Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Con artist Elizabeth Holmes

From NPR's Bobby Allyn:

Jury selection in the criminal fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes starts on Tuesday, the beginning of a highly anticipated legal showdown over one of the most spectacular Silicon Valley scandals in recent history.
Federal prosecutors have charged Holmes and her former business partner and ex-boyfriend, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, with defrauding investors and patients of their blood-testing company Theranos, which Holmes and Balwani claimed would revolutionize laboratory medicine.
Patients who were wrongly diagnosed by Theranos tests are set to testify against Holmes. Some had been told they were HIV-positive. Another, who was pregnant at the time, was incorrectly told she had miscarried her baby.
After the jury is chosen, opening arguments are slated to start on Sept. 8. The trial in San Jose, Calif., is expected to stretch on for four months.
In court documents unsealed Saturday, and first reported by NPR, Holmes' legal team said she is highly likely to take the witness stand and accuse Balwani of manipulating and abusing her to such a degree that it affected her state of mind during the time of the alleged fraud.

What do you say to that defense? I say bull, plain and simple. You had a job to do. If it is true and this Sunny Balwani was having such a negative impact on you, you should have excused yourself from work. It was your job to realize whether or not you were impaired. I also, for the record, do not believe that she was impaired. AXIOS notes:

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.
Among the questions for potential jurors, per a court filing:
Do they or anyone close to them have experience in such areas as venture capital investing, finance, blood testing, healthcare or blood testing?
Have they ever received any form of medical treatment (including vaccinations) in a pharmacy and/or grocery store? You may recall that Theranos had in-store deals with both Walgreens and Safeway.
Have they commented, liked or otherwise interacted on social media with anything relating to Holmes, Theranos or Sunny Balwani? They'll also be asked if they follow any of 15 listed journalists (via Twitter, podcasts, etc), or if they've seen or listened to a list of programs that have discussed the case.

She committed fraud and she herself is a fraud. She needs to be put behind bars. Daniel Thomas (BBC NEWS) notes:

She was "the world's youngest self-made female billionaire", trumpeted Forbes magazine. The "next Steve Jobs", said Inc, another business magazine that put her on the cover.
In 2014, Elizabeth Holmes, then 30 years old, was on top of the world. A Stanford University drop-out, she had founded a company valued at $9bn (£6.5bn) for supposedly bringing about a revolution in diagnosing disease.
With a few drops of blood, Theranos promised that its Edison test could detect conditions such as cancer and diabetes quickly without the hassle of needles. Bigwigs from Henry Kissinger to Rupert Murdoch invested.
But by 2015, the seams were coming apart, and within a year, Ms Holmes was exposed as a fake. The technology she touted didn't work at all, and by 2018 the company she founded had collapsed.

Like the Sackler family, she is another con artist.




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


 Tuesday, August 31, 2021.  US troops go out of one country but prepare to go into another.  It might be a death cycle, don't call it a cycle of life.

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) reports:

The US withdrew the last of its troops from Afghanistan aboard a C-17 military transport plane just one minute before midnight Kabul time Monday, in advance of the August 31 deadline that Washington had negotiated with the Taliban. The plane’s departure consummated the debacle of the 20-year US war, the longest in American history.

Monday’s final withdrawal ended a two-week-long evacuation that transported 122,000 people out of the country, including 5,400 American citizens, along with Afghans who had collaborated with the two-decade US occupation and their families. Monday saw the last of the “core” US diplomatic staff depart Kabul airport, leaving behind empty what had been one of the largest US embassies in the world, built at the cost of $800 million.

The chaotic character of the US evacuation included a suicide bomb attack last Thursday, claimed by the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K), that killed 13 American military personnel. Some 170 Afghans were killed in the incident, an unknown number of them by US fire in response to the bombing. On Monday, Kabul’s airport came under rocket fire. The humiliating character of the withdrawal under fire, drawing comparisons to the flight from the US embassy’s roof in Saigon in 1975, has sparked bitter recriminations within the US ruling establishment, including accusations against the Biden administration’s gross “mishandling” of the operation.

The conditions for this withdrawal, however, had been created by the entire 20-year imperialist intervention, which failed to create a viable puppet regime and provoked hatred and anger among a population subjected to bombings, drone strikes, night raids, imprisonment and torture.

Are US forces all gone?  I have no idea but it would be very unlikely.  When the US drawdown (not withdrawal) took place in Iraq at the end of 2011, it was left to Ted Koppel to be the sole truth teller on TV:


MR. KOPPEL: I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations. You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here. Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?

AMB. JAMES JEFFREY: You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.

As for the Afghan people, Sarah Lazare notes at IN THESE TIMES:

Following the Taliban’s seizure of power, people across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the fate of Afghans who helped the United States and are therefore at risk of retribution. (This concern is not universal: We are also seeing a rise in far-right, anti-Afghan refugee sentiment.) Pundits and politicians who gave little attention to civilian deaths in Afghanistan during 20 years of U.S. occupation are joining in this outpouring — a dynamic that is building pressure for the Biden administration to extend the U.S. military presence.

The Biden administration has stopped evacuating Afghans by air, citing the bombings on the airport, but continues to airlift Americans from the country as the August 31 deadline approaches. Biden claims evacuations of Afghan allies will resume post-withdrawal.

Missing from this conversation have been the voices of Afghan anti-war like Nematullah Ahangosh, a 26-year-old originally from the Malistan district of Ghazni province in Afghanistan. In a conversation with In These Times, he called attention to two vulnerable populations largely being left out of this newfound U.S. concern. The first are those who were harmed by the U.S.-backed Afghan government or directly by the United States — which was responsible for bombings, night raids, drone strikes, CIA death squads, and high civilian death counts. The second are Ahangosh’s fellow activists who opposed both the Taliban and the U.S. military occupation of their country, and now face Taliban reprisal.

Ahangosh is not only a fierce opponent of the U.S. war, but also of the Taliban and what he calls the corrupt Afghan government.” In 2018, Ahangosh moved to India to study social work, with the hope of eventually returning to Afghanistan to to start my dream project for empowering the physically disabled and those who lost limbs in bomb blasts.” But now that the Taliban is in power, he says, I lost hope. Now I fear returning due to my working background with a charity for refugees.” Ahangosh is not alone in his displacement: In addition to those uprooted by the Taliban’s recent seizure of power, at least 5.9 million Afghans have been internally or externally displaced as a result of 20 years of war, according to a report released in September 2020 by Brown University’s Costs of War project.

Ahangosh is involved in another organization, Afghan peace group (the name has been changed for security reasons), that aims to create a world without war. The group, based in Afghanistan but with active Afghan members in the diaspora, opposes the U.S. military occupation, as well as the violence of the Taliban and the Afghan army. Afghan peace group is well-known and lauded among some corners of the U.S. anti-war movement for speaking out against a U.S. occupation that, until weeks ago, had largely become background noise in this country. From 2014 to 2018, Ahangosh was coordinator of different teams of Afghan peace group in Kabul and, while in India, he has been organizing with members of the group who are abroad. For his own protection, he is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in India to attain resettlement for himself and his family in a third country. But many of his friends in Afghan peace group are in more dire straits: Ineligible for U.S. evacuation because they did not help the U.S. military, they are in Afghanistan fearing for their lives.

That is the opening to her interview with Nematullah Ahangosh.  From the interview:

We are seeing a lot of talk in the United States about how people who help the military and help the United States deserve refuge and sanctuary. What about people who didn’t help the United States? What about people who were injured or lost family members due to the U.S. military?

Nematullah Ahangosh: Well, I don’t think refugee status will just give them their family members back. They can never get their limb back if they lost it in a bomb explosion, or if they were targeted by U.S. drones or military planes or helicopters. I have friends who’ve lost their loved ones in drone attacks. [Drone operators] always confuse the Taliban and the ordinary people. There is no way that you could recognize who is who on the ground.

I do have a problem with giving safety only to those who served U.S. troops. Other people also deserve refuge. Of course. Not everybody can make it to Europe, or to other countries, or to America. What should others do who worked with other foreign NGOs and are now in danger? It’s our human right to be free from all forms of violence.

My understanding is that Afghan peace group did not support the U.S. military or the Taliban, and was an anti-militarist organization. Are your colleagues in Afghan peace group eligible for refugee status? Are they being prioritized for evacuations?

Nematullah Ahangosh: No, they are not unfortunately considered. And yes, you’re right. They are the only organization I know of opposing the militaries of all sides. They need protection, too. Such organizations should never be forgotten and their members should never be left behind and left in danger.

Do you oppose the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan?

Nematullah Ahangosh: Of course I oppose it. Because it’s an invasion. They bombarded our country without any permission from the United Nations Security Council. And that’s a direct invasion.

And when they were there, they used to go to people’s houses during the night in search of Taliban. So, there were a lot of rape cases that happened. And the drones that they used and the bomb that they’d drop killed civilians. And the Trump administration dropped mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan. [Editors’ note: The mother of all bombs” refers to the most powerful conventional bomb in the U.S. military’s possession, the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) — it contains 18,000 pounds of explosives, and it’s so large it must be released from a cargo plane. In April 2017, the U.S. military dropped one of these bombs in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, stating that the strike was aimed at targeting the Islamic State. The strike allegedly killed at least two civilians and destroyed a cave system, flattening houses and trees.]

To me, it doesn’t look like helping: It looks more like destroying.

This was a stupid occupation and invasion where nobody received anything — not even the Americans — they didn’t get anything. And the only thing that people got was badness. That does not justify the irresponsible withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Caitlin Johnstone offers:

The US has officially announced the completion of its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, minus of course the CIA ops which will continue in that country and the bombs that will likely continue to rain down in the name of fighting terrorism.

There are a lot of warmongers rending their garments over the termination of a decades-long military occupation which accomplished nothing besides making war profiteers wealthy and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Almost as ridiculous are the countless pundits and politicians hailing this as some kind of major accomplishment that Americans should be proud of.

Pride, praise and celebration are not the appropriate emotional response to the day. The appropriate response to a decades-overdue withdrawal from a war that should never have happened in the first place is rage. Unmitigated rage at an unforgivable atrocity which amassed a mountain of corpses for no legitimate reason, from which the region will probably not recover in our lifetime. Unmitigated rage at those responsible for starting and maintaining this horror all this time.


Offering the US government's perspective, Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered the following remarks yesterday:

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good evening, everyone.

Eighteen days ago, the United States and our allies began our evacuation and relocation operation in Kabul.  As you just heard from the Pentagon, a few hours ago, that operation was completed.

More than 123,000 people have been safely flown out of Afghanistan.  That includes about 6,000 American citizens.  This has been a massive military, diplomatic, and humanitarian undertaking – one of the most difficult in our nation’s history – and an extraordinary feat of logistics and coordination under some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable.

Many, many people made this possible.

I want to commend our outstanding diplomats who worked around the clock, and around the world, to coordinate the operation.  They volunteered for duty at the Kabul airport.  They flew to transit countries to help process thousands of Afghans bound for the United States.  They deployed to ports of entry and American military bases to welcome Afghans to their new homes.  They staffed a 24/7 task force here in Washington, overseen by Deputy Secretary Brian McKeon.  And they built a list of Americans possibly seeking to leave Afghanistan, then worked to contact every single one of them, repeatedly – making 55,000 phone calls, sending 33,000 e-mails since August 14th.  They solved problem after problem to keep the mission moving forward.

They did this because – for the thousands of State Department and USAID employees who have served in Afghanistan in the past 20 years – this evacuation operation was very personal.  Many worked hand in hand for years with Afghan partners, many of whom became trusted friends.  We also lost cherished members of our Foreign Service community in Afghanistan; we’ll never forget them.  Helping Americans, our foreign partners who have been by our side for 20 years, and Afghans at risk at this critical moment, was more than just a high-stakes assignment for our team.  It was a sacred duty.  And the world saw how our diplomats rose to the challenge with determination and heart.

U.S. service members in Kabul did heroic work securing the airport, protecting civilians of many nationalities – including tens of thousands of Afghans – and airlifting them out.  They’re also providing vital support right now, caring for Afghans on military bases in Europe, the Middle East, and here in the United States.

We’ve seen pictures of U.S. service members at the Kabul airport cradling babies, comforting families.  That’s the kind of compassionate courage our men and women in uniform exemplify.  They carried out this mission under the constant threat of terrorist violence – and four days ago, 11 Marines, one Navy medic, and one soldier were killed by a suicide bomber at the airport gate, as well as scores of Afghans.

Nearly all of them were in their early 20s – just babies or toddlers on September 11th, 2001.

These deaths are a devastating loss for our country.  We at the State Department feel them deeply.  We have a special bond with the Marines.  The first person that you see when you visit an American embassy is a Marine.  They guard our diplomatic missions; they keep us safe around the world.  We couldn’t do our jobs without them.  And we will never forget their sacrifice – nor will we forget what they achieved.  The most exceptional among us perform a lifetime’s work of service in a short time here on Earth.  So. it was for our exceptional brothers and sisters who died last week.

Finally, I want to thank our allies and partners.  This operation was a global endeavor in every way.  Many countries stepped up with robust contributions to the airlift, including working by our side at the airport.  Some are now serving as transit countries, allowing evacuees to be registered and processed on the way to their final destinations.  Others have agreed to resettle Afghan refugees permanently, and we hope more will do so in the days and weeks ahead.  We are truly grateful for their support.

Now, U.S. military flights have ended, and our troops have departed Afghanistan.  A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun.  It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy.  The military mission is over.  A new diplomatic mission has begun.

So here is our plan for the days and weeks ahead.

First, we’ve built a new team to help lead this new mission.

As of today, we have suspended our diplomatic presence in Kabul, and transferred our operations to Doha, Qatar, which will soon be formally notified to Congress.  Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, it was the prudent step to take.  And let me take this opportunity to thank our outstanding charge d’affaires in Kabul, Ambassador Ross Wilson, who came out of retirement in January 2020 to lead our embassy in Afghanistan, and has done exceptional, courageous work during a highly challenging time.

For the time being, we will use this post in Doha to manage our diplomacy with Afghanistan, including consular affairs, administering humanitarian assistance, and working with allies, partners, and regional and international stakeholders to coordinate our engagement and messaging to the Taliban.  Our team there will be led by Ian McCary, who has served as our deputy chief of mission in Afghanistan for this past year.  No one’s better prepared to do the job.

Second, we will continue our relentless efforts to help Americans, foreign nationals, and Afghans leave Afghanistan if they choose.

Let me talk briefly about the Americans who remain in Afghanistan.

We made extraordinary efforts to give Americans every opportunity to depart the country – in many cases talking, and sometimes walking them into the airport.

Of those who self-identified as Americans in Afghanistan, who were considering leaving the country, we’ve thus far received confirmation that about 6,000 have been evacuated or otherwise departed.  This number will likely continue to grow as our outreach and arrivals continue.

We believe there are still a small number of Americans – under 200 and likely closer to 100 – who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.  We’re trying to determine exactly how many.  We’re going through manifests and calling and texting through our lists, and we’ll have more details to share, as soon as possible.  Part of the challenge with fixing a precise number is that there are long-time residents of Afghanistan who have American passports, and who were trying to determine whether or not they wanted to leave.  Many are dual-citizen Americans with deep roots and extended families in Afghanistan, who have resided there for many years.  For many, it’s a painful choice.

Our commitment to them and to all Americans in Afghanistan – and everywhere in the world – continues.  The protection and welfare of Americans abroad remains the State Department’s most vital and enduring mission.  If an American in Afghanistan tells us that they want to stay for now, and then in a week or a month or a year they reach out and say, “I’ve changed my mind,” we will help them leave.

Additionally, we’ve worked intensely to evacuate and relocate Afghans who worked alongside us, and are at particular risk of reprisal.  We’ve gotten many out, but many are still there.  We will keep working to help them.  Our commitment to them has no deadline.

Third, we will hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan.

The Taliban has committed to let anyone with proper documents leave the country in a safe and orderly manner.  They’ve said this privately and publicly many times.  On Friday, a senior Taliban official said it again on television and radio, and I quote: “Any Afghans may leave the country, including those who work for Americans, if they want and for whatever reason there may be,” end quote.

More than half the world’s countries have joined us in insisting that the Taliban let people travel outside Afghanistan freely.  As of today, more than 100 countries have said that they expect the Taliban to honor travel authorizations by our countries.  And just a few hours ago, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that enshrines that responsibility – laying the groundwork to hold the Taliban accountable if they renege.

So, the international chorus on this is strong, and it will stay strong.  We will hold the Taliban to their commitment on freedom of movement for foreign nationals, visa holders, at-risk Afghans.

Fourth, we will work to secure their safe passage.

This morning, I met with the foreign ministers of all the G7 countries – United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Japan – as well as Qatar, Turkey, the European Union, and the secretary general of NATO.  We discussed how we will work together to facilitate safe travel out of Afghanistan, including by reopening Kabul’s civilian airport as soon as possible – and we very much appreciate the efforts of Qatar and Turkey, in particular, to make this happen.

This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward.

We are also working to identify ways to support Americans, legal permanent residents, and Afghans who have worked with us and who may choose to depart via overland routes.

We have no illusion that any of this will be easy or rapid.  This will be an entirely different phase from the evacuation that just concluded.  It will take time to work through a new set of challenges.  But we will stay at it.

John Bass – our former ambassador to Afghanistan who returned to Kabul two weeks ago to help lead our evacuation efforts at the airport – will spearhead our ongoing work across the State Department to help American citizens and permanent residents, citizens of allied nations, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and Afghans at high risk, if any of those people wish to depart Afghanistan.  We’re deeply grateful for all that John did in Kabul, and for his continued commitment to this mission, as well as the extraordinary consular officers who were serving by his side.

Fifth, we will stay focused on counterterrorism.

The Taliban has made a commitment to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for external operations that could threaten the United States or our allies, including al-Qaida and the Taliban’s sworn enemy, ISIS-K.  Here too, we will hold them accountable to that commitment.  But while we have expectations of the Taliban, that doesn’t mean we will rely on the Taliban.  We’ll remain vigilant in monitoring threats ourselves.  And we’ll maintain robust counterterrorism capabilities in the region to neutralize those threats, if necessary, as we demonstrated in the past few days by striking ISIS facilitators and imminent threats in Afghanistan – and as we do in places around the world where we do not have military forces on the ground.

Let me speak directly to our engagement with the Taliban across these and other issues.  We engaged with the Taliban during the past few weeks to enable our evacuation operations.  Going forward, any engagement with a Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only: our vital national interests.

If we can work with a new Afghan government in a way that helps secure those interests – including the safe return of Mark Frerichs, a U.S. citizen who has been held hostage in the region since early last year – and in a way that brings greater stability to the country and region and protects the gains of the past two decades, we will do it.  But we will not do it on the basis of trust or faith.  Every step we take will be based not on what a Taliban-led government says, but what it does to live up to its commitments.

The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support.  Our message is: any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned.

The Taliban can do that by meeting commitments and obligations – on freedom of travel; respecting the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities; upholding its commitments on counterterrorism; not carrying out reprisal violence against those who choose to stay in Afghanistan; and forming an inclusive government that can meet the needs and reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people.

Sixth, we will continue our humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

The conflict has taken a terrible toll on the Afghan people.  Millions are internally displaced.  Millions are facing hunger, even starvation.  The COVID-19 pandemic has also hit Afghanistan hard.  The United States will continue to support humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.  Consistent with our sanctions on the Taliban, the aid will not flow through the government, but rather through independent organizations, such as UN agencies and NGOs.  And we expect that those efforts will not be impeded by the Taliban or anyone else.

And seventh, we will continue our broad international diplomacy across all these issues and many others.

We believe we can accomplish far more – and exert far greater leverage – when we work in coordination with our allies and partners.  Over the last two weeks, we’ve had a series of intensive diplomatic engagements with allies and partners to plan and coordinate the way ahead in Afghanistan.  I’ve met with the foreign ministers of NATO and the G7.  I’ve spoken one-on-one with dozens of my counterparts.  Last week, President Biden met with the leaders of the G7 countries.  And Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has been convening a group of 28 allies and partners from all regions of the world every other day.

Going forward, we’ll coordinate closely with countries in the region and around the world – as well as with leading international organizations, NGOs, and the private sector.  Our allies and partners share our objectives and are committed to working with us.

I’ll have more to say on these matters in the coming days.  The main point I want to drive home here today is that America’s work in Afghanistan continues.  We have a plan for what’s next.  We’re putting it into action.

This moment also demands reflection.  The war in Afghanistan was a 20-year endeavor.  We must learn its lessons, and allow those lessons to shape how we think about fundamental questions of national security and foreign policy.  We owe that to future diplomats, policymakers, military leaders, service members.  We owe that to the American people.

But as we do, we will remain relentlessly focused on today and on the future.  We’ll make sure we’re finding every opportunity to make good on our commitment to the Afghan people, including by welcoming thousands of them into our communities, as the American people have done many times before with generosity and grace throughout our history.

In this way, we’ll honor all those brave men and women, from the United States and many other countries, who risked or sacrificed their lives as part of this long mission, right up to today.

Thanks for listening.

And the White House released the following statement from US President Joe Biden:

I want to thank our commanders and the men and women serving under them for their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled – in the early morning hours of August 31, Kabul time – with no further loss of American lives. The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve. Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will address the American people on my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31. For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned. Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.

I have asked the Secretary of State to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan. This will include work to build on the UN Security Council Resolution passed this afternoon that sent the clear message of what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel. The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments. It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

For now, I urge all Americans to join me in grateful prayer tonight for three things. First, for our troops and diplomats who carried out this mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled results: an airlift that evacuated tens of thousands more people than any imagined possible. Second, to the network of volunteers and veterans who helped identify those needing evacuation, guide them to the airport, and provide support along the way. And third, to everyone who is now – and who will – welcome our Afghan allies to their new homes around the world, and in the United States.

Finally, I want to end with a moment of gratitude for the sacrifice of the 13 service members in Afghanistan who gave their lives last week to save tens of thousands: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss.

By the way, we're happy to note many different takes.  But there is a rule of thumb.  I read over former US House Rep Ron Paul's remarks thinking we might be able to include them.  I got to the part about Joe Biden turning the US military into "a lab for cultural Marxism" before I said, "Enough."  I'm sure that line plays with peole on the right -- but it's not just inaccurate, it's idiotic.   I'm sure it was a good scare tactic many, many years ago and that it still works with some on the right.  But it's not accurate and we're trying to deal with reality here.  Equally true, there's enough actually going on right now that you don't have to try to bring back to life your still-born cultural war. I stopped when I got to that phrase, stopped reading.  My time is too valuable to me.  Sorry.

Back on planet earth, in the 21st century, David Swanson does some calculations:

The war on Afghanistan and the war on Iraq that it was a means of helping start, and all the other spin-off wars leave (if you count only bombing from above as leaving) millions dead, millions injured, millions traumatized, millions homeless, the rule of law eroded, the natural environment devastated, government secrecy and surveillance and authoritarianism increased worldwide, terrorism increased worldwide, weapons sales increased worldwide, racism and bigotry spread far and wide, many trillions of dollars wasted that could have done a world of good, a culture corroded, a drug epidemic generated, a disease pandemic made easier to spread, the right to protest constrained, wealth transfered upward to a handful of profiteers, and the U.S. military turned into such a machine of one-sided slaughter that its casualties are fewer than 1 percent of those in its wars, and the top cause of death in its ranks is suicide.

But we opponents of the madness leave behind wars prevented, wars ended, bases stopped, weapons deals stopped, money divested from weapons, police demilitarized, people educated, ourselves educated, and the tools created to carry all of this further.

Let’s look at some of the statistics.

The Wars:

The wars that have used the “war on terror,” and usually the 2001 AUMF, as an excuse have included wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Philippines, plus related military actions in Georgia, Cuba, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Niger, Cameroon, Jordan, Lebanon, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, Tunisia, and various oceans.

(But just because you’ve gone nuts for wars doesn’t mean you can’t have coups too, such as Afghanistan 2001, Venezuela 2002, Iraq 2003, Haiti 2004, Somalia 2007 to present, Honduras 2009, Libya 2011, Syria 2012, Ukraine 2014, Venezuela 2018, Bolivia 2019, Venezuela 2019, Venezuela 2020.)

The Dead:

The best available estimates of the number of people directly and violently killed by the wars — so, not counting those who’ve frozen to death, starved to death, died of disease after moving elsewhere, committed suicide, etc. — are:

Iraq: 2.38 million

Afghanistan and Pakistan: 1.2 million

Libya: 0.25 million

Syria: 1.5 million

Somalia: 0.65 million

Yemen: 0.18 million

To these figures can be added another 0.007 million deaths of U.S. troops, a figure that does not include mercenaries or suicides.

The total is then 5.917 million, with U.S. troops making up 0.1% of the deaths (and some 95% of the media coverage).

And Chris Hedges (MPN) shines a light on the fake concerns of corporate media:

The faux pity for the Afghan people, which has defined the coverage of the desperate collaborators with the U.S. and coalition occupying forces and educated elites fleeing to the Kabul airport, begins and ends with the plight of the evacuees. There were few tears shed for the families routinely terrorized by coalition forces or the some 70,000 civilians who were obliterated by U.S. air strikes, drone attacks, missiles, and artillery, or gunned down by nervous occupying forces who saw every Afghan, with some justification, as the enemy during the war. And there will be few tears for the humanitarian catastrophe the empire is orchestrating on the 38 million Afghans, who live in one of the poorest and most aid-dependent countries in the world.

Since the 2001 invasion the United States deployed about 775,000 military personnel to subdue Afghanistan and poured $143 billion into the country, with 60 percent of the money going to prop up the corrupt Afghan military and the rest devoted to funding economic development projects, aid programs and anti-drug initiatives, with the bulk of those funds being siphoned off by foreign aid groups, private contractors, and outside consultants.

Grants from the United States and other countries accounted for 75 percent of the Afghan government budget. That assistance has evaporated. Afghanistan’s reserves and other financial accounts have been frozen, meaning the new government cannot access some $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. Shipments of cash to Afghanistan have been stopped. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Afghanistan will no longer be able to access the lender’s resources.

Things are already dire. There are some 14 million Afghans, one in three, who lack sufficient food. There are two million Afghan children who are malnourished. There are 3.5 million people in Afghanistan who have been displaced from their homes. The war has wrecked infrastructure. A drought destroyed 40 percent of the nation’s crops last year. The assault on the Afghan economy is already seeing food prices skyrocket. The sanctions and severance of aid will force civil servants to go without salaries and the health service, already chronically short of medicine and equipment, will collapse. The suffering orchestrated by the empire will be of Biblical proportions. And this is what the empire wants.

UNICEF estimates that 500,000 children were killed as a direct result of sanctions on Iraq.  Expect child deaths in Afghanistan to soar above that horrifying figure. And expect the same imperial heartlessness Madeline Albright, then the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, exhibited when she told “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children because of the sanctions was “worth it.” Or the heartlessness of Hillary Clinton who joked “We came, we saw, he died,” when informed of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s brutal death. Or the demand by Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia who after the attacks of 9/11 declared, “I say, bomb the hell out of them. If there’s collateral damage, so be it.” No matter that the empire has since turned Libya along with Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen into cauldrons of violence, chaos, and misery. The power to destroy is an intoxicating drug that is its own justification.

While some US troops leave Afghanistan, others go into Iraq.  David Bitton (COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE) reports:

Nearly 2,000 Fort Carson soldiers are heading to Iraq to provide security and protection during a nine-month deployment.

Members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division gathered on the Mountain Post Monday for a farewell ceremony as the last troops in Afghanistan left the country, ending America’s longest war after nearly 20 years.

KKTV notes, "The 1st SBCT will replace the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Louisiana Army National Guard, in Iraq as part of a regular rotation of forces to support the United States’ commitment to Operation Inherent Resolve. "  As you watch the suffering in Louisiana (due to the hurricane) remember that some members of the state's National Guard are unable to assist with operations in their own state because they were instead sent to Iraq.  RUDAW's Dilan Sirwan reports:

The United States will stay in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region for the long haul and remains committed to defeating the Islamic State group (ISIS), the US Consul General to Erbil told reporters on Monday.

“The United States is staying in Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region. We are on this journey with you for the long haul,” Robert Palladino said in a press conference on Monday, adding that the situation in Iraq is different from Afghanistan.

“What will happen at the end of this year is an end to any combat role for United States' forces, and that is the only thing that is ending,” Palladino said. “It is in the best interest of the United States and Iraq to continue our strategic partnership.”

We'll wind down with the opening from a strong report by THE NEW ARAB:

In an attempt to promote Iraq as neutral ground from which regional rivals can hash out agreements - a new Middle Eastern Switzerland - Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi hosted a regional summit with French involvement last Saturday in Baghdad that brought together foes Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as Turkey, Qatar, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt, and Kuwait.

However, rather than Baghdad being any kind of neutral territory, the summit appears to have been taken advantage of by not only Iran – the most dominant state actor in Iraqi politics today – but also by domestic authorities, to paper over the glaring cracks that have plagued Iraq domestically since the US-led invasion toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003.

Despite this, regional actors will perhaps begin to explore whether the Baghdad summit can be a springboard for the creation of a Middle Eastern de-escalation framework, particularly in light of the increasingly receding influence and authority of the United States, a superpower that has just been embarrassingly defeated and ejected from Afghanistan.

The following sites updated:

Monday, August 30, 2021


I finally was able to watch GRACE AND FRANKIE without NETFLIX kicking me out every three minutes.  It is four episodes for right now.  Later, we will get 12 more for a total of 16 for the last season.  

The four episodes were hilarious.  Especially when Frankie told Grace she forgave her for trusting Frankie with an important action.  Frankie was tasked with hiding the money found in the sofa at the end of season six.  And I loved Frankie's system for hiding the money -- four places, one for each Beatle.  John Lennon?  In the cornflakes because of "sitting on a cornflake" ("I Am The Walrus").

I am really going to miss this show and cannot believe that there will not be an eighth season.

One of the hiding places was in a yellow boat and it fell out and, as they watched, the dog peed on it.

Frankie:  In my defense, I know for a fact you can still use bills after you have peed on them.

Grace: Never ever tell me how you know that.

There will be 94 episodes when the show wraps up.  I do not know why NETFLIX did not just add six more episodes on to the order so that the show would have a total of 100?

Anyway, it is bittersweet to watch but the four episodes are hilarious.

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


 Monday, August 30, 2021.  The War Makers fret over Afghanistan and fear citizens might discover the realities of Iraq.

Starting with Afghanistan . . . 

Pampered pooch Tony Blair has spent the last weeks in a hissy fit as though Afghanistan were his favorite chew toy and mean old Joe Biden was taking it away.  The UK SOCIALIST WORKER offers:

The defeat in Afghanistan is even more devastating for Britain than it is for the US.

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, a former soldier who chairs parliament’s foreign affairs select committee, called it Britain’s “worst foreign policy failure since the Suez crisis of 1956.”

This was a defining moment in the collapse of the British Empire. Egypt’s president Gamal Abdul Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal—a hugely important shipping channel effectively controlled by Britain, key to its dominance in the Middle East.

Britain invaded Egypt, along with France, and without the knowledge of the US. US president Dwight Eisenhower was outraged, and feared the outcome of the invasion would threaten its own interests in the Middle East.

It intervened in the United Nations (UN) to demand Britain and France withdraw. It was a humiliation for Britain’s rulers, and the moment they realised they could never act independently of the US again.

Since then, Britain tried to build itself a “special relationship” as the US’s junior partner. British governments thought this relationship would give it influence with the European Union (EU), and that its standing in the EU would give it influence with the US.

It was backed up by massive military spending in the hope that this would give Britain special status as a military power.

Tony Blair relied on this, as much of the evidence submitted to the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war revealed.

He sold himself to George Bush as someone who could win support for the war among the EU. He would present Britain to the EU and the UN as a moderating influence, all the while arguing the case for invasion.

Instead, the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan were another humiliation for Britain. Its military was defeated by resistance in Basra in Iraq, and Helmand in Afghanistan.

Now the US’s withdrawal exposes just how little influence Britain really has left.

Biden pushed ahead with retreating from Afghanistan, even as many European states wanted to continue the occupation seemingly indefinitely. He ignored them all, including Britain.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said no European country had the power to act independently of the US. Britain’s supposedly close relationship with the US couldn’t convince the US to stay.

The idea that Britain has influence as a bridge between the EU and the US has been shattered. The fact that many of the people pining after permanent war in Afghanistan wail about Britain’s lost influence after Brexit is one reason to celebrate leaving the EU.

A major foreign policy document published by Britain in March said that, after Brexit, Britain’s close support for the US against China would give it special influence.

But now, though Britain clearly depends totally on the US, it has no real influence at all. For everyone who hates Britain’s blood soaked history as an imperial power, that can only be a good thing.

For more on this topic, you can refer to Luke Savage's interview with Richard Seymour for JACOBIN.  A sad day for Tony.  You could say, "Tony Blair, a lap dog in search of a new lap."  COUNTERPUNCH's Jeffrey St. Clair makes that observation and many more including:

+ The American Media in Crisis Mode: People who know nothing about Afghanistan interviewing people who have already demonstrated (with the body counts to prove it) that everything they thought they knew about Afghanistan was dead wrong.

Jeffrey also offers that "if Biden can stand firm as he’s ambushed from all sides, not retreat from his retreat, and finally bring the occupation to an end, he’ll go down in the history books a lot more credibly than the jackals who are assailing him."

Thursday's attack on the airport in Kabul left many dead.  Patrick Martin (WSWS) reports that not all the deaths may not have been caused by the bombing:

Thursday’s attack, which killed 13 American soldiers and at least 160 Afghan civilians, has had at least one effect. Despite the bluster by the White House and Pentagon about continuing their mission “undeterred,” evacuations have dwindled to a crawl since the bombing. While 13,400 flew out on Thursday, before and after the bombing, that number fell to 6,800 on Friday and only 2,900 on Saturday. About 1,400 civilians of all nationalities remain at the airport for screening and evacuation.

There were unconfirmed reports Sunday, appearing on the social media site Kabul Lovers, that many of the Afghans killed in Thursday’s terror attack were actually shot when American troops fired into the crowded square outside the gate in order to clear it after the bombing.

The television networks and daily newspapers in the imperialist countries have attributed all the Afghan deaths in the atrocity to the bomber and to confederates who opened fire on the crowd. All were acting at the behest of ISIS-K (Islamic State-Khorasan), according to a statement issued by someone claiming to speak for group, whose origins and very existence are quite murky.

Taliban officials have not suggested that US troops were responsible for any of the deaths Thursday, confining themselves to a pledge to investigate the circumstance of the attack thoroughly.

The likelihood that American troops fired on the crowd of Afghans they were supposedly in Kabul to rescue is reinforced by the events of Sunday. US forces carried out a drone missile strike on an alleged ISIS-K vehicle in Kabul “eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport,” according a spokesman for the US Central Command.

Reporters on the ground in Kabul said that an entire family of nine people, including six children, was wiped out in this drone attack, only the latest example of indiscriminate warfare by American imperialism against the people of Afghanistan.

At this point, no one knows what took place.  It is strange though how the endless yammering on cable TV hasn't explored the possibility above.  Or at least, it's strange until you grasp that corporate media is in an uproar over the thought of the US leaving Afghanistan.  They are part of the military-industrial complex, after all.  

On the media, Anthony Dimaggio (COUNTERPUNCH) observes:

Outside of Democratic and Republican officials’ angling, reporting in the “agenda setting” press has straddled the line between concerns with “fighting terrorism” and interest in maintaining support from U.S. allies. Speaking to both of these concerns, The New York Times reports that:

“The United States and NATO invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 by Al Qaeda, harbored by the Taliban. Now that the Taliban are back in power, there are already worries that Afghanistan will again become a breeding ground for Islamist radicalism and terrorism, aided by new technologies and social media.”

CNN echoes this concern with rising extremism, warning in one headline that: “Afghan withdrawal leaves allies to face harsh reality of U.S.’s departure from world stage.” CNN goes further, tying its suspicion of U.S. withdrawal to the language of international law, and reporting that critics of the U.S. worry about “America’s retreat from the world stage” and the United States’ commitment under the U.N. Charter “To maintain international peace and security, and to that end…to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace.”

There is more than a bit of Orwellian doublethink propaganda in this statement, particularly in the assumption that a continuation of U.S. militarism and war in Afghanistan is vital to promoting “peace” in Central Asia. Of course, Orwellian propaganda is a longstanding feature of U.S. discourse on Afghanistan. For example, when the Obama administration was asked in 2009 why it needed 100,000 troops in the country to combat Al Qaeda when U.S. intelligence estimated that the group had perhaps 100 fighters in the country, the response from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice was that the U.S. couldn’t “afford” to allow a Taliban resurgence, for fear that its rise to power might one day provide Al Qaeda or other extremist groups a safe haven in Afghanistan. By this logic, the U.S. must remain committed to a permanent occupation of the country, so long as extremism and terrorism exist in the region, and so long as the Taliban exists and is a threat to taking over the nation. And with this admission, Americans were sold a vision for an Orwellian commitment to infinite war, with the U.S. portrayed – like the government of Oceania in the propaganda from 1984 – as a stabilizing power committed to permanent war in the name of peace.

Effective propaganda commonly relies on elements of truth. And with Afghanistan, that truth relates to the brutality that is likely to follow U.S. withdrawal in the face of the Taliban’s repression. The Taliban is notorious for its suppression of women, its contempt for democracy, its sheltering of religious extremists, and its horrific treatment of ethnic minorities. So it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that the group’s rise will have dire consequences for the people of Afghanistan. After 20 years of the Afghan people being stuck between a U.S. client regime with little popular supportand a fundamentalist repressive Taliban movement, there’s no positive endgame that’s likely to emerge as the U.S. withdraws from the country.

As the cable and network airwaves preach war propaganda, Richard Medhurst offers some truth.


On COI #153, Kyle Anzalone updates events in Afghanistan. The Pentagon and State Department are working to remove some privileged Afghans and Americans from Afghanistan. The US claims it has evacuated tens of thousands so far,  but it is still unclear how many will be left behind. Despite the speed with which the Afghan government collapsed and ongoing chaos at the airport, the American people have been unpersuaded by a relentless effort by war hawks in the corporate press to turn the public against the withdrawal. New polls show almost two-thirds of Americans support ending the occupation. 

They have a video at the link as well.

Meanwhile, Jordan Shilton (WSWS) notes:

In a briefing released Friday that received far less attention than the fate of the comparative handful of people crowded around Kabul airport, the UN reported that up to half a million people could flee the country by the end of 2021 due to a looming food crisis. The UN reported that prior to the Taliban coming to power, half of the population required some form of humanitarian aid and half of all children under five years of age were acutely malnourished.

Since the beginning of 2021, 560,000 people have been registered as internally displaced, adding to the 2.9 million internally displaced persons at the end of 2020. Over 80 percent of those displaced since the beginning of the year are women and children.

Which brings ut to Iraq.  The media, led largely by REUTERS, has spent over a week now trying to act as though 'progress' had come to Iraq.  Based on?  A meaningless get-together in Baghdad on Saturday.  As a result of their non-stop coverage of the gabfest, some are e-mailing the public e-mail account (common_ills@yahoo.com) about how we are missing the big story.  Oh, no.  No, children, we're not. 

The big story is not that a bunch of government officials from various countries gathered in Baghdad to iron out . . . nothing.  The big story is what a wreck Iraq remains.  Had Mustafa al-Kahdimi stuck to his plan of being prime minister for a few months -- long enough to call early elections -- that wouldn't be his fault.  But he's the one who decided to extend his inept reign.  He's over the government so the government's mistakes are his own.

AFP notes reality:

Iraqi shopkeeper Ahmad Riad is busy again serving customers at a Mosul market four years after the city was destroyed in battles against jihadists, but he still awaits war reparations.

"Life has gradually resumed," said Riad, who runs a shop selling rice, pasta and tins of tomato paste in the Corniche market, along the banks of the Tigris river.

"But we have not received any compensation from the government."

Mosul, the country's second city in Nineveh province, was the last major Iraqi bastion of the Islamic State group's failed "caliphate" between 2014 and 2017.

The city was retaken by the Iraqi army and a US-led coalition after intense bombardment and fighting that left it in ruins.

The market was "devastated" in the battles, Riad said, with shopkeepers using their limited savings to rebuild.

"We are the ones who paid," he said.

Of the 400 stalls that once crammed the market, just a tenth have returned to business, he added.

According to official sources, the cost of reconstruction for Nineveh would top $100 billion, a staggering sum for a country mired in an economic crisis.

It outstrips the total annual budget of oil-rich Iraq, which stands at nearly $90 billion in 2021.

Contrast that with the crap REUTERS has been filing for over a week now -- crap that's often unsigned but who would want to claim credit for that garbage.  As Chrissie Hynde once asked, "How much did you get for your soul?"


The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Sunday warned of health risks for most Iraqi children as they have no access to safe and drinkable water.

"Nearly 3 out of 5 children in Iraq have no access to safely managed water services," UNICEF said in a statement.

The UN agency said that less than half of all schools in the country have access to basic water.

“In Iraq, the level of water scarcity is alarming, children cannot develop and thrive to their full potential without water,” said Sheema SenGupta, UNICEF Representative in Iraq. “It is time to take action on climate change and guarantee access to safe water for every child.”

That's not a successful government.  Iraq is a failed-state, a corrupt one.  The efforts to whitewash it have taken place for decades but have taken on a new urgency with events in Afghanistan.  The continued occupation of Iraq is being reheated and resold as something fresh and new.

The following sites updated over the weekend: