Monday, December 14, 2020

Iraq snapshot

 Monday, December 14, 2020.  The chaos surrounding Joe Biden continues.


Starting with the disaster that the Joe Biden administration is quickly becoming -- over a month before he's even been sworn in.  Brigida Santos speaks with Mike Papantonio (RING OF FIRE) about Joe's pick for Secretary of State Antony Blinken.



Mike Papantonio:             President elect Joe Biden has nominated Tony Blinken for secretary of state. Much of the media is chanting out with the old and in with the new when it comes to Biden’s cabinet picks. But how much of a difference we’re going to see? Almost none. I have Brigida Santos to talk to me about this war hawk, this awful war hawk who helped get us involved in Iraq. Brigida, for those who don’t know who this character is, let’s talk about him because most people aren’t even paying attention to him. He is a flying monkey war hawk, any other way to describe him?

Brigida Santos:                   Absolutely, that’s accurate. Now, Anthony Blinken has worked with president elect Joe Biden for two decades. He previously served under president Barack Obama and then vice president Joe Biden as the deputy secretary of state and deputy national security advisor. He played a key role in the Obama/Biden foreign policy team. So it’s really no surprise that the president elect has nominated him for secretary of state. Now with Tony Blinken, we can expect to see a return to the policies and militarism of the Obama era. Now people tend to forget, but US interventions under the Obama administration include toppling the government in Libya, bombing and droning civilians in Yemen, launching airstrikes in Syria and of course prolonging the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, this is a, to be real, I mean, it let’s take it down to the facts. This is a guy who, who, who fought for us to invade Iraq, knowing that it was all based on a lie. He had to know it just like everybody else had to know it. Then he wants to go to Libya. He wants to invade Libya. Then he wants to invade Syria. He Opposed withdrawal from, for, for any soldiers in Afghanistan. He opposed withdrawal there. He didn’t want them coming out of Germany. Why? Because he is nothing more than a go-to boy for the arms industry. And Biden knows that, and he’s going to appoint him anyway. How might his secretary of state Blinken differ from Mike Pompeo who, you know wasn’t, I mean, this guy wasn’t a superstar either, but at least he wasn’t a damn war hawk. What’s your take?

Brigida Santos:                   Well, I think Pompeo absolutely is a war hawk, but these leaders are United on militarism. So we really haven’t seen much change in that department from administration to administration, as you’ve already pointed out in the open. Now they’re also unified on their alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia and on their differences with Iran and China, even though their approaches might be different. Now, for example, Blinken says that he wants the US to rejoin the joint comprehensive plan of action with Iran, aka the Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration abandoned. And they want to compete with China through multilateral agreements rather than forcing countries to choose doing business with Beijing or Washington. But like the Trump administration, the incoming Biden administration will likely continue sanctioning Iran and Russia and China also, as it sees fit to accomplish certain goals. Now, there is one interesting thing that we should all be paying attention to over the next four years and that’s Washington’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. The president elect has vowed to stop selling weapons of war to Riyadh. We’ll see if Tony Blinken helps carry out that campaign prime, promise. But where Blinken truly differs from secretary of state Mike Pompeo, is on climate and health related diplomacy. The Biden administration of course plans to rejoin the Paris climate accord and the world health organization as soon as possible.

Meanwhile Molly Jong-Fast lives up the embarrassment that is her entire family with yet another nutty article.  No link to garbage.  VOGUE must have been high from nail polish remover fumes when they decided to run it.  But Molly is in a tizzy -- a zipless tizzy? -- because the press is (finally) talking about Joe's corrupt son Hunter Biden.  What, Molly wants to know, about Ivanka Trump?  

What about her, you stupid airhead?  

Did she do something wrong?  Then go after her.  It's not an either/or, you stupid partisan whore.  If Ivanka's used the presidency to enrich herself in the last four years, that's corruption so call it out.

But grasp, you idiot who thinks your mother really qualifies as a novelist (she doesn't), Hunter Biden's corruption goes back for years and years.  It isn't four years, it isn't one case.  And your bulls**t is not helpful.  You justify corruption and try to rally people around a talking point (They don't go after Ivanka!) so that Hunter (and others) get away with corruption.  You're a whore.  Just like your mother.  Is she still popping pills by the way or did she go into rehab after the 2008 election?  

Clean up your house first, Molly.  The same goes for Joe.  Over the weekend, Adam Goldman, Katie Benner and Ben Protess (NEW YORK TIMES) reported:

But the disclosure of a criminal inquiry into his son thrust Mr. Biden into a charged position as he prepares to take office. Republican senators called for an independent special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, and Mr. Trump complained that the Delaware inquiry did not surface before the election.

“I’m proud of my son,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Friday.

Why not?  He bedded his brother's widow.  He had to be hauled into court to pay child support for a child he denied -- denied even after the test concluded he was the father.  He spent millions on drugs and hookers according to his first wife -- that would be the mother of his children (plural) whom he left to bed his brother's widow.  "Hey, kids, say hi to Aunt-Mommy!"  And we didn't even get into his drug addiction.  An African-American with the same drug problems would be in prison -- as a result of the laws Joe championed as a US senator.  But Hunter gets a pass over and over.  He needs something to make his sad resume look impressive?  Daddy Joe -- then the Vice President -- cuts all red tape and gets him instantly in the reserves.  But f**k up Hunter can't even last a month before he fails a drug test and is kicked out.  

"I'm proud of my son."  If that's true, Joe, that might be part of the problem.  

Brian Stelter has long been part of the problem.  When will CNN hire a woman as ugly as Brian?  Never.  It's a visual medium so why did they hire Brian to begin with?  He spent his Sunday show spouting more nonsense.  He thinks attacking FOX NEWS makes him a critic.  No, Brian, a real critic can turn the eye on their own network and, in the case of Hunter Biden, absolutely should.  Mark Hemingway (REAL CLEAR POLITICS) notes:

Hunter Biden announced Wednesday he is under federal investigation for his financial dealings in foreign countries, including China. While the news sent shockwaves through Washington, D.C., it shouldn’t have been surprising. The announcement confirms many of the allegations of corruption that were leveled against Hunter Biden in the months leading up to the November elections – allegations the media steadfastly refused to cover.

The nation’s largest social media companies went further: They made the shocking decision to actively censor the New York Post’s eye-opening scoop revealing evidence of Joe Biden’s son’s influence peddling that was recovered from an abandoned laptop. Twitter locked the newspaper out of its own account for weeks. Facebook prevented the Post’s story from being widely distributed, even though neither Joe Biden nor his campaign disputed the authenticity of the documents published by the paper.

In retrospect, not only do the documents appear to be authentic, but a Daily Beast report Thursday notes evidence that the Hunter Biden investigation was hiding in plain sight. One of the FBI documents from the laptop published by the Post “included a case number that had the code associated with an ongoing federal money laundering investigation in Delaware, according to several law enforcement officials who reviewed the document. Another document — one with a grand jury subpoena number — appeared to show the initials of two assistant U.S. attorneys linked to the Wilmington, Delaware, office.” Hunter Biden claims he only learned of the  investigation this past week, but these documents suggest otherwise.

Even a cursory inquiry by the New York Post’s competitors would have confirmed that Biden was under federal investigation. One journalist did behave like a reporter. In late October, Sinclair Broadcast Group correspondent James Rosen reported that Hunter Biden was under active investigation and a Justice Department official confirmed his scoop. Almost without exception, America’s press corps refused to follow up on Rosen’s revelation — or even report it.

The corporate media has a great deal to answer for.  Trash like Erica Jong's daughter work overtime to enure that no answers ever come.  Ross Barkan (JACOBIN) writes:

In 2017, MSNBC, unable to marshal much of an audience during Obama’s presidency, became a place where every Trumpian outrage and conspiracy could be parroted and expanded to maximalist proportions. Ratings soared. Rachel Maddow became one of the biggest stars in television, rivaling the reach of any Fox host. CNN, too, made a fortune on liberal angst and rage, branding for the Resistance.

For mainstream liberal outlets — both those that openly identify that way, and those that keep up the pretense of neutrality — the future is less clear. For four years, the top media organizations in America universally benefited from Trump. The New York Times and the Washington Post, which received a remarkable surge of subscriptions from beleaguered readers, almost all Democrats who turned to them for news of Trump’s potential downfall, also rebranded for the Resistance. From Russiagate to impeachment to Trump’s unhinged tweets, content was never lacking — the show always went on. The Post even devised a new grandiose motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Smaller liberal outlets like the New Yorker, New York magazine, Vox, and the Daily Beast trod a similar path.

Many media organizations played a role as an aggressive and necessary watchdog in the Trump years. The bankrupt access-journalism model, in which reporters allow themselves to be co-opted by powerful actors for mostly meaningless scoops, lost favor in the Trump years, as more journalists and readers recognized that it could not function with a White House that offered so little in the way of reliable information. Trump did revive gossip-infused palace intrigue reporting, with so many staffers cycling in and out, but that did not cause mainstream outlets to abandon their adversarial stance, at least toward Trump himself. The Mark Halperin model of reporting was rightfully discredited.

But a new problem arises now: Can these many media organizations, so closely linked to the project of anti-Trump resistance, leave behind their role as Democratic Party activists and Biden apologists? As Branko Marcetic wrote in Jacobin in October, the collective decision to entirely suppress the New York Post’s dubious, though hardly fabricated, reporting on Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and cheer on the censorship efforts of Facebook and Twitter — the latter social media giant, in an unprecedented move, locked the Post’s main account and temporarily blocked sharing of the story — could be a harbinger of what’s to come. The Post’s story should not have been promoted uncritically, but most media outlets failed in their first duty to the public: to report and find out what’s true and what’s false. Instead of attempting to verify the facts of the story and then deciding whether to dismiss all of it as bunk, media organizations blacked out the story without making even a perfunctory attempt to explain what it was that had been revealed in the first place and if any of it could be relevant to the public.

Still traumatized by 2016, when Democratic Party operatives attributed Trump’s victory to Wikileaks’ release of hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, media organizations were determined not to be perceived as aiding and abetting a candidate they regarded as a threat to democracy itself. Once Trump was deemed a fascist — never mind that Trump was a historically weak president who accomplished relatively little beyond judicial appointments, as Corey Robin has convincingly argued — any and all reporting that could be perceived as damaging to his rivals was viewed by the Democratic readership as the greatest of transgressions.

But as long as Trump was president, at least none of this hindered the practice of accountability journalism vis-à-vis the executive branch.

What now? There is a real danger of slipping into a new normal, in which liberal-leaning newspapers and websites fail to report as aggressively on the Biden White House as they did on its predecessors. Aaron Rupar, a prominent Vox editor, recently dismissed an investigative report into the lucrative private-sector careers of Biden’s wealthy foreign policy team. “Blinken participated in society. The horror,” Rupar tweeted, referring to Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken.

Apparently, to some journalists, founding a high-dollar consulting firm with clients in the defense industry, Silicon Valley, and various hedge funds while also being a partner in a private equity firm can now be equated to the mere act of “participating in society,” as if this were an unavoidable part of everyday life. Had a Trump cabinet pick boasted a similar background, it’s unlikely Rupar would have been so blasé. The danger is that in the post-Trump era, Democratic corruption will be seen as acceptable because it’s not Republican corruption.



"What you have is a situation today where the Bidens have repeatedly lied to the media and the media doesn't care," Schweizer said. "They don't want to catch them in lies, they don't want to pursue the lies."

Schweizer then turned to a now-famous interview Hunter Biden gave to ABC News' "Good Morning America" in October 2019.

"Hunter Biden goes on national television ... and said [he had] not received a single penny from the Chinese," he recalled. "Well, we now know, of course, that he got close to $5 million from CEFC, a Chinese government-connected energy company. We know he had a big equity stake in that private equity firm [BHR], a $1.5 billion private equity firm.

"We know there were other transactions involving Rosemont Realty and Rosemont Opportunities Fund, too," Schweizer added. "So he was flat-out lying to the national media. What's been the media's response? Nothing. They've taken it. They've accepted it. In fact, they not only covered it up, Ben Smith of The New York Times ran a piece right before the election bragging about the fact that the gatekeepers -- which of course, include the Times and other publications -- had effectively killed this story and how proud they were of it.


 We'll note this news out of Iraq:

Around the corner from Iraq's holiest shrines, a years-long struggle over allegiances and resources is coming to a head -- threatening a dangerous schism within a powerful state-sponsored security force.

The growing fissure pits the vast Iran-aligned wing of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) network against four factions linked to the shrines of Iraq's twin holy cities, Karbala and Najaf.

Those factions, dubbed "the Shrine Mobilization" and comprising around 20,000 active fighters, held their first strategic planning meeting earlier this month.

Throughout the packed three days, spokesmen for the shrine groups leaned on two sources of legitimacy: a patriotic, "Iraq-only" discourse, and the blessing of the "marjaiyah," Iraq's Shiite spiritual leadership.


And we'll note this from Human Rights Watch:


A special committee of judges to adjudicate cases of children in detention in Iraq for alleged links to the Islamic State (ISIS) during the first half of 2020 appeared to comply with international human rights standards better than other Iraqi courts, Human Rights Watch said today.

Committee records from January to June 2020 that Human Rights Watch reviewed show that it closely reviewed individual cases and ordered the release of 75 alleged child offenders for reasons including lack of evidence and preventing double jeopardy, as well as under provisions of Iraq’s amnesty law.

“The work of this committee suggests that some Iraqi judges understand how to apply international human rights principles and are doing so even if the rest of the system ignores them,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “We hope that the High Judicial Council shares  this positive example with courts across the country to allow this to become the norm rather than the exception.”

For years, Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government judicial authorities have charged hundreds of children with terrorism for alleged ISIS affiliation. Many of the charges have been based on dubious accusations and forced confessions, regardless of the extent of ISIS involvement, if any. This approach has flouted international norms that children recruited by armed groups should be treated first and foremost as victims, not criminals.

For over a decade, a committee in Nineveh chaired by a judge, working alongside a general prosecutor and social worker, has been adjudicating the cases of suspects who were children at the time they allegedly joined terrorist organizations. From January to June, this committee appeared to take a more human rights-compliant approach toward cases involving child ISIS suspects. In June, judicial authorities dissolved the committee, stating that it had reviewed all pending cases, but another committee in Nineveh also adjudicating child terrorism cases has continued to work.

In August, a source close to the Nineveh Federal Court of Appeal and the Bar Association who requested anonymity told Human Rights Watch that the committee reviewed 300 case files before it was disbanded in June. Records show that the committee, unlike other Iraqi courts, attempted to review individual cases more fairly and better apply international standards. The committee convicted 202 people, dropped charges against and released 31, and pardoned and released 44 under Iraq’s 2016 Amnesty Law. The source shared with Human Rights Watch the court records of 29 of the 75 released, 23 under the amnesty law, 3 for a sentence was already served, and 3 acquitted for lack of evidence. It also reviewed court records of five of those who were convicted.

The committee dropped three of the cases because the defendant had already served a sentence for the same crime. In case 137\GH.M\2020, the suspect was arrested in 2018 and sentenced under the counterterrorism law to two years in prison. After he served the sentence, Mosul authorities re-arrested him for the same charge of ISIS-affiliation. The committee found that the defendant, “may not be convicted of the same crime twice” and the authorities were “ordered to permanently cease proceedings against the accused.”

In case 73\GH.M\2020, a Kurdistan Regional Government court sentenced a defendant to 10 months under the Kurdistan Region’s Anti-Terrorism Law (no.3/2006). Following a second arrest, the committee ordered the new terrorism charges dropped and released him since he already had served a sentence based on these charges. Human Rights Watch has previously documented cases in which child suspects were tried on terrorism charges in the Kurdistan Region and then put on trial again in Baghdad-controlled territory, regardless of whether they had been acquitted or convicted and served a sentence in the Kurdistan Region.

In each case of the 23 released under the amnesty law, the defendant had confessed to participating in ISIS training for between 7 and 30 days before turning 18, but there was no evidence that they engaged in other ISIS activities. In case 118\GH.M\2020, the defendant admitted that he had participated in a one-month training with ISIS in 2014, when he was under age 15. The committee judges found that “the accused minor was not yet 15 years old at the time and didn’t comprehend the results of his actions, and that merely taking a course without carrying out any terrorist activity cannot be considered affiliation.”

In a positive step, all of the decisions taken by the committee were upheld by the Federal Court of Cassation.

In five cases, the committee convicted defendants who had confessed to participating in fighting on behalf of ISIS and manning checkpoints. They all said their confessions had been coerced, but the committee stated that there was additional evidence in each case to substantiate the charge, including ISIS documents mentioning their names.

Since the advent of ISIS in Iraq, Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities have charged hundreds of children with terrorism for alleged ISIS affiliation under counterterrorism legislation. Under Iraq’s 1983 Juvenile Welfare Act, the minimum age of criminal responsibility is 9, and in the Kurdistan Region it is 11. Iraqi law states that judicial authorities handling cases of those under 18 at the time of the alleged crime should send a child found guilty to a “youth rehabilitation school” – designed to provide social rehabilitation and reintegration through education or vocational training. A source familiar with the work of the prisons service said that the cells within Tal Kayf prison holding these suspects are being called “youth rehabilitation schools” but he said there is no programming whatsoever for those inside, and that the cells are identical to those for adult detainees, with no access to any reading or studying materials besides the Quran. He added that they were overcrowded, with prison authorities providing insufficient food for all the inmates.

Children should only be detained as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period. International law regarding children and armed conflict says that countries should assist children illegally recruited by armed groups or forces, including providing appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has also stated that countries should refrain from charging and prosecuting children for mere association with a non-state armed group, including those designated terrorist groups.

The High Judicial Council should mainstream the example set by the committee to improve the judiciary’s respect for international legal standards protecting child soldiers across the country.

The Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government should amend counterterrorism laws to end the detention and prosecution of children solely for participating in ISIS training or membership, recognizing that international law prohibits recruiting children into armed groups. Until the time that the laws are amended, the High Judicial Council should instruct judges across Iraq to release all children who have not committed other crimes and ensure their rehabilitation and reintegration. Children who may have committed other violent offenses should be treated in accordance with international juvenile justice standards.

The authorities should also end all use of torture, investigate those responsible and hold them accountable, and work with the United Nations and other credible child protection groups to establish programs to help rehabilitate and reintegrate children formerly associated with armed groups.

“Iraq took a small step toward protecting the rights of children rather than trampling them, but even this progress is at risk if authorities don’t replicate it elsewhere,” Wille said.






 Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Hunter Biden Finally Gets A Little Press Attention" and "Dianne Does Her Duty" went up yesterday.