Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Talking Octavia E. Butler

Who is my all time favorite author? Yes, Octavia E. Butler. I just love her work. I've been a fan since junior high, I think. (Though we might have called it 'middle school.' It was sixth grade through eighth grade in one building.) Betty gave me a heads up that NPR did an hour long special on her (originally in February but the re-aired it this summer.). Here's their description of it: 

Octavia Butler's alternate realities and 'speculative fiction' reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. She was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. Butler was also fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warning is her message of hope - a hope conjured by centuries of survival and persistence. For every society that perishes in her books comes a story of rebuilding, of repair.
This is the fourth episode of our summer series "Movies for Your Mind." Summer movies like you've never heard before.

Make a point to check that out (and thank you, Betty). A site called The Great Course Daily is examining Octavia's work. This is from an analysis by Dr. Pamela Bedore:

An easy-to-imagine future in which California faces severe income disparity and water shortage while the U.S. populace rallies around an extremist presidential candidate who wants to return America to white Christian Americans with patriarchal family values. This is the premise of Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series, which contains science fiction elements and have obvious genre blends of utopia and dystopia.
There are two Earthseed books, The Parable of the Sower, which came out in 1993, and The Parable of the Talents, 1998. These are, perhaps, Butler’s most famous works. The series opens in a California of 2030, and it narrates The Pox, two decades of extreme decline in U.S. power due to poor resource management, corrupt politics, and an increasing inability or unwillingness for people to accept the multiplicity of identity politics in the 21st century.
The protagonist of Earthseed is a black Californian teenager named Lauren Olamina, who undergoes the typical trials of an apocalyptic protagonist, losing most of her friends and family, hitting the road for a long dangerous journey to locate a more utopian place that may or may not exist, and trying to figure out how to survive in a world gone mad.
Lauren will eventually become the Prophet Lauren Olamina, founder and leader of the new religion, Earthseed. When we first meet her, Lauren is a desperate teenaged girl in a desperate situation. Living in a gated community in Robledo, California with her beloved father and stepmom and her three younger brothers, 15-year-old Lauren can see the writing on the wall.
Life in the community has become increasingly difficult, with overcrowding, increasingly thin margins on food production through gardens and small livestock, and more and more frequent marauders breaking in at night. Outside the walls, life is even worse. Homeless families squat where they can, water costs more than food, hygiene and sanitation are deplorable, most jobs pay only in food and not in wages, and criminals—even petty thieves in a world where to eat may be to steal—wear electronic slave-collars and put to work, often sex work.


 And you can click here to watch a video presentation on this by Dr. Bedore.


Octavia Butler is my favorite writer but she's also a legendary writer who broke new ground with her work.  I hope her stature increases and that people continue to realize just how wonderful her writing is.


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


 Tuesday, August 31, 2021.  US troops go out of one country but prepare to go into another.  It might be a death cycle, don't call it a cycle of life.

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) reports:

The US withdrew the last of its troops from Afghanistan aboard a C-17 military transport plane just one minute before midnight Kabul time Monday, in advance of the August 31 deadline that Washington had negotiated with the Taliban. The plane’s departure consummated the debacle of the 20-year US war, the longest in American history.

Monday’s final withdrawal ended a two-week-long evacuation that transported 122,000 people out of the country, including 5,400 American citizens, along with Afghans who had collaborated with the two-decade US occupation and their families. Monday saw the last of the “core” US diplomatic staff depart Kabul airport, leaving behind empty what had been one of the largest US embassies in the world, built at the cost of $800 million.

The chaotic character of the US evacuation included a suicide bomb attack last Thursday, claimed by the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K), that killed 13 American military personnel. Some 170 Afghans were killed in the incident, an unknown number of them by US fire in response to the bombing. On Monday, Kabul’s airport came under rocket fire. The humiliating character of the withdrawal under fire, drawing comparisons to the flight from the US embassy’s roof in Saigon in 1975, has sparked bitter recriminations within the US ruling establishment, including accusations against the Biden administration’s gross “mishandling” of the operation.

The conditions for this withdrawal, however, had been created by the entire 20-year imperialist intervention, which failed to create a viable puppet regime and provoked hatred and anger among a population subjected to bombings, drone strikes, night raids, imprisonment and torture.

Are US forces all gone?  I have no idea but it would be very unlikely.  When the US drawdown (not withdrawal) took place in Iraq at the end of 2011, it was left to Ted Koppel to be the sole truth teller on TV:


MR. KOPPEL: I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations. You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here. Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?

AMB. JAMES JEFFREY: You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.

As for the Afghan people, Sarah Lazare notes at IN THESE TIMES:

Following the Taliban’s seizure of power, people across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the fate of Afghans who helped the United States and are therefore at risk of retribution. (This concern is not universal: We are also seeing a rise in far-right, anti-Afghan refugee sentiment.) Pundits and politicians who gave little attention to civilian deaths in Afghanistan during 20 years of U.S. occupation are joining in this outpouring — a dynamic that is building pressure for the Biden administration to extend the U.S. military presence.

The Biden administration has stopped evacuating Afghans by air, citing the bombings on the airport, but continues to airlift Americans from the country as the August 31 deadline approaches. Biden claims evacuations of Afghan allies will resume post-withdrawal.

Missing from this conversation have been the voices of Afghan anti-war like Nematullah Ahangosh, a 26-year-old originally from the Malistan district of Ghazni province in Afghanistan. In a conversation with In These Times, he called attention to two vulnerable populations largely being left out of this newfound U.S. concern. The first are those who were harmed by the U.S.-backed Afghan government or directly by the United States — which was responsible for bombings, night raids, drone strikes, CIA death squads, and high civilian death counts. The second are Ahangosh’s fellow activists who opposed both the Taliban and the U.S. military occupation of their country, and now face Taliban reprisal.

Ahangosh is not only a fierce opponent of the U.S. war, but also of the Taliban and what he calls the corrupt Afghan government.” In 2018, Ahangosh moved to India to study social work, with the hope of eventually returning to Afghanistan to to start my dream project for empowering the physically disabled and those who lost limbs in bomb blasts.” But now that the Taliban is in power, he says, I lost hope. Now I fear returning due to my working background with a charity for refugees.” Ahangosh is not alone in his displacement: In addition to those uprooted by the Taliban’s recent seizure of power, at least 5.9 million Afghans have been internally or externally displaced as a result of 20 years of war, according to a report released in September 2020 by Brown University’s Costs of War project.

Ahangosh is involved in another organization, Afghan peace group (the name has been changed for security reasons), that aims to create a world without war. The group, based in Afghanistan but with active Afghan members in the diaspora, opposes the U.S. military occupation, as well as the violence of the Taliban and the Afghan army. Afghan peace group is well-known and lauded among some corners of the U.S. anti-war movement for speaking out against a U.S. occupation that, until weeks ago, had largely become background noise in this country. From 2014 to 2018, Ahangosh was coordinator of different teams of Afghan peace group in Kabul and, while in India, he has been organizing with members of the group who are abroad. For his own protection, he is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in India to attain resettlement for himself and his family in a third country. But many of his friends in Afghan peace group are in more dire straits: Ineligible for U.S. evacuation because they did not help the U.S. military, they are in Afghanistan fearing for their lives.

That is the opening to her interview with Nematullah Ahangosh.  From the interview:

We are seeing a lot of talk in the United States about how people who help the military and help the United States deserve refuge and sanctuary. What about people who didn’t help the United States? What about people who were injured or lost family members due to the U.S. military?

Nematullah Ahangosh: Well, I don’t think refugee status will just give them their family members back. They can never get their limb back if they lost it in a bomb explosion, or if they were targeted by U.S. drones or military planes or helicopters. I have friends who’ve lost their loved ones in drone attacks. [Drone operators] always confuse the Taliban and the ordinary people. There is no way that you could recognize who is who on the ground.

I do have a problem with giving safety only to those who served U.S. troops. Other people also deserve refuge. Of course. Not everybody can make it to Europe, or to other countries, or to America. What should others do who worked with other foreign NGOs and are now in danger? It’s our human right to be free from all forms of violence.

My understanding is that Afghan peace group did not support the U.S. military or the Taliban, and was an anti-militarist organization. Are your colleagues in Afghan peace group eligible for refugee status? Are they being prioritized for evacuations?

Nematullah Ahangosh: No, they are not unfortunately considered. And yes, you’re right. They are the only organization I know of opposing the militaries of all sides. They need protection, too. Such organizations should never be forgotten and their members should never be left behind and left in danger.

Do you oppose the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan?

Nematullah Ahangosh: Of course I oppose it. Because it’s an invasion. They bombarded our country without any permission from the United Nations Security Council. And that’s a direct invasion.

And when they were there, they used to go to people’s houses during the night in search of Taliban. So, there were a lot of rape cases that happened. And the drones that they used and the bomb that they’d drop killed civilians. And the Trump administration dropped mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan. [Editors’ note: The mother of all bombs” refers to the most powerful conventional bomb in the U.S. military’s possession, the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) — it contains 18,000 pounds of explosives, and it’s so large it must be released from a cargo plane. In April 2017, the U.S. military dropped one of these bombs in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, stating that the strike was aimed at targeting the Islamic State. The strike allegedly killed at least two civilians and destroyed a cave system, flattening houses and trees.]

To me, it doesn’t look like helping: It looks more like destroying.

This was a stupid occupation and invasion where nobody received anything — not even the Americans — they didn’t get anything. And the only thing that people got was badness. That does not justify the irresponsible withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Caitlin Johnstone offers:

The US has officially announced the completion of its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, minus of course the CIA ops which will continue in that country and the bombs that will likely continue to rain down in the name of fighting terrorism.

There are a lot of warmongers rending their garments over the termination of a decades-long military occupation which accomplished nothing besides making war profiteers wealthy and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Almost as ridiculous are the countless pundits and politicians hailing this as some kind of major accomplishment that Americans should be proud of.

Pride, praise and celebration are not the appropriate emotional response to the day. The appropriate response to a decades-overdue withdrawal from a war that should never have happened in the first place is rage. Unmitigated rage at an unforgivable atrocity which amassed a mountain of corpses for no legitimate reason, from which the region will probably not recover in our lifetime. Unmitigated rage at those responsible for starting and maintaining this horror all this time.


Offering the US government's perspective, Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered the following remarks yesterday:

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good evening, everyone.

Eighteen days ago, the United States and our allies began our evacuation and relocation operation in Kabul.  As you just heard from the Pentagon, a few hours ago, that operation was completed.

More than 123,000 people have been safely flown out of Afghanistan.  That includes about 6,000 American citizens.  This has been a massive military, diplomatic, and humanitarian undertaking – one of the most difficult in our nation’s history – and an extraordinary feat of logistics and coordination under some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable.

Many, many people made this possible.

I want to commend our outstanding diplomats who worked around the clock, and around the world, to coordinate the operation.  They volunteered for duty at the Kabul airport.  They flew to transit countries to help process thousands of Afghans bound for the United States.  They deployed to ports of entry and American military bases to welcome Afghans to their new homes.  They staffed a 24/7 task force here in Washington, overseen by Deputy Secretary Brian McKeon.  And they built a list of Americans possibly seeking to leave Afghanistan, then worked to contact every single one of them, repeatedly – making 55,000 phone calls, sending 33,000 e-mails since August 14th.  They solved problem after problem to keep the mission moving forward.

They did this because – for the thousands of State Department and USAID employees who have served in Afghanistan in the past 20 years – this evacuation operation was very personal.  Many worked hand in hand for years with Afghan partners, many of whom became trusted friends.  We also lost cherished members of our Foreign Service community in Afghanistan; we’ll never forget them.  Helping Americans, our foreign partners who have been by our side for 20 years, and Afghans at risk at this critical moment, was more than just a high-stakes assignment for our team.  It was a sacred duty.  And the world saw how our diplomats rose to the challenge with determination and heart.

U.S. service members in Kabul did heroic work securing the airport, protecting civilians of many nationalities – including tens of thousands of Afghans – and airlifting them out.  They’re also providing vital support right now, caring for Afghans on military bases in Europe, the Middle East, and here in the United States.

We’ve seen pictures of U.S. service members at the Kabul airport cradling babies, comforting families.  That’s the kind of compassionate courage our men and women in uniform exemplify.  They carried out this mission under the constant threat of terrorist violence – and four days ago, 11 Marines, one Navy medic, and one soldier were killed by a suicide bomber at the airport gate, as well as scores of Afghans.

Nearly all of them were in their early 20s – just babies or toddlers on September 11th, 2001.

These deaths are a devastating loss for our country.  We at the State Department feel them deeply.  We have a special bond with the Marines.  The first person that you see when you visit an American embassy is a Marine.  They guard our diplomatic missions; they keep us safe around the world.  We couldn’t do our jobs without them.  And we will never forget their sacrifice – nor will we forget what they achieved.  The most exceptional among us perform a lifetime’s work of service in a short time here on Earth.  So. it was for our exceptional brothers and sisters who died last week.

Finally, I want to thank our allies and partners.  This operation was a global endeavor in every way.  Many countries stepped up with robust contributions to the airlift, including working by our side at the airport.  Some are now serving as transit countries, allowing evacuees to be registered and processed on the way to their final destinations.  Others have agreed to resettle Afghan refugees permanently, and we hope more will do so in the days and weeks ahead.  We are truly grateful for their support.

Now, U.S. military flights have ended, and our troops have departed Afghanistan.  A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun.  It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy.  The military mission is over.  A new diplomatic mission has begun.

So here is our plan for the days and weeks ahead.

First, we’ve built a new team to help lead this new mission.

As of today, we have suspended our diplomatic presence in Kabul, and transferred our operations to Doha, Qatar, which will soon be formally notified to Congress.  Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, it was the prudent step to take.  And let me take this opportunity to thank our outstanding charge d’affaires in Kabul, Ambassador Ross Wilson, who came out of retirement in January 2020 to lead our embassy in Afghanistan, and has done exceptional, courageous work during a highly challenging time.

For the time being, we will use this post in Doha to manage our diplomacy with Afghanistan, including consular affairs, administering humanitarian assistance, and working with allies, partners, and regional and international stakeholders to coordinate our engagement and messaging to the Taliban.  Our team there will be led by Ian McCary, who has served as our deputy chief of mission in Afghanistan for this past year.  No one’s better prepared to do the job.

Second, we will continue our relentless efforts to help Americans, foreign nationals, and Afghans leave Afghanistan if they choose.

Let me talk briefly about the Americans who remain in Afghanistan.

We made extraordinary efforts to give Americans every opportunity to depart the country – in many cases talking, and sometimes walking them into the airport.

Of those who self-identified as Americans in Afghanistan, who were considering leaving the country, we’ve thus far received confirmation that about 6,000 have been evacuated or otherwise departed.  This number will likely continue to grow as our outreach and arrivals continue.

We believe there are still a small number of Americans – under 200 and likely closer to 100 – who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.  We’re trying to determine exactly how many.  We’re going through manifests and calling and texting through our lists, and we’ll have more details to share, as soon as possible.  Part of the challenge with fixing a precise number is that there are long-time residents of Afghanistan who have American passports, and who were trying to determine whether or not they wanted to leave.  Many are dual-citizen Americans with deep roots and extended families in Afghanistan, who have resided there for many years.  For many, it’s a painful choice.

Our commitment to them and to all Americans in Afghanistan – and everywhere in the world – continues.  The protection and welfare of Americans abroad remains the State Department’s most vital and enduring mission.  If an American in Afghanistan tells us that they want to stay for now, and then in a week or a month or a year they reach out and say, “I’ve changed my mind,” we will help them leave.

Additionally, we’ve worked intensely to evacuate and relocate Afghans who worked alongside us, and are at particular risk of reprisal.  We’ve gotten many out, but many are still there.  We will keep working to help them.  Our commitment to them has no deadline.

Third, we will hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan.

The Taliban has committed to let anyone with proper documents leave the country in a safe and orderly manner.  They’ve said this privately and publicly many times.  On Friday, a senior Taliban official said it again on television and radio, and I quote: “Any Afghans may leave the country, including those who work for Americans, if they want and for whatever reason there may be,” end quote.

More than half the world’s countries have joined us in insisting that the Taliban let people travel outside Afghanistan freely.  As of today, more than 100 countries have said that they expect the Taliban to honor travel authorizations by our countries.  And just a few hours ago, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that enshrines that responsibility – laying the groundwork to hold the Taliban accountable if they renege.

So, the international chorus on this is strong, and it will stay strong.  We will hold the Taliban to their commitment on freedom of movement for foreign nationals, visa holders, at-risk Afghans.

Fourth, we will work to secure their safe passage.

This morning, I met with the foreign ministers of all the G7 countries – United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Japan – as well as Qatar, Turkey, the European Union, and the secretary general of NATO.  We discussed how we will work together to facilitate safe travel out of Afghanistan, including by reopening Kabul’s civilian airport as soon as possible – and we very much appreciate the efforts of Qatar and Turkey, in particular, to make this happen.

This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward.

We are also working to identify ways to support Americans, legal permanent residents, and Afghans who have worked with us and who may choose to depart via overland routes.

We have no illusion that any of this will be easy or rapid.  This will be an entirely different phase from the evacuation that just concluded.  It will take time to work through a new set of challenges.  But we will stay at it.

John Bass – our former ambassador to Afghanistan who returned to Kabul two weeks ago to help lead our evacuation efforts at the airport – will spearhead our ongoing work across the State Department to help American citizens and permanent residents, citizens of allied nations, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and Afghans at high risk, if any of those people wish to depart Afghanistan.  We’re deeply grateful for all that John did in Kabul, and for his continued commitment to this mission, as well as the extraordinary consular officers who were serving by his side.

Fifth, we will stay focused on counterterrorism.

The Taliban has made a commitment to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for external operations that could threaten the United States or our allies, including al-Qaida and the Taliban’s sworn enemy, ISIS-K.  Here too, we will hold them accountable to that commitment.  But while we have expectations of the Taliban, that doesn’t mean we will rely on the Taliban.  We’ll remain vigilant in monitoring threats ourselves.  And we’ll maintain robust counterterrorism capabilities in the region to neutralize those threats, if necessary, as we demonstrated in the past few days by striking ISIS facilitators and imminent threats in Afghanistan – and as we do in places around the world where we do not have military forces on the ground.

Let me speak directly to our engagement with the Taliban across these and other issues.  We engaged with the Taliban during the past few weeks to enable our evacuation operations.  Going forward, any engagement with a Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only: our vital national interests.

If we can work with a new Afghan government in a way that helps secure those interests – including the safe return of Mark Frerichs, a U.S. citizen who has been held hostage in the region since early last year – and in a way that brings greater stability to the country and region and protects the gains of the past two decades, we will do it.  But we will not do it on the basis of trust or faith.  Every step we take will be based not on what a Taliban-led government says, but what it does to live up to its commitments.

The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support.  Our message is: any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned.

The Taliban can do that by meeting commitments and obligations – on freedom of travel; respecting the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities; upholding its commitments on counterterrorism; not carrying out reprisal violence against those who choose to stay in Afghanistan; and forming an inclusive government that can meet the needs and reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people.

Sixth, we will continue our humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

The conflict has taken a terrible toll on the Afghan people.  Millions are internally displaced.  Millions are facing hunger, even starvation.  The COVID-19 pandemic has also hit Afghanistan hard.  The United States will continue to support humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.  Consistent with our sanctions on the Taliban, the aid will not flow through the government, but rather through independent organizations, such as UN agencies and NGOs.  And we expect that those efforts will not be impeded by the Taliban or anyone else.

And seventh, we will continue our broad international diplomacy across all these issues and many others.

We believe we can accomplish far more – and exert far greater leverage – when we work in coordination with our allies and partners.  Over the last two weeks, we’ve had a series of intensive diplomatic engagements with allies and partners to plan and coordinate the way ahead in Afghanistan.  I’ve met with the foreign ministers of NATO and the G7.  I’ve spoken one-on-one with dozens of my counterparts.  Last week, President Biden met with the leaders of the G7 countries.  And Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has been convening a group of 28 allies and partners from all regions of the world every other day.

Going forward, we’ll coordinate closely with countries in the region and around the world – as well as with leading international organizations, NGOs, and the private sector.  Our allies and partners share our objectives and are committed to working with us.

I’ll have more to say on these matters in the coming days.  The main point I want to drive home here today is that America’s work in Afghanistan continues.  We have a plan for what’s next.  We’re putting it into action.

This moment also demands reflection.  The war in Afghanistan was a 20-year endeavor.  We must learn its lessons, and allow those lessons to shape how we think about fundamental questions of national security and foreign policy.  We owe that to future diplomats, policymakers, military leaders, service members.  We owe that to the American people.

But as we do, we will remain relentlessly focused on today and on the future.  We’ll make sure we’re finding every opportunity to make good on our commitment to the Afghan people, including by welcoming thousands of them into our communities, as the American people have done many times before with generosity and grace throughout our history.

In this way, we’ll honor all those brave men and women, from the United States and many other countries, who risked or sacrificed their lives as part of this long mission, right up to today.

Thanks for listening.

And the White House released the following statement from US President Joe Biden:

I want to thank our commanders and the men and women serving under them for their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled – in the early morning hours of August 31, Kabul time – with no further loss of American lives. The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve. Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will address the American people on my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31. For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned. Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.

I have asked the Secretary of State to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan. This will include work to build on the UN Security Council Resolution passed this afternoon that sent the clear message of what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel. The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments. It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

For now, I urge all Americans to join me in grateful prayer tonight for three things. First, for our troops and diplomats who carried out this mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled results: an airlift that evacuated tens of thousands more people than any imagined possible. Second, to the network of volunteers and veterans who helped identify those needing evacuation, guide them to the airport, and provide support along the way. And third, to everyone who is now – and who will – welcome our Afghan allies to their new homes around the world, and in the United States.

Finally, I want to end with a moment of gratitude for the sacrifice of the 13 service members in Afghanistan who gave their lives last week to save tens of thousands: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss.

By the way, we're happy to note many different takes.  But there is a rule of thumb.  I read over former US House Rep Ron Paul's remarks thinking we might be able to include them.  I got to the part about Joe Biden turning the US military into "a lab for cultural Marxism" before I said, "Enough."  I'm sure that line plays with peole on the right -- but it's not just inaccurate, it's idiotic.   I'm sure it was a good scare tactic many, many years ago and that it still works with some on the right.  But it's not accurate and we're trying to deal with reality here.  Equally true, there's enough actually going on right now that you don't have to try to bring back to life your still-born cultural war. I stopped when I got to that phrase, stopped reading.  My time is too valuable to me.  Sorry.

Back on planet earth, in the 21st century, David Swanson does some calculations:

The war on Afghanistan and the war on Iraq that it was a means of helping start, and all the other spin-off wars leave (if you count only bombing from above as leaving) millions dead, millions injured, millions traumatized, millions homeless, the rule of law eroded, the natural environment devastated, government secrecy and surveillance and authoritarianism increased worldwide, terrorism increased worldwide, weapons sales increased worldwide, racism and bigotry spread far and wide, many trillions of dollars wasted that could have done a world of good, a culture corroded, a drug epidemic generated, a disease pandemic made easier to spread, the right to protest constrained, wealth transfered upward to a handful of profiteers, and the U.S. military turned into such a machine of one-sided slaughter that its casualties are fewer than 1 percent of those in its wars, and the top cause of death in its ranks is suicide.

But we opponents of the madness leave behind wars prevented, wars ended, bases stopped, weapons deals stopped, money divested from weapons, police demilitarized, people educated, ourselves educated, and the tools created to carry all of this further.

Let’s look at some of the statistics.

The Wars:

The wars that have used the “war on terror,” and usually the 2001 AUMF, as an excuse have included wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Philippines, plus related military actions in Georgia, Cuba, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Niger, Cameroon, Jordan, Lebanon, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, Tunisia, and various oceans.

(But just because you’ve gone nuts for wars doesn’t mean you can’t have coups too, such as Afghanistan 2001, Venezuela 2002, Iraq 2003, Haiti 2004, Somalia 2007 to present, Honduras 2009, Libya 2011, Syria 2012, Ukraine 2014, Venezuela 2018, Bolivia 2019, Venezuela 2019, Venezuela 2020.)

The Dead:

The best available estimates of the number of people directly and violently killed by the wars — so, not counting those who’ve frozen to death, starved to death, died of disease after moving elsewhere, committed suicide, etc. — are:

Iraq: 2.38 million

Afghanistan and Pakistan: 1.2 million

Libya: 0.25 million

Syria: 1.5 million

Somalia: 0.65 million

Yemen: 0.18 million

To these figures can be added another 0.007 million deaths of U.S. troops, a figure that does not include mercenaries or suicides.

The total is then 5.917 million, with U.S. troops making up 0.1% of the deaths (and some 95% of the media coverage).

And Chris Hedges (MPN) shines a light on the fake concerns of corporate media:

The faux pity for the Afghan people, which has defined the coverage of the desperate collaborators with the U.S. and coalition occupying forces and educated elites fleeing to the Kabul airport, begins and ends with the plight of the evacuees. There were few tears shed for the families routinely terrorized by coalition forces or the some 70,000 civilians who were obliterated by U.S. air strikes, drone attacks, missiles, and artillery, or gunned down by nervous occupying forces who saw every Afghan, with some justification, as the enemy during the war. And there will be few tears for the humanitarian catastrophe the empire is orchestrating on the 38 million Afghans, who live in one of the poorest and most aid-dependent countries in the world.

Since the 2001 invasion the United States deployed about 775,000 military personnel to subdue Afghanistan and poured $143 billion into the country, with 60 percent of the money going to prop up the corrupt Afghan military and the rest devoted to funding economic development projects, aid programs and anti-drug initiatives, with the bulk of those funds being siphoned off by foreign aid groups, private contractors, and outside consultants.

Grants from the United States and other countries accounted for 75 percent of the Afghan government budget. That assistance has evaporated. Afghanistan’s reserves and other financial accounts have been frozen, meaning the new government cannot access some $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. Shipments of cash to Afghanistan have been stopped. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Afghanistan will no longer be able to access the lender’s resources.

Things are already dire. There are some 14 million Afghans, one in three, who lack sufficient food. There are two million Afghan children who are malnourished. There are 3.5 million people in Afghanistan who have been displaced from their homes. The war has wrecked infrastructure. A drought destroyed 40 percent of the nation’s crops last year. The assault on the Afghan economy is already seeing food prices skyrocket. The sanctions and severance of aid will force civil servants to go without salaries and the health service, already chronically short of medicine and equipment, will collapse. The suffering orchestrated by the empire will be of Biblical proportions. And this is what the empire wants.

UNICEF estimates that 500,000 children were killed as a direct result of sanctions on Iraq.  Expect child deaths in Afghanistan to soar above that horrifying figure. And expect the same imperial heartlessness Madeline Albright, then the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, exhibited when she told “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children because of the sanctions was “worth it.” Or the heartlessness of Hillary Clinton who joked “We came, we saw, he died,” when informed of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s brutal death. Or the demand by Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia who after the attacks of 9/11 declared, “I say, bomb the hell out of them. If there’s collateral damage, so be it.” No matter that the empire has since turned Libya along with Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen into cauldrons of violence, chaos, and misery. The power to destroy is an intoxicating drug that is its own justification.

While some US troops leave Afghanistan, others go into Iraq.  David Bitton (COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE) reports:

Nearly 2,000 Fort Carson soldiers are heading to Iraq to provide security and protection during a nine-month deployment.

Members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division gathered on the Mountain Post Monday for a farewell ceremony as the last troops in Afghanistan left the country, ending America’s longest war after nearly 20 years.

KKTV notes, "The 1st SBCT will replace the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Louisiana Army National Guard, in Iraq as part of a regular rotation of forces to support the United States’ commitment to Operation Inherent Resolve. "  As you watch the suffering in Louisiana (due to the hurricane) remember that some members of the state's National Guard are unable to assist with operations in their own state because they were instead sent to Iraq.  RUDAW's Dilan Sirwan reports:

The United States will stay in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region for the long haul and remains committed to defeating the Islamic State group (ISIS), the US Consul General to Erbil told reporters on Monday.

“The United States is staying in Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region. We are on this journey with you for the long haul,” Robert Palladino said in a press conference on Monday, adding that the situation in Iraq is different from Afghanistan.

“What will happen at the end of this year is an end to any combat role for United States' forces, and that is the only thing that is ending,” Palladino said. “It is in the best interest of the United States and Iraq to continue our strategic partnership.”

We'll wind down with the opening from a strong report by THE NEW ARAB:

In an attempt to promote Iraq as neutral ground from which regional rivals can hash out agreements - a new Middle Eastern Switzerland - Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi hosted a regional summit with French involvement last Saturday in Baghdad that brought together foes Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as Turkey, Qatar, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt, and Kuwait.

However, rather than Baghdad being any kind of neutral territory, the summit appears to have been taken advantage of by not only Iran – the most dominant state actor in Iraqi politics today – but also by domestic authorities, to paper over the glaring cracks that have plagued Iraq domestically since the US-led invasion toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003.

Despite this, regional actors will perhaps begin to explore whether the Baghdad summit can be a springboard for the creation of a Middle Eastern de-escalation framework, particularly in light of the increasingly receding influence and authority of the United States, a superpower that has just been embarrassingly defeated and ejected from Afghanistan.

The following sites updated:

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Still disgusted with Walmart

I had e-mails asking me for an update on Walmart ("Disgusted with Walmart") and if they ever made good on their error? 

I was done with them when I wrote that post.  I'm not using them anymore and I hadn't planned to write about them again but since people are asking, no, it did not end well.

If you missed the earlier problem, let me catch you up quickly.

1) Sunday, before church, we order groceries from Walmart Delivery to be delivered that night.

We get an e-mail that night telling us that there is a delay but they will be delivered.  By 9:00 pm they are not there.

2) We contact Walmart Grocery.  They try to contact the store to see what's going on.  The store won't answer.

3) The store then calls and tells me it was a pick up order and am I going to come get it.  No, it wasn't and I'm still on with customer support which says, no, it was delivery.  The store is very rude to me.

4) Monday, at work, a woman with the store calls me.  It was their mistake.  It shouldn't have happened.  She is so sorry.  They will get my groceries to me by 5:30 that night (Monday night).

5) After 7 pm Monday night, I'm with customer support trying to figure out where the groceries are.  The store calls me.  Oopsi!

6) Oopsie?  They gave poor customer service on Sunday, Monday was their attempt to make that up and they screwed that up as well.

7) Maybe they could get them out that night still.  If not, tomorrow.

8) I get three calls -- two groceries will be out shortly.  Third, no, they're not going out tonight.  But they'll be there by six on Tuesday.

9) Tuesday afternoon, I am doubting that groceries will arrive from Walmart so I used Instacart to order from another grocery store.

10) Those groceries arrive.  The ones from Walmart never do.  I tell customer support that (a) I don't want to be called by that store ever again and (b) that I want to file a formal complaint.

That catches you up.

So Wednesday, I'm at work. I answer my cellphone and have no idea who this woman is on the phone talking about a delivery, she never identifies herself.  And I'd been on the phone earlier with Optum RX (where I get my meds from, they're shipped to my home) so I'm thinking this is about my prescription.  Finally, as she's yammering away, I say, "I'm sorry, who is this?"

It's that woman at the store.  I tell her first that she should identify herself when calling.  She then starts offering this long drawn out story.  She tried to deliver it on Tuesday.  Well, she tried to put it in the computer but she did and then she had to do inventory and I don't understand just how much is involved in her store's inventory and she wasn't able to check the order because she was doing this "inventory and I didn't even take a lunch, by the way," so she didn't notice that it had kicked out my order and --

She just went on and on.  Then at one point she lies to me telling me it's the fault of the delivery driver and not her store because she later thought that the delivery driver had at least picked out the food, going through the store --

"What did you just say?  Did you just say that the delivery driver picks out the food? Does the shopping?" 


No, don't lie to me.  My co-worker Kelly and her son both are drivers for Uber, Doordash and Walmart.  And they do Walmart and not Instacart because they just pick up the sacked groceries at Walmart, they don't have to shop the way they do if they do Instacart.

So I tell her I don't like being lied to.  I tell her that I had told customer service that I never wanted to hear from her again.  And I told her that she provided lousy customer service herself, that while she had told me about every event in her life on Tuesday except for her bathroom breaks, she had still not -- twelve minutes into this phone call -- said the words "I'm sorry."

I then hung up on her.

I'm done with Walmart.

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

Friday, August 27, 2021.  Afghanistan fever still inflicts corporate media while the same media tries to sell Iraq as a success.

Sarah Chayes is the person who should be on the talk shows passed off as news programs is you're going to talk Afghanistan.  Amy Goodman made a few seconds for Sarah yesterday.  Yes, that is a criticism.  Not really sure why she gets short changed to bring on Jeremy Corbyn or, for that matter, any politician.  She was on the ground in Afghanistan for years.  She is a trained journalist so she knows how to speak in such a way that the audience understands her -- meaning she's not tossing out references that will go over the heads of listeners or viewers -- if she's referencing something, she's explaining it.  But while Sarah knows about journalism, Amy still struggles with comprehending the term.  Here's an excerpt of the brief segment:

SARAH CHAYES: And I was on the ground, you know, starting about — I was in Kandahar maybe a day or two after the city fell, meaning the Taliban regime at the time fell. And well into 2002, there was basically no one home at the U.S. Embassy. There just was nobody there. People would rotate in on two-week deployments. No one spoke a local language. We couldn’t figure out what was going on. And it wasn’t until later that I realized that, by early 2002, personnel were all pivoting already to Iraq. So, I think that’s the first thing you have to understand.

And secondly, that, therefore, the U.S. personnel that it was — that Afghanistan matters were largely left to were members of the CIA. And they had a history in the region which really involved a very close partnership with the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI. And what I came to understand is that the Taliban did not emerge spontaneously in Kandahar, as we often hear. And this is work that I did over the course of years, interviewing both ordinary people who lived in Kandahar and lived across the border in Quetta, Pakistan, as well as some of the main actors in that drama, who became friends of mine. The Taliban were concocted across the border by the Pakistani military intelligence agency and sent across the border. There was a negotiation process — and we’re talking 1994 now, 1993 and 1994 — with the local mujahideen commanders. And that process was, in fact, led by none other than Hamid Karzai. So, when I learned that in the early 2000s, I was pretty gobsmacked, because I realized that sort of the individual that the United States government had chosen to lead a post-Taliban Afghanistan was the very person who had brought the Taliban into Afghanistan in the first place and who had served as their ambassador-designate to the United Nations, as late as 1996.

And so, I would — you know, I would just raise some questions with what Obaidullah was telling you, because his family retained very close links with the Pakistani military intelligence agency throughout. And I found myself almost smiling when he said, “How do I reconcile the two me’s? And maybe that’s a way that Afghanistan can reconcile its own internal divisions.” And I want to say, “Boy, I’m sorry, but that’s called being a double agent.” And I really think that that family, in particular now — I can’t speak to him, because I don’t know him personally, but the family right now is playing precisely the role that he was playing on your air, which is to present a kind of moderate and acceptable facade in order to get the international community to reengage and open the money spigots once again.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: If you could just clarify, what do you think the alternative is? What do you think the international community should be doing?

SARAH CHAYES: Reserving judgment. And I certainly do agree that the money spigot is the only leverage that the international community has left. But I also think that the role of the Pakistani military government in all of this really needs to be taken into account. And it’s one of — I mean, I have, and have had, a number of very consistent criticisms of the way the United States has handled this from the start, the first being this absolutely inexplicable, I want to say, persistent relationship with Pakistan, when the Pakistani government, as I say, organized the Taliban in the first place, organized the Taliban resurgence, harbored Osama bin Laden, and, you know, in the midst of all this, provided nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea. I mean, it’s just difficult to quite understand why that country continues to be considered an ally.

And then, secondly, of course, was the behavior of those Afghan leaders that we, the United States, kind of put forward toward their own citizens, and the role of U.S. officials and U.S. development organizations in reinforcing and protecting and enabling, I mean, just an unbelievably corrupt and abusive governmental system, so that, you know, my Afghan friends, who were not in university — they were ordinary villagers in and around Kandahar — they just didn’t know what to make of it. It was like, “Look, the Taliban shake us down at night, but the government shakes us down in the daytime.” And so, I would say that, in my experience, even among very conservative Kandaharis, it was not so much an ideological issue. It was not so much that the United States was an invading country, at least certainly not in the first years. My neighbors were saying, you know, that they were sick of being abused by their own government, and they were sick of the international or Western role in propping up that government, and they wanted a government that was acting in their interests. And that was where their frustration with the Western engagement came from.

When she refers to Goody's other guest Obaidullah Baheer, Sarah's being rather kind.  Not only is he questionable because of his family, he's also questionable because of his links to the CIA which will, no doubt, make Amy come under even more scrutiny for how she allowed foundations to purchase DEMOCRACY NOW! with grants and how the show that has made her millions has become an outlet for US government propaganda.  

Obaidullah Baheer is not an honest broker and, were Democracy Sometimes an honest broker, they never would have had him on.  He works through the panic talking points that demonstrate that the US intel community is still at war with the presidency.  And Goody Whore is right there serving along side them while posing as a journalist.

Sarah has much to say.  I doubt I would agree with 100% of it but (a) I would be interested in hearing it and (b) I would surely reflect on anything I disagreed with her on.  It's a shame that she's brought on for what was little more than a soundbyte.  But she can't be counted on to stick to the script so she clearly will not be given the airtime that her expertise warrants.  

Where I think we would disagree would be on the issue of Joe Biden's actions this month.  And I will give her the compassion award (I'm not being sarcastic) without even hearing her remarks.  I'm not a compassionate person in the face of an emergency.  I'm practical -- and you can say "cold" (people turn to me in an emergency) -- and I don't see this ending differently no matter what plans were made or taken.  The airport was bomed yesterday, there was gunfire, there was this, there was that.


Andrea Mitchell's practically having an orgasm on air as she tries to spread fear.

But the reality is that this is what happens.  This is what would happen.  3,000 more US Marines on the ground on Thursday? They might have mitigated some of the violence, they might not have.  They might have increased the violence as a result of their presence, they might have become targets as a result of their presence.  

I want Andrea out from behind a desk from now on when she's on air because I honestly don't trust where her hands are when she starts her frenzy fear nonsense.

If you look at the situation coldly (and I can be very cold, no question), there's not much that 'fine tuning' could have done to change what's taking place and it's probably best if Americans can admit to that.  Best for this moment and best for our future.  

Another huge talking point for Andrea is the Americans trapped! Trapped! Trapped in Afghanistan!

So let's note this from the US State Dept briefing Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave on Wednesday:

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon.  I’d like to give you all an update on the situation in Afghanistan and our ongoing efforts there, particularly as they relate to U.S. citizens, and then I’m very happy to take your questions.

Let me begin with my profound appreciation for our diplomats and service members who are working around the clock at the airport in Kabul and at a growing number of transit sites to facilitate the evacuation of Americans, their families, citizens of allied and partner nations, Afghans who have partnered with us over the last 20 years, and other Afghans at risk.  They are undertaking this mission under extremely difficult circumstances, with incredible courage, skill, and humanity.

Since August 14th, more than 82,300 people have been safely flown out of Kabul.  In the 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday, approximately 19,000 people were evacuated on 90 U.S. military and coalition flights.  Only the United States could organize and execute a mission of this scale and this complexity.

As the President has made clear, our first priority is the evacuation of American citizens.  Since August 14th, we have evacuated at least 4,500 U.S. citizens and likely more.  More than 500 of those Americans were evacuated in just the last day alone.

Now, many of you have asked how many U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan who want to leave the country.  Based on our analysis, starting on August 14 when our evacuation operations began, there was then a population of as many as 6,000 American citizens in Afghanistan who wanted to leave.  Over the last 10 days, roughly 4,500 of these Americans have been safely evacuated along with immediate family members.  Over the past 24 hours, we’ve been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely.  We will update you regularly on our progress in getting these 500 American citizens out of Afghanistan.

For the remaining roughly 1,000 contacts that we had who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we are aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day through multiple channels of communication – phone, email, text messaging – to determine whether they still want to leave and to get the most up-to-date information and instructions to them for how to do so.  Some may no longer be in the country.  Some may have claimed to be Americans but turn out not to be.  Some may choose to stay.  We’ll continue to try to identify the status and plans of these people in the coming days.

Thus, from this list of approximately 1,000, we believe the number of Americans actively seeking assistance to leave Afghanistan is lower, likely significantly lower.

So we're talking less than a thousand people.  One more point, these bobble heads on TV screeching that we don't leave anyone behind.  That's actually a slogan of the US military.  It has nothing to do with private US citizens who elect on their own to go into a war zone to make money.  

Again, I'm cold.  I'm sorry, if I'm an American citizen in a country that the US is occupying and they announce a pullout, I'm getting out of the country right then.  I'm not rushing around shopping for souvenirs or pondering what to pack and what to leave or do I have time for highlights before I head to the airport.  If this had been a surprise withdrawal announced after the fact, that would be different.  This was known to be coming, Joe was discussing it publicly in July.  If you're a functioning adult who doesn't have the sense to step away from the fire, you are probably going to get burned.  That's reality.

A lot of Americans went to Afghanistan to make money.  Corporations paid very well -- more than the US military paid service members.  Well that payment was so high due to the risks involved.  We're seeing those risks right now.  

We're also seeing something much worse than online bullies or trolls, the corporate media.  Scary and blood thirsty.  Ben Burgis (JACOBIN) observes:

A long series of pundits have settled on the same response to this dilemma: keeping some American troops in Afghanistan long-term would be fine and nothing like a “forever war,” since the United States has permanent military bases all over the world.

Here’s Eli Lake — a columnist for Bloomberg and a “National Security Journalism Fellow” at the Clements Center:

GOP pollster Patrick Ruffini hit a similar note. Bret Stephens said pretty much the same thing in the New York Times, focusing on America’s seventy-one-year presence in Korea. Andrew McCarthy worked a version of the same sneer into the National Review, joking that if we were to keep troops in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, we might as well rebrand World War II as “World Forever War II,” since the United States still has bases in Germany and Japan.

None of these pundits seems to feel any need to explicitly spell out the argument they’re gesturing at with these sneers: that America’s supposedly peaceful long-term military presence in these other countries discredits what the antiwar left says about “forever wars” in the Middle East.

As far as I can tell, their implied line of reasoning goes something like this:

  1. The antiwar left claims that indefinitely extending the presence of American troops in Afghanistan would amount to waging a “forever war” in Afghanistan, but this can only be true if maintaining long-term American military presence in any country counts as waging a “forever war” in that country.
  2. America has maintained long-term bases in Germany, Japan, South Korea, and other countries without waging a “forever war” in those countries.
  3. We can conclude from number two that maintaining long-term American military presence in any country would not count as waging a “forever war” in that country, and thus is no big deal.
  4. We can conclude from one and three that the antiwar left is wrong to say that indefinitely extending the presence of American troops in Afghanistan would amount to waging a “forever war” in Afghanistan — and we should keep some troops in Afghanistan.

Number two is true enough if war means an ongoing “hot war” like the one that’s ending in Afghanistan. US troops aren’t in Germany to help Angela Merkel stave off insurgents already in control of large parts of Bavaria and Saxony. No one is getting into any firefights in Okinawa. Korea comes the closest, but even there, none of the occasional flareups of violence between North and South Korea have involved American soldiers shooting or being shot by anyone in decades. Like Germany and Japan, Korea is a stable society where the government enjoys as much internal legitimacy as the American government does within the borders of the United States.

But these disanalogies between the role American troops were playing in Afghanistan and the role they play in countries like Germany also show that number one is absurd. American soldiers might be able to walk around Berlin or Seoul without anyone shooting at them, but that doesn’t mean that if the war had dragged on for another year or another decade, the same kind of tranquility would have reigned in Kabul.

Branko Marcetic (also JACOBIN) observes:

Officially, what we might call the establishment press in the United States — your cable news networks, long-running legacy press outlets, and the newer, largely digital publications that rely on close relationships with the powerful for their reporting — aren’t meant to have editorial lines and political viewpoints. But every now and then, whether they realize it or not, they accidentally reveal their political priorities.

If you’re in doubt, just examine the news since Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan began, where you’ll get to see this phenomenon in action firsthand. As images of the Taliban’s stunning conquest of the country melded into images of US forces and their allies’ chaotic evacuation, Biden has gotten a hammering from a US media that has centered Taliban human rights violations in its coverage of the pullout, and united across partisan and ideological lines to push a single, pro-war narrative.

[. . .]

What’s so striking about all this is what a turnaround it’s been from the last seven months of Biden coverage. Since at least the general election campaign, when outlets played down Biden’s unexplained absences, ignored the sexual assault accusation against him, and spiked a potentially damaging story about him at the eleventh hour, the press have tended to treat Biden with the softest of kid gloves.

After an inauguration day that reached totalitarian-like levels of leader worship, the White House press corps quickly set the tone with the very first question of the very first press briefing held by press secretary Jen Psaki, when a reporter set her up for an alley-oop with a question about whether she’d be “promoting the interests of the president,” or giving reporters “the unvarnished truth.” Reporters’ infatuation with Psaki was quite possibly reaching its peak just before the withdrawal, when she was bringing the press corps her mother-in-law’s cookies and leading them in a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

What soon followed was what felt like a coordinated press campaign to wear America down into submission with round after round of pieces insisting Biden was a transformational, Franklin Roosevelt–style president, even as he dropped core items of his platform and appeared to lose interest in his own agenda. After sixty days, Biden was only the second of the last five presidents to be covered more positively than negatively, according to Pew, the first being Barack Obama.

The past seven months have been immensely frustrating for anyone interested in seeing Biden have an actual transformational presidency, in the sense of benefiting most working Americans instead of a thin slice of the elite. Most coverage and headlines have tended to vastly overstate the ambition and significance of Biden’s progressive measures, usually by uncritically reusing his administration’s often misleading framing.

Look at the way his modest tax increases, which in effect permanently cut taxes for the wealthiest from their already low baseline under Obama, were sold by the press as bold new tax hikes on the rich. Or the way his ban on new oil and gas leases, a mostly symbolic move the fossil fuel industry celebrated for its lack of ambition, was presented as a bold emergency action to tackle climate change.

Well into August, the New York Times and Washington Post were selling Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill on his favored terms — as a bipartisan win, and a historic response to an accelerating climate crisis — by talking about the numbers relative to past, do-nothing administrations, instead of pointing out to people how grossly unserious the numbers are relative to what solving the climate crisis actually demands.

From the corporate media, let's return to former journalist Sarah Chayes and some points she was making on DEMOCRACY NOW!:

Now let's get back to Sarah Chayes.

 And what I came to understand is that the Taliban did not emerge spontaneously in Kandahar, as we often hear. And this is work that I did over the course of years, interviewing both ordinary people who lived in Kandahar and lived across the border in Quetta, Pakistan, as well as some of the main actors in that drama, who became friends of mine. The Taliban were concocted across the border by the Pakistani military intelligence agency and sent across the border. There was a negotiation process — and we’re talking 1994 now, 1993 and 1994 — with the local mujahideen commanders. And that process was, in fact, led by none other than Hamid Karzai. So, when I learned that in the early 2000s, I was pretty gobsmacked, because I realized that sort of the individual that the United States government had chosen to lead a post-Taliban Afghanistan was the very person who had brought the Taliban into Afghanistan in the first place and who had served as their ambassador-designate to the United Nations, as late as 1996.

[. . .]

And then, secondly, of course, was the behavior of those Afghan leaders that we, the United States, kind of put forward toward their own citizens, and the role of U.S. officials and U.S. development organizations in reinforcing and protecting and enabling, I mean, just an unbelievably corrupt and abusive governmental system, so that, you know, my Afghan friends, who were not in university — they were ordinary villagers in and around Kandahar — they just didn’t know what to make of it. It was like, “Look, the Taliban shake us down at night, but the government shakes us down in the daytime.” And so, I would say that, in my experience, even among very conservative Kandaharis, it was not so much an ideological issue. It was not so much that the United States was an invading country, at least certainly not in the first years. My neighbors were saying, you know, that they were sick of being abused by their own government, and they were sick of the international or Western role in propping up that government, and they wanted a government that was acting in their interests. And that was where their frustration with the Western engagement came from.

A lot of the above plays out in Iraq as well.  Every prime minister Iraq has had since the US invasion of 2003 has been a coward who had fled Iraq years before and only returned after the 2003 US-led invasion.  The government -- including the militia (which is part of the government security forces) -- is shaking down citizens.  

We don't get the reality on Iraq from the press.  A number of e-mails to the public account (common_ills@yahoo.com) make that very clear as they note that they're not seeing any articles from REUTERS or this outlet or that outlet on Robert Pether.

Is REUTERS not covering it?  That would be something -- if it's true.  I haven't seen any coverage from them on it but I'm not reading REUTERS right now.  I'm rather disgusted with them as they whore to sell Mustafa al-Khadimi as a great leader and this who nonsense meet-up that's about to take place.  But they couldn't whore the way they're doing if they also devoted a lot of time to Robert Pether because what the Iraqi government is doing to Robert goes to how corrupt that government is.

If you need an audio report on Robert Pether, ABC Australia has one herePeter Murtagh (IRISH TIMES) reports:

Robert Pether, the Australian-born engineer resident in Co Roscommon with his wife and children, has been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and fined $12 million by an Iraqi court.

The sentence, handed down earlier this week, applies also to Mr Pether’s Egyptian-born colleague, Khalid Radwan. Both men had been working on a new headquarters in Baghdad for the Central Bank of Iraq when they were arrested without explanation last April.

Mr Pether’s wife, Desree Pether – who lives in Elphin with the couple’s children, teenage sons Flynn and Oscar and daughter Nala (8) – is distraught at the development.

“They have committed no crime,” she posted on social media. “This is a malicious prosecution, a complete fabrication.”

Mr Pether was arrested while in the offices of the head of the bank and has remained incarcerated since but has not been told specifically what is alleged against him. He appears to have become ensnared in a dispute over money between his employer, CME Consulting which in 2015 won a $33 million contract relating to the construction of the Zaha Hadid-designed new Central Bank offices, a landmark building on the bank of the Tigris river, and the Iraqi government.

Ronan Greany Tweets:

The similarities between Irish resident Robert Pether in Iraq and Irishman #RichardOHalloran in China are striking. Both deprived of their liberty as “strategies” to force money from their employers. People are not pawns! Please ⁦⁩ ?

That 'success' that is the Iraqi government?  They're also struggling to pull off the October elections -- elections that were already delayed.  Now Muhammad Irfan (URDU POINT) files a story about a rumor swirling around:

Snap legislative elections in Iraq, scheduled for October this year, may be pushed back until April 2022 due to a boycott by a number of political parties, including the bloc of influential Shiite politician Muqtada al-Sadr, lawmaker Mohammed al-Khalidi told Sputnik.

"The elections cannot be held as scheduled due to the al-Sadr bloc's refusal to participate ... A meeting of the heads of state, parliament and government with the leaders of political parties will take place on Sunday to determine the future of the elections. The decision to postpone the elections may be announced after this meeting," al-Khalidi said.

The vote may be delayed until April 21, according to the lawmaker.

An Iraqi political source told Sputnik earlier this week that Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi may postpone the elections if al-Sadr does not abandon his decision to boycott them.

Meanwhile Sardar Sattar Tweets:

Muqtada al-Sadr will give a speech today. He is expected to announce his party's return to the parliamentary elections. #Iraq #IraqElections

And NRT reports:

Iraqi Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday (August 26) announced the arrest of a group who prepared to commit fraud in the parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

The court said in a statement that the group wanted to create political turmoil in the country by committing fraud and changing the results.

It said that the group also tried to offend Iraq’s prominent political and social figures.

It added that a politician was involved with the group by suggesting to create fake pages and documents to carry out their work.

Let's wind down with this from UNICEF:

BAGHDAD, 26 August 2021 - “UNICEF is deeply concerned after the reported deaths of a 10-year-old child on 24 August in Diyala by the detonation of an explosive remnant of war (ERW) and of an 11-year-old child on 25 August in Muradiya Village, South of Baquba, due to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED.) UNICEF expresses its deep sorrow and condolences to the children’s families, friends, and communities.

“Sadly, these are not isolated losses of innocent lives. UNICEF expresses its alarm over the increase in child deaths and injuries due to landmines and ERW in Iraq in recent months. Between January and August 2021, the UN has recorded the loss of the lives of 35 children from ERW across the country, and 41 more were maimed. This represents an alarming increase in child casualties compared to 2020 when the UN verified the killing of 6 children and maiming of 12 children for the same period as a result of ERW and landmines.

“Child safety must remain as the primary consideration in all contexts. Landmines and ERW often result in civilian casualties, with children being the most vulnerable. Since children are smaller than adults, they are more likely to take the full impact of the blast and are therefore more likely to suffer death or serious injuries.

“UNICEF urges all parties to accelerate every effort to clear existing mines and unexploded ordnance and promote victim assistance and to uphold children’s right to a safe and protective environment.

“UNICEF also urges the Government of Iraq and the donor community to support the scale-up and provision of Explosive Ordnance Risk Education activities so that children and other community members receive explosive ordnance risk education in schools and communities in all areas previously affected by conflict in Iraq.”

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