Rona Wilson? Never heard the name before today. Reading his story, made me want to share it. Atul and Sandeep Pandey (COUNTERCURRENTS) reports:
Rona Wilson is a prison rights activist who has been in jail since April 2018 and denied bail several times. The Pune Police raided his home in Delhi on April 17, 2018, and arrested him subsequently for his alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon violence in January that year. A few months later, the agencies also accused him of being part of a larger naxal plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a Rajeev Gandhi style and overthrow the current government. To substantiate their claims, the agencies allegedly produced some letter from his laptop which cyber-forensic experts believe could have been maliciously planted through malware. Nonetheless, this grave accusation was enough to land him in prison without any bail.
Rona is a founding member of the CRPP – the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners. CRPP provides legal aid to people accused in terrorism cases and booked under repressive laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and National Security Act. Rona is reported to have been working for the release of political prisoners since the early 2000s. In the words of Meena Kandasamy, a feminist writer and activist, “People like Rona represent the last frontier, the last line of defense that dissidents have. They could feel safe knowing that people like Rona will take up your cause; that they will campaign for your freedom.” Now with an ardent campaigner like Rona behind bars, Kandasamy questions if others will also be condemned to silence.
Many activists have alleged that the government had framed these activists to shield the Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide who were accused of mobilizing an attack on the Bhima Koregaon memorial event, which attracts large Dalit crowds on January 1 every year to celebrate the anniversary of a stunning victory of a lower-caste Mahar regiment of the British army over the upper-caste Peshwas in 1818. Over the years this event has become a symbol of Dalit-Bahujan’s assertion against the draconian caste system of India.
Many who know Rona personally have been pained to witness this deplorable attempt of the government to harass this defender of the most vulnerable prisoners in India. In the opinion of renowned author Arundhati Roy, not much has been written about Rona as he is “low-key” in his disposition. Professor G. Haragopal described him as an erudite and hardworking scholar with a strong moral compass. Rona’s commitment towards his values is uncompromising, and the activist’s moral universe is based on the “larger concerns of the poor people, concerns of the prisoners, concerns of the tribals,” reports the Caravan.
I firmly believe Julian Assange is a political prisoner and that Ed Snowden needs a presidential pardon. Rona's case needs to be amplified as well. As the case against him demonstrates, any of us is just the flip of the coin away from political persecution.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020. Kamala Harris continues to outshine Joe Biden, Joe picks up an endorsement from a disgraced journalist, a US sailor is missing at sea, and much more.
HILDA'S MIX went out this morning. Her question for the week was: If Donald Trump wins re-election who is the big loser, who is the personal big winner?
I opted to answer the big winner and noted I would explain why in the snapshot.
If Donald Trump wins re-election, Hillary Clinton is the big winner.
She is already saddled with losing to a TV reality show star and she failed in not campaigning in important states after she had the nomination. If Joe Biden loses, with Americans having had four years of Donald, Hillary looks a lot better historically. She's not the big loser, she's someone who fought hard against a phenomenon. If, however, Joe Biden beats Donald? Hillary goes down in history as a lousy candidate who lost to the political equivalent of a freak.
Or should we say if Kamala Harris beats Donald Trump? President-to-be Kamala is all over the place these days while Joe continues his Hidin' With Biden strategy. Yet again, a strong woman has to carry a weak man to the finish line. I guess we can consider it progress that the person doing all the work won't end up First Lady but instead Vice President.
"Our Best Days Still Lie Ahead." That's a campaign slogan they're sporting lately.
Is that an endorsement of President Kamala? Because Joe has no best days left. At 77, the sun is more than setting on him.
History will not be kind to this run. Kamala's clearly qualified, clearly doing all the work and she'll only be the Vice President. If he wins, history will rightly see Joe as the elderly, entitled old man that he is who got to the White House on the back of a person of color.
Kamala's strong, she's got strong shoulders. I don't doubt that she can carry Joe to the White House. I do think it's really sad that someone with Joe's racial history -- that goes far beyond the unfair incarceration rate for African-American males -- will have made it to the White House via two different people of color -- first Barack Obama, now Kamala Harris.
War Hawk Joe does have his supporters. Club des Cordeliers notes one of Joe's supporters:
Judith Miller is for Joe Biden? I believe that's your dead canary in the coalmine.
At ALJAZEERA, Hamid Dabashi explains he will not be voting for Joe:
But still, I will never vote for Biden for I believe the function of people like me is entirely different from even those among the American left with whom I wholeheartedly identify. The task of critical thinking at this point is not to rush to declare we are voting for Biden - an unrepentant racist and self-declared Zionist with a frightening record of misogyny who has actively supported the Iraq war. We had a far superior choice in Bernie Sanders, but twice in a row, the Democratic Party made absolutely sure to kill his chances.
The task at hand is to sustain the course of critical thinking that could not possibly embrace Biden. Voting for Biden is voting for the very foundation of a political culture that has a whole platoon of Trumps and Bidens waiting to surface. If we choose between Trump and Biden today, next time we will have to choose between Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton. This vicious cycle can only come to an end through a sustained and uncompromising course of critical thinking against the very grain of this political culture that demonises the Black Lives Matter uprising, celebrates neo-Nazis, and canonises Hillary Clinton and Biden as God-given salvation against this murderous banality.
It was Barack Obama's speech that sealed my decision to never vote for Biden. Up until then, I was thinking to myself that a vote for Biden is not actually a vote for him, but a vote against Trump, alongside other such tall tales and poor excuses. But when Obama took to the podium and began to get emotional and pleaded for people to go and vote for Biden, right there and then, I decided it would be obscene of me to do so, especially with this hypocritical con man on his side.
Every time Obama starts choking up, I remember him crying in public for children who have fallen victim to gun violence in the US, just before going back to his Oval Office to send even more arms to Israel with which to slaughter Palestinian children, or sell them to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to kill more Yemeni children. Are Palestinian and Yemeni children not children? Every single human being stands for the entirety of our humanity. How could this coward be so openly cruel and callous when it comes to children in Yemen, Palestine, Afghanistan and beyond, and still pretend to care deeply about America's children?
Biden is even worse than Obama in his die-hard Zionism - in his support for the apartheid state of Israel, in his categorical disregard for Palestinians. Voting for Biden means excusing all the times in the past he helped arm Israel to murder Palestinians. Voting for him means, should he become the next president, siding with him every time he signs - and he will undoubtedly sign many - a new arms deal to support Israel and its murderous tyranny.
Why would any decent human being want to do anything like that? Yes, Trump is an American monster but so is Biden. People like me have no candidate in this election.
If your decision on how to use your vote this election is not to vote, that's your decision. It's your vote and if no one appeals to you, that's your business.
But we should note that there are many other candidates. Howie Hawkins is running on the Green Party ticket, Gloria La Riva on the Party for Socialism and Liberation ticket, Joseph Kishore on the Socialist Equality Party ticket and Jo Jorgesen is running on the Libertarian Party ticket.
There are others running -- there's a pedophile running, for example. We won't name him and we won't mention his campaign but the charges against him -- despite claims in his WIKIPEDIA account -- were not disproved. His chief supporter these days is Akon. Rapper and influencer Kanye West will be on some ballots. He and his running mate Michelle Tidball have qualified to be on the ballot in 11 states and are attempting ballot access in three more.
And, of course, there's loser and hypocrite Dario Hunter who will be on the ballot in two states -- Oregon and Colorado. Lazy ass Dario wanted to be gifted with the Green Party's presidential nomination and he was so lazy that he couldn't even Tweet daily or even twice a week -- the same with FACEBOOK posts. Third parties get very little media attention, they have to generate interest in their own campaigns. Dario refused to do so. When he lost the nomination to Howie Hawkins -- whose campaign Tweeted multiple times a day throughout the primaries, put out statements, put out policy plans, etc -- Dario couldn't accept reality.
So he went on any podcast or program that would have him and insisted there was a conspiracy to prevent him from getting the nomination and the conspiracy was carried out by Dr. Margaret Flowers and her husband Kevin Zeese. Kevin just passed away. Dario who spent the bulk of July and August spreading vicious lies about Kevin and Margaret immediately took to Twitter to offer his sympathies. No, Dario, it's not that easy. You're a piece of garbage trash. Before that Tweet, I thought you were just lazy and little bit nuts, now I grasp you're also a whorish hypocrite. David Swanson wrote about Kevin here and Kat remembered him here. ANTIWAR.COM notes, "Antiwar.com carried many of Kevin’s articles over the years, view his archives. Scott Horton interviewed Kevin many times, listen here." Howie Hawkins' campaign issued the following:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 6, 2020
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Robert Smith, Robert@HowieHawkins.us
Andrea Merida, Andrea@HowieHawkins.us
Hawkins Press Secretary and Activist, Kevin Zeese Has Passed Away
The Hawkins/Walker campaign is very sad to report that our Press Secretary, comrade-in-arms and brother, Kevin Zeese, passed away last night. He was 64 years old.
“I lost a friend. All of us lost a prolific, tireless, and principled advocate and activist for peace and justice. My condolences go out to his partner, Margaret Flowers, also a committed activist, his family, and the many people whose lives were enriched by Kevin and his work,” Howie Hawkins said.
Kevin was a giant in the world of activism, from peace and justice to cannabis legalization to healthcare to independent politics. He was a well-known scholar, attorney, and writer. He was co-editor of Popular Resistance, one of the left’s most popular sources for news and opinion from a left-radical perspective, which he led with his partner, Dr. Margaret Flowers. He served as Press Secretary for the Nader/Camejo campaign in 2004.
He was most recently in the news as one of the Embassy Protection Collective, one of the last four to protect the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. against the forces of the illegitimate presidency of Juan Guaidó and the passivity of the secret service and federal security forces of the Trump administration. Kevin, Margaret and others nonviolently resisted the embassy’s takeover by puppets of the United States and tenanted the diplomatic building with the permission of the Venezuelan government for more than a month. Ultimately, they were arrested and after a trial plagued with restrictions against the defense, all federal charges brought by the Trump administration were dropped.
Kevin was also an active force of solidarity with several Latin American movements, causes and peoples against US imperialism and illegal intervention. He worked tirelessly to denounce US illegal sanctions and covert operations that affect the progressive efforts of the peoples of Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, and beyond. His legal background only strengthened his conviction about the illegality of all these US unilateral sanctions that only increase the suffering of millions of Latin Americans.
“This unexpected loss of a compassionate and hugely intellectual friend is stunning,” commented Angela Walker, the Green Party nominee for vice president. “My thoughts are with his partner, his family and with all who love him,” she continued.
“Kevin leaves an enormous hole in his wake. He would want his legacy to be that we filled it by multiplying our efforts to bring about a better world,” Hawkins said.
In January 2007, Kevin observed:
The message of opposition to the Iraq War, expressed in the election on November 7th is seen even more clearly in polling since the election. Indeed, the anti-Iraq war viewpoint of Americans is growing stronger. And, there is definite opposition to Bush’s plan to increase troops in Iraq and a desire to see the Democrats take action to prevent the so-called surge. However, there is not a lot of confidence in the Democrats, no doubt if the Democrats “buy” Bush’s war by allowing the surge or approving the supplemental appropriation there will be even less confidence in the Democrats ability to get the country on the right track and end the war.
The Democrats in Congress -- who controlled both the House and the Senate following the 2006 mid-terms -- approved the surge and approved the supplemental. Nothing changed but the names.
The Iraq War continues. MEMO reports:
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi yesterday ordered an investigation into a recent missile attack on Baghdad International Airport.
“Under the direction of the Prime Minister, the Joint Operations Command is opening an investigation to determine the party responsible for firing three Katyusha rockets at Baghdad International Airport,” the military’s Security Media Cell said in a statement.
The Ministry of Defence said on Sunday that three Katyusha missiles were fired at Baghdad airport “for the second time in a week.” The ministry added that the rockets were launched from “the Zaytoun area in the Abu Ghraib district”, west of the capital. Noone has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Margret Griffis (ANTIWAR.COM) notes yesterday's violence, "At least 10 people were killed, and one more was wounded in the latest attacks."
Beyond violence? REUTERS reports, "Iraq is reopening its land border crossings, restaurants, hotels, and bringing back sporting events without spectators, the prime minister said on Monday, three days after it recorded its highest daily increase in coronavirus infections." This as AFP reports on the increase in smuggled olive trees from Syria are flourishing in Iraq, "Raw olives are a staple on Levantine lunch tables, while their oil is both used in cooking and drizzled on top of favourite appetisers like hummus. The oil can also be used to make soap, while the dark, sawdust-like residue from olives pressed in the autumn is often burned to heat houses in the winter." Crops, like people, require water and there the news is not good for Iraq. MEMO explains:
Iraq’s agriculture industry has been hit hard as a result of ongoing Iranian dam projects which reduce the water flow and block major water supplies from two of the region’s main rivers, Middle East Eye reported.
Farmers in the eastern province of Diyala and the Kurdish region say their livelihoods are under threat as a result of Tehran re-directing the Sirwan and Little Zab rivers to dams in Iran, forcing some Iraqis to leave their towns and villages.
The two rivers in Iraq are considered the primary sources of livelihood for nearly two million people.
“In a couple of years, Iran’s dams projects will not only create a catastrophe that will force people to migrate to other places, but will have an impact on farmland, wildlife and tourism,” Director of Iraq’s Darbandikhan Dam Rahman Khani told Middle East Eye.
In other news, AP notes a US sailor is missing:
The U.S. Navy searched through the night into Monday morning for a sailor who went missing from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz during its patrol of the northern Arabian Sea amid.
The crew aboard the Nimitz sounded a "man overboard" alert at 6:47 p.m. on Sunday, after being unable to find the sailor aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. That was after an extensive search of the Nimitz, America's oldest carrier in active service that carries some 5,000 sailors and Marines.
The Nimitz, the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton and other 5th Fleet personnel continued their search on Monday, Rebarich said. She declined to identify the missing sailor, citing Navy policy.
Lastly, REAL CLEAR POLITICS notes:
"FOX News, call me, someone," he said. "So people will know not to use me, not to put my face to whatever they think [Trump] said. It is ridiculous. Stop this shit."
"You're lowlives, you're scum. Take it down."
He's referring to Occupy Democrats -- a faux resistance group -- and he's right to call them out for their use of him in their partisan efforts. They need to immediately and publicly apologize for using his image to promote their politics.
Monday, September 07, 2020
It's strange to watch the press musical chairs. We've long moved from a society where someone starts a job at X and then retires from X. But it is still strange to me to see the revolving press door. Borzou Daragahi started covering the Iraq War in the lead up -- he was with ASSOCIATED PRESS. After the war started, he covered it for THE LOS ANGELS TIMES. Most recently, he's been at THE FINANCIAL TIMES OF LONDON and BUZZFEED NEWS. Now he's at THE INDEPENDENT. He has an important article which opens:
In a move that has not yet been publicly announced but will be hailed by civil society activists and human rights monitors, Iraq’s reform-minded prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has decided to disband the so-called Baghdad Preservation Forces.
The Interior Ministry branch was formed less than a year ago by Kadhimi’s predecessor Adel Abdul-Mahdi amid a wave of anti-government protests. Its original aim was to “protect” the demonstrators from harm. Instead, it served as a sort of praetorian guard for Baghdad’s political elite, harassing and brutalising peaceful protesters clamouring for change.
Kadhimi had said a month ago he was going to restructure the force after a video emerged in late July showing members of the group torturing an adolescent boy, Hamed Saeed, who was among the tens of thousands of protesters who have taken part in nationwide rallies against the corrupt network of political parties and militias that dominate Iraq today.
Now Iraqi media outlets are reporting that Kadhimi is going to get rid of the force altogether, and merge its personnel into the regular police.
It's an important article -- read on to see how various governments -- US, Iran and France -- are putting pressure on Iraq and how Borzou doesn't feel they're offering Iraq much of anything. Liz Sly is another journalist covering Iraq who has been at several outlets, Jane Arraf would be another. Michael Gordon's been at just two: NYT and now THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. NYT, by the way, has Alissa J. Rubin back over their Iraq coverage.
Over at THE NATIONAL INTEREST, Bonnie Kristian notes Mustafa's recent comments regarding US forces not being needed on the ground in Iraq for "support:"
American policymakers should take notice. After seventeen years of fighting, the war in Iraq is a demonstrable failure—and yet a failure with no end in sight.
The Trump administration has repeatedly promised to draw down the U.S. military presence in Iraq, but it’s not clear President Donald Trump really wants to leave. Apparently unguided by any coherent strategy, he threatens further escalation as easily as he condemns the initial invasion. His passion for ending “endless wars” is perhaps not all-consuming.
There are about five thousand American troops in Iraq now, basically the same deployment level as when this administration began. When the Iraqi parliament in January demanded all foreign troops leave their country, the administration rejected the request. “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how best to recommit to our strategic partnership,” said the State Department, “not to discuss troop withdrawal.”
So why are they still there? When does the war end? When does a real withdrawal ever take place?
It's really pathetic how, in the US, we've allowed the issue of the war to vanish and we've been tricked by politicians into believing the war had ended or that it was so minor that it didn't matter. How many people promised to end the war but didn't? Include Nancy Pelosi on that list. Her promise for the 2006 mid-terms was that if the voters gave the Democrats control over just one house of Congress -- just one -- the war would be ended. The voters gave them control over both houses -- the House of Representatives and the Senate -- and the war continued.
Yesterday, XINHUA noted, "A security member and a civilian were wounded in a roadside bomb exploded near a convoy of trucks belonging to the U.S.-led coalition forces in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the Iraqi military said on Sunday." "Harm's way" apparently isn't a concern of the US electorate or the US press.
In other news, Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) reports:
Iraqi security forces arrested 13 people late on Saturday who were suspected of carrying illegal arms in operations in Baghdad and Basra.
For years, the government has faced a major challenge to rein in armed militias and keep weapons under state control.
“Ten individuals were arrested in Basra, who were suspected of carrying heavy weaponry, after a security operation was launched to raid and inspect various areas in the city,” armed forces spokesman Yehia Rasool said on Twitter.
Turning to the issue of Iraq's religious minorities, we'll note this from Qassim Khidir (AFP via TIMES OF ISRAEL):
Across Iraq, Jewish roots run deep: Abraham was born in Ur in the southern plains, and the Babylonian Talmud, a central text of Judaism, was compiled in the town of the same name in the present-day Arab state.
Jews once comprised 40 percent of Baghdad’s population, according to a 1917 Ottoman census.
But after the creation of Israel in 1948, regional tensions skyrocketed and anti-Semitic campaigns took hold, pushing most of Iraq’s Jews to flee.
In the north, the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil was once the heart of the ancient kingdom of Adiabene, which converted to Judaism in the 1st century and helped fund the building of the Temple of Jerusalem.
Today, Iraqis have fond memories of Jewish friends and neighbors, including 82-year-old Farhadi, whose father owned a shop in a Jewish-majority district of Erbil.
The population of Iraq is approximately 37,548,000 (UN, 2016). The three largest demographic groups are Shi’a Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds, most of whom adhere to Sunni Islam. Precise demographic breakdowns are impossible to come by, in the absence of recent census data and due to political sensitivities surrounding the issue. According to reliable estimates, 99 per cent of Iraqis are Muslim, of which 60-65 per cent are Shi’a and 32-37 per cent are Sunni. The remaining population is composed of various religious minorities. Prior to the ISIS advance, there were an estimated 350,000 Christians in Iraq, 500,000 Yezidis, 200,000 Kaka’i, less than 5,000 Sabean-Mandaeans and a small number of Bahá’í.
In terms of ethnicity, Arabs make up between 75 – 80 per cent of the population and Kurds a further 15-20 per cent. Ethnic minorities include Turkmen, Shabak, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians, black Iraqis and Roma. Some Yezidis consider themselves a distinct ethnic group, while others identify as being Kurds.
A report from the US Justice Dept last year covered various religious minorities in Iraq -- Christian, Yezidi, Sabean-Mandeans, Baha'i, Kaka'i and Jews. At the end of June, RUDAW reported:
The presence of militia groups and lack of reconstruction across
northern Iraq is a huge barrier to the safe return of religious
minorities to their former homes, according to Nadine Maenza, vice chair
of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
Speaking to Rudaw's Hiwa Jamal, Maenza spoke of the various obstacles preventing minority groups – including Christians and Yezidis – from returning home, and called on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi to pull back Iran-backed militias present in the area.
"With the Yezidis and Christians, they are having a hard time returning home. They don't feel safe, they're being harassed," Maenza said.
"“There aren't the kind of services that they need for their families...you want to feel safe, and this isn't the case in a lot of areas."
According to Maenza, a lack of security is one of the biggest barriers to safe return, particularly due to the presence of Iran-backed militias in the Nineveh Plains, historically home to various religious minorities including Yezidis, Christians and Shabaks.
The following sites updated: