Sunday, September 23, 2007

1/4 of Canada's Afghan Prisoners Unaccounted For

From the Saturday, September 22nd, 2007 Globe & Mail, we don't know where 50 of the 200 prisoners we've taken in Afghanistan are. We don't know what's happened to them. But Canada's New Government is tapping its toes and thinking happy thoughts:


KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Canada still can't account for at least 50 prisoners it captured and turned over to Afghan authorities, several sources say, frustrating efforts to put to rest concerns the detainees were subject to torture.

Canadian sources offered a benign explanation for their disappearance, blaming the Afghans' shoddy record-keeping and suggesting the detainees have likely returned safely to their homes.

Canada's own diplomatic reporting has already warned of complaints that captives are sometimes killed inside Afghan prisons.

“Extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial are all too common,” a report last year said.

The sort of thing that could be happening to prisoners we've turned over to the Afghans is reflected in the story of a wealthy Afghan farmer whose brother and another man were arrested in his fields close to a highway where a roadside bomb had gone off, killing one Afghan police officer. The surviving officers arrested the man's brother and the other man, and took them to an illegal prison (one of many, apparently) in Kandahar. The man was able to ransom his brother, but the other man, having no wealthy relatives to save him was found in a gutter, practically flayed, with his throat slit.

This happens to people arrested by underpaid police officers who most likely come from one of the powerful warlord groups that make up "Afghanistan's New Government," and which embody that culture of violence and criminality. The Afghan citizen had some final words for the reporter:

"These problems will belong to the Canadians in the end,” he said. “You have friendships with killers.”


On the very same day that this excellent, sobering reporting appeared, the Globe & Mail's editorial board (containing, I hear, the infamous Marcus Gee, a man whose stenographic talents rival those of the Washington Press Corps) produced a vapid, ridiculous lead editorial about how we have to "stay the course" in Afghanistan.

Why? Why must we continue to create enemies, capture some of them, and hand them over to be flayed alive? The Globe editors don't really have much to say:


There is a strong case for extending the deployment of Canada's troops in Kandahar itself. it is a dangerous place. It is also a place where this country, through the bravery and sacrifice of its soldiers, has been able to make a difference in the world.


I think somebody got confused. That's not a "strong case." That's a weak case. What? If I go into a roadside bar to ask for directions and I find it's full of cannibal bikers I should stay because I've found myself in a dangerous place? Maybe I could "make a difference in the world" by becoming a statistic or something. What the hell is this vague euphemism, "make a difference in the world"? Why don't these dimwits come right out and say what they mean?

Glenn Greenwald had a good critique of the purposefully vague nature of imperialist rhetoric. In one of his screeds, sorry-assed Jonah Goldberg had this advice for dealing with the increasingly stubborn Iraqi insurgency:


As a matter of analysis and prescription, I'm all in favor of the war in Iraq becoming less "liberal" -- as you folks are using the term around here -- and more realistic, i.e. ruthless. No fan of "liberalizing" Iraq can be against winning there first. (Greenwald emphasizes things differently.)


Happily, Greenwald had the time and the clout to call Goldberg on his bullshit. What did he
mean by the US being more "ruthless" in Iraq? Blasting entire civilian neighbourhoods to rubble to root out insurgents? Killing suspected insurgents and displaying their mutilated corpses as grim, graphic warnings to anyone seeking to resist the American occupation?

When pressed, Goldberg bleated the following:


But, what I mean by ruthlessness . . . is a single-minded determination to win.



That's it. He clarifies his gassy machismo with mewling cliche. Greenwald devastatingly rips this to shreds:


By "single-minded determination to win," does that mean we bomb more indiscriminately, forget about ethical restraints, break the law, re-instate the draft, raise taxes to pay for a larger military? Who knows. He won't say. They never do, because their real goal is to sound tough and avoid admitting error ("the Iraq War isn't a failure; not at all. We just need to stiffen our spines, take the kid gloves off, and commit ourselves to a single-minded determination to win").


Obviously, the Globe & Mail editors know they can't get away with that sort of shit in Canada (yet). Rick Hillier and the Harpercons have tried and failed. So they have to talk about what we can positively in vague euphemisms that don't break down to anything at all.

"We have to stay until the job is done." What job? How do we know it's done? What do we need to do to finish the job? How long is this supposed to take? "The long haul"? What the hell does that mean? Commit to something dammit! You're supposed to be the "personal responsibility" monopolists after all!

There are more pathetic rationalizations in the editorial. It remains the case that the above useless generalities was the core of the "strong case" for our staying; that Afghanistan is dangerous and that we can make a difference in the world by staying.

They also say that we owe it to our allies to stay. We started something, we should finish it. This is hypocritical bullshit. We violate the UN Treaty daily with impunity. We abandoned Kyoto. Military commitments (especially imperialist projects like this one) should have no higher standing than any other commitments. And we're only officially "committed" to 2008 anyway.

They say that we owe it to the Afghan people to stay. More nonsense. The implication is that we're staying there rebuilding the country and destroying the Medieval insurgency that is trying to frustrate these efforts. The reality is that we're spending only one-tenth of our resources on reconstruction. 9/10ths of our efforts are dedicated to fighting, to making enemies, to calling in NATO airstrikes that wipe-out entire villages creating more enemies. We've taken sides when there are no real good sides to take. Karzai is a weak US puppet. The warlords in his government have been given immunity for the past crimes against humanity, and they're committing new ones in the present. We've reneged on promised levels of reconstruction aid. We've conducted a disastrous anti-heroin crusade, destroying the economic hope of thousands of families. We turn over the people we fight to rogue police who hold people for ransom and who torture their victims to death.

Certainly we owe something to the people of Afghanistan. It certainly isn't what we've been doing up to now though.

They argue that we need to stay in Afghanistan for our own national security. This is laughable garbage. Control of Afghanistan does not a world power make. The Globe knows this. They mean that we have to defeat "terrorism." But terrorism is a response to something else. And the truth of the matter is that since the Taliban has grown in strength because of the anger created by our broken promises and violence, it's actually the case that we're LESS safe the longer we stay in Afghanistan, because we've created more individuals who might get it into their heads that Canada is their enemy.

This should all go without saying. This Globe & Mail editorial was one of the most miserable pieces of utter stupidity ever to grace its pages. And that's saying a lot after all.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gee, I hope people get to read this before it gets tossed down the memory hol............

thwap said...

yawn

Anonymous said...

"...calling in NATO airstrikes that wipe-out entire villages..."

Can you give me a link to a story about any of these villages where the entire population was killed in a NATO airstrike? I must have missed the news reports.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but more specifically, could you give the appropriate link to a story where Canadian troops called in a NATO airstrike that killed an entire village? I forgot that you were speaking specifically about us.

thwap said...

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=3550

"The first incident took place in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, where the Canadian military alleges its troops killed between 500 and 1,500 Taliban guerillas during August and September, in an offensive codenamed Medusa.
According to an Associated Press account, NATO helicopters fired missiles into three homes in the village of Ashogho at 2 am. Residents claim that 13 people, including four women, were killed and 15 others were injured. Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid told the media there was no evidence that Taliban fighters were among the dead, or even in the village at the time."


"The extent of civilian deaths is usually concealed by NATO allegations that the victims are insurgents. Villagers from the Kandahar area targeted during Operation Medusa claim dozens of locals were included in NATO’s body count of dead “Taliban”. A farmer, Toon Jaan, told the Canadian Press agency last month that 26 members of his extended family were killed during the Canadian military’s bombardment of the village of Sperwan."

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=12039

"There were, however, several respected sources who did, in fact, affirm civilian casualties. In the first days of Medusa, provincial council member Haji Agha Lalai, who heads the National Reconciliation Commission in Kandahar, stated that 21 civilians, including women and children, had died in one NATO bombing raid (Pajhwok Afghan News online, Sept. 5/06). Lalai later reported that 13 civilians had died in a separate NATO air strike (IRIN, Sept 6/06). The following week, the Guardian's Declan Walsh quoted NATO spokesperson Maj. Scott Lindy, who confirmed "some civilian casualties" resulting from NATO operations (Sept. 11/06). Walsh later cited Kandahar's governor as saying that 17 civilians had perished under NATO attacks (Sept. 25/06)."

http://zmagsite.zmag.org/June2007/nygaard0607.html

Anonymous said...

Your links tell about civilian deaths as a result of combat actions. Where are the links about "entire villages" being killed? Were you simply overstating your case for dramatic effect or are you now moving the goalposts?

thwap said...

I suppose that I'm exaggerating for effect. Though truth be told, when I think of the word "village," I think of a place with 100 or 200 people, and when survivors talk about 26 family members being killed because of aerial bombardment or heavy artillery bombardment, I imagine that the village has been essentially wiped out.

If you are the "anonymous" who typed the deleted content-free derisive "critique" a few days ago, I have to ask if you think that exaggeration completely demolished the post's thesis, [that we are making things worse in Afghanistan, not better], and do you think that the fact that we're not destroying entire villages is supposedly going to resonate positively with the Afghans (who would be furious if their villages were being totally wiped out)?

Regarding Canadian troops calling in the air-strikes, ... I assume that in things like Operation Medusa, ... when Canadian forces are involved and NATO performs supporting air-strikes, that it is Canadians who are requesting them.

I assume that Afghans who know they are fighting Canadians imagine much the same thing. And if we're both wrong, what's important for my post is that we're associated with these murderous, destructive air-strikes.

Finally, the last reading argues that we know of only a fraction of the damage being caused by the air war in Afghanistan (and Iraq), so who knows, maybe a few villages have been entirely wiped-out.

Alison said...

For Anon's personal memory hole : 'Death to Canada', outraged Afghans chant

blue liberal said...

"The reality is that we're spending only one-tenth of our resources on reconstruction. 9/10ths of our efforts are dedicated to fighting,..."

You're right, we should stop fighting. As everyone knows, it is always better to rebuild a burning house while it is still burning than to put the fire out first.

"We've conducted a disastrous anti-heroin crusade, destroying the economic hope of thousands of families."

You're right, we should stop destroying the heroin because the economic hope of dope-growing families is far more important than trying to stem the flow of heroin. Besides, we've got all those safe-injection sites now.

"We turn over the people we fight to rogue police who hold people for ransom and who torture their victims to death."

You're right, we should just leave because those rogue police, who existed before we arrived, are incapable of finding their victims without our help. If we leave, the torture will just stop.

thwap said...

"blue liberal"

Thanks for providing the evidence of right-wing confusion and incoherence.

"You're right, we should stop fighting. As everyone knows, it is always better to rebuild a burning house while it is still burning than to put the fire out first.
"

Your burning house metaphor is inaccurate. The remnants of the Taliban were not the equivalent of a fire that would burn down the house that is Afghanistan.

I'd said elsewhere that I was perfectly willing to eat crow if the NATO countries had invaded Afghanistan and set up a better government than the detestable Taliban.

Alas, they did not. While not as insanely fundamentalist as the Taliban, Karzai's warlord-backed regime is making new enemies of its own.

Your metaphor fails on its own account, because you say the Taliban is like fire threatening a house. Well, given the fact that NATO bombings and etc., are helping the Taliban GAIN recruits, what Canada and NATO are doing seems to be helping the house burn down faster while we claim to want to rebuild it.

Oh well ...

"You're right, we should stop destroying the heroin because the economic hope of dope-growing families is far more important than trying to stem the flow of heroin. Besides, we've got all those safe-injection sites now.
"

You're obviously totally, completely ignorant of the political-economy of Afghanistan's heroin industry. It is the only paying crop for millions of Afghan farmers. It is what stands between them and starvation. If we claim to care about them, then we should care whether they starve to death or not, ...no?

You can read this to get you up to speed: http://www.senliscouncil.net/documents/HM_c5

And note, I didn't say that we should ignore the heroin trade, or that it was a good thing. I said that our eradication program was a disaster.

[Specific words mean specific things, as do specific phrases and sentences. Know this, and the doors of comprehension will soon be open to you.]

The way we are going about attacking the heroin industry has been a disaster. Not just the simple fact that we say we want to eradicate it.

"You're right, we should just leave because those rogue police, who existed before we arrived, are incapable of finding their victims without our help. If we leave, the torture will just stop.
"

You obviously had some sort of clever point to make, but you got ahead of yourself, didn't you?

You forgot to mention that we're turning people over to these rogue cops who, yes indeedy, would probably be doing much the same thing even if we weren't there.

Are you trying to tell me that it's problem-free to turn someone over to a serial killer, just because they kill people already, on their own?

I'm sure you thought you were saying something more brilliant than that, but if you had been able to restrain yourself from blundering forward in this instance you'd already be capable of rejecting your entire set of present political beliefs.

Anonymous said...

"Your burning house metaphor is inaccurate. The remnants of the Taliban were not the equivalent of a fire that would burn down the house that is Afghanistan."

Says you, but I'm sure the people who live with the threat of the Taliban showing up at night would beg to differ.

"Your metaphor fails on its own account, because you say the Taliban is like fire threatening a house. Well, given the fact that NATO bombings and etc., are helping the Taliban GAIN recruits, what Canada and NATO are doing seems to be helping the house burn down faster while we claim to want to rebuild it."

Sounds like another example of you overstating your case for emphasis. Although I'm willing to be shown the error of my ways when you bring out all the proof for these statements that your impeccable deep sources will provide.

thwap said...

"anonymous"

Your whole position seems to stem from your doubts that the Taliban is growing in strength.

A year ago, the US military (I assume that's a good enough source for you) was growing in strength.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/05/24/ap/world/mainD8HQAJDO0.shtml

"Fighting in rugged southern Afghan mountains killed at least 24 militants and five Afghan forces, while the U.S. military acknowledged Wednesday that the Taliban have grown in "strength and influence" in recent weeks.
"

I didn't find anymore recent search hits, but I've heard that the fighting is getting heavier in Afghanistan, so t'would appear that the Taliban is still stronger than they were five years ago.

Which makes your statement:

"I'm sure the people who live with the threat of the Taliban showing up at night would beg to differ."

... doubly stupid. Since, 1) We're making more Taliban to threaten people at night, and 2) Karzai's police aren't welcomed night-time visitors either.

There's just no end to your wrongness, is there?


But tell me, are you the same "anonymous" who made the asshat argument that as long as we're not wiping out each and every hut in a village, and each and every villager, that everything is hunky-dory?

Anonymous said...

"A year ago, the US military (I assume that's a good enough source for you) was growing in strength."

I'm glad the US military is growing in strength. Heh, heh.

"But tell me, are you the same "anonymous" who made the asshat argument that as long as we're not wiping out each and every hut in a village, and each and every villager, that everything is hunky-dory?"

I don't see where anybody said that, but you definitely are the asshat that said we are wiping out entire villages.

Still waiting, by the way, for those impeccable sources proving that Canada is breeding Taliban with our mere presence.

thwap said...

This: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article1473092.ece

... spells it out for you.

The folks shouting "Death to Canada," gee, I'd wager that they might be enemies that we've made.

Since you're such a fucking stickler, ... I never said that our "mere presence" was creating enemies for us, ... just all the ham-handed, stupid, murderous things we're doing.

You don't recall making the argument that everything is cool so long as we don't destroy entire villages?

That's cool. I don't recall you making much of an argument about anything at all. Just a bunch of mewling, asinine crapola. Mindless "stay-the-course" crap, or pointless qualifications.

You don't really have much to offer and so you haven't offered anything.

Meanwhile, whether you're capable of grasping it or caring about it, people are dying and Canada is complicit, and jeeziz, now that you've proved you're an intellectual bankrupt I wish you'd stop wasting my time.