Saturday, July 06, 2019

Idiot of the week

I didn't blog Wednesday night or Thursday because I was worried about C.I. and the surgery she was going to have.  And she told us to stop and reading that her blood sugar was 750 and they had to postpone the surgery, I wish we had.

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  • Let's do idiot of the week.

    Ken Silverstein wrote a piece at WASHINGTON BABYLON -- Ken's not idiot of the week, to be clear.

    It was an interesting piece.

    Paul Street and some asshole friend of his felt the need to rebut it and to note that they were going to do so humorously. 

    Did they forget the second part because I never saw any humor in their writing.

    It was garbage, their 'response.'

    They are the idiots of the week.  Ken wrote an intelligent and original piece of writing.

    They spent forever responding to it and, reading their response, you really have to marvel over the fact that they could have written about the ongoing Iraq War but didn't.  In fact Paul's asshole friend hasn't focused on Iraq in six years.  Has Paul ever?

    They're idiots and hacks and they should be ashamed to be grown ups offering such meager writing on such dubious topics.

    Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

    Friday, July 5, 2019.  Justice in Iraq?  About as likely as justice for Iraq.

    1000s detained, including kids, in degrading conditions in . Overcrowding doesn't solely affect the detainees, but also the community as a whole. Authorities should ensure that conditions in prisons do not foster more grievances in the future.

    What's she talking about?

    Late Wednesday, Human Rights Watch issued an alert which opened:

    Nineveh’s extremely overcrowded detention facilities are holding thousands of prisoners in Iraq, most on terrorism charges, for extended periods in conditions so degrading that they amount to ill-treatment. The authorities should ensure that prisoners are not held in inhuman conditions and that there is a clear legal basis for detentions, Human Rights Watch said today.
    “The Iraqi government urgently needs to rebuild and rehabilitate its detention facilities,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Iraq has a duty to ensure that detainees are housed decently, in line with international standards.”

    Tal Kayf, Faisaliya, and Tasfirat (in the Faisaliya compound), the three pretrial detention facilities in the northern Iraq governorate, have a combined maximum capacity of 2,500 people, according to a senior Iraqi penitentiary expert who requested anonymity. As of late June 2019, they were holding about 4,500 prisoners and detainees. Of that number, 1,300 had been tried and convicted and should have been transferred to Baghdad prisons. The authorities had yet to take the steps needed to transfer them, the expert said, even six months after some were convicted.  

    The expert shared photos taken in May of female terrorism suspects with their children in one cell in Tal Kayf prison, and juvenile terrorism suspects in another. Two other people who had visited the prison corroborated the conditions of extreme overcrowding seen in the photos and their location. The expert said the cells at Tal Kayf prison holding detainees on other charges are less crowded because of lower numbers.
    The expert said the detainees have no space to lie down in their cells or even sit comfortably. Prison authorities have not provided mattresses because there is no room for them in the cells, he said. “These prisons are meant to be a place for rehabilitation but if authorities house detainees in these kinds of conditions, I can only imagine what will happen to them after they are released,” he said. Lawyers do not have access to the prison to visit their clients – among other reasons, because there is no space for meetings.
    Human Rights Watch has previously documented deaths in custody in Nineveh stemming from severe overcrowding.
    The evidence shared with Human Rights Watch strongly suggests that conditions at the Nineveh pretrial detention facilities are unfit to hold detainees for extended periods of time and do not meet basic international standards. Holding detainees in such conditions amount to ill-treatment.
    International norms regarding prison conditions, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Mandela Rules”) require that “[a]ll accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation.” The Mandela Rules state that “sanitary installations shall be adequate to enable every prisoner to comply with the needs of nature when necessary and in a clean and decent manner” and that “[a]dequate bathing and shower installations shall be provided.”

    The Interior and Justice Ministries should, as an urgent priority, improve conditions and expedite the investigative process, guaranteeing everyone in pretrial detention a speedy and fair trial or release. Authorities should transfer all detainees from these facilities to official prisons built to accommodate detainees and equipped to meet basic international standards.

    Of course, working with the Ministry of the Interior can be problematic since there's no one in charge of the ministry.  September was really the last time there was a Minister of the Interior.  Though the current prime minister Adil Abdul Mahdi was supposed to nominate someone back in October, all these months later, he still hasn't.  All these months later -- nine months, for those keeping track -- few are bothering to note this reality so I'll assume very few are keeping track.

    Tamara Qiblawi and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) report:

    An Iraqi rights group has corroborated the findings. "Unfortunately it is true," Ali Akram al-Bayati, a member of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq told CNN. "(It is) because of the large number of detainees and imprisoned persons, poor Iraqi infrastructure ... corruption at the level of administration or staff in such places."
    The unnamed Iraqi penitentiary expert cited by HRW said Niniveh's three pretrial detention facilities -- Tal Kayf, Faisaliya, and Tasfirat -- had a combined maximum capacity of 2,500 people.
    But one senior security official, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to give statements to the media, told CNN Thursday that two of these facilities alone currently housed at least 5,400 people.

    ALJAZEERA adds:

    Nearly one-third of detainees had already been convicted and should have been transferred from the three northern prisons to the capital, Baghdad. Some were supposed to have moved as long as six months ago.
    Legal advocates have no access to their clients partly because the prisons have no space for meetings, according to a senior Iraqi penitentiary expert who visited the prisons and provided HRW with the photographs.
    Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIS or ISIL) in late 2017, and has continued to carry out arrests of suspected fighters, including in Nineveh province and its capital, Mosul - once ISIL's main Iraqi bastion.

    The Iraqi government does not provide figures on detention centres or prisoners, but some studies have estimated 20,000 are being held for alleged ISIL links.

    Staying on the topic of legal issues . . .

    Just your daily reminder that Julian Assange faces up to 175 years in jail merely for exposing US war crimes in to the world. Meanwhile, those who invaded Iraq on a pack of lies, killing a million people, are still out there planning new wars against and .

    Publisher Julian Assange remains persecuted.  As Sarah notes, the ones who started the Iraq War do not.  They roam freely when they should be behind bars.  But Julian exposed the truth so the likes of Hillary Clinton have long been demanding his arrest and worse.

    On the topic of Julian, Jean Shaoul (WSWS) reports:

    The Frontline Club, bringing together journalists and photographers with an interest in war reporting and international relations, organised a meeting in London Tuesday night, Julian Assange: The Debate.
    The Frontline Club has a long connection with Assange. In December 2010, one of the club’s founders Vaughan Smith stood surety for Assange to the tune of £20,000 along with eight others, hosting him for more than a year in his home after a two-month stay at the Club. Since then, Smith has faced a barrage of criticism for speaking in Assange’s defence.
    While the ticketed event for around 100 was publicised as a debate, it took the form of a series of questions by the chair, veteran journalist Robin Lustig, to former Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, Times columnist and broadcaster David Aaronovitch, Index on Censorship chief executive Jodie Ginsberg, Assange’s barrister Jennifer Robinson, as well as Smith.
    Arguably the most despised among the advertised speakers, Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore, pulled out at the last minute. Moore famously tweeted of Assange, “He really is the most massive turd.” It was left to Aaronovitch, like Moore a former member of the Communist Party who has lurched ever further to the right, to take up the role as the event’s most vitriolic and unprincipled critic of Assange.
    In 2012, Aaronovitch likened Assange’s “celebrity backers” to Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, “swinging down from a flying buttress to scoop up the doomed and swooning Esmeralda and swinging back, shouting ‘Sanctuary! Sanctuary!’” He had declared that Assange “should be arrested the second he steps outside the Ecuadorean embassy,” and headlined another article with the claim, “It’s Sweden that Assange fears, not America.” In November 2017, he proclaimed that “Assange isn’t a dreamer, he’s a destroyer,” in “the same destructive club as Putin and Trump.”
    Lustig opened the meeting by asking whether Assange “deserved” solidarity and support. He declared his own passive and deliberately evasive position, “I hope the award-winning journalist is not be extradited, but that if he is, he would be acquitted.” This was a position the despicable Mr. Aaranovich was happy to sign off on, given the fact that Assange faces a kangaroo court in the UK whose verdict in favour of extradition is a foregone conclusion.
    Rusbridger followed. His role in betraying and defaming Assange during his period as Guardian editor is a matter of public record. Yet he used his appearance to airbrush history, emphasising he was opposed to Assange’s extradition to the US. He cited 10 articles he had written in Assange’s defence and spoke of journalists’ obligation to defend Assange’s release of documents exposing US war crimes. He recalled the Guardian’s early collaboration with Assange stressing his newspaper’s careful editing of the Wikileaks documents as “responsible” journalism. He had promised to stand by Assange if he faced prosecution for his work with the Guardian, a pledge he relayed to the audience without any evident shame.
    When questioned about the Guardian’s failure to retract its long-discredited report that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort met with Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2016—a claim flatly denied both Assange and Manafort—Rusbridger washed his hands of the issue, replying the article was written after his departure from the Guardian in 2015. He said nothing of the anti-Assange campaign begun under his own editorship and was not pressed seriously on this by Lustig.
    Aaronovitch was far more explicitly hostile to Assange. When he referred to the Swedish allegations of sexual misconduct as “charges,” the pro-Assange audience shouted, “allegations not charges!” But he dismissed their protests, claiming, “I have to say that for most people, such distinctions are pretty small” and repeatedly referred to “charges” throughout the remainder of his venomous contribution.
    While he did not name Assange, he insinuated that there are people in the media who are working with Russia—not as spies but as “agents” —who are manipulating the news and seeking to sway elections.
    Vaughan Smith spoke with considerable feeling for the persecuted journalist, who he said had been “smeared on an industrial scale” to divert attention from the crimes he had exposed. Citing UN rapporteur Nils Melzer, he said that there was a well-funded attempt to demonise Assange, whom journalists had a responsibility to defend.

    Following the Swedish allegations of sexual misconduct, Smith said there was a marked shift in the way Assange was treated in the press. He was smeared as a rapist. Facts were misrepresented. Crucially, the allegations were used not to prosecute Assange, but to defame and demonise him. He pointed out the ugly way the media had gloated over his illegal and brutal removal from the Ecuadorian embassy. He added that Assange had been sent to Belmarsh jail, dubbed Britain’s Guantanamo, in a bid to portray him as a danger to society.

    In other legal news, Julie Watson and John Antczak (AP) provide an update on Edward Gallagher:

    A decorated Navy SEAL acquitted of murder in the killing of a wounded Islamic State captive in Iraq but convicted over posing with the corpse was given a demotion by a military jury Wednesday after the Bronze Star recipient acknowledged making ethical and moral mistakes.
    Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, 40, was also handed the maximum penalty for the offense of four months in confinement, though he will serve no jail time because it is less than the time he spent in custody before the trial.

    Kevin Reed (WSWS) offers:

    Gallagher’s record of murderous behavior goes back further than 2017. He was investigated for shooting a young girl in Afghanistan in 2010 but subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing. During his eighth deployment at the battle for Mosul, Gallagher was reported numerous times by fellow Navy SEALs for actions that were not in keeping with the “rules of war.”
    Meanwhile, the prosecution’s case was thrown into a tailspin on June 20 when the medic, Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, who had been granted immunity, testified that Gallagher’s stab wounds did not kill the ISIS captive. Instead, Scott said that he placed his finger over the captive’s breathing tube until he died as an act of mercy.
    The prosecution also suffered from the last-minute removal of its lead military lawyer one week before the trial was to begin. Navy Judge Captain Aaron Rugh removed prosecutor Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak for secretly attempting to track the communications of the defense team and a journalist covering the trial. The judge also ordered Gallagher released from custody while awaiting trial.
    The military jury of five Marines and two sailors, including one SEAL, deliberated for eight hours over two days before they returned their decisions. The one conviction on the least serious of the charges carries a sentence of four months for which Gallagher will get credit for time already served. He will be released on Tuesday.
    The court martial lasted for two weeks and the lead up to it became the occasion for right-wing US political figures to advocate for Gallagher and support his family’s campaign to “Free Eddie.” Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a former Navy SEAL who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy demanding that Gallagher’s detention circumstances be improved. On March 30, President Donald Trump ordered Gallagher transferred to “less restrictive confinement” following complaints from his supporters.

    If Reed is correct about past actions, why is the rage at Edward Gallagher and not at a system and the higher ups who would have not only covered up the alleged crimes but also sent someone like that into further battles?

    I'm all for accountability.  But if Reed is correct, the guilt goes much further than Edward Gallagher.  If Reed is correct, Gallagher was just a pawn and he was deployed with the knowledge on the part of the brass that he would break rules and laws and commit War Crimes.  At best, Edward would be the low hanging fruit.  Is there a reason that so many are scared to aim higher when calling people out?

    It's like the attacks on Judith Miller.  As we've repeatedly noted, she did not write articles in the paper, edit the paper, take it to the printers, put content online and deliver print copies each morning.  It's funny how history has made one person, a reporter, responsible for all the lies THE NEW YORK TIMES printed -- both in her articles and outside of her articles -- and allowed so many others -- including those in actual power over what made it into the paper (yes, Jill, we're talking about you again) have largely been allowed to skate free.

    Accountability is always needed.  Scapegoating one person for the crimes of many?  Not so much.

    Meanwhile Nick Meyer (ARAB AMERICAN NEWS) reports:

    Iraq is in a fragile state and its great rivers including the iconic Euphrates and Tigris are dying, scientists say, as the country works to rebuild itself after thirty years of near constant war.
    Iraq is now in the process of running out of water, which is sourced from the two mighty, historical rivers. Both run the length of the country supplying drinking water, irrigation, and hydroelectricity to a booming population.
    But recently, the Euphrates has been reduced down to a quarter of its normal flow. In 2018, the Tigris sunk so low that people in Baghdad could wade across it.

    The two rivers combine in a central point called the Shatt Al-Arab, but this area became so poisonous last summer that 100,000 people were hospitalized, sparking riots in the city of Basra, which was once nicknamed the “Venice of the Middle East.”

    And that's going to be it for today.  As Rebecca noted Monday, I've got other things to focus on today.

    The following sites updated: