Friday, July 30, 2021

Iraq snapshot

 Friday, July 30, 2021.  Hobby Lobby rips off the people of the world and largely gets away with it, Nancy Pelosi goes on a rant that backs up anti-choicers around the country, and much more.

Brigit Katz (SMITHSONIAN) types:

In 2014, the craft retailer Hobby Lobby purchased a rare cuneiform tablet inscribed with a portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest known works of literature. The artifact was acquired for display at the Museum of the Bible, a Washington, D.C. institution funded by the family of Hobby Lobby founder David Green. But this week, reports Jordan Freiman for CBS News, the Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the tablet’s forfeiture on the grounds that it was illegally imported into the United States and sold to Hobby Lobby under false pretenses.

Known as the “Gilgamesh Dream Tablet,” the artifact is inscribed in the Akkadian language and details a dream sequence from the ancient epic, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). It is around 3,500 years old and originated in modern-day Iraq.

The artifact’s forfeiture is part of a sweeping effort to return around 17,000 archaeological objects looted during the decades of instability spurred by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, reports AFP. Over 36 hours in April 2003, some 15,000 treasures were stolen from the Iraq Museum in Baghdad alone.

Did Hobby Lobby pay Katz to write in such a passive voice?

What's next?  Would she report that Robert Aaron Long had decided to go to prison?  Hobby Lobby was the target of multiple investigations by the US Justice Dept.  The courts have found against them.  

Call them what they are: Criminals.

Stop pretending.  Gilgamesh Dream Tablet?  They knew what they were doing.  They didn't think Bobby Joe Gilgamesh looked in the family attic and found a memento he took to ANQITUE ROAD SHOW and then decided to sell.  They purchased the time for $1.6 million dollars, don't pretend for a second that they didn't do research.  They were warned internally that the purchase would be illegal.  They went ahead with it.

They are criminals.  They chose to be part of theft.  They got caught and now we get people spinning for them.  There should be outrage.  Want to talk about cancel culture?  That's what should be canceleld: Hobby Lobby.

If you're shopping there, face it, you are promoting theft, you are promoting pillaging, you are in favor of privatizing history.

Guy Frank spent 20 years in prison -- he was only released last April -- for stealing two shirts.  But Hobby Lobby steals treasures from the world, and not only do they get to walk free but the rag for The Smithsonian Museum wants to play no-big-deal?

Fair Wayne Bryant is serving a life sentence in prison.  For killing someone?  No, for stealing hedge clippers.  

But Hobby Lobby -- a habitual offender, by the way -- is caught (repeatedly) in the theft of antiquities and there's no jail time?  

The United States Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of New York (which falls under the US Justice Dept) issued a statement this week which included:

The government’s investigation showed that in 2003, a U.S. antiquities dealer (the “Antiquities Dealer”) purchased the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, encrusted with dirt and unreadable, from a family member of a coin dealer in London.  The Antiquities Dealer and a U.S. cuneiform expert shipped the tablet into the United States by international post without declaring formal entry.  After the tablet was imported and cleaned, experts in cuneiform recognized it as bearing a portion of the Gilgamesh epic in which the protagonist describes his dreams to his mother.  The protagonist’s mother interprets the dreams as foretelling the arrival of a new friend.  She tells her son, “You will see him and your heart will laugh.”  The names of the hero, Gilgamesh, and the character who becomes his friend, Enkidu, are replaced in this tablet with the names of deities Sin and Ea.  The tablet measures approximately 6-inches by 5-inches and is written in the Akkadian language.

As alleged in the government’s amended complaint, in 2007, the Antiquities Dealer sold the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet with a false provenance letter that stated the tablet had been inside a box of miscellaneous ancient bronze fragments purchased in an auction in 1981.  This false letter traveled with the tablet as it was sold several times in different countries, and a later owner provided the letter to the Auction House in London.  In 2014, the Auction House sold the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet to Hobby Lobby in a private sale and an Auction House employee carried it on a flight from London to the United States and then transferred it to New York.  Hobby Lobby consented to the tablet’s forfeiture based on the tablet’s illegal importations into the United States in 2003 and 2014.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sylvia Shweder and Trial Attorney Ann Brickley of the Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS).

Does money buy the thieves a pass?  It shouldn't.  There needs to be jail time.  This was theft from the people of the world.  

And the tablet is only one of 17,000 objects that they're being forced to return.  

David Green should be behind bars.  And let's note that he's a thief and a cheap thief at that.   Green wouldn't do the transaction in New York and had it moved to Oklahoma.  Why?  To avoid paying sales tax.

If you're shopping at Hobby Lobby, you're part of the problem.  It's amazing that in the 'cancel culture' period, Hobby Lobby skates. Clearly, the legal system is not going to punish Green.  

Richard Wolf Tweets:

Many ancient relics stolen from Iraq, etc. ended up in Hobby Lobby corp's DC Museum of the Bible. Hobby Lobby fined $ millions. Did their Bible lack the "thou shalt not steal" part?

Jack Gahteaux offers:

Never forget that Hobby Lobby was paying Islamic rebels in Iraq, including ISIS, for looted cultural artifacts while those factions were actively engaged in killing Americans. Hobby Lobby was partially funding terrorists so they could add to their religious collections.

Meanwhile, the COVID 19 pandemic continues across the globe.  In Iraq, a new variant may be emerging.  Dr. John Campbell discusses this and other COVID developments with Dr Raghad Alsuhail in the video below.

Earlier this week, the International Crisis Group published a report on The October Revolution movement.  "Iraq's Tishreen Uprising: From Barricades to Ballot Box."  This is from the executive summary:


In October 2019, mass demonstrations engulfed Baghdad and southern Iraq as citizens protested widespread corruption, unemployment and poor public services. The Tishreen (October) uprising, driven by youth, became the largest and longest-lasting social movement since 2003. State security forces and paramilitary groups harshly suppressed peaceful dissent on numerous occasions, leaving some 600 protesters dead and over 20,000 injured in the first six months. The turmoil forced Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to resign; in May 2020, ex-intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi took his place. But despite Kadhimi’s declared tolerance for peaceful protest, his tenure has been marked by continuous repression, often carried out by groups tied to the state, acting autonomously. Violence could escalate ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for October 2021. The Kadhimi government should take steps to ensure that the elections will be safe and fair. It should also pursue accountability for state-affiliated armed actors responsible for causing deaths and injuries during the protests.

Besides its scale, four main features of the 2019-2020 protest wave stand out. First, while Iraq’s post-2003 governments have used force to quell anti-government unrest since 2011, the reaction has never been so severe as it was on this occasion. The post-2003 political system’s legitimacy crisis that fuelled protests in the past was compounded when state coercive institutions joined forces with paramilitary groups following the war with the Islamic State (ISIS), which ended in 2017. From that moment on, paramilitaries linked to the al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) began to converge – but only partially – with state security institutions, especially the interior ministry, while engaging in predatory economic behaviour. Their presence helped precipitate the brutal response to protests, while shielding the perpetrators from accountability, as no one could be sure who was swinging the club or who had given the order.

Secondly, the Tishreen uprising exposed an unusual, though not unprecedented, intra-Shiite rift. Whereas earlier post-2003 violence in Iraq had primarily pitted Sunnis against Shiites, Arabs against Kurds or the state against insurgents, these confrontations arrayed a Shiite Islamist-led state apparatus against the predominantly Shiite population in Baghdad and the south. It also involved Shiite political parties, paramilitaries and other armed groups that have long been at odds, especially the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr and others under the banner of the Hashd, some elements of which enjoy material support from Iran.

Thirdly, outside players exacerbated the standoff between protesters and security forces, with Iran choosing the side of the government and the Hashd, and the U.S. rhetorically backing the protesters, or at least their right to peaceful protest. Iran had a dual stake in the survival of both the political system that the protesters wished to see change and the Hashd paramilitary groups, having invested heavily in both. Many activists expressed anti-Iran sentiments, which fuelled the notion in government and Hashd circles that the U.S. was behind the unrest.

Fourthly, Iraq’s political class underestimated the conviction of the young people animating the growing mass movement, a formidable and autonomous political force that to a great extent refused to negotiate a way out of the crisis. In past protests, street activists have usually had links to either the Sadrist movement or the Iraqi Communist Party. By contrast, the Tishreen uprising evolved as a leaderless, youth-driven grassroots movement, at times joined and at other times opposed by the Sadrists. The authorities could not co-opt the protesters or reach a settlement with them.

By October 2020, however, the combination of repression and partial concessions, on top of assembly restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, had broken the protesters’ resolve, without addressing their main grievances. Since that time, Iraq’s ruling elites have fallen back on business as usual. Government promises to deliver justice for killed protesters remain largely unfulfilled, while legislators have resisted proposed reforms, including with respect to key aspects of electoral legislation. More generally, the government, along with its paramilitary tentacles, has done little to address its deep post-2003 legitimacy deficit.

Yet despite protest fatigue, the country has not returned to the status quo ante, certainly not from the street activists’ perspective. Demonstrations have continued sporadically in southern provinces as the country heads into legislative elections in October. As recently as 25 May, activists gathered in Baghdad and the south calling for accountability for their slain peers. A new eruption of protests – and both pre-emptive and retaliatory violence – could be a matter of time.

The next major test of Iraq’s shaky order is the approaching parliamentary elections in October, which must be perceived by Iraqis as relatively free and fair so as to stand any hope of restoring public confidence in the state and opening politics to wider participation. The government should consider deploying security forces drawn from the military, which command greater trust among the population than interior ministry units, in southern governorates, which have seen the most violence. This step could help limit threats against candidates’ campaigns and encourage voter turnout. In May, the UN Security Council adopted an important resolution that supports an extensive international observation mandate for Iraq’s elections, which should be supplemented with local observers. Iraq’s external partners should keep up pressure on the government to bring state-affiliated perpetrators of abuses during the protests to justice.

In the medium term, a newly elected government and parliament should formulate a comprehensive reform plan that speaks to the protest movement’s principal demands, with a priority on security sector reform, including training of riot police and streamlining of command and control within – and between – the interior ministry and the Hashd. These measures will reduce the risk of another violent crackdown if protests erupt again, as they most likely will as long as basic grievances remain unaddressed.

I'm not a fan or supporter of ICG.  In the early days of this site, up to 2009, I regularly ignored what they sent to the the public account because I do see them as a tool of empire.  Back then, you had many others way to cover Iraq without noting them.  These days? Really no.  I haven't read the report yet.  I didn't even read the executive summary posted above, it's copied from the e-mail they sent to the public account.  (  I'll read it this weekend and if there's anything in there worth highlighting, we'll note it next week.  If there's anything I disagree with?  I won't be surprised.  And probably will ignore it and move on to other topics.

Never had a problem beating up on Brookings.  They make it so easy and have throughout the Iraq War.  "We're non-partisan!"  Then the 'expert' on Iraq leaves and goes to a right-wing 'think'-tank.  They want a video noted but, people, I can't highlight your video if I can't embed it.  I'll note the webpage for the video which also contains a transcript.  If you want to know how DC looks at the meet-up this week between US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, check it out.

We'll note these comments by Ranj Alaaldin who isn't as hideous as many they've had in the past (Brookings, take the compliment, it won't get better, no matter how many e-mails you send):

ALAALDIN: So if you ask Iraqi observers, the wider Iraqi population, although there’s a number of crises that the country is currently hit with – I would say, interconnected crises – whether that’s the threat from militia groups tied to Iran, whether it’s ISIS, wider geopolitical crises and tumult, or U.S.-Iran tensions, most of them will actually point towards the economic crisis in the country, and that’s I would say, near existential crisis for Iraq.

And Prime Minister Kadhimi came into office with two objectives really, with two expectations being in place: the first is to hold early elections, and the hope is that the elections will enable some political reforms and bring into office, bring into state institutions moderate actors who do want to push Iraq towards recovery, who do want to install, implement a culture of accountability; and secondly, to address the economic crisis in the country.

Now, the economic crisis, in particular, has been devastating and could become an existential crisis as a result of the decline in oil prices, because of the pandemic. 70% of the Iraqi budget goes towards paying civil servants and the Iraqi state can simply no longer afford that public sector payroll. So, it’s got a population of more than 30 million, expected to reach around 50 million in a decade, with around 60% of Iraqis under 24, and alongside that, 700,000 required jobs every year. And this is a country, bear in mind, that lacks infrastructure, sustainable governance, and most certainly lacks a private sector that can meet the demands and needs of its population. So that crisis, although it doesn’t receive as much attention, and doesn’t occupy, let’s say, headlines as much as it should, is still there in the background. It still hasn’t been addressed.

Although there are some genuine efforts, I would say, to be fair to the government, to actually address that. There is a blueprint of sorts, known as the White Paper. Well, it came into place actually almost months after Kadhimi came into office. It’s a rather ambitious blueprint, because although conceptually and theoretically, you can have all the right principles, mechanisms, and ideas in place, its execution is made a little more difficult if not impossible precisely because of those interconnected crises that I refer to, not least the security environment, the security conditions.

So in a way, Prime Minister Kadhimi, as somebody who is a transitional prime minister, is something of a compromise candidate, has some breathing room amongst the wider Iraqi public, and for them, I would go as far as saying he could be the least worst option as it stands. Because the alternative could be far worse. It could be a militant individual or prime minister tied to Iran, which has been possible in the past, which could become a reality in the future, in the very near future. And the alternative could be a repeat of what unfolded under the previous prime minister, which is effectively carte blanche for Iran-aligned militias to conduct a full-scale campaign of oppression against protesters and the wider public.

That isn’t to say that patience will not run out, and I think we’re now reaching a point where the elections could make or break his prospects of securing another term. There could be a boycott of those elections because of the intensified campaign to assassinate activists and civilians by Iran-aligned militias, and that boycott will help them very much – that’s Iran and it’s proxies – because they’ve already got an established and entrenched support base that follows, let’s say, more the personalities within those groups. And they’ll be loyal regardless of whether the wider Iraqi public boycotts the elections. And if that boycott happens, the moderates that will suffer, and I would say it’s also Prime Minister Kadhimi that will ultimately suffer and fail to get a second term in office.

Now we're moving to the US and the hideous Nancy Pelosi.  The Speaker of the House made cringe worthy comments.  Jimmy Dore takes it on below.

He's making some good points.  But his points are exactly why we need more voices on the left.  Jimmy's voice is a strong one and we're lucky to have it.  He notes he doesn't have kids in school but he pays taxes for it.

Again, great argument, great point. 

But why do I have to comment on it?  I saw the remarks yesterday afternoon and knew I'd have to comment.


I know Nnncy.  Have for years.  Hypocrite.  Hypocrite who just popularized an argument she once swore she was against.  

Anybody else get what everyone's missing?

That's why we need more voices.  


We can't have federally funded abortions because some might oppose the procedure.  Time and again, and not just with abortion, women's reproductive services are gutted in what is covered because someone might object.  

She's popularizing the argument against funding women's reproductive rights, their health rights.  She should be condemned for those remarks.

If feminists were included at the table, points like this might get made.

And, to clarify, our calls for wider representation and inclusion on left programs?  That's not for me.  Newbies seem unaware of that and think I'm angling for an appearance on some podcast.  I do not do interviews as C.I.  That's been the policy all along.  I'm not going on any programs as C.I.  I have no interest.  My arguments are that the conversation is reduced and restricted when we are not inclusive.


On Jimmy's argument, we need to correct.  "Young people."  Who are these young people with student loan debt?  In our community, we've got Gen X-ers saddled with student loan debt.  Nancy presented it as parents and Jimmy bought into that.  Under Bill Clinton, universities really started cleaning up with huge fees for their questionable services.  You don't just have people in their 20s facing student debt right now in the US at this moment.  You have those in their 30s and those in their 40s.  You probably have people in their 50s and their 60s. 

And remember, it was Joe Biden who made people unable to discharge that debt.  Declare bankruptcy?  It won't get you out of any federal student loans.  And that's Joe Biden's work in the US Senate.

We're going to wind down.  Below is noting Eleanor Smeal's birthday which is today -- it came in yesterday:

Tomorrow is Ellie Smeal’s birthday, Common Ills, and we’d like to include you in the birthday wishes we are pulling together for her.

Naturally, we couldn’t think of a better birthday present for Ellie, than the gift of The Equal Rights Amendment.

As you probably know, Ellie and the entire Feminist Majority team are laser focused on building a massive campaign to secure gender equality by ensuring the ERA is at long last, placed in the U.S. Constitution.

You can help ensure that “equality of rights shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” with a gift toward our ongoing efforts to keep the pressure on.

Will you pitch in right now?

Let’s go big for this — it will make Ellie so proud.

For Equality,

Kathy Spillar and Dolores Huerta


The following sites updated: