Tuesday, May 18, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, persecution continues, silence continues, Francis A. Boyle calls out Elana Kagan's 'record' (or lack of), and more.
Because he just didn't get it. Gordon Brown is the former prime minister of England. He's former because he never got it. Poodle Tony Blair's crimes became Gordon's because Gordon had nothing to offer. Take the Iraq Inquiry where he had one last chance to draw a line between himself and Tony Blair (Blair was prime minister prior to Brown). Instead, he attempted to echo Blair's testimony and, as Labour's own polling indicated, that was it for Brown. He never recovered from that moment (and his poll numbers had already been dangerously low). He was forever dishonest, forever lying. Gordon Brown killed Labour.
Right before the elections, Brown answered questions for Pink News that readers sent in on LGBT issues. Simon Reader asked about the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community:
Life in Iraq is now much worse for gay people than it was under Saddam Hussein. As architects of the political situation in Iraq do you consider your government morally obliged to extend asylum more actively and with less bureaucracy to gay Iraqis who are in danger as a direct consequence of UK intervention in their country?
Most people can read that question and reply in an honest manner. Not so for the anchor around the neck of the Labour Party. Gordon Brown wanted to lie, he always wanted to lie:
I unreservedly condemn abuses of gay rights, wherever in the world they happen, including in Iraq. But I'm sorry I can't agree that this is a result of military intervention. Saddam's was a brutal regime which mistreated a wide range of minorities inside Iraq including LGBT people. Whatever people's views about the military intervention -- and I have made clear that I think the international community had no choice given Saddam's repeated flouting of international resolutions as well as his abuses of his own people -- I hope they will acknowledge that in almost all respects Iraq is a better place, and the Middle East a better and safer place, with him no longer in power. Iraq is now an emerging democracy -- definitely still with many flaws, but a strengthening democracy with the recent elections. We must continue to press the Iraqi government to improve their record on tolerance and human rights as we do with other countries in the region and the world. I believe that human rights are universal, and that it is the job of mature democracies like Britain to support the development of free societies everywhere. I think Iraq now has a better chance of becoming a free society that genuinely respects human rights than it did under Saddam. As to your question on whether there is something we could do for gay asylum seekers from Iraq as a group, it is a fundamental principle of our asylum system that each cases is assessed fairly, separately, and on its merits.
No, life was not worse for Iraq's LGBT community before the 2003 invasion. Life was far from perfect for them -- for all women, for Christians, for Jews, for academics, for doctors, for aetheists -- but it was better (for all categories) than it is today. That's because Iraq was a secular nation. And the US and the UK governments invaded and wanted to establish 'order' quickly so they selected brutal people to work with -- fundamentalists and/or exiles with a grudge they wanted to avenge. Iraq is not a secular state today. And all women, gay men, men who may appear to others as gay (for various reasons including, yes, wishful thinking on the acuser's part), Jews, Christians, academics have it much, much harder than they did prior to the 2003 invasion. Gordon Brown lied and, in doing so, in defending that illegal war, he merged completely with Tony Blair at a time when the only thing that could have saved him was proving he was not Blair II. With regards to Iraq's LGBT community, Ashley Byrne (BBC News) was reporting in July of last year on the various members of the LGBT community who were able to give testimony that life under Saddam Hussein was better than what has followed:
All the LGBT Iraqis interviewed for Gay Life After Saddam maintained that life was easier for them when Saddam Hussein was in power, from 1979 to 2003.
Some spoke fondly of an underground gay culture that flourished before the war in Baghdad.
But it was unclear exactly what Saddam's view on homosexuality was, and there has been some evidence to suggest that the former dictator was acting to clamp down on sexual minorities in the latter years of his reign.
A month later, August 2009, Human Rights Watch released their report [PDF format warning] "They Want Us Exterminated: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq." The report features the narratives of many Iraqis. Hamid shares this story:
It was late one night in early April, and they came to take my partner at his parent's home. Four armed men barged into the house, masked and wearing black. They asked fo rhim by name; they insulted him and took him in front of his parents. All that, I heard about later from his family.
He was found in the neighborhood the day after. They had thrown his corpse in the garbage. His genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat was ripped out.
Since then, I've been unable to speak properly. I feel as if my life is pointless now. I don't have friends other than those you see; for years it has just been my boyfriend and myself in that little bubble, by ourselves. I have no family now -- I cannot go back to them. I have a death warrant on me. I feel the best thing to do is just to kill myself. In Iraq, murderers and thieves are respected more than gay people.
Their measuring rod to judge people is who they have sex with. It is not by their conscience, it is not by their conduct or their values, it is who they have sex with. The cheapest thing in Iraq is a human being, a human life. It is cheaper than an animal, than a pair of used-up batteries you buy on the street. Especially people like us.
Tariq is another Iraqi detailing the new realities in 'democratic' Iraq:
At the end of March, I started to hear from friends that the Mahdi Army was killing gays. The newspapers also reported there was an increase in the "third sex" in Iraq, also known as "puppies" [jarawi]. Then on April 4, I found out that two of my gay friends, Mohammed and Mazen, had been killed. I think those were their names; within a gay group, gays rarely give out their real names. We were friends, we met in cafes or chatted on the Internet, and one day they just disappeared.
A few days later, I met the brother of one of them and he told me they were killed. They were kidnapped on the street and then their bodies were found near a mosque, with signs of torture. One was 18, one was 19.
A couple of days after that, on April 6 or 7, I was in my parents' house, and someone threw a letter at the door. I didn't see who. Inside the envelope was a bullet. It had brown blood on it, and the letter said, "What are you still here for? Are you ready to die?"
I think those two were tortured into giving my name, because two days after I learned they were killed I got this threat. . . . I spoke by phone to a friend of mine yesterday night: he is also gay but he's very masculine and no one knows about him. He said, "Get out if you can and save yourself. They are killing gays left and right."
I said, "Who is doing it?" He said, "Everyone knows. Who do you think? The Mahdi Army."
Last month Amnesty International released [PDF format warning] "Civilians Under Fire" which noted:
Gay men face similar discrimination as women under the legislation that provides for lenient senteces for those committing crimes with an "honourable motive". Iraqi courts continue to interpret provisions of Article 128 of the Penal Code as justification for giving drastically reduced sentences to defendants who have attacked or even killed gay men they are related to if they say that they acted to "wash off the shame". In its rulings, the Iraqi Court of Cassation has confirmed that the killing of a male relative who is suspected of same-sex sexual conduct is considered a crime with an "honourable motive", thus qualifying for a reduced sentence under Article 128.
Although provisions under Articles 128 have been amended in the Kurdistan Region by Law 14 of 2002 and, therefore, may no longer be applied in connection with crimes committed against women there, they continue to be applicable throughout the whole of Iraq in connection with crimes against gay men.
For example, on 24 October 2005 the Court of Cassation of the Kurdistan Region confirmed the conviction for murder and one-year prison sentence imposed on a man from Koysinjak who had confessed to killing his gay brother earlier in 2005. The court found that he had killed his brother with "honourable motives" because he "wanted to end the shame which the victim [of the crime] had brought over his family by practicing depravity and by being engaged in homosexuality and prostitution." The court also accepted that a one-year prison sentence was in this case appropriate for premeditated murder, a crime which carries the death penalty.
Impunity or, at most, a disproportionately lenient prison sentence for the murder of gay men by their relatives, appears to be the rule rather than the exception in Iraq.
In fairness to Gordon Brown, he's not the only one refusing to deal with reality. The Nation magazine -- the bible of the faux left -- showed no interest in the issue. Richard Kim works a special kind of gay beat -- he runs around screaming whenever a well off public figure is called gay -- especially if they are they gay. He ignores the people who actually need help and, of course, refuses to call out the politicians who put homophobes onstage . . . if there names are Barack Obama.
Not staying silent is Ali Hili -- an Iraqi attempting to help other LGBT Iraqis and fighting for his own right of asylum in England. He shares his story with the New Internationalist:
I used to work as a DJ at the 1001 nightclub in Baghdad at the al-Rashid hotel. I started working there when I won a DJ contest in 1987. It was a great scene -- lots of dance parties -- and a hang-out for the gay community.
When I was 18, I had a partner who was a foreign diplomat. Iraqi intelligence forced me to become a spy and report back to them, threatening that they would kill my family if I didn't.
This went on for almost 10 years. I wanted to leave. I tried to escape once via Kurdistan but was arrested and handed over to Iraqi police. I used my connections to escape a jail sentence. The police asked me, why do you want to leave? I said life was hard under sanctions and I couldn't make a living. So they sent me to Dubai to work for them. There I met my current partner -- a Texan. I explained the situation to him and he understood. I started to get harassed by the mukhabarat [secret police] -- they wanted information from me. We tried to escape to Dubai via the US embassy and were able to get to Europe. Eventually after many difficulties -- constant threats from Iraqi secret police, several failed attempts and many traumatic incidents (including being nearly deported back to Iraq) -- I made it to England in 2002. My partner had a job there. For the last seven years I've been fighting for the right to stay and seeking political asylum. I've been refused a couple of times already. I was granted permission to stay until 2008 but that's expired. I've received a death fatwa against me from the Ayatollah Sistani in response to my activist work for gays in Iraq. The group that kidnapped British hostages, Assab Alsar Al-Haq (The League of the Righteous), has also threatened me. Now I'm under police protection, moving from house to house. But even the police said to me: 'You have created this situation. You scream and shout against fundamentalists and they will threaten you. What do you expect?'
The irony is that the situation for gays has been caused by the Anglo-American invasion. The fatwas were issued by people empowered by the invasion. Now Britain should take responsibility for protecting their victims. Some people in Iraq are targeted because they are doctors, or Sunnis or Shi'as or women or Christians. But no-one is talking about the killing of gays by the fundamentalist militias. One of my best friends -- a transsexual -- was murdered by a militia from the Ministry of the Interior. They beat her and then set her on fire.
That's an excerpt. Iraq's LGBT community is among the many who have been targeted. The Jewish community and Christian community have been targeted as well. On the topic of Iraqi Christians, the Cristina Odone (Telegraph of London) addresses the silence that is the response to so many assaults on Iraqi Christians:
A bus carrying 80 Christian students to their university in northern Iraq was bombed on 2 May. According to the Washington Post, the most startling thing about the report was that young Christians could attend university at all. Since 2003, Iraq's Christian community has been subjected to assassinations, kidnappings, extortions and rapes. Over half of the estimated 1.5 million Christians in Iraq (less than 4 per cent of the population) have fled to Syria, Jordan and elsewhere. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has branded Iraq's religious persecution "of particular concern", and called on the Obama administration to intervene before the ancient religious communities (some still praying in Aramaic) are exterminated.
Assyrian International News Agency adds, "In Sweden there are thousands of Assyrian Iraqis hidden from the authorities because they have been rejected as refugees and are forbidden to remain in Sweden. They are hunted down by the Swedish police. If they are arrested, they are put in prison or in custody until the authorities have enough refugees to fill a plane with which to fly them to Baghdad. They are dumped by the Swedish police back to that very city where they can be slaughtered for their religion or ethnicity."
Last year the Iraq Inquiry began conducting hearings in London. The hearings continued this year and have included testimony from former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (Brown was then-Prime Minister when he offered testimony). The hope/plan on the part of the Brown government was that such testimony, if taken, would be taken in private. Instead, public demand and John Chilcot (who chairs the committee) ensured that testimony from Brown and Blair took place in public. While the UK gets an Inquiry, the US gets nothing but no one is ever supposed to notice that. The Committee released the following statement today:
Members of the Iraq Inquiry committee have arrived in the United States to speak to officials and military officers from the current and former administrations. The committee is in the US for five days visiting Washington DC and Boston. They will have private discussions with a number of people who have insights into the UK's involvement in Iraq over the period being examined by the Inquiry.
As the talks are being held on a private basis, the identities of the people the Inquiry committee are seeing and the location of meetings will not be revealed in advance. Subject to the agreement of participants, the Inquiry may provide more details about the trip after it has been completed. Similarly, if the committee wishes to use any of the information it receives from individuals in America in its report, it will seek their permission first.
The trip to the United States follows a one-day visit to Paris on Tuesday 4 May, where the Iraq Inquiry committee met a number of French citizens who provided perspectives on international issues in the lead-up to and during the conflict in Iraq. They included Dominique de Villepin (French Minister of Foreign Affairs 2002-2004), Jean David Levitte (French Permanent Representative to the UN 2000- 2002 and then Ambassador to the US from 2002 to 2007), Gerard Errera (French Ambassador to London 2002- 2007), General Henri Bentegeat (Chief of the Military Staff to the President 1999- 2002 and then Chief of the Defence Staff 2002-2006) and Jean-Luc Florent (French UN legal advisor). The committee also saw Maurice Gourdault-Montagne (Senior Diplomatic Counsellor to the President 2002-2007, and currently the French Ambassador to the UK) in London.
Since finishing the first round of public hearings in March, the Iraq Inquiry has been analysing the witness testimonies obtained during the hearings, as well as continuing to examine many thousands of highly classified government documents. The next round of public hearings is due to start in the summer. Hearing dates and details of witnesses will be released soon.
March 7th, Iraq held elections (early voting started a few days before that). Ayad Allawi's political slate Iraqiya won the most seats in Parliament (91), followed by Nouri al-Maliki's State Of Law (89). Nouri then worked overtime to discredit Allawi's win while he went to work circumventing the Constitution by forming his own coalition. This morning the New York Times editorial board notes:
Even though his Sunni-backed Iraqiya coalition won the most votes, Mr. Allawi is considered a long shot to become the next prime minister. That's because Mr. Maliki's coalition has aligned with the other major Shiite coalition, which is friendly to Iran. Four seats short of a majority, it is the biggest bloc in the new Parliament. (Mr. Maliki seemed to lose enthusiasm for election challenges after he forged this alliance.)
Iraq's leaders should look beyond their sectarian and ethnic bases and show the skill and vision to govern all of their people. Iraqis unhelpfully voted mainly along sectarian and ethnic lines. But they also gave Mr. Allawi significant representation that needs to be reflected in the government. Sunnis need a reason to stay in the political process and not turn to violence as many did after the last parliamentary election in 2005.
Gordon Robison (Gulf News) adds, "Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, having narrowly finished second in the election, has tried to hold on to power by rewriting the rules after the fact. A tortuously slow recount of many of the votes in Baghdad has left government-formation in limbo. Iraqi politicians have been busy travelling around the region seeking support from their various foreign patrons."
In Iraq, violence continues. Reuters notes yesterday's violence included a woman shot dead in Mosul, another Mosul shooting in which one person was wounded and a Mosul roadside bombing in which two women were injured. Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq Ministry of Oil said that it signed a contract with state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) and its partner, the state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation, known as TPAO in order to develop three oil fields in Missan Province. The deal comes in the framework of the efforts exerted in order to lift Iraq oil production." Wan Zhihong (China Daily) adds, "The two companies have bagged a 20-year technical services contract to increase the output of the Missan oilfields, located 350 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, to 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) over the next six years, Cnooc said in a statement. Earlier media reports said the current production of the fields is 100,000 barrels per day." Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) remind, "The agreement was part of the first of two licensing rounds in 2009 which brought international oil producers into Iraq for the first time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein."
Turning to the US, Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. Steve Miller (WBBM) reports Troy is in the Chicago area for the next few days:
So far he's walked 550 miles. Many of them painful.
"I go through a pain every single day. Today was left calf day. Yesterday was lower back day."
Yocum has raised more $40,000 for military families in need. He wants to raise $5 million.
"So we still have a long distance to go there. But I'm happy that we've been able to help some people already."
Yocum says by raising money for military families in need, he hopes to stop what he sees as a trend of more suicides among veterans.
Soldiers' Angels issued the following:
Iraq veteran Troy Yocum has reached Illinois in the first month of his 7,000 mile "drum hike" across America for military families. The 16-month journey, which began in Kentucky, crosses 25 states and 25 major cities to "drum up" donations, support and awareness for families needing financial assistance. Funds raised will be distributed through military support nonprofit Soldiers' Angels, which has a number of project supporting veterans and their families.
Yocum's motivation and motto is "Never Walk Alone," something that Yocum believes too many families of veterans have had to do. "In the last couple years, thousands of military families have been applying for financial assistance," he says. "And there's just not enough money being donated to help them." Drum Hike aims to change that.
The Illinois leg of Yocum's Hike began yesterday in Chicago, where he marched with the firemen's union and Axe-men. From May 18 through June 6 his route will roughly follow Interstate 55, stopping in towns along the way to St. Louis, such as Clinton and Heyworth. Young Marines will join Yocum in Peoria, and Boy Scouts will hike the last leg into St. Louis. He will also return to Chicago on the 28th and 29th for the Memorial Day parade and to celebrate the opening Friends of Fisher House Illinois at Hines Hospital.
Throughout his Drum Hike, Yocum will carry a custom Louisville Slugger baseball bat for mayors and governors to sign, assisting the Soldiers' Angels' bid to declare Oct. 26 "Day of the Deployed," a national day of honor. Yocum will present the bat to the White House on May 11, 2011.
Yocum is live-streaming his journey, presenting a video blog and interviewing U.S. veterans on DrumHike.com while tracking his progress on Google Earth. Patriotic Americans are encouraged to greet Troy along his route or develop troop support events in conjunction with his arrival by visiting DrumHike.com or emailing Troy@FollowTroy.com.
Established in 2003, Soldiers' Angels is a volunteer-based 501(c)(3) providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, as well as veterans and military families through a wide variety of hands-on projects and volunteerism. For more information, visit www.soldiersangels.org or call 615-676-0239. Tax ID# 20-0583415
Troy's schedule can be found here along with this note:
Anyone can join in the "Hike for our Heroes" and walk alongside Troy. We need people to contact EMS, Fire, Police, Boy Scouts, Young Marines, VFWs, American Legions, marching bands and anyone who wants to join for a few miles. If you are a wounded soldier we will see to it that you can take part. Please contact us at Troy@followtroy.com
US President Barack Obama has nominated Elana Kagan for the Supreme Court. Human rights and international law professor Francis A. Boyle was a guest on Law & Disorder yesterday and spoke with Michael Ratner and Michael Smith (Heidi Boghosian wasn't a part of the segment) about the nomination. Here's a sample:
Francis A. Boyle: She has fully defended all of the Bush administration's hideous atrocities on civil rights, civil liberties, human rights and international law --
Michael Ratner: We're talking about Elana Kagan now.
Francis A. Boyle: Kagan. Right. Elana Kagan. There has been no retreat. No abandonment of any of the Bush positions. Even the Ninth Circuit, as you know, was amazed. She's fully carrying out the Bush policies in United States federal courts. And, you'll note, she's supposed to be replacing Justice [John Paul] Stevens. No great liberal there, but at least Stevens, on the cases that counted -- Rasul, Boumediene and Hamdan -- came through for the American republic and our Constitution.
Michael Ratner: Francis, talk about why those three cases counted, what they stood for.
Francis A. Boyle: Well, gosh. First, the writ of habeas corpus which really separates our country from a police state and a dictatorship was at stake in two of them. And the last one, Boumediene, as you know was a five-to-four decision. Fortunately, Stevens was able to win over Justice [Anthony] Kennedy to grant cert and then to rule in favor of habeas corpus. Kagan would have been on the other side. Boumediene, that was a near death experience for our Constitution. If they had ruled the other way, I shudder to think where we'd all be today without the writ of habeas corpus. On the Hamdan decision, striking down the kangaroo courts on Guantanamo, for violating the Geneva Conventions and Uniform Code of Military Justice, and there even Justice Kennedy pointed out in his separate opinion that violating the Geneva Conventions also violated the US War Crimes Act of 1996 and thus was a War Crime. Again, we would have lost all those cases under Kagan given the position that she has taken. She did write this one tendentious tome in the Harvard Law Review. I haven't gone through it all but I did read the abstract and it's basically the equivalent of the Federalist Society unitary executive power theory of the presidency that really goes back to Thomas Hobbes and The Leviathan and a blue print for a totalitarian state. So in my perspective, she'd be a total disaster on the cases that really count for the future of our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, human rights, international law.
Michael Smith: Francis Boyle, what do you say to those liberals who argue that she's the best we're going to get?
Francis A. Boyle: I don't believe so at all. She's -- she's not liberal at all. I mean, basically she's a neoconservative. She has literally no qualifications to speak of except that she was Dean of Harvard Law School. And the only reason she was made Dean of Harvard Law School was that the neoconservative president of Harvard, Larry Summers, made her the dean to carry out his neoconservative agenda at Harvard Law School. She promptly announced that of the $400 million capital campaign, she was going to allocate $20 million to promoting Summers' globalization at Harvard Law School. Immediately proceeded to hire large numbers of conservative and neoconservative White faculty toward that end. Only hired one professor of color.
Michael Ratner: Those figures are astounding. First, in terms of race, what she did was basically make the place more White than it already was. And then, you've pointed out and others have, she hired Jack Goldsmith who was one of the authors of a number of the torture memos.
Francis A. Boyle: And not just the torture memos, as I'm sure Michael can tell you, Goldsmith helped set up the kangaroo court system down in Guantanamo, he authored torture memos. And, in addition, he authored another memo that authorized -- in his capacity as [Office of] Legal Counsel -- the kidnapping of people from Iraq and then they're transported to another country where they would be tortured in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture which are War Crimes. Now I made sure that Kagan and the rest of the Harvard faculty knew that Goldsmith was up to his nose in torture, War Crimes, forced disappearances and crimes against humanity. And they hired him anyway because that was what Kagan was instructed to do, pretty much, to carry out the neocon agenda of Larry Summers who supported the Bush 'War on Terrorism.'. And so she, Kagan, wanted to hire one of the architects of the Bush 'War on Terrorism' which Michael Ratner and the Center for Constitutional Rights has done such a heroic effort to oppose in the United States federal courts for the last nine years. And we're still fighting against Kagan supporting the Bush War on Terrorism in all its essential accoutrements.
Michael Smith: Francis, let me step back and ask you a more fundamental question and ask you what your views are on this. Justice Stevens has said that perhaps the only exception being Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court has gotten more and more reactionary over the last 40 years with each successive judge being further to the right than the last one that was appointed. Obviously, you think that that would be true of Kagan as well and I agree with you. But my question is this: What process do you see as underlying all of this? Why has there been that right wing drift for four decades? What's going on here in terms of -- what forces are shaping the Supreme Court?
Francis A. Boyle: Right. Well there's a new book out by a professor at Princeton University Press that I think documents the deliberate effort by all the right-wing funders and think tanks to move the United States judiciary and American legal education to the extreme right. And it goes back to, certainly, to the founding of the Federalist Society by Meese and Bork and some of the others. You probably remember the Heritage Foundation report put together as --before the Reagan administration came to power.
Michael Ratner: Called "Mandate For Change." I remember it well, Francis.
Francis A. Boyle: Right. And all of this was funded and orchestrated and bought and paid for by all these right-wing funders. So this has been done deliberately and on purpose starting with the Reagan administration coming into power. Now the main problem with this book by this professor that just published at Princeton on the conservative legal movement is that he bought all the Kool-Aid on the Federalist Society -- that somehow they're a 'balanced,' 'reasonable' organization. We know for a fact the Federalist Society is in favor of overturning Brown v. Board of Education.
I believe (I could be wrong), Boyle is referring to Steven Michael Teles' The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle For Control of the Law.
the new internationalist
the telegraph of london
the new york times
law and disorder
francis a. boyle