Thursday, May 28, 2009

ABC News reports on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community

Two gay men were killed in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, and police confirmed they found the bodies of four more men, all killed during a 10-day period after an unknown Shiite militia group urged a crackdown on homosexuals in the country.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believes as many as 30 people have been killed during the last three months because they were -- or were perceived to be -- gay.
In a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the human rights group Amnesty International called for "urgent and concerted action" to end the violence against the gay community, the group reported on its Web site.

The above is from Mazin Faiq's "Tortured and Killed in Iraq for Being Gay" (ABC News) and it's an interesting thing to think of. The LGBT community is being targeted in Iraq and it's been news for months now (the targeting started long ago -- and the murderers/executions above are the ones already covered in the snapshots some time ago) but where's Panhandle Media. They can bemoan today about the torture photos. The torture photos should be released. Barack's caved yet again and that's what happens when you put someone who can't be trusted into the White House. But compare all the jaw boning about the torture photos -- photos over five-years-old -- with these same outlets being silent on the current targeting of gays, lesbians and transexuals in Iraq. Amy Goodman can't shut up about the torture photos. She's like a parrot. But when has Democracy Now! devoted the hour -- or even 15 minutes -- to the assaults on Iraq's LGBT community? Answer: Never.

Duncan Gardham and Paul Cruickshank (Telegraph of London) cover
what has everyone chattering this morning about the torture photos this morning:

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.
Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.
Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.
Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

The photos should have been released. They should have been released when news of the crimes first broke. And let's remember that the US Congress saw these photos. Kevin Zeese was on his high horse (or pony) recently about Nancy Pelosi and how unforgivable she was. Whatever, Kevie. Reality check, the Congress saw these photos and somehow that's getting left out. John Cornyn (Republican US Senator out of Texas) was especially vocal to the press back then about how the photos didn't need to be released, they'd harm Americans -- you know, the same crap that flows out of Barack's mouth today. Point? Taguba's not the only one who knows what the photos contain.

Debra Sweet's "Why is the Government Continuing to Suppress These Photos? And Why Should We Show Them?" (World Can't Wait) notes:

Well, you could ask what interest the Obama administration has in suppressing them. It's true that much of this information is already known, given the leaks by foreign press, and people in the US military who originally, and courageously, in some cases, took the photos and made them public. But the fact that the government can suppress them with impunity, on the excuse that releasing them will endanger American military more than the fact that torture and indefinite detention of civilians is widespread and systemic from Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Guantanamo and the Bush secret prisons, is an outrage.

Sweet is correct. And World Can't Wait presses on accountability every day, not just when there's a tid-bit in the news.

Larger point: There needs to be accountability for what took place and there also needs to be attention paid to what's going on today. Doug Ireland, among many others, could be booked on Democracy Now! or any other so-called independent program to discuss the targeting of and assaults on Iraqis LGBT community. Not booking him or other guests on this topic is not an oversight, it is a refusal to cover the news -- either because they don't give a damn about Iraq except as re-runs or because they're squeamish around LGBT issues. Or maybe both. But Iraqis are being killed because of their sexuality and the silence in this country is appalling.

Shows could also book this man.

Jared Polis

That's US House Rep Jared Polis. He could speak about the topic because he has and he has called out the targeting. Having him as a guest would also allow him to address funding wars. From his office:

Washington, May 14 - Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) issued the following statement today on voting against H.R. 2346, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009:

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)
Statement on H.R. 2346, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009
Thursday, May 5, 2009

The Defense Supplemental funds a number of worthy and important projects, including international humanitarian assistance for refugees and medical assistance for people suffering from HIV and AIDS. I applaud my colleagues, Chairman Obey in particular, for addressing these priorities. Unfortunately, the positive aspects of this bill cannot hide its underlying premise -- funding a misguided war in Iraq and Afghanistan -- a policy that I believe must be changed.

At its heart, this bill is about increasing and prolonging US military involvement in Afghanistan, which I do not support. I recently traveled to both Iraq and Afghanistan and saw first-hand the very real challenges that our presence creates. Let's be clear -- President Obama inherited two wars and I know he is committed to ending both responsibly. I, however, do not believe there can be a military solution to the conflict and therefore cannot support this bill.

The occupation of Afghanistan will not help us defeat the very real threat of Al Qaeda. Although I am especially encouraged by the "diplomatic surge" and Special Forces' efforts to defeat the threat of Al Qaeda, our resources could be better spent on diplomacy and targeted security operations, rather than continued occupation. I strongly support President Obama and his efforts to end our presence in Iraq. I believe that the best way to support the President is for me to use my vote to help force a discussion about our strategy and tactics in Afghanistan, and for that reason I am voting no.

We cannot achieve peace through the occupation of an entire country. We tried and failed in Iraq, and we cannot afford to do so again. We need a fresh look at our policy in Afghanistan, and this can only come through open discussion and debate. My action today is not a vote against our military or a vote against our President, but an urgent call for an exit strategy for Afghanistan and a plan for peace and security.

Robert Knight (on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday) noted that British 'combat' forces left Iraq yesterday (British forces remain in Iraq) and he noted:

Army Chief of Staff General George Casey said overnight that he anticipates the maintenance of a combined 190,000 troops in the region for a decade as part of the Obama administration's new war on terrorism in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Status Of Forces Agreement in Iraq officialy requires the withdrawal of US combat troops by 2012 but the Obama administration is expected to keep more than 50,000 there permantly by reclassifying them as advisors and trainers rather than referring to them as "combat troops."

Alsumaria reports, "Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff said he does not rule out the possibility of leaving US forces in Iraq for as long as a decade. According to the Associated Press, he said his planning envisions combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained U.S. commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East. Casey noted that U.S. ground commander Gen. Ray Odierno is in charge of a study to determine how far U.S. forces could be cut back in Iraq and still be effective."

Despite the fact that British "combat" troops are out, five hostages remain held. CNN reports that David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, is calling for their release. James Sturcke (Guardian of Manchester) adds:

Peter Moore, an IT consultant from Lincoln, and four bodyguards were seized in Baghdad by a group of 40 armed men dressed in police uniforms.
Moore's stepmother, Pauline Sweeney, said the relatives had been given hope by the release of a video two months ago in which her stepson looked "a lot, lot healthier".

Below is David Miliband's statement in full:

"It is two years since five British men were abducted from the Finance Ministry in Iraq. I don't think that any of us can imagine their ordeal nor the anguish that their families and friends have had to suffer during this dreadful time.
"We have seen the humanitarian appeals that the families of the men have made. I'd like to support this appeal. Our thoughts are with them all as they continue to endure the pain of being separated from their loved ones.
"We are totally committed to working for the safe release of the men. There is a dedicated team from across government, including people on the ground in Baghdad, working tirelessly with the Iraqi authorities and Coalition partners to help bring this about. We are grateful to Prime Minister Maliki and all our allies for their support and continue working with them and with anyone who may be able to help.
"The Iraq of today is a different place to that of two years ago. There are signs of progress and reconciliation as the Iraqi people show their commitment to a democratic and peaceful future. Hostage-taking has no part in that future. We call on those holding all hostages to release them immediately and unconditionally and return them safely to their families where they belong."

Not everyone is thrilled with Miliband. From Peter Dominiczak and Ben Bailey's "David Miliband accused of ‘not giving a damn' over British hostages" (This is London):

But Mr Miliband's comments were overshadowed by criticism from the father of one of the hostages, who said the Government had failed his son.
The hostages, who have not been officially named, are IT consultant Peter Moore and four security guards. Peter's father Graeme Moore, 59, of Leicester, said: "The Foreign Office and the government don't give a damn."
In a separate attack, Iraq's national security adviser added to the pressure on Mr Miliband by saying Britain should do more to secure the release of the five men, who have been seen only in videos released following their capture.
In an email to The Times, Mowaffak al-Rubaie said: "The families of the hostages should work on the Western governments to be much more proactive in their approach to this."

Arwa Damon's "Inside Iraq: Living with the enemy" (CNN) is an example of the kind of reporting that could be going on right now from print outlets but isn't happening:

"He was cut to pieces," he said. "His hands and feet were chopped off. And he was decapitated."
For a long time, Iraqis would say that it was "outsiders" that were carrying out such atrocities. The truth that is so hard to accept for many is that that often was not the case.
Iraqis turned on each other, neighbors slaughtered neighbors, friends betrayed one another. It was the sheer degradation of society on a shocking and utterly petrifying scale.
Abu Wissam's son Raed was a 25-year-old business school student. His fiancee says that one day he got a phone call from a college friend asking to meet him. Little did she know that it was a plot to lure him out of the house and that it would be their last goodbye.

The following community sites update last night:

Elaine notes Steve Chapman's "Listening to Burris" (Chicago Tribune) where Chapman makes the point that the wiretap is not incriminating to Senator Roland Burris. Elaine writes:

It's becoming a circus and that has nothing to do with Senator Burris. It has a great deal to do with the press and when they can explain it to me in a plausible manner, I might believe them. Until then, it appears to be another case of a person of color being targeted in a way that no White person ever would be. (I'm stopping there because C.I. was mentioning something to me on the phone earlier and I'm betting that thread may be picked up shortly at The Common Ills.)

I believe Elaine's referring to our conversation yesterday evening about Bill Frist. Frist the press backed off from. Despite first hand observations of what appeared to be crimes. Or have we all forgotten that?

Frist was on the phone with another US Senator, "a newly elected" one.

Before hanging up, the other senator said he had a small favor to ask of Frist, too: a major Republican donor was seeking an ambassadorship to some overseas economic development organization. "I don't even know what the hell it is," the junior senator said, "but he wants it."
Frist thought about it for a moment. "He has lots of dollar figures down there?"
"That's exactly right. And he did raise a chunk of money for me."
"All right," Frist said. "You're a good man."
The exchange, which took place while I was sitting in the room, offered a glimpse not just of the Senate business but also of the business of the Senate.

That's from David Grann's cover story, "The Ascent of Bill Frist," The New York Times Magazine, May 11, 2003. I believe it's pages 72-73 but check if you're citing because I'm quoting from memory. An ambassadorship is sold to the highest bidder, a reporter observes it. Bill Frist isn't in any trouble for that and David Grann isn't even required to reveal the name of the other senator involved.

But with no proof, each week is another attempt to lynch Roland Burris. It is very difficult to believe this isn't about race. The Senate Majority Leader sells an ambassadorship to the highest bidder in front of the press, in front of the New York Times. Where was the effort to go after Frist? Either Grann's a liar or Frist should have faced charges. Some people get a pass.

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