The inevitable has finally happened, and the coronavirus pandemic is now ravaging the besieged Gaza Strip. On August 24, a total lockdown was imposed by the Gaza authorities following the discovery of several COVID-19 cases outside designated quarantine areas. Since then, over 1,000 cases have been identified and ten people have died. Experts estimate the number to be significantly higher.
Businesses, mosques, schools, cafes and virtually everything else is now under lockdown. The local government, alongside the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, and together with many volunteers, are desperately working to keep Gaza functioning and to limit the spread of the pandemic, despite limited and ever-shrinking resources.
At an Arria-Formula Meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Aaron Maté of The Grayzone delivers remarks on the OPCW’s ongoing Syria scandal.
Veteran OPCW inspectors who investigated an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria in April 2018 say that their probe was censored and manipulated. Under direct US government pressure, the OPCW concealed evidence that pointed to the incident being staged on the ground, and instead released a report that suggested Syrian government culpability. The allegation against Syria led to the bombing of Syria by the US, France, and UK just days after the alleged Douma incident.
In his remarks, Maté calls this “one of the most important, and overlooked, global stories in recent memory” and urges the UN and OPCW to let the OPCW inspectors air their concerns, and present the evidence that was suppressed.
Tuesday’s highly anticipated debate between President Trump and Democratic challenger Vice President Joe Biden is expected to delve into several broad topics critical to today’s political environment: the Supreme Court, COVID, the economy, race and violence in cities, the integrity of the election, and the candidates’ records.
Of course the discussion may or may not touch upon salient foreign policy and national security issues that often spill over from these more domestic concerns — like the U.S. relationship with China, Russia, or the continuing wars abroad.
So we canvassed the Quincy Institute staff and asked them what questions should be asked tomorrow night (but probably won’t):
Andrew Bacevich, President: In its recently published official history of the Iraq War, the US Army acknowledges “the failure of the United States to attain its strategic objectives in Iraq.” Do you agree with that judgment? If so, what are the implications of that failure for US policy going forward? If not – if you think that the war ended in something other than failure – how would you characterize the outcome? In either case, what lessons should the United States take from its war in Iraq?”
Today was the worst day for the defense since the start of the trial, as their expert witnesses failed to cope with the sheer aggression of cross-examination by the US Government and found themselves backing away from maintaining propositions they knew to be true. It was uncomfortable viewing.
It was not that the prosecution had in any way changed their very systematic techniques of denigrating and browbeating; in fact the precise prosecution template was once again followed. It goes like this.
undermine academic credentials as not precisely relevant
humiliate by repeated memory test questions of precise phrasing of obscure regulations or definitions
denigrate relevance of practical experience
iterate official positions and challenge witness to say they are expressed by named officials in bad faith
humiliate by asking witness to repeat from memory regulations for expert testimony in UK courts
run though a list of qualifications and government positions relevant to the subject and make witness say one by one they have not held them
claim testimony is biased or worthless because it does not include government assertions at full length.
You will note that none of this has anything to do with the truth of the actual evidence, and to date almost all witnesses have easily, sometimes contemptuously, seen off this intellectually shallow method of attack. But today was another story. The irony was that, when it came to the real subject matter of the evidence, it was obvious to any reasonable person that the prosecution claims of the good conditions in the American Prison service for high profile national security prisoners are just nonsense. But it was a day when the divorce between truth and court process was still plainer than usual. Given the horrific reality this process was disguising, it was a hard day to sit through.
Priyanka Motaparthy calls attention to the possible expansion of the drone war into Kenya:
The U.S. military is seeking new authorities to expand its program of lethal drone strikes into Kenya, in order to target al-Shabab fighters in the region, the New York Times reported last week. The request reportedly comes in response to the January 5 al-Shabab attack on the Manda Bay base in Kenya, which killed one US soldier and two private military contractors.
While the authorities have not yet received executive approval, they point toward yet another government effort to expand a secretive and unaccountable killing program on foreign soil. The proposed expansion threatens the lives and safety of civilians living in western Kenya, widens an accountability vacuum that human rights and other civil society groups have been fighting for nearly two decades, and keeps the public in the dark about the legal and policy standards that govern it.
The Trump administration has already significantly escalated the drone war over the last three and a half years. There were as many drone strikes and airstrikes in Somalia in the first five months of this year than there had been in that country from 2007 to 2016. Now the war that the US has been fighting in Somalia threatens to spread into neighboring Kenya with all of the potential danger to civilians that this entails. When we talk about the forever war, we don’t just mean the open-ended deployments in unwinnable and unnecessary conflicts that we see in Afghanistan and Syria. It very much includes this perpetual war machine of fighting militias in other countries’ wars that have no discernible connection to American security. That part has to end as well.
It is hard to believe, but Judge Baraitser on Friday ruled that there will be no closing speeches in the Assange extradition hearing. She accepted the proposal initially put forward by counsel for the US government, that closing arguments should simply be submitted in writing and without an oral hearing. This was accepted by the defense, as they need time to address the new superseding indictment in the closing arguments, and Baraitser was not willing for oral argument to take place later than 8 October. By agreeing to written arguments only, the defense gained a further three weeks to put together the closing of their case.
But this entire hearing has been conducted in effective secrecy, a comprehensive secrecy that gives sharp insight into the politico-economic structures of current western society. Physical access to the courtroom has been extremely limited, with the public gallery cut to five people. Video link access has similarly been extremely limited, with 40 NGOs having their access cut by the judge from day 1 at the Old Bailey, including Amnesty International, PEN, Reporters without Borders and observers from the European Parliament, among many others. The state and corporate media have virtually blacked out this hearing, with a truly worrying unanimity, and despite the implications of the case for media freedom. Finally, the corporations that act as internet gatekeepers have heavily suppressed social media posts about Assange, and traffic to those few websites which are reporting.
I am reminded of the words of another friend of mine, Harold Pinter, in accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature. It seems perfectly to fit the trial of Julian Assange:
It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.