Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gearing up for Iowa





Iraqi women are among the targeted in Iraq. They can be straight or gay and they will be targeted. Iraq's LGBT community has been targeted repeatedly and you actually don't have to be gay to be targeted, you just have to be suspected or mistaken of being gay. To call Iraq 'stable' today requires that you ignore the persecution of Iraq's LGBT community (or the Christian community or . . .). On the LGBT community:

The UK government through its Border Agency has decided not to give priority to the asylum application of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili, in exile in London. The application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, Ali cannot travel. This decision directly impacts not just on Ali but on harshly persecuted Iraqi lesbians and gays through the reduced ability of their sole visible leader to raise their profile internationally.
Can you help?
As you may be aware, numerous human rights organisations and journalists have documented the pogrom against lesbians and gays in Iraq. Iraqi LGBT estimates that over 700 LGBT have been assassinated over the past few years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has advised 'favourable consideration' for asylum claims because of the situation. As the public leader of the only group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both inside Iraq and in the diaspora, Hili has received a fatwa from inside Iraq as well as numerous threats in London which have forced him to move. He is under the protection of the Metropolitan Police. US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin spoke last month of their concerns for LGBT both in Iraq and as refugees, in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-signed by 64 other Congresspeople. Hili has received many requests to speak about the situation in Iraq internationally, including from US-based groups such as the Gay Liberation Network and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign, which he has been unable to pursue. His solicitor, Barry O'Leary, wrote to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in August 2009 that: "he desperately wishes to do this [travel] in order to further the aims of his organisation, that is, supporting lesbians and gay men in Iraq and bringing the world's attention to their plight." Six months later, the UKBA told O'Leary that:
the assistance given by Hilli to the Foreign Office "does not count"
the fatwa does not mean that Hilli "falls within the classification of clear and immediate vulnerability"
that the delay in deciding Hilli's asylum case (since July 2007) "is not in itself an exceptional circumstance"
his case is not "compelling"
Peter Tatchell says of Ali:
"It was Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT who first alerted the world to the organised killing of LGBT people in Iraq - way back in 2005. For a long time, he was a lone voice." "Mr Hili was also the person who set up the 'underground railroad' and safe houses inside Iraq, to give refuge to LGBT people on the run from Islamist death squads and to provide escape routes to neighbouring countries - which saved the lives of many Iraqi LGBTs.
Ali must travel!
The UK Foreign Office Human Rights Report for 2009 specifically names Iraqi LGBT over other NGOs as a key source of information. Hili has met with them numerous times. The report quotes Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell condemning persecution of LGBT in Iraq. Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant wrote in his blog on Feb. 24: "I know some people dismiss LGBT rights as something of a sideshow in international relations, but I am proud to say that the FCO has argued for a decade that human rights are a seamless garment." Yet the same government through the Home Office is effectively aiding that persecution through the failure of government recognition to Iraqi LGBT's leader.
We want the UK government to expedite Ali Hili's asylum claim so he is properly able to tell the world about what is happening to LGBT in Iraq.
How you can help
Sign the international petition
Write to the UK Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to ask that he intervene in Ali's case that his asylum application be prioritised. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Home Secretary, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF Telephone: 020 7035 4848 Write to UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
The Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AAEmail the Prime Minister's Office Write to your MP to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case. If you are outside the UK, ask politicians, prominent persons and organisations to invite Ali to your country and make Brown and Johnson aware of this request. Ask those politicians, prominent persons and organisations to issue their own public statement in support of Hili's asylum prioritisation from the UK government.Write to newspapers, write blog posts in support of Ali, tell people about Ali. Please copy any letters to the campaign in support of Ali Hili to
Join the Facebook page ~~~~~~~Visit our website, LGBT asylum news (formally Save Medhi Kazemi)http://www.medhikazemi.comTwitter

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured five people, another Mosul roadside bombing injured one person, a Mosul mortar attack which left four children and three adults injured, a third Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left two people injured, a Muqdadiya roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people.


Reuters notes Iraqi forces in Baghdad killed 1 person (another injured). Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports 5 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in a Baghdad "by a group of men in three cars as they passed through a checkpoint".

DoD lie of the day: "I promise that going forward, we-we will be as open as we possibly can and candid about the -- the uh -- what's going on in this program." DoD lies, where does it take place? Congress. The House Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcomittee held a joint-hearing today. US House Rep Adam Smith Chaired the hearing and he raised the issue of the spending, of the costs that keep rising. He is Chair of the Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and Roscoe Bartlett is the Ranking Member. Bartlett also raised the issue of soaring coasts and how Congress is not kept up to date on the spending. And we'll note this section of his opening remarks:

I also share my colleagues' concern over the health of the Joint Strike Fighter program. This is an enormously expensive program that promises a great deal of capability, but I'm frankly concerned that cost growth will render it unaffordable in the long term. In my eighteen years in Congress, I have seen program after program in which the cost grows, the production is reduced to fit inside a fixed budget, and the program ends in a spiral that leaves the services well short of their inventory requirements.

US House Rep Gene Taylor is the Chair of the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee and Todd Akin is the Ranking Member. In his opening remarks, in the first sentence of his opening remarks, Akin called for Congress to be kept informed as to "affordability challenges." He outlined, at length, with hard numbers, how the Department hadn't been very good with numbers.

The soaring costs would come up repeatedly in the hearing but Bartlett bore down on the issue. For the record, Congress controls the purse. Congress controls all spending. Congress is supposed to be kept informed of any cost increases for programs they authorize (they authorize but which the tax payers fund). Bartlett is speaking with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

US House Rep Roscoe Bartlett: Are there regulations, written or unwritten, in the building that precludes including us as a partner in those discussions?

Ashton Carter: Uh -- I have to get back to you on the technicality of that. Certainly uh-yuh as a general matter, no, we try promptly to keep this Committee informed of important developments in programs that are in -- are in your purview. As I said when I uh earlier, because of the particular timing of the jet estimate and the Department's deliberations which were in the December-January period, leading up to the release of the president's budget -- It wasn't until the president's budget was released that the uh-uh jet estimate was -- which was included in that budget -- was uh-uh available. We did however -- It's my understanding that the jet estimate, even back in 2008, was made availabe uh to the Committee.

US House Rep Roscoe Bartlett: Thank you. Your statement goes on to say that program management contractors and the department need to surface candidly and openly issues with this program as they arise so that Congress is aware of them and they can be addressed." In the spirit of that statement, it would have been nice, I think, if we'd been part of that two month discussion between November and January. Would you agree?

Ashton Carter: I promise that going forward, we-we will be as open as we possibly can and candid about the -- the uh -- what's going on in this program.

Yesterday's snapshot and Kat's "Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing" covered a hearing of the House Armed Service's Military Personnel Subcommittee. Kat noted, "You've got a woman over 80-years-old but for her to receive the monies she's owed, she needs to drop her widow status and remarry." A visitor e-mails the public account to ask if that's hyperbole? No. Suzanne Stack testified, "Ms. Kozak of Jacksonville, Florida, needs to receive her SBP in full but does not want to start dating and remarry at age 85." I'm not sure that "Kozak" is the spellling, it may be "Kozack." But it was part of Stack's testimony. The woman does not receive her Survivor Benefit Pay and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation monies in full. Because she is eligible for both, her SBP is reduced. That's not fair but there is a way around that. She can, after the age of 57 (and she's 85), remarry and she'll get both payments in full. An 85-year-old widow being told to remarry to get the money she's owed and the money her husband assumed she would receive. SBP today, this was one part of the testimony, is not being explained accurately to service members who are signing up and thinking that the payments will be full. They take this out, it's a policy. Then they die and their wife or husband may or may not receive the full payments.

In the US over the weekend, demonstrations against the wars were held around the country. Sam Waite and Michael Chase (US Socialist Worker) report today:

In Washington, D.C., thousands turned out to a demonstration, called by International ANSWER, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan across the street from the White House early in the afternoon. Well-known antiwar activists such as Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney and members of Iraq Veterans Against the War took the stage to denounce the Obama administration's continuation of George Bush's "war on terror." "We can't make more excuses for the government," said Sheehan. "We can't make any more excuses for the president, no matter what party that president comes from."The sentiment was widely shared by demonstrators. "Obama is the president. He's the leader of this war effort, and we're going to oppose it," said Bruce Wolf of U.S. Labor Against the War. Wolf has organized a weekly vigil outside Walter Reed Memorial Hospital since 2005. Jessica Rua, who came from Atlantic City, N.J., agreed, saying that Obama's election had "no effect at all" on the prospect of ending the wars. "Our kids don't deserve this hell," said Rua, whose brother is missing in action in Afghanistan.The crowd was notable for its diversity. Veterans of antiwar movements since the Vietnam era mixed with a sizeable student contingent. Immigrant rights activists took part, as did Muslim and Arab American organizations.

Samuel Davidson (WSWS) reports on the DC actions:
On the official website of the demonstration,, there is little of Obama. His name did not even appear on the website's home page. Only a few of the more than two dozen updates on the website calling for people to attend the rally and reporting on support mention the Obama administration.Outside of a few homemade signs, none of the official mass-produced placards mentioned Obama and the role of the Democrats in promoting the war.As for the speakers, one had the strange feeling that you could have heard the exact same speeches at the rallies held two years ago when George W. Bush was still president. One had to wonder if Obama's name was censored from their remarks. However, it is more likely that the silence on Obama was self-imposed, a reflection of the fact that most of those who addressed the rally had either endorsed Obama in the 2008 elections or had adopted the more general "anybody but Bush" line promoted by the protest groups as a shamefaced form of backing the Democrats.Brian Becker, the National Coordinator for the ANSWER coalition did not mention Obama at all, and gave no explanation for the growing militarization of American life.

John Catalinotto (Workers' World) has a strong article but we're grabbing on Los Angeles because there's been little coverage of that action:

In Los Angeles, thousands, including many youth of color, gathered at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine and marched down Hollywood Blvd. to the rally site at Highland Ave. There they listened to speakers prominent in left and progressive movements demand an end to U.S. militarism and money for human needs at home and abroad.

Martin Steiner files what may be the lengthiest report on the Los Angeles action and she files it (audio report) for KPFK's Uprising. We'll note this from a male speaker in her report:

As students, we are gathering from all around the state to say, Mr. President, we are the future! And we need education! As veterans, we are saying today, Mr. President, we will not fight your battles anymore! We will not spill our blood for you anymore! We will not give our lives for you anymore! And for the profit of these corporations that run these wars and then profit off of the deaths of our brothers and sisters every single day in the war! Today, let us stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the people of Iraq, with the people of Afghanistan and with the homeless men and women and children of America and say that today we will stand up and we will form a movement and we will be back in the streets every day until we get our demands!!!

The report features many other speakers and it also features interviews with people taking part. 8 people were arrested at the DC protest including Cindy Sheehan. Jon Gold (Peace of the Action) writes of the arrests:

Cindy Sheehan, myself, and others walked through the crowd until we reached the barrier closest to those laying down on the sidewalk. As you can see in this video, the barrier failed, and Cindy Sheehan walked across. As soon as she entered the "arrest zone," the Park Police immediately grabbed her, and handcuffed her. They were literally manhandling her.
This made me angry, and I yelled at the Park Police to "let her go!" Before I knew it, the barrier was back up. I tried to push through the barrier, but the Park Police pushed back. I managed to push two Park Policeman back until one of them grabbed for something on their side to use against me. It was probably mace, but it could have been anything. I stopped pushing. I walked around to the side where the police tape was, that failed, and I found myself within the "arrest zone." I decided that I was going to allow myself to be arrested in order to keep an eye on Cindy. One of the Park Police grabbed me by my arm, and placed me next to Matthew and the others.
When I sat down next to Matthis, he said to me, "you're on the right side of the line," and I said, "I know." One of the Park Police walked over to me, and said to another officer, "he crossed the line, arrest him." That Park Policeman lifted me up, and put me in regular metal cuffs. As I stood up, I screamed as loud as I could, "THIS ARREST IS DEDICATED TO 9/11 VICTIM FAMILY MEMBER ROBERT MCILVAINE JR.!!!" and part of the crowd cheered. As they walked me away I could see Ann Wright waving her fist at me with a big smile on her face as if to say, "RIGHT ON!"

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Nouri miffed and pouty"
"Protests, pretense and action"
"The economy"
"Step bravely"
"Warning: Approach this post with care"
"grab bag"
"New glasses? Who needs new glasses?"
"Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing"
"What makes me laugh, what makes me angry"
"The temp"
"Chomsky, NLG"
"Let me loosen up your collar . . ."

No comments: