Spoke with a woman from Chalmette, Louisiana today. She was out here vising family. She and her husband live near New Orleans, and have forever, so they're able to catch lots of concerts each year there and they also visit Las Vegas at least once a year. She's 71 and been going to concerts for almost 50 years. She told me about so many great concerts she'd seen. She loved Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross who both put on great concerts -- "concerts of a lifetime" -- but she said the best one she ever saw was Chubby Checker in the 90s and she hadn't even wanted to go to that concert but her husband really wanted to see Chubby Checker. She said it just goes to show you that you never know. She was a really sweet lady. She had walked over to the restaurant a friend and I went to for lunch while she waited for her daughter to get done at the dentist. We invited her over to our table and started talking and had a great lunch. I love meeting interesting people and most people are interesting if you take the time to get to know them.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
On the topic of journalism, let's return to THE ARAB WEEKLY which we called out earlier this week over their desire to pretend Moqtada al-Sadr had made a comeback and how they were lying to themselves and others. They do that because they won't deal with reality. That's made more clear today in a column at TAW by Farouk Yousef:
Iraq has failed to establish balanced relations with the rest of the world because its embrace of Iran has erected a high fence separating it from other countries. Equally, the dominance of Iranian militias over the decision-making process in Baghdad has dragged it onto Iran’s side in Tehran’s showdown with the international community.
That is not all. Despite the existence of three branches of government in Iraq, legislative, executive and judicial, the country’s authorities are, beyond the media halo that somehow surrounds them, mere facades for the rule of political parties, which seem in agreement but are in reality gripped by internal feuds.
No one in the executive branch, for example, can make a decision unless it serves the interests of a strong party against the interests of other parties, which parties can in any case seek to harm the government by digging the dirt on its corruption.
The insanity in those remarks just leaves me amazed. Maybe he thinks it'll play to the west where governments hate Iran. Iran is Iraq's neighbor, they share a border. They've had problems throughout the years, they've had agreement throughout the years. It's only in TAW's mind that they can't get along. If they'd use their outlet better, Iraq could be a better place. Barring anything emerging in the news cycle requiring more attention, we'll go into that tomorrow. THE NATIONAL notes:
Iraq's judiciary has sentenced 14 people to death over the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre.
Baghdad's Central Criminal Court issued the verdict on Thursday under Iraq's antiterrorism law.
More than 1,700 unarmed air force recruits, mainly Shiite, were killed in the massacre as ISIS swept across Iraq.
The killings were one of the worst attacks by the terror group and become a symbol of its brutality.
It seems like a good thing, doesn't it? It's not. The incident alone? Sure praise that sentencing. But grasp that many more crimes are going unpunished and grasp that THE ARAB WEEKLY could be using its platform to push the current government of Iraq to address some of those crimes but would rather write demented anti-Iran pieces instead.
All of the above is from yesterday's snapshot. I said we'd get to the topic in today's snapshot and we're starting with it. THE ARAB WEEKLY is ruled by fear. They've offered nonsesne constantly and they try to hide behind Moqtada al-Sadr, stroke his ego, beg him.
What they shoud be doing is their job. That's an important job but they'd rather lie and scribble fantasies. ISIS is being punished by the current government. Are we supposed to applaud that? It is what governments are supposed to do.
THE ARAB WEEKLY needs to be pressing for more than the bare minimum.
53 people dead -- including 8 children. Killed for the 'crime' of a sit-in. Troops surrounded that protesters.
For days, Members of Parliament had been asking to be let in to speak with the protesters but Nouri wouldn't allow that.
He would send in thugs to kill these people.
Most of the western press ignored what took place -- over 50 people killed by their own government -- a government the US installed and backed and supplied the weapons. BRussells Tribunal carried a translation of one activist who was an eye-witness to what went down:
I have five daughters and one son. My son’s name is Mohammed Thamer. I am no different to any other Iraqi citizen. I love what is good for my people and would like to see an end to the injustice in my country.
When we heard about the peaceful protests in Al-Hawija, taking place at ‘dignity and honor square’, I began attending with my son to reclaim our usurped rights. We attended the protests every day, but last Friday the area of protest was besieged before my son and I could leave; just like all the other protestors there.
Food and drink were forbidden to be brought into the area….
On the day of the massacre (Tuesday 23 April 2013) we were caught by surprise when Al-Maliki forces started to raid the area. They began by spraying boiling water on the protestors, followed by heavy helicopter shelling. My little son stood beside me. We were both injured due to the shelling.
My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.
Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn’t understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.
After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.
I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?
I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.
+ In a confidential memo unearthed by The Intercept, Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen praised unemployment as a “worker-discipline device.” This is the logic of neoliberalism in a nutshell.
+ In congressional testimony while he was director of Obama’s National Economic Council, Jeff Zients, Biden’s new chief of staff, defended cuts to Social Security, telling Congress that the Obama-Biden administration was “willing to make these compromises as part of a deal that calls for shared sacrifice.” Biden’s “grand compromise” (sell-out to Wall Street) to gut Social Security has been in the works for years. His entire career of cutting deals with the likes of Strom Thurmond, Bob Dole and Trent Lott has led to the coming moment….
+ In 1919, the average steelworker in a Gary, Indiana plant worked 68.7 hours a week–more than 11 hours a day 6 days a week. Yet even this amount of toil in the hellish conditions of the mills wasn’t enough to feed and house a family of five, according to the Wilson Administration’s own figures–and they were no friend of labor (organized or not). Now, a married couple can work an 80-hour week and still not earn a living wage for their family four.
+ Most workers making $50,000 a year contribute to Social Security based on 100% of their income. Meanwhile, a CEO who makes $20 million a year contributes to Social Security with less than 1% of their income.
+ Microsoft had to settle for Sting? Was Bono playing at Google’s pre-firing Davos soirée?
+ As the Biden administration harangued Germany into sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the New York Times ran a front-page piece asking whether Germany can be a “great military power again?” WW I total deaths: 15 to 24 million, WW II total deaths in Europe: 30 million. Who in their right minds would want Germany, or any other nation involved in those wars, to be a “great military power” again?
+ We rarely consider the after-effects of prolonged war, the misery and death that continue to plague ravaged countries long after the cruise missiles have stopped shattering buildings. Let’s return to Iraq for a moment. In a much overlooked (if not ignored) study (‘Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009’) of 4,800 individuals in the heavily bombed city of Fallujah published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, medical investigators documented a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancers in kids under the age of 14. The survey also detected a 10-fold increase in female breast cancer and large increases in both lymphoma and brain tumors in adults. Researchers found a 38-fold increase in leukemia. By comparison, survivors of the Hiroshima atomic blast experienced a 17-fold increase in leukemia.
Organized by Progressive International and co-chaired by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and Croatian philosopher and author Srećko Horvat, the Belmarsh Tribunal brought together a panel of whistleblowers, activists, lawyers and more in support of Assange, WikiLeaks and journalistic freedom.
Held just two blocks from the White House, the Tribunal called on President Biden to end the prosecution of Julian Assange and to defend the rights of journalists and whistleblowers.
Belmarsh, the prison near London where Assange has been held since 2019 is a high-security facility often referred to as the “British version of Guantanamo Bay.” Beginning with the so-called “war on terrorism” in 2001, Belmarsh has been used to house suspected terrorists. Today, many of its prisoners are people who have committed brutally violent crimes like murder and rape.
Assange is being held there pending the completion of his extradition trial, in which the United States government under the Trump and Biden administrations seeks to bring him to trial in the U.S. He could face up to 175 years in prison under the Espionage Act for publishing proof of U.S. war crimes. It would be a death sentence for the 51-year-old whose physical and mental health has already deteriorated during his confinement.
Solidarity was a key theme of the event. Human rights lawyer Steven Donziger opened his remarks by saying “Half the battle is this” as he motioned around the crowded room. “It’s the solidarity,” he continued, expressing his appreciation for those who came out to defend him in his struggle. “I cannot tell you how completely uplifting that was. Part of the challenge when truthtellers speak truth to these entrenched pools of power is how to turn the attacks into opportunities.”
Donziger brought and won a lawsuit against oil company Chevron/Texaco on behalf of indigenous people in Ecuador for destruction of their lands through oil extraction in the Lago Agrio oil field. Chevron retaliated after a $9.5 billion award was levied against them, filing an outrageous RICO suit against Donziger, who was placed under house arrest for a total of 993 days (in addition to 45 days in prison) until he was finally freed in April of 2022.
Solidarity was also extended to Daniel Hale, a whistleblower who exposed the deadly U.S. targeted killing and drone program. Attorney Jesselyn Radack spoke on his case and its connection to Assange’s. Hale is being held in a Communications Management Unit (CMU) at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, A.K.A. “Gitmo North,” where his connection to the outside world is monitored and severely limited.
“I have been shut out of my own clients’ unclassified hearings. The parts of the hearings that are public often include code words and substitutions that make the proceedings very difficult for the public to understand. In one case, the government attempted to prevent defense attorneys from using the word whistleblower, or the word newspaper.” Radack’s account suggests that should Assange be extradited to the United States, he will not be able to receive a fair and impartial trial.
The prosecution of Assange is an example of naked political aggression and intimidation. It’s not only aimed at Assange himself and WikiLeaks, but puts whistleblowers, journalists and activists squarely within the crosshairs.
When Biden was running for president in 2020, he declared on World Press Freedom Day, “We all stand in solidarity” with the 360 journalists imprisoned worldwide “for their work in journalism.” Biden quoted Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 statement, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
Since Biden’s election, however, his administration has refused to dismiss the charges Donald Trump brought against Assange. Biden ignored the fact that the Obama-Biden administration, which prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all its predecessors combined, refused to indict Assange because of “the New York Times problem.” If they charged Assange, the Obama administration reasoned, they would have to charge The New York Times and other media outlets that also published classified military and diplomatic secrets.
Horvat said, “Every country has secrecy laws. Some countries have very draconian secrecy laws. If those countries tried to extradite New York Times reporters and publishers to those countries for publishing their secrets we would cry foul and rightly so. Does this administration want to be the first to establish the global precedent that countries can demand the extradition of foreign reporters and publishers for violating their own laws?”
On November 28, 2022, The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, DER SPIEGEL and El País signed a joint open letter calling on the Biden administration to drop the Espionage Act charges against Assange. “Publishing is not a crime,” they wrote, noting that Assange is the first publisher to be charged under the Espionage Act for revealing government secrets.
In 2010, the five signatories to the open letter collaborated with WikiLeaks to publish “Cable gate” — 251,000 confidential U.S. State Department cables that “disclosed corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale.” The documents, according to The New York Times, revealed “the unvarnished story of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the country most heavily in lives and money.”
Assange’s indictment also stems from WikiLeaks’s revelation of the Iraq War Logs — 400,000 field reports that chronicled 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians, and systematic rape, torture and murder after U.S. forces “handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad.” And the indictment covered the Afghan War Diary — 91,000 reports of larger numbers of civilian casualties by coalition forces than the U.S. military had reported.
The most notorious release by WikiLeaks was the 2007 “Collateral Murder” video, which showed a U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter target and kill 11 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters news staff and a man who came to rescue the wounded. Two children were injured. The video clip reveals evidence of three violations of the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Army Field Manual.
Amy Goodman, co-host of Democracy Now! and the Tribunal’s other co-chair, said that the events depicted in the Collateral Murder video “would never have happened” if the Iraq War Logs had been made public six months before. “An investigation would have been launched,” Goodman speculated. “That’s why freedom of the press, the free flow of information, saves lives.” She said that it is not just freedom of the press at stake in Assange’s prosecution, but also the public’s right of access to information. Ironically, Assange first screened the Collateral Murder video at the National Press Club more than a decade ago.