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AZProgressive's Journal
AZProgressive's Journal
January 29, 2020

The Day I Realized I Would Never Find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq

I rolled west from Baghdad in a convoy of soft-side Humvees. It was a morning in late June 2003, and I had traded a bottle of whiskey for the use of an American military police detachment as protection for a daylong mission to Abu Ghraib prison. As an intelligence officer for the Department of Energy assigned to the Iraq Survey Group — the American-led team searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — I was scheduled to interview an Iraqi prisoner who had been captured weeks before, on suspicion of transporting stolen nuclear material. I couldn’t know it that morning, but the interview would entirely change my perspective on America’s involvement in Iraq, and set me on a decades-long course of struggling with the false narratives used to persuade us to march into that conflict and other ones.

I gripped my pistol tightly as we moved along in the doorless vehicles, occasionally pointing it in the direction of anything that came near the convoy. I had borrowed the weapon — no more than a party favor in that bacchanal of R.P.G.s and gold-plated Kalashnikovs — from a fellow intelligence officer, who asked me to return it with all of its bullets.

As we approached the outskirts of the prison, the road narrowed, and we drove through a frenetic marketplace. During Saddam Hussein’s long rule, families of Abu Ghraib prisoners had made the area their home, and many stayed there after Hussein had released his prisoners in the lead-up to the war. As our oversize vehicles stalled traffic and disrupted local business, men cursed us and spat on the ground. A butcher stared me in the eyes and hacked deeply into a hanging goat carcass. Children came within an arm’s length, demanding handouts and laughing mockingly.

Finding the entryway to the prison was a relief — until an American service member explained that a convoy had been struck just outside the facility by a roadside bomb the day before, severing one soldier’s spine. A young guard manning an M60 machine gun waved us in while keeping his weapon aimed in our direction. I hardly felt safer than I did outside — the place was under a constant threat of attack.


January 28, 2020

Amnesty International Says Possible Saudi Arabia Purchase Of Newcastle United Is 'Blatant Whitewash'

Amnesty International Says Possible Saudi Arabia Purchase Of Newcastle United Is ‘Blatant Whitewash’ Of Khashoggi Murder

The rumored $444 million (£340 million) purchase of Newcastle United Football Club by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has come under fire today from human rights group Amnesty International. The group claims that the deal is “sportswashing, plain and simple” and a cynical attempt to use Premier League football to mask the country’s “abysmal” human rights record.

Commenting on reports that Newcastle United Football Club may be taken over by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Campaigns, said the takeover of Newcastle United doesn’t come as a major surprise.

A statement from Amnesty International claims: “Saudi Arabia is well-known for its attempts at ‘sportswashing’—trying to use the glamour and prestige of top-tier sport as a public relations tool to distract from the country’s abysmal human rights record.

“Under the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, there’s been a sweeping human rights crackdown . . . There’s been a blatant whitewash over Jamal Khashoggi’s grisly murder, there are continuing concerns over Saudi hacking, and the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen has a bloody record of launching indiscriminate attacks on homes and hospitals,” the statement from Amnesty International continues.



La Liga Chief Claims Saudi Arabia Is Using Sports to ‘Whitewash’ Reputation

LONDON — In European soccer’s relentless search for growth and new revenues, Spain’s La Liga has been among the most aggressive of the continent’s top leagues.

Under a plan hatched and pressed by its chief executive, Javier Tebas, La Liga has planted its flag across the globe, opening offices in far-flung cities — not just obvious markets like New York and China, but also in Belgium and Singapore and South Africa, among others — in a bid to scoop up new fans and television and sponsorship dollars.

Tebas has even gone to court in the United States in an effort to hold a league game outside Spain. But there is one red line Tebas said that he is unwilling to cross: La Liga and its teams should not, he argued, be playing matches in Saudi Arabia.

To Tebas, the kingdom, despite its high-profile campaign to rebrand itself as a modern and tolerant society led by a youthful crown prince, should not be permitted to use international sporting events to mask its record of human rights abuses.


January 15, 2020

The purple haze over Arizona was caused by a marijuana farm, but it's not what you think

(CNN)The light from a medical marijuana farm filled the sky over Snowflake, Arizona, with a strange, purple glow on a recent foggy morning.

Cara Smith took a picture of the scene about 6:30 a.m. Friday on her way to work at Copperstate Farms, the largest medical marijuana wholesaler in the state.

She lives about two miles west of the farm and says she can't usually see the lights from her house.

"The purple lights are always there but don't usually light up the sky like this," she told CNN. "It had snowed that morning and was still very foggy and cloudy."


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