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?