Monday, August 10, 2020

Patrick Martin, antidote to the corporate media

Joe Biden's not doing anything to get my vote.  It's not my job to vote for him.  It's his job to try to win my vote.  Medicare For All is a real issue.  Joe only works for the corporations.  Patrick Martin (WSWS) notes

The next milestones in the 2020 elections are fast approaching, with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to name his running mate this week, the Democratic National Convention opening next Monday and the Republican convention the week after.

This is an appropriate occasion to review the political program advanced by Biden, and rebut the incessant claims by the media that the Democratic nominee, and the party as a whole, have moved to the left and that there exist wide, even unbridgeable differences between the Democrats and Republicans on virtually every significant political issue.

Since the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination ended in March, with the decision of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to quit the race and endorse the former vice president, the claims of a “shift to the left” by the Democrats have become a media drumbeat.

These claims are usually coupled with suggestions that Sanders exerted political pressure through joint committees set up by the Biden campaign to cover six major areas, including climate change, criminal justice reform, education, health care, immigration and the economy.

The conclusions of these committees—each staffed by five Biden representatives and three Sanders representatives—have been submitted to the platform committee for the Democratic National Convention and an 80-page draft platform assembled, made public July 21.

While the Biden campaign flatly rebuffed some of the signature proposals of Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren—no “Medicare for all” and no “Green New Deal,” for example—there were concessions made in terms of incorporating language and even some specific policies in areas like forgiveness of student loan debt.

But the effort to promote this process, both by Sanders himself and his pseudo-left apologists, has obscured a more fundamental feature of the emerging Biden campaign: its complete subordination to corporate America and to the demands of the military-intelligence apparatus.

This has not involved any internal reorientation for the candidate himself. On the contrary, Biden is a deeply reactionary figure who personifies the role of the Democratic Party as a venue for Wall Street and the CIA to reach agreement on the next steps for American imperialism.

It was only a year ago that Biden was caught on tape reassuring wealthy donors at a fundraising event in Manhattan, “No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change” if he won the Democratic nomination, defeated Trump in 2020 and was sworn in as president in January 2021.

Throughout the Democratic presidential primary contest, Biden campaigned as the candidate who would restore what he called a “normal America,” i.e., America as it was under the administration that preceded Trump, with Barack Obama as president and himself as vice president.

This theme is underscored in the draft Democratic Party platform, which refers to the “Obama-Biden Administration” a dozen times, always in the most flattering terms, and presents a picture of American life in the years 2009-2016 that is unrecognizable to anyone who actually lived through this period of deep economic crisis, endless austerity and wage-cutting, and continuing wars and other imperialist atrocities.

The harking back to the halcyon days of Obama-Biden leaves out one overriding political question: If the Democratic administration was such a success, how was it possible for the Republicans to take control of Congress—the House of Representatives in 2010, then the Senate in 2014—and finally win the White House under Trump in 2016?

We shall return to that question later on.

The Democratic draft platform is perhaps most remarkable for what it avoids rather that what it discusses. The word “capitalism,” for example, does not appear in the 80-page draft. There is no reference to the 2008 financial crash, to the bailout of Wall Street, to the forced bankruptcy of the auto industry and the cutting of wages for newly hired workers by 50 percent, or to the protracted stagnation in jobs and living standards, all hallmarks of the “Obama-Biden administration.”

In the arena of “Obama-Biden” foreign policy, there is no mention of drone missile strikes or assassinations, the US-NATO war on Libya, the US encouragement of the Saudi war in Yemen, Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” involving the deployment of US warships and warplanes against China, the US-backed coup in Honduras, or the US-backed coup in Ukraine, spearheaded by fascists and anti-Semites.

Read it and grasp how what our so-called news media serves up on Joe is nothing but fluff and propaganda.

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

 Monday, August 10, 2020.   Corruption continues in Iraq, the people continue to suffer, Moqtada's 100 day threat is due to expire this week, and much more.


Hundreds of Iraqi protesters yesterday stormed Dhi Qar Governorate building in the centre of Nasiriyah province to protest against poor public services and corruption, the Anadolu Agency reported.

The agency quoted eyewitnesses as saying that tribes in the Al-Fahd district organised the protest, accusing officials of corruption and mismanagement.

Thousands of Iraqis and displaced persons suffer from poor public services, especially access to electricity.

Iraq is not a poor country struck with famine.  It's an oil rich country and, certainly, various politicians have used their office to embezzle money.  While the people suffered, various Iraqi leaders have gotten rich.  Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki is only one example of someone who used the office to enrich himself and his family at the expense of the Iraqi people.  And the corruption has led to the current situation.  All of this comes as Baghdad hit a new record for all time highest temperature on Saturday.   Natalie O'Neill (NEW YORK POST) noted

Folks in Iraq aren’t hot on this weather trend.

Temperatures soared to a scorching 126 degrees in Baghdad last week — the hottest ever recorded in the city, according to a report.

The sweltering heat, which comes during the country’s hottest summer ever, sparked power outages that forced locals to endure the weather without air conditioning, Bloomberg News reported.

Shakthi Vadakkepat Tweets:

IRAQ'S HEAT WAVE: Temperatures in Baghdad last week reached 52°C (126 °F). Here's how local kids are keeping cool as power blackouts mean no air conditioning during the #coronavirus lockdown

How does an oil rich country struggle with something as basic as energy production?  Supposedly, the US war for oil did not beneift the US.  S&P GLOBAL PLATTS maintains:

Iraq's energy ties with the US, which were supposed to yield oil deals following the 2003 invasion, have been whittled down to waivers to OPEC's second biggest producer to import Iranian electricity and gas, and avoid a political meltdown of the fragile Baghdad government, according to analysts.

US energy companies did not benefit much from the rule of the Coalition Provisional Authority -- the US-appointed entity that governed Iraq post the 2003 invasion until 2004 -- and they seem unlikely to gain a foothold in the oil sector of a country fighting a resurgent Islamic State, grappling with protests and facing financial collapse from low oil prices.

"The expectations of US policy-makers in the early years was that US companies would enjoy competitive advantage in a liberalized Iraqi oil and gas sector," said Raad Alkadiri, senior director at the BCG Center for Energy Impact.

"Iraq's sector has remained state-owned and state-guided, and US companies have been forced to compete in open licensing rounds. Various efforts by US Administrations (including the current Trump Administration) to engineer bilateral negotiations and to promote US company interests have come to naught."

The benchmarks imposed by the US -- and agreed to by Iraq -- included privatizing the oil.  And, it should be noted, the US was never supposed to benefit from the war -- multi-national companies were supposed to benefit -- and many have.  

Meanwhile, Iraq's Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, is scheduled to meet with US President Donald Trump shortly. Friday afternoon, the White House issued the following announcement:

President Donald J. Trump will welcome Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi of the Republic of Iraq to the White House on August 20, 2020.  The visit comes at a critical time for both the United States and Iraq as we continue our collaboration to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS and address the challenges from the coronavirus pandemic.  As close partners, the United States and Iraq will look to expand our relations across a range of issues, including security, energy, health care, and economic cooperation.

Saturday,   Omar Sattar (AL-MONITOR) observed:

The heat wave in Iraq has raised the ire of citizens in the central and southern areas, pushing many to take to the streets once again. The popular protests in the squares had settled down due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the searing hot weather and declining hours of electricity supply have forced the new government to once again face the protesters.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government was only formed less than three months ago and is now in the middle of the process of activating electricity interconnection agreements with Gulf countries and speeding up the cooperation agreement with Germany's Siemens AG.

Although he inherited a mess, and is taking action to fix it, there is no quick fix and the political blocs opposed to Kadhimi have tried to harness the protests to undermine his government and drag it into a bloody confrontation with the protesters, especially in Baghdad, Dhi Qar and Basra.

Clashes between protesters and security forces have resulted in three deaths and 21 injuries, according to the Iraqi Human Rights Commission.

The same prime minister who can't protect the protesters is now demanding that Christians return to Iraq.  

Iraqi Prime Minister urges Christians to return to #Iraq

AMN reports:

On Sunday, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, called for the return of Iraqi Christian immigrants to their country, especially after the defeat of the Islamic State [. . .].

Al-Kazemi received on Sunday, Patriarch Saint Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, and a number of bishops in Baghdad.

While Mustafa insists that the Christians should return to Iraq, it was just last week that Emma Reeves (PERSECUTION) noted:

The defeat of ISIS in Iraq came at the cost of strengthening militias. The pandemic has given many regional governments an opportunity to centralize authority. But Iraq’s militias have resisted similar attempts by Baghdad. For those observing this dynamic, it brings memories of a past filled with hardship and history of increased persecution.

During the early 2000s, these militias were at the forefront of Christian persecution, prompting the first immigration wave. “Christian immigration passed through three main stages,” explained a former resident of Baghdad to ICC. “The first was from 2005-2007, [the] second was in 2010 when some extremists attacked [a] church during Sunday mass and the third stage was in 2014 when ISIS attacked [the] Nineveh Plain.”

Will there be a fourth stage? Many hope not, but recent militia tension brings memories of the early 2000s.

Recently, Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Services conducted an unprecedented raid on a militia in Baghdad. The next day, the militia threatened retaliation. One militia member threatened Prime Minister al-Khadami, who ordered the raid, reportedly saying “you are smaller than attacking an office of our militia.”

The prime minister remains new to his office, after militia interference in the political system delayed the process for months. Untangling the web of militia control is a struggle and dangerous endeavor, but the prime minister’s early policies seem to indicate this is a priority. This has left Christians unsettled and skeptical of the prime minister’s ability to actually break down militia control.

I can’t believe what al-Khadami is pretending to do. If you look back at previous prime ministers, al-Abadi or Abdul Mahdi, you will find similarity on the decisions, but none turn to actions,” said Ehab, a Christian from Baghdad.

He continued, “both Abadi and Abdul Mahdi took strict decision about militias having weapons, but again [nothing] came to reality. Having that history tells me not to believe al-Khadami and that all he is doing [will] not exceed a show.”

It is well-known across Iraq that the federal government has no power, and that the militias actually control the country with the support of neighboring Iran, a Shia country.

When assaults and massacres targeted Christians in Baghdad, many began moving to what city?  Mosul.  The first seriously targeted by ISIS.  When ISIS was routed out of Mosul, the persecuted were now the victims of the militias.  Last February, Xavier Bisits (AMERICA: THE JESUIT REVIEW) noted:

In the Nineveh Plains, near Mosul, Iraq, some 32,000 Christians live in areas controlled by Iran-backed militias. As tensions between the United States and Iran continue, Nineveh Christians hope for an end to the influence of Iran in their day-to-day lives.

With the liberation of parts of Iraq from ISIS in 2017, Iraq’s Syriac and Chaldean Christians returned home to two unwelcome developments. First, unsurprisingly, their homes had been burned, looted or destroyed by ISIS. Second, Iran-backed groups who helped defeat ISIS—known as Popular Mobilization Forces—now controlled the towns their ancestors had inhabited for more than a millennia.

Today, the largest Christian town, Baghdeda as it is called by Christians—it is also known as Qaraqosh—is surrounded by an Iran-funded militia. The second-largest town, Bartella, is controlled by such a militia. Both are around 20 minutes from Mosul, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had declared the doomed ISIS caliphate in 2014.

This picture is complicated by a demographic shift also taking place in these communities—once largely Syriac Christian and now Shabak Muslim. The Shabak are primarily a Shiite minority who, like Christians and Yazidis, were persecuted by ISIS.

This demographic shift is most pronounced in Bartella, which sits on the crucial artery road between Erbil and Mosul. As recently as 2003, Bartella was 95 percent Christian. In the space of a decade, it has become majority Shabak, and members of this religious and ethnic community now control the town’s government and checkpoints into the city through their wing of the P.M.F., the Shabak Militia. Today, this militia receives arms, vehicles and money from Iran.

Amjad, 33, a Syriac worker in an electricity shop, complained of treatment as a second-class citizen by this militia. “Frankly speaking, if they had the chance, they’d take everything from us,” he said of the Shabak Militia. “If they have the chance to attack, they’d do more damage than ISIS did.”

Having done nothing to secure the safety of Iraqi Christians, Mustafa now insists that they return.  On the topic of the militias, there's more shameful behavior but this time from a news outlet.  Friday,   THE INDEPENDENT published a major article written by Ghufran Younes.  But?  They only published it on their Arabic website.  They refuse to publish this major report in English.  Younes reports that the area near Falluja is infamous for its number of missing people -- missing as a result of the militias liquidation operations in Anbar Province.  In June of 2016, Faiz al-Rikan explains, approximately 735 residents were abducted.  A man whose three sons, ages 16 to 26, were abducted speaks of his sadness over his missing children.  They are among The Disappeared.  Since 2017, the High Commission for Human Rights has received complaints of at least 8,615 Iraqis being disappeared. Professor Anas Akram Muhammed sits on that commission and states that  a national database is needed to track the disappeared and their numbers.  The Commission works with the United Nations Development Program.  The Iraqi Center for Documenting War Crimes' Omar al-Farhan states that Iraq is the top ranked in the world when it comes to the number of people who have been disappeared by government forces (including the militias).

In other news, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT reports on the escalating tensions between the protesters and one time movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr:

Tensions were high in Iraq’s Nasiriyah city between anti-government protesters and supporters of the Sadrist movement, led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

According to activists, tensions broke out between protesters, who have been present at Al Habobi square for months, and Sadrists who arrived at the scene.

Activist Raad Mohsen said quarrels erupted between the two sides after Sadrists raised a poster of the movement’s leader during a demonstration demanding to bring the killers of protesters to justice, starting with Gen. Jamil Al Shammari.

Mohsen, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, confirmed that the protesters are used to holding at least one demonstration a week to reaffirm their demands, which include holding the killers of demonstrators accountable.

The raising of Sadr’s poster at the square prompted tensions, with activists explaining that images of party and religious leaders are prohibited at the square.

RUDAW's Lawk Ghafrui Tweeted:

Huge crowd of Iraqi protesters in Habubi Square in Nasiriyah city tonight are demanding justice for the killed protesters. Tonight protesters in Nasiriyah city are chanting “Hey Muqtada [Muqtada al-Sadr] you trash, you are the leader of the Pickpockets”. #IraqProtests #العراق
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Though not noted by the press, or taken very seriously, this week will mark the end of the 100 days Motada al-Sadr gave Mustafa to fix everything.   May 11th, Moqtada gave Mustafa 100 days to implement his promises.  That 100 days ends this week.