In the United States, the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination continues. War Hawk Joe Biden continues to flounder. But the corporate press felt they had a spare they could count on if Biden short-circuited. That was centrist Amy Klobuchar. That was her. Now?
Robin McDowell (AP) reports:
During a presidential debate, Amy Klobuchar defended her tough-on-crime record during her days as a top Minneapolis prosecutor.
She recounted a story that has helped propel her political career, including her 2007 Senate bid: Members of the African American community were seeking justice for kids killed in gun violence, she said. When a little girl was struck by a stray bullet while doing homework at the dining room table, Klobuchar’s office helped put away the shooter.
But what if Myon Burrell — a black teen sentenced to life in prison — was innocent?
A year-long Associated Press investigation has uncovered new evidence and myriad inconsistencies in the police investigation.
Not good news for Amy as Iowa prepares for their caucus next week. Meanwhile Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann (NBC NEWS) report:
If you want to know why Joe Biden is going (mostly) all-in here in Iowa, moving more of his advertising dollars into the Hawkeye State, look no further than our brand-new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Bernie Sanders has jumped into the national lead among Democratic primary voters, albeit well within the margin of error — it’s Sanders 27 percent, Biden 26 percent, Elizabeth Warren 15 percent, Bloomberg 9 percent, Pete Buttigieg 7 percent and Amy Klobuchar 5 percent.
Sanders’ African-American support has increased (from 8 percent in December to 28 percent now — though still behind Biden’s 52 percent).
And he’s almost tied with Biden among non-white Democratic primary voters — 32 percent support for Sanders, 34 percent for Biden.
Bottom line: If Biden doesn’t stop Sanders in Iowa, there’s a real chance he might not be able to stop him after the first two states (and maybe Nevada, too).
Joe's not doing well in New Hampshire. Joe's starting to crater. And when you talk about them being "neck and neck" in national polls, grasp that Bernie's earned that support where Joe's had it bestowed on him via the corporate press repeatedly insisting he's electable or he's this or he's the front runner or blah blah blah. Bernie's earned his support. Joe's has been bestowed upon him.
And if Joe loses Iowa -- which he may -- and New Hampshire, watch that support crater even further. Again, he was gifted with it, he didn't earn it. He's not worked hard on the campaign trail. He's taken it easy. He's avoided the press. He's been unable to turn out crowds and the campaign knows that they have to go easy on him schedule wise because he can't handle a real schedule. A real schedule leads him to make crazy claims and start attacking voters.
Joe's not fit to campaign -- not physically or mentally fit. So shame on those pimping his campaign because if he's not qualified to campaign (and he's not) then he's certainly not qualified to be the president.
I know we included this in yesterday's snapshot but it's important so let's note Shaun King on the lies of Joe Biden one more time.
Shame on Joe.
Once upon a time in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr was moving beyond the base of support he had as a result of who his dead father had been. Once upon a time, he was building support and was not just one of many Shi'ite clerics in the country, he was becoming a movement leader. That has changed. THE ECONOMIST notes today:
THE HENCHMEN of Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s most capricious—and perhaps most powerful—cleric, not only participated in the anti-government protests that have rocked Baghdad and other cities for months, they defended them. Others who joined the demonstrations stood a good chance of being frisked by Mr Sadr’s men, who looked out for troublemakers. Together with the mainly Shia crowds they demanded a new political system, one not dominated by a small elite, and a fairer distribution of the country’s oil wealth.
But on January 25th Mr Sadr ordered his followers to withdraw, blaming the hostile behaviour of the protesters towards his men. A crackdown on the protesters who remained appeared imminent. Over 600 people have been killed since the unrest began in October. As expected, the police cleared the streets in some cities. The protesters, though, have not gone home. There are more now.
Moqtada turned on the protesters last Friday. Why? There are many reasons being floated. The government of Iran directed him to do so was one rumor. His tender feelings were hurt by the protesters noting he was not their leader and that they'd continue to protest no matter what. His delicate ego was harmed last Friday when some protesters carried posters denouncing him. The protesters had demanded change and the government had promised a new prime minister only to see the deadline pass at the start of last week with no progress so Moqtada wanted to disassociate himself with the protesters because he didn't want to come off a failure.
Whatever the reason, Moqtada made an ass out of himself.
Saturday saw attacks on the protesters from Iraqi security forces (including militias). The world watched. The world saw the protesters continue their bravery and continue their protests. And the world was left to wonder if some of those Iraqis who were injured and killed might have been safer if Moqtada hadn't suddenly pulled his support?
By pulling his support, he walked back years of building a movement. That began in 2012 when he joined with other Shi'ites, as well as Sunnis and Kurds, to demand then-prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki honor The Erbil Agreement or face a no confidence vote. Moqtada stated Nouri could end the effort at any time just be implementing the agreed upon terms in The Erbil Agreement.
Following that stand, Moqtada presented himself as a populist. He called for protests and he called for support of the protesters. When the battle to retake Mosul from ISIS was finally launched, Moqtada called for the protesters to go home and resume after Mosul was liberated or 'liberated.'
Moqtada was building a strong reputation and building support among Shi'ites who had previously had nothing to do with him and among non-Shi'ites.
His move last Friday was a blow to his image. And that is most likely why he called off Monday's protests last Sunday. He knew he wouldn't be able to count on anyone beyond his cult in Sadr City's section of Baghdad. It was too late to bus people in from Basra -- as he had done last Friday. He called it off because it was going to be a low turnout -- the sort that he could muster -- those tiny crowds -- back when he was darting back and forth between Iran and Iraq.
Last Friday, he didn't just forsake the protesters, he harmed his own image.
That doesn't mean it's all over for Moqtada. He's bounced back before and probably will again. But it does mean that he was building a strong, national presence and he's now just the guy who represents the slums of Baghdad and Basra. He's the guy who can't even improve the living conditions of his supporters.
He probably grasps that which would explain his turnaround today.
Moqtada Sadr flips again, calling his supporters to "renew the peaceful, reformist revolution" -
Now he's again for the ongoing protests? Yeah, he made a huge mistake last Friday.
Has he not made the foolish move he did last Friday, he might be headed right now to becoming one of the strongest voices in Iraq. That didn't happen. The strongest voice in Iraq remains Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. ASHARQ AL-ASWAT reports:
Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on Friday condemned the use of force to disperse protest camps across the country, as security forces stepped up a crackdown against demonstrators.
Protesters across Iraq are seeking the removal of what they see as a corrupt ruling elite and an end to foreign interference in Iraqi politics, especially by Iran, which has come to dominate state institutions since dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in a 2003 US-led invasion.
Nearly 500 people have been killed in the unrest which began in October, with both security forces and unidentified gunmen shooting people dead. At least 11 have been killed since the protests resumed earlier this month.
Sistani, who delivered his message through a representative at Friday prayers in the holy city of Kerbala, also renewed calls for early elections to be held freely and fairly.
"It is imperative to hurry and hold an early election for the people to have their say, and for the next parliament to be formed from their free will, to take the necessary steps towards reform," he said.
He said that the next parliament would be able "to take decisive measures that will determine the future of the country, especially regarding the preservation of its sovereignty and the independence of its political decisions."
I think it was last week when I noted that I saw al-Sistani's name in the headlines and feared for a moment that he had passed away. Iraq could not afford that right now. And al-Sistani is not going to live forever -- none of us are. When he passes, someone will have to fill his shoes. That could have been Moqtada but Moqtada's actions last Friday now call that into question.
al-Sistani is not anti-Iran or anti-Iranian government. He is an Iraqi and he has pride in his country. That belief in a better Iraq is why he has such strong support. He has stayed out of the political factions, he has focused on uniting the country and on the people's business. He is a national figure, as a result, and when he speaks, people listen.
That was the road that some of us saw Moqtada traveling down. But, again, last Friday's actions messed all that up.
Iraq: Sistani Slams Use of Force Against Protest Camps, Calls for Early Election | Asharq AL-awsat https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2108571/iraq-sistani-slams-use-force-against-protest-camps-calls-early-election … #turkey #elections
al-Sistani has been a leader. He has stood with the people. It's a shame Moqtada did not do the same.
#Iraqi authorities ramped up violent tactics to quash ongoing protests across Baghdad, southern Iraq btw January 25 and 27, 2020. Security forces set fire to protesters’ tents, fired live ammunition, and detained protesters in Baghdad, Basra, and Nasriya. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/01/31/iraq-authorities-violently-remove-protesters …
And here's the Human Rights Watch report that Belkis Wille is Tweeting about:
Iraqi authorities ramped up violent tactics to quash ongoing protests across Baghdad and southern Iraq between January 25 and 27, 2020, Human Rights Watch said today. Security forces set fire to protesters’ tents, fired live ammunition, and detained protesters in Baghdad, Basra, and Nasriya. Human Rights Watch was unable to determine the extent of casualties or numbers detained.
“The burning of protester tents in city squares looks like a coordinated effort by Iraqi authorities to force peaceful protesters from public spaces,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of using unjustifiable force, Baghdad authorities should meet protesters’ demands by addressing rampant corruption and improving access to basic services and jobs.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed nine protesters and three medics in the three cities.
The authorities’ campaign to end the occupation of the squares began on January 25, the day after the supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, a prominent cleric, left the protests in the squares. Authorities launched what appeared to be a coordinated campaign to end protesters’ occupation of central squares in Baghdad, Basra, and Nasriya. Witnesses described how armed men in unmarked uniforms arrived in vehicles typically used by security forces and attacked protesters, beating and detaining people and burning their tents. Seven protesters said that in all three cities they have since returned to the squares and set up new tents.
At 3 a.m. on January 25, a convoy of military and security force vehicles belonging to the Shock Forces, a local police unit, arrived in Basra’s Bahrya Square. Three protesters who were there said that men with weapons, some with hunting rifles and some masked, beat and, in some cases, detained protesters without any justification and then burned or destroyed at least 130 tents. The three men said they did not hear the attackers issue any warnings but did hear them yelling that the protesters were “jokers” and “agents of America.” The masked men used four small bulldozers to remove the remains of some of the tents, the three protesters all said. A video posted on Facebook on January 26 showed the remains of tents in Bahrya Square.
At noon on January 25, uniformed Federal Police and other security forces wearing black, beige camouflage, and blue uniforms descended on al-Khalani Square in Baghdad, lit seven tents on fire, and fired live rounds at protesters, according to a protester who was there. The person, who had been asleep at the time, said he did not hear the attackers issue a warning. A video posted on Facebook on January 25 shows protesters in al-Khalani Square trying to extinguish fires. A medic who was present said the medical team transported 13 gunshot victims to the hospital.
Another protester said that around 8 a.m. on January 26 the security forces came back to al-Khalani Square and went to nearby Tahrir Square, some in Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) vehicles, and started dismantling concrete blocks and other obstacles that protesters had used to block off the area. He said he saw security forces in al-Khalani Square open fire with AK-47s and hunting rifles and launch tear gas cartridges at the crowd, unprovoked and without warning. “I saw them shoot two protesters in the legs, drag some of the protesters on the ground and load four into their vehicles,” he said. “I saw them set fire to seven tents in Tahrir Square.” He said the forces pulled out at 10:30 a.m., once they had control of al-Khalani Square, but came back at 12:30 p.m. after protesters had returned and again used tear gas and live fire to disperse the crowd.
At 1 a.m. on January 27, armed men opened fire on crowds and set tents on fire in Haboby Square in Nasriya, two protesters said. One said he waited in his tent through 10 minutes of gunfire, then emerged and saw tents around him alight. He said he saw gunfire injure four people and found a protester dead from a gunshot wound in one of the tents that had not burned.
The other protester said he saw the security forces fire their weapons at tents with gas cylinders inside for heating, which burst into flames. Videos posted to a news website appear to show burning tents in Haboby Square on January 27 and a convoy of vehicles used by security forces driving away. Two of the vehicles, both pickup trucks, appear to have armed uniformed men in the back, and gunfire can be heard in the area.
The Iraqi authorities should investigate every death at the hands of security forces with the help of international experts if necessary, Human Rights Watch said. Such investigations should be prompt, impartial, and independent, and lead to the prosecution of anyone found to have broken the law governing use of force, including commanders.
International standards provide that law enforcement officers may only intentionally make lethal use of firearms when strictly unavoidable to protect life.
Given that security forces have killed hundreds of people, many apparently unlawfully, since protests erupted in October 2019, countries that provide military and law enforcement training and support to Iraq, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Iran should end such assistance until Iraqi authorities take effective action to stop all unlawful killings and hold those responsible to account. The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva should hold a special session into the killings of protesters in Iraq.
“Protesters have the right to peacefully occupy public spaces and make demands of the government,” Wille said. “The last few days show the grave consequences that can follow when the government is not willing to respect that right.”
According to the UN, since protests began on October 1, 2019, at least 467 protesters have been killed and over 9,000 have been wounded. According to the Iraq High Commission for Human Rights, security forces have arrested at least 2,633 others, most of whom were promptly released.
The commission said that between January 20 and 22, security forces in Baghdad, Basra, Diyala, Dhi Qar, and Karbala have killed at least 10 protesters, wounded another 127, and detained 88. The commission said that 24 security forces have also been injured.
Events of January 19 to 22, 2020
On January 13, protesters in several southern cities demanded that by January 20 the government take clear steps to address some of their demands, including reform of the electoral law and early elections. The nine protesters Human Rights Watch interviewed in Baghdad, Basra, and Nasriya said that they and others had blocked main roads in those cities with burning tires on January 19. In response, they said, security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas cartridges, and protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails.
A protester in Baghdad said that after protesters blocked roads on January 19, anti-riot police fired tear gas cartridges directly at protesters without warning. “My friend was filming about 100 meters away when a tear gas cartridge hit him right in the head,” he said. “He died.” The protesters responded by throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at the police, he said.
The protester said that on January 20, he saw Federal Police on Mohammed al-Qasim highway in Baghdad firing at protesters with live rounds and beating some. He said that he saw the police shoot one of his friends in the leg. He and a medic who was there said that security forces on the highway were also using tear gas and stun grenades against protesters, who responded by throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. The medic said that his team treated at least 60 protesters who were injured by metal fragments from stun grenades and bullets or choking from tear gas. He said six protesters died from gunshot wounds to the head or neck. A video posted on Facebook on January 22 appeared to show SWAT forces beating protesters on the highway in Baghdad on January 20.
Two Basra protesters said that on January 20, masked armed men arrested five protesters on the streets near Bahrya Square, which protesters had occupied since October. One protester said about 400 protesters started chanting for their release outside the local police headquarters and “all of [the] sudden the gates opened and about 60 police started beating us with wooden sticks.” The two protesters said they saw police arrest at least 10 protesters as the police chased the crowds, beating some.
On January 21, 1 of the protesters said he saw security forces open fire on a crowd of about 200 protesters next to Bahrya Square, some of whom were lighting tires and blocking a road. He saw one protester shot in the back as he was running from security forces. “They put him in their vehicle and drove him away, and arrested another four men who they dragged along the ground and beat,” he said. Both protesters said that after the security forces left the area at night, the protesters saw an SUV pull up and the people inside open fire on protesters, killing a female medic and wounding seven protesters.
And Amnesty International's Donatella Rovera asks a key question.
The following sites updated: