Tag: Iraq

A Worthy Cause: Helping LGBT Iraqis Who Are Being Chased Down And Executed

As I posted before, Iraq is now killing homosexuals at a startling rate, and since many can’t blend in, are forced into hiding.  And three safe houses have now closed for want of funding.

PaulCanning forwards an urgent request from IRAQI LGBT:

IRAQI LGBT started to establish a network of safe houses inside Iraq in March 2006.

As of today, we have only one safe house, we had to consider closing down three of them in the last couple of months, because we are unable to keep paying the rent and other expenses.

The members of our group inside Iraq urgently need funds to open at least five safe houses. These funds will allow us to keep the five safe houses running, and provide safety, shelter, food and many other needs for our LGBT friends inside Iraq. Any funds we receive that go beyond what we need for these five safe houses could be used to open more safe houses in the near future. We desperately need to add more because we have so many urgent cases in other cities. We receive requests for shelter every day, but we are not able to help yet.

Source: http://paulcanning.blogspot.com/2009/05/support-safe-houses-project-for-lgbt.html

In recent months, Iraq’s mullahs have directed a vicious purge of gay Iraqis. Evidently, the Sadrist movement (who have plenty of supporters within the current regime) and the Iraqi government reached an agreement, and if gays aren’t simply shot by militiamen, they are jailed, executed, or tortured to death by the authorities. Many have died via extrajudicial execution, while others were officially imprisoned and executed by hanging. Still others (about 200 in Baghdad) are on death row awaiting hanging.

Activists will protest for the human rights of LGBT Iraqis Sunday outside President Obama’s home in Chicago, and implore him to act.

This year in Chicago, the Gay Liberation Network (GLN) is organizing the city’s IDAHO event as a protest against the Obama administration’s continuing silence about rampant anti-gay violence in U.S.-occupied Iraq. The protest will take place at 2 PM, Sunday, May 17th outside of the Obamas’ Chicago residence at the corner of Hyde Park Boulevard (5100 S.) and Greenwood (1100 E.).

Over the past month, several news outlets have reported an escalating, officially sanctioned campaign to torture and execute gays in Iraq, promoted both by Shi’ite clerics and by the Shi’ite-dominated government which is closely allied with the United States.

As the New York Times reported April 7, “In the past two months, the bodies of as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge [Baghdad] Shiite enclave of Sadr City, the police and friends of the dead say. Most have been shot, some multiple times. Several have been found with the word ‘pervert’ in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies, the police said.” And as the Huffington Post reported May 3rd, “According to Iraqis and human rights workers interviewed for this post, some sort of understanding was reached between the Iraqi government and the Mahdi Army to ‘cleanse’ Iraq of homosexuals.”

Tortures committed reportedly include gluing the anuses of gay men shut, and then force-feeding them diarrhea-inducing medications which cause agonizing pain followed by death.

Back in 2005, the country’s leading Shi’ite cleric said that gays and lesbians should be “punished, in fact, killed” and that “the people should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.” After some protests this language was removed from the cleric’s website, and the anti-gay campaign appeared to subside.

However, over the past month, the campaign in Iraq to murder gays has ramped up again as “Sadr City’s Muslim clerics have reportedly urged the faithful to destroy homosexuality in Iraqi society and police have undertaken an effort to arrest and jail gay men,” said United Press International.

Source: LGBT asylum news: Chicago protest about anti-gay pogram in Iraq

Nick’s Crusade, strongly believing that disability rights activists shouldn’t be stuck in their traditional “silos,” but should be supporting the inalienable human rights of all people, endorses this protest Sunday. Obama should take heed, and, if he can’t pull strings in Baghdad, at the very least he could grant asylum in the U.S. to those who are now hiding in fear.

I don’t have any money (I know; I’m a charitable case myself) but if I did, helping LGBT Iraqis who’re running for their lives is a very worthy cause.    For more information, see the IRAQI LGBT blog.

Regardless of your opinions on the gay issue, if you have friends and family that are gay (I do) and wouldn’t want them killed, you should pay attention to the persecution of gays around the world, and raise awareness.


Proof It’s Not A Choice: The Gays Of Iraq

Over the years, I’ve had gay friends and family and seen them struggle. It never seemed to me a path someone would “choose,” but what do I know?

But this quote from TIME Magazine proves to me, it’s NOT a choice:

Open quoteI don’t care about the militias anymore because they’re going to kill me anyway — today, tomorrow or the day after.Close quote
— SA’AD, a gay man in Sadr City, Iraq, on a spate of murders that has targeted the city’s gays; 25 people have been killed during the past two months.

If gayness were a choice, there’d be no gays left in Iraq–the executions of 400 gay Iraqis (and 4,000 gay Iranians) would’ve forced everyone into strict heterosexuality. Instead, gays are still gay, and some are moving from safehouse to safehouse, dodging religious militias and the police.

It’s not a choice. People are able to do almost anything to survive (even eat their friends) but they can’t change who they are. Even when death squads are knocking on the door.

U.S. Prepares to Jettison Al-Maliki

I saw this story the other day:

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer
Wed Aug 22, 8:58 AM ET

DAMASCUS, Syria – Iraq’s prime minister lashed out Wednesday at U.S. criticism, saying no one has the right to impose timetables on his elected government and that his country “can find friends elsewhere.”

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the U.S. presidential campaign for the recent tough words about his government, from President Bush and from other U.S. politicians.

Bush on Tuesday said he was frustrated with Iraqi leaders’ inability to bridge political divisions. But he added that only the Iraqi people can decide whether to sideline al-Maliki.

“Clearly, the Iraqi government’s got to do more,” Bush said. “I think there’s a certain level of frustration with the leadership in general, inability to work — come together to get, for example, an oil revenue law passed or provincial elections.”

Full article: AP: Iraqi PM lashes out at U.S. critics

Then the next day I saw this story:

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) — A powerhouse Republican lobbying firm with close ties to the White House has begun a public campaign to undermine the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, CNN has confirmed.

This comes as President Bush is publicly taking great pains to reiterate his support for the embattled Iraqi leader.

Al-Maliki’s government has come under sharp criticism and scrutiny from Washington lawmakers and officials, as reflected in Thursday’s National Intelligence Estimate.

A senior Bush administration official told CNN the White House is aware of the lobbying campaign by Barbour Griffith & Rogers because the firm is “blasting e-mails all over town” criticizing al-Maliki and promoting the firm’s client, former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, as an alternative to al-Maliki.

But the senior administration official insisted that White House officials have “absolutely no involvement” in the campaign to remove al-Maliki, nor have they given it their blessing.

“There’s just no connection whatsoever,” the official said. “There’s absolutely no involvement.”

When asked whether the White House will ask the prominent Republican lobbying firm to stop lashing out at al-Maliki, the official said, “I don’t rule it out.”

Pressed on why allies of the White House would be contradicting the president publicly, the senior administration official said of the lobbyists, “They’re making a lot of money.”

Full article: CNN: Powerhouse GOP firm working to undermine Iraqi PM

So basically, al-Maliki got a little rebellious under all the withering criticism, and also he won’t hand over the oil.

The next day, a major GOP firm is handed a fat contract to agitate against al-Maliki.

Coincidence? I think not.

And where would exiled former PM Allawi get that kind of money?
*cough* CIA *cough*

The lobbyists have even parked the domain name AllawiForIraq.com.

Hillary Clinton also said we should throw al-Maliki under the bus. As usual, she is on the same page with the neo-cons.

I would HATE to be al-Maliki. Worst job EVAR.
He’s surrounded by a zillion impossible catch 22s and is simply stalling.
Poor bastard.

I hope he flees before a bullet makes the decision for him.


Stunning Video: Cheney Against Invading Iraq

Dick Cheney in 1994: Invading Iraq Would Create Quagmire


He made the exact same arguments the Dems made. He couldn’t have been more right.

I wonder what caused his 180 degree turn after he became CEO of Halliburton then VP….

"Are We Rome?" Part VI: The Final Chapter

One always must be very careful with historical parallels; they are frequently used and abused to score political points.
I’ve heard anti-immigration people saying “Rome collapsed ’cause they let in too many illegal aliens who turned on them!” Please! The Roman Empire succeeded because it was so intensely multicultural, not in spite of it. Often the generals and emperors themselves were “aliens!”

I’ve also heard the anti-gay crowd insisting that “Rome fell because of all that sodomy. If they would’ve cracked down, Romans wouldn’t have had a slumping birth rate that forced them to staff their armies with foreign mercenaries who turned on them! We have to ban homosexuality now, or we’ll go the way of Rome!”

It’s impossible to know exactly why the Roman Empire disintegrated. German professor Alexander Demandt published a collection of 210 theories on why Rome fell. My personal guess is that it was centuries of an absurdly overextended military (they fought the Persians for Iraq for centuries) combined with several economic crises, combined with plagues, combined with barbarian hordes sacking Rome (never a good sign) plus general downward momentum (nothing lasts forever).

In Europe and Asia, empires usually collapsed when they were too weakened and rotted out to cope with other nations invading and displacing them. Due to America’s unique geography (between two expansive oceans) an invasion is not possible. Bush’s rhetoric aside, there’s no realistic circumstance that would allow Iraqi insurgents to take Muncie, Indiana, and I doubt Canada or Mexico will ever be able to overpower us militarily. We could change governments drastically, and we’re ripe for an economic collapse, but America will never “fall” like Rome did.

With this series, I myself may have overreached with the historical comparisons. Maybe I should’ve dubbed it “Do We Want to be Rome?” instead. We’re not Rome, and Iraq ain’t Parthia.
My point with this series wasn’t to draw direct parallels; however clumsily I did it, I wanted to illuminate the fascinating history of the Roman Empire, discuss the severe challenges of America in the 21st century, and examine the concepts of violence and imperialism which seem ingrained in the human soul and have dominated history. Empires have to ask themselves: do we really want to be an empire? How much blood is it worth? What is our nation about?
Is the blogosphere a latter-day Cicero, doing its best to exhort our people back toward the values of the Republic instead of empire?

How will we finally reach our destiny?

…“they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” — Isaiah 2.4

“Are We Rome?” Series:

Part I: Cullen Murphy

Part II: Dubbia Bushius

Part III: Architecture

Part IV: The First Roman Invasions of Iraq

Part V: The Spoils of Ctesiphon


“Are We Rome?” Part V: The Spoils of Ctesiphon

There were many wars between the Romans and the Iraqis / Persians, too many wars to adequately describe here, one time a Roman general even defected to the Parthians and invaded Syria, but suffice it to say, neither side ever gained much territory long-term. The wars continued into the era of the Byzantines vs. the Caliphate, and, arguably, the continuation of this West / East clash is ongoing as we speak.

When the Roman Empire was at its furthest territorial extent, Emperor Trajan was able to make the greatest gains against Parthia in Roman history.

Statue of Trajan

Internal divisions plagued Parthia, and Trajan crushed the Parthian army, took the key cities of Babylon, Seleucia and captured their capital at Ctesiphon in 116 AD. He deposed the Parthian king, annexed Mesopotamia and made the territory into two new Roman provinces. According to Edward Gibbon, Trajan was the first (and last) Roman Emperor to sail in the Persian Gulf.

Trajan’s conquests were the closest the Romans would ever come to their dream of duplicating Alexander the Great’s empire; they would never advance this far east again.

But the Roman hold on Mesopotamia was tenuous and short-lived. The population was still loyal to Parthia, and had no interest in being Romanized.

The Jews, who for centuries the majority of whom lived in Babylonia (thanks to the many expulsions from Judea by enemies) rose up in full insurrection against Rome. Little is known about the Kitos War (Second Jewish Rebellion) and its causes, but I suspect that Rome looting Jews’ property to finance their wars against Parthia, the continued repression and attempts to impose idolatry on the Jews, the need for revenge for the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, and general sympathy for the Parthians (Jews had usually been partial to the Persians, one of the only uses of the word messiah in the Tanakh refers to Cyrus the Great) contributed to the worldwide uprising of what some would call a “fifth column” of Jews against Rome.
Around 115-117 AD, Jews revolted from Libya to Cyprus to Babylon, and according to Roman sources, it was horribly violent;
Lukuas, a Jewish “king,” basically declared Jewhad (word made up for Jewish jihad) and led the community on a rampage through Egypt, razing temples of idolatry and bathhouses, destroying roads and massacring hundreds of thousands of Hellenes, genocide so extensive that Rome had to repopulate North Africa (though they probably exaggerate all this to demonize the Jews). Unlike the First Jewish Rebellion and the Third (Bar Kokhba’s Revolt) there is little direct evidence of the Second Jewish Revolt, aside from scant Roman accounts and a Latin inscription (below) referring to the city of Cyrene being rebuilt after the tumultu Iudaico, the Judaic tumult.

The Roman reaction to the revolt was just as violent and horrifying. Moorish general Lusius Quietus (the only black African to be Roman consul) led a campaign of rape and ethnic cleansing in Babylonia (and was rewarded with the governorship of Iudaea province) and rebellious Jews in N. Africa and Judea were executed en masse.

The Second Jewish Rebellion forced Trajan to divert legions to Judea, and this loosed his hold on Mesopotamia. The Jews were not yet fully crushed when Trajan died of edema August 9, 117 and Hadrian succeeded him as emperor. Hadrian gave up on controlling Iraq and stationed the Sixth Legion to permanently occupy Judea. They had lost the war to Parthia.

But it wasn’t the last time Rome would attack
Mesopotamia. Hardly. After Parthia reconquered Armenia, the Romans under Marcus Aurelius retaliated and annexed Northern Mesopotamia in 165 AD (they would’ve conquered even more but were crippled by a plague of measles). They held it for decades, but it was an enormous burden in manpower and money to keep such a resistant, unstable area secured.

Seeing an opening during the chaos of a new Roman civil war in 193 AD, the Parthians retook the region. But in 198, new Roman Emperor Septimius Severus counter-attacked and quickly reconquered it, and subjected the capital Ctesiphon to its worst looting yet, taking enough silver and gold back to Europe to postpone an economic crisis for decades. Without its treasury, Parthia was impoverished, went into rapid decline and faded into history, and by 226 AD had been replaced with a new Persian empire (the Sassanids) that retook Iraq and would prove far more formidable than their predecessors.

Despite Rome outliving the Parthian Empire, they remained deeply etched in the Roman memory, and were so respected and feared, Christians in the East later had a prophecy that emperor Nero would rise from the dead as the anti-Christ, and the zombie emperor would lead a horde of fearsome Parthian horsemen to sack Rome.

Ruins of Ctesiphon Palace

Emperor Severus’ plunder of
Ctesiphon brings the motive of war into stark relief; it’s money. Plato warned the Greeks that “all wars are fought for the sake of getting money” and Cicero told Rome “endless money forms the sinews of war” (he was later beheaded for trying to stop tyranny) but we evidently don’t learn much from the words of wise men, or from history. Humans continue to put together vast empires in the hope of vast profits, even though large empires, whether it is Rome, Germany, Russia, Japan, Britain or the U.S., always require vast violence to maintain.

If we haven’t learned yet, how will we learn?


Next: The Final Chapter

“Are We Rome?” Part IV: The First Roman Invasions of Iraq

Did you know that for nearly 150 years off and on, the Roman Empire fought to conquer Mesopotamia?

At the time, the area that is now Iraq, Iran (Persia) and more was ruled by the Parthian Empire.

What was the Parthian Empire like, and how did they collide with mighty Rome?

The Parthians formed from the steppe tribes of Central Asia (for details on these tribes and their impressive contributions, you can listen to this mp3 of the Hardcore History podcast).

The Parthians rose and wrestled Persia back from Alexander the Great’s successors, and combined the martial prowess of the steppe tribes (they were unmatched horsemen) with the cultural, organizational and technological achievements inherited from the Persian empires of old. While the Parthian Empire was never as powerful, or expansive, as the Persian empires of Cyrus the Great and Darius that preceded them, or the Sassanids that followed them, they were nonetheless very formidable, and even their Roman enemies recognized they were not “barbarians,” but an advanced urban civilization to be respected and feared. Their capital was near modern Baghdad.

Coin showing King of Parthia Mithridates I

Rome even sent ambassadors and tried diplomacy with the Parthians when they weren’t attacking them. The first contact the Romans had with Parthia was around 96 BC, when they sent an envoy that negotiated the boundary between the two empires at the Euphrates. Plutarch reports that at the meeting, the Roman ambassador managed to arrogantly take the center seat at the table, and that the Parthian king quickly put his ambassador, Orobazus, to death for allowing such an affront to Parthian dignity.

The Romans did not view the Parthians, or anyone, as equals. Rome saw itself as the greatest nation ever, superior to any other empire in history, so they often viewed invading and annexing other peoples as helping them (i.e. “they will greet us as liberators!”) But, to be fair, they usually DID benefit the lands they conquered. It’s like in that Monty Python movie Life of Brian when the head of the “People’s Front of Judea” says:

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Attendee: Brought peace?
Reg: Oh, peace – shut up!
Reg: There is not one of us who would not gladly suffer death to rid this country of the Romans once and for all.
Dissenter: Uh, well, one.
Reg: Oh, yeah, yeah, there’s one. But otherwise, we’re solid.

On the other hand, for conquered peoples, the Roman experience (even in the best case scenario) included loss of autonomy, moderate to severe brutality and religious repression, and oppressive taxation (and what I’m talking about isn’t like taxes today, it’s more like “Roman legionaries show up unannounced and loot your $#!t.”) Also, any resistance to Roman authority may be punished with you and your entire village being crucified, and full-scale revolts could end in mass deportation and genocide.

I don’t want to glorify either the Romans or Parthians, as both were incredibly brutal, and from an era where horrific violence was fairly commonplace and men slaughtered large numbers of other men up-close with swords. But we should still examine history closely and glean all the lessons we can from it.

The Parthian border was supposed to be at the Euphrates, with Armenia as sort of a buffer state between the two empires, but with Rome feeling,
as the Hellenic heirs of Alexander the Great, they were entitled to his Persian conquests, plus their lust for glory and loot, peace didn’t last long.

The first major expedition directly against Parthia happened during the First Triumvirate (Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus).
Marcus Licinius Crassus was the rich consul and general who had brutally put down Spartacus’ slave revolt by crucifying all six thousand rebels and leaving them lining the road as an example. However, Pompey stole the credit and told the Senate it was his victory. This made Crassus furious, and he despised Pompey for the rest of his life. Crassus, who had made himself ruler of Syria, was not content with his incredible wealth; he had to one-up Pompey and gain more prestige and power for himself.

What was his plan? Invade Iraq.

Many members of the Senate tried to dissuade him from invading Iraq, but Caesar and Pompey stood firmly behind him and the Senate relented.

Plutarch gives us the low-down. Crassus gathered around 35,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry in Syria and crossed the Euphrates at attack Parthia. Did this work? Not so much. Despite being badly outnumbered, a Parthian force of 9,000 horse archers and 1,000 armored horsemen crushed the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae. The Parthians
were one of the only foes in ancient times able to destroy an entire Roman legion at the height of its power.

How did they do this?
They were the best horsemen in the world, and they hopelessly outmaneuvered the Roman infantry. If the Romans ever chased them, they shot backwards while retreating, the famous Parthian shot. Crassus made his men assume the protective testudo (turtle) formation to block the onslaught of arrows.

But the arrows were so strong, some pierced the Roman armor. And they never ran out of ammo; they had a caravan of arrow camels there so they could reload endlessly.
But Crassus insisted on “staying the course” and not breaking formation. Then (while still bombarding them with arrows) the armored cavalry (“
cataphracts“) charged, and butchered the infantry. The Romans were routed. Crassus’ son’s head was put on a pike and paraded by the Parthians. Then Crassus asked to parley with the Parthians, but when he reached their camp to discuss terms, they executed him, and kept his head as a souvenir.

The loss of Crassus was devastating. The First Triumvirate no longer existed. The delicate balance of power between the three men was shot. Without the Crassus buffer, Pompey and Caesar soon clashed, leading to civil war and Caesar crossing the Rubicon to declare himself dictator perpetuus. Crassus’ debacle in Mesopotamia was one of the final nails in the coffin of the Republic, and the birth pangs of the new Empire.

Here is a fun tidbit: the Romans lost their famous eagle flagpole standards in the battle, a grave defeat and evil omen, and it took roughly a half-century of diplomacy for them to get it back.

They finally secured it by offering a displaced Parthian king safe haven if he agreed to broker terms for the return of the standards. He did, and the Parthians exchanged the standards for a bunch of money and some concubines.
Here’s where the plot twist comes in. According to Josephus, one of the concubines traded for the eagle married the King of Parthia. She had the other heirs sent away as hostages to Rome, poisoned the King, and took the throne as Queen Musa, and ostensibly co-ruled with her son. That’s right: the only woman to ever rule Parthia was a Roman concubine! Ha!!!

Queen Musa

Josephus says she then married her son (ew!) and this was too much, so the Parthians deposed her.

Are we Rome? Not really. America is very different, more like the British interventions in Iraq which I discussed here.

But the Iraqis are even more different today. They are carved out into separate countries, divided, weakened, stripped of their former might. What struck me the most when researching Parthia is what proud, advanced civilizations Mesopotamians have crafted over the years. The centuries of imposing Western plans on them, the lack of freedom to decide their own borders or form larger, more powerful empires is the source of much of the animosity in the region. We should lift our jackboot from their throats and allow the Iraqis the actual freedom to create a new nation.

And we should really learn from history. Attacking the Mesopotamians never works. Ever. They are a people that have never tolerated foreign conquest for any length of time.

In the next edition: more invasions of Iraq, and the fall of Rome.

Hope you’re enjoying the series!


"Are We Rome?" Part II: Dubbia Bushius

From David Horsey, the Pulitzer-winning cartoonist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Read the rest at Empire Rising: A Satirical History, Part V

Iraqi Jewish Woman Very Angry At War

I found this on YouTube. It is testimony from Dahlia Wasfi, a physician with a Jewish mother (who fled the Nazis) and an Iraqi father, and she has done two long visits to Iraq recently to help during the war.

This testimony is riveting. She is very angry, screen-melting angry, about America invading her country. She is furious at the chaos, lack of water, and the WMD that the U.S. is using in Iraq (depleted uranium, napalm, white phosphorous). It’s such an inflammatory speech, I was initially reticent to post it here, but it is so compelling I had to. I consider her viewpoint unassailable, since she saw what’s happening in Iraq with her own eyes and we didn’t.

She says the Jewish motto “NEVER AGAIN” (never again should a people be destroyed) must extend to Iraqis too. I think this is the only moral approach.

If we’re in Iraq (supposedly for humanitarian purposes) without Iraq’s consent, isn’t that like rape, and doomed to fail?


New Newsweek Poll: Misinformed Population ALARMS Me!

In a new Newsweek Poll first posted Saturday, 41% of Americans say Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was directly involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks . Thanks Dick Cheney! Thanks Rush Limbaugh! You are successfully duping a huge swath of the population.

However this is down from 49%, a plurality, that believed this lie in Newsweek’s polling in 2004.

Also in this poll, 20% of respondents said most 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis.

20% said the U.S. has found WMDs in Iraq (thanks Rush! thanks Rick Santorum, for repeating this lie!)

More were able to name the latest winner of “American Idol” than could identify the recently-appointed Chief Justice of the United States (not surprising).

What appalled me more was that half of Americans polled didn’t know that Libya does not border Iraq (the question was: which of these countries is NOT Iraq’s neighbor?)

You can read the raw numbers here: NEWSWEEK Poll June 23, 2007, Conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

We’re in deep trouble, ladies and gentlemen!