Saturday, June 22, 2013

Barack's been backing the Syrian 'rebels' for months now

Did you see the AFP report that the White House is probably hoping on one sees?  It opens:

The CIA and US special operations forces have been training Syrian rebels for months, since long before President Barack Obama announced plans to arm the opposition, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Training for rebel forces covers the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and has been carried out at bases in Jordan and Turkey since late last year, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed US officials and rebel commanders.

The two-week courses, for about 20 to 45 fighters at a time, began last November at a new US base in the desert in southwest Jordan, it said.

Of course this is what's been happening.  The government lies to us over and over.  That doesn't change because a Democrat gets into the White House.

It's a real shame that, say 2005, on the left, we were a family. Overall, we were pulling for one another.

Then came 2008 and the Cult of St. Barack and the left just fell apart.

So many abdicated their logic and reason to indulge a small child in a man's body.  To indulge him, yes, and to provide cover for all his illegal ways.

Things that we had all called out as wrong in 2005 were suddenly right because Barack was doing them.

If we could all come together now?

I'm not sure I want to.

Sorry, there are people I no longer trust.

I will never, ever again trust Leslie Cagan.  I know her and I defended her here many times.  I was the idiot because she is a fraud as so many accused her of being.

I don't trust Alice Walker -- in fact I hate that woman.

She's an even bigger fraud.  She is one huge lie who is a disappointment politically and personally.

Howard Zinn died a disappointment and his legacy is in tatters.

He whored for Barack.  He didn't have to do it.  Anthony Arnove encouraged him to.  I encouraged him not to.  I stopped all communications with Howard over the issue of Barack and I knew Howard for decades.  Prior to the Cult of St. Barack, Howard was as smart as he was wonderful.

Howard had to whore, though.  Barack's current troubles are nothing compared to what will be coming.  Barack will leave office disgraced and America will be disenchanted.

What this means for Howard?  His cowardly actions and craven praise and justifications of and for Barack are part of his legacy.

I warned him, C.I. warned him.  We both told him, he wasn't a young man anymore.  He could be dead at any time and his legacy would be tainted by this gushing over a War Hawk.

That's what's happened.  You make your bed, you lie in it.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, June 21, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad's voter turnout was beaten by Anbar and by Nineveh (though so sad folks can't navigate reality well enough to report it), today is the sixth month anniversary of ongoing protests in Iraq and we're happy to note it but just wish we weren't the only ones doing so, the KRG continues to attract the companies and businesses that the central government can't, Iraq's on the receiving end of a cultural insult that someone in the US government should be explaining, and more.

Let's start with the elections because I'm so tired of the garbage from the press.

Anbar and Nineveh, they tell us, weren't allowed to vote in April because it was too violent.  They leave out that that was Nouri's claims or that Nouri offered two other excuses for calling off the vote after it was pointed out that Baghdad was just as violent.

Oh how the whores love to whore.

Yesterday, Anbar Province and Diyala province were finally allowed to vote (after being prevented by Nouri al-Maliki from voting in April).  Today we get outlets telling us that 'good for Anbar' but Nineveh's below the national average.  No, no, no.  Quit being a liar, quit making false comparisons.  Baghdad is the only comparison due to levels of violence.  From yesterday's snapshot:

Despite all of that and much more, it appears the voting in Anbar and Nineveh was successful today.  Alsumaria reports that the Independent High Electoral Commission states 37.5% of registered voters turned out in Nineveh and that 49.5% turned out in Anbar.  Alsumaria notes that UNHCR assisted with the elections and were at polling places.  At five o'clock, when voting was scheduled to end, UNHCR checked to make sure that all voters were out of the polling stations and then locked the doors and, with IHEC, secured the ballot boxes.  All Iraq News notes that IHEC's Electoral Office head Muqdad al-Shiriefi declared in a Baghdad press conference this evening, "There are no violations in the PCs elections of the provinces."  NINA reports that the Mottahidoon Coalition issued a statement declaring the high rate of turnout in the two provinces was an indication that the protesters, who "have suffered various severe conditions in order to get their demands and recover their usurped rights," believe in their democratic rights.

No violations, no accusations. How different it is in Anbar and Nineveh -- another detail the 'working' press forgot to note.  Now what was the turnout in the province of Baghdad -- the only comparable province in terms of violence?  After the elections in April,  Matt Bradley (Wall St. Journal) reported:

Only slightly more than 50% of eligible Iraqi voters participated in provincial elections on Saturday, a far cry from the 72% turnout for the latest such elections, in 2009, according to Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission. In Iraq's capital, turnout slipped to 33%, the commission said.

 Only 33% of voters turned out in Baghdad.  I don't know -- problem with the official numbers -- what's going on but just FYI, we're sticking to percentages and will stay with that.  What's the problem?  IHEC's statements don't add up.  Not when they're dealing with solid numbers of voters.  Run the numbers, I just did after I stopped and thought about what IHEC said of the 12 provinces total for the April 20th election.  (That was 50% so double it.)  When you add that, the KRG population (I'm using CIA population figures -- which are estimates and I'm even using the 2012 which is lower than this year's) and include the numbers for Anbar and Nineveh and then add estimates for Kirkuk (CIA), the CIA population in Iraq is not matching IHEC numbers, IHEC is grossly undercounting or the CIA has been wildly off the mark for years now.  So we're sticking to percentages but if someone ever adds the numbers (supplied by IHEC) and tries to figure out the population, don't complain to me, I just ran the numbers and I see the problem too.

So Baghdad had 33% turnout.  But let's explain that further because the press didn't use Baghad or bother to explain April 20th turnout.  Again, from yesterday's snapshot:

  Apparently there was no concern over refugees who fled the provinces being able to vote. When the 12 provinces were allowed to vote in April, there were polling stations set up in Anbar and Nineveh -- but just for refugees from the 12 provinces who had moved in to Anbar and Nineveh to vote.  The Independent High Electoral Commission announced that there were "special polling centers" set up for displaced persons from Nineveh and Anbar . . . if they were in the KRG.  Only, if they were in the KRG.  Now if you were a member of the armed services and resided in Anbar or Nineveh in your downtime but were deployed to other provinces, IHED had 266 polling stations in 15 of the other provinces for you to vote.  But if you were a resident of Anbar or Nineveh who had been displaced and went to any province other than the three in the KRG, you were out of luck on voting.

So, for example, Sunni refugees who fled Baghdad (due to violence) and went to Anbar were able to vote April 20th at an Anbar polling center and their voted counted -- because they are IDPs -- as being a Baghdad vote.  By the same token, Iraqi Christians who fled to the KRG due to violence were able to vote April 20th at polling stations as residents of Baghdad.

Baghdad's April vote includes all Baghdad Province residents in Iraq -- anywhere in Iraq.  On April 20th, they even had polling centers in Kirkuk which was real middle finger if you think about since official residents of Kirkuk never get to vote in provincial elections.  But in April, Baghdad residents -- whether in Baghdad, deployed outside of Baghdad in the security forces or IDPs who fled Baghdad Province due to violence -- were all able to vote if they wanted to.  And only 33% wanted to.

Anbar and Nineveh didn't get that.  Their residents who are in the security forces and out of Anbar and Nineveh were able to vote.  In addition, their IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) were able to vote . . . if they were in the KRG (three provinces).  If they were anywhere else, they weren't allowed to vote.  While Anbar's 95% Sunni, Nineveh is more mixed demographically.   Why would you assume, for example, that Turkmen would choose to go to the KRG?

Baghdad had better weather in April while Anbar and Nineveh were both over 100 degrees yesterday when voting took place.  Baghdad residents (in Baghdad or IDPs) could vote across Iraq.  That wasn't the case for Anbar and Nineveh.  But a larger percentage of voters in Anbar turned out than in Baghdad and a larger percentage of voters in Nineveh turned out than in Baghdad.

This isn't noted in the nonsense that's being passed off today as 'reporting.'

As an Iraqi community member who voted in yesterday's elections notes of today's western media coverage, "They will not give us credit for anything."  No, they certainly will not.

Since December 21st, Anbar and Nineveh have been the leading provinces when it came to protests.  But if the press can't portray the protesters as 'out of control,' they're just not interested in them.  Some reporters need it so badly that they lie about it -- as one US outlet did today: "Often violent protests in the Sunni-majority provinces of Anbar and Ninevah are motivated as much by low unemployment and spotty electricity during the sweltering summer months as they are by sectarian grievances."  Want to explain that one?

Didn't think so.

No, the protests have not been violent in Anbar and Nineveh and to suggest that they have really makes you a questionable reporter.  If protests -- which have taken place since December 21st -- were violent, we'd be seeing mass deaths and destroyed property and all these things that just don't exist.  Seems like the reporter feel for Kelly McEvers' propaganda that we called out earlier this week (here).  That's too bad because the rest of the article (which is on another topic) looks very strong.  But how can anyone trust you when you falsely characterize six months of peaceful protests as "violent."  If they were violent -- even in just those two provinces -- I'd assume they'd have a body count of 30 dead per month.  They don't even have a body count of 1 dead per month by protesters.

Now Nouri's forces have killed protesters during this time.  Most infamously, the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija when Nouri's federal forces stormed it. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP reported the death toll increased to 53.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

It is the six months today, by the way, six months since the ongoing protests started.  Another detail the media 'forgot.'

Today is the sixth month anniversary of the ongoing, peaceful protests that kicked off December 21st.  In February, Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) wrote:

Protests are raging throughout Iraq...thousands upon thousands are demanding the following :
- End of Sectarian Shia rule
- the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
- the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
- the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
- the provision of government services to all
- the end of corruption
- no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.

The protests in Anbar, Fallujah, Sammara, Baquba,  Tikrit, Kirkuk, Mosul...and in different parts of Baghdad stress over and over 1) the spontaneous nature of the "popular revolution against oppression and injustice" 2) its peaceful nature  i.e unarmed  3) the welcoming of ALL to join the protests regardless of sect or ethnicity as ONE Iraqi people and 4) and the March to Baghdad.

In six months of ongoing protests, most western outlets have never offered as much on it as Layla Anwar did that day (and the above's an excerpt, click on the link to read her full post).  And when the western media has bothered to note it, they've ignored so much.

With the exception of the Guardian, no one's wanted to touch the issue of women and girls raped and tortured in Iraqi prisons.  When Jane Arraf 'touched' on it, she did so by nothing that this was happening -- per Amnesty International [see this March 11th entry aptly titled "Iraqi women and girls (and the silence on this topic)" and snapshots for March 11th, March 12th, and March 13th] -- and then went on to share a report about the abuse of . . . a male prisoner.

Only the Guardian -- among western media -- has shown any bravery.  AFP won't even acknowledge that this is the underpinning of the protests.  Haifa Zangana (Guardian) was one of the people covering reality:

The plight of women detainees was the starting point for the mass protests that have spread through many Iraqi provinces since 25 December 2012. Their treatment by the security forces has been a bleeding wound – and one shrouded in secrecy, especially since 2003. Women have been routinely detained as hostages – a tactic to force their male loved ones to surrender to security forces, or confess to crimes ascribed to them. Banners and placards carried by hundreds of thousands of protesters portray images of women behind bars pleading for justice.

[. . .]

No wonder, ten years after the invasion, the Iraqi authorities are accused by US-based Human Rights Watch of "violating with impunity the rights of Iraq's most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees". HRW's account is echoed by a report by the Iraqi parliament's own human rights and women, family and children's committees, which found that there are 1,030 women detainees suffering from widespread abuse, including threats of rape.
Responding to these findings, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to "arrest those members of parliament who had discussed the violence against women detainees". Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has acknowledged that there are 13,000 prisoners in custody accused of terror offences, but he only mentioned women detainees in passing [. . .]

Another person able to cover reality was Dahr Jamail (Al Jazeera) who reported:

Heba al-Shamary (name changed for security reasons) was released last week from an Iraqi prison where she spent the last four years.
“I was tortured and raped repeatedly by the Iraqi security forces,” she told Al Jazeera. “I want to tell the world what I and other Iraqi women in prison have had to go through these last years. It has been a hell.”
Heba was charged with terrorism, as so many Iraqis who are detained by the Iraqi security apparatus are charged.
“I now want to explain to people what is occurring in the prisons that [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki and his gangs are running,” Heba added. “I was raped over and over again, I was kicked and beaten and insulted and spit upon.”
Heba’s story, horrific as it is, unfortunately is but one example of what a recent report from Amnesty International refers to as “a grim cycle of human rights abuses” in Iraq today.

Six months worth of protests and what has the bulk of the western media done with it?  Nothing.

Protests continued today.  Demonstrators turned out in Jalawla, in Falluja, in Ramadi,  in Kirkuk and in BaghdadThey're declaring Monday "The Day of the Detainee."  In the Iraq 'legal' system, people charged with crimes but not convicted disappear for years in jail as do people who have never been charged with a crime but were rounded up and tossed in a prison.  National Iraqi News Agency notes that the security was beefed up throughout Anbar Province around sit-in areas.  They did this in Diyala Province as well and "Shahab-Badri, Vice-Chairman of the Committee of Religious Scholars of Iraq, demanded security forces to take responsibility by ensuring access to worshipers to prayers yards , calling on the Iraqi government to meet the constitutional and legitimate usurped rights that the demonstrators claimed since more than six months."

NINA also reports, "A security source in Kirkuk province, said that rapid intervention special forces of Dijlah Operations Command arrested the coordinator of the Popular Committees for the mass movement in the province Sheikh Khaled Mafraji."  Alsumaria notes that the Kurdish movement -- both in Kirkuk and nationally -- is calling for the Sheikh's immediate release.

He was not the only one arrested.  Al Mada reports that "SWAT" forces arrested him and that activists were also arrested in Ramadi and Kirkuk.  Rafie al-Issawi declares that Nouri al-Maliki is underestimating the strength and the will of the protesters.  al-Issawi is identified as that outgoing Minister of Finance.  (December 20th, his staff and bodyguards were seized by Nouri's force.  One of the things that has prompted the ongoing protests.  He announced he was resigning.  I have no idea where that stands.  Where it stands with Ayad Allawi is that al-Issawi has resigned.  Both are members of Iraqiya -- Allawi is the head of Iraqiya -- and Allawi considers al-Issawi out of the Cabinet.)

Turning to a different protest,  Alsumaria notes "hundreds" (probably thousands) have turned out in Kut today to protest.  This is not a part of the ongoing protests.  This is a protest that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr called yesterday and they are demonstrating against the proposed conference in Qatar that the Taliban will be attending.  Judging by the photo with that Alsumaria report and the photo with this report on Kufa, a lot more followers of Moqtada al-Sadr turned out in Kufa to protest the Taliban being included on the Qatar Conference.

All Iraq News notes a Baghdad bombing has claimed 1 life and left seven more people injured. NINA reports the Khour Bridge near Qa'im has been blown up and that armed clashes are taking place around it with "military helicopters . . . providing support to the military forces" -- at least 3 Iraqi soldiers are dead and two more injured.  On the topic of violence, Ian Johnston (NBC News) offers a very strong examination of violence in Iraq.   Brookings Institution's Kenneth Pollack states, "By any defintion, what's going on in Iraq is a civil war."  From the report:

Hamit Dardagan, principal analyst with Iraq Body Count, which has been documenting civilian casualties since the war began, said the death toll was alarming, but still some way off the mass slaughter of 2006-07 when several thousand people died on a monthly basis.
He said the death toll had dropped dramatically from mid-2008 to a plateau of a few hundred a month.
“This year is the first time we’ve seen a really steady trend that’s reversed the direction on 2008,” Dardagan said. “It’s been a steady, low-level war. It’s just that recently … it’s actually started to worsen in a way that’s not just a single-month blip. It seems to be a continuous trend."

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 354 violent deaths so far this month.

Today, Iraqi News reports, "The Presidential Staff of Iraq congratulated the citizens of Anbar and Nineveh Provicnes for holding local elections."  Why the presidential staff and not the president?  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.   The fact that a statement wasn't issued in his name will lead some to question (or more loudly question) whether or not Jalal can even speak -- despite the optimistic 'reports' by his doctors.  He's now missed an eight of his term due to the stroke.

On other rumors, will Iraq ever hold a census?  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports that Nouri al-Maliki has been making noises about it -- but those noises were when he visited Erbil this month to try to sway Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani over to his side.  As with so many of Nouri's promises, there just aren't any facts that back them up.  He's claiming that a census will be held this year.  From Habib's report:

However al-Allaq didn’t think a census would be held in 2013. "The federal government didn’t allocate any funds to hold a census in this year’s budget so we won’t be holding one until next year,” he explained.

There are other reasons why holding a census may not be the most desirable step at present. Many of Iraq’s political and economic problems are very connected with demographic issues like ethnicity and sectarianism. A census would impact on things like the distribution of resources to different parts of the country and accurate electoral rolls.

There has also been plenty of criticism of the electoral process in Iraq. After all, because there’s been no census it is hard to know exactly how many voters there should be or how old they are.

As Faraj al-Haydari, former head of Iraq's all important Independent High Electoral Commission, or IHEC, told NIQASH, “a census is fundamental for the success of any election. Unfortunately the lack of census has disadvantaged the democratic system in this country. Since 2004, IHEC has used the Ministry of Commerce’s figures which are obviously not accurate.”

The lack of accurate figures has also meant that it’s not been possible to hold district elections – after all, nobody knows how many people are living in each district.

Guillaume Decamme (AFP) reports on the sense that, in the KRG, things are moving along at a good pace:

Abdul-Karim is not the only one who feels that way – the economy of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, with Irbil as its capital, is growing faster than the rest of the country and sees none of the violence that has raged across Arab areas. In Irbil, crowded cafes overflow onto sidewalks, customers pack out restaurants with no fear of attack and, perhaps most importantly for the three-province region’s future prospects, foreign investors appear keen to plant their flag.
“It is really easy to set up shop here,” said Jorge Restrepo, an American of Colombian origin who runs a consultancy business in Kurdistan targeting Spanish and Canadian energy companies.
“The government of Kurdistan is very open to foreigners,” he said.
The low level of violence does help.  But equally true, the KRG government has not been led by a paranoid who makes promises and signs contracts and then breaks them.  If you can't trust someone, you aren't inclined to do business with them.  Foreign companies going into Iraq require a commitment that their deals are legal and will stand up in court and will be honored.  Nouri's failure to project that image goes a long, long way towards explaining why 15 other provinces in Iraq can't come remotely close to the business investments that the KRG is seeing.
No one but Nouri al-Maliki is responsible for his bad image.  He refuses to honor his word, to honor contracts.  He is not to be trusted and that is the message he's projected on the world's stage.  For example,  Ali Abedl Sadah (Al-Monitor) reports today on a new deal between Iraq (Nouri) and Russia for military helicopters.  To report on that, Ali Abedl Sadah has to, of course, note what came most recently:
This statement came one day after a Russian news agency published information on the completion of a purchase agreement between the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the Russian government, dating back to 2011.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had visited Moscow to hold negotiations for an arms deal. Yet, it was immediately halted after suspicions of corruption against officials close to Maliki.
These officials included members of his office. Maliki later decided to dismiss Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government’s spokesman, for being involved in receiving kickbacks to facilitate the procedures to conclude the agreement between the Iraqi and Russian parties.

October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  After taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  The scandal, however, refuses to go away.  And it among the broken promises that has harmed central Iraq's standing. The problem most likely doesn't go away until Nouri stops being Prime Minister.

Turning to the topic of Iraq, Chevron and Abednego.  As UPI noted earlier this week, "Iraq's Kurds have consolidated their growing energy sector with Chevron Corp. securing a third exploration block in the semiautonomous northern region and France's Total buying a majority stake in another." At the Christian Science Monitor, Jen Alec wonders "Can Baghdad stop exports of Kurdish oil?" and concludes:

The Kurds have the advantage, even more so not that the rest of Iraq is engulfed in a sectarian conflict as it becomes the definitive second front in the war in Syria. Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flew to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, to hold high-level talks. This hasn’t happened since 2003, and it indicates that the talks were on the Kurds’ terms, as well as their terrain.
Will Baghdad be able to stop the Kurdish oil and gas momentum? Not at this point. Once the pipeline is up and running, the game is over and Baghdad doesn’t have the resources to turn it into a conflict.
Jen Alec also writes at Oil Price.  It's also true that, despite Nouri al-Maliki promising to deliver one in 2007 (the White House benchmarks for 'progress' in Iraq), Iraq still has no national gas and oil law.  When that happens, provinces can do what they like -- especially if they are the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

Nerdun Hac─▒oglu (Hurriyet Daily News) notes that KRG President Massoud Barzani met with Turkey's Minister of Energy Taner Yildiz in Russia yesterday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and they discussed the proposed pipeline further.   On oil in general, Peg Mackey and Alex Lawler (Reuters) explain, "Iraq's oil output target for 2013 is still within reach, even with flows stuck at 3 million barrels a day during the first half of the year, but a lofty goal for 2014 will be far more difficult to meet, oil executives and officials say." What's the big stand out this month? That exports "have fallen by about 200,000 barrels per day."

From oil to another divisive topic, cultural artifacts.  Last month (May 16th), the National Archives (in the US) issued the following:

Washington, DC…On Friday, October 11, 2013, the National Archives will unveil a new exhibition, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage.” The exhibit details the dramatic recovery of historic materials relating to the Jewish community in Iraq from a flooded basement in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, and the National Archives’ ongoing work in support of U.S. Government efforts to preserve these materials. Located in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, “Discovery and Recovery” is free and open to the public and runs through January 5, 2014.
In both English and Arabic, the 2,000 square foot exhibit features 24 recovered items and a “behind the scenes” video of the fascinating yet painstaking preservation process. This exhibit marks the first time these items have been on public display.


On May 6, 2003, just days after the Coalition forces took over Baghdad, 16 American soldiers from Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, a group assigned to search for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, entered Saddam Hussein’s flooded intelligence building. In the basement, under four feet of water, they found thousands of books and documents relating to the Jewish community of Iraq – materials that had belonged to synagogues and Jewish organizations in Baghdad.
The water-logged materials quickly became moldy in Baghdad’s intense heat and humidity. Seeking guidance, the Coalition Provisional Authority placed an urgent call to the nation’s foremost conservation experts at the National Archives. Just a week later, National Archives Director of Preservation Programs Doris Hamburg and Conservation Chief Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler arrived in Baghdad via military transport to assess the damage and make recommendations for preservation of the materials. Both experts share this extraordinary story and take you “behind the scenes” in this brief video []. This video is in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions. The National Archives encourages its use and free distribution.
Given limited treatment options in Baghdad, and with the agreement of Iraqi representatives, the materials were shipped to the United States for preservation and exhibition. Since then, these materials have been vacuum freeze-dried, preserved and photographed under the direction of the National Archives. The collection includes more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and English, dating from 1540 to the 1970s. A special website to launch this fall will make these historic materials freely available to all online as they are digitized and catalogued. This work was made possible through the assistance of the Department of State, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Center for Jewish History.
The Jews of Iraq have a rich past, extending back to Babylonia. These materials provide a tangible link to this community that flourished there, but in the second half of the twentieth century dispersed throughout the world. Today, fewer than five Jews remain.

Display highlights include:

  • A Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568 – one of the oldest books in the trove;
  • A Babylonian Talmud from 1793;
  • A Torah scroll fragment from Genesis - one of the 48 Torah scroll fragments found;
  • A Zohar from 1815 – a text for the mystical and spiritual Jewish movement known as “Kabbalah”;
  • An official 1918 letter to the Chief Rabbi regarding the allotment of sheep for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year);
  • Materials from Jewish schools in Baghdad, including exam grades and a letter to the College Entrance Examination Board in Princeton regarding SAT scores;
  • A Haggadah (Passover script) from 1902, hand lettered and decorated by an Iraqi Jewish youth ; and
  • A lunar calendar in both Hebrew and Arabic from the Jewish year 5732 (1972-1973) - one of the last examples of Hebrew printed items produced in Baghdad.
“Discovery and Recovery” is divided into six sections:
Discovery: The dramatic story of how these materials were found, rescued and preserved is one worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. A short film captures these heroic efforts. The section includes actual metal foot lockers used to ship the documents to the United States.
Text and Heritage: This section explores Iraqi Jewish history and tradition through recovered texts, including a Torah scroll fragment, a Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568, and a Babylonian Talmud from 1793.
Iraqi Jewish Life: Constancy and Change: Using recovered texts, this section explores the pattern of Jewish life in Iraq. Highlights include a Haggadah (Passover script), siddur (prayer book) and an illustrated lunar calendar in both Hebrew and Arabic (one of about 20 found, dating from 1959-1973).
Personal and Communal Life: Selected correspondence and publications illustrate the range and complexity of Iraqi Jewish life in the 19th and 20th centuries. Original documents and facsimiles in flipbooks range from school primers to international business correspondence from the Sassoon family.
After the Millennia: Iraqi Jewish life unraveled in the mid-20th century, with the rise of Nazism and proliferation of anti-Jewish propaganda. In June 1941, 180 Jews were killed and hundreds injured in an anti-Jewish attack in Baghdad. Persecution increased when Iraq entered the war against the new State of Israel in 1948. In 1950 and 1951, many Iraqi Jews were stripped of their citizenship and assets and the community fled the county en masse. This section includes the 1951 law freezing assets of Iraqi Jews.
Preserving the Past: It is not surprising that the Coalition Forces turned to National Archives conservators for help. Learn about transformation of these materials from moldy, water-logged masses to a carefully preserved, enduring historic legacy. View the National Archives’ state-of-the-art treatment, preservation, and digitization of these materials.
The Fall issue of Prologue Magazine, the Archives’ flagship publication, will feature two articles on “Discovery and Recovery.” Prologue is available in the Archives Shop.

National Archives Preservation and Conservation

The Conservation Department cares for the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents, as well as billions of other records. In state-of-the-art preservation labs, staff assess the condition of records and identify their composition. Experts stabilize and treat documents to prepare them for digitization, exhibition, and use by researchers. A “conservator-on-call” team is ready to provide guidance for any records emergency at National Archives facilities nationwide. National Archives conservation experts also serve as “first preservers” and provide aid to other agencies and offices following disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

The National Archives is located on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Hours are 10 AM-5 PM.

# # #
For more information on or to obtain images of items included in the exhibition, call the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

There is no Jewish community in Iraq anymore.  What the illegal Iraq War unleashed destroyed it.  I fully support the artifacts being handed over to the government of  Israel -- Israel is where most Iraqi Jews have gone in the last decades. Cultural artifacts belong to the people, not to a land.  If tomorrow all the Yazidis or Shabaks or Armenians were out of Iraq and a week later a discovery was made about their cultural artificats?  Those would belong to the people of that culture.

While I support the Jewish people in Israel being over these historical Jewish records, I do not support them being shown in the United States as described above.  For those who don't know, this is a very big issue to some in Iraq.  Some in Iraq are very vocal in their belief that these Jewish records and artifacts belong to Iraq.  They want them returned.  I'm not really grasping how disputed artifacts belong on display in the United States. I'm failing to see how this helpful to anyone -- especially since the United States government started the illegal war.  To me this plays as taunting, as insulting and as humiliating to the people of Iraq -- and it plays like the US government meant for it to cause ill will.  (I personally don't believe that but it does play out as if the US government is attempting to humiliate Iraq and I have no idea what US government idiot gave approval for a US exhibition.)

Iraq was briefly mentioned in today's US State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: At a time when Iraq is really suffering a great deal of turmoil, it seems that volunteers or militias are crossing the borders into Syria to aid the Syrian regime. Are you having any kind of special talks with the Iraqi Government to stop them from doing that or to prevent people from going to answer the calls of the Sunni jihadist side?

MR. VENTRELL: So we do – we have seen reports of a limited number of Iraqi Shia and Sunni militants fighting in Syria. These movements stoke the violence in Syria and contribute to the suffering of the Syrian people. So we continue to call on all of Syria’s neighbors to take all possible steps to prevent the flow of militant fighters into Syria in order to prevent exacerbating the sectarian aspects of the conflict. And so I would also note that the Iraqi Foreign Minister himself has made a statement – going back, I believe this is a week or so ago, June 11th -- discouraging Iraqis from joining the fight in Syria. So it’s something that we’ve discussed with the Iraqis in the past and they’ve made public statements about.

Iraq War reporter Michael Hastings passed away this week, as we've already noted.  I just want to make a few quick comments.  I do not and did not know his widow Elise Jordan.  I was appalled to read that she was rebuffed when she attempted to have a correction made to the obituary of her husband (the online one was wrong, she contacted Jill Abramson to ask that the error not appear in the print).  There's no excuse for that in the world.  There is a thing called professional courtesy that at the very least should have kicked in. Jill should remember that and I think she will, this sort of thing is not forgotten or unnoticed and it has a way of coming back.

 It's called payback, Jill.  You should have heeded the request of Elise Jordan, the request of a grieving widow who just wanted to make sure her husband was remembered correctly.  Think about that, Jill, Elise Jordan was crying over her fresh loss that felt so raw and all it would have required for you to have helped her in her pain was removing one damn sentence.  It wouldn't have hurt you in the least but that's the kind of woman you really are, Jill, just a dirty piece of trash.  And, yeah, as Isaiah noted in his comic, you do have a mustache and it's very unattractive, Jill.

Michael Hastings was an investigative reporter.  In my remarks here earlier this week, I said his luck ran out.  I was not referring to anything other than he had gone into difficult areas (war zones) and managed to survive when others didn't.  Since that went up, there are two rumors circulating.  One that he was targeted by the  FBI and two that he was pursuing the Petraeus affair-ouster. Either may be true, both may be true, both may be false.  We don't traffic in rumors about how someone died here because I'm just not interested in adding to anyone's grief.  If Elise Jordan wants to weigh in on those things, we will cover them.  Until then, the following is all I have to say on the matter.  The FBI denied they were investigating Michael Hastings.

Attorney General Eric Holder is over the Justice Dept (that includes the FBI).  I saw him testify to Congress about targeting reporters only weeks ago.  It was just AP, he explained.  And then, a few days later, it was learned that James Rosen of Fox News had also been targeted.  I have no idea if Michael Hastings was targeted by anyone but a denial doesn't really mean anything with that track record.  Also true, we have an alphabet soup of agencies operating in the US.  Anyone of those could have been tracking Michael Hastings (and might have even led him to believe they were FBI -- especially true if they were military intelligence which loved to pose as FBI during Vietnam).  I have no idea how or why he died.  What I do know is he was an important reporter, a credit to his profession and he will be missed by those who knew him and by those who just knew his work.

Finally, tomorrow in NYC, there will be an action against Barack's ongoing Drone War:

when: Saturday, June 22, 11 to 1:00 p.m.

where:  the Cube at Astor Place

contact: Jill Godmilow (212) 226-2462,, or Jonathan Langer (716) 544-8237,

(video documentation available) 

On Saturday, June 22, at Astor Place, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a group of men and women will create a Drone Zone similar to those where the U.S. is terrorizing small villages in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc.

"Crossing Guards", 15 or so (women and men), each with a white, crossing guard diagonal sash, will be staged about 10 paces apart around a small area of Astor Place at Lafayette, next to The Cube... to produce "the zone." They stand silent, as cautionary figures... looking much like crossing guards might if so instructed. The guards are holding upright and steady 8 foot PVC poles. On each pole is a sign that reads: "DRONE ALERT!  YOU HAVE ENTERED A DRONE ZONE. PLEASE BE PREPARED TO TAKE SHELTER QUICKLY."  On top of each pole is mounted a mini-speaker emitting a low audio track of a drone continuously buzzing (as drones do flying over a Pakistani village), sourced from iPods or smart phones in their pockets.

If questioned by citizens, each crossing guard will have pink 4 x 6 cards to hand out. On one side is a brief description of life in Yemeni, Pakistani, Somali, Afghani village that suffers the tremendous stress and trauma from 24-hour drone surveillance, as well as potential strikes or crashes. On the other side of the card is a brief description of the CODE PINK Drone Theatre Project itself. Also, a list of on-line sites for more information about armed drone surveillance, targeted killings, and drone proliferation.

This action will be repeated again and again in New York City and elsewhere throughout the summer

NB: There will be video documentation of the project for use for television and online sites and other press locations..

Joan Wile, leader of Grandmothers Against the War, has stated "This project – silent street theatre – asks passersby to reflect on the condition of drone tormented and threatened populations. Perhaps it will also project the blowback of drones ultimately aimed at us."

when: Saturday, June 22, 11 to 1:00 p.m.

where: the Cube at Astor Place

contact: Jill Godmilow (212) 226-2462,, or Jonathan Langer (716) 544-8237,

admission: none




Thursday, June 20, 2013

Carly Simon, Janis Ian, Cher and Tina Turner (and the sexism of the music world)

If I had had the energy to write last night, I wouldn't have written much.  But I would have written what I'm going to write today.

Carly Simon's classic Have You Seem Me Lately? album ends with a hidden gem in the Carly canon, "We Just Got Here."  The song (lyrics and music by Carly) opens with these five lines:

There are a few more freckles on your shoulders
The hammock swings lower and touches the ground
The apples are ripe and the corn is past
Everyone says summer goes by so fast
And we just got here

If you've never heard it, the music kind of walks here as well, in sort of a walking forward after getting out of bed and you're stretching your arms and shaking out the sleep.

It's a really beautiful and lovely song.  Let me see if I can find a video on YouTube.

Okay, a fan made this video.

I really wish artists were smarter.  I'm not referring to Carly who has started her own YouTube channel and does put up videos of her songs.  But . . .

Okay, Janis Ian.  She's a singer-songwriter, most famous for "At Seventeen."

She wrote (and recorded) her most brilliant song on her last studio album (Folk Is The New Black).  If Van Morrison had managed to write this song, it would have won every Grammy and every rave possible.

Janis wrote it.

I have Folk Is The New Black and most of my friends do.  But we're a small circle.  Most people have never heard "All Those Promises."  It's a beautiful song. (Mike has written about this song at his site over and over for years now.)

In her review in 2006, Kat noted:

Looking at photos of her today, you see that the curly hair still curls, now it's a silver halo and that's fitting for one of the most comfortable voices in music. Janis could always caress a lyric and the only thing that's changed is she does so with an even softer touch today. "All Those Promises" is the best example of that. "Every sweet caress was just your second best," she sings from a soft place that will break your heart. As you dig deeper into the album, you'll find musical moments, vocal shadings and lyrics that surprise you because you're listening to an artist as opposed to someone showing up to lay down a vocal on top of the latest series of crafted beats.

Every now and then a video by a fan pops up on YouTube and quickly is pulled.  This one's stayed up since 2006 and maybe because it's mislabeled -- "Broken Promises" is what it's called.

Listen to that song and you'll see it's just beautiful, everything a song should be.  YouTube's really not stealing any money (nor the person posting a fan video) but what they are doing is giving people a chance to hear these wonderful songs.

I can write forever about "We Just Got Here," but you really need to hear Carly performing it to grasp how beautiful the song is.  If writing about how great a wonderful song is was all it took, "All Those Promises" would be the best known song of the last ten years because Mike has written of it repeatedly at his site and I believe Rebecca's written of it her site as well (I know it's her favorite Janis Ian song).

It takes more than that though.  It may just be a 99 cent download on iTunes or Amazon but that's competing with a million other songs and people tend to buy what they've heard, especially if they've heard it several times.

Most radio stations are not going to play Carly's "We Just Got Here" or Janis' "All Those Promises." First of all, most stations play sampled crap.  Second, most don't play a Carly or a Janis at all.  Those that do, tend to be the classic stations.  Those stations will play Janis or Carly's biggest hits and that's it.  They will go through (especially the NPR 'music' stations) the entire canon of a male performer but they will only play the hits when it comes to women.   In fact, Ava and C.I. took on the crap of NPR 'music' stations when Texas fans wrote in to complain about their station, let me see if I can find that.

Alright, this is from March of 2012, "Would you pay to support sexism? (Ava and C.I.)" and they're discussing KXT -- an all music NPR station out of Dallas, Texas:

We sampled the programs. That means, for example, Gini Mascorro's Monday through Saturday four hour daily program is something we caught in full twice a week*. The same with Mark Abuzzahab's five hour daily Monday through Saturday program, Joe Kozera's four hour daily Monday through Sunday program, Allen Roberts' two hour daily Monday through Saturday program and his four hour Sunday program and the dreadful two hour program by Paul Slavens.

You might already notice that women in Dallas are only represented on air by Gini Mascorro. They're not represented any better when it comes to songs played.

Sadly, Gini Mascorro isn't carrying the banner of equality when she's on air. She basically plays two women an hour -- and remember, this is commercial free radio. And if that strikes you as bad, it does us, meet Allen Roberts who often enjoys playing a woman every hour or sometimes one woman every two hours. Women fair best when Joe Kozera's anchoring the hours -- they can often be played as many as three times an hour. It's a shame they don't fair better under Mark Abuzzahab -- twice an hour is his average -- because he is KXT's program director.

At their website, they have a little faux Platonic dialogue
going on, asking why anyone should donate money to KXT and then answering, "KXT 91.7 is listener-supported public radio. 100% of the station’s financial support comes from listeners and businesses who pledge their support and make a tax-free donation to keep the station on the air. Make your contribution today to support the musical diversity and discovery that KXT 91.7 provides every day."

Musical diversity? There's no diversity in the solo artists or front men they play -- mainly men. And we question the notion of diversity as much as we do their claim (see illustration at the top) that donating to KXT is a way to "SUPPORT INDEPENDENT MUSIC." Bruce Springsteen's new album and his back catalogue are heavily featured on KXT and he's not an independent artist. He's a big money maker for the Sony corporation. Other staples of the station's programming -- Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, U2, Coldplay and Adele -- aren't exactly selling CDs out of a trailer they pull from show to show behind their Chevy Aveo.

We mentioned creepy Paul Slavens earlier. He deserves special notice for claiming on air to be playing requested songs. No, he's playing the requested songs he likes. He ignores the rest. Especially true if you're suggesting a woman be played. Slavens doesn't like the ladies. And seems to take it as a point of pride that he's never played Carly Simon on KXT (he's been heard on KXT since November 2009). He'll play the Monkees, he'll play Porter Wagoner, he just won't play Carly. He doesn't play many women. It's not uncommon to hear one each hour or just one for both hours. Again, this is commercial free radio. They should have plenty of airtime.

Do you get what Ava and C.I. are saying?  These dee jays don't have commercials.  They've got 'announcements' so that leaves them with 45 to 50 minutes every hour to play music.  Yet to hear two women in that time is a miracle.  I don't know Paul Slavens. If Ava and C.I. have labeled him "creepy," they had reason to beyond whatever they wrote.  Also, if they're calling him out about Carly, they've got more reason than what they wrote.  (Meaning he's insulted Carly's work.  You never do that around C.I.  I love Carly but I've known C.I. forever and a day and she does not tolerate attacks on Carly's art.  She is a big proponent of all art, yes, and she will go out of her way to support women songwriters, yes.  But if Carly releases an album and you're C.I.'s friend, you don't buy it because she's already bought it and is sending it to you.)

So you've got Paul Slavens playing The Monkees (an artificial pop product that no one mistakes for art) but he won't play Carly Simon?  One of the great songwriters of our time?  One of the most natural vocalists?

We're not talking some crappy pop station repeatedly playing whatever that stupid will iam song is that has Britney Spears saying, "Britney, bitch!"  We're talking about an NPR, all music station, that takes money from adults in pledges.  A dee jay on that station will take it as a point of pride that he's never played Carly in all his years but he'll play The Monkees -- a group of actors who couldn't play instruments for their biggest hits, didn't actually sing back up on those songs, didn't write those songs, are basically The Partridge Family -- fake product. That's what artists like Carly and Janis are up against and that's why having a fan put up a video of one of their songs that doesn't have an official video can help get the word out and let people fall in love with a song they might not otherwise hear.

Lastly, Carly fans should make a point to read Kat's reviews.  Kat is a serious fan of Carly. Like Ava and C.I., Kat mentions Carly a great deal in her writing.  The way all the man can't stop blubbering over, for example, John Prine.  That's how they created the rock canon that's all male, by the way, the men just kept praising every artist with a cock and did so repeatedly in print.  Carly or Joni Mitchell or whomever might get a good review from, say, Rolling Stone in a year, but that would be their only mention.  However, when a man's album was reviewed the critics would toss all the names of these male artists, creating a canon.

Ava, C.I. and Kat work very hard to establish women artists as the norm and as worthy of praise.  I really am appalled by so-called feminist sites (I saw this especially when PUMA started) that do Saturday music blogging . . . and just post videos of male artists.  It never occurs to them that women can be the standard measurement or that they are harming women by failing to promote them.

That is not a slap at PUMA.  Nor is this just true of PUMA.  But I did have hopes that PUMA was going to tear down some walls because women were pissed.  But though they could write eloquently on the topic of Hillary Clinton, that rarely translated into, "Let's be for all women!  We're doing Saturday movie posts.  Why are they just about men, about movies with men?  We're not even saying, 'This guy is drool worthy!' which would at least be something some women could connect on.  We're instead saying, 'These are the best films of all time.' Yet as women, we're not the slightest bit bothered by the fact that our list -- the list we created ourselves -- ignores film where women are the lead characters.'"

We are all responsible for the world we've jointly created.

Along with using Carly as a reference point in many reviews, Kat has specifically reviewed Carly's albums in the following:

  • The decade in music
  • 2009 in Music
  • Carly Simon Never Been Gone
  • Carly Simon This Kind Of Love
  • Carly Simon Into White
  • Carly Simon No Secrets
  • Carly Simon Moonlight Serenade

  • I included two music pieces.  Carly is noted in the '00s decade piece and she shares the number one spot for the year 2009.  She may be in other of Kat's year pieces but I don't have C.I.'s photographic memory.

    I did want to note four other reviews though:

  • Cher's far from over
  • The 80s: Where Cher Proves Them All Wrong
  • Cher and the too far gone 70s
  • Cher's 60s recordings

  • Cher is one of the many women not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who belongs to be in there.  Kat did a four-part look at Cher's career in an attempt to build up support for Cher but Cher still got passed over.

    It's not about merit.  Even if Cher were a man, she'd probably not be in it. Jann Wenner's a petty little prick.  C.I. has personally lobbied Jann to get Cher in and to no avail.  Because Jann hates some people.  Also true, Jann -- who spent years as a closeted gay man pretending to be happily married -- is personally offended by women who stand up.  That's why Cher's not in, that's why Carly's not (she left a husband!!!!! what if Jane Wenner had left Jann and exposed that Jann was sucking off _____ [mini-male rock god of the 70s]!!!!), that's why Tina's not in.

    Most people don't realize that.  Paul Simon is in as an individual artist and he's in as part of Simon & Garfunkel.  You'll find with the Beatles and other males.

    But Tina Turner, one of rock's most noted performers?  She's only in as part of Ike and Tina Turner -- and she's been eligible forever to be inducted as a solo artist.  (Not to mention, that Jann jumped the gun to include Smokey as a solo artist.  Smokey Robinson was inducted as a solo artist -- after the Miracles had already been inducted -- before he was actually eligible.  They'll do that with men.)

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, June 19, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the United Nations notes that Iraq was number three in 2012 in terms of its citizens fleeing to other countries, the US State Dept gives Iraq a low rating on its efforts or 'efforts' to end human trafficking, Ayad Allawi gets interview by the BBC, candidates remain targeted in Iraq as Nineveh Province and Anbar gear up for provincial elections, and more.

    Two major reports that include Iraq were released today.  First up, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued their "Global Trends Report 2012" which found that the number of refugees worldwide increased.

    The report notes that "the top five source countries of refugees at the end of 2012" were: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic and Sudan.  That order is -- from highest to lowest -- the top five refugee producing countries.  When all five countries are combined, they account for 55% of 2012 refugees worldwide.  For Iraq, 2012 saw 746,400 Iraqis become external refugees (refer to Figure Four on page 13 of the report). Table one on page 39 shows that Iraq has 1,131810 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

    BBC World Service was the first news outlet to note that the Iraqi refugee crisis was again on the uptick.    Matthew Woodcraft (BBC World Service -- link is audio) reported on this development June 5th speaking to and about the newly arrived in Jordan who fled Iraq due to the increased violence.

    Some people leave Iraq, some people come in.  There's very little discussion of either departures or arrivals -- especially when they take place for for less than humane reasons.  Today, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of the issue of human trafficking.

    Secretary John Kerry:  Thank you very much, and welcome, all of you, to this remarkable room, a room named after a Founding Father who was a lonely voice against slavery long before there was a United States of America. And it is called the Franklin Room, and you can see Ben Franklin looking over us from the wall over there above the fireplace. It’s fitting that we gather here today in this room in order to mark the importance of our country remaining committed to this message that we send to all of the world today.
    Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you, Lou, for your kind words. Thank you most importantly, I think everybody here would join me in agreeing, you are a TIP hero and we thank you for everything you’ve done these past years. (Applause.) And I want to thank you and your team and everybody who works in the Trafficking in Persons Office. Thank you, all of you who are part of this effort today and those of you around the world who helped produce this report. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this. This is a year-long effort. We’re already working on the next one and we will make measurements that are based in fact and common sense.
    To our TIP Report heroes who have made a very long journey on very short notice, we welcome you here and we’re very grateful for your efforts. And everybody here will get to share in the remarkable individual, personal journeys that they represent.
    When we think of the scale of modern-day slavery – literally tens of millions who live in exploitation – this whole effort can seem daunting. But it’s the right effort. And there are countless voiceless people, countless nameless people except to their families or perhaps a phony name by which they are being exploited, who look to us for their freedom and for the possibility of life itself. It’s no understatement to say that we are working to tackle an issue that millions of people assumed had been dealt with a long time ago.
    But the problem unfortunately persists, and I hate to say in some places can grow, and the challenge continues. And that is why the inspiring examples that are here today remind us not just that we have work to do, but that the actions of a single person can make all the difference in the world and they can actually bring so many lives out of bondage, out of the shadows, out of darkness. So I thank our TIP heroes for their very personal individual commitment, for the example that they set. And I thank all of you, those here and millions of others who are out there waging this battle. I thank them all for their commitment.
    I want to acknowledge Somaly Mam, who is a survivor, who was a TIP Report hero in 2005, and who is a hero every single day in helping women and girls who have been abused to try to get their lives back.
    I’m also particularly happy to be joined here today by Congressman Chris Smith. I’ve worked with Chris on this stuff. There’s nobody more committed or dedicated. So thank you, Chris, for your strong voice and leadership in these efforts. (Applause.) Trafficking in persons is one of those rare issues that can bring people together across the aisles without regard to ideology and without regard to politics, and that’s the way it ought to be. I appreciate Chris’s advocacy on this issue. For years together in Congress, we were able to work on this and some other issues. And it’s no understatement to say that he was banging the drum on this long before many in Congress even knew the term “trafficking in persons” or understood what it really meant.
    Lou mentioned a number of great American diplomats, but he left one out, and that was one of our first African-American ambassadors, Frederick Douglass. A century later, the Douglass family continues to fight against all forms of slavery. And his direct descendant, Kenneth Morris, who is the head of the family’s foundation, is here with us today. He just came from the Capitol, where today Douglass was honored at long last in our National Statuary Collection. And we welcome Ken here. Thank you for being here with us today. Appreciate it. (Applause).

    I know that's a long excerpt but if the issue is important -- and it is -- it's important to recognize those who work on it.  Feminist Majority Foundation has noted, "The three most common forms of trafficking are labor trafficking, including child labor, child soldiering and sweatshop work; sex trafficking, including child sex tourism and 'mail order' brides; and domestic servitude."

    The State Dept's report is entitled "Trafficking in Persons Report 2013" [available at the link in PDF or HTML].   Human trafficking is a global problem.  It's not limited to Iraq.  It takes place in the United States, it takes place everywhere.  In fact, from the report, here's a US horror story:

     For over 20 years, the owners and staff of a turkey-processing plant subjected 32 men with intellectual disabilities to severe verbal and physical abuse. The company housed the workers in a “bunkhouse” with inadequate heating, dirty mattresses, and a roof in such disrepair that buckets were put out to catch rainwater; the infestation of insects was so serious the men swatted cockroaches away as they ate. Although the men were as productive as other workers, the company paid them only $15 a week (41 cents an hour) for labor that legally should have been compensated at $11-12 an hour. The employers hit, kicked, and generally subjected the men to abuse, forcing some of the men to carry heavy weights as punishment and in at least one case handcuffed a man to a bed. Supervisors dismissed complaints of injuries or pain, denied the men recreation, cellphones, and health care. The U.S. government filed an abuse and discrimination case against the company for damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act. During the trial, the attorney representing the men said: “The evidence is these men were treated like property…these men are people. They are individuals.” A jury awarded the men a total of approximately $3,000,000, the largest jury verdict in the history of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

    That company is Hill County Farms (aka Henry's Turkey Service) and Yuki Noguchi reported on the horrors for All Things Considered (NPR -- report is audio, text and transcript) May 16th:

    YUKI NOGUCHI:  During the day, the men worked at a nearby processing plant, gutting turkeys under the watchful eye of a contractor called Hill County Farms, which was paid to oversee the men's work and living arrangements. Those supervisors hit, kicked, handcuffed and verbally abused the men, who were paid $2 a day. This went on for three decades, affecting 32 men. [Susan] Seehase (director of a support center) says medical exams later revealed the men suffered diabetes, hypertension, malnutrition, and festering fungal infections that had gone untreated.
    SUSAN SEEHASE: Roots of teeth were exposed.

    NOGUCHI: She says it went on and on because the men knew nothing better, and no one reported the abuse.

    SEEHASE: Their life experiences didn't tell them that there was really another option for them. It's incredibly difficult to try to understand. And I have no explanation. And I don't know who can explain how this really happened.

     Again, human trafficking is a global horror.  One of the most common misconceptions?  As the State Dept report notes:

    "Trafficking doesn’t happen here." Approaching human trafficking as a crime that occurs only in far off places ignores situations of forced labor or sex trafficking that may be happening closer to home. Human trafficking is not a problem that involves only foreigners or migrants, but one faced in nearly every corner of the world involving citizens who may be exploited without ever leaving their hometown.

    The US Ambassador at Large to Monitor Combat Trafficking in Person, Luis CdeBaca,  notes in the State Dept report's introduction that an estimated 27 million people are trafficked worldwide but that, using data provided by the governments of various countries, "only around 40,000 victims have been identified in the last year."  The actual number, from the report, is 46,570 which is an increase from 2011 (41,210) but still lower than the high of 2009 (49,105) (please note these numbers begin with 2008).   Of the 46,570 identified in 2012, only 7,705 resulted in trials and a little over half of those trials resulted in convictions (4,746).  From those numbers on trafficking, it's broken down further for trafficking in prostitution alone, 1,153 went to trial and only 518 -- less than half -- resulted in convictions.  Again this is a global horror.

    We do focus on Iraq here, so that's what we'll zoom in on.  The report notes, "Iraq is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor."  Let's start with the trafficking of Iraqis:

    Iraqi women and girls are subjected to sex and labor trafficking within the country and in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. An international organization reported cases of forced prostitution in the city of Tikrit; sex traffickers sell girls and women from Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Syria for the approximate equivalent of $1,000-5,000. Criminal gangs reportedly prostitute girls from outside of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) in the provinces of Erbil, Dahuk, and Sulaymaniyah. An Iraqi official revealed that criminal networks have been involved in sex trafficking of boys and girls. An NGO reported that sex traffickers rape women and girls on film and blackmail them into prostitution or recruit them in prisons by posting bail and then forcing them into prostitution via debt bondage. An international organization alleged that police officers and other members of the security forces kidnapped women and girls and forced them into prostitution in Kirkuk and Salah ad-Din Provinces. Some women and children are pressured into prostitution by family members to escape desperate economic circumstances. NGOs report that women are prostituted in private residences, brothels, restaurants, and places of entertainment. Some women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within Iraq through the use of temporary marriages (muta’a), by which the family of the victim receives money in the form of a dowry in exchange for permission for the woman or girl to be married for a limited period of time, during which she is subjected to labor and sex trafficking. Women are also subjected to forced domestic service through forced marriages and the threat of forced divorce, and women who flee such marriages or whose husbands divorce them are often vulnerable to further forced labor or sexual servitude. Criminal gangs reportedly subject children to forced begging and other types of forced labor.

    The large population of internally displaced persons and refugees in Iraq are particularly at risk of being subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. An international organization observed that Syrian refugees in the Domiz refugee camp in Dahuk, Iraq, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Specifically, women may begin commercially dependent relationships with Iraqi men, men enter into employment without contracts, and children are increasingly pressured to engage in begging. In previous years, some Iraqi refugees in Syria reportedly contracted their daughters to work as maids in Syrian households, where some of them were reportedly raped, forced into prostitution, or subjected to forced labor. In other instances, Iraqi refugees’ children remained in Syria while their parents departed the country in search of improved economic circumstances, leaving the children vulnerable to trafficking. Previously, Iraqi sex trafficking victims deported from Syria on prostitution charges were vulnerable to re-trafficking by criminal gangs operating along the border. Iraqi refugees who involuntarily return to Iraq from Syria are highly vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking, due in part to the fact that female and child returnees typically do not have a support network or community to which they return.

     Some Iraqis are trafficked within the borders of Iraq, some are trafficked outside the border to another country.  What of those non-Iraqis who come to Iraq hoping for work or fleeing violence in their own countries?

    Iraq is also a destination for men and women who migrate from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Pakistan, Georgia, Jordan, Ethiopia, and Uganda and are subsequently subjected to involuntary servitude as construction workers, security guards, cleaners, handymen, and domestic workers. Women from Iran, China, and the Philippines reportedly are subjected to forced prostitution in Iraq. Some foreign migrants are recruited for work in other countries such as Jordan or the Gulf States, but are forced, coerced, or deceived into traveling to Iraq, where their passports are confiscated and their wages withheld, ostensibly to repay labor brokers for the costs of recruitment, transport, food, and lodging. Other foreign migrants are aware they are destined for Iraq, but once in the country, find the terms of employment are not what they expected or the jobs they were promised do not exist, and they are forced to live in work camps with substandard conditions. The Government of Nepal continues to ban its citizens from migrating to Iraq for work.

    The report classifies Iraq as a "Tier 2" country and explains, "Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA's minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards."  TVPA stands for "Trafficking Victims Protection Act."  How did it garner that rating?  From the report:

    The Government of Iraq does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but it is making significant efforts to do so. The government conducted some investigations and at least one prosecution under the 2012 anti-trafficking law. The government also established an anti-trafficking department in the interior ministry, which collected human trafficking law enforcement data and operated the newly established anti-trafficking hotline. The inter-ministerial Central Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons was active in furthering the government’s anti-trafficking efforts throughout the reporting period. The committee met multiple times, publicized its meetings to raise awareness about trafficking, and included participants from international organizations, foreign governments, and NGOs. Despite modest improvements in law enforcement efforts, the government failed to investigate or punish government officials complicit in trafficking-related offenses. Moreover, the government demonstrated minimal efforts to identify and assist victims of forced labor and sex trafficking, including those incarcerated for prostitution violations. The government continued to arrest, detain, and prosecute victims of forced prostitution and prohibit NGOs from operating shelters to protect sex trafficking victims. Nonetheless, law enforcement officials worked, on a limited basis, with NGOs and international organizations to refer some victims to protection services. The government also established a location for a temporary and permanent shelter for trafficking victims and drafted shelter guidelines.

    Last January, Iraq's Deputy at the Ministry of Interior, Adnan al-Assadi, was quick to proclaim to Alsumaria  that he was on the job and was letting the European Union know, adding, "These workers enter the country either legally or illegally and some companies oppress them, hurt them or ridicule them in an inhumane way."

    Does anyone else see a problem?

    How about the fact that he's only focusing on the trafficking of non-Iraqis and his statements ignore the fact that Iraqis are being trafficked (in and out of Iraq).

    He might need to refer to the State Dept's remarks on common misconceptions.

    If he seemed defensive at the start of the year, he had every reason to be.  For years now, Iraq's government has claimed it was addressing (and solving!) the issue.  In 2009, Rania Abouzeid (Time magazine) reported on the efforts of the Iraqi government to respond to State Dept condemnation on this issue.   Abouzeid also noted:

    As a story detailed, trafficking in Iraq is a shadowy underworld where nefarious female pimps hold sway and impoverished mothers sell their teenage daughters on the sex market. (See pictures of a women's prison in Baghdad.)

    Do we need to repeat that in bold a few more times?

    The reason I ask is, for years now, starting with the New York Times 'reporting' that women who had died were "prostitutes," through the more recent attempt this year of AFP to pimp that lie, we have noted it is nonsense.  If a group of women die, why would you besmirch their names?

    Can a woman in Iraq be called anything worse than a prostitute?   Had she been branded that and lived, she would have risked being murdered in a so-called 'honor' crime.  The New York Times, to its credit, backed off from that nonsense.  It seemed to be long gone.  And then?  Dropping back to the May 22nd snapshot:

    Alsumaria adds that an attack on a Baghdad home left 10 women and 4 men dead, an armed clash in Mosul left 1 rebel dead and two Iraqi soldiers injured, and they update the toll on the Kia mini-bus bombing noting 1 dead and seven injuredFars News Agency reports 1 corpse was discovered by Camp Ashraf.  AFP insists that the Baghdad home was a brothel.  They provide no quotes from neighbors maintaining that and, after the attack, they weren't allowed to enter the home so apparently AFP's confessing to visiting it before the attack?  They note, "Soldiers and police mainly armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and pistols cordoned off the site, which was visited by high-ranking officers."  Considering the stigma attached to prostitution in Iraq, I'm always amazed at how glibly some outlets are when it comes to making that charge about the just murdered.  They don't even wait a day.  They can't ever prove it, but it's apparently the thing to say when women die: "Prostitute."  Since they're so comfortable with it, maybe the need get off their little asses and start reporting on who is visiting these alleged brothels?  Or would that take all the fun out of their smearing dead women?  And note, it's not an even an 'allegation,' it's presented as fact.  Because smearing Iraqis -- especially dead Iraqis -- has always been a favorite hobby of the western press.

    Can AFP explain how, the day the women died, the 'news' agency is able to say they were prostitutes?  Were their johns AFP correspondents?

    If not, what are they basing it on?  Hearsay.  Imagine that, Iraq might be just like every other country on the face of the earth in that it has nosy and judgmental neighbors.

    The neighbors don't know anything, they've just formed judgments.  Like the Iraqis who attacked the LGBT community formed judgments.  No one deserves to be harmed or attacked for the 'crime' of falling in love.  But not only did it happen, some of the targeted men and women weren't even gay or lesbian.  But they got targeted because of small minded, nosy neighbors.

    Why AFP would want to help that along is beyond me.

    But let's assume for just one second that the women in that house 'entertained' men.  That still doesn't mean they were prostitutes.  They might not have been willing sex-workers, they may have been the victims of human trafficking.

    If that is the case, then AFP not only besmirched their reputations, AFP also allowed these women to be defined by the very criminals who trafficked them.  Maybe in light of the State Dept's report today, AFP can take a look at that?  And among the misconceptions mentioned in the report that AFP might want to consider in light of their 'reporting'?  Try this one:

     “She’s free to come and go.” Popular images of human trafficking include dramatic kidnappings and people held under lock and key. More common, but less visible, methods of control include psychological coercion, debt bondage, withholding of documents and wages, and threats of harm. As in domestic abuse cases, observing a person out in public or taking public transportation does not mean that she is free from the effective control of her trafficker.

    (By the way, we were being kind May 22nd. Since we're addressing it again, the author of that report was W.G. Dunlop.)

    Mark Thompson has a report for Time today entitled "How the Iraq War got off on the wrong foot."  Some may be amused by it but I do think many others will point out that if you're article's about post-invasion US forces doing missions to eradicate evidence and images  of Saddam Hussein, you're not writing about how the illegal war got off on the wrong foot -- which would be with lies, hysteria and a compliant and cooperative media.

    On the media, today BBC World Service's Sarah Montague interviewed Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi.  The audio segment has garnered a great deal of attention and BBC notes that video of the interview will be featured tomorrow on the BBC TV program Hardtalk.  I'll make that my excuse for waiting until tomorrow to seriously dig into that interview.  (In reality, the human trafficking report wasn't going to be a big part of this snapshot until 2 State Dept friends pointed out that the US press is largely ignoring the report released today.)  In the interview, he discussed the climate in Iraq when Montague repeatedly stated he hadn't accomplished anything.  He pointed out that 18 Iraqiya candidates had been killed running for office in 2013.  She didn't even pause, she didn't take a moment to absorb.

    I like Gabby Giffords and this is not to make light of her shooting.  But when she was shot, the US was outraged.  As they should have been.

    But that was one politician.  This year alone, in Iraq, 18 politicians were assassinated.  That's news.  That's an issue and it does go to the climate that's created in the country.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul suicide bomber killed political candidate Sheikh Younis al-Rammah today, as well as "four of his brothers and cousins" and left six more injured.  AFP reports, "Ramah's United Iraq party is seen as allied to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. He was not running in the June 20 polls, but several of his party members were candidates."

    Let's note a few of the failed attempts since Monday  (we've noted the ones that resulted in deaths or injuries already in the snapshots). Today NINA reports, MP Hassan Zeidan survived an assassination by bombing in  Mosul, today Anbar candidate Hafedh Abdul-Mahdi escaped an assassination by bombing, and -- it's not just politicians in office or running for office, it's also, as on Monday, the targeting of the Nineveh Province Electoral Commission director Mohamed Hani and Board Commission Golshan Kamal who survived an assassination attempt by bombing.  That's three assassination attempts that failed in the last three days.  There is a climate of fear in Iraq -- and this climate can translate into fear of voting.  It doesn't have to and it may not, but it is possible that, by association, the violence aimed at candidates can influence tomorrow's vote.

    Tomorrow's vote?  April 20th, Iraq saw provincial elections take place in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces.  As Kirk H. Sowell (Foreign Policy) rightly observed, "Iraq's April 20 provincial elections were like two elections in one country.  They included all  provinces outside the Kurdistan region except Kirkuk, due to a long-standing dispute over election law, and the predominately Sunni provinces of Anbar and Ninawa, where the cabinet postponed elections under the pretext of security following a series of candidate assassinations."  The United Nations continues to press for Kirkuk to vote this year.  Whether that happens or not, tomorrow is when Anbar and Nineveh Province are supposed to finally be allowed to vote.

    All Iraq News notes that Allawi declared today the postponing had been illegal and unconstitutional.  He is correct.  Any postponement is supposed to go through the Independent High Electoral Committee.  They -- and only they -- are the ones who can make that judgment.  They are over scheduling elections.  Parliament has to vote on dates and other issues.  But this had already been taken care, elections had been announced and Nouri just declared that the two provinces -- the two he is most unpopular in -- would not be voting.

    As Ayad Allawi noted, most of those eligible to vote in the 12 provinces that were allowed to vote?  They chose not to vote and voter turnout was down to approximately 30% (he notes that in his BBC interview today). 

    Boushra al Mouzaffar (Al-Hayat via Al-Monitor) reports:

    Saleh al-Mutlaq, the Iraqi deputy prime minister who also leads the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, said he is concerned about electoral fraud in the provinces of Ninevah and Anbar. He accused his opponents of having “a clear project to divide Iraq.” Meanwhile, the United bloc, led by parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, was optimistic that the coming election would be better than the last. The electoral battle in Ninevah and Anbar is almost exclusively between Mutlaq and Nujaifi.

    In the BBC interview today, Sarah Montague could not accept the fact that there were ex-Iraqiya -- and Ayad Allawi was referring to -- though not naming -- Saleh al-Mutlaq.  I don't believe she has any idea how unpopular al-Mutlaq has become with many one-time supporters.  He was seen as having 'survived' when Tareq al-Hashemi was railroaded and al-Mutlaq's 'crime' was much greater -- hitting at Nouri's vanity by telling CNN that Nouri was the new Saddam.  But Nouri and Saleh patched things up and Saleh created a backlash in the process.  December 30th, he showed up at the Mosul protest and got the sort of welcome he had earned.  When we noted it, some insisted we were crazy, patted the little lady on the head and maintained if that were true certainly Prashant Rao's circle jerk would have noted it.

    It wasn't true?  By March 28th, it was very clear (see "Saleh al-Mutlaq: Maybe less popular than Nouri" and the next day's "al-Mutlaq denounced, at least 26 dead and 73 inju..." And then  explain this March 29th photo.)

    Now al-Mutlaq's smearing Osama al-Nujaifi as a cheat.

    Based on what?  He didn't smear him like that in the last provincial elections (2009).  He didn't smear him at all in the 2010 elections.  But, Saleh wasn't competing in those.  No, he'd been judged to be a Ba'athists and Nouri removed Saleh's name from the ballots.

    Wael Grace (Al Mada) examines what might be a split between traditional 'opinion leaders' backing candidates and the support the activist community (which has been protesting since December) intends to provide at the ballot box.

    In other violence,  NINA notes a Baghdad bombing left six people injured, one of Nouri's commanders in Kirkuk was injured in an armed attack, a Kirkuk bombing wounded two Iraqi soldiers2 Muqdadiya bombings left 3 people dead and fifteen injured, and, last night, an armed attack on the Tikrit home of former MP Wisam al-Bayati left 1 enginer and 1 police officer dead and four more people injured. Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 319 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

    Meanwhile, at the US State Dept today, Secretary John Kerry addressed the issues of inclusion, pride and progress.

    SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Please, please, please, please. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very, very much. Ken, thank you for a generous welcome. Thank you all. Secretary Pat Kennedy and Director General Linda Thomas-Greenfield, thank you for being here, and others. We appreciate it. Tara, everybody, thank you for being here.
    And Ken, when I heard you say you could talk forever about my efforts on behalf of LGBT, I was sitting there, like any formerly elected person for 29 years, and I said, “Go ahead, keep talking, keep talking.” (Laughter.) But no such luck today.
    I appreciate the opportunity to be here with all of you, and very, very special to welcome just some super special guests here, and I want them to stand up and I want everybody to say thank you to them and recognize them. Judy and Dennis Shepard are here, and we’re so grateful for you being here. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
    I remind everybody that it is amazing to think, but it has been nearly 15 years since we mourned the tragic murder of their son, Matthew. And I can remember very clearly meeting them previously and speaking to the crowd gathered on the National Mall in front of the Capitol building at a vigil that was held two nights after he was killed. Thousands of people came together to share their grief, but also to share their sense of outrage that such an act could be carried out, such a senseless, violent, terrible heartbreak. And we were all standing with Judy and Dennis on that dark night, and frankly, since then, they have helped to lead the way through darkness and into the light, and they’ve turned their pain and their loss into a remarkable global message of hope and of tolerance. So, Judy and Dennis, make no mistake: You really do inspire us and we are very honored to have you here with us today. Thank you.
    I also want – I know Congressman John Lewis was here a little bit ago, I think, and he had to leave to go vote. There are few members, few people I’ve met in life who I admire as much as John Lewis. He was almost killed on that day down in Selma, and he led, at the side of Martin Luther King and others, to break the back of Jim Crow in this country. John is just without doubt one of the most self-effacing, beautiful human beings I have ever met and an amazing person of courage who demonstrates what you can do against, as Bobby Kennedy said, the enormous array of the world’s ills. So we thank him for being here today, and most importantly, we thank him for standing up on the front lines of fighting for people’s rights for all of these years.
    I also want to thank Mara Keisling from the National Center for Transgender Equality. Thanks for being here and for your contributions. And I want to thank Acting Assistant Secretary Uzra Zeya from our Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. We’re very, very grateful also to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington for that wonderful rendition of our national anthem, and thank you for their performance.
    As Ken said, I have had the privilege of being involved in the struggle for rights, for LGBT rights, for a long period of time. And it is a privilege. Coming from Massachusetts, maybe we inherently know something about fighting for rights from the inception. But it wasn’t that long ago, as I recall, and many of you, I’m sure, do too, when things looked very different from the way they look today. If you want an amusing read before you go to sleep, go get the transcript of my testimony before Strom Thurmond on the Armed Services Committee 20 years ago, when we first pushed for an end on the ban on gays in the military. If you want to read a Senate hearing that is actually literally like a Saturday night skit – Saturday Night Live skit, that is it. And I won’t go into all the questions that Strom and his inimitable accent posed to me – (laughter) – but I walked out of there thinking that I was truly on a different planet, or he was; one or the other. (Laughter.)
    But we ran into a wall of misunderstanding and of misperception. But as we are learning even today, as we look at various places in the world where homophobia raises its ugly and frightened head, we see that there is fear and that a lot is driven by fear – always has been – not always with respect to LGBT issues, but with respect to people generally, with respect to race and religion. And this is an ongoing battle for all of us, and believe me, not just for us; it is an ongoing battle in hidden parts of this planet, in dark corners where there is no light, where people are thrown into jail, or worse, beaten brutally, tortured and even murdered because of who they are or what they believe.
    So we have an enormous challenge ahead of us, and all of you, every single person here, because you have the privilege of being here in this building, in this freedom, able to talk about this; it is because of that that you actually bear also a larger responsibility. When I voted, as Ken said, in 1996, I don’t claim any great act of courage. Maybe it was because I did represent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but nevertheless I was proud to be the only person running for reelection that year in those 14 who actually voted against DOMA. And I am confident that if the Supreme Court adheres to the law and to precedent, that it must be found unconstitutional.
    Now, we also know that we’ve made progress where – (applause) – now, if it isn’t, you can take that applause back in your home someday. (Laughter.)
    Obviously, the landscape has changed remarkably fast. And every one of you here deserves credit for that. You all know your individual journeys in this effort, whether you are a member of the LGBT community or whether you are a supporter and a friend and here in solidarity with it. But everybody understands that things are changing because people have dared to stand up and show solidarity and speak common sense and talk truth to sometimes ugly power.
    And the fact is that we have an Administration today that I am proud to say no longer defends the constitutionality of DOMA. That’s an enormous step forward. We also have a Senate that recently welcomed its first openly gay member, and we have a record number in the House of Representatives. I can remember when the first person came out in the House of Representatives within the service – time of my service in the Senate. We also have seen how “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is now a part of history, and that no American who wants to wear the uniform of their country that they love will be denied the chance to serve the country they love because of whom they love.
    So we’re making progress. And that is the sort of change that we are seeing spread across the country, as state after state breaks down the barrier – the real barriers – to honest equality, not only in the workplace but throughout life.
    But we have to say, as we gather here today, that we still do have a distance to travel. Far too many women and men and families are still denied equality under our laws. Two of my former constituents, just to give you an example – I got to meet them – a fellow named Junior and Tim, who were married in Massachusetts, but because of DOMA the Federal Government didn’t recognize their marriage. And so the law treated them differently than if they had been man and woman, married. And time after time, when I met with them – and I did frequently and learn how hard it was that they couldn’t choose the path that they wanted to for themselves – but they also reminded me in the course of their life history what, in fact, marriage is supposed to be all about, which is an enduring love, a love that actually keeps you together even when you’ve been separated and it’s as if you hadn’t been. And I’ll tell you why, because one of them was out of the country and couldn’t come back in and we had to go through hoops to be able to actually ultimately reunite them here in our country because of our immigration laws.
    They’re not alone. A few weeks ago, I was standing right here in this room at my first town hall when a young FSO named Selim Ariturk stood up and told a similar story about his life and his partner, whom he’d met overseas during his first tour. And he had to jump through hoops to be treated fairly. I know that many of you have probably experienced very similar stories, or even experienced them individually.
    So the reality is, even as we celebrate, we have to come here today and commit ourselves to the ultimate task of fulfilling equality under the law here in our own country, and we have to be clear-eyed about the challenges that remain. I believe that we are on an irreversible course, and I believe happily that the United States of America is helping to set a global example for how people ought to be treated in life. I think that – I make this commitment to you that as Secretary of State, I will continue to stand right where I have stood throughout my years of elected service, and that begins with how we treat our LGBT colleagues right here in the State Department.
    And I think under Pat and Linda’s and other people’s stewardship, we are already doing an outstanding job. Same-sex partners and spouses at overseas missions enjoy the same benefits allowed by law as all of our employees’ families. And we’ve included a category for same-sex partners in our personnel system. It’s now easier for transgender Americans to change the gender on their passport. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s a big deal. And we’ve stated unequivocally that this Department does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
    I’m happy to say that these steps reflect not just the Department view, but President Obama’s view, and President Obama’s commitment to full equality, no matter who you are or who you love. And as Americans send us out to show our face to the world in this Department, we will set an example through our respect for the rights of people everywhere. Having GLIFAA members as part of that American face, frankly, helps us demonstrate our leadership.
    Our work, though, is more than just setting an example. We got to be out there showing up in places where progress on LGBT rights has been slower and harder to achieve, and where using our tools of development and diplomacy actually leverage our efforts forward in this endeavor. And we remain focused on this and will, because American leadership requires promoting universal values. That’s what this represents. This isn’t an aberration. This isn’t some step out of the mainstream. It’s actually the mainstream is out of step with what ought to be the mainstream. The mainstream represents the recognition of universal rights that have been true since humankind began writing about them and defining them, and as we have moved through the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries to this place in the 21st century, where we understand that dignity and equality and the rights of all people are at the center of what we ought to be espousing in our public and our private life.
    When we see the abuse of those values that are directed at the LGBT community, we have a moral obligation to stand in pride with LGBT individuals and advocates. We have a moral obligation to decry the marginalization and persecution of LGBT persons. And we have a moral obligation to promote societies that are more just, more fair, and tolerant.
    It is the right thing to do. It’s also in our country’s strategic interest. Greater inclusion and protection of human rights, including those for LGBT people and for their communities, leads to greater stability, greater prosperity, and greater protection for the rights of human beings. Stronger partners on the world stage are built out of this endeavor, and the truth is that in the end, it can actually help project peace and security across the whole region.
    And that is why, in 2011, President Obama issued the first-ever Presidential Memorandum on the human rights of LGBT persons globally, directing that all agencies abroad must ensure that our diplomacy and our foreign assistance promotes and protects these rights. And I think we have accomplished a great deal on this issue.
    With our support, the UN Human Rights Council passed its first-ever resolution affirming the rights of LGBT persons. Through PEPFAR’s blueprint for an AIDS-free generation, we are working to scale up HIV services for LGBT individuals, who are often at higher risk. Our Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration is expanding our effort to help LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. And we are providing LGBT travelers with information about countries where they may face prosecution or arrest – persecution.
    Overseas, we’re encouraging our missions to think about how do you best support these goals. And here at home, we’ve set up a Department-wide task force that will develop new approaches in order to try to better integrate LGBT policy into our foreign policy.
    And through our Global Partnerships Initiative – I just met with members of it a few minutes ago – we have set up the Global Equality Fund, and that will support LGBT human rights defenders on the front lines. We’re working with likeminded governments, including Norway, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Iceland, and Finland. And we have partnered with private sector leaders, including the MAC AIDS Fund and the John D. Evans Foundation. I think they both are here. And we are especially grateful to the Arcus Foundation, which will match any corporate contribution that we receive up to $1 million. And we hope that additional partners are going to join us in this critical effort.
    So all of this that I’ve talked about is a good start, my friends, but it’s just that. It’s a start. Last week, the President appointed three openly gay ambassadors to Denmark, Spain, and to the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe. And they will build on the tremendous record and work by Ambassador Huebner and former Ambassadors Hormel and Guest. In fact, I remember the confirmation hearing for former Ambassador Hormel, which in itself was a kind of groundbreaking, difficult process which we ultimately succeeded in winning.
    So we are committed to seeing more LGBT persons in senior positions in this Department. And I ask for your input and all of your ideas, so that in the coming days I can sit down and work with our team here to ensure that the Department is properly resourcing and prioritizing our international efforts for the next generation of LGBT progress.
    I think everybody here knows this isn’t automatic, not always an easy path. There is fear, and from the fear, the hate that sometimes comes with it that translates too often into violence. We still see anti-propaganda laws in Eastern Europe that are targeting LGBT demonstrators. We still hear reports of violence amongst – against transgender persons in Latin America and Asia. We still see the enforcement of archaic sodomy laws in the Caribbean, and we see abuse and incarceration of LGBT activists in Africa.
    But I believe, as I think you do, that today we come here in pride, with pride, to celebrate the fact that the winds of freedom are blowing in the right direction. We know that the intolerance towards LGBT brothers and sisters fades with each passing generation. And it is with a belief in our common humanity, in the fundamental worth of every human being, that we have to keep moving forward towards our goal of shared justice and equality here in our country and around the world.
    So I especially join here today in saying to our GLIFAA members and to all of you, Happy Pride every day the world over. Thank you for the privilege of being with you. Thank you. (Applause.)
    Please sit down. I gather we’re going to do a couple questions, so we’ll – I’ll do that.

    We'll include the questions tomorrow.  Monday, a State Dept friend noted this upcoming speech and asked if we'd note it?  Yes.  Of course, we will.  It's significant and important and, yes, historical.  We don't have room for the speech and for the questions -- today.  So we'll note Secretary Kerry's remarks today and include the Q&A tomorrow -- which you can read right now at this State Dept webpage.  If you'd prefer to watch or listen, the speech is here on YouTube -- and it has the closed caption option -- an option Secretary Kerry has pretty much made a mandate in his push for inclusion.