September 12, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the diplomatic corps
experiences some deaths, illiteracy remains a concern in Iraq, Congress
ponders what lessons were learned from Iraq, the Defense Dept has over
7,000 contractors in Iraq, and more.
It has not been a smooth time for members of the diplomatic corps. All Iraq News notes
Taha shukr Mahmoud Ismail has died of a heart attack. That's all the
article notes except to say he was born in 1940. I'm told he was born
in 1947 (and that he died Saturday). What follows is the other
information I was told. He had been Iraq's Ambassador to Chile. He
was born in Mosul in 1947, spoke three languages (Arabic, English and
German) earned his degree at the University of Baghdad, first joined the
diplomatic corps in 1975 and previously served as Ambassadors to
Nigeria and Venezuela. Taha shuker Mahmoud Alabass is survived by his
wife and their five children.
armed militants assaulted the compound and set fire to our buildings.
American and Libyan security personnel battled the attackers together.
Four Americans were killed. They included Sean Smith, a Foreign Service
information management officer, and our Ambassador to Libya Chris
Stevens. We are still making next of kin notifications for the other two
is an attack that should shock the conscience of people of all faiths
around the world. We condemn in the strongest terms this senseless act
of violence, and we send our prayers to the families, friends, and
colleagues of those we've lost.
the world, every day, America's diplomats and development experts risk
their lives in the service of our country and our values, because they
believe that the United States must be a force for peace and progress in
the world, that these aspirations are worth striving and sacrificing
for. Alongside our men and women in uniform, they represent the best
traditions of a bold and generous nation.
the lobby of this building, the State Department, the names of those
who have fallen in the line of duty are inscribed in marble. Our hearts
break over each one. And now, because of this tragedy, we have new
heroes to honor and more friends to mourn.
Stevens fell in love with the Middle East as a young Peace Corps
volunteer teaching English in Morocco. He joined the Foreign Service,
learned languages, won friends for America in distant places, and made
other people's hopes his own.
In the early
days of the Libyan revolution, I asked Chris to be our envoy to the
rebel opposition. He arrived on a cargo ship in the port of Benghazi and
began building our relationships with Libya's revolutionaries. He
risked his life to stop a tyrant, then gave his life trying to help
build a better Libya. The world needs more Chris Stevenses. I spoke with
his sister, Ann, this morning, and told her that he will be remembered
as a hero by many nations.
Sean Smith was
an Air Force veteran. He spent 10 years as an information management
officer in the State Department, he was posted at The Hague, and was in
Libya on a brief temporary assignment. He was a husband to his wife
Heather, with whom I spoke this morning. He was a father to two young
children, Samantha and Nathan. They will grow up being proud of the
service their father gave to our country, service that took him from
Pretoria to Baghdad, and finally to Benghazi.
mission that drew Chris and Sean and their colleagues to Libya is both
noble and necessary, and we and the people of Libya honor their memory
by carrying it forward. This is not easy. Today, many Americans are
asking – indeed, I asked myself – how could this happen? How could this
happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from
destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times,
how confounding the world can be.
must be clear-eyed, even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and
savage group – not the people or Government of Libya. Everywhere Chris
and his team went in Libya, in a country scarred by war and tyranny,
they were hailed as friends and partners. And when the attack came
yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post. Some were
wounded. Libyans carried Chris' body to the hospital, and they helped
rescue and lead other Americans to safety. And last night, when I spoke
with the President of Libya, he strongly condemned the violence and
pledged every effort to protect our people and pursue those responsible.
speech is worth reading or viewing in full. We don't have room because
we also have to cover a Congressional hearing today. One part of it we
do need to emphasize:
sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that
took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to
inflammatory material posted on the internet. America's commitment to
religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But
let me be clear – there is no justification for this, none. Violence
like this is no way to honor religion or faith. And as long as there are
those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will
never know a true and lasting peace.
outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and
Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi.
disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to
condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those
who waged the attacks.
attacks were also noted this morning by US House Rep Buck McKeon who is
also the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee. At the start of
this morning's hearing, Chair McKeon observed, "This morning, we're
reminded once more of what a dangerous world we live in and the risk
many Americans take to serve our country abroad. My thoughts and
prayers together with those of the members of the Committee are with the
families of the loved ones of those that we've lost in Libya."
With that noted, McKeon then moved on to the point of the hearing: Is anyone learning?
The short answer is: No, no one is.
The hearing was about the financial costs of war and the oversight needed to ensure that
money is spent appropriately and as intended. The Defense Dept has
largely washed its hand of Iraq and the State Dept now is the department
spending billions of US tax dollars on Iraq. This has thrown Congress
which appears unsure of exactly how to examine the work done in Iraq --
instead of a turf war, it's more of a hot potato with no one wanting to
touch it. But the Defense Dept continues to spend huge sums in
Afghanistan and it is thought and hoped that somehow the Iraq War and
the ten years already in Afghanistan at least provided some lessons in
how to improve the financial aspects of warfare. We're talking
contracting, as DoD's Assistant Secretary on Logistics and Material
Readiness Alan F. Estevez made clear in his remarks.
good that there was some clarity somewhere in his remarks. Pacific
Command and the Japanese tsunami? No one is really interested when
you're supposed to be talking about money spent on warfare. In fact,
not only are they not interested but the Committee appeared to
collectively eye roll as they pondered whether or not the tsunami was
brought up because that's the only thing DoD can point to with pride
when it comes to spending?
Estevez and Brig
Gen Craig Crenshaw turned in a joint-written statement. They delivered
individual statements orally to the Committee. Crenshaw stated that
they had addressed past mistakes in their joint-statement. It would be
good if they had done that. The Congressional Research Service's Moshe
Schwartz would testify that experts were stating, "DoD must change the
way it thinks about contracting." But there was nothing that indicated
it had or that it was trying to.
And at the
root of that is the refusal to learn from past mistakes. You can't
learn from them if you can't admit them. The refusal to acknowledge the
past mistakes may be sadder than Estevez desperation for a 'win' that
led to his highlighting Pacific Command's response to Japan's tsunami. A
statement that on its first page of text (the actual first page was a
cover sheet) quickly states, "Without dwelling on the past . . ."?
That's a joint-statement that's not going to be admitting to much of
So no, in the
joint-written statement, Estevez and Crenshaw do not "acknowledge our
past weakneesses." And this failure to do so -- this repeated failure
-- may go a long way towards explaining why money continues to be wasted
-- why large sums of money continue to be wasted.
Large sums of money?
testimony also included, "According to DoD data, from Fiscal Year 2008
to Fiscal Year 2011, contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan represented
52% of the total force -- averaging 190,000 contractors to 175,000
uniformed personnel. Over the last five fiscal years, DoD obligations
for contracts performed just in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas of
operation ($132 billion) exceeded total contract obligations of any
other US federal agency.
The Congressional Research Service had three recommendations:
1) Senior leadership must focus on articulating the importance of contract support in a sustained and consistent manner.
The Professional Military Education curriculum must incorporate courses
on operational contract support throughout its various efforts.
3) Training exercises must incorporate contractors playing the role that they would play on the battlefield.
are good suggestions but let's explain why they're needed before we
evaluate them. They're needed because oversight of contractors is not
valued (that's the culture) and what happens is, once in the war zone,
someone gets appointed to do oversight. This person hasn't been trained
in oversight of contractors. These observations were made in this
These observations have
been made in repeated Congressional hearings, before the Commission on
Wartime Contracting and elsewhere. They are not new. If you've
attended even one hearing on contracting in war zones, you've heard the
three suggestions in some form already.
stuck in the same worn groove aspect was slightly touched on in the
hearing when the Government Accountability Office's Tim DiNapoli noted
that it was June 2010 when the GAO "called for a cultural change -- one
that emphasized an awareness of contractor support throughout the
department. Consistent with this message, in January 2011, the
Secretary of Defense identified the need to institutionalize changes to
bring about such a change."
changes. And getting answers is like pulling teeth. For example, grasp
that US House Rep Susan Davis is asking basic questions and watch the
witness run from these basic issues.
House Rep Susan Davis: As you've gone through a number of these areas, I
think some of it falls into a category that we might call common
sense. I mean, obviously you need to plan, you need to have data, you
need to have oversight. And yet I guess to someone just listening in on
that, they'd say, "Well yeah." I mean what gets in the way of those
good practices? And I wonder if you could talk more about the different
kinds of contracting then and where that becomes a greater problem
because if it's related to the war fighter and contingency operations, I
would think in many cases that's a difficulty, as I think you've
expressed, of planning. You don't necessarily know what your situation
is going to be until you're in the middle of it. And on the other hand,
if you're talking about operational, it would seem to me that that's --
there's enough standardization in that -- that you shouldn't have to go
back to the drawing board every time. So can you help? What gets in
the way of those different areas that we're not able to, I guess,
accomplish what we really want to do?
Schwartz There are a number of issues that you raised and I think it's
an excellent question. One of the challenges that has occured in
Afghanistan is that there's a frequent rotation among personnel --
uniform personnel as well as contractors, as well as civilian personnel
-- and so often someone who gets to theater who has never engaged in a
counter-insurgency operation -- which Afghanistan has the policy now
being pursued there -- it takes them a learning curve and they say, "Oh,
I get it. I see what's going on. And now I'm three months from going
home." And then someone else comes in who may not have had that
learning curve. That definitely has an impact of the ability for
continuity in some of these common sense issues. For example,
contracting in war time is fundamentally different than contracting in
peace time so someone who has done contracting for years and years here
to build a road is thinking: Cost, schedule, performance. When they
get to Afghanistan, perhaps cost, schedule and performance and perhaps,
"Wait, stealing the goods. We can't take them to court. What effect is
this having on the local village?" And when they start getting up to
speed, as I mentioned, they start rotating back. That's one problem. A
second problem is sometimes you hae personnel who, because of the
rotation policy, don't have the experience in that area. When I was in
Afghanistan last summer, a former helo pilot was working on contracting
strategy. He had never done that before. Incredibly talented
individual but it took him also some time to get up to speed. So I
think that is one factor that makes a difference. I think the other
factor sometimes is simply exposure to the magnitude of what one might
be dealing with. For example --
House Rep Susan Davis: I guess, so where -- Are there, because you
talk about gaps in data and in that collection process, how do you
mitigate these issues which are, again, they're obvious. There's a
certain level of uncertainty that you can't necessarily plan for. How
do -- What's the best way of getting around that, if that's the issue.
The other thing, and I just wanted to see if you had some thoughts on or
a sesne of what is the cost of unpreparedness and the lack of
planning? Has anybody tried to quantify that? And particularly to the
extent that we obviously need to do better planning and there is a cost
to that as well. So where is that balance and what do we think that
is? I mean is that 10% of the budget? Is that 3% of the budget? So
the first one, how do you get around those issues that you mentioned
that are obviously difficult to plan for?
Moshe Schwartz: Let me address just the data. Would you like me to respond to that one?
US House Rep Susan Davis: Yeah.
Schwartz: So there a couple of strategies that have been suggested
that could assist. One is that what's happened often in Afghanistan is
that you have somebody collecting data but they don't know how to get it
into the system because, for example, the Sidney System, the system
that is being used in Afghanistan, they're not familiar with it. The
user interface hasn't been done in a way so that someone who isn't
experienced in programming is necessarly capable of using effectively.
In that area, training and education can make a substantial difference
as well as [. . .]
And on and on he
yammered. Want numbers? Don't ask the witnesses because despite the
fact that they should have an answer to these questions, should arrive
for the hearing with answers to these questions, they never provide
them. Davis went over her time in the excerpt above. When Schwartz was
finally done yammering, she would quickly ask if -- by hand in the air
-- could anyone indicate that they had a rough idea of the cost that was
being talked about? No one could.
Another point to note, we said DoD does less. DoD is not gone from Iraq. And this was briefly noted in the hearing.
House Rep Mike Coffman: I think my first question would be how many
contractors -- or is anybody aware of how many contractors we have in
Alan Estevez: Iraq today, end of third-quarter number is about 7,300. DoD contractors.
US House Rep Mike Coffman: 7,300. And what kind of missions are they performing at this time?
Alan Estevez: They're still doing some base support, delivery of food and fuel, some private security, some security missions.
Those are not State Dept contractors, those are DoD contractors.
not Estevez's title again: Assistant Secretary of Defense Logistics and
Material Readiness. He is qualified to answer that question. He did
answer that question.
Quickly, if US House
Rep Dennis Kucinich wanted to contribute anything before he leaves
Congress (he lost his primary and has no election to run in), he could
chair or co-chair a hearing on what we learn from the Iraq War that
deals with realities and not just dollars and cents. US House Rep Lynne
Woolsey, who decided not to seek re-election, would make a good chair
for such a hearing.
Turning to Iraq War veteran Bradley Manning, Monday April 5, 2010
, 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. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32
hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be
moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea
and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it. The
court-martial was supposed to begin this month has been postponed until
after the election .
Ratner: Last week saw a possible ray of hope on access to the
documents and perhaps the transcript in the court-martial of Bradley
Manning. As I'm sure you all know, the court-martial proceedings have
been continuing at Fort Meade on a monthly basis. The trial date or the
court-martial date is now set toward the end of February. Prior to
that there's been a series of motions, two or three days on everything
from classification to did the documents released through WikiLeaks
cause harm, to what happened as a result of the torture of Bradley
Manning in prison, etc. That is still continuing. During this period, I
along with a number of other lawyers as well as a few journalists have
been trying to cover the trial or at least go down there and see what's
going on. It's been difficult for us because unlike in a regular trial,
for some reason, even documents that are not secret are not being
given to anyone outside of the lawyers who are actually on the case.
So I don't get to see the documents, the Center for Constitutional
Rights doesn't get to see the documents, the journalists don't get to
see the documents. In other words, a lot of the documents aren't
Heidi Boghosian: Michael, what has the Center done to try to get ahold of these documents?
Ratner: Well a couple of months ago, Heidi, we filed -- more than a
couple of months ago, probably three or four months ago -- we filed a
lawsuit, first with the judge -- Judge [Denise] Lind who is hearing the
Bradley Manning case. The case is called Center for Constitutional Rights vs. United States of America &
Col Denise Lind, military judge. Our plantiffs include the Center,
WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, The Nation, Glenn Greenwald, Kevin Gosztola,
Chase Madar, people we've had on this show. A number of the journalists
with independent papers who've been the only ones covering this. But
all journalists are frustrated by the fact that they can't get the
papers. Well we lost before the judge. We lost before the appeals
court. Finally, in the United State Court of Appeals for the Armed
Forces, which is the highest military court, we're getting a little bit
of action. The court did order the government to respond and ask the
judge to explain why she's not showing us any of the documents, what's
going on here? And then finally we got something we've been trying to
get happen for a long time is the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of
the Press filed an amicus brief in the Court of Appeals for the Armed
Forces saying that there's a First Amendment right for access to these
documents and they filed for themselves as well as for 31 news media
organizations. Those news media organizations included the Washington
Post, the New York Times, Gannet, AP, Hearst Corporation, etc. In
other words, all the big news media organizations. So hopefully that
amicus brief will finally push the court to say the most important
espiionage -- or the most important military court-martial in 50 years
that's going on should be open to the public and the documents that are
public should actually be public.
Boghosian: It's true, isn't it, that the US Supreme Court has
absolutely no jurisdiction over this sort of parallel miltiary court
Ratner: It's a tricky issue. We're going through the entire military
court system. If we lose in the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
-- which I don't really expect to because it's such an outrageous
proceeding that's going on, but you never know with the military -- if
we lose there, we do have a possibility of applying to the Supreme Court
for certiorari -- which is really saying the discretion of the court to
take the case and possibly review it. Or we could conceivably start
another action in a federal district court. But let's just hope that by
the time that trial really rolls around in February that the public is
given access to "public documents."
Heidi Boghosian: I wanted to add also you mentioned the Press Freedom Association. Did you know that the US press freedom rating dropped 27 places to number 47 this past year?
I think in part we saw the police response to the Occupy movement
influencing that significant drop in rating -- I mean that went down 20
places. But I would wonder if the Bradley Manning case and these related
issues also impacts that drop in rating?
Ratner: You know, I think, Heidi, you're part about the Occupy Wall
Street issue is really a good one. As you can tell us, the number of
attacks on journalists covering Occupy Wall Street -- and I don't just
mean attacks on the media, I mean --
Heidi Boghosian: Physical attacks.
Michael Ratner: Physical. Destroying their cameras, pushing them around, arresting them,
Heidi Boghosian: Keeping them off the scene.
Michael Ratner: Right. New York City had to put in a whole new set of regulations and even after that, what happened?
Heidi Boghosian: The police kept doing it.
Michael Ratner: Exactly. So I think that's probably, as you said, the most significant reason.
crackdown on protests movements and the accompanying excesses took
their toll on journalsits. In the space of two months in the United
States, more than 25 were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands
of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate
behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation.
We'll come back to the report later in the snapshot. Sunday, the Milford Mercury reported
"Six weeks have been set aside for the trial of the 24- year-old
soldier, due to start on February 4th -- nearly three years after he
was first charged." He's not been tried. He's been held all this time
and now they're saying that in Feburary 2013, they'll try him. He
should have been released a long time ago -- guilty or innocent. He is
no threat to anyone and his detention -- before you factor in the
torture and humiliation -- has been punative, it's been to punish him,
to punish someone who, all this time later, has still not been found
guilty. Over 500 days behind bars and never found guilty.
they do that in other countries, the term we use is "political
prisoner." It's an accurate term. Turning to another Iraq War veteran,
Kimberly Rivera. Kim is from Mesquite, Texas. And I don't know if
she's aware of this, but there were three high school girls at Town East
Mall, Kim's hometown mall, over the weekend passing out material on
her, asking people to support her before they were asked to leave by
mall security. They were there handing out information for two hours on
Saturday before they were asked to leave. (I've interviewed one for
Friday's gina & krista round-robin
, FYI and Gina
have invited all three to participate in this week's roundtable.) Kim
and her family went to Canada in 2007 when she could no longer continue
to fight in the illegal war. Todd Aalgaard (Torontoist) has a strong profile
of the mother of four war resister who is being told to leave Canada by September 20th:
"When I was there," Rivera told Torontoist,
"I had seen some things. I worked at the front gate as a guard, a gate
guard, so every Saturday we had this day called 'claim day.' Each
Saturday was becoming increasingly difficult to perform my duty, the way
I felt like I should, and it was mainly because I was seeing
traumatized children, parents, and older women looking for their sons
and husbands. Meanwhile, I'm letting the soldiers out of our gate on
patrols and they're raiding peoples' houses. Are they getting blown up?"
long, these questions would become broader in scope, and profoundly
more troubling. "Really, what am I doing here?" she recalls wondering.
"I'm either killing an American or I'm killing or hurting an Iraqi.
And/or, I'm waiting to die myself. I didn't feel like we had a mission,
we didn't have anything we were accomplishing for the better, so I
ultimately lost faith and heart in what I was doing. That's how I came
to the conclusion that it's not right." It was a period of
soul-searching and prayer that concluded, ultimately, with the
realization that what she was being asked to do contravened everything
from her morals to her faith. She also decided that the United States
military was being careless about preventing civilian casualties.
Rivera's leave came up in Feburary, 2007, a little over a year after
she had enlisted, she finally had an opportunity to oppose the war. Her
superiors, Rivera said, were well aware of her extreme personal
conflicts over the occupation. "I had all these conflicts with my heart
on that decision that I made originally, that I thought was pro-war,"
Rivera told us, "[and] they told me my only choice was Iraq or jail, and
I kind of refused that." According to the Star, warnings from her superiors also included death as a punishment for desertion.
(12 Sept. 2012) - The National Union of Public and General Employees
(NUPGE) has added its voice to the growing number of individuals and
organizations calling for Jason Kenney, federal Minister of Citizenship
and Immigration, to stop the deportation proceedings against Iraq war
resister Kimberly Rivera.
In a letter (full
text below) to Kenney, National President James Clancy notes that
"Canada has a proud history of providing refuge to conscientious
objectors to war. Our country has been a refuge for many whose religious
or political beliefs could not allow them to participate in war."
goes on to urge Kenney to "show compassion, and to respect the wishes
of the majority of Canadians who want Canada to allow Iraq war resisters
The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Dear Minister Kenney,
am writing on behalf of the National Union of Public and General
Employees (NUPGE) to add our voice in support of Kimberly Rivera, the
former United States soldier who has been living in Canada since 2007.
was dismayed to learn that Ms. Rivera's application to remain in Canada
has been denied and that she is to leave Canada by September 20. I urge
you to allow Ms. Rivera, her husband, and their four children (two of
whom were born in Canada) to remain in Canada.
has a proud history of providing refuge to conscientious objectors to
war. Our country has been a refuge for many whose religious or political
beliefs could not allow them to participate in war. These conscientious
objectors include the Doukhobors, Mennonites and the more than 50,000
Americans who came to Canada during the Vietnam War. Many of these
people went on to make invaluable contributions to Canadian political
and social life.
to Ms. Rivera, many Vietnam-era war resisters originally had
volunteered for the military. However, they came to understand the
reality of what was an unjust war and decided that they could not in
good conscience continue to participate. Canada accepted them then as it
should accept Ms. Rivera now.
Rivera faces court martial, a felony conviction and military prison in
the United States. In my opinion, a mother of four should not face
prison for her refusal to participate in an immoral war. It would
further add an injustice to an unjust war.
urge you to show compassion, and to respect the wishes of the majority
of Canadians who want Canada to allow Iraq War resisters to stay. Please
allow Ms. Rivera and her family to remain in Canada by granting their
application to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of
Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our
mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a
stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common
Labor Day saw many turn out -- including Vietnam Veterans Against the War -- to show their support for Kim. Courage to Resist notes
3 ways you can show support for Kim:
Iraq War veteran turned resister facing five years in US military brig if deported
Hold a vigil at a Canadian consulate near you next Tuesday, September
18th, to ask the Canadian government to "Let Kimberly and all war
resisters stay in Canada!". Here's a list of Canadian Government Offices in the US.
San Francisco, join supporters at the Canadian consulate on Tuesday,
September 18th from Noon to 2pm, at 580 California Street.
Since we noted Reporters Without Borders' [PDF format warning] "2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index
earlier in the snapshot, it might be worth once again noting their
findings for Iraq which also fell several places down the list:
rising in the index for several years in a row, Iraq fell 22 places
this year, from 130th to 152nd (almost to the position it held in 2008,
when it was 158th). There were various reasons. The first was an
increase in murders of jouranlists. Hadi Al-Mahdi's murder on 8
September marked a clear turning point. Another reason was the fact
that journalists are very often the target of violence by the security
forces, whether at demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Baghdad or in
Iraqi Kurdistan, a region that had for many years offered a refuge for
Journalist is a targeted classification in Iraq. So is "woman" and ethnic and religious minorities. Natalia
Antelava, Peter Murtaugh, Bill McKenna and Daniel Nasaw have done an
investigative report for the BBC on the continued persecution of LGBTs
. (link is video -- transcript in yesterday's snapshot
). The BBC continues their coverage with a text report
which includes this background:The
US-led invasion of 2003 brought to power the Islamic Dawa party, which
was established in Iran in the 1980s and backed Iran in its war with
Iraq.The fact that Dawa's core beliefs were inspired by
Iranian Shia clerics did not stop the US and UK from supporting the
party after Saddam Hussein's fall.In the years after the
invasion, the security situation deteriorated for everyone in the
country. But for sexual minorities, Iraq became hell on earth.By
2007, political and religious groups backed by militiamen launched what
we believe was an organised, co-ordinated campaign to hunt, arrest,
torture and kill everyone they perceived as gay.These radical
groups deny sexual minorities the right to life. They target everyone
who does not conform to their religious description of family.
As part of the coverage, Natalia Antelava interviews Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh (link is video)
:Natalia Antelava: What's Iraq doing to protect minority groups?
al-Dabbagh: I think that here in Iraq we do provide all the legal
and the constitutional clauses to protect the minorities compared with
the region which definitely they insult and they crush all the
Natalia Antelava: One minority that the UN for example is very worried about are homosexuals.
al-Dabbagh: We should take also that the culture and the habits and
the customs of the country. You can't impose, you can't copy what you
believe in the West on countries that have a different culture. But
there is no right for anyone to insult or to kill or to harm any such
groups. But we might find that some individuals in the security forces,
as they did -- as they violate the human rights with the others, they do
also violate the instruction of the government and the government
definitaely wants to keep silent on the people that violate that right.
Antelava: So your position is that there is no additional threat in
the Iraqi society today to an Iraqi who happens to be homosexual?
al-Dabbagh: I -- Again, I could say that we don't have that. It is
not a phenomenon, homosexual is not a phenomenon like what it is in the
West or in other countries. I don't know how many homosexuals in Iraq.
They could declare themselves as a homosexual. We should change the
whole Constitution in order to allow them to practice their
homosexuality? Publicly? You can't make -- you can't -- You can't
think that Iraq can change -- Neither Iraq nor --
Natalia Antelava: This is not about practicing homosexuality. This is about living their lives.
Ali al-Dabbagh: They could live their lives in a normal way as long as they don't perform their homosexuality in public.
Natalia Antelava: Are you saying that those gays who have run into trouble in the streets of Baghdad --
Ali al-Dabbagh: Definitely they --
Natalia Antelava: -- have brought it on themselves?
Ali al-Dabbagh: Definitately they-they misbehave in a way in which they attract the attention of the others.
Natalia Antelava: It is a right of Iraqi people not to have gay people walking in the streets?
al-Dabbagh: I didn't say this. You are saying it. I'm saying that
the gays should respect the behavior and moral values of others in order
to be respected.
Natalia Antelava: This is a bit like telling a Black person not to be Black.
Ali al-Dabbagh: Nah, that is nature -- by nature is a Black.
Natalia Antelava: But you said this is by nature, so what's homosexuality?
al-Dabbagh: It's not by nature. It's a behavior. It's a behavior.
It is not being Black. You born as a Black. But this behavior -- Let
him be a homosexual in the house, in everywhere, in a protected region
but also let him respect the public.
Antelava: But if you say that they are protected, why hasn't a single
politician stood up and said killing of gays and harassment of gays
should not be --
Ali al-Dabbagh: We could ask the
politicians. Ask the politicians. You need to ask them, you could do
that. Values of the society is much more important than the values of a
person. I don't know what we should be concerned about the values of a
few people, leaving the other communities and the other minorities
More BBC coverage of Iraq's LGBT community:
We'll look more at the LGBT community in Iraq tomorrow, we're limited for space.
Violence continues in Iraq. and, through yesterday, Iraq Body Count
counts 155 dead from violence in Iraq since the start of the month. Today? All Iraq News reports
a Mosul roadside bombing targeted an official with the Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan (Iraq President Jalal Talabani's political party) and the
official survived, a Haswa roadside bombing left four Iraqi soldiers injured
, 2 Babylon bombings left three people (including a candidate for the Sadr bloc) injured
, and a Babylon car bombing targeting a funeral has left 2 people dead and six more injured
. Alsumaria adds
an armed clash in Baghdad has left two people dead (police say the two were al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia). Al Rafidayn notes
1 cleric leaving a Qadiriya mosque was shot dead by a group of
assailants in a passing car and a Kut home invasion left 1 man dead.
hasn't been able to stop the violence -- not in the six years he's been
prime minister -- but he's decided to try and tackle illiteracy. All Iraq News notes
Nouri has announced the start of a campaign to wipe illiteracy and
quotes Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh declaring that Nouri
announced the program in a Cabinet meeting earlier this month and
al-Dabbagh stated that the Minister of Finance has worked with the
Minister of Education to ensure that the program is properly funded.
Last week, the Iraqi press was noting an official survey which estimated
that 1/5 of Iraqis are illiterate. That is especially surprising when
the median age is below 21-years-old. It's not at all surprising when
you grasp that, following years of devastating sanctions, public
institutions have struggled under the continued war. Aswat al-Iraq notes
that today was Illiteracy Day and that Middle Alliance MP Mohammed
Iqbal noted with regret "the presence of 6 million illiterates, despite
its civilizational heritage in comparison to other countries." Iraq is
land where education -- literacy, math skills, etc. -- developed early
on allowing it to invent concepts that the rest of the world would later
embrace (such as the concept of zero). In the last century, Iraq was
known for its literay salons, its vibrant art scene, its universities
and its book stores and vendors. Iraq held the record in the region for
book sales, in fact, during the 20th century.
should note again that the figure is an estimate. There's no real
survey. Just like there's no census. We didn't take the UN estimate
seriously -- on literacy -- but to use it now as a comparison, it had
3/4 of Iraqis being literate. The new incomplete survey has a number of
4/5. That's actually an improvement. If we put it in percent(check my
math, always), the UN would have been stating for the last five or so
years that 75% of Iraqis were literate and the latest 'survey' (not by
the UN) states that the number is 80% -- that's an increase of five