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Views in brief

May 27, 2005 | Page 8

OTHER VIEWS BELOW:
Democrats' gay rights sell-out
SW was too hard on Fonda
The worst war criminals
Did Bush win in 2004?

The racism in the ranks

CORP. PHILIPPE Louis-Jean fought in the U.S. war on Iraq. He is married to an American citizen. He is of Haitian descent, but both of his parents are citizens, so he should have no problem staying in this country, right?

Wrong. His "superiors" tried to get him deported after he served in Iraq. In fact, the officers in his division started a racist campaign to get every non-white member of that division deported.

In 2002, Philippe was court-martialed and served more than a month in jail after being convicted by military officials of "adultery and sodomy" for having sex with a Marine sergeant's stepdaughter. After he was released, he was sent to Iraq, and he fought in the battle to take Saddam Hussein's palace. He was later given a military promotion.

Only after this promotion did white officers in his division start to challenge him. He was eventually told that he would be deported--because under a 1996 anti-terrorist law, his military offense of adultery was considered a deportable immigration crime of sexual abuse of a minor.

Philippe served nearly a year in prison, waiting for the outcome of a judge's decision as to whether he could stay or not. Originally, Philippe didn't want to fight to stay in America. He was convinced to struggle to stay in the U.S. only after he learned that he could be deported straight from an American prison into a Haitian one. Philippe won the case based on a technicality, but he still fears that he could be deported back to Haiti--a nation he hasn't lived in since he was 5 years old.

A Venezuelan member of his division has also been threatened with deportation. Philippe's commanders also tried to pick on a soldier of African descent, who had to keep explaining that he already is a citizen.

Defenders of the U.S. occupation of Iraq argue that if Bush pulls out of Iraq, there will be a civil war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, plunging that nation into chaos. Philippe Louis-Jean's story proves that to be as much of a lie as the other justifications for invading Iraq. The U.S. has no right to say it is trying to prevent division in Iraq while fostering divisions among its own ranks in the military.
Dominic Renda, New York City

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Democrats' gay rights sell-out

WHY WON'T the Democrats stand up for equal rights? That's the question activists across Washington are asking themselves after two Democrats sided with Republicans in the state senate to defeat a bill (25 to 24) that would have extended basic legal protections to Washington's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

By providing Republicans with their margin of victory against the anti-discrimination bill, Democratic senators James Hargrove and Tim Sheldon helped uphold a shamefully homophobic status quo: throughout most of the state, it is still perfectly legal for LGBT people to be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, denied loans from banks, and kicked off of insurance policies, simply because of their sexuality.

According to polls taken by the gay rights advocacy group Equal Rights Washington, 71 percent of Washington voters want to "ensure equal treatment for gays and lesbians," and 82 percent of those polled didn't even know that LGBT people can be fired because of their sexuality. That means that 82 percent of Washington residents didn't even know the bill existed.

These numbers suggest that the time is right to rebuild a broad, grassroots movement that's ready to take to the streets and demand an end to state-sanctioned discrimination.

Unfortunately, most of the groups fighting for the passage of the anti-discrimination Bill have focused exclusively on hiring lobbyists to argue with middle-of-the-road politicians--conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans--rather than rebuilding the kind of political movement that can hold politicians accountable.

In the absence of a mass movement, it's easy for politicians like Hargrove and Sheldon to follow the dollar and protect the "rights" of the bosses, landlords, banks and insurance companies who donate heavily to both parties and actually benefit from the homophobia that keeps our side divided.

This year marks the 30th consecutive year this bill has languished in Olympia, and the 30th year that politicians here have balked at the opportunity to strike a real blow against institutionalized homophobia. With a decision pending in the Washington state Supreme Court that could legalize same-sex marriage, it's absolutely crucial that we draw lessons from this defeat.

We can't entrust our basic rights to career politicians who are more interested in not rocking the boat than they are in genuine equality. Hargrove recently told the press, "I believe adultery is wrong, I believe sex outside marriage is wrong, I believe homosexuality is wrong. Therefore, I cannot give government protection to this behavior." Homophobic "liberals" like Hargrove will never stand up for equality unless we force them to.
Doug Kennedy, Seattle

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SW was too hard on Fonda

IN AN echo of right-wing attacks on Jane Fonda's antiwar activities, which have always contained a strong sexist undercurrent, Eric Ruder bemoans her "tragic decline" in his review of the 1972 documentary F.T.A. ("When Jane Fonda took a stand," May 13, 2005).

Why does he single her out? Fonda at least continued to make sharp political films like Coming Home and The China Syndrome through the 1970s. Does F.T.A. co-star Donald Sutherland have such credits? Why not point out Sutherland's "decline"? The derisive comment about Fonda's rebirth "as America's workout queen" only adds to the sexist feel.

Fonda and Sutherland were big name stars before their participation in the F.T.A. show. Both courageously risked their careers. Both have "declined" in the sense of returning to their previous careers and dropping public commitment to the radical positions they espoused in the early '70s.

Fonda, for her part, has never renounced her opposition to the Vietnam War, and recently spoke favorably on National Public Radio about her past encouraging GI resisters. For this, she, and not Donald Sutherland, faces endless vilification from the right. Privileged movie stars no doubt do too little to support struggles for social justice. That's the tragedy, not the fact that Fonda is one of the very few who once did so.
Avery Wear, San Diego

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The worst war criminals

SPC. SABRINA Harman, one of the prison guards who inflicted abuse at Abu Ghraib, was convicted this week on six out of seven counts against her. And yet, with all of the media coverage of her trial and that of Lynndie England, the most vicious war criminals in the U.S. are getting off scot-free.

The torture at Abu Ghraib was a heinous crime. But where does the real blame lie for these practices? There is ample evidence that the abuse was encouraged and promoted at the top.

Harman herself said that prison guards had been under pressure from military intelligence officers, who wanted the inmates "softened" before their interrogation. In addition, she suggested in a letter to her roommate presented in the trial that she took pictures because she was opposed to the treatment and wanted to document the wrongdoings.

Whether Harman's claims are accurate or not, we should be asking whether any other result can come from a war that trains soldiers to view Arabs and Muslims as less than human. The kind of abuse that has happened from Iraq to Guantánamo Bay demonstrates that the troops are trained to treat other human beings like animals. In fact, it is always necessary for rulers to convince their soldiers that the lives of the "enemy" are worth less than their own.

No one has more responsibility for this horrendous crime than Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the U.S. political machine.
Rebecca Anshell, San Diego

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Did Bush win in 2004?

ELIZABETH SCHULTE bases her piece on an assumption that the present administration won the election in 2004 ("Why 'inside-outside' is getting nowhere," April 22). How could George Bush--the man behind the war that so many people protested--be re-elected? After reading countless articles that don't make it into the mainstream media, the election "results" look questionable. See www.crisispapers.org for more well-researched information.

I agree with the points of Schulte's piece, and point out that as long as we continue to believe that Bush won the 2004 election, we are not thinking clearly and coherently. The corruption of the political system goes deep.
Nina Holmes, from the Internet

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