Saturday, May 6

No Iraqi Left Behind

In the past, while I have been openly critical of the Iraq war, I have tried to focus on the deceitful and undemocratic process that brought us to Iraq in the first place. I have argued that it doesn’t matter how tyrannical Saddam Hussein was or how much better life is for the Iraqi people now that he’s gone, because the present administration, which continues to justify our presence there based on these things, must be held accountable for circumventing or, worse yet, subverting the democratic process in the weeks and months leading up to the invasion, regardless of how much good we may have accomplished. In a previous post, I wrote:

“I do not deny that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein, but how we got there does matter. My own opposition to the war and the American occupation of Iraq does not require either a demonstration that Iraq is somehow worse off or a denial of the good that the American presence there has accomplished… [I am] not hoping for a bad outcome of the American occupation in order to bolster the argument that the invasion was a mistake. I myself hope that the occupation is the best thing that ever happened to the Iraqi people and that it brings both stability and democracy to the region.”

In other words, I have not needed bad news coming out of Iraq to fuel my critique of the war. I have hoped for good news, because I sympathize with the Iraqi people, who have suffered much. I have tried to tell myself that their lot has improved as a result of the U.S. occupation. Again, I have not been afraid to say that, because such an admission in itself does not exonerate those who broke the law to put us in Iraq in the first place. Fabricating intelligence and lying to a nation in order to wage war—this is not how democracy works.

Neither is the killing of homosexuals the way democracy is supposed to work. Has our government not claimed to have brought democracy to the Iraqi people? Are Iraq’s homosexuals to be excluded from this bright future? In the past few months I have become more aware of the stories coming out of Iraq, stories that tell of a brutal campaign of intimidation and violence against Iraq’s GLBT community following the U.S. invasion. It appears that the Shias, much persecuted under Saddam Hussein, are exercising their new-found freedom to persecute Iraq’s GLBT population. As has often been the case throughout history, the oppressed, once free, becomes the oppressor.

Last September, Hayder Faiek, a transsexual, was burnt to death by members of a Shia militia in the main street of Baghdad’s al-Karada district. In January, suspected militants shot a gay man in the back of the head. This morning I read of the murder of 14-year-old Ahmed Khalil, who was shot on his doorstep at point blank range by Iraqi police for the apparent crime of being gay. It is believed that Khalil slept with men for money to support his poverty-stricken family.

Khalil’s murder is one more than a dozen recent killings in Iraq motivated by homophobia. Following the U.S. invasion, prominent Shia leaders issued a series of fatwas calling for the elimination of homosexuals. With the murder of Khalil, there is mounting evidence that Islamic fundamentalists have infiltrated government security forces to commit homophobic murders while wearing police uniforms.

Ali Hili, the coordinator of a group of exiled Iraqi gay men who monitor homophobic attacks inside Iraq, has argued that U.S. coalition forces are unwilling to try and tackle the rising tide of homophobic attacks. “They just don’t want to upset the Iraqi government by bringing up the taboo of homosexuality even though homophobic murders have intensified,” he said.

This is tragic, but not surprising. Nor is it accidental. Indeed, both our born-again president and the radical Shia clerics issuing the fatwas view homosexuality as an abomination. While Bush hasn’t called for violence against the GLBT community (either in America or Iraq), the safety of GLBT people (either in America or Iraq) is not one of his priorities. Neither does the current administration recognize the rights of GLBT people, but instead has put its stamp of approval on discrimination. The United States is ostensibly in Iraq to tutor the Iraqi people in the subjects of freedom, democracy, and human rights. How can we expect more from the pupil than the teacher?


I would like to dedicate this post to Ahmed Khalil’s memory. Poverty robbed him of his childhood; bigotry and hate robbed him of his life. For Ahmed, I offer the words of Khalil Gibran (1883 – 1931) on death taken from his best-known work, The Prophet, a collection of twenty-six poetic essays.

On Death

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot
unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death,
open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge
of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart
dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd
when he stands before the king whose hand
is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the sheered not joyful beneath his trembling,
that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind
and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath
from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand
and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink form the river of silence
shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top,
then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
then shall you truly dance.


Blogger tornwordo said...

I'll have you know I'm sitting here on an otherwise lovely saturday evening, blubbering. I feel much desperation...

5:55 PM  
Blogger castor said...

You are so right, Dean, but it is a popular fallacy to believe that the Bush-Regime intended or is still intending to bring "Democracy" to Afghanistan or to Iraq or to somewhere else, because the basis of the Bush-Regime itself isn't democratic. This regime is a pure plutocracy! And there is a great difference between Democracy and Plutocracy!

I love your elegy "On death"

6:10 AM  

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