Saturday 14 August 2021

America’s Shameful Surrender In Afghanistan

 14 August 2021

By Andrew Korybko


Andrew Korybko, Russia based American Analyst argues that the US should be ashamed of its surrender in Afghanistan. After wasting $2 trillion on a 20-year-long war it has ultimately come out with nothing to show for it. Tens of thousands were killed for the official objectives of “promoting democracy” and “defending human rights,” which were never taken seriously by its decision-makers.

American surrender Afghanistan

The US should be ashamed of its surrender in Afghanistan. Over $2 trillion was wasted on a 20-year-long war with nothing to show for it. Tens of thousands have been killed and the official objectives of “promoting democracy” and “defending human rights” were never taken seriously by its decision-makers. Even if they were, they would still have failed since the Western notions thereof cannot be forcefully imposed upon Afghanistan’s largely traditional society from abroad. All that Afghanistan ever represented to America was a springboard from which to destabilize the region for divide-and-rule Hybrid War ends and a seemingly endless corruption scheme for enriching its elite who invested in the military-industrial complex.

The war was over before it began and what’s rapidly playing out before everyone’s eyes is the inevitable conclusion of the disaster that the US itself is solely responsible for creating at the turn of the century. It was one thing to overthrow the mostly unrecognized Taliban authorities in Afghanistan as punishment for what American officials claimed was their passive facilitation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and another entirely to occupy the country for so long. Not only that, but the US and its Kabul allies also carried out countless extra-judicial killings, including those who were murdered by air and drone strikes targeting civilians at weddings and even inside their own homes.

Taliban the “lesser evil” vs Foreign forces?

The Taliban might not have been popular among many when they were in power since they ruled with an iron fist in order to enforce their ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law, but they were eventually considered the so-called “lesser evil” in comparison to the new foreign-backed regime that was imposed upon the Afghan people. Apart from the killings that took place with impunity, corruption spiraled out of control and ethnic divisions were manipulated in order to turn neighbors against one another. The drug trade flourished, and with it came an explosion in organized crime. The Taliban might have been brutal, but at least there was some “method to their madness”. By contrast, the US-backed Kabul authorities thrived in pure chaos.

Of course, some Afghans benefited from the new state of affairs, which is undeniable. Quite a few received a Western-style education who would otherwise have never had such an opportunity. Additionally, those in the cities were able to economically prosper by trading with the occupying forces. The Taliban’s ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law was no longer enforced so people lived much more liberal lives than before. Foreign influences flooded into the country and shaped the new generation of urban dwellers. Some underdeveloped regions in the rural areas also received access to the modern-day amenities that they either never had before or only enjoyed for a brief moment of time in the past.

Nevertheless, that “New Afghanistan” was nothing but an illusion propped up by foreign airpower. The moment that the US decided to scale back its anti-Taliban strikes, the movement flexed its muscles and showed how powerful its nationwide network of influence was. They didn’t take over half the country’s regional capitals by fighting, but mostly by convincing the demoralized members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to peacefully surrender or flee. Their silent supporters within those cities (“sleeper cells”) awoke on command and coordinated their transfer of power from Kabul to the Taliban’s self-proclaimed “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” (IEA). Everything happened so swiftly that few could comprehend what they were witnessing.

America’s Shameful Surrender of Afghanistan

What’s so shameful about all of this from an American perspective isn’t just that over $2 trillion was wasted and tens of thousands of lives lost for nothing, but that the US also abandoned almost all of its Afghan allies. Regardless of however one feels about some of its citizens cooperating with the occupying forces in various capacities such as being translators or whatever else, America had a moral responsibility to help them flee their homeland in the face of credible threats of Taliban retribution. Instead, it coldly abandoned them and told all Afghans that they can’t even apply for asylum in the country but must first flee as refugees to other countries and then wait some time before their request is considered, after which it might not even ever be approved.

It’s this development more so than anything else that’ll leave the most enduring stain on America’s reputation. Every life lost was precious and the over $2 trillion wasted on this war could have been invested in much more constructive endeavors elsewhere, but betraying one’s allies in such a public and humiliating way is something that’ll forever disgust average Americans and those abroad who sympathize with the country for whatever reason. Those Afghans put their lives and those of their families on the line to help America, only to be treated like trash at the end of the day and thrown away like used toilet paper. It should enrage everyone across the world, even those who consider themselves “anti-American”, to see other human beings treated in such a way.

America should never have invaded Afghanistan in the first place since its “shock and awe” air campaign was more than sufficient to dislodge the Taliban and facilitate the Northern Alliance’s replacement of it. That should have been punishment enough for hosting Osama Bin Laden and might have actually resulted in a better future for the Afghan people. Instead, the US invaded the country for ulterior strategic motives totally disconnected from its stated goals of “promoting democracy” and “defending human rights”. The end result was written on the wall at that very moment, but few could have expected it to play out as dramatically as it did. The Taliban just captured territory equivalent to half the size of Texas in a single week, which nobody thought possible.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Syrian/Palestinian voices censored by Zionist lobby and rise of gatekeeper community — The Wall Will Fall

Laith Marouf is a lifelong activist and journalist campaigning for Palestinian rights and an end to Zionism. Marouf is of Syrian descent and has also been a thorn in the side of the Imperialist bloc particularly covering the regime change war waged against the Syrian people since 2011 and for decades prior to the latest destabilisation project. Marouf is outspoken about the white supremacy and orientalism among even the supposedly independent media and does not shy away from calling it out. His voice is becoming more and more important as the instruments of power in western media and social media ratchet up their censorship of indigenous voices challenging the dominant war-mongering narratives.


Laith Marouf is an award-winning multimedia producer and media policy and law consultant. His media work spans issues of liberation and decolonization from indigenous nations to Arab peoples, while his policy consultancy work is concentrated on building broadcasting capabilities for misrepresented and underrepresented communities the world over.

Follow Marouf’s work here.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

The Nobel Foundation Must Act Against The Power of the Norwegian Parliament

August 13, 2021  
About me
Lawrence Davidson is a retired professor of history from West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic research focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He taught courses in Middle East history, the history of science and modern European intellectual history.


Posted by Lawrence Davidson 

The essay appearing below is posted here as a companion piece to Lawrence Davidson’s analysis, dated 16 September 2019, entitled “The Sorry State of the Nobel Peace Prize.”

“The Nobel Foundation must act against the power of the Stortinget (Parliament) over the Peace Prize” (22 July 2021) by Fredrik S Heffermehl

Argument: The Peace Prize must be awarded in accordance with the inventor Alfred Nobel’s will. In this context, the Swedish Nobel Foundation is superior to the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget), and must therefore act to ensure that the Peace Prize in future goes to people who actively work for disarmament. 

Again, there is wrangling/tussle/strife around the Nobel Peace Prize. Now about money. The Norwegian committee for the peace prize is housed in a beautiful historic building in Oslo that is so expensive to maintain that the Nobel Foundation plans to sell it. This would be a great loss and the Norwegian committee has called on the Parliament of Norway, to pick up the bill and claims that the independence of the prize will not be harmed.

But it’s not at all that simple. According to my studies, the Stortinget’s relationship to the Peace Prize is a dark story of fraud. The award was never independent of the Stortinget. An annual appropriation would increase dependence.

As always, the starting point should be Alfred Nobel’s intention with the prize. The new CEO of the Nobel Foundation, the Norwegian lawyer Vidar Helgesen, emphasized in a recent radio interview the essence of all Nobel prizes: Alfred Nobel wished to change the world. In the nuclear age ending all wars is more imperative than ever, but how well does the Nobel Foundation maintain this essence of inventor Nobel peace vision?

He wanted to end all wars through global cooperation and disarmament based on international law. The core of the inventor’s peace innovation, global demilitarization, is explicitly mentioned in the will.

In his will Nobel entrusted Stortinget with appointing a committee of five, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, supposed to use the annual election of prize winners to promote the Nobel vision of how to create peace. But that never happened. The Peace Prize has been awarded in all directions and has become a general prize for goodness without a distinct idea or clear goals. The Stortinget should have appointed supporters of Nobel’s peace idea to committee members, but has instead chosen its own and used the prize for its own purposes.

That is a main conclusion in my recent book “Behind the medals”. The most obvious measure to fulfill Nobel’s last will would be to examine what his will really was and then

make it widely known. Instead, the leadership of the Stortinget decided in 1897 to quietly ignore the clear words of the will about the reduction or abolition of the military.

The will was put aside and never interpreted professionally. Instead, the Nobel Committee interpreted its own, self-chosen and diffuse concepts, such as “peace” and “peace work”, and took with it in practice freedom to do as it wished with the prize.

As a result the award never actively promoted the Nobel idea. Even if using entrusted funds for one’s own purposes must legally be regarded as embezzlement or infidelity to the testator, this has continued since I discovered, 15 years ago, that Nobel’s original intention with the prize had been ignored. Lawmakers violating the laws and refusing to adhere to criticism is a legal and democratic problem.

While working on the book, I gained access to the Nobel Committee’s internal archives – except the last 50 years that remain off-limits/secret. I have reviewed all 131 Peace Prizes over 120 years (1901–2020). My conclusion is that only 25 percent of them fulfill the purpose. The most interesting result of my review, however, was to get a picture of those who should have won, what the prize should have been, what it could have done for world peace if Nobel´s visionary idea had been respected.

The internal reports the committee received about the candidates reveal disdain and outright contempt for the idea and the people that Nobel intended his prize to support. I found 114 of them hidden/tucked away and forgotten in the Nobel Archives. Taken together these people are/constitute an important history of ideas. The sad fact is that the people Nobel wanted to support have throughout the years been ignored and suppressed by all of society, including the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

How could this happen? During the first ten years after Nobel’s death in 1896, the wish to be free from the union with Sweden dominated Norwegian politics. As King Oscar feared, the Peace Prize became a tool in the Norwegian freedom struggle. This caused permanent damage, Norwegian politicians got used to seeing the prize as their own. They elected themselves to the coveted committee seats. The committee was composed of members of the Stortinget and the government. In reality they developed an entirely Norwegian Peace Prize in the name of Nobel.

The first chairman of the committee in 1897 was a well-known lawyer who emphasized the importance of independence and distance from the Storting. He died in 1901 and was succeeded by Jørgen Løvland, leader of the Norwegian independence struggle, who wanted to link the peace prize as closely as possible to the Stortinget. He used the staff of the Nobel Institute in the struggle for national independence. When independence was won in 1905, the Nobel chairperson was also the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In the first ten months the ministry had no employees and the Nobel Institute functioned as Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Norwegian committee has never followed up on its main task: to promote the Nobel Prize for a geopolitical U-turn and universal cooperation on global peace. The prize, inspired by Bertha von Suttner’s novel “Down with the Weapons!” (1889), should have been called the Nobel Disarmament Prize. Only twice has the Committee stated the true purpose of the prize: in the speech for Bertha von Suttner as prize winner in 1905 and for the International Peace Bureau in 1910. The Norwegian administrators of the Nobel Prize are willing to discuss economic issues and everything else, except my analysis of Nobel’s intention. Such criticism is taboo and has been ignored.

Last year, the situation became really untenable. The entire Stortinget, with the exception of two members, voted against taking the Nobel will into account. Doing so, the Stortinget openly took over and rejected serving the inventor’s own idea. This is an open mutiny that forces the Nobel Foundation to intervene. As manager of Nobel’s bequeathed money the foundation bears superior responsibility for implementing Nobel’s intentions. It cannot accept a subcommittee that ignores the idea of the prize.

In an investigation of the Peace Prize in 2012, the County Administrative Board of Stockholm, which is the supervisory authority for foundations, stated that both the Norwegian Parliament and Nobel Committee are sub-bodies of the Nobel Foundation. The public supervisory board decided that the Nobel Foundation is obliged to examine Nobel´s intention with the peace prize, give the necessary instructions to the Norwegian bodies, and check that their decisions serve the purpose of the prize.

The truth is that the Storting stole the Nobel Peace Prize as early as in 1897. Norwegian society keeps totally silent about this. My criticism of the prize is extremely unpopular in Norway, but for me the world and peace have to be more important. As we face the threats of global warming, mega-fires, sea level rise, pandemics, famine, refugee flows, we are all in the same very unsafe boat and simply have to co-operate for our common survival. All countries must stand together or we shall all perish. We cannot afford the continuing military arms races that only increase the risk of us being annihilated. To break the vicious circle of militarism, the world needs Nobel’s visionary idea of world peace through cooperation. The Nobel Foundation took responsibility when, in 2017, the Board, building on my legal advice, intervened against the administrators of the literature prize. The Storting’s mutiny against Nobel is much more serious. According to the law, the Nobel Foundation has an obligation to act against the Stortinget, which in this context – unbelievably – is a body subordinate to the board of a private Swedish foundation. By law the Board of the Nobel Foundation has the right and obligation to instruct the Stortinget. The important thing now is not to increase financial dependence on the Stortinget. Instead the Foundation has to intervene and demand that the Stortinget as soon as possible appoints a prize committee that will loyally promote the peace vision of Nobel – or find other ways to ensure that the Nobel Peace Vision is realized.

Fredrik S Heffermehl is a lawyer and author, editor of nobelwill.org

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The Yas’ur Hunter: The Next War Will Be Fatal

August 13 2021

By Staff

On the anniversary of the downing of the Yas’ur helicopter on August 11, 2006, al-Ahed news unveils a never-before-seen interview with the Yas’ur Hunter, during which he details the operation and reveals the weapon used to shoot down the aircraft.

Below is an excerpt of the interview. The Islamic Resistance fighter who shot down the “Israeli” helicopter says the entity will be “dealt a hard blow in the next war will”. 

  • Place: South Lebanon – Yatar / Maryamin
  • Date: August 11, 2006
  • Objective: Shoot down a Yas’ur helicopter taking part in a hostile landing operation in Wadi Maryamin
  • The most important objectives of the “Israeli” Air Force during the July 2006 war:
  1. Hit the bank of targets
  2. Destruction of the resistance’s capabilities
  3. Dismemberment
  4. Committing the largest number of massacres against civilians
  • What are the features of the Yas’ur?
  1. A US-made transport helicopter
  2. Code is CH-53 Sikorsky
  3. The “Israeli” army named it Yas’ur. It also calls it the “divine machine” that is “untouchable”.
  4. 27 meters long and 9 meters wide (there is another type with a width of 7 meters)
  5. It can carry up to 35 soldiers with all their equipment and 35 soldiers with machinery
  6. Its propeller is 16 meters wide
  7. It is a heavy-lift transport and strategic aircraft used by the “Israeli” army, along with the Black Hawk aircraft, which can carry only 13 soldiers.
  8. Prior to its downing, the Yas’ur’s task was to transfer the leadership team that would manage the axis of hostile progress.
  9. During its downing, it was carrying five “Israelis”: the pilot, co-pilot, a technical officer [who worked in electronic warfare], and two other officers. All on board were killed.

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Deadly Wildfires Ripping Through Algeria: Criminal Hands behind Hundred-plus Fires Breaking Out at Same Time

 August 13 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

Hana Saada

Algeria did not rule out the possibility of a criminal act; “the rise in temperatures could not be the sole cause of these forest fires”.

Algerian Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Aimene Benabderrahmane, declared that, following the investigations launched by the relevant departments, scientific evidence has proven that the recent massive wildfires that have engulfed different parts of Algeria, killing and injuring 69 people, were of criminal origin.

“Only criminal hands are behind the fires breaking out at the same time in various parts of the province,” he added during a visit he paid to the province of Tizi-Ouzou, heading a large ministerial delegation to inquire about the situation of this province, which has been afflicted with fires since Monday, causing 69 deaths, including civilians and soldiers.

The elements of the Civil Protection are still deployed on the ground, as the most destructive blazes in the country continue to rage.

In addition, the government has deployed the army to help fight the fires, which were the fiercest in the mountainous Kabylie region. 

In an update, the national news agency APS said that the rash of fires had claimed 69 lives, including 28 soldiers deployed to help overstretched emergency services. Another 12 soldiers are critically injured with burns.

Out of the 103 fires that broke out across 17 provinces of the country since last Monday, 86 have not been controlled, explained the Forests Director General, Ali Mahmoudi, pointing out that 30 major outbreaks were recorded in the province of Tizi-Ouzou.

“Only 17 of the 103 fires that erupted across 17 provinces since Monday have been extinguished,” Mr. Mahmoudi explained.

Fires are still tearing through Jijel (16 fires), Bejaïa (8 fires) El Tarf (6), Skikda (4), Annaba (4), Blida (4), Guelma (3), Sétif (2) , Médéa (2), Algiers (1), Batna (1), Bouira (1), Chlef (1), Khenchela (1) Oum El Bouaghi (1) and Tébessa (1).

Concerning the origin of these fires, Mr. Mahmoudi did not rule out the possibility of criminal act, noting that “the rise in temperatures could not be the sole cause of these forest fires”.

Images of trapped villagers, terrified livestock and forested hillsides reduced to blackened stumps were widely shared on social media, many of which were accompanied by pleas and cries for help. Photographs also showed huge walls of flame and billowing clouds of smoke towering over charred trees in the forested hills.

To this end, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning starting Thursday, and he tweeted his condolences for the families and loved ones of the soldiers who were killed in action as they rescued people in the areas of Bejaiea and Tizi-Ouzou, the epicenter of the blazes.

“It is with great sadness that I have learned of the martyrdom of 25 soldiers after they were successful in rescuing around 100 citizens from the flames in the mountains of Bejaia and Tizi-Ouzou,” the President said.

The Defense Ministry said the actions of the soldiers “saved 110 people – men, women and children – from the flames”.

For his part, the Public Prosecutor of Tizi-Ouzou, Abdelkader Amrouche, said that work is underway on a draft law to amend the Forestry Law, highlighting that the authorities suspect widespread arson after so many fires erupted in such a short space of time.

He explained in an interview with journalists that this draft law includes severe penalties for forests arsonists, even if they are minors, stressing that these penalties may reach 30 years in prison.

Last month, President Tebboune ordered a bill to stiffen punishments incumbent on starting a forest fire, with sentences up to 30 years in prison, and possible life imprisonment if the fire results in death.

It is worth noting that several arrests have been announced, but the identities or suspected motives of the detainees have not been disclosed.

The Algerian Minister of the Interior, Local Authorities and National Planning, Kamel Beldjoud, for his part, said that the wildfires that broke out in various parts of the country, killing 69 people, are of criminal origin. He also reassured the victims that they will be compensated, Algeria Press Service reported.

The Minister, who was accompanied by Minister of Agriculture and Minister of National Solidarity, told reporters that “criminals full of hatred against our country and wanting to harm Algeria are behind the fires that broke out in Tizi-Ouzou.”

“Only criminal hands can be behind 50 fires breaking out at the same time in various parts of the province,” he added.

Mr. Beldjoud pointed out the similarities between these “criminal” fires and others recorded in other parts of the country.

He said investigations into the wildfires are underway to identify and punish the guilty, reassuring the disaster victims that they will be compensated for their losses.

“Next Saturday, a delegation of 130 to 140 experts will visit the fire affected areas in Tizi-Ouzou to assess the damage and losses,” he said.

Mr. Beldjoud gave instructions for the mobilization of all available facilities (hotels, youth hostels, etc.) to accommodate the families who lost their homes to the fires.

“The current priority is to protect the local populations and preserve lives,” he said, lamenting the loss of six people, including a 23-year-old girl.

Algeria has reached a trade agreement with the European Union to lease two firefighting planes that were used in the firefighting operation in Greece, according to a statement issued, on Wednesday, by the Prime Ministry.

The same statement added that “the two planes will be put into use as of yesterday, Thursday, August 12, in the provinces where forest fires have broken out, as part of the mobilization of all the means and support to extinguish these fires.”The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

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Occupation Forces Demolish Khodor Family Homes in Al-Quds

 August 13, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

By Al Mayadeen

The Israeli occupation forces five members from one family in Al-Quds to demolish their homes in Beit Hanina, north of the city, to accommodate settlers who claim ownership of the land.

The occupation forces the Khodor family to demolish their homes in al-Quds

The occupation forces in al-Quds forced five members from one family to demolish their homes in Beit Hanina, north of the city. 

Members of the Khodor family proceeded to demolish five of their residences in the Aishwarya neighborhood of Beit Hanina with bulldozers. 

The occupation court had rejected the family’s request to stop the demolition of the houses a week ago, forcing them to bring their homes down for the settlers who claim ownership of the land.

The five houses belong to the resident of al-Quds Abdullah Khodor, who lives with his children and their wives.

According to reports by the Palestinian media, Khodor said: “We are steadfast. This land is our life.”

Khodor suffered a stroke after his house was demolished even though he possessed identification papers confirming his right to the house, however, the Israeli court forced him to demolish the house on the grounds of “not having a permit.”

Khodor refused the occupation’s attempts to bargain with him to vacate his house and said, “If they give me paradise, I will not leave my home. This is my home, the home where my children and grandchildren were born.”

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A Day in the Death of British Justice

 August 13th, 2021

By John Pilger


(Originally Published on Mintpressnews on August 12, 2021)

“What has not been discussed today is why I feared for my safety and the safety of our children and for Julian’s life.” — Stella Moris, partner of Julian Assange

Isat in Court 4 in the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday with Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s partner. I have known Stella for as long as I have known Julian. She, too, is a voice of freedom, coming from a family that fought the fascism of Apartheid. Today, her name was uttered in court by a barrister and a judge, forgettable people were it not for the power of their endowed privilege.

The barrister, Clair Dobbin, is in the pay of the regime in Washington, first Trump’s then Biden’s. She is America’s hired gun, or “silk”, as she would prefer. Her target is Julian Assange, who has committed no crime and has performed an historic public service by exposing the criminal actions and secrets on which governments, especially those claiming to be democracies, base their authority.

For those who may have forgotten, WikiLeaks, of which Assange is founder and publisher, exposed the secrets and lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the murderous role of the Pentagon in dozens of countries, the blueprint for the 20-year catastrophe in Afghanistan, the attempts by Washington to overthrow elected governments, such as Venezuela’s, the collusion between nominal political opponents (Bush and Obama) to stifle a torture investigation and the CIA’s Vault 7 campaign that turned your mobile phone, even your TV set, into a spy in your midst.

WikiLeaks released almost a million documents from Russia which allowed Russian citizens to stand up for their rights. It revealed the Australian government had colluded with the US against its own citizen, Assange. It named those Australian politicians who have “informed” for the US. It made the connection between the Clinton Foundation and the rise of jihadism in American-armed states in the Gulf.

There is more: WikiLeaks disclosed the US campaign to suppress wages in sweatshop countries like Haiti, India’s campaign of torture in Kashmir, the British government’s secret agreement to shield “US interests” in its official Iraq inquiry and the British Foreign Office’s plan to create a fake “marine protection zone” in the Indian Ocean to cheat the Chagos islanders out of their right of return.

In other words, WikiLeaks has given us real news about those who govern us and take us to war, not the preordained, repetitive spin that fills newspapers and television screens. This is real journalism; and for the crime of real journalism, Assange has spent most of the past decade in one form of incarceration or another, including Belmarsh prison, a horrific place.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, he is a gentle, intellectual visionary driven by his belief that a democracy is not a democracy unless it is transparent, and accountable.

Yesterday, the United States sought the approval of Britain’s High Court to extend the terms of its appeal against a decision by a district judge, Vanessa Baraitser, in January to bar Assange’s extradition.  Baraitser accepted the deeply disturbing evidence of a number of experts that Assange would be at great risk if he were incarcerated in the US’s infamous prison system.

Professor Michael Kopelman, a world authority on neuro-psychiatry, had said Assange would find a way to take his own life — the direct result of what Professor Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, described as the craven “mobbing” of Assange by governments – and their media echoes.

Those of us who were in the Old Bailey last September to hear Kopelman’s evidence were shocked and moved. I sat with Julian’s father, John Shipton, whose head was in his hands. The court was also told about the discovery of a razor blade in Julian’s Belmarsh cell and that he had made desperate calls to the Samaritans and written notes and much else that filled us with more than sadness.

Watching the lead barrister acting for Washington, James Lewis — a man from a military background who deploys a cringingly theatrical “aha!” formula with defence witnesses — reduce these facts to “malingering” and smearing witnesses, especially Kopelman, we were heartened by Kopelman’s revealing response that Lewis’s abuse was “a bit rich” as Lewis himself had sought to hire Kopelman’s  expertise in another case.

Lewis’s sidekick is Clair Dobbin, and yesterday was her day. Completing the smearing of Professor Kopelman was down to her. An American with some authority sat behind her in court.

Dobbin said Kopelman had “misled” Judge Baraister in September because he had not disclosed that Julian Assange and Stella Moris were partners, and their two young children, Gabriel and Max, were conceived during the period Assange had taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Britain Assange
Stella Moris after attending the first hearing in the Assange extradition appeal in London, Aug. 11, 2021. Matt Dunham | AP

The implication was that this somehow lessened Kopelman’s medical diagnosis: that Julian, locked up in solitary in Belmarsh prison and facing extradition to the US on bogus “espionage” charges, had suffered severe psychotic depression and had planned, if he had not already attempted, to take his own life.

For her part, Judge Baraitser saw no contradiction. The full nature of the relationship between Stella and Julian had been explained to her in March 2020, and Professor Kopelman had made full reference to it in his report in August 2020. So the judge and the court knew all about it before the main extradition hearing last September. In her judgement in January, Baraitser said this:

[Professor Kopelman] assessed Mr. Assange during the period May to December 2019 and was best placed to consider at first-hand his symptoms. He has taken great care to provide an informed account of Mr. Assange background and psychiatric history. He has given close attention to the prison medical notes and provided a detailed summary annexed to his December report. He is an experienced clinician and he was well aware of the possibility of exaggeration and malingering. I had no reason to doubt his clinical opinion.

She added that she had “not been misled” by the exclusion in Kopelman’s first report of the Stella-Julian relationship and that she understood that Kopelman was protecting the privacy of Stella and her two young children.

In fact, as I know well, the family’s safety was under constant threat to the point when an embassy security guard confessed he had been told to steal one of the baby’s nappies so that a CIA-contracted company could analyse its DNA. There has been a stream of unpublicised threats against Stella and her children.

For the US and its legal hirelings in London, damaging the credibility of a renowned expert by suggesting he withheld this information was a way, they no doubt reckoned, to rescue their crumbling case against Assange. In June, the Icelandic newspaper Stundin reported that a key prosecution witness against Assange has admitted fabricating his evidence. The one “hacking” charge the Americans hoped to bring against Assange if they could get their hands on him depended on this source and witness, Sigurdur Thordarson, an FBI informant.

Thordarson had worked as a volunteer for WikiLeaks in Iceland between 2010 and 2011. In 2011, as several criminal charges were brought against him, he contacted the FBI and offered to become an informant in return for immunity from all prosecution. It emerged that he was a convicted fraudster who embezzled $55,000 from WikiLeaks, and served two years in prison. In 2015, he was sentenced to three years for sex offenses against teenage boys. The Washington Post described Thordarson’s credibility as the “core” of the case against Assange.

Yesterday, Lord Chief Justice Holroyde made no mention of this witness. His concern was that it was “arguable” that Judge Baraitser had attached too much weight to the evidence of Professor Kopelman, a man revered in his field. He said it was “very unusual” for an appeal court to have to reconsider evidence from an expert accepted by a lower court, but he agreed with Ms. Dobbin it was “misleading” even though he accepted Kopelman’s “understandable human response” to protect the privacy of Stella and the children.

If you can unravel the arcane logic of this, you have a better grasp than I who have sat through this case from the beginning. It is clear Kopelman misled nobody. Judge Baraitser – whose hostility to Assange personally was a presence in her court – said that she was not misled; it was not an issue; it did not matter. So why had Lord Chief Chief Justice Holroyde spun the language with its weasel legalise and sent Julian back to his cell and its nightmares? There, he now waits for the High Court’s final decision in October – for Julian Assange, a life or death decision.And why did Holroyde send Stella from the court trembling with anguish? Why is this case “unusual”? Why did he throw the gang of prosecutor-thugs at the Department of Justice in Washington – — who got their big chance under Trump, having been rejected by Obama – a life raft as their rotting, corrupt case against a principled journalist sunk as surely as Titantic?

This does not necessarily mean that in October the full bench of the High Court will order Julian to be extradited. In the upper reaches of the masonry that is the British judiciary there are, I understand, still those who believe in real law and real justice from which the term “British justice” takes its sanctified reputation in the land of the Magna Carta. It now rests on their ermined shoulders whether that history lives on or dies.

I sat with Stella in the court’s colonnade while she drafted words to say to the crowd of media and well-wishers outside in the sunshine. Clip-clopping along came Clair Dobbin, spruced, ponytail swinging, bearing her carton of files: a figure of certainty: she who said Julian Assange was “not so ill” that he would consider suicide. How does she know?

Has Ms. Dobbin worked her way through the medieval maze at Belmarsh to sit with Julian in his yellow arm band, as Professors Koppelman and Melzer have done, and Stella has done, and I have done? Never mind. The Americans have now “promised” not to put him in a hellhole, just as they “promised” not to torture Chelsea Manning, just as they promised ……

Britain Assange
A WikiLeaks supporter gives leaflets to passing drivers, during the first Assange extradition appeal hearing in London, Aug. 11, 2021. Matt Dunham | AP

nd has she read the WikiLeaks’ leak of a Pentagon document dated 15 March, 2009? This foretold the current war on journalism. US intelligence, it said, intended to destroy WikiLeaks’ and Julian Assange’s “centre of gravity” with threats and “criminal prosecution”. Read all 32 pages and you are left in no doubt that silencing and criminalising independent journalism was the aim, smear the method.

I tried to catch Ms. Dobbin’s gaze, but she was on her way: job done.

Outside, Stella struggled to contain her emotion. This is one brave woman, as indeed her man is an exemplar of courage. “What has not been discussed today,” said Stella, “is why I feared for my safety and the safety of our children and for Julian’s life. The constant threats and intimidation we endured for years, which has been terrorising us and has been terrorising Julian for 10 years. We have a right to live, we have a right to exist and we have a right for this nightmare to come to an end once and for all.”

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Manipulating Dollar-Riyal Exchange Rate, Saudis and US Double Cost of Yemen’s Staple Goods

August 13th, 2021

Yemen Dollar Feature photo

By Ahmed Abdulkareem


Thousands of Yemenis held rallies in cities across the country demanding hunger not be used as a weapon by Saudi Arabia and the United States in order to bring locals to their knees.

ADEN, YEMEN — “The prices are skyrocketing. We can’t feed our children. They are starving,” Saher Abdu Salem, a government employee and a mother of five, said as she participated in a protest in Aden against Saudi Arabia and the government of ousted Yemeni President Abdul-Mansour al-Hadi. The protests took place at the Aden port this week in the wake of a recent decision by the Saudi-backed government in Aden to raise the U.S. dollar exchange rate for major life-saving goods. Now Saher and her husband are struggling to feed their family in the coastal city where the price of the staple ‘rooti’ loaf of bread has soared 250% in a month, its portion halved in size. “When the U.S. State Department expresses its concern over us, this means that it will deal a new blow to our hungry stomachs,” she said.

In this recent development, the oil-rich kingdom has raised the U.S. dollar exchange rate used to calculate customs duties on essential goods that enter Yemen, a country grappling with what the United Nations says is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with millions facing famine. The decision, which has been adopted by the ousted president’s government, has quickly been put into effect and has doubled customs tariffs for major goods and products that enter from the ports controlled by the Saudi-led Coalition.

In the wake of the Saudi decision, the price of essential goods has been doubled, particularly in Aden, Hadramout, al-Mahrah and all southern provinces occupied by the Saudi-led Coalition. In Aden, prices of oil, sauces, vegetables and fruits have more than tripled. The hike in duties from 250 to 110 Yemeni Riyals to the dollar applies to basic commodities such as flour, sugar, cooking oil, rice, milk, fuel and medicine.

According to the United Nations and local humanitarian bodies working on the ground, the move has already aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country where more than 80% of the population is reliant on imports. On Wednesday, a report issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen said that the Yemeni riyal in “the areas of the internationally recognized Yemeni government” (referring to the Saudi-backed government of al-Hadi) has lost more than 36% of its value within a year, causing prices to rise. Moreover, the move has spread fear among Yemeni families who are struggling against floods, COVID-19 and other diseases.

The World Bank has said that about 70% of Yemenis are at risk of starvation at a time when the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) has been halved since 2015, when the war began. The World Bank added, in the report published on its website, that “food prices have also risen due to the suspension of commercial imports and the resulting shortage of supplies, and the depreciation of the Yemeni riyal, which currently barely exceeds a third of its 2015 value.”

Refusing to acquiesce

Thousands of Yemenis held rallies in cities across the country demanding hunger not be used as a weapon by Saudi Arabia and the United States in order to bring locals to their knees. In the Saudi-controlled south and east of Yemen — where separate protests have broken out recently over frequent power cuts and the deterioration of health services, in light of the spread of COVID-19 and non-payment of wages — hundreds took the street in Aden, Abyan and Taiz, and al-Shehr ports located in al-Mahrah.

Meanwhile, many traders, importers, and related workers refused to acquiesce in the Saudi decision and instead went on strike. “This decision is a disaster for all Yemenis, and we have been on strike since Eid al-Adha,” Wael Gabr, a merchant who went on strike along with dozens of his peers at the al-Shahr port in al-Mahra, said. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, based in Aden, also rejected the decision and warned of its repercussions.

Food prices have spiked sharply in the southern governorates since June 2020 thanks to Saudi mismanagement, according to the World Bank, which reported that the national average cost of a Minimum Food Basket (MFB) rose to YR 41,950 (about $63) in June, 4% above the MFB in May, driven by the large depreciation of the rial. The MFB cost increased, month to month, by 18% in Aden, 13% in Lahji and 11% in Dhalee, impacting southern households. In sharp contrast, the MFB cost declined markedly by 7% in Sana`a and remained stable in most other northern governorates, despite acute fuel shortages.

“We hold America responsible”

In Sana`a, where the Ansar Allah-led government has been able to maintain a stable exchange rate, thousands of people took the street on Sunday in Bab al-Yemen southeast of the city. There, protesters voiced slogans and chants against both Riyadh and Washington, expressing deep dissent over the recent rising rate of customs tariffs imposed by Saudi Arabia. “Nothing happens without the knowledge or consent of the United States,” Gabriel Ahmed said, as he joined with others chanting the slogan “Who is behind the decision…? America! America!”

A statement read by protest organizers proclaimed:

We consider raising the price of the customs dollar a pre-planned American decision by President Biden`s administration itself and implemented by the puppet tools in Aden. And we hold America responsible for exposing civilians in all Yemeni governorates to starvation, and we hold it responsible for using the siege of starvation as a weapon of war against the Yemeni people.”

In a speech to the protesters, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a high-ranking leader in the movement, said that the U.S. is constantly trying to depreciate Yemen’s rial against the American dollar in a move similar to its efforts in Syria, Palestinians and Lebanon: “It is the U.S. that has put a blockade against our country and killed our people. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are nothing more than tools for implementing U.S. schemes and agendas.”

This step — which came as part of the maximum pressure campaign exercised by Saudi Arabia and supported by the Biden administration, to bring the Yemenis to their knees — coincides with another step no less dangerous than rising tariffs. In July, Saudi Arabia began a new campaign to purge the kingdom — particularly its southern governorates of Asir, Jizan, and Najran — of Yemeni nationals, including workers and academics, in a move that will not only exacerbate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, social instability and armed conflict for years to come, but also undermine whatever possibility remains of the Yemeni Republic emerging from this war intact, according to a recent report from Sana`a Center for Studies.

However, Yemenis are not giving up. Ansar Allah, which has led the resistance against the Saudi-led war, announced that they will continue to fight the Saudi Coalition, despite the economic pressures, until Saudi Arabia and its allies end the war, lift the blockade, and leave the country. Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the leader of Ansar Allah, said on Monday, “When Washington and its allies speak of peace, they mean others must surrender to their demands.” He concluded, “We are ready for peace, not surrender, and we will resist by all available means.”

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Friday 13 August 2021

A Saigon moment looms in Kabul

 August 13, 2021

See the source image
Vietnam Civilians try to board a US helicopter at the US Embassy in Saigon, 1975

August 12, 2021 will go down as the day the Taliban avenged America’s invasion and struck the blow that brought down its man in Kabul

A Saigon moment looms in Kabul

by Pepe Escobar,  posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

August 12, 2021. History will register it as the day the Taliban, nearly 20 years after 9/11 and the subsequent toppling of their 1996-2001 reign by American bombing, struck the decisive blow against the central government in Kabul.

In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban all but captured three crucial hubs: Ghazni and Kandahar in the center, and Herat in the west. They had already captured most of the north. As it stands, the Taliban control 14 (italics mine) provincial capitals and counting.

First thing in the morning, they took Ghazni, which is situated around 140 kilometers from Kabul. The repaved highway is in good condition. Not only are the Taliban moving closer and closer to Kabul: for all practical purposes they now control the nation’s top artery, Highway 1 from Kabul to Kandahar via Ghazni.

That in itself is a strategic game-changer. It will allow the Taliban to encircle and besiege Kabul simultaneously from north and south, in a pincer movement.

Kandahar fell by nightfall after the Taliban managed to breach the security belt around the city, attacking from several directions.

In Ghazni, provincial governor Daoud Laghmani cut a deal, fled and then was arrested. In Kandahar, provincial governor Rohullah Khanzada – who belongs to the powerful Popolzai tribe – left with only a few bodyguards.

He opted to engage in an elaborate deal, convincing the Taliban to allow the remaining military to retreat to Kandahar airport and be evacuated by helicopter. All their equipment, heavy weapons and ammunition should be transferred to the Taliban.

Afghan Special Forces represented the cream of the crop in Kandahar. Yet they were only protecting a few select locations. Now their next mission may be to protect Kabul. The final deal between the governor and the Taliban should be struck soon. Kandahar has indeed fallen.

In Herat, the Taliban attacked from the east while notorious former warlord Ismail Khan, leading his militia, put up a tremendous fight from the west. The Taliban progressively conquered the police HQ, “liberated” prison inmates and laid siege to the governor’s office.

Game over: Herat has also fallen with the Taliban now controlling the whole of Western Afghanistan, all the way to the borders with Iran.

Tet Offensive, remixed

Military analysts will have a ball deconstructing this Taliban equivalent to the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Satellite intel may have been instrumental: it’s as if the whole battlefield progress had been coordinated from above.

Yet there are some quite prosaic reasons for the success of the onslaught apart from strategic acumen: corruption in the Afghan National Army (ANA); total disconnect between Kabul and battlefield commanders; lack of American air support; the deep political divide in Kabul itself.

In parallel, the Taliban had been secretly reaching out for months, through tribal connections and family ties, offering a deal: don’t fight us and you will be spared.

Add to it a deep sense of betrayal by the West felt by those connected with the Kabul government, mixed with fear of Taliban revenge against collaborationists.

A very sad subplot, from now on, concerns civilian helplessness – felt by those who consider themselves trapped in cities that are now controlled by the Taliban. Those that made it before the onslaught are the new Afghan IDPs, such as the ones who set up a refugee camp in the Sara-e-Shamali park in Kabul.

A new generation of IDPs in Afghanistan. Image: Supplied

Rumors were swirling in Kabul that Washington had suggested to President Ashraf Ghani to resign, clearing the way for a ceasefire and the establishment of a transitional government.

On the record, what’s established is that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin promised Ghani to “remain invested” in Afghan security.

Reports indicate the Pentagon plans to redeploy 3,000 troops and Marines to Afghanistan and another 4,000 to the region to evacuate the US Embassy and US citizens in Kabul.

The alleged offer to Ghani actually originated in Doha – and came from Ghani’s people, as I confirmed with diplomatic sources.

The Kabul delegation, led by Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of something called the High Council for National Reconciliation, via Qatar mediation, offered the Taliban a power-sharing deal as long as they stop the onslaught. There’s been no mention of Ghani resigning, which is the Taliban’s number one condition for any negotiation.

The extended troika in Doha is working overtime. The US lines up immovable object Zalmay Khalilzad, widely mocked in the 2000s as “Bush’s Afghan.” The Pakistanis have special envoy Muhammad Sadiq and ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Khan.

The Russians have the Kremlin’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov. And the Chinese have a new Afghan envoy, Xiao Yong.

Russia-China-Pakistan are negotiating with a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) frame of mind: all three are permanent members. They emphasize a transition government, power-sharing, and recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political force.

Diplomats are already hinting that if the Taliban topple Ghani in Kabul, by whatever means, they will be recognized by Beijing as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan – something that will set up yet another incendiary geopolitical front in the confrontation against Washington.

As it stands, Beijing is just encouraging the Taliban to strike a peace agreement with Kabul.

The Pashtunistan riddle

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has minced no words as he stepped into the fray. He confirmed the Taliban leadership told him there’s no negotiation with Ghani in power – even as he tried to persuade them to reach for a peace deal.

Khan accused Washington of regarding Pakistan as “useful” only when it comes to pressing Islamabad to use its influence over the Taliban to broker a deal – without considering the “mess” the Americans left behind.

Khan once again said he “made it very clear” there will be no US military bases in Pakistan.

This is a very good analysis of how hard it is for Khan and Islamabad to explain Pakistan’s complex involvement with Afghanistan to the West and also the Global South.

The key issues are quite clear:

1. Pakistan wants a power-sharing deal and is doing what it can in Doha, along the extended troika, to reach it.

2. A Taliban takeover will lead to a new influx of refugees and may encourage jihadis of the al-Qaeda, TTP and ISIS-Khorasan kind to destabilize Pakistan.

3. It was the US that legitimized the Taliban by striking an agreement with them during the Donald Trump administration.

4. And because of the messy withdrawal, the Americans reduced their leverage – and Pakistan’s – over the Taliban.

The problem is Islamabad simply does not manage to get these messages across.

And then there are some bewildering decisions. Take the AfPak border between Chaman (in Pakistan’s Balochistan) and Spin Boldak (in Afghanistan).

The Pakistanis closed their side of the border. Every day tens of thousands of people, overwhelmingly Pashtun and Baloch, from both sides cross back and forth alongside a mega-convoy of trucks transporting merchandise from the port of Karachi to landlocked Afghanistan. To shut down such a vital commercial border is an unsustainable proposition.

All of the above leads to arguably the ultimate problem: what to do about Pashtunistan?

The absolute heart of the matter when it comes to Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan and Afghan interference in the Pakistani tribal areas is the completely artificial, British Empire-designed Durand Line. 

Islamabad’s definitive nightmare is another partition. Pashtuns are the largest tribe in the world and they live on both sides of the (artificial) border. Islamabad simply cannot admit a nationalist entity ruling Afghanistan because that will eventually foment a Pashtun insurrection in Pakistan.

And that explains why Islamabad prefers the Taliban compared to an Afghan nationalist government. Ideologically, conservative Pakistan is not that dissimilar from the Taliban positioning. And in foreign policy terms, the Taliban in power perfectly fit the unmovable “strategic depth” doctrine that opposes Pakistan to India.

In contrast, Afghanistan’s position is clear-cut. The Durand Line divides Pashtuns on both sides of an artificial border. So any nationalist government in Kabul will never abandon its desire for a larger, united Pashtunistan.

As the Taliban are de facto a collection of warlord militias, Islamabad has learned by experience how to deal with them. Virtually every warlord – and militia – in Afghanistan is Islamic.

Even the current Kabul arrangement is based on Islamic law and seeks advice from an Ulema council. Very few in the West know that Sharia law is the predominant trend in the current Afghan constitution.

Closing the circle, ultimately all members of the Kabul government, the military, as well as a great deal of civil society come from the same conservative tribal framework that gave birth to the Taliban.

Apart from the military onslaught, the Taliban seem to be winning the domestic PR battle because of a simple equation: they portray Ghani as a NATO and US puppet, the lackey of foreign invaders.

And to make that distinction in the graveyard of empires has always been a winning proposition.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!