News Releases

Getting Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia Wrong

BBC reports: “U.S. aircraft have launched fresh strikes against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, despite threats from the group to kill a second American captive in retribution for continued attacks.”

PATRICK COCKBURN, via Marianna Reis, marianna.reis at orbooks.com
Mideast correrspondent for the Independent, Cockburn is author of the new book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising. He recently wrote “How the U.S. Policy on Syria is Backfiring: Fear of ISIS,” published by CounterPunch. An excerpt of his book, “Why Washington’s War on Terror Failed: The Underrated Saudi Connection,” was just published by TomDispatch: “There are extraordinary elements in the present U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria that are attracting surprisingly little attention. In Iraq, the U.S. is carrying out air strikes and sending in advisers and trainers to help beat back the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (better known as ISIS) on the Kurdish capital, Erbil. The U.S. would presumably do the same if ISIS surrounds or attacks Baghdad. But in Syria, Washington’s policy is the exact opposite: there the main opponent of ISIS is the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds in their northern enclaves. Both are under attack from ISIS, which has taken about a third of the country, including most of its oil and gas production facilities.

“But U.S., Western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, which happens to be the policy of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. If Assad goes, then ISIS will be the beneficiary, since it is either defeating or absorbing the rest of the Syrian armed opposition. … The key decisions that enabled al-Qa‘ida to survive, and later to expand, were made in the hours immediately after 9/11. Almost every significant element in the project to crash planes into the Twin Towers and other iconic American buildings led back to Saudi Arabia.”

RAED JARRAR, [in D.C.] rjarrar at afsc.org
Policy impact coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, Jarrar recently wrote to the Daily News: “President Obama took to national TV to announce military action ‘to prevent a potential act of genocide’ in Iraq. But after U.S. military personnel landed on the mountain to assess the situation, according to a Pentagon statement, they found ‘far fewer’ refugees than expected and they were in ‘better condition than previously believed.’ … Using genocide as a buzzword to justify political and military agendas is a slap in the face to victims of such atrocities, and it will make it harder for the international community to respond when there are real threats.”

He also recently wrote the piece “U.S. military back to Iraq? That’s a terrible mistake,” for the Chicago Tribune. He writes: “No one can deny that Iraq is in crisis. There is a political, humanitarian and military catastrophe taking place in the country, and it is only getting worse. The Sunni extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State has been involved in massive violations of human rights, including murder, ethnic cleansing and torture. But the Iraqi government forces, government-backed Shiite militias and other ethnic and sectarian militias have also been committing gross human rights abuses.

“In the last decade or so, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed, and almost 5 million have been displaced — one of the largest ethnic and sectarian cleansing campaigns in the history of the Middle East. Serious crimes have been committed by almost every political faction in Iraq. While focusing on the actions of one terrorist group might be good for an easy narrative where the United States and its allies step in to save the day, the other participants in Iraq’s civil war are literally getting away with murder. A new U.S. military intervention in such a complex conflict is not sustainable and will not help Iraqis build their nation or fight extremism.

“Humanitarian assistance is much needed and welcomed, but it should go through legitimate UN and other international agencies. As it stands, it is being used as a pretext to sneak in military strikes and more arms to some of Iraq’s fighting factions. …

“The United States, for its part, is not a charity organization, nor is it a neutral bystander. Washington is an active participant in the conflict. In addition to authorizing direct strikes, the Obama administration continues to arm the Iraqi government forces and ethnic Iraqi militias and paramilitary groups. Even since the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011, Washington has continued its intervention in Iraq by selectively arming and training some sides of the civil conflict. The practical implications of this policy are devastating for the future of Iraq because it increases divisions and makes it harder for Iraqis to unite. Arming Iraqi factions is also a path of dubious legality, and it is illegal under U.S. and international law to arm and train groups implicated in gross human rights violations.

“The crisis in today’s Iraq is not a result of a natural disaster — it is a direct consequence of earlier U.S. military interventions. Much of the destruction in Iraq’s infrastructure, state legitimacy and national identity was either caused directly by the United States or happened under its watch. The United States also played a lead role in installing the current ethno-sectarian political system that continues to be one of the most corrupt and dysfunctional in the world.”

Also see the recent Washington Times piece “U.S. Yazidis wary of arming Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.”

Anti-Jewish Campaign Traced to Pro-Israeli Grad Student

LANCE TAPLEY, lance.tapley at gmail.com
Investigative reporter for Common Dreams, Tapley just wrote an extensive piece entitled: “The Double Identity of an ‘Anti-Semitic’ Commenter: Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel,” which states: “Like many other news websites, Common Dreams has been plagued by inflammatory anti-Semitic comments following its stories. But on Common Dreams these posts have been so frequent and intense they have driven away donors from a nonprofit dependent on reader generosity.

“A Common Dreams investigation has discovered that more than a thousand of these damaging comments over the past two years were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel.

“His intricate campaign, which he has admitted to Common Dreams, included posting comments by a screen name, ‘JewishProgressive,’ whose purpose was to draw attention to and denounce the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under many other screen names.”

Some who have applauded the Common Dreams investigation have criticized the decision by the website not to name the perpetrator. Tapley writes: “Common Dreams is not revealing his identity because, as a Jew who for years tricked Vanguard News Network, a major neo-Nazi website that has harbored people committed to violence, he could be put in danger by such a revelation.”

However, Ali Abunimah, founder of the ElectronicIntifada.net tweeted: “By protecting identity of this Zionist mega-troll and saboteur, @commondreams may enable him to continue his fraud.”

Classified Leaks and Obama: Highly Selective Prosecution

On the defensive about its threat to jail New York Times reporter James Risen for refusing to reveal a confidential source, the Obama administration is now facing new questions about why the Justice Department is prosecuting Risen’s alleged source — while the alleged leaker of other nuclear-related classified information about U.S. intelligence operations in Iran, a top Marine officer known as Obama’s “favorite general,” has faced no prosecution.

In a new article, “A Tale of Two Alleged Iran Nuke Leakers,” investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler writes that “both leaks served to provide important information about the ill-considered covert actions done in our name” — but “the leaks have not been treated the same.”

“Unlike [Gen. James] Cartwright,” she wryly notes, “Jeffrey Sterling didn’t sit in on White House briefings.”
Risen’s alleged source, former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling, is scheduled to go on trial soon on major felony charges. Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is not currently facing any prosecution.

New developments have escalated the controversy over the Justice Department’s moves against Risen. (See recent stories by AP, McClatchy, AFP, Politico and U.S. News as well as the news conference by press freedom groups that aired on C-SPAN over the weekend.) Last week, 20 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists issued individual statements, and a petition with more than 100,000 signers was presented to the Justice Department urging a halt to all legal action against Risen.

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com
Investigative reporter Wheeler writes the “Right to Know” column for ExposeFacts (part of the Institute for Public Accuracy). She provides in-depth analysis of legal documents related to “war on terrorism” programs and civil liberties. To read her new article “A Tale of Two Alleged Iran Nuke Leakers,” click here.

JESSELYN RADACK, jradack at whistleblower.org, @JesselynRadack
Radack is the director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, a renowned whistleblower organization. Her program focuses specifically on secrecy, surveillance, torture and discrimination.

She said today: “James Risen’s case is a prime example of how the war on whistleblowers has been a back-door war on journalists. Risen is being asked to testify against a source in yet another Espionage Act prosecution of a CIA whistleblower who allegedly exposed a botched CIA operation. If Mr. Risen faces jail or exorbitant fines for refusing to do so, the small pool of independent investigative journalists to whom whistleblowers can turn dries up even further.”

Radack has been at the forefront of challenging the government’s unprecedented “war on whistleblowers.” She represents many of the whistleblowers being prosecuted under the Espionage Act, including Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou.

AHMED GHAPPOUR, ghappour at uchastings.edu
Ghappour is a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, where he directs the Liberty, Security and Technology Clinic. He is outside counsel for the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He said today: “Mr. Risen broke no law gathering the news. He broke no law in proliferating the news, or in publishing his articles and books. Nor has the Justice Department made such claims. Nor does the government subpoena seek information from Mr. Risen to put an end to an existing threat, to stop a terrorist attack or an ongoing crime.”

Ghappour added: “Mr. Risen’s case makes it clear that national security journalists are faced with a Hobson’s choice: either (1) practice a form of journalism consistent with the First Amendment, and face prison or bankruptcy; or (2) practice the form of journalism that the executive wants them to — releasing only the information that the executive deems fit for public consumption.”

DELPHINE HALGAND, delphine at rsf.org
Halgand is the U.S. director of Reporters Without Borders. She advocates for a wide range of journalists and media rights worldwide.
Halgand said today: “The United States is ranked at the 46th position in the Reporters Without Borders 2014 World Press Freedom Index. One explanation for the United States to be ranked at the 46th position: The whistleblower is the enemy. Eight alleged whistleblowers have been charged under the Espionage Act since Barack Obama became president in 2009, which is the highest number under any previous administration combined. Leaks are the lifeblood of investigative journalism, given that nearly all information related to national security is considered secret. It is safe to say that this crackdown against whistleblowers is designed to restrict all but officially approved versions of events. These developments highlight the need for a comprehensive federal shield law in the U.S. which could protect journalists’ sources at the federal level.”

Ferguson: * Black Passivity * Military Policing

VERNELLIA RANDALL, randall at udayton.edu
Emeritus professor of law at the University of Dayton, Randall’s writings are at her website: racism.org.

She said today: “This isn’t about one boy being killed or about one town. It’s about the lives of all African Americans. What’s surprising to me is that there isn’t more protest and outrage. Just recently, in the town where I live, a black man, John Crawford, picked up a toy gun in Wal-Mart and he got killed by a policeman — even though this is an open carry state.

“People are in the streets demanding openness and it takes nearly a week to find out Michael Brown was shot six times.”

Randall is author of Dying While Black about “how living in this racist society has made us sick.” Added Randall: “The illness that has afflicted us is that we’ve been so passive in the face of the abuse that’s been inflicted upon us.”

SHAHID BUTTAR, media at bordc.org, @bordc
Executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Buttar said today: “The only thing more disturbing than the use of military tactics and weapons to suppress dissent in violation of constitutional rights is the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to pioneer those abuses in foreign countries used as laboratories for policing tactics. From automatic license plate scanners to shot spotter audio listening devices, surveillance drones to tear gas and SWAT teams, local policing has emerged as a part of the military industrial racket. But while the trend remains disturbing nationally, communities across the country have taken action to prevent and roll back the militarization of their police forces.”

MICHAEL SHANK, michael at fcnl.org, @Michael_Shank
Shank is the associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. He just co-wrote the New York Times op-ed “Get the Military Off of Main Street,” which states: “Ferguson, Mo. has become a virtual war zone. In the wake of the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, outsize armored vehicles have lined streets and tear gas has filled the air. Officers dressed in camouflage uniforms from Ferguson’s 53-person police force have pointed M-16s at the very citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.

“The police response has shocked America. The escalating tension in this town of 21,200 people between a largely white police department and a majority African-American community is a central part of the crisis, but the militarization of the police is a dimension of the story that has national implications.

“Ferguson’s police force got equipped this way thanks to the Pentagon, and it’s happening all over the country. The Department of Defense provides military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, enacted by Congress in 1997 to expand the practice of dispensing extra military gear. … To date, the Pentagon has donated military equipment worth more than $4 billion to local law enforcement agencies. And the giving goes on, to police forces in all 50 states in the union.

“Ferguson’s police department is just one recipient; small towns all over America are now the proud owners of ‘MRAP’ armored vehicles. The largess has gotten so out of hand that a congressman, Hank C. Johnson, is introducing a bill to block the 1033 handouts.”

Was Ferguson a ‘Sundown Town’?

JIM LOEWEN, jloewen at uvm.edu
Loewen taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism in which he describes “Sundown Towns” as predominantly white communities in which people of color are not welcome. They are described as such because some of them posted signs at their city limits reading, typically, “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You In ___.” He is also the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong and Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong.

He said today, “I think Ferguson was a sundown town, based on a statement in the published history of its neighbor, Kinloch, a majority-black town, but I have not confirmed Ferguson for sure.

“Often former sundown suburbs, when they do ‘break,’ rapidly go majority black. Their white residents, having lived for years under the ideology that African Americans are bad and must be wholly kept from town, have an ideological reason to leave, once their town becomes interracial. All too often they sell at distressed prices to real estate intermediaries. In turn these agents can sell the homes to black families looking to buy in newly available ‘integrated’ areas for a premium.

“The white families then move to a sundown suburb farther out and carry with them the contagion that ‘blacks wreck property values,’ since they sold for less than market value.

“Ferguson meanwhile shows symptoms of what we call ‘second generation sundown town problems,’ such as an overwhelmingly white police force that (probably) formerly employed driving-while-black-style stops.

“Every former (and current) sundown town and suburb in the U.S. needs to give up the practice, explicitly and openly. That will relieve the black housing pressure so interracial towns will no longer tend to go all-black. It will also clear the air about our recent racist past, allowing locales all across the U.S. to move forward.”

Loewen is blogging at History News Network and tweeting @JamesWLoewen.

See: Militarization of U.S. Police: Ferguson, Mo.

Leading Kurdish and Iraq Analyst

EDMUND GHAREEB, edmundghareeb at gmail.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Ghareeb is an internationally recognized expert on the Kurds and on Iraq. His books include The Historical Dictionary of Iraq (co-authored with Beth Dougherty), The Kurdish Question in Iraq, The Kurdish Nationalist Movement and War in the Gulf which he co-authored with Majid Khadduri.

Ghareeb was the first Mustafa Barzani Scholar of Global Kurdish Studies at the Center for Global Peace at American University. He formerly taught at Georgetown University, George Washington University and the University of Virginia.

Ghareeb said today: “Where have people been? Certainly some of the recent reporting of the carnage by IS is sensationalized, but their brutality is all too real. But critically, it’s been happening for years in both Iraq and in Syria, where is should have been confronted. In Syria, ancient Christian churches were destroyed, nuns and bishops were kidnapped and priests were killed. In Syria and Iraq, many belonging to different religions, sects and nationalities were killed or forced to flee at the hands of extremists and criminals. This was widely ignored in large part because many in the region and in the west were so focused on attacking the Assad government.

“Similarly, we’re now finally seeing some denunciations of IS and its treatment of minorities and others under its control from establishment Islamic voices in the Mideast, but it’s very late. As for U.S. intervention, the danger is that it may further hurt the Iraqi people and fragment Iraq altogether in the name of this humanitarian intervention.

“There are of course other serious issues: Suppose, if 5 million Kurds in Iraq can have a state, then why can’t 22 million Kurds in Turkey and 9 million in Iran have one?”

See interview with Ghareeb by Dennis J Bernstein at Consortium News: “Iraqi Chaos May Give Kurds a State.”

Late-breaking update: James Risen will be a speaker at news conference

Media Advisory: In D.C. on Thursday, Aug. 14

Two Events Will Push Back at DOJ on Risen Case

** Presentation of petition at Justice Department (Constitution Avenue entrance), 10:30 a.m.

** News conference at National Press Club (Murrow Room), 1 p.m.

Addressing one of the most important U.S. press freedom cases in decades, a broad coalition of organizations will present a petition to the Justice Department on Thursday morning and hold an afternoon news conference at the National Press Club.

The activities are challenging efforts by the Obama administration to compel New York Times reporter James Risen to disclose a confidential source.

The petition, with 100,000 signers, is set for presentation to the Justice Department with backing from press freedom groups including the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Government Accountability Project, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, and RootsAction.org.

Representatives of those groups will be joined at the Justice Department for the petition presentation by nine-time Emmy Award winner and Peabody Award recipient Phil Donahue. The media availability begins at 10:30 a.m., with formal presentation of the petition to a Justice Department spokesperson at 11 a.m.

Hours later, the focus will shift to the National Press Club for the 1 p.m. news conference. Along with speakers from the press freedom organizations and Donahue, the news conference will also hear from James Risen.

The Justice Department is now considering whether to attempt to force Risen to testify against one of his alleged sources. If Risen refuses, as he has vowed to, he would likely face harsh fines or imprisonment.

Risen has refused to name a source for information about a bungled CIA operation in Iran that appeared in his book State of War.

This summer a front-page New York Times article called the Risen case “the most serious confrontation between the government and the press in recent history.”

For further information: TheFirstAmendment at usa.com

Background on the Risen case:
Freedom of the Press Foundation: Court Guts Reporter’s Privilege
Truthout: Conversation With James Risen: Can Journalists Protect Their Sources?
Politico: Justice Department Urges SCOTUS to Pass Up Reporter’s Privilege Case
Letter to Holder from 46 News Organizations Re: Subpoena to James Risen
Committee to Protect Journalists: U.S. Government Should Withdraw Risen Subpoena
Columbia Journalism Review: Journalism Groups Rally Around a Petition Supporting James Risen

Iraq Oil and Gaza Gas: Factors in War?

ANTONIA JUHASZ, antoniajuhasz at gmail.com, @antoniajuhasz
Juhasz is an oil industry analyst and investigative journalist who has written extensively on oil and the war in Iraq in two books, The Bush Agenda and The Tyranny of Oil, including “Why the Iraq War Was Fought for Big Oil,” on CNN.com.

She said today: “U.S. Military engagement in Erbil is certainly about oil, but it’s also about politics and the Obama administration is not the Bush administration. Western oil companies and the Obama administration will not permit ISIL to control Kurdistan and are willing to engage militarily to achieve this goal. The Kurds have spent the entire period following the 2003 U.S. invasion offering up their oil to western oil companies on the most generous of terms, even implementing the western-oil-company-written Iraq Oil Law when the central Iraqi government refused to, in hopes that doing so would win U.S. support for independence. This week’s military operations may prove the Kurds right — an outcome that may have been sealed the moment the Peshmerga took the Kirkuk oil field (one of the world’s largest) from ISIL and for the first time put it solidly in Kurdish control. Exxon, Chevron, Marathon and Genel — the oil company run by BP’s former CEO Tony Hayward — among many other western oil companies have sizeable interests in Kurdistan. So do many of the talking heads from the Bush administration now filling the airwaves in favor of war, most importantly, Zalmay Khalilzad.

“The 2003 invasion put a great deal of Iraq’s oil into the hands of western oil companies (see my CNN Op Ed, “Why the Iraq War was Fought for Big Oil”), but they have been unable to fully take advantage of Kurdistan’s because of the dispute over who ultimately controls its oil. The Obama administration would not have gone to war only to secure this access. Both western oil companies and the Obama administration have interests in a unified Iraq under more favorable leadership for a broad range of reasons. Today’s U.S. military engagement is about getting rid of Maliki in order to put in place a government better able to maintain ‘stability’ in a manner more fitting U.S. interests throughout the country, including oil interests and including Kurdistan. Both western oil companies and the U.S. government prefer a unified Iraq and are willing to threaten the central Iraqi government with an independent Kurdistan to get the central government in line. If it won’t get in line, then I imagine they’ll decide that an independent Kurdistan will have to do.”

NAFEEZ AHMED, iprdoffice at gmail.com, @nafeezahmed
Ahmed writes the Earth Insight column at The Guardian. He recently wrote the piece “
IDF’s Gaza assault is to control Palestinian gas, avert Israeli energy crisis.”

He also recently wrote “Armed robbery in Gaza – Israel, U.S., UK carve up the spoils of Palestine’s stolen gas” for The Ecologist, which states:
“Since the Oslo Accords, although the Palestinian Authority’s maritime jurisdiction extends up to 20 nautical miles from the coast, Israel has incrementally reduced Gaza’s maritime jurisdiction by 85 percent from 20 to 3 nautical miles — effectively reversing Palestinian sovereignty over the Gaza Marine.

“But with Israel’s determination to access Gaza’s gas accelerating in the context of the risk of a 2015 energy crunch, the fundamental obstacle to doing so remained not just the intransigent Hamas, but an insufficiently pliant PA seeking to engage the West’s arch-geopolitical rival, Russia.

“Israel’s own commitment to blocking a two-state solution and bypassing Hamas meant that its only option to bring Gaza’s gas into production was to do so directly — with, it seems, the competing collusion of American and British energy companies.

“The IDF’s Gaza operation, launched fraudulently in the name of self-defence, is certainly though not exclusively about permanently altering the facts on the ground in Gaza to head-off the PA’s ambitions for autonomously developing the Marine gas reserves, and to eliminate Hamas’ declared sovereignty over them.”

Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development in London. He has advised the British Foreign Office, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and U.S. State Department. He writes for The Ecologist and The Guardian on the geopolitics of interconnected environmental, energy and economic crises. His latest nonfiction book is A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save it, and his forthcoming novel, Zero Point, is out this August.

Back to Iraq

USA Today is reporting: “U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, which continued Sunday with an attack on a convoy of vehicles operated by Islamic militants, could continue indefinitely to protect refugees and the Kurdish city of Irbil, according to a senior officer who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the operation. However, blunting the momentum of fighters with the group, the Islamic State, the officer said, would require special operators on the ground, a significant escalation that some members of Congress are already warning against.

The Hill reports: “The White House on Monday took new diplomatic steps to force Iraq’s prime minister from power as it looked for ways to stop fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from gaining a deeper foothold in the country.”

SAMI RASOULI, in Iraq: sami.rasouli at gmail.com
Rasouli is founder of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. Here is video from a talk Rasouli recently delivered while in the U.S.

MATTHEW HOH, mphoh at ciponline.org
Hoh, now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq He was subsequently appointed Senior Civilian Representative of the U.S. government for Zabul Province in Afghanistan. Five months into his year-long contract in 2009, Hoh resigned and became the highest-ranking U.S. official to publicly renounce U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Hoh was awarded The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling in 2010.

Hoh writes in “Laughing From His Grave“: “If American bombs and bullets were the answer to the civil wars and political disorder in the Muslim world, then the situation would have been resolved in Iraq in 2003. The Obama administration’s surge of nearly 70,000 troops into Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 would have produced reconciliation among the Afghans and not the bloodshed of the last five years. The American bombs that fell on Libya in 2011 would have created peace rather than the civil war that is still ravaging Libya’s countryside and cities.” Hoh also wrote the piece “Bombs Are Medication for Guilt, Not Peace, in Iraq.”

PETER VAN BUREN, info at wemeantwell.com, @wemeantwell
Van Buren, a 24-year veteran of the State Department, spent a year in Iraq. Following his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, the Department of State began proceedings against him. The book, published in 2011, called out the State Department for failing to reduce the root problems in Iraq, both the Sunni-Shia tribal/political/religious divides as well as the failed civil and municipal infrastructures that underlay widespread discontent with the Iraqi government. Instead of reviewing Van Buren’s arguments, the State Department sought to prosecute him as a whistleblower, until the intercession of the Government Accountability Project and the ACLU allowed Van Buren to depart his 24 years of government service on his own terms.

He wrote the piece “Why Air Strikes in Iraq Are a Mistake,” in “the Dissenter” blog at Firedoglake, which stresses the need to “Understand how deep the U.S. is already in. It is highly likely that U.S. Special Forces are active on the ground, conducting reconnaissance missions and laser-designating targets for circling U.S. aircraft. If U.S. planes are overhead, U.S. search and rescue assets are not far away, perhaps in desert forward operating positions. This is how bigger wars begin. Go Google ‘Vietnam War,’ say starting about 1963.

“The U.S. media is playing the meme that the U.S. is worried about Christian minority in Iraq, as a way to engorge the American people with blood. But the media fails to note that over half of Iraq’s Christians were killed or fled during the U.S. occupation. … Separating the people from the insurgents is CounterInsurgency 101. Instead, via airstrikes, the U.S. has gone all-in on side of Iraqi Shias and Kurds. You cannot bomb away a political movement. You cannot kill an idea that motivates millions of people with a Hellfire missile.”

VIJAY PRASHAD, Vijay.Prashad@trincoll.edu
Prashad is chair of South Asian history and professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford. His books include Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. He is putting out information regularly, including from sources on the ground, via his Twitter feed: @vijayprashad

Prashad just wrote “Metastasis of the Islamic State,” which states: “Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (the anti-Assad powers) refuse to join a united front with Iran, Iraq and Syria to tackle the IS threat. With absent coordination, IS will continue to thrive. None of the anti-Assad powers have come to terms with the reality that the Syrian civil war is now a cesspool of instability that will not end with any good outcome.”

Pulitzer Winners Decry DOJ Moves Against Risen and Press Freedom

Fourteen Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists issued strong individual statements Monday that voiced emphatic support for New York Times reporter James Risen and urged the Justice Department to stop threatening him with harsh fines or imprisonment.

Many of the statements from the Pulitzer winners included scathing criticisms of the Obama administration for a range of policies related to freedom of the press.

The Justice Department is now considering whether to attempt to force Risen to testify against one of his alleged sources. Risen has vowed to continue to refuse to name a source for information about a bungled CIA operation in Iran that appeared in his 2006 book State of War.

On Aug. 14, the Justice Department is scheduled to receive a petition with 100,000 signers — “We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press” — while later in the day a news conference at the National Press Club will feature speakers from press freedom organizations backing the petition.

Below are several of the Pulitzer winners’ full statements that were released Monday afternoon. For all of the statements, click here.

STATEMENTS:

“Preservation of a free, unfettered press has a long history in our country, allowing ordinary citizens to learn what their government is up to and to question actions carried out in their name. The Pentagon Papers, Watergate Scandal, My Lai Massacre, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens and many other outrages would never have come to light in a country where reporters must fear imprisonment for doing their jobs. A big part of doing our jobs is giving our word to protect whistle blowers.

“James Risen has done his job for many years at the highest level. That’s why he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. More importantly, it’s why his sources trust him. I urge the Attorney General not to prosecute Mr. Risen for standing by his word to a source. Prosecuting Mr. Risen would not only send a chilling message to other journalists seeking to continue our country’s great tradition of freedom of the press. It would diminish America’s reputation in the eyes of the world as a place that values truth. Our country is better than that.”

MARK JOHNSON

Explanatory Reporting, 2011 / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
___________________________________

“Enough is enough. The relentless and by all appearances vindictive effort by two administrations to force Jim Risen into betraying his sources has already done substantial and lasting damage to journalism in the United States. I’ve felt the chill first hand. Trusted sources in Washington are scared to talk by telephone, or by email, or even to meet for coffee, regardless of whether the subject touches on national security or not. My fellow investigative reporters commiserate about how we’re being forced to act like drug dealers, taking extreme precautions to avoid leaving any digital breadcrumbs about where we’ve been and who we’ve met. If you value a vibrant free press, you want the Jim Risens of the world out hunting for the toughest truths about how power is used and abused. You don’t want them rotting in jail cells. Do we really want to be that kind of country?”

DAVID BARSTOW

Investigative Reporting, 2013 / The New York Times
Investigative Reporting, 2009 / The New York Times
Public Service, 2004 / The New York Times
___________________________________

“If the U.S. government were so concerned about the information revealed in Jim Risen’s stunning chapter on a now 14-year-old CIA operation against Iran gone wrong, it would have moved quickly to resolve this matter eight years ago when it was first published. Instead, it seems obvious now that what officials really want is to hold a hammer over the head of a deeply sourced reporter, and others like him who try to hold the government accountable for what it does, even in secret.

“As Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama classified more and more of the government’s actions over the last 14 years, denying the public critical information to judge how its democracy is faring, it has fallen to reporters like Risen to keep Americans informed and to question whether a gigantic government in the shadows is really even a good idea. We will all be worse off if this case proceeds.”

DANA PRIEST

Public Service, 2008 / The Washington Post
Beat Reporting, 2006 / The Washington Post
___________________________________

“I join the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Dow Jones & Co. Inc. and other news organizations in urging the Justice Department to withdraw the subpoena issued to James Risen in the Jeffrey Sterling case. I agree with them and others that a careful examination of the facts shows that a demand for his testimony is not justified.”

JAMES V. GRIMALDI

Investigative Reporting, 2006 / The Washington Post
(now with The Wall Street Journal)
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“It is scandalous that James Risen faces jail time for doing what every good journalist working in the public interest does: protect confidential sources. President Obama and Attorney General Holder should halt all legal action against James to demonstrate that their ‘war on leaks’ is not an assault on the First Amendment and freedom of the press.”

JASON SZEP and ANDREW R.C. MARSHALL

International Reporting, 2014 / Reuters
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“A vibrant democracy is not possible without a free press. Our nation needs journalists who are willing — and able — to reveal facts that make the government uncomfortable.”

GARETH COOK

Explanatory Reporting, 2005 / The Boston Globe
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“As George Orwell said, ‘The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.’ America needs journalists to write the first draft of history without fear or favor, as my colleague James Risen has. It is deeply disturbing that the Obama Administration is pursuing Mr. Risen for doing his job.”

GRETCHEN MORGENSON
Beat Reporting, 2002 / The New York Times

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For further information: TheFirstAmendment at usa.com

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