Friday, March 27, 2020

Iraq snapshot

Friday, March 27, 2020.  The corporate media continues to ignore the rape allegations against Joe Biden, coronavirus is a big pay day for corporations but not the people, a day after France announces that they are pulling their military out of Iraq four French hostages are suddenly freed, and much more.

Earlier this month, four US troops were killed in Iraq.  Tim Stanley (TULSA WORLD) reports on one of the four:

The state’s ongoing COVID-19 concerns didn’t prevent a fallen Oklahoma serviceman from receiving a stirring welcome home Wednesday.
Family members of late Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts of Owasso, who was killed two weeks ago in Iraq, were joined Wednesday morning by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, along with many friends and supporters, at the Tulsa Air National Guard Base for the return of his body.
After the transfer ceremony there, Roberts’ casket was transported to Floral Haven Funeral Home in Broken Arrow.

Emory Bryan (NEWS ON 6) adds:

Roberts was the first member of the Oklahoma Air Guard killed in action. He deployed from the 138th Fighter Wing with the 219th Engineering Installation Squadron in January, and died in a rocket attack, March 11th.
According to the Oklahoma Air National Guard, Roberts' wife Kristie is also a member of the 138th. He is survived by one daughter, Paityn. - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

AP notes:

Ron Moseley was one of roughly 50 Patriot Guard riders who also escorted Roberts' body. He said he was “thrilled” by the turnout.
“We just want to let them know there’s still people who care,” he added.
Moseley said all the riders were instructed to comply with COVID-19 protocol, including social distancing rules, adding that he even brought “extra hand sanitizer."

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

The March 11th rocket attack that killed Roberts also claimed the life of Army Spc. Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias.

In other news out of Oklahoma, NEWS ON 6 reports:

One person has tested positive for the coronavirus at Fort Sill, officials at the Army post reported Thursday.
The person is a civilian employee who works for the Department of the Army and is a resident of Comanche County.
The person is isolation in their residence.

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders explained some parts of the bill that passed the Senate, the bill allegedly addressing the coronavirus.

Senator Bernie Sanders: This is a time in which we've got to spend what it takes.  This package provides the largest expansion of unemployment benefits in American history -- an increase of over $250 billion dollars.  Average Americans who have been furloughed will be able to receive up to 100% of their salary and their health insurance for four months.  Weekly unemployment benefits will increase by $600.  So if you are laid off, your unemployment benefit will increase by $600 above what it would otherwise have been.  And right now, the average benefit is about $364 for workers.  This expansion of unemployment will include part-time workers, it will include gig workers like those who drive Uber cars, it will include tip workers and the self-employed who would otherwise not be covered by unemployment insurance.  In addition, this bill provides $250 billion to go out in one-time checks of $1,200 for adults and $500 for kids.  Now let me be very honest, as some of you may know, I wanted much more.  I wanted every American family to be able to receive $2000 every single month that we continue to exist within the crisis. So this does not do that and this is clearly not enough to me, but that is what it is.  As you may recall, Republicans originally wanted to provide smaller checks or no financial assistance to the poor or very low-income Americans.  So in other words, I guess their mentality was that if you're poor, you deserve less even though you're struggling more than anybody else. But that is not going to be the case now.

Americans need that $2,000 a month.  They need it to take care of the bills.  They need it to keep the economy going.  They need it to reduce the stress and economic anxiety that millions are feeling right now.  It is appalling that Bernie is the only politician who has consistently spoken of the economic anxiety facing so many.

What got passed?  Bernie, Patty Murray and other senators had to fight for.  But it's not what's needed.  And so much of the rest of the bill is just garbage.  While some GOP members insist that we shouldn't provide welfare to the American people, they are more than willing to provide welfare -- which the American people will be paying for -- to corporations.  Moe Tkacik (IN THESE TIMES) explains:

The fundamental spirit of the CARES Act, the diabolical plutocrat bailout the Senate just passed, is summed up by the fact that it was inspired by the 60 billion dollar demand of a company whose business had not yet even been impacted by coronavirus. 
You read that right. When Boeing made its humble plea for $60 billion in coronavirus relief funds on Saint Patrick’s Day 2020, leading the pack of corporate supplicants, all its assembly lines unrelated to its notorious self-hijacking 737 Max jets, whose production halted in January, were still operating at normal capacity. They were still open in spite of the fact that Seattle public schools had been closed for six days at that point, in spite of the fact that every restaurant and bar in the state had been closed the weekend earlier, and in spite of the fact that the disease was quickly spreading among the factory workers, one of whom, a 27-year veteran of the company, would die within days. 
And they were still running in spite of the fact that demand for Boeing planes, thanks to the 737 crashes, is at an all-time low, with the company in January, a month in which its archrival Airbus sold 274 planes, reporting its first month in history without a single order. Which is to say, I can think of a lot of reasons Boeing might need a bailout. In December a space capsule the company designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station failed to launch into orbit during a test mission because its timer was eleven hours off, a potentially half billion dollar mistake that may cost the company billions more in lost NASA business to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. In January, the company revealed that its attempts to load a software fix onto the 737s was repeatedly crashing the planes’ computers. Not long after that, the company finally admitted that the three-year-delay on its KC-46 aerial refueling tanker was going to be, at minimum, another three years. And then of course there’s the $70 billion the company has squandered over the past decade on stock buybacks and dividend checks. 

What all of these problems have in common is that none of them has s**t to do with coronavirus. And neither does the $500 billion corporate bailout the Senate appended to an otherwise vitally important relief package. It’s an audacious power grab by the same bunch of monstrous grifters who’ve spent the past 20 years reverse mortgaging the American economy to finance Third World dictator lifestyles. It’s just like the secret multitrillion dollar scramble to throw money at insolvent banks in 2008, only a hundred times more craven, and even though the American public is also considerably less naive than we were when we assumed programs with words like “home affordable relief” might actually, you know, offer some relief to homeowners hit with extortionate mortgage payments, it doesn’t matter. We don’t matter. We don’t matter because we don’t have lobbyists.

It's a strong report, read it in full.  The House Democrats have not yet signed off on this bill.  They have the power to change it or nix it and push their own.  If Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to see Democratic wins and gains in the House next November, the easiest way to get there is to address the needs of the American people.  $2,000 a month is not extravagant -- we'll soon be in the summer months where electric bills will jump across the country, for example.  And Americans knowing that income is coming in every month throughout the pandemic will be under far less stress.  Stress weakens the immune system, did we forget that?  We're in the midst of a pandemic, we don't need to be weakening the immune systems of the people in this country.

US House Rep Pramila Jayapal: These have been incredibly difficult days for the entire country.  Across the country, what we're seeing is over 44,000 cases and 544 deaths.  First case diagnosed was here in Washington, just right outside of my district.  We had 2,200 cases and 110 deaths. Our state and local officials have acted very proactively and, frankly, we're very fortunate that we have a public health system in Washington state.  We are still very far  behind where we need to be and part of that is a far too uncoordinated federal response.  We also can't keep our health workers safe, grocery store workers, bus drivers, others who have to continue to keep our systems going.  But they're also dealing, you know, with "How do I take care of my mother? How do I take care of my kids? How do I pay my mortgage?" 

Bernie's campaign posted two videos yesterday.  That's in addition to all the work on social media that David Sirota, Nina Turner, Briahna Joy Gray and others with the campaign are doing.

What's Joe Biden doing?  Fumbling around, unable to get the name of a governor he chooses to mention right, unable to make sense even when appearing on THE VIEW where the ladies all but wipe his flop-sweat for him?

Are we about to see Hidin' With Biden again?  Is Joe about to disappear for a little bit again now that Tara Reade has detailed her allegations of assault by him?  #IBelieveTara is more popular these days than Joe is.

As one person Tweets:

It would be irresponsible and immoral to allow him on TV without asking him about Tara Reade #IBelieveTaraReade #IBelieveTara #IStandWithTara

So far, the corporate media has pretty much blacked out the story of the assault Tara describes.  See Mike's post last night for the coverage he found of the allegations.  Shane Ryan has covered the story for PASTE:

Yesterday, a woman named Tara Reade appeared on a podcast with former Paste contributor Katie Halper to discuss an incident that happened while she was working as a staff assistant for Joe Biden in 1993. This was not the first time Reade came forward—she told part of her story last year after Lucy Flores accused Biden of using his power to touch her inappropriately. At the time, Reade was smeared as a pro-Russian agent due to remarks she had written in a now-deleted Medium post. Reade has come forward again, and this time, in her interview with Halper, she went into specific detail about Biden’s alleged assault. You can listen to the audio here, and you can read below for Reade’s account, which has been transcribed on Reddit. Content warning: The text below contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault.

[A superior] called me in and said, “I want you to take this to Joe. He wants it. He wants you to bring it. Hurry. And I said, “Okay.” And it was a gym bag. She said, you know, take the gym bag. She called it an ‘athletic bag’. And you know she said he was down towards the Capitol and he’ll meet you. And so I went down, and I was heading down towards there and he was at first talking to someone. I could see him at a distance and they went away and then um we were in like the side. It was like the side area. And um he just said “Hey, come here Tara and then I handed him the thing and he greeted me. He remembered my name. And then we were alone, and it was the strangest thing. There was no like exchange really. He just had me up against the wall. And um I was wearing a skirt. You know a business skirt, but I wasn’t wearing stockings. It was kind of a hot day that day, and I was wearing heels. And I remember my legs had been hurting from the marble, you know of the Capitol. And so I remember that kind of stuff. I remember like I was wearing a blouse and he just had me up against the wall, and the wall was cold. And I remember he- it happened all at once. The gym bag – I don’t know where it went. I handed it to him and it was gone. And then his hands were on me and underneath my clothes. And um yeah and then he went um.. he went down my skirt and up inside it and he uh penetrated me with his fingers. And um I- uh he was kissing me at the same time, and he was saying something to me. He was saying several things, and I can’t remember everything he said. I remember a couple of things. I remember him saying first like as he was doing it, “Do you wanna go somewhere else? And then him saying to me when I pulled away he um got finished doing what he was doing and I kind of was pulled back and he said, “Come on, man. I heard you liked me.”

This morning at COUNTERPUNCH, Paul Street notes:

Speaking of corporate Wall Street Democrats, I hope everyone caught the drowsy Democratic Presidential frontrunner Joe “Look Fat” Biden’s dementia-driven comment on Trump’s call for opening up the U.S. economy: “We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse no matter what.” Spoken like a true “dog-faced pony soldier,” Joe-Boy!
What the Hell did he mean by that? Don’t ask Joe “Vinyl New Deal” (“record players for the poor!”) Biden: he has no idea. He just wants to know what’s for dinner last night.

Now we have credible rape allegations against Biden from the former Biden staffer Tara Reade. For this and for countless other reasons (Google me up on Biden — I’ve done numerous pieces on his abject, mind-boggling awfulness) including his obvious dementia, the right-wing clown Biden must step down NOW.

The allegations are also discussed on POLITICAL MISFITS.

Turning to Iraq, BBC NEWS reports this morning:

Four workers from a French Christian charity who were kidnapped in Iraq in January have been freed, President Emmanuel Macron's office said.
The three French nationals and an Iraqi were abducted in Baghdad on 20 January at a time of heightened tensions.
Their release came a day after France said it would withdraw its troops from Iraq due to the coronavirus pandemic.
France's presidential Elysee Palace said it had made "every effort to reach this outcome".
"The president of the republic welcomes the release of our three nationals Antoine Brochon, Julien Dittmar, Alexandre Goodarzy and Iraqi Tariq Mattoka," it said in a statement.

Read the report in full and grasp what the BBC fails to note: The release of the four workers follows the announcement yesterday that France was pulling all of its troops out of Iraq.  We covered that development in yesterday's snapshot.

William Walter Kay (ANTIWAR.COM) sees a Tet Offensive looming:

Like their Vietnamese forebearers Iraqi national-liberationists demand the U.S. leave their homeland. Like their forebearers, Iraqi militias draw support from militaries within their country, and from foreign governments; yet, remain civilian/paramilitary affairs comprised of politicized week-end warriors with deep local roots.
Iraqi militia numbers match Victor Charlie’s pre-Tet numbers i.e. 70,000 combat-available. While not as centralized, Iraqi militias exhibit collective endeavour. In 2015 a 10,000-troop militia consortium overran ISIL’s Tikrit redoubt; breaking through ISIL’s perimeter at eight locations.
On January 3, 2020, upon leaving Soleimani’s funeral services (at Soleimani’s house) Iraqi militia chief Muqtada al-Sadr summoned a war-council for January 13 in the Iranian city of Qom. Kataib Hezbollah, Al Nujaba and others heeded.
At Qom, al-Sadr called for expelling Americans in a "humiliating manner" and for all contact with Americans to be criminalized.
Post-Qom, al-Sadr’s million-man anti-US march met expectations. Many marched in martyr’s shrouds. The 5,000-strong Kataib Hezbollah is closing outposts, repositioning arsenals and donning civilian profile. Al Nujaba posted a photo of a US helicopter in rocket-launcher sites, captioned: "the countdown has begun".
Militia surface-to-air capabilities remain unknown. Much of their kit saw service in Tet (AK-47s, RPGs, Katyushas). Distinguishingly, militias possess armoured vehicles, even M1 tanks.

Thirty-five times more U.S. personnel were in Vietnam 1968 than are in Iraq 2020. 

Kay is shaky on Moqtada -- most are when they don't follow Iraq daily -- maybe he'll develop this theme with an updated post that makes more sense, I'm struggling to understand what he's arguing.  He thinks he has a timeline but I see no indication that he grasps what the Tet Offensive in Vietnam was or how he's arguing it's coming.  I could see a Tet Offensive being carried out in Iraq -- it would be horrific -- but he doesn't seem to grasp what it was or what he's writing about.  It would be Moqtada attacking an area of Iraq -- most likely the Sunni and Kurd areas would be stand-ins for South Vietnam.  I don't see where he's made the case or even built the possibility in his writing.  He also fails to factor in ISIS which remains active in Iraq.

The following sites updated: