Monday, April 13, 2009

Iraq's LGBT community

The U.S. State Department must not stand idly by if the Iraqi government fails to protect basic human rights, even if the persecution stems from traditional cultural or religious beliefs.
We applaud Colorado Congressman Jared Polis for his efforts last week to shine the spotlight on the killings of homosexuals in Iraq, and to press the State Department to demand accountability from the Iraqi government.
The first openly gay man to be elected to the House, Polis has been investigating the treatment of gays in Iraq for several months, according to The Post's Michael Riley. His research led to the discovery of a transgender Iraqi man who told the congressman he had been arrested, beaten and raped by security forces with Iraq's Ministry of Interior.
Human-rights groups have passed information to Polis that claims another man was beaten into confessing he belonged to a gay-rights group and that the man had been sentenced to execution by an Iraqi court.

The above is the opening to the Denver Post's Sunday editorial "Killing of gay Iraqis shouldn't be ignored: We applaud Rep. Jared Polis for his efforts last week to shine the spotlight on the killings of homosexuals in Iraq." For more on the issue, you can see this snapshot, this entry and the roundtable Friday night ["Roundtable on Iraq," "Roundtabling Iraq," "the roundtable," "Iraq," "Iraq in the Kitchen," "Roundtable on Iraq," "Talking Iraq," "Iraq," "Talking Iraq roundtable" and "Iraq roundtable"] -- from the roundtable, we'll note Wally's comments -- actually we'll note an entire section. Ava and I typed this up (and took the notes during the roundtable) but were tired and I'm reading over this section this morning and it's fresh and new to me:

Betty: I wanted to talk about Iraq's LGBT population. In the April 2nd snapshot, C.I. noted the reports that they were being executed. No one followed that story this week until we found out, see yesterday's snapshot, that US House Rep Jared Polis went to Iraq and was given information about a gay man sentenced to death for being gay. Why isn't anyone writing about this? Michael Riley (Denver Post) was covering it but I'm not even sure if he grasped all of what he was reporting and, if he did grasp it, I think he intentionally downplayed it. Maybe because he thought if he didn't downplay it, it might be seen as too explosive for print. But read his article. A member of the US Congress has been given information that states a gay man is going to be put to execution because he is gay. The Congress member finds the information and documentation so convincing that he raises the issue on his Iraq trip. I'd say this is pretty big news.

Cedric: I'd agree with you Betty and I'd argue that if all the people writing last week about the executions hadn't been doing that. and that includes C.I. doing the why-are-we-silent writing, we wouldn't have gotten Timothy Williams and Tareq Maher's "Iraq's Newly Open Gays Face Scorn and Murder" in the New York Times this week. That's really the strongest article on this subject that paper has published. And, speculating, I'm wondering is it that the paper previously didn't care about the issue, thought readers didn't care about the issue, thought it wasn't among the important issues or what?

Mike: Well when they can write that stupid article on the Humvee dealership in Iraq then if it's that the paper didn't think LGBT was an "important issue," that's saying a lot. And none of it good about the paper.

Ruth: I honestly think that there is a 'queasy' aspect to it -- I am talking about among the press. It happens far too often, an issue involving an attack on the LGBT community in any country, even our own, never gets the kind of attention it deserves. Never. I think a large portion of the press, especially above the reporters' level, are uncomfortable with LGBT issues and the LGBT community.

Ava: Well, in terms of the New York Times, they have a shameful history on AIDS in the eighties and I would argue that's because of the "queasy" aspect Ruth's talking about. They didn't see gays and lesbians as 'real human beings' so when a disease that wasknown as the "gay cancer" struck, they didn't want to devote the kind of attention they would have if the same disease had targeted red-headed-four-year-old boys, for example.

Mike: I don't want to dominate the roundtable but if I can make another point, and I'll try to be quick, homophobia is out there and it's not going away. It might get reduced, but it's not going away any time soon. And if we're not willing to combat it, then I don't know what's going to happen. I am eager about one thing that's coming up.

Marcia: I agree with you, Mike, but I want to also say how important it is that someone like Mike says that and not just me. I'm a lesbian. It's important that I speak out. But Mike's a straight man and it's really important that he speak out as well. I think the gay community is something like one in ten. The LGBT community needs to speak up but we also need support from the straight community. In terms of what Mike's talking about coming up, I agree. And I'm excited about it as well. It's something we're going to be doing at Third. A regular feature. But I would agree there's a silence and, like Ruth, I would have to say it's because it makes some straight people uncomfortable.

Betty: If I can say one more thing on this topic, I'd just like to point out that gays are being targeted in Iraq. By the clergy, by the police and apparently by their state government. And the fact that so many -- including Liar Barack -- have taken to tossing around terms like "democracy" at a time when homophobia is expressed with criminal intent is appalling. And it's disgusting to see US leaders hail a country where homophobia and homophobic murders are condoned by the governemtn. It's disgusting.

Wally: Well the silence goes beyond the press and it also includes our own State Dept which has never condemened the murders. It didn't condemn under the homophobe Colin Powell, it didn't condemn then under Condi Rice and it's not condemning them under Hillary Clinton. Now I happen to like Hillary and, as most people reading this will know, from something like January through the primary in Puerto Rico, I was on the road campaigning for her. I ended up taking off the semester to do that. I believed in her campaign that much. She's being silent. Now I could be an Obot and say, "She needs more time to speak! She needs to get comfortable!" I could offer a million excuses but the reality is she has not spoken out against it and that's not right, and there's no excuse for it, and I'm embarrassed and ashamed for Hillary. And I'll tell you one more thing, I'd be talking about that like her if she was president. Because I don't believe in hero worship. Unlike the Cult of St. Barack, I don't offer excuses. And I believe Hillary would make a great president. But I believe that because I think she's smart. So when someone that smart and that wise doesn't speak out against the murders, it is appalling and I will call out. I will repeat, Hillary Clinton, I am ashamed and embarrassed by your silence. I am fully aware that there are issues that are policy and that come above Hillary. That would include the Israel situtation, for example. There she's merely executing policy. However, in terms of this issue, in terms of condemning any murders in any country -- I'm talking warfare, supposed or otherwise -- she has the power, due to the office she holds, to issue a state condemning the murders. She hasn't done it. I'm appalled. Shame on you, Hillary, you know better. And Kat I knew Betty's topic, Rebecca, which is why we were holding off on talking.

Kat: Right. And it is an important topic but just to back up a second, I agree with Wally and if Hillary had gotten the nomination, she would be president, we all know that, we all know she got more votes than Barack in the primaries and we all know she would have done better than he did in the general. But if she was president, we wouldn't be playing fan club to Hillary. We'd be doing what Wally just did right now. And Wally gave his all to getting the word out on Hillary. He dropped out of college because he took some weeks off and ended up deciding that it was more important that he campaign for her. The original plan was just to campaign for her for a few weeks, he ended up dropping out to campaign for her. And he still believes she would make a wonderful president but that didn't prevent him from calling her out on her silence and doing so strongly. And if she were president and going back on her word to withdraw one brigade a month from Iraq, we'd all be calling her out. The Obots aren't politically educated or smart. They needed a crush, an empty vessel upon which they could impose their dreams of love and romance. It and they are disgusting. Now in terms of the LGBT community in Iraq, I don't want to hear any garbage about Muslim religion or any of that other s**t. We don't use "Muslim religion" or "Muslim culture" to hide behind murdering Jews or Christians. Murder's wrong. That's not open to debate. That the US has installed a regime in Iraq which thinks it's okay to murder gays and lesbians -- and even if the government is not executing them, they are turning a blind eye to their murders -- explains how sick and perverted this illegal war really was. And to be clear "Muslim religion" or "Muslim culture," gays and lesbians still were in Iraq. They are Iraqis. And they had acceptance before the illegal war. They are a part of Muslim culture whether fundamentalists want to accept it or not. And they are a part of Iraq and they should have been protected.

I loved Wally's comments and told him that after the roundtable Friday night but I really love them reading over it and I'm going to make it a truest -- there will be three at Third now -- retroactively. I don't think anyone will have a problem with that. I'll probably include Kat's remarks because I think they are pertinent to the calling out Wally's doing. Last week, we noted the US State Dept and the United Nations have been silent on these and other attacks on the LGBT community in Iraq. The issue gets some attention today. BBC News offers "Fears over Iraq gay killing spate:"

The Iraqi government must do more to protect homosexuals in the wake of a reported spate of killings of gay young men, Amnesty International has urged.
In the last few weeks, 25 boys and men are reported to have been killed in Baghdad because they were, or were perceived to be, gay, Amnesty said.
In a letter to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, the rights organisation called for "urgent and concerted action".
It also criticised the government's failure to condemn the killings.

Nigel Morris' "Iraqi leaders attacked over spate of homophobic murders" (Independent of London) explains Amnesty hasn't yet released the letter to al-Maliki and he notes:

The bodies of four gay men, each bearing a sign with the Arabic word for "pervert" on their chests, were discovered in Sadr City three weeks ago. Following the discovery of another two corpses six days later, an unnamed official in the city told Reuters: "They were sexual deviants. Their tribes killed them to restore their family honour."
No arrests have been made. Ali Hili, the London spokesman for Iraqi LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) said it had received reports of at least 63 killings in the last four months. He told The Independent: "Since mid-December we've been getting lots of reports about mass arrests and raids on houses, cafes, barbers shops." He claimed police and the Ministry of the Interior were behind some of the murders.
"Most of the people who are arrested are found dead, with signs of torture and burns. We believe a war has been launched by the Iraqi Government and its establishment against gay people."
Mr Hili said homosexuals in the country were forced to live in hiding for fear of abduction and death. Some had managed to escape to the west, with another 20 preparing to flee Iraq.
He said: "It's impossible to be gay and out ... It's the most difficult thing to be in Iraq. People visit each other's houses, they meet in places where it's safe ... for the most effeminate cases, we advise them not to go out at all."

The Telegraph of London covers the issue here. Meanwhile Alsumaria reports:

The Iraqi Government decision to detain back prisoners released by US Forces is subject to a political and security hassle. Baghdad Operations spokesman Brigadier Qassem Ata affirmed that the Command has ordered checkpoints to arrest all freed detainees recently released by US Forces.
Ata told Al Hayat Newspaper that the operations command has distributed names and photos of released detainees on all checkpoints to detain them after they were involved in recent bombings in Baghdad.
He noted that keeping those detainees out of prison will deteriorate the security situation and will threaten stability after US Forces withdraw from the cities to their bases at the end of June.
Asked about the possibility of delaying US withdrawal after latest security incidents, Ata said the US military did not notify us about such intentions.
"The Times" British Newspaper expected yesterday to delay US Forces withdrawal from Iraqi volatile cities. The Newspaper quoted a US Army General as saying that insecurities in Mosul and Baaquba might force US Military to extend their military operations in those cities beyond June 30.

This topic is one that upsets Nouri al-Maliki's thug government. Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports the thug government is attempting to close a TV station (Al-Sharqiya) and a newspaper (Al-Hayat) over reports that al-Maliki's thugs are arresting the prisoners as the US releases them. In the summer of 2006, al-Maliki listed his 'plan' amidst the crackdown on Baghdad and it included attacks on the press. When the January 31st provincial elections took place in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, al-Maliki attempted to strong arm the press and force them into signing agreements which would allow them to be punished and penalized if al-Maliki was displeased. His attacks on the press and freedoms are nothing news and part of a thug pattern which includes yesterday's news:

In Iraq today, a committee in Parliament offered a rebuke of the police. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports the committee was offended that the police raided an art show and seized an illustration "lampooning Iraq's prime minister." No word on whether or not he was in 'Muslim garb' and doing a fist bump. (For those who didn't catch that, it was a reference to the faux outrage over a New Yorker cartoon cover that demonstrated there's more than a little bit of Denmark in the US.)

Germany's DPA reports Mosul saw "hundreds of Kurds" protest today as they demanded to be included in the Kurdistan Regional Government. Unrelated in terms of Mosul but the KRG notes:

Fact sheets about the Kurdistan Region

Some essential fact sheets about the Kurdistan Region. Please click the links below to view, download and save the files in PDF format.

The Kurdistan Region in brief

About the Kurdistan Regional Government

Travelling to the Kurdistan Region
A guide to flights, hotels, communications, currency, national holidays, places of interest and specialist travel agencies.

Doing business in the Kurdistan Region
An overview of direct investment, chambers of commerce, company registration, trade missions, visas, and trade shows.

See also
Economy and business

Natural resources: Oil & gas

Kurdistan Region Investment Law

Kurdistan Region Oil and Gas Law

Travel information

Investment guide, The Kurdistan Region: Invest in the Future

Noam Chomsky is on Democracy Now! this morning. It's the interview that aired two Friday's ago on WBAI during the fundraising. The one that had many saying, "Wow, what bravery . . . after the election." Expect a lot more of that now that it's easy to criticize. In fairness to Noam, he didn't endorse Barack. Howard Zinn would like everyone to remember (that cares about politics) that he did not endorse Barack. Of course, he did endorse Barack. He endorsed him and then the outrage was so loud and so clear, he turned around and endorsed Ralph. Or pretended to. Speaking to SewerNet March 19th (we don't link to sites that may be sexual predators and why else would they e-mail various people in attempts to gather information on a 14-year-old boy?), he was asked about his endorsement of Barack and he replied:

Endorsed Obama? (Laughs.) Yes -- I endorsed Obama, I wanted him to win. I wanted Bush and Cheney out of there. I wanted change -- and the truth is I didn't have much choice. It was Bush or Obama. I chose Obama.

So now he's a Barack endorser yet again. I don't need to hear from Coward Zinn's Defense. I'm not Jim, I won't be nice. Coward went on to 'host' a Barack ball in DC and then realized how shameful and embarrassing that was so he and his defense decided not to attend. When called on it, at Third, the defense railed that Coward and he weren't participating. Yes, you were. You allowed your names to be used as sponsors -- allowed it even after you decided not to attend. You were hosting that ball and so was Coward Zinn. It's not our fault that he chose 2008 to remove his spine. It's not our fault that he chose 2008 to sell out his integrity and his life's work.

Again, Noam should have said what's broadcast today on Democracy Now! back in 2008. But, to his credit, he didn't endorse Barack (he endorsed Cynthia McKinney) and he didn't schill for Barack and he certainly didn't host an inauguration party for Barack.

Noam could have spoken out more (and loudly) but he didn't disgrace himself. He's off on his assessment of Palin and his remarks about learning about 'parts of America' ("flyover country" -- he says using an apparent GOP term) via right-wing talk radio is rather sad. Noam's not able to mix with the people? Did he puchase Neverland from Michael Jackson? In terms of populist anger and what might happen, that was noted here long ago and we didn't have to distort Sarah Palin (intentionally or not) in order to do so.

On populist rage, here's an example of it, from ETAN:

Tax Day Protests Against the War Economy and Paying for War

For Immediate Release

Contact: Ruth Benn, Coordinator
National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC)
Brooklyn, New York
800-269-7464 (718-768-3420) or

Brooklyn, NY ­ On Wednesday, April 15, at post offices, federal buildings, and public squares around the country, last minute taxpayers and passers by will be met with signs demanding “Taxes for Peace Not War!” Handouts will explain what the government tries to obscure: the obscene amount of U.S. tax dollars being spent on war at the expense of jobs, infrastructure, human needs programs­even a healthy economy.

“It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment,” according to economist Dean Baker in a 2007 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The Obama administration’s promises to end the war in Iraq­eventually­but leaving 50,000 “advisers” in the country sounds more like continued occupation of a sovereign country. The expansion of war in Afghanistan and into Pakistan brings daily reports of more civilian deaths piled onto the thousands already killed by U.S. actions in the region. Obama’s 2010 budget includes further increases for the Pentagon, which is already funded at levels higher than any time since World War II­hardly an indication that the U.S. is on the road to peace.

Tax day protesters hope to bring attention to the connection between wasteful war spending and the budget crises of states, cities, and towns that are slashing essential programs.

Conscientious objectors to paying for war will be among those making a visible protest on tax day. “Haven’t Paid Federal Taxes Since 1998” is a sign carried by Lincoln Rice in Milwaukee. Don Schrader of Albuquerque carries his “I Refuse to Pay Federal Income Tax for War” sign wherever he goes. Many of these war tax resisters keep their income low to avoid federal taxes; others pay their tax due to charities rather than the IRS, despite the potential consequences. On tax day Boston activists will be among the groups publicly presenting grants from redirected tax dollars to peace, justice, and humanitarian groups.

Similar events will take place around the country. See the listing below, collected by National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, or on the internet at

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), founded in 1982, is a coalition of local, regional and national groups providing information and support to people who are conscientious objectors to paying taxes for war. NWTRCC initiated the War Tax Boycottin 2008, which includes a list of public war tax refusers at

-- 30 –

War tax resisters are available for interviews. Please contact NWTRCC if you need contacts in your area.


List in formation. Updated at

Bay Area – Northern California War Tax Resistance, April 14, 7 - 8 pm: In front of Herbst Theater, where Amy Goodman will be speaking about “Standing Up to the Madness” to help show attendees one way they can stand up. April 15: 6 - 9 am at Glen Park BART, where we will attract the early morning media, and then educate the commuter foot traffic with our display and hand-outs. April 15th, 11 am – 1 pm, at Civic Center Plaza, where we’ll join the “Tea Party” protesters against government waste and pork, while reminding them that the worst examples are found in the military budget. 4 - 6 pm at Balboa Park BART, showing off our new federal spending banner and educating taxpayers about government spending priorities

Colorado Springs – Citizens for Peace in Space. Leafleting with tax pie charts and other information at the Post Office. Time TBA.

Washington – Washington Area War Tax Resistance. Vigil and leafleting at IRS headquarters, 1111 Constitution NW. Noon.

Newton – Heartland Peace Tax Fund. Articles, survey with collection of testimonies from Mennonite war tax resisters, mailings with income tax pie chart, and more.

Louisville ­ Fellowship of Reconciliation-Louisville chapter. (502) 458-8056 or . Leafleting and penny poll at corner of Fifth & Market. Noon.

South Bend – Michiana War Tax Refusers. (574) 289-2126, Peter Smith or Vigil and leafleting at the Main Post Office. 5 pm–9 pm.

Dubuque–Citizens’ Tax Moratorium. (563) 583-2586. Vigil and leafleting downtown at Federal Building, 6th and Locust. 5:30 pm–7:30 pm. (Also every Monday, 5:30 pm–6:30 pm.)

Across the State – Maine War Tax Resistance Resource Center and other groups. (207) 525-7776. Leafleting with flyers about war taxes, budget priorities, and related issues at post offices and busy places. Before or on April 15.
Bangor: Jane Livingston, 947-4117, or Gerald Oleson, 947-2970
Belfast: Larry Dansinger, 525-7776
Bath/Brunswick: Mary Beth Sullivan, 443-9502
Ellsworth: Frank Donnelly, 461-5080
Farmington: Eileen Liddy, 645-4755
Kennebunk: Jamilla El Shafei
Portland: Peace Action Maine, 772-0680 or Bill Slavick, 773-6562
Damariscotta: Suzanne Hedrick, 563-7041

Boston - New England War Tax Resistance, (781) 237-4690 or Larry Rosenwald. A festive event including presentation of grants from redirected tax dollars to three Peace and Justice groups. Outside the South Postal Annex near South Station. 8:30 PM

Greenfield - Pioneer Valley War Tax Refusers, Email or (413) 774-2640. Picket with leaflets and placards along Main St., urging non-payment of Federal Income tax.. Printed matter will be offered at a sidewalk table by the Food Co-op, with the hope of opening a friendly exchange of views on this vital concern. 9 am until noon.

St. Louis - St. Louis Covenant Community of War Tax Resisters, (314) 725-5303 . Actions in collaboration with Women in Black, WILPF, the Instead of War Coalition. Tuesday, April 14: 11:30 am Gather and vigil in the Delmar Loop Plaza (6635 Delmar). Noon, process and leaflet through a restaurant district with the pie chart and the leaflet that the U.S. Committee to End the Israeli Occupation on taxes and U.S. military aid to Israel. 12:30 Procession ends at Sen. Claire McCaskill Office's (5850 Delmar). Vigil in front of the office till 1 pm and then turn in tax resistance letters to the Senator's staff.

Across the State – New Hampshire Peace Action or Ginny Schneider. The call is out for people to set up tables with penny polls, educational materials, a petition to deliver to members of Congress, and a bookmark to give out in towns across the state at schools, post offices and town squares.

New York City – NYC War Resisters League, NYC People’s Life Fund, and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. (718) 768-7306 or Meet and leaflet at Manhattan IRS office,110W. 44th Street, at 4 pm, then at 5:30 pm march to main post office at 8th Ave. and 34th St. for vigil, leafleting, redirection ceremony.

New City - Rockland Coalition for Peace & Justice, . Annual Tax Day vigil on the steps of the Rockland County courthouse. 11:30 am - 12:30 pm.

Asheville – Ashville Area War Tax Resistance. 828-242-5610. Banners and flyer distribution in front of the downtown public library, visible throughout town from the Library to the Federal Building to the Post Office on Coxe Avenue. 3-5 pm, followed by potluck and discussion with Veterans for Peace and War Resisters League.

Eugene ­ Community Action of Lane County. (541) 485-1755. Penny poll and literature distribution at downtown Eugene post office.

Portland – Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance/WRL. (503) 238-0605. April 11: redirection of tax dollars at the public library. April 15: Holding “Burma Shave” signs on the local bridges during morning rush hours

Bethlehem – LEPOCO. (610) 691-8730 or Contact the office to get leaflets and connect with others for leafleting at area post offices.

Newtown, Bucks County - Coalition for Peace Action and Penn Action., or 215-380-6804. Tax Day Vigil Silver Lake Park next to Lockheed Martin, Route 413 bypass in Newtown, Bucks County, PA. Invest our Tax Dollars in a Peace Economy! NOT in Lockheed Martin. 4:30-5:30 pm. More protests at Lockheed Martin April 23,

Burlington – Bread and Roses Committee. (802) 355-2977. Leafleting at Post Office.

Olympia - Olympia Movement for Justice & Peace,, Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation, Annual protest vigil against the self-destructive madness of paying for U.S. wars, occupations, and continued imperialism around the globe. Main Post Office at 9th & Jefferson. 10 am into the evening.

Seattle ­ NACC. (206) 547-0952, Leafleting at several post offices from 4 to 5 pm (and other times).

Milwaukee – Milwaukee War Tax Resistance and Casa Maria Catholic Worker. Lincoln Rice or 414-344-5745. Hold signs and pass our leaflets on at Milwaukee's main post office located at 345 W St. Paul Ave. 5 pm–6 pm.

Bonnie reminds that Kat's "Kat's Korner: The LOtUSFLOW3R Blooms ... and rocks" and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Brotherly Embarrassment."

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends