Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Antiwar Movement and the Iraqi Elections

From: "Action Center" - via//;
Subject: The Antiwar Movement and the Iraqi Elections
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2005 15:21:51 -0500

1) Election Under Occupation

The media theater called the Iraqi election is under way. U.S. television anchor people are broadcasting live from Baghdad, breathlessly describing the preparations for Sunday's display of so-called democracy.

It is important to emphasive the circumstances under which this election is being held. More than 150,000 U.S. troops occupy the country, patrolling the streets with guns trained on Iraqi civilians. Iraq is under a state of emergency, with expanded police powers and a curfew.

This is and election at gunpoint, which will be supervised by U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte. Negroponte built an impressive resume as a brutal enforcer of U.S. policy through murder, rape, and torture. Negroponte served as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985; a period during which Honduras was the launching pad from which the Reagan administration conducted its violent attacks on the people of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The U.S-backed atrocities, which were condemned by the International World Court in the Hague, included kidnappings, rape, torture and killing of suspected dissidents. Reports from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Honduras alleged that Negroponte oversaw the expansion of U.S training camp and military base on Honduran territory, where the U.S. trained Contra terrorists, and where the military secretly detained, tortured and executed Honduran suspected dissidents.

This is the person the Bush Administration would have us believe is going to bring democracy to Iraq.

Assisting him will be two US-funded organizations with long records of manipulating overseas elections on behalf of U.S. corporate interests, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI). These groups, both of which are tied to covert plans to install US-favored regimes overseas, are among organizations that have been given more than $80 million for political activities in Iraq.

Both organizations work closely with the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Agency for International Development, long used by the CIA for covert operations abroad. They were, for example, involved in orchestrating the failed coup and recall referendum in Venezuela in an attempt to remove the democratically elected and popular President Hugo Chavez.

This election is being conducted at gunpoint, administered by a war criminal, and stage-managed by CIA front companies. To pretend that this has anything to do with democracy is outrageous. The Iraqi people recognize this --among expatriates, 90 percent haven't even bothered to register to vote on Sunday.

What, then is the purpose of the phony election? It is actually directed at the U.S. public, which is growing increasingly disillusioned with the war. The sole intent of the election is to provide legitimacy for the occupation, to marginalize the resistance movement, and create an illusion of progress. The election, like the phony transfer of power, will change nothing on the ground in Iraq. On January 31, the day after the election, more than 150,000 U.S. troops will still occupy Iraq, the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib will still be full of Iraqi prisoners, and CIA employee Iyad Allawi will still be the U.S.-appointed dictator.

2) The Iraqi People Have Already Voted -- Against the Occupation

The Iraqi people have already expressed their will; they are overwhelmingly opposed to the occupation of their country. The majority of Iraqi people want the U.S. troops to leave and do not believe that the U.S. and Britain should be involved in holding elections in Iraq, according to several polls.

Many have already cast their ballot against colonial occupation by joining the nationwide uprising. The intelligence chief for the puppet regime in Iraq, General Mohamed Abdullah Shahwani, admitted that the resistance now numbers more than 200,000.

The resistance is made up of many difference forces, with different ideologies and goals. They are united by the determination to free their country from U.S. occupation.

The right of people to resist occupation by arms is a basic right recognized under international law and the Geneva Convention. The people of Iraq have a right to fight back against the occupation of their country, the torture of their people, and the bombing of their cities. They also have a right to expect the solidarity of all who oppose the criminal war. It is not the role of the antiwar movement to debate the ideology or tactics of the resistance; it is our job to stand in solidarity with them and do everything possible to assist them by working to end the occupation of their country.

3) What Next for the Antiwar Movement?

The phony elections will not silence the Iraqi resistance. It is important to remember that in the months since the last time the U.S. attempted to put an "Iraqi face" on the occupation, with the phony transfer of power and appointment of Iyad Allawi as puppet dictator, the resistance has spread and become more sophisticated and more entrenched.

As the resistance grows, we in the U.S. have an obligation not to be deterred by false elections or talk of "timetables." We must stand with the people of Iraq and take up their demand: the immediate, unconditional, and complete withdrawal of all U.S. occupation forces.

We must organize a united struggle to end the occupation. This is now more important than ever before. George W. Bush made it clear in his inauguration sermon that he intends to wage continual, global war. We must meet his call to war with renewed determination and unity.

The global antiwar movement has called for massive protests on the weekend of March 19-20. In the U.S., the Troops Out Now Coalition is organizing local and regional demonstrations to demand an end to the occupation, including a massive regional convergence on Central Park on March 19. The International Action Center, part of the Troops Out Now Coalition, calls upon all progressive and antiwar organizations to join us in the streets on March 19 & 20 to demand: "Troops Out Now!"

March 19
Troops Out Now!
March on Central Park in NYC!
Regional Demonstrations Across the U.S. & Worldwide

The International Action Center

Thursday, January 20, 2005




Don't assume you know someone's sex based on how you perceive them or their gender.

Don't assume all women have a vagina, uterus, etc.

Don't assume all men have a penis, testes, etc.

Don't fetishize our bodies.

Don't use the word hermaphrodite to describe us unless we identify that way and give permission.

Don't feel sorry for us.

Respect our sex identification.

Don't exploit our existence to discredit biological determinism or other academic ideologies.

Know the difference between sex and gender.

Know the difference between intersexed and transgendered.

Don't ask us or try to picture what our genitals look like.

Don't ask us if we have sexual sensations.

Don't assume you have the right to know intimate details of our bodies. We have the right to privacy and safety like all other people.

Realize we have historically been mutilated, fetishized, and made into freak shows. Understand how this affects us and our safety.

Don't say "cool" or "weird" or treat us differently when we tell you we are intersexed.

Educate yourself!!! Read books on intersex.

Girl, woman, female; boy, man, male are not always interchangeable.

Don't assume all intersex people are queer.

Realize that not all people with intersex condition are out.

Realize that not all people with intersex conditions even know that they are intersexed.

Remember that we are 1 in 100, and that is not rare at all!!!

Don't call our conditions "disorders," "retardations," "abnormalities," etc.
Realize that bodies come in all different shapes, sizes and with different parts.
Realize how fucking strong we are to speak up about the medical abuse and victimization we have been through and that we deserve mad props.

Don't write us off as rare and unimportant. Don't put off educating yourself for other "more important" issues.

In situations such as gender caucuses, keep in mind that not all the people who identify as women have similar genitalia, etc. Understand that we have been taught that our bodies are "wrong" and "ugly" and that it reinforces this when people say they love being women because of their vagina, uterus, etc., this reinforces those feelings. Woman does not necessarily = female. Man does not necessarily = male.

Don't assume someone's gender identity.

Don't constantly reference someone's gender identity in an attempt to seem OK with it. Likewise, don't think we care if you're OK with us or not. No one asked for your approval.

Don't trip up on pronouns- if you fuck up, simply correct yourself and go on.
Don't glamorize someone's gender identity or think it's "cool" or say that you're "into it."

Read trans/gender theory. Know the difference between: transgender, transsexual, gender fucking, gender blending/bending, gender vs. sex, binary gender, passing, transitioning, binding, tucking, packing/stuffing, third genders, drag queens/kings, androgyny, butch, femme, crossdressing, boi, MtF, FtM, tranny boys, tranny dykes, boydykes, transfags, etc., etc., etc.!!!

Know the difference between intersex and transgender. Think about how you would really feel if someone you loved transitioned. Think about your fears and why you have them.

Recognize your own transphobia.

Know about transitioning and surgery and hormones.

Don't just name yourself a "trans ally" one day.

Realize that some of us have struggled with our gender identity for a long time. Don't think that we just woke up one day and decided that we would identify as transgendered. So when we finally find a space that we're comfortable in (even if temporarily), don't co-opt that space or try to make it yours too.

Even if you think fucking with gender is hot, don't talk about it in an objectifying way.

Realize that it can be hard existing in in-between spaces and really know that trans oppression and transphobia exist. Know the fear of not being able to determine when you pass, the fear of being arrested/strip searched/thrown in the wrong holding cell, the threat of violence, the annoyance of having to "come out" about your gender identity constantly, etc.

Understand the privilege of feeling at home in your body, using a public bathroom, knowing which M/F box to check, having people assume your gender identity and them being right, etc.

Realize that there is a gender community and that the validation we receive from that community can be incomparable to what you could ever offer us and let us seek refuge there.

Recognize how class and race fit into these equations.

Recognize and respect someone's gender identity regardless of whether or not they choose to have surgery or take hormones. Similarly, don't judge someone for transitioning or not wanting to identify as "transgendered."

Don't think of a transgender identity as "political."

Don't partner with us out of some weird transitioning or coming out process for you. Don't ask us how we fuck.

Question your own gender! (But don't then tell me, "You know, I've never felt like a 'real man'/'real woman' either." -What this means is don't assume our experiences are the same.

Don't ask questions about someone trying to determine their "real gender."

Don't think that FtM are dealing with some kind of internalized sexism.

Don't assume our gender identity, render it invisible, or think it doesn't matter because of who we choose to partner with.

Don't label our gender or sexual identity for us. Recognize the difference between the two!

Don't think of our experiences and identities as monolithic.

Don't think we are a "recent emergence" that somehow came out of gender/queer theory and academia.
Realize that there are a variety of trans/gender expressions. Don't assume that people should express their gender similarly just because they both identify as transgendered. Likewise, don't judge someone because you think that their trans identity and gender expression conflict.

Think about the language you use to differentiate between trans and non-trans people and if it's even necessary to differentiate.
Don't assume trans people have a "shared experience" with people assigned the same gender.

Don't assume FtMs are "better" than other men, or MtFs are not "as good" as other women (especially in terms of sexism).

When doing introductions at a meeting, say the pronoun you prefer for that space along with your name, etc. (Facilitators should make sure this is done.)
Be sensitive to pronouns you use for someone when dealing with authority, police. Keep in mind that people's pronouns/gender identity may not always match up with their I.D.

Don't include us in your process of learning about intersex or trans issues unless we ask you about it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Update on the Supreme Court Case in Nepal:

From: Blue Diamond Society
18th January 2005

Update on the Supreme Court Case in Nepal:

The case filed by a lawyer Mr. Achyut Prasad Kharel, against the government seeking directions that bans the activities of Blue Diamond Society was taken up for hearing today by the Honourable Supreme Court, but was then adjourned as it was the end of day and there would have been no time for a proper hearing. Mr. Rup Narain Shrestha [Advocate], from the FWLD attended the court on behalf of Blue Diamond Society as their lawyer. Mr. Aditya Bondyopadhyay, a Human Rights lawyer from New Delhi with expertise on issues of human rights of sexual minorities, who has been deputed by Naz Foundation International to assist the BDS and its legal team from FWLD in the case, was also present in the court.

Also present in the court were representatives of the German Embassy who had been directed by their Foreign Ministry to monitor the progress of the case as it has significant ramifications for the basic human rights of all sexual minorities in Nepal.

Statement from Blue Diamond Society on the case:

Nepal does not have any law that specifically criminalizes or prescribe sanctions against sexual minorities or homosexual persons. This is totally in consonance with the obligations of the International Human Rights Laws that are applicable to Nepal by virtue of its becoming party to the various Human Rights treaties like the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and ICESCR [International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights]. This position has also been upheld by the affidavits of the ministry of Home, the ministry of Law, and the CDO office, that has been filed in this case before the Honourable Supreme Court. Blue Diamond appreciates the position taken by the ministries in support of human rights of sexual minorities. Blue Diamond also has full faith in the honourable judiciary and hopes that the Honourable Supreme Court will also stand by the side of Human Rights, accept the positions expressed by the ministries, and dismiss what is essentially a medieval minded misguided petition by an anti progressive, homophobic individual.

Blue Diamond understands that should the Honourable Supreme Court find in favour of the petitioner in this case, then it becomes effective and applicable law against all sexual minorities in Nepal. However such a finding shall not be the end of the matter. Although it is unlikely that the Honourable Supreme Court will go against the grain of applicable Human Rights; in such an unfortunate eventuality, Blue Diamond shall take up the matter to the Committee on Human Rights [CHR] in Geneva.

It is significant to mention here that Nepal being a signatory to the optional protocol of ICCPR, any Nepali citizen who is aggrieved by any applicable law that violates their basic human rights can file a complaint before the CHR.  In the past the CHR has deliberated on anti homosexual laws in the famous case of Toonen-Vs-Australia, where the CHR directed the Australian State of Tasmania to change its anti homosexual laws. Blue Diamond asserts that this ruling of CHR is applicable Human Rights Law and Standard in Nepal, and if it feels aggrieved at any stage that the human rights of sexual minorities are not protected in Nepal, then it shall surely approach the CHR with a complaint.

In the meantime Blue Diamond is taking all necessary steps with the help of its Lawyers from FWLD and the legal assistance provided by Aditya Bondyopadhyay from Naz Foundation International to provide adequate defence and contest to this misguided petition.

Sunil B Pant
Blue Diamond Society

Saturday, January 15, 2005

An Open Letter from Sam Hamill

New Years Day, 2005

Dear Friends:

The war drags on. Fallujah has been destroyed in order to save it, shades of Vietnam. A man who presented the argument in favor of ignoring the Geneva accords, a man who would authorize torture, is now our Attorney General. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead, many times more wounded, homeless And American soldiers who have served their tours of duty are being post facto drafted to remain in combat.

We can look forward to Bush’s new secretary of state continuing to who knows what? And there will be supreme and other high court appointments, and of course a Patriot Act II, with attendant incursions into our constitutional rights. Tax cuts for the rich? Permanent. The environment? The worst policies in our history. What a ghastly litany.

Four more years, indeed.

A number of organizations are encouraging January 20 demonstrations and teach-ins and contra-Bush celebrations around the world. I hope you will all join me in joining them.

Check out , and please post any events scheduled for that day. The more we can reach out and work with other organizations, the broader the audience for poetry and the broader our message of peace.

We’d like to post a list of host organizations working in cooperation with Poets Against the War to make that day memorable.

As of January 1st, I am leaving Copper Canyon Press. Over the coming months, I will devote a lot more time to working with PAW board members to build a sound infrastructure and strengthen our organization.

Like kindred organizations in countries around the world, we have reminded millions of people of the noble traditions of poetry, of its role in every culture. I have seen time and again tears of gratitude in the eyes of the Italians, French, Lithuanians, etc, and have received innumerable messages of hope, support and kinship from all over the world. These people are grateful to be reminded that (at least) half of the U.S. objects to the direction this country’s taken, and that we are eager to listen to and work cooperatively with them so that all of our voices (and various positions) may be heard while we stand together.

In the ecology of the soul, thrift is ruinous. We look forward to a productive new year filled with mindful actions, generosity of spirit, heartfelt compassion, and of course a lot of good poetry.

This winter solstice I will close with a handful of poems by Soufie, who is 12 years old and lives in Tehran and likes haiku and wants to learn Japanese and live in Japan. The translations are by the Iranian editor Ali
Samavati (with a little help from me).


Sam Hamill

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Susan Sontag and a Case of Curious Silence


THE INNING OF SONTAG: I have to say I'm amazed at the fact that almost all the obituaries for Susan Sontag omitted her primary, longtime relationship with Annie Leibovitz, the photographer. Of 315 articles in Nexis, only 29 mention Leibovitz, and most of them referred merely to their joint projects. Leibovitz was unmentioned as a survivor in the NYT and Washington Post. It's striking how even allegedly liberal outlets routinely excise the homosexual dimension from many people's lives - even from someone dead. But perhaps it is reflective of Sontag's own notions of privacy and identity. She championed many causes in her day, but the gay civil rights movement was oddly not prominent among them.

MORE ON SONTAG: I'm not the only one to notice how the big media has essentially lied by omission about Susan Sontag's life. An op-ed in today's L.A. Times notes the following: An unauthorized biography written by Carl Rollyson and Lisa Paddock and published by W.W. Norton in 2000, reports that Sontag was, for seven years, the companion of the great American playwright Maria Irene Fornes (in Sontag's introduction to the collected works of Fornes, she writes about them living together). She also had a relationship with the renowned choreographer Lucinda Childs. And, most recently, Sontag lived, on and off, with Leibovitz.

Even Hitchens mentions only her ex-husband. Privacy? From a woman who detailed every aspect of her own illnesses? From someone whose best work is redolent with homosexual themes? But, of course, Sontag understood that her lesbianism might limit her appeal in a homophobic culture - even on the extreme left, where she comfortably lived for decades. That was her prerogative. But that's no reason for the media to perpetuate untruths after her death. And it's certainly reason to review her own record in confronting injustice. Just as she once defended the persecution of gay people in Castro's Cuba, she ducked one of the burning civil rights struggles of her time at home. But she was on the left. So no one criticized.

DE-GAYING SONTAG: Here's Daniel Okrent's defense of why the New York Times omitted the fact that Susan Sontag was a lesbian: Spurred by challenges and queries from several readers, I looked into the charge that The Times had willfully suppressed information about Susan Sontag's relationship with Annie Leibovitz. My inquiry indicates that the subject was in fact discussed before publication of the Sontag obituary, but that The Times could find no authoritative source who could confirm any details of a relationship. According to obituaries editor Chuck Strum, "It might have been helpful if The Times could have found a way to acknowledge the existence of a widespread impression that Susan Sontag and Annie Leibovitz were more than just casual friends. But absent any clarifying statements from either party over the years, and no such
corroboration from people close to her, we felt it was impossible to write anything conclusive about their relationship and remain fair to both of them." Ms. Leibovitz would not discuss the subject with The Times, and Ms. Sontag's son, David Rieff, declined to confirm any details about the relationship. Some might say that such safely accurate phrases as "Ms. Sontag had a long relationship with Annie Leibovitz" would have sufficed, but I think anything like that would not only bear the unpleasant aroma of euphemism, but would also seem leering or coy. Additionally, irrespective of the details of this
particular situation, it's fair to ask whether intimate information about the private lives of people who wish to keep those lives private is fair game for newspapers. I would personally hope not. The closet remains intact. Privacy? Sontag informed the world about her cancers and even an abortion. And her relationships with several women were not state secrets. Recall also that Sontag's career took off with her rightly celebrated essay on camp, an essay that she would had a hard time writing without intimate familiarity with gay
life and culture. The golden rule here is to ask what the NYT would have done if Sontag had lived with a man for a couple of decades on and off, and had written essays on various aspects of sex, love and heterosexuality. Do you think they would have never mentioned her actual love life? Or if she had had serious relationships with a variety of male artists and thinkers, some of whom had influenced her work. Would this be regarded as an invasion of her privacy? The question answers itself.

from the LA Times:

Susan Sontag and a Case of Curious Silence By Patrick Moore, Patrick Moore is the author of "Beyond Shame:Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality" (Beacon Press, 2004).

On Dec. 29, 2004, major gay and lesbian news organizations announced that "lesbian writer Susan Sontag" had died. In its obituary of Sontag, the New York Daily News wrote, "Famed photographer Annie Leibovitz had been her longtime companion."

On Dec. 29, 2004, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times reported Sontag's death on their front pages, with more stories inside. Yet neither paper mentioned Sontag's relationships with Leibovitz and other women.

It seems that editors at what are, arguably, the nation's most respected (and liberal) newspapers believe that one personal detail cannot be mentioned in even the most complete biographies — being a lesbian.

In a 1995 New Yorker profile, Sontag outed herself as bisexual, familiar code for "gay." Yet she remained quasi-closeted, speaking to interviewers in detail about her ex-husband without mentioning her long liaisons with some of America's most fascinating female artists.

An unauthorized biography written by Carl Rollyson and Lisa Paddock and published by W.W. Norton in 2000, reports that Sontag was, for seven years, the companion of the great American playwright Maria Irene Fornes (in Sontag's introduction to the collected works of Fornes, she writes about them living together). She also had a relationship with the renowned choreographer Lucinda Childs. And, most recently, Sontag lived, on and off, with Leibovitz.

Sontag's reticence is surely part of why the two Timeses neglected this part of her life. But she didn't deny these relationships. And given that obituaries typically cite their subjects' important relationships, shouldn't the two best newspapers in the country have reported at least her most recent one, with Leibovitz, as well as her marriage, which ended in 1958?

Some will ask why revealing Sontag's sexuality is relevant. As Charles McGrath wrote in his appreciation of Sontag in the New York Times, "Part of her appeal was her own glamour — the black outfits, the sultry voice, the trademark white stripe parting her long dark hair." Sontag was well aware of herself as a sexual being and used her image to transform herself from just another intellectual into a cultural icon. She may well have felt that her true sexuality would limit her impact in the male-dominated intellectual elite, while an omnisexual charisma opened doors.

More important, though, Sontag's lesbian relationships surely affected her work and our understanding of it. Two of Sontag's most famous essays dealt with issues associated with homosexuality: "Notes on Camp" and "AIDS and Its Metaphors."

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times found ample room to discuss Sontag's cancer and subsequent mastectomy, which were not seen as lurid details but as necessary information in understanding the work of the author of "Illness as Metaphor." The papers also included extensive discussions of Sontag's schooling, her early family life, how she met her ex-husband, even her thoughts on driving in Los Angeles. However, her relationships with women and how they shaped her thoughts on gay culture and the larger world of outsiders
and outlaws (a Sontag fascination) were omitted.

There is, of course, a larger issue here: Continued silence about lesbians in American culture amounts to bias. Gay men seem to have settled into the role of finger-snapping designer/decorator/entertainers in the mass media. Meanwhile, most lesbians who achieve widespread fame — Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Etheridge and Rosie O'Donnell — have to remain in the closet until they have gained enough power to weather the coming-out storm. This model victimizes those who are out and proud from the very beginning.

The obituaries, remembrances and appreciations in New York and Los Angeles do anything but honor Sontag. They form a record that is, at best, incomplete and, at worst, knowingly false. But don't look for corrections, clarifications or apologies.

The New York writer and activist Sarah Schulman has been, ironically, described as "the lesbian Susan Sontag." Schulman told me recently that Sontag "never applied her massive intellectual gifts toward understanding her own condition as a lesbian, because to do so publicly would have subjected her to marginalization and dismissal."

Susan Sontag was a brilliant, provocative writer who had vital, loving relationships with some of the most fascinating and creative women of her day. I believe that her intellectual accomplishments are even more compelling when one understands how her sexuality informed

Sontag was often quoted as saying, "Be serious, be passionate, wake up!" Let's hope that America's leading newspapers follow her advice.