Saturday, March 18, 2023

The 20th anniversary looms

The 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War (or the latest phase in a war that pre-dates the 21st century) looms.  A number of people are suddenly interested in Iraq.  Or at least getting some attention for themselves by writing about Iraq.  I could do an entry right now without ever looking to see what was in the news because there are well over 100 e-mails from various outlets in the public account asking for links.  Most won't get them.  There's one that will later in this entry but most won't get it because, honestly, they don't deserve it because they've written nothing of value -- they either lack facts (no, in the US, the Iraq War was not just supported by Republicans in Congress) or they lack any awareness of what Iraq's like today.  Nothing is as bad as an AP article earlier this week written by an American who went back to Baghdad but really just used a stringer to survey Iraqis and then cherry-picked from the opinions to only highlight the pro-war opinions of a few Iraqis.  It's how they sell the Iraq War, after all.

 Houssam Azzam was 17 in 2004 when the U.S. military took over his hometown of Fallujah and detained him as part of a roundup of young men in western Iraq.

His photo, fingerprints, and iris scans were entered into a database, alongside a trove of information about him and his family, even though he said he was only ever involved in peaceful protests against the U.S. presence.

"They were occupying forces. They violated an entire country's rights so of course they would violate an individual's human rights," he said, referring to the U.S. retaining his biometric data.

The photo U.S. forces snapped of the 17-year-old detainee flashed up on the screen at customs, alongside his biometrics, when Azzam, who runs a Fallujah-based NGO, traveled through Baghdad airport last year.

Harvesting the data of millions of Iraqis, like Azzam, was part of the U.S. military's quest for "identity dominance," a term coined by John Woodward, director of the Department of Defense's Biometrics Management Office from 2003-05.

The program led to the biometrics of nearly 3 million Iraqis being stored in a database in West Virginia — where they are still held 20 years later. U.S. military planners saw biometrics as a key tool to fight the insurgency in Iraq and keep U.S. bases safe. Twenty years after the 2003 invasion, the program is held up as an example of how to use biometrics to tackle security threats.

Why?  All these years later, so many questions still unanswered about the ongoing Iraq War.  

Lisa Ling and  Clare Bayard (COMMON DREAMS) write

  How did we get here? 20 years after the U.S.-led invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq, we still refuse to reckon with the last decades of war as yet another decade of violence unfolds. Since the invasion, tens of thousands if not over a million lives have been lost. Millions of Iraqis are still displaced, while tens of millions have endured relentless violence ever since the destabilization of their country beginning in the 1990s through bombing, sanctions, multiple military invasions, and the occupation that began in 2003.

We share these reflections as two antimilitarist organizers in the U.S. who met years after the invasion through our shared work with About Face Veterans Against War (formerly known as Iraq Veterans Against the War). Twenty years ago this weekend, one of us was deployed as a communications technician and heard nothing about the massive protests the other participated in. One of us was organizing with Direct Action to Stop the War, coordinating twenty thousand people to shut down San Francisco's financial district, in an attempt to raise the financial and social cost of invasion that was being steamrolled through despite the largest global street protests in the history of the world.

We know the war on Iraq—like the war on Afghanistan—was a calculated grift for money and power. We can't allow the truth to be manipulated or forgotten. George W. Bush is being reanimated as a folksy painter instead of brought to account for his administration's war crimes. His creation of the so-called "Endless Wars" after 9/11 has so far cost incalculable damage to peoples' lives and over $14 trillion in Pentagon spending. Up to half of that massive amount has piped directly into the pockets of private military contractors.

Those who seek profit from wars rely on our consent, our confusion about what's really happening, and our willingness to submit to historical amnesia. The only voices allowed to speak on large platforms about this 20-year milestone are the ones attempting to rewrite history in favor of the architects and beneficiaries of war. A former speechwriter for Bush wants you to buy that the U.S. "went to war to build a democracy in Iraq," but listen instead to Iraqis like Riverbend (the pen name of a young Baghdadi woman writing during the early years of the occupation) who told us the truth at the time:

"You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq's first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile."

Even now in Iraq, everyday people still struggle daily for the bare minimum. As the nonpartisan Iraqi diaspora group Collective Action for Iraq recently described, "People have continued taking to the streets across Iraq to protest corruption, for basic services and to live their lives in dignity—from Kurdistan, to Najaf, and Dhi Qar. State and local security forces continue to respond with violence and the suppression of dissident voices." These are only a few effects of the cascade of violence triggered by the U.S. occupation. 

They write with some awareness and then they blow it later on by bringing up reparations.  When a friend at the Center for Constitutional Rights tried to pimp their nonsense this week, I told him, if we were face-to-face, I'd slap you.

And I meant it.

I'm not in the mood for the stupidity.

We have talked about this over and over since idiots first wanted to dismiss the guilt by writing a check.  

That's all it is.

If it were genuinely about helping the Iraqi people, they wouldn't offer such stupidity.

Where would the money go?  To the Iraqi government?  The corrupt Iraqi government that doesn't represent the people?  And we're going to count on it -- a bunch of people who have already ripped millions and millions of dollars from the Iraqi people -- to distribute it?

Oh, okay, we'll get it to the Iraqi people themselves.  


Are we going to set up a location in Baghdad where they'll come in and get a check?  Don't see that happening but, if it did, I'm sure we'd farm it out (outsource) to Iraqi officials or corrupt contractors and I don't see the money getting into the hands of the average Iraqis, the ones who really need it.

I'm also, honestly, offended that people talk about the US government paying Iraqis for their suffering and don't take a moment to note the blood money -- a pittance -- that the US government has paid throughout the war.  

November 2003, Rory McCarthy (GUARDIAN) reported:

The US military has paid out $1.5m (£907,000) to Iraqi civilians in response to a wave of negligence and wrongful death claims filed against American soldiers, the Guardian has learned.
Families have come forward with accounts of how American soldiers shot dead or seriously wounded unarmed Iraqi civilians with no apparent cause. In many cases their stories are confirmed by Iraqi police investigations.
Yesterday the US military in Baghdad admitted a total of $1,540,050 has been paid out up to November 12 for personal injury, death or damage to property. A total of 10,402 claims had been filed, the military said in a brief statement to the Guardian. There were no figures given for how many claims had been accepted.

In 2021, Pesha Magid (INTERCEPT) noted:

While reparations for civilian harm can never replace a life, they are, at the very least, an acknowledgment that harm was done and a way to help support those who have lost deeply.
For instance, the U.S.-led coalition has carried out 34,781 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014, and the U.K.-based monitoring group Airwars estimates that coalition actions led to the deaths of between 8,317 and 13,190 civilians, of whom 3,715 have been identified. The coalition itself only acknowledges the deaths of 1,417 civilians. An Intercept review of public records shows that only one person whose family members were killed by a coalition airstrike in Iraq or Syria has received official compensation.
At an earlier stage of the 9/11 wars, the U.S. and its allies did pay compensation to civilians. By 2007, the U.S. had paid at least $32 million in compensation for civilians harmed in Iraq and Afghanistan, not including condolence payments.

At THE INTERCEPT today, Peter Maass observed:

If you write a 4,500-word article about a 20-year war, you might want to mention how many people were killed.

While that seems obvious, Max Boot, an energetic backer of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, has written a lengthy article on the war’s 20th anniversary that fails to note the number of deaths. The toll is in the hundreds of thousands, if not more — the carnage is too vast for an exact count — but Boot merely mentions a “high price in both blood and treasure” and quickly moves on.

How high a price? Whose blood? There is no explanation.

Boot is hardly the only anniversary writer unable to mention the apparently unmentionable. Peter Mansoor, a retired colonel with several deployments to Iraq, likewise failed to squeeze a reference to the death toll into his 2,000-word assessment of what happened. Mansoor’s story, like Boot’s, was published by Foreign Affairs, which is funded by the Council on Foreign Relations and is pretty much the true north of establishment thinking in Washington, D.C.

Their failure, which is replicated in about 99 percent of America’s discussions about Iraq, is a lot more than sloppy journalism. The Pentagon and its enablers prefer to turn the killing and maiming of civilians into an abstraction by calling it “collateral damage” so that it becomes a detail of history that we can pass over.

Ignoring civilian casualties is a necessary act of erasure if you wish to avoid a frank assessment of not just the Iraq War, but also the legacy and future of U.S. foreign policy. If you specify those casualties — which is not just hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis in an illegal war begun with lies, but also millions of people injured, forced out of their homes, and traumatized for the rest of their lives — the discourse must change. The “high price” reveals itself as so grotesque that discussions can no longer center around the finer questions of how to better fight an insurgency or why “mistakes were made” by supposedly well-intentioned leaders. It becomes a matter of when do the trials start; who should be in the dock with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice; how large should Iraq’s reparations be; and when can we impose on ourselves something like the constitutional ban on the use of military force to settle disputes that we imposed on Japan after World War II?

A lot of people are interested in Iraq -- or at least pretending to be.  THE REAL NEWS NETWORK sent a questionable piece to the public account ( and I was bothered by reading it.  THE COMMON DREAMS column we highlighted above bothered be only regarding reparations (which I'm all for if it gets to the Iraqi people, not their corrupt government).  There was another COMMON DREAMS article that I won't be highlighting -- a pretense of Republicans being War Cheerleaders.  No, it wasn't just the GOP.  But I kept finding things in the RNN article  that bothered me because the writer seemed a bit stunted, as though he couldn't process.  Was he really that stupid?  No, turns out he's a liar.  In the article -- this is his smallest mistake -- he refers to Peter Hart as "FAIR's Peter Hart."  


Peter left FAIR long ago, years ago.  In fact, go to his Twitter account and he explains he is at FOOD AND WATER WATCH and "formerly @fairmediawatch."  If Peter were still at FAIR, we'd have a reason to note them because Peter was honest and had ethics.  And, here's the thing about this writer repeatedly citing FAIR, he never discloses that he worked for FAIR himself.  That's why I'm calling him a liar.  He worked there until 2021.  He knows Peter left FAIR.  More to the point, when you're rightly calling out Anne Appelbaum for failing to disclose, you probably need to have your own ducks in a row and do your own disclosures.  

That is FAIR, by the way.  That's why we had to walk away from them.  They finger-point at others while doing exactly what they call others out for.  We were the biggest supporter early on but we expected that the ethics they demanded of others were standards that they applied to themselves.  That was not the case.  And when Peter Hart left, any reason to note them left with him.

At MIDDLE EAST EYE, Nazia Kazi writes:

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 made several things about the American political system abundantly clear.

First, there was a remarkable consensus between the two political parties. While Americans, eager to individualise the follies of empire, typically blame George W Bush for the devastation visited upon Iraq, it was Democrat Joe Biden who, as then head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agitated for the invasion and Democrat Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker who refused to bring articles of impeachment against Bush for falsifying reasons for the invasion.

First, there was a remarkable consensus between the two political parties. While Americans, eager to individualise the follies of empire, typically blame George W Bush for the devastation visited upon Iraq, it was Democrat Joe Biden who, as then head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agitated for the invasion and Democrat Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker who refused to bring articles of impeachment against Bush for falsifying reasons for the invasion.

It was also Democratic President Bill Clinton who, before Bush, had enforced genocidal sanctions on Iraq that led to the deaths of countless children. 

The invasion also exposed the culture of repression that defines wartime in the US. The American media was banned from showing images of fallen soldiers’ flag-draped coffins returning from war, effectively downplaying the losses suffered during the insurgency.

Public figures who spoke out against the war such as journalist Phil Donahue or the country music band The Dixie Chicks were censored and effectively had their careers destroyed. 

Today, two decades have passed. Where I was then a college student and one of the countless anti-war demonstrators, I am now at the head of the classroom, teaching courses about race, empire, and the war on terror.

What’s remarkable to me as an educator is the undeniable campus legacy of the Iraq war.

On the one hand, the campus is undeniably militarised, awash in defence dollars and intelligence funding, ensuring the production of students and research agendas that shore up the global ambitions of US statecraft.

And, on the other, we have a student body that is, perhaps by design, armed with very little in the way of historical context about US involvement in Iraq or the war on terror itself. 

The following sites updated:

20 years on, should George W. Bush be on trial for Iraq? | The Mehdi Hasan Show


Statement on the UAW election crisis

Trae Crowder on Politics, Poverty, and Southern Stereotypes: Unapologetically Queer With Al Ferguson

In Class with Carr, Ep 158 Malcolm X, The FBI and our Global Responsibility

Dusty Republican Wants Working Poor to Starve

National March on Washington: Fund People's Needs, Not the War Machine!

Sam Seder calls out Jimmy Dore / Donald Trump is Expected to be ARRESTED NEXT WEEK


Hollywood's Golden Age (of Queer Coding)

Sherri's Advice to Her 15-Year-Old Self


Chasten Buttigieg Responds To Pence Targeting Husband For Paternity Leave | The View

Revolutionizing Environmental Law: Exploring the Rights of Nature Movement


Bioneers Pulse – updates from the Bioneers Community


The global momentum supporting efforts to enshrine rights for rivers, species and ecosystems has been building for more than a decade. It feels like there is a new report or story in the press on a weekly basis, if not daily. From Florida to Washington State to Cape Cod to Ecuador, New Zealand, India, England and beyond, the movement around Rights of Nature is burgeoning around the planet. If you’re a long-time reader of this newsletter, you’re likely at least familiar with the concept, but for many, even those well-steeped in environmental activism, this revolutionary approach arguing that nature should have legal standing turns the page on traditional notions of environmental law. 

Briefly stated, the current system of environmental regulations and their enforcement in this country (and around the world) are only as strong as the legislation and the mindset they sprang from. Advocates of a Rights of Nature approach hold that this system is doing nothing more than attempting to regulate the pace and scale of ecological destruction. The recent approval of the Willow Project in Alaska is a reminder that the government oversight of land and water was designed to ease and support resource extraction from the start, and it was only later that regulations regarding environmental harm were added to the mix. Imbuing natural systems, features and species with specific legal rights and standing changes the game, theoretically giving nature the right to literally have her day in court.

Giving nature legal standing challenges many core tenants of Western society and makes a variety of players in the system deeply uncomfortable. These are not minor distinctions being made; rather the Rights of Nature movement is truly revolutionary, with all the danger, drama, contradictions and passion that come with revolutionary movements. In this newsletter, we dip into the growing river of activity, highlighting projects, opinions, news and perspectives to support our collective understanding of this building movement.

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Opinion: Rights of Nature Is a Logical Extension of the American Legal System

“The line between harm to humanity and harm to Nature is non-existent. Despite our enormous capacity to create and destroy, we humans are not separate from our natural environment.”

Britt Gondolfi has supported Bioneers Rights of Nature initiatives by researching the intersections of tribal sovereignty and federal Indian law. In this opinion piece, she details why nature should have rights, and how Tribal Courts are taking the matter into their own hands.

Read here

Rights of Nature at Bioneers 2023

Learn more about Rights of Nature at Bioneers 2023 with a film screening and a panel session. 

“Does Nature Have Rights?” is a short film that shows frontline Ecuadorian conservationists invoking the “Rights of Nature” clause in their nation’s constitution to work to save areas of immense biodiversity. 

In the “International Perspectives on Rights of Nature in Tribal Law” panel, we’ll hear from Indigenous leaders whose tribes have adopted Rights of Nature frameworks to protect sacred territories. They will share practical strategies for organizing and implementing Rights of Nature campaigns within international legal frameworks. Join us to learn more about the movement, and how you can be a part of it.

Register here

Dan Wildcat on Rights of Nature

“I think we need to recognize that the most important thing that we have to disabuse ourselves of in the modern world is this false dichotomy between nature and culture.”

Dan Wildcat, Ph.D., discusses what we need to do to save Mother Earth, beginning with changing our view of our place on the Earth in this speech from the Bioneers Indigenous Forum.

Watch here

Bioneers Rights of Nature Project

Rights of Nature is a global movement to protect nature (rivers, mountains, and entire ecosystems and the life forms supported within them) by recognizing its legal rights. Just as humans and corporations are considered to “have rights,” this legal strategy grants rights to nature itself. These frameworks turn the existing property rights-based paradigm upside down and offer a powerful basis and strategy to conserve lands and communities. They also offer a radically different worldview: the right of nature to exist, persist, flourish and evolve.

Rights of Nature legal frameworks could hold important keys to shifting the system and transforming the law from treating nature as property to a rights-bearing entity on whose behalf people have legal standing as trustees. Bioneers is partnering with a variety of Native allies and organizations to explore these alternative legal strategies to “occupy the law.” Bioneers is partnering with a variety of Native allies and organizations to explore these alternative legal strategies to “occupy the law.”

Learn more

Urban Tilth: Transforming Soil in a City of Industry for Urban Farming

In At Home on an Unruly Planet, science journalist Madeline Ostrander reflects on the climate crisis not as an abstract scientific or political problem, but as a palpable force that is now affecting all of us at home. She offers vivid accounts of people fighting to protect places they love from increasingly dangerous circumstances. This excerpt details the struggle of creating a farm on land that was previously home to an oil refinery in Richmond, California.

Register for Bioneers 2023 Conference to see Madeline Ostrander as a panelist and purchase her book here.

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Support Independent Media: San Francisco Public Press

Check out these recent print and audio pieces from our friends at the San Francisco Public Press: California Indian Tribes Denied Resources for Decades as Federal Acknowledgement Lags They air our Bioneers radio show every Wednesday at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on their radio station KSFP 102.5 FM and streaming at You can find their investigative reporting and solutions journalism at - Sign up for their free newsletter here, so you'll be the first to access upcoming reporting on sea level rise and building on the bay and their "Civic" podcast.

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Other Projects Focusing on Rights of Nature:

  • Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights | CDER hopes to build a global movement for democratic and environmental rights.
  • Center for Earth Jurisprudence | The mission of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence is to advance law, policy, and governance systems aimed to legally protect the sustainability of life and health on Earth.
  • Movement Rights | Movement Rights is founded on the idea that we must align human law (and culture) with the laws of the natural world.
  • Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature | The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature is a global network of organizations and individuals committed to the universal adoption and implementation of legal systems that recognize, respect and enforce “Rights of Nature.”

More on Rights of Nature:

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