Gay and lesbian people who endorse the war in and occupation of Iraqand possible future military action against other countries like Syrianeed to stop using the guise of caring about the plight of gay Arabs to rationalize their support. It's an argument fraught with emotional manipulation, hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty and factual error.
Even the most dovish opponents of military intervention in Iraq rightly concede that there were plenty of reasons to topple Saddam Hussein and his government. He was a harsh and brutal dictator, and it is near impossible to find anyone, regardless of his or her political leanings, who is sorry to see the rogue gone. Gay and lesbian proponents of the war and the occupation should stick to this core truth when arguing their case. Invoking the supposed freeing of GLBT people actually weakens their position rather than strengthening it.
It's easy to see why advocates of war who are speaking to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities would invoke the freedom of GLBT peoples in trying to win over their audience. But we shouldn't fall for that kind of insincere play on our emotions.
It's laughable to argue that 'liberating' gay and lesbian Iraqis is one reason to support the war in and military occupation of Iraq. The truth is that the plight for gay and lesbian Iraqisjust like those of gay and lesbian Afghaniswill change little under whatever new government is installed.
There is no denying that GLBT people in Iraq and other Arab countries are persecuted. But the forces of oppression that keep down GLBT people in the Arab World are complex, and cannot be altered by simple 'regime change.' Religion, tradition, culture, family pressures, ignorance of the contemporary understandings of modern psychologyall these things and more factor together in various ways to make life extremely difficult for GLBT people in Iraq and other Arab nations. But to believe that life for GLBT people will be betteror different in any real waythan it was under Saddam Hussein is willfully naïve. The social, religious and cultural forces that oppress GLBT people will not have changed one iota under a new Iraqi government.
Furthermore, the line that invading Iraq, and now possibly Syria, will 'free' gay people there is heaped in hypocrisy.
The most obvious element of hypocrisy is that the forces that are supposedly emancipating our downtrodden GLBT brethren are themselves hyper-homophobic. How can anyone seriously argue that the United States military is an instrument for GLBT liberation?
From there, the layers of hypocrisy only deepen.
Gay hawks mouth the mantra of GLBT liberation in Iraq and Syria, and go to lengths to point out how oppressive those regimes are to homosexuals. Yet what about other neighboring countries that border Iraq? Saudi Arabia is probably the most socially backward nation in the world, run by unsavory dictators who are infamous in the Arab World for their suppression of freedoms of all kinds. Saudi Arabia even allegedly executes openly homosexual people. Not to mention that 17 of the 19 hijackers involved in Sept. 11 were from Saudi Arabia. If ever there was an argument for overthrowing a country, Saudi Arabia should take the prize.
But the Saudi leaderswho are sitting on what is by far the world's largest oil reserveare our political allies. Hush, then, any talk of invading them.
And what about Egypt? Right now, the Egyptian government is carrying out a choreographed crackdown of gay men and gay life in that country, arresting and jailing dozens of gay men through entrapment, Internet stings, informants and possibly even telephone wire-tappings. International human-rights groups have documented torture, threats and beatings against gay men there. Even our own government has spoken up against the outrageous persecution.
But are gay hawks urging that we send the Marines to Cairo to 'liberate' the gay men suffering there? Hardly.
The final and perhaps most personally infuriating aspect of the hypocrisy around the argument that we are invading foreign countries in the interest of freeing gay people is the way we treat gay Arabs and gay Muslims here in the United States.
Most gay Arabs and gay Muslims in this country come here specifically seeking the incredible social freedom to be gay that they would never have at home. But particularly since Sept. 11, gay Arabs and gay Muslims have felt under attack here, even from within the GLBT community.
I have been personally spared most of that prejudice. Though I was born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian father, I had an American mother, and I was primarily raised in this country. I don't have dark skin or an accent or any of the other telltale signs of my Arab heritage, other than my name.
But in the past two years, and particularly as the propaganda on the Iraq war went into overdrive, I know from friends and colleagues and dozens of sources I've interviewed that the gay community has often been prejudiced and discriminatory and unwelcoming to Arabs and Muslims living here.
To talk about 'liberating' gay Iraqis in Baghdad while we mistreat gay Arabs and Muslims in our own midst is just too much to stomach.