Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Important Pride Month speech

I did not know Hillary gave a speech yesterday until I read today's snapshot. I want to highlight it in full. Hillary is Hillary Clinton. She is the US Secretary of State. She was my choice for president. Wally and I campaigned like crazy in states during the primaries. (And she won! She actually won in any state Wally campaigned in -- he dropped out of college to campaign for her. And he did it seriously for months and months and months. She won every state he campaigned in -- even when the media would predict she'd lose the state. I took three weeks off to campaign with him in states like Indiana. We had a blast and Hillary would have been a wonderful president.) So Hillary was speaking yesterday about LGBT issues. This is her speech and you can stream it online at the link:

Thank you. Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Gee, let’s do this every week. (Laughter.) It’s great after a hard week to tell you how delighted I am to join with all of you from the State Department and USAID and indeed from departments across our government and many guests who are here in the State Department celebrating Pride Month.

And the purpose of this occasion is to recognize with gratitude the contributions made by LGBT members of the State Department family every single day. We celebrate the progress that is being made here in our own country toward advancing the rights of LGBT Americans, and we recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done but that we are moving together in the right direction. And we reaffirm our commitment to protect and advance the rights of all human beings, as Cheryl just said, of members of the LGBT community around the world. I want to thank Administrator Raj Shah who we are so delighted, is leading USAID into a very positive future. I want to thank Eric Schwartz, who has traveled tirelessly on behalf of his bureau here at the State Department, dealing with population, refugees, migration. And I want to thank Bob Gilchrist, the outgoing GLIFAA president, for his leadership.

I look around this room and there are not only familiar faces, but there are some longtime friends whom I have had the great personal pleasure of knowing over the years. And I must say that knowing my friends who are here, and assuming much about many of you, I know that this occasion is really part of a deeply personal effort that has impacted lives and has helped to create, as Cheryl said, more space and time for people to lead their own lives. And people in this room – I know from experience – have marched in parades and demonstrations; have lobbied our government and other governments to overturn discriminatory laws; have demonstrated courage, both in public and private, to confront hatred and intolerance; and have helped to build a national movement that reflects the diversity of America.

I have been really moved and greatly motivated by the personal stories and the testimonies of so many whom I have known over so many years. Ten years ago, I was the first First Lady – that is often a phrase that I hear – I was the first First Lady to march in a Pride parade, and it was so much fun. (Applause.) And one or two of you marched with me and I am still grateful to you. (Laughter.) As a senator from New York, I was proud to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would grant equal benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees; and the Matthew Shephard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law this year. (Applause.)

Now, we, though, in the State Department have to continue the work that many of you have begun and many of you carry on around the world. And I’m very proud that the United States, and particularly the State Department, is taking the lead to confront the circumstances that LGBT people face in just going about their daily lives. So as we enjoy today’s celebration and as we mark the progress that has been truly remarkable – I know that when you’re in the midst of a great movement of change it seems like it is glacial, but any fair assessment, from my perspective, having lived longer than at least more than 75 percent of you that I see in this room – (laughter) – is that it is extraordinary what has happened in such a short period of time.

But think about what’s happening to people as we speak today. Men and women are harassed, beaten, subjected to sexual violence, even killed, because of who they are and whom they love. Some are driven from their homes or countries, and many who become refugees confront new threats in their countries of asylum. In some places, violence against the LGBT community is permitted by law and inflamed by public calls to violence; in others, it persists insidiously behind closed doors.

These dangers are not “gay” issues. This is a human rights issue. (Applause.) Just as I was very proud to say the obvious more than 15 years ago in Beijing that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, well, let me say today that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all. (Applause.)

So here at the State Department, we will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We are elevating our human rights dialogues with other governments and conducting public diplomacy to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.

Our Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor produces an annual Human Rights Report that include a section on how LGBT persons are treated in every country. And recently, that bureau announced a new grant to provide emergency aid to human rights defenders in Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East who are at risk, either because they work on these issues or because of their LGBT status.

Our regional bureaus are working closely with our embassies on this issue. The Bureau of African Affairs has taken the lead by asking every embassy in Africa to report on the conditions of local LGBT communities. And I’m asking every regional bureau to make this issue a priority. (Applause.)

Today, we are joined by four human rights activists from Africa who are working to protect LGBT rights in their communities. I want to welcome them to the State Department and ask if they would stand: our four African activists. (Applause.) I thank you for the work you do, often in unfriendly, even dangerous circumstances, to advance the rights and dignity of all people.

Now, the United States is also focused on threats facing LGBT refugees. Eric Schwartz is working to increase protection for refugees who face persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Dr. Eric Goosby, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, is working to ensure that HIV prevention, treatment, and care are provided to all members of the LGBT population. For example, in the greater Mekong sub-region, we support the Purple Sky Network, which helps protect the health of gay men and transgender people who are too often overlooked or excluded from lifesaving social services.

And around the world, members of the U.S. Foreign Service continue to stand with LGBT communities in ways both large and small. There are two people who are not here that I want to mention and recognize, because they are indicative of both what people face as they fight for these rights and what our embassies and posts across the globe are doing to support them.

In Albania, a young man named Klodian Cela recently came out on a popular television program called Big Brother. Soon after, our ambassador, John Withers, went on television to publicly express support for this man. He visited his hometown and he invited him to an event at our Embassy, conveying to all Albanians that the United States supports his rights and respects his courage.

In Slovakia, at that nation’s first ever Pride Parade last month, our chargĂ©, Keith Eddins, marched to represent the United States. There were anti-gay protestors who became violent and the police used tear gas, which our chargĂ© and other diplomats were exposed to – a quite unpleasant experience, but in service to a just cause.

So as we continue to advance LGBT rights in other countries, we also must continually work to make sure we are advancing the agenda here.

At the State Department, USAID, and throughout the Administration, we are grateful for the contributions of all of our team. And I just want to say thank you, thank you to those of you who serve, thank you for doing so by being open and honest about who you are and helping others see the dignity and purpose of every individual. Our work is demanding and we need every person to give 100 percent. And that means creating an environment in which everyone knows they are valued and feels free to make their contribution.

Last year, I received a petition with more than 2,200 signatures supporting equal benefits to same-sex partners. And I was delighted that soon after, the President signed an executive order to that effect. This month, the Bureau of Consular Affairs issued new regulations making it easier for transgender Americans to amend their passports, ensuring dignified and fair processing. And today, I’m pleased to announce that for the first time, gender identity will be included along with sexual orientation in the State Department Equal Employee Opportunity Statement. (Applause.)

Now, we know that a lot of work lies ahead, and I really want to challenge each and every one of you. Whether you’re LGBT or not, if you’re here, you obviously care about or at least were curious enough to come, and therefore are exhibiting an interest in what we are attempting to achieve here. And in looking at you and seeing a group of accomplished, successful, well-educated, professionally challenged people reminds me that many in our own country, let alone around the world, who are LGBT don’t have those tools, don’t have those assets to be able to speak for themselves, to stand up for themselves, to be in a position to claim who they are.

I used to, when I represented New York, have the great joy and honor of traveling across New York state, so I could go to a Pride Parade in New York City and then I could be a few days later somewhere in upstate New York, where someone would take me aside after an event and whisper their fears about the life they led and wonder whether there was anything we could do. And I used to remind my very activist friends in the Pride movement that they were doing this not for themselves, because basically many of them were well enough off to be able to construct a life that would be fairly immune from the outside world, but they were doing it for so many others who did not have that opportunity, that luxury, if you will.

Well, I still believe that. We’ve come such a far distance in our own country, but there are still so many who need the outreach, need the mentoring, need the support, to stand up and be who they are, and then think about people in so many countries where it just seems impossible. So I think that each and every one of you not only professionally, particularly from State and USAID in every bureau and every embassy and every part of our government, have to do what you can to create that safe space, but also personally to really look for those who might need a helping hand, particularly young people, particularly teenagers who still, today, have such a difficult time and who still, in numbers far beyond what should ever happen, take their own lives rather than live that life. So I would ask you to please think of ways you can be there for everyone who is making this journey to defend not only human rights globally, but to truly defend themselves and their rights. The struggle for equality is never, ever finished. And it is rarely easy, despite how self-evident it should be. But the hardest-fought battles often have the biggest impact. So I hope that each and every one of us will recommit ourselves to building a future in which every person – every, single person can live in dignity, free from violence, free to be themselves, free to live up to their God-given potential wherever they live and whoever they are. And I thank you for being part of one of history’s great moments.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US Congress explores veterans issues in times of regional/national and international emergencies, the US military announces another death, Iraq's electric problems continue and more.

"On September 11, 2001," declared US House Rep Harry Mitchell this morning, "we witnessed one of the greatest tragedies in American history. Still today, we all remember the horrific scenes of these terrorist attacks. Four years later, in 2005, the Gulf Coast was hit by one of the biggest natural disasters the region has ever seen, as Hurricane Katrina swept through the region killing thousands and leaving many homeless and displaced. And sadly, again today, we see Gulf states struggling with yet another major disaster, as the oil continues to spill. These types of events highlight the critical need for federal agencies to proactively prepare to effectively execute their federal obligations -- especially when called upon during emergencies." Whether a national disaster, international or regional, how does the VA intend to ensure that veterans needs are met regardless?

Chair Mitchell was opening the House Committee on Veterans Affairs' Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. (He also recognized veteran Terry Araman for his work in Arizona with homeless veterans, Araman is the program director of the
Madison Street Veterans Association.) There were three panels. The American Red Cross' Neal Denton, the Healthcare Coalition's Darrell Henry, the American Legion's Barry A. Searle and BT Marketing's John Hennigan composed the first panel. The second panel was Capt D.W. Chen of the DoD, Christy Music (DoD), Kevin Yeskey (HHS) and Steven Woodard (Homeland Security). Panel three was VA's Jose Riojas with the VA's Kevin Hanretta and Gregg Parker. We'll note this exchange.

Chair Harry Mitchell: I have a question for anybody who would like to answer this. In reviewing the National Response plan, there's a myriad of federal resources called upon in response to a crisis. How do we determine if the agencies will be able to work together? Yes, just go ahead in any [order].

John N. Hennigan: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I can -- I can speak from experience in Montgomery County [Texas] when we had [Hurricane] Ike occur. We first had [Hurricane] Rita hit the Gulf Coast and it was truly total confusion. And what we found Contra[-Flow] Lanes in the freeway to try to - to try to evacuate people on the Gulf Coast was a disaster. It was done too late. Communications between EMS, fire stations, police, sheriff, state police was uh, was inappropriate. Since that time, prior to Ike, we all went on same frequencies. We developed a program where Contra-Flow Lanes were done well in advance versus-versus a uh 24 hour mandate, get-out-of-town. So I think a lot of it is, can-can communities -- in this case with the VA -- can the community officials communicate to the VAs and vice-versa on the same frequency -- whether it's radio, whether there's a set plan or one organization that coordinates all the entities as we're doing in Montgomery County right now. Can that happen? And when that happens, it just makes life a lot easier for everybody because you only have one source to go to and they'll do the -- they'll delegate the appropriate things to do.

Chair Harry Mitchell: You know there's a -- again -- a myriad of agencies involved in all of the emergency preparedness. And, again, let me just ask others, how do we determine if these agencies are able to work together? Sometimes I think there's miscommunication of who has what role to play. How can we determine that? Do we determine that?

Barry A. Searle: Well, sir, as far as the DoD - VA interaction, one of the things that we see as very positive is on a day-to-day basis now in the attempt to develop the lifetime virtual records has established communications between DoD, VA and the public sector actually as far as transferring public information on veterans. The hope by the American Legion is that that will have started the -- a crack in the dyke, if you will. There's no question that stove piping exists and it has to be broken down. Through the-the-the national framework -- response framework -- and people have assigned positions, jobs and responsibilities -- For example, American Legion is not telling VA how to do that but it would be reasonable that they would be under the ESF8 as a support function, that they would not be an elite function in this case. But there is a framework there for telling people what they should be doing and feeding into it. But I think that VA has taken some serious steps into making a coordination with other entities -- be it DoD and civilian doctors, for example -- which will eventually help with the system. It's not going to solve the whole thing, but at least it's a starting point.

Neal Denton: Mr. Chairman, if you don't mind, I'd like to say something to this too. So much of this builds on exercises -- the national level exercises -- that take place in the country where we bring these groups together and have a table-top exercise in advance so that we get to know who the players are and what their capacities are, what it is, they're going to bring to the table, what it is that they thought we were going to be bringing in and we discover, "Oh, no, that's actually something we need to resolve somewhere else." So much of this really happens on a local level. You know, I mentioned in my testimony, that the event we just had at we had out at Fort Belvoir where we had a preparedness event. At that parking lot there in the PX, all of the players who would respond to a disaster in Fort Belvoir were there. It was a bright sunny day and we were handing out preparedness kits but the other thing that was going on was we were who'd be responding to a disaster if something were to happen there. Having a chance to talk to each other, connect with other and talk a little about what our roles and responsibilities are if something were to happen. The more of these that happen on a local level, I think the more success that we're going to have.

Chair Harry Mitchell: I just was looking at the federal response plan and the VA has a support role with four different agencies that have the primary response. We have a support role with DoD. There's one with the American Red Cross. There's one with the GSA also HHS. And I just hope, that's what part of this hearing is about, is to make sure that everybody understands their role -- in a support or a primary role.

Does anyone feel like there's a plan? How about a plan to have plan? We're not wasting time on the second panel. For example, Capt Chen was and Chair Mitchell stopped him and informed him of the law -- actually made it clear (nicely) that he knew the law Chen was talking around -- and how it worked and asked specifically -- again -- what VA and DoD were coordinating on and instead of a direct answer, Chen wasted several more minutes offering a historical overview. An overview that it was very clear that the Subcommittee didn't need. (And, again, hadn't asked for.) "I understand about the wartime, again, but I'm asking about the natural disasters where DoD is part of the response team," Chair Mitchell attempted for a third time with Chen. Whether DoD didn't want the issue addressed or whether Chen didn't have the information is an unknown. But it was a waste of time and Mitchell's attempts to redirect were repeatedly ignored. Christy Music noted she'd grab it -- to everyone else on the panel before she made the statement to the Chair -- and she then ignored the question to offer yet another historical overview. Chair Mitchell wanted to know when the last time the two department -- VA and DoD -- cooridnated and no one could or would answer the very clear question. Over three minutes after she began 'answering' the Chair's question, Music stated, "So to answer your question more specifically, we coordinate with them daily, certainly two to three times a week." And, no, that didn't answer his question. Coordinate with them on what? On what Mitchell was asking about? Yesterday we heard about DoD and VA coordination on health care, for example (and we'll go back to that in a moment). That's not what the Chair was asking and his question was never answered. If the plan was to run out the clock, the witnesses were successful in that.

We're going to drop back to yesterday to note Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing. Committee Chair Carl Levin's initial questions were noted in
yesterday's snapshot. Today we'll note Senator Daniel Akaka's. Appearing before the Committee was Gen Peter Chiarelli (Army), Adm Jonathan Greenert (Navy), Gen James Amos (Marine Corps), Gen Carrol Chandler (Air Force), and the VA's Dr. Robert Jesse.

Senator Daniel Akaka: In continuing to work with you and my colleagues we can refine efforts to prevent military suicides and to look for better ways to treat the -- to detect and treat and care for those suffering from invisible wounds of war. General Chiarelli and General Amos, suicide prevention is difficult and challenging -- and for all of you on our panel, this has come about, of course, because of what we call combat stress. And as was mentioned, this includes PTSD, TBI and behavioral health issues that we are facing here. As was previously stated, the services have experienced a rise in the numbers of suicides since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq started. And there is a need to understand suicide, look at the causes so we can understand it and prevent it. Generals Chiarelli and Amos and also Dr. Jesse, how can the VA and DoD better collaborate in the area of suicide research and prevention? This has been mentioned by General Chiarelli as a great need here and I'd like to have the three of you give your perspectives on this.

Gen Peter Chiarelli: Well I would argue --

Senator Daniel Akaka: General Chiarelli?

Gen Peter Chiarelli: -- the cooperation between the VA and the services, I believe, has never been better. I think the disability evaluation pilot that we're running at different installations is proving to be a great success for the United States Army. And the wonderful thing about this is is that when a soldier goes through the DES uh we ensure that if they're leaving the service that they're in the VA system. And this is something that has never happened before as far as I know. It is a wonderful benefit of this that when a soldier makes a decision to leave the service, he is in that VA system. Before we would in fact have soldiers separate and it would be their responsibility to work their way through the process to get in to receive both their medical benefits and other benefits through the VA system. I think that you've hit upon a key piece here and that is stressors but it's not only combat stress, it's individual soldier stress and family stress and when we look at those across a continuum. what we're seeing in the army with the high ops tempo that we're on today, that a soldier in the first six years that he or she spends in the United States Army has the cumulative stressors of an average American throughout their entire life. And that's when you combine high ops tempo, individual soldier stressors and family stressors. So this is an area we're looking at very, very hard. And when you realize that 79% of our suicides last year were soldiers in-in-in 60% in their first term, 79% one deployment or no deployment, I think it points to doing everything we possibly can to mitigate those stressors whenever possible and as we're working so hard to do in the Army, work to increase the resiliency of our soldiers -- particularly in their younger years.

Senator Daniel Akaka: Thank you. General Amos?

Gen James Amos: Senator, I'll be happy to talk about not only the relationship but the hand off between the military -- in my backyard, the Marine Corps -- and the Veterans Association. Like General Chiarelli, I have never seen it better. The entire organization is well led from the top down, from VA. They are compassionate, they are passionate about the care of our young men and women that enter their system. I've never seen it better. I'm fortunate to get to travel around and visit a lot of our VA hospitals and a lot of our wounded and I come away just completely wowed by what I see. There is a systematic handoff . In the Marine Corps, this is done by what we call our recovery care coordinators. We take some Marines -- we have them around the nation. They are not part of the federal recovery, but they are linked to it. They are US marines whose job it is in life to know everything they can about the VA system and so when a Marine transitions -- especially one of our wounded Marines -- transitions out into -- heading to VA Land, after his disability board and he's moving on to the next half of his life, that recovery care coordinator contacts the federal recovery care coordinator, the District Entrance Support Marines we have out there, our network of Marines for life, put our arms around this guy. But I've seen it first hand where the actual hand off for a needy Marine, in some cases two years after the injury, after the initial injury -- I just saw this last -- about last month down in Corpus Christie, Texas. A young Marine, TBI two years ago his life is unraveled right now and through the federal recovery coordinator and the VA in San Antonio and our care coordinator we were able to plug this Marine, get him back into a hospital right away for further care. So, I've never seen it better, Senator.

Senator Daniel Akaka: Let me ask Admiral Greenert for your comments as well as General Chandler after you.

Admiral Jonathan Greenert: Thank you, Senator. I think General Chiarelli and Amos hit the nail on the head. Cooperation is very good. In fact, we meet monthly-- with leadership of the VA and the leadership of the Dept of Defense to streamline the Defense -- the Disability -- excuse me -- Evaluation System. I would say that what we are finding in our study of suicides, the transitional period seems to be a spike in stressors and this is an area we need to watch very closely -- this transition period -- and be sure that our Sailors have the social support network that they've had as they've moved through their career in the Navy as long as it is. It's also a focus area to watch out for those stressors. Thank you.

Senator Daniel Akaka: General Chandler?

Gen Carrol Chandler: Senator, we have approximately 700 Airman in our wounded warrior program. These are young men and women whose lives have been changed forever and that we are dedicated to taking care of from the time they've been wounded until they no longer need our services in the Air Force and we make the transition to the federal system if, in fact, that's required and we're not able to bring them back to the Air Force. We use much the same system that General Amos described with recovery care coordinators that allow us to do that around the nation, to service the men and women that require that kind of treatment and that kind of handling. We're very comfortable with our relationship with the VA and the way that's working.

Senator Daniel Akaka: Well I'm glad that we've been working on what we call seemless transition and it appears that we're moving along in that. Dr. Jesse?

Dr. Robert Jesse: Thank you, sir. So as not to reiterate things that have already been said. I'd just like to point out a couple of areas where this level of integration has really become manifest. The first is in the post-deployment and health reassessment exercises. Uh, the VA generally has a presence at the exercises -- not to administer the exams but to be present to make sure that those service members are uh-uh aware of all of their benefits that the VA can provide. But also if there are immediate health and particularly mental health issues that arise, that they are there and can literally make an appointment on the spot. They can get them enrolled in VA, make an appointment and, if we need to take them into our care, we can do that. So that we participate in that -- The second is the poly-trauma networks uhm which really are while the VA has four going on five now poly-trauma centers of care those are really tightly integrated into the wounded war -- wounded warrior programs at Walter Reed and Bethesda. In fact, I had the real honor to accompany [VA] Deputy Secretary [W. Scott] Gould and Dr. Stanley on a tour of Walter Reed and them come directly down to Richmond and look at the seemless way that both patients and their information moved back and forth through those networks including the fact that VA represenatives stationed in the DoD facilities and DoD clinicians in the poly-trauma centers so that they ensure that any movement of a patient is a warm hand-off and not just being sent to another place. Finally, in the mental health area, I think there has just been an extraordinary collaboration uhm-uhm going on for some time now. There was a joint-conference in the fall of '09 that led to an integrated VA - DoD strategic plan and the real goal is to make sure that when, for instance, the -- there are evidence-based therapies for Post Traumatic Stress -- treatment of Post Traumatic Stress, the VA and the uh -- Dep -- the uh, services uh agree on how we treat those patients so that this treatment begins in the services and then transitions to the VA, we're not abruptly stopping one form of therapy and then herding them into another. And I think that is a hugely important point of collaboration that we've gotten that far.

How wonderful. There are no problems. Everyone said it worked wonderfully. So everything's perfect. And the service members have stopped taking their own lives, right? Suicide is now a thing of the past, right? Surely, it must be when it's being so wonderfully praised in a Senate hearing. Or maybe a lot of people just wanted to spin? Suicides didn't stop. And nothing raised in the above exchange really addresses the issue. Akaka clearly asked about military suicides and look at the responses.
Kat offered her impressions of this hearing last night.

From one legislative body (in the US) to another (in Iraq), March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government.
Mohamad Bazzi (National Newspaper) weighs in:Three months after it was elected, Iraq's new parliament convened on June 14 for a mere 18 minutes. Two men sat smiling in the front row: the prime minister Nouri al Maliki and Ayad Allawi, the former premier whose coalition won a narrow plurality of seats in the legislature. Each insists that he should lead the next government.But the man who might well be the kingmaker in forming a government and the selection of a new prime minister was not at the Baghdad convention centre for the swearing-in ceremony. Muqtada al Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric, was in the Iranian holy city of Qom, where he has lived in self-imposed exile since 2007.Meanwhile Heath Druzin (Stars & Stripes) reports Iraqiya's Hassan al-Alawi says that Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki will not come to an understanding or merge: "Not now and not ever, because the Shia and Kurdish parties will not allow it." Day Press reports that the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council leader Ammar al-Hakim was in Syria yesterday meeting with the country's President Bashar al-Assad and that the Syrian president "expressed the hope that the Iraqi political forces reach a unified stance to form a national unity government caring for the interests of the Iraqi people and serving as an introduction to the restoration of security and stability in Iraq and in the region in general." Xinhua notes, "Syria is currently hosting more than one million Iraqi refugees who have fled their home country since 2003." Alsumaria TV adds, "Sayyed Ammar Al Hakim for his part praised Syria's supportive and helpful stand towards Iraqi people's concerns and its keenness on preserving Iraq's unity, security, stability and territorial integrity."

Meanwhile an
Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers writes at Inside Iraq about the speech given by the new acting Minister of Electricity which was appalling and useless. The correspondent observes, "If this speech was given even one year into the occupation – I would understand. But after seven years - and more that 17 billion dollars (according to Bahaa al Araji, head of the legal committee in the former parliament) -- No improvement at all in the electricity is just not acceptable. Where did all the money go??" Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports:

Mr Maliki is promising this will change, though slowly, if he returns to office – he is currently a caretaker prime minister while the main political parties try to put together a working coalition.
"You should not expect to solve the power crisis soon," he said at a press conference on Tuesday. "It will take two years at least. We will give priority to the electricity sector in the next government."
The American embassy issued a statement saying that 40 per cent of all its reconstruction budget, or $4.6 billion (£3 billion) had been spent on power infrastructure. Siemens and GE are currently building new power stations.

Stalemate in the politics, stalemate in the electricity. But not everything's a stalemate. The targeting of Iraq's LGBT community continues.
Paul Canning (Guardian) explains:

Last week, 12 Iraqi police officers burst into a house in Karbala, beat up and blindfolded the six occupants and bundled them off in three vans, taking the computers they found with them. The house was then burned down by unknown people.The six included two gay men, one lesbian and two transgender people, and the house was a new "emergency shelter" run by the
Iraqi LGBT organisation.Two days later, one of the men turned up in hospital with a throat wound saying he'd been tortured. Iraqi LGBT has ordered those in its other two safe houses to move immediately.The group says the police action is consistent with other state attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Iraq. It has information that the other five have been transported 100 miles north to the interior ministry in Baghdad, where they'll be interrogated (ie tortured) to find out more about the group. Then, going on past experience, they'll probably be handed to militias loyal to Shi'a clerics Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr (both of whom have called for homosexuals to be put to death) and their mutilated bodies will turn up later.But it is also clear from past experience that there is unlikely to be a sustained international outcry from gay people, governments or others about this latest incident.

Despite serious press attention and Congressional attention, the White House feels no pressure on the issue. For now US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill could care less and, when pressed, states it is not his job to tell Iraq what to do. What is Chris Hill's job, by the way? Iraq's LGBT community -- like the country itself -- is apparently on its own. All the people who once marched and rallied seemingly now have other things to do. The US went with thugs because thugs could intimidate the larger public and allow for the tag sale of Iraq's public goods. The thugs, once in power, have no desire to relinquish it. What has taken place in Iraq was no accident and the victims suffering today are not suffering through happenstance.
Kilian Melloy (EDGE Boston) has long covered this topic and notes today, "Media accounts suggest that the United States' invasion of Iraq not only precipitated a 'crisis' level of anti-gay violence, but that through inaction and a reliance on local strong-arms, the U.S. is complicit in the ongoing pursuit, torture, and murder of gay Iraqis." In DC yesterday, at the State Dept, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech (link has text and video) on Pride Month. Heading the State Dept, Hillary's focus is on international issues. We'll note this from her speech:

And I'm very proud that the United States, and particularly the State Department, is taking the lead to confront the circumstances that LGBT people face in just going about their daily lives. So as we enjoy today's celebration and as we mark the progress that has been truly remarkable -- I know that when you're in the midst of a great movement of change it seems like it is glacial, but any fair assessment, from my perspective, having lived longer than at least more than 75 percent of you that I see in this room -- (laughter) -- is that it is extraordinary what has happened in such a short period of time.But think about what's happening to people as we speak today. Men and women are harassed, beaten, subjected to sexual violence, even killed, because of who they are and whom they love. Some are driven from their homes or countries, and many who become refugees confront new threats in their countries of asylum. In some places, violence against the LGBT community is permitted by law and inflamed by public calls to violence; in others, it persists insidiously behind closed doors. These dangers are not "gay" issues. This is a human rights issue. (Applause.) Just as I was very proud to say the obvious more than 15 years ago in Beijing that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, well, let me say today that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all. (Applause.) So here at the State Department, we will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We are elevating our human rights dialogues with other governments and conducting public diplomacy to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.

Those are wonderful words. I have no doubt that Hillary means each and every one of them; however, it's going to take more than words and there is no leadership in the administration on the LGBT issue. The State Dept actually has engaged in conversations with Iraqi government officials on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community. So why doesn't the State Dept take credit for that? Why don't they go public with it? More needs to be done -- much, much more -- but if the State Dept doesn't make known what it has done on the issue, it appears they've done nothing. (Care 2 Make a Difference's Steve Williams endorses the speech strongly

In today's violence,
Reuters notes 3 police officers shot dead in Mosul, a Mosul hand grenade attack which left two people injured, a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing which injured two police officers and, dropping back to last night, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured a man and a woman.

Yesterday, the
US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – A U.S. Division – North Soldier died yesterday as a result of a non-combat related injury. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." DoD issued the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Jacob P. Dohrenwend, 20, of Milford, Ohio, died June 21 at Balad, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan. For more information, media may contact the Fort Riley public affairs office at 785-210-8867." The death brings to 4408 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

In Detroit, the US Social Forum is taking place. Many people and organizations are participating including Iraq Veterans Against the War.
IVAW has activities scheduled tomorrow and Friday.

1) GI Resistance Workshop Event Date: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 3:30pm - 5:30pm Event Location: WSU Student Center: Hilberry C
Full Description: Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) who have refused deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan will give testimony to the struggle and the value of resisting modern day militarism. Additionally, they will argue that empowering, strengthening, and building the GI Resistance movement is the most effective way to end the occupations - for every soldier that withdraws their consent for the continued occupations is one less gear in the war machine. Furthermore, to build and empower GI Resistance IVAW is focused on fighting for GI and Veteran Rights, to include the right to refuse orders and to Conscientious Objection at any time if they so declare, based on moral, religious, ethical or political reasons. We hope to begin a discussion of what type of long haul commitment and support it will take to build the GI and Veterans Movement.
Participants will be engaged through testimony and a question and answer session with the panel following the presentations. Presenters include Camilo Mejia, the first combat veteran to publicly refuse re-deployment to Iraq; Travis Bishop and Victor Agosto, Iraq veterans who publicly refused deployment to Afghanistan; and Robin Long, the first soldier to ever be deported from Canada after seeking political asylum.
2) Building a Military Resistance Movement: Veterans, Service Members & Allies Organizing Together (co-presented with Civilian Soldier Alliance and Courage to Resist)Event Date: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:00pm - 5:30pm Event Location: Cobo Hall: DO-4C
Full Description: This is a workshop led by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and civilian allies who are organizing within the military and veteran communities against the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
We aim to provide participants with an introduction to past and current military resistance movements, with a focus on outlining a new organizing model based on campaign building and leadership development. Iraq Veterans Against the War, Civilian Soldier Alliance, and Courage to Resist will detail what our day-to-day organizing work actually looks like.
Part of the workshop will be popular education-style discussions to create a space for veteran and ally participants to dialogue about our relationships to, and experiences with, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, militarism, and anti- war and social justice organizing.
Through interactive training exercises, participants will be provided with some tools for how to be strong and accountable allies to veterans and service members. Participants will leave with ideas about how they can directly plug into IVAW's recently launched GI and Veterans Bill of Rights campaign, and how to build solidarity amongst common struggles.
3) Veterans and Military Families: Impact of the Wars; Impact on Movements (co-presented with Veterans For Peace and Military Families Speak Out). Event Date: Fri, 06/25/2010 - 1:00pm - 3:00pm Event Location: Cobo Hall: D2-14
Full Description: A small fraction of this country is involved in the armed services as a veteran, service member or military family. As a result, the burden of war in this country is isolated to a small few, making it easier for those in power to continue the wars. Veterans and military families thus have a crucial role in providing the ground truth to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and leading/inspiring the movements to end them.
The workshop will explore three points: a. Veterans and military families using their unique voices and perspectives to end the current wars. b. What has been the personal cost of war: lives lost and destroyed. c. Intersections of veteran and military families' concerns with movements for progressive, political and social change and how veterans and military families can play a role.
Panelists will share their perspective as a veteran or military family member, followed by large group discussion. Participants will gain a better understanding of the important role that veterans and military families can and should play in anti-war/peace movements. We hope participants begin to see ways veterans and military families can build relationships with other organizations and begin to develop strategic alliances across issues.

Timothy Hsia (New York Times) attempts to note an ignored aspect of a report getting a great deal of attention, "The Rolling Stone profile on Gen. Stanley A. McChyrstal has made civil-military relations a national debate. But an equally important question raised by the article is the limitations of counterinsurgency, or COIN. The article by Michael Hastings article should not be read simply as a profile of a general but also as an indictment on counterinsurgency and the growing dissatisfaction inside the military with COIN theory and its practice in war (though General McChrystal's replacement on Wednesday, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the leading proponent of counterinsurgency, seemed to indicate there would be no immediate shift away from the strategy)."

iraqthe guardianpaul canning
kilian melloythe national newspapermohamad bazzistars and stripesheath druzinday pressxinhuaalsumaria tv
the telegraph of londonrichard spencer

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