Congress votes 93-7 to approve $607B military budget, a $17B increase, @ericawerner reports This appears to be the biggest military budget outside height of the Iraq War No votes: 6 conservatives (Paul, Toomey, Sasse, Lee, Flake, Perude), & Sen. Sanders
From ON CONTACT WITH CHRIS HEDGES (RT AMERICA):
Hugh Hamilton: Speaking of 17 years of warfare, you refer to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as the most -- as-as the worst strategic mistakes that the country has made in its history. Talk a little about that.
Chris Hedges: Well because we're trapped. I mean, even out of the Pentagon, they're talking about endless warfare, infinite warfare, these are their terms. And it is characteristic of late empires that they make horrific military blunders -- the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which contributed immensely to the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is true of every empire -- the Austro-Hungarian Empire starting the war with Bosnia in WWI, four years later it doesn't exist. Of course, the Kaiser [Wilhelm II] doing the same thing in Germany, go all the way back to the ancient Greeks where they invade Sicily and the Athenian empire, their entire fleet is sunk, thousands of their soldiers are killed, the empire disintegrates. Great Britain in the 1956 Suez Crisis, [Gamal Abdel] Nasser [Hussein] in Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal, the British go in to retake it and have to retreat in humiliation. So the British Empire was on a long descent after WWI but that was the culmination. And then what happened was the pound sterling was dropped as the world's currency and that is the death blow. So it is the day the dollar is no longer the world's reserve currency that there has to be a huge contraction of the American military machine overseas, imports become expensive and the economy goes into a tailspin. Alfred McCoy, who is a fine historian, actually gives it a date, 2030 [in his book IN THE SHADOW OF THE AMERICAN CENTURY, THE RISE AND DECLINE OF US GLOBAL POWER] -- I've just been a newspaperman too long to play Nostradamus with dates but that that is coming is without question.
Chris was discussing themes explored in his new book AMERICA: THE FAREWELL TOUR (here for AMAZON, here for BARNES & NOBLE).
There is something fundamentally immoral about the U.S. state and its military being able to impose death and destruction on so many with almost no opposition from the public. This is why building an Anti-war movement is imperative because the "steady state" is committed to war.
If you agree with him, remember next month is the Women's March on the Pentagon.
Happening soon! #WomenRise4Peace
For more on the march . . .
In Iraq, people are gathering to protest in Basra and have been doing so for months now. Yesterday afternoon, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED (NPR) noted the protests:
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A lack of basic services led to protests this summer in Iraq's second-largest city. They turned violent recently, revealing further the underlying problems not only in Basra but in the entire country. Protesters burned down government buildings along with the offices of an Iranian-backed militia and the Iranian consulate. Several protesters were killed. NPR's Jane Arraf traveled to Basra and sent this report.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #1: (Chanting in Arabic).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Arabic).
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #1: (Chanting in Arabic).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Arabic).
JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Through Basra's sweltering summer and now into the fall, crowds of mostly young men have come out every night demanding change. The protesters call it their revolution. In a city where temperatures often top 120 degrees, the demonstrations started with anger over power cuts and tap water so contaminated you can't wash or cook with it. And then it widened.
NASSER JABAR: The beginning of the protests, people started demanding electricity and water. There's lack of services. But now people know the truth. This government is a group of militias, scavengers, murderers. We want to change them, all of them.
ARRAF: That's Nasser Jabar, one of the protesters. He's 25, and he's one of the few people here who has a job. He works with Basra Oil Company, but he says only politicians benefit from the oil.
JABAR: The government needs oil to live. They don't care about people. They let people die.
Jane Arraf lets a law enforcement member speak. She doesn't question him because that would be reporting and she's really up to the task. But in the face of his claims of protecting the protesters, we'll note this Tweet.
Harith Hassan explores the protests at Carnegie Middle East Center:
“Why should we remain silent, the water has become scarce and all the wealth you have stolen belongs in the pocket of Basra.”
These are the opening lyrics of a new song by a singer from Basra. They describe what has become a common sentiment in the oil-rich governorate, which provides a staggering 80 percent of Iraq’s revenues and contains 60 percent of the country’s proven oil reserves. Furthermore, Basra is where Iraq’s only port is located. Among its inhabitants, there is an increasing awareness of the contrast between Basra’s immense wealth and their own daily reality of poverty, neglect, crumbling infrastructure, and shortage of electricity and drinking water. Basra, once called the Jewel of the Gulf, is today far removed from the Gulf, and from its past as a vital commercial and political hub for the region.
The city of Basra, which once was the capital of an autonomous region under the Ottoman Empire, later became a hostage of Baghdad politics after oil was discovered there. It grew dependent on financial allocations from the central government, although most of the government’s budget relied on revenues from Basra’s oilfields. Moreover, from the perspective of many of its inhabitants, the Shi‘a political class is dominated by Islamists from Baghdad, Najaf, and Karbala, while Basra itself is not adequately represented by prominent politicians. The gap has been constantly widening between Basra’s imagined past and grim present, but also between its indispensable role in securing Iraq’s economic survival and its marginal role in Iraqi politics and decisionmaking.
This summer, rising temperatures in Basra, which reached 52° Celsius [C.I. note, that would be 125.6 degrees Fahrenheit], were accompanied by long power outages and a dearth of drinking water. This sparked anger and protests. The public’s disillusionment with the system only increased following the last election, which confirmed that real change does not necessarily come through the ballot box. As protests escalated, the protesters’ feelings of victimhood pushed many of them to construct a new narrative about the city and its relationship with the rest of Iraq. Basra’s unemployed youth complained about the lack of basic services and economic opportunities, motivating some of its intellectuals, politicians, and traders to demand more autonomy from Baghdad.
“Today, Basra incubates new sentiments that are opposed to Baghdad’s authority,” notes Sarmad al-Ta‘ee, a prominent Basra journalist; “With every new barrel of oil exported from the governorate, the feeling that Basra should become the master of its own house grows more appealing.”
These sentiments are still only emerging now and will take a long time to translate into more elaborate political demands. Yet, they were strong enough to compel members of Basra’s provincial administration to sign a petition demanding the transformation of the governorate into an autonomous region. Additionally, Basra’s parliamentarians, who belong to parties led from Baghdad or Najaf, formed a parliamentary committee to unite their positions on the current crisis and to define Basra’s relationship with the federal government.
These protests are not ending, they are only intensifying.
Now let's note Sarah Leah Whitson who is finally Tweeting about Iraq.
Think Turkey is just bombing Syria? Think again, because it's also bombarding Iraq, killing Iraqi civilians in unlawful airstrikes. New @HRW report
She's steering people to this Human Rights Watch report:
Four apparent Turkish military operations against the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq dating back over a year should be investigated for possible violations of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said today. The attacks killed at least seven non-combatants and wounded another, witnesses and relatives said.
Speaking to Human Rights Watch by phone, witnesses and relatives said that what appeared to be Turkish air and ground attacks during four operations between May 2017 and June 2018 killed at least six men and one woman and injured another man. They said there were no apparent military objectives near the strikes. Human Rights Watch was unable to visit the sites but obtained photographs and death certificates to corroborate the allegations.
“As Turkey steps up operations in Iraq, it should be taking all feasible precautions to avoid harming civilians there,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Turkey should investigate possible unlawful strikes that killed civilians, punish those responsible for wrongdoing, and compensate victims’ families.”
The PKK, an outlawed armed group active in Turkey, has long maintained a presence in northern Iraq near the Turkish, Iranian, and Syrian borders. Turkish forces have conducted operations against the PKK in Iraq for over a decade. Since March, Turkish forces appear to have extended their presence into northern Iraq by at least 15 kilometers, establishing multiple outposts, including in rural areas of Dohuk and Erbil governorates under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Residents say the Turkish Armed Forces have declared the areas surrounding their outposts out of bounds for civilians. However, local people depend on these sparsely populated agricultural areas.
On May 3, 2017, apparent Turkish forces started shelling farmland six kilometers south of the Turkish border as six farmers were working their land, without any apparent warning, said one farmer present at the time. He told Human Rights Watch that the second projectile killed his uncle and wounded his cousin, both civilians. He said that as far as he knew PKK fighters were about 30 kilometers away at the time, but he did not hear any fire coming from the direction where he believed the PKK to be based.
On November 13, outside a village in the Sidekan area, an apparent Turkish airstrike hit a car, killing the one man inside it, his wife said. She said she had heard planes overhead all day, and that there had been daily strikes in the area for months. She said there was an unnamed PKK base two kilometers away, but her husband was not driving nearby.
On March 22, 2018, an apparent Turkish nighttime airstrike killed four men, all cousins visiting their family home in a village in the Choman area. They allegedly had no PKK links, according to neighbors, and three were members of the regional government’s Peshmerga forces, which are not engaged in an armed conflict with Turkey. Their neighbor and relative said that the nearest PKK presence was in the mountains about five kilometers away and that this was the first airstrike on the village.
Apparent Turkish shelling at around 4 p.m. on June 30, hit and killed a 19-year-old civilian about seven kilometers from the border. Her father said she was with her family and a large group of villagers harvesting nuts and wild herbs. He said there was a Turkish base about three kilometers away, and no PKK presence nearby as far as he knew.
Media coverage as well as witnesses who said they saw aircraft and the direction that shelling came from suggested the Turkish Armed Forces were the source of all four attacks. The witnesses said that they had not received any warning from Iraq, the KRG, or Turkey about staying away from ongoing military operations. All four families who lost relatives said that no officials had contacted them to investigate the attacks or provide any reparations, and that they did not know how to request an investigation or compensation.
Hayder al-Abadi's failures as prime minister include allowing Turkey to keep Turkish soldiers on Iraqi soil -- something Iraqi politicians (at least publicly) oppose -- and not calling out the continued bombs dropped from Turkish war planes.
Winding down, we'll note this from Senator Johnny Isakson's office (Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee):
Isakson, Tester Applaud Senate Passage of Bill to Continue Critical Veterans Services, Benefits
Bipartisan bill reauthorizes dozens of VA programs, including support for homeless, disabled veterans;
Makes permanent VA employment training authority for injured service members
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today applauded the Senate passage of bipartisan legislation they introduced to ensure veterans continue to have access to critical programs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2018 reauthorizes numerous programs and services at the VA for fiscal year 2019, which begins on Oct. 1, 2018. The legislation ensures that many important programs, including veterans homelessness prevention, adaptive sports programs for disabled veterans, and workforce training for injured service members, continue to be available. A number of authorizations included in the bill were set to expire at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, while others were set to expire in 2019.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2018 represents a bipartisan, bicameral agreement reached with U.S. Representatives Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Tim Walz, D-Minn., Isakson and Tester’s counterparts in the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
“I’m pleased my colleagues in the Senate supported this bipartisan bill to help ensure that vital VA services, such as programs to help homeless, disabled, rural and minority veterans, continue into the new fiscal year,” said Isakson. “I thank Ranking Member Tester, Chairman Roe, Ranking Member Walz and members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for their efforts in reaching this bipartisan agreement. The Senate has now passed 21 major pieces of veterans’ legislation this Congress, a remarkable achievement and a true testament to our teamwork. By working together, we are truly making progress for our nation’s veterans.”
“Rural, disabled and homeless Montana veterans rely on these initiatives every day,” said Tester. “By making sure that veterans can get to their doctor appointments on time and get back on their feet, we are making good on the promises we have made to our veterans and their families. This bipartisan agreement shows what Congress can get done when we work together.”
The Senate approved S.3479, the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2018, by voice vote. The measure now heads to the full U.S. House of Representatives for a vote.
This is the – including 20 bills that have already been signed into law – that aim to strengthen veterans’ health care, benefits and protections.
A full section-by-section summary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2018 is available .
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.
THIRD? My understanding is that everything's written (Ava and I wrote our piece and I did the piece I noted Sunday night here that I would be doing). As I understand it, they are waiting for an illustration to dry. I would guess around noon PST it would be up, certainly no later than three. (Okay, four.) The following community sites updated: