After the 2003 American-led invasion, Iraqis enjoyed an immediate benefit--freedom of expression.
Today, after all the pain and sacrifices we have endured for six years, this freedom is threatened again.
After the Saddam Hussein regime fell, thousands of book and dozens of newspapers that had been banned, censored or not permitted to be printed were suddenly free to publish.
Today I received a statement from the Society to Defend Press Freedom in Iraq. It said that the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, has decided to censor the importation of books from outside the country and restrict printing them inside the country.
The above is from a McClatchy Iraqi correspondent's "A Return to '1984'?" (Inside Iraq). Saturday, Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reported the Ministry of Culture is censoring books in 'free' Iraq and quotes the ministry Taher al-Humoud explaining that all publishers now must "submit lists of titles for approval". And that's what people died for?
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in Iraq today. As always, it was an unannounced visit. They keep splashing waves of Operation Happy Talk but the US officials still can't visit Iraq openly. Kevin Baron (Stars and Stripes) reports that the press was told about the visit on Friday by someone at the Defense Dept and quotes the unnamed person telling them, "The purpose of going to Talil is so the secretary can get an understanding of the advisory and assistance brigades that are sort of being developed. This is what eventually we will be left with when we have a transitional force come September 2010." Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) is part of the press traveling with Gates and notes this his first visit to Iraq for 2009 -- seven months in, rather sad -- and that he plans to visit with both Nouri al-Maliki (puppet of the occupation) and Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq). She also notes Gates will be playing an Amway salesman for US defense contractors as he meets with Iraqi officials to discuss "whether the U.S. will sell Iraq any F-16 fighter jets." Jim Wolf (Reuters) reports it more bluntly: "One of the topics they are expected to discuss is Baghdad's interest in acquiring Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT.N) F-16 multirole fighter jets to counter possible threats from neighbouring nations after U.S. forces leave." And he will visit Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani. Al Bawaba reports that Gates' visit as 8 security guards were killed in a Baghdad bank robbery.
Voices of Honor is a group we'll note sometimes and not others. As explained, we're not interested in a group trying to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell which can't tell meaning the efforts of some to hide gayness. You won't overturn the policy by hiding in a closet or with talking points of, "It's not about being gay." It's exactly about being gay. If people weren't gay, they wouldn't be kicked out. A member of the group made really insulting remarks (publicly) about Ellen Tauscher when she was still in Congress. He trashed her for showing up -- the only member of Congress to show up -- at one of the events to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He trashed her, he mocked -- publicly -- and did so because she wouldn't treat the issue as if people were being discharged because they had sniffles. Gym Bunny apparently has a self-loathing issue and that's his issue but Voices of Honor was launched only weeks ago and it's already offended a huge number of gays and lesbians with efforts to act as if the gay issue is something to run from. When they're running from it, we're not covering them. And we will not now, or ever, mention Gym Bunny or quote him or do anything to promote him.
Ellen (I know Ellen, I've known her for years) went to that public event and was the only member of Congress to do so. She spoke at that event, she spoke movingly about the need to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. She didn't deserve to be trashed. I don't put up with bad manners and that was bad manners to the max. The group (this is just months ago) needed all the Congressional help it could get and they needed a name at their event to get them any coverage. Ellen's got a life. She went on her own time. And her thanks for that is to be trashed because she talked about the issue and she noted it is an issue for the lesbian and gay community? (Causing Gym Bunny to snort that it's not a gay issue. It's a gay issue, Dumb Ass. People are being kicked out because they're gay.) So with that brief (ha) intro, Zoe Tillman (Philadelphia Inquirer) reports:
Marine veteran and Philadelphia resident Joe Soto, 48, was among the repeal advocates who joined Murphy at yesterday's news conference.
An openly gay man who grew up in Hershey and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1983, Soto resigned his commission in 1991. The former Marine captain said he no longer wanted to hide his sexual orientation.
"I was proud to serve, but I had to do so in silence," he said. "We need to end discrimination now."
Former Army intelligence collector Alexander Nicholson, 28, who speaks several languages, including Arabic, was discharged in 2002 when he was outed.
Nicholson is the founder and executive director of Servicemembers United, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian troops and veterans. He said he hopes the tour will "show the American public that this is the face of a gay soldier."
Things like that we'll note. Dan Choi, we'll obviously note. Choi knows why he's being targeted and speaks about it. (Gym Bunny appears to think, based on his statements, that mentioning "gay" will turn off likely voters. So he thinks it shouldn't be mentioned. And somehow Americans won't grasp what Don't Ask, Don't Tell is targeting?) WFMZ offers video of US House Rep Patrick Murphy speaking on the issue. News 8 quotes Alexander Nicholson stating, "My command was forced to involuntarily discharge me because I was outed as gay." Which is basic and truthful and gets across that it's an issue of equality, fairness and dignity. See Marcia's "Voices of Honor" from last night.
Filling in for Elaine while she and Mike were vacationing in Hawaii this month, I noted that I don't see anything happening. I believe Patrick Murphy is very sincere and is willing to work hard. A friend at the White House mentioned, in passing, how this effort would take the heat off Barack and how nothing would be done on it this year. I confirmed with others and that is the White House attitude. It's also the attitude of leadership in Congress. (Here for that post at Elaine's site.) People need to grasp that. They need to grasp that Ellen introduced legislation in the House (again) on March 3rd and that her bill has 161 co-sponsors. But it's never come to the floor for a vote. All this time later. 161 co-sponsors.
What's going on? Leadership doesn't want to vote this year and they really don't want a vote next year (an election year).
Murphy's sincere. I'm not doubting him. But most bills with 161 co-sponors quickly come up for a vote.
There is NO leadership on it in the Senate. The only one who has actively spoken of it in public repeatedly in the last two months is Senator Roland Burris. Supposedly Ted Kennedy's going to lead on it but he's ill, he has a book coming out in a few weeks to promote and he's not even leading on health care despite efforts to portray as doing so. (Ted's very ill and should honestly step down.) Kristen Gillbran is the new senator from New York (she fills Hillary Clinton's senate seat). First termers rarely get anything passed. (Remember when Homer got elected to Congress on The Simpsons? Not far from the truth about the difficulties in passing legislation.) Ruth's "Senator Gillibrand's office needs to learn it is okay to say 'gay'" last night noted that Gillibrand's quote issued by her office avoided the words "gay" and "lesbian." And Ruth also pointed out that there's no legislation Gillibrand's proposing. She's proposing a talking hearing . . . so people can get to know the issues. Get to know the issues? Are they headless? Where has the US Senate been? It's more efforts to stall and take the heat off Barack and give the appearance that something's going to be done.
Kind of like the Iraq War. We voted Democrats into power of both houses of Congress in 2006 because they were going to end the war. Immediately after, it was whine-whine, we need the White House. They got the White House. The Iraq War is not over.
Not only is it not over the 'plan' to end the illegal war that has idiots drooling is George W. Bush's plan that he rammed through in November 2008. (And that 'plan' is not the end of the illegal war. But fools who think Barack's 'done something' have a hard enough time grasping reality.)
Like Kat, we'll note Lina Thorne's "Abortion on Demand & Without Apology" (World Can't Wait):
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