Saturday, April 18, 2009

He taught college, right? Right?






Starting with war resistance, Matthis Chiroux was supposed to stand before a military body last month but that changed. He explained to Digital Journal's Stephen Dohnberg why the date was changed to April 21st, "My former JAG attorney volunteered for Iraq service and was deployed a number of weeks ago. Thus, I had to get a new lawyer and a new court date. I think the Army may have been hoping I'd already bought tickets for people to be in attendance and it would have wiped out my finances. Lucky for me, I'm a last minute kinda guy. My replacement is a JAG attorney. Thomas M. Roughneen." This is "Resistance to an Abhorrent Occupation: Press Release of Matthis Chiroux" (World Can't Wait):(ST. LOUIS, MO) The U.S. Army will hear the case of Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, an Individual Ready Reservist who last summer publicly refused activation and deployment orders to Iraq, on April 21 at 1 Reserve Way in Overland, St. Louis, MO, at 9 a.m. Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, refused to participate in what he described as "an illegal and immoral occupation" May 15th, 2008, in Washington D.C., after nine other veterans testified to Members of the U.S. Congress about atrocities they experienced during deployments to Iraq. Chiroux also vowed to remain public in the U.S. to defend himself from any charges brought against him by the military. (see for a record of that speech and others by Chiroux) "My resistance as a noncommissioned officer to this abhorrent occupation is just as legitimate now as it was last year," said Chiroux, adding, "Soldiers have a duty to adhere to the international laws of war described as supreme in Art. 6 Para. 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which we swear to abide by before the orders of any superior, including our former or current president." Following Chiroux's refusal to deploy, the military did not contact him until after he and 10 other IVAW members marched on the final presidential debate Oct. 15, 2008, in Hempstead, N.Y. demanding to question then Senators Obama and McCain regarding their war policies and plans to care for returning veterans. After the veterans were brutalized and arrested by police, (one suffered a fractured skull and is currently suing the police for damages) the Army charged Chiroux with "misconduct" for refusing to deploy, announcing their intentions to discharge him from the reserves as a result. "I go now to St. Louis to honor my promises and convictions," said Chiroux. "Obama or No-Bama, the military must cease prosecuting Soldiers of conscience, and we will demonstrate to them why." Following the hearing, Chiroux and other IVAW members will testify about their military experiences which led them all to resist in different capacities the U.S.'s Overseas Contingency Operation (formerly the Global War on Terror). For more information, see and

Betty covered Mathis last night in "April 21st, St Louis, Matthis needs your support." June 15, 2008, Matthis explained his reasoning which includes:

I believe that this nation and this military may come to know the same truth: That the rule of law has been forsaken and we must return to it or be doomed to continue disaster. I believe in the goodness of the American people and I believe that justice is not dead because we as a people believe that it is our responsibility to resist the injustices done by our government in our names. We know this truth to be self-evident that our nation can unite to oppose an illegal occupation which is killing and scarring and shattering the lives of our youth and the Iraqi people. On this Fathers Day, know, America, that your children need you. We need you to care for us and to care for our country which we will inherit when you are finished with her. We need you to end this occupation of Iraq which has destroyed a country and scattered its people to the wind like ashes in the tempest -- a tempest that has engulfed the nation of Iraq and scrubbed any sign of peace and prosperity from the surface of a civilization older than even history itself. Fathers, we need you to care for your children and the children of Iraq for they know not why you fight and carry no fault in the conflict. Fathers, your sons and daughters need you now to embrace peace for though we were attacked, we have dealt in retaliation that same suffering one-thousand times over to a people who never wronged us. The nation will know little healing until first we stem off the flow of blood and human life for justice and healing will never be done by a blade or a bullet or a bomb or a torture cell. By continuing to participate in the unjust occupation of Iraq, we, as service members, are contributing to that flow of human life and we cannot now -- nor could we ever -- call the Iraqi people an enemy in the fight against the use of terror. But terror is all we now know. We are terrified of the prospect that we have been lied to. We are terrified by the idea that we have killed for nothing. We are terrified to break the silence. We are terrified to do what we know is right. But never again will I allow terror to silence me. Nor will I allow it to govern my actions. I refuse terror as a tactic for uniting a people around an unjust cause. I refuse to allow terror to motivate me to do violence on my fellow man especially those who never wronged me in the first place. I refuse to be terrified to stand in defense of my Constitution. And I refuse to be terrified of doing so in great adversity. As a resister to the Iraq Occupation, I refuse to be terrified by what may come for I know those who stand against me are in terror of the truth. But I will speak my truth, and I will stand by it firmly and forever will my soul know peace. Thank you.

Matthis Chiroux's entire speech is in the June 16, 2008 snapshot. Iraq Veterans Against the War notes:

On Tuesday April 21st an Army administrative discharge board will hear the case of Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, an Individual Ready Reservist (IRR) who last summer publicly refused activation orders in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The board will convene at 9am at the Army Human Resources Command, 1 Reserve Way in Overland, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. IVAW members and supporters will rally outside the hearing starting at 8:30am.
Although Chiroux is voluntary attending this hearing, all other IRR members who have refused activation have not had any disciplinary actions taken against them by the military other then receiving a General or Other Than Honorable discharge from the IRR. This discharge has no effect on benefits like the GI Bill that IRR members earned through their service while on active duty. Service members who have questions about the IRR can click here or contact the GI Rights Hotline at 877-447-4487.

So that's this coming Tuesday. Wednesday the 15th, the latest 'progress' report on Iraq was released. The US State Dept report is entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq Status Report." Page 3 offers an overview of the report entitled "Highlights" which includes:

* Amnesty International Calls on PM Maliki to Protect Homosexuals in Iraq (POLITICAL, page 4).

* Iraqi Vice President to Meet with Executives from Total (ECONOMIC, page 10).

* Prime Minister Maliki Visits Moscow for High-Level Talks (DIPLOMATIC, page 20).

* High-Profile Attacks Fail to Re-Ignite Sectarian Violence (SECURITY, page 22).

We'll dive into security and move to page 23 where the following appears -- see if you can catch the distortion:

MNF-I COMMANDER Says U.S. on Track to Meet Withdrawal Deadlines:
* General Odierno said he believes the United States is on track to withdraw from major Iraqi cities by the end of June and all combat troops to depart Iraq by the end of 2011. Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," General Odierno said "We continue to work with the Government of Iraq so they can meet that timeline so that they are able to maintain stability after we leave. . . I still believe we're on track with that."

It continues but that quote had NOTHING to do with the June deadline. John King never combined the two -- the June deadline and end of 2011 one -- into one question asking
Gen Ray Odierno's thoughts. Here's the section they've pulled the quote from and the quoted section above will be in italics:

KING: Let me -- let me ask you -- let me move back to a more serious question, and the idea that, in the previous administration and in your service prior to this administration, you were very clear that you thought these decisions should not be based on political timelines; they should be based on conditions on the ground. I understand you're executing the orders of the commander in chief. I just want to get a sense of, are you concerned at all that the bad guys, the enemy, knows the timeline, too, and they are simply going into hiding, hoarding their resources, gathering their weapons and waiting for you to leave? ODIERNO: There is always that potential. But, again, let me remind everyone what change was in December when the United States and the government of Iraq signed an agreement, a bilateral agreement that put the timeline in place, that said we would withdraw all our forces by 31 December, 2011. In my mind, that was historic. It allowed Iraq to prove that it has its own sovereignty. It allows them, now, to move forward and take control, which was always -- it's always been our goal, is that they can control the stability in their country. So I think I feel comfortable with that timeline. I did back in December. I do now. We continue to work with the government of Iraq so they can meet that timeline, so that they are able to maintain stability once we leave. I still believe we're on track with that, as we talk about this today.

First note that the State Dept did not even get the words correct ("once we leave," not "after we leave" -- and, yes, in a government report, quotes should be correct). Second, notice that entire quote is to King's question about 2011. Click here for full transcript and here for report and video option (all links are CNN). In that interview, Odierno was not stating that the June deadline was on track. He has, publicly, with other outlets, raised the possibility of remaining in Iraqi cities past June 30th and did in that interview. The paragraph as written is a deliberate distortion and including his qualifiers somewhat (as the report finally does) comes after the report has already established a contrary message and it distorts what Odierno said. That's unacceptable. It is not accurate to take comments Odierno makes about a 2011 deadline and pass them off as remarks regarding a June 30, 2009 deadline. It's also bad p.r. because the rumors already that Gen Ray Odierno is being "censored" and that he was balled out for some of his public statements two days before that CNN interview. The State Dept misrepresenting Odierno's words only appears to confirm those rumors since they indicate an urge to put words into the general's mouth. Moving on, page 7 is "Key Legislative Issues" and we'll note that in full.

* Hydrocarbons Package: The Framework Law was resubmitted to the Oil and Gas Committee on October 26 and then returned to the Council of Ministers. There has been no progress on the other three laws in the package.

* Budget: The Council of Representatives (COR) passed a budget on March 5. The Presidency Council approved the 2009 budget on April 2.

* COR Speaker: The COR has yet to reach a consensus on appointing a new Speaker since Mahmoud Mashadani was ousted on December 23, 2008. The COR concluded spring recess and resumed on April 14.

Credit to whomever wrote the report for at least getting it correct that the Speaker was ousted. Very few press reports -- including the New York Times -- get that correct. We'll note the LGBT section in full:

Amnesty International issued a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urging the Iraqi government to take "urgent and concerted action" against the recent rise in violence against the gay community in Iraq, including by condemning the killing of six men found dead in Sadr City in past weeks, and bringing the murderers to justice. Congressman Jared Polis also brought the issue to the attention of Iraqi officials during his delegation's recent visit to Iraq.

We noted the letter earlier this week. Amnesty International has not posted it online but they have posted this:

Amnesty International has written to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki expressing grave concern about a reported spate of killing of young men solely because of their sexual orientation and calling for urgent and concerted action by the government to bring those responsible to justice and to afford effective protection to the gay community in Iraq.
Over the last few weeks at least 25 boys and men are reported to have been killed in Baghdad because theyw ere, or were pereceived to be, gay. The killings are said to have been carried out by armed Shi'a militamen as well as by members of the tribes and families of the victims. Certain religious leaders, especially in al-Sadr City neighbourhood, are also reported in recent weeks to have urged their followers to take action to eradicate homosexuality in Iraqi society, in terms which appear effectively to constitute at least an implicit, if not explicit, incitement to violence against members of the gay community. Three corpses of gay men are reported to have been found in al-Sadr City on 2 and 3 April 2009; two of the bodies are said to have had pieces of paper bearing the word "pervert" attached to them, suggetsting that the victims had been murdered on account of their sexual identitiy.
In the letter sent to the Prime Minister Amnesty International expressed concern at the government's failure to publicly condemn the killings and ensure that they are promptly and effective investigated, and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The letter also drew attention to reported statements by one senior police officer that appear to condone or even encourage the targeting of members of the gay community in Baghdad, in gross breach of the law and international human rights standards.
Amnesty International reminded the Iraqi government that it is a fundamental principle of international human rights law, including international treaties that have been ratified by and are binding on Iraq, that "All human beings are equal in dignity and rights" and are entitled to all rights and freedom set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without distinction of any kind, such as on grounds of race, sex, religion, political, or other status, including sexual orientation and gender identity. The organization called on Prime Minister al-Maliki [to] take immediate and concrete steps to address this sitatuion, including to publicly condemn, unreservedly and in the strongest terms, all attacks on members of the gay community or others on account of their sexual, gender, ethnic or other identity, and to commit to ensuring that those responsible for such abuses are identified and brought to justice. Further, police officers or other officials who encourage, condone or acquiesce in such attacks must also be held to account and either prosecuted or disciplined and removed from office.

This morning AFP is reported that signs are going up around the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad threatening to kill a list of people alleged to be gay. The posters are put out by the Brigades of the Righteous and AFP translates the posters as stating, "We will punish you, perverts" and "We will get you, puppies" has been scrawled on some posters -- "puppies" being slang for gay males in Iraq. The Australian carries the AFP report here. Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed (LAT's Babylon & Beyond) report the message on the posters included, "If you don't cease your perverted acts, you will get your fair punishment." The reporters also noted that a Sadr City resident saw a poster with approximately 15 names (of people who would be killed) written on it. These posters are going up around Sadr City. Where is the United Nations condemnation? Where is the White House, where is the US State Dept? Chris Johnson (Washington Blade) notes the only member of the US Congress to condemn the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community, US House Rep Jared Polis and reports:

Noel Clay, a State Department spokesperson, said U.S. officials "condemn the persecution of LGBTs in Iraq," but he couldn't confirm whether the violence they're facing in Iraq is because of their sexual orientation. Clay noted that while homosexuality is against the law in Iraq, the death penalty is not the punishment for homosexual acts.

And yet at the start of this month the State Dept's Iraqi Desk John Fleming was telling Kilian Melloy (The Edge) that, "Homosexuality not a crime in Iraq." He was also stating that same-sex relations were of no conern to Iraqis ("immaterial"). That is laughable. Noel Clay has stated that same-sex relations have been criminalized in Iraq so unless or until the State Dept issues a public clarification, we will operate under the belief that Clay is correct. Attempts by the press to figure this out has been stonewalled.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Barack needs a Constitutional tutor







This morning the Daily Coverup (aka New York Times), found Alissa J. Rubin joining with Rod Nordland for more please-love-us-and-don't-kick-us-out-of-the-country efforts. This follows yesterday's garbage (Rubin's "Iraq Tries to Prove Autonomy, and Makes Inroads") made it into print for anyone who didn't grasp what was what yesterday. Today's article never goes deeper than the headline ("U.S. Military Expresses Concern About Perception of an Iraqi Crackdown on Sunnis"). It's not an article, it's a damn press release and your first clue is the fact that the headline expresses a point of view which Rubin and Nordland carry through in their article. Reporters do not do that. If one person has a point of view and they present that point of view in their article, they also present other points of view. So X is saying there is no problem. A reporter then goes to Z, goes to Y, etc. to find out whether or not the claim is true. Various points of view are presented -- especially when a claim cannot be independently verified.Rubin and Nordland don't do that. They're not interested in evaluating the claim, they're only interested in making sure they were good little stenographers who dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" in what the US military told them to write down. It's shameful and it's embarrassing. The New York Times is never supposed to be part of the US military's counter-insurgency operations but that's what they do this morning and it's shameful and it needs to be called out. There is no excuse for it at all.For the record, the press didn't create the tensions between Sahwa and Nouri. Those tensions were always present and you can go back to 2007 reports and find that. In terms of the Baghdad armed conflict which took place last month, BBC and Reuters were the only ones filing early reports (when the conflict had just started) and those were innocuous reports nothing like what would come out by the end of the day about US forces joining with Iraqi forces to battle Sahwa in the Fadhil section of Baghdad. The press didn't create that armed struggle, didn't encourage it and, honestly, was caught by surprise when those tensions flared up so dramatically. Yesterday Rubin served up propaganda that rivaled the garbage Eason Jordan attoned for in a Times' column (he admitted CNN regularly covered up stories of abuse in Iraq to curry favor with Saddam Hussein). Today, Rubin and Nordland enlist in the US military in order to pull a fast one on the public in the US and in Iraq. Today they set journalism aside because they've been told they need to serve a 'higher purpose.' Any journalist who has so little pride in their field that they'd do this sort of stenography needs to take a good hard look at themselves and whether they belong in journalism.What Rubin and Nordland have written is an embarrassment and it's an embarrassment for their paper which indicates just how awful their article is. Check "Rudith Miller" for how the paper works. It always cowtows to what the US government wants. But even Judith, even Judith Miller, knew you just bury the contrary opinions when presenting government assertions as fact. Rubin and Nordland present US government assertions as fact but they're worse than Judith Miller. Take a moment to grasp that. While Miller would wait until paragraph 13 to briefly note a voice that called into question a government claim, Rubin and Nordland just eliminate those voices, they refuse to cover them, they refuse to include them. The US military is doing cartwheels this morning because they dictated an article to the Times and the Times ran it without any efforts to verify it and without any efforts to include any other opinions. This is propaganda pure and simple and, no, that is not how an allegedly free press works. And for those who wish to play as dumb as Rubin and Nordland, among the people real reporters could have interviewed to round out and evaluate a claim were: Iraqi police officers, Sahwa, academics who follow the situation (especially academics in Baghdad and Dubai) and NGOs. By refusing to do so, by printing 18 paragraphs that's nothing but an attempt at perception management on the part of the US military, the reporters disgrace themselves and their profession.
And we return to the money issue by noting one of the most laughable US military assertions that made it into print this morning, that Sahwa's not being paid due to money shortages. Nouri's got money problems because of falling oil prices, the US military insists and Rubin and Nordland spit back at American readers without question. From yesterday's snapshot, "AFP reports reality, 'Iraq has signed a contract with British engineering and construction company Foster Wheeler to build the country's largest-ever oil refinery, an Iraqi official said on Wednesday'." The cost of the plant? $128,000,000. That deal was announced yesterday. And Rubin and Nordland want to repeat (without question) US military tales of Nouri having to count and watch his pennies. Remember Nouri always says "only boys who save their pennies make my rainy day." Alsumaria reports Iraq's Shi'ite vice president Adel Abdul Mehdi met with French president Nicolas Sarkozy today and delcared that oil conglomerate Total was very likely to win a contract in Iraq -- that would mean, pay attention, more money forked over to Iraq. Meanwhile Simon Webb and Amena Bakr (Reuters) interview Iraqi MP Jabir Khalifa who states that the Parliament is seeking to revoke the contract Royal Dutch Shell made with the country's Oil Ministry because it is "unconstitutional and detrimental to Iraq's economic interests".

While Rubin and Nordland serve up propaganda, independent journalist Dahr Jamail offers some reality at ZNet:

While the US military maintains 138,000 soldiers in Iraq, and there are over 200,000 private contractors enabling the occupation, and the president intends on keeping at least 50,000 US troops in Iraq indefinitely, Obama managed to keep a straight face whilst pressuring the Iraqi government to "take responsibility for their country" and adding that the United States has "no claim on Iraqi territory and resources." All of this nice talk from President Obama, which he articulated just hours after a spate of bombings across Baghdad killed 15 Iraqis and wounded 27, was complimented by his and Bush's Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who claimed that al-Qaeda in Iraq appeared to be making a "last gasp" attempt to foment sectarian violence in Baghdad. Those who have been following the news about the US occupation of Iraq closely over the last six years know all too well how many "last gasps" and "turning the corners" there have been - of which there are too many to count. This one is no different, and the fallacy of the statement was punctuated on April 10 in Mosul, when a suicide car bomb attack killed five US soldiers, along with two Iraqi troops. Taking another page out of the Bush playbook for the occupation of Iraq, while speaking at Baghdad's airport, Obama also said the next 18 months are "going to be a critical period." Again, there have been more "critical periods" in Iraq throughout the occupation than I care to remember. Two days after Obama's visit to Baghdad's airport, Gen. Ray Odierno told The Times that US combat troops may remain in Iraq's cities beyond the June 30 deadline mandated by the Status of Forces Agreement. Of course, throughout all of this rhetoric, the glaring omission is any discussion about the massive "enduring" US military bases in Iraq and the US "embassy" that is the size of the Vatican City. Meanwhile, the bloodletting and destruction of Iraq continues.

Surprisingly, Dahr Jamail isn't the only one taking on propaganda. Peter Baker (New York Times) observes, "For all the perception of a major course correction, Mr. Obama so far appears to be presiding over a foreign policy that may seem more different than it really is. As Mr. Obama heads to Mexico on Thursday for his second foreign trip of the month, he is bringing with him many of the same American interests as his predecessor, even if they are wrapped in a different package." On Iraq, Baker explains, "Mr. Obama's decision to withdraw from Iraq is not as sharp a change as it once seemed during the presidential campaign. Mr. Obama deferred to military commanders in agreeing to leave the vast bulk of American forces in place until next year, when a phased pullout would begin, leaving 50,000 troops in place after August 2010." The third term of George W. Bush is more than underway as is obvious by this headline at CBS News "CIA Off The Hook For Past Waterboarding"-- no punishment for those crimes against humanity. Barack prefers to instead just walk on by, don't stop, just walk on by. How very Bully Boy Bush of him. The policies of the previous administration also continue when it comes to the silence on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community as Doug Ireland reports at GayCityNews noting State Dept staffer Felming (who spent a year in Iraq under Bully Boy Bush) dismissing concerns for LGBT Iraqis recently. Ireland reports:

Hili told this reporter, "There is an intensive media campaign against homosexuals in Iraq at this time which we believe is inspired by the Ministry of the Interior, both in the daily newspapers and on nearly all the television stations. Their reports brand all gays as 'perverts' and try to portray us as terrorists who are undermining the moral fiber of Iraqi youth." Hili said the current homo-hating media campaign appears to have been sparked as an unfortunate reaction to an April 4 Reuters dispatch that reported: "Two gay men were killed in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, a local official said, and police said they had found the bodies of four more after clerics urged a crackdown on a perceived spread of homosexuality... The police source said the bodies of four gay men were unearthed in Sadr City on March 25, each bearing a sign reading 'pervert' in Arabic on their chests."
Amnesty International has called out the targeting -- publicly called out the targeting which puts them way ahead of the United Nations, the US White House and the US State Department. We'll note this section of Ireland's report:

Dalia Hashad of Amnesty International told Gay City News, "Amnesty has been unable to get from the Iraqi government any confirmation that the men are in custody or that they are facing execution, but from what we have heard from individuals in Iraq, they were sentenced to die for belonging to a 'banned group.' We are protesting to the Iraqi government and are continuing to try to investigate, but it is very difficult to get any information about such prisoners in Iraq."

Dalia Hashad is an attorney and, along with Michael Ratner, Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith, she co-hosts WBAI's Law and Disorder. Rex Wockner (PrideSource) adds that there is a lack of clarity over whether or not Iraq re-instated (in 2003) a law making same-sex relations illegal. He quotes Iraqi LGBT's Ali Hili explaining, "That's what they have been told by a judge in a brief court hearing. I don't think this is in the Iraqi constitution as a death penalty (crime). The court is ... kangaroo-style. It was brief and people weren't able to present legal representation or defend themselves in that kind of court. Our information is that these five members have been convicted to death for running activities of a forbidden organization on Iraqi soil."
In the most shocking refusal to report propaganda, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) takes a train ride in Baghdad and quickly grasps that it is proganada and -- pay attention Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland -- reports examples of that. An alleged commuter train, supposedly to transport workers, "leaves at 8am -- rather late in the morning for Baghdad's only commuter service" and that's far from the only puzzling moment. She asks a 'commuter' where he is going and he gets the destination wrong. And then there is this:

The picture-perfect scene looks too good to be true. There is also the mystery of why commuters are so eagerly commuting in reverse, from the centre of the city to the outskirts. Further fuelling our suspicion, a local television crew is conveniently on hand to film the hustle and bustle. A press officer at the station tells us upon arrival that the train has been laid on especially for the media. He then changes his story, after seeing our crestfallen expressions, to explain it is a later service that sometimes follows the earlier train at 6.30am.
This is really an amazing report and praise for Deborah Haynes for reporting it.
Meanwhile Alsumaria reports, "Iraq Army units supported by US air forces launched a wide scale operation in southern Kirkuk after a suicide bombing killed 10 policemen and wounded around 20 others. Second Brigade Commander Abdul Amir Al Zaidi affirmed that two senior officials of Ansar Al Sunna were killed and two others were wounded in the operation after Iraq Army received intelligence about their involvement in yesterday's bombing." They report it and only they report it, why is that? A major operation, an assault, and where is the press coverage from US outlets?

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Well well well




Starting with costs, last week Barack asked for more money from Congress. On Saturday, Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) revealed that Barack's request "would mean the Iraq war will have cost taxpayers a total of about $694 billion. By comparison, the Vietnam War cost $686 billion in inflated-adjusted dollars and World War II cost $4.1 trillion, according to a Congressional Research Service study completed last year." Last night, Mike noted Kenneth Theisen (World Can't Wait) on how Barack's claiming that "Nearly 95 percent of these funds will be used to support our men and women in uniform as they help the people of Iraq to take responsibility for their own future". Citing AP, Philip Sherwell (Telegraph of London) offered the following breakdown of Barack's $83.4 billion request: "The request would fund an average force level in Iraq of 140,000 US troops, finance Mr Obama's initiatve to boost troop levels in Afghanistan to more than 60,000 from the current 39,000 and provide $2.2 billion to accelerate the Pentagon's plans to increase the overall size of the US military . . . Mr Obama also requested $350 million in new funding to upgrade security along the US-Mexico border and to combat narcoterrorists, along with another $400 million in counterinsurgency aid to Pakistan." Julian E. Barnes broke it down as inclduing "$75.8 billion for military operations. An additional $7.1 billion will go to diplomatic efforts and foreign aid, including $1.6 billion for Afghanistan, $1.4 billion for Pakistan and $700 million for Iraq." Mary Beth Sheridan and Scott Wilson (Washington Post) offer a breakdown here. Deidre Walsh (CNN) observes, "About $75 billion of the latest request would pay for military operations, including $9.8 billion for body armor and protective vehicles and $11.6 billion to replace worn-out equipment. The rest would go to diplomatic programs and development aid -- including $1.6 billion for Afghanistan, $1.4 billion for Pakistan and $700 million for Iraq." Walsh lists $800 million going "to support U.N. peacekeeping missions in Africa" and another $800 million to the Palestinian Authority. And, by the way, Walsh cites 142,000 US service members on the ground in Iraq. "By the way" because so many outlets have been following the request of the White House -- but not the Defense Dept -- when first rule of a free press is that you don't take orders from any governmental body. But a free press doesn't reprint "nearly 95%" without pointing out that either Barack needs a math tutor or he's lying yet again.

A lot of money's being given away by the US to other countries and, thank goodness, the US economic crisis is over. Oh, it's not? No, it isn't. Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) quoted US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating, "In the coming weeks, Congress will carefully review the president's request and will engage in a dialogue with the Administration on appropriate benchmarks to measure the success of our investments."
Lochhead quoted US House Rep Lynn Woolsey explaining, "As proposed, this funding will do two things -- it will prolong our occupation of Iraq through at least the end of 2011 and it will deepend and expand our military presence in Afghanistan indefinitely. I cannot support either of these scenarios. Instead of attempting to find military solutions to the problems we face in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama must fundamentally change the mission in both countries to focus on promoting reconciliation, economic development, humanitarian aid, and regional diplomatic efforts." Woolsey is correct. And the Congress can refuse to fund the illegal war at any moment. If they did, the troops would have to come home. That's not, "The troops would have to come home after Congress funded the departure." The money is already there at the Pentagon to cover the costs of withdrawing all US forces out of Iraq. But Barack's Big Giveaway (which will work for him about like it did for Oprah in prime time, translation, no one wants to see it) is also highly revealing.

Yes, he's a War Hawk. Anyone paying attention during the Democratic Party primaries should have known that. Well, not "anyone." Professional idiots like Tom Hayden, Crazed Johnny Nichols (remember how he just knew that Barack lying on NAFTA was a 'Hillary plot' and he went to Canada to prove that and bragged on air to Amy Goodman that he'd be writing about that . . . but never did because his crackpot theories didn't pan out even though he allowed them to poison the dialogue), Laura Flanders and all the beggar trash that can't get real jobs were fooled because they wanted to be. But in the real world, most of us could figure it out. For example, today Kenneth J. Moynihan (Worcester Telegram) reminds why US House Rep Jim McGovern supported Hillary Clinton: "During the 2008 presidential election campaign it came as no surprise to observers of the Worcester political scene that U.S. Rep James P. McGovern should declare his support for Sen. Hillary Clinton. The congressman is a friend of Hillary and Bill, and he supported Sen. Clinton for many reasons. However, when asked about his choice, he usually began with the same words, 'She will end the war.' . . . The congressman never flinched from the position that people wanting to vote against the war should vote for Clinton." And they damn well should have if they were voting in the Democratic Party primary because she would have. I believe that, I know Hillary and have known her since 1992. But those saying "your opinion" are right except for one thing: The 'anti-war' movement would never have laid down for Hillary. Also true, as we pointed out repeatedly at Third beginning in 2007, Hillary couldn't give the imperialists and industrialists in this country the wars they wanted in Africa. Barack was required for that. So voting for Barack was always voting for war and for more war. And it's become obvious that Bully Boy Bush was replaced by Bully Boy Barack and that Obama will provide the third Bush term.

But still there's this idiotic notion that Barack's 'smarter'. Who knows what that's based on because it's certainly not based on academic proof -- he refused to release his college transcripts. It's not based on his alleged speaking abilities -- he stumbles and stammers and uh-uh-uh-uh his way through everything sounding like a buffoon. But he demonstrates that he is as stupid -- if not more -- than George W. Bush with his plans of how to spend the tax payers' monies. Like Bush, he's not really able to conceptualize.

Iraq is sending ambassadors around the world. Find the women. You won't. Pelosi says we need to measure the success. Let's measure it. Women are worse off and gays and lesbians are under constant assault. And yet Iraq needs the US -- or rather, the puppet government the US installed needs the US in order to stay in control. And Nouri does not want to touch the money he's stockpiled. That is why the Iraqi people suffer economically. This isn't Bangladesh or any other country dubbed "third world." Iraq has huge oil reserves. There's no reason in the world any Iraqi should ever go hungry. But they do because puppet Nouri really doesn't give a damn about them. Yesterday, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) reported, "Iraq is now cash-strapped due to the recent downturn in oil prices. As a result of the drop in revenue, a government hiring freeze has been put in place, including with the country's largest employer: the Ministry of Interior. The agency has recruited hundreds of thousands of police officers in recent years to help restore a measure of stability to the war-torn country. As long as the price of oil stays low, the Interior Ministry simply cannot afford to hire more people." Garcia-Navarro notes that unemployment is said to be at 18% according to the United Nations. [50% to 70% according to Dahr Jamail.] She also reported, "Despite America's own economic troubles, the US is spending $1.2 billion this year to supplement the Iraqi Interior Ministry budget." $1.2 billion?

You can buy a lot of things with $1.2 billion and when your a country giving that amount to another country, you can buy a lot of freedoms. The Iraq War has pushed Iraq closer to Iran and, no, that was never one of the anticipated 'wins' of the illegal war. The two countries were pushed together in part because the US installed Shi'ite fundamentalist thugs so it's no surprise that they would be close with their counterparts in Iran. (al-Maliki, of course, fled Iraq -- the US only installs exiled cowards -- and took up residence in Iran for many of his cowering years before the US invasion allowed him to return to Iraq.) They have many, many things in common and they will strengthen their ties as al-Maliki and his thug underlings remake Iraq into the fundamentalist state they desire. The US could have stopped that at any time as the occupying power. They could have made it clear that human rights abuses will not take place by rounding up the killers of Iraqi gays and lesbians. But that would have gone counter to the get-it-done-quick motives that led the US to install a strong-man as prime minister.

Maybe Lynn Woolsey will find other brave members of Congress to stand with her and reject even more money for illegal war. But barring that, Pelosi needs to live up to what she most recently stated. She needs to ensure that the Congress evaluate what is going on in Iraq and any more money given the puppet government for 'humanitarian' reasons needs to have real benchmarks such as, "X number of women will be ambassadors." Not in a year, not in two years. Nothing like Bush's benchmarks that were never reached. Immediate results. No results, the 'humanitarian' money is immediately cut off. As US House Rep Jared Polis stated, "The United States should not tolerate human rights violations of any kind, especially by a government that Americans spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year supporting." Why is the US funding the Ministry of the Interior -- a thug department -- which hires homophobes who go out and express their homophobia when they're supposed to be protecting ALL Iraqis? That's not what 'humanitarian' money does. Allegedly, the money is spent to improve lives. So let's see some real effort by the Congress to ensure that this indeed happens. Iraq was not Iran before the US invasion. Bully Boy's actions pushed Iraq closer to Iran and, for all his alleged 'smartness,' there's no indication that Barack knows any better.

Iraq is a disaster, it is a US-made disaster. No more money should be thrown to the puppet government but those foolish enough to continue tossing it should be ensuring that every dollar spent pulls Iraq away from the fundamentalist nation that al-Maliki's attempted to build. At Foreign Policy, Marc Lynch noted, "The crackdown on the Awakenings has regional implications as well, particularly with the ever-skeptical Saudis who have generally supported the Awakenings movements. The Arab press has taken careful note of their reversal of fortunes, which Adel al-Bayati in al-Quds al-Arabi calls Maliki's coup against the Awakenings. Tareq al-Homayed, editor of the Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat (which usually reflects official Saudi thinking), complains bitterly today that recent events have made his warnings from last August about the coming betrayal of the Awakenings come true. The Awakenings were not bearing arms against the Iraqi state, argues Homayed, but rather were protecting the Iraqi state against al-Qaeda and assisting its stabilization ahead of the American withdrawal. But, he warns, narrow, sectarian perspectives in Baghdad are winning out over the Iraqi national interest with potentially devastating consequences." Marc Lynch shouldn't be alone in pointing that out, the White House should have already figured that out. (Figured it out? They should have anticipated it.) There's nothing to indicate that they have or that they've made adjustments. Or demands and, again, when you're the country handing over $1.2 billion, you can make a lot of demands. While the puppet government attempts to appear cash-strapped, AFP reports reality, "Iraq has signed a contract with British engineering and construction company Foster Wheeler to build the country's largest-ever oil refinery, an Iraqi official said on Wednesday." Meanwhile Pakistan's Daily Times reports "Iraqi authorities are currently holding about 26,200 people in detention, including 782 minors and 422 women, Human Rights Minister Wejdan Mikhail said on Wednesday." The paper notes US forces are currently holding 12,800 Iraqi prisoners.

Returning to the topic of Sahwa (also known as "Awakening" Councils and "Sons of Iraq"), Geoff Ziezulewicz (Stars and Strips) files a report today indicating the US is still paying some and focuses on Fadhil. That's the neighborhood of Baghdad where Nouri's crackdown on Sahwa led to a stand off between Sahwa members on one side and Iraqi and US forces on the other. Ziezulewicz reports, "The fact that Fadhil remains up for grabs makes continued support of the Iraqi government's efforts that much more critical, said Lt. Col. David Buckingham, commander of the cavalry regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne." The fact that Nouri al-Maliki has not put more on the payroll, found jobs for more Sahwa goes to the fact that he's taking US dollars from US tax payers and getting to do with it whatever the heck he wants. It's past time for real Congressional oversight. Elsewhere in the article, Ziezulewicz also notes, "While the U.S. military has trumpeted Iraqi forces taking the lead since the U.S.-Iraq security agreement went into effect Jan. 1, Iraqi troops were largely absent or showed up late to some missions last week." Meanwhile Nouri's mouthpiece on the presidency council, Shi'ite vice president Adel Abdul Mehdi was in Paris today. Alsumaria reports he insisted that Sahwas were "secretly plotting . . . terrorists attacks in Iraq."

Nouri's attacking the press. The New York Times always knows how to kiss butt (what, you thought CNN was the only one just because Eason Jordan confessed to it?). Which explains Alissa J. Rubin's report today which takes the work of the Foreign Ministry and attempts to call the puppet government a success as a result. While the Foreign Ministry does deserve praise for some of their abilities to function, they are not representative of the puppet government nor of Iraq's population. Rubin may note 40 other countries have ambassadors from Baghdad but she forgets to note how none are women. This is just a kiss-their-ass piece to ensure that the Times remains on good terms with the puppet government. (Nouri is highly upset with reports about his attacks on Sahwa.)

There is no functioning government. For example, who is heading Iraq's Parliament? Answer: No one. They still have no speaker. So this is really an insult to the readers, this attempt to play, "Look at this functioning government!" As noted in the January 12th snapshot:Willam Brockman Bankhead was the Speaker of the US House of Representatives for over four years. He died unexpectably of a heart attack on September 15, 1940. (For those unfamiliar with Bankhead, he was the father of Tallulah Bankhead.) The following day, Sam Rayburn became Speaker of the House. The following day. December 23rd, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was forced out of the Speakership of the Iraqi Parliament. The week prior he had stated he was resigning. He attempted to take that back but a large number wanted him gone as Speaker and had wanted him gone for some time with repeated public efforts to oust him. It is now January 12th and they have still not appointed a new Speaker. And they still have no speaker. It's April 15th. William Bankhead dies in office and he's replaced the next day. Iraq's Parliament runs off Mahmoud al-Mashhadani December 23rd and they still have no replacement, all this time later. Or as Alsumaria noted Saturday, "Parliament Speaker issue awaits solution." Further indications of the dysfunction and disarray comes from Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) who report that the provincial councils still aren't moving along. Januray 31st 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces held provincial elections. The results were finally certified and officially announced in March. And yet . . . Sly and Ahmed explain there have been "walkouts, boycoots and street protests, highlighting continued sectarian divisions and the frictions that prevail even between those factions that are reconciled to the political process. On Tuesday, all factions in Shiite Muslim-majority Wasit province boycotted the latest meeting called to choose a governor after street protests were held the previous day against the leading contender." Corinee Reilly and Ali Abbas (McClatchy Newspapers) report that a boycott is taking place in Nineveh Province as well where "Kurds vowed not to return until the Arabs hand over two of the council's top three leadership positions." Alsumaria explains that the Yazidi majority from the Sinjar District of Nineveh are calling for their district to become "an independent governorate that is part of Kurdistan, in protest to the fact that a Sunni list took all main administrative positions in the provincial council."

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Covering up for sexaul assailants
















Starting with the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community to note some of the press the issue has received.  Neal Broverman (The Advocate) covered it noting US House Rep Jared Polis' visit to Iraq and his calling "on U.S. and Iraqi officials to launch an investigation into a spate of recent murders of gay men in Iraq."  He quotes Polis stating, "The United States should not tolerate human rights violations of any kind, especially by a government that Americans spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year supporting."  Jessica Green (UK's Pink News) covers the story here and quotes Amnesty International's Niall Couper stating, "The gay community in Iraq deserves protection and that means their leaders need to stand up for them.  Amnesty International is calling on Nouri al-Maliki to condemn all attacks on members of the gay community, publicly, unreservedly and in the strongest terms possible."
Staying with the human rights organization, today Amnesty International released a report [PDF format warning] entitled "Hope and Fear: Human Rights In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq." The report is 46 pages of text exploring the KRG
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq, unlike the rest of the country, has generally been stable since the 2003 US-led invasion. It has witnessed growing prosperity and an expansion of civil society, including the establishment of numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has made progress in the field of human rights. In mid-2008 it released hundreds of political detainees, many of whom had been held for years without charge or trial. It has
improved Iraqi legislation; the Press Law of September 2008, for example, expanded freedom of expression, and amendments to the Personal Status Law passed in October 2008 strengthened women's rights. The authorities have also established several bodies to monitor and prevent violence against women, including specialized police directorates and shelters.       
Platforms have been established to foster dialogue between the authorities, particularly the Ministry of Human Rights, and civil society organizations on human rights concerns, including violence against women.        
Despite these positive and encouraging steps, however, serious human rights violations persist and still need to be addressed. In particular, urgent action by the government is required to ensure that the KRG's internal security service, the Asayish, is made fully accountable under the law and in practice, to investigate allegations of torture, enforced disappearances and other serious human rights violations by the Asayish and other security and intelligence forces. As well, more needs to be done to end violence and discrimination against women, building on the progress achieved so far, and to enhance the standing in society and life choices available to women and girls. Thirdly, the KRG must take steps to
protect and promote the right to freedom of expression, including media freedom, taking into account the vital role of the media in informing the public and acting as a public watchdog.  
It is these three areas which form the focus of this report.          
Since 2000, thousands of people have been detained arbitrarily and held without charge or trial in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, in some cases for more than seven years. The vast majority were suspected members or supporters of local Islamist organizations, including both armed groups and legal political parties that do not use or advocate violence as part of their political platform. Some were tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention.          
Invariably, detentions were carried out by members of the Asayish, without producing an arrest warrant, and those detained were then denied access to legal representation or the opportunity to challenge their continuing detention before a court of law or an independent judicial body, throughout their incarceration. Some detainees were subjected to enforced disappearance, including some whose fate and whereabouts have yet to be disclosed -- typically, following their arrest by the Asayish or the intelligence services of the two main Kurdish parties, their families were unaware of their fate and whereabouts and were unable to obtain information about them, or confirmation of their detention from the authorities.      
Dozens of other prisoners, meanwhile, are under sentence of death having been convicted in unfair trials.            
Despite welcome government efforts to address "honour crimes" and other violence against women, it is clear from comparing survey data on violence against women with the number of police recorded cases of violence against women that the vast majority of such incidents remain unreported. Even when women have been killed or survived a killing attempt, many perpetrators have not been brought to justice -- often because investigations have failed to identify the perpetrators or because suspects remain at large.           
Freedom of expression continues to be severely curtailed in practice, despite the recent abolition of imprisonment for publishing offences. Journalists have been arrested and sometimes beaten, particularly when publishing articles criticizing government policies or highlighting alleged corruption and nepotism within the government and the dominant political parties. Again, the hand of the seemingly all powerful and unaccountable Asayish and other security agencies is alleged to be behind a number of these attacks. One journalist was killed in July 2008 in suspicious circumstances.            
This report details a wide range of human rights violations committed in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in recent years. In particular, it sheds light on violations such as arbitrary and prolonged detention without charge or trial, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill treatment, the death penalty, unfair trials, discrimination and violence against women, and attacks on freedom of expression. It includes case studies to illustrate these abuses. The report also puts forward numerous recommendations which, if implemented, would go a long
way towards reducing such violations.           
Much of the information contained in this report is the outcome of a fact-finding visit conducted by Amnesty International in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq from 23 May to 8 June 2008, the first such visit by Amnesty International for several years. Amnesty International submitted its findings, in the form of two memoranda on human rights concerns, to the KRG in August 2008 and sought its response. The responses received in communications from the KRG Ministry of Human Rights at the end of 2008 are reflected in this report.       
The reports notes the issues of difference between the KRG and Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad government including oil-rick Kirkuk (which both want) "and certain towns and villages in the governorates of Diyala, al-Ta'mim and Ninawa (Mosul)".  They note the 2005 Consitution required a December 2007 referendum was supposed to be held to determine the fate of Kirkuk but it has still not taken place.  The report explains, "The Iraqi central government and the KRG have also had major disagreements about control of oil revenues and oil exploration.  After months of negotiation and amendment in various committees, a national oil and gas draft law is now reported to have been submitted to the Iraqi Council of Represenatiaves for approval.  However, an oil and gas law has already been introduced in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the KRG has issued oil and gas exploration contracts" for some time now leading to more tensions  between Baghdad and Kirkuk.  
The peshmerga is the KRG security force that is most often covered in the press.  In addition there is "the official security agence" for the KRG, Asayish.  Due to intra-ministry conflicts within the KRG, Asayish was taken out of ministry control and placed under the president -- president of the KRG (Masoud Barzani) not president of Iraq (Kurdish Jalal Talabani). Conflicts still remain between the two dominant political parties of the region (KDP and PUK) so "there are still two separate Asayish entities" and each party controls their own intelligence agency with the KDP having the Parastin and the PUK having the Dezgay Zanyari.  In addition, the agency spoils are divied up as well: Jalal's son, Pavel Talabani, heads the Dezgay Zanyair and Masoud's son, Masrour Barzani.  Not only is nepotism practiced, there is no accountability.  Each city and town has an Asayish prison.  The imprisonments have been arbitray and often taken place without either charges being pressed or trials being held.  Responding to Amnesty's earlier concerns, "the KRG Ministry of Human Rights informed Amnesty International on 19 October 2008 that the authorities had released more than 3,000 detainees from the detention centres of the security forces during 2007 and the first half of 2008." Despite this, when Amnesty toured "the Kurdistan Region in May - June 2008, hundreds of detainees were still being held without charge or trial, most of whom had spent years in prison."  Of those Amnesty were told had been released, it turns out many of the releases can be considered "conditional" and prisoners are "required to report to the nearest Asayish office every week."  Despite having prisons in every city and town, the imprisoned are often held in secret prisons.  Prisoners are regularly denied contact with attorneys and with their families.  Reports of torture are common.
The study then turns to the disappeared and specifically notes some of them.  33-year-old Badran Mostafa Mahmoud had been praying at a mosque when he was seized, never to be seen again.  35-year-old Hedayat 'Aziz Ahmad Karim was seized Feb. 10, 2007 (apparently by Dezgay Zanyari forces) and he has not been seen since (one person states he saw Hedayat in a prison).  41-year-old Wahed Hussain Amin worked at a water treatment plant and is the father of four children.  He was taken outside his home June 28, 2006 (by Asayish) and has not been heard from since.  33-year-old Farhang Ahmad 'Aziz was taken outside his home August 27, 2003 and not been seen since.  31-year-old Hoshyar Saleh Hama 'Aref was taken from his home September 10, 2003 (by Asayish).  His family was twice allowed to visit him in prison, once in March 2004 and again in October of the same year but not since then and they cannot find out his current location or any information.  Karim Ahmad Mahmoud disappeared after being taken outside his house May 15, 2000. 'Abd al-Jabbar Qadir Hassan was taken by Asayish on September 1, 2001 and has not been since.
Those who are imprisoned and are not disappeared share gruesome details.  Aras 'Omar Faqih Farah was held in Erbil at an Asayish prison from 2004 through 2008 and was tortured with "electric shocks on different parts of the body, especially his back, and left naked while exposed to extreme heat in the summer and extreme cold in the winter.  Najat 'Abdel-Karim Hamad was impsioned by Parastin at Salahuddin from 2004 to 2007, then transfered to Asayish prison until spring 2008.  He was tortued so badly he was left with a broken rib and hearing loss. One who remains impisoned is Srood Mukarram Fatih Mohammed who is a journalist with al-Sumarriya:
He told Amnesty International that he was arrested on 17 April 2007 from his home in Erbil by around 20 people who were armed and wearing uniforms.  The men searched the house, arrested him without an arrest warrant, and confiscated some books, CDs and a computer.  They blindfolded him and forced him into the boot of one of the cars.  For 53 days the familly did not know his fate and whereabouts.  Eventually, his mother received information that he was being hled at the Asayish prison in Erbil and then was able to visit him, although Asayish guards watched throughout and remained within earshot.    
Srood Mukarram Faith Mohammad was brought before an investigation judge two months after his arrest, by which time he had "confessed," under torture, that he was a member of a terrorist group.  During his first two months in detention, he said, he was kept blindfolded in solitary confinement, beaten with a cable on different parts of the body and threatened that his wife would be detained and raped by guards in front of him.  The family engaged a lawyer at the beginning of of 2008 but he was prevented from visiting Srood Mukarram Fatih Mohammad on several occasions.  Srood Mukarram Faith Mohammad was charged with having contacts with terrorists and the case was sent to Erbil Criminal Court; however, the court is reported to have returned the dossier to the investigative judge on three separate occasions on the grounds that the information was not complete.  Srood Mukarram Fatih Mohammad is said to be still detained in Erbil.
If you make it through all of that and actually get a hearing, expect new problems.  You may learn you're going a trial less than an hour before you do.  Don't worry though, the court appointed attorney will have just enough time to shake your hand in the courtroom as you meet before the trial starts, just enough.  And the courtroom?  It may be a real courtroom but, more likely, you may get to 'enjoy' the maze of 'secret' courtrooms.
The report then moves to the issue of violence against women.  Hey, remember when 'reporter' Kevin Peraino (Newsweek) was telling us all about the groovy new trend, the must have for all Kurdish teen girls of burn scars?  (Yes, Kevin Peraino is such an extreme idiot that he actually wrote a report -- "Why Are Kurdish Women Dying of Burns?" -- where he floated his theory that setting yourself on fire was the 'in' thing to do and highly popular.)  Over a 12 months period (July 2007 to June 2008) Amnesty found 102 women and girls listed as "killed" by "official records".  The actual number is probably much higher and the official records do not note which are "honor" killings.  The report notes, "In addition to the 102, a further 262 women and children died or were severely injured in the same period due to intentional burning, including suicides.  Some women were reported to have been burned to disguise a killing."  23-year-old Cilan Muhammad Amin was murdered at the age of 23 (March 8, 2008), apparently because her brother thought she had a 'secret relationship'.  After which her sister and her sister's husband set Cilan's corpse on fire in an attempt to hide the fact that she'd been strangled.  From the report:

In May and June 2008 Amnesty International delegates interviewed 16 women and girls staying in shelters and 16 women and girls held in detention centres in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.  This random sample included 20 interviewees who were or had been married.  Of these, 12 said that they had been forced to marry, including six who were aged under 15 years when they were married.  According to the Iraqi Personal Status Law, forced marriages (Article 9) and marriages of girls younger than 15 are illegal, but they continue to be conducted in private or religious ceremonies without those responsible being held to account.   
Five of the 12 interviewees who had never been married were subjected to or at risk of violence because they had insisted to choose their partner.  Some women reported that they had been raped, includinga 22-year-old woman who expected to be married to her rapist as his second wife in a settlement that also involved the rapist's daughter being married to one of her relatives.  The Iraqi Penal Code supports such practice by excusing a rapist from punishment if he marries the victim (Article 398).
Six of the interviewed women reported that violence they had experienced or feared was related to allegations of adultery.  Whilst the Iraqi Penal Code crminializes adultry by both husbands and wives (Article 377) such legislation has a disproportionate impact on women.  For example, it may be used to harass women or to enable their husbands to evade responsibility for their children.  
A 27-year-old mother of three children told Amnesty International that her father had forced her to marry an older man when she was just 13.  Years later, she said, her husband falsely accused her of adultery because he wanted to divorce her and evade responsibility for supporting her.  She was being detained in Erbil because of her husband's accusations.  She said she had received only minimal education as a child and, alone, could not support herself and her children.  She now hoped that her husband would allow her to return to the family home to live as her husband's "servant", if this was waht he required, so that she could at least be with her children. 
And women who are the victims of violence repeatedly find what women elsewhere in the world do: We're far more likely to be killed by a 'loved' one than by a stranger.  Women who have reported violence and attempted to 'move on' are stabbed to death by family members, murdered by their ex-husbands . . .  The report is alarming but equally alarming is how much that is the case around the world and not just in the KRG.  Attorneys attempting to help women soon find themselves receiving death threats. 


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Monday, April 13, 2009

The gangsters get back together















Today the US military announced: "A Coalition forces Soldier died of injuries sustained during an explosively formed projectile attack on a convoy five kilomenters south of Karbalah, Iraq April 13 at approximately 7:40 a.m.  The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the department of Defense.  The incident is currently under investigtion."  Yesterday the US military announced: "One U.S. Coalition Soldier died of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated in Salah-ad Din Province, April 12. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." The total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war is 4273. Friday 5 US soldiers were announced dead.  Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) observed, "Today five US soldiers were killed in Iraq and we won't ever know for sure how many Iraqis were killed.  The families of the US soldiers will never have a 'normal' Easter again.  All of their days will be filled with pain and longing, but holidays, birthdays and other anniversaries will be especially hard.  My heart is breaking for the awful and pointless spiral of grief that these families are just embarking upon.  Some may not yet know that it was their son, father, brother, uncle, or friend that was murdered today.  I saw the report of Casey's death on the news at least five hours before the Army notified us."  (Cindy's guest on the audio Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox this week are James Martinez discussing the finacial crisis, housing and more and Annie Garrison on the Blue Angels use of San Francisco to boost recruitment.  That episode is posted online already.)  It was Good Friday in 2004 when Cindy and her family met her son Casey Sheehan at the airport for the last time.  Sunday the 5 US soldiers killed on Friday arrived at Dover Air Force Base.  Jeff Montgomery (Delaware's News Journal) observes, "It was the heaviest loss of American lives in Iraq in 13 months, and the largest number of casualties returned to America in full sight of the public since the Defense Department opened the process to news coverage last week, after a 18-year blackout."
The Defense Dept identified the five as: "Staff Sgt. Gary L. Woods Jr., 24, of Lebanon Junction, Ky., Staff Sgt. Bryan E. Hall, 32, of Elk Grove, Calif., Sgt. Edward W. Forrest Jr., 25, of St. Louis, Mo., Cpl. Jason G. Pautsch, 20, of Davenport, Iowa, and PV2 Bryce E. Gautier, 22, of Cypress, Calif."  Sheryl Edelen (Courier-Journal) reports on Gary L. Woods Jr., "Woods' father, Gary Woods St., said that his son, who went by his middle name, Lee, was a talented musician who sang and played the trombone, drums, piano and guitar while a student at Bullitt Central High School.  He was also a member of the school's football team.  But after finding satisifation in ROTC classes, his son entered the military after high school, he said."  Bob White (Lebanon Junction News Enterprise) adds, "Woods is surived by his parents, siblings and a wife, Christie, his father said."  Tony Bizjak (Sacramento Bee) reports on Bryan Edward Hall, "Hall, 32, had served in the military for 14 years and had been deployed in Iraq since September. . . . Hall had received three Army commendation medals, according to military records, as well as several Army achievement, good conduct and war on terrorism medals."  Dave Marquis (Sacramento's quotes Debbie Lords, who is a neighbor of the Bryan Edward Hall's parents, stating, "I don't know what I'm thinking.  I just really feel for John and Betty right now.  It was their oldest son, their oldest child." Paul Hampel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) reports on Edward Forrest Jr., "Forrest was based at Fort Carson in Colorado and lived near the base with his wife and two sons, ages 2 and one month.  Forrest was a 2003 graduate of Rockwood Summit High School.  He was on his third tour of duty in Iraq."  His sister Melissa Forrest-Pliner tells Hampel, "I asked him not to re-enlist.  I told him I didn't want him to be a hero.  I just wanted him to be my brother."  South County Times adds, "In high school, Sgt. Forrest, known as 'Eddie,' was a long distance runner on the track team, and was also on the wrestling team" and quotes his coach Rolland Garrison stating, "He was a very enthusiastic member of the track and field program here at Rockwood Summit.  He was a very good kid with a great smile."  Molly Hottle (Des Monies Register) reports on Jason Graham Pautsch, "David Pautsch was informed of his son's death Friday night, just 12 hours after the two had spoken on the phone. 'He believed n what he was doing,' David Pautsch said. 'This is what he wanted to do'." Nicole Murphy (WAQD, link has text and video) spoke with David Pautsch who explained the call he received, "'On behalf of the Secretary of the Army I just want to let you know, give our condolences and notify you that your son was killed in Mosul."  Pautsch continues, "You're stunned and you're shocked and you find it hard to believe that it could actually be happening but then it seeps and that's when the emotions hit."  Pautsch goes on to explain that he believes his son was protecting the US from the "terrorists" in Iraq and he also shares, "I'm thrilled for Jason that he's in heaven."  Eugene W. Fields (Orange County Register) reports on Bryce E. Gautier, "Gauier, a medic, joined the Army in January of 2008 and had been in Iraq since January of this year, according to Army documents.  He received the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.  Gautier graduated in 2005 from Rancho Alamitos High in Garden Grove, according to school district spokesman Alan Trudell." Tom Roeder and Maria St. Louis-Sanchez (Colorado Springs Gazette) note Gauier's MySpace page and add, "His sense of humor is evident from a posting on the site, which Gautier last updated three days before his death. 'Winners make the rules, losers just follow them,' Gautier wrote. 'In the Army now.' Gautier's brother, Even, left a simple eulogy on his Web page: 'My brother Bryce was one of the American soldiers killed in the suicide bombing in Iraq this morning.  I love you bro. I will miss you'."
In 'liberated' Iraq, gays and lesbians continue to be targeted for death.  The Denver Post editorialized on the topic yesterday and opened with:
The U.S. State Department must not stand idly by if the Iraqi government fails to protect basic human rights, even if the persecution stems from traditional cultural or religious beliefs.        
We applaud Colorado Congressman Jared Polis for his efforts last week to shine the spotlight on the killings of homosexuals in Iraq, and to press the State Department to demand accountability from the Iraqi government.           
The first openly gay man to be elected to the House, Polis has been investigating the treatment of gays in Iraq for several months, according to The Post's Michael Riley. His research led to the discovery of a transgender Iraqi man who told the congressman he had been arrested, beaten and raped by security forces with Iraq's Ministry of Interior.           
Human-rights groups have passed information to Polis that claims another man was beaten into confessing he belonged to a gay-rights group and that the man had been sentenced to execution by an Iraqi court.         
US House Rep Polis has made his letter to Patricia A. Butenis (Charge d'Affaires ad interim of the US State Dept) [PDF formart warning] here:
Dear Ms. Butenis:
Over the past week, I have become aware of egregious human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis being carried out by Iraqi government officials from the Ministry of the Interior called "Magaweer al-Dakhilya."   
The information I received was derived from two separate testimonials of gay and transgender Iraqi men that were detained, tortured and sentenced to death for being members of an allegedly forbidden organization in Iraq called Iraqi LGBT.  One of these invidividuals was able to escape, while the other was subsequently executed by Iraqi Ministry of Interior Security Forces.   
While I do not know if these executions are being sanctioned at the highest levels of the Iraqi government, it is nonetheless distrubing that government officials and state-funded security forces are involved in the torturing and execution of LGBT Iraqis. 
Even more disturbing was that the United States government appears to be largely unaware that the executions of gay and transgender Iraqis have been able to occur in Iraq given the enormous American presence.  After reaching out to State Department officials in Washington, I was disappointed by their unwillingness to seriously consider these allegations and examine the evidence given to our office by international human rights watchdog organizations.  
I urge you to use every channel at your disposal to properly and promptly invetigate these grave human rights violations.  Please know that I will continue to monitor this situation and hope to be of assistance in this investigation."
At his Congressional website, Polis is quoted stating, "The United States should not tolerate human rights violations of nay kind, especially by a government that Americans spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year supporting.  Hopefully my trip and letters to US and Iraqi officials will help bring international attention and investigation to this terrible situation and bring an end to any such offenses."  
Last week, we noted the US State Dept and the United Nations have been silent on these and other attacks on the LGBT community in Iraq. The issue gets some attention today. BBC News explains Amnesty International states Nouri al-Maliki's government "must do more to protect" the LGBT community 'in the wak of a reported spate of killings of gay young men" and that they are pressing for "urgent and concerted action."  Nigel Morris  (Independent of London) explains that no arrests have been made in the recent murders -- he says six, it was seven -- and quotes Ali Hili stating, "Since mid-December we've been getting lots of reports about mass arrests and raids on houses, cafes, barbers shops."  Mass arrests?  It sounds like round-ups and those were common in Hilter's Germany where the LGBT community was targeted along with the Jewish community.  (Iraq's Jewish community has been so targeted and so under assault that it barely exists at present.)  Hili continues, "Most of the people who are arrested are found dead, with signs of torture and burns.  We believe a war has been launched by the Iraqi Government and its establishment against gay people."  As noted in the April 8th snapshot, the United Nations Secretary General issues statements all the time, condemning attacks in Iraq, but there has never been a statement from him on condemning the assaults on Iraq's LGBT community. And since the number reported continues to be in error, we'll drop back to the April 6th snapshot to again note:
In other violence noted over the weekend, Wisam Mohammed and Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reported Saturday that gays are being targeted in Baghdad, with four corpses discovered March 25th and 2 gay men murdered Thursday 'after clerics urged a crackdown'." Sunday Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported the two were first "disowned" (by their homophobic and hateful families) and "The shootings came after a tribal meeting was held and the members decided to go after the victims." Tawfeeq reports the other were also disowned (and gives the date of their deaths as March 26th) and states a cafe in Sadr City was torched when it was said to be an LGBT hangout in Baghdad. The Dallas Morning News wrote a brief on the topic and UPI summarized Tawfeeq's report. AFP reported Sunday that the two corpses discovered Thursday "had pieces of paper attached on which was written the word 'Pervert" and that the two men were aged sixteen and eighteen and had also had "their arms and legs broken". In addition, AFP reports another man presumed to be gay was found on Friday -- which would bring the toll to seven -- and this follows Sheikh Jassem al-Muatairi's 'inspiring' sermon denouncing "new private practices by some men who dress like women, who are effeminate. I call on families to prevent their children from following such a lifestyle."
Seven.  Not six. Tomorrow the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meets and among the items on the agenda are a motion "Condemning the persecution and murders of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Iraqi Citizens": "Resolution calling on the US Department of State to use all diplomatic channels to work with the Iraqi Government to stop the persecution of Iraqi Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) citizens and immediately stop the murders of Iraqi LGBT citizens." If that takes place (and it should), the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will be the first governing body elected by any group of people to condemn the killings and assaults.


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