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