Thursday, December 17, 2009

Willing groupie

If you've eaten recently, don't look at the photo-shopped picture of Christie Blatchford in a recent article by Scott Taylor about reporters/columnists acting as groupies for the powers-that-be.

Christie Blatchford, willing groupie

She swallowed the bait whole and coughed it up again when she repeated lies about Richard Colvin's experience "outside the wire" in Afghanistan.

That picture, though - arghhhh, my eyes, my eyes!

Christie Blatchford's pieces in the G&M while she was an "embedded" reporter (what a choice of words that is) were embarrassing to read. It was like watching a young girl besotted with somebody really unsuitable who didn't care much about her but really, really wanted to drive her daddy's car.

Mr. Colvin was concerned that Canadian soldiers could be implicated in war crimes, as the Geneva conventions prohibit handing over prisoners who could be subsequently tortured. It seems like the leadership, both military and Con government, weren't really concerned. If something happened, they could blame the guys on the ground.

I'm so sick of hearing Harper's constant drivel about how everything - everything - is always someone else's fault.

Firing or dissing competent civil servants is what he does, though. Nuclear watchdogs, elections officials, military tribunals overseers - if you protect the citizens, and not the Cons, you're toast.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

And they sent him back to Afghanistan?

Canadian soldier facing rape charges.

EDMONTON - A Canadian soldier who was on leave from duty in Afghanistan has been charged with sexual assault in Australia.

Sapper David Langlois-Fequet was arrested earlier this week in Byron Bay on Australia's east coast.

The charges stem from an alleged encounter at a hostel Dec. 8.

The military says it's a civilian matter because the Edmonton-based soldier was on leave.

He has returned to active duty in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shoot the messenger

Jeffrey Simpson's take on the blustering, posturing and deliberate avoidance of the torture of Afghan detainees after they were handed over to local authorities.

And the Conservative spin machine spins on …

Richard Colvin, according to sources from all over the place, was a diplomat's diplomat. He volunteered for the provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar after a colleague of his, Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry, was killed and three Canadian soldiers wounded when their convoy was blown up in January 2006. Colvin sent communications to everyone he could think of that detainees transferred by soldiers to Afghan authorities were being tortured.

Politicians, DoD, everyone said they never heard anything about it.

If you believe that, I have some nice waterfront property in Florida I'd like to sell you ...

Now he's in the intelligence division of the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. Most of his colleagues know little about him, as is the way with "spooks". The floor he works on is severely restricted. If anybody knows anything about what was and is going on there, it would be this guy. To be a whistleblower is a dangerous thing for a man in his position.

So the neo-Conservative members of parliament are trying to discredit him. Peter McKay, defence minister, complete with little "yellow ribbon" lapel jewelery, says that Colvin is trying to smear "the troops", which is bound to get tempers riled. They know this, but anyone with a few functioning brain cells knows that's not what this is all about.

According to the Geneva Conventions, to which Canada is a signatory the last time I looked, the soldiers could be complicit it war crimes if they had handed over prisoners who were subsequently tortured.

I doubt whether the front line soldiers knew anything at all about the conditions inside Afghan prisons. But their superiors in both the military and government did - for years - and therein lies the rub.

Former chief of defense staff Rick Hillier blusters on, of course, but at the time he blustered about not being there to "babysit" Afghans. The army's job was to kill "scumbags". Nice.

Problem was that most of the people swept up and handed over were not combatants by any description. They were bakers, truck drivers, farmers, people who just happened to be "in the wrong place at the wrong time" according to Colvin. If Canada couldn't secure its own prisoners or ensure their safety when handed over to someone else, they shouldn't have taken any. They should have been released. There are fears that some jurisdictions just killed people rather than take them prisoner. Now, that is a war crime.

While questions were being asked in Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper (who says he doesn't "do" Monday question periods) was across the street accepting a honorary jersey from the Canadian lacrosse team. Let's get the important stuff right, eh, Stevie?

My loathing for the man just deepens.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Sydney Peace Prize

John Pilger was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize recently. His acceptance speech was amazing.

Breaking the Australian Silence.

"Tonight, I would like to talk about this silence: about how it affects our national life, the way we see the world, and the way we are manipulated by great power which speaks through an invisible government of propaganda that subdues and limits our political imagination and ensures we are always at war – against our own first people and those seeking refuge, or in someone else’s country."

This has echoes for Canada. We had our little "sorry" episode, just like Australia. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed. Harper's government still refuses to sign the UN treaty on aboriginal rights. I think he's worried that the next big mineral or oil find will be on aboriginal land and he won't want to share the wealth.

There's so many echoes in it to Canada's situation that it almost hurts.

The aboriginal population continues to die disproportionately from swine flu and seasonal flu. They have higher rates of diabetes and heart disease. Their life expectancy is shorter. When the reserve in northern Ontario called Kashechewan was flooded during a rapid spring thaw and the inhabitants were evacuated to other parts of Ontario, they found that many children suffered from scabies. The intake for the water plant was downstream from the sewage outfall. Another wonderful government project.

We pour money and young lives into Afghanistan, supposedly building schools and dams, yet our own citizens are living in horrible situations.

Makes no sense.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Does military service turn young men into sexual predators?

From Truthdig today. The numbers are from the American military establishment. I can't imagine ours are any different.

Does military service turn young men into sexual predators?

A culture that encourages violence and misogyny, says Helen Benedict, attracts a disproportionate number of sexually violent men: half of male recruits enlist to escape abusive families, a history that is often predictive of an abuser.

But whatever attracts them, and wherever they come from, this is about a system plagued by rot, and not about a few bad apples. American veterans embody the inevitable, predictable blowback from that rotten system.

Pretty troubling statistics, and interesting that the sexually abused men in the military, though much smaller by percentage than women, are virtually equal in numbers. A constant military culture is a safe haven for psychos and sexual predators. To keep the numbers up, they have been reduced to accepting just about anybody, regardless of poor education, low I.Q. or previous convictions for violent crimes, including rape.

One reason women are overwhelmingly against war in all its forms is that it endangers them and kills their children.

Not surprising that most weapons of war are phallic, and don't give me the aerodynamic argument. Kites and birds do a splendid job of flying.

Don't tell me that your basic tank isn't a set of male genitalia on tracks with its little friend pointing proudly forward and upward.

How about the lingo of war - penetration, deep penetration, on and on and on. The new Iran bunker-buster bomb on rush order by the U.S. military is supposed to provide deep and superior penetration.

It reminds me of the ongoing, but until recently covered-up, problems with the Catholic Church. It must have been well known, and probably a drawing card, for pedophiles that the Catholic priesthood gave maximum opportunity to predate upon children, with an understanding that crimes would never be prosecuted and the victims would never be believed.

The Church has a recruiting problem too.

I'd go with the anti-Federalists on this one, who deplored the evil of standing armies as a drain on the public purse and danger to liberty.

Brutus on the Evil of Standing Armies

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

At least we don't get raped

As well as the useless second round of elections (we all know how it's going to turn out, don't we?), the waffle and bafflegab about the goals, and the rogue military commanders whose only purpose is to keep this blood-and-money black hole going for as long as possible - or until they retire, crushed beneath a chestful of medals - Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqi had this to say about one of the supposed reasons for NATO efforts in Afghanistan:

"The lot of some Afghan women has improved, but not for the majority. Many were scared off the presidential election by the Taliban. Many remain victims of a lack of security, prompting some to say of the harsh law and order in Taliban-controlled districts: 'At least we don't get raped.'

One can't imagine a worse indictment of NATO."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Maybe there is a god

If things like this keep happening, I may become a believer yet.

South Ontario meterorite fragment hit SUV

Nah...not really.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Torture - part trois. Still in denial

Stories are bursting onto the pages of Canadian newspapers today about the probability of torture of prisoners taken by Canadian forces in Afghanistan and handed over to Afghan or U.S. forces.

Many comments seem to be ignorant of the laws of war, one of which is that prisoners taken on the battlefield may only be handed over to another authority if there is no possibility that they be tortured.

Quaint, I know, as that prime crook Alberto Gonzalez would protest, but those are the laws.

If Canada could not guarantee that, it had to make provision for detention of prisoners in a secure facility of its own.

But this isn't new. Richard Colvin, a Canadian diplomat in Afghanistan, warned of this more than three years ago. Stephen Harper dismissed it as "Taliban propaganda".

I wrote about this in 2007, here and here.

One of the diplomat's concerns was that Canadian soldiers could be complicit in war crimes if they transferred prisoners and knew what would happen to them.

But that's the Stephen Harper way. Don't like the law? Just ignore it. After all, he's the king.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stan's new non-plan

William Lind at does an assessment of Stanley McChrystal's new non-plan for Afghanistan.

He cites several inconsistencies and what he describes as intellectual confusion. Stan's new plan, like his new counterinsurgency manual, was probably written by a committee, so the confusion is built in.

"If you don’t give us more troops, we will fail. But you shouldn’t give us more troops unless we adopt a new strategy, which we don’t have. And even if you do give us the troops we want for the new strategy we haven’t got, they will not be enough to achieve success."

Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Tom Walkom at the Toronto Star says we are chest deep in an Afghan quagmire.

"...[B]ut then this was always an ill-starred conflict.

Portrayed initially as an act of self-defence against the 9/11 terrorists (none of whom were Afghan) it has succeeded only in exporting terror to Pakistan.

The original war aim was to capture Al Qaeda chieftain Osama bin Laden. Nothing less would do.

When in the weeks leading up to the 2001 invasion, Afghanistan's governing Taliban suggested that they would expel him to Pakistan in exchange for peace, their offer was peremptorily rejected.

Now, eight years and hundreds of deaths later, Bin Laden remains at large – apparently (and ironically) in Pakistan."

Those who were against the war from the beginning were called unpatriotic, although that is a much harder sell in Canada where unquestioning patriotism is considered to be an amusing or alarming quirk. Those who suggested talking to the Taliban were called misguided or traitorous, although that strategy is the accepted wisdom now.

Why are the ones who were wrong at first and wrong for so long considered to be wise (like Colin Kenney), while those who saw clearly from the beginning were demonized?

The Cassandra option, I suppose - clearsighted wisdom accompanied by the curse of never being believed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wise beyond his years

Wise beyond his years. He should have had many, many more of them.

Afghan mission futile, dead soldier told family

"QUEBEC – The latest Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan apparently considered the mission useless. The brother of Pte. Jonathan Couturier has told a Quebec newspaper the young soldier thought the mission was futile.

His sister-in-law also tells Quebec City Le Soleil that Couturier no longer wanted anything to do with Afghanistan."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Making the world safe for hockey

Harper was in Washington today for a speed date with Obama.

After 90 minutes, they have solved all the world's problems.

They must have been using some diplomatic Viagra®. The encounter lasted twice as long as the original 40+ minute time slot. Good thing there weren't any side effects or he might have been there until the weekend.

But they made the world safe for NHL hockey.

"Mr. Harper also said the two countries were close to an agreement on solving a charter flight problem that threatened to disrupt the soon-to-start National Hockey League season – an issue of particular importance to the Prime Minister who is an ardent hockey fan."

I'm sure we'll all sleep better knowing that grown men in skates can continue to slash, smash and give each other concussions, all unimpeded by flight restrictions.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Jonathan Livingston Buffalo

The sweet voice - although a little testy, and why not? - of reason from Neil Kitson on the prospect of yet another election in Canada.

You’d like to think that some buffalo at the back of the herd, following all those thundering bulls with balls, Jonathan Livingston Buffalo maybe, is thinking, in response to the shrieking of crazed humans: "Wait a minute…"

OK, so we’re having elections up here in Canada like we’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We’re trying to decide which minority government is least obnoxious.

He points out something that nobody ever spends any time on at all, the complete vacuum that surrounds discussion of the war in Afghanistan from any party at all in this. Even the NDP are largely missing in action on this one.

The endless parade of military and civilian casualties, the pumping up of ex-generals like Rick Hillier and the absence of much discussion about the families of dead soldiers or the physcial and mental wounds of injured soldiers, the endless war spending without even a question or discussion about it - the Memory Hole has opened in Canada and people are being thrown into it.

Jeff Huber, retired US Naval Commander at Pen and Sword muses on endless war and endless spending this way:

It would be nice to think our woebegone wars will die of natural causes when we can no longer afford them, but when it comes to the federal budget, war is like Jell-O: there’s always room for it.

Note that General Petraeus, hereinafter to be known as King David, is wearing the Calgary Stampede Special white hat presented to him this year in Alberta.

Speaking of generals and their life after combat, I remember that one of the few times Rick Hillier was anwhere near danger in Afghanistan, the minute the bomb went off somewhere in the vicinity, he was scooped up and bustled off like a piece of precious china. Now he sits on boards and rakes in the bucks.

Dr. Kitson is not very impressed with either offering for the new "leader" of this lovely, mismanaged country, but saves the most withering disapproval for Stephen Harper.

"Stephen Harper, who seems to have a primordial, completely un-Canadian dream of converting the world into a disciplined unit that will do whatever he says, which always involves more punishment and less imagination. Show me something – anything – that Harper has done in his life that has contributed – remotely – to the well-being of Canadians. Show me that he’s produced anything at all."

Neil Kitson has hit the nail squarely on the head. Stephen Harper doesn't have particularly advanced academic qualifications in anything, does not have a trade or a skill, has never run a business or met a payroll - nothing, nothing, nothing. And yet his contempt for people who have is so palpable that you could cut it with a knife.

As for Michael Ignatieff, he reminds me of any empty vessel which every passing breeze can make sing a different tune.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

We just want to rule the world

With the Harper regime doing all it can to lock up access to South America - it's "free trade" deal with Colombia, that bastion of human rights, and with - wait for it - PANAMA, right next to Colombia and formerly part of it, the Harperites have managed to do what not even the U.S. has yet. The U.S. just puts seven military bases in Colombia instead and resurrects the 4th fleet to watch what is going on in its "backyard" in South America. What insufferable pomposity. Nothing but total spectrum dominance over every living, breathing creature in the world will do.

I'm so proud we in Canada are part of the grand design, the "Arc of Instability" across the entire world.

Pepe Escobar ties together all the loose ends, connects all the dots and the picture that emerges is enough to make you sick - if you still have any kind of a conscience, that is.

US's 'arc of instability' just gets bigger

"Colombian President Alvaro Uribe rules over a captivating land infested with paramilitaries and extra-judicial killings - scores of peasants and trade unionists killed in cold blood. But he's praised in Washington as a human-rights hero."

"The US has already set up three military bases in Colombia, plus a dozen radar stations. Now this will be upgraded by the Colombian government to seven bases, one of them - Palanquero - with air access to the whole hemisphere. Seven bases in Colombia is a natural Pentagon response to the US losing the Manta base in Ecuador, and losing its grip on now leftist Paraguay. Washington already trains the Colombian armed forces, special forces and the national police.

The infamous Fort Benning-based School of the Americas, the flagship US training ground for ultra-repressive military dictatorships, that is, the "School of Assassins", re-baptized in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation, trained not only over 10,000 Colombians, but the coup leaders in Honduras as well."

Not too surprising that the Canadian response to the Honduran military coup was so tepid.

"...Colombia is a mirror of Afghanistan - and vice-versa. It goes without saying that counter-insurgency-heavy Afghanistan - now under the supreme boot of former death-squad operator to General Davis Petraeus in Iraq, General Stanley McChrystal - still produces over 90% of the world's opium."

Nice to know we have a free trade deal with Colombia. Even worse that we're going broke and killing our soldiers in Afghanistan to expand the empire.

So, while all eyes are focused on Afghanistan, the 4th fleet patrols the waters off South American countries. You know, you just can't trust the citizens of these countries. While U.S. and NATO forces were away bombing Iraq and Afghanistan into the stone age, the countries of América del Sur were busy voting for governments that would put their people's interests first rather than those of rich westerers.

What were they thinking?

"Argentine political scientist Atilio Boron goes for the jugular; for him, 'To think that those troops and weapons systems are based in Latin America for some reason other than to insure the territorial and political control of a region that experts consider the richest one on the planet in terms of its natural resources - water, energy, biodiversity, minerals agriculture, etc - would be unforgivably stupid.'"

I'm not stupid. Sometimes I wish I were. It would be easier to sleep at night.

Pepe Escobar's article should be required reading for anyone with more that two functioning brain cells.

What has this country become?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Next time you're in Kandahar...

...say "Hi!" to Britney for me.

Leave it to the Aussies to get the story out. From Paul McGeough at The Age:

Britney Spears votes in Afghanistan

"...[E]xperts laugh at claims by Afghan officialdom that all 17 million names on the electoral roll are legitimate
An election official confided to the Dutch analyst Martine van Bijlert, of the respected Afghanistan Analysts Network, that up to 3 million of the names were fake....''Britney Jamilia Spears'' is on the roll in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, where voting is to take place in just three of 17 districts."

But who cares? No matter what, the White House will surge forward, said its press secretary.

Gibbs: Afghan election outcome won't change policy

"But [Gibbs] said reports of a light turnout would not alter "our policy going forward in our aggressive goals..."

Cue Céline Dion (sorry!) and the Titanic theme, with Obama at the front of the ship (excuse my unnautical terminology) arms outflung, bellowing at the top of his lungs.

"My war will go oooooooonnnnnnnnnnnn!"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Switch the Republican for Conservative and it all works

Just think Walkerton, listeria, zero-down-forty-year mortgages, and other horrors of the NeoCon era in Canada.

From a post at Crooks and Liars:

"A Day in the Life of Joe Middle-Class Republican"

Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and work as advertised.

All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo; His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some liberal didn’t think he should loose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

Its noon time, Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FDIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten Mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time.

Joe is home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electric until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republican’s would still be sitting in the dark)

He is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to. After his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home.
He turns on a radio talk show, the host’s keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn’t tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day) Joe agrees, "We don’t need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I’m a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have".

Sunday, July 12, 2009

American right-wing input to Conservative campaign

From the website Crooks and Liars, this offering by Susie Madrak.

Dennis Kucinich exposes lies about Canadian healh care system and whacks this ignorant young man up the side of the head.

Why is a young conservative like David Gratzer so much more scary than an old conservative? This guy grew up in Canada (but so did David Frum), and he's a PSYCHIATRIST. Ye gods and little fishes!

He even extended the lies to this article, The Ugly Truth About Canadian Health Care.

This article is linked at the above site and here's the direct link as well. Click on the button at the upper right for the full PDF report.

American right pours money into Conservative campaign

Since the HarpoCons wouldn't tell us where their campaign funding came from (they don't have to, so there!), perhaps this might open up a few eyes to the mindset of Harper and his bestest buddies.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Calgary Stampede meets Dr. Strangelove

Nice to see the the grande fromage of the Canadian military, Walter Natynczyk, can find time to yuk it up at the Calgary Stampede with his buddy David Petraeus. I guess this is part of Petraeus' charm offensive to convince Canadians, more than 60% of whom are against the whole thing as it is now, to commit even more young people and money to the sausage grinder that is Afghanistan.

Never mind. The military contractors and arms dealers are making out like bandits.

The Calgary Stampede meets Dr. Strangelove

This is on the same day that the 121st Canadian soldier, Cpl. Nick Bulger died after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Kandahar. All the newspaper reports pointed out that a senior commander riding in a vehicle ahead just narrowly missed being blown to smithereens, as if this was somehow a fortunate thing. Cpl. Bulger's wife and two little girls probably wouldn't agree.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where we should put our boots

This little gem by Murray Brewster was hidden on the bottom of p. 4 of the Globe and Mail on Monday.

U.S. probing ways to keep Canada in Afghanistan

Obama Democrats have quietly sounded out power brokers in Ottawa looking for advice on how to convince war-weary Canadians to keep military forces in Afghanistan after 2011.

Conscious of the deep political and public opposition to extending the mission further, American officials - political and military - are struggling to understand concerns and identify the right arguments to make to the Harper government to "keep Canadian boots on the ground," defence sources said.

Interesting assumption, that. Struggling to understand concerns? Hmmmm, that's a tough one. How about 120 dead soldiers. That's equivalent to 1200 or thereabouts when scaled up to the population of the U.S. How about spiraling costs of war, double the initial estimate. How about the fact that it's not about the "right argument", since there's no right way to fight a wrong war.

Or maybe we're just too dim up here to really understand it all properly, or maybe we understand it all too well.

I know where we should be putting our Canadian "boots", and it ain't on the ground in Afghanistan.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


More from Jeff Huber at Pen and Sword. A low-down on the new ubercommander Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan.


The Toronto Star is doing a series on the mental turmoil of soldiers returning from Afghanistan - the warrant officer who beats up his wife or tries to strangle her in his sleep, the young man who has been charged with assault since his return, the guy who self-medicates just to keep going.

A conventional assessment says that 25% of returning soldiers have mental illnesses that require treatment. One problem. Here, like everywhere else, there aren't enought doctors, nurses and others to help them. Medication is not helping much. Some are just told to "suck it up" by their commanding officers, as the mother of one young man who committed suicide said.

Support the troops, indeed.


The flight path of the planes carrying the bodies of the dead soldiers goes over here quite often. The ground shakes when they rumble over, the air vibrates and sometimes the old limestone that characterises this area rings with the sound. You know that there are relatives waiting, turned to stone by their grief, hoping up until the last minute that maybe it was all a mistake. The last one was only twenty years old.

This is madness.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What if they gave a war and nobody came?

We need a few, no maybe a lot, more guys like this.

From Dahr Jamail's dispatches about a soldier who refuses to deploy to Afghanistan.

U.S.: "There's No Way I'm Going to Deploy to Afghanistan", by Dahr Jamail

Meanwhile, on the home front, our finance minister, Jim Flaherty, is being urged to quit.

Ohhh, nice idea, several years too late.

"The Liberals are expected to call for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's resignation today in the wake of revelations that the federal government will run a record $50-billion budget deficit this year."

I wonder why no one has ever thought of the un-military option to tackling our huge debt. Since the war in Afghanistan is hugely expensive and completely useless, we could put a huge dent in that deficit, say $28B worth, by scrapping the whole idea. In case someone argues that some of this money has already been spent, I suggest that the cost will probably be twice that once the budget overshoots and "unforeseen costs" are factored in.

Since John Manley's panel of specially picked hawks advised the Cons to prolong the war, his extra equipment costs (if that sounds obscene, it's because it is) are expanding like a member on Viagra.

So, who wouldn't want to be Bob Thirsk, the latest Canadian astronaut to blast off into space for a six month mission on the Space Station - on a Russian Soyuz rocket, no less.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

War is a racket

"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."

Gen. Smedley Butler, USMC

Monday, May 25, 2009

I don't, either

It's time for the wussy, war-hating pacifists to stand up and be counted.

After years and years of flag-draped coffins, of listening to the justification of the unjustifiable, of the "Wear Red on Fridays to Support the Troops" (red is my favourite colour, but I'll never wear it on Friday again), of renaming the part of the Trans-Canada Highway as the "Highway of Heroes" (it sounds better than Highway of the Unnecessarily Dead) along which hearses containing the bodies pass on their way to autopsies in Toronto while people on overpasses wave flags as if they were the only Canadians, I can't take it any more.

After the lies, the beating of war drums, the weeping relatives, the waste of young life, money, and opportunity to do something really useful, I've had it.

After all the displaced and frightened people, the slaughter of innocents, the unthinking and uncaring occupation of another country and the arrogance to think that we have all the answers - or any answer - I've had enough.

And so I direct you to Arthur Silber, who in this blog post, writes a Memorial Day piece that he's been meaning to write for years. He cites another piece written in 2006 by Joel Stein of the LA Times on the same theme.

From Joel Stein:

"I don't support our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car....but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades."

No, I Do Not Support "The Troops" by Arthur Silber

Warriors and wusses By Joel Stein (January 24, 2006)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Seeing the world

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is setting his attack dogs on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff for the unforgivable crime of actually having lived and worked somewhere else in the world besides Canada.

Harper, like George W. Bush, had hardly traveled outside the boundaries of his country before assuming the minority leadership - and it shows.

Arrogance, ignorance of other cultures, speaking and understanding only one language, and entrenched provincialism have suddenly been raised to the status of virtues.

Thus we have the spectacle of such narrow minded people attacking civilizations thousands of years old and telling them how things should be done.

Canada is only 142 years old, the U.S. only 233 and yet they trumpet their superiority wherever they go as if it was divinely granted and sanctioned by providence as a beacon to the rest of the world.

What fools they make us look and how these other people must snigger to watch these little puffed-up dictators strut around the world leaving disaster wherever they go.

Scott Horton, a constitutional lawyer based in Washington DC has been watching successive administrations in the U.S. destroy the basis of their society. Canada is no better. Harper's neo-Cons ignore laws they don't like, spread misinformation about legally acceptable procedures (e.g. formation of a coalition government), and hide themselves behind a wall of secrecy. Their hypocrisy in the last few years has been breathtaking.

From Scott Horton's blog at Harper's (what an unfortunate coincidence with the name), a quote from John Stuart Mill about learning from the unfamiliar.

"It is hardly possible to overstate the value, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar…. Such communication has always been, and is particularly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress."

–John Stuart Mill, The Principles of Political Economy: With Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy, bk v, ch xvii, sec 3 (1848) in: The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, vol 3, p. 594.

Meanwhile, Jeff Huber's latest post about the disaster that is Afghanistan is up on his blog today.

Sounds like there are lots of "desirable outcomes" but no plans how to get there.

Try that tactic on your next road trip.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov may soon become a household name

...or ".[w]hy Afghanistan matters... (Hint: It has nothing to do with the liberation of Afghan women.)"

Pepe Escobar, via Tom Dispatch, has this excellent primer on the new (old) Great Game, Pipelineistan, and the Liquid Wars.

Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Pipelineistan Goes Af-Pak

Read it and weep.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Before you start cheering about the change in command...

...just read this. My comments are unnecessary.

Americanada - can't see any downside to THAT idea

Neil Kitson's reply to a recent John Ibbitson article, where Ibbitson extols the wonders of a seamless border with U.S. military wandering at will in our country. won't notice the difference.

Americanada? No Thanks
by Neil Kitson, May 12, 2009

"...[T]he smell of rat is becoming unmistakable. The reasons for more “integration” and “harmonization" of North America always seemed contrived and ephemeral, particularly after the group hysteria known as the “War on Terror," and they seemed – always – to lead to more secrecy and less accountability, particularly in the murky worlds of the military and security services and their corporate Significant Others... "

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Proclamation - Julia Ward Howe - 1870

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Why don't you come up and see me?

The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan are over in Washington visiting Obama. When the emperor calls, all tremble and obey.

He's very, very sorry about the 100+ civilians killed by U.S. air strikes. Not as sorry as the Afghans, I bet.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the escalating civilian casualties?

Record bombs dropped in Afghanistan in April

"Air Force, Navy and other coalition warplanes dropped a record number of bombs in Afghanistan during April, Air Forces Central figures show.

In the past month, warplanes released 438 bombs, the most ever."

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper decided to make a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

Surprise! Glad to see me?

I didn't like the sound of this much, though. He's thanking the U.S. for their "help".

"...I believe ... we will have the numbers we need to begin what we really hope is irreversible progress," he said.

"...Remember friends, before you came here, the Taliban ran this country, Afghanistan, like a medieval gulag," said Harper. "Those dark desperate days are ending."

Something irreversible has happened, alright. I don't think it can be described as progress. The dark, desperate days are just beginning.

The CTV story had this headline:

PM goes off base during surprise Afghanistan visit

One thing...Harper is always way off base, no matter where he is.

Meanwhile, reports are coming out (this one from 2006, so gawd knows what's happened since then) of U.S. interrogators killing dozens of detainees and then covering up the evidence.

US interrogators may have killed dozens, human rights researcher and rights group say

"United States interrogators killed nearly four dozen detainees during or after their interrogations...In all, 98 detainees have died while in US hands. Thirty-four homicides have been identified, with at least eight detainees — and as many as 12 — having been tortured to death..."

"...[M]ost of those taken captive were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. They include at least one Afghani soldier, Jamal Naseer, who was mistakenly arrested in 2004. “Those arrested with Naseer later said that during interrogations U.S. personnel punched and kicked them, hung them upside down, and hit them with sticks or cables,” Sifton writes. “Some said they were doused with cold water and forced to lie in the snow. Nasser collapsed about two weeks after the arrest, complaining of stomach pain, probably an internal hemorrhage.”

"...[A]nother Afghan killing occurred in 2002. Mohammad Sayari was killed by four U.S. servicemembers after being detained for allegedly “following their movements.”

"...“Nagem Sadoon Hatab… a 52-year-old Iraqi, was killed while in U.S. custody at a holding camp close to Nasiriyah,” the group wrote. “Although a U.S. Army medical examiner found that Hatab had died of strangulation, the evidence that would have been required to secure accountability for his death – Hatab’s body – was rendered unusable in court. Hatab’s internal organs were left exposed on an airport tarmac for hours; in the blistering Baghdad heat, the organs were destroyed; the throat bone that would have supported the Army medical examiner’s findings of strangulation was never found.”

"...In another graphic instance, a former Iraqi general was beaten by US forces and suffocated to death. The military officer charged in the death was given just 60 days house arrest."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Getting the job done in Afghanistan

When I was a child with two younger siblings, my parents used to refer to the more "solid" aspect of toilet training as "doing a job". Ever since then, any variation on that phrase when used by anyone brings that bodily function to mind.

Here's Obama "getting the job done in Afghanistan" and self-confessed war criminal Condoleezza Rice urging Canadians on to "finish the job" in Afghanistan...way back in 2006 when she graced Canada with her presence.
Getting the job done in Afghanistan

U.S. strikes in Afghanistan kill 100, mostly civilians

Although the Obama administration doesn't appear to possess the cojones to actually prosecute the torturers and torture enablers, at least some Stanford students and alumni have the guts to ask the tough questions.

When Condoleezza Rice came to Canada on the fifth anniversary of September 11, 2001, she visited Halifax, one of the many airports in Canada that allowed American planes to land after the NYC and Washington DC hijackings. None were allowed to land at U.S. airports. (I've often wondered if the situation had been reversed and Canadian planes had asked to land in the U.S. whether they would have been received with such welcome. Three guesses on the answer to that one, and the first two don't count.)

There was speculation that Peter MacKay, the defense minister, and Condi were "an item". (He really, really likes powerful women. His former girlfriend was Belinda Stronach, a Conservative MP and the gazillionaire daughter of the car parts magnate Frank Stronach. She dumped him and crossed the floor to join the Liberals after she found out just what the neo-Con Harperites were up to).

The thought of Petey and Condi canoodling is enough to make most people lose their breakfast. Just cast your mind back to those heady days when the relations between the Canadian Harperites and the Bush Cabal were supposedly warming if this were a good thing.

So, here's a video of the Peter and Condi show in Halifax.

Don't watch this unless you have a bucket handy.

Catch the last sentence from Rice, extolling the neverending war in Afghanistan.

"Maybe it won't come back to haunt me or Peter, 'cos we will be gone, but it may come back to haunt our successors and their successors. You have to finish the job when you have a chance."

Peter and Condi sitting in a tree (from 2006)

I hope something comes back to haunt you, Condi.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Crapaganda, torture and a Department of Peace

The incomparable Bill Blum in his latest Anti-Empire report has blasted the last U.S. administration's use of torture and the present administration's unwillingness to do anything about it.

Bless you, Mr. Blum.

"When George W. Bush said 'The United States does not torture', everyone now knows it was crapaganda. And when Barack Obama, a month into his presidency, said "The United States does not torture', it likewise had all the credibility of a 19th century treaty between the US government and the American Indians...."

"...[I] could really feel sorry for Barack Obama — for his administration is plagued and handicapped by a major recession not of his making — if he had a vision that was thus being thwarted. But he has no vision — not any kind of systemic remaking of the economy, producing a more equitable and more honest society; nor a world at peace, beginning with ending America's perennial wars; no vision of the fantastic things that could be done with the trillions of dollars that would be saved by putting an end to war without end; nor a vision of a world totally rid of torture; nor an America with national health insurance; nor an environment free of capitalist subversion; nor a campaign to control world population ... he just looks for what will offend the fewest people. He's a "whatever works" kind of guy. And he wants to be president. But what we need and crave is a leader of vision."

Our only alternative to the objectional Stephen Harper as Prime Minister of this country seems to be someone else with no particular stand on anything.

Linda McQuaig has a few suggestions for him. He'd win in a landslide if he actually adopted these policies and carried them out. It's what Canadians want, after all.

But I'm a "dreamer...nothing but a dreamer...".

A peace plank for Ignatieff

"...[P]rime Minister Stephen Harper stands for many things, mostly unpleasant, like trashing struggling artists and allowing unlicensed gun owners to roam the nation. But Ignatieff has avoided positioning himself, excepting of course his earlier endorsement of the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- for which the freshly crowned Liberal leader has been trying to elegantly extricate his foot from his mouth for some time."

"...[W]hy has one sector -- the war sector -- been given a commitment of 20 years of spending increases, while so many other vital sectors will be facing cuts, Ignatieff could ask daily in the Commons."

"And he'd have Canadians onside. A poll commissioned by the finance department before last year's budget showed that Canadians ranked increased military spending as their very last spending priority among 18 possible options. (This explains why Harper chose to announce his "Canada First Defence Strategy" plan on a government website during the slow-news time slot of 4 a.m.)"

"...[A] decision by Ignatieff to challenge the Conservative drift toward militarism would do the country -- and the world -- a service, while also making him seem less of an empty vessel."

Monday, May 04, 2009

Canadian Obama

Looks like some other people don't think Canada's options for a government are looking too rosy. We either have a hawk or...a hawk.

Here's the new boss, same as the old boss.
Canada's Obama and the Cult of the Prof

By Eugenia Tsao

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Bill Blum's letter to Obama

Anti-war and anti-empire activist for many years, Bill Blum has a letter for Obama. Will he read it? Will he carry out any of the suggestions? He doesn't hold out much hope, in particular because Obama has already authorized bombings in Pakistan, a blatant act of war, which killed civilians and enraged the whole area.

And he did it within a few days of taking office.

Doesn't look good...

In this piece on the reach of the American empire, and how it's destroying the world and its own country, there are a couple of notable bits for Canada, why it toadies to the U.S. and why it is so lacking in morality, intelligence and ideas as to elect someone like Stephen Harper to run the show:


Perhaps the most miserable people on the planet, with no hope in sight as long as the world's powers continue to bomb, invade, overthrow, occupy, and slaughter in their land. The US Army is planning on throwing 30,000 more young American bodies into the killing fields and is currently building eight new major bases in southern Afghanistan. Is that not insane? If it makes sense to you I suggest that you start the practice of the president accompanying the military people when they inform American parents that their child has died in a place called Afghanistan.

If you pull out from this nightmare, you could also stop bombing Pakistan. Leave even if it results in the awful Taliban returning to power. They at least offer security to the country's wretched, and indications are that the current Taliban are not all fundamentalists.

But first, close Bagram prison and other detention camps, which are worse than Guantanamo.

And stop pretending that the United States gives a damn about the Afghan people and not oil and gas pipelines which can bypass Russia and Iran. The US has been endeavoring to fill the power vacuum in Central Asia created by the Soviet Union’s dissolution in order to assert Washington's domination over a region containing the second largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world. Is Afghanistan going to be your Iraq?


From protecting Europe against a [mythical] Soviet invasion to becoming an occupation army in Afghanistan. Put an end to this historical anachronism, what Russian leader Vladimir called "the stinking corpse of the cold war." You can accomplish this simply by leaving the organization. Without the United States and its never-ending military actions and officially-designated enemies, the organization would not even have the pretense of a purpose, which is all it has left. Members have had to be bullied, threatened and bribed to send armed forces to Afghanistan...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Prime Minister without a soul

'Exterminate all the brutes': Gaza 2009

By Noam Chomsky
January 21, 2009

Read it and weep.

That the Harper regime, in the name of all Canadians, could be supporting the Israeli government in its brutality and butchery makes me sick.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Backing the wrong side - again

If anyone is unsure just how incompetent and out of touch the present Canadian government is, nothing proves it more than than Harper and Co.'s penchant for backing the wrong side - the Bush administration, the Howard government in Australia, and now standing against the world to support the Israeli slaughter in Gaza.

Canada votes alone for Israel
"Canada stood alone before a United Nations human rights council yesterday, the only one among 47 nations to oppose a motion condemning the Israeli military offensive in Gaza."
Thirteen nations abstained.

This is nothing new for the neo-Con Harper regime, though. They must have really big financial backers among the pro-Zionist faction.

Harper conflates the criticism of the Israeli slaughter of penned-up Gazans with anti-Semitism. The nasty little neo-Cons like to use this particular line of thought. I guess they haven't heard that an argument is lost once it compares anything to Hitler and/or Naziism to make a point.

But that doesn't stop Stevie.

Criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, Harper says

MIKE DE SOUZA, Canwest News Service

Published: Friday, May 09 2008

"...[I] guess my fear is what I see happening in some circles is (an) anti-Israeli sentiment, really just as a thinly disguised veil for good old-fashioned anti-Semitism..."

But the (former) public safety minister, the profoundly ignorant Stockwell "Doris" Day, had already signed a statement of support for Israel, whatever that might mean, after denying he had done so. Lying is not a good thing for a nice evangelical boy to do, Stockwell. But anything for King Stevie, no?

"Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day's office yesterday confirmed that Canada is negotiating a non-binding co-operation agreement with the Israeli government covering counterterrorism and homeland-security matters."
Since when did Canada start having "Homeland" security?

Just in case Canadian soldiers get tired of getting killed in the Afghan quagmire, there's always Israel.

I'm so damn mad, my thoughts are all over the place.