As Bush the Beast of the Sea jokes about war, I walk among the ruins of Baghdad: Revelation 13

As Bush jokes about war, I walk among the ruins of Baghdad

I woke up in tears a few days ago, my blue shirt soaked in someone else’s blood. I knew that because I wasn’t in pain. A child wept aloud outside in the alley. “Tell the kid to take the candy,” a US soldier snapped when I peeked through the door. The child’s father, fettered, bled to death on the curb.

That was me hallucinating a few years ago in Baghdad. Tonight, a candle sits on a table in my rented Virginia apartment. Its flame performs a death dance to the blues of a Tom Waits song rising from the coffin of deceased years: “The bats are in the belfry / The dew is on the moor / Where are the arms that held me / And pledged her love before?”

The men inside seem perplexed, sitting quietly in plastic chairs, immersed in grief as if in a funeral not for the dead, but for the living

In Baghdad, my mother rebuked me when she climbed the stairs and plunged into the thicket of smoke clouding the second story of our residence. Waits was no good for me, she would say, nor were Cuban cigars.

But she knew the reason behind my solitude was to mourn Baghdad, an ailing metropolis I wished not to meet at times, choosing instead to hide in my study like a hermit. I would be content in the company of a vintage Badr Shakir al-Sayyab book, whose pages the late poet traversed with a crutch on his way to the gates of hell: “Open it, and feed my body to the fire!”

My mother is gone now. She left our world days before I jumped on a plane headed for Washington, DC, to study at Georgetown University. Al-Sayyab is dead too, and I hear voices tonight. I hear the voices of pain that Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish heardhowling at him like a siren from afar: “Come, come to me!”

Deafening silence

I heed, blindly. I know the beaten roads of memory like many Iraqis do – a rusted metal door always left ajar for us, squeaking in the deafening silence of exile. I step onto its threshold, my eyes wide open to see in the dark. Someone sobs in a dim corner inside. “I am in the right place,” I tell myself. I make my way to the edges of Baghdad from afar.

An Iraqi man outside a rundown house with a dead child's portrait in Baghdad in November 2020 (Nabil Salih)
An Iraqi man outside a rundown house with a dead child’s portrait in Baghdad in November 2020 (Nabil Salih)

I see a scorched horizon cloaked in a starless night, not a sound but a distant wailing. A shepherd chuckles in the midst of a herd of sheep dying of thirst and hunger. “Why are you laughing?” I ask in astonishment. “Go and ask them,” he growls, discarding my question.

Iraq’s streets are littered with the memories of our deadRead More »

Elegant westerners and diaspora Arabs, armed with cameras and sunscreen tubes, descending from the ornate balconies of western academia to investigate the field for stardom, disembark from tourist buses en masse.

“The fire burns, but they ask me: ‘Are you Sunni or Shia?’” the shepherd tells me, before falling in a swoon, laughing and crying hysterically. “Shocking!” one visitor exclaims in bewilderment.

“Let’s go to Sadr City, I hear it’s a shithole,” another snaps emphatically. “Yes, that’s why I chose aid! Let’s fix a few lives now,” the former says, rubbing his hands in excitement.

Another white tourist turns to look at me and says: “Are you a fixer? We need someone to show us the big stories. We pay but don’t expect a byline.”

I leave the demagogues revelling in the scene, ecstatic, drooling about the promise of their booty, and make my way into the city streets in the dark.

Death all around

I find Baghdad desolate, choked in dust and smoke, its skin lacerated with an overgrowth of barbed-wire fences. The soldiers manning its walls drowse in a siesta, unbothered by the screams coming from the dim alleys behind them.

Someone is dying. Someone is always dying in Iraq. Two hundred and sixty is the number of those killed so far this year, says Iraq Body Count. Those who miss the bullets leap in the Euphrates, along with their emaciated children. Any there is better than here.

I see the palm trees thirsty, many decapitated and dead. No bougainvillea dangles over fences, like necklaces caressing dewy necks of Baghdadi women in early spring. No kids play barefoot on the streets. The then where they once knew laughter has been stabbed to death by the hands of time – repeatedly.

Baghdad still feels like a crime scene. As I make my way among its ruins, the words of al-Sayyab echo inside my head: “Is this my city?” These ruins with “Long Live Life!” painted on the walls in the blood of its murdered?

A boy walks past a destroyed house in the war-ravaged village of Habash, some 180 kilometres north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, on 25 April, 2022.
A boy walks past a destroyed house in the war-ravaged village of Habash, some 180 kilometres north of Iraq’s capital Baghdad, on 25 April 2022 (AFP)

Dreading what I might see where I grew up, I decide to avoid the streets of my childhood and visit the downtown area instead.

I remember the famous teahouses of al-Rashid Street. The sound of stirring in a glass of cardamom tea was music to my ears. A dice always rolls on an aging backgammon board. Eternal Umm Kulthum heartbreaks are always put on repeat, undulating tunes that slip from the salons to the sidewalks outside, where sad-eyed ladies amble and dodge a line (“they said there’s no flour in the market, where’s this cake coming from?”) from a mischievous student.

But the cafes are noiseless. The men inside seem perplexed, sitting quietly in plastic chairs, immersed in grief as if in a funeral not for the dead, but for the living. On one muted TV screen, celebratory headlines accompany enemies’ torn limbs, assailing the psyches of bewildered clientele. A report then heralds the imminent death of the Tigris and the Euphrates.

The men look on. No dice shall roll tonight.

Lifetime of limbo

The only sign of light in the city centre comes from a police patrol on al-Mutanabbi Street. I stand in a corner and watch where a mob of tourists have swarmed. Social media influencers, on a two-day escapade from Dubai, pose for the camera in the “homeland”: “How beautiful Baghdad is!” one says, before returning to the Babylon Hotel on Abu Nawas Street in a Cadillac SUV.

The mayor stands nearby, giving one interview after another, boasting of a renaissance that entails hanging kitsch posters of Iraqi artist Kadhim Haider’s paintings on power poles and sweating over it on social media.

No word on the traditional shanasheel houses collapsing in the nearby wretched alleyways of Jadid Hasan Pasha and al-Hayder Khana. The child beggars and the godforsaken porterswho crisscross traffic threads in daytime are also sentenced to a lifetime in the cellar of limbo.

They, too, have their scrutinising gazes fixed on the wrecked humans wallowing in seas of misery

I leave in haste, passing an elderly man diving to his waist in a dumpster outside the telecommunications tower that bears the imprint of late architect Rifat al-Chadirji. The building was almost toppled by liberatory rockets in 2003, before Chadirji died and a former British ambassador expressed his condolences on social media as if war(s) never happened.

As I walk, I remember the labyrinthine alleyways, or darabin, of Bab al-Sheikh and Qanbar Ali. In previous visits, old women who crouch on their doorsteps would welcome me like their offspring. They would show me directions and pray for me long after I disappeared into the next alley, where children would chase after me in glee, blow me kisses and hug me for showing them their portraits on my camera.

I decide to go there. But I find Bab al-Sheikh deserted. In Qanbar Ali, blood and sewage stagnate in the gutters. Walls tremble. An old man, crouching in a dark corner, awaits the last US air raid to level the alley. From the windows, I see children hang themselves of hunger in damp living rooms. There is no breaking news on live TV.

Smouldering past

A hole widens in my chest. I suffocate. I meander my way to the Tigris in hopes of fresh air. But even there, in the gardens of Abu Nawas Street, women count the floating corpses passing by, and weep in silence.

This is it – “this is the storm we call progress”, the ghost of Walter Benjamin whispers in my ears. The catastrophe perched on Iraq’s chest still piles wreckage upon wreckage over a smouldering past, and the storm propels us into the arms of a future born with an incurable birth defect.

As America weeps for Ukraine, the loss and grief of Iraqis is forgottenRead More »

A rocket flies across the Tigris and slams into a building inside the fortified Green Zone on the opposite, western bank, disrupting my thoughts. But everything seems normal there.

Diaspora Iraqi scholars, dressed in fine suits, pose for the camera next to their favourite politicians. Afterwards, they doze off in the fine al-Rashid Hotel, whose windows offer no view of the city’s godforsaken alleys, nor the grieving women sobbing on the river bank.

As I walk the streets of Baghdad, I see the menacing faces of Saddam Hussein’s many imitators painted and plastered on the same walls that once carried the dictator’s. They, too, have their scrutinising gazes fixed on the wrecked humans wallowing in seas of misery, looking over their shoulders for the trigger-men of the new, this-time-Iran-backed fedayeen.

Amnesiac audience

Like a fugitive, I flee the streets of memory, chased by the rabid dogs of my trauma. My footsteps race my breath. Behind me, Baghdad is engulfed by monstrous dust storms. In the dark, I almost stumble on a new corpse of a man who looks familiar. I look closely; it’s the shepherd. The soldiers manning the city walls are still asleep.

Next to his corpse sits a small radio announcing the evening news: “Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cuts the ribbon at the opening of the Baghdad book fair.” I make my way out of the rusted door, and slam it shut.

In my Virginia apartment, I look for a source of distraction. Nothing more banal and distracting than US TV channels, I tell myself. But Iraqi poet Sinan Antoon knew before me, “surfing the channels is like rummaging in old garbage”.

I soon find former US President George W Bush’s face on every station, preaching on war and peace in Ukraine to an amnesiac audience. He slips and mentions Iraq. He jokes about it, and the audience laughs.

I suppress a stream of vicious slurs, and sleep with the echo of their laughter in my head.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

The Threat of the European Nuclear Horns: Daniel 7

Nuclear missiles, map of us nuclear weapons

NATO nuclear weapons mapped – ‘More of a threat to Putin’

NUCLEAR WEAPONS have been Vladimir Putin’s key ammunition to warn NATO counties off interfering with his illegal invasion of Ukraine since the very start. But NATO’s arsenal is nearly as sizeable and, based on where they’re stationed, could actually be seen as a more significant threat to Russia.

By KATIE ELLIOTT

08:29, Fri, Jun 10, 2022 | UPDATED: 08:29, Fri, Jun 10, 2022

Nuclear war threats haven’t stirred since the end of the Cold War, but as the Russia-Ukraine conflict transpires, fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use these weapons of mass destruction are ever-rising. Russia currently has the largest nuclear arsenal, however, these are stationed far away in Russia and its close surrounding countries. Whereas the US has many more stationed much closer to Russia’s turf.

Putin has been wielding Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal at countries who “interfere” with his invasion since its launch, warning of “consequences never encountered in your history”.

With the largest arsenal of all nine countries that possess them, Russia is currently reported to possess approximately 6,257 nuclear iweapons.

These weapons are stationed largely in areas across Russia and one area reported to be in Kazakhstan.

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Only three NATO countries possess nuclear weapons; the US, the UK, and France.

In NATO’s Nuclear Deterrence policy, it states these countries will “protect other NATO allies under their ‘nuclear umbrellas’ in line with the NATO commitment that an attack on any one ally will be viewed as an attack on the entire alliance.”

With a combined mass treading close to Russia’s heels, these countries are reported to have approximately 5,550, 225, and 290, respectively.

However, amongst the UK and France’s nuclear weapon stations, it’s believed “About half of the roughly 200 US shorter-range weapons are believed to be deployed in five NATO countries in Europe.” according to A. Pomper and Vasilii Tuganov from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

The US has neither confirmed nor denied exact locations, but it’s predicted that the US’s B61-3 and -4 gravity bombs are stationed in the Volkel Airbase in the Netherlands, Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium and Buchel Airbase in Germany, as well as the Ghendi and Aviano bases in Italy and the Incirlik Airbase in Turkey.

US Nuclear bases in Europe mapped

Around 100 US shorter-range weapons are believed to be deployed in five NATO countries in Europe (Image: EXPRESS)

The Ministry of Defence has refused to clarify whether any US nuclear warheads will be placed back in the UK, however, according to UK Government budget documents, RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk is due to be upgraded.

Some believe it might enable the US to store B61-12 nuclear bombs.

The B61-12 is an air-launched nuclear gravity bomb, said to be the latest variant of the B61 family, and much more powerful than any of the first-generation atomic bombs.

Drone Attack Against Babylon the Great

Explosive drone detonates in Iraq’s northern city of Erbil

June 8, 20224:07 PM MDTLast Updated a day ago

ERBIL, June 8 (Reuters) – A drone exploded in Iraq’s northern city of Erbil on Wednesday injuring three people and damaging several cars, according to a statement by Kurdistan’s counter-terrorism service.

The explosive drone detonated on Pirmam road in Erbil’s outskirts at 9:35 p.m. Iraq time, the statement said.

Two security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the drone was shot down.

A security source said earlier that a drone attack targeted the U.S. consulate but did not give further details.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi told Kurdish Prime Minister Masoud Barzani in a phone call that Baghdad will cooperate with Erbil to hold the perpetrators accountable, according to a statement.

“Bomb-laden drone hit Erbil-Pirmam road, causing civilian injuries and damage,” the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq said on Twitter. “Iraq does not need self-proclaimed armed arbiters. Asserting State authority is essential. If the perpetrators are known, call them out and hold them to account.”

Last month, Iran Revolutionary Guards artillery fire hit an area north of Erbil, targeting what Iranian state television described as terrorist bases.

Also, in March the Guards attacked the capital of the Kurdish region with a dozen ballistic missiles in an unprecedented assault on the capital of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region that appeared to target the United States and its allies read more

At least three other attacks have targeted oil refineries in Erbil since the March attack, but no group has claimed responsibility for them.

Reporting by Ali Sultan; Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

ISIS Plotting To Assassinate the Beast of the Sea: Revelation 13

President Bush assassination attempt by ISIS foiled

EXCLUSIVE: ISIS Plotting To Assassinate George W. Bush In Dallas

09:54am EDT


Two confidential informants and surveillance of the alleged plotter’s WhatsApp account reveal plans to smuggle assassins into the U.S. to murder the former president, according to a search warrant application discovered by Forbes.


An Iraqi man in the U.S. accused of being linked to ISIS operatives was plotting to kill George W. Bush, going so far as to travel to Dallas in November to take video around the former president’s home and recruiting a team of compatriots he hoped to smuggle into the country over the Mexican border, according to an FBI search-warrant application filed March 23 and unsealed this week in the Southern District of Ohio.

The FBI said it uncovered the scheme through the work of two confidential informants and surveillance of the alleged plotter’s account on the Meta-owned WhatsApp messaging platform. The suspect, Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab, based in Columbus, Ohio, said he wanted to assassinate Bush because he felt the former president was responsible for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the country after the 2003 U.S. military invasion, according to the warrant.

The case shows how federal investigators continue to monitor threats from ISIS even as the group has been severely weakened by American intelligence and military operations in recent years. It also shows how the FBI, despite its claims of being prevented from investigating major crimes because of Meta and other tech providers’ use of encryption, has been able to work around WhatsApp security by using old-school policing with sourcing of informants and tracking the metadata they can get from the messaging company.

A snippet from the search warrant uncovered by Forbes detailing the plot on George W. Bush’s life. The name of the suspect has been redacted.

Shihab is an Iraqi national who’d been in the U.S. since 2020 and had an asylum application pending, according to the FBI’s search-warrant application. Federal agents used two different confidential sources to investigate the plot, one who claimed to offer assistance obtaining false immigration and identification documents, the second a purported customer of the alleged people smuggler, who was willing to pay thousands of dollars to bring his family into the country.

(As the criminal complaint against the suspect has not been made public, Forbes is not publishing the full warrant. According to NBC, he was arrested earlier today, a fact later confirmed by the Department of Justice.)

Freddy Ford, chief of staff for the Office of George W. Bush, said, “President Bush has all the confidence in the world in the United States Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities.”

In November 2021, Shihab revealed to the FBI insider the plot to assassinate Bush and asked the confidential source if he knew how to “obtain replica or fraudulent police and/or FBI identifications and badges” to help carry out the killing, and whether it was possible to smuggle the plotters out of the country the same way they came in after their mission was complete, according to the warrant. The alleged smuggler said he also wanted to find and assassinate a former Iraqi general who helped Americans during the war and whom he believed was living under a fictitious identity in the U.S., investigators said.

The alleged plotter claimed to be part of a unit called “Al-Raed,” meaning “Thunder,” that was led by a former Iraqi pilot for Saddam Hussein who had been based out of Qatar until his recent death, the warrant said. As many as seven members of the group would be sent to the U.S. to kill President Bush, according to a conversation described in the warrant, and the Shihab’s job was “to locate and conduct surveillance on former president Bush’s residences and/or offices and obtain firearms and vehicles to use in the assassination.”

After traveling to Dallas with the informant to take video of Bush’s residence, the accused took more footage at the George W. Bush Institute, according to federal agents. The Texas city was the site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Bush, a Republican who was in the news last week when he inadvertently referred to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in a speech about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was president from 2001 to 2009.

In one conversation with a confidential FBI source, the suspect said he was planning to get four Iraqi national males located in Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Denmark into the U.S., according to the warrant. In a later conversation, he claimed that one of the four was “the secretary of an ISIS financial minister,” the FBI said. The alleged smuggler described the men as “former Baath Party members in Iraq who did not agree with the current Iraqi government and were political exiles,” the FBI said. He was planning to charge each $15,000 to be smuggled into America, the FBI said. The Baath Party was the political organization of Hussein, who was deposed in the 2003 U.S. invasion.

His plan, according to the warrant, was to get Mexican visitor visas for the ISIS operatives, using passport information he would send to the informant over WhatsApp, before getting them over the border. Meanwhile, he was communicating with a contact in Egypt over a fake Facebook profile, which carried a profile picture of two individual hands each holding a rose, designed to look romantic and “not suspicious,” according to the FBI’s account. In 2021, the FBI got a warrant to search that Facebook account, though it’s unclear what they obtained.

Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told Forbes, “It’s clear this was a sophisticated counterterrorism operation with a lot of moving parts. It was both far reaching and unique in its targeting.

“It also shows that while the debate on so called “going dark” can be overcome through the use of undercover operatives, it’s labor intensive but possible.” The term “going dark” is used by law enforcement to describe the inability to get to data that has been encrypted by software applications.

“Also, we haven’t seen a plot of this scale in a number of years. It shows that while domestic terrorism rightly takes a good amount of counterterrorism focus, the threats are not there alone.”

As part of its surveillance of the alleged plotters, the FBI recently received permission to acquire mobile location information from AT&T. It had already used what’s known as a “pen register” on the WhatsApp account believed to belong to the chief suspect, helping them determine how often the account was used, what numbers it was contacting and whether or not it was active.

Though Shihab seemed convinced his WhatsApp account was secure, he was unaware that the confidential sources were passing on messages to the FBI. Nor was he aware that starting in October he was using a phone that he was given by the informant at the FBI’s request. The informant noted that the target was a keen user of WhatsApp and was a member of Baath and ISIS chat groups on the app. In another conversation with an informant, the suspect claimed to have “been in recent communications with a friend in Qatar who was a former minister in Iraq under Saddam Hussein who had access to large quantities of money” and was messaging him over WhatsApp, the FBI said.

A mysterious group known as Al-Raed was allegedly plotting to kill former President George W. Bush, according to an FBI search warrant, shown here in redacted form.

While the sources were passing on what they learned over WhatsApp throughout 2021 and 2022, they were also secretly recording the in-person meetings with the alleged plotter in which additional startling details were revealed, according to the FBI. In one conversation from December, according to the warrant, the suspect claimed to have had just smuggled two individuals associated with Hezbollah — a terrorist organization, according to the U.S. — into the U.S. for a fee of $50,000 each.

Also in the FBI court filing, the alleged plotter claimed to be a member of “the resistance” and had killed many Americans in Iraq between 2003 and 2006, packing vehicles with explosives and detonating them when U.S. soldiers were near.

Updated at 1.50pm ET to publish the suspect’s name, following NBC reporting that he had been apprehended.Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website. Send me a secure tip.

I’m associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I’m also the…

W Bush’s Freudian Slip On Iraq: Revelation 13

Former President George W Bush speaks at the 20th Anniversary remembrance of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the Flight 93 National Memorial on September 11, 2021 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

George Bush condemns ‘brutal invasion of Iraq,’ but means Ukraine

Former President George W Bush speaks at the 20th Anniversary remembrance of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the Flight 93 National Memorial on September 11, 2021 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Photo credit (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

 By Lauren Barry

May 19, 20223:15 pm

Was it a Freudian slip?

During a speech Wednesday in Dallas, Texas, former President George W. Bush accidentally mixed up “Iraq” and “Ukraine,” harkening back to his tenure in office during the 2000s.

Back then, his slip-ups were so common that they were termed “Bushisms.” Lists of them can be found via the BBC and on Wikipedia.

This particular gaffe had a potentially alarming meaning. He referenced “the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.”

Bush, who was speaking at a George W. Bush Presidential Center event on election integrity, was actually discussing Russian elections and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which began in February.

However, invoking the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq – which Bush himself called for – made a splash on the internet, according to ABC News. On social media, “users revived criticism of his decision to invade,” said the outlet.

The Iraq War has been called a failure, both by news outlets such as The Atlantic and research organizations such as the Brookings Institute and the Center for Strategic International Studies.

“No one knows with certainty how many people have been killed and wounded in Iraq since the 2003 United States invasion,” said the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University. “However, we know that between 184,382 and 207,156 civilians have died from direct war related violence caused by the U.S., its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the invasion through October 2019.”

Part of the Bush administration’s reasoning for going to War with Iraq were claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction, such as nuclear weapons, there. Bush also wanted to remove war-prone Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein from power.

According to ABC News, “Bush wrote in his post-White House memoir that he had a ‘sickening feeling’ when he learned there were no [Weapons of Mass Destruction] in Iraq after their supposed existence was used as justification for the invasion.”

However, he still believed that removing Hussein from power was the right decision.

Bush quickly corrected himself after making the slip up Wednesday.

“I mean, of Ukraine,” he said, adding, “I’m 75.”

Bush the beast of the sea finally tells the truth: Revelation 13

Trying to condemn the war in Ukraine, Bush inadvertently calls Iraq war unjustified

Former President George W. Bush was criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday when his old nemesis, the verbal slip, struck again. Bush eventually condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — but not before he condemned “a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.”

Bush was drawing a parallel between how countries conduct elections and their stance toward other nations when his tongue went rogue.

“The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq — I mean of Ukraine,” Bush said.

Iraq… anyway,” he said with a shake of his head, as members of the audience chuckled. He then cited his age, 75, before returning to his speech.

Bush was speaking to an audience at his presidential library in Dallas, Texas, at an event focused on the importance of ensuring free, fair and secure elections, aiming to bolster voters’ confidence in U.S. elections. But the former president’s verbal gaffe quickly drew notice on social media and in headlines.

In 2003, Bush led the U.S. into an invasion and war in Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction and was working toward a nuclear weapon. No evidence of such threats was found in the country. Members of his administration have insisted they were acting on faulty intelligence.

In Thursday’s speech, Bush was comparing the free and fair election of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Putin’s suppression of his political opponents.

He also said he recently spoke to Zelenskyy via Zoom, declaring the Ukrainian leader to be a “cool little guy — the Churchill of the 21stcentury.”

Bush has famously been a wellspring of malapropisms, even prompting the term “Bushisms” and sparking research into slips of the tongue. His latest high-profile foray into mangled speech adds to what is shaping up as an odd return to the early 2000s, when news outlets tracked Brittney Spears and reported on the Taliban’s rule of Afghanistan.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The New Nuclear Order: Daniel

The Ukraine war has ushered in a new global nuclear (dis)order

Here are five ways we can safely say that even before the Russian invasion, non-proliferation was under pressure and on the skids.

APRIL 6, 2022

Written by
Aderito Vicente

The world’s nuclear order was essentially designed to mitigate nuclear dangers, to inhibit arms races, to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states and, more importantly, to create conditions for their elimination.

At the heart of this nuclear order lies the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which remains until today, for better or worse, the cornerstone of the global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime.

However, February 24, 2022 marked a critical and deeply disturbing challenge to the current NPT regime and the fragile global nuclear order with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This ruthless act of war violated Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, which prohibits the use of force against the territorial integrity of another state. It also deepened the breach in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, in which Kyiv committed to give up the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet era in exchange for security assurances by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia against the use of force that would potentially compromise Ukraine’s territorial integrity and political independence. Moscow had already grossly violated these assurances in 2014 when it occupied Crimea and Donbass.

That event in itself inflicted a major wound on the nuclear order, which had already been under severe and growing pressure. Besides the violation of the Budapest Memorandum, the post-Cold War era saw the spread of nuclear weapons (horizontal proliferation) to at least three states: India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Like Israel, India, and Pakistan, of course, had never signed the NPT, but North Korea, which had been an NPT member since 1985, announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003 and became a state in possession of nuclear weapons as of 2006 when it tested its first device.

Moreover, despite progress in reducing nuclear weapon arsenals since the Cold War, the number of warheads in global military stockpiles has been increasing once again. While the United States is still reducing its nuclear stockpile and France and Israel have relatively stable inventories, China, India, North Korea, Pakistan, and the UK, as well as possibly Russia, are all thought to be increasing their nuclear inventory (vertical proliferation). Thus, the NPT regime has not prevented nuclear proliferation in the post-Cold War era.

Second, states such as North Korea and Iran appear to have learned the lessons from regimes, notably in Iraq and Libya, which give up their nuclear weapon programs and whose regimes were later toppled by the U.S. and its allies. While no evidence that Iran intends to build a weapon has yet surfaced, its nuclear program has progressed to such an extent that it could quickly become a threshold state if it made such a decision. Meanwhile, Pyongyang is conducting new tests of ballistic missiles capable of carrying its growing arsenal on nuclear warheads.

Third, the current security environment has been deteriorating due to the growing perception of a great-power realignment that pits the existing U.S.-led, Western-dominated “liberal” international order against revisionist powers led by Beijing and Moscow. In this context, the two nuclear superpowers, the United States and Russia, have been essentially reversing their previous progress in building bilateral agreements and other measures intended to limit and reduce their nuclear arsenals.

Due to mutual accusations of non-compliance, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was celebrated for its elimination of an entire category of nuclear weapons rather than their simple limitation, collapsed in August 2019. Since then, both sides began developing weapons that were banned under the INF Treaty. In the absence of agreed limitations, there is now no obstacle to a descent into an arms race placing Europe as the most likely theater of operation.

As a result, the New START Treaty remains the only nuclear disarmament agreement between United States and Russian in effect. Following its extension in February 2021, however, it will expire in 2026. Barring any renewed détente between Washington and Moscow it too could also be at risk, particularly if the Russia-Ukraine conflict worsens or persists.

Fourth, while the risks of nuclear proliferation are likely to increase given the uncertain international security situation of this new era, expectations for progress at the multilateral level are low, including for the Tenth NPT Review Conference, which was already postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will now take place in August.

Specifically, obstacles that have bedeviled past progress to agreement on key issue, this includes the inability for states to agree on: 1) the rapid entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; 2) the multilateral negotiations at Conference on Disarmament towards the signature and ratification of a fissile material cut-off treaty; and 3) the establishment of a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone and their means of delivery. In addition, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is symbolically important, but if nuclear-possessing states and NATO members don’t come on board, it will remain ineffective as a tool for eliminating nuclear weapons.

Fifth, in a referendum on February 27, 2022, Belarussians renounced the wording of Article 18 of their Constitution, which had guaranteed the country’s nuclear neutrality since its independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991. As a result, the number of countries that could host nuclear weapons has expanded, thus increasing the risk of their deployment in Europe. At the same time, Belarus’s move challenges the strategic stability between NATO and Russia, and, more importantly, undermines the effectiveness of the NPT regime.

So, what kind of nuclear order does the world face now? The Russo-Ukrainian War has effectively confirmed the advent of a new nuclear disorder. First, the NPT regime was affected by both vertical and horizontal proliferation. Second, of the precedents of Iraq, Libya and now Ukraine, insecure states or regimes may have a new incentive for developing nuclear weapons. Third, there is a freeze in U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements. Fourth, despite efforts to promote the stigmatization, prohibition, and elimination of nuclear weapons under the TPNW, disarmament negotiations are stuck at a multilateral level.

What are the direct consequences of this nuclear disorder? One is the weakening of the NPT regime. As Sylvia Mishra of the European Leadership Network recently argued, Putin’s aggression towards Ukraine sets a dangerous precedent by abrogating the Budapest Memorandum and undermining the wider framework of security assurances and guarantees that nuclear-weapons states offer to non-nuclear states. In addition, as an NPT signatory, Russia had pledged to disavow the use of negative security assurances . Thus, more non-nuclear states that do not have security guarantees with nuclear powers, such as Finland and Sweden in Europe, may be more willing to align themselves with one these powers or to pursue their own nuclear weapons to avoid a possible conventional confrontation with a nuclear power.

Another consequence is the likelihood of a nuclear war. The increase of this type of conflict has risen, either between two nuclear powers, or between one nuclear power and a non-nuclear power with any kind of security guarantee umbrella. That is perhaps the clearest outcome of the Russo-Ukraine war. Noted nuclear scholars such as Francesca GiovanniniCaitlin TalmadgeJoe Cirincione among others, recently warned of the possibility of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons to deter and, if necessary, tip the course of a large-scale conventional war in Ukraine. The likelihood of this event would shatter the most resilient norms — the non-use of nuclear weapons since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The end of the nuclear taboo, in this context, could normalize the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states.

All things considered, it seems that unless an abrupt reversal in the dangerous “West versus Russia/China” paradigm takes place, and soon, the nuclear disorder will persist and grow worse.

Written by

Babylon the Great to Remain in Iraq

US to maintain military presence in Iraq, Syria: Pentagon

Aveen Karimaveeenkarim

MIDDLE EAST

American soldiers in Syria on February 13, 2021. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The United States will maintain its military presence in Iraq and Syria to fight the continued threat of Islamic State (ISIS) and Iran-backed proxies, while it is keen to expand cooperation with its regional allies to deter the threat posed by Iran, the “leading source of instability in the Middle East,” a US department of defense official said on Tuesday.

The deputy assistant secretary for defense for the Middle East, Dana Stroul, identified Iran as a persistent threat to regional security and stability in a talk at the Wilson Center, a US-based think-tank. Stroul stated that Iran’s use of violent proxies, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), its ballistic missile program, and incidents of maritime aggression remain a security challenge. 

She added that ISIS also continued to constitute a security threat, despite no longer holding territory in Iraq and Syria, and that US forces remain in northeast Syria (Rojava) to work with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against the militant group. Stroul added that these US troops in Syria “experience on a very regular basis threats from Iran and Iran-backed proxies,” referring to the attacks carried out against them over the past years.

ISIS attacked Hasaka’s Ghweran prison, housing thousands of the group’s members, leading to intense clashes in the area. Stroul commended the SDF for their “swift response” and added that the incident served as a reminder of the serious threat posed by ISIS. She stated that the SDF “shoulder the burden of the international community,” referring to the foreign nationals held in these prisons. 

Stroul stated that Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin reaffirmed the commitment of the US to maintain US troops in Iraq and Syria in an advisory capacity to support them in the fight against ISIS. 

“Regional security and stability” remains a priority to the US Department of Defense who is looking to expand its cooperation with regional allies to deter the threat posed by Iran, while also welcoming efforts by the US State Department to engage in diplomacy, likely alluding to the ongoing indirect nuclear talks between the US and Iran. 

No change in policy will be seen with regards to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as US sanctions on Syria are to remain in place, and no plans of a normalization of ties are on the horizon. 

Iraq announced the end of the US combat mission in the country in December, following increasing pressure from Iran-backed factions, with the role of US forces shifting to an advisory one. 

There are currently about 2,500 US troops in Iraq, including in the Kurdistan Region.

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The British Horn Is Campaigning for Nuclear War: Daniel 7

A Sukhoi Su-35S fighter jet of the Russian Aerospace Forces takes part in the Allied Resolve 2022 joint military drills held by Belarusian and Russian troops at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground. (Peter Kovalev / TASS via Getty Images)

The British Media Is Campaigning for Nuclear War

ByAlex MacDonald

By advocating a No-Fly Zone in Ukraine, the commentariat is demanding that we roll the dice on nuclear war – the latest reminder of just how dangerous our warmongering media truly is.

It’s hard to watch the ongoing Russian onslaught in Ukraine without feeling a sense of helplessness. The images of the country’s cities reduced to rubble, civilians huddling in bomb shelters, and the grim statistics of those killed—at least 406 civilians so far—ticking up on international news sites understandably provoke calls that ‘something must be done’.

There are things to do. The government must instantly open the UK’s border to all Ukrainian refugees (all and any refugees wouldn’t hurt either); domestically there must be a push for the dirty money of Putin’s cronies to exposed and seized; and all solidarity should be shown with both the determined people of Ukraine defending their right to nationhood and the brave anti-war activists in Russia who are being locked up by the thousands but still keep up their opposition to Putin’s brutality. And it’s worth highlighting and calling for consequences for those politicians who have actually served to prop up and excuse Putin’s regime over the past two decades or so, too.

But should more be done militarily? There is very little appetite for direct military intervention in the post-Iraq War world. Perhaps noting this, a number of British commentators have in the past few days been touting the idea of a No-Fly Zone.

‘Pleased to see powerful voices joining my call for a humanitarian partial or total NO FLY ZONE,’ tweeted Tobias Ellwood, Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, on Tuesday morning, citing a call by retired US General Philip Breedlove for such an action. ‘What scale of war crimes, what numbers of civilian deaths must we witness—before NATO, the most powerful military alliance in the world, is tasked to intervene?’

No-Fly Zones involve the creation of a demilitarized air space above a territory. In practice, it means preventing aircraft—in this case, Russian jets—access to Ukrainian airspace through surveillance and military action. This can extend to pre-emptive strikes on airfields to prevent enemy aircraft from taking off.

No-Fly Zones have been used a number of times in past. One popular example of a supposed success story was the No-Fly Zone imposed by the US, UK, and (initially) France over Iraq’s northern Kurdish region in the ’90s. Coming in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s brutal genocide of the Kurds (which was at the time downplayed by those same countries), it prevented further air strikes on the territory and is cited as helping develop Kurdish autonomy and eventually the creation of the autonomous, and thoroughly pro-Western, Kurdistan Regional Government.

What is often forgotten when No-Fly Zones are raised, however, is that they are an act of war. The No-Fly Zone over Iraq, for example, resulted in large numbers of deaths, including those of civilians, and was against an army that was demoralised, crumbling, and weak after years of war.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki quite straightforwardly laid out what a No-Fly Zone really meant and why the US was reluctant to get involved in such an action. ‘It would essentially mean the US military would be shooting down planes, Russian planes. That is definitely escalatory. That would potentially put us in a place where we’re in a military conflict with Russia. That is not something the President wants to do.’

A No-Fly Zone would mean direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia—the most powerful military force in the world against the second most powerful. And it doesn’t take years of working in International Relations to realise this would be a bad thing.

For decades, the fear of confrontation between the US and the USSR meant whole generations accepted the risk of nuclear annihilation. From the sci-fi cinema and satire of the 1950s and ’60s to grim what-if productions like When the Wind Blows and Threads, through songs and literature that reminded the world of the destruction that took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and, of course, the tireless efforts of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and other anti-war movements, the idea of nuclear war was never far from the public mind, and the chance of humanity rapidly, suddenly ending life on Earth was understood to be a real possibility.

For many, especially those on Twitter, this has apparently been forgotten.

‘If people want to oppose a no-fly zone, fine. But understand that is an act of appeasement no different to our appeasement of Hitler in 1938. We are refusing to do what we know is morally right out of fear. We are prepared to let a free nation die to safeguard ourselves. What accounts for this attitude?’ tweeted Mail on Sunday commentator Dan Hodges.

Piers Morgan, no doubt in good faith as always, also made reference to ‘appeasement’ and suggested that the fear that Putin might ‘chuck his nukes around’ as ‘bullsh*t designed to scare everyone off’.

In response to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s confirmation that the UK would not be supporting a No-Fly Zone, one Ukrainian journalist criticised him at press conference on Tuesday, saying ‘people are desperately asking for the West to protect our sky [with] no-fly zone.’ ‘We are crying, we don’t know where to run,’ she said.

For some, it is this sense of helplessness: seeing the horror unfolding for Ukrainian citizens, fearing how far Putin might be willing to go, and wishing for military might be thrown in his way as a result. The brazenness with which the ‘Butcher of Grozny’ has been willing to assault civilian areas with weaponry prohibited under international law, such as cluster bombs, is clear to anyone who remembers Chechnya and Syria—and it is entirely understandable to want to protect civilians.

For another tranche of commentator, though, it’s about re-legitimising the idea of righteous military might and the West as the planet’s pre-eminent power. There are those who have never recovered from the backlash to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the failure to take military action in Syria, and are determined to find any excuse to reassert the status quo of the long ’90s, when the US and those in its orbit appeared unchallengeable.

None of this changes the basic fact that the US, the British prime minister, and the more cool-headed among our commentator class have realised: a No-Fly Zone means war between nuclear powered states.

Alex MacDonald is a reporter at Middle East Eye.

How the Beast of the Sea ruined US Credibility and Enabled Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine: Revelation 13

How Bush’s Iraq Fiasco ruined US Credibility and Enabled Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine

Juan Cole 02/25/2022

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – George W. Bush issued a statement about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It went like this:

George W. Bush actually came out and condemned “”unprovoked and unjustified invasion”!

The point isn’t just to decry his hypocrisy. Bush’s willful act of aggression, his invasion and eight-and-a-half-year military occupation of Iraq, has deeply hindered effective policy-making by the U.S. regarding Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Here are some of the ways it matters:

Bush filled the U.S. air waves with false assertions that Iraq had an active nuclear weapon program. His vice president, Dick Cheney, repeatedly said things like “We know he’s got chemicals and biological and we know he’s working on nuclear.” (May 19, 2002, NBC Meet the Press) and `But we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons . . . Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”( August 26, 2002, Speech of Vice President Cheney at VFW 103rd National Convention.)

This, despite severe doubts expressed to him by seasoned CIA analysts, whom he pressured to give him the statements he wanted. When he couldn’t get them, he went to raw intelligence, i.e. any old garbage anyone ever said. 

Bush himself could not get the CIA to agree that a phony document alleging Iraqi purchases of uranium from Niger was legitimate, so he sourced it to British intelligence. The document was a fraud.

Bush and company were lying to get the war they wanted.

The problem with lying for policy reasons is that people come to view you as a liar. When it became apparent that Iraq did not have any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or even programs, the United States was humiliated before the world. But it was too late– America had 120,000 troops in Iraq, a society that was collapsing around them. The wounded society would be a maelstrom of instability in the Middle East for decades.

So when U.S. intelligence analysts began reporting this winter that they had excellent reason to believe that Vladimir Putin intended to invade the Ukraine, President Biden’s team could not get people to take this prospect seriously. The Ukrainian government castigated Washington for hyping the threat and engaging in hyperbole.

President Volodomyr Zelensky told Biden to cut it out, and that he was endangering the Ukraine economy with that wild talk.

Administration officials and spokespeople went blue in the face saying Putin was about to invade, and many in the US press replied, “You said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”

Maybe it would have made a difference at the margins if Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky had trusted the US intelligence and had swung into action to harden his military defenses.

George W. Bush laid the foundations for the disaster in the Ukraine by destroying American credibility on enemy intentions and capabilities.

Bush also vocally tried to spread around fascist ideas at odds with the United Nations charter such as “preemptive war” — i.e., launching an all-out war on another country in case they may at some point in the future come into conflict with you. Putin would say his Ukraine war is preemptive.

W. also issued the “Bush doctrine” making harboring “terrorists” a basis for war, which India and Pakistan immediately deployed against one another. Putin sees the democratically elected Zelensky government as hand in glove with the small Ukrainian far-right nationalist movement, which he categorizes as terrorists.

Putin did not need Bush’s example, of launching an aggressive war on a country that hadn’t attacked you, in order to plot against Ukraine. But the American ability to counter him and have it received with a straight face by the rest of the world was completely undermined by W.’s mendacious warmongering.