United for Peace of Pierce County, WA - We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy.

BACKGROUND: ISIS hated in Mosul, but 'no good option for the Iraqi Sunni community' (P. Cockburn)

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In Mosul, ISIS is confiscating houses and preemptively eliminating those from whom it expects resistance, Patrick Cockburn reported in Monday's London Independent.[1]  --  His report is based on testimony from people interviewed in Irbil, in the area controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government.  --  Surprisingly, pensioners in Mosul are still receiving payments from Baghdad....

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NEWS & COMMENT: ISIS spokesman said to wish al-Baghdadi 'speedy recovery'

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AFP reported Sunday that Iraq is "investigating whether Islamic State (ISIL) chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in air strikes by U.S.-led coalition warplanes targeting the group's leaders," but an Iraqi official said that so far there was "no accurate information available."[1]  --  The chief of staff of British armed forces said that "it will take some days to have absolute confirmation."  --  The London Independent noted that al-Baghdadi is known as the "invisible sheikh" and that "even his own fighters reportedly do not speak to him without the leader wearing a mask to hide himself," so such confirmation will be difficult to obtain.[2]  --  On Sunday evening (Mideast time) Haaretz reported that "A Tweeter account purportedly operated by ISIS spokesperson Mohammed al-Adnani wished the group's leader a 'speedy recovery,' but others question the account's authenticity."[3]  --  The tweet reads, according to Haaretz:  "Do you think the Caliphate would end with the Caliph's death?  We announce leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is in well, and wish him a speedy recovery."  --  (Counters will note that this contains 145 characters, and is presumably a translation, and a poor one at that:  "is in well"?)  --  COMMENT:  In these follow-up reports, the fact that CENTCOM spoke of air strikes near Mosul and the report about al-Baghdadi being "critically wounded" of the town of al-Qaim, 200 miles distant from Mosul, is never mentioned....

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NEWS: -- Rumor: ISIS leader 'critically wounded' by US air strike

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In a Friday evening air strike, the U.S. apparently attempted to kill the caliph of the Islamic State.  --  The London Guardian reported Saturday that CENTCOM later confirmed "that coalition aircraft did conduct a series of air strikes yesterday evening [Friday] in Iraq against what was assessed to be a gathering of ISIL [ISIS] leaders near Mosul.  --  We cannot confirm if ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present.”[1]  --  Russia Today reported late Saturday that "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a self-proclaimed as caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (formerly ISIL/ISIS) was 'critically wounded' during a U.S.-led air operation in the Iraqi town of al-Qaim, tribal sources told Al Arabiya News Channel."[2]  --  The town of al-Qaim, though, is about 200 miles distant from Mosul.  --  The New York Times qualified the reports of the caliph's being critically wounded as "rumors," and added that "The discrepancy in the reported locations could not be immediately explained."[3]  --  The Al Arabiya report mentioned above is posted below.[4]...

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 November 2014 07:41 Read more...
 

NEWS: US sending more troops to Iraq -- 'with what porpoise?,' as Lewis Carroll would say

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On Friday the New York Times said that the fact that the announcement of 1,500 more U.S. troops being sent back to Iraq came three days after midterm elections "raised the question" whether the administration "decided to wait until after the elections to minimize further damage to Democratic candidates."[1]  --   "[S]enior administration officials denied that Mr. Obama waited until after the elections to announce the deployment so as not to alarm an already skittish electorate."  --  It's sheer coincidence that it was just after midterm elections that Iraqi forces "reached the point where they need additional help and guidance," according to Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, and that the administration needed to make a request for $5 billion, which "will be presented to Congress during the lame-duck session that begins next week."  --  Further illustrating the administration's clear-sightedness and sincerity, "Officials said the decision to send additional troops was based on what they said was legal authority the president already has from Congress."  --  "But they said the president wanted a new authorization from Congress for continuing American military action in Iraq and Syria, which Mr. Obama has said will last into the presidency of his successor."  --  Here's Adm. Kirby's story, and he's sticking to it:  "'We did spend a lot of money and effort training the Iraqi Army,' Admiral Kirby said.  --  'When we left them in 2011, we left them capable.'  He said the Maliki government 'squandered' the American military’s training of Iraqi troops, but expressed optimism that things will be different now.  --  'This is a completely different game,' he said, pointing to a recent visit by Mr. Abadi to Anbar Province to engage Sunni leaders in the fight against the Islamic State."  --  COMMENT:  And, Adm. Kirby might have added, this completely different game is a very difficult one, where the players all play at once, without waiting for turns, quarreling all the while, while the Caliph stamps about, shouting "Off with his head!" about once in a minute.  --  And it's a game where onlookers are beginning to feel very uneasy: even if they themselves have not as yet had any dispute with the Caliph, they know it might happen at any minute.  --  "And then," think they, "what would become of us?"  --  "They're dreadfully fond of beheading people here:  the great wonder is, that there's any one left alive!" ...

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NEWS & COMMENT: 'Bush-era throwbacks' elected to Congress

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The rise in Republican ranks of Joni Ernst, elected senator from Iowa on Tuesday in a 52%-44% victory over her Democratic opponent, "is a signal that the backlash against George W. Bush, both inside and outside the Republican Party, is ending," The Week reported.[1]  --  Other 'Bush-era throwbacks' elected to the Senate on Tuesday include Cory Gardner in Colorado and Tom Cotton in Arkansas.  --  In the House, neocon Elise Stefanik, 30, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress by winning an upstate-New York seat.  --  "The victory of Senate hawks has also put NSA reforms and the CIA torture report in serious doubt, with Senate Intelligence Committee member Mark Udall (D-CO) losing his seat," Jason Ditz of Antiwar.com said.[2]   --  "Udall was one of the most public critics of government surveillance and intelligence community abuses, and the committee’s pending reshuffle with more pro-surveillance, pro-torture figures could spell the end to a push for reform." ...

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NEWS: Pentagon denies obvious: US war on ISIS in disarray

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Denying the obvious is the Pentagon's approach to the strategic disarray in which its war on the Islamic State finds itself, the London *Guardian* reported Tuesday.[1]  --  The collapse of key proxy groups, emerging alliances among enemy groups, and a near-exclusive concentration on a goal (Kobani) that is proclaimed to be peripheral and of no great importance -- none of these matter much, according to the Pentagon's chief spokesman, Adm. John Kirby.  --  But the facts suggest otherwise, Spencer Ackerman said:  "Beyond Kobani, the U.S. war effort, which has already morphed from its initial summer formations, has begun to look dire."  --  And more confusion lies ahead, since Republican control of the Senate after Tuesday's vote will mean that "John McCain will probably become chairman of the influential armed services committee.  --  A vociferous critic of Obama’s foreign policy generally and his campaign against ISIS in particular, McCain favors expanding the war’s aims." ...

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NEWS: Two US-backed groups fall to al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, reportedly with help from ISIS

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U.S. strategy in Syria encountered major setbacks on Saturday.  --  McClatchy reported tentatively on Saturday that ISIS appeared to have combined with al-Nusra to drive Jamal Maarouf (or Marouf), the leader of the Syrian Revolutionary Front and the most prominent U.S.-backed Syrian rebel, from his own home town.[1]  --  "If Islamic State fighters in fact joined Nusra in the attack, it will have major repercussions for the war in Syria, for the two groups have been divided since April 2013, when Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the Iraq-based leader, announced the creation of the Islamic State," Mousab Alhamadee and Roy Gutman said.  --  "The rise of Nusra, and its apparent collaboration with the Islamic State, casts a harsh light on the U.S. approach to Syria, which has been to bomb the Islamic State, and ignore the internal conflict between rebel forces and the Assad regime, which gave rise to the radical Islamists."  --  On Sunday the London Telegraph also reported on Maarouf's defeat, adding that on Saturday night another important U.S. ally, Harakat Hazam, "Hazm surrendered military bases and weapons supplies to Jabhat al-Nusra, when the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria stormed villages they controlled in northern Idlib province."[2]  --  "The U.S. and its allies were relying on Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front to become part of a ground force that would attack the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)," Ruth Sherlock said.  --  "For the last six months the Hazm movement, and the SRF through them, had been receiving heavy weapons from the U.S.-led coalition, including GRAD rockets and TOW anti-tank missiles."  --  "For the United States, the weapons they supplied falling into the hands of al-Qaeda is a realization of a nightmare." ...

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NEWS & BACKGROUND: White House downplays Hagel's memo to Rice

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On Friday the White House downplayed the significance of Thursday's report that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had written a memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice criticizing the ambiguity of the administration's policy toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.[1]  --  BACKGROUND:  Hagel's two-page memo was first mentioned in a front-page story published in Thursday's New York Times that characterized the United States as "lurching from crisis to crisis."[2]  --  According to that story, the existence of Hagel's memo was revealed by his own staff in order to defend him from charges that he contributes little to policy deliberations.  --  Mark Landler's piece portrayed the entire administration as on the defensive with respect to charges that it was slow to react to the Islamic State and has stumbled in its response to the Ebola epidemic.  --  On Thursday, a DoD official confirmed the existence of Hagel's memo to Rice, AFP reported, saying it was sent "last week."[3]  --  CNN also confirmed the memo's existence, calling it "highly private, and very blunt," written while Hagel was on a trip to Latin America to talke about climate change.[4]  --  Reuters said the memo "suggested that the future governance of Syria needs to be at the core of American actions."[5] ...

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NEWS: Lower profile to elude ISIS attacks, Pentagon tells employees

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On Wednesday the Washington Times was the first to report that the Pentagon Force Protection Agency has told employees and their families to vary routines and hide evidence of links to the military in order to reduce the danger of attacks "directed or inspired by the Islamic States of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)," [1]  --  Employees were advised to "alter their ways of life" in eleven ways, Rowan Scarborough said.  --  Pieces of advice included "Remove decals and other identifiers from clothing and vehicles" and "Do not post any opposition to terrorist groups."  --  Employees were advised:  "It is important that you ensure all members of your family are made aware of this valuable information so they not only protect themselves, but also become an integral part of the overall community antiterrorism effort." ...

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BACKGROUND: Syria crisis straining US-Turkish alliance to breaking point

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The U.S.-Turkish alliance has deteriorated to the point that "some are starting to question whether the two countries still can be considered allies at all," the Washington Post's Liz Sly reported Wednesday.[1]  --  " 'The Syria crisis is exposing long-unspoken, unpleasant truths about the relationship that were put to one side,' said Bulent Aliriza, a Turkish analyst with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.  . . . 'There are growing doubts over whether the U.S. and Turkey share the same priorities and even whether they share the same goals.' " ...

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COMMENTARY: US is indeed No. 1... in violence & preparations for violence

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"American politicians are fond of telling their audiences that the United States is the greatest country in the world," historian Lawrence Wittner observed last week.[1]  --  But about the only area where this assertion is true is in violence and preparations for violence.  --  "Ultimately, it’s a matter of priorities.  --  When most U.S. government discretionary spending goes for war and preparations for war, it should come as no surprise that the United States emerges No. 1 among nations in its capacity for violence and falls far behind other nations in providing for the well-being of its people.  --  Americans might want to keep this in mind as their nation embarks upon yet another costly military crusade." ...

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NEWS: Revenge killings after Shiite militias & Iraqi government forces retake town from ISIS

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On Saturday, south of Baghdad, Shiite militias helping Iraqi government forces retake Jurf al-Sakhar from ISIS control summarily executed some of their captured prisoners, Reuters reported Sunday.[1]  --  "Asked why government forces had not buried the bodies of men who were killed a day before, an Iraqi army colonel said:  --  'Those terrorists do not deserve to be buried.  --  Let the dogs eat their flesh.  --  Many of our men were killed by them.' "  --  "As Iraqi government soldiers and militias savored their victory and were taking photographs of the bodies, mortars fired by Islamic State fighters who had fled to orchards to the west rained down on the town," Reuters said.  --  "The blast hit the militiamen, killing dozens and scattering body parts."  --  Iraqi News reported that 140 ISIS fighters were killed and 60 wounded in Jurf al-Sakhar.[2]  --  The National Iraqi News Agency reported that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the town on Saturday after it was retaken, and made a speech in there in the evening.[3,4] ...

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BACKGROUND: Times publishes gruesome account of ISIS hostages' ordeal

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In a remarkable piece of investigative journalism, the Sunday New York Times published a grim 4,600-word article about the ordeal of the two dozen Western hostages who have fallen into the hands of the Islamic State, with a graphical timeline showing which hostages have been executed and which were turned over to their governments after ransom payments that averaged 2 million euros ($2.5 million).[1]  --  The story's focus is James Foley, the American hostage who was beheaded in August.  --  The Times reports that Foley converted to Islam during captivity, but was nevertheless "routinely beaten and subjected to waterboarding."  --  BACKGROUND: The author of this remarkable piece, Rukmini Callimachi, is a 41-year-old Bucharest-born journalist and poet with degrees from Dartmouth and Oxford who before working for the Times was West Africa bureau chief for the Associated Press, according to her Twitter account, where on Saturday she tweeted:  "Since June, I have been researching the hell hostages held in ISIS' underground gulag endured." ...

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 October 2014 07:30 Read more...
 

BACKGROUND: 'Ebola more a symptom of a weak healthcare system than anything else' (Paul Farmer)

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The ravages of the Ebola epidemic are due less to the virulence of the disease and more to "long neglect" of health infrastructure in rural West Africa, Paul Farmer wrote in a piece published in the Oct. 23 number of the London Review of Books.[1]  --  With proper care "as many as 90% should survive" contracting Ebola, he said.  --  "I’ve been asked more than once what the formula for effective action against Ebola might be.  --  It’s often those reluctant to invest in a comprehensive model of prevention and care for the poor who ask for ready-made solutions."  --  "As Sirleaf recently pointed out, the Dallas Cowboys football stadium consumes more energy each year than the whole of Liberia.  --  It is very difficult to take care of critically ill patients in the dark; fluid resuscitation depends on being able to place and replace intravenous lines."  --  "[I]t’s clear enough that attempts to seal national borders won’t stop it.  --  There are no checkpoints or barriers in the forests.  --  The day when enclosure might have worked is long gone.  --  A CNN interviewer asked me if Ebola might spread to Europe and North America.  --  ‘Of course it will,’ I replied.  --  ‘We live in a global economy.’"   --  "The cycle of fear and stigma, amped up by the media, will continue to spiral, even though there’s little doubt that the epidemic will be contained in the U.S., which has the staff, stuff, space, and systems." ...

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NEWS & COMMENT: US weapons & ammo airdropped to Kurds fall into hands of ISIS

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It was as predictable as it was inevitable.  --  Neatly boxed hand grenades, ammunition, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers airdropped by the U.S. and intended for beleaguered Kurds in Kobani have fallen into the hands of those fighting for the Islamic State, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.[1]  --  An AP-validated video uploaded to the Internet shows an ISIS fighter taking possession of the cache of weapons, still attached to its parachute.  --  The Pentagon initially denied that anything of the sort had happened, but later admitted that it was "not out of the realm of the possible," the BBC said.[2]  --  BACKGROUND:  The BBC published an accompanying graphic according to which the U.S. made 541 air strikes on ISIS between Aug. 8 and Oct. 20.  --  The cost:  about $1 billion.  --  On Tuesday, Foreign Policy devoted an analysis of the "rapidly intensifying" U.S. engagement in the battle for Kobani.[3]  --  Kate Brannen and Gopal Ratnam said that "The media attention paid to Kobani has baffled U.S. defense officials at times, and they've pointed to towns in Iraq -- like Hit -- that have recently fallen into the Islamic State's hands with little notice."  --  But the difference is obvious:  Kobani, located on the border with Turkey, offers journalists a safe vantage point for filming the battle and the dramatic photographs that are the result.  --  Is this any way to run foreign policy?  --  On Oct. 2, in a statement titled "A Dumb War," UFFPC said:  "Engaging the United States in an open-ended war with undefined objectives is quintessentially unwise."  --  It is inevitable that bad decisions like upping the ante in Kobani flow from that engagement....

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COMMENTARY: Leslie Gelb calls on US 'to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran'

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On Saturday a commentator with a distinguished record in academia, journalism, and government argued that "In the short term the only way to check ISIS . . . is for the United States to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran."[1]  --  Leslie Gelb, who was a McNamara protégé at the Dept. of Defense in the 1960s, a diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times and assistant secretary of state in the Carter administration in the 1970s, a prize-winning author in the 1980s, and president of the Council on Foreign Relations in the 1990s, accused the Obama administration of indulging in "its usual wishful thinking" in fantasizing that the Iraqi army or Syrian "moderate" rebels can be turned into an effective fighting forces.  --  "Only Assad’s Syria and Iran can and would provide plausible ground forces in short order," Gelb said.  --  "Moscow could help facilitate cooperation between Syria, Iran and the U.S., not because Mr. Putin is kind-hearted, but because it is in his obvious interest."  --  And working with these powers opens "potential avenues for cooperation worth testing and pursuing."  --  Gelb concluded by pointing out that working with unsavory allies is nothing new for the United States.  --  Gelb's realist opinion was noted in a USA Today survey on Sunday.  --  Other opinions included Fareed Zakaria's advocacy of "containment" as an "actually achievable" anti-ISIS strategy, K.T. McFarland's view that the U.S. has "a lot of options," other than going to war, Dina Badie's opinion that "supporting 'moderate' Syrian rebels . . . is counterproductive," and Sheldon Richman's notion that "The best way to avoid terrorism is to stop dropping bombs on Muslims."[2] ...

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WARS R US: No vote, but $1 billion already spent as Pentagon prepares long war against Islamic State

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Preparing for a long war against the Islamic State, the U.S. Dept. of Defense is "preparing to set up a more formally organized command structure, known in military parlance as a joint task force, to lead and coordinate the campaign from a forward headquarters, perhaps in Kuwait," the Associated Press reported Friday.[1]  --  "On Wednesday it formally named the campaign 'Operation Inherent Resolve,'" Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor said.  --  U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the 61-year-old African-American who has been Commander of CENTCOM for the past 18 months, said at a press conference in the Pentagon that "The campaign to destroy ISIL will take time, and there will be occasional setbacks along the way."  --  Burns and Baldor offered no estimate of what the new war will cost, but a few weeks ago the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis reported that about $1 billion had already been spent.[2] ...

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 October 2014 06:04 Read more...
 

NEWS: Islamic State reportedly training pilots to fly MiGs

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Reuters posted an article Friday reporting that a spokesman for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is saying that "Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets."[1]  --  "[I]f the report is confirmed, this would be the first time it has been able to pilot warplanes," Sylvia Westall said.  --  The planes are said to be MiG-21s or MiG-23s captured from the Syrian military, and they are said to be flown from the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo.  --  A spokesman for CENTCOM said that the U.S. was "not aware" of such flights.  --  AFP also reported on the assertion, adding that "Witnesses have reported seeing planes flying at a low altitude to avoid detection by radar after taking off from Jarrah" and that "The jihadists also control two other airports in Syria -- Albu Kamal near the Iraqi border and Tabqa in Raqa province."[2]  --  The Associated Press also led its Friday piece on the Islamic State with the report, but devoted most of its report to news about the Isalmic state offensives targeting Kobani on the Syria-Turkey border and the Iraqi city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province.[3]  --  BACKGROUND:  The MiG-23 is a Soviet plane designed to rival fighters like the F-4 Phantom, which can carry nine tons of weapons and fly at Mach 2.2, and which was used extensively in Vietnam.  --  The MiG-21 is also a supersonic fighter jet that is still in service in many countries....

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BACKGROUND: Violence 'back to levels of 2006-07,' Iraq 'in last stages of disintegration' (Patrick Cockburn)

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Barack Obama's plan for Iraq to form a more "inclusive" government and fight ISIS is failing utterly as Shia militias enjoying total immunity take revenge on any Sunni civilians they detain, the London Independent reported Tuesday.[1]  --  "[S]ince the militias treat all Sunni men as ISIS fighters or supporters, the Sunni are left with no choice but to stick with the jihadi militants," said veteran Mideast reporter Patrick Cockburn.  --  He concluded:  "The inability of the Baghdad government to field a national army and its reliance on militias means that Iraq is in the last stages of disintegration.  --  The few mixed Sunni-Shia areas are disappearing.  --  In places where the army and militias have retaken towns such as Amerli, north of Baghdad, the inhabitants of nearby Sunni villages have fled.  --  The final break-up of Iraq has become a fact." ...

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FILM: Two reviews of Laura Poitras's new Snowden documentary, 'Citizenfour'

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Spencer Ackerman, it will probably come as no surprise, thinks Laura Poitras's new documentary about Edward Snowden "crackle[s] with the nervous energy of revelation."[1]  --  "Given the passions that the NSA disclosures have generated, it’s remarkable how tempered 'Citizenfour' comes across," he says in his London Guardian review.  --  And it will also probably come as no surprise that George Packer, in a long New Yorker profile of Laura Poitras that is also a review of the film, thinks otherwise.[2]  --  Packer's snide review is full of insinuations.  --  "Citizenfour" is a film by a woman who is worried about "being accused of being paranoid or crazy."  --  "Poitras is so close to her subject, politically and psychologically."  --  Substantively, he thinks "Citizenfour" doesn't recognize "how difficult the trade-off between liberty and security can be in a democratic society."  --  Packer is not really much interested, though, in what the NSA is doing, whereas he is quite interested in using what he considers Poitras's "strange social world" to turn the average reader's sympathies against her.  --  As for Edward Snowden, Packer turns his intelligence and articulateness into suspicious traits:  Snowden's writing has "the stilted feel of a manifesto written in isolation" and he speaks in "hyper-rational, oddly formal sentences."  --  (Cf. Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.)  --  Apparently seeking subliminal effects, Packer even works in the words "conspiracy theorist" and "traitor."  --  In a remarkable sentence that says much about him and even more about our time, Packer says that Edward Snowden "presents his motives as so high-minded and public-spirited that they never become interesting."  --  O tempora o mores! ...

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NEWS: Obama adviser signals let-up on Russia sanctions

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A key Obama adviser said at a Friday press briefing that talks with Russia on easing sanctions could begin in weeks if the Ukraine cease-fire continues to make progress, Reuters reported.[1]  --  COMMENT: With the problem of ISIS looking graver with each passing day, the U.S.'s need for Russian cooperation, and European economic woes that are worsened by war of sanctions between the E.U. and Russia and that are weakening the world economy, economic expansion into Ukraine appears less geopolitically advantageous than it did earlier in the year.  --  The fall in the price of oil (the November 2014 futures contract Brent crude was below $90 a barrel on Thursday) is also impacting Russia's economy, moderating Moscow's willingness to be confrontational....

Last Updated on Saturday, 11 October 2014 23:26 Read more...
 
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United for Peace of Pierce County meets 7:00-8:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of every month at First United Methodist Church in Tacoma (621 Tacoma Avenue South).

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