Monday, August 17, 2009

Barry flaunts his inner Reagan






Today Celebrity in Cheif Barry O! spoke to the VFW and made comments such as this: "When communism cast its shadow across so much of the globe, you stood vigilant in a long Cold War -- from an airlift in Berlin to mountains of Korea to the jungles of Vietnam." If your mouth just dropped open at the stunning historical ignorance of that single sentence, grasp that Barry O is whomever he thinks audiences want. He never means one damn word. That's the most frightening thing about him. George W. Bush's Iraq 'plan' was 'we'll stand down as they stand up' and Barry revealed the same 'strategy'. He also noted, "But as we move forward, the Iraqi people must know that the United States will keep its commitments. And the American people must know that we will move forward with our strategy. We will begin removing our combat brigades from Iraq later this year. We will remove all our combat brigades by the end of next August. And we will remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. And for America, the Iraq War will end." Yeah, we'll see. Barry O didn't argue "Trust me!" with comments about how he's working to ensure that troops in Iraq get more: "and for all those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, including our National Guard and Reserve, more of the protective gear and armored vehicles that save lives." Uh, excuse me, he's been president for seven months. If US troops in Iraq (or Afghanistan, but this is the Iraq snapshot) need "more of the protective gear and armored vehicles that save lives," as commander in chief, he should have ensured that they received it. Don't tell us what you're going to do. You've been president for seven months, it's time you have accomplishments to point to and if you're saying US troops are at risk because they lack "protective gear and armored vehicles," and you haven't already taken care of this? He brags about how its in his (proposed) budget and how he's not hiding the costs of the wars. On the latter, he means that he's not doing supplementals. As Bette Davis tells Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, "But you are, Blanche, you are." The night of June 16th, the US House voted on his War Supplemental (and passed it): 226 members (221 Democrats, 5 Republicans) voted for it, 202 members (32 Democrats, 170 Republicans) voted against it. June 18th the US Senate voted for it (91 voted for it, five -- Russ Feingold, Bernie Sanders, Jim DeMint, Mike Enzi and Tom Coburn -- voted against it.) Barack should remember that because June 24th he signed the $106 billion War Supplemental. So he's telling the American people in August that the US troops in Iraq do not have the equipment they need and in June he was signing a multi-billion dollar supplemental and not taking care of the troops in that?

Cindy Sheehan (Cindy's Soapbox) observed last week:

There has been no significant removal of troops from Iraq and there has been a very significant increase of troops to Af-Pak, with the unfortunate commensurate increase in casualties on all sides, yet there is very little movement in the "movement." McCain would be doing the exact same thing that Obama is doing in Iraq-Af-Pak: the EXACT same thing. There is no difference between what Obama is doing and what McCain would be doing, except Obama has a (D) behind his name. The profound difference to us here in the grassroots would be that if McCain were president, faux-gressives would still be up in arms about the wars and, even though our protests wouldn't change McCain's mind, at least we could retain our moral high-ground, that has been sold out to the Democrats for absolutely nothing in return.

Cindy's not sitting still. Barack vacations on Martha's Vineyard from Sunday through the 30th and Cindy will be there:

From her home in California, Ms. Sheehan released this statement:
"There are several things that we wish to accomplish with this protest on Martha's Vineyard. First of all, no good social or economic change will come about with the continuation or escalation of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We simply can't afford to continue this tragically expensive foreign policy.
Secondly, we as a movement need to continue calling for an immediate end to the occupations even when there is a Democrat in the Oval Office. There is still no Noble Cause no matter how we examine the policies.
Thirdly, the body bags aren't taking a vacation and as the US led violence surges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so are the needless deaths on every side.
And, finally, if the right-wing can force the government to drop any kind of public option or government supported health care, then we need to exert the same kind of pressure to force a speedy end to the occupations."
Cindy Sheehan will arrive on the Vineyard on Tuesday, August 25th.

Late last night Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported Human Rights Watch would be releasing a report today on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community: "Although the scope of the problem remains unclear, hundreds of gay men may have been killed this year in predominantly Shiite Muslim areas, the report's authors said, basing their conclusion on interviews with gay Iraqi men, hospital officials and an unnamed United Nations official in Baghdad." The Austin-American Statesman (compiling various wire reports) noted, "The campaign has been largely blamed on Shiite extremists who target behavior deemed un-Islamic, beating and even killing women for not wearing veils and bombing liquor stores." B-b-but, the New York Times told us the Shi'ite militias are standing down! And that they're lovely! Why, they're not just lovely, they're de-lovely! Imagine the New York Times ever being wrong about Iraq -- it's one for Ripley's. This morning the BBC added, "The report says members of the Mehdi Army militia group is spearheading the campaign, but police are also accused even though homosexuality is legal. Witnesses say vigilante groups break into homes and pick people up in the street, interrogating them to extract the names of other potential victims, before murdering them." CNN notes, "Interviews with doctors indicate hundreds of men had been killed, but the exact number was unclear because of the stigma associated with homosexuality in Iraq, the New York-based watchdog group said in its report." BBC correspondent Natalia Antelava interviewed gay men in Baghdad who report that no attempts are made by security forces to stop the assaults against them.The Human Rights Watch report is entitled "'They Want Us Exterminated': Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq." For the 67-page report [PDF format warning] click here. The report opens with Hamid relating how his partner was murdered: It was late one night in early April, and they came to take my partner at his parents' home. Four armed men barged into the house, masked and wearing black. They asked for him by name; they insulted him and took him in front of his parents. All that, I heard about later from his family. He was found in the neighborhood the day after. They had thrown his corpse in the garbage. His genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat was ripped out.Since then, I've been unable to speak properly. I feel as if my life is pointless now. I don't have friends other than those you see; for years it has just been my boyfriend and myself in that little bubble, by ourselves. I have no family now -- I cannot go back to them. I have a death warrant on me. I feel the best thing to do is just to kill myself. In Iraq, murderers and thieves are respected more than gay people. Their measuring rod to judge people is who they have sex with. It is not by their conscience, it is not by their conduct or their values, it is who they have sex with. The cheapest thing in Iraq is a human being, a human life. It is cheaper than an animal, than a pair of used-up batteries you buy on the street. Especially people like us. His partner of ten years is murdered and he has to live in fear, hide his own grief and hide who he is. And this is the country the US 'liberated'. Human Rights Watch's report notes that most of the Iraqis interviewed self-label as "gay" but the murderers would "describe the victims and excuse the killings with a potpourri of words and justifications, identifying those they abominate in shifting ways -- suggesting how concerns about an Iraq where men are no longer masculine drive the death squads, as much as fears of sexual 'sin.' 'Puppies,' a vilifying slang term of apparently recent vintage, implies that the men are immature as well as inhuman. Both the media and sermons in mosques warn of a wave of effeminacy among Iraqi men, and execrate the 'third sex'.'' The report also notes that while "gay" may be a new term in Iraq, homosexuals and lesbians are not new to Iraq ("always existed in Iraqi society, as in all societies"). HRW also notes that the hatred towards "'feminized' men reveals only hatred of women."

Tariq shares with HRW:

At the end of March, I started to hear from friends that the Mahdi Army was killing gays. The newspapers also reported there was an increase in the "third sex" in Iraq, also known as "puppies" [jarawi]. Then on April 4, I found out that two of my gay friends, Mohammed and Mazen, had been killed. I think those were their names; within a gay group, gays rarely give out their real names. We were friends, we met in cafes or chatted on the Internet, andone day they just disappeared.
A few days later, I met the brother of one of them and he told me they were killed. They were kidnapped on the street and then their bodies were found near a mosque, with signs of torture. One was 18, one was 19.
A couple of days after that, on April 6 or 7, I was in my parents' house, and someone threw a letter at the door. I didn't see who. Inside the envelope was a bullet. It had brown blood on it, and the letter said, "What are you still here for? Are you ready to die?"
I think those two were tortured into giving my name, because two days after I learned they were killed I got this threat. ... I spoke by phone to a friend of mine yesterday night: he is also gay but he's very masculine and no one knows about him. He said, "Get out if you can and save yourself. They are killing gays left and right."
I said, "Who is doing it?" He said, "Everyone knows. Who do you think? The Mahdi Army."
The report traces how militias originated from the security vacuum created by the US invasion. The Madhi 'Army' billed itself as the protector of society and "an agent of social cleansing." An unnamed journalist floats the idea that the Mahdi militia is now targeting LGBTs because "[g]etting rid of the Sunnis and the Americans is less important". Mashal was kidnapped by the Mahdi militia and he's quoted explaining:It was about 4 p.m. and four men came inside the shop. They lingered and when I tried to get them to leave, they pulled out guns. They had three cars -- one a black Daewoo -- and they put me in one and covered my eyes.
It was the Mahdi Army -- they are the ones who operate in the area. The place they took me to wasn't far away: it was very close to a mosque or actually in the courtyard, because I could hear the call to prayer very clearly. When they hauled me out of the car they beat me until I fell unconscious. Late the next day, they came to me and said, "We know you are gay, we know you're farakhji" [a derogatory term used in Iraq for men who have sex with men]. They pulled out a list of names and started reading them: you know these perverts, you know X and Y and Z. They gave the first name and the neighborhood where he lived. I knew four who were still alive. One they had already killed. They had killed my friend Waleed in February, before I was kidnapped. He was walking down a big street between Hayy Ur and al Shaab [in northeast Baghdad near Sadr City] at dusk. I asked Waleed's brother about it later, and he told me, "Waleed was slaughtered in the street. Don't ask more." I am sure he was killed because he was gay. He was walking with a bunch of straight friends, and he was killed, not them: he was the one they targeted. He was the first name on the list they read me. There were many more names I didn't know. I admitted knowing those four, but I said it was only because they were customers in my shop. They interrogated me for three hours that night. They kept me blindfolded and gagged, and when they wanted me to speak, they took out the gag. They demanded I give them names of other gays. At night they got a broomstick, and they used it to rape me. After that, they negotiated a ransom. They asked my family for $50,000 USD.My brothers sold my shop, my car, everything I had to put together half that. When they let me go they said, "We have our sources, and we know exactly what you do. If you step outside your house, you are dead." I never left the house for more than a month, until I fled Baghdad. One of the people whose names they read to me ran away from Baghdad, with his parents. Two others I know are just hiding in their houses. A few don't answer their phones and I don't know what has happened to them. This is targeting of a population and it goes on while US service members are on the ground in Iraq but the US White House, State Dept and Embassy in Baghdad do nothing -- despite requests from US House Reps Jared Polis, Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank, among others. And the problem includes Iraqi forces (and, I say, Nouri). The report explains: Iraqi police and security forces have done little to investigate or halt the killings. Authorities have announced no arrests or prosecutions; it is unlikely that any have occurred. While the government has made well-publicized attempts since 2006 to purge key ministries of officials with militia ties, including the Ministry of Interior, many Iraqis doubt both its sincerity and its success. Most disturbingly, Human Rights Watch heard accounts of police complicity in abuse -- ranging from harassing "effeminate" men at checkpoints, to possible abduction and extrajudicial killing. As the targeting has taken place, the Iraqi government has refused to call it out. The report points out, "Iraq's leaders must be defenders of all its people. The Iraqi state must desist from silence, and fully and immediately investigate the murder and torture of people targeted because they do not correspond to norms of 'masculinity,' or are suspected of homosexual conduct." Following the murders, the police look the other way. The murders are not punished, the killings are not investigated: "The brutality of the killings, the proliferation of mutilated corpses discarded in the trash, not only conveys the power of the killers and dispensability of the victims, but makes the dead a savage example. Bodies castrated, broken, tortured -- becomes billboards, on which punishment is less imposed than inscribed." The report makes recommendations for many bodies but here are the recommendations for the Iraqi government: • Investigate all reports of militia or other violence against people targeted because they do not correspond to norms of "masculinity," or are suspected of homosexual conduct, and appropriately punish those found responsible; • Publicly and expressly condemn all such violence; • Investigate whether ties continue between the Ministry of Interior and militias that have operated in the past as quasi-independent security forces under the Ministry's protection, including the Mahdi Army; • Investigate all claims of abuse by police or security forces, including abuses against people because they do not correspond to norms of "masculinity," or are suspected of homosexual conduct, and appropriately punish those found responsible; • Investigate and prosecute all Ministry of Interior officials involved in death squad killings or other unlawful acts, including torture, assault, and extortion; • Properly vet and train all police, security forces, and criminal justice officials, ensuring that this entails training in human rights inclusive of issues of sexual orientation and gender expression and identity, and establish effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms;• Take all appropriate measures to end torture, disappearances, summary killings, and other abuses, including abuses based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity; • Repeal article 128 of the Criminal Code, which identifies "The commission of an offence with honorable motives" as a "mitigating excuse"; • Examine vague articles of the Criminal Code, including paragraphs 401, 402, 501, 502, and 200(2), that could justify arbitrary arrest or harassment of people due to their sexual orientation or gender expression and identity, or could be used to prevent civil society from addressing unpopular or stigmatized issues; repeal or modify them if necessary, or otherwise ensure that they are not applied in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner contrary to international human rights law; • Create and support an independent National Human Rights Commission; • Support the development of domestic independent human rights non-governmentalorganizations with the capacity to monitor the full range of human rights violations, and ensure that they can operate without state harassment or interference; • Train all criminal-justice authorities in effective responses to gender-based violence against women and men; • Promote gender equality by embodying in legislation explicit guarantees for women's equal rights to marriage, within marriage, at the dissolution of marriage, and in inheritance.A large number of the LGBT community is fleeing or has fled Iraq and HRW calls on foreign governments to assist with this segment of the Iraqi refugee population. They note Jordan, Turkey and Syria -- three countries that house the majority of Iraq's external refugees -- are not countries where LGBTs are likely to feel welcomed.

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