Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Protests, pretense and action

In Washington, D.C., thousands turned out to a demonstration, called by International ANSWER, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan across the street from the White House early in the afternoon.
Well-known antiwar activists such as Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney and members of Iraq Veterans Against the War took the stage to denounce the Obama administration's continuation of George Bush's "war on terror." "We can't make more excuses for the government," said Sheehan. "We can't make any more excuses for the president, no matter what party that president comes from."
The sentiment was widely shared by demonstrators. "Obama is the president. He's the leader of this war effort, and we're going to oppose it," said Bruce Wolf of U.S. Labor Against the War. Wolf has organized a weekly vigil outside Walter Reed Memorial Hospital since 2005.
Jessica Rua, who came from Atlantic City, N.J., agreed, saying that Obama's election had "no effect at all" on the prospect of ending the wars. "Our kids don't deserve this hell," said Rua, whose brother is missing in action in Afghanistan.
The crowd was notable for its diversity. Veterans of antiwar movements since the Vietnam era mixed with a sizeable student contingent. Immigrant rights activists took part, as did Muslim and Arab American organizations.

The above is from Sam Waite and Michael Chase's "Antiwar protesters back in the streets" (US Socialist Worker), just published this morning. I was not at the DC rally (I attended the San Francisco rally) which I note before including this critique of the DC rally by Samuel Davidson (WSWS):

On the official website of the demonstration,, there is little of Obama. His name did not even appear on the website’s home page. Only a few of the more than two dozen updates on the website calling for people to attend the rally and reporting on support mention the Obama administration.
Outside of a few homemade signs, none of the official mass-produced placards mentioned Obama and the role of the Democrats in promoting the war.
As for the speakers, one had the strange feeling that you could have heard the exact same speeches at the rallies held two years ago when George W. Bush was still president. One had to wonder if Obama's name was censored from their remarks. However, it is more likely that the silence on Obama was self-imposed, a reflection of the fact that most of those who addressed the rally had either endorsed Obama in the 2008 elections or had adopted the more general "anybody but Bush" line promoted by the protest groups as a shamefaced form of backing the Democrats.
Brian Becker, the National Coordinator for the ANSWER coalition did not mention Obama at all, and gave no explanation for the growing militarization of American life.

I know Cindy Sheehan had no trouble calling out War Hawk Barack. Whether others did or not, I wasn't there. Brian Becker? I don't doubt that he refused to call out Barack. March 14th, Ava and I noted:

Which is how you get an A.N.S.W.E.R. spokesperson paying homage to Barry O in order to get a little Pacifica time (KPFA's The Saturday Talkies yesterday). We rolled our eyes as we listened. How very shameful but how very necessary to get booked on most Pacifica programs.

Richard Becker was the guest. It was a sad, sad show between him and a woman stating she was raising awareness of the discrimination women faced in the US as part of a speaking tour . . . only to go on and explain how unimportant women's rights were when compared to other issues. I'm not joking and it was embarrassing, the whole broadcast was embarrassing but after Richard Becker's performance on the show, I'm not at all surprised that Brian Becker played dumb in DC. (And the woman was also with A.N.S.W.E.R. and offshoots of A.N.S.W.E.R.)

The Iraq War didn't become legal because Barack presides over it. The only answer was to end the illegal war. He did not do that. It is his illegal war and, certainly, it is far more damning to continue a war that you know is wrong than to be idiot enough (hello, Bush) to start one. With higher intelligence comes more responsibility. Which is why I laugh this morning as Allan Nairn whines to Amy Goodman about Barry O and East Timor. Oh, Allan, you want to tell the truth now? January 2008, you were whoring for the man. It's a little too late. As noted January 1, 2009 here in "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally:"

Goody had another Drooling Over Barack Teeny Booper in January: Allan Nairn. Nairn wanted the whole world to know that, if asked, he would gladly be pinned by Barack but he would even settle for Barack's letterman's jacket. Here's the moment that resulted in Allan becoming a 2008 homecoming nominee:

He actually doesn't need to finance his campaign, to go to the hedge funds, to go to Wall Street. But he does anyway. And he does, I think, because if he doesn't, they wouldn't trust him. They might think that he's on the wrong team, and they might start attacking him. He is someone who, in terms of the money he needs for his campaign, he could afford to come out for single-payer healthcare, for example, but he doesn't. He doesn't need money from the health insurance industry, that's wasting several percentage points of the American GDP in a way that no other industrial rich country in the world does, yet he chooses not to do that, because he doesn't want to be attacked by those corporations.

This was back when everyone (except The New York Times) was lying about Barack and pretending he was being made by small donors. He was a corporatist even then and, hopefully for Allan, the blood of East Timor (Barack buddy Dennis Blair) will wash off the white formal he wore as a duchess to the Barack Ball.

The blood won't wash off, Allan. No, it won't. It's on you now. You own it. Wear it. Take accountability. Your whoring had a consequence and you need to own up to that fact.

And those still covering for Barack who consider themselves part of the left? That's your future. No one cared more about East Timor once upon a time than Allan. But Allan put all of the people at risk to get Barry O into office. Now he lives with that. Haunted by his own actions. Like Helene Alving (Ibsen's Ghosts), Allan learns today that actions have consequences, far reaching consequences. He'll be haunted by his actions forever more. Others can join him in that or can start finding their voices.

All together now . . .

Alla-a-a-n Nairn
I know this world is killing you
Oh, Alla-a-an Nairn . . .

(To the tune of Elvis Costello's "Alison.")

The Iraq War continues and, as it does, minority populations are targeted. That's the women of Iraq, that's the religious minorities, it's Iraq's LGBT community. All this happens while we try to tie a pretty bow around it and pretend all is well. All is not well despite the waves of Operation Happy Talk.

Action alert: Iraqi LGBT need your help

The UK government through its Border Agency has decided not to give priority to the asylum application of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili, in exile in London. The application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, Ali cannot travel.

This decision directly impacts not just on Ali but on harshly persecuted Iraqi lesbians and gays through the reduced ability of their sole visible leader to raise their profile internationally.

Can you help?

As you may be aware, numerous human rights organisations and journalists have documented the pogrom against lesbians and gays in Iraq. Iraqi LGBT estimates that over 700 LGBT have been assassinated over the past few years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has advised 'favourable consideration' for asylum claims because of the situation.

As the public leader of the only group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both inside Iraq and in the diaspora, Hili 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.

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 Congresspeople.

Hili has received many requests to speak about the situation in Iraq internationally, including from US-based groups such as the Gay Liberation Network and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign, which he has been unable to pursue.

His 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 later, the UKBA told O'Leary that:
  • the assistance given by Hilli to the Foreign Office "does not count"
  • the fatwa does not mean that Hilli "falls within the classification of clear and immediate vulnerability"
  • that the delay in deciding Hilli's asylum case (since July 2007) "is not in itself an exceptional circumstance"
  • his case is not "compelling"
Peter Tatchell says of Ali:
"It was Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT who first alerted the world to the organised killing of LGBT people in Iraq - way back in 2005. For a long time, he was a lone voice."

"Mr Hili was also the person who set up the 'underground railroad' and safe houses inside Iraq, to give refuge to LGBT people on the run from Islamist death squads and to provide escape routes to neighbouring countries - which saved the lives of many Iraqi LGBTs.

Ali must travel!

The UK Foreign Office Human Rights Report for 2009 specifically names Iraqi LGBT over other NGOs as a key source of information. Hili has met with them numerous times. The report quotes Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell condemning persecution of LGBT in Iraq.

Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant wrote in his blog on Feb. 24: "I know some people dismiss LGBT rights as something of a sideshow in international relations, but I am proud to say that the FCO has argued for a decade that human rights are a seamless garment."

Yet the same government through the Home Office is effectively aiding that persecution through the failure of government recognition to Iraqi LGBT's leader.
We want the UK government to expedite Ali Hili's asylum claim so he is properly able to tell the world about what is happening to LGBT in Iraq.

How you can help

Write to the UK Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to ask that he intervene in Ali's case that his asylum application be prioritised. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Home Secretary, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF
Telephone: 020 7035 4848
Write to UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
The Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA
Email the Prime Minister’s Office
Write to your MP to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case.

If you are outside the UK, ask politicians, prominent persons and organisations to invite Ali to your country and make Brown and Johnson aware of this request.

Ask those politicians, prominent persons and organisations to issue their own public statement in support of Hili's asylum prioritisation from the UK government.

Write to newspapers, write blog posts in support of Ali, tell people about Ali.

Please copy any letters to the campaign in support of Ali Hili to

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

The following community sites updated since last night:

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends