Saturday, October 16, 2010

A wedding





This morning on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane and her guests Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), Kevin Whitelaw (Congressional Quarterly) and Gordon Lubold (Politico) addressed the wars.
Terry in Detroit: I thought you asked a fairly compelling and pertinent question when you asked what the wars and the prices of the war were going to do for the mid-term elections. And with all do respect, I think the response that this will manifest itself next summer might be a little naive because those of us who are tax payers recognize that the wars cost billions of dollars and considering the state of the economy at present I think this will become a bigger deal in the mid-term elections.
Diane Rehm: Gordon

Gordon Lubold: Well I don't disagree but it's just that you are not hearing that as part of the conversation. Even the veterans who are running for seats in the House are not -- that's not resonating. People are not paying attention to the fact -- And this is different from two years ago, uh, when the surge in Iraq was-was topic A and everybody wanted to weigh in about it. It's just not as much of an issue.
Nancy A. Youssef: Maybe we're talking about two different things? I think it's the war itself that's not resonating. I mean it's the details of the war, it's the -- it's the tactics of the war. We don't talk about that. But I think broadly, sort of Pentagon spending, defense spending maybe-maybe resonating in a way more than the actual war itself because the costs keep on going -- and have gone -- up exponentially since 2001. Remember, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are budgeted for $159 billion this year and remember at a time when the bailout cost $50 [billion]
Diane Rehm: Exactly.
Kevin Whitelaw: But even so, you know, it's quite instructive we really don't know where the candidates, particularly the Tea Party candidates, even stand on the war in Afghanistan. Most of them have-have not addressed it or-or have done their best to avoid speaking too strongly one way or the other. We're certainly not seeing that many of the candidates campaign against defense spending per se, although it's sort of hard to imagine that a whole bunch of the candidates who-who are swept into office on trying to cut the federal budget won't at least have to grapple with that given that defense spending is 50% of the discretionary budget.
The Iraq War is figuring in some races -- including the high profile one -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is running against Sharon Angle. Last night they debate. The Las Vegas Sun has a transcript that may confuse some. Mitch Fox, the moderator, raised the issue in the debate.
Mitch Fox: Our next question is on Iraq, and that's for you Senator Reid. Senator Reid, you were quoted as saying the following: "the war is lost, and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence." Do you believe that your statement demoralized the troops, and were inaccurate as judged by the success of the troop surge?
Harry Reid: Mitch, I first met General [David] Petraeus in Iraq. The statement that I made was made following General Petraeus saying the war cannot be won militarily. He said, and I said, the war can only be won militarily, economically and diplomatically. That's why after I made the statement, we did the surge then, not later. And it was the right thing to do. The surge worked because we brought in the economy, working with the Sunnis, we brought in diplomacy, working with, and that's how we got the Sunni awakening so they started fighting the people who were causing all the trouble.
He's not done but that's enough. First, Angle will go on, in her time, to repeat a charge of demoralization but the issue was raised -- including demoralization -- by Mitch Fox.
Now what did Reid say? He did support the escalation in real time. The December 18, 2006 snapshot noted that Harry Reid had been expressing support for the escalation (though he couched it on the terms of lasting "for two or three months" only). The war is lost statement was covered by AP (April 20, 2007) which quoted Reid stating, "I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and -- you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows -- [know] this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday." And here's Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!, April 20, 2007 -- link has text, audio and video):
Amy Goodman: In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has admitted for the first time that the war in Iraq has been lost. Reid said, "This war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday." On Wedensday over 300 Iraqis died in one of the bloodiest days of the war. The US commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, admitted the events on Wednesday marked a setback for the US.
Gen David Petraeus: Yesterday was a bad day. There are no two ways about it. And a day like that can have a real psychological impact.
Angle @ debate: Reid demoralized our troops when he said the war was lost. LIE! HERE'S PROOF #nvsen
At his campaign site's talking points page (campaign's do not have "Fact checks" -- fact checks come from outside observers), they've written: "Senator Reid's point was clear: he was agreeing with General David Petraeus' assessment that the Iraq war could not be won by military force alone and that political and economic solutions were also needed as part of a two-part strategy -- which President Bush refused to pursue." For the record, the war was lost. It remains lost. It's a shame that -- for whatever reasons -- Harry Reid no longer feels comfortable speaking the truth. It's also a tactical error for Reid because many right-wing web sites are posting his claim that Angle "lied" and video of Reid's 2007 statement (one example, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air).. Side note, Reid and Angle are just two of the candidates running. Politics1 notes:

Harry Reid (D)* - (Senate Leadership Site) - (Campaign Site)
Sharron Angle (R) - Ex-State Assemblywoman, Businesswoman & '06 US Rep. Candidate

Tim Fasano (IAP) - Businessman & Navy Veteran
Scott Ashjian (Tea Party) - Businessman
Michael Haines (Independent)
Jesse Holland (Independent) - Metallurgical Worker
Jeffrey Reeves (Independent) - Teacher & '08 US Rep. Candidate
Wil Stand (Independent)

We've added Michael Haines' campaign website (on Facebook) but if Wil Stand has a campaign site, we can't find it. If we're informed there is one, we will note him next week. All of the websites should be noted and all of the above candidates should have been on stage at the debate. It's not a real debate when you prevent people running for the office from participating. In my state, we saw a candidate not only prevented from being on stage, but from even being present in the audience for the debate. Betty blogged about it in "Laura Wells, Green Party candidate for governor" and Betty is supporting Laura Wells for California governor.
Iraq is making an impression in some races -- polling on Alan Grayson indicates he needs to note his Iraq War position in the current race (he's against it, that's what got him elected in 2008) and it's impacting Patrick Murphy's attempts to hold onto his Congressional seat. But there are races where the Iraq War has not been an issue. Earlier this week,in "Perriello-Hurt Debate Pathetic" (War Is A Crime), David Swanson reported:

The only debate thus far between the Republican and Democratic candidates for Congress from Virginia's Fifth District was held Wednesday evening. It excluded a third candidate who is on the ballot and was finished in 27 minutes minus the time devoted to advertisements. Somehow, I'm not overwhelmed with the health of our democracy. Have we really got this democracy thing down well enough to be bombing other nations in the name of spreading it -- something that both Robert Hurt (Republican challenger) and Tom Perriello (Democratic incumbent) support?
The wars went unquestioned and unmentioned in the debate. The moderator began with a truly useful and substantive line of questioning, using a graphic to display, with only slight inaccuracy, where our federal dollars go, including how much goes to the military. But when Hurt said he would balance the budget without cutting the military, and when he claimed to prioritize job creation (something that military spending is even worse at than tax cuts) he wasn't pressed on it. And when Perriello claimed that he would consider cutting the military, he wasn't asked how or when. He wasn't challenged on his record of having backed every military and war bill yet placed in front of him. He wasn't asked what steps he'd taken (he has taken none) to cut anything at all in the military.
Getting back to Gordon Lubold, does the public care about the wars? To care, the public would have to be informed of the wars and few are. (In fact, it's a rare day when some idiot doesn't claim that all US troops are out of Iraq and/or the war is over.) But if the public is interested in the topic, where would they find details? The bulk of the press -- this includes Diane's panel today -- can't address Iraq. They didn't note the refugee crisis, Diane's never addressed the targeting of gay men and men perceived to be gay in Iraq, go down the list. And the debate Swanson reported on? The moderator could have brought up the wars. It's really easy for the press to claim "no one's talking" while forgetting that they are part of the process. (It was the moderator of th Reid-Angle debate that raised the Iraq War.) So before Lubold next claims the public isn't interested, he might need to check what gets covered. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may bore many in the mainstream press, but the college press is taking notice of them. For example, Sara Jackson (Daily Collegian) reports on a Northampton resolution:

On Oct. 7 the mayor and city council of Northampton passed a resolution called, "Bring the War Dollars Home," which calls on the Northampton's congressional representatives to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the grounds of economic cost to the city.
Six council members voted for the resolution, two voting against it and one City Council member abstained. A copy of the resolution will be presented to Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown along with Representative Richard Neal to urge them to oppose further funding of these wars.
That resolution would appear to back up Terry in Detroit. And Chris Dunn (Collegiate Times) writes of the many costs of the wars:

The wars have also taken a human toll on the 9th District. Besides the Tech Corps of Cadets alumni who have been killed in action, the following residents of the district have lost their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan: Brandon Asbury, Jesse Ault, Chad Barrett, Jonathan Bowling, Jason Deibler, Michael Dooley, Kenneth Gibson, Jeffrey Kaylor, David Lambert, Ryan McGlothlin and Gregory Pennington.
To many of us, these are simply names printed on paper. But for some in the New River Valley, these are the names of loved ones. For most of us, these names evoke no emotional response, but for dozens of our neighbors, each name represents the loss of a son, brother, cousin, nephew, grandson or father.
As the wars drag on, America's standing in the world will continue to decline. This will affect 9th District residents, particularly Tech students, in unforeseen ways.
If the public has 'forgotten' those facts, that goes to the press which is yet again sleeping on the job. The public can't follow a war that the media -- especially TV -- ignores. The withdrawal from Iraq is pretty much complete and practically no one's there anymore . . . if you're referring to US journalists. US troops remain in Iraq, the war has ended. The only thing that ended for most outlets was their coverage of the ongoing war.
In Iraq, the political stalemate also continues. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and eight days and counting.
Ashar Al-Awsat reports today that sources (unnamed) close to Nouri al-Maliki are stating the US government is ressuring the puppet to cut off all his ties with Moqtada al-Sadr. The paper notes (there is no byline on the story) that Nouri does not have the support of Ammar al-Hakim or al-Hakim's bloc of votes and that Nouri fears cutting al-Sadr lose will prevent him from reaching the magic number (163) without either al-Hakim or al-Sadr's bloc. Jawad al-Hassanawi goes on the record stating that his bloc (al-Sadr) "did not demand security ministries" in exchange for their support. Though Philip J. Crowley did his usual daily press briefing at the US State Dept today, not one reporter bothered to ask him about these rumors. Nor -- pay attention, Gordon Lubold -- did they bother to ask a single question about Iraq.
It should be noted that while the plight of Iraqi's LGBT community is widely known in the US -- and everyone from the Denver Post to the New York Times has covered the topic in the last two years -- the only time a question was ever raised -- yes, it happened once and only once -- in the State Dept's daily press briefings, it was raised by a BBC employee. US reporters sit through that briefing day after day and never could be bothered even once to ask about the plight of Iraqi's LGBT community. That says a great deal about the press corps.
One American reporter who did think the news was worth covering is Michael T. Luongo who finishes up his trip to Baghdad with part-four in his series: "Gay Baghdad: Final Thoughts and a Call to Action" (Gay City News). Excerpt:
After having visited Iraq and seen the randomness of the violence firsthand, the disconnect in our attitudes here in the US angers me the most. After reading four installments of my reporting about Baghdad and the dangers gay men face there and beyond -- roughly 16,000 words, including part 1, part 2, and part 3 -- what are you going to do about it? And where does all this fit into the broader crisis facing gay men and lesbians around the developing world, such as in Africa, a new frontier of anti-LGBT violence?
It's easy to sit in the comfort of one's home, after watching "The A-List" or "Dancing With the Stars" or the latest escapades of Lindsay Lohan, and say, "Oh, I care about gay Iraqis!" But how is that abstract, touchy-feely thought put into practice?
It's true that when I tell other gay men I am writing about gay Iraqis, they often ask me what they can do, some with the utmost sincerity. If you're one of them, well, here's an answer.
Are you willing to write letters to members of Congress and to the State Department, provide money to groups like Human Rights Watch, IGLHRC, the London-based Iraqi LGBT, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, the List Project, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), or the International Rescue Committee (IRC)?
How much does seeking asylum or refugee status even cost? To give you an idea, when Human Rights Watch (HRW) helped gay Iraqis flee to another country, they needed a few thousand dollars for each individual to cover flights and other incidental expenses. One of the men they helped told me he could not legally work in his temporary host country and it would take up to a year for his refugee paperwork to be processed. He paid $250 rent for an apartment out of a monthly $400 stipend HRW provided, which was due to run out shortly after I interviewed him in February - long before he would officially be granted refugee status.
Multiply the costs borne by this man by so many months and so many other gay men, and you recognize the exorbitant bill that the warm and fuzzy notion of saving lives means for a group like HRW, even without considering the staff salaries it takes for it do this work in the first place.
Michael T. Luongo has a friend at the State Dept who whines that reporters have the "attitude that we should not have invaded" and that's moot because there's no way to travel back in time but it makes staff throw up "a defenisve wall" and oh, boo hoo. The same friend whines, "Even if I could heli-vac all the gays out of Iraq, what about the Christians, what about the women, what about all the other persecuted people?" Yeah, what about them? And what about the State Dept losing their sniveling little blame everybody else attitude? What about the refugees? Start granting the asylum. It's not difficult. The State Dept tells Luongo that "the 9,000 gay Iraqis in Damscus [Syria] would nearly overload the official US quota system for the number of Iraqis our nation will accept in one year." Raise the quota -- and, no, bringing all those 9,000 Iraqis into the US would not overwhelm the quota system which stands at 18,000 for Iraqis alone.

The Iraqi refugee crisis gets little attention despite it setting records not seen globally since the 1940s for the number of refugees in the MidEast. The US doesn't want them -- rumors abound that the 2010 fiscal year statistics on Iraqis granted asylum are so 'fractured' and backed up due to the fact that the White House is in no hurry to release the numbers -- and admits very few while Europe is continually forcibly deporting them back to Iraq despite the United Nations repeatedly issuing statements that it is not safe for returns. The bulk of the refugees went to Jordan or Syria. In either country, they face many obstacles. They're seen more as guests. Guests who can't legally work. So they're there with their families and unable to get visible employment. That means a large number go underground. That means a large number are driven to acts for which they could be arrested.

And if they're arrested? One more reason to kick them out of the country and force them back to Iraq. Jordan and Syria are suffering, no question. Nouri al-Maliki, when the world was paying attention, made a grand show of promising that some of Iraq's oil billions would go to Syria and Jordan to assist with the cost of housing the refugees. That money never got delivered. With Syria, Nouri can claim that the two governments have only this week healed their year-long breach. He can hide behind that (though it really doesn't explain why, prior ot the breach, Nouri was sending funds to Syria). But what about Jordan? No such breach existed.

And refugees -- especially ones who are not permitted to visibly work -- do place a burden on host countries. So yes, Syria and Jordan have faced problems -- primarily economic -- and that's not fair. And it's also true that when the governments of US and England and Australia -- the three that led on the illegal war -- refused to admit their share of refugees, Syria and Jordan did allow the refugees to stay. But it's also true that the refugee crisis is a humanitarian crisis and everyone's supposed to pitch in to address such a crisis.
For many refugees with or part of families, the answer becomes for one of the women or girls to turn to prostitution -- or for a relative to force them into prostitution -- in order to provide for the families. Dominique Soguel (Women's eNews) reports:

Um Ali is scared. She says male relatives want to kill her and sell her daughters into marriages that are really sex-trafficking arrangements that put young women to work in brothels overseas.
She lives in hiding and relocates often. Her pulse accelerates every time an international text message pops into her cell phone.
"The world is small," wrote her brother in a recent threat.
Um Ali is one of over a million refugees who have sought shelter in Syria since U.S. troops entered Iraq in 2003. She left with her husband and children during a wave of militia violence against Iraqis working--"collaborating"--with Americans in 2006.
Some girls and women among these refugees face being sex trafficked by people within their own families. No statistics or studies are available on this specific problem, but there are plenty of stories of men in a pinch treating female relatives as young as 13 as commodities for sex and marriage markets.

The economics are made worse because Iraqis left Iraq for Syria or Jordan (or Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, etc.) thinking this would be a way-station. Some thought they'd stay there for a little while and then either return to Iraq or be granted asylum to a third country. Refugees in Syria especially -- in United Nations surveys -- have been clear that they are not returning to Iraq. And, again, with western countries refusing to do their part, for most refugees there is no third country to immigrate to even if they managed to jump through all the hoops. But in 2006 or 2007 or 2009 or 2009 (officially Syria's borders are closed today but Iraqi refugees continue to cross over), you and your family cross over. You've got all your money, you've sold your stuff, you think three to four months and then you'll move on (back to Iraq or a third country) but there is no moving on and those savings go so quickly -- especially when you're not permitted to visibly work. So your savings are tapped out and what are you going to do?

Spero News reports: "Chaldean Christian refugees from Iraq are turning to prostitution in order to survive in Syria. Fr Farid Botros, head of the Chaldean community in the Syrian capital, is concerned about the trend, which is growing to hitherto unknown levels." They quote Friar Farid Botros stating, "We have about 4,000 Chaldean families from Iraq, some fled with just the clothes on their back with a death threat hanging over them. Under Syrian law, they cannot work. Many do something underground; others, more and more, turn to prostitution." Deborah Amos covers that aspect of the refugee story and more in her book Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile and Upheaval in the Middle East. Kim Schultz' new one-woman play entitled No Place Called Home is attempting to bring attention and awareness to the issue of Iraqi refugees. Charity Tooze reports on the play for Huffington Post this week.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Iraq's LGBT community 'forgotten' by the US government"
"Lack of answers"
"I Hate The War"
"Talking Dick"
"Cornbread and beans in the kitchen"
"The economy"
"Who asked you, Bob Parry?"
"Laura Wells"
"Always with Terry"
"not so simple a narrative"
"truth tellers"
"Beth Marlowe shows up late to the party"
"If it were Board versus Brown of Education?"
"Laura Nyro, Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige"
"The homophobe in chief"
"Mrs. Pollifax"
"A clue?"
"Now they go after Jane"
"Dumb Ass of the Week, Fringe"
"Slipping Barry"

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