Saturday, March 17, 2012

You Gotta Sin To Get Saved





The Iraqi youths are simply expressing themselves as young people do around the world. But doing this in supposedly "free" Iraq can get you killed. Killed by being pushed off a building, by being shot dead, by being beaten with concrete blocks, there are many ways Iraqi youths are being murdered. Roby Hurriya has photos of his murdered Friend Saif Asmar and shows them to the press as he explains, "They laid him down on the pavement and smashed his head with a cement block." Lists are compiled and people are threatened. Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times) notes, "Activists say one sign decorated with two handguns in Baghdad's Sadr City threatened 33 people by name, warning them to stop their 'dirty deeds' or face 'the wrath of God.' Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr issued an online statement calling emos "a lesion on the Muslim community," the Associated Press reported." And through it all, the government looks the other way. Who's doing the targeting? Karlos Zurutuza (IPS) reports:

Ruby points directly to the Mehdi militia - a former insurgent group led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Such crimes are being committed in complete impunity, says Ruby.
"Ours is a militia-run government," complains this young man on the run. "The only possible solution is that Western governments put pressure on Iraq to end this nightmare."
Dalal Jumma from the Organisation of Women's Freedom In Iraq concurs, and complains about the lack of a "mandatory separation between state and religion.
"The militias' letters hanging on the walls even accuse homosexuals or 'emo' followers of 'Satanism for participating in the martyrdom of Imam Hussein' – the Shia community leader killed in the Seventh century. How can we deal with such monstrosity?" says Jumma at the NGO's headquarters in Karrada district in southeast Baghdad.
IPS has had access to one of the letters allegedly found in Sadr City – it had a list of 33 individuals classified under their residence block numbers.

In a sign of how much effect the world attention to these attacks are having, Moqtada al-Sadr has issued a statement. Alsumaria TV reports that the cleric declared yesterday that the targeting of Iraqi youths did not "please God" and he denounced the attacks. On Saturday, you may remember, he issued a statement calling them the scourge of the earth. What changed in the last five days? The level of attention the issue is receiving around the world. Which includes Amnesty International issuing a statement today:
The Iraqi government should immediately investigate and bring to justice those responsible for a targeted campaign of intimidation and violence against young Iraqis seen as belonging to an "emo" subculture, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) said today.
The attacks have created an atmosphere of terror among those who see themselves as potential victims.
A 22-year-old gay man in Baghdad told the international rights groups that anonymous callers made death threats on his phone on 11 March. The callers described a friend of his whom they had kidnapped and brutally beaten days earlier, saying that was how they got his number. They told him that he would be next. He has since cut his hair and does not leave his house for fear of being targeted. He said:
"When the news started spreading about emos, the threats and violence against gays increased. They are grouping us all together, anyone who is different in any way, and we are very easy targets."
The campaign's victims appear to represent a cross-section of people seen locally as non-conformists. They include people suspected of homosexual conduct, but also people with distinctive hairstyles, clothes, or musical taste. In English, "emo" is short for "emotional," referring to self-identified teens and young adults who listen to certain types of rock music, often dress in black, close-fitting clothes, and cut their hair in unconventional ways. People perceived to be gay, lesbian, transgender or effeminate are particularly vulnerable.
In an official statement on 8 March, Iraq's Interior Ministry dismissed reports by local activists and media of a campaign against those seen as emos, saying the reports were "fabricated" and "groundless," and that it would take action against people who were trying "to highlight this issue and build it out of proportion." However, an official ministry statement on 13 February had characterised emo culture as "Satanist", casting doubt on the government's willingness to protect vulnerable youth, the international rights groups said.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
"At best the response of the Iraqi Interior Ministry is completely inadequate, at worst it condones the violence against emo youth. Iraqi authorities should unequivocally condemn the attacks, investigate any killings and protect anyone in danger."
There is more to the statement but let's stay on the topic of statements to jump over to Huffington Post where they post two paragraphs and maintain that's a statement from the State Dept. Those two paragraphs are part of the four paragraph statement we ran in yesterday's snapshot. Maybe we should have included the title to the statement? "U.S. Embassy Condemns Attacks on 'Emo' Youth In Iraq." Use the link, you'll be taken to the US Embassy in Baghdad's website. From the title alone, you should be able to grasp -- even if you write for the Huffington Post -- that this is a statement not from the State Dept but from the US Embassy in Baghdad. It's a real shame Huffington Post can't stick to the facts or even do a basic fact check. As we noted yesterday of Hillary's 'quote' in the statement -- she's not speaking of Iraqi youths, it's from a speech she gave at the start of December.
Huffin Puff also forgets to note that the State Dept has received billions this fiscal year (and are asking for billions for next fiscal year) because they are the leaders of the US mission in Iraq. Where's the leadership? Silence and cowardice from the top, all the way down. If the State Dept -- and that includes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- can't publicly condemn these killings than they've just demonstrated that they are unable to lead any mission in Iraq and that no further monies should go to them for this purpose.
The State Dept provides no leadership on this or any other Iraq issue. Not only that, they offer no transparency. When the Pentagon was in charge, reports had to be issued, press conferences on Iraq held. Getting billions of dollars -- billions of US taxpayer dollars -- has increased the State Dept's budget, it has not increased their efforts to inform the public of how the taxpayer money is being spent in Iraq. There is no oversight. The American people are supposed to take it on blind faith that their dollars are being used wisely in Iraq -- no, that is not how a democracy works. In December, State officially took over the US mission in Iraq. Since that time, Hillary Clinton has not given one press briefing on Iraq. She has been able to avoid the topic and the issue. The American people should be getting regular updates on how the monies are being spent. But the Congress can't even get straight answers from the State Dept on that.
The Huffington Post has a poll, the question is: "Should the U.S. and/or other countries offer support to the LGBT people and 'emo' young adults of Iraq?" That's far too vague a question. A much simpler one would be: "Should the U.S. publicly condemn the attacks on the LGBT people and 'emo' young adults of Iraq?" It's disgusting that the State Dept and Hillary can't even issue a statement calling out these murders. It sends the wrong signals and it's disgusting.
Here's the opening of the statement issued by Human Rights Watch today:
The government of Iraq should immediately investigate and bring to justice those responsible for a targeted campaign of intimidation and violence against Iraqi youth seen as belonging to the non-conformist "emo" subculture, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said today. The attacks have created an atmosphere of terror among those who see themselves as potential victims.
On March 8, 2012, the Interior Ministry, in an official statement, dismissed reports by local activists and media of a campaign against those seen as emo. The ministry said the reports were "fabricated" and "groundless," and that it would take action against people who were trying "to highlight this issue and build it out of proportion." An official ministry statement, on February 13, that characterized emo culture as "Satanist" cast doubt on the government's willingness to protect vulnerable youth, the international rights groups said.
"The government has contributed to an atmosphere of fear and panic fostered by acts of violence against emos," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Instead of claiming that the accounts are fabricated, Iraqi authorities need to set up a transparent and independent inquiry to address the crisis."
The campaign's victims appear to represent a cross-section of people seen locally as non-conformists. They include people suspected of homosexual conduct, but also people with distinctive hairstyles, clothes, or musical taste. In English, "emo" is short for "emotional," referring to self-identified teens and young adults who listen to alternative rock music, often dress in black, close-fitting clothes, and cut their hair in unconventional ways. People perceived to be gay, lesbian, transgender, or effeminate are particularly vulnerable.
And State remains silent. I attend the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday thinking Iraq might come up (the topic was the naval fleet). It didn't. But let's note a section where accountability was expected and demanded. This is Ranking Member John McCain questioning the Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus and then between McCain and the Marines' General James Amos.
Senator John McCain: As you know, Mr. Secretary, the reason why Senator Webb, Senator Levin, I and others have been concerned about the issues of Guam is because the costs have escalated dramatically. At least in one area, from six billion to sixteen billion dollars. There has been slow progress with the Japanese. So we decided after Senator Levin, Senator Webb and other of us, that we needed some outside view. An independent view of this situation. We passed the Defense Authorization Bill in December. It's now been two-and-a-half months. How long does it take to let a contract -- to get an independent assessment, Mr. Secretary?
Secretary Raymond Mabus: Senator, since this contract is not under my purview, since I don't let this contract --
Senator John McCain: I see, it's somebody else's responsibility. Well I want to tell you for sure that until we get that independent assessment there should be no concrete plans made by the Secretary of Defense or the Defense Department until we have a chance to examine the assessment and then go through the authorization process or any expenditure of funds that need to be made in order to get this redeployment issue into some kind of sanity. Believe me, we acted -- as is our responsibility -- because of our intense frustration about the lack of progress on this issue. And now, two-and-a-half months go by they haven't even let a contract to get an independent assessment by the way. And we wanted it to be completed by the first of April, the end of March, which obviously cannot happen. I'm not going to let you continue to slow walk us on this issue. Just to put things in perspective, on the F35, again, we started the program in 2001, cost estimates for a couple of thousand aircraft, 2456 aircraft were going to be $238 billion. We've now had additional costs of $150 billion. A hundred fifty additional billion dollars in cost. Block IV, as I understand it, please correct me if I'm wrong, General Amos, Block IV, 32 aircraft which are approximately fifty-percent complete are not $500 million over original estimated costs. Are those figures wrong?
General James Amos: Senator, I can't say whether the figures are wrong or not. Uhm --
Senator John McCain: Do you know what the original costs were supposed to be, General?
General James Amos: Oh, I do. I was the --
Senator John McCain: Alright, was [cross-talk] Is that fact, is that fact wrong?
General James Amos: That fact is pretty close, sir.
Senator John McCain: And there's been an additional $150 million cost overrun. Is that fact true?
General James Amos: I'm -- I'm not -- I can't comment on that. I-I don't know.
Senator John McCain: You don't even know what the cost overrun has been?
General James Amos: Well, I-I, sir, this is not a single point in time. I've noticed the program grow, I've witnessed the technical baseline review last year --
Senator John McCain: Let me interrupt you again. Do you argue the fact that there's been a $150 billion additional costs of the aircraft since the original estimate of $238 billion?
General James Amos: Sir, I can't comment on that. I cen't tell you whether it's a hundred fifty billion dollars. I know it's significant.
Senator John McCain: So, for the record, you don't know how much the cost overrun has been for the F35?
General James Amos: Not precisely.
Senator John McCain: Roughtly? [silence] Do you know roughtly what the cost overrun has been? Sir, I'm assuming since --
General James Amos: No, I don't!
Senator John McCain: That's remarkable.
Do you think State could hold up under that kind of questioning about Iraq? I don't.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Flirting on the job





Chanel Curry: I started off as as a veteran during Operation Iraqi Freedom. I'm from Cleveland, Ohio and I joined the military in 2008. As I served overseas and came back to the United States, I suffered many difficulties finding employment. So I recently relocated to Atlanta, Georgia because I had a job opportunity available to me almost immediately. So I relocated and during my process of living in Atlanta, Georgia, a lot of different circumstances forced me to have to move back to Cleveland, Ohio where I was originally stationed. Coming back to Cleveland, Ohio, it was very hard to find a job. So basically, I bounced around from different relatives homes, different friends and it just became definitely a burden because a lot of people I knew suffered their own hardships and no one could afford to accomodate another adult. So that forced me to have to contact the VA and I contacted the Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and I spoke to a veteran by the name of William and he directed me over to a female by the name of Toni Johnson. Toni Johnson is a representative of the women's homeless outreach program. And she, herself, actually opened up a lot of possibilities for me to get back on my feet. She told me about the Grant Per Diem program and I lived in a homeless shelter, a women's homeless shelter, known as the Westside Catholic Center and there there were other things available for me such as the Employment Connection and I met with a representative by the name of Angela Cash and she basically helped me to get a job at the Cleveland Clinic. So she offered me classes, computer training, basically everything that I needed to be readily available for work. And also she had her own non-profit organization known as the Forever Girls At Heart which is a group of beautiful women who helped me get all of the things I needed for my apartment. Now with that being said, I will be moving into my place as of Friday if everything goes as planned. And I do have everything I need. So the VA definitely went above and beyond to make sure that I was not -- that I did not remain a homeless veteran.
Curry's testimony goes to what Senator Scott Brown rightly termed "a lack of consistency." While the VA was able to assist her, Sandra Strickland's testimony to the Committee made clear that the VA practices a scatter-shot, non-consistent response.
Chanel Curry is an Iraq War veteran and among a growing number of veterans of the current war who have or are becoming homeless. She testified to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday as part of the hearing on homeless veterans. The first panel was made up of veteran Sandra Strickland, National Women Veterans Committee's Marsha Four, Deputy Assistant IG for VA Linda Halliday and Reverend Scott Rogers. The first panel was covered in yesterday's snapshot, by Ava in "Scott Brown (Ava)" and by Kat with "Glad someone's back, not impressed with hearing."
Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Committee. In her opening remarks, she noted:
VA must focus on a new and unfortunately growing segment of the homeless veteran population -- female veterans. Like their male counterparts, women veterans face many of the same challenges that contribute to their risks of becoming homeless. They are serving on the front lines and being exposed to some of the same harshest realities of war. They are screening positive for PTSD, experiencing military sexual traum, suffering from anxiety disorder, and having trouble finding a job that provides the stability to ease their transition home. Yet when our female veterans find themselves homeless, they have needs that are unique from those of male veterans. And, as the VA's Inspector General found in a report released on Monday, some of those unique needs are not being addressed. The IG found that there were serious safety and security concerns for homeless women veterans, especially those who have experiences Military Sexual Trauma. They found bedrooms and bathrooms without sufficient locks, halls and stairs without sufficient lighting and mixed gender living facilities without access restrictions. They also found that the VA should do a better job at targeting places and populations that need help the most. And in addition to this IG report, GAO released a report at the end of last year that cited VA for the lack of gender-specific privacy, safety and security standards. Following that report, I sent a letter to VA and HUD with Senators [Jon] Tester and [Olympia] Snowe seeking answers to a number of questions it raised. I have heard from HUD that they are reviewing their data collection process in order to capture more information on homeless women veterans. I have also heard from VA tha they are working to develop and provide training for staff and providers to better treat veterans who have experienced traumatic events and modifying their guidance on privacy, safety and security for providers who serve homeless women veterans. As more women begin to transition home and step back into lives as mothers, wives and citizens, we must be prepared to serve the unique challenges they face. As we continue to learn about the alarming number of homeless women veterans, we must be sure that VA is there to meet their needs.
The second panel was Chanel Curry and the VA's Executive Director of the Homeless Veterans Initiative Pete Dougherty. (Lisa Pape, of the VA, accompanied Dougherty.) VA's Dougherty noted a variety of figures including that 29,074 Veterans and family members are housed, as of last month, through the HUD-VASH program, 37,549 Housing Choice vochers have been handed out, Veterans Justice Outreach (legal services) have served 15,706 veterans, 366 is the number of homeless veterans (or formerly homeless) that the VA has hired in the Homeless Veterans Supported Employment Program (hires are since September of last year), "in FY 2011, VA helped 83 percent of veterans in default retain their homes or avoid foreclsoure, an increase from 76 percent in FY 2010" and "VA paid pension benefits exceeding $4.2 billion to over 500,000 veterans and survivors in FY 2011. Because pension benefits are paid to veterans and survivors whose income fall below Congressionally established minimum standards, it inherently assists in income issues related to homelessness."
We'll note this exchange from the second panel.
Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Dougherty, we heard from Ms. Strickland on the first panel. She reached out to the VA and was told there was no help -- literally [they] hung up [and left her] with nothing. We just heard Ms. Curry obviously a totally different story. With a "no wrong door" policy, it's unacceptable that more help wasn't given to Ms. Strickland and others like her. Ms. Curry, I wanted to ask you, what was the turning point that led you to the VA?
Chanel Curry: Actually, it was a very long time before the resources were actually known to me. I had to do some research. I actually contacted Military One Source which is a very helpful resource who helps you basically get to a lot of different resources. But what led me to the VA was the fact that I was just tired of being homeless. I was tired of not having a stable job and having to ask people for things. And I'm the type of person where I like to get everything on my own so it was definitely a challenge for me. So I had to make an adult decision and go to a shelter where the HUV Ash program would be availabe for me.
Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Dougherty, both the GAO and IG found that the VA has to improve the way it serves homeless veterans -- homeless women veterans -- especially those who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma. I am deeply concerned about women veterans -- or any veteran -- but women veterans being placed in a place with no privacy, no locks on doors, no locks on bedrooms. It just is implicit that that should be available. I understand that the department is developing this new, gender-specific, privacy, safety and security standard for the facilities and I want that done quickly -- obviously. But I wanted to ask you: Is that enough to make sure we have protection for women -- to make sure there's no registered sex offenders? Are we following that? And especially for women who are victims of Military Sexual Trauma, are we really making sure we're focused on those issues?
Pete Dougherty: [microphone not on or working . . .] and her staff are working very closely on making those corrections. I would also say that one of the things that we have and are asking the Committee to do is to change the Contract Care Authority Requirement. Currently under law, you have to have a serious mental illnesee diagnosis in order to get contract residential care. And I think as the IG [Linda Halliday] just said a few minutes ago, that one of the issues is that in some small communities, we may not have enough need to develop a whole program that's big enough to support a community program and in those places what we need is more flexibility in contracted residential care in order to make that work.
Chair Patty Murray: Well, okay, let me be very clear given the strong oversight work that this Committee has done leading up to just this hearing, I think it's very clear we're going to be following this very carefully. We want to make sure this is implemented. It's absolutely a top item for all of us.
We'll jump to another exchange.
Senator Scott Brown: Mr. Dougherty, how is VA working to improve the data collected so that the VA and Congress have information to effectively allocate the resources to ensure homeless veterans receive the needed services? And that's based on the GAO report saying that the information's lacking. [Doughtery speaking with Pape.] Either one.
Lisa Pape: We have been collecting information on homeless veterans for over 20 years now. What we've done to really enhance in the last several years is roll over into an electronic system, enhancing the kind of data we're really asking for so that there's more questions related to people's experience, their medical issues, their housing issues prior and-and-and leaving the program. But what really is where we're shooting for is connecting with the community and aligning our data collection system with the homeless management collection system that the continuum of care do so that we have a coordinated and integrated collection system to look at what veterans are entering the VA and the community and bed capacity and things like that.
From the panel on homeless veterans to an Iraq War veteran imprisoned for over a year, Bradley Manning. In January, Josh Gerstein (POLITICO) reported, "Another military officer has formally recommended that Army Pfc. Bradley Manning face a full-scale court martial for allegedly leaking thousands of military reports and diplomatic cables to the online transparency site WikiLeaks." In addition, Article 32 hearings are almost always rubber stamps. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December.
The Associated Press reports the latest in government ridiculous, the military insisted to the court today that the release Bradley is accused of aided al Qaeda. They tossed in the word "indirectly." You know what directly aids al Qaeda, endless war. So throw some charges at Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the crooked gang making up the administration. Know what else aids al Qaeda? Keeping Guantanamo open. So throw some more charges at Barack. The latest development only underscores that Barack Obama is no different from George W. Bush, that idiots like Naomi Wolf who swore he was a Constitutional lawyer (Memo to Naomi: Constional lawyers take cases involving Constitutional issues -- they don't generally represent slum lords) were wrong (and have refused to own their errors) when they insisted Barack would protect the Constitution. He's done nothing of the sort and now he's attempting to 'ohn Walker Lindh' Bradley Manning.
Jessica Gresko (Huffington Post) reports, "An attorney for an Army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of classified information asked a military judge Thursday to dismiss the charges, arguing the government bungled the handover of documents to the defense." At issue are documents that the government refuses to hand over. Since this is a criminal prosecution, discovery attached at the beginning of the case. Therefore, the documents should have been turned over long ago. Discovery is the process by which the defense learns the evidence the prosecution has. This is standard procedure and the claim by US Capt Ashden Fein that the defense is attempting to launch a fishing expedition is outrageous and puts a stain on the already questionable concept of 'military justice.' Fein whined to the court that they had to produce "as much as possible" for the defense. Someone needs to explain the law to Fein, "as much as possible" is not how discovery works. You're compelled to turn over everything. "As much as possible" claims should get you up on charges before a legal board.
Speaking to RT on Thursday about that afternoon's hearing, Zack Presavento of the Bradley Manning Support Network said that the prosecutors in the case continue to defend their right to withhold material from the defense, something he says is just "one more absurd allegation in a long train of absurdities."
Coombs says he has repeatedly asked the government to supply him with documents that pertain to the case, but the military is defaulting to the claim that the material in question is classified and therefore must be shielded from civilian eyes. For two years, Coombs says, he has asked for documents that the government has still refused to deliver and, at this point, he believes the US should forfeit their case.
Equally disturbing, Chantal Valery (AFP) reports:
Coombs asked the government to provide an assessment of the damage Manning caused to US national security by sending WikiLeaks military field reports from Afghanistan and Iraq, a quarter million State Department cables and war videos.
But military prosecutor Ashden Fein said the State Department "has not completed its damage assessment."
Any 'asssessment' should have been completed prior to charges being brought. That's basic. Yet again, the Obama administration, in their haste to punish whistle blowers, sets the law aside and goes off like a vigilante posse bound and determined to take the law into their own hands. America has never been more at risk from their own government then with these crooks and clowns in the administration. They make Bully Boy Bush look like a Constitutional defender by contrast.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Brown paper wrapper




Michelangelo Signorile interviewed (reposted at Huffington Post) Iraqi LGBT's Ali Hili on his Sirius XM radio program. The targeted are those who are or suspected of being gay and/or Emo.
Michelangelo Signorile: What has the US State Dept done? And certainly, in light of [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton's strong statements about countries around the world -- she gave a speech in Geneva speaking out about the brutality [against] gay people and said the US would be, you know, pulling funding even in some cases for countries, foreign aid would be in jeopardy, that were pushing an anti-gay agenda. Is the US State Dept just trying to look the other way?
Ali Hili: They have been looking the other way and it's a shame on the international world community that this genocide is happening under the eyes of the world and the gay community in particular. No one is doing anything to help support their brothers and sisters inside Iraq and this is on the conscious -- this is on the conscious of everyone who's been responsible to post it.
Michelangelo Signorile: What do you think people listening right now should be doing? Americans listening. Should they be putting pressure on the State Dept and Hillary Clinton?
Ali Hili: Of course. People should stand up. Stand up against this. this administration in Iraq, this establishment of killing that has been prosecuting sexual minorities, minorities and groups like even the Emos. Nobody ever did anything to stop these killings, these atrocities. The media is going to pick up on it for a period of time and then it's going to slow down and disappear. But those victims who are living there in fear, who's going to help them who's going to support them?
Michaelangelo Signorile: Has there been any official statement from the State Dept or Hillary Clinton?
Ali Hili: No. Nothing. Nothing. We haven't heard anything.
And no statment again today. Victoria Nuland handled the State Dept briefing. She came out joking ("Only the early birds here today!") and did everything but called for someone to bump up the lights as she asked, "So, what's on your minds?" Tomorrow, Victoria does the Tarzan yell.
Who is going to stand up for the Iraqi youth? The State Dept? The White House? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
While the so-called adults in government cut class, the tragedy continues for Iraqi youths. Peter Graff (Reuters) reports the way some Iraqi youths are dealing with the targeting:

Hafidh Jamal, 19, who works in a shoe store in the upscale Karrada neighbourhood, said he used to dress in black with his hair long in the back, but he fled his home in Sadr City this week and cut his hair. Two friends were killed for dressing in the emo style, he said.
"Let them kill me. They killed my close friends," he told Reuters. "I support emo. I love this phenomenon."

Tim Marshall (Sky News) notes the work of the Organization of Women's Freedom In Iraq to call out the murders:

The OWFI documents some of the crimes here (be aware this link leads to a graphic image) and says the current wave of killings began on February 6th. Gays have always been persecuted in Iraq, but two things happened after the 2003 invasion of the country which led to the wave of anti gay killings in 2009 and now again.

Ali Hussein (Al Mada) notes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's condemnation of the killing of Iraqi youths for being or thought to be Emo and Hussein notes that the targeting brings back memories of the Saddam Hussein regime when innocent people were behead and tossed into the garbage. Al Rafidayn quotes Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi stating that the liquadation of youths on the pretext of reforming Iraqi society is about embracing violence and terror and that they killers are in violation of the law. Another Al Mada article notes that while Nujaifi has spoken out against the killing, the Ministry of the Interior has remained silent except to deny that any targeting is taking place. MP Chuan Mohammed Taha serves on the Security and Defense Committee and notes that that governmental indifference to these killings is a new form of terrorism and that the Ministry of the Interior is a participant in the killings if only due to the fact that they know about the murders and they hide them from the public. Taha also declares that Emo is the expression of a personality and the law guarantees Iraqis the right to freely express their opinions.

Abe Greenwald (Commentary) offers
his thoughts on the subject:

In a Contentions post, I noted that the initiative allowed Obama to shirk America's unique role in actually securing human rights around the world, while earning praise from identity-politics activists. The administration's failure (and disinclination) to maintain an American presence in Iraq after 2012 meant that anti-gay barbarians such as al-Qaeda and Iranian proxies would stay behind and prey upon Iraq's homosexuals without fear of American influence. If Obama really wanted to protect gay rights from history's most vicious anti-gay forces, I wrote, he'd keep America in Iraq (and Afghanistan) instead of issuing memos and giving speeches. And if the progressives singing his praises really felt that gay rights were human rights they'd have been more inclined to support George W. Bush's freedom agenda and less eager to cut and run in our wars abroad. How tragic to have been proven so right so soon.
So even Commentary -- a right-wing periodical -- can weigh in publicly but elected and appointed officials in the US all have a case of Vegas throat?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

President Princess










Late yesterday, Alsumaria TV rans a story with a headline that Washington (DC) has strongly condemned the targeting of Iraqi youth. I wish. DC hasn't said a damn word. You might think it was James Jeffrey, US Ambassador to Iraq, speaking out. You'd be wrong there too. He's not in Iraq. He's in DC. The person offering a condemnation was the Embassy spokesperson Michael W. McClellan who told Alsumaria -- in an interview -- that the US strongly condemns the violence and the targeting based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. I believe McClellan's been with the State Dept for 28 years.

Good for him. But DC hasn't condemned the actions. If DC wanted to condemn the actions, Hillary Clinton could have done so to the UN Security Council yesterday or at the UN press conference she gave, Mark Toner could have read a statement at the beginning of yesterday's press conference, etc. And of course the White House could have issued a statement via any of the many interviews Barack Obama gave yesterday -- it's more important, apparently, that he yammer on about Peyton Manning than he stick up for the targeted, Jay Carney could have delivered a statement on behalf of the White House, etc.
The administration chose not to take any of those steps. Instead, an embassy spokesperson gave an interview to a TV network most Americans have never heard of and one that broadcasts in Arabic.

Any of the previous steps would have resulted in media coverage. They really didn't want media coverage. But, thankfully, that is what they're getting. Chris Geidner (Metro Weekly) reports (correctly) that the US Embassy in Baghdad called out the killings and note that a statement had been conveyed to Gays Without Border and that Metro Weekly confirmed with Michael McClellan that the Embassy sent the e-mail which read, "Along with the Embassy, the U.S. Department of State strongly condemns the recent violence and killings in Iraq by groups who appear to be targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or personal expression. These acts of intolerance should have no place in society." That's the Embassy, that's not the State Dept. And please note, the Embassy had an e-mail exchange with a group in San Francisco and then confirmed that exchange to Metro Weekly. That becomes more clear as we turn to broadcast media.

Brian Todd (CNN) did a video report today and, no, this isn't the State Dept condemning anything either.
Brian Todd: On the streets of Baghdad, this is a very different and dangerous look. A western style with longer hair, tighter clothes. It's called Emo and if you're a young man in Iraq who wants to look like this, it could get you killed.
Iraqi Male Activist: There is a very strong wave of killing people who are such called Emos of gays. You know, people who look different than the usual Iraqi people, tight jeans, long hair maybe goatee.
Brian Todd: We spoke to a human rights activst who didn't want us to use his name or show his face. He says he's not gay or Emo but has longer hair. listens to heavy metal music. He said he shaved his goatee out of fear. What is the atmosphere like in Baghdad right now for people like yourself just to walk around?
Iraqi Male Activist: Well basically when I was coming to the CNN bureau here in Baghdad, there were two checkpoints who told me to cut my hair, they will kill me with the blocks of -- not them, but they were like advising me so people won't kill me with the blocks of cement, cement blocks.
Brian Todd: A senior Iraqi Ministry of the Interior official not authorized to talk to the media tells CNN at least 14 young men perceived to be either gay or dressed in Emo style have been killed in Baghdad in recent weeks. Human rights activists put the number much higher and they provide graphic evidence. Photos posted online show people believed to be victims because of their appearance. It's not clear exatly who's killing them. But activists have given CNN copies of warning letters and lists like this one distributed in conservative neighborhoods like Sadr City in Baghdad, lists identifying potential gay or Emo targets. There are also serious questions about whether the Iraqi government is able or willing to protect these men. Last month, Iraq's Interior Ministry released a statement saying it was following the "Emo phenomenon or Devil worshipping." Also saying "we have the approval to eliminate it as soon as possible and that the so-called moral police would enter schools in Baghdad. The Ministry later issued a statement saying it's received no reports of Emos being murdered. It warns vigilantes from attacking and says those dressed in Emo style will be protected. One young man who says he's not gay but wears tight jeans and shirts says he's not taking chances.
Iraqi Male: I can't do like the Emo thing and the clothes. I can't do that anymore. I'm afraid I might get killed.
Brian Todd: Contacted by CNN, a State Dept spokesperson says it is monitoring this closely, has expressed concern to the Iraqi government, and "We strongly condemn the recent violence and killings in Iraq by groups who appear to be targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or personal expression." The spokesman also points out that in recent days, Iraqi Parliamentarians and religious leaders including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have denounced these attacks. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
Well, at last! The State Dept spoke!
No, it didn't.
When the State Dept decries something, it does so with a name. It doesn't do so anonymously.
Do you realize how cowardly what the State Dept did was?
Let's address the CNN report for a second and then come back to the State Dept. They credit to the Feburary Ministry of Interior statement to Col Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi. Remember that. Remember there was a name attached to it. When no one gets punished for the targeting of Iraqi youth, remember that there was an official call for them to be targeted and that it had name attached to it: Col Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi.
Yes, the State Dept wants you to know "clerics" have called out the attacks? Clerics? The Grand Ayatollah has called them out. Many more have supported the attacks and that includes Moqtada al-Sadr who made statements on Saturday.
Now back to the State Dept's cowardly refusal to play anonymous when it came to callingo ut the targeting of Iraqi youth. If the State Dept wanted to condemn these acts of terrorism, they know how to do so. They issue a statements not cloaked in the unnamed. They can do that in text form, they can do it via an announcement. They chose to do neither.
Victoria Nuland, State Dept spokesperson, gave the press briefing today and opened with, "Good morning, everybody. It is still morning and we are out here. Can you feel the buzz of energy in this building? We have Chiefs of Mission from all over the world here at the mother ship for the annual conference." I'm not making this up, yes, she does sound like she's dropped acid. She wasn't done with her opening remarks yet, so let's resume where we left off: "I have nothing at the top." Nothing to share. No announcements?
Because if the State Dept wishes to condemn some action in another country, right there, right at the start of the day's press briefing, that's where they put it.
But the State Dept had "nothing at the top."
Surely, you insist, some reporter asked her of Iraq today!
Wrong. They don't ask. They check themselves for fleas and lice, they thump their tails on the carpet while they wait for treats and snacks, but they don't ask.
At the White House today, Jay Carney gave the press briefing. Not one reported asked of Iraq. Jay Carney delivered no opening statement condemning the killings. Nor did the White House write up a statement that they issued.
If they had, it might resemble (in appearance) this statement that the White House did issue on Iraq yesterday.
Readout of Vice President Biden's Calls with Prime Minister Maliki and Amir Al-Sabah
Vice President Biden spoke by phone this morning with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and this afternoon with Kuwaiti Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The Vice President discussed with the two leaders recent regional developments, including their upcoming meeting in Kuwait City and the March 29 Arab League Summit in Baghdad, and reaffirmed the United States' enduring partnership with both nations.
See, they know how to issue statements. They just choose not to.
So to delcare that the State Dept, the White House or the administration has denounced -- strongly or otherwise -- the targeting of Iraqi youth is to make a false statement. The US Embassy in Baghdad has denounced the targeting -- to one Iraqi television network and to one LGBT weekly in the US that happened to ask of a private e-mail exchange that had taken place. An anonymous State Dept employee, on background, called out the targeting.
What happened to all the talk about bravery and leadership we got from US President Barack Obama once upon a time? He can't even call out the murders of kids in Iraq. And we're supposed to see him as capable for the job?
When trashy Samantha Power is no longer part of the government and tries to pretend to be outraged over something taking place somewhere on the earth (where ever it is that she wants war at that moment), remember she said not one damn word about the Iraqi youth. Remember that, as is always the case, The Problem From Hell very much is Samantha Power.
Their silence is actually a gift. It demonstrates to whatever's left of the anti-war movement that they truly don't care about human rights or human suffering, that they only pretend to care when it helps them market their war plans, that they are as cowardly as they are insufferable and that no one should take them at all seriously.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

If only he'd been hired by ESPN instead of America





As Al Mada, Dar Addustour, Alsumaria TV and Kitabat reported last week (Al Mada all last week) and as the US and UK LGBT press picked up on the story of Iraqi youth being targeted -- those thought to be Emo, those thought to be gay and those thought to be both. (As was the case in Egypt last year, Emo youth were demonized in Iraq this year as Satanists and vampires.) But while all this went on, silence from Big Media. Saturday,the silence was broken. First, Ahmed Rahseed and Mohammed Ameer (Reuters) reported on the targeting noting, "At least 14 youths have been stoned to death in Baghdad in the past three weeks in what appears to be a campaign by Shi'ite militants against youths wearing Western-style "emo" clothes and haircuts, security and hospital sources say. Militants in Shi'ite neighborhoods where the stonings have taken place circulated lists on Saturday naming more youths targeted to be killed if they do not change the way they dress." Later the same day, Alice Fordham (Washington Post) reported on the targeting including, "Lists threatening named people with death unless they change their attitude circulated anonymously late last week in Baghdad. Prominent clerics, as well as at least one police official, have condemned the emo -- short for emotional -- craze for its gloomy music and macabre look, which includes tight clothes and styled hair. The trend began in the 1980s in the West but has only recently become popular in the Arab world." And suddenly, Big Media was interested in the story. And applause for law professor Jonathan Turley who noted the targeting at his blog today. With all that, we might have been tempted to feel things were finally moving.
How can we be
Just along for the ride
We'd rather believe
That we decide
That we can stand here
And say loud and clear
Here comes the turn of the tide
-- "Turn Of The Tide," written by Jacob Brackman and Carly Simon, first appears in Robert Richter and Stan Warnow's 1984 film In Our Hands (of the June 12, 1982 peace demonstration in NYC -- which includes speeches and performances) and performed live on Marlo Thomas' 1988 TV special Free To Be . . . A Family where Carly sang it live and -- via with satellite link -- with children in the then-Soviet Union, appeared on the soundtrack album to the special, on the cassette single of "Let The River Run" and first on a Carly collection with the boxed set Clouds In My Coffee.
But if the tide had truly turned on this topic, wouldn't today's the issue have been raised in today's State Dept briefing? It wasn't. At least they were semi-adult. The issue also wasn't raised in the White House press briefing but there were giggles and guffaws as a reporter joked about a Blackberry app and more garbage. Does the press not get that their peers may laugh, White House spokesperson Jay Carney may laugh but the public's not laughing. The public's wondering why these people paid to cover the White House use this time to giggle and snort instead of addressing serious issues? And while trivializing serious issues, the press trivializes itself in the eyes of people. And it's probably worth again noting that in 2009, when a wave of attacks targeted Iraq's LGBT community, it took the BBC to ask about it at a State Dept press briefing. The New York Times, AP, Reuters, ABC News, CNN, and a host of other outlets at one press breifing after another in 2009 and no one bothered to ask. That's okay. The BBC took that embarrassing non-answer from the US State Dept and made it sort of the centerpiece of their 2009 radio documentary on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community -- thereby allow the entire world to listen and laugh at the US press corps and the US State Dept. The one hour documentary was anchored by Aasmah Mir, entitled Gay Life After Saddam and first aired on BBC Radio 5 July 12, 2009 (it was meant to debut the week prior but the Wimbledon Men's Final delayed it). And let's note one thing from the documentary, Iraq's LGBTs had a better and safer life before the start of the 2003 US war on Iraq. Excerpt.
Aasmah Mir: Haider is an Iraqi seeking asylum in England. He's been living in Huntersfield. He left Iraq shortly after the US invasion six years ago.
Haider: If you respect yourself and live and you don't cause any problems nobody is going to kill you. We didn't hear of anybody being killed because of his sexuality in Saddam's regime. Now after that, everything got worse, everything got fluctuated. I fled from Iraq in 2003 because of one of the worst experiences I've had in my life. I was kidnapped for 9 days, they took me in a small car and they send me about to a place about half an hour. I was. I was eye-folded, they call it. [. . .] on the border of Baghdad. One of the officers there, he raped me. And then he said "if you're going to tell anyone from the rest of the gang, I will kill you directly." I was scared. Just a one meal a day which is not enough. They were always telling us that they were going to kill you.
Today England's Sky TV filed a video report on the latest attacks on Iraqi youth:
Simon Newton: Even for a country used to terrible violence, these killings have been shocking. The rise of Emo culture among some young Iraqis hasn't been welcome in all quarters. Despite the infiltration of Western influence, many in the country remain deeply conservative. Sarah is an Emo but too frightened to show her face on camera. She interacts with other followers around the world using Facebook.

Sarah: There are special events where we support the Emo group. We meet regularly to decide which ones to attend.

["Famous Last Words" by My Chemical Romance plays.]

Simon Newton: Like most youth cultures, Emo has its own music, fashion and lifestyle -- much of it revolving around themes of emotional pain and andorgeny -- a blurring of the sexes. Sarah says she only meets fellow Emos with her parents approval and admits her family are divided by her lifestyle.

Sarah: Sometimes we have heated discussions at home. I usually stay silent and usually don't go to gatherings.

Simon Newton: Nine Emo youngsters were bludgeoned to death and seven shot recently in Sadr City. The Interior Ministry says it's monitoring the movement claiming rumors of homosexuality and mass suicide means it's a danger to wider society

[Official babbling, I'm not interested.]

Simon Newton: Being gay remains taboo in Iraq. Human rights groups say 750 men and women have been murdered for their sexual orientation. But with clerics linking the Emo lifestyle to homosexuality, the fear is that figure will only rise. Simon Newton, Sky News.
And one of England's premier music papers picked up the story, the New Musical Express which debuted in 1952. Today NME notes, "Reports also indicate that militias in the Iraqi capital Baghdad's conservative Shia neighbourhood of Sadr City have distributed leaflets with the names of 20 young people that they say should be punished for being 'emo'." Yesterday, BBC News explained, "Dozens of Iraqi teenagers have been killed in recent months by militias who consider them to be devil worshippers, human rights activists claim. The young people are described as 'emos', a term used in the West to refer to youths who listen to rock music and wear alternative clothing. [. . .] Iraq's interior ministry recently described emos as devil worshippers. In Iraq, the term emo is also conflated with homosexuality, which although legal is socially and religiously taboo." And Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) spoke with a gay Iraqi youth who explains, "Ten days ago, I received a letter from militiamen threatening me that if they found me then they will not kill me like other 'perverts' but they will cut my body into pieces." The letter reads, "We strongly warn every male and female debauchee, if you do not stop this dirty act within four days, then the punishment of God will fall on you at the hands of Mujahideen." Jasim Alsabawi (Rudaw) spoke to a variety of Iraqis including Dr. Shamil Ashu who is a psychologist and explains that emo has been in Iraq for some time, "It emerged in the 1990s when some bands were singing emotional songs to attract people's attention. Many teenagers and children who had family problems were influenced by it. These bands have unique costumes, and the suppressed emotions and frustrations among teenagers nowadays is the reason they are mimicking these imported habits." Peter Graff (Reuters) adds, "Since the start of this year, death squads have been targeting two separate groups - gay men, and those who dress in a distinctive, Western-influenced style called "emo", which some Iraqis mistakenly associate with homosexuality. [. . .] Iraq's government, dominated by the Shi'ite majority that was oppressed under Saddam, may not be helping. The Interior Ministry added to the atmosphere of menace last month by releasing a statement that labeled the emo culture 'Satanism'. It said a special police force would stamp it out."
As Graff points out, the statement came from the Ministry of the Interior last month. And yet Nouri al-Maliki has done nothing. Excuse me, he's given his approval on this targeting, this terrorism and these murders.
In November 2010, Jalal Talabani named Nouri al-Maliki prime minster-designate. It was his task to name a (full) Cabinet by the end of December 2010. Nouri refused to name heads to the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of National Security. For 15 months, the posts have remained empty.
Which means Nouri is in charge of all three -- something he insisted would be temproary at the end of 2010. He's in charge of the Ministry of the Interior. Which means he was or should have been aware of the statement on the Emo youth that the Ministry released last month. He should have been aware of it and, as someone who takes an oath to the Constitution, he should have stopped it. He didn't.
The deaths fall at his feet. Via intent or ignorance, he has allowed this to take place and he is responsible for the deaths. And this despite his proclamations to care for Iraq and to care for Iraqis. Only some Iraqis, apparently, are worthy of Nouri's protection -- an interesting way to interpret both the Constitution and the role of prime minister.

In today's New York Times, Jack Healy reports on the targeting of Iraqi youth and notes the image problems as the Arab Summit looms, "Many details of what Iraqi newspapers have called the 'emo killings' are murky, but the uproar comes at an awkward moment for Iraq. The country has been preparing to showcase itself to the world as host of a high-profile meeting of Arab leaders in late March, the first major diplomatic event here since American forces withdrew in December. But the news that young men in tight T-shirts and skinny jeans are being beaten to death with cement blocks and dumped in the streets has threatened to overshadow the new palm trees and fresh paint." The Arab Summit was supposed to have been the crowning glory of 2011. Baghdad would host the Summit. But it was postponed once and then twice. Now they insist it will take place this month (March 29th), the officials from other Arab countries will come to Iraq for the summit to represent their countries. AFP reports that Bagdhad is contemplating shutting down its airspace of all commercial traffic in an attempt to guarantee safety during the summit. I'm not sure if they're assuming that al Qaeda in Iraq has had flight training (no one's offered that theory thus far) or that they believe a shipment of fighter planes is coming in. But the only 'air' attacks in Iraq have been from mortars and small rockets. They're also considering imposing a curfew. Those moves don't really speak to a 'safer' Iraq, do they?
The summit, if it takes place, was supposed to be Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's moment to shine. Due to the nature of the summit, Nouri would be representing Iraq in the same manner as visiting officials represented their countries. Presiding over the summit itself would be Talabanai. Over the weekend, Kitabat reported that Talabani's latest trip to the Mayo Clinic in the US makes many believe he won't be back in Iraq in time for the summit and won't be able to preside over it. (Past trips to the Mayo Clinic usually require Jalal to spend a week to a week and a half in the US. If this trip is like previous ones, he should be able to make it back to Iraq in time for the summit.) It's been a period of bad news for Talabani which kicked off with the March 1st killing of American teacher Jeremiah Small in the KRG. The killer then took his own life. The killer was Beyar Talabani, Jalal's great-nephew.
Last week, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had promised he would attend the Arab Summit. Today Ban Ki-moon delivered prepared remarks on Middle East Countries at the UN Security Council meeting on Changes in the Middle East -- a 1330 word statement. And not once did he ever mention the targeting of Iraqi youth or, in fact, Iraq.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outdid Moon in bluster and word count. Yet her opening remarks running 1876 words didn't mean she found the time to note Iraqi youth or Iraq. Excuse me, who leads the US mission in Iraq now?
That supposed to be the State Dept which Hillary Clinton is supposed to be in charge of. So, golly, maybe at a Security Council meeting entitled "Changes in the Middle East," Hillary should damn well talk about Iraq?
I understand why she doesn't want to talk about it. Would you want to talk the US failure in Iraq? Would you want to be the one to admit that, yes, Iraq is "the breakdown" of a state, that "the army, the ministries, and so on that are still plagued by chaos and confusion and violence"?
Oh, I'm sorry, that has been admitted to by the State Dept. The press just forgot to inform you. Friday, State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland agreed with that description quoted above as she conducted the press briefing and she herself stated that what was described "is precisely why we are focused [in Syria] on trying to push everybody towards a political solution through dialogue."
Seems to me, when your own spokesperson is describing Iraq that way and when your department is tasked with Iraq, when you brag about how the US is running Iraq to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this month -- when you do all of that and the country's falling apart, you stop screaming for war on Syria or Iran or any other damn country, you shut your mouth, roll up your sleeves and do the damn job you've been tasked with.