Monday, July 30, 2007

Sell a war that nobody wants and try not to kill so many civilians

Since the Harperites haven't been very successful in convincing Canadians that the Neverending War in Afghanistan is a good thing, they're letting the loudmouthed Rick Hillier do it for them.

Great strategy!

From Harper Index - Hillier, Rick - brassy top soldier does what government can't

Chief of staff used as booster and stalking horse for government military policies

In selling the war in Afghanistan to Canadians, Hillier is merely "doing what the government has failed to do," according to historian and McGill University Professor Emeritus Desmond Morton. "I don't think the Tories have to give him a car or promises of a Senate seat," says Morton. "He enjoys doing it."

He is critical of Stephen Harper's June announcement of the planned purchase of naval patrol vessels..."They have promised to build little ships, but they haven't promised to build icebreakers, just cheap little ones. Their procurement strategies are not based on any kind of cold rational strategic analysis. Why would you want boats in the Arctic that can't get through the ice?"

Morton disagrees, as well, with purchases such as four Boeing C-17 military transport aircraft, at a cost of $3.4 billion. "Normally you don't own these aircraft, you rent them," at a cost of a few million per trip as opposed to "several million per minute," in the case of ownership. A hangar alone for these giant aircraft will cost $800 million, says Morton. Owning these aircraft "is like keeping a transport truck in your back yard," for use when you move. Purchases like these may keep top commanders like Hillier onside with the government.
Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, NATO is trying not to kill so many civilians.

From the Australian Sun Herald:

NATO will use smaller bombs in its campaign against Islamist Taliban rebels in Afghanistan to try to limit rising civilian casualties, the alliance's chief says.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Paying the boss to keep your job - the Conservative Party as protection racket

Senior (neo)Conservative Party staffers have been "requested" to donate to the Conservative Party. So, essentially, money from taxpayers is going to these staffers who then donate it to the Conservatives. We support the party whether or not we support the party.


"Senior political staff in the Harper government say they have been asked to donate $1,000 to the Conservative Party, a move that has sparked resentment among some of the most stalwart supporters of the Prime Minister's Office."
Stephen Harper's communications director does what she does best - deny and obfuscate.

"...[M]r. Harper's director of communications, Sandra Buckler, said no one in the PMO has asked staffers in any way, shape, or form to make $1,000 contributions.

“Not true. Categorically deny,” she said Tuesday."
Yeah. I believe you.

"...[T]he individuals whose contributions are being sought tend to be paid in the range of $100,000 or more. Chiefs of staff, for example, earn between $124,100 and $159,500."

Well, that's okay then. They won't miss the odd $1,000 or so and they get to claim it on their income tax. A win-win situation for the Conservative party and their backers. The only people who lose are the 67% of people in Canada who don't support them.

"...[O]ne cabinet official said that meeting the $1,000 request will mean that individuals will essentially be prevented from giving money to candidates. Election rules allow for a maximum $1,100 contribution a year to the national party or individual candidates."
Aha! Now it comes out. The only candidates who get money are the ones that Our Great Leader approves of.

I know, I know. The Liberals did exactly the same thing. But for a party that campaigned on cleaning up government, openess and honestly, accountability and all that nice stuff, they are proving to be gigantic hypocrites.

What a surprise.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And it's 1,2,3...what are we fighting for?

This article in London's Daily Mail gives a former diplomat's view of the Neverending War In Afghanistan from the British point of view as they bury their sixty-fourth soldier.

...[B]ut the key question is this: what are our servicemen dying for? There are glib answers to that: bringing democracy and development to Afghanistan, supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai in its attempt to establish order in the country, fighting the Taliban and preventing the further spread of radical Islam into Pakistan
...[A]fghanistan was not militarily winnable by the British Empire at the height of its supremacy. It was not winnable by Darius or Alexander, by Shah, Tsar or Great Moghul. It could not be subdued by 240,000 Soviet troops. But what, precisely, are we trying to win?

...[O]ur economic achievement in Afghanistan goes well beyond the simple production of raw opium. In fact Afghanistan no longer exports much raw opium at all. It has succeeded in what our international aid efforts urge every developing country to do. Afghanistan has gone into manufacturing and 'value-added' operations.

It now exports not opium, but heroin. Opium is converted into heroin on an industrial scale, not in kitchens but in factories. Millions of gallons of the chemicals needed for this process are shipped into Afghanistan by tanker. The tankers and bulk opium lorries on the way to the factories share the roads, improved by American aid, with Nato troops.

How can this have happened, and on this scale? The answer is simple. The four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government – the government that our soldiers are fighting and dying to protect.

...[O]pium is produced all over Afghanistan, but especially in the north and north-east – Dostum's territory. Again, our Government's spin doctors have tried hard to obscure this fact and make out that the bulk of the heroin is produced in the tiny areas of the south under Taliban control. But these are the most desolate, infertile rocky areas. It is a physical impossibility to produce the bulk of the vast opium harvest there.

That General Dostum is head of the Afghan armed forces and Deputy Minister of Defence is in itself a symbol of the bankruptcy of our policy. Dostum is known for tying opponents to tank tracks and running them over. He crammed prisoners into metal containers in the searing sun, causing scores to die of heat and thirst.

Since we brought 'democracy' to Afghanistan, Dostum ordered an MP who annoyed him to be pinned down while he attacked him. The sad thing is that Dostum is probably not the worst of those comprising the Karzai government, or the biggest drug smuggler among them.

...[T]he truth is that there are seldom any good guys among those vying for power in a country such as Afghanistan.
...[O]ur presence in Afghanistan and Iraq is the greatest recruiting sergeant for Islamic militants. As the great diplomat, soldier and adventurer Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Burnes pointed out before his death in the First Afghan war in 1841, there is no point in a military campaign in Afghanistan as every time you beat them, you just swell their numbers.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Why German citizens supported Hitler's war

Jacob Hornberger has written a very compelling piece on why ordinary German citizens supported Hitler during the World War II. Being lied to about the cause of the war, being frightened for their own safety and an appeal to patriotism were only three of the many ways they were persuaded that they were fighting for a just cause with honourable methods.

A remarkable group of young people called the White Rose had the courage to oppose the government and its war machine once they found out what was going on.

A few quotes from this excellent piece. Any resemblance to the "Red Fridays", flag waving, "Support the Troops" ribbon campaigns and other signs of creeping militarism that is showing itself in Canadian public life today is purely intentional. Bold typeface is mine.
Since the 9/11 attacks, Americans have been more than willing for their government to infringe on vital civil liberties, including habeas corpus, involve the nation in an undeclared and unprovoked war on Iraq, and spend ever-growing amounts of money on the military-industrial complex, all in the name of the “war on terrorism.”

...[F]rom the first grade in public (i.e., government) schools, it was ingrained in German children that, during times of war, it was the duty of every German to come to the support of his country, which, in the minds of the German officials, was synonymous with the German government. Once a war was under way, the time for discussion and debate was over, at least until the war was over. Opposition to the war would demoralize the troops, it was said, and, therefore, hurt the war effort. Opposing the government (and the troops) in wartime, therefore, was considered treasonous.

...[T]housands of German soldiers were dying on the battlefield, especially in the Soviet Union. Whether they agreed with the war effort or not, the German people were expected to support the troops, which meant supporting the war effort.

...[N]ow, some might argue that Germans should not have automatically believed Hitler, especially knowing that throughout history rulers had lied about matters relating to war. But Germans took the position that they had the right and the duty to place their trust in their government officials. After all, Germans felt, their government officials had access to information that the people did not have. Many Germans felt that their government would never lie to them about a matter as important as war.

...[G]erman soldiers, of course, were also expected to do their duty and follow the orders of their commander in chief. Under Germany’s system, it was not up to the individual soldier to reach his own independent judgment about whether Germany was the aggressor in the conflict or whether Hitler had lied about the reasons for going to war. Thus, German soldiers, both Protestant and Catholic, understood that they could kill Polish soldiers with a clear conscience because, again, it was not up to the individual soldier to decide on the justice of the war. He could entrust that decision to his superior officers and political leaders and simply assume that the order to invade was morally and legally justified.

Once troops were committed to battle, most German civilians understood their duty — support the troops who were now fighting and dying on the battlefield for their country, for the fatherland. The time for debating and discussing the causes of the war would have to wait until the war’s end. What mattered, once the war was under way, was winning.

...[H]ermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo, explained the strategy:

"Why, of course, the people don’t want war.... Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the 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 tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country. "

...[M]ost Germans did not want to know what was going on inside the concentration camps. If they knew that bad things were occurring, their consciences might start bothering them, which might motivate them to take action to bring the wrongdoing to a stop, which could be dangerous. It was easier — and safer — to look the other way and simply entrust such important matters to their government officials. In that way, it was believed, the government, rather than the individual citizen, would bear the legal and moral consequences for wrongful acts that the government was committing secretly.

...[I]n one of their leaflets, the members of the White Rose wrote, “We are your bad conscience.” They were asking Germans to rise above the old, degenerate concept of patriotism that entailed blindly supporting one’s government in time of war. They were asking German soldiers to rise above the old, degenerate concept of blind obedience to orders. They were asking Germans to confront openly the rumors of what German officials were doing to the Jews in the concentration camps. They were asking German citizens, both civilian and military, to make an independent judgment on both the Hitler regime and the war, to judge both the government and the war as immoral and illegitimate, and to take the necessary steps to put a stop to both.

...[T]hey were asking Germans to embrace a different and higher concept of patriotism — one that involves a devotion to a set of moral principles and values rather than blind allegiance to one’s government in time of war. It was a type of patriotism that involved opposition to one’s own government, especially in time of war, when government is engaged in conduct that violates moral principles and values.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

They can kill...but they can't count

As more and more Afghan citizens are pulverized by air strikes, the military admits that it doesn't know how many Afghans have been killed, and they don't seem to care.

Over 230 Afghan civilians have been killed this year by NATO troops, the U.S.-led coalition and/or Afghan forces, according to one recent report. But an Associated Press tally says the number's actually 203. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission contends 380 civilians have been killed, though adding that Western forces were only responsible for half of those deaths.
...[B]ut judging from statements made earlier this month, the U.S. military doesn't either. "It's difficult for me to believe that you can actually capture an accurate number," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Perry Wiggins told a Pentagon news briefing.
Meanwhile, the giant brain that is the secretary of state for foreign affairs shifts the blame, even though we are the ones holding the guns and rockets and ordering in the U.S. air strikes. I hate to tell you this Helena, but we are the ones responsible for the carnage. Maybe if she spent more time reading real reports and less time on her hair, she might see what's going on there.

...[H]elena Guergis, secretary of state for foreign affairs, told a conference in Rome this week. "It's important to remember that the Taliban extremists forcefully oppose efforts to improve the life of the Afghan people, and it is they who must be held responsible for bringing violence to the Afghan people."
Foreign Affairs doesn't count either. After all, they might actually have to accept responsibility.

...[A] spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs in Canada admitted to that the department doesn't keep an official tally. "This isn't something that we would monitor, since there are a number of ways they could be killed or injured," she said. "It wouldn't necessarily be linked to us."
They'd never get away with this sloppiness in any "first world" country.

...[A]dded Sloboda: "Clearly it's a natural impulse of people to want to know who died. And if you look at what you might call more 'official' disasters, like 9/11 or rail crashes or air crashes, no one disputes that what we need to know is the name of everybody who died. It's absolutely what you have to have."
So, exactly what kind of education are we dealing with here?

So how many people have died in Afghanistan this year?
"In complete honesty, nobody knows," Kahl said. "These are all educated guesses."
I'm pretty sure that most Afghans would rather be alive under the Taliban than dead under rocket fire and the lethal rain of bombs. Freedom ain't much good if you're dead.

From the article in the Nation about treatment of civilians in Iraq by U.S. military personnel:

Last September, Senator Patrick Leahy, then ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, called a Pentagon report on its procedures for recording civilian casualties in Iraq "an embarrassment." "It totals just two pages," Leahy said, "and it makes clear that the Pentagon does very little to determine the cause of civilian casualties or to keep a record of civilian victims."
Maybe the officials in Foreign Affairs Canada who can't or won't count the civilian casualties should take note. You people are an embarassment too.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Civilian casualties

An article in the Nation reports that Iraqi civilians are the victims of atrocities at the hands of U.S. soldiers much more often than has been reported.

This line stood out, and could as easily be applied to the increasing civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

"Occupying armies with little knowledge of the local culture, fighting guerrillas who mingle among the population, have usually meant disaster for civilians."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bless you, Mr. Blum

From Bill Blum's Anti-empire Report of July 9th:

The United States and its wholly owned subsidiary, NATO, regularly drop bombs on Afghanistan which kill varying amounts of terrorists (or "terrorists", also known as civilians, also known as women and children).

...[U]S/NATO spokespersons tell us that these unfortunate accidents happen because the enemy is deliberately putting civilians in harm's way to provoke a backlash against the foreign forces. We are told at times that the enemy had located themselves in the same building as the victims, using them as "human shields". Therefore, it would seem, the enemy somehow knows in advance that a particular building is about to be bombed and they rush a bunch of civilians to the spot before the bombs begin to fall. Or it's a place where civilians normally live and, finding out that the building is about to be bombed, the enemy rushes a group of their own people to the place so they can die with the civilians. Or, what appears to be much more likely, the enemy doesn't know of the bombing in advance, but then the civilians would have to always be there; i.e., they live there; they may even be the wives and children of the enemy. Is there no limit to the evil cleverness and the clever evilness of this foe?

Western officials also tell us that the enemy deliberately attacks from civilian areas, even hoping to draw fire to drive a wedge between average Afghans and international troops. Presumably the insurgents are attacking nearby Western military installations or troop concentrations. This raises the question: Why are the Western forces building installations and/or concentrating troops near civilian areas, deliberately putting civilians in harm's way?

...[D]uring its many bombings from Vietnam to Iraq, Washington has repeatedly told the world that the resulting civilian deaths were accidental and very much "regretted". But if you go out and drop powerful bombs over a populated area, and then learn that there have been a number of "unintended" casualties, and then the next day drop more bombs and learn again that there were "unintended" casualties, and then the next day you bomb again ... at what point do you lose the right to say that the deaths were "unintended"?

And here's the TomDispatch report:

Protecting Canada's Arctic in the Persian Gulf

Forget new icebreakers - useful for all kinds of peaceful purposes. Stephen Harper has decided to spend over $4 billion for new warships - excuse me, frigates - which can break through a meter of ice. But they can also be sent to places like the Persian Gulf to bolster American imperialism and war-without-end-amen.

Arctic sovereignty slogan masks win for military lobby

ESQUIMALT, BC, July 10, 2007: The $4.3 billion purchase of "up to eight" naval patrol vessels announced here yesterday by Stephen Harper is ostensibly to enforce Arctic sovereignty. The ships may be of little use for this purpose, however, compared with the ice-breakers Harper has promised and apparently decided not to buy, according to international law expert Michael Byers. He says their purchase indicates a victory for the Department of National Defence (DND) and the military lobby over the civilian Coast Guard and civil needs.

...[S]till, he is troubled that Harper has chosen expensive military hardware instead of the promised icebreakers which would have served civilian needs and been civilian- controlled. "There is a crying need to capitalize the Coast Guard icebreaker fleet," which, he says, "has traditionally provided a coastal maritime presence with multi-purpose vessels that deliver supplies, do search and rescue, maintain navigation devices and serve as scientific research platforms."

...[T]he new vessels, capable of breaking only a metre of ice, will not be able to operate effectively in Arctic waters where at least some ice can exceed that thickness at all times of year, says Byers. The advantage for the military is that the ships can operate as small frigates and could be used elsewhere in the world, such as in the Persian Gulf.
Why am I not surprised?

Monday, July 09, 2007

The big Afghanistan cover-up

Rick Hillier has said he will no longer release any information about Afghan prisoners taken by Canadian soldiers. Previous released information showed that everything wasn't all sweetness and light for Afghan prisoners captured and held in their own country by armed forces of invading countries.

Hillier says that this is to protect Canadian soldiers. This, of course, is a gigantic pile of garbage.

To keep whatever little support for this "mission" there still is, it is necessary to keep the truth from Canadians.

Where are dignified, compassionate soldiers like John de Chastelain and Roméo Dallaire when you need them? How did we end up with this as the head of our armed forces?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

If not now, when?

Harper, speaking in Halifax on the occasion of putting billions more dollars into Navy war machines, said "today is not the day" to have a debate on the future of the Afghanistan debacle. I believe he said something similar after the shootings in Dawson College in Montreal last fall when people were calling for stricter gun controls.

Not now, my children. Later. When you've forgotten what it was all about.

But if this kind of things keep happening, there won't be very many clear days in between to debate the mission (whatever it is). He also said that "Parliament has approved that to February 2009". Yeah. I remember that debate. Rushed through with very little discussion, with the vote taking place during an NHL Stanley Cup hockey game. The english network CBC did not even carry the debate. Hockey, rather than extension of war, was much more important. I had to go to the French-language Radio-Canada to see the vote and results.

And before the last goal was scored, the war was approved.

Another big porky (pork pie - lie - cockney rhyming slang) is that Harper "...think[s] this government’s been very clear about the duration of this mission." They have never been clear about it. Before we knew it, we were backing the U.S. army and its imperial ambitions. All in the plan, of course. After all, Harper hearts Bush and his Australian buddy Howard, and he just handed the Canadian soldiers and money to them on a plate. Not his son or brother, not his money, so why should he care?

From today's Harper Index :

"I don't know all the facts on Iraq, but I think we should work closely with the Americans," [Harper] told Report Newsmagazine, March 25th 2002. He voted against a motion urging the Canadian government not to participate in the US military intervention in Iraq on March 20, 2003...

On April 4, 2003, he told a Friends of America Rally, "Thank you for saying to our friends in the United States of America, you are our ally, our neighbour and our best friend in the whole wide world...
Only best friend? Not the bestest friend? (Quick - someone get me a bucket. I'm feeling nauseous.)

But we all know what Iraq was about. An Australian government minister spilled the beans, so to speak, although Howard was quick to leap in and say it wasn't the original reason they went there.

Uh-huh. I believe you.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Harper as New Canadian Emperor

Oh - what a long way he's come.

I'm so thrilled.

Our glorious leader as a youth

Just in case you ever forget who this guy is, here's a picture of him as a "youth".

Read about his glorious career.

Harper Timeline

A chronological look at Harper's career reveals a willingness to dump old friends for new ones.

Six more dead soldiers

Six more Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan today, along with their Afghan interpreter and twenty-five civilians.

"Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant said the soldiers were killed as they were returning to a forward operating base in the Panjwaii district west of Kandahar city.

Grant said the explosion happened on a gravel road “that we have travelled regularly in the past month.” "

That could have something to do with it.

"Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jack Layton told a news conference today that Canada should pull its troops out of Afghanistan before more lives are lost in a war he says can't be won.

"What they are being asked to do now is participate in a mission that has no prospect of military success,” Layton said.

“It will simply escalate and prolong itself until we realize that it is not going to accomplish its goals.”

But I'm sure Harper still believes in "the mission", whatever it is. He will fight to the last drop of someone else's blood.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Today NATO functions as an auxiliary US force...

Since "God" made this land, according to Harper's speech in Ottawa on Canada Day yesterday (I say with a barely repressed shudder), maybe this "God" person made Stephen Harper the new emperor, too.

From the Hill Times :

Harper says he hasn't changed his position on Afghanistan (The Hill Times, July 2nd)

PM Stephen Harper says it's 'only dawning on everyone' that Parliament will be asked to extend role in Afghanistan beyond February 2009

Q: So, you still support the mission?

Harper: ..But, when we will get to 2009 we have to present to Parliament some options and we are going to need, obviously, some support from the opposition parties if we want to start a new mission after 2009. We need that support, we need the public, and the Parliament behind men and women when we send them into dangerous missions. No, I don't believe it is a change, I think it's only dawning on everyone."
I think anyone with an ounce of brains pretty well knew what you were up to, Stevie.

But maybe you should listen to old hands like Paul Craig Roberts. He wrote about the overstretched empire to the south and the fools who want to wage even more Middle Eastern wars when they can't even manage the quagmires they're already got.

The article was about Iraq, but this little nugget about NATO and Afghanistan should be a caution to would-be punching-above-their-weight boxers and little emperors-in-waiting.

From Cakewalk to Quicksand


...[N]ATO, whose charter was to defend Western Europe from Soviet invasion should have been disbanded two decades ago. Today NATO functions as an auxiliary US force and has been sent to Afghanistan, where it is being defeated like the British and Russians before it.

...[T]he unintended consequences of the "cakewalk war" [Iraq] are already far outside the Bush administration's ability to manage and will plague future governments for many years. For the administration to initiate new acts of aggression in the MIddle East would go beyond recklessness to insanity.