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These responsibilities notwithstanding, the American public was already being conditioned to view the war in Iraq as a battle against extremists, that is, against the Islamist radicals who had threatened the "American" way" of life on September 11, 2001. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson had already inflamed America's own Christian fundamentalists with talk that the terrible events of that day were to blame in part on "the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle... I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"
That such intolerance was not unique to America, "champion" of liberty, can be seen in many nations around the world. Homosexuality is condemned by Muslim fundamentalists as much as by their Christian fundamentalist counterparts. Yet, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was reasonably tolerant of "discreet" gay and lesbian relationships.
It was only with the emergence of radical Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq following Saddam Hussein's overthrow by the United States that there began an open movement toward religiously-inspired policies and violence. Though occurring under the radar of most of the world's media, by 2006 numerous articles began to appear in humanitarian outlets that indicated that gays and lesbians faced dire threats in the "new" Iraq. There were reports of kidnappings, torture, and murder, of attacks by Iraqi militias, and anti-gay fatwahs by Iraq's fundamentalist Muslim leaders. In May 2006 the British gay and humanitarian rights organization, Iraqi LGBT - UK, drew attention to a fatwah issued by Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani. Sistani, as they pointed out, not only called for the murder of gay men in Iraq, but also is ultimate commander of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its paramilitary wing, the Badr Corps. In the words of Iraqi LGBT - UK,
The Badr Corps is a terrorist organization and uses terrorist methods against political, religious, sexual and ethnic dissidents. It is behind much of the sectarian violence in Iraq today, including suicide bombings, kidnappings and the assassination of Sunnis, moderate Shia, trade unionists, women's rights activists, gay people and secularists."
Though Sistani, under pressure, withdrew the fatwah, his action did not begin to quell the terrible tide of anti-gay violence, nor provide an answer to the all-important question of how such horrors were occurring under the noses of the United States military and American advisors, officials.
Articles 2, 7, and 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been read specifically to endorse the rights of gays and lesbians.
Both the United States and Iraq are signatories to this international treaty. Article 2 states the following:
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
A clear interpretation of this would be that, "Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country," that there exists no restriction as far as sexual orientation, nor any other question of personal identity.
Though not mentioned explicitly, the definitions of belief and personhood given in Article 2 appear sufficiently broad to include sexual identity, not to mention that the listing of forms of belief, language, ethnicity, color, etc. are all subsumed under the single term of "everyone," in the first sentence of the Article and therefore represent but a more detailed exposition of the term. To fail to endorse the right of gay Iraqi men and women to the protection of their government, the United States is failing in its responsibility toward the gay and lesbian citizens of the country its military continues to occupy. Article 7 reiterates the principle of equality before the law, re-stating that idea in terms of "equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration."
And it is Article 12 that applies particularly to the rights of Iraqi men and women to live their lives as they please, to be free from "arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor [be subject] to attacks upon his honor and reputation."
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights underlies nearly the whole framework of modern international human rights protocols. The idea that the United States appears to be ignoring its enforcement is certainly troubling.
C. To an "Independent" Iraq: Implicit American Support for Anti-Gay Order
On June 28, 2004, two days ahead of schedule, a smiling George W. Bush and Tony Blair congratulated themselves on having completed the transfer of power from the Coalition Provisional Authority to an "independent" interim Iraqi government under Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Though United States forces would remain in charge of Iraqi security, President Bush celebrated the import of the occasion with a message scrawled on a note to Blair, "Let Freedom Ring!" seemingly auspicious beginning for the new nation, but one that hardly reflected the realities on the ground. The "young democracy" that was supposedly forming on the shores of the Persian Gulf was quickly descending into an orgy of violence and destruction, particularly that aimed against those not deemed to conform to the views of the newly-empowered Shiite majority. Their identity based on their membership in a particular branch of Islam, the Shiites found ready support in their neighbor to the east, the rigidly fundamentalist Islamic Republic of Iran. Since the 1979 Revolution, Iran had based nearly its whole national identity on a strict adherence to Shia doctrine. In the Muslim world as a whole, the Shia are a distinct minority, and so the emergent Shia of Iraq would need their allies. They would also be under the sway of the anti-gay rhetoric and policies emanating from Iranian mullahs - and soon they would have their own fundamentalist firebrand - the Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani.
In June 2006, the United States military admitted that it was aware of a "rash of anti-gay killings" that had occurred in Iraq during the course of the previous eight months.
While claiming that American forces readily responded to individuals under actual attack, a spokesman for the military, Army Maj. Joseph Todd Breasseale, Chief of the Media Relations Division of the Multinational Corps in Iraq, made reference to the difficult situation faced by the American superintended international force. Said Breasseale,
It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, when we're in a fledgling time like this, to go in and say, 'Here's these issues that are going to repel 80% of the population and this is what we want to inflict on you,'" he said. "We're trying not to get into too many values judgment type issues and just do the right thing."
In other words, America's obligations under international treaties, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, were being ignored in favor of an especial respect for local prejudices and cultural and religious dictates. To risk tampering with the general Iraqi attitude of hostility toward gay men and women would prove too great a barrier to improved relations in other areas. Article One of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed in 1966 and in force since 1976, states categorically that all peoples possess the right to self-determination, and with that right, the inherent privilege of determining their own political status, and direction of social, cultural, and economic development.
As of the particular time of the United States Military's announcement of its knowledge of these anti-gay killings, American forces had been present as an occupying power in Iraq for more than three years. Following the one year rule of the CPA, the "international" forces continued in Iraq as effectively the sole actual Iraqi security forces. The United States military made up the vast bulk of these forces and, except in few areas in the extreme south, around Basra, assumed overall authority and control for the operation of these same forces. During that time, a civil war broke out between the American-supported Iraqi government, and various factions opposed to that government. The occupying forces that were supposed to be restoring order in the world's newest democracy were, in fact, sitting in the middle of a contest between rival forces for the right to shape that new state, and with it - the Iraqi soul. International agreements to the contrary notwithstanding, President Bush resorted to the subterfuge that all was well with the new nation, that its people had freely decided among themselves on the current forms of government, the rights accorded to Iraqi citizens, and the…[continue]
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