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 Liveleak.com, 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".
Sunday, September 30, 2007
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.But unfortunately, she doesn't have the Public Safety job. That belongs to Stockwell Day, who doesn't have a clue.
"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?"
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
"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?
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?
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.
"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
Flaherty, Harper announce $13.8 billion surplus
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
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.Yup. Just like the war.
The party's defence critic, Dawn Black, says the papers indicate Karzai's address was an "elaborately staged political stunt."
...[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."
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?
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.
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.
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.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.
"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."
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
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
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.
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
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).
Well, guess what? They're not very popular here either.
Canada to decide within days whether to join new U.S.-led nuclear initiative
By BRUCE CHEADLE
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.If it's denying the reports, you can be pretty sure they are very, very miffed about being found out.
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.
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.
...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.
...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.Liar, liar...need a fire extinguisher for those pants?
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.
Why would anybody think that any U.S. proposal has anyone's else's interests but theirs at the forefront?
...[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.
...[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.
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.
...[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.
...[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
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.
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
By MURRAY BREWSTER
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
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."