Friday, July 25, 2008


For women in the military, this election season has the potential either to focus a spotlight on long-neglected needs or to continue rendering us invisible. Due to our military training, we often struggle to exercise our right to speak out, but now we need systemic and systematic change, both to do justice to service members and to create healthier communities for everyone.

By Jennifer Hogg, Women's Media CenterPosted on July 25, 2008, Printed on July 25, 2008

I was still in high school in 2000 when I joined up, looking for a fuller life than I saw available to me in blue-collar Buffalo, N.Y. But would I have ever joined the military if higher education were not so hard to fund? Would the young, the poor, the single mothers feel their only option was to enlist if adequate housing, jobs and health care were more readily available?

These are fundamental social inequalities that funnel people into the military. We hope to escape the injustice of racism, sexism and homophobia by proving ourselves -- by being able to say, "I served. I earned my place here." And service does earn us praise, but only as long as we don't rock that boat.

For the military, this election has heavy stakes, with two occupations taking place simultaneously, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and a third waiting in the wings. Such high stakes tend to push aside other issues, and we risk being forced into silence for fear that the boat may capsize. But if it's that close to going under, isn't it time for a better boat?

Female veterans know this feeling all too well. All service members are taught to never question a mission.

For female service members, this silence can have particularly dangerous consequences. When I began basic training, I never expected the culture of fear that service women take pride in living through. From a young woman ready to stand for what was right, I was being turned into a person who shrugged off injustice. When I helped another female recruit report a physical assault, I saw her become the target of widespread verbal harassment. The lesson? Bearing indignity silently in private is far better than risking public ridicule from those who choose to make you a target.

Imagine if those flashy recruiting commercials showed the real dangers a woman can face while serving in the military, living her formative years in a hazardous work environment where racism and homophobia are tolerated for the sake of "getting by" and sexual harassment goes unreported so you don't "ruin his career." All this while women work twice as hard to prove themselves as soldiers -- more than just a "bitch," "dyke," "whore."

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GOP Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain lives by the old adage that if you say it often enough eventually people will believe you are telling the truth.

Not necessarily so especially when it comes to the so-called success of "the surge" as witnessed by this report.

20 Iraqis Killed, 39 Wounded

A female suicide bomber ended this week's relative peace when she attacked an Awakening Council patrol in Baquba today. Overall, at least 20 Iraqis were killed and 39 more were wounded in the latest attacks. No Coalition deaths were reported, but U.S. forces came under fire in Kirkuk and killed a teenager in retaliatory gunfire. Meanwhile, Turkey targeted PKK locations in northern Iraq, but the number of casualties there is unknown.

U.S. forces in Kirkuk came under a small arms attack. They returned fire killing a teenager sitting in a sedan. One U.S. soldier was wounded. Three suspects were captured in a separate incident.

A female suicide bomber attacked a group of Awakening Council (Sahwa) members in Baquba. Eight of them were killed, while as many as 30 people were wounded. A Sahwa leader was among the dead.

In Baghdad, two attacks in the Adhamiya neighborhood left three Sahwa members dead and two more wounded; one gunman was injured as he made his escape. In Zaafaraniya, a bomb wounded a senior Shi'ite leader and three of his bodyguards. One dumped body was discovered.

Also, U.S. forces captured 20 suspects across the city, while the Iraqi army detained at least 45 more.

In Mosul, three bodies were found. A suicide bomber killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded two more at a checkpoint in al-Intisar.

Two bodies were found in Yusufiya.

At least 18 more suspects were detained in Hilla during an ongoing security operation in Babel province. A number of weapons was confiscated as well.

A kidnapping victim was freed in Missan province. One of her captors was captured.

In Basra, katyusha rockets landed on the British base at the airport. No casualties were reported but British warplanes returned the fire.


Editor's note: CNN agreed to change the names of the two men in this article to protect their identities.

By Frederik Pleitgen, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Wayne DrashCNN

Rami and Kamal, both gay Iraqis, say they rarely show affection for men in public.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Kamal was just 16 when gunmen snatched him off the streets of Baghdad, stuffed him in the trunk of a car and whisked him away to a house. But the real terror was about to begin.

The men realized he was gay, Kamal said, when he took his shirt off and they saw that his chest was shaved.

"They told me to take off my clothes to rape me or they would kill me immediately. This moment was the worst moment in my life," he said, weeping as he spoke of the 2005 ordeal.

"I was watching them taking off their clothes, preparing to rape me. I did not know what to do, so I started shouting loudly, 'Please do not do that! I will ask my family to give you whatever you want.' " Watch the tormented life of gays in Iraq »

His pleas went unheeded. "The other two kidnappers took off my clothes by force, and, at that time, I saw them as three dirty animals trying to tear my body apart."

He was held for 15 days, released only after his family paid a $1,500 ransom. He was raped every day. Only once, he said, was he allowed to talk to his family during captivity. "I told my family that I was beaten by them, but I did not dare to tell my family that I was raped by them. I could not say it, it's too much shame."

CNN spoke with Kamal, now 18, and his 21-year-old friend Rami about what it's like to be gay in Iraq. Coming out as gay is not easy in any country, but to do so in Iraq could mean a death sentence or torture.

The two men rarely show feelings toward each other in public. They spend a lot of time in Internet cafes in Baghdad, surfing gay chat rooms and seeking contacts with other gay men in Iraq and elsewhere.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the situation for gays and lesbians in Iraq has deteriorated. Ridiculed under Hussein, many now find themselves the targets of violence, according to humanitarian officials.

Lesbians are also victims of harassment and violence, but not nearly as often as gay men.

Rest of CNN story here:


(CNN) -- The death of an Air Force technical sergeant in Iraq last week quietly brought a somber milestone: One hundred American female service members have died in Iraq, according to a CNN count of Pentagon figures.

A U.S. Army bugler plays taps during burial services for a female soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in 2005.

The latest death was Tech. Sgt. Jackie L. Larsen, 37, of Tacoma, Washington, who died of natural causes July 17 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. She was assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base, California, according to the Pentagon.


Silent Posting

With His Blog Kaboom, a Young Soldier Told of His War. Last Month, the Army Made Him Shut It Down.

By Ernesto LondoñoWashington Post Foreign Service Thursday, July 24, 2008; Page C01

There was a boy who went to war, like many other boys before him. Maybe it made him a man, maybe it didn't. Maybe he already was a man, maybe he wasn't. Maybe it doesn't matter, maybe none of it does, maybe it all does. Maybe.

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-- Lt. G, March 4

He was an unlikely warrior, this scrawny boy from Reno, Nev., the son of two lawyers, raised in the suburbs.

He had a way with words, this boy. When his Stryker unit deployed to Iraq last winter, he was a rookie platoon leader who had never seen combat. And like many other soldiers before him, he decided he'd chronicle the war on a blog. Intending to keep family and friends abreast of the follies and pitfalls of soldiering in a five-year-old war that now relies less on gunfire and more on diplomacy, this boy, under the pen name Lt. G, launched "Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal."

An indictment of the war it was not. Lt. G's dispatches -- at turns hilarious, maddening and terrifying -- provided raw and insightful snapshots of a conflict many Americans have lost interest in.

Word got around, and more and more readers closely followed the postings of 25-year-old Lt. Matthew Gallagher, with the site drawing tens of thousands of page views. By the time Kaboom went kaput last month -- Lt. G was ordered to take down his blog -- it had a following that would be the envy of many a small-town paper.

The blog's downfall was a May 28 posting that, in violation of military blogging rules, Gallagher failed to have vetted by a supervisor. (That the posting depicted an officer in the unit unflatteringly might have played a role. Gallagher declined a request to comment.)

Continue reading Washington Post story here: