Saturday, August 28, 2021

Nate Bargatze on marriage


Like Stan ("Nate Bargatze on fatherhood"), I love Nate's comedy.  So I wanted to share this.

He has two incredible comedy specials on NETFLIX.  If you've never streamed them, check them out.  If you have streamed them, you've probably streamed them multiple times.  I know I have.

He's famous for his Starbucks joke.  But for me, I'd probably say "Olivia."  That's the joke I came in on and the one that always comes to mind and makes me smile when I think about it.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, August 27, 2021.  Afghanistan fever still inflicts corporate media while the same media tries to sell Iraq as a success.

Sarah Chayes is the person who should be on the talk shows passed off as news programs is you're going to talk Afghanistan.  Amy Goodman made a few seconds for Sarah yesterday.  Yes, that is a criticism.  Not really sure why she gets short changed to bring on Jeremy Corbyn or, for that matter, any politician.  She was on the ground in Afghanistan for years.  She is a trained journalist so she knows how to speak in such a way that the audience understands her -- meaning she's not tossing out references that will go over the heads of listeners or viewers -- if she's referencing something, she's explaining it.  But while Sarah knows about journalism, Amy still struggles with comprehending the term.  Here's an excerpt of the brief segment:

SARAH CHAYES: And I was on the ground, you know, starting about — I was in Kandahar maybe a day or two after the city fell, meaning the Taliban regime at the time fell. And well into 2002, there was basically no one home at the U.S. Embassy. There just was nobody there. People would rotate in on two-week deployments. No one spoke a local language. We couldn’t figure out what was going on. And it wasn’t until later that I realized that, by early 2002, personnel were all pivoting already to Iraq. So, I think that’s the first thing you have to understand.

And secondly, that, therefore, the U.S. personnel that it was — that Afghanistan matters were largely left to were members of the CIA. And they had a history in the region which really involved a very close partnership with the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI. And what I came to understand is that the Taliban did not emerge spontaneously in Kandahar, as we often hear. And this is work that I did over the course of years, interviewing both ordinary people who lived in Kandahar and lived across the border in Quetta, Pakistan, as well as some of the main actors in that drama, who became friends of mine. The Taliban were concocted across the border by the Pakistani military intelligence agency and sent across the border. There was a negotiation process — and we’re talking 1994 now, 1993 and 1994 — with the local mujahideen commanders. And that process was, in fact, led by none other than Hamid Karzai. So, when I learned that in the early 2000s, I was pretty gobsmacked, because I realized that sort of the individual that the United States government had chosen to lead a post-Taliban Afghanistan was the very person who had brought the Taliban into Afghanistan in the first place and who had served as their ambassador-designate to the United Nations, as late as 1996.

And so, I would — you know, I would just raise some questions with what Obaidullah was telling you, because his family retained very close links with the Pakistani military intelligence agency throughout. And I found myself almost smiling when he said, “How do I reconcile the two me’s? And maybe that’s a way that Afghanistan can reconcile its own internal divisions.” And I want to say, “Boy, I’m sorry, but that’s called being a double agent.” And I really think that that family, in particular now — I can’t speak to him, because I don’t know him personally, but the family right now is playing precisely the role that he was playing on your air, which is to present a kind of moderate and acceptable facade in order to get the international community to reengage and open the money spigots once again.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: If you could just clarify, what do you think the alternative is? What do you think the international community should be doing?

SARAH CHAYES: Reserving judgment. And I certainly do agree that the money spigot is the only leverage that the international community has left. But I also think that the role of the Pakistani military government in all of this really needs to be taken into account. And it’s one of — I mean, I have, and have had, a number of very consistent criticisms of the way the United States has handled this from the start, the first being this absolutely inexplicable, I want to say, persistent relationship with Pakistan, when the Pakistani government, as I say, organized the Taliban in the first place, organized the Taliban resurgence, harbored Osama bin Laden, and, you know, in the midst of all this, provided nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea. I mean, it’s just difficult to quite understand why that country continues to be considered an ally.

And then, secondly, of course, was the behavior of those Afghan leaders that we, the United States, kind of put forward toward their own citizens, and the role of U.S. officials and U.S. development organizations in reinforcing and protecting and enabling, I mean, just an unbelievably corrupt and abusive governmental system, so that, you know, my Afghan friends, who were not in university — they were ordinary villagers in and around Kandahar — they just didn’t know what to make of it. It was like, “Look, the Taliban shake us down at night, but the government shakes us down in the daytime.” And so, I would say that, in my experience, even among very conservative Kandaharis, it was not so much an ideological issue. It was not so much that the United States was an invading country, at least certainly not in the first years. My neighbors were saying, you know, that they were sick of being abused by their own government, and they were sick of the international or Western role in propping up that government, and they wanted a government that was acting in their interests. And that was where their frustration with the Western engagement came from.

When she refers to Goody's other guest Obaidullah Baheer, Sarah's being rather kind.  Not only is he questionable because of his family, he's also questionable because of his links to the CIA which will, no doubt, make Amy come under even more scrutiny for how she allowed foundations to purchase DEMOCRACY NOW! with grants and how the show that has made her millions has become an outlet for US government propaganda.  

Obaidullah Baheer is not an honest broker and, were Democracy Sometimes an honest broker, they never would have had him on.  He works through the panic talking points that demonstrate that the US intel community is still at war with the presidency.  And Goody Whore is right there serving along side them while posing as a journalist.

Sarah has much to say.  I doubt I would agree with 100% of it but (a) I would be interested in hearing it and (b) I would surely reflect on anything I disagreed with her on.  It's a shame that she's brought on for what was little more than a soundbyte.  But she can't be counted on to stick to the script so she clearly will not be given the airtime that her expertise warrants.  

Where I think we would disagree would be on the issue of Joe Biden's actions this month.  And I will give her the compassion award (I'm not being sarcastic) without even hearing her remarks.  I'm not a compassionate person in the face of an emergency.  I'm practical -- and you can say "cold" (people turn to me in an emergency) -- and I don't see this ending differently no matter what plans were made or taken.  The airport was bomed yesterday, there was gunfire, there was this, there was that.


Andrea Mitchell's practically having an orgasm on air as she tries to spread fear.

But the reality is that this is what happens.  This is what would happen.  3,000 more US Marines on the ground on Thursday? They might have mitigated some of the violence, they might not have.  They might have increased the violence as a result of their presence, they might have become targets as a result of their presence.  

I want Andrea out from behind a desk from now on when she's on air because I honestly don't trust where her hands are when she starts her frenzy fear nonsense.

If you look at the situation coldly (and I can be very cold, no question), there's not much that 'fine tuning' could have done to change what's taking place and it's probably best if Americans can admit to that.  Best for this moment and best for our future.  

Another huge talking point for Andrea is the Americans trapped! Trapped! Trapped in Afghanistan!

So let's note this from the US State Dept briefing Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave on Wednesday:

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon.  I’d like to give you all an update on the situation in Afghanistan and our ongoing efforts there, particularly as they relate to U.S. citizens, and then I’m very happy to take your questions.

Let me begin with my profound appreciation for our diplomats and service members who are working around the clock at the airport in Kabul and at a growing number of transit sites to facilitate the evacuation of Americans, their families, citizens of allied and partner nations, Afghans who have partnered with us over the last 20 years, and other Afghans at risk.  They are undertaking this mission under extremely difficult circumstances, with incredible courage, skill, and humanity.

Since August 14th, more than 82,300 people have been safely flown out of Kabul.  In the 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday, approximately 19,000 people were evacuated on 90 U.S. military and coalition flights.  Only the United States could organize and execute a mission of this scale and this complexity.

As the President has made clear, our first priority is the evacuation of American citizens.  Since August 14th, we have evacuated at least 4,500 U.S. citizens and likely more.  More than 500 of those Americans were evacuated in just the last day alone.

Now, many of you have asked how many U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan who want to leave the country.  Based on our analysis, starting on August 14 when our evacuation operations began, there was then a population of as many as 6,000 American citizens in Afghanistan who wanted to leave.  Over the last 10 days, roughly 4,500 of these Americans have been safely evacuated along with immediate family members.  Over the past 24 hours, we’ve been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely.  We will update you regularly on our progress in getting these 500 American citizens out of Afghanistan.

For the remaining roughly 1,000 contacts that we had who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we are aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day through multiple channels of communication – phone, email, text messaging – to determine whether they still want to leave and to get the most up-to-date information and instructions to them for how to do so.  Some may no longer be in the country.  Some may have claimed to be Americans but turn out not to be.  Some may choose to stay.  We’ll continue to try to identify the status and plans of these people in the coming days.

Thus, from this list of approximately 1,000, we believe the number of Americans actively seeking assistance to leave Afghanistan is lower, likely significantly lower.

So we're talking less than a thousand people.  One more point, these bobble heads on TV screeching that we don't leave anyone behind.  That's actually a slogan of the US military.  It has nothing to do with private US citizens who elect on their own to go into a war zone to make money.  

Again, I'm cold.  I'm sorry, if I'm an American citizen in a country that the US is occupying and they announce a pullout, I'm getting out of the country right then.  I'm not rushing around shopping for souvenirs or pondering what to pack and what to leave or do I have time for highlights before I head to the airport.  If this had been a surprise withdrawal announced after the fact, that would be different.  This was known to be coming, Joe was discussing it publicly in July.  If you're a functioning adult who doesn't have the sense to step away from the fire, you are probably going to get burned.  That's reality.

A lot of Americans went to Afghanistan to make money.  Corporations paid very well -- more than the US military paid service members.  Well that payment was so high due to the risks involved.  We're seeing those risks right now.  

We're also seeing something much worse than online bullies or trolls, the corporate media.  Scary and blood thirsty.  Ben Burgis (JACOBIN) observes:

A long series of pundits have settled on the same response to this dilemma: keeping some American troops in Afghanistan long-term would be fine and nothing like a “forever war,” since the United States has permanent military bases all over the world.

Here’s Eli Lake — a columnist for Bloomberg and a “National Security Journalism Fellow” at the Clements Center:

GOP pollster Patrick Ruffini hit a similar note. Bret Stephens said pretty much the same thing in the New York Times, focusing on America’s seventy-one-year presence in Korea. Andrew McCarthy worked a version of the same sneer into the National Review, joking that if we were to keep troops in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, we might as well rebrand World War II as “World Forever War II,” since the United States still has bases in Germany and Japan.

None of these pundits seems to feel any need to explicitly spell out the argument they’re gesturing at with these sneers: that America’s supposedly peaceful long-term military presence in these other countries discredits what the antiwar left says about “forever wars” in the Middle East.

As far as I can tell, their implied line of reasoning goes something like this:

  1. The antiwar left claims that indefinitely extending the presence of American troops in Afghanistan would amount to waging a “forever war” in Afghanistan, but this can only be true if maintaining long-term American military presence in any country counts as waging a “forever war” in that country.
  2. America has maintained long-term bases in Germany, Japan, South Korea, and other countries without waging a “forever war” in those countries.
  3. We can conclude from number two that maintaining long-term American military presence in any country would not count as waging a “forever war” in that country, and thus is no big deal.
  4. We can conclude from one and three that the antiwar left is wrong to say that indefinitely extending the presence of American troops in Afghanistan would amount to waging a “forever war” in Afghanistan — and we should keep some troops in Afghanistan.

Number two is true enough if war means an ongoing “hot war” like the one that’s ending in Afghanistan. US troops aren’t in Germany to help Angela Merkel stave off insurgents already in control of large parts of Bavaria and Saxony. No one is getting into any firefights in Okinawa. Korea comes the closest, but even there, none of the occasional flareups of violence between North and South Korea have involved American soldiers shooting or being shot by anyone in decades. Like Germany and Japan, Korea is a stable society where the government enjoys as much internal legitimacy as the American government does within the borders of the United States.

But these disanalogies between the role American troops were playing in Afghanistan and the role they play in countries like Germany also show that number one is absurd. American soldiers might be able to walk around Berlin or Seoul without anyone shooting at them, but that doesn’t mean that if the war had dragged on for another year or another decade, the same kind of tranquility would have reigned in Kabul.

Branko Marcetic (also JACOBIN) observes:

Officially, what we might call the establishment press in the United States — your cable news networks, long-running legacy press outlets, and the newer, largely digital publications that rely on close relationships with the powerful for their reporting — aren’t meant to have editorial lines and political viewpoints. But every now and then, whether they realize it or not, they accidentally reveal their political priorities.

If you’re in doubt, just examine the news since Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan began, where you’ll get to see this phenomenon in action firsthand. As images of the Taliban’s stunning conquest of the country melded into images of US forces and their allies’ chaotic evacuation, Biden has gotten a hammering from a US media that has centered Taliban human rights violations in its coverage of the pullout, and united across partisan and ideological lines to push a single, pro-war narrative.

[. . .]

What’s so striking about all this is what a turnaround it’s been from the last seven months of Biden coverage. Since at least the general election campaign, when outlets played down Biden’s unexplained absences, ignored the sexual assault accusation against him, and spiked a potentially damaging story about him at the eleventh hour, the press have tended to treat Biden with the softest of kid gloves.

After an inauguration day that reached totalitarian-like levels of leader worship, the White House press corps quickly set the tone with the very first question of the very first press briefing held by press secretary Jen Psaki, when a reporter set her up for an alley-oop with a question about whether she’d be “promoting the interests of the president,” or giving reporters “the unvarnished truth.” Reporters’ infatuation with Psaki was quite possibly reaching its peak just before the withdrawal, when she was bringing the press corps her mother-in-law’s cookies and leading them in a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

What soon followed was what felt like a coordinated press campaign to wear America down into submission with round after round of pieces insisting Biden was a transformational, Franklin Roosevelt–style president, even as he dropped core items of his platform and appeared to lose interest in his own agenda. After sixty days, Biden was only the second of the last five presidents to be covered more positively than negatively, according to Pew, the first being Barack Obama.

The past seven months have been immensely frustrating for anyone interested in seeing Biden have an actual transformational presidency, in the sense of benefiting most working Americans instead of a thin slice of the elite. Most coverage and headlines have tended to vastly overstate the ambition and significance of Biden’s progressive measures, usually by uncritically reusing his administration’s often misleading framing.

Look at the way his modest tax increases, which in effect permanently cut taxes for the wealthiest from their already low baseline under Obama, were sold by the press as bold new tax hikes on the rich. Or the way his ban on new oil and gas leases, a mostly symbolic move the fossil fuel industry celebrated for its lack of ambition, was presented as a bold emergency action to tackle climate change.

Well into August, the New York Times and Washington Post were selling Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill on his favored terms — as a bipartisan win, and a historic response to an accelerating climate crisis — by talking about the numbers relative to past, do-nothing administrations, instead of pointing out to people how grossly unserious the numbers are relative to what solving the climate crisis actually demands.

From the corporate media, let's return to former journalist Sarah Chayes and some points she was making on DEMOCRACY NOW!:

Now let's get back to Sarah Chayes.

 And what I came to understand is that the Taliban did not emerge spontaneously in Kandahar, as we often hear. And this is work that I did over the course of years, interviewing both ordinary people who lived in Kandahar and lived across the border in Quetta, Pakistan, as well as some of the main actors in that drama, who became friends of mine. The Taliban were concocted across the border by the Pakistani military intelligence agency and sent across the border. There was a negotiation process — and we’re talking 1994 now, 1993 and 1994 — with the local mujahideen commanders. And that process was, in fact, led by none other than Hamid Karzai. So, when I learned that in the early 2000s, I was pretty gobsmacked, because I realized that sort of the individual that the United States government had chosen to lead a post-Taliban Afghanistan was the very person who had brought the Taliban into Afghanistan in the first place and who had served as their ambassador-designate to the United Nations, as late as 1996.

[. . .]

And then, secondly, of course, was the behavior of those Afghan leaders that we, the United States, kind of put forward toward their own citizens, and the role of U.S. officials and U.S. development organizations in reinforcing and protecting and enabling, I mean, just an unbelievably corrupt and abusive governmental system, so that, you know, my Afghan friends, who were not in university — they were ordinary villagers in and around Kandahar — they just didn’t know what to make of it. It was like, “Look, the Taliban shake us down at night, but the government shakes us down in the daytime.” And so, I would say that, in my experience, even among very conservative Kandaharis, it was not so much an ideological issue. It was not so much that the United States was an invading country, at least certainly not in the first years. My neighbors were saying, you know, that they were sick of being abused by their own government, and they were sick of the international or Western role in propping up that government, and they wanted a government that was acting in their interests. And that was where their frustration with the Western engagement came from.

A lot of the above plays out in Iraq as well.  Every prime minister Iraq has had since the US invasion of 2003 has been a coward who had fled Iraq years before and only returned after the 2003 US-led invasion.  The government -- including the militia (which is part of the government security forces) -- is shaking down citizens.  

We don't get the reality on Iraq from the press.  A number of e-mails to the public account ( make that very clear as they note that they're not seeing any articles from REUTERS or this outlet or that outlet on Robert Pether.

Is REUTERS not covering it?  That would be something -- if it's true.  I haven't seen any coverage from them on it but I'm not reading REUTERS right now.  I'm rather disgusted with them as they whore to sell Mustafa al-Khadimi as a great leader and this who nonsense meet-up that's about to take place.  But they couldn't whore the way they're doing if they also devoted a lot of time to Robert Pether because what the Iraqi government is doing to Robert goes to how corrupt that government is.

If you need an audio report on Robert Pether, ABC Australia has one herePeter Murtagh (IRISH TIMES) reports:

Robert Pether, the Australian-born engineer resident in Co Roscommon with his wife and children, has been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and fined $12 million by an Iraqi court.

The sentence, handed down earlier this week, applies also to Mr Pether’s Egyptian-born colleague, Khalid Radwan. Both men had been working on a new headquarters in Baghdad for the Central Bank of Iraq when they were arrested without explanation last April.

Mr Pether’s wife, Desree Pether – who lives in Elphin with the couple’s children, teenage sons Flynn and Oscar and daughter Nala (8) – is distraught at the development.

“They have committed no crime,” she posted on social media. “This is a malicious prosecution, a complete fabrication.”

Mr Pether was arrested while in the offices of the head of the bank and has remained incarcerated since but has not been told specifically what is alleged against him. He appears to have become ensnared in a dispute over money between his employer, CME Consulting which in 2015 won a $33 million contract relating to the construction of the Zaha Hadid-designed new Central Bank offices, a landmark building on the bank of the Tigris river, and the Iraqi government.

Ronan Greany Tweets:

The similarities between Irish resident Robert Pether in Iraq and Irishman #RichardOHalloran in China are striking. Both deprived of their liberty as “strategies” to force money from their employers. People are not pawns! Please ⁦⁩ ?

That 'success' that is the Iraqi government?  They're also struggling to pull off the October elections -- elections that were already delayed.  Now Muhammad Irfan (URDU POINT) files a story about a rumor swirling around:

Snap legislative elections in Iraq, scheduled for October this year, may be pushed back until April 2022 due to a boycott by a number of political parties, including the bloc of influential Shiite politician Muqtada al-Sadr, lawmaker Mohammed al-Khalidi told Sputnik.

"The elections cannot be held as scheduled due to the al-Sadr bloc's refusal to participate ... A meeting of the heads of state, parliament and government with the leaders of political parties will take place on Sunday to determine the future of the elections. The decision to postpone the elections may be announced after this meeting," al-Khalidi said.

The vote may be delayed until April 21, according to the lawmaker.

An Iraqi political source told Sputnik earlier this week that Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi may postpone the elections if al-Sadr does not abandon his decision to boycott them.

Meanwhile Sardar Sattar Tweets:

Muqtada al-Sadr will give a speech today. He is expected to announce his party's return to the parliamentary elections. #Iraq #IraqElections

And NRT reports:

Iraqi Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday (August 26) announced the arrest of a group who prepared to commit fraud in the parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

The court said in a statement that the group wanted to create political turmoil in the country by committing fraud and changing the results.

It said that the group also tried to offend Iraq’s prominent political and social figures.

It added that a politician was involved with the group by suggesting to create fake pages and documents to carry out their work.

Let's wind down with this from UNICEF:

BAGHDAD, 26 August 2021 - “UNICEF is deeply concerned after the reported deaths of a 10-year-old child on 24 August in Diyala by the detonation of an explosive remnant of war (ERW) and of an 11-year-old child on 25 August in Muradiya Village, South of Baquba, due to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED.) UNICEF expresses its deep sorrow and condolences to the children’s families, friends, and communities.

“Sadly, these are not isolated losses of innocent lives. UNICEF expresses its alarm over the increase in child deaths and injuries due to landmines and ERW in Iraq in recent months. Between January and August 2021, the UN has recorded the loss of the lives of 35 children from ERW across the country, and 41 more were maimed. This represents an alarming increase in child casualties compared to 2020 when the UN verified the killing of 6 children and maiming of 12 children for the same period as a result of ERW and landmines.

“Child safety must remain as the primary consideration in all contexts. Landmines and ERW often result in civilian casualties, with children being the most vulnerable. Since children are smaller than adults, they are more likely to take the full impact of the blast and are therefore more likely to suffer death or serious injuries.

“UNICEF urges all parties to accelerate every effort to clear existing mines and unexploded ordnance and promote victim assistance and to uphold children’s right to a safe and protective environment.

“UNICEF also urges the Government of Iraq and the donor community to support the scale-up and provision of Explosive Ordnance Risk Education activities so that children and other community members receive explosive ordnance risk education in schools and communities in all areas previously affected by conflict in Iraq.”

The following sites updated:

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Beatles' LET IT BE

Some music news. Actually before I get to that, yesterday's "Charlie Watts" noted Charlie's passing. The Rolling Stones have announced that they still plan to go on tour, just FYI. Not to today's big news, VARIETY reports:

“Let It Be,” the final release of the Beatles’ original catalog, wasn’t about to get memorialized in film and book form this fall without getting a boxed set of the actual music, too. And so months after fans got firm news about “Get Back,” the Peter Jackson documentary, and “Get Back,” the expansive hardback book, there’s finally confirmation that the album whose making those projects chronicle will officially get the deluxe treatment, come Oct. 15.

Like the expansive treatments for “Sgt. Pepper,” the White Album and “Abbey Road” before it, “Let It Be Special Edition” will be made available in several configurations, all with a new remix by producer Giles Martin and engineer Sam Okell of the 1970 album at their core. The new set will come in bare-bones or intermediate editions, for the budget-minded. But hardcore fans will inevitably go for an outtakes-and-annotation-laden “super-deluxe” package that includes 5 CDs, an audio Blu-Ray and a 105-page hardback book.
[. . .]
Concurrent with today’s announcement is the release of three tracks giving fans a taste of three different components of the full boxed set. A preview of Giles Martin’s work comes in the form of a new spin on “Let It Be”; like the rest of Martin’s remix, it’s a subtle, not radical, spin on the sound originally guided by his father, George Martin, and controversially “re-produced” by Phil Spector.

So we had LET IT BE which was, yes, the Beatles final album. It was also the album Phil Spector salvaged. The Beatles were unhappy with the material and Phil went through the mountains of tapes to find songs and he also 'sweetened' them in some cases. Paul McCartney especially objected to the 'sweetening' of his song "The Long and Winding Road" which is part of the reason that, in 2003, LET IT BE . . . NAKED was released -- a stripped down version of the album.

So now we're about to see another version of the album. Are we interested?

I'm curious.

 Meanwhile be sure to check out Stan's "TV thoughts."

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 Thursday, August 26, 2021.  The corporate press continues to ignore reality with regards to Afghanistan while Robert Pether faces what passes for 'justice' in Iraq.

Starting with Richard Medhurst demolishing the nonsense that US forces in Afghanistan would be protecting women.

Faux concern for women's rights, the fig leaf covering the empire's flaccid, dangling member.  Imagine if media whores like Andrea Mitchell dealt in reality instead of attempting to outrage the public?  On that, disclosure, a friend with the administration asked my advice re: the press tearing down of Joe Biden?  My advice was right it out and do not give mixed messages.  Stay consistent in the message.  42% approval is not great but it's also not the worst.  The media has shredded Joe over Afghanistan. Ride it out because the media will find another topic soon enough.  Americans truly opposed to Joe's decision were never going to vote for him to begin with.  Most Americans grasp that the situation is much more complex than the media is allowing for.  Barring another event that the media tries to shred him over, this should pass without any political harm to the presidency. I offer advice, playing out scenarios, to friends all the time, as you know if you've read this site for any length of time.  I'm disclosing that one because it involves the messaging of a sitting president.

Realities on Afghanistan are offered by John Pilger (MINT PRESS NEWS):

In August, 1979, the US Embassy in Kabul reported that “the United States’ larger interests … would be served by the demise of the PDPA government, despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan.”

Read again the words above I have italicised. It is not often that such cynical intent is spelt out as clearly.  The US was saying that a genuinely progressive Afghan government and the rights of Afghan women could go to hell.

Six months later, the Soviets made their fatal move into Afghanistan in response to the American-created jihadist threat on their doorstep. Armed with CIA-supplied Stinger missiles and celebrated as “freedom fighters” by Margaret Thatcher, the mujahedin eventually drove the Red Army out of Afghanistan.

Calling themselves the Northern Alliance, the mujahedin were dominated by warlords who controlled the heroin trade and terrorised rural women. The Taliban were an ultra-puritanical faction, whose mullahs wore black and punished banditry, rape and murder but banished women from public life.

In the 1980s, I made contact with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, known as RAWA, which had tried to alert the world to the suffering of Afghan women. During the Taliban time they concealed cameras beneath their burqas to film evidence of atrocities, and did the same to expose the brutality of the Western-backed mujahedin. “Marina” of RAWA told me, “We took the videotape to all the main media groups, but they didn’t want to know ….”

In1996, the enlightened PDPA government was overrun. The Prime Minister, Mohammad Najibullah, had gone to the United Nations to appeal to for help. On his return, he was hanged from a street light.

“I confess that [countries] are pieces on a chessboard,” said Lord Curzon in 1898, “upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world.”

The Viceroy of India was referring in particular to Afghanistan. A century later, Prime Minister Tony Blair used slightly different words.

“This is a moment to seize,” he said following 9/11. “The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us.”

On Afghanistan, he added this: “We will not walk away [but ensure] some way out of the poverty that is your miserable existence.”

Blair echoed his mentor, President George W. Bush, who spoke to the victims of his bombs from the Oval Office: “The oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America. As we strike military targets, we will also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering … “

Almost every word was false. Their declarations of concern were cruel illusions for an imperial savagery “we” in the West rarely recognise as such.

He goes over the history at length.  We're excerpting the above because of the US goal with regards to Afghanistan.  Pilger notes the money poured in and the CIA elsewhere in his article.  You can also refer to this 1998 interview with Mika's father who was known for being the priss-pot, fraidy cat of the Carter administration.  ('Cigars from Fidel!  They must be a bomb! Don't open the box until I'm out of the room!'  That is not a made up story, that really did happen when Fidel sent a gift to Hamilton Jordan.)  Killing never scared fraidy cat Zbigniew  Brzezinski but the prospect of peace breaking out always left him peeing his panties.

Loss of money scares the War Crowd.  Sarah Lazare (IN THESE TIMES) reports:

In August 12, the military contractor CACI International Inc. told its investors that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is hurting its profits. The same contractor is also funding a think tank that is concurrently arguing against the withdrawal. This case is worth examining both because it is routine, and because it highlights the venality of our expert”-military contractor feedback loop, in which private companies use think tanks to rally support for wars they’ll profit from.

The contractor is notorious to those who have followed the scandal of U.S.-led torture in Iraq. CACI International was sued by three Iraqis formerly detained in Abu Ghraib prison who charge that the company’s employees are responsible for directing their torture, including sexual assault and electric shocks. (The suit was brought in 2008 and the case is still ongoing.)

In 2019, CACI International was awarded a nearly $907 million, five-year contract to provide intelligence operations and analytic support” for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

During an August 12 earnings call, CACI International noted repeatedly that President Biden’s withdrawal from the 20-year Afghanistan War harmed the company’s profits. John Mengucci, president and CEO of CACI International, said, we have about a 2 percent headwind coming into FY 2022 because of Afghanistan.” A headwind” refers to negative impacts on profits.

Afghanistan was mentioned 16 times throughout the call — either in reference to the dent in profits, or to assure investors that other areas of growth were offsetting the losses. For example, Mengucci said, We’re seeing positive growth in technology and expect it to continue to outpace expertise growth, collectively offsetting the impact of the Afghanistan drawdown.”

Caitlin Johnstone (ICH) observes:

After the US troop withdrawal established conclusively that the Afghan “government” they’d spent twenty years pretending to nation build with was essentially a work of fiction, thus proving to the world that they’ve been lying to us this entire time about the facts on the ground in Afghanistan, you might expect those who helped pave the way for that disastrous occupation to be very quiet at this point in history.

But, far from being silent and slithering under a rock to wait for the sweet embrace of death, these creatures have instead been loudly and shamelessly outspoken.

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change has posted a lengthy essay by the former Prime Minister who led the United Kingdom into two of the most unconscionable military interventions in living memory. Blair criticizes the withdrawal as having been done out of “obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars’,” bloviating about “Radical Islam,” and asking, “has the West lost its strategic will?”

It’s essentially a 2,750-word temper tantrum, authored by the same man who fed the British people this load of horse s**t after 9/11:

"The starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, those living in want and squalor from the deserts of Northern Africa to the slums of Gaza, to the mountain ranges of Afghanistan: they too are our cause. 

This is a moment to seize. The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us."

Blair promised that by helping the Bush administration usher in an unprecedented new era of military expansionism they could seize this unfortunate event to “re-order the world” in a way that would benefit all the world’s most unfortunate people. Mountains of corpses and tens of millions of refugees later it is clear to anyone with functioning gray matter that this was all a pack of lies.

Realities fall by the way side so that the corporate media can attempt to cause great alarm and fear in the American people.  What they're forgetting is that the world isn't CNN's Amanpour -- constantly crying that the US won't go to war with this country or that.  And, the greater distance between American and another country, the less important those people are, to be honest about it.  (That's true of other countries as well and not unique to the US.)  US corporate media has attempted to start a #AfghanLivesMatter but it just wouldn't trend.  What's next?

Maybe to slowly get honest about their real concern which was never the Afghan people or even Afghanistan.  As Ava and I noted at THIRD, the US government and corporations are both happy to do business with the Taliban and have before.  Iraq, as we've said here for weeks now, is the real point of the Afghan hysteria the media's promoting.

At THE TIMES OF LONDON, Max Hastings is offering "We risk replaying the Kabul calamity in Iraq."  At THE NATIONAL INTEREST, Farhang Faraydoon Namdarwonders "Will the American Pullout from Iraq Also End in Disaster?"  Then there's the whoring.  No one's done it better most recently than Paul Bremer (see Saturday's "A War Criminal Returns") who is clearly on a strict no-fact diet -- high in carbs, low in facts.  The whoring includes this sudden move to claim Iraq -- specifically Mustafa al-Khadimi -- is a power broker for the region.  See any REUTERS filing recently or this CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR article if you've missed the nonsense.  

Let's rejoin the world of reality where you'll find Mustafa and his government struggling just to hold national elections. August is winding down.  October 10th, the day parliamentary elections are supposed to take place in Iraq, looms.  

How's that looking?  From the United Nations:

With just 46 days until Iraq goes to the polls, the UN Assistance Mission for the country (UNAMI) is stepping up its communications to inform voters about their conduct, Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told the Security Council on Wednesday, stressing that it is up to the political parties themselves to refrain from attempts to distort the results.

Briefing Council members for the first time in over a year, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert, who is also the head of the Mission, also called claims that UNAMI is advocating for a postponement of the elections “frankly absurd”.

She urged everyone to “stick to the facts”, focus on their own roles and refrain from using the United Nations as a scapegoat.

“Truth, discipline and, yes, courage, are required at this critical juncture”, said the UN official

Misinformation ‘risky business’

If misinformation overtakes reality, “it is not only an enormous energy-drain for those working hard for the greater good of Iraq,” she cautioned.  “It is also risky business.” 

The UNAMI chief urged media outlets to provide accurate, reliable and timely information, instead of fuelling “false perceptions to suit their backers”.

Stressing that Iraq “leads and owns” the 10 October elections, she reminded that their credibility would prove essential for its future.

Elections at hand 

Detailing joint efforts, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert said that the Independent High Electoral Commission has reached “several complex milestones” while noting that UNAMI has provided technical assistance wherever it can. 

She outlined that candidate lists have been finalized; a ballot lottery conducted for all 83 constituencies; ballot printing is ongoing; and all ballot papers expected in country by mid-September. 

Meanwhile, polling and results management systems are being reviewed by an independent audit firm.

In parallel, she said preparations for UN monitoring are moving rapidly, with most members of the preparatory team being deployed to Baghdad “as we speak” and regional teams due on the ground in early September.

The Special Representative emphasized that the October elections have “the potential to be different” from those in 2018, and noted that that five times as many UN personnel are currently engaged as were three years earlier.

To calls for a boycott, she cautioned that “a vote not cast, is in fact a gift to those you may be opposed to.”

“With the election date rapidly approaching – Iraq will have our support at every step of the way”, assured the UNAMI chief.

“These elections were hard earned. And I can only emphasize the importance of credible elections for the future of Iraq’s young democracy”.

Deep reforms needed

Iraq is desperately in need of deep, structural reforms, which require unwavering determination, immense patience, and lots of time, according to the UN official, who urged authorities, officials, political parties and candidates not to let the Iraqi people down. 

“Understand that accountability is key to restore public trust”, she stressed. 

Turning to the issue of missing Kuwaiti, third-country nationals and Kuwaiti property, including the national archives, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert said that Kuwait “conclusively identified” the remains of a further 10 individuals from its list of those missing since 1991.

With a total of 30 cases of missing persons formally closed since November 2020, she expressed hope that “this important step will bring some closure to the families”.

AFP reports:

The number of female candidates competing in Iraq's October parliamentary election will be less than half that of the last poll three years ago, according to an elections commission source.
In the 2018 legislative election, 2,014 women competed among a total of 6,982 candidates, but this year the number of women standing will be just 963 out of a total field of 5,323.

This takes the proportion of female candidates down to 18 percent from 28.8 percent, even as Iraq's Constitution reserves a quarter of parliament's 329 seats for women.
[. . .]

 Inas Naji al-Maksoussi, an independent standing in Wasit province in eastern Iraq, said she and other women seeking to enter politics have been subjected to "pressures".
"Some people in my competitors' entourages have prevented me from campaigning in certain areas of my constituency," she told AFP.

Meanwhile DessyMac Tweets:

Blocked every turn! NO access to laptops to defend themselves. Limited access to their lawyers even WITH embassy assistance. 2 innocent EMPLOYEES. Australian Engineer Robert Pether & Egyptian Engineer Khalid Zaghloul. MALICIOUS PROSECUTION. 100% FABRICATED. #FREEROBERTPETHER

Of the ongoing plight of Robert Pether, Matthew Doran and Andrew Probyn (AUSTRALIA's ABC) report:

An Australian engineer ensnared in a dispute between the Iraqi government and his Dubai-based employer is facing five years in jail and a $US12 million ($AUD16.5 million) fine.

Robert Pether, 46, has been languishing in an Iraqi prison since April after he and his Egyptian colleague, Khalid Zaghloul, were arrested in Baghdad, while working for engineering firm CME Consulting.

Mr Pether's wife Desree said the court decision was a "soul-destroying" travesty of justice. 

"It's just absolute hell," Mrs Pether told the ABC from her home in Ireland.

"We honestly thought that justice would prevail after nearly five months and we are so shocked that it didn't happen.

"It didn't matter what evidence they presented in their defence, which was scarce because they didn't have access to their laptops or their hard drives, and the accusations had no backup evidence at all. 

Daniella White (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD) reports:

“Because there’s no way they can raise $12 million and if it’s not paid they don’t get out.”

His wife, Desree Pether, said he was tricked into entering the country by the Iraq Central Bank, which was locked in a contractual dispute with his Dubai-based employer CME Consulting.

“At this moment, I just spoke to him, and he said ‘this is a life sentence’,” she said.

Ms Pether and her children, who are from Sydney but based in Ireland, had held out hope that justice would prevail.

She said the fraud charges against her husband and his colleague, which relate to misrepresentation and overcharging, were fabricated after the bank demanded the contractors return the money they had already been paid after cost blowouts.

Christopher Knaus (GUARDIAN) adds:

Desree Pether, his wife, had maintained hope that he was going to be freed. Instead, she had to tell their three children, including her daughter, Nala, eight, that their dad was not coming home.

“I said ‘Daddy might not be home for a while because he’s been sentenced to five years’, and I explained it to her,” Desree told Guardian Australia.

“She looked down at her hands and looked up at me and said ‘that means I won’t see daddy until I’m 13’.”

“I just burst into tears.”

The two teenage boys, Flynn and Oscar, are shellshocked, Desree said.

“We just keep hugging and the boys just keep making me cups of tea,” she said. “We’re just walking around in shock.”

Desree said she had spoken to her husband on Thursday evening, Australian time.

His lawyers are planning to appeal against the ruling. The Australian government is also working on a way to respond.

“It’s so glaringly obvious they are completely innocent. Australia needs to get behind Rob,” she said.

Patrick Ryan (THE NATIONAL) notes of the inept Australian government:

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it understood Mr Pether, along with an Egyptian colleague, was found guilty of fraud in an Iraqi court and sentenced to five years imprisonment and jointly fined $12million.

"DFAT has made repeated representations to the Iraqi Government on Mr Pether’s case, including to seek clarity on the nature of the charges, related to a business dispute," said a representative.

"The Foreign Minister has written and spoken to her Iraqi counterpart to advocate for Mr Pether’s case in the strongest terms.

"The Australian Government cannot intervene in other governments’ judicial processes. DFAT continues to provide consular assistance to Mr Pether and his family."

The following sites updated: