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Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- Kill
August 27, 2008 9:15 AM   Subscribe

The Surge is working [tm] -- but for gay Iraqis who face a murderous new spate of violence by theocrats and militiamen, notsomuch. "More than 430 gay men have been murdered in Iraq since 2003... [but] many officials say they feel that in a country at war, there are more pressing concerns than gay rights."
posted by digaman (58 comments total)

 
More from the LA Times. More from Wikipedia.
posted by digaman at 9:21 AM on August 27, 2008


"in a country at war, there are more pressing concerns than gay rights."

Yeah that's probably true; however, in this case, it appears to be the right to life.
posted by jeblis at 9:42 AM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying any of this is not true, but I wonder: If 4300 men were murdered in Iraq since 2003 (I have no idea whether this figure is near the target or not, but it sounds about right) and about 10% of them were gay, as statistics would predict, then this wold mean that 430 gay men were murdered for statistical reasons alone, no?

Interesting tidbit from the linked Wiki article: "Homosexuality was legal in Iraq under Saddam Hussein until late 2001, when under pressure from religious conservatives he criminalised the act of sodomy."

So Saddam Hussein was more enlightened about gay rights than much of the Republican party? Go figure.
posted by sour cream at 9:45 AM on August 27, 2008


If 4300 men were murdered in Iraq since 2003 (I have no idea whether this figure is near the target or not, but it sounds about right)

I had a link here to iraqibodycount.org but I see now we are talking about murders. Not sure how they can tell the diff, but whatevs. In any case, the plural of guess is not data.
posted by DU at 9:51 AM on August 27, 2008


and about 10% of them were gay, as statistics would predict

This is a rather common misconception. Homosexuality is not that prevalent; Kinsey was not the last word on this.
posted by Dasein at 9:56 AM on August 27, 2008


Being murdered because you're in the wrong place at the wrong time is not the same thing as being murdered because of who you are.
posted by desjardins at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think you even have to express this in terms of gay rights. It's simply a form of lawlessness - violent and cruel lawlessness - that was not present before the invasion. Stopping it is just as much a part of restoring order in Iraq (and hence a responsibility of the U. S.) as stopping looting, warlords, infrastructure attacks, or sectarian violence is.
posted by XMLicious at 10:00 AM on August 27, 2008


What do you (XMLicious, DU, and sour cream) not understand about the fact that they are targeting gays for assault and murder? It's not "simply a form of lawlessness" when a 16 year old boy gets kidnapped, beaten and raped for being gay.
posted by desjardins at 10:04 AM on August 27, 2008


Errr....how did I get included in this call out?
posted by DU at 10:08 AM on August 27, 2008


yeah this is horrible and all ... but what can we do about it? it's not like our troops can stop this.

sure, it's defect in their culture--but it's really up to them to change it. any kind of change we do from the outside will be superficial, and probably won't last. iraqi gays (and those foreigners who wish to help them) need their own stonewall, and then maybe they'll be accepted.
posted by lester at 10:08 AM on August 27, 2008


It's not "simply a form of lawlessness" when a 16 year old boy gets kidnapped, beaten and raped for being gay.

Uh, if it's not lawlessness, what is it?

I was not saying that gay rights are unimportant or that these aren't terrible crimes. I'm saying that it doesn't matter whether support of gay rights is part of the cultural or political environment in Iraq; this stuff has to be ended and there need be no discussion of the principles or politics involved. (The statement "there are more pressing concerns than gay rights" quoted in the post is asserting that stopping these crimes would be some sort of political concern.)
posted by XMLicious at 10:11 AM on August 27, 2008


To further elucidate, the reason I think it's important that this isn't a political issue is that it's not our damn country. It's bad enough that we blew it to pieces and caused all kinds of death and misery there - it is our responsibility to put the place back together and let them go on with their lives, not to go and instill our political values there. I think that LGBT rights are very important and a matter of fundamental human rights, but we are just way too much the bad guys here to be trying to inculcate our culture there on top of everything else we've done.
posted by XMLicious at 10:19 AM on August 27, 2008


Homosexuality is not that prevalent

Self-identification as homosexual is not that prevalent, granted. Homosexual behavior is more prevalent than most admit, as is clear from the overall variance in reporting, and in variance in subcategories (e.g., difference in means by political affiliation).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:20 AM on August 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


And this has to do with the surge how....?
posted by proj at 10:23 AM on August 27, 2008


And this has to do with the surge how....?

The point is to contrast the talking points the media regurgitates with the reality on the ground for a certain subgroup of Iraqis, who are being singled out in ways that they apparently weren't prior to the war.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:27 AM on August 27, 2008


It's a great new land for freedom!
It's a better land today!
We've saved you from oppression,
Unless, of course, you're gay.

There's a greater world aborning,
Free of strife and fear!
There's better times ahead, mates,
unless, of course, you're queer.

We've saved you from your troubles!
No more weeping or complaint!
There's better times ahead, friends,
although, if you're gay, there ain't.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:29 AM on August 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


45 Dead, 79 Wounded in Wave of Violence; Bombing in Jalawla' Raises Tensions with Baghdad
posted by homunculus at 10:30 AM on August 27, 2008


It's not "simply a form of lawlessness" when a 16 year old boygirl gets kidnapped, beaten and raped for being gaySunni/Shia/Kurd.
posted by mkultra at 10:39 AM on August 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


One more clarifying note: when I say "there need be no discussion of the principles or politics involved" I'm not trying to discourage general discussion of gay rights (which, as I stated repeatedly, I support), I'm saying that political principles and American political bickering don't need to be brought in to why the surge / U.S. occupation forces should be seeking to stop these crimes.
posted by XMLicious at 10:40 AM on August 27, 2008


Operation Empower Local Deathsquads is a complete success! Again!
posted by Artw at 10:42 AM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's bad enough that we blew it to pieces

I was unaware that we carpet bombed Iraq from top to bottom. I guess all the reports of smart weapons were propaganda.


So Saddam Hussein was more enlightened about gay rights than much of the Republican party? Go figure.

He appears to have been much more enlightened than the current leader of Iran. That guy thinks his country has no homosexuals!
posted by a3matrix at 10:45 AM on August 27, 2008


Proj, this has to do with the Surge in that the empowerment of Iraqi militias that is central to the Surge "strategy" seems to have at least one loophole in it wide enough to insert the necks of gay Iraqis and hang them. The American theocrats who advocated this war have given their Islamic counterparts an environment in which the mullahs and their footsoldiers can murder gays with impunity while the Iraqi government and the local media look the other way.
posted by digaman at 10:46 AM on August 27, 2008


any kind of change we do from the outside will be superficial, and probably won't last.

Uh-oh. Whither the new Iraqi democracy?
posted by splice at 10:48 AM on August 27, 2008


I guess all the reports of smart weapons were propaganda.

Well, um, yes, most of them were -- and there's more bad news about so-called smart bombs than that, says the Military Review, not quite known as a lefty pacifist rag. Have you been reading the news for the past few years or so?
posted by digaman at 10:54 AM on August 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


Uh, if it's not lawlessness, what is it?

It's sanctioned by the groups that would be the law in Iraq if they're successful in toppling the current government, and tolerated (accepted? approved?) by that government itself. That's not mere lawlessness, it's far worse.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:15 AM on August 27, 2008


Killing gays becomes "honorable." And raping them is OK because it isn't considered a homosexual act--only being penetrated or providing oral sex is.

You know, I was a bit skeptical about the idea that homophobia is often a kind of surrogate misogyny, but that bit there makes it seem much more clear to me.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:19 AM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Are they really raping gay men for being gay? That is one of the craziest parts of this sad and crazy story, if true.
posted by Mister_A at 11:25 AM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


The more the rest of the world makes it sound like not killing and not violating and not oppressing or otherwise persecuting gay people is some special benefit they may one day be granted if they jump through the correct hoops, the longer it will take for everyone to realise there is no such thing as gay rights, only human rights.

Humans have a right to not fear their fellows if they aren't doing anything to hurt anyone.

Until we get this through a few key brains and encourage them to press the realisation outward, depressing realities such as this disgusting miscarriage of humanity will be as day-to-day as brushing one's teeth.
posted by batmonkey at 11:28 AM on August 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


There is no possibility of blowback from Operation Empower Local Deathsquads WHATSOEVER.
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on August 27, 2008


desjardins makes great logical error. Anyone who is killed is killed not only for who they are, but for also being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Its a false dichotomy with a surprise twist because there is actually only one choice, the conflated term. Sweet.
posted by ewkpates at 11:32 AM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mister_A asked:
"Are they really raping gay men for being gay?"

This happens all the time, right here in America. If it happens here, surely it is happening elsewhere in places where machismo and control of those one cannot identify with prompts murder of entire villages, honour killings, and other evils.

Hells, you don't even have to be gay. If enough weird little triggers get hit for the wrong person, they'll decide you're gay even if you sack 20 honeys a night.
posted by batmonkey at 11:33 AM on August 27, 2008


It's sanctioned by the groups that would be the law in Iraq if they're successful in toppling the current government, and tolerated (accepted? approved?) by that government itself. That's not mere lawlessness, it's far worse.

If we act as if this is a deficiency or flaw in Iraqi society that it's our job to remedy I just don't think we're going to get anywhere. Yeah, there are all sorts of cultural, moral, and psychological dimensions to it, but for the purposes of the surge (Surge​​​™, as digaman artfully puts it) and what anyone might actually do about it, it needs to be dealt with as lawlessness.
posted by XMLicious at 11:35 AM on August 27, 2008


So, who's to blame? Is it human nature to bash gays? So when the opportunity comes, the general population just tends to kill gays?
This does not seem to be the case, since similar gay bashing does not seem to be happening automatically in times of upheaval or anarchy.

A more likely culprit seems to be Islam. It is striking how predominantly Islamic countries tend to be severely homophobic: In Malaysia, being gay is actually a crime and can put you into jail. Same thing in Iran, where gays are persecuted by the state. Turkey even seems to have gay honor killings. Dubai is known for persecuting gays. I can only imagine what gruesome things they do to gays in Saudi Arabia.

Persecuting gays seems to be entirely in line with Islam, which, after all, is a set of rules that governs daily life down to the most minute detail, including what to eat, when to pray, what to wear, etc. etc. No surprise that Islam also dictates in which hole it is OK to stick little Ahmed and that gays should be killed, which is then acted out by the true believers.

And before someone points out parts of the bible that dictate the same thing: Yes, but the difference is that the bible is only followed to that extent by a small minority of loonies, mostly confined to the US and much less present in more enlightened parts of the world. Islam, on the other hand, is defacto state religion in many of the most homophobic places.
posted by sour cream at 11:54 AM on August 27, 2008


I was unaware that we carpet bombed Iraq from top to bottom. I guess all the reports of smart weapons were propaganda.

"Smart weapons"? Is that one of those silly oxymorons like "jumbo shrimp" or "military intelligence"?
posted by loquacious at 11:55 AM on August 27, 2008


Yes, sour cream, thank goodness religion has very little to do with politics in the US&A.
posted by Mister_A at 12:01 PM on August 27, 2008


I don't have any specialized knowledge about the relative increase or decrease in anti-gay hate crimes in Iraq. However, I can testify that the invasion of Iraq has harmed Iraqi women, because Iraqi fundamentalists have been emboldened by the anarchic nature of post-invasion Iraq to engage in vigilante activites against Iraqi women who dress in Western clothing. I know at least one Iraqi asylum seeker who told me that the climate for women's rights in Iraq was actually better under Hussein in the period before the Iran-Iraq war, because at that time, women could actually wear miniskirts in public and could easily get an education without interference from fundamentalists. Now, after the invasion, you don't see any Iraqi women in miniskirts, because they would be attacked by Taliban-style fundamentalists of the kind that we were supposed to overthrow in Afghanistan.

Given how fundamentalist vigilantes have made the situation for women in Iraq, I wouldn't be surprised if something similar was going on for gays and lesbians in Iraq. The sexism and homophobia tend to go hand-in-hand in a lot of places.
posted by jonp72 at 12:02 PM on August 27, 2008


Being murdered because you're in the wrong place at the wrong time is not the same thing as being murdered because of who you are.

I imagine it's all about the same to the dead guy.
posted by designbot at 12:10 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


The “surge” basically consisted of looking at the mess of armed groups that had emerged to fill the power vacuum in Iraq lift by the collapse of government there, and picking sides. Do the members of armed groups engaged in power grabs usually represent the best a society has to give?
posted by Artw at 12:12 PM on August 27, 2008


The surge is not, in fact, working.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 12:18 PM on August 27, 2008


It made for good numbers for a bit.
posted by Artw at 12:19 PM on August 27, 2008


I think jonp72 got it. Moreover, I don't see why increased violence against gays is any less relevant than increased misogyny, except in terms of sheer numbers directly impacted.
posted by treepour at 12:45 PM on August 27, 2008


"The surge is working."

Well, true, but we should have an accurate understanding of what, exactly the surge is and what it was intended to accomplish. It's not exactly innovative. It's the same method we've used for decades now, in Central and South America and the Carribean, in Asia, and in the Middle East.

We've given local thugs, fanatics, and criminals control of the day-to-day government of individual neighborhoods, towns, and villages. They handle the political stuff that we don't care about; establishing and enforcing criminal law, regulating local businesses, funding schools, etc. In addition, they keep the general population terrorized and obedient. Women are afraid to walk the street and anyone can get killed for being of the wrong ethnic persuasion. Nobody trusts anybody else. Under these conditions, it's very unlikely that ordinary Iraqis will rise up and take control of the national government. They're too busy trying to put food on the table and too paranoid about getting shot by their neighbor to form political parties or trans-tribal/trans-ethnic armies. (It's worth noting here that Saddam Hussein did the same thing; exploited ethnic tensions to prevent effective political opposition to a hated and feared regime).

When people like John McCain say that "the surge worked," this is what they mean. Because to them, it just doesn't matter what happens in the neighborhoods of Baghdad. As long as the US, through its puppet government, controls the oil industry, the military, and Iraq's foreign policy, we have everything that matters. The rest of it could swirl right on down the drain pipes and it wouldn't make a lick of difference.

And this is standard operating procedure. This is how it works when a major power makes a less powerful country its bitch. Oppression and poverty breed violence and chaos. Are the streets of Nicaragua peaceful? Is there order in Haiti? Do CNN and Fox News even send reporters down there to check? No. Because no one here gives a shit. Both of these countries have governments which comply with US demands. That's all we know and all we want to know. With Iraq, it's different; we actually pay attention to what's happening on the street. So the US government has to pretend to try to do something about the situation even though they don't care about it and couldn't do much about it if they did.

All of this to say: if gay men are getting killed in Iraq (and I'd be kind of surprised if they weren't), that's not because the US has screwed up. Quite the opposite. It's because the US has accomplished precisely what it set out to do.
posted by Clay201 at 12:45 PM on August 27, 2008 [10 favorites]


there are more pressing concerns than gay rights.

I think they're onto something there.
posted by Edgewise at 12:49 PM on August 27, 2008


I guess I might as well ask again: besides the many "experts" averring that the violence in Iraq has gone down, are there actual data sources that would allow me to see over time the number of violent events in Iraq since our invasion and occupation so I can be convinced that this "surge is working" isn't some fabrication by our oh-so-truthful administration?
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:08 PM on August 27, 2008


"Are they really raping gay men for being gay?"

My suspicion is that the most rabid homophobes are closeted homosexuals or in extreme denial. The stimulus of a come-on from another man or seeing a feminine-acting man is more than their repression mechanisms can take, so they lash out at the stimulus. And if more than one of this damaged individuals get together, look out. Just a theory.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:15 PM on August 27, 2008


Juan Cole: Forget the Surge -- Violence Is Down in Iraq Because Ethnic Cleansing Was Brutally Effective
posted by homunculus at 1:29 PM on August 27, 2008


but what can we do about it? it's not like our troops can stop this.

sure, it's defect in their culture--but it's really up to them to change it.


It was legal. You - Americans changed their culture for the worse, letting religious fanatics criminalise homosexuality where it wasn't a crime before, giving tacit endorsement to this behavior.
posted by rodgerd at 2:15 PM on August 27, 2008


I had a link here to iraqibodycount.org but I see now we are talking about murders [not directly war-related deaths]. Not sure how they can tell the diff, but whatevs.

From a certain perspective, there isn't much of one. Especially in this conflict.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:13 PM on August 27, 2008


I'm sure that anyone killed by a US backed deathsquad that's doing some social clensing in it's down time will feel exactly that way about it.
posted by Artw at 3:26 PM on August 27, 2008


Don't we already acknowledge that armed conflict, aka war, poses special problems for vulnerable groups? We see roundtables on women and war, for example. It seems just as applicable here. The issue isn't "well it's a warzone so of course people are dying" but rather "the chaos of war lets aggressors target vulnerable victims with relative impunity". The fact that it's a warzone is no reason to discount the issue (nor, of course, does it make it the only concern).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:06 PM on August 27, 2008


Well, this is more of a horrible post-war situation, rather than a horrible wartime situation. Calling it the “Iraq War” is just branding.
posted by Artw at 5:07 PM on August 27, 2008


It was legal. You - Americans changed their culture for the worse, letting religious fanatics criminalise homosexuality where it wasn't a crime before, giving tacit endorsement to this behavior.

It was made illegal in 2001. How is it America's fault?
posted by Snyder at 6:12 PM on August 27, 2008


Well, this is more of a horrible post-war situation, rather than a horrible wartime situation. Calling it the “Iraq War” is just branding.

Just branding? How is your comment not just about semantics? Ok, a police action (which it is not). A general state of lawlessness. The same observations apply. When authority breaks down, or is broken, vulnerable groups tend to be especially at risk.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:16 PM on August 27, 2008


You HAD a war. You won it, and won it quickly. What you have now is an occupation.
posted by Artw at 8:56 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


You HAD a war. You won it, and won it quickly. What you have now is an occupation.

It wasn't really even a war, more of a fairly easy invasion of a much smaller, poorly defended country.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:12 AM on August 28, 2008


McCain: Iraq is ‘A Peaceful And Stable Country Now’
posted by homunculus at 12:40 PM on August 28, 2008


Agreement on U.S. withdrawal from Iraq said to be in peril as Maliki ousts negotiators
posted by homunculus at 10:04 AM on August 31, 2008


Iraq: A brief parable
posted by homunculus at 10:25 PM on September 1, 2008


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