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 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.

20 Years Ago: Beast of the Sea Gives “Axis of Evil” Speech a Year Before Illegal Invasion of Iraq: Revelation 13

20 Years Ago: George W. Bush Gives “Axis of Evil” Speech a Year Before Illegal Invasion of Iraq

Saturday marks 20 years since then-President George W. Bush branded the nations of Iraq, Iran and North Korea the “axis of evil” during his first State of the Union address.

President George W. Bush: “States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

A little over a year later, the U.S. invaded Iraq, despite lacking any evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The attack was widely considered illegal under international law. According to the Costs of War project at Brown University, there have been over 180,000 Iraqi civilians killed by direct violence since the U.S. invasion.

The man who worked for the Beast from the Sea: Revelation 13

US Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up a vial that he said could contain anthrax as he presents evidence of Iraq's alleged weapons programs to the United Nations Security Council, Feb. 5, 2003.

Colin Powell: The man who sold the Iraq War

The former US secretary of state was instrumental in paving the way for the invasion of Iraq on spurious intelligence in his infamous speech at the UN in 2003.

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell, who paved the way for the 2003 Iraq War under President George W Bush, died today at the age of 84 from complications from Covid-19.

Born in Harlem of Jamaican heritage, Powell was the nation’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and secretary of state.

A fixture in American politics for decades, he was a four-star army general whose career began in Vietnam and later spanned several Republican administrations, even toying with a presidential run in 1995 before deciding against it.

A tendency towards careerism – what admirers chalked up as “being a good soldier” – was an attribute that would serve him well during his ascent up the US national security bureaucracy.

In Vietnam, Powell was part of the army division that ended up being responsible for the My Lai massacre. While he talked about it in his best-selling memoir, “My American Journey,” he absolved himself by recounting he was unaware of the scale of the institutional coverup.

Never one to buck the system, Powell was the consummate inside man; someone who thought whatever compromises he made were worth it because it would offer him a chance to do the right thing.

Whether that meant participating in Ronald Regan’s Iran-Contra operation, or being an architect behind the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the Persian Gulf war in 1991 under George H W Bush, the ostensibly prudent Powell was, at the end of the day, a yes man.

And there was no better example of that on display than his role in justifying the war in Iraq.

Believed to be a moderating influence in the Bush administration and skeptical of the idea of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, Powell still went out to make the case. Because he was held in such high esteem by members of both parties, the fact that he so forcefully made the case solidified bipartisan support for the war.

Coupled with his infamous UN speech on Iraq harbouring Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the image of Powell holding up a vial of an alleged chemical agent is iconic from that era (along with artistic renderings of what the alleged biological labs would look like), was a display of propaganda the self-advertised moderate found hard to scrub from his legacy.US Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up a vial that he said could contain anthrax as he presents evidence of Iraq’s alleged weapons programs to the United Nations Security Council, Feb. 5, 2003. (Ray Stubblebine / Reuters)

The ‘grand game of Powellian deception’

On February 5, 2003, Powell gave testimony to the UN Security Council in which he claimed that the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s government was hiding a secret chemical weapons program from the international community and supporting terrorism following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

His address was an effort to provide delegates “with additional information…about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction as well as Iraq’s involvement in terrorism, which is also the subject of resolution 1411 and other earlier resolutions.”

The proof? “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid evidence.”

Did Iraq revive their nuclear weapons program? “There is no doubt in my mind,” he concluded.

Privately, however, he displayed less certainty. “I wonder how we’ll all feel if we put half a million troops in Iraq and march from one end of the country to the other and find nothing,” he told his chief of staff Larry Wilkerson at the time.

It was all part of a “grand game of Powellian deception,” wrote Binoy Kampmark in Counterpunch.

One of the clues Powell furnished was drawn from an intercepted conversation about UN inspections between Iraqi army officers that he turned on its head: “Clean out all of the areas…Make sure there is nothing there.” None of which was in the intercept.

As Jon Schwarz wrote in The Intercept: “Powell took evidence of the Iraqis doing what they were supposed to do – i.e., searching their gigantic ammunition dumps to make sure they weren’t accidently holding onto banned chemical weapons – and doctored it to make it look as if Iraq were hiding banned weapons.”

“Clearly Powell’s loyalty to Bush extended to being willing to deceive the world: the United Nations, Americans, and the coalition troops about to be sent to kill and die in Iraq,” Schwarz said.

“He’s never been held accountable for his actions, and it’s extremely unlikely he ever will be.”

Despite the eventual hand wringing by acknowledging how the UN speech was a “blot” on his record and a “great intelligence failure,” Powell displayed no sincere remorse over the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of US soldiers. He remained insistent the war was a just one

Wilkerson said Powell’s UN testimony was significant for both its dishonesty and that Powell’s “gravitas” was a crucial “part of the two-year-long effort by the Bush administration to get Americans on the war wagon.”

“That effort led to a war of choice with Iraq, one that resulted in catastrophic losses for the region and the United States-led coalition, and that destabilized the entire Middle East,” wrote Wilkerson in 2018.

Nor was the UN speech the first example of Powell’s acquiescence. Reports revealedhow timid he was in speaking against the Bush administration’s imprisonment and torture policy, despite knowing the legal risks, in another instance where Powell seemed to put career before principles.

Despite falling out with the administration and leaving at the end of Bush’s first term, Powell continued to be held in high regard as a statesman within Beltway circles. His credibility with the American public, however, had been sacrificed at the altar of Iraq.

Following the Bush era, Powell endorsed President Barack Obama in 2008 and voted for the Democratic ticket ever since. He was an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump and the direction the Republican party took under Trump’s presidency.

While publicly walking back some of his blunders on Iraq, Powell embarked on a path of restoration that ultimately assuaged any greater responsibility.

“Iraq was not his debacle but that of others,” argued Kampmark. “He has spent years cultivating his apologias, showing up his peers as imbeciles and he, a warning filled sage of reason.”

It cannot be denied that Powell left an indelible mark on the history of US foreign policy. He, along with Dick Cheney, were two of the chief designers behind the strategic legacies of the Regan and Bush Sr eras. At the core of the new military doctrine was that the US should avoid the kind of protracted engagement that could become politically costly, as it did in Vietnam.

But for someone who established what came to be known as the ‘Powell Doctrine’ – don’t get into a war you don’t know how to get out of – it is somewhat tragically ironic that Powell failed to heed that lesson himself in 2003.

When Colin Powell Squandered His Spectacular Career For Bush Jr: Revelation 13

Colin Powell standing next to an American flag.
Colin Powell in 2009 in Washington. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

The Moment When Colin Powell Squandered His Spectacular Career

The revered general and statesman, who died Monday, couldn’t outmaneuver his bureaucratic rivals.

Fred KaplanOct 18, 20212:23 PM

Colin Powell, who was the nation’s top diplomat, its top general, and the first Black man to be either, died on Monday at the age of 84. Rarely, if ever, has an American statesman or warrior risen to such heights of power, then been cut off at the knees by his bureaucratic rivals.

Born in Harlem to Jamaican parents, a classic tale of a working-class kid pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, Powell joined the Army, fought in Vietnam as a grunt, rose through the ranks to corps commander, then, after a stint as President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, was named by President George H.W. Bush to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As a rare officer who combined battlefield experience with political savvy, Powell turned the chairmanship into a powerhouse, utilizing his large staff—several hundred of the military’s smartest officers, split into several specialized units—in a way that, as one official at the time told me, “ran circles around the rest of the national-security bureaucracy.” It was in that position that Powell emerged as a public figure, devising much of the strategy for the first Gulf War, which pushed Iraq’s invading army out of Kuwait, and explaining the strategy at several televised press conferences.

During that time, he also enunciated what came to be called the “Powell doctrine,” a view that the U.S. should go to war only if the political objectives are vital and defined, if military force can achieve those objectives at an acceptable cost, if all nonviolent means have failed—and then, if war is necessary, that we should go to war only with overwhelming force. The doctrine amounted to a critique of the U.S. intervention in Vietnam—both its flawed rationale and its piecemeal tactics—and has influenced the debate on the proper role of military force ever since.

After Democrats regained the White House in 1992, Powell wrote a bestselling memoir, My American Journey, and considered running for president. (His wife, Alma, urged him not to run, fearing that some racist would assassinate him.) When the Republicans won again in 2000, President George W. Bush named Powell secretary of state, to unanimous acclaim, in what seemed the pinnacle of his rise—but it proved to be the start of his downfall. Taking office with an air of confidence, assuming that he could rule the realm of foreign policy through his clout and popularity, he soon found himself—to his initial surprise—outmaneuvered, on one major issue after another, by the tag team of Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had been friends and colleagues dating back to the Nixon administration.

Powell accomplished a great deal on issues that Cheney and Rumsfeld didn’t care about. In the fall of 2001, they let him conduct the shuttle diplomacy that may well have prevented war between the nuclear-armed nations of India and Pakistan. Powell also helped soothe tensions with China after its shoot-down of a U.S. spy plane. However, he lost almost every other battle. In one of his first statements, Powell declared that he would resume President Bill Clinton’s nuclear negotiations with North Korea—only to be told by Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser, that he would do no such thing. He had to eat his words.

Whenever Powell tried to initiate any form of arms control, his undersecretary of state, John Bolton, who had been installed in the job as a spy for Cheney, did his best to sabotage the move. On the few occasions when Powell won a debate in the National Security Council, Cheney would go talk with Bush privately—and usually get the decision reversed.

By the middle of Bush’s first term, his counterparts in Europe—who had celebrated Powell’s appointment and spoke with him frequently—came to realize that his views, which they found agreeable, did not reflect the president’s views, and he lost his influence abroad. When Bush wanted to send a message on the Middle East, he sent Rice. When he dispatched an emissary to Western Europe to lobby for Iraqi debt cancellation, he sent James Baker, the Bush family’s longtime friend who had been his father’s secretary of state.

The war in Iraq might have served as Powell’s off-ramp to redemption but instead deepened his downslide to Nowheresville. As Bush crept toward the invasion, Powell warned him of its pitfalls—most prophetically on what he called “the Pottery Barn rule: you break it, you own it”—but to no avail. (Shortly before the war started, a European diplomat reminded him that Bush was said to sleep like a baby. Powell replied, “I sleep like a baby, too—every two hours, I wake up screaming.”) Once again, though, he was outmaneuvered. Unable to muster support for the invasion, either on the homefront or among allies, Cheney came up with the diabolical idea of having Powell—the one senior Bush official with international credibility—make the case for war before the U.N. Security Council. Initially, Powell resisted, tearing up the script the White House gave him to read. But then, in an effort to be helpful and loyal, he went to CIA headquarters and buried himself in documents and briefings for days on end, tossing out claims that had no support and leaving in those that seemed at least plausible. In the end, he gave his fateful speech, with passion. Many critics of the invasion were won over, in good part because it was Colin Powell making the case.

But all the claims that Powell was believed—all the evidence he recited to support the idea that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction—turned out to be false as well. In his excellent book, To Start a War, Robert Draper wrote that plenty of CIA analysts could have told Powell that the claims were false, or at least dubious—but that CIA Director George Tenet, eager to please Bush with the conclusions Bush wanted to hear, deliberately kept Powell from talking with them.

Powell left the administration after Bush’s first term. Toward the end, he was portrayed in several journalistic accounts, most notably Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack, as a critic of the war who regarded Cheney as having “the fever” for invasion; but, even a year after leaving his post, Powell stayed mum on these matters in public. As late as June 2005, six months into Bush’s second term, Powell went on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart in one of his first TV guest spots since leaving office. Stewart asked questions that left him wide openings to take jabs at his former colleagues, who were still in power, or at the war, which was still raging. But he took none of them. Sure, there were disagreements, Powell said, but that’s true in any administration. The president is the boss, and he’s a swell guy. Why, he and Laura were just over at his house for dinner the previous week.

Powell later openly regretted his role in the U.N. speech and denounced those who’d manipulated him at Langley. Too late. If he had resigned in protest before the invasion, he might have stopped the war from happening; if he had spoken out after leaving office, he might have affected its future course. But this wasn’t his way. He was, at heart, a team player, a “good soldier.”

Over time, he turned away from the Republican Party. In the 2008 presidential election, he endorsed Barack Obama, calling him a “transformational” candidate, to the great dismay of his old friend and Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain. However, Obama rarely called him for advice on defense issues. Powell subsequently endorsed only Democrats—Obama again in 2012, Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Joe Biden in 2020.

In recent years, apart from the endorsements, Powell remained out of the limelight of national politics—though it wasn’t clear whether this was by choice. He devoted most of his time to personal and public causes, especially the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at his alma mater, the City College of New York. He wrote more bestselling books and spoke widely, sometimes for fees, sometimes not. He had a wonderful life. At one pivotal moment in our history, it could have been a more decisive one.