Monday, August 21, 2017

Our commonalities

Charles Hugh Smith (IFC) has an article which points out:

Remember the "Russians hacked our election!" hysteria--or have you already forgotten? That entire narrative collapsed under a deluge of factual evidence that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) data release was an insider job, and a compelling lack of evidence of any other Russian hacking.
That failed narrative has now been replaced with a new mass hysteria: "a new cultural Civil War is inevitable." In this narrative, America has succumbed to us-versus-them divisions divided by all-or-nothing ideological bright lines.
Snap out of it, America: you're being played, just as you were played by the absurd "Russia hacked the election" mania.
The core strategy here is the destruction of any common ground: once the delusion that there is no common ground left has been cemented by relentless mainstream and social media hysteria/ propaganda, the populace fragments into echo-chamber fiefdoms of ideological conformity that are easily manipulated by the political-financial power structure.
Once the populace has been fragmented into ideologically divisive camps, controlling the resulting mass of warring mobs is easy. Rather than recognize the commonality of their powerlessness and impoverishment, the fragmented fiefdoms are easily turned on each other:


I agree.

There's too much effort to split us apart, to note our differences and not our commonalities.

I like it, in Janet Jackson's "Son of a Gun," when Carly Simon starts talking about our commonalities.




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


Monday, August 21, 2017.  Yet another operation to 'liberate' Iraq.


Saturday (in the US, it was already Sunday in Iraq), Prime Minister Hayder al-Abadi announced the start of operations against Tal Afar.

Tal Afar?

Yet another city controlled by the Islamic State.

Like Mosul, it's in Nineveh Province.  Unlike Mosul, it's population isn't in the millions.  The city is estimated to have less than 100,000 or a little over 200,000 depending on the source.  The bulk of the population is said to be Turkmen.



ISIS fired Guided Missile caused considerable damage to Iraqi Forces Abram Tank in outskirts of TalAfar City yesterday, West of Mosul.
 
 


TULSA WORLD explains "surrender or die" is the choice Hayder has presented the Islamic State with.  He did so in televised address where he played dress up.

ALJAZEERA notes, "Thousands of civilians are leaving the Iraqi city of Tal Afar as the army tries to retake it from ISIL."  BBC NEWS also points out that "the UN has warned that thousands fleeing the area are at risk, trekking for hours in extreme heat."

As yet another operation begins in Iraq, this observation is offered.

It's noteworthy that the most effective forces against ISIS have been America's adversaries: Hezbollah, Syrian army, Russia & Iraq PMUs.
 
 


The US Defense Dept announced this morning:

In Iraq, coalition military forces conducted nine strikes consisting of 84 engagements against ISIS targets:
-- Near Asad, a strike suppressed an ISIS tactical unit.
-- Near Qaim, a strike destroyed an ISIS supply cache.
-- Near Qayyarah, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS headquarters.
-- Near Rawah, two strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed a staging area and an ISIS barge.

-- Near Tal Afar, four strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units; destroyed five rocket-propelled-grenade systems, four tunnel entrances, four fighting positions, four vehicle-borne bombs, two tactical vehicles, two weapons caches, two supply caches, a command-and-control node, a medium machine gun and an anti-tank weapon; damaged five supply routes; and suppressed 32 mortar systems.


Ahmed Sami (THE SCOTSMAN) reminds, "Along with Tal Afar, IS militants are still fully in control of the town of Hawija west of Kirkuk, as well as the towns of Qaim, Rawa and Ana in western Iraq near the Syrian border."



In other news, religious issues continue.

Iraqi Christian leader fears rise of ‘new Islamic State’
 
 

Paul Singer (USA TODAY) reports:

Stephen Rasche says the next six weeks will be critical for saving some of the world’s oldest Christian communities from extinction.
Rasche is coordinating a task force trying to return tens of thousands of Christian families to the ancient Iraqi towns from which they were driven by ISIS three years ago.


Last week, the US State Dept issued the 2016 International Religious Freedom Annual Report.  From the report:

The U.S. government estimates the population of Iraq to be 38 million (July 2016 estimate). According to 2010 government statistics, the most recent available, 97 percent of the population is Muslim. Shia Muslims, predominantly Arabs but including Turkmen, Faili (Shia) Kurds, and others, constitute 55 to 60 percent of the population. Sunni Muslims make up approximately 40 percent of the population: approximately 15 percent of the total population are Sunni Kurds, while approximately 24 percent are Sunni Arabs, and the remaining 1 percent are Sunni Turkmen. Shia, although predominantly located in the south and east, comprise the majority in Baghdad and have communities in most parts of the country. Sunnis form the majority in the west, center, and the north of the country.
Christian leaders estimate there are fewer than 250,000 Christians remaining in the country. The Christian population has declined over the past 15 years from a pre-2002 population estimate of between 800,000 and 1.4 million persons. Approximately 67 percent of Christians are Chaldean Catholics (an eastern rite of the Roman Catholic Church); nearly 20 percent are members of the Assyrian Church of the East. The remainder are Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Anglican, and other Protestant. Only 50 evangelical Christian families reportedly remain in the IKR, down from approximately 5,000 in 2013.
Yezidi leaders report most of the approximately 350,000 to 400,000 Yezidis reside in the north. Estimates of the size of the Sabaean-Mandaean community vary. According to Sabaean-Mandaean leaders, 10,000 remain in the country, mainly in the south with small pockets in the IKR and Baghdad. Bahai leaders report fewer than 2,000 members, spread throughout the country in small groups. The Shabaks constitute about 350,000-400,000 people, two-thirds to three-fourths of whom are Shia and the rest Sunni, and are mostly located in Ninewa. According to Kaka’i (also known as Yarsani) activists, their community has approximately 300,000 members, traditionally located in the Ninewa Plains, but also in villages southeast of Kirkuk, as well as in Diyala, Erbil, and Karbala. The Jewish representative in the KRG Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs (MERA) reports 430 Jewish families reside in the IKR. Fewer than 10 Jewish families are known to reside in Baghdad.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq was 3.06 million at year’s end. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the IOM estimate one million citizens remain internally displaced as a result of sectarian violence dating from 2006 and 2008 before ISIS became active. During the conflict with ISIS beginning in 2014, up to 3.5 million persons were internally displaced. Difficulties in gaining access to IDPs in areas of conflict, as well as the government’s limited capacity to register IDPs, means estimates of religious minorities among the IDPs are imprecise. According to international sources, more than 60 percent of Iraqi IDPs are Arab Sunni, approximately 17 percent are Yezidi, approximately 8 percent are Turkmen Shia, approximately 3 percent are Arab Shia and 3 percent are Kurdish Sunni. Shabak, Chaldean, and Assyrian Christians, Turkmen Sunni, and Kurdish Shia account for approximately 6 percent of the IDP population.

[. . .]

National identity cards denote the holder’s religion. The only religions which may be listed on the national identity card are Christian, Sabaean-Mandean, Yezidi, and Muslim, and there is no distinction between Shia and Sunni Muslim affiliation nor designation of Christian denominations. Individuals practicing other faiths may only receive identity cards if they self-identify as Muslim, Yezidi, Sabaean-Mandean, or Christian. Without an official identity card, non-Muslims and those who convert to faiths other than Islam may not register their marriages, enroll their children in public school, acquire passports, or obtain some government services. Passports do not specify religion.

[. . .]

There continued to be reports that local police and Shia militia killed Sunni detainees. International and local NGOs reported the government continued to use the antiterrorism law as a pretext for detaining Sunnis without timely access to due process. Community leaders said forced conversion was the de facto result of the national identity card law. Some Yezidi and Christian leaders continued to report harassment and abuses by KRG Peshmerga and Asayish forces in the portion of Ninewa Province controlled by the KRG or contested between the central government and the KRG. Displaced members of certain religious groups report they were prevented from returning to their homes after their cities were liberated from ISIS. Yezidi groups said the presence of armed affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Sinjar and the imposition of security restrictions on the district by the KRG hindered the return of IDPs. In May KRG representatives revoked permission for Yazda, the largest Yezidi-run humanitarian and political advocacy organization, to operate in IDP camps. Officials restored access in October. In some parts of the country, non-Muslim religious minorities, as well as Sunni and Shia in areas where they formed the minority, faced harassment and restrictions from the authorities. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continued to deploy police and army personnel to protect religious pilgrimage routes and sites, as well as places of worship, during Islamic and non-Islamic religious holidays. The KRG also offered support and funding to some non-Muslim minorities, but other minorities in the IKR, such as evangelical Christians, faced difficulties registering and proselytizing. Because religion, politics, and ethnicity were often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) reported evidence of torture and ill-treatment of Sunni detainees by Iraqi Security Forces (including PMF fighters), as well as the deaths of Sunni men who were in custody, detained under the antiterrorism law.
In October, AI reported that men in Federal Police (a Shia-dominated organization) uniforms carried out multiple unlawful killings of Sunnis suspected of being ISIS militants or sympathizers in and around Mosul. In some cases, AI stated individuals were tortured before they were shot and killed execution style or run over with armored vehicles. In October in the Al-Shora subdistrict, men in Federal Police uniforms reportedly brutally beat and killed Ahmed Mahmoud Dakhil and Rashid Ali Khalaf, villagers from Na’na’a, as well as a third man from the village of Tulul Nasser.
In an October report, AI reported Sunni Arab IDPs from parts of Salah al-Din and Diyala Provinces feared attacks by Shia militias in control of those towns, and said the militias had committed gross human rights abuses against residents. AI documented what it referred to as “war crimes and gross human rights violations,” including extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, torture, and enforced disappearances, committed against Sunnis fleeing Saqlawiya and al-Sijir and accused of being complicit in ISIS crimes or having supported the group. AI stated the violations were committed by Shia PMF militias and fighters wearing military or Federal Police uniforms. For example, AI reported the extrajudicial execution of at least 12 men and four boys from the Sunni Jumaila tribe in al-Sijir by armed men in various security force uniforms. The Iraqi Federal Police denied any involvement in the abuses.
Hundreds of men seized by the PMF on May 27 and June 3 remained unaccounted for at year’s end. According to the testimonies of some survivors, ISF and the Shia militia group Kata’ib Hizballah had been close by when these individuals were captured. Iraqi forces had been stationed near the sites of crimes in Tarek’s Military Camp (Mu’askar Tarek), located along the old Baghdad-Falluja road. On June 5, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi established a committee to investigate the May and June disappearances, vowing to punish those responsible, and announced the arrest of an unspecified number of individuals who had committed the crimes. The prime minister, however, said the abuses were not part of a systematic pattern, and should not overshadow the battlefield successes and the assistance provided by Iraqi forces to Sunni Arab IDPs. In many cases, Shia PMF units reportedly operated independently and without oversight or direction from the government.
International and local NGOs stated the government continued to use the antiterrorism law as a pretext for detaining Sunni men – and their female relatives – for extended periods of time without access to a lawyer or due process. In October courts in Basrah announced 1,251 Sunni detainees had been affected by the new Amnesty Law, which allowed some individuals convicted under the antiterrorism law to apply for judicial review, and 538 had already been retried. The Ministry of Interior’s spokesperson reported that in June, 700 Sunni men were detained following the battle of Falluja based on their confessions of being ISIS supporters. According to the Anbar Police Command, out of 19,400 Sunni men initially arrested under the antiterrorism law for suspected connections to ISIS, 2,046 men were detained, while the remaining individuals were released. AI reported evidence of torture and ill-treatment of Sunni detainees, as well as deaths of Sunni men who were in custody, detained under the antiterrorism law. Religious organizations such as the Association of Muslim Scholars spoke publicly about human rights abuses in prisons in their annual report.

Official investigations of abuses by government forces, armed groups, and terrorist organizations continued to be infrequent, and the outcomes of investigations which did occur continued to be unpublished, unknown, or incomplete, according to NGOs.


There's a lot to discuss and debate in the report.

Sadly few in the press are informed enough to do so as was demonstrated last week (August 15th) when the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor's Ambassador Michael Kozak held a briefing.

Who was the most uninformed?

A difficult question but I'd go with THE NEW YORK TIMES' Gardiner Harris who appeared to have never read the annual report and seemingly was unembarrassed to be so uninformed.

He asked, "Hi. I noticed that – do you not track religious freedom in the United States? And if so, --"

Wait, you noticed it Gardiner?

Did you, because you then asked "do you not" and qualified "And if so . . ."

No, the US doesn't track itself and hasn't for decades.


AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yes, thank you. As is the case with the Human Rights Report, we do not rate ourselves. I – there was an effort to do so – I’m old enough to remember; it was 30-some years ago. And when we all looked at it, people started laughing. It was like writing your own performance evaluation or something. You either were way too modest or you looked like you were bragging on yourself. So that – but that does not mean that the U.S. thinks itself exempt from this kind of rating. There are mechanisms in the United Nations, in the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe and so on that do publish this kind of data. There’s an excellent, for example, in the OSCE, a tolerance unit. We – the U.S. is actually a pretty good model in that the data that you’re citing there comes from FBI reports, and those are all cranked into the OSCE reports at the end of the year. So we actually have, I think, a better record than many of the other member-states in terms of reporting details about performance in our own country. 


Oh, well, Gardiner was probably too busy obsessing over HAIM.








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    Friday, August 18, 2017

    Disagreeing on a point

    James Woods is a great actor.  I don't agree with him politically but he is a great actor.  In WHITE HOUSE DOWN, for instance, he gave the best performance.

    So he Tweeted this today:

    This man was a real leader of the . He was Hillary Clinton's mentor. His name is Robert Byrd.
     



    I don't know.

    Byrd?

    Yes, he was KKK -- and he left them.  I believe he publicly rejected them.  If James disagrees, that's fine.

    That's not my issue with his Tweet.

    "Mentor."

    That's my issue.

    How was he her mentor?

    She got into the Senate in January 2001.

    The next year, 2002, she was voting for the Iraq War.

    Robert Byrd did not do that.

    If he was her mentor, how much of a mentor was he?

    For me, looking back today, he's just one more person she sucked up to and used.  But he wasn't a mentor, he didn't teach her anything and she certainly didn't follow his lead.


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


    Friday, August 18, 2017.


    KURDISTAN24 reports:

    The Iraqi Prime Minister’s office on Thursday admitted a faction of the security forces committed “abuses” against civilians during the battle to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul.
    Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office said they began an investigation into the matter in May after a report by German news magazine Der Spiegel included images of torture by Iraqi forces.


    The report for DER SPIEGEL was done by Ali Arkady and if you're wondering why he isn't a household name in the west, you're really naive.

    THE NEW YORK TIMES can't applaud him because that would be indicting themselves.

    Rukmini Callimachi is their 'star' reporter -- a self-promoter with zero modesty who is prone to I-I-I-I-I-I statements.  As we noted several times in February, Rukmini had crossed a line.  She was identify with the Iraqi troops she was embedded with.  She was also insisting that there was no abuse.

    But War Crimes were being carried out.

    Applauding Ali is admitting Rukmini was worthless.

    And she was.

    Rukmini is only the most prominent -- because she made herself that way -- of the misreporters.

    Applauding Ali means admitting how much money was wasted by various outlets.

    And, let's face it, the rule of modern 'journalism' remains: Rather than rock the boat, let's all be wrong together.

    So they all ignored what was happening -- all but Ali.




    - SPIEGEL photographer Ali Arkady documents Iraqi security forces abducting, torturing, raping, & killing Sunnis around .



    Jason Ditz (ANTIWAR.COM) notes:

    Faced with mounting evidence of war crimes committed by Iraqi troops in the course of the Mosul invasion, as well as against “suspects” after victory was declared, Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder Abadi today admitted that there were “abuses” committed by security forces in the city.


    And, to be clear, all Hayder is admitting to is what DER SPIEGEL has already documented with photographic evidence.


    AP explains regarding spokesperson Saad al-Hadith, "Al-Hadithi was referring to allegations reported by an Iraqi photographer for Germany's Der Spiegel magazine in May. The report alleged Iraq's Emergency Response Division -- an elite force linked to the Interior Ministry -- tortured and killed civilians in and around Mosul."


    That was not the end of the abuse.

    July 19th, Human Rights Watch issued a press release which opened:


    International observers have discovered an execution site in west Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. That report, combined with new statements about executions in and around Mosul’s Old City and persistent documentation about Iraqi forces extrajudicially killing men fleeing Mosul in the final phase of the battle against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), are an urgent call to action by the Iraqi government.
    Despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held a single soldier accountable for murdering, torturing, and abusing Iraqis in this conflict.
    “As Prime Minister Abadi enjoys victory in Mosul, he is ignoring the flood of evidence of his soldiers committing vicious war crimes in the very city he’s promised to liberate,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Abadi’s victory will collapse unless he takes concrete steps to end the grotesque abuses by his own security forces.”
    International observers, whose evidence has proven reliable in the past, told Human Rights Watch that on July 17, 2017, at about 3:30 p.m., a shopkeeper in a neighborhood directly west of the Old City that was retaken in April from ISIS took them into an empty building and showed them a row of 17 male corpses, barefoot but in civilian dress, surrounded by pools of blood. They said many appeared to have been blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their back.
    They said the shopkeeper told them that he had seen the Iraqi Security Forces’ 16th Division, identifiable by their badges and vehicles, in the neighborhood four nights earlier, and that night had heard multiple gunshots coming from the area of the empty building. The next morning, when armed forces had left the area, he told them, he went into the building and saw the bodies lying in positions that suggested they were shot there and had not been moved. He said he did not recognize any of those killed.
    The international observers also saw soldiers from the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) in the area. They contacted Human Rights Watch by phone from the site and later shared five photos they took of the bodies.
    On July 17, another international observer told Human Rights Watch they spoke to a senior government official in Mosul who told them he was comfortable with the execution of suspected ISIS-affiliates “as long as there was no torture.” The observer said a commander showed their group a video taken a few days earlier of a group of CTS soldiers holding two detainees in the Old City. They said the commander told them that the forces had executed the men right after the video was taken.
    Salah al-Imara, an Iraqi citizen who regularly publishes information regarding security and military activities in and around Mosul, published four videos allegedly filmed in west Mosul on Facebook on July 11 and 12. One video, posted on July 11, appears to show Iraqi soldiers beating a detainee, then throwing him off a cliff and shooting at him and at the body of another man already lying at the bottom of the cliff. Human Rights Watch had verified the location of the first video based on satellite imagery. Other videos showed Iraqi soldiers kicking and beating a bleeding man, federal police forces beating at least three men, and Iraqi soldiers kicking a man on the ground in their custody.
    A third international observer told Human Rights Watch on July 18 that they witnessed CTS soldiers bring an ISIS suspect to their base in a neighborhood southwest of the Old City on July 11. The observer did not see what happened to the suspect next, but said that a soldier later showed them a video of himself and a group of other soldiers brutally beating the man, and a second video of the man dead, with a bullet to his head.

    “Some Iraqi soldiers seem to have so little fear that they will face any consequence for murdering and torturing suspects in Mosul that they are freely sharing evidence of what look like very cruel exploits in videos and photographs,” Whitson said. “Excusing such celebratory revenge killings will haunt Iraq for generations to come.”



    Let's again emphasize one paragraph from above:


    Despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held a single soldier accountable for murdering, torturing, and abusing Iraqis in this conflict.


    RUDAW noted at the end of July:


    Because of alleged killings committed by the 16th division of the Iraqi army in Mosul, the United States should stop assisting Baghdad militarily, argues a human rights monitor.

    “The US government should make sure it is no longer providing assistance to the Iraqi unit responsible for this spate of executions but also suspend any plans for future assistance until these atrocities have been properly investigated,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

    The group released a report on Thursday claiming two international observers witnessed “the summary killings of four people by the Iraqi army’s 16th Division in mid-July 2017.”




    Despite this, Nancy A. Youssef and Mike Giglio (BUZZFEED) reported in July:

    In the two weeks since Iraqi forces declared victory over ISIS in Mosul, local and international media have told a grim counterstory to the scenes of celebration — a rash of extrajudicial killings of suspected ISIS members at the hands of Iraqi security forces.
    The killings are no secret. Videos of Iraqi soldiers executing ISIS suspects have been posted to social media. Human Rights Watch and other watchdogs have issued reports. Iraqi military officers have openly discussed their participation in torture and revenge killings with reporters.



    The Iraq War continues and does so with less and less public transparency.


    Monday, Mattis said DOD contractor might no longer be public. Yesterday, Col. Dilon said US troop for Iraq/Syria won't be updated.



    Where's the objection?

    And the bombs continue to fall from US warplanes -- DoD noted yesterday:


    In Iraq, coalition military forces conducted six strikes consisting of 15 engagements against ISIS targets:
    -- Near Kisik, two strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed six ISIS-held buildings, three mortar systems and a staging area.
    -- Near Rawah, two strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle and a staging area.
    -- Near Tal Afar, a strike destroyed two ISIS headquarters and damaged a bridge.
    -- Near Tuz, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit.


    Let's note this upcoming Michigan event (August 26th):

    South Central Michigan Greens 
    ============================= 
    Calhoun, Hillsdale, and Jackson Counties Local 
    https://www.facebook.com/SCMiGreens/ 
    People and planet over profit. 
     FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 15, 2017 
     For more information: 
    -------------------- 
    Monika Schwab, Local Contact/SCMiGreens Moni.schwab@icloud.com 

     South Central Michigan Greens to Discuss Activities 3-5pm Saturday, August 26 at Jackson Coffee Company 
    =================================================== 
     The South Central Michigan Greens local will discuss recent and upcoming activities in the three-county area at the group's next monthly meeting 3-5pm on Saturday, August 26 at the downtown Jackson Coffee Company (201 South Mechanic Street). Local co-founder Monika Schwab of Jackson will report on the March for the Great Lakes at Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids on August 16. The goal of the march is to promote the closing of Enbridge's aging and controversial Line 5 pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac. And John Anthony La Pietra of Marshall, last year's Green nominee for 63rd District State House, will invite the public and his fellow Greens to a "Make the Connection" Labor Day weekend History Walk. The walk will start at 11am on Saturday, September 2 across East Michigan Avenue from Marshall's VFW Hall, linking two labor landmarks in Marshall -- both related to the founding of a railroad engineers' union in 1863. Also on the agenda is discussion of how, when, and where to canvass to find supporters of Green values in the three-county area. The South Central Michigan Greens local was formed earlier this year to bring together Green Party members and supporters in Calhoun, Hillsdale, and Jackson Counties. 

     For more details and news about the local -- including a description of the "Make the Connection" event and a link to a map of the route -- please visit the local's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SCMiGreens/ 
     # # # The Four Pillars of GPMI: Grassroots Democracy Social Justice Ecological Wisdom Non-Violence For our Ten Key Values, add: Community-Based Economics Decentralization Feminism Future Focus/Sustainability Personal and Global Responsibility Respect for Diversity



    The following community sites updated:













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