Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, December 20, 2022.  US President Joe Biden continues to persecute Julian Assange -- even as calls for his release continue and, in fact, increase, ISIS is not 'back' in Iraq because it never left (and their acts of terrorism are getting harder and harder to ignore), and much more.


Starting with Julian Assange.

Julian Assange remains persecuted by US President Joe Biden.  Last week, Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) reported:

Press freedom and rights organizations on Thursday expressed "grave concern" about the Biden administration's "relentless pursuit" of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Australian who is jailed in London while he fights against extradition to the United States.

"It is more than a year since our coalition sent a joint letter calling for the charges against Assange to be dropped," 21 groups wrote to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. "Today, we repeat those concerns, and urge you to heed our request. We believe that the prosecution of Assange in the U.S. would set a harmful legal precedent and deliver a damaging blow to press freedom by opening the way for journalists to be tried under the Espionage Act if they receive classified material from whistleblowers."

For those who've forgotten, Julian's 'crime' was revealing the realities of Iraq -- Chelsea Manning was a whistle-blower who leaked the information to Julian.  WIKILEAKS then published the Iraq War Logs.  And many outlets used the publication to publish reports of their own.  For example, THE GUARDIAN published many articles based on The Iraq War Logs.  Jonathan Steele, David Leigh and Nick Davies offered, on October 22, 2012:

A grim picture of the US and Britain's legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.
Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.
The new logs detail how:
US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.

A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.
More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.

The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent deat

The Biden administration has been saying all the right things lately about respecting a free and vigorous press, after four years of relentless media-bashing and legal assaults under Donald Trump.

The attorney general, Merrick Garland, has even put in place expanded protections for journalists this fall, saying that “a free and independent press is vital to the functioning of our democracy”.

But the biggest test of Biden’s commitment remains imprisoned in a jail cell in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been held since 2019 while facing prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act, a century-old statute that has never been used before for publishing classified information.

Whether the US justice department continues to pursue the Trump-era charges against the notorious leaker, whose group put out secret information on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, American diplomacy and internal Democratic politics before the 2016 election, will go a long way toward determining whether the current administration intends to make good on its pledges to protect the press.

Now Biden is facing a re-energized push, both inside the United States and overseas, to drop Assange’s protracted prosecution.


President Joe Biden is pressing ahead with a controversial criminal case against Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, a whistleblower website. Assange has been languishing for close to four years in the UK’s harsh Belmarsh Prison while appealing extradition to the United States, where he faces espionage and computer intrusion charges that could land him in a maximum security prison for 175 years. Meanwhile, the U.S case against Assange is facing mounting criticism here at home as a threat to press freedom. In a twist this month that could have far-reaching implications for the case, two people are asking the Justice Department to indict them as well. John Young, who runs a Wikileaks-like website, Cryptome.org, and legendary Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg are demanding they be indicted for publishing and/or retaining the same documents for which Julian Assange is being charged.

In 1971, Dan Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, to several newspapers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. The resulting stories sent shockwaves through the nation, further eroding public support for the war. President Richard Nixon was furious, and orchestrated a criminal campaign to destroy Ellsberg and to block further publication of the papers. Nixon failed in both efforts, and the case against Ellsberg was thrown out of court.

Today, Dan Ellsberg, sharp and alert at 91, sees stark parallels in the case against Julian Assange which, he says, invalidate the government’s case.

“Assange, like me, was illegally surveilled. In his case, even his lawyers’ and his doctors’ discussions were surveilled,” Ellsberg said this week on the Democracy Now! news hour. “Discussions were made of kidnapping and killing him or poisoning, just as a dozen CIA assets were brought up from Miami on May 3rd, 1973, by President Nixon with orders to ‘incapacitate Daniel Ellsberg totally’.”

John Young’s website, Cryptome.org, actually published the same set of “Cablegate” documents days earlier than Wikileaks, and the material is still available on the site. “I’m unclear why, if they’re charging him, why they’ve never charged someone like us,” Young, who turns 87 next

AMY GOODMAN: Pressure is growing on President Biden to drop charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who’s been jailed in Britain since his arrest in April of 2019. The Biden administration is asking the U.K. government to extradite him to the U.S., where he faces up to 175 years in prison on espionage and hacking charges if he’s found guilty at trial. WikiLeaks says Assange could be extradited within weeks. Assange was first arrested 12 years ago this month, on December 7th, 2010. After a period under house arrest, he lived in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had political asylum, from 2012 to 2019.

Five major news organizations, including The New York Times, which once partnered with WikiLeaks, recently called on the Biden administration to drop charges against Assange, writing, quote, “This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” unquote. The letter goes on to say, “Publishing is not a crime.” The letter was signed by The New York Times, The Guardian in Britain, Le Monde in France, Der Spiegel in Germany and El País in Spain.

Meanwhile, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg recently revealed he was in possession of confidential documents containing evidence of U.S. war crimes leaked by former military analyst Chelsea Manning and given to him as backup by WikiLeaks. In a recent message to President Biden and the Justice Department, Ellsberg wrote on Twitter, quote, “I am as indictable as he is on the exact same charges,” unquote.

The founder of the website Cryptome.org has also written to the Justice Department asking to be indicted, as well. Cryptome’s founder, John Young, says he should be added as a co-defendant in the prosecution of Assange because he published some of the same leaked government documents at the center of the U.S. case against Assange. Cryptome is a website that began in 1996 and is seen by many as a precursor to WikiLeaks. Young also helped Assange start WikiLeaks in 2006. While Assange faces 175 years in U.S. prison if he’s extradited and convicted, the U.S. government has never moved to prosecute Young, who says he published the unredacted State Department cables two days prior to WikiLeaks. The U.S. government has never even asked Young to remove the documents.

Well, today, in a Democracy Now! exclusive, we’re joined by both Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg in Berkeley, California, and Cryptome’s John Young here in New York.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Dan Ellsberg, let’s begin with you. Why don’t you lay out what you’re asking the Justice Department to do?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: I’m asking them to look closely at the charges they have brought against, actually, past whistleblowers, all past, and Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, potentially against me and John Young, because, as lawyers said at the time of my first trial back in 1971 — Melville Nimmer, the leading scholar of law of information at that point, said that if the Espionage Act were used against someone who had done what I had admittedly done — copy and distribute 7,000 pages of top-secret documents — that law was unconstitutional. And that’s been true ever since. It’s unconstitutional use against sources, as it has been done several dozen times, especially in this century under Presidents Obama and Trump, and now Biden. It’s also unconstitutional use against journalists. That’s blatantly unconstitutional. They never tried it, even under President Obama, when President Biden was vice president. They backed off because of the clear unconstitutionality under the First Amendment, which says no law should be passed abridging freedom of the press.

And finally, by raising this constitutional issue, that I focus on in particular, I’m showing that the law can be used absurdly — at least absurdly, broadly — against someone like me, who admittedly retained and failed to deliver — these are the words of 18 USC 793 paragraph e. And I know that so well, as a nonlawyer — I’m a defendant — because I was the first person charged with that for giving information to the public. So, I am as guilty, in their eyes, as Assange. How come they haven’t come after me for this? I did much the same a year ago and raised this challenge. If the — at last, the media, who have been derelict in informing themselves on a law which was always potentially there to indict them, if they do this and really raise the issue of the necessity to abandon or strongly amend the Espionage Act so as to exclude journalists and exclude whistleblowers who are trying to inform the American public, they can — if they want to continue as they are, they can come after me, which means anyone who retains a copy of The New York Times which has the word “classified” in it, and who fails to turn over that copy to authorities authorized to receive it — mail it in to the Justice Department, I guess — is as guilty as I am under the plain language of that act.

A British-type Official Secrets Act is barred from America after our Revolution by the First Amendment of the United States, freedom of the press. They don’t have that. Since my prosecution, the Justice Department has been using the Espionage Act, intended obviously for entirely different reasons — spies who secretly give information to America’s enemies, especially in wartime — they’ve been using it as if it were an Official Secrets Act. If they succeed with Julian Assange, in extraditing him — which Biden could stop tomorrow, and should — if they succeed in that, prosecute him and convict him, we will not have a First Amendment. It’s as if we didn’t fight a War of Independence, actually, with respect to anything they regarded as related to national defense. Free speech is pretty much out the door.

And I want to raise the issue that the act even promotes the possibility of prosecuting people like me, who do not even publish — I was a backup for Julian Assange, didn’t have to publish — but can get anybody who handles that material, any secretary at the newspaper and any reader of The New York Times.

AMY GOODMAN: John Young, Dan Ellsberg is perhaps the most famous whistleblower in the world in releasing the Pentagon Papers. You are not as well known. You founded Cryptome.org back in the ’90s. Explain why you are saying, if Julian Assange is guilty, you should be jailed, as well.

JOHN YOUNG: Well, it’s pretty clear, looking at the indictment of Julian Assange and the 18 citations that he’s charged, as far as I could tell, all those apply to me and Cryptome, that we’ve been doing this now since 1996. We publish classified information, secret information from other countries, within the United States, and so that I’m unclear why, if they’re charging him, why they’ve never charged someone like us. By the way, we’re only one of dozens of people who are putting out this kind of information, from the Federation of American Scientists to the National Security Archive. This has been going on for quite a long while. So our sense is that they’re trying to use Assange as an example to frighten people. That, to me, is selective vindication against him, and he should not face this alone.

I think all of those of us who are doing similar kind of work to serve the public rather than the government should do more than just protest. I think we’ve got to raise more hell and take more legal action and publish more, and as our obligation as citizens, that I think the intelligence agencies are completely out of control. The national security people are completely out of control. They’re actually trying to use Assange as a threat against everyone else, not only in the U.S. but around the world. And this, to us, seems to be anti-democratic. And we’d like to help combat that by sharing the responsibility that Mr. Ellsberg and Julian Assange is facing. And we hope others will step up, as well.

By the way, we’re not publishers. We’re private citizens, practicing architects. And so we are not doing anything more than exerting our constitutional rights under the First Amendment. So, this accusation against Assange would be illegal against an American citizen. So we think it’s selective prosecution, and it should cease.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, you filed this motion against the U.S. government for violating your constitutional rights to provide unlimited documents to the public. Now, specifically in the case of Julian Assange, you say you published at Cryptome.org, two days before WikiLeaks did, State Department cables. Explain. You’re saying the same thing that WikiLeaks revealed, and so you are guilty of the same crime.

JOHN YOUNG: Yes, except we don’t see it as a crime. It’s just revelation of privileged information. We don’t see it as criminal; we see it as free speech. And it’s all a citizen has to work with if they’re not part of the press, is to speak up and take responsibility for their views. So that’s why we did it, is that it was available, thought it worthwhile for the public to know. It’s been there now for 12 years, hundreds of downloads. No complaint from the U.S. government against us.

THE NEW YORK TIMES lied, so many lied.  And so many whored.  Whoring is part of US House Rep Nancy Pelosi's record -- especially on Iraq.  She refused to impeach Bully Boy Bush.

You may remember that US House Rep John Conyers wanted to impeach Bully Boy Bush.  Over fifty years in Congress and John felt there was a strong case for impeachment.  Nancy just didn't want to be bothered.  In the lead up to the 2006 mid-terms, she announced impeachment was off the table.  John continued to try to pursue it and she blocked him repeatedly.  Bully Boy Bush is a War Criminal and Nancy Pelosi covered for him and protected him.  That is -- and forever will be -- a part of her legacy.

There were two battles in/for/on Falluja during the early years of the Iraq War.  Neither were anything to brag about or take pride in.  Boys were not allowed to leave the city and were treated as armed adult fighters for 'pacification' purposes.  War Crimes were carried out.  The US used illegal weapons.  Nothing to be proud of.  

Yet a US warship is being named after the battles.

The United States Navy has named a next-generation helicopter assault ship the USS Fallujah, almost two decades after the western Iraqi city was the scene of bloody battles that killed hundreds of civilians.

[. . .]

The US-led coalition conducted a devastating bombing campaign before their second attack, forcing some 300,000 civilians to flee.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 civilians remained trapped in Fallujah during the assault, living through what the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) described at the time as a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.

The ICRC announced immediately after the battle that some 800 Iraqi civilians were killed in the fighting. It later accused the US of using white phosphorus as a weapon to defeat the militants.

To this day, babies born in Fallujah have suffered disproportionately high levels of birth defects, including congenital heart disease, gastroschisis (where the digestive system is found outside the baby's body), and Spina Bifida.

One of the most documented reasons for the birth defects has been the lingering impact of uranium in the local environment, a remnant of the US bombardment.


Fallujah is where, just a few weeks after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division opened fire on a crowd of civilian protesters and killed 17 of them; the U.S. military claimed that the first shots came from Iraqis, but there is no convincing evidence for that assertion and significant reporting to the contrary. Fallujah was a stronghold of the ousted dictator Saddam Hussein and for that reason, its residents fiercely opposed an unprovoked invasion that was, according to international law, flagrantly illegal.

Those killings were the prelude to a torrent of violence and destruction in 2004. The bloodshed that year included the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians; the point-blank murder of prisoners; and the torture of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, just 20 miles away. Fallujah’s punishment even extended beyond the brutal era of its U.S. occupation; in years after, there has been a spike in cancers, birth defects, and miscarriages, apparently due to America’s use of munitions with depleted uranium.

Instead of apologizing for what was done, the U.S. is choosing to celebrate it: The Pentagon announced this week that a $2.4 billion warship will be named the USS Fallujah. The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, made clear that the military has decided to double down on its fairy tale of Fallujah as an American triumph. “Under extraordinary odds, the Marines prevailed against a determined enemy who enjoyed all the advantages of defending an urban area,” he said in a press release about the naming. “The battle of Fallujah is, and will remain, imprinted in the minds of all Marines and serves as a reminder to our nation, and its foes, why our Marines call themselves the world’s finest.”

The announcement noted that more than 100 U.S. and allied soldiers died in Fallujah but said nothing about the far larger toll of Iraqi civilians killed, the flattening of swathes of the city through extensive bombings, the apparent war crimes by U.S. forces, the health impacts on civilians that continue to this day — and the inconvenient fact that U.S. forces were unable to keep their hold on Fallujah for very long. For the Pentagon, it’s as if none of it mattered, or it didn’t happen.

At least nine police officers have been killed in a bomb and gun attack in northern Iraq.

The attack took place near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, about 290km (180 miles) from the capital Baghdad on Sunday.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.

IS has already said it was behind the planting of a roadside bomb that killed three Iraqi soldiers near Baghdad on Wednesday.

AFP notes, "Suspected extremists on motorbikes stormed a village north of Baghdad late Monday and killed eight Iraqi civilians, officials said."  ISIS is suspected in that attack.

ISIS was not vanquished in 2014.  It was driven out areas that it was occupying.  Terrrorists really don't occupy.  They threaten, they scare, they carry out violent attacks. But during Nouri al-Maliki's second term as prime minister, that's how badly he had destroyed Iraq, areas of it could be held by a terrorist group.  Since losing control of those areas, ISIS has continued to stage attacks. 

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