Friday, April 02, 2021

We were never all in this together

We are not all in this together, we were not all in this together.

That lying PSA that seemed to comfort never comforted me.  I saw it for what it was, propaganda trying to appease and calm us as the country dealt with the first pandemic of the century.  

Hey, it said, we're all in this together, we're all working together, don't rock the boat, don't make demands blah blah blah.

But while most of us were suffering and experiencing hardships, those at the top were enriching themselves while espousing crap like 'we're all in this together.'

Shannon Jones (WSWS) reports:

The latest US Department of Labor report for 2020 filed by the United Auto Workers shows that it increased both its income and assets even as its membership declined amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

In its annual LM-2 filed for calendar year 2020, the UAW showed net assets of $1,026,568,450, that is, more than $1 billion—up more than $31 million from 2019. The income of the 14 top executives at UAW national headquarters totaled more than $3 million. Meanwhile, UAW membership declined slightly to 397,073, from 399,839 in 2019.

As executives celebrate with their lavish incomes, the UAW is currently isolating a strike by 3,000 graduate students at Columbia University in New York City who are members of the union. They are forced to subsist on $275 a week in strike pay in one of the most expensive cities in America.

Remarking on the report, UAW President Rory Gamble said, “The UAW managed a very difficult pandemic year reporting steady membership numbers and weathering pandemic shutdowns.”

Indeed, the UAW bureaucracy has not only weathered the pandemic but is doing better than ever. Among the expenses listed on the report are $978,857 for the UAW 2020 national Community Action Program conference at the Marriot in Washington D.C. Also listed is $35,531 for rooms and catering at Motor City Casino in Detroit and $27,997 for a conference at Sinatra Beach Resort in St. Petersburg, Florida, located hundreds of miles away from the nearest assembly plant.

We have been betrayed over and over.  

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

Thursday, April 1, 2021.  Iraq finally passes the 2021 budget, attacks on protesters continue, and much more.

Anne Cassebaum writes a letter to the editors of THE BURLINGTON TIMES-NEWS:

March 20 marked the 18th anniversary of our war on Iraq. It’s time for Americans to ask how our empire and its wars are working. We prefer to talk about protecting vital interests, nation-building, human rights, anything but empire. But empire is what our endless wars and our 800-plus military bases are about, and why though Iraqis have voted for them to leave, 2,500 troops remain.

Has sending most of our taxes to the Pentagon to maintain an empire worked for us? Our communities feel the drain. Only a few profit from war and weapons production.

Are we safer for attacking others? The State Department’s advisory against travel to Iraq due to “terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict and Mission Iraq’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens” just scratches the surface.

Is our democracy stronger? Empire wars have brought illegal spying, government by executive orders, extraordinary rendition, denial of habeas corpus and secrecy. The Constitution put war decisions with Congress, not the president, to guard against the urge for foreign domination.

Will the Biden Administration pull back from empire? Secretary of State Anthony Blicken, an avid supporter of the Iraq War, announced that the world doesn’t organize itself without American leadership and that he wants to reclaim that leadership. Images of millions displaced, cities in rubble and Abu Ghraib come to mind as the continued hype of Russia and China as enemies and the bombing inside Syria signal the empire will continue.

And it will, unless we pressure Congress to repeal the blanket Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) and to cut the Pentagon budget. Congress must insist on its responsibility to check the use of war. We can be a great country or be an empire. Our founders knew we could not be both.

Waiting On Biden Tweets:

Today is the 71st day that Biden has chosen to expand the forever wars in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of move toward peace.

The Iraq War.  Arwa Damon filed a report for CNN this week and noted, "Each neighborhood, each street, each family has a story of pain and suffering.  The violence was so widespread here that I, in my 18 years covering the war in Iraq, do not know a single person who has not somehow been impacted by it.

18 years and the war still drags on and it's accomplished nothing worthwhile.

The Iraqi people are no better off and suffer at the hands of kleptocrats who steal from the people over and over again.

Iraq finally approved this year's budget yesterday.  MIDDLE EAST ONLINE notes, "Iraq's parliament on Wednesday approved a 2021 budget of 130 trillion Iraqi dinars ($89.65 billion) as the country wrestles with an economic and financial crisis due to low crude prices."  Abeer Abu Omar and Khalid Al-Ansary (BLOOMBERG NEWS) note that this budget is based on the belief that oil will sell for at least $45 a barrel.  While the Iraqi people suffer -- approximately 25% live in poverty -- don't worry about the officials, they'll keep getting their big checks. Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) explains, "Article 20 of the budget bill, which concerns cuts to the salaries of the three presidencies, the ministries, and employees, was rejected, according to Iraqi state media. "

Ali Jawad (ANADOLU AGENCY) reports:

Iraqi protesters on Thursday closed three oil facilities in the southern province of Dhi Qar, protesting against the federal budget.

Late Wednesday, the Iraqi parliament voted to approve the annual general budget, with total expenditures amounting to 129 trillion dinars (about $88 billion).

The new budget did not include articles to guarantee protesters' job opportunities, a move that they responded with disruption of oil facilities.

The approval of the budget comes after the lapse of three months of the current fiscal year and it will be applied retroactively.

Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that "protesters with certificates specialized in the field of oil sector closed the entrances to the Dhi Qar Oil Company, its oil refinery, and the Oil Products Distribution Company, in an escalating step."

The eyewitnesses said: "Protesters set fire to the tires of vehicles in front of the entrances of the three oil companies and demanded urgent intervention to including them in the budget by providing them with job opportunities."


We'll note this Tweet:

Protesters on Wednesday shut down the Dhi Qar oil refinery in southern Iraq amid protests over the lack of job opportunities for local residents, according to eyewitnesses. #AlBawabaBusiness

Protests have been going on, the current wave of protests, since the fall of 2019.  Not even the pandemic has prevented the protests.  The protests succeeded in forcing the resignation of one prime minister.  The response from the government has been to attack the protesters, to stalk them outside of protests, to kidnap them, to kill them.  Suadad al-Salhy (MIDDLE EAST EYE) reports:

Jaseb Hattab al-Hiliji never noticed the motorbike carrying two young men. It was just another bike, squeezing between pedestrians in the crowded, narrow streets of Amara’s al-Sinaaiyah district.

Hiliji didn’t notice either, when one of the men got off and walked slowly but purposefully towards him.

According to eyewitnesses, that is when the man took out a gun, pointed it at Hiliji’s head and fired a bullet that silenced the 57-year-old forever.

Less than an hour later, the local police announced that they had arrested the murderer, and that the crime was triggered by a tribal dispute. 

"Hiliji is a cousin of the killer, and they had major disputes and mutual lawsuits. The killer made this clear in his confessions," a senior local police officer told Middle East Eye.

"The killer said that he was returning from work and he found Hiliji in front of him while passing through the al-Sinaaiyah area, so he took out his pistol and shot him dead."

Official statements and videotaped confessions by the killer were explicit: this was a non-political crime, a family dispute. But the exact nature of the dispute was never presented, nor why the killer carried a gun in the first place.

To many in the southern city of Amara and Iraq in general, there was a different story. Hiliji was the victim of an assassination epidemic. 

And like killings before, the motives given by the authorities just did not wash.

A son's disappearance

Hiliji’s tragedy stretches back further, to 7 October 2019. That’s when his son, lawyer Ali Jaseb Hattab al-Hiliji, received a phone call from a woman who said he had been assigned as her representative in a divorce case.

CCTV footage of that evening shows Ali waiting by his car in central Amara, when a woman in a black gown approached him. The footage shows him speaking to the woman, whose face cannot be seen, for several minutes before a black Chevrolet Tahoe stopped 10 metres from the two. Three masked men got out of the Tahoe and forced Ali to get into their car. 

As the black Tahoe left, a modern Toyota pickup appeared. The woman voluntarily climbed into it. The pickup left behind the Tahoe.

Soon after Ali’s disappearance, rumours began to fly that he was disappeared because of links to the October 2019 anti-government protest movement that was raging in Amara and across southern Iraq and Baghdad.

Yet according to several prominent activists in the city who spoke to MEE, Ali was not a demonstrator or an activist. He had, however, participated with a number of lawyers in defending some of the youths who were arrested because of their participation in the 2019 anti-government demonstrations in its first week.

Amnesty International Iraq Tweeted about Ali Jaseb Hattab al-Heliji back in December of 2019:

29-year-old lawyer Ali Jaseb Hattab al-Heliji was abducted by suspected members of #PMU in #Ammarah more than 2 months ago. Ali had been representing arrested protesters during the #Iraqiprotests. TAKE ACTION WITH US FOR ALI

The violent attacks on protester continue.  Sura Ali (RUDAW) reports:

Protesters have called for demonstrations in the city of Samawah, in al-Muthanna governorate, after activist Haider al-Khashan was kidnapped and threatened on Thursday. 

A close friend of Khashan, who asked not to be named, told Rudaw English that a car with four masked people intercepted Khashan's car while he was driving with his mother at one o'clock on Thursday morning. He was then taken to an unknown location and threatened to stop protesting before being released late in the morning.

“The kidnappers took his mother's phone as she had filmed the incident,” the source said.

“The kidnappers investigated Khashan on accusations of insulting Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, which are absolutely false,” said activist Haider Ali.

"The militia’s ways of kidnapping and threatening Samawah protesters will never stop us,” he added. 

Activists launched the ”al-Muthanna rising up” Twitter hashtag after Khashan’s abduction, calling for mass demonstrations on Friday in response to his kidnap and demanding the dismissal of the local government. 

While the US media continues to largely ignore the Iraq War, Iran's PRESS TV did offer a segment on it this week.

New content at THIRD:

The following sites updated: