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August 31, 2005

IRAQ WAR COSTS EVERY AMERICAN $727, EXCEEDING COSTS OF VIETNAM WAR

A stunning new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) shows that the war in Iraq has so far cost every person in the U.S. $727, making the Iraq War the most expensive military effort in the last 60 years. Moreover, the costs of the war and the continuing American occupation of Iraq have exceeded those of the Vietnam war during eight years. Iraq_cartoon_2 Operations costs in Iraq are estimated at $5.6 billion per month in 2005. By comparison, the average cost of U.S. operations in Vietnam over the eight-year war was $5.1 billion per month, adjusting for inflation.

The IPS report, The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Home the Troops, was written by Phyllis Bennis, Erik Leaver and the IPS Iraq Task Force. Among the report's other findings:

-- According to current estimates, the cost of the Iraq War could exceed $700 billion. In current dollars, the Vietnam War cost U.S. taxpayers $600 billion.

-- Staying in Iraq and Afghanistan at current levels would nearly double the projected federal budget deficit over the next decade.

--Since 2001, the U.S. has deployed more than 1 million troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

-- Broken down per person in the United States, the cost so far is $727, making the Iraq War the most expensive military effort in the last 60 years. -- The number of journalists killed reporting the Iraq War (66) has exceeded the number of journalists killed reporting on the Vietnam War (63).

-- The U.S. controls 106 military bases across Iraq. Congress has budgeted $236 million for permanent base construction in FY2005

The impact at home of the Iraq war is considerable, in the burdens it places on both  the families of those serving and on the communities in which those families lives. The IPS report notes the heightened costs of domestic security due to the Iraq war: "Roughly 48,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve are currently serving in Iraq—making up nearly 35 percent of the total U.S. forces there. Their deployment puts a particularly heavy burden on their home communities because many are “first responders,” including police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. For example, 44 percent of the country’s police forces have lost officers to Iraq. In some states, the absence of so many Guard troops has raised concerns about the ability to handle fires and other natural disasters..."

Moreover, the war and occupation of Iraq have drained the U.S. Treasury of money desperately needed for social programs. The IPS report makes the following calculations: "The Administration’s FY 2006 budget, which does not include any funding for the Iraq War, takes a hard line with domestic spending— slashing or eliminating more than 150 federal programs. The $204.4 billion appropriated thus far for the war in Iraq could have purchased any of the following desperately needed services in our country: 46,458,805 uninsured people receiving health care or 3,545,016 elementary school teachers or 27,093,473 Head Start places for children or 1,841,833 affordable housing units or 24,072 new elementary schools or 39,665,748 scholarships for university students or 3,204,265 port container inspectors." There's a lot more, and you can read the entire report by clicking here.

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NO ISRAELI COMPENSATION FOR ARAB VICITIMS OF TERRORISM

Sisters_zada_victims The Israeli apartheid system of discrimination against Palestinians even extends to Israeli Arabs who are victims of terrorism. The BBC reported yesterday: "Families of Israeli Arabs shot dead on a bus in Galilee are not considered terrorism victims because their killer was Jewish, the defence ministry says. Under Israeli law, only attacks by 'enemies of Israel' are considered terrorism, the ministry said. The ruling means families of the four victims will not be entitled to the lifelong monthly payments given to Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks." The shooting took place in the largely Druze community of Shfaram. Two of the victims killed were Christians, two were Muslims. (Photos above right, two of the Israeli Arabs who were victims of the shootings, the Turki sisters: Hazar, on the left and Dina, on the right.)

Eden_natan_zada The Israeli Arabs were killed by a 19-year-old Israeli army deserter, Eden Natan Zada (left), who was thought to be trying to derail the evacuation of Jewish settlements in Gaza. Zada had fallen under the spell of ultra-right Kahanist religious nationalists, and was an activist in the extremist, outlawed Kach movement, according to Haaretz. The Times of London reported that Zada was recruited to terror over the Internet. Even Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called the shooting "a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist." So denying the grieving families of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians who've been victims of terrorism the same rights accorded Jewish Israeli families of victims simply underscores once again, and in a particularly humiliating way, how Israel treats its citizens of Palestinian and Arab descent as second-class citizens, whose lives are worth less than the lives of Jewish Israelis. A sad and crass slap in the face to human dignity and the equality of all peoples.

An Israeli Arab member of parliament, Muhammad Barak, said there was a strong scent of racism about the decision, because it distinguished between Jewish terrorism and Arab terrorism. He has submitted an amendment to allow Israel to compensate anyone hurt in "hostile activities by a terror organization" - not just those hurt by "organisations hostile to Israel", Haaretz reports, adding: "The amendment would also apply to Palestinians residing within Israel's territory. The bill emphasizes that an identical bill was submitted to the Knesset in 1994 but was not approved."

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August 29, 2005

EVALUATING SOLIDARNOSC, 25 YEARS LATER -- by Norman Birnbaum

Today is being celebrated in Poland as the 25th anniversary of  the birth of Solidarnosc (Solidarity), the trade union movement that spearheaded Poland's liberation from Communist dictatorship The following was written by frequent DIRELAND contributor Norman Birnbaum, who wrote the prescient analysis for DIRELAND last month on Germany's Political Crisis (and why its Left is in Disarray).

Norman_birnbaum_9 Norman (left) is University Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University Law School, and author--most recently--of After Progress: American Social Reform and European Socialism In The Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press), among other books. Norman was a founding editor of New Left Review, was on the editorial board of Partisan Review, and is on the editorial board of The Nation. Norman, who got his doctorate in sociology from Harvard, has also taught at the London School of Economics, Oxford University, the University of Strasbourg and Amherst College, has had academic appointments in Italy and Germany, and has been a consultant to the National Security Council. When Norman sent me this piece, he commented, :"I did not draw in this analysis the lessons for Iraq; if someone cannot grasp them, instruction would be futile..."

A quarter of a century after the beginning of Solidarnosc,Solidarnosc  let us try to make sense of what at the time, for many, was so astonishing that theological rather than historical explanation seemed appropriate. The fact that partially free elections were held in Poland, after the Communist Party acknowledged that it was incapable of commanding society on June 4 1989, indeed reminded us of Providence. It was the day the Chinese party and state massacred the young in Peking. .

Three historical currents converged in Solidarnosc. The first, of course, was the history of Poland itself. Their own history taught the Polish people that there is a time for everything—for resistance, for temporary submission, for sullen compliance. Nothing in that history was lost---and Solidarnosc owed much to 1830, 1863 and 1944. That Jaruzelski was as true, in the end, for the Communists as for their antagonists. The present Polish president, after all, in 1989 negotiated with Solidarnosc as counselor to General Jaruzelski (right). Was the latter, in effect, a Soviet agent? If so, what about Wielopolski Alexander Wielopolski (left), the Polish Count who was half-reformer, half-hangman as the Tsar’s man in Warsaw, and the generations of Poles who served Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia? Providence, upon examination, in the end was that most profane of history’s characteristics, its ambiguity and indeterminism. Those who, like Jaruzelski, convinced themselves that they had but one choice, upon acting on it invariably discovered that they had become prisoners of the forces they sought to subdue.

Solidarnosc surprised the western elites only because they believed a Cold War ideology which depicted Communist societies as monolithic. It had been preceded in Communist Poland itself by a very turbulent history: Gomulka (right) Gomulka_2 was most definitely not Deutscher the Soviet Union’s candidate to assume power in 1956. Polish Communism was always riven by ideological conflict. (The spiritual heir of Polish Trotskyism, Isaac Deutscher, (left) was visited at his London home by Polish Ambassadors, Ministers, and intellectuals in an unending stream.) In the larger setting, Titoism, the revolt in 1953 in the German Democratic Republic, Khrushchev’s repudiation of Stalinism, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Maoist schism, Soviet dissent, and the Czech experiment in open Communism of 1968 demonstrated that the exceptionalism of Poland was entirely normal. The second current that made Solidnarosc possible, then, was one constituted by the insuperable internal contradictions of Communism itself. Of these, two were salient. One was the assertion that a backward country, Russia, was the vanguard of universal emancipation. The other was that the more developed a working class became, the more necessary its Kolowkowski submission to a dictatorial and hermetic party. Lipinski Leszek Kolakowski (left), Jacek Kuron, (lower left) Edward Lipinski (right) , Wojciech Modelski, and Adam Michnik (lower right),  in their struggle against theseMichnik_4  absurdities, laid the intellectual foundations  of Kuron_1 KOR, the group founded illegally but publicly in 1976, to express the intellectuals’ solidarity with the  workers. They had help: the secular sociology of truth seekers like Jan Szczepanski, and the desperate efforts of Adam Schaff to keep Marxism intellectually respectable.

There was a third current in the background---the slow decomposition of the Cold War itself. The Helsinki Agreement of 1971 (and especially the apparently secondary references to Human Rights) was a charter for what proponents of orthodoxy in both NATO and the Warsaw Pact deemed impossible as well as impermissible: peaceful if competitive co-existence. True, Solidarnosc developed as the USSR and the USA were planning to install medium range missiles on the territory of their satellite states, the better to initiate a war between them by devastating Europe and not their imperial homelands. Very large popular protest in the Lech_walesaGerman Federal Republic, Great Britain, and elsewhere in Europe was matched by a peace movement in the German Democratic Republic which was an anticipation of the popular protests of 1989. All of this seems far from the concerns of shipyard workers in Gdansk. (Left, Lech Walsea speaks to striking Gdansk workers in 1980.) There may have been a connection: a conviction, on the part of the European peoples, that it was time to stop exploitation at the hands of distant powers acting through local satrapies. In any event, the US did very little, apart from talking even more loudly---a perpetual American response to political impotence---when Solidarnosc emerged. It was the US which had earlier refused the suggestions of two foreign ministers, Anthony Eden of the United Kingdom and Adam Rapacki of Poland, for the reduction of arms in central Europe – suggestions which, if followed, might well have allowed liberalisation in Poland well before Solidarnosc had to fight for it. Perhaps we could have had more historical imagination to go with our moral indignation.

What of the obvious Catholic component in Solidarnosc, its long pre-history in the autonomous activities of Catholic proponents of social justice in the Polish People’s Republic? The election of Cardinal Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II Pope_john_xxiii in 1979, and his visit that year to Poland, obviously reinforced Catholic activism. Pope John XXIII and his successor, Paul VI, had broken with the rigid anti-Communism of the Vatican. They Initiated and continued dialogue with the Communist regimes as a way to secure nd enlarge space within these regimes for Catholicism and for spiritual freedom generally. Solidarnosc  was a belated product of the Aggiornamento of the Second Vatican Council. It is interesting that the Italian Communists -- close in many ways to the Italian Catholics -- were supporters of Solidarnosc.

The specific effect of Solidarnosc on Communist societies is a matter that still requires historical investigation. The critical Chinese intelligentsia knew of it, but it knew of everything that happened in the world. That is why it was so dangerous to their rulers. In the event, the Chinese student rising of 1989 (right)Beijing_1989 did evoke widespread solidarity from the Chinese working class. From my own direct knowledge of Communist Germany and its official elites as well as its dissidents, I would say that the East German response was entirely ambiguous. Some (along with the West Germans) feared a civil war in Poland, Soviet intervention, and a fatal conflagration. Others thought of Solidarnosc as a lesson in democracy, taught by Polish civil society to those still mired in an unnecessary quietism—those of their fellow East German citizens who first awoke in September and October of 1989 to their own potential power..

The images from the Gdansk shipyards on the West’s television screens, however, did not immediately encourage historical reflection. They were initially interpreted according to the predilections of the viewing publics. In the US, intellectual primitivism had full reign. Very few asked how, if Communism was so oppressive, Solidarnosc had been able to develop in the first place. In Western Europe, the response was much more informed and nuanced. As the Poles struggled to free themselves of indirect but effective Soviet suzerainty, many in Western Europe thought that the time had come for them to confront the United States as equals. In short, Solidarnosc contributed to the view that Europe had to cease existing only of itself and should act for itself. There might be lessons in that for the Europeans, still.  -- Norman Birnbaum

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August 26, 2005

OSCAR WILDE'S SECOND COMING OUT

I wrote the following review for In These Times, of which I am a Contributing Editor:

Oscar_i_head    When first published in England two years ago, Neil McKenna's The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde won universal critical acclaim. The praise was more than deserved, for this stunning piece of investigative historiography reveals for the very first time how Wilde (left) was a militant precursor of the modern gay liberation movement long before his famous speech from the dock in defense of "the love that dare not speak its name."

Making use of hitherto unpublished and unconsulted documents, diaries and letters, this extraordinary book  -- just published in the United States by Basic Books -- also gives a new and revealing portrait of Wilde'sNeal_mckenna  sexuality that supercedes all previous Wilde biographies. Moreover, McKenna's book provides us, at long last, a definitive account of the political cover-up of the homosexual scandals within England's ruling and royal elites that motored Wilde's prosecution and trial. (Right, photo of author Neil McKenna.)

The commonly accepted view is that Wilde discovered his homosexuality after he had already been married and produced children, when he was seduced by his young friend Robbie Ross Oscars_tomb_ii (who later became Oscar's literary executor, and who had his own ashes buried in Oscar's tomb at the Père Lachaise cemetary in Paris, photo of the tomb at left). It is this version of Oscar's Stephen_fry_as_oscar_1 coming-out that was popularized in Brian Gilbert's sympathetic 1997 film, the Oscar-nominated Wilde (starring the openly gay British actor Stephen Fry, in a subtle portrayal, as Oscar -- photo right). The film was based on Richard Ellmann's admiring, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography -- valuable, but now made outdated in many ways by McKenna's book.

But in his carefully documented work, McKenna demonstrates beyond doubt that the truth is quite different. By the time he married in 1884, Wilde had already lived for Frank_miles several years with a male lover he'd met in 1876 -- the society portrait painter Frank Miles (shown later in life, left). ALord_ronald_gower_1 handsome man two years older than Oscar, Miles in turn would introduce Wilde to the sculptor Lord Ronald Gower (right), "a notorious sodomite, with a penchant for 'rough trade,'" on whom Wilde "would base the character of Lord Henry Wotton, the corrupting prophet of strange sins" in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Wilde later recounted the day of what he called his "sexual Frank_harris_1 awakening" to his friend and confidant, Frank Harris (1856-1931). A writer, editor, journalist and womanizer, Harris (left) authored My Life and Loves, a monumental autobiographical portrayal of the underside of Victorian sexuality that created a scandal in both Europe and America when published in the '20s.

On the day 16-year-old Wilde left Portora Royal School, where he'd been a student, a boy a year younger than he -- with whom he'd had a strong "sentimental friendship" --came to the train station to bid him farewell. In McKenna's re-telling, as the Dublin train was about to depart, the boy turned and cried out, "Oh, Oscar!" "Before I knew what he was doing he had caught my face in his hands, and kissed me on the lips. The next moment ... he was gone." Wilde felt "cold sticky drops" trickling down his face -- they were the boy's tears. "This is love," he said to himself, trembling slightly. "For a long while I sat, unable to think, all shaken with wonder and remorse," Wilde told Harris. That sense of "wonder and remorse" followed Wilde to Oxford, where he began his affair with Miles and, as a scholar of classical Greek, first began to write admiringly of "Greek love," the passion of an older man for a younger.

By the late 1870s, Wilde was already preoccupied with the philosophy of same-sex love. He befriended and frequented the poet and writer John Addington Symonds, John_addington_symonds (right) who helped found several "Walt Whitman Societies" in the north of England -- the first recorded English groups of gay men founded explicitly to discuss same-sex love -- and who wrote the pro-homosexual "A Problem in Greek Ethics," published in 1883. Walter_pater He began a cautious friendship with the homosexual essayist and critic Walter Pater (left) -- a central figure of the Pre-Raphaelites, who had written in coded language of the love of boys -- but found him "too hesitant, too secretive about his sexual tastes."

During this period Wilde also became familiar with the writings of Ulrichs the gay liberationist pioneer, the German lawyer Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895). From the 1860s on, Ulrichs (left) published dozens of books and pamphlets proclaiming that homosexuality -- which, invoking Plato's Symposium, he baptized "Uranian love" (from the Greek urianos, or "heavenly love") --was normal and natural, and arguing that Uranians should have full social and legal equality with heterosexuals, including the right to marry. Wilde embraced both Ulrichs' philosophy and his Uranian language. He and his friends began to refer in their letters to the campaign for legalization of homosexuality as "the Cause," joining a secret Uranian organization, the Order of Chaeronea, to fight for it. McKenna demonstrates that "the very title of The Importance of Being Earnest is a Uranian pun....Among less literary Uranians, 'earnest' -- a corruption of the French uraniste -- enjoyed a short vogue as a coded signifier of Uranian inclinations" (as in "is he earnest?" to mean "is he gay?")

When Wilde sailed for America on Christmas Eve, 1881, one of his most important priorities was to arrange a meeting with Walt WhitmanWalt_whitman (below left). Wilde's friend Symonds had engaged in a long correspondence with Whitman, trying to draw out an explicit declaration of his sexual tastes, so ill-concealed in Whitman's strongly and beautifully homosensual poems about passionate male bonding. Whitman had remained evasive. But after his meeting with Whitman (then in his 60s, with a flowing, white beard), Wilde wrote that there was "no doubt" about the great American poet's sexual orientation -- "I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips," Oscar boasted.

In 1889 -- six years before the trial that sent him to Reading Gaol -- Wilde startled the literary world with The Portrait of Mr. W.H. This novella drew Oscar_cigarette_v_good its title from the "W.H." to whom Shakespeare dedicated a sequence of 154 sonnets. Adopting as his own the well-known theory that "W.H." referred to the 17-year-old Elizabethan actor Willie Hughes, McKenna writes, Wilde (left) made his novella's "real hero...the spiritual and sexual love that men have for younger men...[It was] a manifesto...closely argued to give cultural and historical legitimacy to sex between men and youths...Just as Shakespeare had one great life-affirming, life-changing, immortal love affair with a beautiful boy, so [Wilde's searching] for an ennobling love, for an inspiring love, for a love that could transcend the mundane and enter the sphere of immortality, began at about the time he was writing The Portrait of Mr. W.H." (The full text of Oscar's "The Portrait of Mr. W.H." is readable on-line by clicking here.)

Marequess_of_queensbury That love, of course, was to be Lord Alfred Douglas--Wilde's Bosie_ii_best_1 "Bosie." But Bosie (right) was not the only homosexual son of the half-mad, anti-Semitic, alcoholic Marquis of Queensberry (left). Bosie's beloved older brother, Francis, Viscount Drumlanrig, was also a Uranian. What's more, in 1892, not long after Bosie's love affair with Wilde had begun, Drumlanrig had become the lover of Lord Rosebery, the Liberal Party politician who had been Prime Minister Gladstone's foreign secretary before becoming prime minister himself in 1894.

Rosebery (below left) had arranged for his lover Drumlanrig to be given a Lord_rosebery_1 peerage in 1893, so that he could sit in the House of Lords and assume a junior ministerial role. But the Marquis of Queensberry -- whose right to sit in the Lords had been lost (and thus, his political career thwarted) when, as a Scots Peer, he'd refused to swear the oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria -- took the gift of a peerage to his older son as a deliberate insult. He developed a white-hot anger at Rosebery and the Liberal Party elite. This anger became uncontrollable rage when Drumlanrig committed suicide the year before Wilde's trials to save his lover Lord Rosebery from exposure.

It's well known that Wilde -- under pressure from his beloved -- decided to sue Bosie's father for libel for having called him a "sodomite." But what has never been so tellingly and completely detailed until this book is how Queensberry pressured Rosebery's Liberal government into subsequently prosecuting Wilde criminally--through blackmail. McKenna's chapters dealing with Queensberry's blackmail of the government read like a detective story. He details how the government's relentless prosecution of Wilde, which included the bribing of witnesses -- all designed to "bring to an abrupt halt what many saw as the creeping contagion of his gospel of unnatural love" -- was "driven entirely" by the fear that Queensberry would make public the secret homosexuality of Prime Minister Rosebery, and of other members of the Liberal Party leadership and the Royal Family.

McKenna does a fine job of portraying the class elements of Wilde's persecution. Since the Victorians believed there was no such thing as working-class homosexuality, but that the lower classes were "corrupted" by decadent members of the elite, Wilde's flings with a raft of boys not of his own class were considered doubly Haymarket_martyrs scandalous. But if there is one criticism to be made of this book, it is that it makes short shrift of Wilde's politics. "I think I am rather more than a Socialist. I am something of an Anarchist, I believe," Wilde said, and his portrayal of the poverty produced by industrial society in his essay, "The Soul of Man Under Socialism," is still touching today. But his non-gay political activism -- for example, Wilde signed a petition for the release of the Haymarket martyrs (left), the eight anarchist American trade unionists executed for their role in the 8-hour day movement -- goes unmentioned in this book. (The full text of Oscar's "The Soul of Man Under Socialism" is readable on-line by clicking here.)Oscar_young_man_1

Despite that caveat, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde must now rank as a crucial, hitherto missing, but terribly vital piece of both gay and literary history -- and it is beautifully written to boot. Not since Anthony Heilbut's groundbreaking Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature has there been such an intimate and image-changing sexual reading of a great gay author's work and life. McKenna's book on Oscar is both a major achievement and a wonderful read.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my recent article on Pier Paolo Pasolini and the recent reopening -- thirty years later -- of the investigation into his murder.

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August 25, 2005

IRAN'S ANTI-GAY PURGE GROWS--REPORTS OF NEW GAY EXECUTIONS

I wrote the following article for the new issue of Gay City News -- New York's largest gay weekly -- which hit the newsstands today:

Iran_noose_1 There have been reports of a new execution of a gay man in the city of Arak, Iran, on August 16, and of other executions of four men, ages 17 to 24, for unspecified “sexual offenses.” But it is difficult to confirm these reports with total accuracy, because of the climate of fear which prevails in the Islamic Republic of Iran today. The newly-elected, reactionary regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (lower right) has heightened its campaign of repression of gay people since the worldwide protests against the hanging of two gay teens in Mashad on July 19, and Iranians -- both gay and straight --are afraid to communicate with the outside world on these matters.Ahmadinejad_1

At the beginning of this week, 365gay.com posted an article claiming that a gay man had been executed in Arak on August 16, and cited as its source the British newspaper, The Observer. But when I talked by phone with the author of The Observer’s article -- the paper’s social affairs editor, Jamie Doward -- he told me that The Observer had no independent source for his article’s one-sentence reference to this new execution, and said that he got the information from a private e-mail he’d received from the British gay rights group OutRage.

At the same time, a French gay group, Solidarité Internationale LGBT, sent out an alert this week saying that a gay man had been executed in Arak, but on a later date -- August 19 -- and adding a new detail, that this man was one of the two men whom (as GCN had previously reported) had been condemned to be executed in Arak on August 28, and who were “gay,” according to gay Iranian sources. The French group cited no sources and no other details, and attempts to reach them by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful by press time.

When this reporter tried to confirm from Iranian sources the report that had appeared in The Observer and the French report, he received an e-mailed reply from an underground ‘zine for gays edited in Farsi in Tehran (whose editors requested, out of fear, that neither their name nor that of their publication be cited) saying that their information was that a man had been hanged in the public square in Arak on August 16, but that they had no information as to his sexuality. This was the same source, OutRage’s Brett Locke said by telephone from London, from which OutRage had received its information about the latest execution in Arak. Since both this non-Farsi-speaking reporter’s communications with Iran, and those of OutRage, were in English, there may have been a language problem explaining the contradictions between the differing reports received from the Iranian gay ‘zine‘s editors, whose English is far from perfect.

Farshad Hoseini of the Netherlands secretariat of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR), when asked about the supposed August 16 execution, said that they had knowledge of a public hanging in Arak’s main square of a 21 year old man -- but said it had taken place two days earlier, on August 14. Hoseini, too, said IFIR had no information about the young man’s sexuality, indicating the official charge against him was homicide.

Afdhere Jama, editor of the gay e-’zine for Muslims, Huriyah -- who had just returned from a lengthy European trip, during which he met with Iranians in exile -- told me this week that his Iranian contacts, both inside and outside Iran, were upset with the way some human rights organizations in the West were so readily accepting the official government versions of the crimes for which men thought to be gay were being executed. “Under Islamic law, which has been adopted by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s legal system, it takes four witnesses to prove an act of homosexuality, which is a capital crime. That’s why its much easier for the Islamic government to invent other criminal charges against gay people to get rid of them,” Jama said.

In an e-mail to this reporter from the underground gay publication in Iran, its editors expressed a similar view, saying “the government invent all kind of charges on gay people that are not true, and are not to [be] believed.” They urged those in the West to be “very careful” before accepting such criminal charges at face value.

On August 23, the news website Iran Focus -- run by Iranian exiles -- posted a story saying, “Four young men between the ages of 17 and 23 were hanged in public in the port city of Bandar Abbas.” Citing as its source “the ultra-Islamist daily” Kayhan, Iran Focus added, “All four were accused of sex offences and theft. Iran_noose_ii The daily quoted an unnamed Justice Ministry official as saying that the reason why young men were committing so many sex offences was that ‘they are not aware of the punishment for their offences under Islamic laws.’” That, of course, is what the two gay teens hanged in Mashad had said through their lawyer, according to multiple published reports--that they were unaware homosexual acts between two consenting people were a crime. Thus, the statement by the Justice Ministry official strongly suggests -- although this is speculative -- that the “sexual offenses” for which the four young men in Bandar Abbas were executed was homosexuality.

The following day Iran Focus reported, “Iran’s clergy-dominated Supreme Court has given the green light for the hanging of a 16-year-old schoolboy in Tehran, a state-owned daily reported on Wednesday. The boy, identified only by his first name Mostafa, was convicted of killing a man in a scuffle that began when the boy tried to save a girl who was being harassed by the drunken man…Mostafa, who had no criminal record, told the Islamic judge that when he saw the drunken man insult and harass a young girl near his home in Tehran Pars district, he intervened and tried to save the girl, but the foul-mouthed man began to beat him. In the brawl that followed, Mostafa killed the man.” Iran Focus cited as its source the pro-regime daily Etemaad. Iran is signatory to two international treaties by which it pledges not to execute minors.

In a related development, the British gay rights group Stonewall this week asked the U.K. Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, to halt the deportation of a 29-year-old gay Iranian back to Iran, which was ordered by a judge in what Stonewall calls an instance of “institutional homophobia.”

In ordering the deportation, the British judge used homophobic language, writing that the Iranian man had been “engaging in buggery” and describing his sexual orientation as a “predilection.“ Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill said. “I am shocked that this sort of language is still being used in 2005.” The gay man, whose name was not disclosed to protect him if he is deported, says he fled Iran after a gay friend was arrested by police, who seized a videotape of the two men kissing, and asserts he fears for his life if returned to his home country. Another Iranian gay man, 26-year-old Hussein Nassen, committed suicide in July two weeks after the U.K. refused his appeal for asylum. Hussein fled from Iran in March 2000 after being imprisoned for three months for his sexuality. Friends said he feared he would be executed if he was returned to Iran.

For background on the new wave of gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.

IRANIAN PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD VISITS NEW YORK ON SEPTEMBER 14, when he is scheduled to address the United Nations -- yet not a single gay or human rights organization has as yet called for a New York demonstration of protest against Iran's executions of gays and minor children, although there have been or will be such protests in London, Dublin, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Stockholm, The Hague, and other cities around the world. The silence here in New York is deafening -- and sad.

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PAT BUCHANAN'S MAG CLAIMS CHENEY PREPARING TACTICAL NUKE STRIKE ON IRAN

Pat_buchanan Now, here's an interesting little tid-bit, considering the source: Pat Buchanan's magazine, American Conservative, has published a report saying that Dick CheneyCheney_1  has had the Pentagon prepare a contingency plan for an immediate air strike on Iran, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons, in the event of "another 9/11."

The report, in Buchanan's mag's "Deep Background" column, claims: "In Washington it is hardly a secret that the same people in and around the administration who brought you Iraq are preparing to do the same for Iran. The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections."

This report is signed by one Philip Giraldi, who is identified as "a former CIA Officer, [and] a partner in Cannistraro Associates." This makes it even more interesting -- for the head of Cannistraro Associates is none other than former CIA Vince_cannistraro counter-terrorism chief Vince Cannistraro (right), who was also Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council under President Reagan, former Special Assistant for Intelligence in the office of the Secretary of Defense, and whose face you've seen a lot on TV -- he's currently a consultant to ABC News on intelligence and terrorism.

Now, I'm always mindful of the old saw that military intelligence is to intelligence as military music is to music -- and the blame-shifting between Cheney and his cronies and the CIA for intelligence failures in Iraq has led to a lot of bad blood between Langley types, past and present, and the Veep's office. But, while one wouldn't necessarily trust the ears of Cannistraro and his cronies when it comes to sussing out matters abroad, one wouldn't be wrong in thinking that the fact that this well-placed prominent veteran of a lifetime in the U.S. national security apparatus spent a lot of time at the highest levels of the intelligence community gives him and his subordinates access to some pretty juicy Pentagon gossip.

It will be interesting to see if some major news organization -- ABC News, for example, Cannistraro's employer -- tries to run this story to ground to see if it's true.

P.S. A conspiracy theorist named Jeff Rense, who promotes the notorious Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel on his blog, linked to the above post, and in consequence some anti-Semites have been leaving comments on my blog. Don't waste your time, brown-shirts: anti-Semites are not welcome on DIRELAND, and your comments will be deleted as soon as I see them.

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August 24, 2005

BAD NEWS: AIDS ACTION'S MARSHA MARTIN NAMED D.C. AIDS CZAR (Updated)

UPDATE, August 25: It's true -- Today's Washington Post reports that Marsha Martin has indeed been named D.C.'s AIDS czar. To understand why this is bad news, read on:

The blog AIDS Combat Zone contacted me to ask me about the rumor (which I hadn't heard)  that AIDS Action executive director Marsha MartinMarsha_martin (photo right) is about to become Washington, D.C.'s new AIDS czar. I replied by saying, "If true, it's a disaster for the HIV community in D.C. We in NY know Martin's record when she was in charge of the department that dealt with the homeless during the Dinkins administration, and she was a disaster, especially for the homeless with AIDS. Now she's a collaborationist with the Bush-Rove Republicans who have done so much to hurt the fight against AIDS by their imposition of anti-scientific, obscurantist religious strictures and limitations on AIDS work." That includes the Bush administration's war on the condom., which I reported on for the L.A. Weekly. You can read the rest of my response on the effect of Martin's appointment to the D.C. job by clicking here. 

Last December I broke the story of Martin's collaboration with the Bush administration (see my post, AIDS Action Jumps Into Bed with Bush and the AIDS-phobic Republicans). I also wrote a subsequent Update on the AIDS Action Scandal with more on Martin's sorry record. The superb AIDS service organization in New York City, Housing Works -- which recently opened a D.C. office -- subsequently ran a further expose in its newsletter of the organization under Martin's leadership, AIDS Action Council Has a Serious Case of Laryngitis as the National "Voice" on AIDS. Then, in May, came the story that AIDS Action's Board Chairman, Charles "Chuck" Henry -- who had engineered Martin's appointment to run AIDS Action -- had been fired as Los Angeles AIDS czar in a political fundraising scandal amid accusations he misused his position as an AIDS exec to shake down contributions for a candidate. With all this accumulated baggage, the D.C. AIDS community should be shuddering in horror if Martin's rumoured appointment is confirmed, as it now has been.

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FRANCE'S SOCIALISTS THREATENED WITH A SPLIT

France's Socialist Party, as it approaches a full Party Congress in November, is more divided than ever -- and now leaders of the party's right wing are threatening a split and the formation of a new party if the opposition to the current leadership wins a majority at that Congress.

In an interview in the latest issue of the Nouvel Observateur -- left-of-center and Michel_rocard France's largest newsweekly -- Michel Rocard (left, Socialist Prime Minister from 1988-1991) declared that, if the opposition to current party leader Francois Hollande -- led by left-wing Senator Jean-Luc Melanchon and Laurent Fabius, who was Socialist Prime Minister from 1984-86 -- prevailed at the Party Congress this coming November, it would be an "earthquake" and time "to consider the creation of a new party." In his interview, Rocard delivered a vitriolic attack on the party's left wing, which he labeled captive of a "Marxist fetish" and incapable of fully embracing the market economy.

Now one of the most visible socialists -- Bernard Kouchner (right), former Socialist Bernard_kouchner Health Minister, founder of Doctors Without Borders (from which he later split), UN representative in Kosovo from 1999-2001, and now identified too with the Socialist Party's right wing -- has echoed Rocard's threat of a party split. Today, in an interview with the conservative daily Le Figaro, Kouchner declared, "I approve the idea launched by Michel Rocard to confront the pseudo-Marxists and their ragged utopias....Should we risk a split in the in the Socialist Party? Yes!" The accusations of excessive "Marxism" by the party's left wing on the part of Rocard and Kushner are, of course, absurd -- the party's left is more Keynesian than anything and there's not much of Marx left anywhere in the Socialist party; and this rhetorical device by Kouchner and Rocard (themselves both former left-wingers in their youth) is simply designed to undercut the left with the party electorate.

Francois_hollande_ii_2There has been a growing chorus of demands to replace the party's lackluster current leader, Francois Hollande (left) ever since the May 29 French referendum, in which the proposed new European Constitution -- supported by Hollande and the party's right-wing leadership -- was defeated, with three-quarters of the left's electorate voting "No" on the Constitution. Hollande's response was to consolidate his control over the party apparatus by expelling Laurent Fabius (then the party's Number Two leader) and other leaders of the sizable "No" faction in the party from the Socialists' executive committee, which only added to Hollande's unpopularity with left voters (for background and a guide to the principal players in the Socialist Party drama, see my previous post from June 4, "A Suicidal Purge by France's Socialists.")

The current threats of a party split by Hollande allies like Rocard and Kouchner amount to a form of political blackmail, designed simultaneously to frustrate the presidential ambitions of Laurent Fabius to become the Socialist's candidate in the 2007 presidential elections, to reinforce Hollande's ambitions for that nomination, and to frighten the Party Congress into both rejecting the programmatic resolutions being put forward by the party's left wing in November and re-electing Hollande as party leader.

Jockeying for the Socialists' presidential nomination plays a large role in all of this maneuvering. Kouchner, for example, recently formed an advisory committee to prepare position papers and public relations initiatives for a possible presidential Laurent_fabius_ii_1_1 candidacy himself. Fabius (right), an aging yuppie dandy (now 53) who was the most visible leader of the "No" camp on the referendum on the European Constitution, has found himself in an unnatural alliance with the party's left -- when he was Prime Minister, it was Fabius who carried out then-President Francois Mitterrand's abandonment  of socialist economics to embrace a vast austerity program that included privatization of most state-owned banks and businesses, and the sale to private interests of television and radio franchises. Fabius' alliance with the party left is part of the political face-lift he's engaged in, without which his chances of securing the presidential nomination were slim (his faction of the Socialists counts for only some 20% of the party's membership). His current rhetorical shift to the left, therefore, is widely considered as crass opportunism that contradicts his life-long political identification with the party's right Dominique_strausskahn wing. But, with Hollande's presidential star currently fading, the contest for the Socialists' presidential nomination in 2007 increasingly looks like a three-way contest between Dominique Strauss-Kahn (left), a party right-winger and Hollande ally, former Minister of the Economy under Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, and a corporate lawyer-consultant; Jack_lang_best Fabius; and Jack Lang (right), another Hollande ally, the former Culture Minister for a decade under Francois Mitterrand who is the most popular Socialist politician with the voters in all the public opinion polls, thanks to his endless TV appearances on the talk-show circuit and his (entirely ghost-written) books, nearly one a year. (Lang, however, has little in the way of an organized base in the party apparatus and among the dues-paying party membership whose votes will select their candidate in 2007.) [Update: In an interview in the issue of Le Monde dated August 25, Lang formalized his break with his former ally Laurent Fabius, putting his finger on Fabius's weak point by declaring: "I can't accept a see-saw socialism that says, 'everone to the left' when in the opposition but which is conservative when in government." Lang also criticized the Rocard-Kouchner attacks on the party's left as "Marxist," saying, "Let's not dress up personal competitions in ideological clothing." This interview was a clever way for Lang to cut a path between the two opposing camps and appeal to the broader left electorate uneasy with both of them.]

The swing votes in the upcoming Party Congress belong to the moderate reformist Nouveau Parti Socialiste faction, which got 16% of the vote at the past Congress in 2003. Led by Socialist deputy (i.e., member of parliament) Arnaud Montebourg -- an Arnaud_montebourg_4 outspoken critic of political corruption in the financing of all political parties who argues for a new French Constitution and the creation of a VIth Republic -- and Eurodeputy Vincent Peillon, a former official Party spokesman, the NPS faction has been courted by all theVincent_peillon_2  presidential candidates. Both Montebourg (left) and Peillon (right) are extremely ambitious personally, both see themselves as possible successors to Hollande as party leader, and are in something of a rivalry for undisputed leadership of the NPS faction, which meets this week to decide its orientation before the Party Congress.

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August 21, 2005

BUSH CAVES IN TO ISLAMIST CONSTITUTION FOR IRAQ -- AND THE U.S. PRESS BLOWS THE STORY

If the Bush administration brokered a deal in Occupied Iraq to enshrine Islamic law as the guiding principle of the new Iraqi Constitution, you'd think it would be headline news in the U.S. media, wouldn't you? Well, that's what has happened -- yet you canIraq_flag  search the Sunday papers in vain to find this sell-out to the Islamists clearly portrayed -- or, in some cases, even mentioned.

In a dispatch that Reuters moved at 1:33 P.M. on Saturday (August 20), the headline reads, "U.S. concedes ground to Islamists on Iraqi law."  "U.S. diplomats have conceded ground to Islamists on the role of religion in Iraq,  negotiators said on Saturday as they raced to meet a 48-hour deadline to draft a constitution under intense U.S. pressure," Reuters reported. "Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish negotiators all said there was accord on a bigger role for Islamic law than Iraq had before.

"But a secular Kurdish politician said Kurds opposed making Islam 'the,' not 'a,'main source of law -- changing current wording -- and subjecting all legislation to a religious test. 'We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites," he said. "It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state ... I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want.'"

Under the soporific headline,  "Iraqi Talks Move Ahead on Some Issues," The Sunday New York Times did report, under an August 20 Baghdad deadline, that Amb_khalilzad_1 "Under a deal brokered Friday by the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad (right), Islam was to be named "a primary source of legislation" in the new Iraqi constitution, with the proviso that no legislation be permitted that conflicted with the 'universal principles' of the religion. The latter phrase raised concerns that Iraqi judges would have wide latitude to strike down laws now on the books, as well as future legislation. At the same time, according to a Kurdish leader involved in the talks, Mr. Khalilzad had backed language that would have given clerics sole authority in settling marriage and family disputes. That gave rise to concerns that women's rights, as they are enunciated in Iraq's existing laws, could be curtailed. Finally, according to the person close to the negotiations, Mr. Khalilzad had been backing an arrangement that could have allowed clerics to have a hand in interpreting the constitution." But because of the way the Times presented the story, it's doubtful that anyone bothered to pay attention to it or wade into the body of the story to find this revealing detail.

The Washington Post also put a snooze of a headline on its Sunday story: "Kurds Fault U.S. on Iraqi Charter," said the Post header -- but it's not until the story's fifth paragraph that one gets to the meat, when the paper reports that, "The working draft of the constitution stipulates that no law can contradict Islamic principles. In talks with Shiite religious parties, Kurdish negotiators said they have pressed unsuccessfully to limit the definition of Islamic law to principles agreed upon by all groups. The Kurds said current language in the draft would subject Iraqis to extreme interpretations of Islamic law. Kurds also contend that provisions in the draft would allow Islamic clerics to serve on the high court, which would interpret the constitution. That would potentially subject marriage, divorce, inheritance and other civil matters to religious law and could harm women's rights, according to the Kurdish negotiators and some women's groups."

Moreover, the Post devalued the impact of this information by relying solely on Kurdish sources. But the Reuters dispatch also cited one of the main Sunni negotiators on the Constitution confirming the U.S. sell-out to the Islamists: "Sunni Arab negotiator Saleh al-Mutlak also said a deal was struck which would mean parliament could pass no legislation that 'contradicted Islamic principles. A constitutional court would rule on any dispute on that, [a] Shi'ite official [of one of the main parties in the governing coalition] said," Reuters reported, further quoting the Sunni's Mutlak as saying "The Americans agreed...."

Given the way the two national U.S. dailies -- which set the TV news agenda -- played this story, it's hardly surprising that shallow little George Stephanopoulos (right), onStephanopolous_t_1  this morning's ABC political chat show "This Week," didn't even bother to raise the question of the U.S. cave-in to an Islamic Constitution, neither when quizzing several U.S. Senators (Republicans Allen and Hagel) and Gov. Bill Richardson on Iraq, nor in the round-table discussion with journalists which followed. And on NBC's "Meet the Press" this morning, David Gregory (subbing for Tim Russert) also failed to bring up the U.S. sell-out to an Islamist Constitution in long discussions of Iraq with Sens. Russ Feingold and Trent Lott (Feingold should have mentioned it--but didn't), although Gregory did bring it up in a roundtable at the very end of the show (by which time a lot of people had probably switched to watching "Sports Wives" -- why didn't Gregory talk about this important news at the top of the hour, particularly when questioning Lott, who kept insisting "we're making progress" in Iraq?)

The Reuters dispatch also contained this useful and highly relevant reminder, absent from both the Times and Post reports: that Bush's ambassador to Iraq, Khalilzad,  "helped draft a constitution in his native Afghanistan that declared it an 'Islamic Republic' in which no law could contradict Islam." And the Post story, way down, quoted the Sunni's Mutlak as saying of Khalilzad, "'His main interest is to push the constitution on time, no matter what the constitution has in it,'' said Salih Mutlak, a Sunni delegate who has been outspoken against some compromise proposals. 'No country in the world can draft their constitution in three months. They themselves took 10 years,' Mutlak said, referring to the United States. 'Why do they wish to impose a silly constitution on us?'" Meanwhile, the AP reports this morning that the Sunnis say they've been left out of the negotiations over the Constitution.-- a sure prescription for more violence in Iraq.

Why is the Bush administration strong-arming the Iraqis into rushing through a new Constitution with so little time to craft it? Two reasons: Bush desperately wants to score a p.r. victory in "the war on terror," in which his administration continues to insist that Iraq is the main front (even though it is the U.S. occupation of Iraq that is now  the main motivator for  terrorist-style violence); and because failure to achieve a new Constitution on time would undoubtedly cause new elections in Iraq -- and the Bushies are terribly afraid of the Iraqi voters, fearing that discontent in the country with the U.S. occupation and its failure to bring either security from violence or to deliver basics -- like water and electric power-- would lead to the election of a government less maleable by Washington, thus creating further U.S. domestic backlash against the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq.  That short-sighted desire for achieving something that could be sold by Bush's spinmeisters to the American people as 'progress" in Iraq is what's driven Bush's man to break arms on behalf of an Islamist Constitution for Iraq.

The Reuters report cited above is reinforced by the coverage in the daily Al-Hayat, cited by Middle East expert Prof. Juan Cole this morning on his excellent blog, Informed Content. Juan_cole Cole (left) writes: "In one of the major disputes outstanding between the Kurds and the Shiites, on whether Islamic law will be the fundamental source or only one of the sources of Iraqi law, the Shiite religious parties appear to have won out. AFP reports that the reason for this is that the United States has swung around and begun to support the primacy of Islamic canon law.

"Al-Hayat writes, 'Also, an agreement was reached that Islam is the religion of state, and that no law shall be enacted that contradicts the agreed-upon essential verities of Islam. Likewise, the inviolability of the highest [Shiite] religious authorities in the land is safeguarded, without any allusion to a detailed description. The paragraph governing these matters will specify that Islam is 'the fundamental basis' for legislation, though there will be an allusion to the protection of democratic values, human rights, and social and national values. A Higher Council will be formed to review new legislation to ensure it does not contravene the essential verities of the Islamic religion.' Personal status law, concerning marriage, divorce, alimony, inheritance, and so forth, will be adjudicated by religious courts in accordance with the religion or sect to which the individual belongs." 

And, of course, nobody mentioned it in all these cited reports, but gays and lesbians in particular also have huge reason to be afraid of an Islamic Constitution in Iraq. But Prof. Cole also extensively quotes the text of the Islamic Constitution which U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad godfathered in Afghanistan. It makes for chilling reading, especially as an omen of what Khalilzad is cooking up in Iraq, and you can read it by clicking here.

Gen_peter_schoomaker In a related development, "The Army is planning for the possibility of keeping the current number of soldiers in Iraq — well over 100,000 — for four more years, the Army’s top general," Gen. Peter Schoomaker (left), said on Saturday in an interview with AP.

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August 19, 2005

POPE RATZINGER DEPLOYS CENSORSHIP AT THE WORLD YOUTH CONGRESS--IN THE PRESS ROOM!

Pope_cartoon_ii_2  Pope Benedict XVI -- a.k.a Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. The Rat, formerly a.k.a. Der PanzerKardinal -- has had his doctrinal shock troops deploy censorship at the Catholic World Youth Congress (WYC) taking place in Cologne, Germany....and in, of all places, the Congress press room. Yet such is the fawning, uncritical coverage of the WYC in the U.S. press that not a word about this censorship has penetrated the dispatches from Cologne by U.S. correspondents.

Luckily, the German newsweekly Stern -- which has a 1 million circulation -- dispatched an alert reporter to the WYC in Cologne who discovered this censorship, which targets homosexuality in particular, but also Stern's magazine spinoff for youth . Here, in translation, are excerpts from Stern's report (thanks to frequent DIRELAND contributor Norman Birnbaum for the translation, denn mein Deutsch ist zehr schlecht):

World Youth Congress: Surfing Without Sin by Lutz Kinkel, Stern

Censorship has been abolished but not in the Press Center of the World Youth Congress. Precisely there, where daily hundreds of journalists sit at computers, Internet access has been limited—an embarrassing attempt at manipulation.

I found out by accident. With Stern photographer Janna Frohnhaus I had planned to do an article on "Homosexuals and the Catholic Church." She got her press pass for the WYC and then went into the enormous exhibition hall on the Auenplatz in Deutz (Koeln suburb, NB) established as the Press Center, sat down at one of the large number of personal computers reserved for journalists.To find Contact Addresses she used Google under the theme and tried to get a web page of the Ecumenical Working GroupWyc_photo_1_1  on Homosexuals and the Church. It was impossible, it was blocked -- quite officially, by the WYC. (Photo, right, shows the blocked page on the WYC computer)

I’ll admit I did not believe it as she told me of it by email. The Catholic Church for centuries burned books and heretics. But putting Homepages on the Index in the 21st Century? And for journalists? It is impossible to impose Catholic policing on the Information Society --even the Vatican must realize that.

The Devil On-Line: But I visited the Press Center and found that it was so. For a good hour we tried everything on the PC that bothered the Church. We found pages on Satanic Rites but no pages on "Homosexuality and the Catholic Church." They were on the Index—lots of them.   Keep your hands off! Porn pages? Nazi pages? Not here. Even Neon , Stern's youth magazine, could not be called up. Apparently the Devil was everywhere, and his menacing face was given no chance to creep through online.Pope_cartoon_3 The WYC press officer, Nina Schmedding, professed astonishment at out first inquiry. She said it must be a technical problem-- or an attack by hackers. She contacted her boss by telephone.

Pilgrims Without A Filter: After intensive efforts to reach him, her boss Kopp telephoned me personally. No no one spoke of "idiocy." Yes, they did install a Filter. After all, the journalists did not wish to surf the pornographic pages. He could not answer when I asked what Neon or the Ecumenical Work Group, Homosexuals and the Church had to do with pornography. He did not know according to what standards they were put on the Index. That this must have something to do with conservative Catholic belief even we laypersons could understand.

Waiting between our visit to the Press Center and the call from Kopp, the photographer and I visited the Internet Café for the pilgrims, in the next Exhibition Hall. We sought to verify the hypothesis, that a secret Custodian of the Faith had been installed in Internet Explorer in all WYC terminals. No----without any problem we could call up all the URLs, Nazi propaganda, Homosexuals, Condoms, Pornography, even criticism of the Pope---everything came easily.

The organizers of the WYC obviously believe that the youthful pilgrims are immune to these things---but adult journalists not. They seek to keep us from looking for material critical of the Church. That is an embarrassing attempt at censorship

A propos "Homosexuals and the Catholic Church," the Lutheran Pastors Dr Bertold Hoecker and Stefan Meschig Wyc_photo_2 from the Gay-Lesbian Consultation Center Rubicon (photo left) organized a meeting place in the inner city for homosexuals at the Antoniterkirche. Of course, no mention in the official brochures of the WYC. What Catholic doctrine does not allow, can obviously not exist. Hoecker, Meschig, Janna Frohnhaus and I spoke for a long time about the problem. "God said, Do Not Be Afraid," concluded Pastor Hoecker...."

POLITICAL SCANDAL AS GERMANY'S C.D.U. CENSORS SCHOOL MANUAL DISCUSSING HOMOSEXUALITY IN MIDST OF NATIONAL ELECTION

In the midst of Germany's national election campaign, a political firestorm has been ignited because a pedagogic manual for teachers about homosexuality-- which was financed by the European Union's Commission Against Discrimination, and has been  part of the curriculum in the German state of Rhineland-Westphalia since 2004 -- has been suppressed by the state's Minister for Education, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party member Barbara Sommer, the daily news bulletin of the French gay monthly Tetu reported today. Power passed to the conservative CDU in a regional election upset earlier this year, when it defeated the Social Democrats (SDP) who had held power in the state for 40 years. The conservative Minister's press spokesperson sneered that discussing homosexuality in school is "propaganda for certain sexual orientations...We shouldn't give our children the feeling that being gay or lesbian is an obligation." The education spokesperson for the center-right, free-market Free Democratic Party (FDP) attacked the censorship of the manual, saying that "discussing the subject of homosexuality in schools is Guido_westerwelle_1 necessary, and teachers should be supported in doing so with adequate training materials."  The affair has now become a subject of a bitter debate in parliament, where the Green Party has demanded that the FDP's chairman, Guido Westerwelle (right) -- himself homosexual -- intervene directly "instead of offering a few vague words." This affair comes just weeks before a national parliamentary election, and could have an effect at the polls in  the September 18 voting by considerably raising the level of the CDU's identity as an anti-gay party.

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