Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, December 22, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, a left writer and left outlet take rape seriously, Barack Obama signs into law legislation that removes Don't Ask, Don't Tell from the books, Iraqi Christians continue to face threats, and more.
At ZNet, Dahr Jamail reports on military rape and we'll note this section:

A Command Sergeant Major told Catherine Jayne West of the Mississippi National Guard, "There aren't but two places for women -- in the kitchen or in the bedroom. Women have no place in the military."   

She was raped by fellow soldier Private First Class Kevin Lemeiux, at the sprawling Camp Anaconda, north of Baghdad. The defense lawyer in court merely wanted to know why, as a member of the army, she had not fought back.

The morning after the rape, an army doctor gave her a thorough examination. The army's criminal investigation team concluded her story was true. Moreover, Lemeiux had bragged about the incident to his buddies and they had turned him in. It seemed like a closed case, but in court the defense claimed that the fact that West had not fought back during the rape was what incriminated her. In addition, her commanding officer and 1st Sergeant declared, in court, that she was a "promiscuous female."

In contrast, Lemeiux, after the third court hearing of the trial, was promoted to a Specialist. Meanwhile his lawyer entered a plea of insanity.

He was later found guilty of kidnapping but not rape, despite his own admission of the crime. He was given three years for kidnapping, half of which was knocked off. 

Dahr's exploring the realities of rape. It's a shame others haven't shown the same interest in the topic.  Instead, they've spent the bulk of the month shaming, trashing and attacking two women who may have been raped by Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.  One of the people engaging in harmful attacks -- harmful to all women -- has been Keith Olbermann and he wonders what happens if Julian Assange isn't guilty?  Kate Harding breaks it down for him:

A: That wouldn't change anything the majority of us are saying.

  • If he's not guilty, it's still a fact that he was accused of rape.
  • If he's not guilty, it's still a fact that unprotected consensual sex is perfectly legal in Sweden.
  • If he's not guilty, it's still a fact that the allegations are about far more than a broken condom.
  • If he's not guilty, it's still a fact that you didn't correct Michael Moore when he distorted all of the above facts during an interview with you.
  • If he's not guilty, it's still a fact that you personally spread ridiculous misinformation as well.
  • If he's not guilty, it's still a fact that you boosted the signal on a patently ludicrous, nakedly sexist article by an unreliable writer. [UPDATE: Olbermann just said on Twitter that he "repudiated the linked article weeks back when the author was alleged to have been a holocaust denier." I have no idea where he did that, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.] [UPDATE 2: On Dec. 7, he tweeted "If the author of that article is a holocaust denier, I repudiate him and what he wrote, and apologize for retweeting the link" in an @ reply to user @mcmoynihan -- meaning it would only show up in feeds of people who follow both Olbermann and Moynihan, and on Olbermann's main page -- not in his 150K+ followers' feeds. So yes, he apologized for that before #mooreandme started, but not quite publicly.)
  • If he's not guilty, it's still a fact that trivializing real rape allegations contributes to a culture in which victims are hesitant to report being raped for fear that they won't be believed.
Elaine noted that last night and explained of the attacks on the two women and those who object to the attacks on the women, "I'm tired of this nonsense where women are supposed to shut up because there's a 'bigger' issue."  Rebecca highlighted  Harriet J (Fugitivus) who is calling for Gloria Steinem and other name-feminists to publicly denounce Naomi Wolf's insulting statements regarding rape:
I ask that you denounce Naomi Wolf's comments on Assange's rape charges.
I ask that you denounce that "no means no" is all there is to rape.
I ask that you acknowledge that "yes means yes" is now a part of the feminist lexicon, wherever it might go, however it might evolve from here.
I ask that you acknowledge that "enthusiastic consent" is a theory highly worth pursuing.
I ask you to do this because you have names that people recognize as part of feminism. So does Naomi Wolf. And now we are all experiencing, en masse, the old phenomenon: "I know somebody who is a feminist, and they think this is fine." A big-name feminist has said, publicly, that initiating sex with a partner who is asleep is not rape. That ripping a woman's clothes off is not a force, is not a threat, is not violence, has no bearing upon the context of safety. That political targets are incapable of raping, because there can be no reason for them to be accused that is not politically motivated. This has given permission to all those who believe the same to tell us that we are wrong. The new guard, we know each other's names, but the general public doesn't know us very well yet. We do not have the weight of years of revolution behind us. When Naomi Wolf says that sleeping women can be raped legally, this becomes public knowledge. When we say, "yes means yes," the general public does not hear, and the general public does not care. They can now point to Naomi Wolf and say, "You are wrong. You are not feminism. She is. And she says I can do this to you, and you can't do anything about it."
You have names. You have voices. Please give us somebody else to point to when we are told that we can be raped in the ways Naomi Wolf has decreed are acceptable. Please let us know that we are not on our own, that we have not already broken away, and did not hear the crack until Naomi Wolf "agreed to disagree" about our bodily autonomy, our safety. Please let us know that, with one arrogant statement, feminists cannot really erase the rapes that have been experienced by countless survivors. Please let us know that you hear us, that you believe we are feminism, too. Please do not let Naomi Wolf become the voice of what is rape, because rapists were listening when she spoke, and judges, and juries, and future victims who will spend their lives believing it was their fault, and they are always saying "yes" if they are not shouting "no."
And Ann noted her objection to the insulting remarks Naomi Wolf's been making and boiled it down to, "I was raped.  Naomi wasn't."  Which is one more reason that Naomi should not have been allowed to represent as the face of this issue.  These are not minor points.  Moving to the topics of peace and resistance, David Swanson (War Is A Crime) notes:
You say protests are outmoded because the corporate media ignores them (unless they're corporate sponsored).  I say the corporate media is outmoded because it ignores protests.
The coming year is going to see intense resistance to the plutopentagonocracy from volunteer representatives of that majority of Americans that opposes its agenda.  We are not going to ask for the media cartel's approval or permission.  We are going to continue developing our own communications systems, which are already working well. 
If we abandon the work of protest and resistance, those acts will soon be criminalized.  If we abandon the work of self-communication we will each come to believe that the rest of us support that criminalization.  There is another way.
William T. Hathaway's new book "Radical Peace: People Refusing War," tells true stories of people helping U.S. soldiers to desert and hide, chasing military recruiters out of schools, educating young people as counter-recruitment, caring for veterans, vandalizing recruiting stations, and burning unguarded tanks and airplanes.  Many people will like some of these stories and not others.  Personally I thought the Afterword was dumb enough to almost ruin an otherwise remarkable and wonderful book.  The point is that these are stories that it is up to us to tell each other. 
As I travel the country on a book tour I hear in about equal parts from people doing extraordinary things that nobody knows about and from people complaining that nobody is doing anything.  We do not have an activism shortage so much as a communications shortage.  People are engaged in civil resistance to the government, the banks, and the war machine in great numbers and with stunning creativity.
It's an interesting column that becomes worthless at the end when David wants to weigh in on Panhandle Media.  Panhandle Media is useless and David should know that.  One of his best friends semi-publicly called it out -- it was there for all to hear (I heard it, I agreed with the call, I didn't emphasize it here because I know how petty they are in the Circle Jerk and that ____ would have been banned from the reigndeer games if the comments were widely distributed).  Of his list, if she's not focusing on electoral politics, Laura Flanders is the only one of any value (and I say that as someone with a very good FSRN friend). In terms of peace and resistance, Laura can do a show on that (and does) and no one can touch her.  It's a shame she's sullied her image and name by becoming a Democratic Party cheerleader.  (Although, in fairness, her program has been co-opted by The Nation magazine.) And, point of fact, we don't need to invest in any of these programs.  You're looking for answers outside of yourself and that's why you're failing.  I'll be damn honest, Elaine, Ava and I are never giving a damn penny to Panhandle Media again.  (I can still be guilted into KPFA donations if enough KPFA friends whine about the station going under.) It's useless, it doesn't focus on the things that matter (ending wars) but works overtime to whore for the Democratic Party.  Every program David lists whored for the Democratic Party in 2008 instead of making demands, instead of staying focused on the wars.  That's reality and we're not tossing money out to that and we're telling everyone else not to either.  There's no point in it.  We don't need Washington Week "but for the left!"  We never did.
The left would be smart to realize that most of the money they once had access to is gone because they whored.  When they did that, they ensured that those of us who are not going to lie for the Democratic Party will not give money.  And those who are happy with the whoring?  They'll always put the money into the Democratic Party first and foremost.  That's reality.
Reality is also that most programs don't need a budget these days and Air America Radio was a success -- BRIEFLY -- when it was working on the streaming model.  Those first few months, AAR was a success.  Yes, you will miss people without computers but considering how the left -- especially the Socialist left -- has attacked the White poor in this country over and over in the last two years, that might actually be a plus.
David believes that Big Money's coming.  I don't think so.  I think the left that wants to build would be smart to look at how they build one-on-one and grasp that they can do that on a larger scale without needing anyone else.  You have the answers inside you and the power is within your grasp. Focusing on a Big Daddy is just a cop out that allows you to justify your own inaction.  (David Swanson is on the road currently and is quite often on the road, I'm speaking of the left in general.)
But let me make it clear (and Elaine has many times at her site), we gave to all the left.  Democratic, Socialist, Communist, etc.  We didn't care.  The point was to end the Iraq War and to get rid of Bush.  (Not to get rid of Bush and replace him with a repackaged version.) Those days are gone.  That money was wasted.  Not because the illegal war continues (although it does) but because people whored. That was especially appalling when it came from Socialist and Communists whom you would think would have the good sense not to sully themselves by whoring for a political party they're not a member of. There is no song-and-dance that will sway me again.  My donations go to children's causes and issues I believe in such as feminism, LGBT rights and immigration rights.  I have no use for the so-called 'organized left.'  That's true of a large number of wealthy, left women today, we're sick of it.  And these attacks on the two women who may have been raped only ensure that we remain sick of it.  Why the hell would any self-respecting woman fork over big money to support a system that repeatedly kicks us and our rights to the curb?  Get real, the money's gone.  Many men agree with us and the bulk of the men that might give are engaged in the pissing match with Warren Buffet.
The real answer is for people to use their own power.  That means writing stories to be widely distributed -- and noting that they can be widely distributed -- doing the same with photos and with videos. There's no need for the press -- not even the Beggar Media.  David Swanson participated in last Thursday's action in DC as did author, activist and journalist Chris Hedges who reflects on it at Information Clearing House:
The speeches were over. There was a mournful harmonica rendition of taps.  The 500 protesters in Lafayette Park in front of the White House fell silent. One hundred and thirty-one men and women, many of them military veterans wearing old fatigues, formed a single, silent line.  Under a heavy snowfall and to the slow beat of a drum, they walked to the White House fence. They stood there until they were arrested. 
The solemnity of that funerary march, the hush, was the hardest and most moving part of Thursday's protest against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  It unwound the bitter memories and images of war I keep wrapped in the thick cotton wool of forgetfulness. I was transported in that short walk to places I do not like to go. Strange and vivid flashes swept over me -- the young soldier in El Salvador who had been shot through the back of the head and was, as I crouched next to him, slowly curling up in a fetal position to die; the mutilated corpses of Kosovar Albanians in the back of a flatbed truck; the screams of a woman, her entrails spilling out of her gaping wounds, on the cobblestones of a Sarajevo street. My experience was not unique.  Veterans around me were back in the rice paddies and lush undergrowth of Vietnam, the dusty roads of southern Iraq or the mountain passes of Afghanistan.  Their tears showed that.  There was no need to talk. We spoke the same wordless language. The butchery of war defies, for those who know it, articulation.
What can I tell you about war?
War perverts and destroys you.  It pushes you closer and closer to your own annihilation -- spiritual, emotional and, finally, physical. It destroys the continuity of life, tearing apart all systems, economic, social, environmental and political, that sustain us as human beings. War is necrophilia.  The essence of war is death. War is a state of almost pure sin with its goals of hatred and destruction. It is organized sadism.  War fosters alienation and leads inevitably to nihlism. It is a turning away from the sanctity of life.            
There were many actions on Thursday.  Grandmothers Against the War's Joan Wile is the author of Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace.  Joan took part in an NYC action last Thursday and she writes:
Approximately 75 people braved the freezing temperatures on the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 16 to rally against the war in Afghanistan. They gathered on Military Island, the small traffic island housing the Times Square recruiting station (now laughably tagged the Army Career Center) as a sympathy rally for the one held in D.C. earlier that day at the White House, during which 135 people were arrested. 
In Times Square, 11 stalwarts blocked a stretch of Broadway for about 10 minutes before they were handcuffed and hauled off by the New York City police to a nearby jail.  
The Big Apple event was populated by many Veterans for Peace and lots of peace grannies from the Granny Peace Brigade, the Raging Grannies and
Grandmothers Against the War. Two of the grandmothers were in their 90's but stood for more than an hour in the cold throughout the action. There was a contingent of Catholic Workers, War Resister Leaguers, the Green Party, and other anti-war groups, also.
After the Raging Grannies sang a few of their peace songs, names of New York State war dead in Afghanistan were read. Then, leaders in the peace movement spoke, including Bill Gilson, Vice President of local chapter 34 of Veterans for Peace; Carmen Trotta of the Catholic Workers; Barbara Harris, chair of the Counter Recruitment Committee of the Granny Peace Brigade; Tom Syracuse of the Green Party, and Alicia Godberg, Executive Director of Peace Action New York State.
And then came the civil resistance, at exactly 6 p.m. As the Times Square crowds swarmed around, the bright lights sparkled and flashed, 11 hardy souls fanned out across Broadway at the intersection with 44th St. and refused to move. The other rally participants shouted "Peace Now," "Stop the War," "Arrest Bush and Cheney, not these Patriots," as they observed their comrades loaded into the paddy wagons.
The event was organized by one of the arrestees, Bill Steyert, a Vietnam war vet with the Vets for Peace, who said: "I think it was a travesty that the war in Afghanistan wasn't even brought up as an issue during the recent mid-term elections. This tragic war jeopardizes not only the lives of American troops but directly affects our economy, which is in such dire shape because money spent on war is urgently needed to create jobs at home. This rally showed that those of
us who were there have not forgotten what's going on in Afghanistan in our name."
Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note, "A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his cabinet." AFP notes that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds, "The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no, Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do not fly). John Leland (New York Times) writes about the reactions of Iraqis and we'll note Anbar Province because the State Dept thinks/fears it's the new hot spot in Iraq:
For Ikram Rijab Abdullah, 38, the results left a bitter taste. "Our ambition was to form a government by Allawi and the important ministries to go to the Iraqiya bloc, because the it's the only bloc that included patriotic people," Mr. Abdullah said. "But what happened has disappointed us." The haggling, he said, was pure politics, with most ministries going to "unqualified people." He added: "We as citizens have done what we were supposed to do and what is happening nowadays has been imposed by American and regional interests."
His neighbor, Anmar Saadi Al-A'ani, 34, was even less optimistic about the new government, which included many members of the previous cabinet. "We were hoping to see new faces pumping new blood into the heart of the new government and to be national names." The chosen ministers, he said, did not reflect the country's many qualified candidates.
The Christian Science Monitor's editorial board argues, "The time is now ripe for Washington to prepare for an Iraq -- a nation that once had little democratic tradition and invaded two of its neighbors -- that can be a key partner in reshaping the Middle East, much like the role Germany plays in Europe or Japan in Asia. Americans should expect no less, after more than 1.5 million US soldiers served in Iraq with a loss of more than 4,440 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqis. The two nations are now inextricably bound by a contentious history born of post-9/11 fears but also hopes for a Middle East that can be rid of jihadism through contagious democracy."  Glenn McNatt (Baltimore Sun) offers, "Prime Minister al-Maliki has expressed confidence that the unity government he leads reflects the diversity of ethnic, sectarian and political interests in Iraq, but there are still questions about how meaningful a role the country's Sunni minority will play. If Iraq is to become the peaceful, prosperous example of democracy in the Mideast that the U.S. wishes it to be, it's vital that Mr. al-Maliki make good on his promises to lead a truly representative government that offers the hope of a better life for all its citizens."  Meanwhile Liz Sly (Washington Post) explores Nouri:
That Maliki has an authoritarian streak has been amply demonstrated over the past 4 1/2 years, critics say. Maliki, originally selected in 2006 as a compromise candidate assumed to be weak and malleable, has proved to be a tough and ruthless political operator who cannily subverted parliament to cement his authority over many of the new democracy's fledgling institutions.
In his role as commander in chief of the armed forces, he replaced divisional army commanders with his appointees, brought provincial command centers under his control and moved to dominate the intelligence agencies.
The widely feared Baghdad Brigade, which answers directly to Maliki's office, has frequently been used to move against his political opponents. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused him of operating secret prisons in which Sunni suspects have been tortured.

Reuters notes an attack on a Baghdad military checkpoint which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi solider and left three more injured and a Baghdad sticky bombing whidh injured "a senior official at the Ministry of Health".
Yesterday came news that Kirkuk would not publicly celebrate Christmas. AP reports this means no decorations, no "traditional Santa Claus appearance outside one of the city's churches" and that Mosul has followed Kirkuk's lead as the Islamic State of Iraq issued a threat yesterday that more Christians would be attacked. We noted Amnesty's statement yesterday but the US version (we noted the UK) contains an audio option. The latest wave of attacks on Iraqi Christians began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Since then Iraqi Christians in Baghdad and Mosul have been especially targeted with many fleeing the country or fleeing to the KRG region of Iraq. The Herald Sun reports, "At Our Lady of Salvation Church, the bloodied hand prints of murdered members of the congregation remain on the walls, which are riddled with bullet holes and one family of victims -- Zuher and Amal, their son Uday and their grandson (by Uday) Adam and the family is among those considering leaving Baghdad.  Middle East Online reports:

Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal offered his solidarity and support to Christians in Iraq after a bloody October hostage-taking at a Baghdad cathedrak that killed 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security force personnel.
"We were shocked and troubled by the massacre of Christians in Baghdad in the Church of Perpetual Help," Twal said in his Jerusalem headquarters.
"We condemn this violence. It's a pity to empty Iraq of its Christian citizens... It's a pity for us, for the Muslims themselves, for Iraq, for the Christians themselves.

Yahya Barzanji and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) report Basra and Baghdad have now called off festivities as well and not only will now allow decorations there will be no "evening Mass" held either. -- in Baghdad, that's mo Christmas Eve Mass and no Christmas Day mass. Deutsche Presse-Agentur observes, "Iraq's northern areas are home to some of the oldest Christian sects in the world."  Mustafa Mahmoud (Reuters) quotes Kirkuk-based Archbishop Louis Sako stating, "We are still deeply wounded from what happened in Our Lady of Salvation church. We saw innocent people brutally killed while praying to God, so how can we celebrate? We will not celebrate this year.  We will only pray to God asking for peace to prevail in our country." England's Channel 4 reports on their blog:
In Iraq, people say there were maybe a million Christians in 2003 -- 3 per cent of the population -- but at least half have left and those remaining now want to go too, as extremist Islamists step up their campaign against "infidels". Many of those I've met in the last week say there's no future for Christians in Iraq -- it's over.
Yet Christianity was in Mesopotamia -- what we now call Iraq -- several centuries before Islam. The Chaldeans and Syriac Christians of today speak Aramaic, the language Jesus would have spoken. The reason so much attention is being lavished on the murder of Christians is not because their lives are worth more than the lives of Muslims, but because an ancient civilisation is in danger of being wiped out.
On Sunday afternoon, I went to St George's Anglican church where an English vicar is trying to stem the tide. The indefatigable Canon Andrew White, who doesn't let the progression of multiple sclerosis hinder him, attracted several hundred to his Christmas carol service. It was wonderfully, eccentrically English and Iraqi.
McClatchy Newspapers' Shashank Bengali (McClatchy Newspapers) reports there were only "three worshippers" present at Our Lady of Salvation Church this morning: "One was a girl, a tiny brunette of no more than 10 years old, who walked to the front of the church clutching her school report card. She knelt at the altar in front of a picture of her cousin, who was inside the church during evening mass on Oct. 31, when terrorist stormed the building and took the worshippers hostage before detonating suicide vests. Dozens were killed, including the girl's cousin." (Bengali's piece also appears -- a bit expanded -- at the Christian Science Monitor.) Barnabas Aid quotes their director, Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, stating, "In our ongoing efforts to make known the desperate state of Christians around the world, it often seems that nobody outside the Church cares. So I greatly welcome these newspaper and television reports which will publicise the crisis facing Christians in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East to a wide audience." Carl Davidson writes the editorial board of the Battle Creek Enquirer and offers, "President Obama properly condemned Quran-burning but declined a response to the Pope's urgent call to save Christian Iraqis' innocent lives with the same level of security provided for U.S.-China oil contractors.  Why this supine abandonment as we celebrate 2010 Christmas? He's visited numerous mosques, but not one Iraqi church in Chicago."  Independent Catholic News notes an open letter to US President Barack Obama which will be handed to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon ("who has agreed to discuss the letter with the president"):
As deeply committed legislators and members of parliaments from around the world, we are writing to express our concern about the ongoing persecution of religious minorities in Iraq and the wider Middle East.  We do appreciate additional high-level attention and resources devoted to mitigating the ongoing and egregious persecution of Christians and other minority religious communities in Iraq, and wish to convey our pressing interest in assisting with increased efforts to reverse this devastating trend. Christians are rapidly becoming extinct in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries and this development is not in the interest of peace and stability in this troubled region. 
As anyone involved with international security efforts in Iraq well knows, the severity of the persecution of the Christian community in Iraq , which has for centuries served an important stabilizing role both in economic and political terms, threatens not only that ancient community, but the entire foundation of Iraq 's civil democracy.  Efforts to help establish and protect that democracy have cost many of our countries dearly, and these sacrifices bear silent witness to the urgency of our desire to work with you to take our mutual efforts to a new level.  But it is imperative that the United States takes a leadership role in this regard. 
A thriving and actively engaged Iraqi Christian community is vital to assuring the future stability of Iraq, and its presence or absence will bear heavily on future prospects for stability throughout the Middle East .  We are convinced that one indispensible measure of the success of years of grueling effort to help stabilize Iraq, and indeed Iraq's  very survival as a pluralistic democracy, is the extent to which Christian and other minority religious communities are able to live and move freely without constant fear of intimidation and brutal violence. This especially concerns the freedom to worship and the freedom to express their faith publicly. 
We fully appreciate all efforts, often undertaken in the midst of arduous circumstances, which are currently underway to bring relief to hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and those that continue to flee their homeland at record pace to find safe refuge from terrorist attacks.  However, we remain gravely concerned about the vulnerable survivors of numerous and ongoing attacks on churches, including the most recent assault on Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad, and the families devastated in October 2008 when more than 1.5 million people who were forced to evacuate from Mosul pursuant to attacks on Christians there.  We are also horrified by gruesome accounts of gunmen who have broken into Christian homes to kill civilians, as well as reports of elderly Christians found strangled to death in their own homes.  It is staggering to think that half of all Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their country since 2003. And the exodus continues with thousands of Iraqi Christians fleeing their country on a weekly basis. 
Given the newly evolving political dynamics following recent elections and the ongoing transition of security responsibilities, we are eager to lend our voices and resources to help protect Iraq's vulnerable minority religious communities during this fragile interim period.  We are committed to working together to help ensure that our governments boost the effectiveness of mutual cooperation to defuse the ongoing crisis on the ground, and urge you and other heads of state to push the Iraqi government to prioritize and implement a strategy aimed at protecting Iraqi citizens of all religions and offer them a real future in the country.  We look forward to working with you to successfully augment existing efforts to investigate religiously-motivated violence and human rights abuses, deter and disrupt attacks, protect vulnerable persons and communities, and vigorously prosecute those responsible for criminal offenses.  
The United States has a unique leadership role in furthering the cause of religious freedom in Iraq and the whole of the Middle East.  Please be assured of our commitment to assisting in any and all appropriate actions to secure immediate, united, transparent, and lasting relief for Iraq's devastated Christian and other minority religious communities.
Meanwhile Phil Sands (The National) reports from Syria on Iraqi refugees in that country and he focuses on Neysan Jibro Hermes who had remained in Baghdad through wave after wave of violence; however, the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church was the last straw so the 68-year-old man and his family sought sanctuary in Syria and he has a response to those politicians in Iraq who insist that Iraqi Christians should remain in Iraq: "It's easy for them to say that.  They have bodyguards, they have money for a security team to protect them and their families.  Politicians are rich and they are safe, we are poor, we walk in the street alone.  It will take one bullet to kill me."  And to restate our opinion at this site: Any Iraqi who wishes to remain has a right to feel protected and should.  Staying is a decision only that person can make.  So is leaving.  If someone feels unsafe, they should be able to leave and they should be able to find a host country without jumping through a thousand hoops.
In the United States today, at the White House, US President Barack Obama had a signing ceremony.  Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "President Obama signed the bill Wednesday to end the 17-year ban on openly gay troops in the military, declaring at a White House ceremony that the legislation will 'strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend'."  We'll note some of Barack's remarks: "And he knew that valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed; that what made it possible for him to survive the battlefields of Europe is the reason that we are here today. That's the reason we are here today. So this morning, I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' It is a law -- this law I'm about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend. No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military -– regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance -– because they happen to be gay.  No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love.  As Admiral Mike Mullen has said, "Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives.  None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well."  It would be great if Congress passed a law that did all of that.  But that's not what happened.  Saturday, the Senate passed the bill the House already had.  Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) has a roundup of reactions here. It's a victory for those serving. A victory for LGBT rights? In the abstract. In the concrete? Read the bill that passed:

H.R.2965 -- Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 (Engrossed Amendment House - EAH)

HR 2965 EAH

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

December 15, 2010.
Resolved, That the House agree to the amendment of the Senate to the bill (H.R. 2965) entitled 'An Act to amend the Small Business Act with respect to the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program, and for other purposes.', with the following


In lieu of the matter proposed to be inserted by the amendment of the Senate, insert the following:


This Act may be cited as the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010'.


(a) Comprehensive Review on the Implementation of a Repeal of 10 U.S.C. 654-

(1) IN GENERAL- On March 2, 2010, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum directing the Comprehensive Review on the Implementation of a Repeal of 10 U.S.C. 654 (section 654 of title 10, United States Code).

(2) OBJECTIVES AND SCOPE OF REVIEW- The Terms of Reference accompanying the Secretary's memorandum established the following objectives and scope of the ordered review:

(A) Determine any impacts to military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion, recruiting/retention, and family readiness that may result from repeal of the law and recommend any actions that should be taken in light of such impacts.

(B) Determine leadership, guidance, and training on standards of conduct and new policies.

(C) Determine appropriate changes to existing policies and regulations, including but not limited to issues regarding personnel management, leadership and training, facilities, investigations, and benefits.

(D) Recommend appropriate changes (if any) to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

(E) Monitor and evaluate existing legislative proposals to repeal 10 U.S.C. 654 and proposals that may be introduced in the Congress during the period of the review.

(F) Assure appropriate ways to monitor the workforce climate and military effectiveness that support successful follow-through on implementation.

(G) Evaluate the issues raised in ongoing litigation involving 10 U.S.C. 654.

(b) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (f) shall take effect 60 days after the date on which the last of the following occurs:

(1) The Secretary of Defense has received the report required by the memorandum of the Secretary referred to in subsection (a).

(2) The President transmits to the congressional defense committees a written certification, signed by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating each of the following:

(A) That the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the recommendations contained in the report and the report's proposed plan of action.

(B) That the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to exercise the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f).

(C) That the implementation of necessary policies and regulations pursuant to the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f) is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.

(c) No Immediate Effect on Current Policy- Section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect until such time that all of the requirements and certifications required by subsection (b) are met. If these requirements and certifications are not met, section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect.

(d) Benefits- Nothing in this section, or the amendments made by this section, shall be construed to require the furnishing of benefits in violation of section 7 of title 1, United States Code (relating to the definitions of `marriage' and `spouse' and referred to as the 'Defense of Marriage Act').

(e) No Private Cause of Action- Nothing in this section, or the amendments made by this section, shall be construed to create a private cause of action.

(f) Treatment of 1993 Policy-

(1) TITLE 10- Upon the effective date established by subsection (b), chapter 37 of title 10, United States Code, is amended--

(A) by striking section 654; and

(B) in the table of sections at the beginning of such chapter, by striking the item relating to section 654.

(2) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- Upon the effective date established by subsection (b), section 571 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994 (10 U.S.C. 654 note) is amended by striking subsections (b), (c), and (d).



2d Session

H.R. 2965


Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed. That's a good thing. But don't confuse that with the Congress putting some on the books that prevents discrimination based upon sexual orientation because that didn't happen. All they did was wipe the books clean. That took us back to 1992 before Don't Ask, Don't Tell existed. And, under Barack, that may mean gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military but it's a short-term fix if and when a Republican gets into office and decides to change it. How can that happen? After 50 years of gays and lesbians serving openly, it would require a major witch hunt and/or scare. But two or six years from now? It wouldn't be too hard to create some 'studies' that 'find' the military was harmed and to get the talking points in order. I'm not saying that'll happen but I am saying that's why in cases where we DO NOT want discrimination, we outlaw discrimination. The Congress didn't outlaw it. All they did was remove Don't Ask, Don't Tell from the books. (In fact, section 2's subsections "d" and "e" spit on equality, or are we not supposed to notice that?)  And as Yochi Dreazen (National Journal) noted earlier this month:  "Not So Fast -- Even if "don't ask, don't tell" is repealed tomorrow, openly gay troops won't have the same benefits that straight ones do. Months, or even years, of legal and political wrangling could follow before gays and their partners are fully welcomed into the ranks of the nation's military. The end of don't ask, don't tell is not the end of the story."

One of the strongest fighters for full equality this year has been Lt Dan Choi.  Saturday he weighed in on the Senate passage and what was still needed:
No revolution towards justice ever went backwards. To all the supporters of equality and Don't Ask Don't Tell's death, I am so grateful. The road has not been easy. We have learned many important lessons about social justice, movements, supporting each other, and speaking out against discrimination.
The mission is not finished; it has only just begun. The most critical mission is supporting and encouraging closeted soldiers to finally access their full integrity, dignity, and humanity. This mission is in keeping with the first lessons learned at West Point or basic training. As the legislation signals a new chapter in our journey, we can be sure that our work has only begun. I call on all soldiers to gain the courage to come out. First come out to yourselves, then tell your trusted friends and family. Tell everyone who you trust and who deserves nothing less than truth. Stop hating yourselves as your country has signaled for so long. Furthermore, your coming out is not for you. It is for all those who come after. Military service is not about rank, pension or paycheck. Climbing the ladder is shameful without true purity of service and I applaud those who give up the superficial artifacts of career in favor of complete integrity and justice.
I denounce the fear-mongering of John McCain and others who do our country a grave disservice by their bigotry and calcified retardation. His outlandish remarks that justice will result in amputations demonstrates the ridiculousness of his entire argument. His silliness proves the fight for justice has no real logical debate; you are on one side or the other. John McCain, you are on the wrong side of history. Your feet wade in the toxic septic waste of rabid hate-mongers who perpetuate America's injustice. It is your argument that has been amputated today; your claims have no legs to stand.
President Obama, you are not off the hook. The compromise bill passed today puts the moral imperative squarely on your desk. Sign an executive order instituting a full non-discrimination policy throughout the military. If you do not, if you drag your feet and politicize this with your theoretical calculations as you have these past two years, you will be guilty of abetting those who loudly proclaim homophobia from their platforms and pulpits. Provide them no shelter or safe haven. Institute justice now.
Do not compare this to the integration of racial and religious minorities in the 1940's and 1950's. Integration of gay people has already happened. This is one inherent difference between our civil rights movement and that of the past decades. We are integrated, we simply fight for our Integrity. As each civil rights movement fights for access to a particular resource, it is clear that the gay rights movement fights for access to dignity and our own integrity. This struggle only begins.
I intend to rejoin the military and serve in any capacity I can be of best use. I intend to marry and have a family of my own. We are living in a truly historic moment where we can enjoy the rewards of our efforts. We stand on the shoulders of many who have come before us, from Air Force Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich to our present day heroes. We owe it to them to continue fighting. Our loudness does not distract but enhances the fight. Our direct action puts wind in the sails of lobbyists and political elites who do our bidding on the inside. We are one team with one goal: Equality in our lifetime. I do not intend to waver or retreat in pursuit of this new life purpose and mission, and neither should any American who loves justice.