Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell and other veterans issues

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Kimberly Dozier: I have a personal interest in Sgt Presley's story. I first me her, in a manner of speaking, in 2006. She helped keep me alive when our CBS News team was hit by a car bomb in Baghdad

Sgt Lacye Presley: You kept asking, "When are we getting out of here? When are we getting out of here?"

Kimberly Dozier: She was a medic.

Sgt Lacye Presley: [I told you] "Just hold on, we're getting out."

Kimberly Dozier: Sgt Presley was honored for her work saving lives that day -- mine included.

Sgt Lacye Presley: The Army gave me a Bronze Star for my actions in that incident. And this is what they gave me for being gay.

Kimberly Dozier: This was an honorable discharge, given during her second tour in Iraq, after she reported a superior commander for suspected drug dealing and someone struck back.

Sgt Lacye Presley: I was called in to my First Sergeant's office and he told me that there was allegations that I was participating in homosexual conduct and that there were pictures -- they'd been sent to my battalion commander.

Kimberly Dozier: The pictures were of Presley and Tomson. Sgt Tomson was serving in another unit stateside handling bomb sniffing dogs. A decorated soldier in her own right,

Kimberly Dozier: You're NCO of the year. So you were the Non-Commissioned Officer of the year

[. . .]

Kimberly Dozier: She was also discharged.

Holly Tomson: I was planning on having a career in the military because I like it, I love the army.

The above is from "Casualties of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'," one of Kimberly Dozier's last reports for CBS (she's joined AP) and it aired Sunday on CBS' The Morning Show. Ian Thompson (ACLU Blog of Rights) writes:

Fans of the CBS program Sunday Morning got to hear firsthand this week from two women whose military careers were prematurely ended because of the discriminatory and counterproductive policy known as "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT).
CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier profiled former Army Medic Sgt. Lacye Presley and her partner Sgt. Holly Tomson. In the report, Dozier discloses that Sgt. Presley helped to keep her alive in 2006 after her CBS News team was hit by a car bomb in Iraq. Presley was awarded the Bronze Star for her exemplary actions; however, she would go on shortly thereafter to be discharged because of her sexual orientation. Someone, in an apparent act of retaliation, sent pictures of Presley and Tomson, who was serving stateside handling bomb-sniffing dogs at the time, to Presley’s battalion commander. This started the discharge process for both women.

Meanwhile Iraq War veteran Kenneth Hershal DeShields was shot dead following his apparent robbery of a 7-11 in Philadelphia. A number of current veterans have had and are having run ins with the law. Christy Hoppe (Dallas Morning News) reports that Dallas County is among the cities in Texas creating "specialized courts" for veterans suffering from PTSD "or head injuries." She quotes District Judge Mike Snipes stating, "We're seeing more and more examples of people coming out of there with post-traumatic stress disorder, unique mental difficulties that have to do with combat-related issues." Snipes may have been imprecise with his wording. If he wasn't and if, indeed, they're creating the 'combat-related' definition, they may be creating problems since the VA's own definition of that has failed and since many veterans have had to fight repeatedly for the recognition that their wounds were received in combat. (This is an issue the Congress has attempted to address repeatedly. In the House, one of the leaders on it is US House Rep John Hall.)

On the subject of wounds and PTSD, Dan Blottenberger (Stars and Stripes) reports from Germany on the benefits of scuba diving to a group of soldiers suffering from various injuries. Staff Sgt Stephen Gagne is quoted stating, "A lot of these folks have injuries and they are limited as to what they can do on land. You put them in the water and now they have a freedom they did not have before."

As both wars continue and veterans (wounded and non-wounded) continuing returning to the US, the news media long ago lost interest. I noted in yesterday's snapshot the garbage of NPR's coverage yesterday of the Moscow bombings and that resulted in three whiners (including one via phone -- an NPR friend) insisting Moscow is a story, it is!!!!! Is it a story that, day after, needs a FULL HOUR from Diane Rehm, for example? Help me out on that. Because what I remember is we get s**t from Diane on Iraq these days. What I remember is that she invited know-nothings to gas bag over the Iraqi elections at the start of the month in a Friday news round up and they were ALL WRONG. They didn't know what they were talking and the final count has demonstrated that, yes, but it was obvious even then. When it could be packaged as 'democracy in Iraq!' the show gave a few minutes (about eight) to it. And what since? Well, there was the Friday news roundup where Diane had a panel of informed guests who were just starting to address Iraq when she cut them off with a 'late breaking bulletin!' that Barack! was going to meet with! Israeli leaders! Which they'd already spent 15 minutes that same Friday discussing (actually more than that, if you drop back to the time wasted on that in the first hour). Point of fact, the Iraqi elections got BAD coverage from ALL of NPR and now that there's a count, they still don't get s**t. Diane's not devoted an hour show to the elections. But Moscow has a bombing one day and the next Diane's doing a full hour on it? You want to try to explaining that one? And I can do that with any of the NPR programs. NPR is doing a lousy job. They're far from alone. The Loyola Phoenix offers the editorial "Too quite on the Western front:"

Students lay outside on the cold cement, draped in white sheets, silent. A tribute to fallen soldiers, this group of no more than 15 Loyola students participated in a die-in, a demonstration by the Loyola Anti-War Network, and quietly reminded us that more than 4,704 soldiers have died since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 19, 2003, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count -- yet no one seemed to care. Only a handful of students looked on during the protest.
The die-in was one of the many events that took place around the country to commemorate the seven-year anniversary of the Iraq war, but it was the primary event held at Loyola and its attendance, or lack thereof, mirrors the nation’s disinterest in the war.

Tim King (Salem-News) remains one of the few reporters to continue to track the fallen from both wars and this week he noted 11 more deaths (covering March 5 through March 24). We'll include the Iraq deaths he notes in his article.

Army Specialist Robert M. Rieckhoff, 26, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, died 18 March in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenade fire.
Robert Rieckhoff was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York.

Army Specialist Steven J. Bishop, 29, of Christiansburg, Virginia, died 13 March in Tikrit, Iraq, while supporting combat operations.
Steven Bishop was assigned to the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, 352nd Civil Affairs Command, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Army Private first class Erin L. McLyman, 26, of Federal Way, Washington, died 13 March in Balad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked her base with mortar fire.
Erin McLyman was assigned to the 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lews-McChord, Washington.

Army Sergeant Aaron M. Arthur, 25, of Lake City, South Carolina, died 8 March north of Al Kut, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over.
Aaron Arthur was assigned to the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, attached to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Georgia.

Army Specialist Lakeshia M. Bailey, 23, of Columbus, Georgia, also died 8 March north of Al Kut, Iraq, from injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over.
Lakeshia Bailey was assigned to the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, attached to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.

The following community sites updated last night:

We don't note I'm not in the mood for the 'organization.' We usually have an exception for most of our rules and, in this case, for Iraqi LGBT -- and only for them -- we will note a petition at

Iraqi LGBT

Press statement
For immediate use
31 March launch petition for Iraqi LGBT

Green leader writes to Johnson

Gay Iraqis praise 'our hero'

The major American progressive organisation has launched a petition to British Home Secretary Alan Johnson to grant asylum to Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili.

The petition allows supporter to send a personalised message to Johnson, whose decision is effecting the work of the group in drawing attention to atrocities against gays in Iraq. It was created by the website's leading gay author Michael Jones.

A petition started by Iraqi LGBT has already drawn near 700 signatures in a few days, including many with moving comments from Iraqis who have been helped by Hili.

One was from Khaldoon Abdulrazaq who wrote:

"A message of support from inside iraq, ali you are our hero, our hope and the future you have in your vision for a better iraq will come one day, believe me. Please keep the faith, your fight is our fight, we all dream of a better world, a world with all people respect and love each other..."

Campaign organisers say that 60 letters have already been sent to Gordon Brown demanding he intervene.

On Monday the leader of the UK Green Party Caroline Lucas announced that she had written to Johnson.

Lucas wrote:

"I am writing with reference to the asylum application of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili, currently living in exile in London. This application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, Ali cannot travel. This impacts not only on Ali himself but also limits his ability to raise the profile of how LGBT rights are oppressed on a daily basis in Iraq."

"As I am sure you are aware, the group Iraqi LGBT estimates that over 700 LGBT people have been assassinated over the past few years. Human Rights Watch, working with the BBC for a report aired last year, confirmed that torture and persecution of the LGBT community is widespread and that many LGBT people claim life was safer during Saddam Hussein's regime. US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin spoke last month of their concerns for LGBT both in Iraq and as refugees, in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-signed by 64 other Congress people."

"Ali Hili, as a prominent campaigner for LGBT equality, will not be safe if he is returned to Iraq. He has received a fatwa from inside Iraq, as well as numerous threats in London which have forced him to move. He is under the protection of the Metropolitan Police. Moreover, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has advised 'favourable consideration' for asylum claims because of the situation in Iraq. I would, therefore, urge you to ensure that Ali Hili's asylum claim is granted as a matter of urgency and his right to travel guaranteed."

Documentary film maker David Grey of Village Films has released an appeal for Ali and Iraqi LGBT on YouTube. The video is titled 'Please help save gay lives in Iraq'.

Campaigners for Hili said that they were awaiting confirmation of further invitations to travel - Hili was asked to do a speaking tour of the United States last year but had to decline.

Hili's solicitor, Barry O'Leary, wrote to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in August 2009 that: "he desperately wishes to do this [travel] in order to further the aims of his organisation, that is, supporting lesbians and gay men in Iraq and bringing the world's attention to their plight."

Six months after his review application, the UKBA told O'Leary that:

* the assistance which Hili has given to the Foreign Office "does not count"
* the fatwa against him does not mean that Hili "falls within the classification of clear and immediate vulnerability"
* that the delay in deciding Hili's asylum case (since July 2007) "is not in itself an exceptional circumstance"
* his case is not "compelling"

O'Leary said: "I have made UKBA aware of the detriment the nearly three year delay is having on the work of Iraqi LGBT. I have also stressed that this will be a straightforward matter given Mr Hili’s very high profile and the documented risks to his life. Nevertheless they decided to leave him in the queue for a decision. This can only harm LGBT individuals in Iraq."


For further information and requests for interviews and photographs contact: or call (UK) 07986 008420

For comment on the legal issues contact:

Barry O'Leary
Wesley Gryk Solicitors

Iraqi LGBT website

Visit our website, LGBT asylum news (formally Save Medhi Kazemi)

Repeating, only for them. If the LGBT community in the US wanted it noted, we wouldn't do it. They have other outlets (and most who are active are already aware that Barack's not doing a damn thing). Iraq's LGBT community is targeted with kidnappings and murders. For them and only for them, we'll note

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends