Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh, what a funny war!

From Counterpunch, a scathing review by Stanley Heller of "Charlie Wilson's War", or how to make war funny and appealing now that Iraq is yesterday's news.
"...Imagine, they made a funny movie about how the US helped turn Afghanistan into a killing field...To be sure it was the Soviets who did most of the killing...Yet the evidence is that the US government wanted the Soviets to invade and did what it could to provoke it."

But wait... it gets even funnier.
"Mike Nichols who directed the movie had very little to say about the fact that the weapons we [the U.S.] gave the mujahadeen ended up being used in a long and bloody Afghan civil war once the Soviets left and that the mujahadeen/warlords mutated into the Taliban and al-Qaeda."
And Canadians are killing and being killed to try to wipe out the U.S. creation.
"...This movie glorying in our "triumph" in Afghanistan fits well in Washington's current climate where Democrats fall all over themselves saying Iraq was a mistake, but we should be sending more money and troops to Afghanistan. Sure, we really need to sacrifice more American lives for a warlord "Northern Alliance" government that is so hated that the Taliban is making a comeback."
And this is the government that is telling Canada how important it is that we keep troops there forever to keep it in power.

I'd rather listen to RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women).
"..Instead of defeating Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Gulbuddini terrorists and disarming the Northern Alliance, the foreign troops are creating confusion among the people of the world. We believe that if these troops leave Afghanistan, our people will not feel any kind of vacuum but rather will become more free and come out of their current puzzlement and doubts. In such a situation, they will face the Taliban and Northern Alliance without their national' mask, and rise to fight with these terrorist enemies. Neither the US nor any other power wants to release Afghan people from the fetters of the fundamentalists."
But is Stephen Harper listening? I doubt he's ever heard of RAWA. Besides, what would they know? It's their country, their history and their future. It is therefore best decided by puffy white conservative guys in Canada.

Not too surprising though. He doesn't care much for the welfare of Canadian women either.

And he wonders "whether Canada really gets Afghanistan".
"...Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he is uncertain whether Canadians at large understand the importance of remaining involved in Afghanistan..After demoting Gordon O'Connor from defence to the revenue portfolio as part of a broader cabinet shakeup, Mr. Harper seemed to get a firmer grip on the direction of the war, enough for the Conservatives to boldly suggest in their fall Throne Speech that Canada should remain deeply involved in Afghanistan until 2011...In June, a Canadian Press-Decima Research survey found 67 per cent of those asked believed the number of casualties in Afghanistan is unacceptable when weighed against the progress that made in reconstruction and keeping the Taliban at bay in Kandahar..."

Oh, we get it, Stevie. You'll do what you want, "punch above your weight", ignore the wishes of most Canadians and more people will die.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Couldn't have said it better myself...

From the Harper Index

I think the Harper government is one of the most loathsome, mean-spirited, self-serving gang of rogues I've ever witnessed.

...Harper's a different breed. He's a nasty fellow who stealthily dismantles small programs over time, thereby eroding and ultimately washing away some of our cherished programs.

Now I'm SURE we're doing something wrong

Praise from the Liar-in-Chief and his cohorts doesn't warm the cockles of my heart, I'm afraid.

"President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised Canada and other allies Thursday for their combat roles in Afghanistan while saying the U.S. administration is worried NATO countries will eventually tire of the mission and leave."
I'm afraid I'm still not too sure I know what this mission is. What are we doing there, again?

"...Canada also wanted to know whether more U.S. troops would be available for Afghanistan as they leave Iraq. The response was that it won't happen in the short term; a point U.S. Defence Minister Robert Gates has been making."
Sorry, but you're on your own. Afghanistan is important for the U.S., but just not important enough to send soldiers. NATO countries can die for the U.S. war, and should be PROUD to do so.

"...Earlier in the day, Bush mentioned the Canadians - along with the British, Dutch, Danes and Australians - at a news conference, thanking them for their "contribution of shooters, fighters, people that are willing to be on the front line."
Hey, what happened to humanitarian intervention, schools, women's rights, all that stuff? (Don't worry - I never believed that snowjob anyway.)

"It's a dangerous mission but it's a mission that we're proud of," said Bernier, noting the Conservative government is hoping to stay longer.
Most Canadians aren't proud. They're angry, confused and sad. And the Egyptians already told us what the Conservative government has in mind. Anybody who doesn't have their head buried in the sand or up their own fundament knows that this is Stevie's War, and he won't let anyone leave while there's still a man standing.

"...Rice called Canada "an extraordinary partner" making an "invaluable and effective" contribution to what is an "absolutely essential mission ... crucial to the future of the United States, Canada and all civilized nations."
The only one Rice is worried about is the U.S., and she's done such a wonderful job so far, Americans are terrified. When did Canada become a U.S. colony? Praise from Condoleezza Rice makes me acutely uncomfortable.
"... It was the United States that was attacked on Sept. 11th..."
She's starting to sound like Giuliani - the Sept. 11th mantra, over and over and over...

And - oh, yeah - Afghanistan did not attack the U.S.

"...Canada also raised concerns about U.S. rules that prohibit military manufacturers from employing dual nationals and foreign-born citizens on American projects in Canada."
This could be a good thing. Why should we be manufacturing the materials of slaughter?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Does Harper read Egyptian newspapers?

Has Stephen Harper accepted what the Egyptians already know? (Bold typeface is mine.)

"Thirty-eight countries have supplied troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force but most of them, including those from Germany and France, are precluded by their governments from combat operations. Different national contingents have different rules of engagement.

Troops from the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia have been engaged with the Taliban in the southern provinces. However, public support for the troop presence is not strong in those countries apart from the United States. The Netherlands just committed to keep its troops in Afghanistan till 2010 only after a contentious public and parliamentary debate that threatened to break up the governing coalition.
But here's something interesting. We're committed until 2010? When did Harper go to parliament to debate this, as he promised to? (Ha! Promises! I'm not deluded enough to believe any promises that come from the secretive New Canadian Government.)

...Dutch troops will definitely pull out in 2010, and the Canadians and Australians may well follow suit.
It's wonderful to have to read an Egyptian editorial to find out what's happening.

Child soldiers in Afghanistan

Another reason for not handing over people captured in the field to Afghan authorities. Children are being recruited by government forces, Afghan police and militias who support them, and private security companies. They are sexually abused, used for hard labour, or sent to fight.

The Taliban use children to fight or carry out suicide missions.

AFGHANISTAN: Child soldiers operating on several fronts

KANDAHAR, 19 December 2007 (IRIN) - Children are being recruited and in some cases sexually abused by the Afghan police and/or various militias that support the police, as well as by private security companies and the Taliban, according to human rights and provincial officials.

...Some children are recruited for military and non-military purposes by local militias who are paid by the government to supplement the fledgling ANP in volatile southern provinces. However, due to lack of proper monitoring and accountability mechanisms, and the informal nature of the auxiliary forces, the use and abuse of child soldiers remains undocumented.

"Children are used for different purposes," Noorzai said. "The majority of them experience sexual abuse, others do all kinds of jobs such as cooking, cleaning, day patrols and even fighting," he said.

...Under-age males have also been seen working for private security companies, particularly in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, said a senior government official who insisted on anonymity.

...Afghan officials also accuse the Taliban and other anti-government elements of deliberately using children for various military and illegitimate purposes. The Taliban use boys as foot soldiers and force children to engage in violent acts, they say.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Torture? Mais non, we know nothing about it (part deux).

Sounds like a plan to me, but I don't think they meant it that way.

A top military commander says in a sworn affidavit Canadian troops would have to quit fighting the Taliban if they could not hand prisoners over to Afghan authorities.
Maybe they shouldn't have been so gung-ho to charge in there, then.

..Although Canada is waging its biggest war effort in more than half a century, the 2,500-soldier commitment to Afghanistan has only a limited capacity to hold prisoners temporarily. That is by design. "The Canadian Forces has no capacity or ability to hold detainees other than for transfer purposes," says Gen. Deschamps, an air force general who once commanded the Camp Mirage logistics base in the Gulf.
Doing the right thing, only after they've been found out, as usual.
..Despite intensive follow-up inspections, arranged by the Harper government only after The Globe and Mail published harrowing detainee accounts of torture and abuse in Afghan prisons, a significant number of transferred prisoners still say that they have been tortured after transfer.
This whole thing makes me sick.

And it's 1,2,3...what are we fighting for? (part quatre)

Khalilzad, Karzai and the "government" of Afghanistan - is this what young Canadians are dying for?

Khalilzad and the Gangs of Afghanistan

by Bahlol Lohdi

In an article last year, The Economist wondered how an inept individual like Hamid Karzai had managed to obtain the post of president of Afghanistan. The answer is found in the development of the relationship between Zalmay Khalilzad and Hamid Karzai.

...The period between the signing of the Bonn Accord and the installation of a transitional government in Kabul should have been used to effect a similar process, distancing the Afghan mujahedeen warlords and their criminal gangs from the levers of power.

...Unfortunately, the various loya jirgas, or "grand assemblies," attended and choreographed by Khalilzad as George Bush's special representative, instead of bringing forth the required apolitical, technocratic regime in order to begin the country's physical and social reconstruction, only served to entrench the status quo set in Bonn.

...The Afghan government is now widely described as being made up of various competing mafia groups.

...The relationship between Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, and Karzai, the Afghan president, was described in graphic and cringe-making detail in a New Yorker piece. And though it accurately portrayed the Afghan "leader" as a servile and ridiculous moron whose every action was being choreographed by the American plenipotentiary, it was a gratuitous insult to Afghan national pride.
Too bad Canada didn't have the "understandable reluctance" to pour lives and money into propping up this corrupt regime.

...But with the British military failure in Helmand, and an understandable reluctance by many NATO allies to expend blood and treasure to ensure the survival of a kleptocratic regime, Karzai's mantle of power began to look increasingly threadbare.
So, our soldiers are still fighting "Taliban", killing "Taliban", and getting killed, while our glorious leaders have known for a long time that it was a waste of time.

...a giant step forward was taken when it was admitted that there is no military solution to the Afghan problem. The British trumpeting of their preparations to "destroy the Taliban," thus "securing the back end of the country" and reordering things in Kabul so that it would "cut the mustard," and their subsequent rude awakening from such neo-imperial dreams, at least served this useful purpose.
Now, could we stop with the "punching above our weight" crapola from the Harper crowd?

..A final assumption that must be discarded, before moving on to consider the factors essential for a viable political solution, is the shibboleth that conflates NATO's future survival with that of its success or failure in Afghanistan. From the shrill and persistent vocalization of this meme, one would think that the NATO acronym stands for North Afghanistan Treaty Organization!
I wondered about that, too. Karzai and his pontificating about how thankful he was that Canadians were dying to keep him and the rest in power. I couldn't believe my ears.

Time to go, as quickly as possible.

...Unfortunately, the presence of Western forces on Afghan soil has become part of the Afghan problem and therefore can no longer be considered part of any future solution. Despite the ridiculous claims of a deluded Afghan ex-minister while in Canada, the Afghan civilian population neither appreciates nor forgives being bombarded, even by mistakenly dropped "friendly bombs."
I'm not sure who he's speaking about here - perhaps Malalai Joya. I don't remember her saying the Afghan people were happy about being blown up, but maybe I missed something.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Going the wrong way up a dead-end street

I wonder if it's a gift or does it have to be learned.

I'm talking about the Harper government consistently backing the wrong horse, or whatever metaphor you might want to use.

"Critics at the Bali climate change conference are lumping Canada with the U.S., which they say is refusing to commit to deep emissions reductions, thereby hijacking the conference."
We are lumped in with the U.S., thanks to the Harperites and their forelock-tugging to the almighty Bush administration. Harper backed the invasion of Iraq, he thought the mining of southern Lebanon with unexploded cluster bombs by Israel was a "measured response", and now he thinks that backing Bush in his destruction of the planet is a good idea.

"There is a wrecking crew here in Bali, led by the Bush administration and its minions. Those minions continue to be the governments of Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and others," said Jennifer Morgan, of the Climate Change Network."
Canada is a key part of the dispute, Chao said. On Thursday, Environment Minister John Baird told members Canada is feeling first-hand the effects of climate change, but said the proposed targets are impossible for Canada to achieve.
Of course we can achieve them, but the oil and gas business might take a hit, and the major polluters would have to put some of their gazillions in profit into cleaning up their act. Can't have that. Profit is king, and they paid to get this government elected. They OWN it.
The plan being proposed by Baird would reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 regardless of what comes out of the Bali conference. But the reductions would be from 2006 emissions levels, instead of 1990 levels, which many nations agree is a good starting point for emissions reductions.
"So right after this speech, Bangladesh's representative came out to call Canada's position immoral, dishonest, working against the interests of the planet and working against the interests of individual Canadians," Chao said.
I'm glad to see the rest of the world hammering the Canadian delegation. Do they know that they only represent a little over a third of Canadians? And that's whom they're protecting. The rest of us can just drown in their effluent or choke on their emissions.
"The members, on learning that Canada was trying to set targets at 2006 levels, said that Canada was being misleading and trying to undermine the trust of the talks here among nations," Chao said.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Don't worry. It's all under control.

Michael Klare says what all Canadians kind of thought anyway.

Thanks, Stevie, for further selling out the country.

From Thursday, Nov. 28th Democracy Now podcast:

Michael Klare, Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College. He is author of several books including “Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum.” Klare’s latest article for the Nation is called Beyond the Age of Petroleum.

"Well, there’s a lot going on all at once that ensures that this oil crisis is qualitatively different from those of the past. And this is much more long-lasting. And one of the qualitative differences is that we have used up, over the past thirty years, most of the remaining oil in the global north—in the United States, in Canada, in Europe and other places that are near at hand and relatively under our control."
Well, Professor Klare, you might have Stevie and the boys (and a few of the girls) under your control, but you don't have the majority of the Canadian population under the imperialist thumb...yet.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Tinkerbell Solution - Canada's asshat-pirational climate change goals

Nice going, Stevie. You've managed to bully the commonwealth countries into adopting a toothless environmental policy. Proud of yourself?

Canada gets its way: Commonwealth climate deal drops binding targets

Canada appears to have got its way at Commonwealth talks on climate change.

The 53-member organization has produced an agreement stripped of any reference to binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada and Australia had been the lone holdouts against an earlier resolution that would have included such targets - and the Australian government has just been defeated in an election.

...The final Commonwealth deal says all countries should contribute to reducing emissions within a non-binding global target.
It's a problem, they all agree. They just hope something will happen ...somehow. I think they're called asshat-pirational goals...sorry - aspirational goals. Just like Tinkerbell - if we all hope really hard, the earth will recover.

"Instead the Lake Victoria Commonwealth Climate Change Plan points out the seriousness of the earth warming but recommends no targets or timelines for tackling greenhouse gas reduction.

The watered down plan is seen as a victory for Canada which is opposed to setting standards for industrialized polluting countries and not all polluters such as India and China."
But after all, Canada and Australia are behind this, aren't they? Hold on - a minor problem has occurred. Howard has been decisively booted out of office in Australia, and the new guy, Kevin Rudd, has said that he will sign Kyoto immediately.

Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd swept to power in Australian elections Saturday, ending an 11-year conservative era and promising major changes to policies on global warming and his country's role in the Iraq war.

...Rudd, a 50-year-old former diplomat who speaks fluent Chinese, urged voters to support him because Howard was out of touch with modern Australia and ill-equipped to deal with new-age issues such as climate change.

...But one of the biggest changes will be in Australia's approach to climate change. Rudd has nominated the issue as his top priority, and promises to immediately sign the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.
Kind of lonely up there on your mountain top, is it, Mr. Harper? Maybe you won't be there for long.

That's my aspirational goal.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Morally superior slaughter in Afghanistan

The dead are equivalent in one way. They're dead - no matter who killed them, and their relatives still mourn, even if they were killed in a morally "superior" way.

NATO feels that it holds the moral high ground, however. The slaughter that it perpetrates is somehow morally superior to the slaughter attributable to the Taliban.

This is the stupidest and most morally vacant thing I've ever heard.

"Nato head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says its forces are doing all they can to avoid Afghan civilian casualties.

After a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, he said that Nato forces had changed their procedure to reduce the threat to civilians.

...Gen Scheffer appealed for understanding on this issue and said there was no moral equivalent between the civilians killed by the Taleban and those killed by Nato."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Señor Harper, ¿por qué no te callas?

If Colombia is suspending human rights and accepting massive aid from the U.S. as Bush's bestest friend in América del Sur, then the best thing for Canada to do is push through a free trade deal with them.

"In July Harper visited Colombia and scoffed at the suggestion Canada should withhold support for a trade deal due to human rights abuses. "We're not going to say, fix all your social, political and human-rights problems, and only then will we engage in trade relations with you," said Harper, at the time. That's a ridiculous position."
If Pakistan has suspended civil liberties and locked up dissenters, then the best thing for Canada to do is suggest that they be suspended from the Commonwealth.

"Canada has called for Pakistan's suspension from the Commonwealth following the anti-democratic crackdowns imposed during its emergency rule."
Punching above our weight, are we, Stevie? Let's just push a Pakistan teetering on the edge of a disaster over the edge, shall we? Got any more brilliant ideas?

I have a suggestion for you.

Señor Harper, ¿por qué no te callas?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Tolstoy on war

From Tolstoy's War and Peace:

“A thought that had long since and often occured to him during his military activities -- the idea that there is not and cannot be any science of war, and that therefore there can be no such thing as a military genius -- now appeared to him an obvious truth.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Torture? Mais, non. We know nothing.

From Reuters:

Canada brushes off allegations of Afghan torture

Canada brushed off allegations on Monday that Taliban members captured by Canadian troops and handed over to Afghan authorities had been tortured, saying the militants often made false claims of mistreatment.

...But the French-language daily La Presse said on Monday it had found three prisoners who alleged inmates had been beaten with bricks and cables, given electric shocks, deprived of sleep and had their nails torn out."

White guys with guns: Canada's military in Afghanistan

White guys with guns: Canada's military in Afghanistan

by Dave Markland, a member of the Vancouver Parecon Collective, organizes with and contributes to their blog chronicling Canada's war in Afghanistan:

Some quotes from the article. Lots more where this came from, fully referenced.

"In total, some 2500 personnel make up the conventional forces deployed in Afghanistan. Additionally, an unknown number of JTF-2 special forces work alongside special forces from the US and other countries as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Very little is known about their role."
The one Canadian member of the JTF-2 who was killed hardly even made it onto the public radar. I found the guy's name by accident (Master Corporal Anthony Klumpenhouwer) on a military uberfan's blog when I was trying to find out who he was and what he was doing. They said he fell from a communications tower. What was he doing up there? Sniping, perhaps? We'll never know. But there was no ramp ceremony, no pictures of the body's return, no publicized military funeral. Really strange.

"...A Norwegian newspaper caused a stir early this year when it reported on sworn testimony by several US interrogators who had worked at the [Kandahar] base and described some of the goings-on, including the widespread use of torture."

Everybody else is doing it. I don't see any reason why Canadians would be an exception, especially since there is so much joint training with the U.S. military.

"Another soldier reports vengeance and geopolitics as his motivator: "I have absolutely no problem killing them," asserts a battle group sergeant. "They started this on September 11. We're just bringing the fight back to them"
Wonderful - ignorance of what's really going on combined with unfocused rage and a gun. Only good could come out of that.

"Shortly after arrival in Kandahar, members of the Van Doos regiment "étaient un peu frustrés de participer à une mission de reconstruction et auraient préféré combattre à leur arrivée en Afghanistan." ("were a little frustrated to be taking part in a reconstruction mission and would have preferred to fight upon their arrival in Afghanistan").
I guess all those "Fight...fight...fight" recruiting ads for the Canadian military have worked. Always attracts the best and the brightest.

"If all this Rambo-style readiness sounds to some like an echo of American military bravado, there may be good reason for it. Working in close quarters with their US counterparts seems to have caused a certain mindset to rub off on Canadian officers..."
Great role models.

"One of the key tools in Canada's version of "peacemaking", the British-made M777 Howitzer gun, which can shoot 6 inch-diameter bullets a distance of 30km (22 miles), has reportedly been dubbed the “Desert dragon” by insurgent fighters. Acquired by the Canadian Forces in the fall of 2005, the weapon has gained a devoted fan base among military brass. "When the infantry, for example, come up against a couple of houses where they would suffer casualties going in and clearing that house of the enemy, even though they would win, it's sort of nice to be able to stand back and turn to the tanker and say, 'Take that house out.'" So explained retired Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, who has been doing near full-time public relations for the war. Afghan bystanders, ceaselessly endangered by NATO operations, might disagree with MacKenzie that the experience is "sort of nice".
Winning hearts and minds, one atomized Afghan at a time.

And we're even hiring our own mercenaries. Is this the proper use for Canadian's money? Would they agree if they were asked? I doubt it. That's why we're not asked.
"Canadian forces, too, are getting in on the action. "For five years Col. Toorjan, a turbaned, tough-as-nails, 33-year-old soldier, has been working alongside U.S. and Canadian forces in Afghanistan as a paid mercenary commander," reports Canada's National Post. "Today, his militia force of 60 Afghan fighters guards Camp Nathan Smith, the Canadian provincial reconstruction team site (PRT) in Kandahar, and guides Canadian soldiers on their patrols outside the base." Toorjan and his armed men "wield significant influence in Kandahar's complex security web", making him a treasured ally, though before 9/11 he was "in effect a warlord", said the second-in-command of Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team."

The use of mercenaries, it should be noted, runs counter to the International Convention on Mercenaries (1989). Canada, however, along with the USA, the UK and many others, is not a signatory to that treaty.
Just like the Americans. Never sign treaties that might prevent you from doing horrible things. That way, your ass is covered.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Learning to hunt Afghans

From TomDispatch by Nick Turse

"...Earlier this year, according to an article by Kimberly Johnson of the Marine Corps Times, Col. Clarke Lethin, chief of staff of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) -- a unit based in Camp Pendleton, California that took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and will be returning there soon -- indicated that its commanders "believe that if we create a mentality in our Marines that they are hunters and they take on some of those skills, then we'll be able to increase our combat effectiveness. The article included this curious add-on: "The Corps hopes to tap into skills certain Marines may already have learned growing up in rural hunting areas and in urban areas, such as inner cities, said Col. Clarke Lethin, I MEF's chief of staff."

...While the colonel's language -- defended by some -- did seem to suggest that inner-city dwellers lived in an urban jungle of gun-toting hunters of other humans, none of the letters, pro or con, considered quite a different part of the Colonel's equation: the implicit comparison of enemies in urban warfare, today largely Iraqis and Afghans, to animals that are hunted and killed as quarry."

...From the commander-in-chief to low-ranking snipers, a language of dehumanization that includes the idea of hunting humans as if they were animals has crept into our world -- unnoticed and unnoted in the mainstream media.

Since Canadian soldiers were being sent to Blackwater to learn sniping skills, I wonder if the "big game" metaphor is used there too? After all, Blackwater used to have a bear paw on a black background centred in sniper-scope crosshairs until its murderous tendencies came to light. Now the black background and the crosshairs are gone. Part of its new harmless image, I suppose.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Canadian panel starts its work - but won't consult Canadians

The arrogant Mr. Harper and his advisors have started their work. While they discuss how to continue the war in Afghanistan indefinitely, and then make a report saying what a wonderful idea that would be, they have thoughtfully left out the great Canadian hordes who might object to this.

The Harper War panel - helping to spread "democracy" in Afghanistan while completely ignoring it in Canada. They don't want our opinions, just our money.

This, from an Afghan news source.

A Canadian panel, appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to look into the future of Canadas mission in Afghanistan, has begun its work.

Informed sources told Pajhwok Afghan News the five-member panel headed by former deputy prime minister John Manley had its first meeting over the weekend at its office in downtown Ottawa. Moving at a fast pace, it recruited officials from the government.

As details of the meeting were not immediately available, sources indicated the panel discussed the process to be adopted to carry forward its mandate and submit recommendations to the Harper administration before the deadline of January 2008 expired.
The panel is believed to have decided against holding public hearings to solicit people's opinion on the future of Canadas mission in Afghanistan, an issue that has generated a heated political debate at home.

Due to vocal opposition to the presence of Canadian forces in Afghanistan, the Harper government has been compelled several times to go on the defensive, with his opponents calling for withdrawal of troops from Kandahar.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

News from Afghanistan - Oct. 22

11 of a family perish in NATO bombing: Residents

KABUL, Oct 22 (Pajhwok Afghan News): At least 11 members of a family were killed in NATO bombing in Jalrez district of the central Maidan Wardak province, residents said on Monday.

Haji Janan, chief of the provincial council, told Pajhwok Afghan News the airstrike was carried out in Ismailkhel area of the district last night and this morning.

He said the NATO aircrafts targeted house of a local named Qari. Eleven members of his family were perished while several houses were damaged in the attack, said the people's representative.

Three more villagers named Gulab, Muhammada Jan and another man, were killed in a second strike while they were busy retrieving bodies of those killed in the attack, said Haji Janan.

Another sixteen villagers had suffered injuries in the bombing. They had been shifted to hospitals in the province and the central capital Kabul, he added.

Mir Hazrat, a resident of the area, informed that 14 civilians were killed and 16 injured in the air raid. Hazrat said he himself recovered bodies of four women and seven men from rubbles of a house.

Around seven people were killed and injured in bombing by NATO aircrafts in the same area last week. The area was pounded following a Taliban ambush on a foreign forces convoy.

Press office of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul said they did not know about civilian casualties. However, there was a clash in the area.

Responding to a mail from Pajhwok Afghan News, the press office said: "At this time, we dont have any information about civilians involved in this operation, but I can confirm that there is a firefighting in this area and we have only reports concerning insurgents."

Habib Rahman Ibrahimi/Javid Hamim

Canada's commitment to human rights slipping, thanks to Stevie.

Report on Reuters today:

Canada's commitment to human rights is slipping and the country must work hard to regain the position it once held as an international honest broker, a top United Nations official said on Monday.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, who is Canadian, said she was particularly unhappy that Canada had voted against a nonbinding U.N. declaration of rights for indigenous peoples last month.

Her comments were aimed at the Conservative government, which took power in February 2006 and has shown less interest in multilateral diplomacy than its Liberal predecessor.

Amazing that there's lots of money and hot air for "humanitarian intervention" in Afghanistan (really sucking up to the U.S.) while the terrible conditions some aboriginal people in Canada live in are completely ignored, and their basic rights are voted against in a U.N. resolution by the Canadian delegate. They make us all look like fools.

There's outrage against human rights violations in Burma and concern for the Falun Gong in China, but not a word against the slaughter in Iraq or Bush's obscene push towards a war with Iran.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Conservatives a "savvy prowar party"?

Chalmers Johnston, while reviewing books about the Iraq War, makes this observation:

Holmes' argument that "a savvy prowar party may successfully employ humanitarian talk both to gull the wider public and to silence potential critics on the liberal side" ...[i]s worth considering.
Sounds like the pro-war Conservatives. Have they managed to gull the wider public? Certainly the ones who come out to the pro-war rallies (cleverly call "Support the Troops" rallies) have been fooled, as have the ones who stick the yellow ribbons on their cars.

The critics of the Afghanistan war have never been fooled by this stuff. There is no discernable "humanitarian" result from the use of all the guns, tanks and soldiers in the area. A lot of dead people though - on every side.

"...[T]hus, insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, two devastated, poor countries, have managed to fight one of the most powerful American expeditionary forces in history to a virtual standstill. In short, "America's bellicose response to the 9/11 provocation was not only dishonorable and unethical, given the cruel suffering it has inflicted on thousands of innocents, but also imprudent in the extreme because it was bound to produce as much hatred as fear, as much burning desire for reprisal as quaking paralysis and docility. Some of the sickening effects are unfolding before our eyes. That even more malevolent consequences remain in store is a grim possibility not to be wished away."

Frankly, Mr. Gates, I don't GIVE a damn!

When U.S. warmongers criticize you, you know you're doing something right.

U.S. criticizes NATO over Afghan commitment

KIEV -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized NATO on Monday for failing to send enough troops and other resources to Afghanistan, setting the stage for tense alliance discussions later this week.

"I am not satisfied that an alliance whose members have over two million soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen cannot find the modest additional resources that have been committed for Afghanistan," Mr. Gates said.
Maybe they don't want to send their soldiers and equipment to fight U.S. wars of aggression. Do ya think?

There have been some that have not yet announced their commitments, according to the report.

Another coalition of the unwilling? Wonder what the almighty U.S. threatened them with - nuclear obliteration?

Give these guys a medal

Soldiers kicked out of military
Several refused to do a tour of service in wartorn Afghanistan
The Edmonton Sun

The Canadian military has released several soldiers after they claimed conscientious objection to serving in wartorn Afghanistan, according to internal records from the National Defence department.

...Because service is voluntary, the policy applies only in rare cases where a member has an "epiphany" about war or bearing arms. Conscientious objection to a specific mission or national policy would not meet voluntary release criteria.

... "You could say I love the military, I want to stay in, I'm just not going to Afghanistan, and the chain of command would probably look at you and say we don't want you in the military because you aren't capable of following lawful command," McWhinnie said.

"That's our distinction in black and white: If it's a lawful command, you're obliged to follow it."

Just because it's lawful doesn't mean it's right. Torture has been "lawful" in the U.S. for some time. So has warrantless wire tapping and surveillance. Transportation and extermination of people was "lawful" in Nazi Germany.

... Steve Staples, director of the Rideau Institute, said some are enticed by flashy ads, the prospect of steady employment or the chance to help out fellow Canadians in emergencies. He believes the Canadian Forces should find other roles for those who don't want to fight in Afghanistan.

"They thought they were signing up to help Canada, not fight someone else's war in the Middle East," he said.

The neverending U.S. war against everything, and Stephen Harper's love of being a "wartime" prime minister. Who would join or extend a war that was illegal in the first place? These soldiers have shown true courage.

... Scott Taylor, a former soldier who now publishes Esprit de Corps magazine, said some resist deployment because they aren't psychologically or physically ready for combat or because they get cold feet.

Many signed up to learn a trade or because they thought it would be an adventurous career path -- not to fight a war.

"There was a long time when unless you were in the infantry, you wouldn't be doing any front-line stuff where there might be some danger," he said. "So it was kind of like a lifetime of training for a war you never thought was going to happen."

That's exactly what military training should be, and the leaders of the country should ensure that they are never used in frivolous wars to show they can "punch above their weight", the phrase that I loathe most from a Prime Minister that I loathe.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Illegal and immoral war in Afghanistan

The War in Afghanistan was wrong, too

...even U.S. intelligence agencies are admitting that the continuous killings of Afghanis and Iraqis continue to provide al-Qaeda with a steady stream of recruits.

"...The Taliban refused to accede to Bush’s unconditional demand. The result was the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the ouster of the Taliban from power, the installation of a U.S.-approved regime, a nation ruled by regional warlords, the deaths of countless Afghanis, the failure to capture bin Laden, and an ever-growing terrorist movement generated by ever-deepening anger and hatred against the United States."

"...Did the United States have the legal and moral right to invade Afghanistan upon the Taliban’s refusal to turn bin Laden over to the United States? Many Americans would undoubtedly respond, “Yes, absolutely. When a country experiences a terrorist attack, it has the legal and moral right to attack and invade a sovereign and independent country that refuses to comply with an unconditional demand to give up the suspected perpetrators.”

"...Well, if that’s true then how would such proponents respond if, say, Venezuela attacked the United States for harboring terrorists? Would the proponents say, “I’m going to fight on the side of Venezuela because in the war on terror a country has the right to attack countries that are harboring terrorists”? Not likely."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mercenaries in Afghanistan

It seems that the thuggish mercenary problem isn't just in Iraq. Afghanistan has problems of its own.

Barnett Rubin on Afghanistan

(bold typeface is mine)

"...[I] explained that, while corruption occurred in Afghanistan as in every society, Afghans believed that the unprecedented level of corruption today was largely due to the foreign presence, not their culture. First of all, Afghans do not believe that the international drug problem is caused by greedy Afghan farmers. They think it is due to the global demand for illicit drugs and a policy regime that disproportionately punishes the weakest and poorest parts of the supply chain. Second, they see, if we do not not, the links among US security contractors, Afghan militias, and corrupt officials. They see the armed groups that destroyed their country remobilized and paid by a politically connected "private sector" subsidized by the U.S. government."

If this is clean government, why do I feel like taking a shower?

"Clean government": rhetoric contrasts with record

"Last night's throne speech surprised commentators with its highly-partisan claim "The government is clean."
After months and months of just-this-side-of-legal manoeuvering and perhaps some that isn't (we'll never know since everything is classified, just like George Bush's government), Harper's government is anything but clean.

I await with eager anticipation when the whole scuzzy operation is blown wide open. I just hope I'm not standing too close when it happens.

Some pundits made much of Stephen Harper's sense of humour, although I have yet to see any evidence of it. In an article in today's Globe and Mail by Lawrence Martin (subscription required), he notes that:

"This kind of good-naturedness looks good on Stephen Harper. Cynical political gamesmanship has been one of his chief problems. He is seen as too conniving by half. Most everything he does is viewed less as coming from his heart than as part of a grand political scheme."

There was nothing good-natured about Stephen Harper's remark. The sneer could be seen and heard from the outer reaches of the universe. He is a cynical political gamesman and there's no evidence that he possesses a heart except perhaps the merely functional muscle that pumps blood around his increasingly rotund frame.

As far as his heavy "humour"goes, he's about as funny as a slipped disc.

As far as Harper is concerned, I'll go with Dion's quote from Al Gore, that the environmental policy of Harper's band of devoted acolytes is "a complete and total fraud".

That goes for everything else in his "clean" government.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to sell a war

Harper should take a lead from Goering on selling a useless war to an unwilling citizenry.

"...[I]t reminds [Muhammad Sahimi] of what Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering of Nazi Germany once said:

"Naturally, the common people don't want war … but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked…."

Hitching Canada's wagon to a falling star

Philip S. Golub is a journalist and lecturer at the University of Paris VIII.

He likens the U.S. to a setting sun...

"The disastrous outcome of the invasion and occupation of Iraq has caused a crisis in the power elite of the United States deeper than that resulting from defeat in Vietnam 30 years ago. Ironically, it is the very coalition of ultranationalists and neo-conservatives that coalesced in the 1970s, seeking to reverse the Vietnam syndrome, restore U.S. power and revive "the will to victory" that has caused the present crisis."
...[N]or can the cause of their dissent be attributed to conflicting convictions over ethics, norms and values (though this may be a motivating factor for some). It lies rather in the rational realization that the war in Iraq has nearly "broken the U.S. Army," weakened the national security state, and severely, if not irreparably, undermined "America's global legitimacy" – its ability to shape world preferences and set the global agenda. The most sophisticated expressions of dissent, such as Brzezinski's, reflect the understanding that power is not reducible to the ability to coerce, and that, once lost, hegemonic legitimacy is hard to restore.
...[T]ransnational opinion surveys show a consistent and nearly global pattern of defiance of U.S. foreign policy as well as a more fundamental erosion in the attractiveness of the United States: The narrative of the American dream has been submerged by images of a military leviathan disregarding world opinion and breaking the rules. World public opinion may not stop wars but it does count in subtler ways.
...[H]istory is moving on and the world is slipping, slowly but inexorably, out of U.S. hands.
...[B]ut Vietnam and the Nixon era were a turning point in another more paradoxical way: Domestically they ushered in the conservative revolution and the concerted effort of the mid-1980s to restore and renew the national security state and U.S. world power. When the Soviet Union collapsed a few years later, misguided visions of omnipotence resurfaced. Conservative triumphalists dreamed of primacy and sought to lock in long-term unipolarity. Iraq was a strategic experiment designed to begin the Second American Century. That experiment and U.S. foreign policy now lie in ruins.

...[F]or the U.S. power elite, being on top of the world has been a habit for 60 years. Hegemony has been a way of life; empire, a state of being and of mind. The institutional realist critics of the Bush administration have no alternative conceptual framework for international relations, based on something other than force, the balance of power or strategic predominance.

...[T]he present crisis and the deepening impact of global concerns will perhaps generate new impulses for co-operation and interdependence in future. Yet it is just as likely that U.S. policy will be unpredictable: As all post-colonial experiences show, de-imperialization is likely to be a long and possibly traumatic process.

So, why is Canada looking to the U.S. for its safety and prosperity and not elsewhere...perhaps even to itself?

Dying to supply Wal-Mart

Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star.

Our role in Afghanistan really about ties with U.S.

By appointing his new advisory panel on Afghanistan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has inadvertently underlined what this war is about. It is not about Afghanistan. It is about the U.S.
...[Aghanistan panel member Pamela] Wallin still focuses on the Canada-U.S. border. "This is fundamental to Canada's future," she said in the same interview. "The north-south axis is crucial. Canada exports more to Home Depot in the U.S. than to France."

In effect, he decided to risk Canadian lives in Kandahar to keep trucks rolling across the Detroit River.

As did Harper.

Now, as he tries to finesse the political unpopularity of the Afghan war, the Prime Minister is doing his best to ensure that official discussion remains tightly focused on what he sees as our real interest there – our relationship with Washington.

This makes me so sick, I am lost for words. Sending cheap crap to Wal-Mart in exchange for the lives of young men and women is a good deal?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Scuzz 'R Us - Harperites install the governments they want and you thought you voted for

Didn't get the government you wanted? Didn't get the candidate you thought you voted for?

Look no further than the New (neo)Conservative government's interference in municipal elections and thoroughtly scuzzy financing practices. You want to see the whole country go down the drain? Vote these guys into a majority and sit back and watch it happen.

Political interference charges dog Conservatives

Under investigation: allegations of meddling in municipal politics, and inflated rebates through in-and-out campaign financing.

"Charges are still before the courts that O'Brien tried to bribe his political rival Terry Kilrea into dropping out of the 2006 mayoral race. Part of the deal may have included an appointment facilitated by Baird. Kilrea has charged in a court affidavit that in July, O'Brien offered to help Kilrea secure a job on the National Parole Board and to give him $30,000 for campaign expenses if he dropped from the race."

"...Then the candidates claimed public funding for these advertising payments, which they claimed to be local spending. Public funding is given to local riding associations on the basis of actual campaign expenses, so these in-an-out transfers were used to inflate the size of local campaign budgets and, as a result, the size of federal rebates. Through the exchange of cheques, the Conservatives claimed millions in tax subsidies for their campaign."

"..Shortly after this news surfaced in September, Stephen Harper launched the Muslim veil controversy, which, with the excitement over the by-election, has deflected attention from in-and-out financing, at least until the Chief Electoral Officer reports again."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Canadian soldiers dying for Karzai and Mullah Omar

Using our soldiers as pawns in new Afghan game

Thomas Walkom at the Toronto Star

Karzai is playing a carrot and stick game. The carrot is a place for the Taliban in the Afghan government. The stick is using Canadians and others to kill them (and be killed by them) if they don't go along with it.

The carrot Karzai is offering his adversaries, including Taliban leader Mullah Omar, is a major role in the country's government. Canada and other NATO countries willing to have their soldiers die for the Afghan regime constitute the stick.

Somehow, Canadians dying for the Afghan regime doesn't really have a very good ring to it, does it?

...His problem, however, is that Canadians – even those who now support the war – may not be willing to have their soldiers used as pawns in this new great game.

I never was, and I'm not now.

We have been given many reasons for going to war.

Sometimes, the federal government says we want to ensure that Afghan girls can go to school. Sometimes, it says the aim is to defeat the Taliban so as to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist base. At yet other times, we are told we are fighting to avenge the 9/11 attacks.
They use whatever they think might work at the time.

Chief of defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier says the aim is to kill the "scumbags."
Always a classy guy, Hillier. Nice to know he's the face of the Canadian military around the world. Makes me proud. (Sarcasm dripping from every word.)

All of these reasons are simple and powerful.
And powerful to the simple. Unfortunately, they're lies.

The argument that we are fighting the Taliban abroad so that we don't have to fight them in downtown Toronto may be wrong. But it has resonance.

However, when the rationale for war is simply to buttress the negotiating position of an obscure foreign leader, will Canadians be as amenable?

...I applaud Karzai for his attempts to end Afghanistan's nightmare through negotiation. Ultimately, a political solution is the only way out.

But at the same time, I wonder how the parents and husbands and wives and girlfriends and boyfriends of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan will feel if he succeeds – if Mullah Omar becomes Karzai's prime minister; if, as part of a coalition deal, more severe forms of sharia law are imposed on women; if the very few gains Afghanistan has made in the field of human rights are reversed.

Won't they wonder if the whole thing was a waste of time? Won't they suspect their lovers and sons and daughters died for nothing?

And they'd be right.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Blackwater - good choice for training Canadian soldiers

N.Y times article about investigation into the Blackwater mercenary company:

The report by the Democratic majority staff of a House committee adds weight to complaints from Iraqi officials, American military officers and Blackwater’s competitors that company guards have taken an aggressive, trigger-happy approach to their work and have repeatedly acted with reckless disregard for Iraqi life.

Blackwater justified its actions by saying that it had never allowed one American diplomat's life to be lost.

That's nice. Shame about all those Iraqis, though.

Good thing Canada chose that wonderful outfit to train some of its military. I feel a lot better now.

Time to go, I think.

All this bombing and shooting must be making a heck of a difference in Afghanistan. It's making progress, say Our Glorious Leader Stephen Harper, the head of the armed forces and Hamid Karzai.

Oh...hold on a minute.

U.N.: Violence in Afghanistan up almost 25 percent in '07

Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, according to an internal United Nations report that sharply contrasts with recent upbeat appraisals by President Bush and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai.
Shooting your way to peace won't work. Get another idea or get out.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Disappearing the wounded

Although every military death in Afghanistan is reported, even though Stephen Harper and his New Canadian government did its best to keep photographers and news people away, it seems like the rapidly increasing numbers of the wounded - some severely - aren't reported anymore.

If you want to keep a war going, even the war with less and less support every day, you just keep the disturbing statistics away from Canadians. If we really knew, then support might drop futher.

What the hell. Who cares about democracy? Certainly not the department of Defense, which is becoming less and less about defense and more and more about agression. Since CSIS is now CSIA, when will the DoD become the Hexagon or the Octagon?

More Canadians injured, fewer reported

[T]hat tells a tale now rarely talked about: a great many Canadian soldiers are being injured in Afghanistan. And we’re not hearing about it.

[A] new policy has clearly emerged. Deaths are still reported but injuries are not, unless one of two scenarios exists. The first is if the injury is so severe, it may very well result in death. The second is if journalists already know about it.

Welcome to the police state

New York city is coming under ever more surveillance, by camera, blimp, plane and unmanned drone. Big Brother is indeed watching.

Here's Nick Turse's years-long tussle with the NYPD, for doing - nothing, really, except really, really cheesing them off.

And just in case you think it couldn't happen here (I'm kidding, of course):

According to Dwyer, for at least a year prior to those demonstrations, "teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe" to conduct covert surveillance of activists.

I don't believe for a minute that this was done without the knowledge of Canadian governments and law enforcement agencies. Not only did they know about it, they probably helped.

All for our security, of course. Question is, who do we need protecting from? And who do we go to when we need protecting from our government and police?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

And it's 1,2,3...what are we fighting for? (part trois)

The neverending war in Afghanistan is on the brink, and it's really not too surprising that NATO are forces are staying away in droves if they have to deal with this kind of thing.

In a pebble-strewn river valley enclosed by bare jagged mountains, smiling Afghan boys run alongside the foreign soldiers, as boys often do. The foreigners are US Marines and the boys often ask them for a dollar, a biscuit, a pen. And they ask: "How are you?"

On this day a Marine gives his standard reply to a mate, who records it on video.

"I'm on a field op. I have no f---ing money." As for the biscuit: "Do I look like Little Red Riding Hood, carrying around a load of biscuits? What the f---?"

What about the pen? "What the f--- they want a pen for?"

And how is the Marine doing? "I'm doing bad. That's how I'm doing. I'm in this shit-faced country."

The scene, and what it revealed about the attitudes of US troops, shocked US officers when it was posted on, a video website, earlier this year.

In the video a Marine says to one of the boys: "You know your country stinks like ass? What you think about that? You think it sucks? You stink like ass, too."

The same Marine gives a group of boys an impromptu English lesson, and they recite after him: "I am an idiot! We beg too f---ing much! F--- this country!"

One one level, the video is harmless. Soldiers grumble, their humour is raw. The Marines are young, tired, not knowing what they are doing so far from home, and the Afghan boys seem not to know that they and their country are being mocked.

While world attention is focused on Iraq, experts are warning that the US and its NATO allies risk losing another war.

..."[A]fghanistan is in danger of capsizing in a perfect storm of insurgency, terrorism, narcotics and warlords," according to US experts Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason, writing in Orbis, a US foreign policy journal.

"The US is losing the war in Afghanistan one Pashtun village at a time," they write, "bursting into schoolyards full of children with guns bristling, kicking in village doors, searching women, speeding down city streets, and putting out cross-cultural gibberish in totally ineffective InfoOps (information operations) and PsyOps (psychological operations) campaigns — all of which are anathema to the Afghans."

NATO's efforts are also under domestic political threat, with European and Canadian public opinion increasingly questioning the involvement in Afghanistan.

The trouble, the MPs said, is that the 37 countries contributing to NATO's International Security Assistance Force lack a "well defined strategic vision for its presence" in Afghanistan. While NATO troops performed "brilliantly at the tactical level, the alliance does not yet have a sufficiently explicit goal for what it wants to achieve".

Training Canadian forces, one Blackwater mercenary at a time

The Canadian Forces are using a controversial private security firm to train some of its troops sent to Afghanistan.

Select Canadian soldiers have been sent to Blackwater U.S.A. in North Carolina for specialized training in bodyguard and shooting skills. Other soldiers have taken counterterrorism evasive-driving courses with the private military company now at the centre of an investigation into the killings of Iraqi civilians and mounting concerns about the aggressive tactics of its workers in the field.
Critics of Blackwater label the firm as a mercenary organization and question why a professional military such as the Canadian Forces can't do its own training in specialized areas.
Thank goodness for Dawn Black.

Still, Dawn Black, the NDP's defence critic, questioned the need for Blackwater to be involved in training Canadian troops.

"My understanding is we have some of the best-trained forces in the world, and great trainers, so why do we need our armed forces personnel to be trained by a mercenary organization?"
But unfortunately, she doesn't have the Public Safety job. That belongs to Stockwell Day, who doesn't have a clue.

Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day, when asked whether the training in Blackwater is appropriate, defended the Forces.

"Our forces are dedicated individuals. Their training covers a lot of different areas and the Minister of Defence certainly is advised and apprised of the situations that they have to deal with and the situations they face," said Day.
"We're very proud of the work they do."
That's nice, Stockwell, but that wasn't the question you were asked.

Meanwhile, this is where Canadian soldiers and Candian taxpayer money is going.

The company, based near the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina, was co-founded by Erik Prince, a billionaire right-wing fundamentalist. At its HQ, Blackwater has trained more than 20,000 mercenaries to operate as freelancers in wars around the world. Prince is a big bankroller of the Republican Party - giving a total of around $275,550 - and was a young intern in the White House of George Bush Sr. Under George Bush Jr, Blackwater received lucrative no-bid contracts for work in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. His firm has pulled down contracts worth at least $320 million in Iraq alone.

Right-wing billionaire fundamentalists. Oh, wonderful. Now that's the kind of values we want to support and instill in the Canadian forces.

Scahill says the firm is "the front line in what the Bush administration views as the necessary revolution in military affairs" - privatisation of as many roles as possible. Senator John Warner, former head of the Senate armed services committee, once called Blackwater the "silent partner in the global war on terror"
Scahill went on to call Prince a "neo-crusader, a Christian supremacist, who has been given hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts this is a man who espouses Christian supremacy, and he has been allowed to create a private army to defend Christendom around the world.

Blackwater has exploited the Bush presidency's desire to out-source government functions. Dan Guttman, a fellow at Johns Hopkins University and a consultant on private security firms for the Centre for Public Integrity, says firms like Blackwater are now "part and parcel of Pentagon operations ... performing what citizens consider the stuff of government: planning, policy writing, budgeting, intelligence gathering, nation building". How taxpayers' money is being spent, however, seems to have been overlooked.
He's talking about the American taxpayers, but I think Canadians have a right to know that their money is going to a right-wing fundamentalist group with a lot of guns and a desire to rule the world.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Putting Canada on the terror checklist

Tell me something I didn't know already, Mr. Day.

Day warns Canada of terror backlash

"The potential of a terrorist backlash at home from a recent explosion of anti-Canadian hostility in Afghanistan can't be dismissed, federal Safety Minister Stockwell Day said in Calgary yesterday."

Yeah, we know that, Mr. Day. We've known it for months. Did you just find out?

"Speaking at a security conference, Day acknowledged an Afghan protest Wednesday following the deaths of two villagers in a raid by foreign soldiers involved the chanting of "death to Canada."

The regular soldiers occupying the region are Canadians. The soldiers who raided the village and killed two clerics were part of the U.S. Special Forces who are ripping through the region killing anything that moves. But to the Afghan civilians, the soldiers are Canadians. So, who is really putting the Canadian soldiers at risk here?

But he said Canadian troops have received a generally favourable reception from Afghans, adding protest in the war-ravaged country shows progress.

"I'd say it's a sign of robust democracy, that protest can take place," he said.

Yeah - "death to Canadians" is a sign of real progress. So actually carrying that out would be a sign of a huge leap forward in that progress, would it?

"Day reiterated that Canada is on the list of countries targeted by terrorist group al-Qaida and that Canadians can't be complacent about the threat.

"Canada's the only one on that list that hasn't been hit," he said.

Thanks for pointing that out, Mr. Day. Just in case al-Qaida had misplaced their checklists and forgotten about us, they will be oh-so-grateful for you reminding them.

But hold on. I thought Canadian soldiers were there to fight the Taliban. Never mind. All the same to you, eh?

Discussions are taking place in Ottawa, said Day, about expanding the reach of the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency not only at home but overseas.
Dear God! With the sterling success of CSIS ballsing up the Air India investigation and their way-too-eagerly handing over Maher Arar to the CIA and thence to Syria for torture, you want to let these guys loose on the rest of the world?

And when did they become Canadian Security Intelligence Agency? If you write it down, you'll see. CSIA. When the two groups are finally merged, all Canada loses is an "S".

"Whether legislation is required to do so is one of the questions," Day explained.
Legislation, schlesiglation. Who the hell cares about the law? The new Canadian government can do anything it wants to. The law is for wimps.

A one-time CIA analyst who attended the conference, Dr. Paul Pillar, said the role of western foreign policy in provoking terrorism can't be overlooked.

"There's no question it has an effect on recruitment of terrorists and certainly Iraq and the rendition of people to countries where tortured is used are parts of that," said Pillar, who's with the security studies program at Georgetown University.

At last - the sweet voice of reason. But I doubt Stockwell Day is listening.

His job is protecting the security of Canada. His remarks show that he is completely incompetent for the job.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Blame the Liberals

Since the (neo)Conservative party never take responsibility for anything, always saying that everything is the fault of the previous government, I guess they're going to have to blame the Liberals for this, too.

Flaherty, Harper announce $13.8 billion surplus

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Puppet governments

It gives a whole new meaning to puppet governments.

Canada wrote Afghan leader's speech, NDP says

The NDP says it has documents that show the Canadian military effectively wrote Afghan President Hamid Karzai's speech to Parliament last year.

The party's defence critic, Dawn Black, says the papers indicate Karzai's address was an "elaborately staged political stunt."
Yup. Just like the war.
...[S]he quoted a situation report from Task Force Afghanistan as saying: "Team prepared initial draft of President (Karzai's) address to Parliament 22 Sep."

In the speech, Karzai thanked the families of soldiers killed in combat and painted an optimistic, but not rosy picture of his country's future.

I thought that was a weird thing to say at the time. Why should anyone feel wonderful that their son, daughter, husband or wife had died for a country that most Canadians can't even find on a map?
He also took direct aim at NDP Leader Jack Layton's opposition to the war, saying that those who believe the mission was weighted too heavily toward combat and not enough toward reconstruction were wrong.
I doubt whether Karzai even knows or cares who the NDP are, and why should he? But the Department of Defence sure does, and doesn't like it when fightin' wars aren't very popular any more (most sensible human beings having moved on from that by now) and the NDP are the only party to come right out and say it.

"I never thought that the Canadian military would go this far. This raises serious concerns about the independence of the Afghan president and origin of his recent comments to Canadian media in Kabul."
Oh, yeah. We're all a bit more wary of government, military, police etc. when they try to whip us into a frenzy of bloodlust and militarism in support of something we know is wrong, if we know anything about it at all.

And that last "spontaneous" press conference with the Canadian media by Karzai? Fakest damn thing I ever saw.

Mr. Harper is pursuing his objections

Our glorious leader Stephen Harper has once again shown the complete lack of vision and total disconnection with the concerns of Canadians that have become his hallmarks. After all, it's his country now, and we'll just have to go along with it.

He signed up for Kyoto Lite - which really means Kyoto-nothing.

I'm not sure whether this quote is a misprint, a mis-speak, or a Freudian slip. (Bold typeface is mine.)
"This will be another important forum where Canada can pursue its objections in fighting climate change," Harper said after addressing a high-level summit on climate change.
Pursue its objections? I'd like to pursue my objections too, Mr. Harper - to you, your regressive and bellicose policies, your pursuit of goal that most of the people in this country do not share, and your misrepresentation of all of us to the world. You shame me deeply by not representing me and endangering this country, as Bush and Howard have done to their countries.

Once again, the NDP have Mr. Harper's number on this one. Stevie is becoming more of a bubble-boy all the time.
"NDP MP Nathan Cullen called it an "insult" for Harper to announce participation in the APP while at the UN.

"He has quickly joined Mr. Bush in completely embarrassing himself and dragging Canada's reputation down with him," Cullen said. "We know the one thing we can't afford is delay and unfortunately this is the Conservatives' only offer. The UN Secretary General urged us to action and Mr. Harper chose to run in the opposite direction."
And on behalf of all Canadians who can't be included under the "young" Canadian umbrella, I offer my sincere apoligies for what Stephen Harper is doing to the country the young will inherit. I didn't, nor will I ever, vote for the likes of Stephen Harper. But I only have one vote. Now, you younger people, get out there and vote this guy off the island.

P.J. Partington of Toronto, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, said Canada, the U.S. and Australia have a "dearth of imagination or leadership" on the climate change file.

"While my government prefers to play the blame game domestically, others have moved on," he said. "Like young people in these three laggard countries, the rest of the world is moving on and moving forward. I, for one, am sick of being ashamed of my country and its poor behaviour on the world stage."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Support the getting rid of those bloody yellow ribbons

As the militarization of our society continues apace, yellow ribbons are blooming all over municipal vehicles like toadstools after rain. Yellow ribbons mean supporting the Harper Conservatives and their neverending War in Afghanistan, a branch plant of War on Everything (U.S.). As if the recent revelations about the RCMP and the Sureté Québec aren't bad enough, we are now seeing the military solution as the only solution to everything, including domestic policing.

So, what happens now? Like the Toronto Police Union campaign to sell window stickers to show support for them, one wonders what happens if you don't buy one. More tickets? Less action if the car should be stolen? No help if the police see a motorist in trouble who doesn't carry a sticker?

Transfer that into people who don't sport yellow ribbons, wear red on Fridays (my favourite colour, by the way, and I'm intensely angry that it has been co-opted by the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later brigade), or other knee-jerk (with emphasis on the "jerk") reactions to pronouncements from Our Glorious Leader.

From the Coucil of Canadians:

There is a growing trend among municipal and local governments across Canada to endorse the “Support our Troops” campaign by placing decals on ambulances, fire trucks, police cars and other municipal vehicles, or by supporting “Wear red Fridays” and other similar actions. At our latest count, 18 local councils have either passed resolutions, had city management allow the decals—usually yellow ribbons that say “Support our Troops”—on government-owned vehicles, or are considering allowing them.

This is disturbing considering that the “Support our Troops” message is a political statement of explicit support for the current mission in Afghanistan – support that isn’t shared by a majority of Canadians.

The Council of Canadians opposes the “Support our Troops” decals because it is unacceptable for public vehicles to carry any political message, let alone one that promotes the views of the governing party. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that “Support our Troops” implies support for the current mission in Afghanistan. In other words, the campaign excludes people, like the Council, who support our troops by demanding that they be brought home immediately.

...[T]he Council of Canadians is also deeply concerned that the use of public resources to endorse the war in Afghanistan represents a militarization of our society. Propaganda expert and University of Carleton professor Randal Marlin told The Hill Times recently that the overall impact of the “Support our Troops” message is “the suppression of dissent… and encouraging military solutions to problems.”

Write now and let your majority voice be heard. No more U.S. wars, no more punching above our weight, no more of this crap. Stop it now, get our soldiers back where they belong so they can protect us if we need them, not in some desert somewhere learning how to be good snipers.

Monday, September 10, 2007

And it's 1,2,3...what are we fighting for? (part deux)

Today, Stephen Harper insists we must "finish the job" (or some other inane drivel) in Afghanistan. Just for the record, what was that job again?

From Scott Taylor at the Halifax Chronicle Herald:

Tub-thumpers at DND stop drumming for now

As public support for the mission dissipates with each new casualty, politicians and generals have stepped up their efforts to convince us that the sacrifice of our soldiers is justified by the progress made in our reconstruction efforts.
...Just last month, the Senlis Council breezed into Ottawa to once again debunk the mythical aid and development progress claimed by Canadian officials.
...Unable to counter the Senlis claims, the choir of military cheerleaders picked up their well-worn tubs and began drumming out a different tune.
....The new line was more or less a sudden abandonment of the reconstruction fable that became a hasty retreat to the bastion of our military successes.
....In a detailed account of an incident that occurred on Aug. 7, the [New York] Times alleges that Canadian forces failed to support an Afghan police unit engaged in a firefight with insurgents. As a result of that abandonment, 16 policemen were killed, and the incident led to some animosity towards the Canadians. It was also reported that checkpoints established during NATO offensives last year and recently handed over to Afghan security forces have been attacked and captured by the Taliban. In other words, even the military progress we’ve been making is being reversed by a resilient Taliban.

Now I know we're really screwed (excuse my language)

Rumsfeld calls Afghanistan "a big success"

In an interview billed as his first since leaving the top Pentagon post, Donald Rumsfeld calls Afghanistan "a big success...[I]n Afghanistan, 28 million people are free. They have their own president, they have their own parliament. Improved a lot on the streets," Rumsfeld says in the October issue of GQ magazine.

Another poor judgement call:

He also said he believes Bush "is a lot more intelligent and curious than people give him credit for."
He's also having a little trouble with his memory.

Rumsfeld said he couldn't recall the last time he and the president spoke.
At least he's got this part right. It must be all that vegging out on his ranch in Taos.

Do you miss him? "Um, no," Rumsfeld said.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Asset stripping - R - US

Selling Canadian property (read, property of Canadian citizens) for less than its true value and leasing it back, ensuring that the buyers will live off Canadian taxpayers for at least 25 years. The only way we get it back is if the deal is bad for us.

Protecting Canadian interests. Yeah, right!

From the Harper Index:
Privatizing federal buildings a "sweet deal" for new owners
...[T]he nine federal properties in different parts of Canada were sold to Larco Investments for $630 million less than assessed market value, according to the National Union of Public and Government Employees (NUPGE). Larco is a Vancouver- based company whose holdings include hotel and casino interests in Las Vegas.

...[I]n total, the Conservatives plan to sell off some 40 federal properties, carrying out an exercise started but not completed by the Martin Liberals.

...[S]enator and public works minister Michael Fortier said, in a statement that it was "a fair deal for taxpayers" because the $1.64 billion sale price was $400 million higher than the assessed value of the properties.

...[C]ontrary to government claims, the buildings were assessed independently by Informetrica at $2.3 billion, meaning that they were sold off at $630 million less than their fair market value," said Patty Ducharme of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

...[T]his is a give-away of colossal proportion," said Ducharme. "In addition to ceding ownership of nine premium properties, the federal government has, in effect, written a $630 million cheque signed by Canadian taxpayers."

...[T]his a sweet deal for the new owners and a lemon for taxpayers. It's a 25-year guarantee of steady profits. Taxpayers will pay extra operating and maintenance costs, and the federal government will be able to buy back the buildings only if taxpayers do not benefit financially," Ducharme said.

Also, this report from the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

Nuclear waste? Sure. Just dump it here.

As far as I can tell, the deal reduces to this. Because of behind-the-scenes deals some Canadian governments have cut with the U.S., they can have as much of our oil and water as they want, and are even allowed to use a pre-emptive strike if their energy "security" is compromised (read, they can use as much energy as they want and the rest of us can freeze in the dark). In return, we are required to deal with their nuclear waste because nuclear disposal sites are unpopular in the U.S.

Well, guess what? They're not very popular here either.

Canada to decide within days whether to join new U.S.-led nuclear initiative

SYDNEY, Australia (CP) - Canada will make a decision on joining a new U.S.-led nuclear initiative "within a matter of days," Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier said Thursday at a summit of pan-Pacific leaders.

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is denying reports that it has been suppressing information about the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership after documents obtained by The Canadian Press showed negotiations between Canada and other governments have been ongoing for at least a year.
If it's denying the reports, you can be pretty sure they are very, very miffed about being found out.

...The GNEP, initiated and funded by the U.S. government, is controversial because it proposes that uranium exporting countries bring back spent nuclear fuel for long-term storage.

Harper has made one public statement on the initiative, 15 months ago, in which he promised to defend Canadian interests.

I wish I could believe that, but I'm afraid I simply don't. The defense of Canadian interests only comes out when they've been exposed as clearly not doing that.

...Last week, the government issued a statement saying it had been invited to Sept. 16 talks in Vienna on the GNEP but still hadn't decided whether to attend.

Yet documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show that the Canadian government has been actively considering the initiative since at least March 2006. Negotiations with the United States began as early as May 3, 2006, and the government had internal talking points praising the GNEP proposal as worth pursuit.

Liar, liar...need a fire extinguisher for those pants?

...[A government briefing document prepared by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, dated March 31, 2006, states that dealing with spent U.S. nuclear fuel is "the main driver" of the proposal:

"With regard to the proposed GNEP fuel cycle, we understand the main U.S. driver is to avoid the difficult issues associated with finding waste disposal sites beyond Yucca Mountain," a former nuclear test site in Nevada that is home to America's nuclear waste repository.

Why would anybody think that any U.S. proposal has anyone's else's interests but theirs at the forefront?

...[The Harper government has yet to publicly state whether the disposal issue is negotiable for Canada or is a non-starter.

That's because they were hoping nobody would find out. They'll probably try to put a positive spin on it by saying it will provide jobs for Canadians. Mmmm...dealing with spent nuclear fuel. Now that's something we need to do more of.

I'm thinking of the nightmare of transporting highly toxic nuclear waste back to its country of origin. Apart from the very real risk of accidents schlepping this stuff all over the world, any such transport would be a target for terrorist activity. Sounds like a win-win deal for Canada to me.

Sorry, Mr. Harper, but I think most Canadians would rather refine their own oil rather than sending unrefined bitumen to the U.S. - value added jobs and all that. We don't even have a very satisfactory long-term strategy for our own nuclear waste. It would be a good selling point in the U.S., though. Build as many nuclear plants as you want, guys. We'll dump all the lethal waste in Canada.

...[Australia, by contrast, has been forthright that nuclear waste repatriation is not on:

"We won't agree to do that, and we've always made that clear, we're not planning and we've never planned and we've never said we would," Downer said Thursday.

Until Harper and the crew say that, I won't believe anything else they say. Even if they were to say that, I'm not sure they'd be able to convince me.

...[C]anadian officials have already indicated Canada is ready to join the AP-6, a climate change group that some environmental groups see as a rival to the UN-mandated Kyoto process for reducing greenhouse gases.

Meanwhile, they'll just get on with destroying Kyoto and the environment we all have to live in and making us look like regressive fools.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Conservative appointees have nothing to hide

If the Conservatives don't like your MP, they'll appoint their own.

From the Harper Index:

Ethical issues haunt Conservatives after campaigning on accountability

On August 21, Conservative Dick Harris, MP for Cariboo- Prince George, issued a news release naming Houston (BC) Mayor and Conservative candidate Sharon Smith as "the person residents of neighbouring riding Skeena-Bulkley Valley should contact with concerns or issues with the federal government." What makes this news is that the federal seat of Skeena-Bulkley Valley is held by New Democrat Nathan Cullen. Smith attracted national and international attention four years ago after a photo of her, sitting naked in the Mayor's chair and wearing the chain of office, was circulated on the Internet. (Bold typeface mine.)
Maybe it's an attempt to show that Conservative appointees have nothing to hide.

Credibility problem

Investigations held in secret, run by the RCMP, and returning a "not guilty" verdict against Canada's top military cop.

Hmmmm....secret, RCMP, top cop not guilty. Do they see why there might be a bit of a credibility problem here?

Top military cop cleared in secret investigation into Afghan detainees

OTTAWA (CP) - Canada's top military cop was cleared Tuesday of potential criminal wrongdoing in the ongoing legal controversy involving Afghan detainees.

The Canadian army says there's no evidence to support a prosecution of naval Capt. Steve Moore, the provost marshal.

The conclusion was reached following an investigation by two senior RCMP officers, who'd been called in by the military after allegations of abuse of Taliban prisoners surfaced last winter.

...[A]mnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association complained last February to the Military Police Complaints Commission, accusing military cops of exhibiting "a wilful blindness to the consequences of transferring detainees and that they may have aided or abetted the torture of detainees."

"...[A]mir Attaran, the University of Ottawa law professor who's been pushing the issue of detainee rights, was mystified at how RCMP investigators could clear the provost marshal when Defence Minister Peter MacKay acknowledged the alleged cases of abuse last spring, when he was foreign affairs minister.

"Peter MacKay has said Canadian investigators have heard, quote, serious allegations of torture; he called them serious, that was his word," said Attaran.

Paul Champ, a lawyer for Amnesty, said in addition to fighting for the Afghan documents, his group has launched a charter challenge, hoping to quash the government's power to force secret hearings on court applications.

"The government secrecy privilege is an exceptional power that should only be used sparingly in a democracy," he said.

"Holding hearings in secret doesn't allow for oversight by the justice system, the media and the public."

Monday, September 03, 2007

What did the Canadian government know, and when did it know it?

If Harper's government didn't know what was going on, why not?

If it did and said nothing, or was complicit in the crimes by handing over prisoners without any guarantee that they would be treated humanely, then the government and the military leaders in Canada should be right up there beside the U.S. officials who condoned and carried out these crimes.

From Nat Hentoff at Village Voice:

History Will Not Absolve Us
Leaked Red Cross report sets up Bush team for international war-crimes trial

"If and when there's the equivalent of an international Nuremberg trial for the American perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Guantánamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the CIA's secret prisons, there will be mounds of evidence available from documented international reports by human-rights organizations, including an arm of the European parliament—as well as such deeply footnoted books as Stephen Grey's Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program (St. Martin's Press) and Charlie Savage's just-published Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy (Little, Brown).

"... [I]f we, the people, are ultimately condemned by a world court for our complicity and silence in these war crimes, we can always try to echo those Germans who claimed not to know what Hitler and his enforcers were doing. But in Nazi Germany, people had no way of insisting on finding out what happened to their disappeared neighbors.

"We, however, have the right and the power to insist that Congress discover and reveal the details of the torture and other brutalities that the CIA has been inflicting in our name on terrorism suspects."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Canada regrets - but I'm sure the Korean hostages don't

These are the guys who thought that Israel's massacre of Lebanese civilians in their last (undeclared) war and the effective mining of southern Lebanon with unexploded cluster bombs was a "measured response".

Excuse me if I don't think much of your judgement.

Canada regrets S. Korean handling of Afghan hostage crisis

So says the newly shuffled Foreign Affairs minister, the guy pulled from Quebec, appointed to the senate and then the cabinet, never elected by anyone, and then given the job to "sell the war" to Quebeckers.

"We do not negotiate with terrorists, for any reason," said a statement issued by Bernier's office.

"Such negotiations, even if unsuccessful, only lead to further acts of terrorism."
Bernier was shuffled into the Foreign Affairs portfolio this month and touted as an ideal point man for communicating with Canadians - especially Quebecers - about the mission in Afghanistan.

South Korea will pull its troops out, something it was going to do anyway, and will no longer allow its nationals to perform Christian missionary work in Afghanistan.

"...Under the deal reached Tuesday, South Korea reaffirmed a pledge it made before the hostage crisis began to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by year's end. Seoul also said it would prevent South Korean Christian missionaries from working in the Muslim country."
Other relief agencies in Afghanistan do not put their people in areas where there is open conflict or danger of kidnapping for purely practical reasons. It's not a feel-good jaunt for these people, but a measured and careful commitment.
"...McCort said CARE takes what it calls an acceptance and integration approach in Afghanistan and the other countries where it has a presence. Workers gain protection of local communities by keeping them informed and getting their acceptance. They also live in those communities and employ a lot of local staff."
"We don't need to change our practice because what they (the South Korean missionaries) did, we would never do," he said.

"If you look at what we do in terms of our acceptance and integration strategies, sending a busload of people down to Kandahar is neither of those . . . We feel that our staff and safety precautions are fairly good so we're not really looking at learning much from their experience."