Monday, June 29, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, one media outlet prepares to offer indepth coverage of the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community, June 30th play day frenzy builds, uh-oh-Gordo, he's in trouble again, and more.
In a week when Iraq 'dates' will be discussed non-stop, we'll start with an important one: July 5th. That's when BBC Radio 5 airs Gay Life After Saddam (7 to 8 p.m. in England -- that will be eleven to noon PST). Ashley Byrne and Gail Champion produce the special for Made in Manchester. James Chaperlard (Crain's Manchester Business) reports:
In Gay Life After Saddam, presenter Aasmah Mir finds out how life for the country's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community (LGBT), has got worse since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Human rights campaigners claim hundreds of LGBT people have been killed or tortured while others have fled the country fearing for their safety since Saddam was toppled from power six years ago.
Not noted in the article but among the people interviewed for the special is Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, and his remarks should be of especial interest since he's done nothing to prevent the continued assault on Iraq's LGBT community. Note that this special is being commissioned and aired by the BBC. Did Joan Kroc's McMillions to NPR come with a codicil barring NPR from reporting on the gay community? NPR has never covered the ongoing assault on Iraq's LGBT community. June 1st, the assault was addressed on KPFK's Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett between Garrett and LA City Council member Bill Rosendahl and that's day's snapshot included the following rundown -- and this is a partial rundown:
As noted May 15th, "Ruben Vives (Los Angeles Times) reports that the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to approve Council Rep Bill Rosendahl's 'resolution calling for federal legislation urging the Iraqi government to prevent the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people'." Lila noted that the segment was taped ahead of time so, for perspective, the resolution passed May 15th. This year, the targeting's been noted here first in 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"] That's going back to the start of April and it is not true that the MSM has ignored it. They could do a lot more but they have covered it and where there has been no amplification is in Panhandle Media which appears to feel it's a 'niche' story to be left to the LGBT media. In April, Wisam Mohammed and Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN), the Dallas Morning News, UPI and AFP reported on it. Michael Riley (Denver Post) covered the story and covered US House Rep Jared Polis' work on the issue (which included visiting Iraq), PDF format warning, click here for his letter to Patricia A. Butenis. Polis is quoted at his website stating, "The United States should not tolerate human rights violations of nay kind, especially by a government that Americans spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year supporting. Hopefully my trip and letters to US and Iraqi officials will help bring international attention and investigation to this terrible situation and bring an end to any such offenses." For the New York Times, Timothy Williams and Tareq Maher's "Iraq's Newly Open Gays Face Scorn and Murder" covered the topic. BBC News offered "Fears over Iraq gay killing spate." The Denver Post offered an editorial entitled "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," Nigel Morris offered "Iraqi leaders attacked over spate of homophobic murders" (Independent of London), the Telegraph of London covers the issue here. Neal Broverman (The Advocate), Jessica Green (UK's Pink News), and Doug Ireland
covered it (here's one report by Ireland at GayCityNews -- he's filed more than one report), AFP reported on it again when signs went up throughout Sadr City with statements such as "We will punish you, perverts" and "We will get you, puppies" (puppies is slang for gay men in Iraq) and Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reported on that as well. Chris Johnson offered "Polis seeks to aid Iraqis: Says gays 'fear for their life and limb' after fact-finding trip to Baghdad" (Washington Blade), Killian Melloy (The Edge -- this is the April 2nd story that contains the State Dept stating it's not happening -- the denial) and [PDF formart warning] the April 15th "Iraq Status Report" by the US State Dept notes the killings. Amnesty International weighed in as did the International Gay and lesiban Human Rights Campaign. Jim Muir (BBC News -- text and video) reported on the targeting and the attacks. UK Gay News covered it, last week ABC News offered Mazin Faiq's "Tortured and Killed in Iraq for Being Gay" Chicago Pride and UPI covered the latest deaths last week. And AFP and Jessica Green (UK's Pink News) covered the public statement from Moqtada al-Sadr about how they needed to be "eradicated" for "depravity" and he thinks they can be 'taught' not to be gay. As for the technique, Bill Rosendahl didn't want to discuss on air Doug Ireland (ZNet) reported on that in May[.]
Though it's a partial list, NPR's not omitted. No major outlet is. ABC News, BBC, CNN, Denver Post, Dallas Morning News (a news roundup), the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, UPI and AFP are major outlets. So is NPR but it had other things to do. Now BBC's commissioned and will be airing (July 5th -- and it will stream live online) and NPR's still playing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Matthew S. Bajko (The Edge) notes that this is being termed the "Summer of Obummer" and reviews Barack Obama's stumbles and fumbles on LGBT issues including: "In court papers the Obama administration has defended the policy, and it has also refused to issue an executive order ending discharges of LGBT service members as it determines what course of action to take." Jean Stanula (Examiner) points out that hideous policy creates many victims, including the service members' partners: "There is another group of people who are devastatingly affected by this policy as well, a group of people who are not even members of the military -- the partners of these LGBT soldiers who struggle with the same trials as military spouses, yet receive none of the support from the government, who must, in fact, remain invisible for the protection of their military partners. The husbands and wives of American soldiers receive special benefits from the government, in addition to the love and support they recieve from their communities. Some of these benefits include: receiving compensation if their husband or wife is injured or killed in the line of duty, disabled veterans who are married receive extra compensation to support their spouse, veteran's pensions, military support networks, next-of-kin notifications and more. Partners of LGBT service members are denied these benefits, even the simple benefit of expressing pride openly of their love ones." Last week, 77 members of the US House of Representatives wrote Barack about ending the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy:
Although we are confident that you will remain true to your campaign promise to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell, our LGBT service members and our country's national security will continue to suffer if initial action is delayed until 2010 or 2011. We urge you to exercise the maximum discretion legally possible in administering Don't Ask, Don't Tell until Congress repeals the law. To this end, we ask that you direct the Armed Services not to initiate any investigation of service personnel to determine their sexual orientation, and that you instruct them to disregard third party accusations that do not allege violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That is, we request that you impose that no one is asked and that you ignore, as the law requires, third parties who tell. Under your leadership, Congress must then repeal and replace Don't Ask, Don't Tell with a policy of inclusion and non-discrimination. This bilateral strategy would allow our openly gay and lesbian service members to continue serving our country and demonstrate our nation's lasting commitment to justice and equality for all.
As the United States continues to work towards responsibly ending the War in Iraq and refocus on the threat from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, our LGBT service members offer invaluable skills that enhance our country's military competence and readiness. Despite the great strain on our military's human resources, the Armed Forces have discharged almost 800 mission-critical troops and at least 59 Arabic and nine Farsi linguists under Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the last five years. This is indefensible. The financial cost alone of implementing Don't Ask, Don't Tell from Fiscal Year 1994-2003 was more than $363.8 million. Our nation's military has always held itself to the highest standards, and we must recruit and retain the greatest number of our best and brightest. To do anything less only hurts our country's military readiness and our service members.
We also want to bring to your attention the most recent examples of the failed Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in action. New York National Guard First Lieutenant Dan Choi and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach are two exceptional servicemen who have dedicated their lives to defending our country and protecting the American people. Their bravery and abilities have been tested in combat, and now they face impending discharge under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
First Lieutenant Choi, a current National Guardsman with the 1st Battalion of the 69th Infantry in Manhattan, is a West Point graduate, Arabic language specialist, and Iraq War veteran who is under investigation for refusing to lie about his identity.
Lieutenant Colonel Fehrenbach, Assistant Director of Operations for the 366th Operations Support Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, has honorably served his country for 18 years as an F-15E pilot. He has received nine air medals, including a Medal for Heroism during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and was hand-picked to protect the airspace over Washington, D.C. after the Pentagon was attacked on September 11, 2001. Lieutenant Colonel Fehrenbach, who has flown combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda, continues to serve while the recommendation for his honorable discharge moves forward to a review board, and eventually to the Secretary of the Air Force. Just two years away from his 20-year retirement, he stands to lose $46,000 a year in retirement and medical benefits for the rest of his life if discharged.
The American people and service members of the Armed Forces overwhelmingly support the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. According to a national Gallup poll conducted in May 2009, 69 percent of Americans, including 58 percent of Republicans, favor allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military. Furthermore, a 2006 poll of 545 troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan by Zogby International and the Michael D. Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara revealed that 73 percent are personally comfortable with gay men and lesbian women. John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Clinton administration, and more than 100 retired admirals and generals support this repeal, in addition to the Human Rights Campaign, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and Knights Out, an organization of LGBT West Point alumni co-founded by First Lieutenant Choi.
That's an excerpt. The letter (in full) can be found at US House Rep Alcee L. Hasting's website and "was authored by Hastings and signed by Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), José Serrano (D-NY), James Moran (D-VA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), James Clyburn (D-SC), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Bob Filner (D-CA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Robert "Bobby" Scott (D-VA), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Melvin Watt (D-NC), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Jane Harman (D-CA), Lois Capps (D-CA), Donna M. Christensen (D-VI), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Bill Delahunt (D-MA), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Rush Holt (D-NJ), John Larson (D-CT), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), David Wu (D-OR), William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Mike Honda (D-CA), James Langevin (D-RI), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Diane Watson (D-CA), Tim Bishop (D-NY), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D-FL), André Carson (D-IN), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Phil Hare (D-IL), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Joe Sestak (D-PA), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Jared Polis (D-CO), Mike Quigley (D-IL), and Gregorio Sablan (D-MP)."
While there has been action in the US House of Representatives calling for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell this month, the only US Senator publicly raising the issue is Roland Burris. As his office notes:
Last week, Senator Burris met with Equality Illinois and a number of GLBT leaders in Chicago to discuss the current military policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Burris, a member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs voiced his strong opposition to the current discriminatory policy. During a June 22nd press conference at Equality Illinois, Senator Burris vowed to work alongside Senator Ted Kennedy to bring an end to the military's ban on gay servicemen and women, and to make the United States Armed Services more inclusive and accepting of all the brave individuals who wear our nation's uniform.
"When we dismiss the sacrifices made by those with a different sexual orientation, we undermind the strength of our fighting forces. When we fail to recognize the brave contributions that gay and lesbian service members continue to make every single day, we diminish ourselves as much as we diminish their service," Senator Burris said. "We should end this offensive and discriminatory policy, so they can be the best soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines they can be, while living their lives openly and honestly."
This Sunday, Senator Burris will march alongside members of the GLBT community in Chicago's Pride Parade.
Charlotte Starck and KOMO-TV Staff (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) note that Burris, Illinois Govenor Pat Quinn and the state's Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined "the festivicites that have attracted hundreds of thousands in recent years" yesterday. Yesterday's events were part of the activism around the 40th anniversary of Stonewall and, for more on that, you can refer to Amy Goodman's "Stonewall Riots 40th Anniversary: A Look Back at the Uprising that Launched the Modern Gay Rights Movement," "Trans Day of Action: 'The Rebellion Is Not Over'" and "A Look at the Gay Rights Movement Beyond Marriage and the Military" (Democracy Now!).
Turning to England where Rupert Hamer (Daily Mirror) informs, "A secret report by Army bosses to be presented to the Iraq war inquiry blames Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for the botched occupation of the country. The dossier -- prepared for ex-military chief General Sir Mike Jackson -- criticize then Chancellor Mr Brown for withholding fuds to rebuild Basra for FIVE months after our troops went in. And the 100-page document attacks Mr Blair for 'uncritically' accepting flawed US plans for the March 2003 invasion, which led to tens of thousands of deaths, including those of 179 British troops." Daniel Martin (Daily Mail) adds, "In a memo to the Iraq war inquiry, they say Mr Brown's refusal as Chancellor to release vital funds for the Army played into the hands of insurgents. Its criticisms are the latest in a line of attacks from senior Army figures on Mr Brown, who was Chancellor when U.S. and British troops attacked Iraq in March 2003." Nicholas Watt (Mail & Guardian) reminds that last week was when a debate in the House of Commons forced Gordon Brown and his cabinet to back off of the inquiry being held completely in private and notes that the chance "that Blair and Brown will be cross-examined on their roles in the Iraq war during the build-up to the general election that is expected to take place next year." The debate also forced Brown and his cabinet to back off the claim that the inquiry would not apportion blame. Scottish National Party leader Angus Robertson states, "This leaked document would appear to be a damning critique of the two most senior members of the Labour government at the time -- Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. It also suggests that there may be great unease about Gordon Brown's decision to allow the inquiry to be held in secret when it wished. The whole point of this inquiry was to get to the truth about the Iraq war. People wanted an open and honest inquiry, not some establishment stich-up. This leak would appear to support the fact that by every measurement the Iraq war has been the biggest foreign policy disaster in modern times, and those responsible for it have never answered the most fundamental questions about why we were led into this mess." Meanwhile the Yorkshire Post reports, "Families of soldiers killed by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan are suing the Ministry of Defence, claiming that the lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers in which they died should never have been used on the frontline. Over the past four years, dozens of our troops have been killed in this way."
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier died June 28 as the result of combat related injuries. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of the service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at http://www.defenselink.mil/ . The announcements are made on the Website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brings to 4317 the number of US service members killed since the start of the illegal war.
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul bombing today which claimed the lives of 2 police officers and a Mosul car bombing claimed the lives of 9 police officers and left eleven people injured. Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing left one person injured and, dropping back to Sunday, Ramadi roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 "member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and wounded his son".
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer was shot dead in Diyala Province.
Reuters notes 4 corpses were discovered in Mosul today.
Turning to the issue of the June 30th 'pull-out' and starting with this from Alice Fordham (Times of London), "The June 30 deadline was made in a status of forces agreement between the US and Iraq at the start of the year. A national holiday has been declared for that day, although a curfew may be imposed." That's noted in Thursday's snapshot and we're noting it again because on Friday an outlet (NYT) reported on the holiday for the first time and has since gotten credit (unearned) for being the outlet to break that news. Alice Fordahm had already reported it. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) quotes wary Iraqi Jbory stating, "I will celebrate when I see my country living in peace. I will celebrate when there is electricity and clean water, when people go to the park and feel safe. I'll celebrate when kids on the street look clean and are wearing new clothes. I will celebrate when people can earn a living." Hala Jaber, Ali Rifat Amman and Tony Allen-Mills (Times of London) quoted Sheiak Harith al-Dhari stating, "The resistance will not subside. I expect the insurgency to increase in both strength and ferocity, at least until the total withdrawal of the occupiers. Logic dictates that as long as there is fire under the pot, then the pot will continue to boil." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "The guys with the guns and bombs and best-laid plans may think the U.S. withdrawal of combat troops from major Iraqi cities will work. But some ordinary Iraqis habor another idea." Meanwhile Thomas E. Ricks debates himself. First he argues, "Will the Iraqi be able to keep the population relatively secure? To be honest, I don't know, and no one else does." Less than 20 minutes later he offers, "Iraq is probably going to be violent for many years to come, and likely will be a closer ally of Iran than of the United States". While I would personally guess that his second argument is the likely outcome for the foreseeable future, I can say 100%, I don't know. What is known? Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) offers some reality on the pull-out: "But the Status of Forces Agreement setting the June 30 deadline leaves a lot of discretionary decisions to the Americans. Lieut. Col. Drake Johnson, 39, a liaison officer with the Iraqi police, could have termed the patrol a 'force protection' mission, not a 'combined patrol.' In that case, only Americans would've been walking the route. That's one reason on Tuesday, when Iraqis wake up, they will still see U.S. soldiers and Marines on patrol and in convoys. That's why some Iraqis -- like the one who yelled at the patrol, 'Hey, it's too bad you guys will be leaving soon!' -- may be disappointed with the profile, the footprint, that the Americans will still display in Iraq." Alice Fordham (Times of London) describes the current scene in Baghdad: "Lurid artificial flowers and tinsel decorated the police cars and balloons and streamers adorned the concrete security checkpoints of South Baghdad". Derrick Henry (New York Times) reports that Iraqi MP ("and a former national security adviser") Qassim Daoud is calling for the Status Of Forces Agreement to "be extended to 2020 or 2025."
On the 'pull-out' of US forces from some cities, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explained this morning, "In most cases, they'll be shifted to areas encircling the places they leave. American forces will also remain in the town of Mosul for an indefinite time." And they will remain in Baghdad where their bases sprawl in and out of the city. On the encircling, we'll fall back to Friday's snapshot:
As for the pull-out from Iraqi cities, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reveals, that instead of being in the cities, US forces will "encircle them," "put in place in the belts around those cities and in areas that are potential flashpoints of Kurdish-Arab tension. . . . The plan keeps US advisers within the cities, and in Mosul redeploys battalions that had been within the city to the surrounding areas." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that while "[t]housands of U.S. combat troops will remain at a handful of bases in Baghdad and on the outskirts of other restive cities, such as Mosul and Kirkuk, in nothern Iraq, past the June 30 deadline" and that this has US military officials worried that US service members as well as Iraqis will be put at risk in the new holding pattern Barack's created. Stop the holding pattern, just bring the troops home.
The illegal war hasn't ended. Elizabeth Baier (Minnesota Public Radio) reports, "More than 550 troops from the Minnesota Army National Guard will head to Iraq next month, where they will serve a one-year deployment as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom." Bob Von Sternberg (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) adds, "They are scheduled to return to Minnesota next April." Lindsay Wise (Houston Chronicle) reports on the Texas Army National Guard's 72 Brigade will be shipping to Iraq for a nine month tour of duty.
Turning to Iraqi oil, Tamsin Carlisle (The National) observes of the "live auction of oil contracts," "What is certain is that billions of dollar will be put on the table to develop some of the country's biggest oilfields. But little else is assured." Including the when as there has been a one day postponement. The postponing, Robert Tuttle and Anthony DiPaola (Bloomberg News) explain, is due to a sandstorm.