Curveball, new film on Iraq war lies

This 26 February 2020 German video says about itself (translated):

Curveball – in the Berlinale Talk 2020 with director Johannes Naber & actor Sebastian Blomberg

Knut Elstermann welcomes director Johannes Naber and actor Sebastian Blomberg to the Berlinale Talk.

Johannes Naber observes with a great deal of ingenuity the emergence of an unlikely friendship between two men who are overwhelmed by the absurd drama that they themselves triggered. And he warns us from the start: This is a true story – unfortunately. His outrage is contagious. Even those who already know the facts will be stunned by the surreal events that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

By Stefan Steinberg in Germany:

Curveball—Germany’s role in the Iraq war

Curveball by German director Johannes Naber valuably turns a knife in a wound that many in the American and German intelligence communities and governments no doubt hoped had long since healed—the way in which the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was based on entirely fraudulent and lying justifications.

Naber has made a number of notable films, including the immigrant drama The Albanian (2009), Age of Cannibals (2013) and Heart of Stone(2019).

At the premiere of Curveball in Berlin, a festival representative introduced the film, but said he could not read out its title. The film festival lists it merely as “Untitled”. The film’s name is currently the subject of a US lawsuit. After seeing Curveball, one can see why both the American and German intelligence agencies are exerting considerable influence to prevent its distribution.

Naber’s film is a political satire rooted firmly in factual evidence carefully researched by the director and his team. It begins in Iraq where German biologist Dr. Arndt “Desert Fox” Wolf (Sebastian Blomberg), a biological warfare specialist employed by the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), fails to find any evidence of Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The head of the BND, Schatz (Thorsten Merten), is eager to outdo the CIA and be the first to prove that Iraq possesses dangerous nerve gas. An opportunity opens up when an Iraqi seeking asylum in Germany, Rafid Alwan (Dar Salim), claims he worked as a chemical engineer in Iraq and has inside knowledge of the country’s chemical weapons programme.

Wolf is given the job of interrogating “Curveball”, the alias given to the Iraqi engineer. In exchange for revealing what he knows (in fact, a pack of lies), Alwan requests he be released from incarceration in a German asylum centre and given citizenship.

After a series of interrogations, Alwan takes a hint from Wolf himself and reveals that the reason for the failure of all the intelligence services to find Iraqi WMD is the “ingenious” use by the Hussein regime of trucks and trains to move the huge chemical vats containing dangerous gases. Absurdly, the two men agree on a crude childish diagram drawn on a napkin purporting to show a truck mounted with the massive vats. Finally, the BND leadership have a scoop to present to their American “cousins”—and it’s champagne all round for those concerned. The German chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder, also sends his congratulations to the BND.

Desperately seeking evidence to justify a US intervention in Iraq, the CIA is only too willing to accept the scraps from the BNDs’s table. It organises the kidnapping of “Curveball” in Germany in order to present him as its own source. Feeling some obligation to the Iraqi fraudster, BND asset Wolf attempts to rescue him in a hilarious escape scene.

Wolf confronts the CIA agent responsible for the kidnap plan and argues in favour of reliable evidence. The CIA agent is unrepentant: “The truth doesn’t count, only justice matters.” Wolf goes on to ask what gives the CIA the right to distort the facts. “We make the facts”, the female agent responds.

Towards the end of Curveball, documentary footage is shown of US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous presentation to the UN Security Council in February 2003 in which he regurgitated Curveball’s lies to justify America’s subsequent attack on Iraq. In his report, Powell stated that Iraq’s weapons programme included “biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails,” an “extensive clandestine network” to supply “its deadly biological and chemical weapons programmes” and the obtaining of “sufficient fissile material to produce a nuclear explosion.” All of this, according to the secretary of state, represented “facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”

Powell’s presentation included a sketch of a truck loaded with chemical vats based on Curveball’s original napkin drawing. According to one senior US official, Curveball’s lies were “the main pillar” of Powell’s report to the UN. Sitting in the UN meeting is the German Green Party leader, Joschka Fischer, who listens quietly to Powell’s report. BND biologist (in the meantime made redundant) Wolf watches Fischer at home on television and asks, “Why doesn’t he say something?”

Fischer was German foreign minister in the government headed by Schröder (Social Democratic Party, SPD). Schröder’s head of chancellery with responsibility for liaison with Germany’s intelligence services was Frank-Walter Steinmeier (also SPD), currently the country’s president.

Naber’s Curveball graphically demonstrates the duplicity and criminality of Germany’s role in the Iraq war. As chancellor, Schröder publicly declared the German government opposed a new war in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Germany’s intelligence agency was providing the lies that Washington used to legitimise its assault on Iraq in the name of the “war on terror.”

Naber wants to counter what the director declares to be “a false portrayal here, an idealised idea of how we Germans operate in the world.” It is important, he argues, to tell the truth and question the role of the secret services and politicians responsible at that time, such as Fischer, Schröder and Steinmeier: “So that children at school can no longer be taught that we were the good ones when it came to the Iraq war.”

To heighten the comedic effect of his film, Naber presents the leading BND figures as provincial careerists in thrall to their American counterparts. In so doing, however, the director runs the risk of seriously underestimating the methods and character of the German ruling elite, which has been trying to achieve greater independence from the US since the reunification of Germany in 1989-1990 and is once again flexing its ruthless imperialist muscles.

In that process, the ruling class draws upon the traditions of Nazism. The BND itself emerged from the Gehlen Organisation (1946-1956), named for Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler’s chief intelligence officer on the Eastern Front in World War II. After the war, he was recruited by the CIA and headed German intelligence from 1956 to 1968 in close cooperation with the US intelligence agency.

The US bombardment and invasion of Iraq war began a month after Powell’s testimony. Naber’s film ends with statistics detailing the massive loss of Iraqi lives in the subsequent carnage, a mass murder for which Germany also bears direct responsibility.

The end credits also note that “The head of the state chancellery at that time is the current federal president”—i.e., the Social Democrat Steinmeier. This credit was greeted with loud applause from the Berlin audience who clearly approved of this unmasking of Germany’s leading sanctimonious war-monger.

Naber’s film is due to open in German cinemas in September of this year as “Film ohne Titel” (Film Without a Title).

Iraq denounces Trump’s lethal hospital airstrikes

This 13 March 2020 video says about itself:

US Air Strike Destroys Iraqi Hospital

A hospital under construction in Iraq was hit by US air raids overnight, resulting in the death of six people, including one civilian.

The airstrikes were launched by the US in retaliation for an earlier attack in which two American soldiers and one British soldier lost their lives at a base near the capital Baghdad.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Iraq condemns US-UK strikes that killed soldiers, police and civilian

14 March 2020

The Iraqi government and military together with various Iraqi political parties roundly condemned US-British airstrikes carried out early Friday morning against some five separate locations, killing three Iraqi regular army soldiers, two policemen and a civilian worker. Another four soldiers, two policemen, five militiamen and one civilian were wounded, some of them critically. The death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers dig through the rubble.

The Pentagon launched the bombing raids in retaliation for a rocket attack Wednesday that killed two US and one British military personnel at Camp Taji, a base north of Baghdad. Washington blamed the attack on Kataib Hezbollah, one of the largest components of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), comprised of predominantly Shia militias, which has been incorporated by the Baghdad government into the country’s armed forces. Kataib Hezbollah has not claimed responsibility for the attack, and Washington has offered no evidence of its responsibility for firing 18 rockets that struck the base.

Within hours of the rocket attack, warplanes struck a Kataib Hezbollah position in eastern Syria’s Deir Ezzor province near a strategic border crossing with Iraq, killing some two dozen of its fighters.

Iraq’s military described Friday’s US-British airstrikes as “treacherous” and a “targeted aggression.” It warned that the attacks threatened an “escalation and deterioration of the security situation in the country, and exposes everyone to more risks and threats.”

The country’s President Barham Salih called the bombing raids a “violation of national sovereignty” that could “slide Iraq into anarchy and chaos.” He added, “The repeated violations the state is being subjected to are a dangerous and deliberate weakening of its abilities especially at a time when Iraq faces unprecedented challenges on political, economic, financial, security and health fronts.”

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry convened an emergency meeting of its top officials and summoned the US and British ambassadors to answer for the act of “American aggression.” It said it would raise formal complaints before the United Nations Security Council.

Meanwhile, the Fatah Alliance, one of the most powerful blocs in the Iraqi Parliament, issued a statement stressing that there was no other answer to the attacks outside of forcing the withdrawal of the nearly 6,000 US troops deployed on Iraqi soil.

The Iraqi Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution calling for the immediate expulsion of all foreign forces from the country in the wake of the January 3 US drone assassination of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, one of Iran’s top government officials, after he landed at Baghdad’s international airport for a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi on attempts to defuse rising regional tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Also killed in the attack was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Kataib Hezbollah and deputy commander of the entire Popular Mobilization Forces, along with several other Iraqis and Iranians.

This criminal assassination brought the region and the world to the brink of a catastrophic war. Iran responded five days later with missile strikes on two US bases housing American troops in Iraq. While there were no fatalities resulting from the strikes, some 110 soldiers were left with traumatic brain injuries.

The retaliations and counter-retaliations now unfolding in Iraq threaten again to trigger such a war.

Iran Friday rejected US attempts to hold it responsible for Wednesday’s rocket attack that killed the US and British soldiers.

“The United States cannot blame others … for the consequences of its illegal presence in Iraq and the nation’s reaction to the assassination and killing of Iraqi commanders and fighters,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said. “Instead of dangerous actions and baseless accusations, Mr. Trump should reconsider the presence and behavior of his troops in the area.”

While the Pentagon, as always, described its bombing raids as “precision” and “proportionate”, one of the targets hit by US bombs was an unfinished civilian airport under construction outside of the Shia holy city of Karbala, 60 miles southwest of Baghdad.

The Imam Hussein Holy Shrine, which oversees the airport’s construction in an agreement with several Iraqi companies, stressed that “this airport is completely civilian” and condemned “this unjustified and blatant assault.” Iraqi television news channels broadcast footage from the scene, showing a building with its windows blown out with signs over the door reading “Karbala International Airport” and “Site Offices”. The one known fatality from the raid was a cook for the civilian workforce.

Speaking in Washington on Friday, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the chief of US Central Command which oversees US military operations throughout the region, dismissed the Iraqi protests with all the arrogance and contempt of a colonial occupier.

“We consulted them [Iraq] in the wake of the attack,” he said. “They knew the response was coming.” As for the soldiers, police and the civilians killed and wounded in the strikes, he said, “it’s probably not a good idea to position yourself with Kataib Hezbollah in the wake of a strike that killed Americans and coalition members.”

“I don’t know whether the Iraqis are happy or unhappy,” the general said. And for him, as the commander of what now unquestionably constitutes an occupying imperialist army, the matter is one of complete indifference.

While the US troops now deployed in Iraq were sent in as part “Operation Inherent Resolve”, with the ostensible mission of driving back the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Sunni Islamist militia that overran a third of Iraq’s territory in 2014, routing the US-trained Iraqi security forces, McKenzie and other Pentagon officials have made it clear that they now see the Iraqi Shia militias that played the decisive role in defeating ISIS on the ground, rather than ISIS itself, as the main enemy.

Significantly, the US government and media have paid nowhere near as much attention to two US Marine Raiders killed in a March 8 firefight with ISIS members in a cave complex near Iraq’s northern city of Makhmour than they have to the two who died in the rocket attack on Camp Taji.

This shift is part of a region-wide US military buildup against Iran, which has seen Washington backing Turkey in the defense of Al Qaeda-linked militias in Syria’s Idlib province, bringing the NATO member country to the brink of war with nuclear-armed Russia.

General McKenzie told reporters on Friday that the Pentagon will continue to maintain two aircraft carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf region, led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Harry S. Truman. The CENTCOM commander said that it was the first time that two such strike groups had been deployed near the Persian Gulf since 2012.

While Trump has repeatedly spoken about withdrawing US troops from Washington’s “endless wars”, the reality is that there are now 90,000 US personnel operating in the areas covered by CENTCOM, 10,000 more than before the assassination of Suleimani in January.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, General McKenzie suggested that Iran was more likely to take aggressive action because of the extreme crisis confronting the country. The effects of an explosive growth of the coronavirus pandemic and the plummeting of oil prices have been made all the more devastating by Washington’s maintenance of a “maximum pressure” sanctions regime tantamount to a state of war.

“As the maximum pressure campaign against Iran continues, they are unable to respond really economically or diplomatically, the two channels that we’re using to apply pressure on them,” McKenzie told the Senate panel. “As they seek to find a way to respond, the only way that’s left is the military component.”

The CENTCOM commander followed up these remarks on Friday by declaring, “We never have to wait to be struck. If we believe an attack is imminent … I and my commanders have full authority [to strike].”

The implications are clear. US imperialism is continuing its buildup for a war of aggression against Iran aimed at eliminating a key regional rival for hegemony over the oil-rich Persian Gulf region. It feels emboldened by the deepening economic and health crisis plaguing Iran. Such a war would far eclipse the carnage wrought by two decades of imperialist aggression and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, while threatening to drag in all of the major powers, including nuclear-armed Russia and China.

Young Iraqi woman painter interviewed

Teenage Iraqi artist Samaa al-Ameer

By Steve Sweeney in Britain:

Friday, February 14, 2020

‘Love is the best medicine for Iraq

Teenage artist tells the Star how she hopes her paintings will communicate the voice of Iraqi women to the world

DISABLED teenage Iraqi artist Samaa al-Ameer insisted that “love is the best medicine” for her country today as she hoped to use her paintings to communicate the voice of Iraqi women to the world.

Ms Ameer, 16, spoke to the Morning Star hoping to spread a Valentine’s Day message of “peace, tolerance and love” as the country spirals into violence and chaos, with armed militias and Iraqi security services attacking those demanding change.

She explained how the anti-government protests started in October with Iraqi youth raising the slogan “scared people cannot create freedom.”

But Ameer said that she was saddened to be prevented from accompanying her father to the demonstrations in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square “because of my disability.”

“I knew the amazing role of the Iraqi women there, especially the young ones, having seen their images on television screens and in photographs”, she said.

Her mother suggested that she made some paintings of the demonstrations and presented them as gifts to the protesters.

“I made two paintings; one of them is titled ‘The Rain of Iraq Hearts’ and I published them. But I said that any cultural activity is meaningless without going to Tahrir Square,” she said.

She explained that her mother had to work hard to convince her father to take her to the square, which has been central to the uprising and the scene of a violent backlash with security services firing teargas and live bullets at those gathered there.

Ameer’s mother heard her speaking of her sadness at being unable to attend the protests and meet the young people demanding revolutionary change.

She persuaded her father to allow her to attend “because she knows very well that I am a girl of principles and she teaches me the importance of making my words correspond with my actions.

“My father and mother took me to Tahrir Square on the last day of 2019. I found there a beautiful picture of Iraq and l looked attentively at the Freedom Monument,” one of the city’s most well-known and best-loved statutes and a symbol of revolution.

“Because my country has suffered from difficult and critical circumstances, I raised two banners announcing my campaign for spreading a culture of love, peace, tolerance, and co-existence, banishing hatred,” Ameer explained.

The banners read “Love is the best medicine for Iraq” and “by love we can build Iraq.”

Samaa told the Star that she hoped to use her artwork to raise the voice of Iraqi women who are playing a leading role in the uprising.

Scores have been killed and arrested in protests across the country, but refuse to be intimidated.

At least 600 people are believed to have been killed since the uprising began.

Ameer called for an end to the violence and urged Iraqi’s to “fill your heart with love to build your country.”

Brussels, Belgium solidarity with Iraqi demonstrators

This 2018 video is the trailer of the theatre play Bagdad.

The BRussells TRibunal in Belgium invites you:

Fortstraat 35
1060 Brussels

11 February 2020

We are sure you may have heard something of what’s happening in Iraq right now. Thousands of people protesting in the streets, harsh repression, many dead and wounded, political chaos. But the media and politicians in the West hardly pay attention. Perhaps this has to do with the standard image that the Western media present about the Arab world: inclined towards religious extremism and unable to value human rights and freedom. Or with politicians who quietly support looting the Middle East of its natural resources, without sharing their ethical dilemmas with their voters.

Theatre-maker Enkidu Khaled (Brussels) and writer-activist Chris Keulemans (Amsterdam), who also created the performance Bagdad in 2018, now offer a special programme to give the audience a direct view
of the current revolution in Iraq. With images of the uprisings, stories of eyewitnesses, skype conversations with people who have spent weeks and months demonstrating peacefully at the Freedom Square in Baghdad since last October.

Guests: Muna Al-Jaffal, Noof Assi, Dirk Adriaensens en Tine Danckaers.