Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Hate The War

Alex Spillius (Telegraph of London) reports US Sgt Calvin Gibbs is accused of running a 'kill squad' in Afghanistan targeting Afghanistan civilians and along with investigating that, the US military is opening another probe:

Special agents from the US army's criminal investigations command are now re-examining an incident in 2004, when Sgt Gibbs and other soldiers allegedly fired on an Iraqi family in a car, killing two adults and a child.
The US army is understood to be searching for dozens of digital photos allegedly taken by soldiers showing their colleagues posing with Afghan civilian corpses. If released in public, they could create a worldwide furore similar to that sparked by the images of American guards mistreating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and would undermine the US effort to win over the Afghan public.

In Iraq, people are targeted for being journalists, for working with journalists, for being Christian, for being Jewish, for being Mandean, for being Sunni, for being doctors, for being educators, for any number of reasons. But they're not usually targeted by the US military. As far as we know.

One of the most violently targeted groups in Iraq is the LGBT community and those suspected of being gay, lesbian or transgendered, the assaults have been called "a systematic campaign of murder." Last month Iraqi LGBT reported: "You don't even need to be gay or lesbian in Iraq to be in mortal danger from the Iraqi Police force. The latter have been mounting an aggressive campaign against anyone who is merely, by rumour, suspected to be gay or lesbian. The Iraqi Lgbt network of activists inside Iraq have collected new and alarming reports of attacks on the LGBT communities during the month of July. Since June there have been consistent raids on Iraqi LGBT's safe houses as well as harassment, abuse and assaults on gays, mostly by the Iraqi police. This trend seem to be intensifying now in frequency and brutality. It seems that Iraqi gays are systematically targeted and killed by the Iraqi police as well as suffering from increased homophobia, no doubt intensified by the authorities' negative campaign." Michael T. Luongo (Gay City News) is doing what the US State Dept, the Defense Dept and other governmental bodies couldn't or, more likely, wouldn't do. He's gathering first-hand accounts in Iraq. Part one is here, part two is here and here's an excerpt of part three which published today and is on safe houses:

I saw nothing out of the ordinary until I entered the other bedroom, a windowless space with a pungent stale odor. The room had no furniture except for piles of foam mattresses covered with cheap acrylic velvet cloth in red floral patterns — the kind that are common in Arabic countries. Hassan told me that eight to ten men might crowd into this space at any given time. “If there is safety, we don’t care,” he said of the less than pleasant surroundings. One of several safe houses run by Iraqi LGBT, this one had opened in January of 2009, just over seven months before. If the neighbors become “nervous,” Hassan explained, they’d be forced to move.

The men staying at the house were a mixed bunch, representative of the country as a whole. One was Christian, another Shia, two were Sunni, and one a Kurd. Sami, the Christian (anyone identified by first name only in this series has been given a pseudonym, to protect their privacy and safety), spoke the most English and, along with Hassan, did most of the talking. I was fascinated, though, by Laith, a quiet, delicate young man whose photos appeared throughout the house. He had shoulder-length hair, pulled back, and piercing blue eyes from colored contacts. When he took off the white jean jacket he’d been wearing, I could see he was dressed in a tight white tank top and had small breasts, like those of a pubescent girl, poking out from his tiny frame.

Hassan told me Laith was a “ladyboy” undergoing hormone therapy. Despite the scarcities of wartime, Hassan said, hormones are readily available. Opening his shirt and exposing his own breasts, Hassan said he too was taking hormones. Suddenly, I understood his babyface and smooth skin that looks like it never needs a shave. Here within the safe house Hassan revealed to me things he and Laith hid in public out of fear for their lives.

“When we dress,” Hassan told me, “we wear a jacket, or when we go to buy something, we come back quickly because of the checkpoints.” He talked about a friend who had been killed just a few days before in the Karada district, the generally liberal neighborhood that is home to the ShiSha Café, popular among gay men. “They get him from his car, and there is another one who comes to the car and kills him,” he said. He reminded me, as well, of a video he had earlier shown me of Ahmed Sadoun Saleh, a transgender friend killed at a checkpoint, who tried to hide his physique under a jacket, his hair, like Hassan’s, tucked under a baseball cap. In the heat of the summer, such clothing stands out, making the winter an easier time for transgenders to escape detection on the streets.

Laith brought out photo albums, showing me friends who had moved to Lebanon and Syria. One wears makeup and dresses openly on the streets of Damascus. “You can wear makeup and it is okay,” he said. “No one gives them a second look. In Syria, it is normal. Here it is danger.” Two of the men in the safe house mentioned visiting Lebanon and Syria, where they have boyfriends. Syria has recently seen its own crackdown on gays, but to the Iraqi men still at home, these countries seem like open societies, reminding them of Baghdad before the war. Lebanon is in particular, they said, the gay Arab promised land.

What has any branch of the US government done to ensure the safety of Iraq's LGBT community? Nothing. But the US government was more than happy to put fundamentalist thugs in power and allow them to attack and target various groups in Iraq. The US government was more than happy to sit back throughout the ongoing occupation and look the other way as the targeting took place and continues to take place.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last week, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4425. Tonight it's [PDF format warning] 4427.

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