Thursday, August 06, 2020

Imagine it

Patrick Martin (WSWS) offers:

America is a land of deepening social crisis and political turmoil, in which the vast majority of the population opposes President Trump and his ultra-right policies and seeks an alternative. But this reality is almost completely obscured by a corporate-controlled two-party system which suppresses and distorts these popular sentiments.

Democratic and Republican primaries in five states on Tuesday, August 4, provided yet another demonstration of this political reality. These states—Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Arizona and Washington—account for 45 seats in the House of Representatives, about 10 percent of the total, split nearly evenly, 22 Democrats and 23 Republicans.

Only 10 of the 45 seats are considered even remotely competitive, five for each party. In the remaining 35 seats, the party nomination is considered the equivalent of election, as the other capitalist party does not wage a serious campaign, and all other challengers are effectively excluded by the two-party monopoly.

Four incumbent representatives did not seek renomination, either retiring from politics or running for higher office. Two of the remaining 41 were defeated, which passes for a political upheaval in the staid precincts of official American politics: Democrat William Lacy Clay of Missouri and Republican Steve Watkins of Kansas.

Clay had held his seat for 20 years, succeeding his father, William Lacy Clay Sr., who held the seat for 32 years and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. The First Congressional District of Missouri covers the entire city of St. Louis and its northern suburbs, including the town of Ferguson, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was murdered by a local cop in 2014.

Cori Bush, a nurse and pastor, became active in Black Lives Matter and campaigns against police violence, and came to prominence during the protests against Brown’s murder. She ran against Clay in 2018 with the support of Senator Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but was swamped by Clay’s financial and organizational advantages and lost by 20 percentage points.

In 2020, Bush was better financed and supported again by Sanders and the Justice Democrats group, but not by Ocasio-Cortez, who after working with Clay in Congress announced she would remain neutral. In the course of the campaign, Bush played a prominent role in the protests that followed the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. She also contracted coronavirus but recovered.

I wasn't joking last June when I said we should vote every incumbent out of office.  Imagine the message we'd send.  Imagine how the politicians would cower and realize that they couldn't take us for granted.  They might finally start working to make our lives better instead of selling us out to please corporations.

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

Thursday, August 6, 2020.  Oh, look, one of those 'trusted' voices on Iraq -- one who, of course, got everything wrong -- is back again to tell us all how great things are going in Iraq.

Yesterday afternoon, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL published a ridiculous piece of garbage by Sam Gollob and Michael O'Hanlon.  The piece is entitled "At Long Last, Iraq Is Getting Back On Track" -- and that title tells you everything you need to know.

You'd think THE JOURNAL would avoid this sort of garbage if only to protect whatever's left of their name.  It's not a great paper by any means but their opinion section has long harmed their image and allowed a lot of partisan Democrats to attack them for anything and everything, whether they did it or not.  

Look at the hideous Paul Greengrass.  If the #MeToo movements was going to start removing directors from positions of power, you would have thought Greengrass would have been an early starting point.  But his actions on the set remain as non-criticized as the garbage he churns out.  For our purposes, we're looking at the hideous movie THE GREEN ZONE.

The flick completely ignored its source material (Rajiv Chandrasekaran's IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY) to film a lie.  In the bad and boring movie, facts are tossed aside so that the lie can be told: It was that bad WALL STREET JOURNAL that lied us into Iraq.  Amy Ryan plays the bad reporter whose work features every baseless claim -- presented as fact -- that the Bully Boy Bush administration made.  And her character works for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

The character, as anyone watching the film knows, is based on Judith Miller who was the star reporter for THE NEW YORK TIMES.  It also cribs from a bad front page story that Chris Hedges wrote for THE NEW YORK TIMES.  But somehow, history gets rewritten in this bad movie so that the big offender was . . . a reporter for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.  

Two things on the above, first off: Chris Hedges.  I like Chris.  I'm not his press agent.  It's not my job to get him good press.  We regularly highlight his work on RT and will continue to do so; however, that doesn't mean that we lie about what took place.  We are right now talking about pre-war Iraq press coverage.  The character Amy Ryan plays speaks with an anonymous source supplied to her by the government and publishes lies given to her from him.  You can't talk about that and not talk about what Chris Hedges did unless you are more committed to advancing Chris Hedges than to telling the truth.  The first front page 'report' linking 9/11 to Iraq -- falsely linking -- appeared weeks after 9/11 -- Chris Hedges had the byline, it ran on the front page of THE NEW YORK TIMES.  Not one claim in that article stands up today.  The government set Chris up with that 'insider' because they wanted their lies told to the world as fact.  Chris made it happen.

I don't hate Chris.  I like Chris.  But if we're talking about the press lies that got us into war with Iraq, Chris' report is part of those lies.  Yes, Chris went on to speak out against the war and suffered professionally for doing so.  And that's part of Chris' story as well.  But this isn't the "Chris Hedges snapshot."  It's the "Iraq snapshot."  And we're not going to use Judith Miller as our daily pinata the way so many others have.  Judith Miller printed a lot of lies and she believed them all.  She was gung-hu in Iraq, once the war started, and trying to commandeer troops to find those WMDs that she honestly -- and foolishly -- believed were in Iraq.  We have held Judith Miller accountable for what she did and will continue to do so.  We will not, however, present the lie that it was just her and we will not pretend that no one else needs to be held accountable.  To this day, my problem with Chris, he has not been accountable.  He will admit that his front page report is nonsense.  And after his main source was outed, he did agree with MOTHER JONES that the Iraqi exile had been a source.  But, as we have long pointed out, the article claimed two sources.  If the source lied -- Chris says they did, and I believe him -- then you have been burned by your source and you do not have to protect them.

We knew Judith Miller's source was Scooter Libby.  We noted that in 2004.  Long before the court case.  When Judith elected to go to jail rather than betray her source, that was fine, we applauded her for that.  But Scooter didn't burn Judith.  (He just told her Valerie Plame was a CIA agent.)  Chris was burned and he should have long ago exposed the other source and written at length about how that interview came to be -- everyone he knew at the paper that promoted the story as news, everyone in the administration that was part of providing the paper with the sources.

We called out someone who we highlighted in a video yesterday.  I don't even want to say her name.  She deserved to be called out for what we called her out for.  Saying every US servicemember who went to Vietnam was a War Criminal was an outrageous and offensive statement.  The political leaders who sent them to Vietnam?  They're all War Criminals.  But the service members who were lied to and who were sent there are not War Criminals unless they were raping or murdering children or . . .  In the Iraq War, Steven D. Green is a War Criminal -- he plotted and took part in the gang rape of Abeer and he murdered her, her sister and her parents.  The Americans at Abu Ghraib -- unless they were whistle blowers -- were War Criminals.  But every American that served in Iraq is not a War Criminal.  The political leaders who sent them to Iraq and keep them in Iraq are War Criminals.

My job is not to be a press agent for anyone.  My job is to explain to the best of my ability what is happening and what happened.  Most of us say something that deserves calling out from time to time -- including me.  And if I'm covering something and it's applicable, we're going to call them out.

Second: At this late date why is anyone treating Michael O'Hanlon as someone to listen to?  How many times can you be wrong about Iraq and still have the press treat your loony opinions as worth listening to.

Iraq is not back on track anymore than the 'surge' brought political stability to Iraq, anymore than Iraq had WMDs (they didn't) or even of the other positions O'Hanlon has argued over the years.  The only consistent aspect to his public statements about Iraq?  That they have been wrong over and over.

Iraq is in the midst of a pandemic -- like the rest of the world.  Their economy is in tatters.  They have (still) the issue of the lack of electricity and potable water.  In fact, IOM Iraq Tweeted this morning:

IOM #Iraq is rehabilitating the only water treatment plant in Al-Qurna district, #Basra governorate, with funding from
Flag of Qatar
. The project will give 100K people access to drinking water, and improve the livelihoods of local communities.

Protesters are being killed.  There is no political consensus behind the new prime minister.  Go down the list, by no means is Iraq "getting back on track."  Bobby Gosh (GULF NEWS for this link, we highlighted this yesterday at BLOOMBERG NEWS) observed this week:

All the crises he inherited have deepened. The coronavirus pandemic, already alarming when Kadhimi was sworn in, has since only grown more frightening, forcing him to announce fresh lockdowns.

The Iraqi economy, having suffered extensive collateral damage from the oil war, has weakened. Powerful, Iran-backed militias have grown more brazen. Corruption, already ingrained in the body politic, seems to have metastasised across every aspect of the state.

Even the weather has been worse than expected. Iraq is now wilting in the hottest summer ever recorded, with temperatures nearing 52 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) in Baghdad and 53C (127F) in Basra last week.

The heat threatens to bring the protests against electricity and water shortages — a summer fixture in the Iraqi political calendar — to a fever pitch. Some demonstrations in Baghdad have already boiled over into clashes with security forces: Two protesters were killed last Monday.

On the protesters, how telling that the same week the world learned of the kidnapping and torture of 16-year-old Hamid Saeed by Iraqi forces, O'Hanlon would show up to insist that Iraq was back on track.  How telling and how typical.  Mina Aldbroubi of THE NATIONAL Tweets:

For more on Saeed, see:

INDIA BLOOMS notes another rocket attack on the Green Zone yesterday.  But, hey, O'Hanlon says back on track!

In last Saturday's "Kadhimi wants to push back elections longer than necessary," we noted that Mustafa al-Kadhimi has announced early elections. They will take place, he said, in June of 2021.  As we noted, Iraq does not need that long to prepare for parliamentary elections.  They have done it in much less time -- look at the fall of 2009 and all the hand wringing that it would delay elections yet they still took place in March of 2010.  Jasper Hamann (MOROCCO WORLD NEWS) writes:

The political blocs that stand to lose in new elections will have sufficient incentive to try to stall them. Nahrain University Political Science Professor Yaseen al-Bakri told Al Monitor that “they want the current parliamentary term to be completed and avoid going to early elections because they are well aware of the little chances they have in the early elections.”

Stalling the electoral process could be as easy as hampering progress towards the establishment of a new electoral law. While parliament has passed the law, it has not sent the law to the president for approval because of disagreements between parliament’s rival factions.

Who are these unnamed political blocs?

And does he mean stall in Parliament?

The stall has traditionally come from one of Iraq's vice presidents -- they have multiple vice presidents.  Often, it is over something like the issue of the displaced and the refugees and are provisions made to allow them to vote?  

The law is not sent to the president, it's sent to the the three presidencies.  That includes the Vice Presidents.  I really think something has happened in the last years.  Either out of ignorance or out of a desire to elevate the office of the president of Iraq, journalists keep pretending that the highest position in Iraq is the president.  The presidency was given to the Kurds.  It is a ceremonial position.  If it had true power, you can be sure that Shi'ite majority Iraq would never have given the post to the Kurds.

News out of Kurdistan this morning is of the death of a prominent political figure.  RUDAW reports

A prominent Kurdish nationalist from Iran has died in Sulaimani on Thursday after a battle with COVID-19.

Jalil Gadani, a long-time member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), passed away at Hiwa hospital in the Kurdistan Region’s eastern city on Thursday after being in intensive care for almost a week, according to an official statement published by the group on Thursday. 

Gadani, who has been involved in Kurdish Iranian politics for more than six decades, split from the KDPI in 2006 with a number of senior members to form the splinter group called Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP-Iran). He held senior positions in both parties for decades.

"Jalil Gadani was a book that was written over a 60 years period, my condolences to the Kurdish people," said Facebook user Hassan Ahmed.

While Michael O'Hanlon is praising Iraq as 'back on track,' Halgurd Sherwani (KURDISTAN 24) reports a disturbing incident that took place on Sunday:

On Sunday, Iraqi security forces detained a Kurdistan 24 team that was covering a clash between Kurdish villagers and several Arab families in the disputed Kirkuk province.

The incident occurred in the Guli Tapa village in southern parts of Kirkuk, where a confrontation ensued over land-ownership disputes. Shortly after, a Kurdistan 24 media team, made up of a reporter and a cameraman, arrived on the scene.

Local Kurds in Daquq district, where Guli Tapa is located, claimed that the Iraqi Federal Police had supported Arab families coming and attempting to take over lands Kurds own.

Upon arrival, "we were detained by a unit of Iraq's Federal Police for three hours in a window-tinted car," said Soran Kamaran, Kurdistan 24's reporter in Kirkuk province. Kurdistan 24 cameraman Nawzad Mohammad was accompanying Kamaran.

"We were told [by the security forces] that they do not allow such incidents to be reported," Kamaran said. He added that the police unit also confiscated their equipment and still hold on to them.

Syrian journalist Richard Medhurst Tweets

There are entire generations of kids in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya who have known nothing but war their entire lives. They've grown up with PTSD, anxiety, depression because of Obama. No one talks about the toll on their mental health. Are they not human? Don't they matter?

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