Wednesday, August 25, 2010








Iraq was slammed by violence but before we get to that, the Pentagon found a new way to insult gays and lesbians this week as, apparently, apparently did President Barack Obama. Instead of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Barack's promised to study it for a year. He didn't need a study when he made it a campaign promise. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is the policy put in place in the early 90s to allow gays and lesbians the ability to serve. It did not allow them to serve openly. The policy was they couldn't tell and they couldn't be asked. It was a compromise policy. People were being asked and were being kicked out the military for their sexuality. The policy never worked the way it was hoped because the questions and witch hunts continued. It was a step and the most then-President Bill Clinton could get in the face of opposition from Congressional Democrats and Colin Powell. Time does move on, thankfully. And Barack campaigned on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell so that gays and lesbians could serve openly without fear of being kicked out for their sexuality. But instead of doing that, he announced a 'study' was needed. If the study says "Don't Repeal!" will Barack still repeal? Ask Magic 8-ball, it's more honest than Robert Gibbs. As offensive as the study option was, it's now gotten worse. 150,000 questionaires were sent out this month by the Pentagon . . . to the husbands and wives of service members asking for their input.
Next up look for the Pentagon to check with the cable guy of service members and, after that, their dry cleaners. That should eat up enough time that Barack will be out of the White House and his 'promise' long forgotten. If you want to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, you repeal it. It's not that difficult -- unless Barack's saying that, like his cigarette smoking, homophobia is a personal addiction for him.
In the United States today the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen, spoke in Chicago. He was speaking to a variety of business leaders and the thrust of his speech was how returning veterans were a valuable employment resource with skills companies would be more than fortunate to have. He took questions (although he refused to address topics that had nothing to do with him or his position -- including the Water Cooler topic that the chattering types can't shut about). Alex Keefe (Chicago Public Radio -- text and audio) quotes him stating, "This is a - an effort on the part of al Qaeda, in particular, in Iraq to re-ignite the sectarian violence." He addresses the Detroit Economic Club tomorrow and he spoke with Steve Courtney today on the Paul W. Smith AM Show (WJR).
While Mullen offered hypothesis. At least 60 dead at least 265 injured today as Iraq is slammed with bombings -- mocking Joe Biden and the speech he gave to the VFW on Monday. That always happens. Attempt to serve up a wave of Operation Happy Talk and expect Iraq to correct your spin with a bracing splash of reality. As Jackson Browne once sang, "With all the times that I've been burned, by now you'd think I'd have learned" ("Rosie"). Ned Parker and Riyadh Mohammed (Los Angeles Times) explain, "The violence shook at least seven cities from north to south and appeared timed to undermine confidence in the Iraqi army and police as the U.S. military ends it formal combat mission in the country." Anthony Shadid and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) note the assaults appear "to be part of a coordinated wave of attacks" and they quote Mohammed Abbas who lost a cousin in one of today's bombings: "There may be a state, there may be a government. But what can that state do? What can they do with all the terrorists? Are they supposed to set up a checkpoint in every house?"
Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) explain, "Car bombs were used in the attacks in Baghdad, Basra, Karbala, Baquba, Kirkuk and Wasit, the officials said in statements." In addition, they note, "Vice President Joseph Biden and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said at separate events yesterday that the administration is confident Iraqi forces are capable of taking on the primary security role." Barbara Surk and Hamid Ahmed (AP) point out, "The attacks made August the deadliest month for Iraqi policemen and soldiers in two years, and came a day after the U.S. declared that its troop levels were at their lowest level since the war began in 2003." BBC News reminds, "Iraq's top army officer recently questioned the timing of the pull-out, saying the country's military might not be ready to take control for another decade." On the attacks, Reuters notes a Baghdad suicide car bombing claimed 15 lives (plus driver for sixteen) with fifty-six injured, a Kut suicide car bombing which claimed 30 lives (plus driver) and left eighty-seven injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured five people, a Dujail car bombing which injured twenty people, a Basra minbus bombing which injured twelve people, a Kirkuk car bombing which killed 1 person (nine more injured), six Balad Ruz roadside bombings which injured thirteen people, a Falluja suicide car bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left ten people injured, a Baghdad, a Muqdadiya car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left eighteen injured, a Ramadi car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left thirteen wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people, a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left fourteen people wounded, two Samarra roadside bombings which wounded Col Mustafa Hameed and three of his bodyguards, a Tikrit roadside bombing which injured two police officers, a Tikrit roadside bombing which injured two college students and five Iraqi soldiers, and a Baghdad attack on a police checkpoint which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Falluja sticky bombing which claimed 1 life, a Wasit car bombing 10 people (fifteen injured), a Karbala car bombing claimed 1 life (eight more injured) and a Mosul suicide car bombing which claimed the lives 3 Iraqi soldiers (thirteen more injured). By 7:30 a.m. US EST this morning, the totals were at least 60 dead, at least 265 injured. BBC offers a slide show of the aftermath of some of the bombings. Jason Ditz ( reports, "Though the casualty figures are still coming in and may change, at least 86 Iraqis, including a large number of security forces, were killed and 371 others were wounded in the attacks." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports "Day of violence hits every corner of Iraq." Mike Hanna (Al Jazeera) states, "It does appear the primary targets are police stations, check points [and other] symbols of the attempt to create a system of law and order within Iraq." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) explains, "U.S. commanders and the caretaker government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki repeatedly have blamed the attacks on a hodge-podge of insurgent groups, including extremist groups linked to al Qaeda and, separately, to Iran. They allege the groups are trying to take advantage of a political vacuum -- politicians have yet to form a government after March polls -- and sow fear amid the U.S. withdrawal." Jane Arraf, Laith Hammoudi and Mohammad Dulaimi (Christian Science Monitor and McClatchy Newspapers) report, "No group has yet taken responsibility but Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki's office blamed the attacks on Al Qaeda and Baathists. The statement said the bombings would not derail the 'historic national achievement' of the troop withdrawal in line with Iraq achieving full national sovereignty." Martin Chulov (Guardian) adds, "The US military faces mounting pleas from Iraqis to reconsider its exit." Tang Danlu (Xinhua) notes the continuing political stalemate as the violence continues.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 18 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
Lebanon's Daily Star covers the rumors that Moqtada al-Sadr may move "to Beirut to escape Iranian pressures to endorse a second-term for incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki" and that "On Tuesday, Ziyad al-Darb, a lawmaker from Iraqiya said Sadrist lawmakers were throwing their weight behind Allawi for prime minister."
BBC News' Hugh Skyes appeared on The Takeaway today supposedly to offer insight but instead apparently wanted to convey that Judi Dench is far from Britian's only drama queen. For the record, if he's going to admonish the host, he ought to get his facts correct. The drawdown is not, IS NOT, mandated by the Status Of Forces Agreement (" . . . that their forces are down to the 50,000 required by the State Of Forces Agreement here"). Know what you're talking about Hugh before you lecture someone else. What a putz. I can't imagine anything more stupid than being a reporter on Iraq and not knowing what the SOFA says and what it doesn't. Especially at this late date. The evening of November 27, 2008, the White House finally provided a copy of the Status Of Forces Agreement to the American people. (Even the US Congress was working with a translation of it prior, the White House did not provide Congress with a copy.) Read over it and find that 50,000 in the SOFA, Hugh Sykes. You won't. Because it's not in there as Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) and countless others have attempted to make clear over and over for nearly two years now. The 50,000 is Barack. It is not the SOFA which was signed on off before he was president. I don't think I've ever heard a guest on American public radio treat a host so rudely. And the reality is that while Hugh got his knickers in a wad, he's the idiot who doesn't even know what the SOFA says. Before he offers his next condescending lecture, he might try familiarizing himself with the basic facts.
Marco Werman: Egyptian society is typical of much of the Middle East. It's conservative. But one country stands out from its neighbors. That's Iraq. Prostitution, drugs and pornography are now widespread there. It wasn't always this way but it's part of the enormous change that the country has gone through in the past eight years. Jane Arraf has witnessed the changes in Iraq as a reporter, first for CNN and now as a freelancer. Jane, how is Iraq different from its neighbors and when did it change?
Jane Arraf: Well I think the thing about Iraq is that with the toppling of Saddam, it basically lifted the lid on pretty much everything. It wasn't as if prostitution didn't exist before the war. It certainly did. And particularly in that period of sanctions when there were international trade sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s and even middle class women who couldn't find food for their families were turning to prostitution. I think the thing is now though that essentially it became lawless after the invasion, after Saddam was toppled, then law was imposed again. It has become quite religious. So it's this really odd combination of increasing religiousness -- Islam, of course -- and an openness and the two things coincide rather unhappily.
Marco Werman: Gives ua an example. Perhaps you can talk about the pornography situation in Iraq. I mean what was Saddam's point of view on pornography and what is the kind of the national approach to pornography today?
Jane Arraf: Well, essentially pornography is bad. It's about as simple as that. It certainly doesn't jive with any sort of religion and it's frowned on. But, having said that, this is a country where young men particularly do not have many avenues open to them. They can't really have sex. They certainly can't have sex with women for the most part. And pornography is one of the few ways that they have access to that sort of thing. It's the same on US military bases. There's a prevalence of pornography on the bases even though it's officially banned there. But really the thing about Iraq is, well, I think is, it's a country that's very much still coming to grips with what kind of country it wants to be. And we've seen that in the spate of recent killings of gay men. This has been an openness that many people have taken advantage of. They couldn't have dressed the way they dress under Saddam Hussein's era. They couldn't have engaged in the kind of behavior, danicing in clubs, that they did then. Men with men. But, having said that, it's collided with an increasingly religious atmosphere here. It has resulted in the death of at least a dozen gay men and they've eseentially gone underground, gone to Syria, gone to other places and gotten the message very clearly that even though things seem open here, they're not really.
Jane Arraf went on to explain, "Sexual experiences between young men are considered fairly normal before they get married. So that if you have an experience of that sort with another man, you're not necessarily considered gay here. The thing that really offends people is not so much the sex, it's the appearance of being gay. It's the perception that you're gay, that you're effeminate."
Psychologically speaking, it is the rejection of self and what the man has done which frequently manifests itself in homophobia and leads to lashing out -- verbally and/or physically -- at those who may or may not be gay (or bi) but whose appearance might result in that assumption. Along with the rejection, there's the projection and, of course, the almighty quaking fear that if "Mustaffa" is gay and you don't attack Mustaffa, you may be thought to be gay as well.

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