Tuesday, June 29, 2021


Yesterday, All Things Considered addressed the topic of UFOs. Excerpt:

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: UFOs aren't supposed to be bound by national borders, but for a while now, there have been a lot of sightings in the U.S. The report from the Pentagon released last Friday acknowledged more than 140 of what officials called unidentified aerial phenomena just since 2004, although historian and University of Pennsylvania professor Kate Dorsch says the rest of the nine-page document was unsurprising.

KATE DORSCH: It very much mirrors similar reports that have come before throughout the 20th century.

CORNISH: There's an emphasis on national security risk. There's a request for more funding, but there is no mention of aliens. But Dorsch says this moment still says something about America's unique obsession with visitors from other worlds. Kate Dorsch joins me now. Welcome to the program.

DORSCH: Thank you.

CORNISH: Now, there isn't a definite global databank on UFO sightings, but is it fair to say that Americans kind of see more than their fair share, so to speak?

DORSCH: It is fair to say that. Of course, we will never have complete sighting data because not everyone reports. But it is fair to say that Americans seem more willing to talk about their experiences than people in other places in the world.

CORNISH: Can you talk more about that? Why do you think that is?

DORSCH: I think that it is in part because we have created a culture around civilian defense, right? If you see something, say something. Americans also - we're a very individualist country, and so we're more willing to share the things that we've seen and heard and done.

CORNISH: Is there any intersection with our embrace of conspiracy theories?

DORSCH: I think so, yes. Our culture embraces conspiracy theories in such a impassioned and robust way that that creates a really great space for UFOs to continue having a sort of cultural relevance as a way to stand in for all kinds of concerns - political, religious, sort of existential sometimes.

CORNISH: What do we know about other countries, maybe Europe and elsewhere, where there have been similar kinds of sightings? How do they talk about them?

DORSCH: The way that they are interpreted in other places in the world does not always align with how we interpret them here in the States. For example, UFO sightings in the '50s and '60s in Germany very rarely had the sort of alien-extraterrestrial bend. Instead, Germans saw things they couldn't explain and assumed that they were American or Russian technology, that the global superpowers were testing new kinds of war technology over their skies. In the '40s and '50s, there were a series of sightings in Sweden, the ghost rockets - again, quickly interpreted to be a new Russian technology.

Interesting but I preferred Saagar on Breaking Points.








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


Tuesday, June 29, 2021.  We're again addressing the airstrikes on Iraq. 

What a load of nonsense.  I'm referring to two articles about US President Joe Biden bombing Syria and Iraq.  We covered the bombing of Iraq yesterday.  I am opposed to the bombing but noted that legally Joe wasn't on shaky ground.  (I'm not covering the bombing of Syria which I believe has no legal covering.)  I read the two opinions calling out Joe's actions on supposed legal grounds hoping there was a strong argument there.

There's no argument being made.  You can't make an argument if you don't pay attention.  I'm not focused on Syria.  I wouldn't pretend to think I could offer any reasoned legal opinion on Syria by brushing up over a day or two.  By the same token, lazy asses who weigh in without knowing what's been going on in Iraq -- skimming a few articles does not tell you what's going on -- are idiots.

Before we go further, let me note Iraqis on social media.  If you visited Arabic media in the last 24 hours, you would see a number of people pleased with the strikes.  That's only surprising if you weren't aware that a group of Iraqis -- probably small, but they are vocal -- have been calling for airstrikes on the militias for some time.

The militias are in competition with one another.  The militias as an umbrella are not popular with most Iraqis.  If you count all the people supporting any of the various militias it would probably come to somewhere between 35% to 40% of the Iraqi people -- that's a guess.  But that's counting people who support the Flintstone militia because it's their tribe (there is no Flintstone militia, FYI).  They support the one representing them but they don't support the rest.  They are in competition.

And not only are the militias in competition, Iraqis want their own country.  They don't want to be a satellite or a colony of the United States or Iran or anywhere else.  And Iran and Iraq have been at war in the not so long ago past and probably will be in the future.  They have many flare ups -- often involving the military -- over things like borders and access to waterways and to water itself.  

Iraq and Iran are neighbors and, like many neighbors, they quarrel from time to time.  I'm not seeing even that basic awareness in the two 'expert; opinions being served up.

At NBC, Hayes Brown flaunts his stupidity as he insists that Joe Biden's actions had "weak" justification.  He then wants to cite domestic law.  He's incredibly stupid.

In the most basic manner, he's an idiot.  

If you and I are debating an issue, the smartest thing I can do is haul it over to an area I have expertise in.  So if we're debating malts at Burger King and I'm some sort of dairy expert, I'm going to be arguing about the milk product in it, not the straw or the cup.  

Hayes Brown is supposed to be an expert in international relations (he studied it, I've never seen any indication that he actually grasps it -- meaning he can repeat and cite but he can't analyze of provide even a basic framework -- he's a regurgitator and I would've destroyed him in a classroom the moment he opened up is uneducated mouth to pontificate in that annoying manner he has).  Hayes isn't even smart enough to make the argument in the arena he's studied -- that's how stupid he is.

Domestic law?

It's not Brown's area.  And it shows.  He cites this and he cites that.  And it's all bull.  

There are written laws -- and Hayes cites several -- and there is what is done with them.  You can call that custom, if you want, but that's more of a generic meaning of the term "custom law."  At any rate, Congress has provided no oversight.  

Does it have the check on the Executive Branch?  It does. It's also supposed to be the only body of the federal government that can declare war.  But it has shirked that responsibility for years.  Could it assert that authority now?

It could try but do you really see a Democratic Congress going after a president who is also a Democrat?  More to the point, find the member of Congress who defended Tara Reid when she made her allegations of assault against Joe Biden.  They couldn't even speak out in defense of her or argue she deserved the benefit of the doubt.  They were either silent or, like Nancy Pelosi, they were attacking her. 

And now you think they're going to go after him on something which, if properly pursued, could lead to a hearing on impeachment?

No one has time for Hayes' masturbation fantasies.

He wants you to know that there are limits to self-defense.  Yes, there are.  But to determine whether or not Joe exceeded that defense, you need to know the facts.

Though the militias have issued one statement after another threatening harm to US troops -- and claimed some of the attacks since the start of 2020 -- Hayes seems unaware of that or what that means.  If you are being attacked and someone is publicly threatening you, that's a threat.  You have a right to self-defense.

Self-defense does not just mean that you can defend yourself when bullets are fired at you.  

The Iraq War is illegal and always has been..  That doesn't change the fact that the US troops currently in Iraq are in Iraq because the prime minister wants them there.  He's had many opportunities to kick them out and hasn't done so.  

As the head of the host country, he has obligations as well -- and that is international law.  But, Hayes, international law and international relations aren't the same thing, are they?  One's specific and the other, the one you claim expertise in, is a little more 'general studies,' right?  Well we pay for the mistakes we make when choosing the easy road in our education.

There also needs to be awareness that Mustafa al-Kadhimi is legally in charge of the militias.  They were made part of the Iraqi military.

After that, you need to be aware of what's been taking place in Iraq: The militias are out of control and do not respect the chain of command.

They regularly call out Mustafa -- he's even been publicly called a "traitor" by a leader of one militia.  

When he had one of them arrested -- finally -- for the many assassinations that they've been carrying out against Iraqi activists, they responded how?

This was weeks ago.  They descended upon Baghdad -- and the 'secure' Green Zone -- making threats against Mustafa, encircling his compound, terrorizing.  

By the same token, they carry out their assassinations in public.  Video camera in a neighborhood?  They seem to delight in carrying out an assassination in front of one.  And they think nothing of hailing a taxi to leave the scene of the crime.  They're not sneaking around.

Often, before carrying out the assassination, they threaten the family for several weeks.  That's what emerges when the families of the person murdered come forward. 

Yet no militia member (leader or drone) has gone to prison.  

At rallies, they openly injure and kill protesters.  In plain sight.  But they haven't been arrested, let alone put in prison.

It's so lawless it might make some long for the days when the Iraqi mafia controlled some of the SOI units.  At least the mafia showed some respect for life.  Some.

Mustafa is prime minister because the previous one failed to deliver on the basics -- protection.  That means ending corruption, that means providing jobs, that means providing basic public service, that means reigning in the militias.  Mustafa has done none of that.

He's been helped by a press outside of Iraq that has been ignorant (most of the western press) or that has been willing to whore for him because they had a relationship with him -- never disclosed in the glowing pieces about what a great job he's doing -- prior to his becoming prime minister.  Mustafa, as a journalist, worked for a large number of outlets who praise him today.

He's not popular within Iraq.  That's why he's been desperately forming alliances.  That's why I think Nouri al-Maliki has a real shot at returning to power.  (Nouri returning to power would be very bad for Iraq based on what he's done in the past.)  Nouri's made some cosmetic changes -- aware that his anti-women positions hurt him, he's now working overtime to get female members of his State of Law in the front of the Iraqi press.  I see no indication that this -- or any of his measures -- are more than window dressing but, as always, I could be wrong and it is possible that his return might be beneficial.  

In the 2010 elections, Nouri couldn't even win a plurality of votes for his group.  Iraqiya beat him.  He was the sitting prime minister and he had done one bribe after another in the lead up to the election and worked overtime to disqualify various candidates that he saw as a threat to him, to prevent them from even running.  And his group still lost to Iraqiya.  (How did he get his second term? Ask Joe Biden about The Erbil Agreement.  Oh, wait, no one ever does.  They let him whine about stolen elections but never press him on how he nullified the votes of the Iraqi people to give Nouri a second term as prime minister that he never won.)

It is not a leap to state that US forces currently in Iraq are in that country at the pleasure and invitation of the prime minister.  Yet he's unable to protect them from the militias which, theoretically and on paper, take their orders from him.  

The situation is much muddier but that's your quick walk through.  And based on the above, even if the US was hauled before the international court next week -- it won't be -- those sitting in judgment would picture themselves in the same situation and have an understanding and sympathy towards the argument of self-defense.

[The argument above wouldn't work for Syria for a number of reasons -- obvious even to me.  They would include that the US operations are opposed by the leader of Syria.]

The other flaunting stupidity is, sadly, Bill Van Auken.  From his nonsense:

Ostensibly, both Monday’s and February’s attacks were carried out in retaliation against attacks on US bases inside Iraq by Iranian-backed Iraqi militias hostile to the nearly two-decade-long American occupation. In February, the Pentagon cited a rocket that was fired at the US base in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital of Erbil. The latest airstrikes were justified as a response to militia attacks using drones against several targets, including a secret CIA facility.

One of the remarkable characteristics of the latest attacks is their failure to elicit any significant response or analysis, much less criticism, from within the US media and political establishment. A US president attacking two countries on the same day, in flagrant violation of international law and with no legal authorization from the US Congress, barely makes the news. Leading Democrats and Republicans both praised the action, with some suggesting that further aggression was in order against Iran.

As Phoebe said on FRIENDS, "Hello, Kettle.   This is Monica.  You're black."

Is there silence, Bill?  Silence about attacks destroying lives?

You mean like the silence -- the ongoing silence -- about what's being done to the Kurds by Turkey?  I saw that one weak ass article by WSWS because it was sent by WSWS to the public e-mail account.  That was about a Kurd in a Turkey.  It didn't change the fact that WSWS remains silent, to this day, on the Turkish War Planes bombing the Kurdistan Region.  On the civilians killed.  On Turkey using a drone to attack a refugee camp.  On Turkey sending in ground forces -- sending them into Iraq. Building military bases in Iraq.  All of this without the public consent of the Iraqi government.  And don't forget how they're now helping to destroy the planet as they 'clear' areas by taking down all of the forests in Northern Iraq -- they might be 'hiding' terrorists -- bad forests.  

Don't talk about silence, Bill, it's not a look that works for you while you're at WSWS.

In fairness to Bill, he's usually an honest broker and it's apparently policy that WSWS not recognize the Kurds and their suffering.  I have no idea why, take it up with WSWS.  My point being, I do get that his hands are tied in what he can write.  But for any of us who've been following WSWS' long silence on the assault on the Kurds, we're not going to take Bill's article seriously as a result.

Glenn Greenwald (SUBSTACK) offers his thoughts on the bombing:

Beyond the propagandistic justification is the question of legality, though even to call it a question dignifies it beyond what it merits. There is no conceivable Congressional authorization — none, zero — to Biden's dropping of bombs in Syria. Obama's deployment of CIA operatives to Syria and years of the use of force to overthrow Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad never had any Congressional approval of any kind, nor did Trump's bombing of Assad's forces (urged by Hillary Clintonwho wanted more), nor does Biden's bombing campaign in Syria now. It was and is purely lawless, illegal. And the same is true of bombing Iraq. The 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq, which the House just last week voted to repeal, has long since ceased to provide any legal justification for ongoing U.S. troop presence and bombing campaigns in that country.

In its statement justifying the bombing raids, Biden's Pentagon barely even bothered to pretend any of this is legal. It did not cite either the 2002 AUMF for Iraq or the 2001 AUMF authorizing the use of force against those responsible for 9/11 (a category which, manifestly, did not include Iran, Iraq or Syria). Instead, harkening back to the days of John Yoo and Dick Cheney, the Biden Defense Department claimed that “as a matter of international law, the United States acted pursuant to its right of self-defense,” and casually asserted that “as a matter of domestic law, the President took this action pursuant to his Article II authority to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq."

Those claims are nothing short of a joke. Nobody seriously believes that Joe Biden has congressional authority to bomb Syria and Iraq, nor to bomb “Iranian-backed” forces of any kind. As The Daily Beast's long-time War on Terror reporter Spencer Ackerman put it on Sunday night, discussions of legality at this point are "parody” because when it comes to the U.S.'s Endless Wars in the name of the War on Terror, “we passed Lawful behind many many years ago. Authorization citations are just pretexts written by lawyers who need to pantomime at lawfulness. The U.S. presence in Syria is blatantly illegal. Such things never stop the U.S.”

That is exactly right. The U.S. government is a lawless entity. It violates the law, including its own Constitution, whenever it wants. The requirement that no wars be fought absent congressional authority is not some ancillary bureaucratic annoyance but was completely central to the design of the country. Article I, Section 8 could not be clearer: “The Congress shall have Power . . . to declare war.” 

Those are his thoughts and the above is the closest he really comes to a legal analysis.

I disagree with him.  I get his point and would've made it myself a decade ago.  Time does move on.  And Congress has done nothing.  If you repeatedly abdicate your power, you no longer have it. 

More to the point, we've allowed the position of 'commander in chief' to grow to such epic proportions that any claim Joe wants to make regarding the US military and its actions overseas can be critiqued, can even be legally challenged but show no real shot at leading to a win in the courts.  Legal analysis requires not just knowledge of the law but also knowledge of the courts and how they rule.  They give presidents a wide swath when it comes to the role of commander in chief.

Glenn's piece is worth reading and I do share his righteous dismay.  But when Congress has abdicated for so long, it would require real effort for them to retake the powers the Constitution grants them.  They don't have the energy or desire to demonstrate a real effort.

Am I cynical?  Jaded?  Probably.  

I'm also tired of nonsense.  

I love Ajamu Baraka but this Tweet is pure nonsense:

Biden administration said it bombed "Iranian" backed forces in Iraq because they threaten U.S. forces. But Iraq government demanded months ago that U.S. take its military forces out of Iraq & U.S. refused. So, if U.S. was not there, U.S. forces would not be threatened - right?

No, the Iraqi government did not demand that.  Some members of the Parliament demanded it -- you didn't have enough members present at the session for a quorum -- and that would be a bit like Ajamu Tweeting that the US government demanded something happen when it was really the GOP minority in Congress.

Reality, they had a teleconference this year about the status of US forces in Iraq.  That teleconference could have resulted in the Iraqi government demanding that US forces leave.  That is not what happened.  They are redefining the relationship.  

So Ajamu's Tweets is just useless and he should probably expand his range of sources.  To many in the US have bought that nonsense because outlets like ANTIWAR.COM have pimped it.

As someone who has spent way too much time on the Iraq War, I would love for the war to be ended and for all US troops to come hom.

But it's lies that keep the US troops there.  And those lies include that the 'Iraqi government' wants US troops out.

I'm also real damn tired of the lies that protect the Iraqi government and celebrate it.  It's not helping the people.  It's failed the people.  Iraq remains a failed state.  The militias target everyone -- including the journalists.  


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