Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
For a good while one could blame Trump for the prosecutorial monstrosity perpetrated on journalist Julian Assange. But now it’s time for Trump to move over. The single worst assault on the first amendment and a free press in recent centuries is no longer solely his. Biden owns it. Biden could end this state persecution of a journalist today, if he felt like it. A persecution that a U.N. expert has called torture. A persecution that could easily lead to Assange’s death.
But maybe that’s the point. Indeed, if killing Assange isn’t the point, Biden should prove it, by pardoning him now. Biden doesn’t feel like it. Unlike Jamal Khashoggi, whose murder he deplored before he didn’t, Biden never censured the years of abuse heaped on Assange by the U.S. government. He enabled it. Unlike Trump, who may very well have been threatened with impeachment by senators like Mitch “Democracy’s Gravedigger” McConnell, if Trump dared dream of pardoning Assange, Biden was never vulnerable to such a hypothetical menace. In fact, he’s in McConnell’s corner. By his inaction, it’s clear that Biden approves of the criminal state attack on Assange.
Both Biden and Trump look like moral midgets compared to Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who last month handed a letter to Biden about the besieged journalist. In this epistle, according to Reuters July 18, Lopez Obrador “defended Julian Assange’s innocence and renewed a previous offer of asylum to the Wikileaks founder,” in Mexico. This offer came in the month after the U.K. approved Assange’s extradition to the U.S., where he faces up to 175 years in prison on what everybody knows are trumped up charges under a law that shouldn’t even exist, the Espionage Act.
This law served solely as a bludgeon against political enemies and their speech since it was enacted in 1917. It battered socialists and communists like Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden. According to the PEN American Center, this edict “had been used inappropriately in leak cases that have a public interest component.” That’s putting it mildly. One year after enactment, by 1918, 74 newspapers had been denied mailing privileges under the Espionage Act. This law was birthed to harass and jail opponents of what nowadays many knowledgeable people regard as a catastrophe that should never have happened, namely Woodrow Wilson’s blood-drenched folly, World War I. This law exists for one purpose: chilling freedom of speech.
Indeed, that’s why the Espionage Act shouldn’t exist. Lopez Obrador said that arresting Assange “would mean a permanent affront to freedom of expression.” He sure got that right. But nothing other than sour silence about his latest offer has emanated from the white house. In fact, Lopez Obrador never got a response to his first letter to Biden over a year ago. When faced with a gracious gesture to do the humane, moral, civilized thing and end this grotesque perversion of justice, Biden just acts like he hopes this opportunity for compassion will go away and everyone will forget that he’s doing something unspeakable.
“Journalists are allowed to request documents that have been stolen and to publish those documents.” So wrote U.S. federal Judge John Koeltl in a 2019 opinion dismissing a lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee against Julian Assange, Wikileaks and others. Assange published documents on the Wikileaks website in the very manner the judge described. Despite this, Julian Assange has been in solitary confinement in Britain’s maximum security Belmarsh prison for over three years. Before that, he spent seven years living in the cramped Ecuadorian embassy in London. Ecuador granted Assange political asylum as he faced mounting persecution from the U.S. government for his role in exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. is seeking Assange’s extradition from the United Kingdom to face espionage and conspiracy charges and up to 175 years in prison. Assange’s legal team is appealing the U.K.’s approval of the extradition request. Meanwhile, a new case related to Wikileaks is before Judge Koeltl: journalists and several of Assange’s attorneys have sued the Central Intelligence Agency and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, alleging the CIA spied on them when they visited Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy, recording conversations and secretly copying their phones and laptops.
“I’m a New York lawyer,” Deborah Hrbek, an attorney who met with Assange at the embassy several times, said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “I have the right to assume that the U.S. government is not listening to my private and privileged conversations with my clients, and that information about other clients and cases I may have on my phone or laptop are secure from illegal government intrusion. This is not just a violation of our constitutional rights. This is an outrage.”
CIA spying on Julian Assange and his visitors became public through a Spanish court case against a company, UC Global, and its director, David Morales. UC Global was hired by Ecuador in 2012 to provide security for its embassy in London. The CIA, the new lawsuit alleges, recruited UC Global in January 2017, with the help of the late casino billionaire and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, when Morales was at a gun convention in Las Vegas. Morales returned to Spain and, according to the lawsuit, told his employees that “the company would now be operating ‘in the big league’ and for the ‘dark side’ with the CIA.”
The so-called Garden of Eden in Iraq has suffered from a three-year drought and low rainfall, as well as reduced water flow from rivers and tributaries originating in neighboring Turkey and Iran, AFP reported.
Vast expanses of the once lush marshes of Khuvayza, bordering the border with Iran, have dried up and their vegetation has turned yellow. The same fate befell the popular tourist areas of the Chibaysh swamps.
The swamps are our source of livelihood – we used to fish here, and our livestock could graze and drink, said Ghassed, 35, from a village near Huwayza.
Tony Gamal-Gabriel (PHYS.ORG) adds:
Nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Mesopotamian Marshes suffered under the former dictator Saddam Hussein, who ordered that they be drained in 1991 as punishment for communities protecting insurgents, and to hunt them down.
The wetlands have sporadically gone through years of harsh drought in the past, before being revived by good rainy seasons.
But between August 2020 and this month, 46 percent of the swamplands of southern Iraq, including Huwaizah and Chibayish, suffered total surface water loss, according to Dutch peace-building organization PAX.
THE DAILY SABAH publishes an AFP photo essay on th topic here. What climate change isn't destroying in Iraq currently, its neighbors seem to be. RUDAW reports:
Turkey’s upstream dams have blocked the flow of water into Zakho’s Hizel river, drying it up and leaving many farmers in the area without water.
Farmer Tahir Asaad, who has a garden and about 200 sheep, told Rudaw’s Yousif Mousa that they are now forced to buy water in tankers for irrigation.
"Turkey has blocked the water flow ... we used to have a river where we would wash our utensils and give water to our sheep. It is gone and they [Turkey] have built a dam on it,” Asaad said.
The Hizel river crosses the border of Zakho for 36 kilometers until it reaches the Tigris river, which is a common waterway between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey.
Water scarcity is a severe issue in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. The war-torn country is the fifth-most vulnerable nation in the world to the effects of climate change, including water and food insecurity, according to the UN.
However, the issue is exacerbated by the Turkish and Iranian damming of rivers that flow into Iraq, cutting off the increasingly dry nation from much-needed water relief. Ankara has built a mega-dam on the Tigris.
Iraqi political leaders spent the last 10 months struggling unsuccessfully to form a government, their country sinking deeper and deeper into political paralysis in the face of growing drought, crippling corruption and crumbling infrastructure.
Then in June, those talks imploded. And now, there is a scramble for power as Iraq’s main political factions vie for the upper hand.
The powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who leads the largest bloc in Parliament, quit the negotiations in frustration, then urged his followers to take to the streets to get what they wanted. Heeding his call, they set up a tent encampment that has blocked access to Parliament for more than two weeks to prevent any government from being voted in.
No, Moqtada does not lead the largest bloc in Parliament. He had a hissy fit, hopped on his Huffy bike and took his marbles and went home when he didn't get his way. He ordered his followers in Parliament to resign. They did.
Moqtada has no bloc in Parliament. They resigned. They can't call the resignations off. They resigned and they've been replaced with the second runners up. ALJAZEERA on June 12th:
Iraqi lawmakers from firebrand Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc resigned on Sunday, the parliamentary speaker said, a move ostensibly designed to end eight months of political paralysis.
“We have reluctantly accepted the requests of our brothers and sisters, representatives of the al-Sadr bloc, to resign,” parliament’s speaker Mohammed al-Halboussi said on Twitter after receiving resignation letters from the 73 lawmakers.
The ruling consensus on the formation of an Iraqi government from 2018 until 2022 sacrificed what was left of ideas like a citizenship-based social-political contract and "individual political freedoms". Instead, ever-widening sectarian divisions continued to sow chaos and torpedo aspirations for political consciousness to play any role in the country, in place of which arms were increasingly endorsed as the only guarantor of a temporary and fragile stability.
This consensus ultimately led to the mass uprising known as the 2019 Tishreen protest movement - which could have succeeded in forging a new political system, were it not for the Sadrists' success in infiltrating its ranks.
The current crisis in Iraq cannot be understood without understanding Iraq's Shia-Shia divisions and the declining faith in the idea of "hybrid sectarian harmony".
The fragility of Shi'ite cohesion was clear at the 2018 legislative elections: internal divisions revealed growing aspirations for sole power and control of Iraqi wealth – entailing the removal of competitors. Militarisation and arms proliferation were growing apace. The most dangerous tool being groomed for managing political rivalries, however, was the rage and frustration of Iraq's youth.
"The fragility of Shi'ite cohesion was clear: internal divisions revealed growing aspirations for sole power and control of Iraqi wealth – entailing the removal of competitors"
In the 2018 elections, different Shi'ite groups tried to gain an absolute majority to allow them to discard the old power-sharing structure of the Muhasasa system (the post-2003 ethno-sectarian power-sharing-quota arrangement) – which provided Shia representation within the framework of the state.
Its destruction would allow for a new formula based on handing power to the parliamentary majority. Broad sectarian representation would be replaced with exclusive sectarian representation, while maintaining the entrenched "theo-kleptocratic" system which oversaw the mutual management of corruption.
In this way, the Sadrist bloc became representative of the Shias, the Sovereignty-Progress Alliance of the Sunnis, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of the Kurds. Rival forces were sidelined to reach a more stable Muhasasa government which still represented the sects and ethnicities of the three Iraqi regions (north, west and south). More entrenched regional division appears the likely result, as does the slide towards dictatorship.
On the media, Caitlin Johnstone notes CNN has fired Brian Stelter:
Progressives love the FBI? Leftists embrace the Espionage Act? Of course, one man is responsible for this madness, and he is none other than Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States. The fallout from the FBI search conducted at Trump’s home shows the rank confusion spread by people who call themselves liberal but who are as dangerous as anyone on the right. From the moment that Trump announced the raid they were in full fascist mode, even as they claimed to be fighting fascism.
Trump did what he usually does, play fast and loose with the truth. Of all former presidents only he would ignore subpoenas and claim to have declassified documents when he hadn’t done so. He can’t get out of his own way and thus makes himself a target. But Democrats should know that the search is seen as nothing more than a personal attack against him. Millions of people who love Trump will love him all the more and conclude that the raid was meant to keep him from running for president again. Liberal dead-enders will be happy, but everyone else will say that something rotten was conducted at Mar a Lago.
Attorney General Merrick Garland says that the documents were subpoenaed but the former president didn’t respond. The FBI search warrant states that the search encompassed three different issues: gathering, transmitting or losing defense information, which is part of the Espionage Act; concealment, removal, or mutilation concerning the handling of records and reports; and the destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy, which is part of a section dealing with obstruction of justice. The warrant also states a search for information on Roger Stone and on the President of France.
Aside from the item descriptions, no one knows what Trump had or what the FBI found. Leaks from the Justice Department indicate something about nuclear weapons, but no one knows what that means. The lack of information hasn’t stopped the speculation which Trump always causes. There is conjecture that he was selling information to Russia or to Saudi Arabia or was plotting some other treason. There are even claims that documents were buried with his recently deceased ex-wife. It is fascinating that there can be so much guesswork about issues no one can know.
The years long Russiagate investigation is responsible for ordinarily sensible people losing their minds. Hardly anyone recalls that the charge of collusion was actually disproven, that Robert Mueller only indicted for process crimes, such as those which occur when people let down their guard and talk to the FBI. Most Americans who know the name Paul Manafort think he was a Russian spy but don’t know that he went to jail for tax and bank fraud. Propaganda works very well when it is repeated over and over again.
Worse than the silly Trump inspired derangement is the way that those who call themselves left or progressive have chosen to defend federal law enforcement and bad legislation like the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act is a relic from the earliest days of the cold war, and Woodrow Wilson’s infamous Palmer Raids which targeted the left for persecution and prosecution. Barack Obama used it more than all previous presidents combined in order to prosecute journalists who published what the state didn’t want us to know. As for the FBI, its Counter Intelligence Program, COINTELPRO, created dissension in the liberation movement, targeted individuals for prosecution, spied on Martin Luther King and told him to commit suicide, and killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark among others. The FBI continues to use informants to entrap Black people in phony terror cases.