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Iraqi Voices Are Screaming from Far Away

Iraqis were attempting the nonviolent overthrow of their dictator prior to his violent overthrow by the United States in 2003. When U.S. troops began to ease up on their liberating and democracy-spreading in 2008, and during the Arab Spring of 2011 and the years that followed, nonviolent Iraqi protest movements grew again, working for change, including the overthrow of their new Green Zone dictator. He would eventually step down, but not before imprisoning, torturing, and murdering activists -- with U.S. weapons, of course.

There have been and are Iraqi movements for women's rights, labor rights, to stop dam construction on the Tigris in Turkey, to throw the last U.S. troop out of the country, to free the government from Iranian influence, and to protect Iraqi oil from foreign corporate control. Central to much of the activism, however, has been a movement against the sectarianism that the U.S. occupation brought. Over here in the United States we don't hear much about that. How would it fit with the lie we're told over and over that Shi'a-Sunni fighting has been going on for centuries?

Ali Issa's new book, Against All Odds: Voices of Popular Struggle in Iraq, collects interviews he's done of key Iraqi activists, and public statements made by Iraqi activist movements, including a letter to the U.S. Occupy Movement and similar messages of global solidarity. The voices are hard to hear because we haven't been hearing them all these years, and because they don't fit with lies we've been told or even with overly simplistic truths we've been told.

Did you know that, at the time of the Occupy Movement in the United States, there was a larger, more active, nonviolent, inclusive, principled, revolutionary movement holding major demonstrations, protests, permanent sit-ins, and general strikes in Iraq -- planning actions on Facebook and by writing times and places on paper currency? Did you know there were sit-ins in front of every U.S. military base demanding that the occupiers leave?

When U.S. troops eventually and temporarily and incompletely departed Iraq, that was due, most Americans imagine, to President Barack Obama's peaceful ways. Other Americans, aware that Obama had long since broken his withdrawal campaign promise, had done everything possible to extend the occupation, had left behind thousands of State Department troops, and would be back in with the military as soon as possible, give credit to Chelsea Manning for having leaked the video and documents that persuaded Iraq to stick with the Bush-Maliki deadline. Few note the efforts of Iraqis on the ground who made the occupation untenable.

The Iraqi media has been shut down when it has covered protests. Journalists in Iraq have been beaten, arrested, or killed. The U.S. media, of course, behaves itself without much prodding.

When an Iraqi threw his shoes at President Bush the Lesser, American liberals giggled but made clear their opposition to shoe-throwing. Yet the fame the act created allowed the shoe-thrower and his brothers to build popular organizations. And future actions included throwing shoes at a U.S. helicopter that was apparently trying to intimidate a demonstration.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with opposing throwing shoes in most contexts. Certainly I do. But knowing that the shoe throwing helped to build what we always claim to want, nonviolent resistance to the empire, adds some perspective.

Iraqi activists have regularly been kidnapped/arrested, tortured, warned, threatened, and released. When Thurgham al-Zaidi, brother of shoe-thrower Muntadhar al-Zaidi, was picked up, tortured, and released, his brother Uday al-Zaidi posted on Facebook: "Thurgham has assured me that he is coming out to the protest this Friday along with his little son Haydar to say to Maliki, 'If you kill the big ones, the little ones are coming after you!'"

Mistreatment of a child? Or proper education, far superior to indoctrination into violence? We shouldn't rush to judgment. I'd guesstimate there have been perhaps 18 million U.S. Congressional hearings lamenting the failure of Iraqis to "step up" and help out in the killing of Iraqis. Among Iraqi activists there seems to have been a great deal of stepping up for a better purpose.

When a nonviolent movement against Assad in Syria still had hope, the "Youth of the Great Iraqi Revolution" wrote to "the Heroic Syrian Revolution" offering support, encouraging nonviolence, and warning against co-option. One has to set aside years of U.S. neocon propaganda for the violent overthrow of the Syrian government, in order to hear this support for what it was.

The letter also urges a "national" agenda. Some of us see nationalism as a root cause of the wars and sanctions and abuse that created the disaster that now exists in Iraq, Libya, and other liberated lands. But here "national" is apparently being used to mean non-divisive, non-sectarian.

We talk about the nations of Iraq and Syria as having been destroyed, just as we talk about various other peoples and states, back to the nations of the Native Americans, having been destroyed. And we're not wrong. But it can't sound right in the ears of living Native Americans. So, for Iraqis, talk of their "nation" also seems to be a way to talk about returning to normalcy or preparing for a future not torn apart by ethnicity and religious sectarianism.

"If not for the occupation," wrote the president of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, in 2011, "the people of Iraq would have ousted Saddam Hussein through the struggles of Tahrir Square. Nevertheless, U.S. troops empower and protect the new Saddamists of the so-called democracy who repress dissent with detainments and torture."

"With us or against us" idiocy doesn't work in observing Iraqi activism. Look at these four points in a statement made in June 2014 by Falah Alwan of the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unionists in Iraq:

"We reject U.S. intervention and protest President Obama's inappropriate speech in which  he expressed concern over oil and not over people. We also stand firmly against the brazen meddling of Iran.

"We stand against the intervention of Gulf regimes and their funding of armed groups, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

"We reject Nouri al-Maliki's sectarian and reactionary policies.

"We also reject armed terrorist gangs and militias' control of Mosul and other cities. We agree with and support the demands of people in these cities against discrimination and sectarianism."

But, wait, how can you oppose ISIS after you've already opposed U.S. intervention? One is the devil and the other the savior. You must choose . . . if, that is, you live thousands of miles away, own a television, and really -- let's be honest -- can't tell your ass from your elbow. The Iraqis in Issa's book understand the U.S. sanctions, invasion, occupation, and puppet government as having created ISIS. They've clearly had as much help from the U.S. government as they can stand. "I'm from the government and I'm hear to help" is supposed to be a terrifying threat, according to fans of Ronald Reagan who resent anyone trying to give them healthcare or an education. Why they think Iraqis and Libyans hear those U.S. words differently they don't explain -- and don't really have to.

Iraq is a different world, one the U.S. government would have to work to understand if it ever attempted to understand it. The same goes for U.S. activists. In Against All Odds, I read calls for "retaliation" framed as calls for peace and democracy. I read Iraqi protesters wanting to make clear that their protests are not all about oil, but principally about dignity and freedom. It's funny, but I think some of the U.S. war's backers claimed the war wasn't all about oil for the similar reason that it was about global domination, power, "credibility." Nobody wants to be accused of greed or materialism; everyone wants to be standing on principle, whether that principle is human rights or a sociopathic power grab.

But, as Issa's book makes clear, the war and the "surge" and its aftermath have been very much about oil. The "benchmark" of a "hydrocarbon law" in Iraq was Bush's top priority, year after year, and it never passed because of public pressure and because of ethnic divisions. Dividing people, it turns out, may be a better way to kill them off than to steal their oil.

We also read about oil workers taking pride in controlling their own industry, despite its being -- you know -- an industry that is destroying the earth's climate. Of course, we may all die from war before the climate gets us, especially if we fail to even begin to understand the death and misery our wars inflict. I read this line in Against All Odds:

"My brother was one of those taken in by the U.S. occupation."

Yeah, I thought, and my neighbor, and lots of Fox and CNN viewers. Many people fell for the lies.

Then I read the next sentence and began to grasp what "taken in" meant:

"They took him around 2008, and they interrogated him for an entire week, repeating one question over and over: Are you Sunni or Shi'a? . . . And he would say 'I am Iraqi.'"

I'm also struck by the struggles recounted by advocates for women's rights. They see a long multi-generational struggle and great suffering ahead. And yet we hear very little from Washington about the need to help them. When it comes to dropping bombs, women's rights always seems to appear as a great concern. Yet when women are organizing efforts to obtain rights, and to resist the radical removal of their rights by the post-liberation government: nothing but silence.

Talk Nation Radio: Andre Vltchek on Exposing Lies of the Empire

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-andre-vltchek-on-exposing-lies-of-the-empire

Andre Vltchek is a writer, reporter, playwright, photographer, and filmmaker. He has reported from around the world. His latest book, which he discusses, is Exposing Lies of the Empire. His website is http://andrevltchek.weebly.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or  LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

How to Stop the TPP

The House and Senate have rammed through Fast Track.

Here are the senators who voted for Fast Track: http://1.usa.gov/1GtAdTH

And the House members who voted for Fast Track: http://1.usa.gov/1GAl1TT

We always said this would virtually guarantee passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But it doesn't absolutely guarantee it.

One way to stop it would be to pull out a seldom-used tactic in the United States that is indispensible in other nations. We could threaten consequences at the polling place for TPP supporters.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, I know -- No, not kidding, I actually know -- that in some small percentage of cases this could end up meaning that you've committed to voting against someone who faces in a future election someone else who looks even worse. But fear of that has in fact produced a pattern of, in fact, worse candidates followed by even worse candidates for years now. How, pray tell, do you propose to ever get any better candidates?

The TPP is a disaster that towers over considerations of gentility and lesser-evilism. This is Congress, as our supposed representatives, giving the power to overturn its own laws to corporations. Why would you care whom you elect to a body that no longer has the power to make laws? It's already given up the power to stop wars.

The TPP is NAFTA on steroids, economically and environmentally destructive at home and abroad. Most of it has nothing to do with trade, but is rather about empowering banks and corporations with powers that couldn't be passed separately or transparently because they're too terrible and unpopular.

It's time we take a stand against wrecking the world, even with corrupt politicians who can find someone slightly more corrupt to run against.

It's time we signed this petition:

If you don't oppose and vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I will oppose and vote against you in every future primary and general election in which you are a candidate.

Please sign it here.

Resistance in Honduras Alive and Jumping

June 28 will mark 6 years since the U.S.-backed military coup in Honduras took the people's government away from them. Thousands of people are still in the streets every week demanding that the wrongful president step down.

"Whoever's not jumping supports the coup!" is the shout as a sea of people leaps repeatedly into the air. The makers of an amazing new film called Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley, will be allowing anyone to view it online for free for two weeks. I recommend you do so.

Honduras has not simply turned into the worst home of violent crime. And the people have not simply fled to the U.S. border (much compassion they'd receive there!) -- No, thousands and thousands of people in this little nation have taken back their land, occupied it, created communities, and built a future, with or without the coup.

President Manuel Zelaya had said he would help. Oligarchs had seized land, or bought land and then devalued the currency. Miguel Facussé took over palm oil plantations, evicted people from their land, got richer than rich, and allowed cocaine flights from Colombia to land on his plantations with U.S. knowledge.

The U.S. for years had been funding, training, and arming soldiers for the oligarchs of Honduras. The leaders of the 2009 coup that overthrew Zelaya had all trained at the School of the Americas in the United States. The U.S. assisted in the coup and in recognition of the coup government. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were part of and are part of this ongoing crime, and U.S. military supply shipments to Honduras are at record levels now as the military has merged with the police and turned its weaponry against the people.

The coup was followed by phony elections. The people knew to look elsewhere for answers. They looked to themselves. In the Aguan Valley in the north, thousands of families took over thousands of hectares by squatting, building, and farming. And they created communities of such camaraderie that they found themselves saying thanks for the coup.

They faced, and still face, regular attacks by killers on motorcycles, but they have nowhere else to go, and they have made the most of it, creating self-sustaining centers of life in the countryside, replacing palm oil monoculture with farming that cares for the land. The dead in the film are of such a different type from the dead in Hollywood movies, that I wonder if people can really see these dead. I hope so. There is never any police investigation, never any charges brought. The people have lost a lawyer and a journalist as well as numerous of their own; the oligarchs have lost a few guards.

The people have also organized local and national assemblies. The men have learned to include women in positions of power. This popular resistance movement always backed the return of Zelaya, who finally negotiated his return to Honduras in 2011. He returned to a people demanding more democratic participation. He joined their movement and encouraged them to participate in the 2013 elections that they had determined to boycott.

During the meeting in the city at which the decision to participate in the election was made, the police in Aguan burned and bulldozed 90 houses, plus churches, and schools. The tears and the eloquence of the people affected must be watched; I cannot tell them to you.

You should watch the scenes of the people meeting with their ousted president, Zelaya, the rightful president of Honduras, and then watch the scene of President Obama meeting with his usurper in the White House. As Facussé threatens to evict everyone from their land, we see a U.S. State Department official meet with some of the campesinos. They tell him that they are offered land at 14% interest, while the World Bank offers it to the big corporations for 1%. He replies that his only area of work is human rights. So they tell him they have been gassed, imprisoned, tortured, and shot. He replies that he just wants to talk about peace. Or maybe he said "piece" of the action, I don't know.

The people see the United States as working on behalf of Dole, formerly the Standard Fruit Company, the same people for whom the U.S. military has been overthrowing governments since that of Hawaii in 1893. Is there any good reason anyone should ever buy Dole products?

The struggle, and the movie, goes on -- filmed over a period of years. Leaders are forced into exile after murder attempts. The burned and bulldozed buildings are rebuilt. And the November 2013 elections arrive, and are blatantly stolen. Zelaya's wife runs on the people's platform against the "law and order" candidate of the military. Observers from the EU and the OAS declare the election legitimate, but individual members of those commissions denounce that conclusion as corrupt and fraudulent. Students lead the protests, and the protests continue to grow.

And the people in the country go right on taking back more of their land and reclaiming it as a source of life rather than death. These people need no aid. They need simply to be allowed to live. All immigrants should be welcomed everywhere by everyone, with no hesitation. Obama should immediately cease deporting children back to a nation he's helped to ruin. But I think most people would be shocked by how little immigration there would be in the world if the corporations and the killers stopped migrating, and people were allowed to live peacefully and equally in the place they love: their land.

Talk Nation Radio: Kevin Gosztola on Harassing, Prosecuting, Imprisoning the Wrong People

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-kevin-gosztola-on-harassing-prosecuting-imprisoning-the-wrong-people

Kevin Gosztola is a journalist for Firedoglake.com and co-host of the weekly podcast radio show, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He regularly covers whistleblowing, secrecy and WikiLeaks. He extensively covered the court martial of Chelsea Manning and co-authored Truth and Consequences: The US v. Private Manning with The Nation's Greg Mitchell. He discusses recent FBI arrests of alleged supporters of ISIS, the imprisonment of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, and the harassment of WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum.

If you'd like to write to Jeffrey Sterling, write to
Jeffrey Sterling, 38338-044
FCI Englewood
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
9595 WEST QUINCY
AVELITTLETON, CO 80123
He can receive letters and cards only. Anything else is considered contraband and will be confiscated. All incoming correspondence is reviewed. It is important that all content be of an uplifting nature as any disparaging comments about the government, the trial or any peoples involved will have negative consequences for Jeffrey.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or  LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Audio: Converting Our War Economy

Monday morning  at 7-8AM  tune in (KPFK 90.7 fm) or log on: http://archive.kpfk.org/index.php?shokey=ctd

Lila Garrett’s  CONNECT THE DOTS.  Guests include:
Commentary: Converting our war economy

David Swanson, Nobel Prize Nominee. Author of WAR IS A LIE, (worldbeyondwar.org) on Congress’refusal to vote on war with Iraq.  Leaves it entirely up to Obama.  And House rolls over on pro-corporate Fast Track & sends it back to Senate. Sen. Diane Feinstein is swing vote. She’s for Fast Track and TPP.  Call her Monday.  Tell her to vote NO.    Also Swanson on a thriving country with no military….Costa Rica.  And much more….

Former Exec. Dir. of Pacifica, Grace Aron on the upcoming election at KPFK.   You must join  KPFK by July 14th to vote or run for the Board.  Grace will fill in the details. 

Lila Garrett (Host of CONNECT THE DOTS)
KPFK 90.7 FM in LA; 98.7 Santa Barbara; 93.7 San Diego;
99.5 China Lake
Airs Mondays from 7AM to 8AM.
Link to program page
http://www.kpfk.org/index.php/programs/67-connect-the-dots-with-lila-garrett
Link to podcasts
http://archive.kpfk.org/index.php?shokey=ctd
Each show is online for three months.