Earlier this week, I highlighted Richard Medhurt -- a video of his. Tammy e-mailed to tell me that it has been blocked. So here is another Richard Medhurst video.
I am trying to highlight three YOUTUBE programs that I think matter -- each week, I am trying to highlight them. Richard Medhurst provides a common sense perspective on international relations.
I also enjoy THE CONVO COUCH which looks at both international and domestic politics.
Craig and Fiorella are the co-hosts and they cover topics that most others ignore.
My third YOUTUBE program is THE KATIE HALPER SHOW.
Katie Halper is the host. She mainly focuses on domestic issues.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Friday, October 8, 2021. Early voting begins today in Iraq, on the second anniversary of the disappearance of activist and human rights attorney Ali Jaseb Hattabh al-Heliji.
Starting with one item in the US, the faux whistle-blower on FACEBOOK has gotten a ton of press love this week when she really deserves none Glenn Greenwald writes:
Much is revealed by who is bestowed hero status by the corporate media. This week's anointed avatar of stunning courage is Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager being widely hailed as a "whistleblower” for providing internal corporate documents to the Wall Street Journal relating to the various harms which Facebook and its other platforms (Instagram and WhatsApp) are allegedly causing.
The social media giant hurts America and the world, this narrative maintains, by permitting misinformation to spread (presumably more so than cable outlets and mainstream newspapers do virtually every week); fostering body image neurosis in young girls through Instagram (presumably more so than fashion magazines, Hollywood and the music industry do with their glorification of young and perfectly-sculpted bodies); promoting polarizing political content in order to keep the citizenry enraged, balkanized and resentful and therefore more eager to stay engaged (presumably in contrast to corporate media outlets, which would never do such a thing); and, worst of all, by failing to sufficiently censor political content that contradicts liberal orthodoxies and diverges from decreed liberal Truth. On Tuesday, Haugen's star turn took her to Washington, where she spent the day testifying before the Senate about Facebook's dangerous refusal to censor even more content and ban even more users than they already do.
There is no doubt, at least to me, that Facebook and Google are both grave menaces. Through consolidation, mergers and purchases of any potential competitors, their power far exceeds what is compatible with a healthy democracy. A bipartisan consensus has emerged on the House Antitrust Committee that these two corporate giants — along with Amazon and Apple — are all classic monopolies in violation of long-standing but rarely enforced antitrust laws. Their control over multiple huge platforms that they purchased enables them to punish and even destroy competitors, as we saw when Apple, Google and Amazon united to remove Parler from the internet forty-eight hours after leading Democrats demanded that action, right as Parler became the most-downloaded app in the country, or as Google suppresses Rumble videos in its dominant search feature as punishment for competing with Google's YouTube platform. Facebook and Twitter both suppressed reporting on the authentic documents about Joe Biden's business activities reported by The New York Post just weeks before the 2020 election. These social media giants also united to effectively remove the sitting elected President of the United States from the internet, prompting grave warnings from leaders across the democratic world about how anti-democratic their consolidated censorship power has become.
But none of the swooning over this new Facebook heroine nor any of the other media assaults on Facebook have anything remotely to do with a concern over those genuine dangers. Congress has taken no steps to curb the influence of these Silicon Valley giants because Facebook and Google drown the establishment wings of both parties with enormous amounts of cash and pay well-connected lobbyists who are friends and former colleagues of key lawmakers to use their D.C. influence to block reform. With the exception of a few stalwarts, neither party's ruling wing really has any objection to this monopolistic power as long as it is exercised to advance their own interests.
Turning to Iraq, Momen Muhanned Tweets:
Early voting is taking place in Iraq today. Sunday will be election day proper.
John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed (REUTERS) explain, "Soldiers, prisoners and displaced people voted in special early polls in Iraq on Friday as the country prepared for a Sunday general election where turnout will show how much faith voters have left in a still young democratic system." Not all security forces will be voting today. One group was shut out of the early voting because they did not follow the basic rules. Over the weekend, YENI SAFAK reported:
Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission on Saturday announced the exclusion of the Hashd al-Shaabi militia, or Popular Mobilization Forces, from the list of security forces who will vote in next week’s parliamentary elections.
"The commission formally addressed the Popular Mobilization Authority to submit the names of their members to be included in the register for the security forces eligible to vote," spokesman Jumana Al-Ghalai said in statements cited by the Iraqi News Agency.
But the Shia militia group did not submit the names of its members on the specified date, according to Al-Ghalai.
Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) explained, "This means fighters must return to their home districts to cast their ballot." The militias (PMU) were folded into the government security forces and that was always going to be a mistake. As 2021 has made clear, the militias do not believe in chain of command and do not see themselves as answerable to the prime minister of Iraq despite that position holding the title of commander-in-chief. They have terrorized the population and gone after protesters with especial zeal. Amnesty's Rand Hammoud reminds:
Today marks 2 years since factions of the #PMU abducted and forcibly disappeared human rights lawyer Ali Jasseb al-Hattab. If you are reading this tweet, I urge you to take action and ask the
: WHERE IS ALI?EVERY letter matters. #علي_جاسب_وين
Ali Jaseb Hattab Al Heliji is a human rights lawyer representing demonstrators arrested in connection with the recent anti-government demonstrations. On October 1, 2019, protests started in Baghdad and southern cities calling for improved services and more action to curb corruption. The demonstrations were met by excessive and unnecessary lethal force by Iraqi security forces and have resulted in a hundred people killed and about 4000 injured.
On October 6, 2019, two armed men from the PMU came to Ali Jaseb Hattab's home to warn him from speaking out on Facebook about the killing of protesters and to stop accusing certain factions of the PMU of being responsible for these killings. The armed men then threatened Ali Jaseb Hattab that they would kill him if he did not stop.
On October 8, 2019, Ali Jaseb Hattab received a call from one of his clients who wanted to meet. The two men were supposed to meet in the southern city of Amara in the Missan province. However, when Al Heliji arrived at the rendezvous point, armed men in two black pick-up trucks belonging to the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) dragged him away from his car, where he stood speaking to his client, and then drove him away in one of the trucks. When Ali Jaseb Hattab's relatives reported his abduction, local security forces told them that they were not aware of his arrest. His fate and whereabouts remain unknown to date.
On March 10, 2021, Ali Jaseb Hattab's father, Jaseb Hattab Al Heliji, was shot dead in the city of Amarah, in the Iraqi governorate of Maysan. He was a vocal advocate for his son, constantly calling for his release and for criminal sanctions against the parties responsible for his disappearance.
In a widely circulated video on social media, shared in July 2020, nine months after Ali Jaseb Hattab’s disappearance, Jaseb Hattab Al Heliji stated that “all evidence, witness testimonies and security reports prove that the Ansar Allah Al Awfiya militia is responsible” for the kidnapping of his son. In that same video, he announced that his life was in danger and that he may be assassinated. On March 10, 2021, while Jaseb Hattab was returning to his home in Amarah, from the funeral of an Iraqi activist who was recently killed, he was stopped and shot in the head by unidentified armed men. Several UN human rights experts including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and members of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances condemned the assassination of Jasib Hattab Al Hejili in a press release issued on March 26, 2021.
All this time later, Ali Jaseb remains 'disappeared.' His family has not seen him since. Of course, his family is one less than it was when Jaseb was abducted by the militias. His father, Jasseb Hattab, demanded justice and and answers to where his son was, he publicly accused the militia and, in response, he was assassinated. Amnesty's Donatella Rovera Tweeted the following last March:
This has happened over and over and it has happened in broad daylight. Earlier this week,
Renad Mansour and Hayder al-Shakeri (Chatham House) observed this weekg:
Many disillusioned Iraqis tried to bring about change through protests in October 2019. They believed their voice could be heard louder through mass demonstrations, instead of elections that only reinforced their corrupt political system.
Their demands were to put an end to the political elite’s institutionalized corruption, and many asked for a change in government through early elections in a safe and fair atmosphere. But the system proved resilient.
Despite the widespread public dissent, Iraqi state-allied armed actors clamped down on protesters, leaving more than 600 dead and tens of thousands wounded. Activists and potential mobilisers have continued to be targeted in broad daylight at their homes before they can organise further protests.
In broad daylight. And where's the press coverage in the US? As we've been noting for months and months, these targeted killings are taking place around witnesses, in view of security cameras, in at least two incidents, the killers took public taxis to flee the murder scene. But no one has been punished. The current prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi is really good at making statements and photo ops. But statements and photo ops have not stopped the killings.
This is one of the many reasons for voter apathy in Iraq. AFP notes:
Anas said the protests changed his life and opened his eyes to the problems facing his country.
"Before, I was a normal person who went to university. I studied or texted my girlfriend," he said.
"But after the October revolution, I felt I had a responsibility to assume, a place to fill within society, and that my voice was being heard."
Nearly 600 people died across Iraq and tens of thousands were wounded in violence related to the protests. More activists have been murdered since, kidnapped or intimidated, but there has been no accountability.
Activists have blamed pro-Iran armed groups, part of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition that helped defeat the Islamic State jihadist group.
Aside from insecurity, Iraq is grappling with an economic crisis exacerbated by diminished oil revenues and the coronavirus pandemic, as well as infrastructure dilapidated by decades of conflict and neglect.
Nasiriyah reflects it all: poverty is rampant, there are severe power and water cuts, and investment in infrastructure is sorely lacking.
Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) counts 3,249 people in all seeking seats in Parliament BROOKINGS notes this is a huge drop from 2018 when 7,178 candidates ran for office. RUDAW is among those noting perceived voter apathy, "Turnout for Iraq’s October 10 parliamentary election is expected to be a record low, with a recent poll predicting just 29 percent of eligible voters will cast ballots." Human Rights Watch has identified another factor which may impact voter turnout, "People with disabilities in Iraq are facing significant obstacles to participating in upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10, 2021, due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Without urgent changes, hundreds of thousands of people may not be able to vote. The 36-page report, “‘No One Represents Us’: Lack of Access to Political Participation for People with Disabilities in Iraq,” documents that Iraqi authorities have failed to secure electoral rights for Iraqis with disabilities. People with disabilities are often effectively denied their right to vote due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places and significant legislative and political obstacles to running for office." And Human Rights Watch Tweets:
The Assyrian Policy Institute Tweets, "Electoral reforms in Iraq instituted following the Iraqi protests did not involve minority stakeholders and failed to address the exploitation of the minority quota system. Assyrians will largely be deterred from voting on Oct. 10 as a result."
Another obstacle is getting the word out on a campaign. Political posters are being torn down throughout Iraq. Halgurd Sherwani (KURDiSTAN 24) observes, "Under Article 35 of the election law, anyone caught ripping apart or vandalizing an electoral candidate's billboard could be punished with imprisonment for at least a month but no longer than a year, Joumana Ghalad, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), told a press conference on Wednesday." And there's also the battles in getting out word of your campaign online. THE NEW ARAB reported weeks ago, "Facebook is restricting advertisements for Iraqi political parties and candidates in the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections, an official has told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site."
THE WASHINGTON POST's Louisa Loveluck Tweeted: of how "chromic mistrust in [the] country's political class" might also lower voter turnout. Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) also notes, "Experts are predicting low turnout in October due to distrust of the country’s electoral system and believe that it will not deliver the much needed changes they were promised since 2003." Mistrust would describe the feelings of some members of The October Revolution. Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) notes some of their leaders, at the recent Opposition Forces Gathering conference announced their intent to boycott the elections because they "lack integrity, fairness and equal opportunities." Distrust is all around. The President of Iraq has identified corruption as one of the biggest issues in Iraq. Halkawt Aziz (RUDAW) reported on how, " In Sadr City, people are disheartened after nearly two decades of empty promises from politicians." Karwan Faidhi Dri (RUDAW) explains, "People in Basra are not hopeful that the parliamentary election will bring about meaningful change and reform. The southern Iraqi province has seen several large anti-government protests in recent years." AFP notes, "But the ballot has generated little enthusiasm among Iraq’s 25 million voters, while the activists and parties behind the uprising have largely decided to boycott the ballot."
How to address apathy? Ignore it and redo how you'll count voter turnout. RUDAW reports, "raq’s election commission announced on Sunday that turnout for the election will be calculated based on the number of people who have biometric voter cards, not the number of eligible voters. The move will likely inflate turnout figures that are predicted to hit a record low." As for the apathy, John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed (REUTERS) convey this image:
Iraq’s tortured politics are graphically illustrated in a town square in
the south, where weathered portraits displayed on large hoardings honor
those killed fighting for causes they hoped would help their country.
The images of thousands of militiamen whose paramilitary factions battled ISIS hang beside those of hundreds of young men killed two years later protesting against the same paramilitaries.
KURDISTAN 24 quotes political leader Ayad Allawi stating, "Corruption, illegal weapons in the hands of militias, armed groups, political money, and regional interference are the reasons for having no suitable election environment in Iraq." While Chatham House's Renad Masnour notes Iraq's current system is "unable to . . . provide sufficient jobs or services." ANEWS Tweets:
After the election, there will be a scramble for who has dibs on the post of prime minister. Murat Sofuoglu (TRT) observes, "The walls of Baghdad are covered with posters of Iraq’s former leaders, especially Nouri al Maliki and Haidar al Abadi, as the country moves toward its early elections on October 10. Both men however were forced out of power for their incompetence, and yet they are leading in the country’s two powerful Shia blocks." Outside of Baghdad? THE NEW ARAB explains, "However, in the provinces of Anbar, Saladin, Diyala, Nineveh, Kirkuk, Babel and the Baghdad belt, candidates have focussed on the issue of the disappeared and promised to attempt to find out what happened to them."
Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has 90 candidates in his bloc running for seats in the Parliament and one of those, Hassan Faleh, has insisted to RUDAW, "The position of the next prime minister is the least that the Sadrist movement deserves, and we are certain that we will be the largest and strongest coalition in the next stage." Others are also claiming the post should go to their bloc such as the al-Fatah Alliance -- the political wing of the Badr Organization (sometimes considered a militia, sometimes considered a terrorist group). ARAB WEEKLY reported, "Al-Fateh Alliance parliament member Naim Al-Aboudi said that Hadi al-Amiri is a frontrunner to head the next government, a position that can only be held by a Shia, according to Iraq’s power-sharing agreement." Some also insist the prime minister should be the head of the State of Law bloc, two-time prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki. Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters do not agree and have the feeling/consensus that, "Nouri al-Maliki has reached the age of political menopause and we do not consider him to be our rival because he has lost the luster that he once had so it is time for him to retire."
In one surprising development, Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) has reported: "Iraq’s electoral commission aims to announce the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10 within 24 hours, they announced on Thursday following a voting simulation."
As early elections kicked off, Iraqi Observatory of Human Rights is offered a live stream on FACEBOOK with analysis and information. Amnesty International's Rand Hammoudi was among the participants.
The following sites updated:
And thanks to Betty who posted repeatedly. After the roundtable, I could barely see last night. I mentioned I wouldn't be posting overnight and she offered to go into the public e-mail account and post stuff. She posted the following: