Friday, December 31, 2021
Friday, December 31, 2021. The Turkish government continues to terrorize the Kurdistan, Iraq still awaits a new government, Julian Assange remains persecuted and much more.
The editorial board of THE MINOT DAILY NEWS reflects as the year winds down:
Meanwhile, no doubt Afghans who relied on government — both their own and America’s — wish they hadn’t, when President Joe Biden finally did what should have been done years ago and withdrew militarily from the country after 20 years of war. American audiences were also shocked when the end-result of two decades of investment resulted in depressing images of Taliban fighters celebrating as they took over abandoned U.S. military bases in the country. Again, anyone who trusted the longstanding conventional Washington narrative that everything was under control was sorely disappointed.
And at the end of this year, a British high court ordered that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could be extradited to the U.S. after the Biden administration persisted in seeking his transfer to an American prison. This, despite Yahoo News publishing evidence in September of a CIA plot to kidnap and assassinate him. Although Assange did little that was much different from other media outlets in publishing secrets provided to him by a Pentagon source — much in the same way that former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg provided Pentagon Papers secrets which were published by the New York Times — he faces serious legal jeopardy. All this was occurring as Biden himself hosted a “Summit for Democracy” to defend democratic values, including specifically freedom of the press. Assange’s treatment doesn’t bode well for any bona-fide truth-tellers or free-speech practitioners who may have been relying perhaps a bit too much on the U.S. government to come to their rescue — unless of course they sing Uncle Sam’s tune.
If there’s anything that we should have learned this year, it’s that your own welfare in 2022 depends on you — and all of us — reducing our dependence on those who serve us platitudes about looking out for our best interests.
Julian remains persecuted and, while that continues, everyone is at risk.
What functioning court, aware that the US governmebt had plotted to kill Julian, would declare that Julian could be handed over to the US government?
Back in October, Reporters Without Borders posted the following:
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
October 15, 2021
Attorney General Merrick Garland:
We, the undersigned press freedom, civil liberties, and international human rights advocacy organizations, write again to share our profound concern about the ongoing criminal and extradition proceedings relating to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
In February, members of this coalition wrote to the Acting Attorney General, urging that the criminal charges against Mr. Assange be dropped.We now renew that request with even greater urgency, in light of a recent story in Yahoo News describing alarming discussions within the CIA and Trump administration before the indictment against Assange was filed. The Yahoo News story only heightens our concerns about the motivations behind this prosecution, and about the dangerous precedent that is being set.
As we noted in our earlier correspondence, the signatories to this letter have different perspectives on Mr. Assange and his organization. We are united, however, in our view that the criminal case against him poses a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad. We were disappointed that the Department of Justice appealed the decision by Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to reject the Trump administration’s extradition request. Especially in light of the recent news report, we urge you to drop that appeal and dismiss the underlying indictment.
As we explained in our earlier letter, journalists routinely engage in much of the conduct described in the indictment: speaking with sources, asking for clarification or more documentation, and receiving and publishing official secrets. News organizations frequently and necessarily publish classified information in order to inform the public of matters of profound public significance.
We appreciate that the government has a legitimate interest in protecting bona fide national security interests, but the proceedings against Mr. Assange jeopardize journalism that is crucial to democracy. In our view, a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be used against publishers and journalists alike, chilling their work and undermining freedom of the press.
Major news organizations share this concern. The charges against Assange have been condemned by virtually every major American news outlet, even though many of those news outlets have criticized Mr. Assange in the past.
In light of these concerns, and in light of the shocking new reporting on the government’s conduct in this case, we respectfully urge you to drop the ongoing appeal of Judge Baraitser’s ruling and to dismiss the indictment of Mr. Assange.
(in alphabetical order):
American Civil Liberties Union
Amnesty International USA
Center for Constitutional Rights
Committee to Protect Journalists
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Education Fund
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fight for the Future
First Amendment Coalition
Freedom of the Press Foundation
Human Rights Watch
Index on Censorship
Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University
National Coalition Against Censorship
Open The Government Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
Project on Government Oversight
Reporters Without Borders
The Press Freedom Defense Fund of First Look Institute
Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts
Here's Richard Medhurst talking about Julian from yesterday.
Assange Defense Tweets:
Ming The Merciless Tweets:
Turning to Iraq, that's PBS' NEWSHOUR with Simona Foltyn reporting on Turkey's continued 'excursion' into Iraq.
This is huge. The US press has worked overtime to ignore what Turkey's been doing in Iraq.
What Turkey has done to the Kurds is troublesome and outrageous and considering the fact that today's Turkish government still denies they carried out the Aremian genocide from the start of last century, their actions are scary beyond belief. Kurdistan is becoming the new Palestine. The Turkish government, despite being called out by Iraq, attacks Kurds and terrorizes them, burns down forests, bombs villages and farms and has gotten away with being in clear violation of Iraq's national sovereignty. This is outrageous.
And it's appalling that not only are so many corporate outlets silent but that so-called 'radical' outlets -- I'm looking at WSWS -- ignore what's taking place and do year after year. Why? Well WSWS, for example, feels a 'connection' to some in Turkey so they don't want to call out the Turkish government. The term for that is "whoring."
We'll note this from the UK SOCIALIST WORKER:
A murderous US special forces cell called Talon Anvil massacred hundreds of civilians in Iraq and Syria—and top officers systematically covered up its crimes.
The cell controlled a fleet of Predator and Reaper drones that bristled with Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs.
A major investigation by the New York Times newspaper says Talon Anvil killed “people who had no role in the conflict—farmers trying to harvest, children in the street, families fleeing fighting, and villagers sheltering in buildings”.
A former Air Force intelligence officer said he saw so many civilian deaths as a result of Talon Anvil’s tactics that he eventually grew jaded and accepted them as part of the job.
But some attacks stood out.
In one, Talon Anvil followed three men, all with canvas bags working in an olive grove near the city of Manbij in Syria in autumn 2016.
The men had no weapons, but the strike cell insisted they must be enemy fighters and killed them with a missile.
Then in March 2017, Talon Anvil sent a Predator drone over a Syrian farming town called Karama.
A Talon Anvil operator typed a message into the chat room the cell shared with intelligence analysts—“all civilians have fled the area.
“Anyone left is an enemy fighter. Find lots of targets for us today because we want to go Winchester”.
“Going Winchester” meant using all of the drone’s missiles and 500‑pound bombs.
A Predator drone dropped a 500‑pound bomb through the roof of a building.
As the smoke cleared, the former officer said his team “stared at their screens in dismay”.
“The infrared cameras showed women and children staggering out of the partly collapsed building, some missing limbs, some dragging the dead.”
During the US-backed attack on Raqqa, Iraq, in June 2017, civilians tried to flee the fighting and “boarded makeshift ferries to cross the Euphrates River.”
The cell ordered strikes that hit multiple boats, “killing at least 30 civilians”.
Instead of ending their murders, Talon Anvil operators “started directing drone cameras away from targets shortly before a strike hit, preventing the collection of video evidence”.
Talon Anvil, which officially never existed, was a unit within the larger Task Force 9.
It coordinated US military operations in Iraq and Syria from 2014 to 2019.
The Times reported last month that Task Force 9’s atrocities included an air strike on the town of Baghuz.
At least 80 women and children were incinerated by 500-pound and 2,000-pound bombs.
All these horrors were known by people at the top of the military.
They took no action because this is how imperialism works—through terror, mass death and contempt for those it has targeted.
© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.
Meanwhile the October 10th elections in Iraq have still not resulted in a new government. Akeel Abbas (AL-MONITOR) reports:
The Federal Court’s two decisions, issued the same day, to reject a lawsuit to cancel the October election and certify its results with no changes ended a protracted and bitter legal fight over the results, clearing the way for a political fight over the formation of the next government.
The certification means the constitutional clock starts ticking and deadlines have to be met: Within 15 days of the certification, the new parliament has to convene and elect its speaker. The biggest bloc has to be registered at the same session. Within 30 days of this parliamentary session, the parliament should elect a new president who will task the biggest bloc with forming the government.
President Barham Salih already issued an order Dec. 30 to form the first session of the parliament Jan. 9, according to the constitution’s timeline.
The Shiites have to select the prime minister from among their ranks and agree on the president who is selected from among the Kurds and the parliament speaker who is selected from among the Sunnis.
The Shittes have already started negotiations on the formation of the next government. The latest meeting took place Dec. 29, as leaders of the Coordination Framework led by Hadi al-Amiri met Muqtada al-Sadr at his house in Najaf.
The meeting did not result in an agreement, but it is the start of the process.
As for the position of prime minister, the largest parliamentary bloc usually announces its preferred candidate.
The post is also at the center of heated dispute between Shiite blocs - namely the Sadrist movement, the winner of the elections, and the Coordination Framework, a coalition of pro-Iran factions and the losers of the elections.
Head of the Sadrist movement, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is insisting that his bloc, which won 75 seats, is entitled to naming the premier. The Coordination Framework is, however, insisting on naming the candidate.
Sadr has cited a constitutional article that stipulates that the largest bloc has the right to name the prime minister.
PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi could be reappointed to his post given the support he enjoys from Sadr. Some factions of the Coordination Framework want him out.
Meanwhile, the position of president is reserved to a Kurdish figure. Salih has not hidden his ambition to be elected to a second term.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party, headed by Masoud Barzani, however, is hoping to nominate a new figure to the post, preferably someone from his party or the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
As we've noted before, Salih is a member of the PUK. The PUK had an awful showing. This is the continued defeat of the PUK. KDP won the most votes and any presidential nominee should come from the political party that won the most votes.
We'll wind down with this from Jonathan Turley:
For most of us, New Year resolutions are the ultimate exercise of hope over experience, a type of virtue signaling to ourselves in the hope that this year it might actually work. For politicians, it is the same … just without the hope. With the start of 2022 President Biden will lead the nation in celebrations and reflections. He could truly turn over a new leaf with one resolution: to stop declaring the guilt or innocence of people before they are actually investigated or tried.
History has shown that politicians are rarely late to a hanging or a stoning. From the Dreyfus Affair to Leo Frank, the Scottsboro Boys to the Duke Lacrosse team, there is nothing more binding with the public than to join in expressions of disgust or anger. The difference between a politician and a statesman is that the former demands a result while the latter demands a process from the justice system.
Even before winning the White House, Biden refused to wait for the actual facts before reaching a popular conclusion. For example, after the protests in Lafayette Park in 2020, Biden repeated the now debunked claim that the park was cleared with tear gas to enable a photo op for President Trump. From the outset, there was ample evidence undermining that claim, but neither Biden nor many in the media waited for the investigation to establish the facts. (Later, the Justice Department’s inspector general disproved the claim).
Once in office, President Biden continued that “sentence first, verdict afterwards” habit by making comments that conveyed what he wanted to see happen on legal decisions to be made from agencies. Despite being told that it would be clearly unconstitutional, Biden called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to renew a nationwide moratorium on the eviction of renters.
Within days of the shootings in Kenosha, Wis., then-presidential candidate Joe Biden had strongly implied that Kyle Rittenhouse was a “white supremacist” despite no evidence supporting that claim. Even after many claims about Rittenhouse were debunked and the jury acquitted Rittenhouse of all charges, Biden stated publicly that the verdict left “many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included.”
However, Biden’s Red Queen justice approach was most alarming with regards to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who were falsely accused of “whipping” undocumented immigrants on the southern border. Before any investigation was actually started, Biden expressed anger at the agents and publicly pledged punishment: “It was horrible what — to see, as you saw — to see people treated like they did: horses nearly running them over and people being strapped. It’s outrageous. I promise you, those people will pay.”
“Those people” are federal employees who have a right to due process and a presumption of innocence, including from the man who heads their branch of government. However, the President of the United States declared them to be guilty as the matter was sent for investigation. That creates an obvious pressure on lower-ranked executive branch officials to reach the same conclusion — to not contradict the President.
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