Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This is what democracy looks like

It's 1.2 million people marching on Mexico City in 2006 to denounce the abrogation of their right to fair democratic representation by their government.
You know why I'm posting this picture.
For the second time in a year, Steve the Despot and Her Excellency of the Rubber Stamp have dismissed Parliament to avoid facing accountability for government actions. All 37 bills before the current Parliament will die, the motion to disclose government documents relating to the cover-up on Afghan detainees will die, parliamentary committees cannot sit, and by the time Parliament eventually resumes on March 3, Harper will have appointed 5 new Cons to the Senate giving him a possible majority on the Senate committees.
And he can do all this secure in the knowledge it's unlikely even one-millionth the number of protesters who marched on Mexico City to defend their right to a fair government will be marching on Ottawa.
So why is that?
We blame the corporate media, we blame the spineless opposition, we blame the non-voters.
We go shopping, we look down our noses at the US, we send each other cute pictures of cats.
How's that workin' for us so far?
We have a government elected by 20% of us which has set a precedent to dismiss Parliament whenever it gets into trouble.
Coyne ... Coyne! : "As Canadian democracy spirals further down the drain : In what other democracy is it permissible for the government of the day to hide from the legislature for months at a time?"
Siddiqui : "The extent of Harper's misuse of power becomes clearer when you realize that the Conservatives are replicating some of the worst practices of the Republicans under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney."
Boris : Resistance
One day we will look back on this time and say that this was when we lost it - the possibility of turning on our comfy little oligarchy into something that actually represents us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

GWOT - A Moveable Feast

Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan ... next stop - Yemen?

Since that guy who detonated his underwear on a plane on Christmas Day claimed to have been sent by the al-Qaeda network in Yemen in retaliation for US/Saudi bombing raids inside Yemen, Saudi policy analysts are popping up in the Globe and Mail to report that Yemen is now more dangerous to the West than Afghanistan:
The botched attack on the U.S. plane came a day after Yemeni forces, with the help of U.S. intelligence, launched the second of two major air and ground assaults on major al-Qaeda hideouts in Yemen. [Ed : Odd coincidence, that]

Anwar Eshki, the head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies based in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, said al-Qaeda in Yemen “is stronger than it was a year ago and is turning Yemen into its base for operations against the West."

Yemen is al-Qaeda's last resort,” Mr. Eshki said. “There's no doubt that al-Qaeda's presence in Yemen is more dangerous than its presence in Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, home to 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hi-jackers, has been helping the US-backed Yemeni president with his Operation Scorched Earth assault against the minority Shiite Huthis, using "fighter-bombers, helicopters, heavy artillery and special forces" and shelling well into Yemen.

Once again the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies was on hand to explain :

"From the Saudi point of view the existence of a Huthi 'state' with the support of Iran is intolerable. They are going to squeeze the Huthis, to shut them down," he said.

The Saudis seek to create a permanent 20-kilometre (12 mile) wide no-go zone straddling the border, and has vacated scores of villages on the Saudi side to that end, according to regional security expert Anwar Eshki.

"The problem in Yemen gave us a good chance to fix our border problem," said the former Saudi general, head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah.

And right on schedule, from The Times, today:
Hundreds of al-Qaeda militants are planning terror attacks from Yemen, the country’s Foreign Minister said today.
“They may actually plan attacks like the one we have just had in Detroit.
There are maybe hundreds of them — 200, 300.”
The Global War On Terror moves on ...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

North American security perimeter ... again

Yet another article PR piece telling us how the Canada-US border can become 'wafer thin' again, if only we just agree to get inside a North American security perimeter ...

reads the Star headline while supplying no evidence to support it.

Apparently, however, "the more knowledgeable watchers of the cross-border condition suggest Canadians are ready".
Like the director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, concern-trolling about Canada's pig-headed insistance on remaining Canada :
"Perimeter is no longer a dirty word. It's beginning to come up again, at least in academic circles," says David Biette
... whose 'academic circle' includes fellow University of Calgary academic advisor Robert Pastor, Vice Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations 2005 Task Force on the Future of North America:

"The Task Force's central recommendation is establishment by 2010 of a North American economic and security community, the boundaries of which would be defined by a common external tariff and an outer security perimeter."

Falling a little behind on that 2010 schedule, aren't we?

Back to Biette in The Star :

"Canada has done so well by NAFTA and we are seeing the emergence of a new generation of more confident, culturally secure Canadians. The old Toronto nationalists of the 1960s were essential to building the idea of a postmodern Canada, but now they're starting to die off."
Former US ambassador to Canada Gordon Giffin, whose"one security perimeter" proposal met a very chilly reception in Canada in 1999, also gets trotted out :
"Those old Canadian worries now sound soooo 20th-century, says Giffin.
"Those old cultural arguments sound like dinosaur-speak today. The world just sort of passed them by," Giffin told the Star.
Whereas by comparison, the deep integration fans are just bristling with fun new ideas.

"Being different from the United States for the sake of being different is irresponsible and an abdication of the national interest. Letting foreign policy be driven by public opinion (particularly when public opinion is an emotional reaction to whatever George W. Bush does) shows a lack of leadership. This was particularly evident in the debate over Canada’s potential participation in ballistic missile defence, something the government had requested before it let the public opinion tail wag the foreign policy dog. If the government changes policies at the whims of public opinion, how reliably will Canada be viewed?"
Let's have that one more time :
"Letting foreign policy be driven by public opinion shows a lack of leadership.
If the government changes policies at the whims of public opinion, how reliably will Canada be viewed?"
Oh, democracy and public opinion. Sooooo '20th century'. Sooooo 'dinosaur-speak'.

I'm guessing a militarized NAFTA in the form of a North American security perimeter would be the end of all that public opinion nonsense.

Canada warms to the idea, indeed.

With thanks to West End Bob for the heads up.
Update : Harebell says What security perimeter?! And provides a nice pie chart.

Christmas security theatre

Within days of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama's announcement that US cruise missiles attacked Yemen in his ever-expanding war on terror, the Christmas Day bomber shows up on a flight to Detroit in his suicide underwear - on instruction, he says, from Al Qaeda in Yemen.
Make of that what you will.

In response, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced new security rules for flights inbound to the US :
~physical pat down at departure
~only one piece of hand luggage per customer and no access to it during the final hour of the flight
~all customers must remain in their seats for the final hour of the flight
None of these new measures would have prevented Captain Underpants from detonating his underwear an hour and five minutes before arrival. As with the shoe bomber in 2001, it was the terrorist's incompetence and plucky passengers who saved the plane.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

KAIROS - Jason Kenney digs himself a deeper hole

Really, Jason, I didn't think you could make this any worse.

G&M, today : In a media release issued from Jerusalem, Mr. Kenney explained his decision to cut off funds to the church aid group KAIROS :
"Our government is working to dismantle the client relationship that existed between the government of Canada and organizations whose priority is seemingly to advocate for the legalization of banned terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as deny the Jewish people's right to a homeland."
KAIROS - as one might expect of a group comprised of the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops - is of course a very strong supporter of "the Jewish people's right to a homeland".
Its website also says it is opposed to boycotts and sanctions against Israel.

Back to the G&M :
Mr. Kenney's office referred - as did the Canada-Israel Committee, an influential Jewish body - to statements from NGO Monitor, an Israeli organization that says it analyzes "the misuse of development aid funds in the Israeli-Arab conflict zone by highly partisan Canadian NGOs such as Kairos."
And previously, on Dec 17th in The Sun :
"Kenney’s office pointed to critical comments made by an Israel-based group. The NGO Monitor said KAIROS is a “main supporter of the anti-Israel divestment movement in Canada..."
Ok, that's twice now Kenney's office has cited NGO Monitor as the source of his intel on KAIROS and for his decision to libel and defund KAIROS from the podium at a conference in Israel.

So who is NGO Monitor? ... *google google google* ...
A rightwing US-funded Israeli lobby group which has been agitating against Canadian government funding for KAIROS since 2004 as part of their 'name and shame' program.
NGO Monitor board members include Alan Dershowitz, James Woolsey, and Elliot Abrams, and coincidentally, the president of NGOM Gerald Steinberg is chair of a panel at the same anti-Semitism conference in Israel from which Jason Kenney denounced KAIROS.

NGOM sure don't like KAIROS :
"KAIROS demonizes Israel through accusations of “war crimes” and “collective punishment."
...they write, while curiously providing a link to a KAIROS letter to Stephen Harper which condemns the attacks on civilians by both Israelis and Palestinians.

They also don't much like Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Ford Foundation, the BBC, numerous Israeli human rights groups, the Israeli soldiers who testified about Israel's atrocities during the Gaza seige, or the Goldstone Report.

Well done, Jason. Really.
NGOM is free to carry on its support for the policies of Israel's military as it chooses, while occasionally getting smacked down for its embarrassing biases .

But you, you made it Canadian government policy and then you announced it on foreign soil.
Dec 24 Update : Jason Kenney sends word that since all the major churches in Canada are royally pissed with him for announcing in Israel last week that KAIROS had its funding cut off for anti-Semitism, he would now like us all to forget what he and his spokesweasel said and blame Bev Oda instead.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

KAIROS - The new anti-Semitism vs the churches of Canada

Former American Enterprise Institute alumnus and currently director of communications for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney Alykhan Velshi explained the government decision to cut off funding for the Christian aid group KAIROS by "citing several non-government sources of information on Middle East political issues going back to 2006 that were critical of KAIROS's activities":

Kenney’s office pointed to critical comments made by an Israel-based group. The NGO Monitor said KAIROS is a “main supporter of the anti-Israel divestment movement in Canada.”

"Kenney’s office also pointed to a 2006 press release from B’nai Brith and Canadian Christian College president Charles McVety calling on CIDA to stop funding KAIROS."

Speaking at a forum in Israel, Kenney cited the decision to cut funding to KAIROS as an example of one of the steps the Conservative government has taken to fight anti-Semitism.
Members of the KAIROS aid group - the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Mennonite Central Committee - are understandably pissed :

"It's a horrible charge to make, and to do it with so little thought cheapens the reality of anti-Semitism in the world and diminishes the very careful attention that it deserves," said United Church spokesperson Bruce Gregersen.

"The policies of KAIROS have all been approved by the collective board of KAIROS, so in a sense what Mr. Kenney is doing is accusing Canadian churches of being anti-Semitic and I think that's really unfortunate," Gregersen said in an interview.

"Minister Kenney's charge against KAIROS is false."

You guys haven't being paying attention, have you?
Sending aid to Palestine is criticism of Israel. Criticism of Israel is the new anti-Semitism.
Kenney made his ridiculous fawning speech announcing the reason for the funding cut to KAIROS from the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, where he was accompanied by Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism co-chairs Lib MP Mario Silva and Con MP ScottReid, along with IACCA founding member, Lib MP Irwin Cotler.

The chair of the conference, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, laid it out in his opening remarks : "Being anti-Israel is the new anti-Semitism".
From KAIROS : Seven ways to support KAIROS, including a petition.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Harper says "very comfortable" with being led by the US

on the world stage.

After the United States hammered out an agreement with 19 other major powers at an emergency meeting in Copenhagen to which Canada was not invited, Harper said Canada had been represented by the U.S. and "a group of close allies" :
"What will be most critical for Canada in terms of filling out the details of our regulatory framework will be the regulatory framework being developed in the United States.
The nature of the Canadian economy and the nature of our integrated energy markets is such that Canada and the United States need to be closely harmonized on this.
If the Americans don’t act, it will severely limit our ability to act. But if Americans do act, it is absolutely essential that we act in concert with them."
This was Harper's first public statement at the conference. Previously Environment Minister Jim Prentice made a 3 minute speech in the middle of the night which did not mention targets.

Harper's promise to put Canada back on the world stage ...
After winning eight Fossil of the Day awards over two weeks at Copenhagen, Canada capped it off by getting the grand Colossal Fossil of the Year Award for being the worst-performing country at the talks and the "the country which has done the most day after day to prevent a climate treaty."

Canada repeatedly blocked progress on setting tough targets and committing to international financing for developing countries.

While industrialized countries as a group must establish targets 25-40% below 1990 levels according to climate scientists, Canada's greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are the equivalent to 3% below 1990 levels by the year 2020 and even that is apparently negotiable.

So now we'll just have to wait and see what the US wants Harper to do.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Richard Colvin's devastating letter of rebuttal

On Airshow MacKay's attempt to discredit Colvin by accusing him of not having brought up detainee abuse the one time MacKay met with Colvin in Afghanistan :
He, Colvin, had only been on the job for 10 days and had not met with any detainees yet.
And even if he had, protocol was to report to DFAIT, not the minister.

On Christie Blatchford's Con-fed column that Colvin had only been outside the wire once :
Colvin : 'Outside the wire' in Kandahar at least 11 times, in Kabul over 500 times.

On the claim his reports in 2006 did not use the word 'torture' :
Colvin : Six reports, one including the phrase " rife with torture"

On the government claim it heard no allegations of "torture" prior to April 2007:
Colvin : "... in early March 2007, I informed an interagency meeting of some 12 to 15 officials in Ottawa that, 'The NDS tortures people, that's what they do, and if we don't want our detainees tortured, we shouldn't give them to the NDS.' ... The response from the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) note-taker was to stop writing and put down her pen."

On the claim that it was only insurgents and Taliban who were detained:
Colvin : "... it was the NDS that told us that many or most of our detainees were unconnected to the insurgency. This assessment was reported to Ottawa. The NDS also told us that, because the intelligence value of Canadian-transferred detainees was so low, it did not want them."

On the government claim that it took action as soon as it was informed of abuse :
They were informed repeatedly of the risk of torture, the deficiencies of Canada's monitoring system, and delays in reports to the ICRC in 2006 in reports from the Provincial Reconstruction Team, the US State Department, and the US Secretary General. They finally sent someone in October 2007 who immediately confirmed torture.
The government also twice intervened to keep a torturer named by the PRT in place.

On Interdepartmental Coordinator for Afghanistan David Mulroney's statement that the only reason reports were edited was to remove 'opinion' or 'non‐fact based' information.
Colvin : Embassy staffers were told that they should not report information, however accurate, that conflicted with the government's public messaging. Ambassador Lalani instructed that we not report that the security situation was deteriorating.
In September 2007, an embassy staffer, in response to a written request from DFAIT's Afghanistan Taskforce to contribute to a security assessment by one of our NATO allies, sent a report that security in Kandahar had got worse and was likely to further deteriorate. Mr. Mulroney severely rebuked the officer in writing.

On Assistant Deputy Minister Colleen Swords' testimony that she told Colvin to phone first, write later :
Colvin : "Her message to me was that I should use the phone instead of writing..."

On the claim from Goldie, Gallant, MacKay, Abbott that "Afghan detainees are trained to claim torture."
Colvin : They are not Al Qaeda; they are peasants. We arrest them and turn them over to torturers. Why would they make any claims of torture, false or otherwise, to us? They don't trust us. Besides, reports of torture based on physical exams, not testimony.

And so on and so on. Absolutely devastating.

When Colvin originally testified at the Afghan Committee, he was just doing his job - appearing as summoned. As he stated today - he is not a whistleblower.
Today's letter, on what he politely termed the "inaccuracies" of the government's witnesses and MPs and camp followers, is even more damaging than his original testimony.

Government response?
Fucking idiot Goldie Hawn : "Now is not the time to accuse our troops of war crimes."
Peter MacKay's spokesweasel, Dan Dugas : "We reject all assertions that Canadian troops have committed war crimes."

Which is interesting in light of Colvin's letter. Note that he does not even obliquely lay blame on the military brass, never mind the troops.
Nope, it's all on MacKay, DFAIT and the Privy Council Office.
And this is why Harper has refused to release the docs to Peter Tinsley's Military Police Complaints Committee and the Afghan Committee, has fired Peter Tinsley, has intimidated witnesses from appearing before the Afghan committee, has refused to allow the Afghan Committee to continue their investigation, and has refused to call a public inquiry as voted on by the House.

All because one civil servant insisted on doing his job.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Con MPs boycott Afghan Committee today

Con Committee chair Rick Casson confirmed today's meeting with the opposition MPs but did not bother to tell them that neither he nor any of the other Con MPs would be showing up.
As the committee requires a quorum of seven to convene and only the six MPs from the opposition parties showed up, the committee could not go ahead as planned.

That the Cons are dipping into their dirty tricks manual on how to disrupt committees again does not surprise, but the Cons primary argument against having the public inquiry into the whole detainees mess - passed as a motion in the House and then ignored -has been that it is already being dealt with in this committee.

The Cowardly Cons on the Afghan Special Committee :
Rick Casson , Chair : ,
Jim Abbott : ,
Goldie Hawn : ,
Greg Kerr : ,
Deepak Obhrai : ,
Dave MacKenzie : .

Send them a feather.

Possibly none of them wanted to deal with reports from today that British Colonel Dudley Giles, a senior military police officer with NATO's International Security Assistance Force, complained to the Canadian embassy in Kabul in August 2006 that
"Canada was stonewalling on providing basic information on the Afghans it was capturing."
or that
"a memo from Canadian NATO staffer Anne Burgess alerted the government on Sept. 11 2006 to the fact that the ICRC had singled out Canada's practice of handing over prisoners to the Afghans on the battlefield."

And if there's anyone left, aside from the Cowardly Cons, who still doesn't think it much matters what is done in our name a long way from home, either Dave or Boris will explain it to you.

A picture is worth ... in this case only about five words

and those five words are "I gotta change the story", spoken by Environment Minister Jim Prentice's chief of staff Steve Kelly.
Seems Jim's press people "distributed a release for a photo-op of U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Prentice" but the US delegation wasn't having any of it.
Toby Heaps : U.S. snubs Canada
"Over the course of 10 minutes, Kelly repeatedly asked the U.S. delegation official to reconsider, to which the U.S. delegation official replied, negative.
When Kelly asked for this to be taken up the chain of command, the U.S. delegation official replied "it came from pretty high up. It's not going to happen."

The U.S. official said he didn't understand why the photograph was so important, to which Kelly replied "we were carpetbagged this morning by (environmental non-governmental organizations) with a false press release, I gotta change the story."
So much for Jim's airy dismissal of The Yes Men hoax.
But no big photo op transpired for Jim. Instead a staffer snapped the one above - a picture of a snub, distinctly lacking in the symbols of happy handshaking against a backdrop of COP15 logos.
And this even after Steve announced that given the integration of Canada's economy with that of the US, there was really not much point in Canada having an independent environmental position of our own.
Heaps : "It makes you wonder when the U.S. Secretary of Energy is embarrassed to have a public photograph taken with the Canadian Minister of the Environment."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Canada punk'd at COP15

This is classic Yes Men, who have been gaily twittering about the prank without actually, um, copping to it.

First there was this morning's grand announcement from Environment Minister Jim Prentice of Canada's "ambitious plan for a new climate change framework that answers vital concerns voiced by developing nations" and the "strict new emissions-reductions guidelines for Canada" along with generous "financing for vulnerable countries beginning in 2010."
Except it wasn't true.

Neither was the article covering the press release in the credible-looking but not really WSJ.
Nor the follow-up press release from Environment Canada deploring the prank :

"OTTAWA, Ont. -- December 14, 2009 -- One hour ago, a spoof press release targeted Canada in order to generate hurtful rumors and mislead the Conference of Parties on Canada's positions on climate change, and to damage Canada's standing with the international business community.

The Canadian government wishes to note that in addition to misleading the world on Canada's energy stance, today's impostors generated a cascading series of hopes that culminated in the delivery, by the Ugandan delegation, of an impassioned speech in today's COP-15 press briefing. "

"Hurtful rumours" Heh.
And about that "impassioned speech" by the Ugandan delegate at COP15 seen on video here :

The Ugandan delegation convened a press event shortly after the surprise Canadian announcement, in a breakthrough moment for a summit marked until now largely by gridlock. Delegates, NGO representatives and members of the press crowded the room to listen to the impromptu address, although delegates from the United States, the UK and China were largely absent.

"This is the day that will define our century," said Margaret Matembe, MP and member of the Climate Committee of Uganda. "Today, we no longer have to wait for a COP20 or COP100 before the voices of our children are heard."

... I can't find "Margaret Matembe, MP and member of the Climate Committee of Uganda" on Google.

Classic Yes Men.
Also ... Kady ... ACR ... and Rusty Idols who called it first.
Update : CBC : Who's behind the hoax?
"A second fake press release pointed us to which is a whole lot closer to the real deal but still not legit.That site is reportedly registered to the Friends of Science Commission. The phone number worked, but reached a very annoyed woman who was definitely NOT associated with the group.
Friends of Science DOES exist. It's an organization that believes climate change does not exist ...".
Heh. A Friends of Science link - excellent!

Not "celebratory" enough for ya?

The City of Vancouver ordered the removal of the above mural from the public artspace outside the Downtown Eastside's The Crying Room gallery on the grounds it is "graffiti".
Artist Jesse Corcoran works at a homeless shelter: "The oppressive nature of the Games is what I wanted to capture and how the majority is suffering for the minority."
Gallery owner Colleen Heslin says it is the first time in ten years the city has ordered her to remove a work of art.
Vancouver spokesperson Theresa Beer says : "It has nothing to do with content."
"Given the long and uninterrupted display of public art at this gallery, the tolerance of the City to date, the content of the mural, and the stipulations of the IOC and VANOC in limiting anti-Olympic expression, it certainly appears to be more than simple coincidence that the City has chosen this mural, at this time, to take exception to the Gallery's actions."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Con coverup - the smoking gun

Richard Colvin sent Peter Mackay reports warning of torture until Peter MacKay's department told him to stop.
Peter MacKay denied receiving Colvin's reports until it was proven his department did indeed receive them. Ah but he did not see them himself claimed Pete six separate times in the House.

On Tuesday General Natynczyk announced that the beaten detainee was in fact a Canadian detainee and thus a Canadian responsibility.
Peter MacKay said the General's surprise statement was the first time he had heard of it.

Unfortunately for Pete, on Thursday in the House, Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded to questions about General Natynzyk's announcement thusly :
"... that particular incident has been public knowledge for a long time now"
"... the leader of the NDP speaks of facts that have been on the public record for a couple of years."

About that 'public record' ...
This is what the Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Battle Group sergeant wrote in June 2006 about the Afghan detainee who was beaten up:
"We then photographed the individual prior to handing him over, to ensure that if the ANP did assault him, as has happened in the past, we would have a visual record of his condition."
but this is what the government sent to the Military Police Complaints Commission:

"We then photographed the individual prior to handing him over (redacted)."

The redacted portion states that the Afghan National Police has a history of assaulting Canadian detainees. This is not a matter of national security. This is not a matter of defending the actions of the troops. This is a matter of covering up complicity in detainee abuse by those who knew, in Steve's happy phrase, about "facts that have been on the public record for a couple of years."

Steve will let Pete hold that smoking gun for a while.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How's our national media handling the constitutional crisis then?

You know, the one wherein just yesterday Harper imagined he was George Bush and told Parliament to go cheney itself because he is in charge and democracy is for wusses.

Behold : from the front pages of five national papers today :

And as Thwap noted earlier - ditto CBC.

The media put serious wood into emotional concern-trolling about the troops and national security. Now that it's obvious the real issue is about Parliament's oversight over the government, suddenly they've all turned into paper tigers.

Dave - pissed off and rightly so .

Gates touts his support for torture school

Photo snagged from Pacific Free Press

Gates touts support for WHINSEC in Halifax

Every November, thousands gather at Fort Benning, Georgia, to demand closure of the School of the Americas, renamed "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation" in 2001, for the disappearances, torture and the murder of hundreds of thousands of peasants, community and union organizers, clerics, missionaries, educators, and health workers in Latin America. This year's vigil marked the 20th anniversary of the 1989 SOA graduate-led Jesuit massacre in San Salvador and focuses on the current SOA graduate-led coup in Honduras.
The protestors are hopeful. During his election campaign, Obama made sympathetic noises about closing down the school and last year Congress came within 6 votes of cutting off its Dept. of Defense funding.

So I was somewhat surprised to read that on the same weekend as the SOA/WHINSEC vigil, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates was up in Canada touting his support for WHINSEC. Prior to giving the keynote address to the Halifax International Security Forum - a closed shop affair for top brass from NATO countries to speak freely on matters of mutual concern - Gates gave one public presser with Defensive Minister Peter MacKay that I only just now got around to reading, courtesy of the US Defense Dept.

Gates, Deputy Director of the CIA to Ronald Reagan during Iran-Contra, Director of the CIA to GHW Bush, and Secretary of Defense to both George Bush and currently Barack Obama :
"The United States has made it a point to integrate human rights instruction into our joint training and education in programs such as the Western Hemispheric (sic) Institute for Security Cooperation."
Really? After all the coups, the disappearances, the brutal dictators, the now recalled torture manuals, isn't that rather like teaching a pig to sing?

Apologists for WHINSEC, which does indeed have mandatory human rights classes now, say it is not fair to judge the school on the basis of its graduates, that some pretty nasty characters likely came out of schools like Yale also and we don't lobby to have Yale shut down. I disagree. If a large proportion of nasty events featured Yale grads and if the Pentagon subsequently also had all their names classified, then yes, I think it's likely you could move Congress to within 6 votes of shutting it down.

For more of Gates' ideas on militarized solutions to climate change and to hear Airshow MacKay call him Bob, the presser transcript is here.

Irony note : Much of the groundwork for tracking SOA/WHINSEC over three decades has been done by Father Roy Bourgeois, a Viet Nam vet with a Purple Heart who founded SOA Watch after experiencing atrocities in Latin America. Since then, he has spent over four years in US federal prisons for nonviolent protests against the training of Latin American soldiers at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

This year he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hansard Quotes of the Day

Among the many fakeries and falsehoods foisted on the House yesterday by the Cons in their bid to maintain the most secretive and unaccountable government evah, usual frontrunners Laurie Goldie Hawn and Cheryl Gallant got beat out by Gary Goodyear, Minister of Creationism, Science, and Technology.
Here he is explaining why the motion to release documents the government had already supplied to Christie Blatchford and friendly Afghan committee witnesses but not to the Afghan committee members or Richard Colvin, who wrote some of them, would be a very. very. bad. thing.
"Madam Speaker, perhaps I will just make a comment. The fact is that we are debating a motion here that is asking the government to release information that could in fact entail something as simple as a soldier's name, middle name, address and perhaps phone number. It is information that the Taliban are hoping they can get their hands on, not just to attack that soldier but also potentially to put the family of the soldier at risk."
And that, boys and girls, is why the dates and the word torture must be blacked out on Richard Colvin's three year old reports.

Second prize goes to Goldie, who characterized a Canadian soldier's reports of extrajudicial killings and torture as :
"one Taliban got hit with a shoe"
and for the following rhetorical flight of irrelevancy :

"When it comes to the big ticket items of national unity and doing the right thing on the international stage, Liberals and Conservatives have always spoken with the same voice. That is the voice of freedom, it is the voice of courage, it is the voice of doing the right thing for Canadian men and women here and abroad, people like the people of Holland in 1944-45..."

Gallant takes third place for her accusation on two separate occasions that personal info about soldiers would be twittered straight from the Afghan committee to the Taliban, a point seconded by Jim Abbott who is himself on the committee.

Honourable mention - Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Abandoning Canadians Overseas, for : "We are at war."

Steve and Airshow MacKay had no new material - just the same accusations that not supporting the Cons' contempt for parliament is the same thing as attacking the troops.
High point : a brilliant speech by Paul Dewar.

The motion to release to the Afghan committee documents related to the care and detention of Afghan prisoners passed by 145 to 143. Steve has no intention of honouring that vote.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who here believes in parliamentary democracy?

Come on - hands up.
Yes, quite a few of us actually.
Yet judging from the vote in the House today on a motion demanding the release of uncensored government documents to the Special Committee on Afghanistan charged with oversight of the 'mission', almost half of our elected MPs do not. The motion passed by a mere 2 votes - 145 to 143. I find that quite astonishing.

The docs, already made available to journos and committee witnesses sympathetic to the Cons but not released to the committee, would not be disclosed to you, me, and the national press. The docs could remain in camera. Yet even that amount of parliamentary oversight is too much for the almost half of the people we elected to represent us who apparently do not much care for the concept of parliamentary privilege.

So I have to ask - what do they think they doing there?

Cons to privatize Afghan war after 2011?

David Pugliese :

"Canada is sending two surveillance aircraft to Afghanistan in a move some defence analysts see as laying the groundwork for a military mission in Kandahar beyond the announced 2011 pullout date.

Although the federal government has not made any details public, the U.S. army issued a news release on Monday that an American company had been awarded a $12-million contract to modify two aircraft being provided by Canada.
Work on the surveillance planes would be done in the U.S. and in Afghanistan and would be completed by June 15, 2011.

Stephen Priestley, a researcher with the Canadian-American Strategic Review, said what Canada is doing with the King Air planes is similar to programs undertaken by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

He noted that if Canada uses private contractors to fly the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, it could say it was contributing to Afghan security in a non-military way.

“It might be argued that ISR flights are not directly related to combat,” Priestley added.
“Seen in that light, performing ISR over Kandahar would not be regarded as an extension of the CF’s combat mission.” "

Thanks to the US Army for the heads up.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ok, John, seeing as you put it that way...

Rising to a question in the House yesterday as to why the Cons refused to act on first-hand accounts of detainee abuse in Afghan jails from troops, John Baird responded by asking why the leader of the opposition does not trust the word of "General Walter Natynczyk, a decorated war hero, someone who has served our country in uniform for decades"?

OK, John, seeing as you put it that way, we'll go with the general's account then.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Harper Says Global Recovery Must Precede Environment

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he will use Canada’s co-chairmanship of next year’s Group of 20 countries meeting to urge members to put economic recovery before efforts to protect the environment.

"Without the wealth that comes from growth, the environmental threats, the developmental challenges and the peace and security issues facing the world will be exponentially more difficult to deal with," Harper said in an address to South Korea’s National Assembly.

Fuck the planet! Go, tarsands, go! he did not need to add, as he left for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

This must be what CannedWest Ian MacDonald meant yesterday when he referred to Harper as "magisterial" and described how he "has assumed the mantle as well as the office."

Monday, December 07, 2009

Greenpeace occupies Parliament roofs

On the opening day of COP15, Greenpeace activists scale Parliament buildings and hang two 12 x 7 meter banners : "Harper/Ignatieff - Climate inaction costs lives."
Media mostly goes with the security angle : How dey do dat? and "Since 9/11 ..."
Greenpeace covers their own story here.

Peter MacKay vs the evidence

Paul Koring :

"In one well-documented case in the summer of 2006, Canadian soldiers captured and handed over a detainee who was so severely beaten by Afghan police that the Canadians intervened and took the detainee back. Canadian medics then treated the man's injuries. The incident is documented in the field notes of Canadian troops, recounted in a sworn affidavit by a senior officer and confirmed in cross-examination by a general."
Peter MacKay :
"There has never been a single, solitary, proven allegation of abuse of a detainee, a Taliban prisoner, transferred by Canadian Forces.” Dec. 2 in the House of Commons

“Mr. Speaker, there has not been a single, solitary, proven allegation of a prisoner being abused that was transferred from the Canadian Forces.” Nov. 23 in the House of Commons

“We do want to hear from individuals who can bring forward credible, proven allegations, not just recitations of what was heard, what was passed on, what was read in reports, or what was disclosed by Taliban prisoners themselves. That is what the evidence is so far. We have not seen a single scintilla of proof.” Nov. 23 in the House of Commons

“There has never been a single proven allegation of abuse involving a prisoner transferred by the Canadian Forces, not one.” Nov. 23 in the House of Commons

What next, Pete? You were sadly misinformed by your generals? Your base doesn't give a shit about the Geneva conventions? What? I'm guessing Pete will go with blaming the generals.
MacKay's spokesweasel Dan Dugas lays the groundwork :
The minister's spokesman said Sunday that Mr. MacKay was standing by his repeated denials.
“He has said what he has said based on the advice of generals and senior officials in the department."

... all of which would carry slightly more weight had we not already heard from foreign affairs and defence officials via Murray Brewster that they had been instructed by "senior officials in the Privy Council Office (and reinforced in follow-up conferences between Ottawa and Kabul, as well Ottawa and Kandahar) to "hold back information in their reports to Ottawa about the handling of the prisoners" that didn't promote "a happy face".

Friday, December 04, 2009

Airshow MacKay's 'catch and release yokel program'

Then, Nov 23 :
"Concerns about the treatment of Afghan prisoners prompted Canadian soldiers to halt the transfer of detainees three times over the course of the last year, says Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
MacKay said the suspensions followed the refusal by Afghan authorities to abide by an agreement that guaranteed access to prisons where the detainees were being held.
"Most recently the reason that the transfers stopped was that the Afghan officials were not living up to ... expectations," MacKay said."

Sounds like Airshow MacKay is staking out the high moral ground here, until Today :

"Afghanistan's intelligence service refused to accept Canadian-captured prisoners over the summer because the military was providing "insufficient evidence" of wrongdoing, The Canadian Press has learned.

And so with little or no evidence to hold suspects, the spy agency has been releasing them - to the dismay of the Canadian military."


"Canada's top two commanders in Afghanistan in spring 2006 told investigators the government pressured them to transfer detainees to Afghan authorities faster than they felt was appropriate, CBC News has learned.

[Brig.-Gen. David] Fraser and [Lt.-Col. Tom] Putt said the military's interest in detainees ended as soon as the prisoners were transferred. The military didn't monitor their condition — that was not its jurisdiction, Fraser said.
And the government's position was that monitoring detainees was an Afghan problem.

Putt's testimony also suggests Canadian troops frequently weren't capturing high-value Taliban targets — an assertion [Richard] Colvin first raised two weeks ago

"I mean, we were basically capturing a local yokel, " Putt said. "Detaining the local yokels and handing them off."

What a surprise : Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of all alliance forces in Afghanistan, says Violence in Afghanistan has increased 300% since 2007. even as President Obama was making his major surge speech:
"And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights and tend for the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are; that is the source, the moral source of America's author."

"And just as America can't afford to abandon this war, surely it can't afford to abandon the Afghan people, who without the American military would be left to the savage whims of their hated enemy, the Afghan people. Indeed, it remains America's solemn duty as the leader of the free world to bring freedom and security to the Afghan people by hunting down and eliminating the Afghan people. Nor can America forget its own national security, and the dire threat posed by the Afghan people to our war against the Afghan people."

Correction : The second paragraph above was mistakenly attibuted to President Obama earlier today. It has since come to our attention it was actually written by Fafblog.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

We can't stop here! This is bat country!

Today in the House, Paul Dewar moved for an independent "Public Inquiry into the transfer of detainees in Canadian custody to Afghan authorities from 2001 to 2009."
It passed 146 to 129, not that this means we'll actually get one.

Here, via Hansard, Con MP Cheryl Gallant presents the Cons' closing argument for why we should not pursue an independent inquiry, unsullied by partisan political gamesmanship :

"Mr. Speaker, on the weekend I had an opportunity to speak to a soldier from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa who had served several rotations in Afghanistan.

He urged me not to go forth with an inquiry on this issue. He said that every time the Afghan deployment is debated in Parliament, it puts the lives of our soldiers in theatre at greater risk. He recounted that when the motion to withdraw from Afghanistan or to end the combat mission in 2011 was before Parliament, they were in a operation where they heard the insurgents on the radio saying to each other that they should kill as many Canadian soldiers as possible because we were debating this in the House of Commons and that when Canadians saw the caskets of soldiers coming off the plane it increased public pressure. They wanted the MPs to vote to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible.

I asked him if they listened to Al Jazeera while they were fighting at the front, so to speak, and he said, “No, ma'am. We heard this chatter on our coms”.

So they had heard Taliban talking to one another, urging each other to kill as many Canadian soldiers as possible. He credits the leader of the NDP directly for the death of his best friend as a consequence of that."

Mrs. Gallant's musings can frequently be heard from her perch on the Parliamentary Committee of National Defence.
h/t Scott

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