Here's Graham Elwood.
I'm really tired tonight so my apologies, this won't be much. But I do have two things to include. First up, here's Mickey Z from his latest at COUNTERPUNCH:
Billy Joel emerged from the building. Even in his winter coat and hat, he was recognizable. A large SUV pulled up for him and the driver came out to lend a hand.
Billy was taking the longest time to find a way past the mountains of snow to get into his car and was getting himself into a frustrated, New York state of mind. Meanwhile, the other “activists” didn’t notice him and continued chanting at well… a random building.
“Their suffering! (point at building) Your fault!”
“Their deaths! (point at building) Your fault!”
The Piano Man™ stopped and gazed at us with a look of wonder as his driver approached. “Grab my arm,” he said to the musical millionaire, “and we’ll cross right here.”
As I snapped a photo, Billy Joel replied to the driver: “Whatever, man, just get me the hell away from the crazies.”
And let me note this from THE NATIONAL:
Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, expressed the “urgency” of resolving the political impasse in Iraq and the importance of unity among Kurdish parties in meetings with local political leaders, the State Department said on Wednesday.
Ms Leaf is in Iraq this week on the tailend of a regional trip that has also included Tunisia, Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
Vedant Patel, the State Department's deputy spokesman, confirmed to reporters that Ms Leaf had reiterated US President Joe Biden's calls for a peaceful resolution to disputes between Iraq and the Kurdish region, and added that energy issues between Baghdad and Erbil were also discussed.
Iraq is in trouble and then some.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
US President Joe Biden continues his ongoing persecution of Julian Assange. Julian's 'crime' was revealing the realities of Iraq -- Chelsea Manning was a whistle-blower who leaked the information to Julian. WIKILEAKS then published the Iraq War Logs. And many outlets used the publication to publish reports of their own. For example, THE GUARDIAN published many articles based on The Iraq War Logs. Jonathan Steele, David Leigh and Nick Davies offered, on October 22, 2012:
A grim picture of the US and Britain's legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.
Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.
The new logs detail how:
• US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.
• A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.
• More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.
The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent death.
To make sure no one's confused, Joe Biden is not going after Julian Assange because Julian committed War Crimes in Iraq. Joe is going after Julian because Julian exposed War Crimes. In Joe's mind, War Crimes are like his son's laptop in that both should be hidden from the public.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that he has invited relatives of Julian Assange and Che Guevara to attend the country’s Independence Day celebrations next week.
Left-wing Lopez Obrador said former Presidents of Bolivia and Uruguay, Evo Morales and Jose “Pepe” Mujic, were also invited, along with relatives of Nelson Mandela, US civil rights leader Martin Luther King and US union activist Cesar Chavez.
Releasing the name list at a regular press conference, Lopez Obrador said the guest list had yet to be confirmed. However, he noted that Morales, who was granted asylum by Mexico when he was forced out of office in 2019, said he would attend.
Julian Assange, has now spent over 1,200 days in a maximum-security prison. If we consider the date of June 19, 2012, when he first sought Ecuador’s protection from the very charges he now faces, he has now been deprived of his liberty for over 10 years.
With this in mind, we’re writing to stress the importance of continued pressure in our news reports and broadcasts, including asking our representatives what is being done to bring this situation to an end.
In light of this, you are probably aware of the positive development that a number of US citizens – lawyers and journalists who worked with Assange – recently sued the Central Intelligence Agency and its former director Mike Pompeo in the Southern District of New York.
We want to provide a little more information. The plaintiffs are US lawyers Margaret Ratner Kunstler and Deborah Hrbeck; German-American journalist John Goetz; and British-American journalist Charles Glass. They allege Pompeo and the CIA breached their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, protecting against illegal search and seizure.
This was, they allege, performed on the CIA’s behalf by the Spanish security firm UC Global and its founder David Morales – both also listed as defendants in the complaint.
Thanks to the reporting of Kevin Gosztola of The Dissenter, it has also been confirmed that Judge John Koeltl has been assigned to preside over the case. Positively, as Kevin reports, Koeltl previously ruled in favour of Assange and WikiLeaks in 2019 when the Democratic National Committee tried to hold them liable for publishing its emails three years earlier.
The news from the war in Ukraine is mostly not news, but a one-sided litany of jingoism, distortion, omission. I have reported a number of wars and have never known such blanket propaganda.
In February, Russia invaded Ukraine as a response to almost eight years of killing and criminal destruction in the Russian-speaking region of Donbass on their border.
In 2014, the United States had sponsored a coup in Kiev that got rid of Ukraine’s democratically elected, Russian-friendly president and installed a successor whom the Americans made clear was their man.
In recent years, American “defender” missiles have been installed in eastern Europe, Poland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, almost certainly aimed at Russia, accompanied by false assurances all the way back to James Baker’s “promise” to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in February 1990 that NATO would never expand beyond Germany.
NATO on Hitler’s Borderline
Ukraine is the frontline. NATO has effectively reached the very borderland through which Hitler’s army stormed in 1941, leaving more than 23 million dead in the Soviet Union.
Last December, Russia proposed a far-reaching security plan for Europe. This was dismissed, derided or suppressed in the Western media. Who read its step-by-step proposals? On Feb. 24, President Volodymyr Zelensky threatened to develop nuclear weapons unless America armed and protected Ukraine.
On the same day, Russia invaded — an unprovoked act of congenital infamy, according to the Western media. The history, the lies, the peace proposals, the solemn agreements on Donbass at Minsk counted for nothing.
On April 25, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin flew into Kiev and confirmed that America’s aim was to destroy the Russian Federation — the word he used was “weaken.” America had got the war it wanted, waged by an American bankrolled and armed proxy and expendable pawn.
Almost none of this was explained to Western audiences.
[Read: Joe Lauria: Biden Confirms Why the US Needed This War]
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is wanton and inexcusable. It is a crime to invade a sovereign country. There are no “buts” — except one.
When did the present war in Ukraine begin and who started it? According to the United Nations, between 2014 and this year, some 14,000 people have been killed in the Kiev regime’s civil war on the Donbass. Many of the attacks were carried out by neo-Nazis.
Watch an ITV news report from May 2014, by the veteran reporter James Mates, who is shelled, along with civilians in the city of Mariupol, by Ukraine’s Azov (neo-Nazi) battalion.
In the same month, dozens of Russian-speaking people were burned alive or suffocated in a trade union building in Odessa besieged by fascist thugs, the followers of the Nazi collaborator and anti-Semitic fanatic Stepan Bandera. The New York Times called the thugs “nationalists.”
“The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment,” said Andreiy Biletsky, founder of the Azov Battaltion, “is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival, a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”
Since February, a campaign of self-appointed “news monitors” (mostly funded by the Americans and British with links to governments) have sought to maintain the absurdity that Ukraine’s neo-Nazis don’t exist.
Airbrushing, once associated with Stalin’s purges, has become a tool of mainstream journalism.
In less than a decade, a “good” China has been airbrushed and a “bad” China has replaced it: from the world’s workshop to a budding new Satan.
Much of this propaganda originates in the U.S., and is transmitted through proxies and “think-tanks,” such as the notorious Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the voice of the arms industry, and by journalists such as Peter Hartcher of The Sydney Morning Herald, who has labeled those spreading Chinese influence as “rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows” and suggested these “pests” be “eradicated.”
News about China in the West is almost entirely about the threat from Beijing. Airbrushed are the 400 American military bases that surround most of China, an armed necklace that reaches from Australia to the Pacific and south east Asia, Japan and Korea. The Japanese island of Okinawa and the Korean island of Jeju are like loaded guns aimed point blank at the industrial heart of China. A Pentagon official described this as a “noose.”
Palestine has been misreported for as long as I can remember. To the BBC, there is the “conflict” of “two narratives.” The longest, most brutal, lawless military occupation in modern times is unmentionable.
The stricken people of Yemen barely exist. They are media unpeople. While the Saudis rain down their American cluster bombs with British advisers working alongside the Saudi targeting officers, more than half a million children face starvation.
This brainwashing by omission is not new. The slaughter of the First World War was suppressed by reporters who were given knighthoods for their compliance. In 1917, the editor of The Manchester Guardian, C.P. Scott, confided to Prime Minister Lloyd George: “If people really knew [the truth], the war would be stopped tomorrow, but they don’t know and can’t know.”
The refusal to see people and events as those in other countries see them is a media virus in the West, as debilitating as Covid. It is as if we see the world through a one-way mirror, in which “we” are moral and benign and “they” are not. It is a profoundly imperial view.
The history that is a living presence in China and Russia is rarely explained and rarely understood. Vladimir Putin is Adolf Hitler. Xi Jinping is Fu Man Chu. Epic achievements, such as the eradication of abject poverty in China, are barely known. How perverse and squalid this is.
When will we allow ourselves to understand? Training journalists factory style is not the answer. Neither is the wondrous digital tool, which is a means, not an end, like the one-finger typewriter and the linotype machine.
In recent years, some of the best journalists have been eased out of the mainstream. “Defenestrated” is the word used. The spaces once open to mavericks, to journalists who went against the grain, truth-tellers, have closed.
The case of Julian Assange is the most shocking. When Julian and WikiLeaks could win readers and prizes for The Guardian, The New York Times and other self-important “papers of record,” he was celebrated.
When the dark state objected and demanded the destruction of hard drives and the assassination of Julian’s character, he was made a public enemy. Vice President Joe Biden compared him to a “hi-tech terrorist.” Hillary Clinton asked, “Can’t we just drone this guy?”
The ensuing campaign of abuse and vilification against Julian Assange — the U.N. rapporteur on torture called it “mobbing” — brought the liberal press to its lowest ebb. We know who they are. I think of them as collaborators: as Vichy journalists.
On September 4, members of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq proposed an odious bill to Parliament that, if passed, would punish any individual or group who advocates for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The bill is reportedly gaining momentum among parliament members.
According to the “Bill on the Prohibition of Promoting Homosexuality,” anyone who advocates for LGBT rights or “promotes homosexuality” would face imprisonment up to one year, and a fine of up to five million dinars (US$3,430). The bill would also suspend, for up to one month, the licenses of media companies and civil society organizations that “promote homosexuality.”
If passed, the law would endanger free expression in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and eradicate public discussion around gender and sexuality. Even as LGBT people across Iraq have faced egregious violence, including murder, over two decades, the KRI was a comparatively accessible space for activism.
The proposed bill comes amid a heightened crackdown on free assembly and expression in the KRI, where just last month security forces arrested dozens of journalists, activists, and politicians in advance of planned protests over worsening corruption, poverty, and unemployment.
The new law would make a bad situation worse for LGBT people in Iraq, who can already be arrested under a range of vague penal code provisions aimed at policing morals and limiting free expression. In June 2021, police in the KRI issued arrest warrants under a “public indecency” provision against 11 LGBT rights activists who are either current or former employees at Rasan Organization, a Sulaymaniyah-based human rights group. As of September 2022, the case remained open pending investigation, though authorities had not detained the activists.
Advocates who support LGBT rights and document abuses against them should not fear reprisals for speaking up. The Kurdistan Regional Government should immediately quash the proposed bill and publicly guarantee the right to free expression, including around the rights of LGBT people.
Iraq's supreme court says it lacks the constitutional authority to dissolve the country's parliament as demanded by influential Shia cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr.
In a ruling on Wednesday, which came in response to a lawsuit filed by lawmakers affiliated with Sadr, the country's apex court said it was only the parliament that could dissolve itself if it were to be found in default of its duties.
After the ruling, Iraqi security forces closed the gates to the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, the seat of the government, fearing angry reaction from Sadr's followers, according to reports.
The Arab country has been grappling with a political stalemate since last October when Sadr's parliamentary bloc won the general elections but refused to join an alliance with its fellow legislative factions to form a government.