Been a lot of early and naive cheerleading of Joe Biden over his 'desire' to end the war on Yemen. At IN THESE TIMES, Shireen al-Adeimi and Sarah Lazare note:
The February 4 announcement by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan that President Biden would end U.S. support for “offensive operations” in Yemen was understandably met with celebration by those opposed to the war. Almost six years of the U.S.-Saudi‑U.A.E. war on Yemen have left the country devastated by humanitarian disaster and famine. Anti-war activists have spent these years — first during the Obama-Biden administration, then the Trump-Pence administration, and now the Biden-Harris administration — agitating to end U.S. participation in the onslaught. It has been an organizing effort that often seemed like shouting into the wind, as the bombings of hospitals, factories and weddings piled up. The countless people who have been toiling in obscurity to end this war, and those in Yemen who have joined in this effort while surrounded by hardship and death, certainly deserve praise and gratitude for the fact we’ve gotten this far.
But Biden’s foreign policy speech, delivered just hours after Sullivan’s teaser, unfortunately underscored that we must not celebrate the end of the war until we verify that it has actually, materially ended. That is because Biden’s remarks leave just enough room for the president to gesture toward ending the war without actually halting all U.S. participation in it.
Biden first noted that USAID will reach Yemeni civilians who have suffered “unendurable devastation” (the Trump administration suspended aid to much of Yemen in 2020) and declared “this war has to end.” He then added, “We
are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in
Yemen including relevant arms sales.” Biden said he is appointing
career-long diplomat Timothy Lenderking as a special envoy to Yemen. But
the president continued, “At
the same time, Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks and UAV strikes and
other threats from Iranian supplied forces in multiple countries. We are
going to continue to help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its
territorial integrity and its people.”
Unfortunately, qualifiers like “offensive” and “relevant” do not signal a clear commitment to ending all forms of support for the U.S. war in Yemen, which includes targeting assistance, weapons sales (the U.S. is the largest supplier of arms to Saudi Arabia), logistics, training, and intelligence sharing with the Saudi-led coalition. Labeling Yemen’s Houthis as “Iranian supplied forces,” and making a commitment to defending Saudi Arabia’s “sovereignty,” echoes President Obama’s initial pretense for entering the war on Yemen in 2015. The White House statement that signaled Obama’s illegal entry declared, “In response to the deteriorating security situation, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, and others will undertake military action to defend Saudi Arabia’s border and to protect Yemen’s legitimate government.” In other words, from the outset, this onslaught was framed by the U.S. as defensive.
People need to wait for results before being so free with praise. Joe Biden's the guy who says he's going to mow the yard this weekend and then, the following Monday, you realize you're going to have to pay someone to do it.
"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Wednesday, February 10, 2021. As the Iraq War continues, a US writer warns against falling asleep while the wars drag on (but seems to forget the Iraq War), more executions in Iraq, and much more.
Starting with some questions from Glenn Greenwald:
Now let's ask a question: How stupid is America?
Pretty damn stupid, apparently. Dr. Margaret Flowers suffered a real loss last year and I am so sorry about that. But we don't give out hugs and kisses here so let's get to her nonsense at BLACK AGENDA REPORT.
The anti-war movement, Margaret wants you to know, must not go to sleep under Biden.
Who's sleeping, Margaret?
"She said that US interventions in Iraq would improve the lives of Iraqis."
"She" is Ireland's trash Samantha Power who apparently decided to become an American citizen because the US had a bigger military she could harness for her War Dreams. Sticky sheets throughout the teenage years as she pleasured herself to War Porn, then American citizenship and the pretense that she was destroying lives as she called for war, war, war and more war!
That sentence about Samantha Power in quotes?
That's it for Iraq in the column.
I'm not in the damn mood.
Why do members of Congress think they can get away with doing nothing regarding Medicare For All?
Because the American left gives them a pass every damn time.
No one paid for selling the Iraq War, true. Equally true, no one paid a price for lying that they'd end the Iraq War even though, all these years later, it goes on and on.
Margaret's got plenty of time for Afghanistan. Even for Venezuela and Iran. But Iraq gets a single sentence.
I also think the claim that they went silent when Barack Obama became president is a falsehood.
When one of the founders of CODEPINK became a bundler for Barack, CODEPINK began 'bird dogging' candidates. Not Barack. Never Barack. Not even in March 2008 when Samantha Power had to leave Barack's campaign for telling the BBC that Barack's promise to end the Iraq War was just words and nothing binding. He would, she said on camera, decided what to do after he became president and not be bound by any campaign promise.
Do you know that?
If you don't and you were at least 13 in 2008 you can thank liars like John Nichols who worked overtime to hide that truth for you. Or Tom Hayden who knew of the interview that March -- I know, we discussed it together in person and on the phone -- and yet he waited until July of 2008 to write about it and then, whore that he is, pretended (a) he had just heard of it and (b) blamed Hillary Clinton and her campaign for not making an issue out of it. (Hillary's campaign did try to make an issue out of it including issuing multiple press releases. Barack, however, had already gotten heavy protection -- no, not the Secret Service, the US press.)
CODESTINK used their 'activist' organization to clear the path for Barack to the party's nomination. So, Margaret, let's stop with the pretense that it was after Barack became president (January 20, 2009) that the peace groups fell silent. Equally true, the whore of all whores, United for Peace and Justice, used the day after the 2008 election to announce that they had accomplished their mission and were folding tent.
Now I could ignore the article's inability to deal with those truths.
I can't ignore the absence of Iraq.
US troops remain in Iraq. The Iraqi people continue to suffer.
Nearly 18 years after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraqi civilians are still feeling the impact of the chaos that followed.
In the new documentary Iraq’s Assassins, releasing Feb. 9, FRONTLINE examines one outgrowth of the political instability and sectarian divides that were inflamed in the invasion’s wake: the rise and prominence of Shia militias with ties to Iran.
These militias played a prominent role in the fight to defend Iraq from ISIS. But in Iraq’s Assassins, journalist Ramita Navai travels to Iraq to investigate allegations that they are now threatening and killing critics and activists with impunity.
We have no follow through in this country, apparently. We say a lot of words and then, minutes later, we move on to some new cause.
You think Nancy Pelosi didn't notice that?
Nancy, of all people. should have faced accountability. She said give the Dems one house of Congress in the 2006 mid-terms and they'd end the war. They were given both house of Congress in that election. And the results and the turnout convinced them to keep the war going because it could be used to turn out votes in the 2008 presidential election.
She suffered no real fall out.
In a face to face with THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, she faced the closest thing to pushback for her failure. And what did she do?
She blamed her failure to end the Iraq War on . . . Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Most Americans who care about Iraq don't even know that. She tossed Harry under the bus and did so quickly and without blinking -- and the facial skin hadn't been pulled as far back so she could still blink in those days.
Now, in 2021, instead of dealing with any of those realities, a supposed cry to action reduces Iraq to one sentence. A sentence about Samantha Power. That's it.
The US government never gave a damn about the Iraqi people but who knew so many people in the supposed peace movement felt the same?
Here's another Tweet:
So the Iraqi people can be noted. The way their lives have been impacted can be discussed. Just apparently not in an article that says we must not go to sleep under Biden.
Go to sleep? Margaret, it appears we're sleeping when we can't address Iraq.
And our failure to continue pressing on Iraq sends the message to our elected officials that we're just cranky children who will tire ourselves out if they just let us cry ourselves to sleep. No need to address our issues.
Staying with Iraq, AFP reports:
Iraq on Tuesday hanged five people convicted on “terrorism” charges in a
notorious southern prison, security sources said, despite an
international outcry in recent months over the country’s execution
The five men, all Iraqi, were executed in the Nasiriyah prison in Dhi Qar province, the only one in Iraq that carries out capital punishment, the security sources said.
Iraqis fearfully refer to Nasiriyah jail as Al-Hut, the Arabic word for “whale,” describing it as a vast prison complex that “swallows” people up.
Human Rights Watch described the mass execution order as politically motivated, rather than a move made out of concern for justice.
"This announcement, unfortunately, speaks to a concern we have had for many years in Iraq that the death penalty is used as a political tool more than anything else," Belkis Wille, the watchdog's senior crisis and conflict researcher, told Rudaw English in January.
As noted in yesterday's snapshot, PBS' FRONTLINE is featuring a report on Iraq. At their website, Privanka Boghani interviews the filmmaker and reporter behind IRAQ ASSASSINS, Ramita Navai:
Ramita Navai has been reporting for years on the rise of Shia militias in Iraq, their links to Iran and allegations of abuses carried out against Sunni civilians. In her latest documentary for FRONTLINE, Iraq’s Assassins, Navai investigates accusations that these militias have unleashed a wave of assassinations against activists and critics. In the runup to the film’s February 9 premiere, FRONTLINE spoke with Navai about her past reporting and what had changed when she returned to Iraq in September 2020.
What she found surprised her: “When I first covered [the militias], even though we were exposing Shia militia abuses, they were still very much seen as heroes, especially by the Shia population,” Navai said. “That has completely changed.” She says she wasn’t expecting “how, in these few years, they’re now viewed with absolute fear and they’re viewed as villains. They’re no longer seen as the heroes they once were.”
Below, Navai discusses the mass protests in Iraq, the Iran-backed Shia militias now accused of killing their critics and why the militias view activists as a threat.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How would you explain to an American audience the protest movement in Iraq that took on these powerful Iranian-backed Shia militias? How unusual is that?
I would say these are the most significant protests since the invasion [of Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition in 2003]. Importantly, they’re nonsectarian. So you’ve got Iraqis uniting. Also, they’re intergenerational, and this is the first time that Iraqis of all sects have joined together to demonstrate against the [Iranian-backed] Shia militias, and to demonstrate against what they see as Iranian interference in their country.
And it’s very much a kind of nationalistic protest, [with] Iraqis saying, “We want foreign interference” — which isn’t just the U.S. this time — “foreign interference that’s the U.S. and Iran, we want them out.”
What demands are they making? And was there an event that sparked this movement?
There were mass protests in 2018, so this has been building up. In 2019, the situation got really bad. It was a hot — and when I say hot, we’re talking really hot; we’re talking temperatures in the 40s and in the 50s [degrees Celsius, equivalent to 104 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit] — a hot, long summer with, for a lot of people, either no electricity or disrupted electricity. So, very limited or no access to basic services. And that’s how these protests started.
The anger turned toward the Shia militias and toward Iran because of what people saw as corruption being behind the lack of services. … “There’s money coming in. The state has the money, so where has the money gone? Why can’t they provide basic services, like electricity? It must be down to corruption.” That was the turning point. … [P]rotests started on October 1, 2019. They spread like wildfire from Baghdad to the south. They were in all the Shia cities and towns, throughout Iraq.
You were on the ground in Iraq in 2016 for Iraq Uncovered, reporting on some of these same militias as they were fighting ISIS. Did anything surprise you about them when you returned in the fall of 2020?
So many things surprised me. When I first covered them, even though we were exposing Shia militia abuses, they were still very much seen as heroes, especially by the Shia population. That has completely changed. I was really surprised by that — at how, in these few years, they’re now viewed with absolute fear and they’re viewed as villains. They’re no longer seen as the heroes they once were.
I was really unprepared for how the Shia militias are now terrorizing not only Sunnis but their own. This is a really dramatic and important change. Now, this shift is exactly why hundreds and thousands of Shia Iraqis took to the streets, demonstrating against them.
The video below is the documentary in full.
In other Iraq news, RISK MAP notes protest continue in Kut:
Since 2016, I have visited over a dozen camps across Iraq housing families accused of having a father, husband, or son affiliated with the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). I have spent dozens of hours sitting in the tents of women struggling to figure out how they can get out of the camp, where they are effectively being confined by security forces as punishment for what their relative might have done, so they can offer their children the chance to have a normal life. While all these interviews have been heart-breaking, my visit to Ishaqi camp is the one that has haunted me the most.
In early December 2018, after hours of negotiations, a unit of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or Hashad, nominally under the control of the prime minister) finally let me into the infamous camp in Salah al-Din governorate. Unlike other camps, it had no presence or services from international or local organizations. The fighters themselves were the camp’s “management.” Most organizations that tried to enter the camp had been turned back by the fighters, who ran the site as a prison. Of the more than 400 residents, I saw only about 30 men, all older than 60.
At one point I was able to slip away from the fighter assigned to monitor my interviews. The moment he was out of earshot, women stopped talking about the horrific camp conditions, including the lack of fuel and the chronic diseases, and instead started rapidly firing names at me -- dozens and dozens of names of men. They said that a month after security forces brought them to the camp there was a nearby bombing. Afterward, the fighters promptly rounded up all 52 men in the camp between the ages of 17 and 57, accusing them of some link to the bombing, and took them away, along with a few younger boys. Their family members never heard from them again or knew their fate.
For 30 minutes, all I did was write down names, including of boys as young as 10. Before I left, at the request of the women, I tore the filled pages out of my notebook and hid them in my pocket so that the guards would not find them if they searched me.
A few weeks ago my heart sank when I saw a local news article that dispelled any hope that the men whose names I had taken down may be alive, perhaps in a secret prison somewhere. The authorities had just discovered a mass grave next to the camp, which apparently contained the remains of more than 50 people, including children as young as 8 or 10.
I am losing track of the number of times I have documented allegations of killings in Iraq, only to read in the news several months or years later that a mass grave was discovered right where the killings allegedly occurred. And yet I cannot remember a single time where any mass killings by Iraqi forces were investigated.
Until late 2020, tens of thousands of Iraqis, mostly women and children, were living in camps, some that functioned as de facto prisons, because the government and their local community wanted to punish them for their relative’s perceived roles in ISIS by preventing them from returning to a normal life. This changed in October, when the government moved to close all camps across the country, stripping the families of access to food, water, shelter, and health care, and leaving them with nowhere to go and no men left to earn a living.
The authorities closed Ishaqi camp in November. The residents were freed but as with many of the others freed from the camps, other units of fighters are controlling their villages and are not allowing them to return home. So they have been left to fend for themselves. Women across Iraq in the same position have told me and others that they feel unsafe and are at risk of sexual violence.
The mostly women and children who were held prisoner in Ishaqi camp for years deserve to go home, or make a new home elsewhere, and the government should be throwing its full might behind protecting and supporting them.
But these former residents also deserve to know what happened to their loved ones, and impunity for abusive security forces needs to end. The Iraqi authorities can begin to address this apparent atrocity by opening a credible investigation into the incident, starting by locating the former camp residents, many of whom are currently living in squalid conditions in an abandoned train station nearby, to interview them about the details of their relatives’ disappearance and take DNA samples to help identify the remains of those found in the mass grave.
The international community has a role to play too. In 2017 the United Nations Security Council decided to create a team, UNITAD, to help the Iraqi government document and prosecute the grave crimes committed by ISIS, including by exhuming mass graves in Iraq. But it chose to exclude from UNITAD’s mandate investigations into the grave crimes that Iraqi security forces committed in the battle against ISIS.
One-sided justice in Iraq will not serve anyone’s interests, and the families from Ishaqi camp deserve justice for abuses against their loved ones just as much as every victim of ISIS does. The international community needs to have the courage to push as hard for judicial investigations into these abuses as well