Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the United Nations Security Council recognizes Iraq's LGBT community, a paper ceases publication in Baghdad due to militia attacks, Emma Sky discusses how Iraq got to its current crises, and much more.

We're going to open with these remarks by US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power from Monday:

Today we are making UN history. The UN Security Council has never before had a meeting on LGBT issues.
It is an honor to co-host this meeting with Chile, which continues to be a strong advocate for LGBT rights and more generally for empowering civil society around the world.
Let me welcome our briefers. Deputy-Secretary General Jan Eliasson, who along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, has worked tirelessly to advance LGBT rights both within the UN, taking unprecedented steps on behalf of LGBT rights, and across the world. Jessica Stern is here representing the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, an NGO doing critically important work to protect LGBT persons, including in the places we will discuss today. And finally, we are beyond grateful to have a man we’ll call “Adnan” and Subhi Nahas speak to us today. You will have the opportunity to hear from them directly, but I’d like to just now say a few words about each.

“Adnan” is not Adnan’s real name – it is a pseudonym he is using to hide his identity. Adnan fled northern Iraq after being marked for death by ISIL because he is gay. Adnan is a client of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, an extraordinary organization that has helped facilitate his participation today. He still fears that he could be attacked by ISIL if identified, which is the reason he is speaking to the Council today by phone rather than by video link. Out of concern for Adnan’s safety, I would like to request that no audio or video recordings be made during this historic event.
Subhi Nahas – a gay man and LGBT advocate from Syria – was forced to flee his home after receiving death threats from Jabat al Nusra. Even after fleeing to neighboring Lebanon and then Turkey, he continued to receive threats, this time from ISIL. He now lives in the United States.
Adnan and Subhi’s experiences are distinct, as you will hear, but they share key parallels. Both faced discrimination, threats and attacks before violent extremist groups seized power in their communities. Both were marked for death for being gay, and knew LGBT individuals who were killed. And both had to flee their homes because of who they are.
Their cases are not outliers, but rather part of a pattern of systematic abuse. Yet until now, the targeting of LGBT persons like Adnan and Subhi by ISIL has received scant international attention. Today, we are taking a necessary step toward remedying that oversight.
ISIL does not try to hide its crimes against LGBT persons – it broadcasts them for all the world to see. Many of us have seen the videos. ISIL parading a man through the streets and beating him – for being gay. ISIL marching men to the tops of buildings and throwing them to their deaths – for being gay. In one of these videos, allegedly from Syria, we are told that the victim was found to be having a gay affair. He is blindfolded, walked up stairs of a building, and then heaved off its roof. His suffering did not end there. The victim miraculously survived the fall, only to be stoned to death by a mob that waited for him below. Kids in the crowd were reportedly encouraged to grab stones and take part.
The mob in this instance carries an important lesson: while the targeting of LGBT individuals in the region appears to have worsened as ISIL’s power has grown, such violence and hatred existed well before the group’s dramatic rise, and that violence and hatred extends far beyond ISIL’s membership. The victim in that grotesque video may have been thrown to his death by ISIL, but he was ultimately killed by stone-throwing individuals who did not belong to the group. Similarly, before Subhi Nahas was forced to flee his country because of death threats from Jabhat al Nusra, he was targeted for being gay by Syrian government soldiers. And before ISIL came to power, Adnan was repeatedly attacked by gangs of thugs for being gay, once being beaten so severely that he could hardly walk.
Today, we are coming together as a Security Council to condemn these acts, to demand they stop, and to commit to one day bringing the perpetrators to justice. That unified condemnation matters. This is the first time in history that the Council has held a meeting on the victimization of LGBT persons. It is the first time we are saying, in a single voice, that it is wrong to target people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a historic step. And it is, as we all know, long overdue.
But crucial and unprecedented as this step is, condemning ISIL’s violent and systematic targeting of LGBT individuals is the easiest step we can take today. Because while today’s session is focused on the crimes against LGBT persons committed by ISIL, we know the scope of this problem is much broader. Consider the report released in June by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – a report that found that thousands of people have been killed or brutally injured worldwide because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the report, “the overall picture remains one of continuing, pervasive, violent abuse, harassment and discrimination affecting LGBT and intersex persons in all regions…often perpetrated with impunity.”
We are all horrified by ISIL’s videos of men being thrown to their death. But what is it about these crimes that so shocks our collective conscience? At its essence – it is the denial of a person’s most basic right because of who they are. It is ISIL deciding that, because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, they do not deserve to live.
Yet if these crimes feel utterly unjust and wrong to us, we must also ask: Why is it acceptable to deny LGBT persons other human rights? Why should LGBT persons be imprisoned for who they are? Why should police be allowed to refuse to investigate attacks or threats against LGBT persons? Why should we accept LGBT persons being turned away from schools or jobs or social services because of who they love? The answer to all of these questions is the same: We should not accept it. But too often we do.
No religious beliefs justify throwing individuals off of buildings or stoning them to death because of who they love. No cultural values excuse refusing to investigate a killing, assault or death threat because the victim is gay. These are not Western-imposed rights, or the North trying to force its values on the South.
Yet in too many parts of the world, denying LGBT rights is still seen as moral and just. Laws are used to criminalize LGBT persons, rather than to prosecute the people who violate their rights. That must change.
That change begins by working to stop attacks against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. And by taking steps to ensure that those who commit these heinous and brutal crimes are held accountable, whether the perpetrators belong to ISIL or police forces or are members of our own communities.

But stopping violence is not enough. We must strive to defend the rights of LGBT persons wherever they are denied, including within the United Nations. To give just one example, as recently as five years ago the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission – the NGO led by Jessica Stern, one of our guest briefers – was denied UN accreditation in the UN NGO Committee because of the issues they work on. And you will hear today just how critical those issues are. As a result, Jessica and members of her NGO were not even allowed to attend meetings like this one, much less speak at one – they wouldn’t even be in the room. Today, because of a successful campaign led by some Member States with support from civil society, Jessica’s group has been accredited – and she is speaking up here on the stage where she belongs. Nonetheless, groups like Jessica’s are still being denied accreditation on similar grounds.

The effort to defend the equal rights of LGBT persons must also be waged within every one of our countries, even those where important progress has been made – and that includes in the United States. For just as this year we have made tremendous strides in advancing LGBT rights in the United States, we are under no illusion that the work is finished. Every one of our countries can and must do more to advance these rights domestically.
Let me conclude and hand the floor over to my esteemed co-host, Ambassador Barros-Melet. This year we mark seventy years since the creation of the United Nations. It is fair to say that in writing the charter, the drafters did not consider LGBT rights part of their conception of equal rights. But if we read the Charter today – and in particular its call to “reaffirm faith… in the dignity and worth of the human person” – it is impossible not to see a call for all of us to affirm LGBT rights. It is impossible not to see individuals like Adnan and Subhi as having the same inherent dignity and worth. And it is impossible not to take up the struggle for their rights as our own, as we have other great human rights struggles over the last seven decades. Today, we take a small but important step in assuming that work. It must not be our last step.
Thank you.
And with that, let me turn it over to Ambassador Barros-Melet of Chile, the United States’ co-chair for today’s event.

We attended the event on Monday and, today, I was asked by a State Dept friend if we were going to note the event in any way?

Some people there?

Two-bit whores.

They had nothing to say when the Iraqi government was persecuting the LGBT community in Iraq (specifically  actions in 2009 and 2012).

That was under Nouri al-Maliki.  He used the Ministry of the Interior to go into the schools and attempt to stir up greater violence against the LGBT community.

This was not news in the US.

And certain US figures at the event yesterday really hope no one ever goes back and discovers how silent they were in real time.

But a lot of whores  who will allow themselves to be used to sell war showed up with the intent to sell war.


I don't care for Samantha Power -- that's obvious, check the archives here and at Third.  I loathe her husband and have loathed him long before he hooked up with Power.

I'm sure she's selling war in some form by participating in the event because she's a War Hawk.  That said she and Hillary Clinton are the only two who expressed grave concerns in the administration when Nouri al-Maliki was targeting the LGBT community in Iraq (and Hillary's the only one who offered a public comment in real time).

So we'll not Samantha Power's opening remarks (in full).  Again, I'm sure she's selling war (what else does she ever do?) but she's also got a bit of a history on this issue that demonstrates -- selling war or not -- she does actually care about the issue.

Still we'll  offer a basic truth that she didn't.

Power opened with, "Today we are making UN history. The UN Security Council has never before had a meeting on LGBT issues."

That's just not good enough and considering the lies that are in the official United Nations record, it needs to be corrected.

If you go to the so-called 'transcripts' of the United Nations Security Council briefings on Iraq, you'll find a paragraph or so about Nouri's attack on the LGBT community in Iraq.

Let's be really clear -- and I called this out in real time -- those sentences were never stated publicly.

If you're late to the party, you can check out the   April 10, 2012 snapshot and the April 11, 2012 snapshot and particularly this section:

We got a little talk about women in this presenation.  That is new.  Previous presentations to the Security Council by the Special Envoy to Iraq frequently left women out.  But apparently, something more "gross" and "disgusting" than women has been found by the office of Special Envoy: Iraq's LGBTs.
It was really disgusting to hear Kobler prattle on about violence and minorities and never once note the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community.  It was disgusting.
It was disgusting that Susan Rice never bothered to raise the issue. As evidenced by this White House announcement, the administration is aware that this is LGBT Pride Month.  Somehow the memo didn't reach Susie Rice. If the US LGBT community has any sense of community with those LGBTs living in other countries where their lives are threatened for who they are, US LGBTs would insist that the White House start proving they give a damn about LGBT rights. 
These photo ops and press releases are bull f**king s**t if in hearing after hearing, the administration refuses to address threats to LGBTs.  Susan Rice presided over the Security Council hearing today.  She had it in her power to set the agenda.  She was happy to slam that hammer down repeatedly announcing "So ordered" after she'd issued an edict.  But she wasn't happy or willing to use that power to address the plight of Iraq's LGBT community.  Since the start of this year, many have been killed.  This isn't a secret, it's well reported, and we've certainly covered it here. 
Martin Kobler and Susan Rice and the United Nations and the White House enable those killings by refusing to address the murders in what they call a hearing on the "the situation in Iraq."  There's no excuse for that.  Shame on them for their non-actions and their silence.

Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq at the time (Martin Kobler) never mentioned the LGBT community.

It looks like he did due to a 'transcript' of the event.  

Though the trained monkey read from his statement for approximately 17 minutes, he skipped the section on the LGBT community.

So to say, "Today we are making UN history"?  That's correct.  But not just because there's never been a Security Council meeting on LGBT issues.  It's also because the Security Council has never before been told in a hearing about Iraq's LGBT community.

The event was put together to sell war.

Jessica Stern was on board (always!) and repeated, as fact, allegations she never witnessed.  This despite the fact that, not so long ago, she was cautioning against the reports of the Islamic State attacking LGBT community members in Iraq.

What about the Iraqi witnesses!!!!

A Syrian man, now living in San Francisco, appeared to offer testimony.

Otherwise we heard from a male who said he was Iraqi and may or may not have been but was not present and phoned in his testimony.  It was like listening to Charlie on Charlie's Angels, "Good morning, angels!"  "Good morning, Charlie!"

That's about as much time as we'll spend on the event because I'm really not interested in taking part in a fake they-were-tossing-babies-out-of-incubators psyops bit.  But, again, Power was genuinely concerned when Nouri and his goons were attacking the LGBT community so, although everything she does is about selling war, we will take her concern as genuine and note her remarks -- if no one else's remarks.

A much more important gathering was recently covered by Al Jazeera.  This was an event that the Association of Muslim Scholars In Iraq held and out of it has come their "The 'Inclusive Iraq' Scheme: The Proper Solution for Saving Iraq and the Region."  We noted a section of it yesterday.  Who else is noting this, by the way?  It should be getting major attention.  Or does the western press believe attention on Iraq solutions is only warranted if its westerners offering solutions or 'solutions'?  At any rate, we'll note this section of the report:

  Finally, it is worth stressing that the aforementioned initiative details come within the framework of the following specifics and firm beliefs:
1. Full adherence to the independence of Iraq and its territorial integrity and the preservation of its identity. Its policies on development shall be based on the common interests of its citizens. The building of the modern state shall be in accordance with the necessary foundations, constitutionally, legally, economically, militarily, socially and culturally.
2. Commitment to the pluralistic approach and freedom of opinion, based on mechanisms that are consistent with and respect our values ​​and traditions.
3. Exclusion of political revenge mechanisms and allowing for justice. This should be based on a consensual agreement between Iraqis in order for it to take its course in preserving the rights, the lives and dignities and to prevent the events that took place and currently taking place from happening again.
4. Being aware that our tragedy in Iraq is not a tragedy of a certain group, race, region, governorate or any particular place. It is the tragedy of the homeland and the nation. Giving instant attention to partial problems that arise here or there should not affect seeing the whole picture of this tragedy.
5. Rights are not given, but acquired by uninterrupted effective acts, arduous efforts and great sacrifices. Identity is the product of pride in position, mission and mandate. It is not a favour given by anyone nor the result of effect of an action event, effect and reaction, however this may be painful, harsh and long.

6. Inspiring the spirit of resistance, uprisings, protests and popular revolts is crucial and necessary in determining our path towards change and deliverance.

On the subject of protests, this morning I noted that a woman had been stabbed in Baghdad at Friday's protest and this was apparently news to several people judging by e-mails -- not that a woman was stabbed but that a woman participated.

I'm looking at Arabic social media on the protests and often forget that many have to depend on reports in the English language from western media which apparently has yet to discover that women are taking part in these protests.

For those who were not aware of that, we'll offer this Tweet from Friday (a rare one to note women in the protests but women are there at every protest).

  • Let's stay with truths and note Kevin Sylvester's This Sunday Edition (CBC) which featured Emma Sky discussing Iraq and her new book  The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq.  Excerpt of the discussion about the 2010 national election:

    Emma Sky: And that national election was a very closely contested election. Iraqis of all persuasions and stripes went out to participate in that election.  They'd become convinced that politics was the way forward, that they could achieve what they wanted through politics and not violence.  To people who had previously been insurgents, people who'd not voted before turned out in large numbers to vote in that election.  And during that election, the incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, lost by 2 seats.  And the bloc that won was a bloc called Iraqiya led by Ayad Allawi which campaigned on "NO" to sectarianism, really trying to move beyond this horrible sectarian fighting -- an Iraq for Iraqis and no sectarianism.  And that message had attracted most of the Sunnis, a lot of the secular Shia and minority groups as well.

    Kevin Sylvester:  People who felt they'd been shut out during Maliki's regime basically -- or his governance.

    Emma Sky:  Yes, people that felt, you know, that they wanted to be part of the country called Iraq not -- they wanted to be this, they wanted Iraq to be the focus and not sect or ethnicity to be the focus.  And Maliki refused to accept the results.  He just said, "It is not right."  He wanted a recount.  He tried to use de-Ba'athification to eliminate or disqualify some Iraqiya members and take away the votes that they had gained.  And he just sat in his seat and sat in his seat.  And it became a real sort of internal disagreement within the US system about what to do?  So my boss, Gen [Ray] Odierno, was adamant that the US should uphold the Constitutional process, protect the political process, allow the winning group to have first go at trying to form the government for thirty days.  And he didn't think Allawi would be able to do it with himself as prime minister but he thought if you start the process they could reach agreement between Allawi and Maliki or a third candidate might appear who could become the new prime minister. So that was his recommendation.

    Kevin Sylvester:   Well he even calls [US Vice President Joe] Biden -- Biden seems to suggest that that's what the administration will support and then they do a complete switch around.  What happened?

    Emma Sky:  Well the ambassador at the time was a guy who hadn't got experience of the region, he was new in Iraq and didn't really want to be there.  He didn't have the same feel for the country as the general who'd been there for year after year after year.

    Kevin Sylvester:  Chris Hill.

    Emma Sky:  And he had, for him, you know 'Iraq needs a Shia strongman. Maliki's our man.  Maliki's our friend.  Maliki will give us a follow on security agreement to keep troops in country.'  So it looks as if Biden's listening to these two recommendations and that at the end Biden went along with the Ambassador's recommendation.  And the problem -- well a number of problems -- but nobody wanted Maliki.  People were very fearful that he was becoming a dictator, that he was sectarian, that he was divisive. And the elites had tried to remove him through votes of no confidence in previous years and the US had stepped in each time and said, "Look, this is not the time, do it through a national election."  So they had a national election, Maliki lost and they were really convinced they'd be able to get rid of him.  So when Biden made clear that the US position was to keep Maliki as prime minister, this caused a huge upset with Iraqiya.  They began to fear that America was plotting with Iran in secret agreement.  So they moved further and further and further away from being able to reach a compromise with Maliki.  And no matter how much pressure the Americans put on Iraqiya, they weren't going to agree to Maliki as prime minister and provided this opening to Iran because Iran's influence was way low at this stage because America -- America was credited with ending the civil war through the 'surge.'  But Iran sensed an opportunity and the Iranians pressured Moqtada al-Sadr -- and they pressured him and pressured him.  And he hated Maliki but they put so much pressure on to agree to a second Maliki term and the price for that was all American troops out of the country by the end of 2011.  So during this period, Americans got outplayed by Iran and Maliki moved very much over to the Iranian camp because they'd guaranteed his second term.

    Kevin Sylvester:  Should-should the Obama administration been paying more attention?  Should they have -- You know, you talk about Chris Hill, the ambassador you mentioned, seemed more -- at one point, you describe him being more interested in putting green lawn turf down on the Embassy in order to play la crosse or something.  This is a guy you definitely paint as not having his head in Iraq.  How much of what has happened since then is at the fault of the Obama administration?  Hillary Clinton who put Chris Hill in place? [For the record, Barack Obama nominated Chris Hill for the post -- and the Senate confirmed it -- not Hillary.]  How much of what happens -- has happened since -- is at their feet?

    Emma Sky:  Well, you know, I think they have to take some responsibility for this because of this mistake made in 2010.  And Hillary Clinton wasn't very much involved in Iraq.  She did appoint the ambassador [no, she did not] but she wasn't involved in Iraq because President Obama had designated Biden to be his point-man on Iraq and Biden really didn't have the instinct for Iraq. He very much believed in ancient hatreds, it's in your blood, you just grow up hating each other and you think if there was anybody who would have actually understood Iraq it would have been Obama himself.  You know, he understands identity more than many people.  He understands multiple identities and how identities can change.  He understands the potential of people to change. So he's got quite a different world view from somebody like Joe Biden who's always, you know, "My grandfather was Irish and hated the British.  That's how things are."  So it is unfortunate that when the American public had enough of this war, they wanted to end the war.  For me, it wasn't so much about the troops leaving, it was the politics -- the poisonous politics.  And keeping Maliki in power when his poisonous politics were already evident was, for me, the huge mistake the Obama administration made. Because what Maliki did in his second term was to go after his rivals.  He was determined he was never going to lose an election again.  So he accused leading Sunni politicians of terrorism and pushed them out of the political process.  He reneged on his promises that he'd made to the tribal leaders who had fought against al Qaeda in Iraq during the surge. [She's referring to Sahwa, also known as Sons of Iraq and Daughters of Iraq and as Awakenings.]  He didn't pay them.  He subverted the judiciary.  And just ended up causing these mass Sunni protests that created the environment that the Islamic State could rear its ugly head and say, "Hey!"  And sadly -- and tragically, many Sunnis thought, "Maybe the Islamic State is better than Maliki."  And you've got to be pretty bad for people to think the Islamic State's better. 

    The 2010 decision set the events in motion for Iraq's current (and ongoing) crises.

    We objected in real time.  We called for the vote to be respected.

    The western press ignored the vote, ignored the will of the people and treated it as normal that, following an election, the outcome was decided by a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement).

    On the topic of the western press . . .

    My (increased) criticism of the western press over the last two weeks resulted in complaints from two friends today with news outlets covering Iraq.

    Don't I, they wondered, remember what happened to Ned Parker?

    Yeah, I do.

    He was threatened and had to flee Iraq for his own safety as well as the safety of his co-workers.

    I defended Ned.

    I'd defend Ned tomorrow.

    He was one of the finest journalists to ever cover Iraq.

    But I say that not just because of his final reports from Iraq (final for now) about the militias attacking civilians, I say that for his entire body of work on Iraq going back to his days at the Los Angeles Times -- long, long before he joined Reuters.

    Ned Parker mattered every day in his reporting from Iraq.

    I find it cowardly for some who never write anything of importance or value to claim that they can't cover -- or their outlets can't cover -- Iraq honestly because they might also get run out of Iraq like Ned Parker.

    So I'm not really impressed, for example, with an AP report which insists:

    Winning the battle for control of an oil refinery town north of Baghdad is a key step toward defeating the Islamic State group, Iraq's prime minister said in remarks aired Tuesday, hours before a suicide attack killed 13 soldiers and allied militiamen in the western Anbar province.

    Qassim Abdul-Zahra has the byline but this goes beyond one writer.

    I don't know how any outlet can publish that today without noting that his comments are a reply to a very public complaint.

    From Saturday's snapshot:

    Iraq Times reports the reaction to citizens in Basra which was to protest Haider's visit. The activists noted that he traveled all the way to Basra to reassure Big Oil but he did not meet with a single local protester to address the concerns that have had them pouring into the streets for the last weeks.  The report notes that the British and US Ambassadors to Iraq had lobbied Haider to visit Basra to reassure Big Oil.  As Iraq Times also notes, just north of Basra is where a protester -- protesting against Big Oil -- was shot dead by security forces working for yet another foreign oil company in Iraq. 

    Ned Parker is a brave and courageous journalist.

    I don't disagree with that.

    But I also don't see how you have to be Ned Parker to report on Haider's defensive remarks about how he has focused on saving Big Oil and include that this defensive stance results from Iraqi citizens stating Haider cares more about oil than the Iraqi people.

    On the topic of the press, Al Arabiya reports:

    London-based pan-Arabian newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat has announced the decision to stop publishing its edition in Iraq, after repeated violations by Ahl Al-Haq group militia, which they say is “close to Iran and to the former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.”
    The newspaper reported on Tuesday that the militia group had raided their buildings where the paper is printed in the capital Baghdad.

    It added that armed militia were breaching the law, and censoring content by ‘deleting or amending articles and the reports in the newspaper’ that criticized Iranian policy in the region.

    We'll note Ross Caputi's "The battle for your hearts and minds in Falluja" (Medium.com) in tomorrow's snapshot.

    Lastly, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 99 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    al jazeera