Thursday, August 06, 2020

Back on Mars again

We're doing science again. Why? I like WSWS. I didn't realize they did a report July 31t on the missions to Mars. Don Barrett (WSWS) reports:

With yesterday’s launch of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, the three Mars missions being attempted in this year’s “window” of efficient access to the red planet are off successfully. Perseverance joins the Chinese Tianwen-1 orbiter/lander/rover mission, launched on July 23, and the United Arab Emirates/US Hope orbiter, launched July 19.
Mars presents favorable circumstances about every 26 months for missions from the Earth. This is the same interval as between “oppositions,” where the two planets reach their closest approaches, Mars in a near line outwards from the Sun to the Earth. Launch windows occur about two months before the close approaches, with travel time about 8.5 months before spacecraft reach Mars.
It has been 60 years since the first exploited launch window, in 1960, saw a pair of Soviet spacecraft sent on their way. Around 50 missions have used the 27 subsequent launch windows until the present one. Only in the last two decades have successes overtaken failures: more than half of attempts to reach Mars to date have failed.
Prior to the spacecraft age, each Martian opposition was the source of intense Earth-based telescopic exploration. Even at these close approaches, however, Mars is 150 times the distance of our own Moon, and the features easily visible through a telescope on the Moon, its mountain chains and craters, were invisible from Earth-bound telescopes. As a result, much of what we now know about Mars is the product of the past 60 years of “up close” exploration with our robotic probes.
What was known within the first century after Galileo turned the telescope into an astronomer’s instrument was that Mars had bright white spots that appeared at its poles, correctly interpreted as icy polar caps (that the ice is substantially carbon dioxide would not be suspected until much later). While several wealthy amateurs in the late 19th century would begin several decades of feverish promotion of the idea that Mars had a system of “canals,” supposedly visible through the telescope and representing signs of a civilization, sober scientists deployed new technologies as they became available and, laboring largely in public obscurity, laid the groundwork for the Mars science of today.
Thus by the turn of the 20th century the astronomical spectroscope suggested a closer similarity of Mars to the Moon rather than the Earth, 1920s measurements of radiated heat showed very cold (-85C–7C) surface temperatures, and 1930s measurements showed that oxygen, if present, could not be more than one percent of Earth levels. An early 1970s measurement from a high-flying plane, above most of Earth’s atmosphere, also recorded the signature of chemically-bound water on the Martian surface, suggesting a different and wetter past.

I liked that article. I like the sixty years section and, by the way, we had something similar when we wrote a science article for THIRD "" and I meant to note that here. I am just typing away, no writer here. But C.I. brought that and other facts into the piece we did and I told her at the time, "I wish I thought to look up things like that."

Amanda Kooser (CNET) reports:

Cue an Ennio Morricone sound track. NASA released a fresh view of Mars, and it looks like Clint Eastwood is about to stroll across the red planet.
NASA's Curiosity rover arrived on Mars on Aug. 5, 2012 (or Aug. 6 depending on your location). To celebrate, the space agency released eight eye-catching images of Mars this week that tie into the rover's past and present experiences on the planet.
One of the newly released looks shows what NASA describes as a "Spaghetti Western landscape." Curiosity snapped the 130 images used for the panorama in December 2019. It shows a spot called Western Butte in the foreground.
You can check out the full, massive panorama on NASA's Mars Exploration Program site.
Another newly released image shows a striking portrait of Mount Sharp, the massive central mountain inside the Gale Crater, in October 2019.

And here's a video.

That 11 minutes of animation?  It was created before Curiosity landed on Mars.  

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

Thursday, August 6, 2020.  Oh, look, one of those 'trusted' voices on Iraq -- one who, of course, got everything wrong -- is back again to tell us all how great things are going in Iraq.

Yesterday afternoon, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL published a ridiculous piece of garbage by Sam Gollob and Michael O'Hanlon.  The piece is entitled "At Long Last, Iraq Is Getting Back On Track" -- and that title tells you everything you need to know.

You'd think THE JOURNAL would avoid this sort of garbage if only to protect whatever's left of their name.  It's not a great paper by any means but their opinion section has long harmed their image and allowed a lot of partisan Democrats to attack them for anything and everything, whether they did it or not.  

Look at the hideous Paul Greengrass.  If the #MeToo movements was going to start removing directors from positions of power, you would have thought Greengrass would have been an early starting point.  But his actions on the set remain as non-criticized as the garbage he churns out.  For our purposes, we're looking at the hideous movie THE GREEN ZONE.

The flick completely ignored its source material (Rajiv Chandrasekaran's IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY) to film a lie.  In the bad and boring movie, facts are tossed aside so that the lie can be told: It was that bad WALL STREET JOURNAL that lied us into Iraq.  Amy Ryan plays the bad reporter whose work features every baseless claim -- presented as fact -- that the Bully Boy Bush administration made.  And her character works for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

The character, as anyone watching the film knows, is based on Judith Miller who was the star reporter for THE NEW YORK TIMES.  It also cribs from a bad front page story that Chris Hedges wrote for THE NEW YORK TIMES.  But somehow, history gets rewritten in this bad movie so that the big offender was . . . a reporter for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.  

Two things on the above, first off: Chris Hedges.  I like Chris.  I'm not his press agent.  It's not my job to get him good press.  We regularly highlight his work on RT and will continue to do so; however, that doesn't mean that we lie about what took place.  We are right now talking about pre-war Iraq press coverage.  The character Amy Ryan plays speaks with an anonymous source supplied to her by the government and publishes lies given to her from him.  You can't talk about that and not talk about what Chris Hedges did unless you are more committed to advancing Chris Hedges than to telling the truth.  The first front page 'report' linking 9/11 to Iraq -- falsely linking -- appeared weeks after 9/11 -- Chris Hedges had the byline, it ran on the front page of THE NEW YORK TIMES.  Not one claim in that article stands up today.  The government set Chris up with that 'insider' because they wanted their lies told to the world as fact.  Chris made it happen.

I don't hate Chris.  I like Chris.  But if we're talking about the press lies that got us into war with Iraq, Chris' report is part of those lies.  Yes, Chris went on to speak out against the war and suffered professionally for doing so.  And that's part of Chris' story as well.  But this isn't the "Chris Hedges snapshot."  It's the "Iraq snapshot."  And we're not going to use Judith Miller as our daily pinata the way so many others have.  Judith Miller printed a lot of lies and she believed them all.  She was gung-hu in Iraq, once the war started, and trying to commandeer troops to find those WMDs that she honestly -- and foolishly -- believed were in Iraq.  We have held Judith Miller accountable for what she did and will continue to do so.  We will not, however, present the lie that it was just her and we will not pretend that no one else needs to be held accountable.  To this day, my problem with Chris, he has not been accountable.  He will admit that his front page report is nonsense.  And after his main source was outed, he did agree with MOTHER JONES that the Iraqi exile had been a source.  But, as we have long pointed out, the article claimed two sources.  If the source lied -- Chris says they did, and I believe him -- then you have been burned by your source and you do not have to protect them.

We knew Judith Miller's source was Scooter Libby.  We noted that in 2004.  Long before the court case.  When Judith elected to go to jail rather than betray her source, that was fine, we applauded her for that.  But Scooter didn't burn Judith.  (He just told her Valerie Plame was a CIA agent.)  Chris was burned and he should have long ago exposed the other source and written at length about how that interview came to be -- everyone he knew at the paper that promoted the story as news, everyone in the administration that was part of providing the paper with the sources.

We called out someone who we highlighted in a video yesterday.  I don't even want to say her name.  She deserved to be called out for what we called her out for.  Saying every US servicemember who went to Vietnam was a War Criminal was an outrageous and offensive statement.  The political leaders who sent them to Vietnam?  They're all War Criminals.  But the service members who were lied to and who were sent there are not War Criminals unless they were raping or murdering children or . . .  In the Iraq War, Steven D. Green is a War Criminal -- he plotted and took part in the gang rape of Abeer and he murdered her, her sister and her parents.  The Americans at Abu Ghraib -- unless they were whistle blowers -- were War Criminals.  But every American that served in Iraq is not a War Criminal.  The political leaders who sent them to Iraq and keep them in Iraq are War Criminals.

My job is not to be a press agent for anyone.  My job is to explain to the best of my ability what is happening and what happened.  Most of us say something that deserves calling out from time to time -- including me.  And if I'm covering something and it's applicable, we're going to call them out.

Second: At this late date why is anyone treating Michael O'Hanlon as someone to listen to?  How many times can you be wrong about Iraq and still have the press treat your loony opinions as worth listening to.

Iraq is not back on track anymore than the 'surge' brought political stability to Iraq, anymore than Iraq had WMDs (they didn't) or even of the other positions O'Hanlon has argued over the years.  The only consistent aspect to his public statements about Iraq?  That they have been wrong over and over.

Iraq is in the midst of a pandemic -- like the rest of the world.  Their economy is in tatters.  They have (still) the issue of the lack of electricity and potable water.  In fact, IOM Iraq Tweeted this morning:

IOM #Iraq is rehabilitating the only water treatment plant in Al-Qurna district, #Basra governorate, with funding from
Flag of Qatar
. The project will give 100K people access to drinking water, and improve the livelihoods of local communities.

Protesters are being killed.  There is no political consensus behind the new prime minister.  Go down the list, by no means is Iraq "getting back on track."  Bobby Gosh (GULF NEWS for this link, we highlighted this yesterday at BLOOMBERG NEWS) observed this week:

All the crises he inherited have deepened. The coronavirus pandemic, already alarming when Kadhimi was sworn in, has since only grown more frightening, forcing him to announce fresh lockdowns.

The Iraqi economy, having suffered extensive collateral damage from the oil war, has weakened. Powerful, Iran-backed militias have grown more brazen. Corruption, already ingrained in the body politic, seems to have metastasised across every aspect of the state.

Even the weather has been worse than expected. Iraq is now wilting in the hottest summer ever recorded, with temperatures nearing 52 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) in Baghdad and 53C (127F) in Basra last week.

The heat threatens to bring the protests against electricity and water shortages — a summer fixture in the Iraqi political calendar — to a fever pitch. Some demonstrations in Baghdad have already boiled over into clashes with security forces: Two protesters were killed last Monday.

On the protesters, how telling that the same week the world learned of the kidnapping and torture of 16-year-old Hamid Saeed by Iraqi forces, O'Hanlon would show up to insist that Iraq was back on track.  How telling and how typical.  Mina Aldbroubi of THE NATIONAL Tweets:

For more on Saeed, see:

INDIA BLOOMS notes another rocket attack on the Green Zone yesterday.  But, hey, O'Hanlon says back on track!

In last Saturday's "Kadhimi wants to push back elections longer than necessary," we noted that Mustafa al-Kadhimi has announced early elections. They will take place, he said, in June of 2021.  As we noted, Iraq does not need that long to prepare for parliamentary elections.  They have done it in much less time -- look at the fall of 2009 and all the hand wringing that it would delay elections yet they still took place in March of 2010.  Jasper Hamann (MOROCCO WORLD NEWS) writes:

The political blocs that stand to lose in new elections will have sufficient incentive to try to stall them. Nahrain University Political Science Professor Yaseen al-Bakri told Al Monitor that “they want the current parliamentary term to be completed and avoid going to early elections because they are well aware of the little chances they have in the early elections.”

Stalling the electoral process could be as easy as hampering progress towards the establishment of a new electoral law. While parliament has passed the law, it has not sent the law to the president for approval because of disagreements between parliament’s rival factions.

Who are these unnamed political blocs?

And does he mean stall in Parliament?

The stall has traditionally come from one of Iraq's vice presidents -- they have multiple vice presidents.  Often, it is over something like the issue of the displaced and the refugees and are provisions made to allow them to vote?  

The law is not sent to the president, it's sent to the the three presidencies.  That includes the Vice Presidents.  I really think something has happened in the last years.  Either out of ignorance or out of a desire to elevate the office of the president of Iraq, journalists keep pretending that the highest position in Iraq is the president.  The presidency was given to the Kurds.  It is a ceremonial position.  If it had true power, you can be sure that Shi'ite majority Iraq would never have given the post to the Kurds.

News out of Kurdistan this morning is of the death of a prominent political figure.  RUDAW reports

A prominent Kurdish nationalist from Iran has died in Sulaimani on Thursday after a battle with COVID-19.

Jalil Gadani, a long-time member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), passed away at Hiwa hospital in the Kurdistan Region’s eastern city on Thursday after being in intensive care for almost a week, according to an official statement published by the group on Thursday. 

Gadani, who has been involved in Kurdish Iranian politics for more than six decades, split from the KDPI in 2006 with a number of senior members to form the splinter group called Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP-Iran). He held senior positions in both parties for decades.

"Jalil Gadani was a book that was written over a 60 years period, my condolences to the Kurdish people," said Facebook user Hassan Ahmed.

While Michael O'Hanlon is praising Iraq as 'back on track,' Halgurd Sherwani (KURDISTAN 24) reports a disturbing incident that took place on Sunday:

On Sunday, Iraqi security forces detained a Kurdistan 24 team that was covering a clash between Kurdish villagers and several Arab families in the disputed Kirkuk province.

The incident occurred in the Guli Tapa village in southern parts of Kirkuk, where a confrontation ensued over land-ownership disputes. Shortly after, a Kurdistan 24 media team, made up of a reporter and a cameraman, arrived on the scene.

Local Kurds in Daquq district, where Guli Tapa is located, claimed that the Iraqi Federal Police had supported Arab families coming and attempting to take over lands Kurds own.

Upon arrival, "we were detained by a unit of Iraq's Federal Police for three hours in a window-tinted car," said Soran Kamaran, Kurdistan 24's reporter in Kirkuk province. Kurdistan 24 cameraman Nawzad Mohammad was accompanying Kamaran.

"We were told [by the security forces] that they do not allow such incidents to be reported," Kamaran said. He added that the police unit also confiscated their equipment and still hold on to them.

Syrian journalist Richard Medhurst Tweets

There are entire generations of kids in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya who have known nothing but war their entire lives. They've grown up with PTSD, anxiety, depression because of Obama. No one talks about the toll on their mental health. Are they not human? Don't they matter?

New content at THIRD:

The following sites updated:

Wednesday, August 05, 2020


Beyonce can't act.  There's a reason Jennifer Hudson, in a supporting role, walked off with DREAMGIRLS. 

I watched Beyonce's BLACK IS KING and BORED IS ALL COLORS.

It's more garbage from a woman whose life is weird and strange and people will admit that in a decade or two. 

I guess we all have ham hock assed Beyonce?

She's cobbled together the work of others, passed it off as her own, and presenting this non-linear garbage as art. 

Even the title grates: BLACK IS KING?  This is the Lion King and he's not Black, he's tan.  More to the point, as a Black woman, I'm not comfortable with 'Black is king.'  I wouldn't tolerate 'White is king.'  Black pride is one thing -- James Brown, I'm Black and I'm proud -- but BLACK IS KING sounds like the mirror image of the KKK. 

I know Beyonce's stupid -- she's barely literate -- but she's that stupid?  I guess so. 

BLACK IS KING is embarrassing and it's nonsense.  But everyone's going to pretend like it's art and that it's amazing.  In about five years, the pretense will be gone and everyone will admit this was garbage.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Wednesday, August 5, 2020.  Iraq War veteran Sean Worsely continues to be persecuted by the State of Alabama, Iraq's prime minister faces many problems -- including whether he can rule.

We're going to start with Iraq War veteran Sean Worsely.  We covered him in yesterday's snapshot.  If you're late to the story (I was), see that snapshot and also make a point to read Cara Wietstock's piece for GANJAPRENEUR which opens:

Veteran Sean Worsley stopped for gas in Gordo, Alabama to pump gas for his wife on a family road trip to his grandmother’s house. While pumping gas he was laughing and playing air guitar. He was approached by Gordo PD for violating a noise ordinance with his music, and the events that unfolded from there would change his life forever.

And here is Eboni Worsley, Sean's wife, speaking about the case and Sean joins her on the phone in this video.

Four drive-by e-mails (non-community members e-mailing the public account) who insist they are attorneys want it known that I am completely wrong when I say this needs to be challenged in regards to medical.

Can I be completely wrong?  Absolutley.  And I probably am many times.  I don't think I'm wrong on this.

Sean's facing prison because he was going through Alabama and he and his wife were stopped and he had marijuana.  The marijuana was prescribed, he had his medical prescription.  Alabama does not prescribe medical marijuana.  Not only was his medication confiscated but he was arrested.

I am on, among other things, metformin, gab-whatever, insulin (injection) and chemo (which, right now, I'm taking orally).  If I go through North Carolina and am stopped and agree to a search, the officer certainly has a right to search me.  But does s/he have a right to confiscate my medication?  Do they have a right to hold me in jail and deny me my medication?

Alabama's stupid in not prescribing medical marijuana but I don't see where they have the right to interfere with a medical treatment.

They violated Sean's rights right there.  He has TBI and Post-Traumatic Stress.  They knew that.  They put him behind bars without access to his medication despite knowing that.  They denied him his medication.

I'd like to know what medical professional in Alabama, who has a background in TBI and PTS treatment signed off on this?

I know the answer: No one did.

The state of Alabama disregarded a patient's treatment plan, stopped the treatment and did so without any medical supervision.

Police officers are not doctors. 

This was a violation of his medical treatment.

His attorney has attempted to argue sympathy and that it was prescribed and so blah blah blah.

I don't disagree with that argument but I do see that it hasn't had any effect at all.  The attorney's argued that for how long now?

Yes, it's helped in the court of public opinion.

I'm glad people are supporting Sean and that they are behind him in larger and larger numbers as they learn about this case.  But support for Sean right now is not translating into freedom.

When you're defense doesn't work in court, you go on the offensive.

His attorney needs to immediately file charges against the State of Alabama.  We're not talking about the arrest here, we're talking about the medical issue.

If tomorrow I'm in North Carolina and they decide to disallow their citizens having prescriptions for chemo, are they able to interfere with my medical treatment because I'm driving through their state?  Are they able to immediately halt my medical treatment and to do so with no medical supervision, without consulting any doctor at all?

No, they're not.

That's what they did.

If his attorney has any real sense, he'll file immediately on that.  And he can pursue to victory -- he'd have to really bungle the case to lose.  Or he can drop the case when the State of Alabama realizes how much they could lose -- Sean could potentially get rich off this case -- if they allow it to go to court.  If the State decides they don't want to go to court, one of the first things they're going to do is either offer some sort of 'time served' option or drop the original charges. 

Either way, Sean would win.  And I'm on the other phone (the snapshots are dictated).  Okay, just ran by a friend with the National Lawyers Guild and her verdict?  That's a sound argument and that's what she would do were she representing Sean.  "Put some fear into them [State of Alabama]," she says, "and see if they don't suddenly want to resolve the whole thing without prison time."

The State, any of the fifty, does not have the right to stop our medical treatment.  And to stop it without having Sean see a doctor first who agrees that this treatment can be stopped?  That's not the United States of America and I don't see any court insisting that the government has that right.

They overstepped their rights and Sean should sue on the medical issue.

On e-mails, Brian Stelter of CNN became a news topic late Monday.  He lied that the notion that Joe Biden should refuse to debate Donald Trump was coming from the right-wing.  Several drive-by e-mails insisted I was wrong not to cover that.  One person wrote, "I read your blog because I think you try to be fair even though you're a bleeding heart lefty.  Now I doubt that because you ignored this topic."

You now doubt that I'm a bleeding heart lefty or you doubt that I try to be fair?

Monday morning, before Brian became a news topic, we already covered this topic.  In Monday's snapshot, I noted Democrat of the Bill Clinton administration Joe Lockhart had proposed that.  I noted he did so in a column he wrote for -- not FOX NEWS -- CNN.  I noted that it was an outrageous suggestion and it went against everything a democracy stands for.

Later that day, Brian entered the news cycle.  He lied.  He lies all the time.  I have no respect for him.  He's built his career on lying and he's one sided -- I'd say he's more centrist than left -- and he's partisan and he's a clown who is ugly and looks like a child molester.  That he lies and that I think he's ugly and looks like a child molester?  Those aren't new comments.  I've made them here and at THIRD in pieces with Ava.

He has no charisma and he's disgusting ugly.

Why is he on TV in front of camera?

At any rate, I don't plan what I'm going to write ahead of time each day.  I have no idea what the snapshot's going to emphasize until I'm about to dictate or sometimes in the middle of dictating.  At which point, I'll say, "Okay, this is going to go at the top, above everything you've already typed."

I missed Sean's case completely.  I did not know about it, had not heard about it.  I was dictating the snapshot when the other phone rang and a friend with a VSO was on the line asking if I was going to cover Sean?  I learned about him in the middle of the snapshot and we went with FOX NEWS because hours before they had published a report.  (Which was a strong report, by the way.)

So on Tuesday morning, Brian was back in the news cycle for lying yet again.  And I'd just learned of Sean's plight.  What was I going to go with?  Sean.

He's an Iraq War veteran and the State of Alabama thought they could overrule his doctor's plan, they thought they could cease his medication immediately and they thought they could do all of this without having him see a single doctor to determine the medical impact their actions could have.

I'm always going to go with the Seans of this world, sorry.

We need to stand together when we're under attack and what was done to Sean wasn't just wrong, it was also an attack on every one of us.

The coronavirus is an attack on all of us around the world.  Like other countries, Iraq has been heavily hit. ALJAZEERA has a photo essay of the burials of COVID 19 victims and they note:

Every chapter of Iraq's modern history can be seen in the sprawling cemetery of Wadi al-Salam outside the holy city of Najaf. Its sandy expanse is growing, this time with coronavirus victims.

A special burial ground near the cemetery has been created specifically for COVID-19 victims because such burials have been rejected by Baghdad cemeteries and other places in Iraq.

In Iraq, the virus has been surrounded by stigma, driven by religious beliefs, customs and a deep mistrust of the healthcare system.

Iraq has recorded close to 132,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 5,000 deaths.

XINHUA reports, "The Iraqi Health Ministry reported on Tuesday 2,836 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number in the country to 134,722.  The new cases included 769 in the capital Baghdad, 296 in Karbala, 244 in Erbil, 207 in Basra, 194 in Babil, 135 in Maysan, and 129 in Najaf, the ministry said in a statement. It also reported 83 fatalities during the day, raising the death toll to 5,017, while 1,992 more patients recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 96,103."  Those are the numbers and they're frightening. Samya Kullab and Nabil Al-Jurani (AP) look at how this impacts individual Iraqis:

In Iraq’s oil-rich south, the scorching summer months pose painful new choices in the age of the coronavirus: stay at home in the sweltering heat with electricity cut off for hours, or go out and risk the virus.

This is Zain al-Abidin’s predicament. A resident of al-Hartha district, in Basra province, Mr. Abidin lost his job due to pandemic-related restrictions. During the day he listens helplessly to his four-month old daughter cry in the unbearable heat, too poor to afford private generators to offset up to eight-hour power cuts.

“I have no tricks to deal with this but to pray to God for relief,” he said.

Nearly 18 years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, the electricity issue has never been solved.  Somehow, oil rich Iraq can't provide reliable electricity to its citizens.  Mustafa al-Kadhimi became prime minister on May 7th.  He has made public remarks about the failures of previous administration to fix this problem or even address it. He has promised reform.  Can he deliver? 

Can he even deliver on early elections?

When Mustafa al-Kadhimi became Iraq’s prime minister on May 7, after five months of political deadlock in Baghdad, I argued his best chance of success was to fail fast. The only way to clean the Augean stables of Iraqi politics was with the strong broom of a popular mandate — and that could only be obtained from elections. Thoroughgoing political and economic reforms would require a majority — or at least a plurality with which to build an irresistible coalition — in parliament.

Last week, the prime minister called for early elections — on June 6, 2021, a year ahead of schedule. But Iraq’s circumstances have deteriorated so much in the three months since he took office, Kadhimi will have a much harder time convincing Iraqis to give him a mandate to rule.

All the crises he inherited have deepened. The coronavirus pandemic, already alarming when Kadhimi was sworn in, has since only grown more frightening, forcing him to announce fresh lockdowns. The Iraqi economy, having suffered extensive collateral damage from the Saudi-Russian oil war, has weakened. Powerful, Iran-backed Shiite militias have grown more brazen. Corruption, already ingrained in the body politic, seems to have metastasized across every aspect of the state.

Even the weather has been worse than expected. Iraq is now wilting in the hottest summer ever recorded, with temperatures nearing 52 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) in Baghdad and 53C (127F) in Basra last week. The heat threatens to bring the protests against electricity and water shortages — a summer fixture in the Iraqi political calendar — to a fever pitch. Some demonstrations in Baghdad have already boiled over into clashes with security forces: Two protesters were killed last Monday.

How does he address corruption when so many of the leaders are corrupt?  It's a question few want to address.  But the corruption is well known.  When Democrats in Congress knew they could use Iraq to garner votes, they would hold hearings about what was happening to all the US dollars being sent to Iraq -- dollars that never managed to help the people.  They stopped those hearing when Barack Obama became president and they also ended the watchdog office over reconstruction in Iraq -- over the objection of the person in that office.  With Barack in the White House, Democrats no longer wanted oversight of Iraq.  They didn't stop the flow of US tax dollars to Iraq, they just stopped caring where the money went.  Roopinder Tara (ENGINEERING.COM) writes about the corruption this morning:

In the power vacuum left after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government, a thicket of corruption has erupted. The corruption took hold during the end of Saddam’s reign, when international sanctions against Iraq resulted in the slashing of government officials’ incomes and the workers resorting to taking bribes, according to a recent report in The New York Times.

The World Population Review report ranks Iraq the 11th most corrupt country in the world in 2020.

In 2011, a $148 million project was planned to turn Baghdad’s Sadr al Qanaat thoroughfare into an idyllic outdoor park with sports fields, restaurants, playgrounds and a canal with decorative bridges over it. But that site is now “a dismal dumping ground with little sign that anything was ever spent on it.”

Where did the money go? According to The Times, it went into the pockets of corrupt officials who, with the backing of militias, funnel billions of dollars supplied by the United States for construction projects into their personal international bank accounts.

At ARAB NEWS, Michael Pregnent offers his take which includes the following:

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is set to visit Washington soon, although he does not yet have a date or an invitation, so he is scrambling to say all the right things in order to secure a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Iraq is worse off than it was two weeks ago and this last week has propelled two items to the top of the list for Al-Kadhimi’s visit to the US: Kata’ib Hezbollah’s continued attacks on the US and Iraqis, and calls by Al-Kadhimi for early elections that Kata’ib Hezbollah and its allies in Iraq’s Council of Representatives won’t allow to happen. 

The top agenda item for Trump is for Al-Kadhimi to do something about the militias that he supposedly commands as Iraq’s commander in chief. The militias that fall under the government’s security apparatus are attacking US personnel in Iraq, which are there to partner with the Baghdad government to ensure the enduring defeat of Daesh. The militias have now become more of a threat to the US and Iraqis than Daesh.

Trump wants to know if the US has a partner in Iraq. The president is willing to pull US forces out of Iraq if this “partner” continues to disappoint. Republicans and Democrats are looking for a reason to end this experiment. And it won’t be without costs to Baghdad and Tehran.

Two actions by the Democrat-led House of Representatives point to a breakup if nothing changes. Democrats voted to cut funding for the US mission in Iraq by $145 million and Republican Rep. Joe Wilson was able to get two amendments passed that would ensure no US dollars go to any institution in Iraq where the militias have access to the funds — that would mean the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior would be most affected.

On the militias and other issues, The Atlantic Council notes:

It’s been three years since the guns fell silent in Mosul, the onetime capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). With the Caliphate finally pushed out, it seemed the nightmare of extremist rule was finally coming to an end, giving Iraq’s Christian minority a chance to reclaim their homes after years spent sheltering under brutal conditions, fleeing to refugee camps, or taking flight abroad.

Instead, their hopes of rebuilding have diminished even as the threat of the Caliphate has faded. The region’s few remaining Christians find themselves caught between Iran-backed Shia militias and an Iraqi government that, nearly twenty years after the American invasion, is politically paralyzed and still unable to provide basic security and services—let alone protect the country’s embattled minority populations. As a result, most Iraqi Christians are searching for brighter pastures, even if it means forever parting with the land of their ancestors.

“Of the twenty thousand Christians that fled Mosul when ISIS came, only one hundred have returned,” said Reine Hanna, director of the Assyrian Policy Institute. “People can’t work and earn a living among ruins. There’s little incentive to return.”

The country that is now Iraq has been home to various Christian communities for more than two thousand years. Falling mostly outside the Roman Empire, where the Christianity familiar to most Westerners today took its basic shape, Iraqi Christians developed their own unique forms of Christian worship and theology which endure to this day; they draw heavily on ancient liturgical rites, prayers, and customs.

The fortunes of the region’s Christians vacillated with the many empires that rose and fell over the centuries. Prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, the country was home to 1.5 million Christians. But, despite their endurance over the centuries, the subsequent occupation and insurgency proved to be a breaking point. By 2014, shortly before the rise of ISIS, over eight hundred thousand of Iraq’s Christians had fled abroad, with many making new homes in the United States and Western Europe.

The establishment of the ISIS Caliphate drove the few remaining Christians out of the region to avoid living under a regime that gave them an ultimatum: pay a special tax for non-believers or leave or be killed. Nearly all chose to leave to the Kurdish north. While ISIS’ territorial defeat provided an opening for the return of Mosul’s Christians, that hope has quickly faded in the face of the grim state of Iraqi politics. The biggest challenge facing the country are the militias that control the territory formerly occupied by the Caliphate.

Today, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella group of various militias—mainly backed by Shia clerics and Iran—that were once seen as integral to the fight against ISIS, are now focused on controlling the areas they liberated. They are also determined to further their own political agenda. The PMF have already been documented committing a number of crimes across Iraq, including looting, revenge killings against Sunni Arabs, and seizure of property. 

There is a growing fear that many PMF units will ultimately occupy towns indefinitely, since they have not left the ones they liberated. This is creating a climate where they mete out whatever justice or injustice their militia leaders dictate. Exploiting Iraq’s fractured political and security landscape, PMF units have erected their own system of check points and recruitment offices in towns across the country, giving them an advantage over the domestic security situation. They have even entered politics, helping Iran-backed groups gain even more leverage over Iraqi affairs, such as its economy.

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