants to surround himself with War Hawks (as long as Barack Obama didn't suggest them) and Iraq is having huge cash problems.

Starting with news of War Hawks.  Dave DeCamp (ANTIWAR.COM) reports:

On Monday, Joe Biden announced he will nominate his long-time advisor Anthony Blinken to be the secretary of state for the incoming administration. Blinken has a long history of advocating for intervention in places like Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.

Blinken was Biden’s top aide in 2002 when Biden was leading the charge in the Senate to give George W. Bush his invasion of Iraq. In 2006, Biden penned an Op-ed for The New York Times that called for dividing Iraq into three separate autonomous zones with a central government in Baghdad, later referred to as a “soft partition.” According to the Times, Blinken helped craft Biden’s proposal.

There is a portion of the choice that's not being addressed and we'll get to it in a moment.  But let's note another reaction to the news.  Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) observes:

When Biden, then a senator and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voted in 2002 to authorize the Bush administration's disastrous invasion of Iraq—a decision he has since described as a mistake—Blinken was the Democratic staff director of the committee. The Intercept's Ryan Grim reported last July that Blinken "helped craft Biden's own support for the Iraq War"; speaking to the New York Times earlier this year, Blinken characterized the vote to invade Iraq as "a vote for tough diplomacy."

"So we will have a president who supported the invasion of Iraq, and a secretary of state (Tony Blinken) who supported the invasion of Iraq," tweeted Medea Benjamin, co-founder of anti-war group CodePink. "In the U.S., there is no accountability for supporting the worst foreign policy disaster in modern history. Only rewards."

Blinken?  A lousy choice.  But if we step away from that, as one of Joe's chief campaigners told me on the phone, there's a message being sent.  The message is "I'm not your puppet."  Joe's saying that to?  Barack Obama.  Joe's making clear, I was told, that he is president, not vice president.  He does not forgive Barack for not supporting him in 2019.  He does not feel that Barack did enough for him in the general election.  (That infamous Saturday campaign event where Joe didn't hear his cue?  He heard the cue, he just wasn't in the mood to be "summoned" onstage by Barack.)  Barack has pressured Joe to nominate Susan Rice for this post.  Joe found that perplexing at first.  He and Susan did not personally get along.  He also feels she comes with too much baggage.  What felt like an unasked for suggestion from Barack soon became strong arming.  That decided it for Joe, it would not be Susan Rice and he would make it clear that he might entertain suggestions but he will not be taking orders.  "He's no longer the vice president," I was told, "and he won't let anyone treat him as though he is -- not even Obama."

Now let me give you the low down on what's going on in the UK Parliament behind the scenes.  Oh, wait!  I'm not busybody Naomi Klein.  I don't pretend I know everything and weigh in with stupid interviews like she did that are void of substance but heavy on flash cards and trading cards and shout outs to AOC!  She truly is worthless and reading the comments to her video interview this week explains how pathetic our culture is.  They worship her and she's done nothing for years.  Her 'green' action is not real action it's corporate action.  "She's a bit of legend" one person commenting on the interview enthuses.  Typo?  You mean "she's a bit of a liar," right?

We don't get substance with Naomi, she just repeats what you already thought -- whether your thought was right or wrong -- and she pretends it's fact.  I'm beginning to grasp just how big of an apology  I owe to Anthony Lappe -- you were so right, I was so wrong.  Hope that's public enough for you, Anthony.  And to be clear, you were right about Naomi, I'm not giving you a blanket you were right -- just about Naomi.

In the video above, Katie Halper hosts Briahna Joy Gray and Rania Khalek about Joe's immigration observer for his transformation team Cecilia Munoz.  So we're back to being okay with putting kids in cages?  The same way we were okay with an ongoing Iraq War when the administration flipped to Democrat in 2009?  So we don't really stand for anything.  Our beliefs collapse because we have no core?  That's what it appears. 

Here's Glenn Greenwald (at INFORMATION CLEARING HOUSE) writing about a CIA classified memo WIKILEAKS released:

What made this document so fascinating, so revealing, is the CIA’s discussion of how to manipulate public opinion to ensure it remains at least tolerant of if not supportive of Endless War and, specifically, the vital role President Obama played for the CIA in packaging and selling U.S. wars around the world. In this classified analysis, one learns a great deal about how the “military industrial complex,” also known as the “Blob” or “Deep State,” reasons; how the Agency exploits humanitarian impulses to ensure continuation of its wars; and what the real function is of the U.S. President when it comes to foreign policy.

What prompted the memo was the CIA’s growing fears that the population of Western Europe — as evidenced by the fall of the Dutch Government driven in large part by the electorate’s anger over involvement in Afghanistan — was rapidly turning against the War on Terror generally and the war in Afghanistan specifically. The CIA was desperate to figure out how to stem the tide of anti-war sentiment growing throughout that region, particularly to shield France and Germany from it, by manipulating public opinion.

The Agency concluded: its best and only asset for doing that was President Obama and his popularity in Western European cities.

Not all that surprising.  We noted, throughout 2008, that Centcom would be moving operations to Africa at the end of the year and that Barack could pose the smooth face that John McCain couldn't to allow entry.  

Kevin Gosztola discusses Joe's picks with Scott Horton on ANTI-WAR RADIO.  I'm linking but I'm not listening.  As I've noted before, I can't stand the squeal that so many podcasts have.  I tried listening for Kevin's point which are usually sound but that squeal hurts my ears and that's why we highlight YOUTUBE and not podcasts.

 Patrick Martin (WSWS) weighs in on Joe's six announced nominees:

The first and most obvious fact about all six nominees is that they are dedicated defenders of American imperialism and the interests of Wall Street. Several are multi-millionaires, while all are comfortably within the top tier financially. Blinken, for example, is the son of a founder of Warburg Pincus investment bank, Donald Blinken, who was for 12 years chairman of the board of the State University of New York.

For all the hosannas in the media over the “diversity” of these initial appointees—one African American, one Hispanic, two women—these facets of their identities are entirely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter to the victim of torture in a CIA secret prison that the torturer (or her boss in Washington) is female. It doesn’t matter to refugee children separated from their parents by immigration agents that the DHS secretary is Hispanic. It doesn’t matter to the victims of US military aggression that the diplomat who defends this violence before the world is black.

The emphasis on diversity is used to distract from the reactionary character of the foreign policy orientation of the incoming Biden administration, which his apologists seek to disguise using the skin color, gender and national origin of the personnel who will carry it out.

There has been little discussion in the media of the significance of Biden choosing, in the midst of a nationwide and worldwide public health catastrophe that has already taken the lives of a quarter million Americans, to announce his foreign policy team first. If victory over coronavirus was the number one priority, as Biden claimed during the fall campaign, why not announce those who will head up the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies with the main responsibilities for the fight against the pandemic?

In other news, APN reports, "French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian has said that Washington’s intention to pull out its military personnel from Iraq is dangerous, as the threat posed by the Islamic State terror group still persists."  500.  That's how many US troops will be pulled out of Iraq.  500.  On top of that, if France is so concerned they can send 500 more of their own in to bolster their troops in Iraq and -- What's that?  Oh, right.  The French government pulled their troops out of Iraq in March.  But they want to jump on a high horse about 500?  Hypocrite -- which is the same in English and in French. 

The editorial board of THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER notes:

It's too soon, too abrupt to pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, critics say.

We've heard this refrain for decades now. Enough is enough. The time to end America's endless wars was many, many years ago.

Expediting the removal of some troops -- well short of the proper goal of completely withdrawing troops from these countries -- won't be the end of the world. It's just inching things in the direction they should be headed.

Enough is enough.  That should be the cry of the American people.  Iraq War and Afghanistan War veteran Timothy Kudo has a column at THE NEW YORK TIMES:

The cost of these wars has been astronomical: Roughly $6 trillion in government spending, with the Defense Department spending alone costing each American taxpayer an estimated more than $7,000. Additionally, today’s young veterans face a legacy of psychological and physical injury, as well as illness from our war’s Agent Orange: the toxic burn pits whose smoke we inhaled.

Even more costly are the approximately 515,000 people killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, including more than 260,000 civilians. And for what? Iraq remains a tenuous democracy teeming with militias while Afghanistan is locked in a conflict with a resurgent Taliban, and peace talks are in deadlock.

Both countries fail to meet the objectives of freedom and democracy set when President George W. Bush started those wars. They fall short of President Obama’s goals when he sent me and 30,000 other troops to Afghanistan and of the claims he made when declaring an end to combat operation in Iraq only to see the Islamic State undo those gains. President Trump does not seem to even have a purpose for those 5,000 troops who will remain in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, REUTERS notes, "Iraq is seeking its first ever crude oil prepayment deal to boost its finances as the country struggles to cope with lower oil prices and demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, its oil ministry said on Monday."  Pre-payment? 

Iraq's having serious cash problems.   Javier Blas and Laura Hurst (BLOOMBERG NEWS) note:

The Middle Eastern country is grappling with an economic crisis caused by the combination of low oil prices and OPEC+ output cuts. As state coffers crumble and school teachers go unpaid, the country risks a repeat of the upheaval that brought down the government and saw hundreds of protesters killed last year.

In a letter to oil companies seen by Bloomberg News, the Iraqi government sought to mitigate its dire financial position by proposing a five-year supply contract delivering 4 million barrels a month, or about 130,000 barrels a day. The buyer would pay upfront for one year of supply, which at current prices would bring in just above US$2 billion, according to Bloomberg News calculations.

Interestingly enough. the reporters somehow ignore the biggest thing creating the crisis: Corruption within the government.  At any rate, you can't steal from the public bank and still use it to pay the bills.  So they are going deeper into debt because that's apparently easier than addressing the corruption in the government.  Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) explains, "The Iraqi parliament approved Nov. 12 the funding deficit law, entitling the government to borrow 12 trillion dinars ($10 billion) from internal and external parties in an effort to pay state employees who have seen their salaries delayed for nearly two months. The loan value decreased from 41 trillion dinars ($34 billion) to 12 trillion dinars under the new law."

 Since October, we've been noting that the praise over Iraq closing displacement camps was wrong because there were no plans in place to house the displaced.  Amnesty International issued the following on the topic today:

A house daubed with the words 'This is the home of Daesh dogs' in the town of Hammam al-Alil in Ninewa governorate
© Amnesty International

‘Marked for life’ report calls for halt to hasty camp closures

Those detained in anti-ISIS sweeps have suffered years of detention and mistreatment

‘Nothing is bigger and more dangerous than someone calling you Daeshi’ - Abed

Thousands of Iraqis with perceived ties to the Islamic State armed group are at risk as the Iraqi authorities close displaced-person camps, Amnesty International said in a new report today. 

In recent weeks, the Iraqi authorities have begun closing camps - shutting down Ninewa and Karbala camps in Baghdad among others - putting thousands at risk of ending up in precarious shelters or being forced to return to their areas of origin despite safety fears. 

There are an estimated 240,000 people in camps across various Iraqi governorates who were forced out of their homes during fighting with the Islamic State armed group, and between November 2018 and October 2020 Amnesty interviewed 119 people from seven camps. 

Amnesty’s 43-page report - Marked for Life: Displaced Iraqis in cycle of abuse and stigmatisation - includes testimony from women and children in the camps who explain their fears over being stigmatised because of perceived links to ISIS fighters. Some men and boys arrested in largescale sweeps but later released also have grave fears for their safety outside the camps. Interviewees stressed that the camps were their only safe option. 

All the men and boys who spoke to Amnesty after having been released from detention in Iraq’s Kurdistan region expressed fears they would be rearrested by the central Iraqi security forces - and likely face torture and unfair trials - if they sought to return to their homes in the governorates of Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah al-Din. They said they knew of relatives and others who were re-arrested or suffered threats to them or their families. Arrests were often carried out by Iraq’s National Security Service.

People with perceived ties to ISIS - and their relatives who are equally stigmatised and punished - have long faced a range of barriers to obtaining, renewing or replacing civil documents in Iraq. At official buildings the security forces have routinely subjected them to harassment and intimidation, and many told Amnesty they would not attempt to obtain their civil documents to avoid this mistreatment.  

“Abed”, aged 23, who was released from detention by Asayish (the Kurdistan authorities’ main security agency) where he was held for nearly three years before being acquitted of ISIS affiliation by a court, told Amnesty he now feared for his safety:

“In Iraq, nothing is bigger and more dangerous than someone calling you Daeshi [ISIS member]. One word and you’re gone. I used to have hope for a normal life. But now there are red sniper dots on all of us.” 

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said: 

“The internally displaced must be given a meaningful choice about their future and any returns must be dignified, safe and sustainable.

“The Iraqi authorities and KRG must address the continuing collective punishment of IDPs with perceived links to ISIS as an integral part of any national plans to close camps - currently the only option for shelter for thousands of people.

“To prevent further cycles of abuses, Iraq’s authorities must guarantee that no-one is punished for the crimes of others; that all Iraqis can obtain civil documentation; and that the whereabouts of those disappeared is revealed.”

Detention and torture in Kurdistan

In the fight against ISIS, the central Iraqi and Kurdistan authorities arrested thousands of displaced men and boys at checkpoints during military operations and in displacement camps, as well as in their areas of origin after return. The Kurdistan authorities subjected men and boys as young as 14 to arbitrary detention, torture and unfair trials, and the Iraqi security forces arrested men, women and boys who later disappeared. These actions have left released detainees - including those acquitted or released without charge - their families and the families of those who disappeared unable to escape a stigma that has hindered hopes for a safe future. 

Of the 115 cases documented by Amnesty, the Asayish security agency detained 48 men and boys, while the Iraqi military and security forces subjected 67 persons to enforced disappearance in Ninewa. Asayish members carrying out arrests either gave no basis for them or said the person’s name was on a “wanted list.” In some cases, the Iraqi security forces beat those they arrested, placing them in stress positions while they were handcuffed and blindfolded before dragging them away. This likely constitutes torture or other ill-treatment under international law.

All the men and boys detained by Asayish said that they were subjected to torture or other ill-treatment in an attempt to force “confessions” from them. Many were beaten with pipes or hoses, while one man was threatened with sexual violence against his female relatives. Amnesty’s report shows how those detained were held for weeks or even months without being referred to the judicial authorities. 

Detainees brought to court in Erbil were frequently convicted under the Kurdistan region’s vaguely worded Anti-Terrorism Law, and trials failed to comply with international fair trial standards. And when they were freed without charge, acquitted or released after completing a prison sentence, former detainees have faced arbitrary restrictions on their movement.

ISIS crimes

Amnesty has extensively documented ISIS crimes in Iraq, some of which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and recognises that the armed group’s activities continue to pose a threat to civilians in Iraq today. Amnesty has also acknowledged the immense challenges facing the Kurdistan and Iraqi authorities, and their duty to protect the security of all civilians on their territory and to ensure that ISIS perpetrators are held accountable. However, Amnesty remains seriously concerned at the authorities’ failure to conduct fair trials of ISIS suspects, and of their failure to hold accountable those members of the Iraqi or Kurdistan security forces responsible for their own serious crimes. 

You can also refer to this press release from Amnesty International.

Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Words Are Cheap and Easy" went up yesterday.  The following sites updated: