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Iran, Trump, and the neoliberal/neoconservative compact

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/01/2020 - 7:00am in

Bill Martin Preface for this moment: The aim of my series of articles that began in March 2016 is not journalism, but instead to try to understand something that is unfolding at a rapid pace. When I look at certain philosophers and political theorists who are able to give immediate responses to very current events, …

91% of Peer-Reviewed Papers Find Medicare for All Would Save Public Money, Cover Everyone

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/01/2020 - 7:29am in

91 percent of all peer-reviewed scientific articles find that a single payer healthcare system like Medicare for All would save the country money, according to a meta analysis released Wednesday.

The study, published in the influential open access journal PLOS Medicine, is a systematic review of 22 single payer plans from 18 studies, published between 1991 and 2018, including 8 national cases and 14 state-level plans. It found that 20 analyses (91 percent) predicted savings over a few years, and 19 (86 percent) projected there to be immediate overall savings in year one.

The team, headed by lead author Christopher Cai of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, concluded that: “In this systematic review, we found a high degree of analytic consensus for the fiscal feasibility of a single-payer approach in the US.”

The authors found that studies funded by organizations across the political spectrum agreed that there were huge savings to be made by switching to a single payer system; with a median estimate of a 3.5 percent reduction in total costs in the first year alone. One area where the studies predicted gigantic savings was in healthcare administration, with estimates varying from 1.2 to 16.4 percent of total costs (with a median of 8.8 percent). Many studies also highlighted a reduction in fraud and waste that could amount to as much as five percent of all healthcare costs being eliminated.

However, the areas where most progress could be made were in a simplified billing system and lower drug prices due to collective bargaining. The U.S. government is unique in blocking itself from negotiating drug prices, largely on account of the power of the pharmaceutical lobby. As a result, drugs such as insulin have tripled in price in the last decade, to the point where American-made insulin is over ten times as expensive in the U.S. as it is in Canada.

Another example of American price inflation is the HIV medication Truvada. The U.S. public footed the bill for the research and development of the drug, but the patent is owned by Gilead Sciences, who charge Americans around $1,700 a month for it, a gross profit of $28,000. In Australia, where the government negotiates the price, the same medication is sold for $8 per month. The drug effectively stops the transmission of HIV, but, because of the prohibitive cost, fewer than ten percent of the Americans who should be taking it currently are. The U.S. already buys Truvada from Gilead for around $6 per month and gives it to people in Sub-Saharan Africa. But it is banned by its own laws from doing the same for its own citizens. Last month MintPress reported that Gilead is accused of holding back the development of Truvada in order to maximize profits, causing an estimated 16,000 deaths.

It was not savings across the board, however. One potential increase in costs that the studies identified with a single payer system, such as the one proposed by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, was that “higher utilization” of medical facilities would be more expensive. Proponents of the plan are hardly likely to see more people using hospitals and health clinics as a negative, however.

Support for a healthcare system like the ones discussed in the academic literature has increased in recent years to the point where it is a top issue for many Americans. A September 2018 poll from Reuters found that nearly three-quarters of the country backed Medicare for All, including a majority of Republican voters. Even when costs are emphasized in questioning, over 50 percent of Americans continue to support the idea. Even a majority of physicians in the private healthcare industry back nationalization of the sector.

The number of completely uninsured Americans rose to 27.5 million in 2018, equivalent to 8.5 percent of the population. Even those with insurance must often still pay thousands in out of pocket expenses, copays and deductibles.

With regard to healthcare, the United States is an outlier in not having a socialized system. The U.S. spends between two to three times as much as other high-income nations, with the worst results among them. The crisis in the nation’s health has become an increasingly salient issue, with much of the Democratic presidential candidacy race revolving around the hopefuls’ position on health. An increasing number of people see Medicare for All as a silver bullet to the problem. This latest study adds weight to their claims; as the authors note: “There is near-consensus in these analyses that single-payer would reduce health expenditures while providing high-quality insurance to all US residents.”

Feature photo | Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduces the Medicare for All Act of 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 10, 2019. Manuel Balce Ceneta | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post 91% of Peer-Reviewed Papers Find Medicare for All Would Save Public Money, Cover Everyone appeared first on MintPress News.

How a Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives in Iraq

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/01/2020 - 3:45am in

Since the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month, the official narrative has held that their deaths were necessary to prevent a vague, yet allegedly imminent, threat of violence towards Americans, though President Trump has since claimed whether or not Soleimani or his Iraqi allies posed an imminent threat “doesn’t really matter.”

While the situation between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. appears to have de-escalated substantially, at least for now, it is worth revisiting the lead-up to the recent U.S.-Iraq/Iran tensions up to the Trump-mandated killing of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in order to understand one of the most overlooked yet relevant drivers behind Trump’s current policy with respect to Iraq: preventing China from expanding its foothold in the Middle East. Indeed, it has been alleged that even the timing of Soleimani’s assassination was directly related to his diplomatic role in Iraq and his push to help Iraq secure its oil independence, beginning with the implementation of a new massive oil deal with China.

While recent rhetoric in the media has dwelled on the extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq, China’s recent dealings with Iraq — particularly in its oil sector — are to blame for much of what has transpired in Iraq in recent months, at least according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who is currently serving in a caretaker role. 

Much of the U.S. pressure exerted on Iraq’s government with respect to China has reportedly taken place covertly and behind closed doors, keeping the Trump administration’s concerns over China’s growing ties to Iraq largely out of public view, perhaps over concerns that a public scuffle could exacerbate the U.S.-China “trade war” and endanger efforts to resolve it. Yet, whatever the reasons may be, evidence strongly suggests that the U.S. is equally concerned about China’s presence in Iraq as it is with Iran’s. This is because China has the means and the ability to dramatically undermine not only the U.S.’ control over Iraq’s oil sector but the entire petrodollar system on which the U.S.’ status as both a financial and military superpower directly depends.

 

Behind the curtain, a different narrative for Iraq-US Tensions

Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi gave a series of remarks on January 5, during a parliamentary session that received surprisingly little media attention. During the session, which also saw Iraq’s Parliament approve the removal of all foreign (including American) troops from the country, Abdul-Mahdi made a series of claims about the lead-up to the recent situation that placed Iraq at the heart of spiking U.S.-Iran tensions. 

During that session, only part of Abdul-Mahdi’s statements were broadcast on television, after the Iraqi Speaker of the House — Mohammed Al-Halbousi, who has a close relationship with Washington — requested the video feed be cut. Al-Halbousi oddly attended the parliamentary session even though it was boycotted by his allied Sunni and Kurdish representatives.

Mike Pompeo Halbousi

Secretary of State Pompeo, left, walks alongside Al-Halbousi in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 9, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | Reuters

After the feed was cut, MPs who were present wrote down Abdul-Mahdi’s remarks, which were then given to the Arabic news outlet Ida’at. Per that transcript, Abdul-Mahdi stated that:

The Americans are the ones who destroyed the country and wreaked havoc on it. They have refused to finish building the electrical system and infrastructure projects. They have bargained for the reconstruction of Iraq in exchange for Iraq giving up 50% of oil imports. So, I refused and decided to go to China and concluded an important and strategic agreement with it. Today, Trump is trying to cancel this important agreement.”

Abdul-Mahdi continued his remarks, noting that pressure from the Trump administration over his negotiations and subsequent dealings with China grew substantially over time, even resulting in death threats to himself and his defense minister:

After my return from China, Trump called me and asked me to cancel the agreement, so I also refused, and he threatened [that there would be] massive demonstrations to topple me. Indeed, the demonstrations started and then Trump called, threatening to escalate in the event of non-cooperation and responding to his wishes, whereby a third party [presumed to be mercenaries or U.S. soldiers] would target both the demonstrators and security forces and kill them from atop the highest buildings and the US embassy in an attempt to pressure me and submit to his wishes and cancel the China agreement.” 

“I did not respond and submitted my resignation and the Americans still insist to this day on canceling the China agreement. When the defense minister said that those killing the demonstrators was a third party, Trump called me immediately and physically threatened myself and the defense minister in the event that there was more talk about this third party.”

Very few English language outlets reported on Abdul-Mahdi’s comments. Tom Luongo, a Florida-based Independent Analyst and publisher of The Gold Goats ‘n Guns Newsletter, told MintPress that the likely reasons for the “surprising” media silence over Abdul-Mahdi’s claims were because “It never really made it out into official channels…” due to the cutting of the video feed during Iraq’s Parliamentary session and due to the fact that “it’s very inconvenient and the media — since Trump is doing what they want him to do, be belligerent with Iran, protected Israel’s interests there.” 

“They aren’t going to contradict him on that if he’s playing ball,” Luongo added, before continuing that the media would nonetheless “hold onto it for future reference….If this comes out for real, they’ll use it against him later if he tries to leave Iraq.” “Everything in Washington is used as leverage,” he added.

Given the lack of media coverage and the cutting of the video feed of Abdul-Mahdi’s full remarks, it is worth pointing out that the narrative he laid out in his censored speech not only fits with the timeline of recent events he discusses but also the tactics known to have been employed behind closed doors by the Trump administration, particularly after Mike Pompeo left the CIA to become Secretary of State.

For instance, Abdul-Mahdi’s delegation to China ended on September 24, with the protests against his government that Trump reportedly threatened to start on October 1. Reports of a “third side” firing on Iraqi protesters were picked up by major media outlets at the time, such as in this BBC report which stated:

Reports say the security forces opened fire, but another account says unknown gunmen were responsible….a source in Karbala told the BBC that one of the dead was a guard at a nearby Shia shrine who happened to be passing by. The source also said the origin of the gunfire was unknown and it had targeted both the protesters and security forces. (emphasis added)”

U.S.-backed protests in other countries, such as in Ukraine in 2014, also saw evidence of a “third side” shooting both protesters and security forces alike.

After six weeks of intense protests, Abdul-Mahdi submitted his resignation on November 29, just a few days after Iraq’s Foreign Minister praised the new deals, including the “oil for reconstruction” deal, that had been signed with China. Abdul-Mahdi has since stayed on as Prime Minister in a caretaker role until Parliament decides on his replacement.

Abdul-Mahdi’s claims of the covert pressure by the Trump administration are buttressed by the use of similar tactics against Ecuador, where, in July 2018, a U.S. delegation at the United Nations threatened the nation with punitive trade measures and the withdrawal of military aid if Ecuador moved forward with the introduction of  a UN resolution to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding.” 

The New York Times reported at the time that the U.S. delegation was seeking to promote the interests of infant formula manufacturers. If the U.S. delegation is willing to use such pressure on nations for promoting breastfeeding over infant formula, it goes without saying that such behind-closed-doors pressure would be significantly more intense if a much more lucrative resource, e.g. oil, were involved.

Regarding Abdul-Mahdi’s claims, Luongo told MintPress that it is also worth considering that it could have been anyone in the Trump administration making threats to Abdul-Mahdi, not necessarily Trump himself. “What I won’t say directly is that I don’t know it was Trump at the other end of the phone calls. Mahdi, it is to his best advantage politically to blame everything on Trump. It could have been Mike Pompeo or Gina Haspel talking to Abdul-Mahdi… It could have been anyone, it most likely would be someone with plausible deniability….This [Mahdi’s claims] sounds credible… I firmly believe Trump is capable of making these threats but I don’t think Trump would make those threats directly like that, but it would absolutely be consistent with U.S. policy.”

Luongo also argued that the current tensions between U.S. and Iraqi leadership preceded the oil deal between Iraq and China by several weeks, “All of this starts with Prime Minister Mahdi starting the process of opening up the Iraq-Syria border crossing and that was announced in August. Then, the Israeli air attacks happened in September to try and stop that from happening, attacks on PMU forces on the border crossing along with the ammo dump attacks near Baghdad… This drew the Iraqis’ ire… Mahdi then tried to close the air space over Iraq, but how much of that he can enforce is a big question.”

As to why it would be to Mahdi’s advantage to blame Trump, Luongo stated that Mahdi “can make edicts all day long, but, in reality, how much can he actually restrain the U.S. or the Israelis from doing anything? Except for shame, diplomatic shame… To me, it [Mahdi’s claims] seems perfectly credible because, during all of this, Trump is probably or someone else is shaking him [Mahdi] down for the reconstruction of the oil fields [in Iraq]…Trump has explicitly stated “we want the oil.”’

As Luongo noted, Trump’s interest in the U.S. obtaining a significant share of Iraqi oil revenue is hardly a secret. Just last March, Trump asked Abdul-Mahdi “How about the oil?” at the end of a meeting at the White House, prompting Abdul-Mahdi to ask “What do you mean?” To which Trump responded “Well, we did a lot, we did a lot over there, we spent trillions over there, and a lot of people have been talking about the oil,” which was widely interpreted as Trump asking for part of Iraq’s oil revenue in exchange for the steep costs of the U.S.’ continuing its now unwelcome military presence in Iraq. 

With Abdul-Mahdi having rejected Trump’s “oil for reconstruction” proposal in favor of China’s, it seems likely that the Trump administration would default to so-called “gangster diplomacy” tactics to pressure Iraq’s government into accepting Trump’s deal, especially given the fact that China’s deal was a much better offer. While Trump demanded half of Iraq’s oil revenue in exchange for completing reconstruction projects (according to Abdul-Mahdi), the deal that was signed between Iraq and China would see around 20 percent of Iraq’s oil revenue go to China in exchange for reconstruction. Aside from the potential loss in Iraq’s oil revenue, there are many reasons for the Trump administration to feel threatened by China’s recent dealings in Iraq.

 

The Iraq-China oil deal – a prelude to something more?

When Abdul-Mahdi’s delegation traveled to Beijing last September, the “oil for reconstruction” deal was only one of eight total agreements that were established. These agreements cover a range of areas, including financial, commercial, security, reconstruction, communication, culture, education and foreign affairs in addition to oil. Yet, the oil deal is by far the most significant.

Per the agreement, Chinese firms will work on various reconstruction projects in exchange for roughly 20 percent of Iraq’s oil exports, approximately 100,00 barrels per day, for a period of 20 years. According to Al-Monitor, Abdul-Mahdi had the following to say about the deal: “We agreed [with Beijing] to set up a joint investment fund, which the oil money will finance,” adding that the agreement prohibits China from monopolizing projects inside Iraq, forcing Bejing to work in cooperation with international firms. 

The agreement is similar to one negotiated between Iraq and China in 2015 when Abdul-Mahdi was serving as Iraq’s oil minister. That year, Iraq joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in a deal that also involved exchanging oil for investment, development and construction projects and saw China awarded several projects as a result. In a notable similarity to recent events, that deal was put on hold due to “political and security tensions” caused by unrest and the surge of ISIS in Iraq, that is until Abdul-Mahdi saw Iraq rejoin the initiative again late last year through the agreements his government signed with China last September.


Chinese President Xi Jinping, center left, meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, center right, in Beijing, Sept. 23, 2019. Lintao Zhang | AP

Notably, after recent tensions between the U.S. and Iraq over the assassination of Soleimani and the U.S.’ subsequent refusal to remove its troops from Iraq despite parliament’s demands, Iraq quietly announced that it would dramatically increase its oil exports to China to triple the amount established in the deal signed in September. Given Abdul-Mahdi’s recent claims about the true forces behind Iraq’s recent protests and Trump’s threats against him being directly related to his dealings with China, the move appears to be a not-so-veiled signal from Abdul-Mahdi to Washington that he plans to deepen Iraq’s partnership with China, at least for as long as he remains in his caretaker role.

Iraq’s decision to dramatically increase its oil exports to China came just one day after the U.S. government threatened to cut off Iraq’s access to its central bank account, currently held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, an account that currently holds $35 billion in Iraqi oil revenue. The account was set up after the U.S. invaded and began occupying Iraq in 2003 and Iraq currently removes between $1-2 billion per month to cover essential government expenses. Losing access to its oil revenue stored in that account would lead to the “collapse” of Iraq’s government, according to Iraqi government officials who spoke to AFP.

Though Trump publicly promised to rebuke Iraq for the expulsion of U.S. troops via sanctions, the threat to cut off Iraq’s access to its account at the NY Federal Reserve Bank was delivered privately and directly to the Prime Minister, adding further credibility to Abdul-Mahdi’s claims that Trump’s most aggressive attempts at pressuring Iraq’s government are made in private and directed towards the country’s Prime Minister.

Though Trump’s push this time was about preventing the expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq, his reasons for doing so may also be related to concerns about China’s growing foothold in the region. Indeed, while Trump has now lost his desired share of Iraqi oil revenue (50 percent) to China’s counteroffer of 20 percent, the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq may see American troops replaced with their Chinese counterparts as well, according to Tom Luongo.

“All of this is about the U.S. maintaining the fiction that it needs to stay in Iraq…So, China moving in there is the moment where they get their toe hold for the Belt and Road [Initiative],” Luongo argued. “That helps to strengthen the economic relationship between Iraq, Iran and China and obviating the need for the Americans to stay there. At some point, China will have assets on the ground that they are going to want to defend militarily in the event of any major crisis. This brings us to the next thing we know, that Mahdi and the Chinese ambassador discussed that very thing in the wake of the Soleimani killing.” 

Indeed, according to news reports, Zhang Yao — China’s ambassador to Iraq — “conveyed Beijing’s readiness to provide military assistance” should Iraq’s government request it soon after Soleimani’s assassination. Yao made the offer a day after Iraq’s parliament voted to expel American troops from the country. Though it is currently unknown how Abdul-Mahdi responded to the offer, the timing likely caused no shortage of concern among the Trump administration about its rapidly waning influence in Iraq. “You can see what’s coming here,” Luongo told MintPress of the recent Chinese offer to Iraq, “China, Russia and Iran are trying to cleave Iraq away from the United States and the U.S. is feeling very threatened by this.” 

Russia is also playing a role in the current scenario as Iraq initiated talks with Moscow regarding the possible purchase of one of its air defense systems last September, the same month that Iraq signed eight deals, including the oil deal with China. Then, in the wake of Soleimani’s death, Russia again offered the air defense systems to Iraq to allow them to better defend their air space. In the past, the U.S. has threatened allied countries with sanctions and other measures if they purchase Russian air defense systems as opposed to those manufactured by U.S. companies.

The U.S.’ efforts to curb China’s growing influence and presence in Iraq amid these new strategic partnerships and agreements are limited, however, as the U.S. is increasingly relying on China as part of its Iran policy, specifically in its goal of reducing Iranian oil export to zero. China remains Iran’s main crude oil and condensate importer, even after it reduced its imports of Iranian oil significantly following U.S. pressure last year. Yet, the U.S. is now attempting to pressure China to stop buying Iranian oil completely or face sanctions while also attempting to privately sabotage the China-Iraq oil deal. It is highly unlikely China will concede to the U.S. on both, if any, of those fronts, meaning the U.S. may be forced to choose which policy front (Iran “containment” vs. Iraq’s oil dealings with China) it values more in the coming weeks and months.

Furthermore, the recent signing of the “phase one” trade deal with China revealed another potential facet of the U.S.’ increasingly complicated relationship with Iraq’s oil sector given that the trade deal involves selling U.S. oil and gas to China at very low cost, suggesting that the Trump administration may also see the Iraq-China oil deal result in Iraq emerging as a potential competitor for the U.S. in selling cheap oil to China, the world’s top oil importer.

 

The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan

In his televised statements last week following Iran’s military response to the U.S. assassination of General Soleimani, Trump insisted that the U.S.’ Middle East policy is no longer being directed by America’s vast oil requirements. He stated specifically that:

Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence. These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible. And options in the Middle East became available. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil. (emphasis added)”

Yet, given the centrality of the recent Iraq-China oil deal in guiding some of the Trump administration’s recent Middle East policy moves, this appears not to be the case. The distinction may lie in the fact that, while the U.S. may now be less dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, it still very much needs to continue to dominate how oil is traded and sold on international markets in order to maintain its status as both a global military and financial superpower.

Indeed, even if the U.S. is importing less Middle Eastern oil, the petrodollar system — first forged in the 1970s — requires that the U.S. maintains enough control over the global oil trade so that the world’s largest oil exporters, Iraq among them, continue to sell their oil in dollars. Were Iraq to sell oil in another currency, or trade oil for services, as it plans to do with China per the recently inked deal, a significant portion of Iraqi oil would cease to generate a demand for dollars, violating the key tenet of the petrodollar system.

US China Iraq oil

Chinese representatives speak to defense personnel during a weapons expo organized by the Iraqi defense ministry in Baghdad, March, 2017. Karim Kadim | AP

As Kei Pritsker and Cale Holmes noted in an article last year for MintPress

The takeaway from the petrodollar phenomenon is that as long as countries need oil, they will need the dollar. As long as countries demand dollars, the U.S. can continue to go into massive amounts of debt to fund its network of global military bases, Wall Street bailouts, nuclear missiles, and tax cuts for the rich.”

Thus, the use of the petrodollar has created a system whereby U.S. control of oil sales of the largest oil exporters is necessary, not just to buttress the dollar, but also to support its global military presence. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the issue of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq and the issue of Iraq’s push for oil independence against U.S. wishes have become intertwined. Notably, one of the architects of the petrodollar system and the man who infamously described U.S. soldiers as “dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy”, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, has been advising Trump and informing his China policy since 2016.

This take was also expressed by economist Michael Hudson, who recently noted that U.S. access to oil, dollarization and U.S. military strategy are intricately interwoven and that Trump’s recent Iraq policy is intended “to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control of the region’s oil reserves,” and, as Hudson says, “to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (ISIS, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control of Near Eastern oil as a buttress of the U.S. dollar.”

Hudson further asserts that it was Qassem Soleimani’s efforts to promote Iraq’s oil independence at the expense of U.S. imperial ambitions that served one of the key motives behind his assassination. 

America opposed General Suleimani above all because he was fighting against ISIS and other U.S.-backed terrorists in their attempt to break up Syria and replace Assad’s regime with a set of U.S.-compliant local leaders – the old British “divide and conquer” ploy. On occasion, Suleimani had cooperated with U.S. troops in fighting ISIS groups that got “out of line” meaning the U.S. party line. But every indication is that he was in Iraq to work with that government seeking to regain control of the oil fields that President Trump has bragged so loudly about grabbing. (emphasis added)”

Hudson adds that “…U.S. neocons feared Suleimani’s plan to help Iraq assert control of its oil and withstand the terrorist attacks supported by U.S. and Saudi’s on Iraq. That is what made his assassination an immediate drive.”

While other factors — such as pressure from U.S. allies such as Israel — also played a factor in the decision to kill Soleimani, the decision to assassinate him on Iraqi soil just hours before he was set to meet with Abdul-Mahdi in a diplomatic role suggests that the underlying tensions caused by Iraq’s push for oil independence and its oil deal with China did play a factor in the timing of his assassination. It also served as a threat to Abdul-Mahdi, who has claimed that the U.S. threatened to kill both him and his defense minister just weeks prior over tensions directly related to the push for independence of Iraq’s oil sector from the U.S. 

It appears that the ever-present role of the petrodollar in guiding U.S. policy in the Middle East remains unchanged. The petrodollar has long been a driving factor behind the U.S.’ policy towards Iraq specifically, as one of the key triggers for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s decision to sell Iraqi oil in Euros opposed to dollars beginning in the year 2000. Just weeks before the invasion began, Hussein boasted that Iraq’s Euro-based oil revenue account was earning a higher interest rate than it would have been if it had continued to sell its oil in dollars, an apparent signal to other oil exporters that the petrodollar system was only really benefiting the United States at their own expense.

Beyond current efforts to stave off Iraq’s oil independence and keep its oil trade aligned with the U.S., the fact that the U.S. is now seeking to limit China’s ever-growing role in Iraq’s oil sector is also directly related to China’s publicly known efforts to create its own direct competitor to the petrodollar, the petroyuan.

Since 2017, China has made its plans for the petroyuan — a direct competitor to the petrodollar — no secret, particularly after China eclipsed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil. As CNBC noted at the time:

The new strategy is to enlist the energy markets’ help: Beijing may introduce a new way to price oil in coming months — but unlike the contracts based on the U.S. dollar that currently dominate global markets, this benchmark would use China’s own currency. If there’s widespread adoption, as the Chinese hope, then that will mark a step toward challenging the greenback’s status as the world’s most powerful currency….The plan is to price oil in yuan using a gold-backed futures contract in Shanghai, but the road will be long and arduous.”

If the U.S. continues on its current path and pushes Iraq further into the arms of China and other U.S. rival states, it goes without saying that Iraq — now a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — may soon favor a petroyuan system over a petrodollar system, particularly as the current U.S. administration threatens to hold Iraq’s central bank account hostage for pursuing policies Washington finds unfavorable.

It could also explain why President Trump is so concerned about China’s growing foothold in Iraq, since it risks causing not only the end of the U.S. military hegemony in the country but could also lead to major trouble for the petrodollar system and the U.S.’ position as a global financial power. Trump’s policy aimed at stopping China and Iraq’s growing ties is clearly having the opposite effect, showing that this administration’s “gangster diplomacy” only serves to make the alternatives offered by countries like China and Russia all the more attractive.

Feature photo | Graphic by Claudio Cabrera for MintPress News

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

The post How a Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives in Iraq appeared first on MintPress News.

US Military Spending: TRILLIONS of Dollars Unaccounted For

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/01/2020 - 3:00am in

Eric Zuesse This article from 21 July 2017 is here updated and expanded to the present; and the dead links in it have been replaced by functional (this time, archived — and thus more permanent) links Before documenting that many trillions of dollars in US Government military spending are unaccounted-for, and that by far the …

During Yemen’s Annual Martyr Week, Anti-American Sentiment Prevails

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 8:23am in

SANA’A, SADAA, YEMEN — As the ongoing war and blockade against their country enters its sixth year, Yemenis are commemorating the annual Martyr Week amid an increasing feeling of hatred and resentment towards the United States, a feeling never seen at this level in the war-torn country.

In Yemen, a country far from the prosperous and bustling United States, the size of cemeteries has increased dramatically in the past five years, with new burial sites springing up to house victims of the weapons supplied by western countries, particularly by the United States, as well as the blockade, hunger, and disease that have accompanied them.

Ebtisam al-Harazi is just four-years-old, but as she stands atop her father’s grave amid a meadow of martyrs’ shrines, she knows who sleeps in the soil beneath her and the type of weapon that killed her father. “This my dad,” she says, as she kisses a colorful portrait of her father perched upon a coffin-shaped mound beyond a low stone wall.

Ebtisam’s father was killed by a Saudi warplane that delivered a U.S.-made bomb to the al-Sultan zone in the Old City of Yemen’s capital Sana’a in July of 2015. The attack killed and injured dozens of residents and caused tremendous damage to the city, built long before the United States even existed as a nation.

Fatemah, Ebtisam’s widowed mother, packed flowers to place at her husband’s memorial site, “It is the martyr’s anniversary. We come here to share old times with our loved ones,” she told MintPress. Their visit to the memorial has become a tradition since 2015 when the war against their home began.

This particular memorial sits in 50th district, in the middle of Sana’a, and is the resting place of more than 1,000 men, women, and children killed by the Saudi-led coalition along with countless bodies of fighters killed in clashes against coalition forces. The shrines are ensconced with ornamental flowers and small trees planted by visitors who have come to honor the deceased.

The annual feast of the Martyr Week, an important occasion marking the beginning of December, kicked off in Yemen last Wednesday. It has become, for Fatimah and other Yemenis, a somber occasion amid a suffocating blockade, the threat of epidemics, rubble, tears, and the fear of the may lie ahead.

For eight consecutive days, residents in northern Yemen commemorate those that have been killed by the Saudi-led coalition. Program include held exhibitions, public festivals, and meetings where victim’s families discuss how they cope with the war.

To keep the history of the martyrs alive, officials visit the families of victims to show sympathy. Food and gifts are distributed in abundance to orphans and widows and groups of officials visit graveyards housing victims of the war.  There are more than 480 such graveyards spread over several regions in Yemen according to Martyr’s Foundation in Sana’a.

At least 450 exhibitions have been opened in the country. Public streets, city walls, schools, and government buildings in all districts are flooded with millions of flyers and posters bearing the images of civilians and fighters alike that have fallen in the war. Faces stare down from billboards on every highway, and the radios play Zawamil — patriotic battle hymns — day and night. While national TV broadcasts songs that glorify their sacrifices and threaten revenge.

“The exhibition shows something terrible but inspiring. Through the exhibition, people will understand how cruel the Saudi-led Coalition war supported by the U.S. is, and they will also know how brave and strong Yemenis are,” 70-year-old Ali told MintPress as he sought out his son’s photo to show to a group of visitors. The photo of his son was in the midst of crowded collage of pictures hanging on the wall of the al-Janoub Martyrs exhibition in the 70th district south of Sana’a.

Yemen Martyr week

A Yemeni man pours water on the grave of his relative killed in Yemen’s ongoing conflict, during “martyr week” at a cemetery in Sanaa. Hani Mohammed | AP

In Sadaa, which lies in Yemen’s north near the Saudi border, dozens of exhibitions and memorials symbolize society’s deep gratitude towards the country’s war heroes and martyrs. The ancient city, among the world’s oldest human-carved landscapes, has been devastated since Saudi Arabia declared it a military zone. Inside the city’s exhibition, visitors flow in an organized way to see more than 11,0000 photos of the fighters, women and children who lost their lives in the war

In the exhibition hall, videos show rescuers recovering children from rubble, massive scenes of destruction, martyrs reading their commandments and asking survivors to remain steadfast against Saudi Arabia, and a svelte, meek-looking man stepping up to a lectern in Washington. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia launched military operations in Yemen,” he says. The man in the video was none other than Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The clip showed the first time Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen was officially announced, just hours after the first bombs were dropped on the city.

For most Yemenis, the Saudis’ choice of Washington as the place to announce the war had meaning. They saw it as a deliberate signaling of complicity between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Al-Jubeir emphasized in his speech that the Kingdom had consulted very closely and very intensely with the United States before launching its war.

In Dahyan, a city in the far northwestern stretches of Yemen, where a U.S. laser-guided bomb dropped by a Saudi Arabia struck a school bus on August 9, 2018, a large crater is still visible near a fruit-and-vegetable stand in the suq. A brick wall a few yards from the scene features  large hand-painted letters in both English and Arabic that proclaim, “America Kills Yemeni Children.”

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Yemen just since January 2016 according to a new report by the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project (ACLED), however, the number is likely to be closer to one million if deaths from epidemics, diseases, hunger and from fighters who have been killed from both the resistance and local mercenaries are taken into account.

 

“We hate nothing more”

Ebtisam’s father, who spoke English fluently with American accent, was a tour guide until 2014, he had a shop near Bab al-Yaman (The Gate of Yemen) in the Old City of Sana’a which sold the famed Yemeni agates, a metamorphosed and hardened version of quartz that has been renowned as a gemstone in southern Arabia since ancient times. In 2015, the shop was closed due to a series of attacks that hit the ancient city over with over 30 airstrikes.

According to his family, he was a jovial man with many friends from the United States and Britain. In the sitting room of their small home, three charming photos once hung on the wall. The photos showed Ebtisam’s father posing with his American friends. After he was killed, the family replaced the photos with portraits of the man they lost and banner adorned with the now-infamous slogan, “Death to America.”

“That was before the war. Yes, we had liked the United States, but now, there is nothing we hate more than this country,” said Fatimah. Regrettably, this is the prevailing mood in the north of Yemen. Most of the area’s residents are keen to express feelings of hatred towards the leaders of the United States. Phrases deriding the U.S. adorn everything; photos of victims, walls, clothes, coffee shops, car showrooms, and even shopping malls.

Yemen anti-American

Yemenis stand on a representation of the U.S flag during a protest against the U.S. assassination of Qassem Soleimani, in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

Before the war began, the Yemeni community, especially in northern Yemen, was friendly and most people had favorable attitudes towards Americans. American tourists, businessmen and diplomats were a regular fixture in Yemen. In Sana’a, local residents warmly welcomed American visitors to their salons by pouring a glass of single-malt scotch or sharing food and fun times. But now, Sana’a is embracing “Death to America” as their slogan, scrawled as graffiti on the capital’s walls. Thanks, in large part, to U.S. policy in Yemen. 

Everything has changed as the hate against foreigners, particularly the leaders in the United States, has rapidly increased throughout Yemen because of western involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war or from the death of innocents killed by drones under the pretext of targeting al-Qaeda. Policies that predate the Trump administration.

Although Yemen has long suffered from instability, warring tribal factions and a long-standing al-Qaeda presence, foreigners including Americans, were welcomed in the country without restrictions on their movements. Now, they are seen with suspicion and are treated with caution for fear that they may be spies. Even aid workers are not immune.

“The slogan Death to America, as we see it, is not against the people of the United States but against the U.S.’ policies in our district,” a Houthi leader said as he gave a speech in front of a large audience at a Martyr Week exhibition. Most Yemenis differentiate between the Americans who support Saudi Arabia and those who reject the war. But to angry families who have lost loved ones in Saudi-coalition attacks, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate.

The United States claims that it does not make targeting decisions for the Saudi Coalition. But it does support Coalition operations through training, arms sales, the refueling of Saudi combat aircraft, and the sharing of intelligence. Those arms sales include precision-guided missiles as well as precision guidance parts used on the warplanes blamed for civilians casualties in the Saudi-UAE’s military campaign in Yemen. 

Furthermore, as a result of the U.S. involvement in the war and the economic blockade against their country, Yemenis have been forced to reinforce their relationship with Iran, one of the only countries that has been consistently outspoken in its opposition to the war. Now, at the annual feasts of Martyr Week, photos of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were assassinated in a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad International Airport on in a January 3, are proudly displayed.

Ten of thousands of Yemenis staged a symbolic funeral ceremony in the country’s cities including in Hodeida, Sana’a and Sadaa to commemorate Soleimani and Muhandis, chanting that their blood is neither is Iranian or Iraqi, but rather belongs to all freedom-loving nations targeted by the United States.

Feature photo | A Yemeni man offers prayers at the grave of his relatives who were killed during Yemen’s ongoing conflict, during “martyr’s week” at a cemetery in Sana’a, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post During Yemen’s Annual Martyr Week, Anti-American Sentiment Prevails appeared first on MintPress News.

World War III

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 2:00am in

CJ Hopkins So, 2020 is off to an exciting start. It’s barely the middle of January, and we’ve already made it through World War III, which was slightly less apocalyptic than expected. Forensic teams are still sifting through the ashes, but preliminary reports suggest that the global capitalist empire has emerged from the carnage largely …

Is the US Now at War Against Iraq AND Iran?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/01/2020 - 3:00pm in

Eric Zuesse On January 9th, Iraq’s Prime Minister and Parliament again ordered all American troops out, but on January 10th the AP headlined “US dismisses Iraq request to work on a troop withdrawal plan” and reported that the U.S. State Department “bluntly rejected the request, saying the two sides should instead talk about how to …

What About “Whataboutism.”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/01/2020 - 3:07am in

Vladimir Golstein Wikipedia – the most popular source of information for most people – boldly announces: “Whataboutism, also known as whataboutery, is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument. It is particularly associated with Soviet …

Lee Camp: The War in Afghanistan Is a Fraud (and Now We Have Proof)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/01/2020 - 4:37am in

Bombs have numbers. Humans have names. Our American military boasts a skill and passion for using numbers to turn names into yet more numbers. But these numbers have grown so gargantuan and out of control that one struggles to comprehend them.

In just 10 months in 2018—the latest numbers made available—our military dropped 5,982 munitions on Afghanistan, turning many thinking, living and loving names into cold, lifeless numbers. Over the span of the war, 43,000 Afghan civilians have been numberized. We, as Americans, essentially never even notice when it happens. Statistically speaking, it will happen again many times today, and no one in America will really care. (At least not while the game is on.)

64,000 Afghan security forces have been numberized since 2001.

Our government has known for years that the war in Afghanistan is a jaw-dropping disaster on the level of “Cats”: the movie. How do we know they knew? The Washington Post actually just published some impressive reporting, taking a step back from its lust for pro-war propaganda. (The last time it achieved such a feat was during the O.J. Simpson trial. The first one. The one with the glove.) The Post unearthed a trove of thousands of internal government documents that expose the catastrophic war. And it turns out there are Tinder dates between a young neo-Nazi and an old Jewish lady that have gone better than this war.

[The document trove] reveals that senior US officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable,” the paper reported.

Let me translate The Washington Post’s fancy-pants language: U.S. officials didn’t “fail to tell the truth”; they fucking lied. The phrase “failed to tell the truth” oozes around the brain’s neural pathways, strategically dodging the anger receptors. “Failed to tell the truth” sounds like veracity is a slippery fish U.S. officials just couldn’t catch.

424 humanitarian aid workers have been numberized.

Let’s take a moment to consider the motivations and goals of the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. ostensibly invaded the country to stop al-Qaida from attacking us in any way, namely by flying large planes into our buildings. We achieved this goal within the first couple months. With al-Qaida essentially decimated, it seems logical that we should have left the country, reserving the right to return if any other big passenger airplanes came after us.

But we didn’t leave. We never leave. Rule No. 1 of the American empire is “Never Truly Leave a Country After Invading.” In order to explain our continued presence, we had to move the goal post. To what? We weren’t sure. We’re still not sure. Nearly 20 years later, if you ask a U.S. general or president (any of them) what the goal is in Afghanistan, they’ll feed you a word salad so large it’ll keep you regular for months. In fact, we now know that even during some of the earliest years of the war, the Pentagon and the Bush administration didn’t know who the bad guys were. (Right now you’re thinking it’s rather juvenile and uninformed of me to refer to enemy forces as “bad guys,” but, as you’ll see in a moment, our government literally spoke about them in those terms. Side note: This is because murderous rampages by war criminals are always juvenile. Murder, by definition, is unevolved.)

According to the Post’s Afghanistan Papers, an unnamed former adviser to an Army Special Forces team said, “They thought I was going to come to them with a map to show them where the good guys and bad guys live. It took several conversations—[a]t first, they just kept asking: ‘But who are the bad guys, where are they?’ 

Yet we Americans were instructed in the early years that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had everything under control. To imply otherwise was to make a mockery of tens of millions of yellow ribbons. But in reality, Rumsfeld, too, had a sizable bad-guy problem.

I have no visibility into who the bad guys are,” he said behind closed, locked, soundproof doors. Meanwhile, Rumsfeld publicly and boldly led the nation in a well-defined and decisive victory in the land of the Afghans.

In 2003, he said, during a press conference alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai, “General Franks and I … have concluded that we’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction and activities.”

Yep, no more major combat—just 17 years of reconstruction (and activities). Apparently, most U.S.-backed “reconstruction” is done from the air, via bombs. Let that be a lesson to you, rest of the world: You better not screw with us or we’ll reconstruct you and your whole family!

67 journalists have been reconstructed during the war in Afghanistan.

Is two decades too long for an utter, unmitigated disaster? Maybe we can stretch it to three? We’ve been funding warlords and extremist jihadis and hoping they will play nice. Yet American presidents have continually told us we’re making progress. “Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as Afghanistan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015, ‘What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.’ 

I imagine that quote particularly upsets many Americans, because if there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s having a foggy idea of what we’re doing.

Vietnam: foggy idea.

Iraq: very strong foggy idea.

Libya: one hell of a foggy idea.

Unfettered capitalism: the foggiest idea.

To put it simply, we are the best at bad ideas. But these Afghanistan Papers unveil a pretty terrible picture. One we need to confront as a nation and not just sweep under the rug (and not just because the rug would have to be the size of the Pacific Rim).

Upon hearing these revelations, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer did his best impersonation of someone who gives a shit. He said:

A bombshell series of investigative reports from The Washington Post exposing heartbreaking truths about the U.S. war in Afghanistan, which has claimed some 2,400 U.S. lives and cost nearly a trillion dollars. The Post says … officials routinely lied to the American people about the war. … This is truly a bombshell.

Yes, it’s a bombshell—despite the fact that much of the information in the Afghanistan Papers has been known for a decade or more. Back in 2012, I myself was doing poorly written standup comedy bits about how our government funded both sides of the war in Afghanistan. This goes to show that the mainstream media has two priorities—one is to spout the U.S. government’s talking points, and the other is to distract us all from the whitewashing of history.

They help Americans believe that we just found out about the failures in Afghanistan; that we just started McCarthyism, and it didn’t happen before in the 1950s to horrific consequences; that we just now discovered the breathtaking environmental consequences of factory farming. (I’m kidding—corporate media will never report on that. You could have a CNN anchor tied up in a sack in Gitmo, and he would still refuse to admit factory animal farming is killing the planet at an aggressive pace.)

But Blitzer wasn’t content pretending to be shocked that the Afghanistan War isn’t going well, so he put his acting chops to the test by further postulating that there also might be flaws with the war in Iraq. He said, “I can only imagine and brace for a similar report about the long U.S. war in Iraq as well. I suspect that could be some horrifying news as far as that is concerned also.”

That’s right: As of last month, Blitzer thinks there might be some problems with the war(s) in Iraq. (Blitzer strikes me as the type of guy who wouldn’t notice if you stole his pants off him in negative-10-degree weather.) Yes, Wolf, not only has there been similar mismanagement and mass war crimes committed in our invasion of Iraq, but you, in fact, helped manufacture consent for that war as well. You are complicit in the deaths of millions of people who will never come back from numberization.

Throughout the past 20 years, the mainstream media reiterated the lies told by our various presidents. They beat those lies into our heads with impressive frequency. Lies like those told by President Obama, when, in 2012, he said on national television: “Over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. … Our troops will be coming home. … As our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty thrilled for the war to be over in 2014—whenever 2014 may come.

3,800 contractors have died in Afghanistan for these lies.

The Afghanistan Papers show that not only has the 20-year war been wasteful of human life, it’s also been wasteful of money. Of course, this is the point when you think, “The military— wasteful?! Well, paint my nipples and call me Phyllis Diller; that’s the damnedest thing I ever did hear!”

Yes, this is hardly shocking, since $21 trillion has gone unaccounted for at the Pentagon over the past 20 years. That’s two-thirds of the amount of money wrapped up in the entire stock market. Money has been flowing into Afghanistan so fast that officials aren’t even able to waste it quick enough! (I wish that were a joke.)

From the Post’s report, again: “One executive at USAID guessed that 90 percent of what they spent was overkill: ‘We lost objectivity. We were given money, told to spend it and we did, without reason.’ … One contractor said he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a US county.”

The contractor said he couldn’t conceive of how to spend $3 million a day for people literally living in mud huts. Well, I guess USAID should start handing out furniture built out of blocks of shrink-wrapped hundred-dollar notes. Maybe fill bean bag chairs with small bills. (If you aren’t yet outraged enough, please keep in mind that, according to The New York Times, adjusting for today’s dollars, it would take less than eight days of the Pentagon’s stated budget to give the entire world clean water for a year, thereby saving millions of lives and turning the U.S. into the most beloved nation on earth.)

But rather than accept our own corruption and war profiteering, our military placed the blame squarely on the Afghan people. Per The Washington Post, “The U.S. military also accused Afghan commanders of pocketing salaries—paid by U.S. taxpayers—for tens of thousands of ‘ghost soldiers.’ 

Although ghost soldiers sound like an incredible and tough-to-defeat resource, I think they meant the Afghan commanders claimed they had a certain number of soldiers, but most weren’t real. So America can’t fund the health care of our own goddamn real soldiers who get home and wait in line for months to secure any semblance of care, but we can fund ghost soldiers half a world away?!

Donald Trump just cut food stamps to 700,000 people, impacting more than a million children, but we’re funding fucking ghosts? Maybe we could start a campaign asking the ghost soldiers to donate some of their supper to the starving kids of America.

Ghosts seem to be an ongoing difficulty for the U.S. In the same issue of The Washington Post containing the Afghanistan Papers, there was an unrelated article titled, “The U.S. Wasted Millions on Charter Schools” that said, “A report found that [during the Obama Administration] 537 ‘ghost schools’ in America never opened but received more than $45.5 million in federal start-up funding.”

Apparently we’re funding ghost schools and ghost soldiers, and almost nobody in our government seems to give a shit! I guess you could say they give a ghost shit—it’s not really there.

Yet the problems in our forever war don’t stop at the walking dead. The Post says, “The US has spent $9 billion to fight the problem [of opium] over the past 18 years, but Afghan farmers are cultivating more opium poppies than ever. Last year, Afghanistan was responsible for 82 percent of global opium production.”

But what The Washington Post doesn’t tell you is that a lot of that opium was for use inside the U.S., to fuel our opioid epidemic.

An American becomes a number every 11 minutes from an opioid overdose.

So how does our government respond when revelations like the Afghanistan Papers come out? A few senators pause in the middle of their T-bone steaks and red wine to say, “This needs to be looked into, I daresay.” But then a few days pass and they just give the Pentagon more money to sink into a black hole.

The spending bill just passed by Congress sends $738 billion to the Pentagon. And, as RootsAction stated, it contains “almost nothing to constrain the Trump administration’s erratic and reckless foreign policy. It is a blank check for endless wars, fuel for the further militarization of U.S. foreign policy, and a gift to Donald Trump.”

To put it mildly, asking the Democrats to stand up against endless war is like asking Anne Hathaway to bench-press a Chevy Tahoe. It’s not going to happen, and she has no interest in even trying.

42,000 Taliban and insurgents have been numberized.

That may sound like a successful war to some, but keep in mind that the U.S. military likes to categorize anyone it kills “an insurgent.” The Pentagon goes by the theory that if it kills you, then you’re an insurgent—because if you weren’t an insurgent, then why did it kill you? A great many of the 42,000 were truly innocent civilians.

If there’s one thing we should learn from the Afghanistan Papers, which the mainstream corporate media have already ceased talking about, it’s that ending these immoral, illegal, repulsive wars cannot be left to our breathtakingly incompetent and corrupt ruling elite, who have probably been lying to us about them for decades. So it’s up to you and me to stop them.

Lee Camp’s new book “Bullet Points and Punch Lines” with a foreword by Chris Hedges is available for pre-sale at LeeCampBook.com.

This column is based on a monologue Lee Camp wrote and performed on his TV show “Redacted Tonight.”

Feature photo | Blank military dog tags hang in a memorial honoring fallen soldiers from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, on the grounds of Old North Church, in Boston, Nov. 7, 2018. Steven Senne | AP

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news TV show “Redacted Tonight With Lee Camp” on RT America. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.

This article was published with special permission from the author. It originally appeared at Truthdig.

The post Lee Camp: The War in Afghanistan Is a Fraud (and Now We Have Proof) appeared first on MintPress News.

Iraqis to the United States: What Part of “Go Home” Don’t You Understand?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/01/2020 - 1:02am in

Iranian forces launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against two military bases housing US troops in Iraq early hours of Wednesday morning. The al-Assad airbase in western Iraq was hit by 17 missiles, and 5 targeted at a base in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.  No US casualties were immediately reported.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the attack a “slap in the face” of the US, and observers seem to question whether the attack was designed to kill or inflict casualties, or was it carefully orchestrated to produce closure to a situation which could have escalated into a regional or perhaps world war. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said he was informed of the attack by Iran ahead of time, which acted as a safety valve after he, in turn, informed US commanders.

Iraqi militias may now begin attacks of revenge for the US assassination of the Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who died alongside Soleimani in the drone strike on Friday.  Iraqi militia leader Qais al-Khazali said today his group’s retaliation should be “no less than the size of the Iranian response.”

Al-Muhandis was the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an Iraqi militia group that is an official component of the Iraqi armed forces.  Previously, the US had attacked Iraqi PMF troops in Qaim and killed 24 Iraqi soldiers and wounded dozens more.  The Iraqi military, militias, and government consider the recent US attacks on Iraqi troops and leaders on Iraqi soil as an act of aggression and more than enough reason to request the US military leave Iraq.

U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper, said Monday the United States “has made no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” seemingly oblivious to the fact the Iraqi parliament voted on Sunday to oust 5,200 US troops. Esper has repeatedly reaffirmed that the U.S. was not pulling troops out of Iraq.

The US has around 5,000 troops deployed in Iraq, with plans to send in another 3,800 American paratroopers, and an additional 4,000 troops that may be sent. US forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011, but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the Iraqi government to fight ISIS; however, that fight is over, and Trump angered the Iraqi government when he said the only reason he was leaving troops in Iraq was to watch Iran. There were anti-US sentiments brewing in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, which perceived the US military to be an occupation force, and unwelcomed, but after the Trump statement about his main mission in Iraq, the calls for “Yankee Go Home” grew louder and included groups who had not previously called for the ouster. The US military has admitted they have sidelined work against ISIS to focus on self-protection of troops.

United States Iraq

Iraqis gather during a funeral procession for Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi Popular Mobilization Front commander in Basra, Iraq, Jan. 7, 2020. Photo | AP

PM Abdul-Mahdi asked parliament on Sunday to take “urgent measures” to ensure the removal of foreign forces from the country, and on Monday, PM Abdul-Mahdi 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.” American troops in Iraq are in the country based on a request by the then prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in 2014. That request can be revoked by parliament, and indeed, a recent parliamentary resolution to that effect passed 173 to 0, although 156 MPs boycotted it, but clearly, it passed by a majority and united some factions previously at odds. Sajad Jiyad, managing director of Bayan Center, an Iraqi think tank said, “Even people nominally pro-U.S., anti-Iran or neutral are not happy with what the US has done, and believe it’s a dangerous escalation,” and added, “The common denominator is this was an infringement on sovereignty.”

On Monday, PM Abdul-Mahdi received a letter from Marine Brig. Gen. William Seely III, commander of ‘Task Force Iraq’, declaring the US intention to withdraw, and with specific details about the exit. The letter was sent twice, and the copy that Abdul-Mahdi has in his possession is signed, and he added,  “It’s not like a draft, or a paper that fell out of the photocopier and coincidentally came to us.” Strangely, Trump said he thought the letter was a ‘hoax’, and his officials Esper and Pompeo denied any letter of the kind was signed, or official. Abdul-Mahdi took to the Iraqi TV to broadcast his exasperation with conflicting U.S. signals, and said: “We have no exit but this, otherwise we are speeding toward confrontation.”

The stated long-term goal of Iran’s reprisals is to remove US troops from the region. Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said “This region won’t accept the US presence. Governments elected by nations won’t accept the presence of the US.” Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, early Wednesday warned that the US forces would be removed from the Middle East, saying: “You cut off Soleimani’s hand from his body, your feet will be cut off from the region.”

Poland evacuated its ambassador in Iraq, and the Philippine government has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Filipino workers from Iraq. Germany has announced they will withdraw troops from Iraq, as well as Spain, Croatia, and Romania. France says they are staying. There are about 2,900 European troops in Iraq.  Trump has asked NATO to send more troops to Iraq; however, NATO troops are leaving Iraq.

Trump’s 2016 campaign promise was an “America First” policy, and he promised to reduce US involvement in foreign wars. However, his decision to bomb Iraqi militias and assassinate Iran’s commander Soleimani in a drone strike caught Middle Eastern and European allies unaware and confused. Since then, the US has given off conflicting signals on its intentions to exit Iraq even while it deploys more troops immediately for protection.

The US media uses the phrase ‘Shia militias backed by Iran’ to identify the PMF; however, this is misleading and verges on propaganda.  The PMF is an Iraqi militia and part of the Iraqi armed forces. The fact they are mainly comprised of Shias should not be a surprise, given the fact that Iraq is overwhelmingly populated by Shias. Iran is a neighboring country and is also mainly Shia.  Iran supports Iraq, their armed forces, and their militias. Iran supports a ‘resistance’ philosophy: that is resistance to the occupation of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Iran is inside Iraq at the official request of the Iraqi government. The fundamental division between the US and Iran is this ‘resistance’ philosophy, which has become ingrained in the mentality of the majority of residents in the Levant, but which the US fails to recognize or understand.  Iraq also has Sunni militias, and they are Al Qaeda and ISIS, while Iran, Iraq, and Syria are all fighting those terrorists.

Feature photo | Mourners step on US flags with pictures of President Trump while waiting for the funeral of Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 4, 2020. Nasser Nasser | AP

Steven Sahouni is an independent Syrian political analyst and writer based in Lebanon; he has been covering the Syrian crisis since it’s onset in 2011 and has published several articles in numerous media outlets – He is regularly interviewed by US, Canadian and German media.

This article was published with special permission from the author. It originally appeared at Mideast Discourse.

The post Iraqis to the United States: What Part of “Go Home” Don’t You Understand? appeared first on MintPress News.

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