Monday, April 12, 2010

When CATO attacks and more

Anger at the many failures of the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq should not lead us to conflate these with democracy promotion itself. The United States went to war in these countries because it believed, rightly or wrongly, that their rulers posed a serious national security threat. The short-term solution was to topple the Taliban and Saddam. Neither war was fought to turn Iraq and Afghanistan into Western-style democracies.

Timothy Lynch and Nicolas Bouchet assembled the garbage above for the Guardian which apparently now allows inner-squabbles and attacks on their op-ed pages since the two are allowed to label Simon Jenkins column an "attack." Jenkins' column was no such thing. The war on Iraq was not only promoted by the US administration as an exercise in "democracy" and "liberation," there were some in the administration who saw it as such. They spoke openly, for publication, of that and seeing it as a "grand chess board" and a "game changer" and how "democracy" would take root and spread across the region.

That was never going to happen. But the fact that they were deluded does not change the fact that it was marketed as a "democracy" building war and some in the administration actually believed it would be. Lynch and Bouchet are not allowed to rewrite history just because drooling over the prospect of more wars might actually provide them with erections.

Turning to the topic of the continued persecution of Iraq's LGBT community, we'll note this from Paul Canning's "David Cameron answers our question on LGBT asylum :"

In his interview with Cameron, Haari posed the same question he asked Prime Minister Gordon Brown about the Home Office policy of saying that LGBT can return (to countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia) and 'be discrete'.

Haari professed surprise at Cameron's response to his LGBT asylum question ("he is at his best and at his clearest – to my surprise") and quotes him as "unequivocally" saying in response to 'whether it is wrong that gay refugees are told to go back home and hide their sexuality from police forces who would imprison, torture or kill them for it': "I think it is. If you have a legitimate fear of persecution, that it seems to me that is a perfectly legitimate reason to stay."

This was in contrast to the bureaucratic fudge of PM Brown in his reply to the same question. LibDem leader Nick Clegg restated his party's longstanding criticism of the UK's asylum system to Haari. He describes it as “a moral stain on our collective consciousnesses" and "the most inhumane, irrational, cruel system imaginable”.

In his answers to questions posed by readers of Cameron said the following to Canning's question (our highlight):
Q. If there is unfairness in the asylum system against LGBT people (as you suggested in your Attitude interview) what do you plan to do about that?

A: As I said in the interview, this does have to be looked at on a case by case basis, but if you are fleeing persecution and that fear is well-founded, then you should be able to stay. As things stand, the 1951 Refugee Convention doesn't mention sexuality but because it mentions membership of a social group, that phrase is being use by the courts, rightly in my view, to say that if someone has a realistic fear of persecution they should be allowed to stay. It's also important that the guidance the Home Office produces for asylum adjudicators to use in judging claims provides up-to-date and accurate information on homophobic persecution in every country.
Although Cameron does not actually answer the question - he doesn't say what he will do about 'unfairness in the asylum system' - the new comment on the information used by UK Border Agency staff known as country-of-origin information (COI) is interesting as it does suggest that someone in his office has done their homework.

The United States' record on Iraqi refugees since the start of the illegal war is shameful. It is probably the worst record of any nation. But vying for that title is England (and others, including Iceland, but we'll set them aside for the moment) which has not just been inhospitable, it has attempted -- over UN objection and international condemnation -- to forcibly deport Iraqis back to Iraq. From Kelvin Lynch's "US, UK, France ignore plight of LGBT Iraqis" (Examiner):

IraqiLGBT is an organization that operates as a modern-day Underground Railroad to provide safe houses for LGBT Iraqis who would otherwise face certain death in the country. So why do the United States, the United Kingdom, and France continue to ignore its pleas for help?

More than 700 gay Iraqi men have been brutally murdered by roaming death squads since the U.S.-lead occupation of the country began in 2003. The violence has escalated in recent years, and there have even been reports from inside Iraq that American soldiers are turning a blind eye towards the situation, and have even been involved in some of the killings. Iraqi gays have even said they enjoyed more freedom under Saddam Hussein's rule.

The latest crisis facing Iraqi LGBT is securing asylum in France for 21-year-old Anwar Saleh, who was arrested by Iraqi police in 2009 for coordinating a safe house in Baghdad. He was badly beaten up, tortured and suffered post-traumatic stress after his detention and the abuse he was subjected to. He was put under investigation and interrogated about his role as an LGBT activist and his involvement in the running of the safe house.

In other Iraq news, today Human Rights Watch released the following on press freedoms (or the lack of them ) in Iraq:

The Iraqi government should suspend media regulations that impose tight restrictions on the country's broadcast media and revise them to comply with international standards, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today to the official Communication and Media Commission (CMC).

The Commission began enforcing the regulations ahead of the March 7, 2010, parliamentary elections ostensibly to silence broadcasters who encourage sectarian violence, but the regulations are vague and susceptible to abuse. The regulations should be revised to define in detail all restrictions on and give meaningful guidance to broadcasters by clearly delineating their responsibilities, Human Rights Watch said. While the government can prohibit and punish speech that constitutes direct incitement of violence, the broad and vague wording of the regulations, such as prohibiting "incitement of sectarianism," falls short of international norms governing freedom of expression.

"These broadcast regulations are a real setback for media freedom in Iraq," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "These restrictions open the door to politically motivated discrimination in the regulation and licensing of broadcasters." Over the months leading to the parliamentary elections, the government restricted freedom of expression in a number of ways. It clamped down on scrutiny of public officials, denied media accreditation to journalists, and sued media outlets that criticized government officials. In addition, police and security forces have harassed, arrested, and assaulted numerous journalists.

The regulations appear to give the CMC unfettered power to halt broadcast transmissions, close offices, seize equipment, revoke licenses, and levy fines on broadcasters. The rules empower the agency to cancel licenses even after the first minor violation of the licensing terms.

In its letter, Human Rights Watch asked the agency to ensure that punishments are proportionate to the offense, increasing only in step with the severity and repetition of offenses. The rules should also give license applicants a clear and expeditious path to appeal denied applications.

Human Rights Watch also urged the agency to stop requiring broadcasters to provide it with a list of employees, as this poses an unacceptable security threat to media workers. Iraqi journalists already operate in an extraordinarily unsafe environment. Since 2003, at least 141 journalists have died in Iraq, some in politically motivated murders. Muaid al-Lami, head of the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate, has been the subject of two assassination attempts, including one last month. Journalists in Iraq who wish to stay anonymous should be able to do so, Human Rights Watch said.

"Not only do the regulations give this agency enormous power to shut down broadcasters for minor and first-time transgressions, but they place the lives of Iraqi journalists at greater risk," Stork said. "The Media Commission should suspend the regulations until it fixes them."

Violence continues today in Iraq. Reuters notes an Abu Ghraib car bombing which claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left fifteen people injured, a Mosul car bombing which claimed 2 lives and left twenty-one people injured and, dropping back to Sunday, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured one person. In post-election news, Al Bawaba reports that Nouri al-Maliki is insisting that others should cease interference in Iraq -- apparently, Nouri's a wee bit cranky as a result of his repeated attempts to interfere with the political process after his political slate came in second in the March 7th elections.

Lily Tomlin appears on WBAI's Out-FM this morning (begins airing at 11:00 a.m. EST, archives for 90 days at WBAI's archives) -- Ruth generally covers Out-FM at her site each Monday night. Lily has many outlets online but we'll note wowOwow -- which I should not more often but just don't have the time. Lewis notes that Marcia posted "The unthinking sexism of TGW" last night and Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "No Lasting Consequences?" went up last night.

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