God Hates Sodomites, This I Know, ‘Cause the Bible (and Those Voices Only I Hear) Tells Me So

The other shoe fell and it wasn’t that bad, although there sure are some wackos out there.

St. Augustine, Florida (the nation’s oldest city) kicked off its annual gay pride celebration early and somewhat unwillingly, after a federal court ruled the city had to fly rainbow flags downtown and across the 1920s landmark Bridge of Lions. The city flew other flags for various events, the court pointed out, without criteria that would eliminate commemoration of such sentiments as gay pride.

St. Augustine Record:

Jason Relph of New York City is a former resident of St. Augustine who flew back here for this event.

“The federal court ruling (on the flags) made news in England, Canada and, for some reason, Iceland,” Relph said. “It’s unusual because this is a Southern, conservative town, and this march says we are not ashamed of who we are. It’s an awakening on some level.”

Jordan Buffaloe of Jacksonville arrived with his partner, Shawn Weiker.

“We want people to look past the rainbow flags and into our expressions,” Buffaloe said. “We want to be recognized as individuals. Look past our sexual orientation.”

The other team (in the Seinfeld sense) was pitifully represented by some scary folks who were mercifully outnumbered.

Anthony Russo, 24, held a sign that said, “I hate queers.”

He said homosexuality was “ungodly and immoral.”

Russo and three friends taunted the marchers.

His father, Doug Russo, held a sign that said homosexuals should “repent or burn.”

Russo said homosexuality has been a crime for 200 years of American history.

“Now all of a sudden, it’s not,” he said. “Sin is a reproach to any nation. I’m trying to prevent them from going to Hell. Is that hate? I think it’s concern.”

Homosexuality, Russo said, is caused by “demon possession.” If homosexuals accepted Jesus, he added, they would be saved.

It’s depressingly obvious concepts like demonic possession can be handed down in families, although there are certainly people who rise above such upbringing. But I wonder what Anthony’s going to be like in middle age.

Doug’s mission from God aside, gay pride organizers promised an even bigger event next year. Instead of closing downtown streets, they will apply to use the city’s special events field. Stay tuned…

Downing Street Memo II – Bush & Blair Planned ‘Illegal’ Iraq Campaign in April 2002 Then Lied about It for Five Months

Last week, Prime Minister Tony Blair had what appeared to be a contentious meeting with President Bush. Now a second memo has been leaked by the Blair government that indicates the Bush Administration was lying to American public during the run-up to the war in Iraq. The story broke in the London Times:

Ministers were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.

The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.

The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.

“US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia,” the briefing paper warned. This meant that issues of legality “would arise virtually whatever option ministers choose with regard to UK participation”.

So Blair signed onto the Bush plan in March 2002 – which means the intention to go to war was already set by our government. Bush started “marketing” the war (as his chief of staff Andy Card put it) in September. But remember, we were told that they were only considering war as one of several options for dealing with Saddam Hussein.

The good news for the future of our democracy is that the leaking of the second memo was reported on the front page of the Washington Post. Their story emphasizes criticism by Blair’s cabinet of the shoddy planning of the war by Bush and his staff:

[The memo] concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a “protracted and costly” postwar occupation of that country…

In its introduction, the memo “Iraq: Conditions for Military Action” notes that U.S. “military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace,” but adds that “little thought” has been given to, among other things, “the aftermath and how to shape it.”

At some point, you would think these revelations would start to damange Bush’s credibility.

U.S. Contractors Held by Military in Iraq Say Treatment Was Abusive

On May 28, three U.S. citizens working for a North Carolina engineering company in Iraq were picked up and held by by U.S. Marines, who accused them of firing indiscriminately at troops and civilians in Fallouja. According to the Los Angeles Times:

Matt Raiche knew he was in trouble when the Marines handed him an orange jumpsuit, a bottle to urinate in, a Koran and a Muslim prayer rug.

Guards put the former Marine into a 6-foot-by-6-foot concrete cell, locked the steel door and told him to keep his mouth shut. In cells nearby, he heard imprisoned insurgents screaming in Arabic.

“They took us to be … insurgent terrorists,” said Raiche, 34.

Raiche told the Times that the Marines were resentful about the high salaries paid to contractors. While he was being held on the ground, one of them asked him, “How does it feel to make that contractor money now?

The incident also renewed questions about the U.S. military’s treatment of prisoners in Iraq. One of the few things both sides largely agree on is that the Marines treated the contractors like any other detainees — treatment the contractors found abusive and humiliating.

The contractors admit they fired at a “suspicious vehicle” but never aimed at Marines or “civilians.” (But weren’t civilians driving the suspicious vehicle?) They were held for three days and are returning home, according to the Times.

Another contractor captured with Raiche, Rick Blanchard, 42, a former Marine and Florida state trooper, said the Marines had confused the Zapata convoy with an earlier security convoy that had fired indiscriminately.

In outsourcing the grunt work in Iraq to contractors, the push for privatization has created a condundrum. You have military personnel who are paid minimum wages working side by side with, say, truck drivers who are paid a hundred grand a year. Your average couch potato American could tell you that ain’t gonna fly. (And let’s not forget, taxpayer dollars are picking up the tab for the contractors’ fees.)