This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Thursday, February 2, 2023. Angelina Jolie visits Iraq, Julian Assange remains persecuted, US House Rep Joaquin Castro notes a veteran and his wife for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and much more.
Julian remains imprisoned and remains persecuted by US President Joe Biden who, as vice president, once called him "a high tech terrorist." Julian's 'crime' was revealing the realities of Iraq -- Chelsea Manning was a whistle-blower who leaked the information to Julian. WIKILEAKS then published the Iraq War Logs. And many outlets used the publication to publish reports of their own. For example, THE GUARDIAN published many articles based on The Iraq War Logs. Jonathan Steele, David Leigh and Nick Davies offered, on October 22, 2012:
A grim picture of the US and Britain's legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.
Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.
The new logs detail how:
• US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.
• A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.
• More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.
The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent deat
The Biden administration has been saying all the right things lately about respecting a free and vigorous press, after four years of relentless media-bashing and legal assaults under Donald Trump.
The attorney general, Merrick Garland, has even put in place expanded protections for journalists this fall, saying that “a free and independent press is vital to the functioning of our democracy”.
But the biggest test of Biden’s commitment remains imprisoned in a jail cell in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been held since 2019 while facing prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act, a century-old statute that has never been used before for publishing classified information.
Whether the US justice department continues to pursue the Trump-era charges against the notorious leaker, whose group put out secret information on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, American diplomacy and internal Democratic politics before the 2016 election, will go a long way toward determining whether the current administration intends to make good on its pledges to protect the press.
Now Biden is facing a re-energized push, both inside the United States and overseas, to drop Assange’s protracted prosecution.
This is Joe's legacy. He won't have to live with it. He'll be dead within ten years. But this is how he will be remembered -- as a thug who refused to protect The First Amendment and as a thug who persecuted Julian Assange. Some have been surprised by the reluctance and refusal of journalists to stand with Julian. Jonathan Cook (CONSORTIUM NEWS) explains that silence:
During an interview back in 2011, Julian Assange made an acute observation about the role of what he called society’s “perceived moral institutions”, such as liberal media:
“What drives a paper like The Guardian or New York Times is not their inner moral values. It is simply that they have a market. In the U.K., there is a market called ‘educated liberals.’ Educated liberals want to buy a newspaper like the Guardian, and therefore an institution arises to fulfil that market. … What is in the newspaper is not a reflection of the values of the people in that institution, it is a reflection of the market demand.”
Assange presumably gained this insight after working closely the previous year with both newspapers on the Afghan and Iraq war logs.
[Related: The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 —The Leak That ‘Exposed the True Afghan War’ and No. 3—The Most Extensive Classified Leak in History]
One of the mistakes we typically make about the “mainstream media” is imagining that its outlets evolved in some kind of gradual bottom-up process. We are encouraged to assume that there is at least an element of voluntary association in how media publications form.
At its simplest, we imagine that journalists with a liberal or leftwing outlook gravitate towards other journalists with a similar outlook and together they produce a liberal-left newspaper. We sometimes imagine that something similar takes place among rightwing journalists and rightwing newspapers.
All of this requires ignoring the elephant in the room: billionaire owners. Even if we think about those owners — and in general we are discouraged from doing so — we tend to suppose that their role is chiefly to provide the funding for these free exercises in journalistic collaboration.
For that reason, we infer that the media represents society: it offers a market place of thought and expression in which ideas and opinions align with how the vast majority of people feel. In short, the media reflects a spectrum of acceptable ideas rather than defining and imposing that spectrum.
[. . .]
The truth is that, were The Guardian and The New York Times clamouring for Assange’s freedom;
had they investigated the glaring holes in the Swedish case, as Nils Melzer, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture, did;
were they screaming about the dangers of allowing the U.S. to redefine journalism’s core task as treason under the draconian, century-old Espionage Act;
had they used their substantial muscle and resources to pursue Freedom of Information requests, as Stefania Maurizi did on her own dime;
were they pointing out the endless legal abuses taking place in Assange’s treatment in the U.K.;
had they reported — rather than ignored — the facts that came to light in the extradition hearings in London; in short, had they kept Assange’s persecution constantly in the spotlight, he would be free by now.
The efforts by the various states involved to gradually disappear him over the past decade would have become futile, even self-sabotaging.
At some level, journalists understand this. Which is precisely why they try to persuade themselves, and you, that Assange isn’t a “proper” journalist. That’s why, they tell themselves, they don’t need to show solidarity with a fellow journalist — or worse, why it is okay to amplify the security state’s demonisation campaign.
By ignoring Assange, by othering him, they can avoid thinking about the differences between what he has done and what they do. Journalists can avoid examining their own role as captured servants of corporate power.
At WSWS, Tom Mackaman interviews Ahmed White (law professor and author -- most recent book is UNDER THE IRON HEEL: THE WOBBLIES AND THE CAPITALIST WAR ON RADICAL WORKERS). We'll note the following where Julian Assange is brought up:
TM: And the Espionage Act is something that the federal government dusts off from time to time. Presently with Julian Assange.
AW: That’s right. It’s been amended over the years, but it’s still used. With Assange, it just proves the political purposes for which it can be used, beyond supposedly stamping out spying. I think what the Assange case shows is the continuity in the federal government’s role, its willingness to use its prosecutorial authority to repress voices and movements that it opposes.
What’s interesting about what happened to the IWW was that it was central to the construction of this facility within the federal government, which was very poorly developed until the First World War. Before the persecution of the IWW, and the first Red Scare, there was actually very little facility on the part of the federal government to do what it does very easily today. And I think a lot of that is to be owed, or is to be in some perverse way, credited to what happened to the IWW.
TM: Along the same lines of past and present, one of the things that struck me about your book is its really sharp analysis of liberalism, a thread you weave throughout. And you have a couple very incisive pages, early on, where you describe the transformation from a 19th century classical liberalism to this Progressive Era statism. Could you summarize the role of liberalism in the persecution of the IWW? And following from that, what do you make of the state of American liberalism at present?
AW: What was striking to me in researching and writing this book was the contradictory role of liberals or progressives. Some of them supported the union. But many of them aligned in the effort to destroy it. And I think what these people brought to bear, which is so interesting, is a kind of characteristic belief that a society needs to be managed. I mean, these were all capitalists fundamentally, and they believed that capitalism created problems, contradictions, difficulties that needed to be addressed. What distinguished them was the serious and organized and legally oriented way they thought that should be done. That was true of their approach to things like child labor or food safety and all sorts of things. It was also true of their approach to radicalism.
And so, once these progressives and liberals decided that the IWW was an intolerable threat that was antithetical to their ambitions, their beliefs, then they spearheaded the attempt to destroy it by exactly those organized and legally oriented means. That’s what they brought to bear. They were not above participating in acts of extralegal violence or vigilantism, but their main purpose was to do this in an organized and lawful way. And they did. And that was reflected in their role, the often leading role, they played in the enactment and enforcement of the Espionage Act, the enactment and enforcement of the criminal syndicalism of laws.
These old men they make their dirty deals Go in the back room and see what they can steal Talk about your beautiful for spacious skies It's about uranium It's about the water rights Got Mother Nature on a luncheon plate They carve her up and call it real estate Want all the resources and all of the land They make a war over it They blow things up for it The reservation out at Poverty Row There's something cookin' and the lights are low Somebody's tryin' to save our Mother Earth I'm gonna Help 'em to Save it and Sing it and Pray it singin' No no, Keshagesh you can't do that no more Ol' Columbus, he was lookin' good When he got lost in our neighborhood Garden of Eden right before his eyes Now it's all spyware Now it's all income tax Ol' Brother Midas, lookin' hungry today What he can't buy he'll get some other way Send in the troopers if the Natives resist Same old story, boys That's how ya do it boys Look at these people Lord they're on a roll Gotta have it all Gotta have complete control Want all the resources and all of the land They break the law over it Blow things up for it
-- "No Keshagesh," written by Buffy Sainte-Marie, appears most recently on Buffy's MEDICINE SONGS
Meanwhile, the UK paper THE GUARDIAN is asking for memories:
On 15 February, it will be 20 years since more than one million people marched through London to protest against the imminent Iraq war. It remains the largest political demonstration in the UK’s history.
Marches also took place in Glasgow and Belfast, alongside hundreds of other cities globally that weekend.
We would like to speak to people who attended anti-war demonstrations in the UK on 15 February 2003 about their memories of the day and how it affected them and their outlook.
Whether it was your first march or you were already a seasoned protester in 2003, we want to hear about how you remember that day.
What did you do? Did you travel to the march? Did you meet people that day – and if you made new friendships, did they last? How did the march, and subsequent war, have an impact on how you see the world?
Please share any photos you took at the march.
Weeks until the ongoing war hits the 20 year mark and US forces remain there:
The US-led international military coalition remains in Iraq after the US military withdrew from Iraq in 2012.
A small military force was left in the Arab state only to protect the US embassy and train Iraqi forces.
In 2020, the US President at the time, Donald Trump, reduced the number of troops in Iraq to 2500.
In 2021, both countries agreed to end US combat missions by December.
So many lives have been destroyed by the illegal war. A lot of crooks got rich off it. Veterans got ripped off. It's been veterans who have had to fight for their rights that should have been honored without any fuss. Many veterans suffered because of exposure to burn pits. Sometimes, US President Joe Biden likes to lie that his son Beau died in Iraq (he didn't) and other times he wants to connect Beau's caner to burn pits. But as US senator, Joe did nothing to help the victims of burn pits. He has moved a little more towards a reluctant advocate as president but he still won't honor those who fought to call out the burn pits and to start a national registry for those suffering. This is a press release issued Tuesday by US House Rep Joaquin Castro:
Read Congressman Castro’s Recommendation Letter Here
WASHINGTON – This week, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Captain Le Roy Torres and Rosie Torres of Robstown, Texas. In the letter, Congressman Castro commended the couple’s work to protect the rights of returning servicemembers and highlighted their leadership in efforts to expand health care and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, including through their advocacy for the Honoring Our PACT Act.
“Over the past decade, Rosie and Le Roy have played a central role in ensuring the United States upholds our commitment to veterans. They successfully fought for the passage of two federal laws to protect veterans impacted by burn pits and secured a victory for disabled veterans at the Supreme Court,” wrote Congressman Castro. “Rosie and Le Roy define what it means to be American. I cannot think of two better people who deserve to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”
“It is an honor to be nominated for the Medal of Freedom award. Our efforts with the PACT ACT were born from our own injustice and journey. To know that no other Veteran or survivor will be served by denial is an absolute blessing and victory. This nomination is in honor of the fallen who lost the battle to burn pit exposure and to their families that walked the halls alongside us. It is a symbol of every tear, hardship and loss after War but it is also a reminder of what it is to be American. To anyone facing an injustice, never give up and know that your voice can change history,” said Rosie and Le Roy Torres.
Captain and Mrs. Torres are the co-founders of Burn Pits 360, a non-profit organization that advocates for burn pit-impacted veterans. Their family’s advocacy began after Captain Torres developed a severe lung condition from prolonged exposure to open-air burn pits during a deployment to Iraq. In 2010, as veterans affected by burn pits struggled to get the Department of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge their service-connected injuries, Burn Pits 360 established an independent registry for family members to record the names of servicemembers who died because of toxic exposure. Captain and Mrs. Torres were instrumental in the 2013 creation of a federal burn pit registry and later played a leading role in the 2022 passage of the Honoring Our PACT Act, landmark bipartisan legislation that expanded health care and benefits for more than five million exposed to toxic substances, including burn pits and Agent Orange.
Captain Torres was also the plaintiff in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety, a Supreme Court case defending the rights of servicemembers and veterans under USERRA, a federal law that protects the reemployment rights of returning servicemembers. The case originated after the Texas Department of Public Safety denied Captain Torres’s request to continue his job as a Texas State Trooper with reasonable accommodations for his service-connected disability. Captain Torres subsequently sued the Department for failure to abide by USERRA’s protections and appealed to the Supreme Court after a lower court ruled that Congress lacked the power to authorize lawsuits against states under USERRA. If Captain Torres had not appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, the lower court’s decision could have eviscerated the rights of military personnel to return to their civilian jobs. On June 29, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Captain Torres and upheld the responsibility of state employers to abide by the servicemember protections in USERRA.
Congressman Castro has worked closely with the Torres family for many years. Beginning in 2017, he hosted a series of field hearings and Congressional briefings to raise awareness about burn pit exposure and urge the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand services for burn pit-affected veterans. In 2021, Congressman Castro led a letter to then-Acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, urging the Department of Justice to ask the Supreme Court to grant review of Torres v. Texas and protect the rights of returning servicemembers. When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Congressman Castro led an amicus brief in support of Captain Torrs. Captain Torres was also Congressman Castro’s guest for the 2022 State of the Union Address.
This is the second time that Joaquin has nominated Le Roy and Rosie Torres. Why did it take a second time? Why has this not already happened? They founded Burn Pits 360 and have been active on this issue -- highlighting it, galvanizing support, all on their own time -- for over a decade. Even for no-brainer Joe Biden, awarding this medal should be a no brainer.
The following sites updated: