Thursday, November 06, 2008

I Hate The War

"The soldiers used to talk about the freedom in America and how great life was there, but they used to make jokes about gays," Bashar told DNA. "The Americans who patrolled the streets threw a bottle of water at my friend and I because we were gay. They were driving by in their Humvees, and they had these windows where they could look out from, and I could see that they were laughing at us and calling us f*gs. They'd said that when they came here they would change things -- they would liberate us -- and here they were disrespecting us."
"Nevertheless," Bashar continued, "I began working inside the Green Zone as a translator for the American military police, who were teaching the Iraqi police how to use weapons. They gave me a hard time. They were very negative people. One day, my American friend told me, 'All the people talk about you.' I said, 'Why? I do a good job.' He said, 'They are not open-minded people. They are not predisposed to accept gay people teaching the police."
So, Bashar recounted to the Australian journalist, "I went to see the chief of the American company who had hired the translators to clarify the situation, but he was an asshole. He just looked me up and down and said, 'You are a disease. A piece of s**t. We have no place for people like you. We have enough fa**ots f**king each other in San Francisco.'"
Bashar subsequently went to work translating for other army contingents at the Camp Delta base in southern Iraq, where one night the taxi he was traveling in was stopped by five militiamen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the fundamentalist extremist cleric who has egged on his own anti-gay death squads.
"They put a cape over my face and drove me somewhere," Bashar told DNA, "and when we got there, they took off my clothes and started beating me. They kept me naked for three days. I cried for hours. I couldn't sleep. They didn't give me any food or water. During the beatings I just tuned out and kept thinking of the lyrics of Madonna songs - especially the 'Erotica' album - and that gave me the courage to go through what they did to me.
"They beat me every two or three hours for 10 minutes at a time. They pissed on me many times. I said, 'Please God, I want to die. I come from a good family.' They said I was gay and that they had orders to kill gays and lesbians wherever they found them. Then they said they wanted to f**k me. I refused and they gang-raped me. There were ten of them, and they came in the room one after the other. One of them was so drunk that he threw up on me... This went on for 12 days. "
Bashar was eventually released, naked, to an interrogator ordered to murder him. But knowing Bashar's family, the interrogator instead beat him relentlessly and then took a photograph of his bloodied face to make it seem as if he had killed him.
"I told one of the Americans in charge of security inside the base what had really happened to me," Bashar recounted to the Australian journalist, "and that I hadn't been able to sleep or eat very well since, but he just laughed at me. He said, 'You're lucky to have had ten d**ks in 12 days.'"
Bashar expressed his disillusionment with the US occupier. "I was a fool back in 2003," he told DNA. "I stood in the street and applauded the American troops when they entered Baghdad. But America is living in denial about what it has done to our country...
"You think you've done such a great thing 'liberating' us from Saddam, but where is the freedom for gay men and women? Sure, we are free - free to live in hiding, free to run for our lives, and free to die for the 'crime' of being gay. You in the West do not think about your freedom. It's nothing to you. But there is a price to be paid for freedom."
And Bashar ultimately paid that price in a hail of machine gun bullets.

The above is from Doug Ireland's "Key Gay Leader Slain in Iraq" (Gay City News) and it was published last month. What's being described isn't uncommon in Iraq.

However, it is illuminating. Not only are Iraqi LGBTs targeted by extremist thugs from their own country, they're also targeted by US service members. Complain, be told you're lucky you were gang-raped. Complain, be dismissed. These crimes take place because they are tolerated and not just by Iraqis but by the occupying power which is supposed to be on Iraqi soil to protect the people. But that's not what happens. It's a real shame the US elected to install thugs of the Shi'ite persuasion and then train thugs from the Sunni pool. It's a damn shame that the US stood around saying, "What's with the brain drain? Why are these people leaving?"

They were leaving because it wasn't safe and it wasn't safe because the White House wasn't attempting to create safety. If Iraq hadn't had the brain drain, it would be a lot less easy to attempt to push them around. And an educated class would have been far less dependent upon US handlers for 'training.'

UK Gay News quoted Peter Tatchell on the assassination of Bashar:

This morning, I received news from Iraq that the coordinator of Iraqi LGBT in Baghdad, Bashar, aged 27, a university student, has been assassinated in a barber shop.
Militias burst in and sprayed his body with bullets at point blank range.
He was the organiser of the safe houses for gays and lesbians in Baghdad. His efforts saved the lives of dozens of people.
Bashar was a kind, generous and extremely brave young man -- a true hero who put his life on the line to save the lives of others.
My thoughts go out to his loved ones and to the other members of Iraqi LGBT.
Their courage is an inspiration to all people everywhere fighting against injustice.
Bashir was far from the first one targeted and not even the first for 2008. Tatchell wrote about for the Guardian of London in "Sexual cleansing in Iraq:"

The "improved" security situation in Iraq is not benefiting all Iraqis, especially not those who are gay. Islamist death squads are engaged in a homophobic killing spree with the active encouragement of leading Muslim clerics, such as Moqtada al-Sadr, as Newsweek recently revealed.
One of these clerics, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa urging the killing of lesbians and gays in the "
most severe way possible".
The short film, Queer Fear -- Gay Life, Gay Death in Iraq, produced by David Grey for Village Film, documents the tragic fates of a several individual gay Iraqis. You can view it
here. Watch and weep. It is a truly poignant and moving documentary about the terrorisation and murder of Iraqi lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Since this film was made, the killings have
continued and, many say, got worse. For gay Iraqis there is little evidence of the transition to democracy. They don't experience any newfound respect for human rights. Life for them is even worse than under the tyrant Saddam Hussein.

At the end of July, Frederik Pleitgen, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Wayne Drash's "Gays in Iraq terrorized by threats, rape, murder" (CNN) reported:

Kamal was just 16 when gunmen snatched him off the streets of Baghdad, stuffed him in the trunk of a car and whisked him away to a house. But the real terror was about to begin.
The men realized he was gay, Kamal said, when he took his shirt off and they saw that his chest was shaved.
"They told me to take off my clothes to rape me or they would kill me immediately. This moment was the worst moment in my life," he said, weeping as he spoke of the 2005 ordeal.
"I was watching them taking off their clothes, preparing to rape me. I did not know what to do, so I started shouting loudly, 'Please do not do that! I will ask my family to give you whatever you want.' "
Watch the tormented life of gays in Iraq »
His pleas went unheeded. "The other two kidnappers took off my clothes by force, and, at that time, I saw them as three dirty animals trying to tear my body apart."
He was held for 15 days, released only after his family paid a $1,500 ransom. He was raped every day. Only once, he said, was he allowed to talk to his family during captivity. "I told my family that I was beaten by them, but I did not dare to tell my family that I was raped by them. I could not say it, it's too much shame."

Iraqi LGBT is an organization working to improve conditions for Iraq's gay community. Let's jump back to the reaction Bashir recevied from the US military. That attitude can be stopped but it has to come from the top. And what has come from the top has been homophobia. The same as what Barack's offered whether putting homophobes onstage in his primary campaign and in his general election campaign and letting them 'preach' their homophobia or whether it is surrounding himself with homophobes as advisers and supporters. Saturday's "Robin Morgan's homophobic candidate" noted Barack's favorite t-bagger Wlliam McPeak and his insulting homophobic remarks that he should have been held accountable for but instead got waived on through. ("If you want to do something like racial integration or the integration of openly homosexual soldiers, sailors and marines, airmen, the service leadership will have to get ahead of it. Service leadership will have to go to the gay and lesbian annual ball and lead the first dance. I've spoken many, many times at black history week and am proud to do it. . . . But I couldn't see how I could become an advocate for open homosexuality in Air Force combat units. I don't see how people can do it today.") And of course there's always Collie Powell, a major homophobe.
James Kirchick's "Powell's Cautionary Tale" (The Atlantic) provides some background on Collie:

But there is something else that should give those liberals pause: Powell's record on a signature civil rights issue of the age has been nothing short of disgraceful. Powell did more than any uniformed officer to undermine the attempt by President Clinton to allow openly gay people to serve in the military, an explicit promise Clinton made in his presidential campaign. This is a baleful, not to mention dangerous (given the number of gay linguists who have been booted from the uniformed services) policy that the president could, and ought to, have changed by executive order. (The military, seemingly unbeknownst to Powell throughout his decades of government service, operates under civilian control.) But for various reasons (his draft-dodging past chief among them) Clinton refused to stand up to the uniformed officers under his command.
And no officer took better advantage of Clinton's spinelessness than Powell. At one point, he even threatened to resign if Clinton pressed the issue further than the compromise "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy--a policy that soon resulted in the discharge of even more gay soldiers than under the previous protocol. At the time, Powell sought to downplay any comparison between the racial integration of the military and the potential inclusion of open homosexuals, writing in a letter to congresswoman Pat Schroeder that "skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics." That Powell, the highest achieving beneficiary of Harry Truman's decision to unilaterally desegregate the military, would be the individual most responsible for preventing the similar integration of gays is to his everlasting shame.
To be sure, Powell has since softened his stance on the issue. In 2007 he
told Tim Russert that his "own judgment is that gays and lesbians should be allowed to have maximum access to all aspects of society," though he did not go so far as to say that the ban should be lifted. Powell's newfound, post-government (read: professionally convenient and less politically consequential) enlightenment on this issue, more than 12,500 unnecessary honorable discharges later, does not absolve him of his original impetuosity nor the weakening effect its had on the caliber of the nation's armed forces.

"Maximum access"? Doesn't sound like equality, does it. A point The Atlantic leaves out is that while Powell's slight shift of positions too late to do any good, it's also true that Collie now depends on coporate monies and bookings and homophobia so upfront rarely flies in corporate America these days. It's not good for the image so if Collie wants to cash in, he knows he has to tone it down. These are the type of people who back Barack, McPeak and Powell. And they are the ones who have institutionalized homophobia in the military and done everything they can to make sure it remains there.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4189. Tonight? 4191. Just Foreign Policy lists 1,284,105 finally up from weeks and weeks at 1,273,378.

Off topic for a community note. Stan has started his own site, Oh Boy It Never Ends.

And back to the topic of this entry, we'll close with Leslie Feinberg's "New York Times admits: 'Life better for gay & lesbian Iraqis under Hussein' Lavender & red, part 119" (Workers World, January 27, 2008 ):

The New York Times--an imperialist mouthpiece--admitted in a mid-December article that social life was better for those who it described as "gay and lesbian Iraqis" under the secular government of Saddam Hussein. The Times also confirmed that sanctions, war and occupation crushed that social progress and ushered in death-squad terror.
The Dec. 18 article was a political feature, not based on breaking news. The original headline summed up: "Gays Living in Shadows of New Iraq: Violence Replaces Tacit Acceptance."
Times journalist Cara Buckley interviewed Iraqis who she described as gay. She reported, "And, until the [U.S.] American invasion, they said, Iraqi society had quietly accepted them."
Buckley said those Iraqis she interviewed offered this view of life before sanctions and war: "For a brief, exhilarating time, from the mid-1980s until the early 1990s, they say, gay night life flourished in Iraq. Whereas neighboring Iran turned inward after its Islamic revolution in 1979, Baghdad allowed a measure of liberation after the end of the Iran-Iraq war."
The New York Times newspaper--"all the news that's fit to print" --doesn't see fit to mention that U.S. imperialism instigated the Iran-Iraq war. The Reagan administration armed both sides. Instead, the article continues to attempt to pit the two oil-rich countries against each other.
At the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Buckley continued, "Abu Nuwas Boulevard, which hugs the Tigris River opposite what is now the Green Zone, became a promenade known for cruising. Discos opened in the city’s best hotels, the Ishtar Sheraton, the Palestine and Saddam Hussein's prized Al-Rasheed Hotel becoming magnets for gay men. Young men with rouged cheeks and glossed lips paraded the streets of Mansour, an affluent neighborhood in Baghdad."
The Times quotes Ali Hili, who left Iraq in 2000 and is now living in London, where he heads the organization Iraqi LGBT-UK. Hili stressed that before the U.S. war and sanctions, "There were so many guys, from Kuwait, from Saudi Arabia, guys in the street with makeup," Hili recalled. "Up until 1991, there was sexual freedom. It was a revolutionary time."
Buckley noted, "Then came the Persian Gulf War, and afterward Saddam Hussein put an end to nightclubs. Iraq staggered under the yoke of economic sanctions."
The late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a bourgeois nationalist, reportedly added a religious law that made anal intercourse, prostitution, rape and incest a capital offense in 2001. The edict came after almost a decade of economic strangulation, as the U.S. pressed for shock-and-awe military invasion.
Buckley asked two of the Iraqis she interviewed what life was like in Iraq for them and acquaintances after the 2001 law was written. She reported, "While anti-gay laws were increasingly enforced, Mohammed and Mr. Hili said they still felt safe. Homosexuality seemed accepted, as long as it was practiced in private. And even when it was not tolerated, prison time could be evaded with a well-placed bribe."
The admission by the New York Times that social attitudes towards male-male or female-female sexuality were freer under the secular Ba'athist government of Saddam Hussein is particularly shocking after U.S. finance capital has enforced 12 years of economic warfare, unleashed two blitzkrieg wars and continues to be the military occupation force against the entire population of Iraq based in part on the Big Lie.
Prewar media agitation about a virtual fascist dictatorship for "gays" in Iraq targeted newspapers aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans audiences in the U.S. and Britain, and helped sell the war as "liberation."
But imperialism, and colonialism before it, has never brought liberation to the Middle East. Just the opposite is true. For example, the Times neglected to mention that British finance capital outlawed "sodomy" in Iraq--almost a century ago.
For the purposes of the Dec. 18 New York Times feature, however, Iraqi history begins with the mid-1980s, and "gay" and "lesbian" are fixed categories, identical to Western concepts, and transcend economic and social relations, cultures and eras.
Translating sex & love
More than a century ago, as the historical sun rose on capitalist economic and accompanying military expansion, Europeans also judged and condemned, speculated and sensationalized, categorized and theorized regarding Arab sexualities, particularly about expressions of love between adult men and adolescent males.
Scholar and author Khaled El-Rouayheb pointed out, "The tendency is very much in evidence already in Sir Richard Burton’s remarks on 'Pederasty' in the 'Terminal Essay' to his translation of The Arabian Nights in 1886. Writing before the term 'homosexuality' was introduced into the English language, Burton still assumed that he was faced with one phenomenon, 'pederasty,' which he claimed was widespread in the Islamic world and regarded as at worse a peccadillo."
El-Rouayheb is the author of a meticulously researched book, entitled "Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World., 1500-1800," that was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2005.
Khaled El-Rouayheb cautioned, "The assumption that it is unproblematic to speak of either tolerance or intolerance of homosexuality in the pre-modern Middle East, would seem to derive from the assumption that homosexuality is a self-evident fact about the human world to which a particular culture reacts with a certain degree of tolerance or repression.
"From this perspective," he continued, "writing the history of homosexuality is seen as analogous to writing, say, the history of women. One assumes that the concept 'homosexual,' like the concept 'woman,' is shared across historical periods, and that what varies and may be investigated historically is merely the changing cultural (popular, scientific, legal, etc.) attitude toward such people."
El-Rouayheb concluded, "The concept of male homosexuality did not exist in the Arab-Islamic Middle East in the early Ottoman period. There was simply no native concept that was applicable to all and only those men who were sexually attracted to members of their own sex, rather than to women."
Next: British outlawed 'sodomy' in Iraq.
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