zaterdag 18 april 2020

US military must leave Iraq

A line in the sand is drawn: the US military must leave Iraq

June meeting planned to discuss withdrawal

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - DECEMBER 31: Outraged Iraqi protesters storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, protesting Washington's attacks on armed battalions belong to Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi forces on December 31, 2019. At least 25 people were killed in weekend U.S. airstrikes on positions of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia group, in Iraq and Syria. Hundreds of Iraqi protesters gathered early Tuesday near the embassy to show their anger at the U.S. move. ( Murtadha Sudani - Anadolu Agency )
The chaos that Iraq is experiencing today has roots in the 2003 US invasion, which set-up sectarian divisions that have been used to keep the country in turmoil. The US foreign policy is based on creating chaos in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Lebanon to further the US agenda.  Iraq today stands on the edge of breaking free of the shackles of US domination.
Iraq has a new Prime Minister
On April 19, the President of Iraq named former spy-chief Mustafa Kadhimi as Prime Minister-designate. Kadhimi announced on April 14 that he had selected a cabinet. He is expected to be approved by Parliament before to April 23, when the Holy month of Ramadan begins.  On April 13, the US stated support for the new government, but not without mentioning Shia and Sunni differences.
In a statement to the media, Kadhimi said, “We have no choice but to work on a comprehensive Iraqi national project, which transcends sub-identities, whether ethnic or sectarian.” He added that a top priority was to negotiate with the US concerning their military presence, stressing that ‘Iraq is not an arena for settling scores’.
Kadhemi faces serious challenges concerning the COVID-19 crisis, and the economic crisis following it, as well as record-low oil prices.  As of April 14, the country has registered 1,400 COVID-19 cases and 78 deaths, according to the health ministry.
The Sunni-Shia divide
The shah of Iran was a close US ally and many would classify him as the definition of an “American Puppet”.  However, the Iranian grass-roots revolution in 1979 saw the US-backed regime toppled.  While the Shah was on his peacock throne, the US had never discussed Sunni-Shia differences. Iraq is a Shia majority, and neighbor of Iran, with shared historical, geographical and religious experiences. The Sunni-Shia divide didn’t exist in Iran, or Iraq, or Syria before the US state department, and their co-workers in the CIA developing the hatred to be used as their tool. The US used Arab media to replace ‘Israel’ with Iran as the ‘enemy’, thus pushing the occupation of Palestine into the oblivion.
The US invasion of Iraq 2003
Seventeen years ago, on March 19, 2003, the United States of America attacked and invaded Iraq.  The US destroyed most of the Iraqi infrastructure and occupied the country for eight years, withdrawing troops in 2011, after having spent nearly $2 trillion in war-related costs.  The Bush administration had been high-jacked by a group of extremists, including Richard T. Perle, who had worked for Israeli PM Netanyahu in 1996. The group controlling the White House in 2003 had wanted to create a ‘New Middle East’.
The US killed an estimated 600,000 Iraqi civilians during the early stages, which fueled sectarian violence and the rise of religious militants.  The Iraqi people have suffered almost two decades of violence and chaos which was the aftermath of the invasion, and the failures of the US occupation.  Paul Bremer, the American installed dictator of the occupation, caused Iraq to be divided along sectarian lines.
In 2014 the US troops arrived again in Iraq, but this time to fight ISIS, which was defeated in 2017.
Trump assassinated Soleimani
On January 3, President Trump ordered the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. Also killed was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who founded Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah unit after the 2003 US invasion. The killing was a breach of the 2014 agreement between the Iraqi government and the US, concerning the re-entering Iraq to fight ISIS. The Iraqi government, military and resistance groups all were shocked at the magnitude of the drone strike.  Sayyed Ali Khamenei of Iran said, “The price of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis is the US departure from West Asia.”  This marked a line being drawn in the sand: the US must be forced to leave Iraq, regardless of the cost.
Iraqi Parliament orders US troops out
Two days after the Trump ordered assassination; the Iraqi Parliament met and passed a resolution demanding the complete withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq.  Driving the US out of Iraq is their goal.
PM Abdul-Mahdi asked parliament to take “urgent measures” to ensure the removal of foreign forces from the country, and he later met with US Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller and stressed the need for the two countries “to work together to execute the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” and added the situation in Iraq was “critical”.
US Embassy  and bases attacked
Iraqi soldiers attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad on December 31, 2019, in retaliation for US attacks on Iraqi military bases which resulted in the deaths of dozens of soldiers.  These soldiers had been US allies in Iraq during the fight to defeat ISIS. In January more attacks took place on the Embassy, and in February attacks continued, with the latest attacks occurring in late March, resulting in the US State Department ordering some Embassy employees to leave the country.
By early April, David Schenker, assistant secretary of Near Eastern Affairs, stated that Iraqi military groups have been regularly shelling bases in Iraq which house US troops, as well as the US Embassy area, and this poses a significant threat to US forces in Iraq.  Schenker voiced the US disappointment in the Iraqi military for not being able to protect the US military in Iraq.
Recently, three rockets landed near an area housing workers of the US oil service company Halliburton, which was brought into Iraq by VP Dick Cheney in 2003, in the looting of oil resources of Iraq made possible by the unprovoked invasion.
New videos have emerged on the internet from organizations determined to drive the US troops out of Iraq. The videos employ drone footage of the various bases the US troops are stationed at, and the message is clear: the unwelcome foreign Army is not secure as long as they remain in Iraq.
The US withdrawal begins
An Iraqi member of Parliament, Ali al-Ghanimi, told the media that US troops have begun to consolidate their presence in two large Iraqi bases: one in Erbil in the North and the other in Ain- al-Assad airbase.  Al-Ghanimi reported the US troops previously had been scattered among 15 military bases, and he saw the consolidation of troops as a sign of beginning an ultimate total withdrawal.
June meeting planned to discuss withdrawal
US Ambassador Matthew Tueller met with caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to discuss the issues surrounding the US military presence in Iraq, and the need for discussions between both countries.  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has proposed a large meeting in June to agree upon the mechanism of withdrawal of troops.  Some Iraqi military units have promised to not attack US troops while the US exhibits sincere efforts to leave Iraq.
Steven Sahiounie is a Syrian-American award-winning journalist

Lies Won't Stop Covid-19

Lies Won't Stop Covid-19

Washington-based military think tanks constantly warn of possible attacks by the wicked North Koreans who have a large arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and missiles to deliver to North America.
So do Britain, France, Russia, India, Pakistan, China, India and Israel. The US still has a very large, lethal arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. I recently wrote of how the Bush administration supplied Iraq with feeder stocks to make anthrax, Q Fever and other biowarfare materials for use against Iranians.
And yet we have just seen from the COVID-19 scare how woefully unprepared we were for a chemical/biological attack despite being world leader in germ and chemical warfare.
As the bodies of COVID-19 victims pile up from New York to New Zealand, politicians are waging a furious blame game over the pandemic.
At first, President Donald Trump dismissed COVID-19 as a simple cold or flu and, in the best dictatorial tradition, scared into silence scientists and politicians who disagreed with him for over a month.
China’s General Secretary Xi Jinping, or high-level Communist Party officials, may have suppressed information about the Wuhan virus for six days before news of the killer virus was revealed and a common Party response agreed upon.
Covering up bad news is standard procedure in Communist and autocratic regimes. That’s a major reason why the slow motion collapse of the Soviet Union’s economy went unknown to the Kremlin until too late.
In Trumpistan, none of the sycophants and yes-men around the president, except for the admirable Dr. Fauci, dared contradict the Great White Father cum Physician cum Mussolini in the White House. Anyone who does quickly gets a ‘you’re fired.’
Many of Trump’s evangelical supporters in the Bible Belt view him as a semi-religious figure, a sort of holy man who can, in the best Old Testament Biblical tradition, stop or even cure plague and pestilence. That’s what Trump’s claim to be able to miraculously end the Coronavirus plague by Easter was all about.
Next, fearing American voters would blame him for ineptitude and quackery for downplaying the crisis, Trump sought to lay blame on China and the World Health Organization for the pandemic. Flat-earth Midwestern Republicans believe the UN and anything that sounds international is satanic. This includes the bumbling, overly bureaucratic WHO which has indeed been too easy on China as the right-wing Republicans claim.
But this is the same UN-directed outfit that played a key role in repressing or even eradicating malaria, smallpox, Ebola, river blindness, bilharzia and other dreadful plagues of Africa and Asia. WHO has also had some success in fighting dengue and tsetse flies.
After studying the timeline of recent events in Wuhan, it appears to me that there was some confusion among Chinese medical authorities because of the unknown nature of the new virus. It took them close to a week to evaluate the virus which was at first believed to be a virulent influenza.
Their confusion was minor compared to the muddled reaction of US political and medical authorities and Trump-supporting evangelical groups who each had their own beliefs (usually mistaken) about the new virus. Trump was very successful at laying blame on China – just as the lethal 1918 flu epidemic that began in US Army camps and killed millions of people was successfully marketed to the public as the ‘Spanish flu.’
In an effort to come up with a snake-oil cure, Trump told Americans to take the anti-malaria drugs Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine. French doctors warned these drugs could provoke serious, even lethal heart problems.
They were quite right. I took Chloroquine while in the jungle in southern Africa while covering the fighting between South African (SADF) forces and East-Bloc backed African Congress forces. I developed a mild but still very scary psychological problem and was sick as hell. Who wants to be psycho and paranoid in the deepest jungle?
One remarkable factor in this 21st century plague is how successful China appears to be so far in bottling up the COVID plague. It may be the Chinese are fudging the facts as Republicans, who never lie, claim.
However, I think the key to China’s success has been the ubiquity of special Communist Party committees who ruthlessly and successfully managed the epidemic. Every Chinese factory, apartment building, school and organization has its very own Party official whose job is to spy and report on every person in their group.
Each member is graded and guided. ‘Good’ Communists received better apartments, school slots, factory jobs and retirement care based on their grade book. The all-seeing party knows all, sees all, and can control just about everyone.
That’s how China has so far bested this plague – though of course Trump will try to take the credit.


Dear Friend, 

I hope you're taking very good care of yourself during this unsettling time.

In the face of the enormity of this pandemic, individual acts of courage and compassion are more important than ever. Mutual aid is springing from grassroots, immigrant and youth groups, unions, congregations and indigenous organizations. In the absence of globally-coordinated, government-funded action, these individual and community-level efforts are making a real difference, providing critical support and saving lives.

Democracy Now! is bringing you the stories and voices of the courageous people who are standing up, speaking out and lending a helping hand as the death toll from COVID-19 continues to grow in the U.S. and around the world. 

Doctor Who Tests Homeless for Coronavirus Handcuffed by Police

We interviewed Dr. Armen Henderson, a physician who tests the unhoused for coronavirus. He was accused of littering by the police, then handcuffed.
On Wednesday, we interviewed Dr. Armen Henderson, a physician and associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami, who has been working as a volunteer to administer COVID-19 tests to unhoused people in Miami.
Last Friday, Henderson, who is African American, was at home loading a van with tents and other supplies to distribute, when a Miami Police cruiser pulled up. The officer got out, accusing Henderson of littering, and handcuffed him.

"I want the officer held accountable," Dr. Henderson said on Democracy Now! "But outside of that, I think the bigger picture is that I was going to serve homeless individuals throughout Miami-Dade County. It's supposed to be the city and the county’s job to do this ... especially in a pandemic."

Juan González Shares His Personal Experience with COVID-19

This week we spoke to Democracy Now! co-host Juan González about his personal experience with COVID-19.
This week we also spoke to Democracy Now! co-host Juan González about his personal experience with COVID-19. González described how he struggled to get his own 92-year-old mother tested when he took her to the emergency room in New Jersey.
“We have to ask ourselves why, in a country that spends so much money on healthcare, are we still having problems producing the most basic equipment," González said. "And I really believe it’s part of this whole situation of the neoliberal view of how to run the market.”

He also talked about the importance of taking action on an individual level to help those who are suffering the most, highlighting the Mutual Aid Fund for New Brunswick, a GoFundMe campaign to provide direct assistance to undocumented communities—people who will receive no support from the federal government.

"I firmly believe that it’s not enough for radicals and progressives to just rail against the situation," González asserted. "I think we also have to point the way to change, to give people hope and to promote grassroots efforts by everyday people."

“Gangster in the White House”: Noam Chomsky on COVID-19 

Democracy Now! spoke to world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky.
On Friday, we aired more of our interview with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky, who responded to President Trump's budget cuts to the World Health Organization as U.S. COVID-19 deaths surged to another record high. He also discussed conditions in Gaza amidst the pandemic and the progressive response to the rise of authoritarianism around the world.
“This is typical behavior of autocrats and dictators. When you make colossal errors which are killing thousands of people, find somebody else to blame,” said Chomsky. “In the United States, it’s unfortunately the case, for well over a century, century and a half, that it’s always easy to blame the 'yellow peril.'”

COVID-19 & Indian Country: Pandemic Exposes Health Disparities

Democracy Now! recently interviewed two indigenous leaders about how the coronavirus is impacting Indian Country.
Democracy Now! recently interviewed two indigenous leaders about how the coronavirus is impacting Indian Country: Dean Seneca, a citizen of the Seneca Nation and epidemiologist who spent nearly 20 years as a senior health scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Navajo activist and artist Emma Robbins, director of the Navajo Water Project, a community-managed utility alternative that brings hot and cold running water to homes without access to water or sewer lines. 
“One of the hardest things right now is being able to wash your hands in the Navajo Nation,” said Robbins. The Navajo Nation is the largest tribal nation in the United States and the hardest hit by the outbreak, with nearly 30 deaths and more than 830 confirmed cases.

Essential or Expendable? Farmworkers Condemn Lack of Protection and Economic Help During Pandemic

We talked to Gerardo Reyes Chávez, a farmworker leader with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida, who described the crowded, unsanitary conditions farmworkers are facing amidst the pandemic.
We also talked to Gerardo Reyes Chávez, a farmworker leader with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida, who described the crowded, unsanitary conditions farmworkers are facing amidst the pandemic, while they labor shoulder to shoulder for poverty wages. “The people who are doing these jobs are treated as expendable,” said Chávez on Democracy Now!

Pandemic Is a Portal: Arundhati Roy on COVID-19 in India

Award-winning writer, author, activist Arundhati Roy joined us on Democracy Now! yesterday to discuss how the pandemic is impacting India.
Award-winning writer, author and activist Arundhati Roy joined us on Democracy Now! Thursday to discuss how the pandemic is impacting India, where there is concern that President Narendra Modi is using the coronavirus outbreak to crackdown on opponents and dissidents. The country has more than 420 deaths and 12,000 infections, though the number is likely far higher due to lack of testing.
Roy described the pandemic as a portal, a door opening and closing—opening to new possibilities of solidarity between people while at the same time "the powers that be ... try to increase surveillance, increase inequality, increase privatization, increase control."

One Mask for Five 12-Hour Shifts: Harlem Hospital Nurses Demand Better Protection Amid Pandemic

Democracy Now! spoke to Sarah Dowd, a registered nurse who was on the street outside of Harlem Hospital, gearing up to protest the lack of PPE.
Last week, Democracy Now! spoke to Sarah Dowd, a registered nurse who was on the street outside of Harlem Hospital, where she works in a medical/surgical unit. Medical workers at the hospital were gearing up to protest the lack of personal protective equipment available to them as they fight the pandemic. 
"We’re expected to use the same mask for five 12-hour shifts," Dowd stated. "And a lot of us who have gotten sick are being told to come back to work while we’re still having symptoms. And the risk to the rest of the staff and the patients ... is too high."

For all of our recent coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our coronavirus topics page.

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Amy Goodman