The high profile extradition hearing of publisher and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange continued in Central London today. But it did so without oversight from international human rights groups. Julia Hall, an expert on criminal justice and human rights for Amnesty International, revealed that her organization was again denied entry to the court today, despite their repeated requests to be recognized as fair trial monitors.
Fair trial monitors are a critical component to upholding transparency and regulation in courtrooms across the world, reminding authorities that independent witnesses are scrutinizing them. Hall noted that Amnesty monitors have been recognized as international fair trial monitors for cases in many repressive states, including Bahrain and Turkey, and even oversaw cases at Guantanamo Bay. “It is a disgrace that the UK has failed to recognize that international fair trial monitors should be officially recognized and permitted access to the Assange hearings. Open justice is not served by this failure, it is profoundly undermined,” she wrote.
Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks, described the hearing as a “full-scale assault on the right to freedom of expression,” noting that if he were prosecuted, it would have a “chilling effect on media freedom, leading publishers and journalists to self-censor in fear of retaliation.” Hall added that it was not only Assange who was on trial but the fundamental tenets of media freedom. Amnesty also warned that an international smear campaign against him had threatened his right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Britain would also be breaking its obligation to international human rights law by transferring the Australian to a known human rights abusing nation, according to the organization.
Isn't it telling how far they will go to railroad Julian Assange. They are the criminals, not Julian. They make that clear with each passing day. I have no idea what the verdict in court will be, but I do know history's verdict will be that Julian did something heroic and valuable.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Wednesday, September 16, 2020. Joe Biden dithers in public confusing Iraq and Iran, real issues are ignored by the press and much more.
Violence continues in Iraq. When the targets appear to be western, the violence gets a bit of press attention. AFP reports this morning:
Three separate attacks in 24 hours have targeted Western diplomatic or military installations in Iraq, security and diplomatic sources said on Tuesday, hinting at a new escalation between authorities and rogue groups.
While no casualties were reported in any of the attacks, Iraqi officials told AFP they see the spike as an indirect way to pressure the government as it tries to fight graft. On Tuesday morning, an improvised explosive device targeted a British embassy vehicle returning from Baghdad airport, a diplomatic source told AFP.
Security sources report that there were no victims or injuries in the attacks, but the attacks confirm a growing climate of "pressure" on the executive. In recent days, the Chaldean patriarch himself had emphasized to AsiaNews the unity of purpose in this all-out fight against groups and militias that foment ill-dealings and divisions.
Yesterday morning a rudimentary device exploded as a British embassy vehicle passed, returning from the airport. The attack, the first in over 10 years against a British vehicle, took place near the Green Zone, the high-security area in the center of the capital that hosts diplomatic offices, international institutions and government offices.
During the night, two Katyusha rockets were launched against the American embassy, also within the Green Zone. The C-RAM missile defense system installed at the mission at the beginning of the year foiled the threat. The device warns of the possible arrival of ammunition or explosives and is activated, causing them to explode in the air hitting them with thousands of bullets per minute.
In the early hours of September 14 two explosive devices hit a convoy of US vehicles and supplies.
AHBUL BAYT NEWS AGENCY notes that "the British Embassy in Baghdad confirmed" the attack on the British vehicle. Again when western interests are the target it's 'news.' When the Iraqi people die daily, it's just a shrug -- if that -- from the corporate news industry.
War Hawk Joe Biden is senile. He's not fit to be president based on his record but, more to the point, he's not fit to be president based on his brain. He never knows where he is, who his wife is (confusing her with his sister), what he's doing, he's senile and unfit for office. That's bad. But here he is speaking on the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq or, as he puts it, Iran.
All these years later and he doesn't grasp the difference? No, it's that he's senile. He's lost it and he's not fit to govern. He's honestly not fit to drive and a caring family would confront him and take away his keys. But he's also not fit to be in the Oval Office.
Weeks out from a presidential election and the press can spend forever jabbering away about polls but not about actual issues. Doug Bandow (ANTIWAR.COM) notes the silence on the issue of war:
Even worse is the Middle East. The region no longer matters much to Washington, given rising American energy production and falling global demand. Israel is a regional, nuclear-armed superpower that can defend itself. The region long has suffered through dictatorship and chaos, neither of which warrant American military involvement. Why should Americans die on behalf of the Saudi royal family? The Saudis hire foreigners to do the country’s dirty work; they treat American servicemen and women as their personal bodyguards, paid for through weapons purchases. Alas, Trump has obliged, sacrificing US interests to royal desires.
Trump and Biden should be asked directly: why are Americans expected to die to protect the licentious, irresponsible Saudi royals who slice and dice their critics? Egypt’s dictatorial regime, which has jailed tens of thousands and continues to persecute Christians and other religious minorities? The Emirati royal family, whose only virtue is being less oppressive than the Saudis? Should Washington risk war to sort out the Syrian and Libyan civil wars which, though tragic, do not impact American security? Why do legislators rush en masse to declare support for Israel when its primary threat lies within, the continued occupation over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians who live under a system of militarized Apartheid?
War is terrible. Sometimes necessary, but rarely so. Most US conflicts are hard if not impossible to justify. Brutal aggressions against Mexico, Spain, and the Philippines. Senseless involvement in World War I. A last gasp attempt to rescue French colonialism in Vietnam. A gaggle of nation-building disasters in the 1990s and 2000s. Even the better cases, such as World War II, in which Imperial Japan attacked America, have important what if’s: what if the US has not imposed an oil embargo on Tokyo, pushing that country toward its attack on Pearl Harbor?
With war so frequent and frequently unjustified, Americans should start holding their presidents accountable. True, the original Constitution required Congress to decide on war, but Washington now operates on very different principles, by which the president does whatever he or she wants on foreign policy, leaving legislators to applaud or carp, depending on how the conflict turns out. Hence the necessity of asking candidates when they are prepared to take Americans into war.
The US press ignores the wars. When they do stumble upon them, it's to speak of the past and not to note the tragedies that are ongoing. Iraq War veteran Frederic Wehrey shares his experience early on in the war at THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS:
There at the Baghdad hospital, I joined an FBI agent in questioning the bedridden al-Ani about his time in the Czech Republic. A diminutive man with a grizzled face creased by bouts of pain, he epitomized the type of drab regime functionary I’d come to know in Iraq all too well. He answered our questions straightforwardly. In the end, the hours-long session provided no evidence about the Prague meeting to contradict the debunking that had already appeared in the press. Al-Ani had never met Mohamed Atta or even heard of him until he saw news reports after September 11. Nor was he himself even in Prague on the day of the alleged encounter; he was out of town, seventy miles away.
Even more disturbing than this non-revelation, though, was his account of his capture that summer by US special operations forces and the reason for his hospitalization. Snatching him from his Baghdad home at night, US soldiers had bound his wrists, covered his head, and forced him to lie on the floor of a Humvee for the long trip to a detention facility. Within fifteen minutes of his confinement in the vehicle, he felt an unbearable burning sensation. A Humvee’s engine is located in the front and conducts heat to the rear bed, where al-Ani was lying facedown on the bare metal. He twisted and writhed from the pain, but his American guards thought he was resisting. One of the soldiers stepped harder on his back with his boot. “Jesus, Jesus, please,” he’d cried, he told me, hoping that this invocation in English would get them to relent.
In front of us in the hospital, he lifted his gown to show us the results: severe burns, in dark-hued patches, covered his stomach, thighs, feet, and palms. As a consequence, al-Ani would endure three months of hospitalization, which involved multiple skin grafts, as well as the amputation of his thumb and the loss of movement of a finger.
After the meeting, I relayed his account of these injuries to my commanding general, who later reported the matter to a Senate inquiry into detainee abuses. The US Department of Justice also included the FBI’s account of this same interview in the inspector general’s 2008 report on detainee interrogations. And, over several years, the US Army investigated the incident, concluding that al-Ani’s injuries were consistent with his story and that “the offences of Assault and Cruelty and Maltreatment was [sic] substantiated.” Despite that finding, the Army dropped the case.
To my knowledge, nobody was ever disciplined or punished for al-Ani’s mistreatment.
It is a cruel irony that this Iraqi man was first used as a prop for an American invasion and then subjected to disfiguring violence by soldiers who had carried out that invasion. But his story weighs on me in other ways. The abuses we’ve seen in US policing have deep, homegrown roots, but I am convinced that they are also partly a result of the militarization of law enforcement born of the Iraq War and America’s other overseas interventions. The Iraq disaster has rippled across virtually every facet of American life, deepening the inequalities that divide us, stirring a popular contempt for “expertise” that has opened the door to demagoguery, and contributing to the hollowing-out of our infrastructure and institutions in ways that have left the country dangerously exposed to future shocks.
That excerpt alone should raise multiple questions -- including about justice, about oversight, about planning, about objectives.
The illegal war has not ended and it's no more clearly defined now, nearly 18 years later, than it was at the start when it was sold on one lie after another.
Last week, Joe Biden, hoping to become the next president, announced that he would leave US troops in Iraq. The obvious question did not get asked: Why?
Nor did anyone bother to point out that the so-called 'mission' is the same one that has failed year after year. AL-MONITOR notes: "Biden also told Stars and Stripes that the situation is complicated in Iraq and Syria and that he cannot guarantee a full withdrawal as a result."
It's complicated, is it? Joe can't guarantee, if elected, that in his four year term he would withdraw US troops from Iraq because it's complicated. How sick and pathetic.
Some could get honest and admit that US lives are put at risk to prop up a government that does not serve the Iraqi people. But Joe's never been an honest broker.
By the end of June, a disinformation campaign was launched by New York Times and was quickly followed up by the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal that focused on lurid but unsubstantiated reports of the Russians paying bounties to Taliban soldiers to kill U.S. personnel.
In typical fashion, “anonymous sources” were quoted. The reasons why the Russians would engage in this activity and why the Taliban who had essentially defeated the U.S. needed further incentives to fight the U.S. were marginal to the story. It was the headlines that was needed in order to evoke the emotional and psychological response that good propaganda has as its objective. Reason is a casualty when the objective is short-term confusion.
In this case, the objective was to evoke an outcry from the public, to be followed with legislation undermining Trump’s ability to withdraw U.S. personnel from the country and if possible to scuttle the process until after the election, if at all.
On cue, Democrat Congressman Jason Crow teamed up with Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney (daughter of the former vice president) to prohibit the president from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
And when Trump refused to take the bait and undermine his own peace process, Joe Biden accused Trump of “dereliction of duty” and “continuing his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.”
Afghan Deception is not only Harbinger of Things to Come Under Biden
On September 12th, despite the machinations of the Democrats and other state forces, the Taliban and Afghan government representatives met in Doha to enter the difficult discussions on how to finally bring a resolution to the U.S. war and occupation of their country.
Neoliberals accuse Trump of cynically calculating every decision based on his own needs while neoliberals only operate from a pristine moral position. According to CNN, the peace agreement “was signed in February — at all costs with the goal of helping Trump fulfill his long-stated campaign promise of removing American troops from Afghanistan.”
If Trump was only concerned about his reelection, and there is no doubt that was a major consideration for most of his decisions, how do we characterize the moves made by the corporate press in collusion with the Democrats and Biden campaign — an objective concern for the security of the U.S.?
Two months after the Russia bounty story, the Clinton News Network (CNN) floated another bounty story. This time it was the Iranians! And almost four months after the original bounty story, NBC news reported that no one has been able to verify the story.
But one story that can be reasonably argued is that for the people of the world subjected to U.S. state criminality, the reoccupation of the Executive Branch by the democrats will not bring any change in U.S. behavior. Both parties support the imperatives of U.S. imperialism reflected in Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy that centers an adversarial relationship with Russia and China and committed to maintaining U.S. global hegemony. Both parties supported the obscene increases in military spending, with Biden promising that he will spend even more!
The rightist character of the Democratic Party is such that at their national convention the alignment of right-wing neocons and neoliberals is not even being hidden.
So, while the fear is supposed to be around a further growth of “fascist” forces represented by Trump domestically, for the people of the world the real fascism of anti-democratic, brutal regimes supported by the U.S., murderous sanctions, starvation in Yemen, and right-wing coups in support of fascist forces in Honduras, Brazil and Venezuela will continue unabated.
This is precisely why from the perspective of oppressed nations and peoples’ in the global South, it should not be surprising that some might see progressive and radical support for either colonial/capitalist party as an immoral and counterrevolutionary position.
Issues of life and death are avoided by the corporate press which pretends the wars don't even exist -- except when they need to resell them all over again..
They can't be counted on -- even in a presidential election, to address the serious issues that the country should be discussing. Issues like war and the environment. Margaret Kimberley (BLACK AGENDA REPORT) tackles the latter in her latest:
In recent weeks a combination of drought and record breaking heat have accelerated wildfire season to historic levels of devastation. More than 4.6 million acres have burned in the states of California, Oregon and Washington. Skies are colored orange and red, the air is unbreathable, lives have been lost and entire towns have been destroyed.
The connection between heat waves, droughts, and human made climate change are clear and the solution is known to every school child. There must be a drastic reduction in the production of fossil fuels. A radical restructuring of society, especially an end to capitalist incentives for planetary destruction, is no longer optional. Every form of plant and animal life is in very grave danger.
It is easy to blame Donald Trump, who among other things famously withdrew from the 2015 Paris climate accords. Although it must be pointed out that the agreement is an honor system based declaration of intent and not a requirement to take action. Signatory nations chose goals for themselves while also allowing temperature increases that are deadly for people living in the global south. The agreement specifically states that industrialized nations don’t have to pay compensation for the damage they do to the rest of the world. Trump’s stunt gives the impression that Democrats are serious about fighting climate change but the facts prove otherwise.
“There must be an end to capitalist incentives for planetary destruction.”
Barack Obama recently took to twitter with photos of orange California skies and implored voters to act. “Protecting our planet is on the ballot. Vote like your life depends on it -- because it does.” He didn’t say who voters should support. One assumes he meant the Democrats, but they have turned their backs on their own timid, mealy mouthed proclamations of concern.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) removed language from its platform which called for ending government subsidies to fossil fuel companies. That betrayal was just as well, because the Democrats’ record on the environment is nothing like the image they project on social media. Obama was joined by California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom who used some of the same photos and offered the same platitudes with capital letters for extra emphasis. “Climate change is REAL. So please VOTE.”
“The Democrats’ record on the environment is nothing like the image they project on social media.”
Obama and Newsom are both liars. This is what Obama said in a March 22, 2012 speech .
“Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than
at any time in the last eight years. That's important to know. Over the
last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions
of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re
opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore.
We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve
added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then
Newsom is no better. Despite the social media rhetoric his administration continues to give fracking and other drilling permits. In fact, the state of California has given more fracking permits in the first six months of 2020 than it did in the same period the year before.
Neither of the two capitalist parties is in any position to stop the planet from heating up. That is because both do the bidding of the corporations causing the record breaking temperatures to occur. One party lies about the damage it is causing and promotes easily dismissed quackery to defend itself. As usual, the Democrats sneer and pretend to act differently when at every opportunity they do the very same things that are killing the planet.
Joe's empty campaign offers nothing. He's running on the claim "I'm not as bad as the other one." It's the strategy Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ran on last time. Donald ended up winning. He did that despite the fact that Hillary is in full control of her intellect. Joe's starting off with a disadvantage but he still thinks he can do better than Hillary?
Kevin Zeese recently passed away. At BLACK AGENDA REPORT today, Danny Haiphong remembers Kevin:
The pain of loss is immeasurable yet comrades across the globe have come to view it as an inevitable aspect of the fight for liberation. For the revolutionary, death is neither a secret nor a prophecy. The loss of life is as common as life itself for the oppressed and those who fight on the side of the oppressed. I didn't know Kevin Zeese as well as I would have liked beyond a podcast interview and the honor of sharing a room with him at anti-war conferences. However, what I do know is that his legacy is, and will continue to be, a profound contribution to the world we are trying to build.
One of my few encounters with Kevin was at the impromptu memorial held at the Left Forum for Black Agenda Report's managing editor Bruce Dixon in 2019. Bruce died just prior to the convening of that year’s annual event. Kevin and the rest of the heroic members of the Embassy Protection Collective were still in the midst of fighting federal charges for defending the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington D.C. from illegal seizure by the U.S.-backed coup regime.
Kevin's words for Bruce were filled with a love for the people that can only develop out of a deep experience in movement politics within the belly of the beast.
The following sites updated: