Monday, April 20, 2009

Cindy Sheehan, Matthis Chiroux, Dear Abby and others aware the Iraq War drags on to this day

I left the Democratic Party in May of 2007 because of the continued war funding and the continued lack of accountability and I was roundly, thoroughly and viciously attacked by the same "progressives" who are beginning to doubt the "hope" that they bought into, or allowed themselves to be co-opted by. Some are even calling for an "independent third party" movement here in the US to challenge the corrupt two parties!
Really? Where were these "progressives" when I was running against the Queen of the Robber Class here in SF as an independent? Their heads were buried in the sand, or they were wearing the Rose Colored Glasses of denial and now we are mired in a situation that cannot be remedied: once the Genie is out of the bottle, she can’t be easily put back in. Do you think the Democrats will hold Obama to account, when they failed to hold Bush to account? I doubt it and we will continue to see the Obama-Summers-Geithner-Bernanke collapse of the economy and the continued war crimes of the Obama-Clinton-Gates occupations for profit.
It's way past time to stop giving the "Two" Party Robber Class system "a chance." It's time to stop the "inside" part of an "inside-outside" strategy. We have virtually nobody on the inside who will speak for us besides a token bone thrown out of those marble cesspools and we have to stand up for our class.
Warren Buffet, a famous Robber Class business man who loves to dabble in the Democratic part of the One-Robber Class party said: "It is a class war, and my class is winning." They are only winning because we allow them to.

The above is from Cindy Sheehan's "'Hope'less in the 'Two' Party System by Cindy Sheehan" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) and let's tack this on to it: "Please order a copy of my new eBooklet: Myth America: 10 Greatest Myths of the Robber Class and the Case for Revolution today and let’s begin the Revolution today!" The last entry opened with George McGovern trying to bring semi-witness to the Cult of St. Barack. I prefer the honest approach that Cindy Sheehan takes as opposed to George's "Hey, we're one Big Tent." I didn't join a cult, thank you. And I don't excuse away the continuation of an illegal war or act like I just must not have explained it correctly but if I try again, surely Barack will understand. Lorraine notes that Cindy's guest on this week's Soapbox is Dr. Justin Long.

Cindy Sheehan is on the road and these are the dates listed for her Seat of Our Pants tour:

April 20th: Taos
Bareiss Gallery
Contact in Taos: Catherine Hart,

April 21: Albuquerque
Smith Brasher Hall (CNM Campus, corner of University and Coal)
7-9 pm and then book signing.

April 23: Eureka Springs Arkansas
Sweet Spring Antiques Mart
2 Pine Street (across from P.O.)
7-9 pm
Eureka Springs Contact: Gerry Fonseca,

April 26: Kansas City, Mo
(Sponsored by KKFI and joint fundraiser with Cindy)
3:30 - Anti-War vigil on the Plaza with Cindy Sheehan
5:00 - Meet & Greet with Cindy
6:30 - Music by Seed Love
7:00 - Music by The Herrmannators
7:30 - Cindy Sheehan speaks
Venue: Uptown Theater - Valentine Room
3700 Broadway
Contact for KCMO: Anne Pritchett,

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (Morning Edition -- link is text and video) reports on the mood in Iraq which, NPR reminds, is "Six years ago this month, a crowd of cheering Iraqis and a worldwide television audience watched U.S. Marines topple a prominent statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad's Firdos Square in the weeks after the U.S.-led invasion." Internal refugee Abu Mohammed speaks of being forced out of Baghdad and explains, "What happened will be difficult to forget. Whole families were killed. Their relatives will not forget. This will affect our future." Meanwhile the assault on the country's LGBT community continues. Polly notes this from UK Gay News:

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has sent a letter to the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights, Wijdan Salim, requesting that she takes specific measures to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis and prevent hate crimes against those perceived to be gay.
IGLHRC's letter, written to coincide with Ms. Salim’s visit to Washington D.C., responds to a recent wave of violent crimes against Iraqi citizens perceived to be gay.
Just hours before IGLHRC sent its letter, an Iraqi group identified as "Fazilat" (Virtue) posted flyers threatening homosexuals with death on walls in the Sadr City neighbourhood of Baghdad.

The International Gay and lesiban Human Rights Campaign has posted their letter here:

April 17, 2009

Her Excellency Wijdan Mikhail Salim
Minister of Human Rights
Unios (Naqabat) St. Mansour
Baghdad, Iraq
Fax: +964-1-5372017

Your Excellency:

On behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), I am writing to express deep concern about an alarming increase in violence based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity in Iraq over the past few weeks. Iraqi officials have recently confirmed the murder of six men whose bodies were found in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. The Iraqi authorities unearthed the bodies of 4 men killed by gunshots on March 25, 2009. On April 2, Iraqi police found the bodies of two additional men who were reportedly killed by members of their tribe to restore their family honor. Media reports suggest that vigilantes killed these men because of their perceived sexual orientation.

This wave of violence coincides with an arson attack against a Sadr City coffee house that was popular among gay men. IGLHRC has also received reports of official persecution--abduction, torture, trial without due process, and execution--of Iraqis who the government believes to have been part of a gay organization. In addition, IGLHRC learned today that an Iraqi group known as "Fazilat" (Virtue) has circulated flyers around Sadr City threatening gay men with death and listing the names of their potential targets.

As a signatory to international treaties that assure the right to privacy, liberty and security of the person and the right to non-discrimination, it is Iraq's obligation to protect its citizens and ensure that human rights violations are fully investigated and that perpetrators are brought to justice.

The new Iraqi Constitution protects the equality of all citizens before the law (Article 14), guarantees everyone’s right to enjoy "life, freedom, and security" (Article 15) and reiterates the right of all Iraqis to live "in freedom and with dignity" (Article 35). The mob murder of men perceived to be gay also violates the Iraqi Constitution, since the law protects the private lives of all citizens (Article 17), makes any kind of violence against family members a crime (Article 29) and prohibits extra-judicial punishment (Article 19, Section 2). Despite the legal obligations of the Iraqi government to protect all citizens, crimes committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis and those believed to be homosexual are not properly investigated or prosecuted.

In accordance with Article 2 of the Charter of the Ministry of Human Rights (CMHR), which was passed by the Iraqi parliament as law number 60 in 2006, it is the responsibility of your ministry to "promote …and secure the implementation of…. the culture of human rights and personal freedom in accordance with international treaties that Iraq has entered... and prevent its violation."

To fulfill this mandate, we request that your ministry take the following steps:

* Actively and thoroughly document cases of human rights abuses against LGBT people and include this information in your annual report on the status of human rights in Iraq for submission to parliament and the cabinet. (Article 3, Section 2, CMHR)

* Prepare a comprehensive report on state, community and family violence based on sexual orientation with concrete recommendations on how to stop such human rights violations. (Article 3, Section 3, CMHR)

* Launch an investigation into the Iraqi legal system—including police, judiciary, and penal systems--to assure the full enjoyment of human rights principles by all people, regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

* Promote a culture of tolerance and respect for the rights of LGBT people at the tribal level and within the larger Iraqi society. (Article 3, Section 11, CMHR)

IGLHRC is ready to support the efforts of the Iraqi government to secure the rights of its same-sex practicing citizens through training, consultation and information exchange.

We trust that you will give this matter due attention.

Yours sincerely,

Cary Alan Johnson
Executive Director
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

And in other sections of the tapestry of violence, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports a bomber killed himself in Baqubah this morning and also took the lives of 3 Iraqi police officers while leaving eight US service members wounded. Londono states that bomber was "wearing an Iraqi military uniform". Last Thursday, a bomber took their own life at Tamouz Air Base and he was also wearing an Iraqi military uniform. The death toll on that was never 'official' with al-Maliki's government insisting no one had died -- no one, apparently not even the bomber.

The lies of the illegal war never end. Colby Buzzell is the author of My War: Killing Time in Iraq and he shared stories on several propaganda efforts in his book and continues to share them. Stefan Hard reports one in "Iraq blogger spreads the message" (Times Argus):

Buzzell told the Norwich crowd of about 120 students and staff of a time in Iraq when soldiers were coached by their commanding officers to tell a CNN reporter that Iraqi police and soldiers had taken the lead in a dangerous assault on insurgents holed up in a Mosque, and that U.S. soldiers were in a support role only, when in fact, U.S. soldiers had bravely taken the lead in the operation.
The real story of Iraq is still not being told by the media, Buzzell told the gathering, and he thinks the American public has lost interest. It bothers him a lot, and he said the hardest part of his assimilation back into "normal life" after returning from Iraq his the normality that now surrounds him.
"I look around while I'm in a restaurant or bar, or walking down the street -- you know -- everyday life here," said Buzzell, "and no one is aware. There's still 100,000 guys over there (in Iraq) doing a mission. They're doing hard work; there's a lot going on over there, and at times in the media it seems non-existent… the public seems more interested in Afghanistan or the economy."
Buzzell could take some comfort that his ground-breaking blogging and successful book has inspired many other budding writers to engage in soldier blogs or citizen journalism and float the gritty, unfiltered, uncomfortable, and profoundly moving truth.

It's really sad that you have more chance of finding Iraq in an advice column than in the news sections of a paper, on an evening newscast or in discussions taking place around the country. Today Dear Abby's readers are aware the Iraq War continues:

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating/engaged to a wonderful man for almost a year. He was recently deployed for a 14-month tour of duty in Iraq.
We planned to be married in August while he is home on R&R, but a few days ago he asked that we postpone the wedding until next February when he is stateside for good.
He was gung-ho about our nuptials until a few days ago, when he requested that we wait. I'm confused because all he talked about was getting married and now it's a sore subject. -- Marine's Girl

DEAR MARINE'S GIRL: Having never met or spoken to your fiancé, I can't explain what is going on in his head. However, active duty in a war zone is extremely stressful. It takes a strong woman to be married to a man in the military, so be patient, stay positive and let him know that you'll be there when he comes home. Continue to be as supportive as you can. When he returns in August, you two can have a heart-to-heart talk about why he wanted to slow things down.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Court-ordered"

Last Tuesday's snapshot noted Amnesty International's report [PDF format warning] entitled "Hope and Fear: Human Rights In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq." The Kurdistan Regional Government has released a response to the report:

Statement on the Amnesty International Report on Human Rights in the Kurdistan Region by the General Director of Security in Erbil Ismat Argushi

The recent Amnesty International Report on Human Rights in the Kurdistan Region rightly notes at the outset that there have been “positive and encouraging steps” taken by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and its agencies over the last few years to create a heightened respect for the rights of women, strengthen the rule of law, and further our path toward creating the open, free civil society needed to keep our democracy healthy. This clearly demonstrates the KRG’s serious, concerted efforts to hold ourselves to the highest international standards on these issues and we will continue to demonstrate a serious regard for human rights, constantly working toward a more perfect administration and institutionalisation of our democracy.

In furtherance of these efforts, the General Directorate of Security in Erbil and other security organs throughout the Kurdistan Region have allowed unprecedented access to our detention facilities in order to demonstrate our commitment to attain the highest international standards on the protection of human rights and foster a practice of open, transparent government in our security and judicial proceedings. This willingness to face criticism and have our operations verified by external organisations is a reflection of our commitment to the rule of law, a commitment unparalleled by other security organs in the Middle East.

It is extremely unfortunate that Amnesty's report did not recognise the role that the Asayish's openness has in furthering respect for the rule of law throughout our Region. In fact, most of the information provided in the report chronicles problems we had just after the fall of Saddam, when we were still subject to Saddam-era penal codes, rather than providing new information about our current conduct. Since the fall of Saddam, we have worked vigorously to rectify any injustices committed, with the report itself noting that many defendants were granted pardons by our President while our legislative bodies worked to draft new criminal codes in line with international standards. It is very misleading to use these cases as evidence against the current conduct of our staff, when in fact, they are a reflection of the unfortunate circumstance that our people were forced to continue suffering under the legal dictates of an authoritarian regime long after the establishment of the United Nation's 'no fly zone'. This was not our choice, but was a result of the international community’s unwillingness to act through the United Nations to free us from such laws. After Saddam’s overthrow, it took us some time to undo decades of this brutal regime, and it is to our credit that we have taken real and concrete steps to do so through the rule of law, rather than acting around it, as would have been required had we taken corrective action prior to the passing of new laws.

Admittedly, we are a relatively new government with institutions that are still in transition, but we are committed -- and I personally am committed -- to creating a security force that provides our people with the safety and security our Region is known for, while meeting international standards set out for the protection of human rights. Our people deserve this after all we have suffered under previous regimes and make no mistake -- as a people we have learned the high cost that comes from ignoring the importance of human rights. Our agency operates under the mentality of "service to the people." This means all the people of Kurdistan, without exception.

As such, Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani, the KRG, and the General Director of Security and Intelligence Masrour Barzani have instituted strict rules against the use of torture in any of our detention facilities. All of our recruits undergo extensive training in complying with international standards on the rights of prisoners and when individual security officers have been found to violate either our Regional laws or the internal rules of our agency in this regard, the officers have been punished and removed from their posts. No one is above the law in the Kurdistan Region, and those found in violation of our policy are not only held accountable in their jobs, but can legally face criminal proceedings when their actions are found to violate the established laws of our Region or the Government of Iraq.

This also applies to the requirement to obtain arrest warrants. The Asayish is not above the law in this regard and cannot act to arrest people without going through the same process as other police and security agencies, according to the stipulations of the 2006 Anti-terrorism Law. No one is currently being held in any of our facilities without such legal protections, and we have only 252 people currently in custody, all with verified arrest warrants issued by the court. At the time of Amnesty's fact-finding mission last year, the number was 670, many of who had been arrested under old penal codes and were thus not subject to the new restrictions of the Anti-terrorism Law in regards to arrest warrants. Amnesty misreported these people as "political" prisoners, when in reality, this was the total number of people in our custody at the time and none of our agencies hold "political" prisoners. Since this time, all of the prisoners held without warrant have been released. This is just one case of the abuse by Amnesty in its report of generalised, misleading language intended to evoke an emotional response, but factually false.

However, we do not deny that there have been insistences, as in the most developed democracies in the world, of non-compliance with the best practices set out by Amnesty in this regard, but these actions have never been sanctioned or ignored by our agency when proof has been provided as to the veracity of the allegations. Unfortunately, Amnesty’s report provides no proof or evidence that any of the allegations are true, despite our willingness to open our facilities to their inspection. In all of the cases investigated under my jurisdiction, we complied fully with requests for such visitations and there is no mention that the Amnesty visitors allowed to interview Srood Mohammad ever found any evidence of the alleged abuse. It is irresponsible to use these sorts of cases, with no independent verification or proof, to substantiate claims that the security forces have acted outside the rule of law and to make the sort of strong public statements against our agency that Mr Smart and Amnesty’s website did. Convicting the innocent with no proof, in this case our security forces, is far outside a respect for the rule of law and human rights.

This sort of tactic used by Amnesty in the media does not further a respect for human rights, is hypocritical, and commits a disservice to our people and the members of Amnesty International who rely on its impartiality and fairness. On these issues, the language used by Amnesty in regards to the report was misleading to the public and I believe that those taking the time to read the report would walk away with a much different view of what is happening in the Kurdistan Region than they were given by the unnecessarily harsh terminology, generalisations, and binary language used by Amnesty after its publication. In fact, it is clear even from the report that Amnesty had a particular agenda and used dubious information, often very old, to paint an unrealistically harsh picture of the security forces in our Region by bringing up allegations of abuse at a prisons such as Aqra, which have long been closed.

While we cannot morally allow a few to threaten the lives, prosperity and security of the many who rely on our work, we recognise the importance of the rule of law and clear mechanisms for the punishment of abuses in preventing the misuse of legitimate authority. Our agency does not use enforced disappearances and I am more than willing to publicly condemn the practice as Amnesty recommends. Any information my agency has about the names mentioned in the report have been turned over to the Ministry of Human Rights for investigation. The only instance given of a potential case under my jurisdiction, that of Badran Mostafa Mahmoud, has already been investigated and we have no knowledge of any action taken against him by any group. We consider his disappearance a tragedy for his family and wish them a happy ending to their drama, but there is no reason to believe that the Asayish had any role in his disappearance or any knowledge of his whereabouts at any time. Amnesty’s report provides no evidence of any such role.

Finally, although the investigation of regular criminal acts does not fall under our jurisdiction according to the stipulations of Law 46, which guides our activities, the rights of women and journalists are very important to our organisation. The report notes that although 1 in 10 Kurdistani women have faced violence in the last year, that number is far lower than in the rest of Iraq. Still, we are not satisfied with this, which is why the KRG government has taken the steps mentioned by the report to address issues of violence against women, and our security agency in particular has hired women at all levels and in all fields. We are very proud of giving women a chance to work in important security roles, where they are equal to men and receive specialised training according to their particular roles. In this sense, our agency is more advanced than any other government in the Middle East and we believe that this will ultimately increase our ability to investigate and bring to justice those who commit crimes against women. Our actions show how seriously we take this issue and we are unequivocally part of the solution to opening new life choices to women of the Kurdistan Region.

Likewise, we openly support the right to freedom of speech and despite the sensitive nature of working in intelligence and security, regularly meet with journalists from all over the world seeking to report on our activities. We strongly condemn any violent act or threat against journalists in our Region, and welcome Amnesty's recognition that conditions for journalists are much better in our Region than Iraq as a whole. We have one of the most liberal press laws in the entire Middle East and proudly consider the sheer diversity of civil society organisations in our Region as a reflection of our progress in breaking with an oppressive past.

Meanwhile Iraq's Foreign Ministry notes the following diplomatic encounter which took place yesterday:

Foreign Minister met on 19/4/2009 in his office with Mr. Stephen White, Head of European Rule of Law Mission in Iraq.

Several issues and topics related to the functions of the mission in Iraq were discussed .The head of the mission expressed the desire of European countries to extend the work of the mission for another year in Iraq for training legal personnel, prison guards and assisting related departments in the observance of human rights in Iraq. As well as the transfer of the training process in Iraq by increasing staff and specialists in legal training.

Minister Zebari expressed Iraq's desire to continue the work of the European mission, and the readiness of the Iraqi side to assist the European mission in its work in Iraq. Minister Zebari stated that Iraq positively views the work of the mission and works to facilitate its mission in Iraq, adding that Iraq will provide all supplies needed to continue the work of the mission and its success in the future.

And we're closing with this. We'll note it again in today's snapshot and we'll note it tomorrow. This is "Resistance to an Abhorrent Occupation: Press Release of Matthis Chiroux" (World Can't Wait):

(ST. LOUIS, MO) The U.S. Army will hear the case of Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, an Individual Ready Reservist who last summer publicly refused activation and deployment orders to Iraq, on April 21 at 1 Reserve Way in Overland, St. Louis, MO, at 9 a.m.
Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, refused to participate in what he described as "an illegal and immoral occupation" May 15th, 2008, in Washington D.C., after nine other veterans testified to Members of the U.S. Congress about atrocities they experienced during deployments to Iraq. Chiroux also vowed to remain public in the U.S. to defend himself from any charges brought against him by the military. (see for a record of that speech and others by Chiroux)
"My resistance as a noncommissioned officer to this abhorrent occupation is just as legitimate now as it was last year," said Chiroux, adding, "Soldiers have a duty to adhere to the international laws of war described as supreme in Art. 6 Para. 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which we swear to abide by before the orders of any superior, including our former or current president."
Following Chiroux's refusal to deploy, the military did not contact him until after he and 10 other IVAW members marched on the final presidential debate Oct. 15, 2008, in Hempstead, N.Y. demanding to question then Senators Obama and McCain regarding their war policies and plans to care for returning veterans. After the veterans were brutalized and arrested by police, (one suffered a fractured skull and is currently suing the police for damages) the Army charged Chiroux with "misconduct" for refusing to deploy, announcing their intentions to discharge him from the reserves as a result.
"I go now to St. Louis to honor my promises and convictions," said Chiroux. "Obama or No-Bama, the military must cease prosecuting Soldiers of conscience, and we will demonstrate to them why."
Following the hearing, Chiroux and other IVAW members will testify about their military experiences which led them all to resist in different capacities the U.S.'s Overseas Contingency Operation (formerly the Global War on Terror).
For more information, see and

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