Monday, August 24, 2020. Joe Biden continues to tell one group one thing and another something else, protesters remain targeted in Iraq, a Navy Seal is accused of raping a sailor and much more.
Last summer, a platoon was sent home early from Iraq. James Laporta and Julie Watson (AP) report this early move was the result of a Navy Seal raping a sailor:
The story of the platoon being pulled from Iraq has been previously reported, but documents obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with nearly a dozen people give the first in-depth view into what led to the rare recall. The documents and interviews show that women deployed with the SEALs say they were ogled and sexually harassed during the deployment. Records obtained by the AP from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service also reveal a previously unknown reported allegation of sexual misconduct against the SEAL platoon chief, Special Warfare Operator Chief Nicholas Olson, two days before the Fourth of July barbecue. Olson denies any wrongdoing.
The platoon was withdrawn after the Navy made an unusually public push to strengthen order and discipline in its secretive elite force amid a series of scandals involving SEALs. The misconduct has included cocaine use and tampering of drug tests by members of SEAL Team 10 based in Virginia, and last year’s conviction of Navy SEAL Adam Matthews, who was sentenced to one year in military prison for his role in the 2017 hazing-related death of an Army Green Beret in Africa.
The Navy fired three SEAL leaders in the aftermath of the alleged rape on the Iraq air base and charged Special Warfare Operator First Class Adel A. Enayat, an enlisted SEAL, with sexual assault, aggravated assault via strangulation and assault by battery for allegedly biting the victim on the face, according to his charge sheet. He faces a court-martial in November.
A hearing in the case was held Friday at Naval Base San Diego. At the hearing, Jeremiah Sullivan, the lawyer for the SEAL, said he was concerned Enayat, who identifies as “non-white,” cannot get a fair trial because of systemic racism in the military justice system, pointing out that there are no Black judges on the Navy bench.
Enayat, who has fair skin and reddish-blond hair, is “non-White,” Sullivan said. He declined to specify Enayat’s race or ethnicity when asked by the Union-Tribune after court, citing his client’s privacy.
Assault in the military continues. Eight years of chatter under Barack Obama didn't change a thing. Policies might have, empty words didn't. Joe Biden was the Vice President for those eight years and now he wants to be president. Molly Nagle (ABC NEWS) reports on Joe's interview with David Muir:
“We saw the president just this week, during the convention, he traveled to Pennsylvania. He traveled to Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona, all of that while you were making your case to the American people. I understand the restrictions of COVID and campaigning in this time. But can you win a presidential election from home?” Muir asked Biden during an interview Friday in Wilmington, Delaware.
“We will,” Biden said. “We're gonna follow the science, what the scientists tell us."
Does Joe mean the doctors? What the doctors state? Of the same interview, Miranda Devine (NEW YORK POST) offers:
Then he laughed off a question about his mental fitness.
Trouble is, we’ve been trying to watch Biden all year. We don’t ever get to see him unedited or without a teleprompter, without his wife or some helper at his side.
Last night’s interview was done alongside running mate Kamala Harris, ready to mop up if he lost his train of thought.
So low are expectations of Biden that his acceptance speech at the funereal Democratic convention last week was hailed as a miracle, the best speech of his life, perhaps even in the history of the world.
In truth, it was a string of cheap shots and clichés encrusted in saccharine, delivered in a halting, shouty monotone.
Everyone waited with bated breath to see if this elderly man auditioning to be president could manage to read a 24-minute speech from a teleprompter. In degree of difficulty, it’s not exactly a triple pike. But the sense of relief was palpable among Democrats and their media allies.
Hiding and lying appear to be Joe's campaign strategy. REUTERS notes:
Biden was critical of Trump’s travel. “Look what happened with his events. People die, people get together, they don’t wear masks, they end up getting COVID,” he said.
There has been no direct link between a Trump campaign event and an outbreak of the virus, although health officials in Oklahoma said a surge in cases there was likely connected to a Trump rally held at a Tulsa arena in June. Since then, Trump has staged open-air events with small crowds.
Joe can't stop lying and wasn't there a direct link to his campaign urging people to vote in the primary -- despite the pandemic -- and they're getting ill?
Robin Roberts (GOOD MORNING AMERICA) interviewed Joe and Kamala Harris together. This was a troubling moment:
BIDEN: I mean she had the best recommendation she can get: my son Beau, not a joke. Beau asked me when she was U.S. Attorney General, they were attorneys general together taking on the banks, and I got a call and he said, "Dad, I want you to go to California." I said, "OK honey, what for?" He said, "I want you to nominate Kamala Harris for United States Senate." I said OK, without asking. And they were good friends and Beau had great respect for Kamala, knew she was tough. She has a backbone like a ramrod. She's completely thoroughly honest, and so I, you know, I'm not joking. You knew my relationship with Beau. So it was easy for me, it was easy for me.
"Okay, honey"? Okay, honey?
Meanwhile Joe's campaign attacked Linda Sarsour publicly. It was his Sister Souljah moment. (In 1992, to assure reactionary voters that he would be 'tough' with African-Americans, Bill Clinton attacked the rapper Sister Souljah because she was Africa-American and a woman.) So they got a lot of news coverage from their attack, all framed as 'Joe's a close friend of Israel.' But in reality? In reality, the campaign was apologizing in private. Ali Harb (MIDDLE EAST EYE) reports:
Top aides to presidential candidate Joe Biden have apologised to Arab and Muslim Democrats over an attack on Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour by the campaign, in an effort to quell anger over the controversy.
In a private call with dozens of prominent activists on Sunday, Ashley Allison, national coalitions director for the Biden campaign, said she was "sorry" for the comments that a campaign spokesman made against Sarsour.
Top foreign policy adviser Tony Blinken also expressed "regret" over the incident during the virtual meeting.
Anger erupted after a Biden campaign spokesman had condemned Sarsour and suggested that she was antisemitic over her criticism of Israel.
Allison said she empathised with "the pain" that the campaign had caused to Arabs and Muslims by disavowing Sarsour.
"I am sorry that that happened. And I hope that whatever trust was broken, that this conversation is one small step to help build back the trust, but that is not the last time we have this conversation," Allison told the activists.
Sunday's call was off-the-record, but Middle East Eye obtained a recording of it.
Joe has a long history of telling one group one thing and another group something else. On Friday, Jeffrey St. Clair (COUNTERPUNCH) pointed out:
+ Quite a symbolic way to kick off the DNC convention: The DNC quietly excised a call to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from its platform, saying including the language in the first place was an “error.”
+ This news was swiftly followed by an announcement that the Pipe Fitters Union was endorsing Biden, despite his pledge to stop the completion of the KXL Pipeline. Pretty sure the pipe fitters union knows something about Biden’s real intentions that the Sierra Club refuses to believe…
+ Last month, a new study found that flaring of natural gas wells, from the fracking operations Biden has vowed not to end, was directly linked to an increase in preterm births in South Texas. Pregnant Latina women were more likely than white women to give birth prematurely.
That's a rather important issue. Notice how so many lefties on Twitter have ignored it -- the same way so many lefty outlets have as well.
Turning to Iraq . . .
Iraq's government on Sunday launched a military operation to track militias blamed for the murder of activists in Basra.
Anti-government protests flared up in the southern oil city last week after gunmen shot dead protest leader Reham Yacoub in her car.
The killing of Yacoub on Wednesday was the third such attack against campaigners in Basra in a week.
Tahseen Oussama, 30, was gunned down on August 14, and four others were shot at while travelling in a car on Monday.
“We will pursue the criminals and arrest the killers within the next few hours,” Interior Minister Othman Al Ghanmi said.
Mina seems confused -- militias? Tracked by Iraq's government? Militias are part of the Iraqi government. Did she forget that reality?
Reham Yacoub, REUTERS notes, had been active "in the local protest movement since 2018 and had led several women's marches." PERSECUTION.ORG adds, "These events have caused an outcry of alarm by many Iraqis, who remember the frequency of targeted kidnappings and assassinations during the early 2000s. The latest series of incidents occur within a similar environment in that there is an increase of militia tension. In Iraq’s current domestic landscape, many of these militias are heavily backed by Iran." Iraq Tweets notes:
Demonstrators on Friday set fire to the parliament's local offices in the city of Basra as security forces fired live rounds in the air to disperse them. They had gathered to demand the dismissal of Basra Governor Asaad al-Eidani after two activists were killed and others wounded in three separate attacks by unknown gunmen last week.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi arrived in Basra late on Saturday in an attempt to quell the unrest, pledging to bring those accountable for the killings to justice.
"Basra will recover again, God willing. This is a message to all criminals and killers, this is a new government that is working to establish the prerequisites of security," al-Khadimi told crowds in Basra.
Mustafa headed to Basra shortly after returning to Iraq. On the 20th, he was in DC meeting with US President Donald Trump. Among the topics they discussed? Benoit Faucon and Michael R. Gordon (WALL STREET JOURNAL) report, "The Trump administration is urging Iraq to proceed with a project to connect its power grid with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, among steps to reduce Baghdad’s longstanding dependency on Iranian energy, U.S. and Arab officials said. Venus Upadhayaya (EPOCH TIMES) also notes this development, "The Trump administration is trying to support Iraq in developing good relationships with the Gulf countries to help it meet its energy needs and to reduce its dependence on Iran. That way the United States isn't only helping Iraq reduce Iranian influence and build better relationships to meet its energy and economic needs, but by doing so is also drawing Iraq closer geopolitically, experts say." The White House issued the following on the 20th:
11:19 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. It’s great to have the Prime Minister of Iraq, a very highly respected gentleman all over the Middle East, and respected very much by our country, too. I can say that.
And we will be discussing, today, the obvious: defense — and offense, I have to say. But we’ll be discussing military. We’re also involved in many oil projects and oil development within their country, and I think we’ve had a very, very good relationship since we started.
We’re down to a very small number of soldiers in Iraq now. We defeated the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and it’s — that has been defeated very strongly, and it does have a different feeling to it now that you’ve got it. We had it at 98 percent, and we said, “Well, we can leave.” And then, everybody said, “Would you bring it to 100 percent?” Then we brought it 100 percent.
But the relationship is very good. We have become friends. We have become, I think, friendly. I think our relationship now is better than ever before. But we have very few soldiers in Iraq, and — but we’re there to help. And the Prime Minister knows that. We are there to help. We’re with some people that also — Mike and Mike — we — and Robert. We very much feel that if Iran should do anything, we will be there to help the Iraqi people.
So, that’s where we are. We’re doing big trade deals, we’re doing military deals, and we’re doing military purchases by them, where they’re spending a lot of money on purchasing equipment and they’re building up their military rapidly, and we like to see that.
So, thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister, for being here. I appreciate it. Please.
PRIME MINISTER KADHIMI: Thank you, Mr. President. I just want to thank you for receiving us in the White House today. I’m grateful for all the support offered by the United States to Iraq during the war against ISIS.
This support has built our partnership for the best interests for our nation. Mr. President, yesterday we signed many contact — many contracts with American companies — over (inaudible). Iraq is open for American business and investment and for a better future for Iraq and Iraqi people.
Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much.
PRIME MINISTER KADHIMI: Thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Very much.
Q Mr. President, what’s your reaction to the indictment of your former campaign aid, Steve Bannon?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I feel very badly. I haven’t been dealing with him for a long period of time, as most of the people in this room know. He was involved in our campaign. He worked for Goldman Sachs. He worked for a lot of companies. But he was involved, likewise, in our campaign, and for a small part of the administration, very early on. I haven’t been dealing with him at all.
I know nothing about the project, other than I didn’t like — when I read about it, I didn’t like it. I said, “This is for government. This isn’t for private people.” And it sounded, to me, like showboating. And I think I let my opinion be very strongly stated at the time. I didn’t like it. It was showboating and maybe looking for funds. But you’ll have to see what happens.
I think it’s a very sad thing for Mr. Bannon. I think it’s surprising. But this was something, as you know, just by reading social media and by reading whatever it is, and by speaking to Mike and Mike and all of them, I didn’t like that project. I thought that was a project that was being done for showboating reasons.
I don’t know that he was in charge. I didn’t know any of the other people either. But it’s sad. It’s very sad.
Q But it’s not just Steve Bannon. It’s Roger Stone. It’s Michael Flynn. It’s Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen. What does it say about your judgment that these are the kind of people who you’re affiliated with —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I have no idea.
Q — and the culture of lawlessness —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah. Yeah.
Q — around people who are involved in the leadership of your 2016 campaign?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, no, there was great lawlessness in the Obama administration. They spied on our campaign illegally. And if you look at all of the things and all of the scandals they had, they had tremendous lawlessness.
But I know nothing about it. I was not involved in the project. I have no idea who was. But I can tell you: I didn’t know the people; the three people that were talked about were people that I did not know. I don’t believe I ever met them.
I don’t think that should be a privately financed wall. I don’t think — it’s too complex; it’s too big. And we’re now up to 300 miles, almost. In another week, week and a half, we’ll be up to 300 miles of wall at the highest level. They were even having construction problems.
I was reading — the little I know about it, I got from you. I was reading, where they were having construction problems with the wall that they were — they had a small area just to show people that they could build a wall, and they were having a lot of problems where it was toppling over and other things. And I didn’t like it because I didn’t want to be associated with that.
We built a very powerful wall. It was a wall that is virtually impossible to get through. It’s very, very tough. It’s very strong, and it’s everything the Border Patrol wanted. And I didn’t want to have a wall that was going to be an inferior wall. And I felt this was going to be an inferior wall.
Q Kris Kobach said you endorsed the wall. Is that true? The project.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: So I didn’t — I didn’t know — I didn’t know that. I didn’t know about Bannon’s involvement, but I didn’t know any — I didn’t know the other people. And I — but I do think it’s a sad event.
And, again, Steve has had a great career at Goldman Sachs. He’s had a career with a lot of other people. I haven’t dealt with him at all, over years now — literally, years. And I guess this was a project he was involved in, but it was something that — in fact, you can see I made statements about it a long time ago. It was something that I very much felt was inappropriate to be doing.
Okay. Please go ahead.
No, go ahead, please.
Q Mr. President, the end of the militia roles in Iraq — it’s one of the very important issues to stabilize the country in Iraq. How America is going to support ending the militia role in Iraq and —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: You know, you’re — you’re very hard to understand. Could you maybe help me with it?
Q Mr. President —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Wait. Go ahead. Try it again.
Q (No translation provided.)
PRIME MINISTER KADHIMI: (As interpreted.) The United States helped the — helped Iraq enormously in defeating ISIS and also in toppling the Saddam Hussein regime. We are working on building a strong relationship that is based on joint interests between Iraq and the United States, that is based on economic interest for the better future of the Iraqi people and the United States people.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: When I got to — when we came into office, ISIS was running rampant all over Iraq and Syria. And we knocked out the — 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate. But the Obama administration did a very, very poor job. They were running rampant all over. And we came in and we did a real job, and we got rid of that, and that was a good thing.
And now we’re working with Iraq. They use the great American Dollar, which is the most powerful currency in the world. And they’re starting to do well. And we are with them. And this gentleman, in particular, we’ve developed a very good relationship. And hopefully, it’s going to be very strong for your country.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. There have been 32 attacks — there have been 32 attacks in the last 10 months on U.S. interests in Iraq, particularly in the Green Zone and U.S. military bases. How are you going to help Iraq to halt these attacks by pro-Iranian militia and to hold these people accountable?
And, sir, if I may also, there was some reporting that the U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraq totally in three years. Is this true?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: So, at some point, we obviously will be gone. We’ve brought it down to a very, very low level. We deal — where there are attacks, we take care of those attacks, and we take care of them very easily. Nobody has the weaponry we have. Nobody has the — anything — of what we have. We have the finest, the greatest military in the world. When somebody hits us, we hit back hard than they hit us. So we handle it.
In addition to that, Iraq has been very helpful, where necessary. But we have been taking our troops out of Iraq fairly rapidly, and we look forward to the day when we don’t have to be there. And hopefully Iraq can live their own lives and they can defend themselves, which they’ve been doing long before we got involved.
Q Mr. President how do you see the role of the Kurds in Iraq?
Q Mr. President, about — about the bounties — about the bounties: You say you hit back hard, but we haven’t seen any definitive strike back for bounties upon Americans.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, you don’t know about the bounties. I mean, you’re telling me — if you know something, you can let us know, but you obviously don’t know very much about it. But if we found out, that would be true; if we found, that would be a very — it would be a fact, what you just said. We would hit them so hard your head would spin.
Q Mr. President how do you see the role of the Kurds in Iraq? And how is important relationship between Baghdad and Erbil (inaudible)?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, the Kurds helped us greatly in defeating the — as you know, the ISIS, and getting the ISIS — 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate. So we have a very good relationship with the Kurds, and we’ve also treated them very well.
Q Mr. President —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, please.
Q — on the bounties —
Q Yeah. The end of the militia rules in Iraq is very important to — to stabilize the country. How America can help ending the militia rules? And how can help Iraq in the democracy process?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, what we’re doing is we’re helping where we can. But again, that’s a country — that’s a separate country. They have a prime minister, and they have people in office, and they have to run their country. We’ve been in Iraq for a long time. I won’t say whether or not I said we should be there, but frankly, I didn’t think it was a good idea. But I was a civilian, so who’s going to listen to me? But I made my point pretty clear; I guess as clear as a civilian can do it.
But we were there, and now we’re getting out. We’ll be leaving shortly. And the relationship is very good. We’re making very big oil deals. Our oil companies are making massive deals. And that’s basically the story.
I mean, we’re very — we’re very happy with the relationship that we’ve developed over the last couple of years. I thought, before that, frankly, the United States was being taken advantage of. But we’re going to be leaving, and hopefully we’re going to be leaving a country that can defend itself.
Q While you are here in the United States, there were — there were airstrikes on northern Iraq, in Kurdistan region, killing one civilian. I know — in your talks, in your meetings here, you talk a lot about the sovereignty of Iraq. Is that something that you’re looking for help from the United States?
And Mr. President, if that’s something can — if Iraq is asking for help, in terms of the interference from the neighbors — not just Iran, but other neighbors where they’re attacking northern Iraq?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, they’ll have to make a specific request, but certainly, the Prime Minister has my ear. So if he does that, we’ll take a look. They do have — it’s a very unstable part of the world. And I’m not talking about Iraq; I’m talking about the — the whole of the Middle East. It’s a very, very unstable part of the world.
But we’re there to help. And because of the relationship, we would certainly be willing to lend you the kind of support that you need.
PRIME MINISTER KADHIMI: (As interpreted.) Definitely the Turkish attacks are not accepted. On the other hand, the Iraqi constitution also does not allow Iraq to be — to become used to attack any — any neighboring — neighboring country. We are entering dialogue with Turkey to rectify this situation. And I look forward to solving this problem with Turkey and getting our neighbors, the Turks, to understand Iraq’s circumstances.
But once again, the Iraqi constitution does not allow Iraqi territory to be used to attack any neighboring country.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I will say this: The United States, and me in particular, has a very good relationship with Turkey and with President Erdoğan, and we’ll be talking to him. But we have a very, very good relationship with Turkey and with President Erdoğan.
Q Mr. President, just to follow up on the troops question, sir: Do you have a timeframe for the full and complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from — from Iraq?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Mike, what would you say to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: As soon as we can complete the mission. The President has made very clear he wants to get our forces down to the lowest level as quickly as we possibly can. That’s the mission he’s given us, and we’re working with Iraqis to achieve that.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We’re at the lowest level now, Jeff — we’re at the lowest level in Afghanistan that we have been in many years. We’ll be down to about 4,000 troops in Afghanistan.
SECRETARY POMPEO: In a couple months.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And that will be when?
SECRETARY POMPEO: A couple months, sir.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah, within a few months. A couple of months.
Q Mr. President — one other thing, Mr. President —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: As you know, in Syria we’re down to almost nothing, except we kept the oil. But we’ll work out some kind of a deal with the Kurds on that. But we left, but we kept the oil. And we left the border. We said Turkey and Syria can take care of their own border; we don’t have to do it. And that worked out very well. I remember when I did that, I was scorned by everybody. They said, “This is terrible.”
Well, I did it. It’s now two years ago. And we did it with — Mike Pence went over and met with the various parties and very successfully, and we removed our troops. Nobody was killed. Nobody. And now they protect their own border like they have been for hundreds of years. And we’ll — we’ve left. But we did keep a small force, and we kept the oil. And we’ll make a determination on that oil fairly soon.
Q And just one domestic question, sir: The Manhattan case about your taxes has now ruled that you do need to give your — to turn over your taxes. Do you have a reaction to that?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, the Supreme Court said, if it’s a fishing expedition, you don’t have to do it. And this is a fishing expedition.
But more importantly, this is a continuation of the witch hunt — the greatest witch hunt in history. There’s never been anything like it, where people want to examine every deal you’ve ever done to see if they can find that there’s a comma out of place. No President has ever had to go through this. The Supreme Court shouldn’t have allowed this to happen. But no President has ever had to go through this.
But what the Supreme Court did do is say if it’s a fishing expedition, you — my interpretation is essentially, you don’t have to do it. So we’ll probably end up back in the Supreme Court.
But this is just a continuation of the most hideous witch hunt in the history of our country. We beat Mueller. We won at every level in this — in Washington, in D.C. We won at every lev- — level. So, now, what they do: They send it into New York. So now we have an all-Democrat state — all Democrats. And they send it into New York. This should never be allowed to happen to another President.
This is a continuation of the most disgusting witch hunt in the history of our country — all it is. But the Supreme Court said “fishing expedition.” This is the ultimate fishing expedition. Nobody has anything. We didn’t — we don’t do things wrong.
But they’ll say, “Let’s go in and inspect every deal he’s ever done. Let’s get papers from 10 years. Every paper. Every deal he’s ever signed. Maybe we can find where some lawyer made a mistake, where they didn’t dot an “i,” where they didn’t put a comma down someplace. And then we can do something.” This is a disgrace and this should never, ever be allowed to happen again.
All right? Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President, on Navalny, the Russian opposition leader: He was hospitalized, and they think he was poisoned. Is that the U.S. government’s determination, that he was —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We haven’t seen it yet. We’re looking at it. And Mike is going to be reporting to me soon. Okay?
Thank you very much everybody.