Sunday, March 26, 2023


Don Rickles was a comedian who made a lot of people laugh during his career of insult comedy.  He is the subject of Johnny Heller's DON RICKLES: THE MERCHANT OF VENOM.  

Singer and violent thug Frank Sinatra shows up one night and the audience is tense.  Sinatra is a thug.  He flies off the handle and beats people up or has his bodyguard do it.  (Remember that when you try to lie and pretend Mia Farrow was every saintly.)  So does Don do his usual comedy?  Does he try to ignore Frank Sinatra?  Or does he treat him like he would anyone else?

Make yourself comfortable, Frank, slug somebody.  Frank, believe me, I'm telling you this as a friend, you're voice is gone. I just saw your movie THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION and I want to tell you, the cannon was great.

That's what he goes with and everyone -- including Frank -- laughs.  That's how he kicked off his career and it's how the book opens.

He was born and raised in the Queen borough of New York City.  He grew up a New York Giants fan at a time when NYC also boasted the Dodgers and the Yankees.  Later in life, he'd live in Los Angeles and become a Dodgers fan.  In high school, he played basketball and failed at math.  He graduated high school during WWII (1944) and enlisted in the navy.  The war would end the following year and Don would serve one more year before being discharged.

Don would stumble around in several jobs while wanting to be an entertainer and make people laugh.  He applied to the American Academy of Arts, auditioned and was accepted.  His classmates included Conrad Bain (DIFF'RENT STROKES, MAUDE), Don Murray (Marilyn Monroe's BUS STOP, KNOTS LANDING), Jason Robards Jr. (JULIA. COMES A HORSEMAN and ANY WEDNESDAY all with Jane Fonda, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST with Henry Fonda, A THOUSAND ACRES with Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange and Jennifer Jason Leigh -- Jennifer's middle name is in honor of the family friend Jason Robards Jr.) and Charles Durning (Brian De Palma's SISTERS, TOOTSIE with Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, DOG DAY AFTERNOON with Al Pacino, Warren Beatty's DICK TRACY).

He auditioned repeatedly for plays after graduating but no one would hire him. Finally, a New Jersey club needed a comic and he got that job.  He quickly became a success on the comedy circuit.  In 1957, he finally got on TV -- the Jack Parr hosted THE TONIGHT SHOW. But TV otherwise ignored him.  Rose Marie (THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW) got him a job at a nightclub in California.

He starts making movies (RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP and THE RABBIT TRAP) with Burt Lancaster and Ernest Borgnine and then, in 1959, he finally played Vegas and his  standup career exploded. 


He made friends along the way (Judy Garland took to him long before he was famous, Bob Newhart would become one of his best friends) and enemies (Vincent Price).  

He dated a lot of women (including singer Connie Francis -- not a Connie fan but I don't mind including names of people I'm not a fan of -- just of people who physically make me ill)

And it was while blowing them away in Vegas that he was offered a role in THE RAT RACE -- which would go on to be the first hit movie he made -- Tony Curtis and Kay Medford were in the cast.  (I'm not mentioning people I loathe.  This is my review.  There's an actress I always considered facially repulsive and a bad actress and I'm not pumping up her online presence by noting her.  But she was really ugly.)  The standup career, films and on TV all the time (THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE THIN MAN, WAGON TRAIN, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE LUCY SHOW, BURKE'S LAW, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, THE ADAMS FAMILY, and many more including playing The Insulter on an episode of BATMAN).  Before the sixties were over, he'd make four films with Annette Funicello: MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, PAJAMA PARTY, BIKINI BEACH and BEACH BLANKET BINGO.  I'm a big fan of those movies.  When I was a little kid, they were on my local station after I'd get home from first grade.  I really loved those movies and Annette had so much personality.  Don worked very well with Annette. He usually knocked Frankie Avalon's character but always warmed up to Annette's character.  Annette was daring Don's agent Jack Gilardi at this time.  She would marry him and they were married from 1965 to 1981. And Don ended up marrying Jack's secretary Barbara Sklar.  They married in 1965 and were married until Don's 2017 death.

It's an interesting book and a good starting point on Don Rickles. 

Also, THE FIRST FAMILY -- a comedy album from 1962 by Vaughn Meader, Bob Booker, Earle Doud and Naomi  Brossart -- is mentioned in the book and you can stream that album on AMAZON.  I did and it was very funny.  It used to be the best selling comedy album of all time and may still be.  

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, March 24, 2023.  20 years of lies to attack Iraq (and to destroy our own country here at home).

ADDED:DEMOCRACY  NOW! video.  After that, the snapshot is the same as it was when it went up 70 minutes ago.

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue to mark the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we’re joined by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an award-winning Iraqi journalist and author. He was born in Baghdad in 1975 and was working as an architect when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Ghaith started his journalism career at The Guardian soon after the invasion as a translator for Guardian reporters. He has since received the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, the British Press Awards’ Foreign Reporter of the Year and the Orwell Prize. His book is just out on this 20th anniversary, A Stranger in Your Own City: Travels in the Middle East’s Long War. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is joining us from Istanbul, Turkey, today.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Ghaith. This book is magnificent. It is a deep dive into understanding the effects of an invasion and occupation and, beyond that, the entire region. And we congratulate you for this work. Why don’t we start off with the book’s title, A Stranger in Your Own City? Describe Baghdad, a place you had hardly left by the time you had become an architect, and then what happened on March 20th, the bombing of your country.

GHAITH ABDUL-AHAD: Well, thank you, Amy, and thank you, Nermeen, for having me back.

It’s exactly like that. I grew up in Baghdad. I rarely left the city for 28 years. And I presume I knew the city very well. I used to walk everywhere. My school was in one part of the city. My family lived in another part. My friends are in the east and the west of the city. So I knew the geography of the city very well. It’s a flat, open city, no marcations, no boundaries within the city itself.

And then, within two years of the occupation, I was awake early in the morning in my hotel room, and I’m trying to find friends who can escort me to different parts of the city. And that’s when it hit me that I have become a stranger in my own city, because I can’t actually, literally, travel from the hotel where I was staying to where my school was or where my friends were, without having a someone to escort me, and often two people escorting me, you know, because you never know what kind of militia will be manning checkpoints on the road. And that was a direct effect of the war. I mean, my life, from an architect or a journalist, an accidental journalist, I would say, was upended by this war like so many other lives in Iraq, and in the region, of course.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ghaith, one of the things that’s very instructive and interesting in your book is the account you give of your years in Baghdad — as you said, almost 30 without barely leaving — all of the events that led up to what the society and the context was in which the U.S. invasion took place. So, if you could begin with that? You were 5 years old when the Iraq-Iran War began, and then followed swiftly by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the sanctions. If you could just walk us through that period and what Baghdad was like in those years?

GHAITH ABDUL-AHAD: I mean, of course, Iraqis, and myself included, of a certain generation, their relationship to war did not start in 2003. As you said, I was 5 when I first time witnessed the bombing of my city. It was — you know, Iraq was bombing Tehran. The Iranians were bombing Baghdad. And that eight years’ war, that although people in the cities, the major cities, were spared from, but we all lived through its dynamic, through its impact of the society, the militarization of the society — uncles, cousins, neighbors all being taken to the front. Every spring, you see the streets in Baghdad covered in this black cloth announcing the death of soldiers, conscript soldiers, at the front. So, that was part of the dynamic.


Like many people, I can't believe what's going on in the United States -- or the silence from so many claiming to be left.  One of the few things we could be proud of domestically in the last two decades was that we had moved forward on inclusion and our LGBTQ+ citizens were citizens.  Some rights and protections were still lacking but we had come a long way as a country.  

And now here we are with hate merchants like Tulsi Gabbard and Ron DeSantis and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and Mother Tucker Carlson and . . .  They're just preaching their hate and trying to destroy the lives of others.  And it's depressing and scary.  We are supposed to be better than this.  

I was not joking when I said BROS was a waking up point for me.  There was an organized effort to destroy that film and to destroy Billy Eichner.  DOBBS had already come down and Clarence Thomas' outrageous opinion in that case was bad.  But watching what happened to BROS made it clear just how strong homophobia remained.  And it made it clear that we had a lot of people willing to participate in it -- I'm looking at the staff of THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and I'm looking at that trash because I know several people on staff and I spoke to them about what was going on and they did nothing to moderate their own coverage.

But while the left was silent -- or telling you that BROS wasn't that funny or it wasn't as diverse as the bad HULU movie with one woman in the cast (only one) and no real parts for African-Americans but, hey, let's pretend that recasting a novel from 1813 with a male cast makes it a comment on the state of gay men today -- the right-wing was working their hatred and launching one attack after another -- on message boards, with YOUTUBE videos, an orchestrated campaign of hate.

I knew BROS was not going to be a hit.  I'd talked about that before it came out and Stan had noted that at his site.

It was never going to be a hit due to theaters.  This is still the unacknowledged story.  And UNIVERSAL knew it too.  I spoke with friends at UNIVERSAL before the film came out.  The problem was they were announcing X number of theaters.  But it didn't matter that it had the same number of theaters that SMILE -- which opened the same week.  SMILE was being shown around the clock.  In many theaters, BROS was luck, opening weekend, to have three shows for all of Saturday.  If both were in 3,000 theaters but 3,000 theaters are showing SMILE eight or nine times on Saturday and 2,000 theaters (of 3,000) are only showing BROS three times, there's no way BROS has the same chance at ticket sales.  

UNIVERSAL's argument was that the second weekend, these same theaters would show it more times.  But why would they because the film would be seen as a failure unless UNIVERSAL got ahead on this story before the film debuted?  

They knew they were right.  They ended up wrong.  And the industry rushed to call the film a failure.  It did very well on opening weekend.  Dollars per theater only work as a comparison if the films are shown the same number of times.  If you look at the average per screening, BROS did well.  And if they'd made that argument, then the second weekend could have seen an increase (in ticket purchases but also in the number of showings per day).  They didn't make that argument and outlets like THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER (still homophobic all these years later) rushed to call the film a bomb and ensure that interest in it would die.

And I looked around and saw a few people did use their platforms to promote the film -- and bless them all -- in fact, a few surprised me -- but I mainly saw silence and this from people who make a point to label themselves as allies.  I've never labeled myself as that in any interview.  I've supported LBGTQ+ rights forever -- going back to pre-college school days -- but thought "ally" was a term for those who really did something and I don't think (even now) that I've really done something.  But I was shocked as various "allies" (self-labeled) refused to promote the film.

"It's just a movie," I was told over and over by those types.  

No, it wasn't just a movie.

First off, BROS was the best film of 2022.  It wasn't just a movie.  It was a great movie.  And our industry is supposed to applaud art.  We had a closet case starring in yet another 'he-man' film with yet another woman he had no chemistry with and that thing got applause.  But we couldn't applaud this honestly funny and moving film?  

So, no, don't tell me "it's just a movie."

Second, this is where I got how much homophobia was still present and how they were orchestrating attacks.  

I'm really good at recognizing patterns.  I always have been.  And it was a war and now we're seeing people realizing that.  But it was there with the response to BROS.  There was an organized effort to attack the film, there were talking points, there were posers, it was an organized hit on that film.  

And seeing the lengths that people would go to in order to destroy a film made it clear just how much hate was still in this country.  

I think about things now like Ryan White's funeral.  Ryan had AIDS and was ostracized at his school because of it.  He eventually had to switch schools.  By the time his young life ended, people had come around.  You had Barbara Bush, the First Lady at the time, go to his funeral, for example.  Ronald Reagan who had been loathe to even say "AIDS" during the bulk of his presidency wrote (or had ghost written) a column about Ryan for THE WASHINGTON POST.

All of the ugly hate seemed to shrink.  Not go away, not vanish --  but shrink significantly.  And these were two prominent Republicans.  To look at that party now and see it work itself into a frenzy to destroy and demonize?  

It's ugly -- and as ugly as the hate merchants are, I find the 'left' to be pretty ugly as well.  I'm not pleased with friends in the entertainment industry who are silent.  I'm not pleased with 'left' voices with YOUTUBE programs and other outlets who are silent.  But I'm especially not pleased with those like John Stauber who are promoting hate merchants on their Twitter feeds.  Cyndi Lauper is right, if we aren't all free, none of us are.  (Cyndi's someone who's earned the right to be called an "ally" of LGBTQ+ persons.) 

I look at Jonathan Turley and feel nothing but disgust.  Things changed after DOBBS and I'm not in the mood to be silent or pretend like these people like Jonathan are good people.  In times of great stress, people show their true nature and Jonathan certainly has.  He was wrong about ROE being in jeopardy and all he does now is amplify the 'plight' of those anti-choicers, that's who he feels sorry for.  He doesn't call out the homophobes.  And I'm using "homophobe" here for "transphobe, et al," by the way.  It started with transpersons and is being expanded -- even including drag queens and, sorry to break it to the right-wingers, but not every drag queen is a gay man (and not every draq king is a lesbian).  As Joni Mitchell so prophetically sang by in 1985 "They're going to slam free choice behind us."

Oh and deep in the night
Our appetites find us
Release us and bind us
Deep in the night
While madmen sit up building bombs
And making laws and bars
They'd like to slam free choice behind us

I saw a little lawyer on the tube
He said "It's so easy now anyone can sue"
"Let me show you how your petty aggravations can profit you!"
Call for the three great stimulants
Of the exhausted ones
Artifice brutality and innocence
Artifice and innocence

Oh and deep in the night
Appetites find us
Release us and blind us
Deep in the night
While madmen sit up building bombs
And making laws and bars
They're gonna slam free choice behind us

If you missed it -- and we didn't have time earlier in the week for it -- Hate Merchant Kirk Cameron was whining to the media that drag queens showed up at one of his readings.  

Oh, the horror!!!!

He blackmails his way into a public library with what he's calling a 'book' (it's not and he's not a writer, he was never an actor either so that's two creative careers he's failed at) and how dare drag queens show up!  How dare they?  It's a public facility.  Anyone can show up.  They weren't carrying guns or attacking anyone.  They have every right to be there.  

They have a lot of rights that are being destroyed yet somehow Mr. Free Speech Jonathan Turley never can write about their free speech rights.  He can defend every transphobe in the book but he can't defend the rights of the transgendered.

But, of course, he's not really for free speech. He's the one who wet his panties over the Supreme Court leak.  He leaked over the leak.  His little wiki leaked.  

And he makes his real position against free speech  clear as he refuses -- day after day -- to call out the attacks on free speech from the right-wing.  DeSantis wants to expand his hideous Don't Say Gay and Turley (who is also now attacking the education system -- they apparently don't have free speech rights either) can't call that out.

What did he do this week?  On Monday Tweeted and wrote about someone about to be arrested that day!  Oops.  Didn't happen.  Then he did the same the second day and the third day and . . .

Let's all marvel over how he chooses to waste his life.

Of all the time to be calling out the lack of free speech, it was this week.  (See, I was building to Iraq, even if you didn't think so.)  Twenty years ago the media lied.  Repeatedly.  And it shut down free speech.  It banned people -- sometimes officially and sometimes not.  This would be a time to reflect on that.  At least if you really believed in free speech.

You'd talk about this and review the current landscape.

You'd note Deepa Fernandes, for example.  And how WBAI's WAKEUP CALL didn't pay big bucks but it was an honest living.  All the years since WBAI axed the show, I thought I'd missed Deepa and was wrongly thrilled that she'd joined NPR's HERE AND NOW.  

Reality came home this week.  Deepa's not needed.  Anything she ever had to offer is long gone.  She made that clear sitting down with David Petraeus to make nice.  And she wasn't the only one.

For some reason, the media decided that they had to have him on so he was all over the radio and all over cable.  But Deepa was supposed to have stood for something and supposed to have ethics.  So her hideous chat with Petraeus was all the worse.

And let's point out that if you're going to have a disgraced US official on your 'news' program, you make them talk.  You may be too cowardly to confront them regarding Iraq, but this is Petraeus.

He left in disgrace.  He almost lost his military pension -- he should have lost it.  He was sharing secrets with his mistress, national security secrets.  He was violating every code of conduct and he got drummed out of Barack Obama's administration.  

Read this from WIKIPEDIA and ask yourself why Deepa and others fawned over Petraeus this week:

Petraeus reportedly began an affair with Paula Broadwell, principal author of his biography, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, after Petraeus left his ISAF command on July 18, 2011, to become CIA director. Petraeus reportedly ended the affair in the summer of 2012, around the time that he learned that Broadwell had been sending harassing emails to a longstanding family friend of the Petraeuses, Jill Kelley.[197]

Kelley, a Florida socialite who frequently entertained senior military personnel at her and her husband's Tampa mansion,[198] had approached an acquaintance who worked for the FBI Tampa Field Office in the late spring with regard to anonymous emails she considered threatening.[197] The Bureau traced the emails to Broadwell, and noted that Broadwell appeared to be exchanging intimate messages with an email account belonging to Petraeus, which instigated an investigation into whether that account had been hacked into or was someone posing as Petraeus.[199][200][201] According to an Associated Press report, rather than transmit emails to each other's inbox, which would have left a more obvious email trail, Petraeus and Broadwell left messages in a draft folder and the draft messages were then read by the other person when they logged into the same account.[202]

Although U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was aware that the FBI had discovered the affair,[203] it was not until November 6, 2012, that Petraeus's nominal superior, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, was advised. That same evening Clapper called Petraeus and urged him to resign. Clapper notified the White House the next day, November 7. After being briefed on November 8, President Obama summoned Petraeus to the White House where Petraeus offered his resignation.[204] Obama accepted his resignation on November 9,[205] and Petraeus cited his affair when announcing that same day that he would resign as CIA Director.[206] Eventually, Petraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling the classified information that he provided to his mistress and biographer.[21]

Criticism after 2012 scandal

Petraeus had a strategy to influence military conditions by using press relations, both in theater of war and in Washington, according to critics of his military career.[citation needed] On November 13, 2012, Reagan administration Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, CIA analyst and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity co-founder Ray McGovern, and investigative journalist Gareth Porter appeared on Al Jazeera English. Together they assessed the general's extensive military-media strategy, linking his writings on counterguerrilla operations and subsequent military media efforts to his downfall with his female biographer. Critics said that the Petraeus media strategy would prove damaging for American policy in the future because of omissions and distorted interpretations that Washington policymakers, other experts, and the American public accepted from Petraeus's media contacts.[207]

Military historians have noted the absence of field records for the Iraq and Afghanistan military campaigns, but have not been personally critical of the commanders in theater.[208] One additional aspect of Petraeus's career that has come under increased scrutiny since his affair came to light has been his lack of a direct combat record in relation to the many awards he received. In particular, his Bronze Star Medal with Valor device has been mentioned in several media reports and questioned by several former Army officers.[209] The citation for Petraeus's Bronze Star with "V" device also notes his "leadership under fire," as does award of the Combat Action Badge, but neither provides a detailed account of his actions.

Criminal charges and probation

In January 2015, The New York Times reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department had recommended bringing felony charges against Petraeus for providing classified information to Broadwell. Petraeus denied the allegations and was reported to have had no interest in a plea deal.[20] However, on Tuesday, March 3, 2015, the U.S. Justice Department announced that Petraeus agreed to plead guilty in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina to a charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information.[210]

In the 15-page statement of facts filed by the government along with the plea agreement, the government stated that Petraeus had provided Broadwell access to documents containing Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information, had later moved those documents to his personal residence and stored them in an unsecured drawer, and had deliberately and intentionally lied to Federal investigators about both providing Broadwell access to the documents and their improper storage. These facts were acknowledged to be true by Petraeus as part of his plea agreement.[211]

On April 23, 2015, a federal judge sentenced Petraeus to two years' probation plus a fine of $100,000. The fine was more than double the amount the Justice Department had requested.[212]

Press accounts in January 2016 indicated that Department of Defense staff were reviewing Department of Justice documents from the Petraeus prosecution and considering whether to recommend to the Secretary of Defense that Petraeus be demoted on the Army's retired list. Laws and regulations indicate that members of the military are retired at the last rank in which they are deemed to have served successfully; Petraeus's admission of an extramarital affair and guilty plea with regard to removing and retaining classified information while serving in the grade of general could be grounds for reduction in rank to lieutenant general. The matter was reviewed by then-Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh before he left office in October 2015; he recommended no further action.[213] On January 29, press accounts indicated that Stephen C. Hedger, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, had written to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. In his letter, Hedger informed the committee that Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had concurred with the Army's recommendation, and would not impose any further punishment on Petraeus.[214]

There are no ethics and there's no reason to be thrilled that Deepa's back on the air.  On NPR, she's just another whore selling out.  And Jonathan Turley is just a sad, little man.

Plenty of embarrassments these days -- Glenneth Greenwald and John Stauber are among the fools 'jazzed' by Ron DeSantis.  Hate merchant Ron isn't just in the news for his domestic hatred, he's also in the news for his foreign hatred.  Richard Hall (INDEPENDENT) reports:

 Ron DeSantis has broken his silence on allegations that he observed the force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay during his time serving as a Navy lawyer there.

The Independent reported last week on claims by a former prisoner of the prison camp, Mansoor Adayfi, that Mr DeSantis observed his brutal force-feeding by guards during a hunger strike in 2006 – a practice the United Nations characterised as torture.

Mr DeSantis was stationed on the base between March 2006 and January 2007, according to his military records, and part of his role involved hearing complaints and concerns from prisoners over their conditions.

“I was a junior officer. I didn’t have authority to authorise anything,” Mr DeSantis told Piers Morgan, in an interview to be broadcast on Thursday.

“There may have been a commander that would have done feeding if someone was going to die, but that was not something that I would have even had authority to do.”

The Florida governor’s response did not address the central allegation from the detainee that he witnessed the force-feeding. Investigations by The Independent, The Washington Post and other outlets did not report that Mr DeSantis authorised the force-feeding – rather, that he observed and was aware of the practice.

What did we learn?  That even the deeply stupid (like DeSantis) are smarter than George Santos.  DeSantis denies ever ordering forced feeding at Abu Ghraib.  But he wasn't accused of that.  He was accused of observing it.  And if he did observe it, he observed a crime.  Physicians for Human Rights noted eight years ago:

U.S. Military Document Says Force-Feeding Violates Medical Ethics and International Law

U.S. Navy Should Drop Charges Against Nurse who Refused to Force-Feed Guantánamo Detainees

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said today that a newly public U.S. military document acknowledging that force-feeding violates medical ethics shows the unlawfulness of hunger strike practices at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. PHR called on the U.S. government to end all policies requiring clinicians to violate professional ethics and to immediately drop charges against the Navy nurse who refused to force-feed detainees.

“This document exposes the flawed medical and legal reasoning at the heart of Guantánamo’s force-feeding policy,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “Forcing treatment on mentally competent persons constitutes ill-treatment and possibly torture and is contrary to professional ethics. There is no evidence for the government’s claim that it is diagnosing or treating suicide or self-harm. Yet the command structure orders doctors and nurses to carry out force-feeding anyway, and attempts to justify the practice on the basis of medical necessity. The Navy nurse who stood up against this contradictory and harmful policy should not be discharged.”

PHR rejects the U.S. government’s claim that hunger strikes are a form of suicide or self-harm and that force-feeding is an appropriate therapeutic response. PHR said that this is a mischaracterization, as the hunger strikes at Guantánamo are protests of last resort against indefinite detention and ill-treatment. PHR stated that the government’s policy is inherently contradictory, in that it attempts to justify intervention ostensibly to prevent suicide or self-harm, yet fails to establish a medical foundation for intervention, such as diagnosing and treating self-harm behaviors and investigating other potential causes of weight loss.

Last year, a Navy nurse was transferred out of Guantánamo after refusing to participate in force-feeding. The nurse, who has been charged with misconduct, still awaits a decision on whether he could be discharged after 18 years of service. The American Nurses Association, the International Council of Nurses, and the World Medical Association (WMA) have publicly asserted the nurse’s professional obligation to pursue ethical practice and urged the DOD and the Navy to drop disciplinary proceedings against him.

The internal analysis by a United States Southern Command attorney, which ultimately determines that force-feeding is permitted under U.S. federal law, appears to be the military’s first documented recognition that force-feeding is contrary to professional ethics and international law. The analysis was issued on June 21, 2013 – just two months after the American Medical Association (AMA) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (pdf), stating that “the forced feeding of detainees violates core ethical values of the medical profession.” The AMA endorses (pdf) the WMA Declarations of Tokyo and Malta, which recognize force-feeding as a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.

PHR said that Guantánamo’s force-feeding policy has required clinicians like the Navy nurse to carry out duties prohibited by medical ethics, or risk losing their careers if they refuse.

“Force-feeding requires doctors and nurses to inflict physical and mental pain without any medical justification and violate the most basic professional duty to ‘do no harm,’” Iacopino said. “Current federal policy requires doctors and nurses who serve their country to violate their professional codes and potentially jeopardize their licenses. The government must stop using health professionals as an instrument of punitive and harmful military policies.”

PHR said that force-feeding violates the prohibition against torture and ill-treatment and constitutes medical negligence, and calls on the U.S. government to:

  • Immediately end the practice of force-feeding detainees on hunger strike and institute policies and procedures consistent with the WMA’s Declarations of Tokyo and Malta on hunger strikers;
  • Ensure that no health professionals are compelled to participate in force-feeding, and that those who refuse do not face disciplinary or retaliatory actions for complying with their professional obligations; and
  • Commit to full transparency around hunger strikes at Guantánamo and medical management policies and protocols, including the release of the force-feeding tapes of former detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

So what have we learned?  That Ron DeSantis wants to be president but apparently just does whatever he's told.  Ron does realize that the president of the United States is not over Nazi Germany, right?  Then again, judging by his speech and actions, Ron's hope is to turn the United States into Nazi Germany.

And John Stauber and Glenneth Greenwald will be goose stepping along with him.

The debate about the Iraq war’s 20th anniversary can be essentially reduced to three questions.

Were Iraq, and the other endless wars, worth it? Definitely not. After 20 years, Afghanistan is again ruled by the Taliban, Iraq is a dysfunctional democracy, and terrorism was weakened but did not disappear.

Was the price paid justified? The negative answer here is even louder. Brown University’s Cost of War Project has provided staggering figures about the endless wars’ cost between 2001 and 2021. Almost one million people have died due to direct war violence; 387,000 civilians have been killed because of the fighting (300,000 in Iraq alone), and 38 million people are displaced war refugees in the region. The US government spent $8 trillion, and 7,050 of its soldiers were killed.

Has any lesson been learned from this immense tragedy? Unsurprisingly, the answer is once again negative. Twenty years later, most of the endless wars’ cheerleaders are still listened to. This ensures that the war in Ukraine will likely continue until there is a complete defeat of Russia. China seems to be their next target, with Taiwan as a casus belli.

Those who built the case for the Iraq war on fake intelligence and caused so many casualties have not served one single day in jail. Those who instead denounced the conflict’s war crimes, like Julian Assange, are in solitary confinement and risk a life sentence.

On the wounded among the US troops, Dan Froomkin (PRESS WATCH) reports:

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 1,985,000 veterans who served in 2003 or later have a service-connected disability — or about 40 percent of the total. Applying that proportion to the 1.5 million servicemembers who served in Iraq, that would come to about 600,000 Iraq veterans with service-connected disabilities.
  • A 2015 report from the VA disclosed that 422,167 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were seen for potential or provisional PTSD at VA facilities following their return from Iraq or Afghanistan.
  • A 2014 research study found that rates of PTSD were higher among studies of Iraq-deployed personnel compared with personnel deployed to Afghanistan.
  • A 2008 study of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by researchers at the RAND Corporation found that 14 percent screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 14 percent for major depression, with 19 percent reporting a probable traumatic brain injury during deployment. (The researchers found that major depression is “highly associated with combat exposure and should be considered as being along the spectrum of post-deployment mental health consequences.”) Applying those proportions to the 1.5 million veterans of Iraq, an estimated 200,000 of them would be expected to suffer from PTSD or major depression, with 285,000 of them having experienced a probable traumatic brain injury.
  • A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 15 percent of soldiers reported an injury during deployment that involved loss of consciousness or altered mental status, and 17 percent of soldiers reported other injuries. (Using that ratio would suggest that 480,000 Iraq vets were injured one way or the other.) More than 40 percent of soldiers who lost consciousness met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Altogether, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America group estimates that as many as 1 in 3 people deployed in those wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or traumatic brain injury. That would mean as many as 500,000 of the 1.5 million deployed to Iraq.
  • A 2009 Congressional Research Service report, presenting what it called “difficult-to-find statistics regarding U.S. military casualties” offers one indication of how the “wounded in action” category undercounts real casualties. It found that for every soldier wounded in action and medically evacuated from Iraq, more than four more were medically evacuated for other reasons.
  • Hearing loss is common among service-members.  A 2005 Department of Veterans Affairs research paper found that one third of soldiers who had recently returned from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq were referred to audiologists for hearing evaluations due to exposure to acute acoustic blasts, and 72 percent of them were identified as having hearing loss. Richard Salvi, head of the University of Buffalo’s Center for Hearing and Deafness determined in 2011 that  “as many as 50 percent of combat soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who come back have tinnitus” because of the intense noise soldiers must withstand.
  • A March 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that many wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan will persist over veterans’ lifetimes, and some impacts of military service may not be felt until decades later.


[Retired Marine Corporal Michael] Elliot and [Retired Marine Corporal Josh] Hisle both said they had trouble adjusting to civilian life after they were honorably discharged and left the Marines feeling remorse for some of the actions and directives they were given in Iraq.

"Every mission, everything we did, kicking doors and disrupting people's lives, bagging people's heads, bagging the dude's head and dragging him out of the house, while his kids are standing there screaming, for what? What are we doing?" Hisle said.

Hisle said he feels that America didn't learn anything from the war because civilians' lives weren't affected.

Elliot said he felt heartbroken because the post-military life for newer veterans is getting more difficult and nothing is being done to help.

While they were diagnosed with PTSD and sought help, they said the road to recovery was challenging in ways they couldn’t have predicted.

"Everything I did in combat is not going to work in civilian life. Now I have to re-learn again. And how do I take care of myself? I'm going to drink, I'm going to numb myself. I'm going to drink until I pass out," Elliot said.

After the war, at least three Fox 2/5 Marines died by suicide, and one of them is in prison for murder after allegedly suffering from PTSD.

The U.S. rush to war against Iraq 20 years ago marked the worst strategic decision of any U.S. president in history, and the worst intelligence scandal as well.  But the New York Times and the Washington Post would have you believe that the lack of “planning and staffing” was central to our failure.  Neither newspaper mentioned the long series of intelligence lies and distortions that marked the run-up to the war nor did they refer to the obvious war crimes that were committed with the support of the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Max Fisher’s essay in the Times on March 19 was particularly obtuse because it dwelt on the inability to determine U.S. motivation.  Fisher quoted Richard Haass, a senior official at the Department of State at the time of the invasion, who currently heads the Council on Foreign Relations, concluding inscrutably that the decision to go to war “was not made.  A decision happened, and you can’t say when or how.”

But we know exactly who made the decision to go to war, and we certainly know when and why that decision was made.  The decision itself had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction or with the bogus claim that Saddam was somehow involved in the tragedy.  The decision was about regime change.   CIA prepared a spurious intelligence estimate in October 2022, which served as the basis for the spurious speech that Secretary of State Colin Powell gave to the United Nations in February, 2003.  Senior officials at the State Department tried to keep Powell from bivouacking at the CIA where the speech was drafted and pushed by senior Agency officials led by deputy director John McLaughlin.

Fisher, moreover, cites Elizabeth Saunders, a Georgetown University scholar, who argues that “if you want to prevent this from happening again, you need to get the diagnosis right.”  Does Saunders really believe that U.S. policy makers actually learn lessons from history?  Is Saunders familiar with previous U.S. wars against Mexico in the 1840s, Spain in the 1890s, and North Vietnam in the 1960s that were initiated on the basis of lies and disinformation.

Fisher concludes with the ill-advised argument from Saunders that no matter how much we know about the facts of the 2003 invasion, “some of it will remain fundamentally unknowable.”  What is in fact unknowable is whether honest leadership from Secretary of State Powell, CIA director George Tenet, CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, and a CIA willing to tell truth to power could have created more opposition to the war from the Congress, the media, and the public.

In the Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the paper’s bureau chief in Baghdad at the time of the invasion, argues that “Iraq is recovering” from what he gently terms U.S. “recklessness.”  Chandrasekaran faults the United States for going to war without a “real plan” for the “liberation of Baghdad.”  As a senior faculty member at the National War College in 2002-2003, I received classified briefings from the Pentagon that made it clear there was never a plan for the post-war or the so-called liberation because the United States goal was to remove Saddam Hussein and then leave.  No senior Pentagon staffer expected U.S. forces to remain in Iraq beyond the four to six months needed to remove Hussein, which explains the absence of “planning and staffing.”

A meaningful retrospective would remind the American people of the efforts of the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the national security adviser, as well as the director and deputy director of CIA, to create and employ a strategic disinformation campaign to convince Congress and the American people of the need for a war that ultimately took 4,600 lives of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives.  Our motivation seems meaningless in that context; the campaign to manipulate American and global public opinion is dispositive and needs to be fully understood.  By any standard, the Bush administration and its key officials throughout the policy and intelligence communities must be judged as reckless in the extreme.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq is a memory forever etched in the minds of millions of Iraqis who were living in and outside the country at the time. Years of war, followed by continued instability in the country, has cost generations time and trauma. In Ruptured Domesticity, a digital archive, Iraqi researcher Sana Murrani has collected the memories of Iraqis living inside and outside the country during the times of war.

Nearly 1.2 million Iraqis are still internally displaced due to the war, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Through the project, Murrani, who is also associate professor in Spatial Practice and Architecture at the University of Plymouth, UK, pulled on memories of geographic spaces and forced travel due to the circumstances of war, but also what Iraqis carried with them to represent their homes.

Jeffrey St. Clair (COUNTERPUNCH) provides a strong walkthrough of how the US has been at war with Iraq for decades.  He also shares a series of quotes he's kept from the latest wave of war on Iraq:

I’ve kept a collection of quotes about the Iraq war for years. Here’s a inventory of who said what and when, which provides a kind of oral history of the war (mostly) from the perpetrators’ point of view…

“An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago.”

– Judith Miller, New York Times, December 20, 2001

“Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse after the first whiff of gunpowder.”

– Richard Perle, chair Pentagon Defense Policy Board, July 11, 2002

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”

– Dick Cheney, August 26, 2002

“Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States.”

– Sen. Joseph Lieberman, September 4, 2002

“If we wait for the danger to become clear, it could be too late.”

– Sen. Joseph Biden, September 4, 2002

“Speaking on the condition that neither he nor the country in which he was interviewed be identified, Ahmed al-Shemri, his pseudonym, said Iraq had continued developing, producing, and storing chemical agents at many mobile and fixed site throughout the country, many of them underground.

“All of Iraq is one large storage facility,” said Mr. Shemri.

– Judith Miller and Michael Gordon, New York Times, September 7, 2002

“Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.”

– George W. Bush, September 12, 2002

“I hereby declare before you that Iraq is clear of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.”

– Saddam Hussein in message to U.N. General Assembly, September 19, 2002

“I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force– if necessary– to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”

– John Kerry, October 9, 2002

“The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks or five months. But it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.”

– Donald Rumsfeld, November 14, 2002

“If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.”

– Ari Fleischer, December 2, 2002

“The CIA is investigating an informant’s accusation that Iraq obtained a particularly virulent strain of smallpox from a Russian scientist who worked in a smallpox lab in Moscow during Soviet times.”

– Judith Miller, New York Times, December 3, 2002

“We know for a fact that there are weapons there.”

– Ari Fletcher, January 9, 2003

“His regime has large, unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, including VX, sarin, mustard gas, anthrax, botulism and possibly smallpox. And he has an active program to acquire and develop nuclear weapons.”

– Donald Rumsfeld, January 20, 2003

“Former Iraqi scientists have provided American intelligence officials with a portrait of Saddam Hussein’s secret program to develop and conceal chemical, biological and nuclear weapons that is starkly at odds with the findings so far of the United Nations weapons inspectors.”

– Judith Miller, New York Times, January 24, 2003

“Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.”

– George W. Bush, January 28, 2003

“We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.”

– Colin Powell, February 5, 2003

‘My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”

– Colin Powell, February 5, 2003

“Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations.”

– Sen. Hillary Clinton February 5, 2003

“We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons — the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.”

– George Bush, February 8, 2003

“So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? I think our judgment has to be clearly not.”

– Colin Powell, March 8, 2003

“I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”

– Dick Cheney March 16, 2003

“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

– George Bush, March 18, 2003

“We are asked to accept Saddam decided to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.”

Tony Blair, Prime Minister March 18, 2003

 “The criminal little Bush has committed a crime against humanity.”

– Saddam Hussein, March 20, 2003

“Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.”

– Ari Fleisher, March 21, 2003

“There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.”

– Gen. Tommy Franks, March 22, 2003

“One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.”

– Victoria Clark, Pentagon Spokeswoman, March 22, 2003

“I have no doubt we’re going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction.”

– Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board, March 23, 2003

“We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.”

– Donald Rumsfeld, March 30, 2003

“Saddam’s removal is necessary to eradicate the threat from his weapons of mass destruction.”

– Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary, April 2, 2003

“Obviously the administration intends to publicize all the weapons of mass destruction U.S. forces find — and there will be plenty.”

– Robert Kagan, Neocon scholar, April 9, 2003

“I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear from officials, a measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass destruction will be found.”

– Ari Fleischer, April 10, 2003

 “Stuff happens.”

– Donald Rumsfeld, April 11, 2003

“We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions with Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them.”

– George Bush, April 24, 2003

“There are people who in large measure have information that we need . . . so that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country.”

– Donald Rumsfeld, April 25, 2003

“Before people crow about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, I suggest they wait a bit.”

Tony Blair, April 28, 2003

 “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

– George W. Bush, May 1, 2003

“We’ll find them [WMDs]. It’ll be a matter of time to do so.”

– George Bush May 3, 2003

“I am confident that we will find evidence that makes it clear he had weapons of mass destruction.”

– Colin Powell, May 4, 2003

“I never believed that we’d just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.”

– Donald Rumsfeld, May 4, 2003

“I’m not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein — because he had a weapons program.”

George W. Bush, May 6, 2003

“U.S. officials never expected that “we were going to open garages and find” weapons of mass destruction.”

– Condoleezza Rice, May 12, 2003

“I just don’t know whether it was all destroyed years ago — I mean, there’s no question that there were chemical weapons years ago — whether they were destroyed right before the war, (or) whether they’re still hidden.”

– Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, Commander 101st Airborne May 13, 2003

“Before the war, there’s no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical. I expected them to be found. I still expect them to be found.”

– Gen. Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps May 21, 2003

“Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we’re interrogating, I’m confident that we’re going to find weapons of mass destruction.”

– Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, May 26, 2003

“They may have had time to destroy them, and I don’t know the answer.”

– Donald Rumsfeld May 27, 2003

“For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”

– Paul Wolfowitz, May 28, 2003

“He (Saddam) had long established ties with al Qaeda.”

– Dick Cheney, September 14, 2003

“They confined us like sheep. They hit people. They humiliated people.”

– Saad Naif, former prisoner at Abu Ghraib, November 1, 2003

“Numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force.”

– Maj. General Antonio Taguba, February 2004

“I actually did vote for the $87 billion [to fund the invasion of Iraq] — before I voted against it.”

– John Kerry, March 16, 2004

– “The vast majority of the people in Abu Ghraib had no intelligence value whatsoever.”

– Brigadier General Janet Karpinski, April 7, 2004

– “What do I tell the people of Iraq? This is wrong. This is reprehensible. But this is not representative of the 150,000 soldiers that are over here. I’d say the same thing to the American people. Don’t judge your army based on the actions of a few.”

– Brigadier General Mark Kimmit, April 27, 2004

– “We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things  like rules and regulations, and it just wasn’t happening.”

– Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, one of the guards at Abu Ghraib

– It is important to recognize the differences between the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism. The treatment of those detained at Abu Ghraib is governed by the Geneva Conventions, which have been signed by both the U.S. and Iraq.”

– John Yoo, May 2004

“It’s the photographs that gives one the vivid impression of what took place.”

– Donald Rumsfeld, May 2004

– “American journalists and politicians made a perfect spectacle of themselves in discussing the Abu Ghraib prison controversy.”

– Tony Snow, May 2004

– “This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it and we’re going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of emotional release?”

– Rush Limbaugh, May 5, 2004

“I’m sorry, those pictures from the Abu Ghraib. At first, they, like infuriated me, I was sad. Then like, a couple days later, after they cut the guy’s head off, they didn’t seem like much. And now, I like to trade them with my friends.”

– Dennis Miller, May 2004

 “This is an historic moment for Iraq, a day when Iraqis can hold their heads high because they are challenging the terrorists and starting to write their future with their own hands.”

– Iyad Allawi, Interim Prime Minister of Iraq, January 30, 2005

‘The intelligence community was absolutely uniform and uniformly wrong about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq).”

– Federal Judge Laurence Silberman, co-chair Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities, March 31, 2005

‘We are losing each day on average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.’

– Iyad Allawi, March 19, 2006

 “I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there’s a strong will for democracy.”

– George W. Bush, September 23, 2006

‘It’s my responsibility to provide the American people with a candid assessment on the way forward.  Absolutely, we’re winning.”

– George W. Bush, October 25, 2006

 “We’re not winning. We’re not losing.”

– George W. Bush December 20, 2006

“There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin. I ask them to come back to their senses.”

–Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq,  August 26, 2007

“I tell folks all the time one way to train to conduct operations in Iraq is to watch the last season of the Sopranos. You get a sense of the conflict among like individuals.”

– Major-General Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. troops south of Baghdad November 16, 2007

“I get asked all the time ‘Do I feel guilty about what happened?’ the answer’s ‘No, I don’t.’ I’ve made the decision, the best decision I could make. It was important for the defense of our country, I knew going into war that somebody can get hurt that, but made whole decision so much graver. On the other hand, Laura and I have met hundreds who said ‘I would it again Mr. President.'”

– George W. Bush, 2017

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