The Evening Blues - 3-22-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold. Enjoy!
Billy Boy Arnold - I Ain't Got You
"The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media."
-- William Colby
News and Opinion
In order to narrative-manage the public conversation about the Iraq War on the 20th anniversary of the invasion, those who helped unleash that horror upon our world have briefly paused their relentless torrent of “Ukraine proves the hawks were always right” takes to churn out a deluge of “Actually the Iraq War wasn’t based on lies and turned out pretty great after all” takes.
Council on Foreign Relations chief Richard Haas — who worked in the US State Department under Colin Powell when Bush launched his criminal invasion — got a piece published in Project Syndicate falsely claiming that the US government and his former boss did not lie about weapons of mass destruction, and that “governments can and do get things wrong without lying.”
Former Bush speechwriter David “Axis of Evil” Frum cooked up a lie-filled spin piece with The Atlantic claiming that “What the U.S. did in Iraq was not an act of unprovoked aggression” and suggesting that perhaps Iraqis are better off as a result of the invasion, or at least no worse off than they would otherwise have been.
Neoconservative war propagandist Eli Lake, who has been described by journalist Ken Silverstein as “an open and ardent promoter of the Iraq War and the various myths trotted out to justify it,” has an essay published in Commentary with the extraordinary claim that the war “wasn’t the disaster everyone now says it was” and that “Iraq is better off today than it was 20 years ago.”
But by far the most appalling piece of revisionist war crime apologia that’s come out during the 20th anniversary of the invasion has been an article published in National Review by the genocide walrus himself, John Bolton.
Lumping everything together as “Iraq War” critics do is a disservice to the careful analysis of what America accomplished, or didn’t. It is not one indivisible, 20-year-long block of granite that can be judged only all or nothing. In fact, the brunt of https://t.co/2lhQ3EnqWW…
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 17, 2023
Bolton sets himself apart from his fellow Iraq war architects by arguing that the actual invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein “was close to flawless,” and that the only thing the US did wrong was fail to kill more people and topple the government of Iran.
Bolton criticizes “the Bush administration’s failure to take advantage of its substantial presence in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek regime change in between, in Iran,” writing that “we had a clear opportunity to empower Iran’s opposition to depose the ayatollahs.”
“Unfortunately, however, as was the case after expelling Saddam from Kuwait in 1991, the United States stopped too soon,” Bolton writes.
Bolton claims that the notoriously cruel sanctions that were inflicted upon Iraq between 1991 and 2003 were too lenient, saying there should have been “crushing sanctions” that were “enforced cold-bloodedly”.
As Reason’s Eric Boehm notes in his own critique of Bolton’s essay, perhaps the most galling part is where Bolton dismisses any responsibility the US might have for the consequences and fallout from the Iraq invasion, attempting to compartmentalize the “flawless” initial invasion away from all the destabilization and human suffering which followed by saying “they did not inevitably, inexorably, deterministically, and unalterably flow from the decision to invade and overthrow.”
“Whatever Bush’s batting average in post-Saddam decisions (not perfect, but respectable, in my view), it is separable, conceptually and functionally, from the invasion decision. The subsequent history, for good or ill, cannot detract from the logic, fundamental necessity, and success of overthrowing Saddam,” Bolton writes.
This is self-evidently absurd. A Bush administration warmonger arguing that you can’t logically connect the invasion to its aftereffects is like an arsonist saying you can’t logically connect his lighting a fire in the living room to the incineration of the entire house. He’s just trying to wave off any accountability for that war and his role in it.
“One might suspect that Bolton imagines a world where actions should not have consequences because he’s been living in exactly that type of world for the past two decades,” Boehm writes. “Somehow, he’s retained his Washington status as a foreign policy expert, media commentator, and presidential advisor despite having been so horrifically wrong about Iraq.”
And that to me is what’s the most jaw-dropping about all this. Not that John Bolton still in the year 2023 thinks the invasion of Iraq was a great idea and should have gone much further, but that the kind of psychopath who would say such a thing is still a prominent news media pundit who is platformed by the most influential outlets in the world for his “expertise”.
It’s actually a completely damning indictment of all western media if you think about it, and really of our entire civilization. The fact that an actual, literal psychopath whose entire goal in life is to try to get as many people killed by violence as he possibly can at every opportunity is routinely given columns and interviews in The Washington Post, and is regularly brought on CNN as an expert analyst, proves our entire society is diseased.
To be clear, when I say that John Bolton is a psychopath, I am not using hyperbole to make a point. I am simply voicing the only logical conclusion that one can come to when reading reports about things like how he threatened the children of the OPCW chief whose successful diplomatic efforts in early 2002 were making the case for invasion hard to build, or how he spent weeks verbally abusing a terrified woman in her hotel room, pounding on her door and screaming obscenities at her.
And that’s just Bolton’s personality. The actual policies he has worked to push through, sometimes successfully, are far more horrifying. This is the freak who has argued rabidly for the bombing of Iran, for bombing North Korea, for attacking Cuba over nonexistent WMD, for assassinating Gaddafi, and many other acts of war. Who helped cover up the Iran-Contra scandal, who openly admitted to participating in coups against foreign governments, and who tried to push Trump into starting a war with Iran during his terrifying stint as his National Security Advisor.
This man is a monster who belongs in a cage, but instead he’s one of the most influential voices in the most powerful country on earth. This is because we are ruled by a giant globe-spanning empire that is held together by the exact sort of murderous ideology that John Bolton promotes.
Bolton is not elevated at maximum amplification in spite of his psychopathic bloodlust, but exactly because of it. That’s the sort of civilization we live in, and that’s the sort of media environment that westerners are forming their worldviews inside of. We are ruled by murderous tyrants, and we are propagandized into accepting their murderousness by mass media which elevate bloodthirsty psychos like John Bolton as part of that propaganda.
That’s the world we live in. That’s what we’re up against here.
And that’s why they’ve been working so hard to rewrite the history on Iraq. They need us to accept Iraq as either a greater good that came at a heavy price or a terrible mistake that will never be repeated, so that they can lead us into more horrific wars in the future.
We are being paced. Until now, “Iraq” has been a devastating one-word rebuttal to both the horror and failure of US interventionism. The essays these imperial spinmeisters have been churning out are the early parlay in a long-game effort to take away that word’s historical meaning and power. Don’t let them shift it even an inch.
Worth a click and a full read:
On March 20, Iraqis marked the 20th anniversary of the horrific U.S.-U.K. bombing of Baghdad, dubbed “Shock and Awe.” In rapid succession, “coalition forces” dropped 3,000 bombs, including many that weighed 2,000 pounds, on Baghdad in what The New York Times called “almost biblical power.” Although they launched an illegal war of aggression and committed war crimes in Iraq, 20 years later the leaders of the U.S. and the U.K. have never faced criminal accountability. By contrast, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has already charged Russian President Vladimir Putin with war crimes just one year after his unlawful invasion of Ukraine. He is the first non-African leader to be charged by the ICC, which frequently succumbs to pressure from the United States.
In what came to be called “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” 173,000 troops from the United States and the United Kingdom invaded Iraq. During the eight-year war, about 300,000 Iraqis and 4,600 Americans were killed. The United States spent $815 billion on the war, not counting indirect costs. It plunged the country into a civil war and millions of Iraqi refugees remain displaced. Two decades later, not one of the officials responsible has been brought to justice.
Sources within his administration have confirmed that George W. Bush was planning to invade Iraq and execute regime change long before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The U.S.-led invasion violated the United Nations Charter, which authorizes countries to use military force against other countries only in self-defense or with approval by the UN Security Council. The attack on Iraq didn’t satisfy either of these conditions and was therefore an act of aggression. After the Holocaust, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg wrote, “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” ...
Last May, George W. Bush accidentally admitted that his decision to invade Iraq was unjustified. While addressing a crowd at the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Bush decried “the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean, Ukraine.” He then added under his breath, “Iraq too.”
Speaking about the war in Ukraine, President Joe Biden recently declared the apparent absurdity of “The idea that over 100,000 forces would invade another country — since World War II, nothing like that has happened.” Biden apparently forgot about “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
Vladimir Putin has welcomed China’s proposals for peace in Ukraine at a joint press conference with Xi Jinping in Moscow – a plan the west has warned would allow the Kremlin to “freeze” its territorial gains in the country.
Speaking at the Kremlin during a joint news conference after the second day of talks with China’s president, Xi Jinping, Putin said Beijing’s peace plan “correlates to the point of view of the Russian Federation” and said that Ukraine’s western allies so far have shown no interest in it.
China last month proposed a 12-point peace plan for dealing with the war. The paper largely reiterated Beijing’s talking points on the Ukraine war, with calls for dialogue, respect for all countries’ territorial sovereignty, and an end to economic sanctions. It urged all parties to avoid nuclear escalation but critically did not suggest Russia withdraw its forces.
On Monday, US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, voiced scepticism over China’s “peace” proposals, warning that they could be a “stalling tactic” to help Russian troops on the ground in Ukraine. “The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms.”
By evening, the two sides announced that Putin and Xi had signed two joint documents: a statement on plans for economic cooperation and a statement on plans for deepening partnership. Putin further said the two countries were close to “finalising” an agreement on the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, a major plan to reroute Russia’s gas exports from Europe to Asia. The pipeline has not been formally agreed but is expected to come online by 2030.
Vladimir Putin has sought to exploit a British statement that it would supply Ukraine with tank shells made with depleted uranium, arguing that the delivery of the armour-piercing weapons would prompt a Russian response.
The Russian leader’s comments, made during the visit to Moscow by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, came in response to a parliamentary answer given by a junior British defence minister in the House of Lords on Monday.
Annabel Goldie said that the UK would supply “armour piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium” to Ukraine with its gift of 14 Challenger 2 tanks because they are deemed “highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armoured vehicles”.
The comments began to circulate on Russian social media channels on Tuesday, and the Russian leader chose to refer to them after a meeting with Xi. “If all this happens, Russian will have to respond accordingly, given that the west collectively is already beginning to use weapons with a nuclear component,” he said.
The Pentagon is looking to speed up the delivery of the Abrams tank to Ukraine by refurbishing older models instead of manufacturing new ones.
US officials told The Associated Press that the new plan is to send Ukraine the older M1A1 version that can be pulled from US Army stockpiles. The officials expect the M1A1s could be delivered within eight to 10 months.
The initial plan was for the US to manufacture 31 new M1A2 Abrams tanks, which wouldn’t have been delivered for years. The new plan still does not get the tanks into Ukraine’s hands before the spring, when the US is hoping Ukraine will launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces.
Taiwan’s president will visit diplomatic allies Guatemala and Belize next week while also making stopovers in the United States, as it aims to shore up ties in Latin America. Tsai Ing-wen will depart Taiwan on 29 March for the 10-day trip, stopping in New York and Los Angeles while en route to and from the Central American countries, the island’s ministry said on Tuesday.
Belize and Guatemala are two of just 14 countries that officially recognise Taiwan over China, and Tsai’s trip comes after Honduras said earlier this month that it would be switching recognition to Beijing.
During her trip, President Tsai will meet her Guatemalan counterpart Alejandro Giammattei and Belize’s prime minister Johnny Briceño, the foreign ministry said. Asked if Tsai would meet US House speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles, deputy foreign minister Alexander Yui said only that her “transit itinerary is being arranged appropriately with the US side”.
McCarthy said earlier this month that he would see Tsai in his home state of California.
Protests erupted across France yesterday evening, after the National Assembly failed to censure Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s government for imposing President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension cuts without a parliamentary vote. Violent clashes between heavily-armed police and thousands of protesting youth and workers continued into the night in cities throughout France. Only 279 deputies voted a censure motion presented by right-wing deputy Charles de Courson and backed by the neo-fascist National Rally (RN) of Marine Le Pen and the Unsubmissive France (LFI) party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. This fell nine short of a majority in the 577-seat Assembly. Under the arcane and reactionary terms of Article 49, line 3 of France’s 1958 constitution, Macron’s cuts are thus formally adopted as law without a parliamentary vote.
These events constitute a historic exposure of the state as a class dictatorship of the capitalist oligarchy. Three-quarters of the French people oppose Macron’s cuts, and two-thirds want a general strike to block the economy and prevent their adoption. But the Assembly trampled the will of the people underfoot. There is no parliamentary road to stop the looting of the French people by an entrenched ruling class determined to slash pensions by hundreds of billions of euros in order to fund bank bailouts for the rich and war with Russia. The vote was also a devastating exposure of the union bureaucracies and pseudo-left parties like LFI. For weeks, at protests of millions of workers and youth, they claimed that just attending protests in large numbers could convince the Assembly to oppose Macron’s cuts. The predictable outcome in the Assembly, which never had a majority to vote a censure motion against the Borne government or the cuts, exposes the political charlatans who peddled these illusions.
Instead, a direct confrontation is emerging between the working class and the capitalist police-state machine, as protests continue to escalate amid growing, palpable fear in ruling circles. Industrial action is continuing among airline, rail and refinery workers, whose strike is beginning to cause fuel shortages in southeastern France. There is also a growing movement among teachers to stop the holding of the baccalauréat end-of-high school exam in protest against Macron.
A nationwide protest strike is scheduled for March 23, and even in official media there is growing speculation that the trade unions may not be able to hold back an uncontrolled social explosion of strikes and protests after that date.
Renaud, 49, leaned out of the window of his Paris bin lorry, which was being held in its depot by a barricade of strikers. “Emmanuel Macron doesn’t seem to be listening to the anger out there,” he said. “People don’t think we’re in a democracy any more.” A refuse-truck driver for 22 years, Renaud had watched as his garbage processing plant was blocked for the 15th day of a rubbish-collection strike that has all but submerged half of Paris under 10,000 tonnes of waste. He couldn’t afford to strike and risk losing his daily income but understood the rage over Macron’s decision to use executive powers to push through an unpopular rise in the French pension age to 64 without a vote in parliament.
Everyone was talking about how the political system was collapsing, he said. “People are struggling, prices are going up. I already have to work extra jobs to make ends meet – carpentry, building, anything I can find.”
Protests intensified in France on Tuesday after the government narrowly survived a no-confidence vote. Over several nights of sporadic demonstrations there have been more than 1,500 protests in cities including Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Paris – where bins were set alight – as well as ring-road blockades, docker protests, barricaded university buildings, train-track invasions at stations, refinery protests and electricity blackouts by strikers. At Renaud’s depot, a crowd of students gathered to support the strikers.
“Everyone’s joining in, the government is afraid of more and more young people taking part,” said Céline, 53, a trade unionist for the leftwing CGT union who works in local government administration in Ivry, a Communist-run town on the south-eastern edge of Paris and has been on the barricades at the trash plant since 5am most mornings. “There has been a denial of democracy,” she said. “Macron thinks of himself as a kind of king, Jupiter up high looking down on us. We’ve got to hold out until he listens.” ...
Some fear a new round of protests could echo the gilets-jaunes anti-government movement of four years ago. It is uncertain what Macron will propose to calm the storm on the streets. He will appear in a TV interview on Wednesday, but Elysée insiders have already ruled out a cabinet reshuffle or a referendum. Nor will Macron dissolve parliament and call a snap general election: Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally, currently the biggest single opposition party, could stand to benefit the most. Meanwhile, Macron will press on, including by this weekend welcoming the UK’s King Charles for his first state visit and a banquet at the Palace of Versailles while protesters condemn him as haughty and monarchical.
“Anger is growing,” said Akli, 48, an Ivry council worker on the refuse barricades. “This has gone far beyond pensions, it is about our political system. The president has executive powers that need to be rethought. It’s about protecting France’s whole postwar system of social protection. It’s about hanging on to our welfare state, as Macron tries to unpick it – from housing benefits to the unemployment system. French people are well informed and politicised, they won’t let this pass.”
The treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, pledged to protect depositors at smaller US lenders on Tuesday from “contagion” after bank runs led to customers pulling billions in funds.
US officials have stepped in to guarantee the deposits of two banks that collapsed earlier this month and in a speech in Washington Yellen gave the clearest signal yet that they will step in again if the crisis continues.
“Our intervention was necessary to protect the broader US banking system. And similar actions could be warranted if smaller institutions suffer deposit runs that pose the risk of contagion,” Yellen told the American Bankers Association.
The US insures bank deposits up to $250,000 through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Smaller US banks have been pummelled by a wave of withdrawals as depositors have worried about their banks’ finances and whether that limit will be breached.
In comments after the speech, Yellen said the current situation was different from 2008, which she described as “a solvency crisis”, while “what we are seeing is contagious bank runs”.
Law enforcement officials in New York on Tuesday continued preparing for possible unrest on the streets of Manhattan as a grand jury investigating Donald Trump over a hush money payment to the adult film-maker and star Stormy Daniels appeared poised to complete its work by criminally indicting the former president.
Barriers were brought to the area around the Manhattan criminal courthouse in the lower part of the island. Uniformed police were out in force. So were reporters and protesters. ...
The grand jury did appear to take an important step on Monday by hearing from a witness favourable to Trump, presumably so prosecutors could ensure the panel had a chance to consider testimony that could be seen as exculpatory.
It was uncertain if more witnesses might be summoned. But authorities mindful of the deadly riot by Trump supporters at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 took steps to prepare for any violence that could accompany the unprecedented prosecution of a former president. ...
Informed sources expected a grand jury would vote on an indictment on Wednesday, with an announcement on Thursday or Friday. Trump is due to hold his first large-scale rally of the 2024 Republican primary in Waco, Texas, on Saturday. Media outlets reported a likely surrender to authorities in New York on Monday.
The number of people lacking access to safe drinking water in cities around the world will double by 2050, research has found, amid warnings of an imminent water crisis that is likely to “spiral out of control”.
Nearly 1 billion people in cities around the world face water scarcity today and the number is likely to reach between 1.7 billion and 2.4 billion within the next three decades, according to the UN World Water Development Report, published on Tuesday ahead of a vital UN summit. Urban water demand is predicted to increase by 80% by 2050.
Water shortages are also becoming a more frequent occurrence in rural areas, the report found. Currently, between 2 billion and 3 billion people experience water shortages for at least a month a year.
Audrey Azoulay, director general of Unesco, the UN agency that produced the report, said governments must cooperate over water. “There is an urgent need to establish strong international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from spiralling out of control. Water is our common future, and it is essential to act together to share it equitably and manage it sustainably,” she said.
The UN is holding its first water conference since 1977 in New York this week, co-hosted by the governments of the Netherlands and Tajikistan, at which global water issues will be discussed by ministers and a small number of heads of state from around the world. They will hear warnings of a looming water crisis, which has been largely neglected by governments. About 2 billion people globally do not have safe drinking water, while 3.6 billion lack access to safely managed sanitation, according to the report.
Residents of St James parish, Louisiana, have unveiled a federal lawsuit accusing local government officials of civil rights and religious liberty violations by repeatedly approving the construction of petrochemical plants in two majority Black districts.
The lawsuit, part of a wave of litigation in the heavily industrialised corridor known as “Cancer Alley”, also calls for a moratorium on the construction of new plants and the extension of existing facilities in St James parish.
Launched in New Orleans on Tuesday by a coalition of environment groups founded by Black women, many of whom trace their ancestry back to the days of slavery in the parish, the lawsuit argues that the approval of more than a dozen facilities in majority Black areas bears a direct correlation to the vestiges of slavery and segregation.
It argues the local council has “intentionally chosen to locate over a dozen enormous industrial facilities in the majority Black fourth and fifth districts [of the parish], while explicitly sparing white residents from the risk of environmental harm”.
The lawsuit states that despite pleas from Black residents to halt new approvals in the districts, the local government has approved “every single request by heavy industrial corporations to locate their facilities in majority Black districts in the parish while rejecting requests to locate them in white districts”.
The second day of spring brought more harsh wintry weather to storm-weary California on Tuesday with excessive rain, heavy mountain snow and hurricane-force wind gusts expected.
Forecasters warned the storm, the 12th atmospheric river on the US west coast since December, would hit southern and central California the hardest. A vast stretch of the region, including most of the greater Los Angeles area, was under flood watches due to the extreme weather, which was expected to spread across the south-west and into the central Great Basin and Rockies by late Tuesday.
The National Weather Service warned conditions would lead to difficult driving conditions, power outages and downed trees. Flooding prompted officials in southern California to close portions of the Pacific Coast highway Tuesday morning.
The NWS issued an excessive-rainfall notice for much of the southern California coast while high-wind warnings and advisories were in effect from the Mexico border through Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay area. The high mountains, still blanketed in white from a storm heavy winter, could see as much as 5ft of snow.
The latest storm comes as California continues to grapple with the effects of an extreme winter, including widespread flooding and mountain towns buried in snow. The atmospheric river storms that have hit the state in recent months have dumped 30tn gallons of water across California, forcing entire towns to evacuate and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Billy Boy Arnold - Don't Stay Out All Night
Billy Boy Arnold - I Wish You Would
Billy Boy Arnold & The Aces ~ She Fooled Me
Billy Boy Arnold - Billy Boy's Blues
Billy Boy Arnold - You're My Girl
Billy Boy Arnold - My Little Machine
Billy Boy Arnold - Whiskey, Beer and Reefer
Billy Boy Arnold - Shake Your Hips
Billy Boy Arnold - Low Down Blues
Billy Boy Arnold - Love Me Baby