Friday, March 26, 2010

When injured soldiers become annual statistics

We are a small country, population-wise, and every military death in Afghanistan, whether battle-related or not, has been reported in local and national newspapers, accompanied by a solemn, usually young, face looking straight at the observer. With every report of a death, there has been the number of wounded, too, until recently.

That was why many people were surprised to hear of the death in an Edmonton hospital of Corporal Darren Fitzpatrick of severe injuries to his lower body by an IED outside Kandahar. He was treated first in Kandahar, then the U.S. hospital in Germany. He was stabilized and brought back to Canada at his family's request and died the next day. He spoke to them before he died, a small comfort, I suppose, in a world of hurt.

But if he had not died, we wouldn't have known. The Department of National Defense does not report the number or severity of injuries, only the number of casualties so Canadians in general are completely unaware of them.

But now the propaganda is coming out, even if the facts aren't.

Canada forbids reporting of battlefield wounded

"The Canadian military has quietly stopped reporting when soldiers are wounded on the battlefield and will instead deliver annual statistics to the public.

The stark policy shift is described as a deliberate attempt to keep the Taliban in the dark."

"The weekend death of Corporal Darren Fitzpatrick in an Edmonton trauma centre brought the directive to the forefront. The 21-year-old was mortally wounded in a previously unreported March 6 roadside bombing."

Apart from the deliberate attempt to keep the horrible consequences of an ill-conceived war from Canadian citizens, it was the cool determination to relegate them to annual statistics that bothered me the most.

First, how many years are we expecting to be reporting these statistics? I thought the "mission", whatever it is, is supposed to be finished in 2011, although that seems highly in doubt now.

And second, since when do military injuries become numbers to be reported like the annual per capita consumption of cheddar cheese or the vacation destinations of the traveling populace?

It's the second line of that quote that tells it all, though, that the withholding of injury statistics would keep the "Taliban in the dark".

One problem with that, though. The Taliban were there. They saw what happened and they send the information to their network. They don't send GPS-guided rockets or direct missile-laden drones from miles or continents or hemispheres away.

So, who exactly is being kept in the dark here, eh?

We have become a nation of mushrooms.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I guess Canadians aren't really leaving Afghanistan, then.

Peter MacKay, Minister of Defence, has kicked General Leslie, the head of the Canadian army, out of a job. Well, not really, but they just don't know where they're going to put him yet. So they say. I believe them. Sure.

Head of Canadian army shuffled out of job

"The head of Canada's army, who was set to play a major role in the withdrawal of the Canadian combat mission from Afghanistan next year, has been moved out of his job, officials said on Wednesday."

"Leslie, chief of the land staff, made headlines early last year when he said the army was worn out and would need at least a year to recover once the 2,800-strong Afghan military mission ended in 2011...He later reversed his position, citing increased investment in the military.

"He is no longer chief of land staff, but he awaits future responsibilities ... (he) has several options under consideration. He's a very capable and valuable officer," said a spokesman for Defense Minister Peter MacKay."

Yeah, yeah, sure, Peter. What a mealymouthed, lukewarm piece of organic fertilizer that is.

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!
I come not to bury Leslie but damn him with faint praise!
You believe me, don'tcha? Huh? Huh? Don'tcha?"

In his place?

"Leslie will be replaced by Lieutenant-General Peter Devlin, currently deputy commander of Canadian troops based abroad. He served a 15-month tour in Baghdad from 2006 to 2008 with the U.S. military as part of an exchange program."

So that makes two. Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk was also in Iraq. Few Canadians know the extent of Canadian military involvement in the illegal Iraq war.

Now the chief and the head of the army can boast of having Iraq War creds carved into their bedposts.

Could this have anything to do with the rumour that the U.S. will be asking (demanding?) that Canadian soldiers stay in Afghanistan, supposedly as "trainers" after the parliamentary mandated 2011 withdrawal date?

General Leslie said last year that the Canadian army is exhausted. So are the Canadian people and their tax money.

Generals speaking inconvenient truths?

Just put them in the discard pile and shuffle the deck.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Secrecy - the first refuge of incompetents

Here are a few words to the HarperCons while they attempt to cover up the "who knew what and when" of Afghan detainees captured by Canadian soldiers and handed over to Afghan authorities, even after the government had been warned by the Red Cross and their own diplomats in Afghanistan that they would be almost certainly subjected to torture.

They have repeatedly denied knowing anything, then attempted to hide behind the Canadian military or the previous government.

This from Scott Horton, constitutional law expert who writes a blog titled No Comment for Harper's (no connection to Stephen Harper, not at all).

Scott Horton, March 19th, Harper's, No Comment

The Pentagon loses a Skirmish with WikiLeaks

On the subject of secrecy:

In 1960, a congressional committee, recognizing the need to rein in the extravagant claims of secrecy that were thriving in the Department of Defense and intelligence community, observed that

Secrecy—the first refuge of incompetents—must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society, for a fully informed public is the basis of self-government. Those elected or appointed to positions of executive authority must recognize that government, in a democracy, cannot be wiser than the people.

I don't suppose the Harper regime is listening, though. They never do.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Vengeance is MINE", sayeth Stephen Harper

Looks like the HarperTories are ignorning research that conflicts with its "beliefs", "values", or whatever they're calling their own small minded views which bear no resemblance to facts or reality.

Tories ignore taxpayer-funded crime research
By BRUCE CHEADLE, The Canadian Press

"The most recent issue of “Criminological Highlights” published last month by the University of Toronto’s Centre of Criminology, with federal assistance, blows gaping holes in several of Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s most cherished anti-crime measures."

In the cross-hairs is mandatory minimum sentencing, loved dearly by all the Harperites who think they are the old testament god raining pain and punishment on the sinners and miscreants...unless it's one of their own, of course.

Rahim Jaffer, former MP for Edmonton Centre and married to present sitting MP Helena Guergis, was apprehended last year for speeding and driving dangerously, driving while intoxicated and possession of cocaine. Under Stevie's Tough-on-Crime laws, he would have been inside for about fifteen years. Instead, he got a dangerous driving rap, a $500 fine, and a walk - no criminal record.

"Mandatory penalties, says the research digest, “undermine the legitimacy of the prosecution process by fostering circumventions that are wilful and subterranean. They undermine . . . equality before the law when they cause comparably culpable offenders to be treated radically differently.”

In simpler language, people who can afford good lawyers cop backroom plea bargains to avoid harsh mandatory sentences, while the average Joe is hit hard."

The studies have shown that MM sentences do not deter crime, but the Tories just don't believe it. After all, what you "believe" is more important.

"What is certain is that mandatory minimum penalties increase prison populations at huge cost to taxpayers, which is why many U.S. states, New Zealand and Britain all are attempting to unwind such sentencing rules after many years of costly experience."

So, while the economy is tanking and people need help, the Tories want to expand prison building all over the country. One in Kingston, Ontario, had a farm attached to it that produced milk, eggs and other foodstuffs for the population, processed meat for the local livestock operations, and gave inmates experience in working in a business - orders, billing, shipping etc. Now the Harperites want to close the farm so that they can - ta, DAH! - build more prison space to house the expanding prison population.

Is this the new job creation program - lock up more people and then hire a bunch of out of work people to guard them? Is this sustainable? I don't think so.

So - why are they doing this? I think this guy might have the answer.

“The great appeal of mandatory minimum sentences is that they give politicians the appearance of doing something, of being seen to be doing something,” Craig Jones, the executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, said in a recent interview.

“You must never underestimate the need for politicians to be seen to be doing something — even if, in some cases, it’s the wrong thing.”

But Harper gets his inspiration from the movies, not research.
“Your personal experiences and impressions are wrong, they say; crime is really not a problem. These apologists remind me of the scene from the Wizard of Oz when the wizard says, ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”’

Harper's mephistophelean former chief of staff Ian Brodie said

"that informed criticism of the government’s justice agenda is a political gift: 'It helped us tremendously to be attacked by this coalition of university types.'"

I wonder if these guys would like someone with the least or no qualifications to operate on them, fix their car, wire their house or fly their plane. When it comes to government policy, they are basing their decisions on hot air and revenge. They aim not at the lowest common denominator but the lowest IQ that can sustain life.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The big Marjah lie, or the lie that Marjah is big

Good heavens! Is General Staley McChrystal and his army of COIN swallowers lying to us? No. Can't be.

Somehow, I'm more likely to believe Gareth Porter.

Fiction of Marjah as city was U.S. misinformation

"For weeks, the U.S. public followed the biggest offensive of the Afghanistan War against what it was told was a "city of 80,000 people" as well as the logistical hub of the Taliban in that part of Helmand. That idea was a central element in the overall impression built up in February that Marjah was a major strategic objective, more important than other district centers in Helmand.

It turns out, however, that the picture of Marjah presented by military officials and obediently reported by major news media is one of the clearest and most dramatic pieces of misinformation of the entire war, apparently aimed at hyping the offensive as a historic turning point in the conflict.

Marjah is not a city or even a real town, but either a few clusters of farmers’ homes or a large agricultural area covering much of the southern Helmand River Valley."

Go on. Check it out on Google Earth.

And even with such sparse population, they still managed to get it wrong and kill civilians and then cry big tears about it.

In April 2006, John Pilger, who's been reporting on disastrous wars and lying politicians for a long time, had this to say about unquestioning belief in his article The Real First Casualty of War:

"During the 1970s, I filmed secretly in Czechoslovakia, then a Stalinist dictatorship. The dissident novelist Zdenek Urbánek told me, "In one respect, we are more fortunate than you in the west. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and watch on television, nothing of the official truth. Unlike you, we have learned to read between the lines, because real truth is always subversive."

This acute skepticism, this skill of reading between the lines, is urgently needed in supposedly free societies today. Take the reporting of state-sponsored war. The oldest cliché is that truth is the first casualty of war. I disagree. Journalism is the first casualty. Not only that: it has become a weapon of war, a virulent censorship that goes unrecognized in the United States, Britain, and other democracies; censorship by omission, whose power is such that, in war, it can mean the difference between life and death for people in faraway countries, such as Iraq."

And the new guy, handpicked to oversee Marjah (with binoculars, I presume) and bring peace and stability?

New Afghan leader was jailed for attempted murder in Germany

"Abdul Zahir, the Afghan tribal leader chosen to bring law and order to the area cleared by the joint US and British troop surge, has previously been jailed for attempted murder.

Mr Zahir, who has been appointed as administrator for Marjah, was given a four-year sentence in Germany for stabbing his 18-year-old stepson with a kitchen knife.

He will now be in charge of bringing good government to the former Taliban stronghold targeted in Operation Moshtarak after being backed by President Hamid Karzai and US military commander General Stanley McChrystal."

Whoops. Looks like the Telegraph swallowed the "Taliban stronghold in Operation Moshtarek" organic fertilizer, too.

But the new Marjah mayor? He's - what can I say? - perfect.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Are we there yet? Turning corners with Petraeus.

Petraeus was in Ottawa yesterday, chatting to his military buddies. Don't blame me. I didn't invite him.

Really - these guys have got to get some new speechwriters.

Captions for this picture?

"David! Lovely to see you. Mwah!"

Afghan mission turning a corner, Petraeus says

“There's some minefields that you should go around rather than go through,” he quipped in response to a question on Ottawa's exit strategy.

I'm not much on military strategy here, but who in their right minds would choose to go through a minefield?

Later, speaking to reporters, he said: “Obviously, we always like to see everyone continue to pitch in.” But he added that military commanders will find ways to compensate for the loss of Canadian combat troops.

Pitch in? What is this, a barn raising or a pot-luck supper?

In the meantime, he said, the fight in southern Afghanistan will become yet tougher before the situation improves. Still, he argued that after nine years the war has turned a corner

Always darkest before the dawn, yadda, yadda. And exactly which corner would that be? The one you turned to avoid the minefield? What is this guy talking about?

“Having worked hard this past year to get the inputs right … now [the International Security Assistance Force] and its Afghan partners can start to see the progress that is possible,” he said.

Getting the inputs right is okay if you're setting up a sound system or working on a spreadsheet. I don't have the slighest idea what he's going on about here. What inputs? What makes them right? But the "we can start to see that progress is possible" is a total load of organic fertilizer.

Gen. Petraeus...[p]redicted that NATO will “regain the initiative from the insurgency” by following a counterinsurgency strategy similar to the one he followed as a commanding general in Iraq.

Yeah, that's going well.

The offensive in Helmand province to retake the town of Marjah will serve as a model for future operations in other Taliban strongholds, including Kandahar.

An aside. Once when I was traveling on a rather long plane trip from a northern location, I was sitting beside a cook from a lumber camp. Apart from a few tips on how to cook arctic char (landlocked salmon) he said that after cooking for hundreds at every meal, he was really bad at cooking for small groups. He said that recipes don't scale up or down very well, i.e. that cooking for one hundred people didn't just require multiplying a recipe for ten by ten. That's the kind of scale we're talking between Marjah and Kandahar.

Just saying.

“What we learned from Marjah was it's okay to announce that you're coming if you don't want to get into a slugfest right in the city you are trying to save,” Gen. Petraeus said. “That means some of the bad guys are going to get out the back door. That's okay, because we'll track them down. The objective is to secure the population.”

Slugfest, bad guys - sounds like comic book. Bam! Pow! Gotcha!

Ye gods.

“There's an Afghan clock, a Washington clock, an Ottawa clock and a lot of other clocks out there. … We know we've got to get on with it.”

Oh my gawd. He's added an Ottawa clock to all the other clocks.

Does anyone know what time it is?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The plan for future wars - NATO has the answer

I think we may be in a lot of trouble here.

Afghanistan a model for future crises: NATO

Afghanistan will serve as a prototype for future civil-military co-operation in handling crises in other weak or failing nations, says NATO's chief.

What planet is this guy living on?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The future face of Canada - white, ugly, and bigoted

Jason Kenney, the Immigration Minister for Canada, represents the ugly face of Canada in the future if the HarpoCons have their way.

Kenney blocked gay rights in citizenship guide: documents

"...Kenney told a session with Toronto-area Punjabi journalists that gays had every right to marry — as long as it wasn’t someone of the same sex."

Sorry, Mr. Kenney. I don't expect you to know this but gays have every right to marry whomever they please in Canada. You should know that. Spreading misinformation is unbecoming to a cabinet minister. It may even be illegal.

"...[K]enney appointed a longtime Conservative who opposes same-sex marriage to the Immigration and Refugee Board, which among other things makes decisions about whether gays can be given refugee status in Canada.

That sounds completely illegal. too. But what does the law matter to the HarpoCons.

When questioned by a gay rights group, Egale,

"...Kenney told the group that gay rights had been “overlooked” when the guide was being prepared, executive director Helen Kennedy said in an interview from Toronto."

That's either a baldfaced lie or you don't know what's going on in your own department. Neither looks very good in the old competence thing, does it, Jason? Thought nobody would notice?

"Kennedy expressed surprise when told draft versions of the guide did, in fact, contain references to gay rights and that they were ordered removed."

Is that your trousers I smell burning, Mr. Kenney, or is it the hellfire and brimstone under your feet?
"...The Canadian Press previously reported that other sections of the draft version of the guide were excised at the suggestion of the panel of prominent Canadians.

The deleted sections included one reference that said Canadian churches ran Indian residential schools, where aboriginal children were abused.

Oh, yeah, the residential schools thing, where children were sexually and physcially abused by sadistic or pedophilic religious figures, including Catholic priests.

Did I mention that Jason Kenney is an evangelical and vocal Roman Catholic, intent on foisting the church's beliefs on other Canadians who do not share them?

Amazing what gets left out if you have sufficient clout and money behind you, isn't it?

Monday, March 01, 2010

Canada voted against the UN Goldstone report resolution

Well done, Canada. By such short-sighted policy, you have put our country in grave danger and are now supportive of war crimes.

Harper and his cronies have put the rest of us in the august company of Israel, Nauru, Panama, Micronesia, Macedonia and the United States.

I'm so proud.

Of course.

Are liberals and atheists smarter?
Psychologist links teen IQ levels with adult views on religion, politics and family

In new research bound to irk conservative geniuses, people with high IQs are deemed more likely to be liberal, monogamous non-believers than those who are less intelligent.

A trial for David Frum - in a just world

Dr. Juan Cole, editor of the blog Informed Comment, mentioned our very own native son David Frum in his comment on February 18th.

The Decline of the Israeli Right and the Increasing Desperation of the 'Anti-Semitism' Charge

"...[F]rum, a Canadian who only became naturalized as a US citizen in 2007, was important in the early years of the Bush presidency and crafted many of the falsehoods and propaganda points that got up the Iraq War. He bears a heavy responsibility for the unnecessary deaths of over 4000 US military personnel, for the deaths of some 600,000 Iraqis, and for the displacement of nearly 4 million Iraqis. In a just world, David Frum would be on trial for his role in severe violations of international law, as would Bush, Cheney, Perle, and the rest of those bald-faced liars and warmongers."

In a just world...

David Frum's embracing U.S. citizenship might have been a clever move, as the U.S. does not recognize the ICC and would not extradite him to the Hague to be tried for war crimes.

Stephen Harper made his case for equating criticism of Israeli government policy with antisemitism back in 2008.

Harper also said, "Some of the criticism brewing in Canada against the state of Israel, including from some members of Parliament, is similar to the attitude of Nazi Germany in the Second World War, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned yesterday.

"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, which I think is completely unacceptable," Harper said in an interview with CJAD radio

This is both ignorant and dangerous.

But then, so are Stephen Harper and his policies. He puts us all in danger.

Stockwell Day, fundamentalist Christian, unquestioning Israel supporter and then Foreign Minister for Canada, signed an agreement with Israel which pretty well dragged us into defending Israel no matter what it did. He first denied then acknowledged that he had done this.

The matter came up again recently with the following pearls falling from the lips of Peter Kent, junior Foreign Affairs Minister:

Junior Foreign Affairs minister Peter Kent is suggesting Canada would rush to Israel's defence in a military confrontation, telling a Toronto publication that “an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada.”

But he later declined to say whether this means that Canada would automatically declare war on an aggressor attacking Israel.

Ahem! Excuse me! Don't the rest of us get any say in this?