Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Iraq snapshot

 Tuesday, October 26, 2021.  'Protests could destroy democracy!' is among the insane claims being promoted regarding Iraq today.

Some are fretting over 'democracy' in Iraq.  The obvious point there is that Iraq hasn't had a democracy.  A democracy is not ruled over by prime ministers who fled Iraq.  Cowards who left the country and only came back after the US invaded in 2003 don't become leader of the country over and over.  They don't represent the country and they're not courageous people.  But since the US-led invasion, every prime minister has been someone who managed to skip out on Iraq.  

Some of the fretters are writing pieces about how the militias protesting the vote might destroy democracy.  What democracy?  More to the point, if it was in Iraq and it was that fragile, it didn't stand a chance to begin with.  I don't like the militias.  That doesn't mean that they do not have the right to protest.  They have every right.  And when you deny them the right to protest, it makes it easier to deny others the right.

The October Revolution.

That's a real movement.  And don't put a period to it because the movement is ongoing.  It replaced a prime minster.  Currently, it's forcing a global press to acknowledge that, gee, golly, things aren't great in Iraq.  This would be the same press that ignores Iraq over and over.  

But the decision of so many in The October Revolution to sit out the vote -- and to encourage others to as well -- helped lead to a record low turnout and the world suddenly notices that the Iraqi government hasn't been serving the Iraqi people.

People in The October Revolution risked their lives and continue to risk them.  They know that they can be killed or disappeared and that the government will look the other way and their killers will not face justice.  But they continue to stand up for what they believe in.

And they do so while the world press yawns and looks away collectively.   Their bravery, their hopes and their plans are ignored unless it's pre-election and the world press wants to hector them about the importance of voting.

Rand Tweets:

The 2nd anniversary of October 25th, the mass protest movement in Iraq that forced the resignation of the Iraqi PM, after thousands of civilians were injured and killed by the Iraqi security services and armed militias supporting them #٢٥_ذكري_بدايه_وطن #تشرين_العظيمة

There is no democracy in Iraq.  

Protesting isn't going to destroy something that doesn't exist.  But protesting could foster a democracy, one unique to Iraq.

There may at some point be reason to fret.  But protests who take a break to watch a game don't seem as out of control as certain outlets would like to pretend.

Wladimir Tweets:

Sarhang Hamasaeed, United States Institute of Peace, says the peaceful protest movement in Iraq has caused positive change through early elections, federal court, etc. He also says important for stability to hold provincial elections in the near future #MERIforum

Those are accomplishments of The October Revolution.  But that doesn't mean that the protests against the vote count (led by the militias) couldn't have some positive effects as well.

Layal Shakir (RUDAW) notes:

The election was held in response to Tishreen (October) 2019 protests complaining of corruption and ineptitude among the ruling class and political system. Turnout was a record-low 41 percent, reflecting voter disillusionment and mistrust in the country’s political system.

“I believe the main reason behind the early election that was held was that the political process in Iraq had reached a political blockage,” said Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) politician Khalid Shwani, noting that Iraqis had lost trust in the government and in the political process.

“We saw how the Iraqi citizen and Iraqi voter who went out to the streets was hopeless completely,” added member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Jaafar Imniki.

Iraqis commemorated the second anniversary of Tishreen protests on Monday, almost two weeks after their demand of an early vote was met. The October protests that shook the country are a “healthy” demonstration that all Iraqi and Kurdish forces need to be reminded of, according to Imniki. 

The protests were concentrated in Shiite areas of central and southern Iraq, but Imniki said that every political party and group must listen to the protesters’ concerns, “because the situation that occurred in Baghdad and the south could prevail in the Kurdistan Region and in western Iraq.”

Limited manual recounts are supposed to conclude tomorrow.  This is apparently to much for the fretters.  They're bothered and alarmed -- and alarming.  They actually seem to be trying to invite chaos.

Thus far, the election process seems faily normal for post-invasion Iraq.  That includes Nouri al-Maliki attempting to return as prime minister.  Wladimir Tweets:

The State of Law Coalition, led by Nuri al-Maliki, said on Wednesday that the Kurdish and Sunni blocs would not ally with the Sadrist movement to form the new federal government

It's amazing how much Nouri is discussed on Arabic social media versus how little the western press is noting him.  King maker?  Right now that would appear to be Nouri.  Reality will make it clear shortly as to who the king maker was.  But Nouri's actions are more those of a king maker than the dithering of Moqtada al-Sadr at this point.

Robert Pether remains persecuted in Iraq.  Who? Robert Pether, Matthew Doran and Andrew Probyn (AUSTRALIA's ABC) reported two months ago:

An Australian engineer ensnared in a dispute between the Iraqi government and his Dubai-based employer is facing five years in jail and a $US12 million ($AUD16.5 million) fine.

Robert Pether, 46, has been languishing in an Iraqi prison since April after he and his Egyptian colleague, Khalid Zaghloul, were arrested in Baghdad, while working for engineering firm CME Consulting.

Mr Pether's wife Desree said the court decision was a "soul-destroying" travesty of justice. 

"It's just absolute hell," Mrs Pether told the ABC from her home in Ireland.

"We honestly thought that justice would prevail after nearly five months and we are so shocked that it didn't happen.

"It didn't matter what evidence they presented in their defence, which was scarce because they didn't have access to their laptops or their hard drives, and the accusations had no backup evidence at all. 

At THE NATIONAL, Patrick Ryan writes:

In a statement to The National, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the case should have not been dealt with in a criminal court.

“The Australian government is concerned by the criminal conviction of Mr Pether and an Egyptian colleague on fraud charges, their five-year prison sentence and the joint fine of USD$12 million,” a spokesman said.

“While the Australian government has shown respect towards Iraq’s judicial system, we have always expressed the view that commercial disputes should be conducted between corporate entities rather than individuals, and that this should be treated as a civil law case, not a criminal law case.

“The [Australian] government has consistently advocated for Mr Pether’s interests and is providing consular assistance to Mr Pether and his family.”

Australian citizens are advised not to travel to Iraq over concerns for their safety due to the the volatile security situation, and very high risk of violence, armed conflict, kidnapping and terrorist attacks.

Those who remember the Australian government's public silence -- and prolonged silence -- while Pether suffered will find some of those assertions laughable.  Ireland's government stood up for Robert and did so publicly.  His own country abandoned him.

 Meanwhile NEWS OF THE WORLD reports on a conviction in Germany.

We'll close with this from Glenn Greenwald's latest at SUBSTACK:

It is completely unsurprising to learn, as Politico reported last Wednesday, that the major financial supporter of Facebook "whistleblower” Frances Haugen's sprawling P.R. and legal network coordinating her public campaign is the billionaire founder of EBay, Pierre Omidyar. The Haugen Show continues today as a consortium of carefully cultivated news outlets (including those who have been most devoted to agitating for online censorship: the New York Times’ "tech” unit and NBC News's “disinformation” team) began publishing the trove of archives she took from Facebook under the self-important title "The Facebook Papers,” while the star herself has traveled to London to testify today to British lawmakers considering a bill to criminally punish tech companies that allow “foul content” or “extremism” — whatever that means — to be published.

On Sunday, Haugen told The New York Times that her own personal Bitcoin wealth means she is relying on “help from nonprofit groups backed by Mr. Omidyar only for travel and similar expenses.” But the paper also confirmed that the firm masterminding Haugen's public campaign roll-out and complex media strategy, a group "founded by the former Barack Obama aide Bill Burton,” is “being paid by donors, including the nonprofit groups backed by Mr. Omidyar." He is also a major donor to a shady new group calling itself “Whistleblower Aid” — bizarrely led by anti-Trump lawyer and social media #Resistance star Mark Zaid, who has been one of the most vocal critics of actual whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, both of whose imprisonment he has long demanded — that is now featuring Haugen as its star client.

Omidyar's net worth is currently estimated to be $22 billion, making him the planet's 26th richest human being. Like so many billionaires who pledge to give away large parts of their wealth to charity, and who in fact do so, Omidyar's net worth somehow rapidly grows every year: in 2013, just eight years ago, it was “only” $8 billion: it has almost tripled since then.

Omidyar's central role in this latest scheme to impose greater control over social media is unsurprising because he and his multi-national foundation, the Omidyar Network, fund many if not most of the campaigns and organizations designed to police and control political speech on the internet under the benevolent-sounding banner of combating "disinformation” and “extremism.” Though one could have easily guessed that it was Omidyar fueling Frances Haugen and her team of Democratic Party operatives acting as lawyers and P.R. agents — I would have been shocked if he had no role — it is still nonetheless highly revealing of what these campaigns and groups are, how they function, what their real goals are, and the serious dangers they pose.

Any time I speak or write about Omidyar, the proverbial elephant in the room is my own extensive involvement with him: specifically, the fact that the journalistic outlet I co-founded in 2013, and at which I worked for eight years, was funded almost entirely by him. For purposes of basic journalistic disclosure, but also to explain how my interaction with him informs my perspective on these issues, I will describe that experience and what I learned from it.

When I left the Guardian in 2013 at the height of the Snowden/NSA reporting to co-found a new media outlet along with two other journalists, it was Omidyar who funded the project, which ultimately became The Intercept, along with its parent corporation, First Look Media. Our unconditional demand when deciding to accept funding from Omidyar was that he vow never to have any role whatsoever or attempt to interfere in any way in the editorial content of our reporting, no matter how much he disagreed with it or how distasteful he found it. He not only agreed to this condition but emphasized that he, too, believed the integrity of the new journalism project depended upon our enjoying full editorial freedom and independence from his influence.

In the eight years I spent at The Intercept, Omidyar completely kept his word. There was never a single occasion, at least to my knowledge, when he attempted to interfere in or override our journalistic independence. For the first couple of years, adhering to that promise was easy: he was an ardent supporter of the Snowden reporting which consumed most of our time and energy back then and, specifically, viewed a defense of our press freedoms (which were under systemic attack from multiple governments) as a genuine social good. So our journalism and Omidyar's worldview were fully aligned for the first couple of years of The Intercept's existence.

The arrival of Donald Trump on the political scene in 2015 changed all of that, and did so quite dramatically. As Trump ascended to the presidency, Omidyar became monomaniacally obsessed with opposing Trump. Although Omidyar stopped tweeting in March, 2019 and has since locked his Twitter account, he spent 2015-2019 as a very active user of the platform. The content he was posting on Twitter on a daily basis was utterly indistinguishable from the standard daily hysterical MSNBC panels or New York Times op-eds, proclaiming Trump a fascist, white nationalist, and existential threat to democracy, and depicting him as a singular evil, the root of America's political pathology. In other words, the Trump-centric worldview that I spent most of my time attacking and mocking on every platform I had — in speeches, interviews, podcasts, social media and in countless articles at The Intercept — was the exact political worldview to which Omidyar had completely devoted himself and was passionately and vocally advocating.

The radical divergence between my worldview and Omidyar's did not end there. Like most who viewed Trump as the primary cause of America's evils rather than just a symptom of them, Omidyar also became a fanatical Russiagater. A large portion of his Twitter feed was devoted to the multi-pronged conspiracy theory that Trump was in bed with and controlled by the Kremlin and that its president, Vladimir Putin, through his control over Trump and “interference” in U.S. democracy, represented some sort of grave threat to all things good and decent in American political life. All of that happened at exactly the same time that I became one of the media's most vocal and passionate critics of Russiagate mania, frequently criticizing and deriding exactly the views that Omidyar was most passionately expressing on Twitter, often within hours of his posting them. 

The following sites updated: