Thursday, July 6, 2023

JFK Assassination Dealey Plaza 2002 Interview With Witness Linda Willis

 I hope you read Kat's "The assassinations of JFK and RFK" already.  She is discussing the assassinations with C.I. and I would recommend the post even if I did not get a shout out in it.  :D

DeShawn noted the video above.  If you are new to my site, I try to note the assassination of President John F. Kennedy regularly -- at least once a week when I am on my game.  I was a college freshman when President Kennedy was murdered.  It was a major event in my life and in the life of our country.  We still do not have all the facts all these years later. 

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Thursday, July 6, 2024.  Human Rights Watch notes trouble in the KRG, RFK Junior blew the hope so many had in him, and much more.

News out of Iraq?  If you're a community member and have heard of it, you already know what my take's going to be.  If you're a drive-by reader, you may get offended.  I say it all the time, people need to take accountability for their actions.  We have advocated on behalf of, for example, journalists kidnapped in Iraq.  Especially if they were American, we have called for the US government to get to work.  We certainly did that with Jill Carroll.  Unlike her news outlet (THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR), we did not attempt to infantilize her.  The kidnapping was bad enough, the humiliation of TCSM's post-kidnapping coverage goes a long way towards explaining why Jill left journalism and became a fire fighter.

We'll call for the release of the still-imprisoned Robert Pether.  He did nothing wrong.  He was conducting business and the Iraqi government had invited him back in.  Turns out, they wanted to use him as a bargaining chip to strike a better deal with the company he works for.  So they've tossed him in a prison and refuse to let him out.  We defend Julian Assange who is persecuted for the crime of journalism.  We'd noted Wynter Cole-Smith.  And sadly, she's now been discovered and she is dead.

That is very sad about Wynter.  

But not everyone's Wynter or Julian or Robert or Jill.  There are people who bring on their own problems.  There were the three stupid 'hikers' (CIA on at least one of them) who got lost they insisted while trying to hike in Iraq.

We didn't rush to their defense or do non-stop coverage.  It was very clear that the actual goal was to create and international incident.  

That appears to be the current goal.

Do you know how many times a friend with the US State Dept has called me about Robert Pether?  


B-b-b-but he's not an American citizen! 

No, he's not.  But neither is the woman we're about to discuss.  Didn't stop two friends with the State Dept from calling me last night.  It's just so awful, it's just so . . .

Press orchestrated?  

I'm not Judith Miller and I don't fall for government nonsense.

Her name is Elizabeth Tsurkov.  

"I'm sure you're going to write about it," one State Dept friend said over the phone.  I replied, "Why would I?"

Nobody needs to be kidnapped.  But apparently it took place four months ago.  I would assume if she's still alive that she'll remain alive.

I don't have time for stupid.

The press reports -- and both friends at the State Dept -- insist that her family didn't want to go public.  Okay, be stupid.  It's not my life.  But anyone with a brain who knows anything about Iraq knows you should be talking to the press (and to the kidnappers via the press).  We've advised that from day one.  We noted it with the British hostages.  

So that was stupid on the family's part if it were indeed their decision.

Why the need to to public now?

I have no idea but it feels like people are trying to shape an international incident.

If indeed that's the case, let Israel and Russia deal with it.

Elizabeth Tsurkov is not an American citizen.

B-b-but she went to Princeton!

If Princeton sent to her Iraq, I hope her parents sue the university.

But in the end, it's her own damn fault.  Elizabeth Tsurkov is in the doctorate program so she has education and presumably a brain.  Did she not use that brain?

An Israeli in Iraq?  You're begging to be kidnapped.  There's not a week that goes by that some Iraqi leader isn't calling for the demise of Israel (this week is Amar al-Hakeem).  So she was a deeply stupid woman to go to Iraq.  Supposedly, her kidnappers knew she was Israeli.  More stupidity on her part.  

At best, she's Penelope Pitstop, creating her own wacky adventures.  At worst, this is being dramatized now to create an international incident.  

"It's the Iranians!  She's kidnapped by an Iraqi militia linked to Iran!"

Really/  That's interesting.  Usually, you have to some sort of evidence to make claims like that.  Now when you're trying to create an international incident with a willing press, proof isn't necessary.  Just conjecture.

Is publicizing the kidnapping now -- four months after she was kidnapped -- supposed to change the narrative for Israel?  Take the attention off the attack on the Jenin refugee camp?  Could be.  

Iraq is a failed state.  Corruption and violence.  There was no reason for someone like her to go there.  "She was researching terrorism!"  Well, I guess she's going to get some big credit for that assignment.  

If she were my daughter, I'd be doing anything I could.  But you better believe when she made it home safely, I'd tell her she was a damn fool.

Again, she never should have gone to Iraq.  

She has created her own problem.  She has dual citizenship -- Israel and Russia.  Those countries can address this.  It's not the US' problem and we don't to hand wring in the US over this.  

People need to take accountability for their actions. 

She is a thirty-six year-old woman.  That's old enough to take responsibility.  

Let's turn to politics.  In the US, the next presidential election will be in November of 2024.  Currently, a number of people are running for the presidential nominations of various political parties.  The Democratic Party has President Joe Biden, Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr vying for the nomination.  Before we get into the crazy, let's note Marianne.

So that's some serious discussion about foreign policy.  Now let's move to the crazy.

Is Marjorie Taylor Greene getting fatter or has she just lost all tone in her upper arms?  She's looking like the stereotypical lunch lady.  Her mind is apparently as flabby as her body.  She took a break from attacking a trans woman -- who wasn't a trans woman -- and insisting that transgender is the cause of mass shootings (again, the police have stated the shooter was not transgender) to share more ignorance.  LGBTQ NATiON notes she continues her attacks on Pride.  They also quote her stating that the rainbow belongs to God.

Does no one else have a problem with that?

I have no idea what the Nazi-like Christian Nationalists believe but most US denominations of Christianity -- not all -- believe that the rainbow was a sign of God's compact with Noah that the people would never again be threatened with extinction by flood.  

So it's not God's rainbow.  It's a rainbow that shared with the people around the world, that's a symbol to them of a promise made.  

Now we can argue whether that's reality or not.  But my point here is: Marjorie is deeply stupid and should not open her mouth in public.  She never knows what she's talking about and all that stumbles is filth and ignorance.  

You'd think she'd hang her head in shame but she's too stupid to realize that the laughter she hears is laughter at her.  

For more on MTG, see Elaine's "Crazies like Marjorie Taylor Greene and closet case Josh Hawley." Marjorie is supporting Donald Trump for the GOP's presidential nomination.

The world watches as Ron DeSantis' chances appear to sink.  See Mike's "Doo-Doo Ron Ron and piss panties Katie Halper."  He's not the only one sinking. 

With Robert F. Kennedy Jr having announced that he'd be thrilled to have Hate Merchant Tulsi Gabbard in his presidential cabinet, it's time to ponder what Junior's administration would look like?

Vice President: Lindsey Graham -- he was hoping for First Lady but he'll take whatever crumbs he can get (always).

Chief of Staff: Dennis Kucinich -- finally being the Donald Rumsfeld he always wanted to be -- maybe his wife won't leave him after all 

Secretary of State: Tulsi Gabbard --  she already has close relations with Bashar al-Asad.

Secretary of Treasury: Alex Jones --  he worships money

Secretary of Defense: Donald Trump Jr. -- appointed so that in Cabinet meetings, DJ's the one who'll be called "Junior" and not Robert

Attorney General:  Donald Trump -- who knows more about the law -- the breaking of it aspect?

Secretary of the Interior:  Tucker Carlson -- lives in his lonely closet -- does it get more interior than that?  -- he's all that and a bow tie.

Secretary of Agriculture: John Stauber -- because he knows how to shovel it

Secretary of Commerce:  Matt Taibbi -- professional grifter who has taken an embarrassing body of work and made himself infamous for it 

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Naomi Wolf -- she thinks she's a medical expert -- just don't call her before 10:30 am so she can get over her morning hang over.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Kelly Slater -- early in his career, he had to couch surf which leads him to believe he can handle transportation 

Secretary of Transportation:  William Hepburn Russell -- apparently one of those dead people that Junior claims to speak to -- as long as he avoids John Floyd Buchanan (one-time Secretary of War), he should sail right through the confirmation hearing.

Secretary of Energy: Steve Bannon -- talk about energy, the Rona Barrett of the 21st century zooms around like he's on crack

Secretary of the Education: Scott Ritter -- the registered sex offender just wants to get into girls' locker rooms.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Elon Musk -- his work has been a service to the country, at least in his own eyes.  

Secretary of Homeland Security: Marjorie Taylor Greene -- she plans to make Jack Teixeira her executive assistant. 

The Great Glenneth Greenwald Tweeted about his man crush Junior yesterday:

These labels have become empty parodies. They meaning increasingly little: just weapons. RFK Jr. has a panoply of long-time left-liberal views. Here he is denouncing censorship by the US Security State. Yet the Atlantic christens him a "MAGA Democrat."

You aren't the left.  No one cares what you think of him.  For several years, with your tired roll dog, you lied and pretended to be left.  But you never were.  FIREDOGLAKE may have loved you but no one gave a damn about her and no one gives a damn about you.  You don't even live in the United States, do you?  Your thoughts on Junior and how left he is?  Who cares what a hagged out harridan like yourself thinks. Close your housecoat and go back inside, Widow Miranda, before the world starts noticing that the children you have -- the ones you told that you didn't want -- aren't being taken to these events you keep showing up for to honor David at.  And you had the nerve, at the shelter, to type that "it was so gratifying to be with David's mother and family," uh, what about his two sons?  Your ego knows no bounds.  

But, repeating, in the United States of America, we don't need to hear from your Brazilian rear about what you think the US left should think.  You're an idiot.  You were always an idiot.  That's why you struggle for money today.  A real attorney would have seen what THE INTERCEPT did and realized it was "breach of contract" and immediately launched a law suit.  That's why we have contracts.  But I guess some people pay attention to the law in class and others are just drifting through class.

While we're dealing with Glenneth and his stupid, he also Tweeted this:

Just amazing, and shows who changed, and...who didn't. In 2005, the NYT won a Pulitzer for exposing this illegal Bush/Cheney domestic spying. I wrote my first book on it. Now, the NYT claims only the "hard-right" wants reforms, and heralds the program as vital to Our Safety™.

What the hell are you trying to say, you idiot? Again, close your housecoat, Glenneth.  I don't know what you think you're saying but I do know what happened.  The domestic spying was known in 2004.  THE NEW YORK TIMES elected to hide the story and refused to report on it because The White House asked them not to and because NYT was fine with tossing the election to Bully Boy Bush.  

So what changed?  The "hard-right" seems to indicate that you see NYT as left.  Again, they sat on the story of Bully Boy Bush's illegal spying to toss the election to Bush.  How is that left?  It's a corporatist paper and it's carried out a war on labor, science and so much more.  So back off the notion that it's left.  Remember, like you, it supported the Iraq War.  Like you, it lied to cheer on the Iraq War.  Like you, it tries to rewrite its history with regards to the Iraq War.

Poor Glenneth, if he couldn't create straw men, he'd spend every night lonely and alone.

At THE ATLANTIC, Yair Rosenberg has the article about Junior that's enraged Glenneth.

Yair gets some things wrong.  The title says there's no such thing as a Junior voter.  Yes, there is.  At this point, it's an increasingly smaller group of people.  He is not increasing or building and, sadly, he hasn't flat lined.  That would mean support was steady.  No, he's begun to slip.

That's because the family name isn't all that.  It comes with baggage.  Marilyn Monroe -- mistreated and passed around between JFK and RFK.  RFK having all the photos of Marilyn and JFK removed from wire files in the immediate aftermath of her death/suicide/murder.  William Kennedy Smith -- his rape trial and later the multiple sexual harassment complaints that he had to pay off to go away.  Chappaquiddick.   The mistreatment of Joan Kennedy.  

There are glories to the name as well.  But Junior made his announcement with big fan fair and then . . . nothing.

He's failed to satisfy the people who would have voted for his uncle or father.  He's not decrying the targeting and scapegoating of immigrants.  To do so would send his MAGA supporters running.  And that's a direct-line betrayal of his father.  Then there are the other issues he's betraying the family name on such as running around with homophobes and transphobes.  His father, after he ceased to be Attorney General, was actually interested in defending those who were persecuted -- it's what he and Marilyn bonded over.

Junior's always been a question mark -- even for those who know him.  

[I'm pulling two paragraphs before this post.  I had the initials of a person in it.  The person was in LA in 1968 when RFK visited on his campaign.  Photos were taken.  Pierre Salinger saw the photos after te assassination and told the person to burn the photos for their own safety and thought the person did.  The person did not.  The person planned to hand them over to Junior after he went public with the doubts regarding the official story.  Not after this campaign, the person said Junior can't be trusted.  A shame because supposedly they'd back up some of this statements seen as 'wild' regarding the murders of his father and uncle.  I've never seen the photos myself.  Learned of them in the 90s when I met ______ and verified them with Pierre who was so upset to learn that they still existed that he spent the rest of the night getting drunk.]

That tells you how far from the legacy Junior has fallen.

Junior stands for nothing and that's why he's not increasing his support.  He's far too busy reaching out to the most pathetic of panhandlers -- Glenneth, Matt Taibbi, Tulsi Gabbard, Bari Weiss, serial plagiarist Chris Hedges, Col Douglas Macgregor, Joe Rogan. Jordan Peterson, et al.  He should have known that he'd be judged by the company he keeps.   And that we would notice how he apparently doesn't know a single person of color.  It's a monochromatic world for Junior.

THE ATLANTIC author tries to make this about right and left and political posture and cites a story regarding mythical RFK supporters switching over to support George Wallace.  Let's quote it because it doesn't read right:

He then offered a telling anecdote about what this meant. Kennedy recalled how he’d accompanied his father’s body by train from New York to Washington, D.C., after his assassination, and was met on the tracks by thousands of supporters—Black Americans in cities such as Trenton and Baltimore, and white Americans in the countryside. “There were hippies, there were people in uniform, there were Boy Scouts,” Kennedy recounted. “Many people, white men and women, holding signs that said Goodbye, Bobby, holding American flags, holding up children.”

But four years later, the younger Kennedy had a rude awakening about these same people. Examining demographic data from the 1972 presidential campaign, he discovered that “the predominant numbers of white people” who had supported his father had not voted for George McGovern, “who was aligned with my father on almost every issue,” but rather “ended up supporting George Wallace, who was antithetical to my father in every way—he was a fierce, rampant segregationist and racist.”

In the interview, Kennedy casts this about-face as an illustration of how populist energy can be channeled for good or ill. But he can’t quite bring himself to acknowledge the obvious implication: For backers of Kennedy Sr., as for those of Kennedy Jr., the choice was never about policies but about a posture, which is why the same voters were willing to support outsider candidates with seemingly opposite ideals.

Do they mean 1968?  I've heard Junior tell that story and point to 1968 -- that RFK voters, after RFK was assassinated, switched their support to George Wallace.  Did the dates get mixed up by either Junior or the reporter for THE ATLANTIC?

I don't know.  But it's a spurious claim regardless. The train carrying RFK's corpse did not go through the deep south -- that was the stronghold for Wallace.

As a poli sci major -- undergrad and graduate -- I reject the claim.  There is no data that demonstrates this.  From time to time, you'll see trotted out an argument that some 1964 voters for Wallace supported RFK.  There is strong evidence for this.  It's not a large number of people but it does exist.  

So the point being any number that switched over in 1968 (which is what I believe Junior is attempting to say) were actually Wallace supporters already who had supported him in '64 and who went back to him after RFK was murdered.  And that would be true if Junior did indeed mean 1972.  

Usually, it's a centrist think tank that tries to make the argument that Junior's making.  They make it insisting that we can't be too far to the left and use this as an example.  

Even if you accept that -- and that's a whole two week debate if we were all poli sci majors -- there's still the reality that this isn't what Junior has done.

Junior is not bridging a gap between middle class and poor nor between Whites and African-Americans.  

Junior's in bed with racists.  Maybe he expects non-racists to just trust him but why should they?  

His father, as a candidate in 1968, did not bridge the gap by glorifying racists.  Nor did he just pose with and visit White people.  

The Kennedy image is supposed to be about uplift.  It's Eunice starting The Special Olympics, for example.  It's Caroline leaving private life to become a US ambassador.  It's not Teddy drunk in his 80s feeling up an actress (true story, by the way) during a public dinner.  It's not acting like a frat boy (William Kennedy Smith, Junior and so many more examples).  

The Kennedy luster has been squandered by Junior.  People wanted to be inspired.  They wanted to right a wrong (the assassinations of JFK and RFK).  They want to believe -- as so many films and novels tell them -- that the child emerges as an adult to right the wrongs done to the family.  Instead, he became a boring frat boy, hanging out with every extremist White person he could, refusing to speak to people of color -- as a general rule, if you're trying to reach out to people of color you don't make White bread Dennis Kucinich your campaign manager. 

He failed to inspire.  He instead came off like so many others born with every opportunity who only identifies with those just like him.  

That image could be turned around but the campaign doesn't appear to have a clue and has instead focused on the low hanging and rotten fruit like Moms For Liberty.  You can believe that no other Kennedy, past or present, would have been stupid enough to get entangled with them or any other identified hate group.

THE ATLANTIC never understands the support that immediately went to Junior.  The writer probably doesn't want to admit just how strongly so many Americans feel that JFK and RFK were murdered with the participation of the US government.  The media has worked overtime to deny that.  It's why they dogpiled on Oliver Stone before JFK was even filmed.  Just the notion of the movie about to be made was enough to have them screaming.  

It's all in the scene from Robert Altman's NASHVILLE, as Opal (Geraldine Chaplin) interviews Lady Pearl (Barbara Baxley):

  • It's John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Well, he, he took the whole South except for Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky. And there's a reason he didn't take Tennessee but he got 481,453 votes and the asshole got 556,577 votes. [. . .] Now the problem we got here is anti-Catholicism. These dumb-heads around here - they're all Baptists and whatever, I don't know. Even to teach 'em to make change over at the bar, you gotta crack their skulls, let alone to teach 'em to vote for the Catholic just because he happens to be the better man.  [. . .]  All I remember, the next few days was us just lookin' at that TV set and seein' that great fat-bellied sheriff sayin' 'Ruby, you son of a bitch.' And Oswald. And her in her little pink suit. [. . .] And then comes Bobby. Oh, I worked for him. I worked here, I worked all over the country, I worked out in California, out in Stockton. Well, Bobby came here and spoke and he went down to Memphis and then he even went out to Stockton California and spoke off the Santa Fe train at the old Santa Fe depot. Oh, he was a beautiful man. He was not much like John, you know. He was more puny-like. But all the time I was workin' for him, I was just so scared -- inside, you know, just scared.

Not intending to take anything away from Joan Tewkesbury but Barbara Baxley was said to have improvised the above (Joan wrote the plot and the loose framework of a script for NASHVILLE).  Anyway, that's the goodwill that Junior threw away in the weeks after his April 19th campaign announcement. 

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

And we’re going to turn right now to another Supreme Court decision. In another setback for equal rights, the conservative-majority Supreme Court also ruled 6 to 3 Friday in favor of a Christian Colorado web designer who refused to create websites for same-sex couples even though the state, Colorado, bans such discrimination. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the dissent decision that the decision was “heartbreaking” and a “reactionary exclusion.”

Democracy Now! spoke to The New Republic reporter Melissa Gira Grant Friday, who reported that part of the lawsuit that the Alliance Defending Freedom filed on behalf of Lorie Smith of Colorado was fake.

MELISSA GIRA GRANT: So, in 2016, this website designer named Lorie Smith, whose business is called 303 Creative, she believed that a Colorado anti-discrimination ordinance that protects people from discrimination — among other things, from discrimination based on sexual orientation — she believed that that precluded her from entering into the wedding website business. Now, she has never created a wedding website for anybody, and including a same-sex couple.

So, in the course of making this argument, she claimed two things: one, that this law meant that she couldn’t post an announcement on her website saying that she wouldn’t make these websites for any couple that wasn’t in a biblical marriage that she approved of, and, additionally, in a later filing in the original case in 2016, she claimed that an actual same-sex couple sought to have her build a website for them, that an inquiry — it doesn’t seem that it was a legitimate inquiry, but it remained in the case. It came up in the district court ruling that ruled against her. It came up in their appeal. It’s even been included in filings to the Supreme Court and was referenced by her attorneys, Alliance Defending Freedom, who are a Christian nationalist law project. They said, “Hey, she’s had an actual inquiry, so this is a case that, you know, has some relevance.”

But before this inquiry became a subject of debate — it hadn’t really been reported out until I was able to reach the person who allegedly made the inquiry.

AMY GOODMAN: To see our full interview with Melissa Gira Grant, go to

We’re joined right now by Reverend Paul Brandeis Raushenbush. He’s president and CEO of Interfaith Alliance, which, along with 30 other faith-based and civil rights groups, filed an amicus brief in Supreme Court case, 303 v. Elenis.

Reverend Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, thanks so much for being with us. Can you talk about what this means? If a private company can discriminate against, oh, the LGBTQ community, can they put a sign in a window of a store that says, “We don’t serve gays”? Can they put a sign in the window of a store, “We don’t serve Jews. We don’t serve Blacks. We don’t serve Latinos”? What does this decision mean?

REV. PAUL BRANDEIS RAUSHENBUSH: Well, thank you for having me on. I’m delighted, and frustrated that this is the reason we’re talking.

We’re entering into a terrible moment where a Pandora’s box has been opened, and we’re not sure exactly what it means. But what it does mean for sure is that permission has been granted to use religion as a way to discriminate against your fellow people, and we’re going to see how this happens. It’s not in a vacuum. This is happening already, when LGBTQ people are under attack with religion as a pretext. And this gives permission for a lot of bad behavior.

And what we have to just say is we are in a situation which — where what is legal cannot be considered moral, and what the law is cannot be considered just. And so, you know, we have a Supreme Court that has basically put down an adverse decision, which is bad for religion, and it’s also bad for discriminated areas. Like, it could be race. It could be other protected groups. And we just have to see how this plays out. But it’s bad news for America.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Reverend, could you talk about the Alliance Defending Freedom that backed this suit? What do we know about it? And how was it able to get this case all the way up to the Supreme Court?

REV. PAUL BRANDEIS RAUSHENBUSH: Well, this is, essentially, a group that works with Christians using Christianity as a bludgeon to discriminate. They use religious freedom in a way that it was never intended. And, you know, they have had other cases that they have brought, and they have been successful. And so, we’re in a moment where they saw the Supreme Court opportunity, and they took it all the way up.

And, you know, unfortunately, there was very little that the dissenting justices could do, aside from pointing out the obvious, that we are now in a moment — I’ll quote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said, “Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.” I mean, that’s what this law group has done, and that’s what the Supreme Court went along with.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Reverend Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, you are a gay Baptist minister. Talk about the religious community’s response. And also, you supported the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. How does this decision affect that?

REV. PAUL BRANDEIS RAUSHENBUSH: Well, I think this shows why the Respect for Marriage Act was so important, is that it codifies the ability for families like my own to be protected against discrimination and that our marriages are not to be dissolved. By the way, the Respect for Marriage Act protects also interracial marriages, which this photographer, with her fake case, could also say, “I don’t to photograph interracial marriages.”

So, you know, for me, this hits me on a lot of levels. One, it hits me as a gay man with a husband and two children, who, of course, we — you know, this now opens up the possibility that we could go into an establishment, and they can say, “Oh, well, we don’t want to do your portrait.” You know, who knows to what extent people will be able to discriminate against my family?

But it’s also really bad for religion. I have to say that, because people might think, “Oh, this is a victory for freedom of religion.” Actually, you know, one of the main — I’ll put on my pastor hat here — like, one of the main reasons that people are leaving the church, especially young people, they cite the antagonism that they perceive the church has against LGBTQ people. And this is just — you know, this is just going to make more and more people say, “Ech, who wants to have anything to do with religion or Christianity?” And that’s — you know, I think, for me, that’s terrible, because it’s a terrible understanding of what Christianity is and who Jesus was.

It also just does not reflect the fact that the majority of religious people in America support anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people. That’s the fact. They don’t want — this is not just the American people at large, but also the majority of almost every religious community rejects the idea that there should be discrimination against LGBTQ people in just such a way as the court has decided. And so, basically, the court is representing a very small and diminishing part of the public in this decision. And it’s just bad for religion, it’s bad for freedom, and it’s bad for America. It’s bad for the fabric of America. It disintegrates the fabric of America.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Reverend, we just have about 20 seconds left, but what should faith groups that are opposed to this decision — what recourse, what next steps would you recommend?

REV. PAUL BRANDEIS RAUSHENBUSH: Well, you know, we need to be rallying all over the country, and we need to be standing up, and we need to be very loud to insist that religion should be a cause for celebration, not discrimination, a cause for liberation, not subjugation, a cause for a bridge, not a bludgeon. And we have to say that just because this law is now the — is the law doesn’t mean it’s moral. And we have to stand up and say, “If you’re doing this, you are not representing a good religion. You’re representing bad religion.” It’s very important that everyone stand up and be very clear about where they stand on this law.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, we thank you so much for being with us, joining us from Massachusetts, president and CEO of Interfaith Alliance. And that does it for our show. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our website is Thanks so much for joining us.

Lastly, Human Rights Watch notes:

 A court in the Kurdistan region of Iraq dealt independent civil society a blow on May 31, 2023, by ordering the closure of Rasan Organization over “its activities in the field of homosexuality,” Human Rights Watch said today. Rasan is the only human rights organization willing to vocally support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), in addition to its work on women’s rights and domestic violence.

“Shuttering Rasan is not only an attack on civil society in Kurdistan but is also a direct threat to the lives and wellbeing of the vulnerable people they support,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “By closing Rasan, the government has sent a clear message that it does not respect freedom of association.”

Tanya Kamal Darwish, CEO of Rasan Organization, told Human Rights Watch that the purported reason for closing the group down was not because of its activities, but because the judge took issue with its logo, which contains the colors of the rainbow. The court order states that “the expert committee confirmed that the logo of the organization is a complete expression of its activities in the field of homosexuality.”

Rasan has appealed but is unable to continue operating while the appeal is pending.

The closure of Rasan is part of a broader pattern of oppression and targeting of LGBT people and activists by local Kurdish authorities in recent years. Human Rights Watch has previously documented the targeting of LGBT people online and violence against LGBT people by armed groups in Iraq, including the regional government.

The closure is the result of a lawsuit filed against Rasan in February 2021 by Omar Kolbi, a member of the Kurdistan Parliament, who accused Rasan of “promoting homosexuality,” and “engaging in activities that defy social norms, traditions, and public morality.” Kolbi also submitted a complaint to Barzan Akram Mantiq, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Department of Non-Governmental Organizations, an official body responsible for registering, organizing, and monitoring all nongovernmental organizations in the region.

After the suit was filed, local police issued arrest warrants for 11 LGBT rights activists who were either current or former employees at Rasan based on article 401 of the penal code, which criminalizes “public indecency.”

“The Department of Non-Governmental Organizations is supporting MP Kolbi’s complaint against us, but that is backward,” Darwish said. “The department should have been supporting us, not standing against us.”

Darwish said that the trial, which took place last year, focused on the activities of Rasan and never mentioned any issues with the group’s logo. “They were asking about our activities, and we told them what we do,” Darwish said. “We focus on human rights. Anyone who comes to us with a problem we help without any discrimination.”

Rasan found out about the issue with the logo only when the court decision was published. “We weren't expecting them to take any action against us, since we weren't doing anything illegal. They used the logo as an excuse because they couldn't find anything illegal in our activities,” Darwish said.

Rasan, which has operated in Sulaimaniya, a city in the Kurdistan region, for nearly two decades, has faced increasing threats and official retaliation for its activism and work. The group provides legal, psychological, and social support for women and LGBT clients, raises awareness of LGBT and women’s rights, and collects and compiles data relevant to LGBT people and gender-based violence.

In September 2022, members of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament introduced the “Bill on the Prohibition of Promoting Homosexuality,” which would punish any individual or group that advocates for the rights of LGBT people. Under the bill, the vague provision against “promoting homosexuality” would be a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of up to five million dinars (US$3,430). The bill would also suspend, for up to one month, the licenses of media companies and civil society organizations that “promote homosexuality.”

Momentum for adopting the bill appears to have stalled, but in the context of repeated targeting of LGBT people, local LGBT rights activists fear it could be quickly revived and passed at the whim of local authorities.

“By going after Rasan, authorities are effectively scapegoating activists working to protect among the most vulnerable members of society, who should not fear reprisals for speaking up about abuses,” Coogle said. “The Kurdistan Regional Government should take immediate steps to ensure that organizations like Rasan are permitted to operate freely and cease harassment and targeting of LGBT advocates.”

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